They walked faster, but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. What Sarah had originally assumed to be one hallway was actually a convergence of hundreds of hallways. It was taking longer than it should have to find the room in which Thanatos was hiding because she had no idea which route she had taken in the dark. Her natural conclusion was that the best path was the obvious one, but the obvious path led them to a dead end. They simply turned around and walked again, this time checking every hall until they were hopelessly lost.
And then they were found. Sarah heard the boots, and her heart sank. The boots weren’t gone. X marked the spot, and the boots were a shiny X. It was likely he had been following her, but he was also likely moving in the direction of the room where he also seemed prone to hiding. She moved faster and pulled her friends along with her. They broke into running, although Sasha panted and begged for them to slow down.
They found the room finally as the boots disappeared through the door in front of them. Sarah stepped through after them and found them already disappearing into the room beyond. This time, however, she caught a glimpse of the man before he was out of sight. He was tall and dressed in all black, with a long cape trailing behind him and a black mask covering most of his face. This was not helpful.
She nearly followed him, but Thanatos stepped in her way. He crossed his arms and leaned up against the door through which the boots had retreated, looking on Sarah with interest and slight disdain. She didn’t like the way he was looking at her. Matthew disappeared into the shadows of the room, but Mickey and Sasha stood faithfully by her side for support.
“I thought you quit.”
“Well, this complex is more than top secret. You need to leave.”
“I solved the code.”
“Really…” Thanatos shook his head and stood up, but didn’t move away from the door, “Well, I’d like to believe that, but I know you haven’t.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Right. Well, I have. I can prove it.”
“Please do so, and hurry. I’m in pain from all this suspense.” A look crossed his face that was intended to be one of mock pain, but Sarah suspected it was real.
“Come with us.”
“Allow me.” Thanatos stepped around her and led in the opposite direction.
With Thanatos in the lead, they moved quickly through the halls but exited in a different area than before. In fact, they completely sidestepped the rooms filled with files on the members. Instead, they stepped out into a crowded room filled with people eating. To say the least, the entire room fell silent at the sight of Thanatos and the group around him. They watched them with interest, but Sarah again noticed the look of partial distrust thrown in the direction of their leader. That was one code she had yet to figure out.
They made their way through the people who parted like the Red Sea as they walked along. Pushing through and into the code room, Sarah walked over to the painting and picked a knife up off of a table nearby. Raising the knife, she shoved it into the canvas at the edges and, before anyone could stop her, started to slice through it. Paint chips flew around her as Mickey and Thanatos stood in horror. Sasha didn’t seem to understand the significance of what was happening, but Matthew did. He also seemed to understand what was going to happen next, because he pulled out a pocket knife and started to work on the other side. They had the entire thing off in one piece, but Sarah wasn’t done. She put the knife towards the side of the canvas and cut the section on the far right apart from the rest.
Sarah proceeded to do the same to separate the last two sections and then stood, holding the shredded code in her hands. She held them up for everyone to see her destructive work and showed it off proudly to the growing anger of Thanatos.
“Have you got any idea what you have done?! THAT WAS MY LAST HOPE!”
“Actually, I do know what I’ve done. I’ve solved this for you.”
“Wait,” Mickey cut in, “your last hope? I thought this was for the order?”
“It… it is... was… but I lead the order, so it’s my last hope too. And now it’s all gone.” Thanatos looked so hopeless, like he had just resigned himself to death, Sarah almost pitied him.
“Wait, it’s not ruined, it’s solved. See…”
Sarah took the pieces and turned them over so that what was supposed to be the back of the canvas was facing upwards. There were strange markings on it, but they didn’t seem to make any sense. She moved them around and changed their positions. The first and sections were switched, rotated 90° to the right, and placed to the right of the last section. When she had finished, there was a map in front of them. The lines connected and revealed a map- a treasure map. Where the three sections connected several markings joined together to create one, very large, x. X marks the spot.
“It’s” Thanatos stepped forward to look closer, “It can’t be that simple… It’s not that simple… Why didn’t I see it? I should have seen it…” He faded into shocked silence.
“Sorry,” Sasha raised her hand “I have no idea what’s happening. What’s happening? I mean, what is this that we’re looking at?”
“Something…” Mickey couldn’t finish.
“Something wonderful.” Thanatos rubbed his forehead without seeming to mean to.
Matthew stood back a little ways and looked on the map with a strange look in his eyes. “Something terrible.” He whispered to himself as he looked on the discovery and wished he had seen it before. But there it was- X marks the spot.