The Adventures of Grant McSwain, Explorer of Exotic Locales, Finder of Forgotten Treasures, and Charmer of Classy Dames
Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway and occasional fire demon
“Grant,” Teagan called from above, “Are you certain you’re fit for this?”
He hung on the side of a tall cliff, suspended from a rope wrapped around his leg and pinched between his feet. Waves crashed against the rock face far below, spraying white foam. Gulls called and circled in the blue sky.
With each arm-over-arm motion lowering him down the cliff face, Grant felt the sharp pain in his gut—his gunshot wound was recovering but not fully healed.
A guard stood sentry duty on a metal observation deck twenty feet above the waterline. The man smoked a cigarette and leaned out over the railing, listening to the ocean. Grant counted on the calming noise to cover his approach.
Below the deck, the low tide revealed a small arch in the stone, the top of a much larger mouth to a submerged cavern.
This must be where the Twins stashed their submarine, a vessel mentioned in documents Teagan recovered from the plane wreck. The classified papers were marked “Betrieb: Leviathan” and pointed the pair to this secret Brazilian base.
He realized Teagan was right, and it struck him how frequently that was the case.
Grant hissed through gritted teeth to ignore his pain, and continued his descent toward the guard. He reached the end of the rope ten feet above the deck, then sprang toward the guard. Though the sudden impact shook his wound, his powerful elbow struck the man in the back of the head and knocked him to the ground, unconscious.
Grant changed into the guard’s uniform—just a little snug, he told himself—while Teagan shimmied down the rope.
She dropped to the ledge and laughed when she saw him. “That coat is stretching like pulled taffy. I feel sorry for those buttons.“
Grant folded his arms across his chest and heard a seam pop. “So let’s not get caught. If we do, the guards won’t be looking at me. You’re the prisoner the Twins want.”
“Vilhelm,” Teagan said coldly. “The other one—the one with the wandering hands—is dead.”
Grant picked up the fallen guard’s rifle and slung it over his shoulder. Then he pulled open the heavy steel door, revealing a hall cut into the mountainside. “Shall we?”
Deep in the winding maze of tunnels, they found a massive cavern housing a berth for the largest submarine Grant had ever seen. Dark hallways stretched into the mountainside where two armed men stood guard. The skin of the submarine glistened under banks of lights. Fuel trucks pumped diesel into the sub’s refueling ports.
“There’s your Leviathan,” Grant said.
“My God,” Teagan said, “that’s big. It’s like a couple U-boats smashed together.”
“Maybe you can call it a W-boat,” Grant said with a chuckle.
Teagan glared at him, oddly reminiscent of her time as a fire demon in the camp of the Atuachans.
Grant felt no regrets, and grinned broad at her ire.
A network of scaffolding and walkways hung suspended from the cavern ceiling. Grant and Teagan crept toward the submarine, careful to avoid the light.
But the underground base seemed practically deserted, and they reached the submarine with ease.
Grant opened the main hatch and clambered down a ladder, then helped Teagan down. “Operation: Leviathan,” Grant whispered as they moved through the cramped spaces of the sub. “What’s that even mean?”
“It comes from the Old Testament of the Bible,” Teagan said, “especially Job, chapter forty-one. ‘Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.’”
Grant stared at Teagan, and she blushed. He shook his head and asked, “Why would you have that verse memorized?”
“I grew up in a devout Catholic family,” she said. “They viewed reading the Scriptures like eating a meal. In fact, some days we went hungry, but we never skipped our daily reading.”
They reached a pair of chambers with ornate décor, incongruent with the spartan atmosphere of a military submarine.
Teagan paused at the door. “So I always picked the interesting chapters, the ones that talked about powerful creatures and the end of days in strange, fantastic terms. The mystery and thrill of discovery attracted me even then. This looks like the Twins’ rooms. Shall we?”
Grant stepped inside and looked around. Exotic skins covered the bed and floors. Oxidized metal artifacts of ancient cultures lined the shelves. Tapestries with occult symbols hung on the walls.
Teagan gasped. “This is a treasure trove, a private collection with more than most museums. Is that the banner of Vlad Tepes? And what sort of creature has fur like a beast but a shape like a man?”
Grant began rummaging through the desk drawers, and directed Teagan toward stacks of papers and tied-off notebooks.
“What exactly are we looking for, Grant?”
“Operation Leviathan implies they’re going to do something with this sub. Uncle Sam will pay a pretty penny to find out what.”
Teagan held a notebook marked with Ixthacan symbols and flipped through its pages. Then she froze and stared, her face pale. “No, this can’t be right.”
Grant rushed to her side, even though he couldn’t make sense of any of that Ixthacan scratch. “What is it?”
“It’s a legend,” she said. “A tale of a ritual for summoning a destructive force from the ocean depths. I think they mean to—“
“I shoot you,” an angry German voice said, “you don’t die. You crash my plane, unt still you do not die.”
Vilhelm stood in the doorway, his scarred face flaring red, his Luger pointed at Grant.
“But as you Amerikans say, perhaps third time ist ze charm, ya?”