The two police cars and more policemen on foot were entering the square from all sides, moving slowly, seemingly with no particular purpose. What was going on? Pedro was becoming more and more agitated. There was something animal about him now. His eyes were wide and alert. Every muscle in his body seemed to be locked. He was sensing danger, even if he hadn't seen it yet.
"I think we should move," Matt said. "Vamos!"
He didn't want to go. Fabian would arrive any minute now. If he could wait just a few minutes longer, the whole ordeal might be over. Getting up, walking, might draw attention to himself. Every fiber of his being screamed at him to stay where he was. While he was sitting down, unnoticed, he was safe. But at the same time, there were more than a dozen policemen in the square now, fanning out, all of them armed. Had the police come by coincidence or did they know Matt was here? Was this just another raid, or were they looking for him?
The question was answered in an instant as the passenger door of one of the police cars opened and a man got out. It was Captain Rodriguez. He was standing directly under a streetlamp, which cast a glow across his face with its rough, pitted skin and heavy moustache. He looked like a boxer stepping into the ring, and as his eyes swung across the square, Matt knew without any doubt at all that his telephone call to Fabian had been intercepted and that he had walked straight into another trap.
He stood up, forcing himself not to panic. Rodriguez hadn't seen him since the Hotel Europa and didn't know what he looked like now that he was in disguise. There were still plenty of people around. The two of them could just walk away, mingling with the crowd.
Pedro dug his hand into his trouser pocket. When he brought it out, he was holding his rubber slingshot. Matt shook his head.
"Not now, Pedro," he said. "There are too many of them."
Pedro frowned, then seemed to understand. He put the slingshot away again.
The scream of a whistle cut through the air.
It was as if someone had thrown a switch. Suddenly, all the policemen were running toward them as if they had known where they were all along and had simply been playing a game. Another car cut in from behind. Rodriguez was pointing directly at them and shouting. Tourists and travelers stood gaping, afraid, finding themselves caught up in the middle of something they didn't want to see. The friendly face of the country they had come to visit had slipped to reveal the brutality beneath. There were armed police everywhere.
Matt saw at once that all four corners of the square were cut off. The trap had closed in from every side. There were two police cars speeding toward him . . . they would reach him in seconds. That left just one direction - up. The cars couldn't follow him up the steps. He looked round and saw that Pedro had worked this out for himself. He was already halfway up, heading for a group of Europeans, standing together at the top. They'd been about to have their photograph taken in front of the cathedral when the police raid began, but now they were just staring out, slack-jawed. Matt saw Pedro barge through them. Why? He glanced back and understood. Some of the policemen had taken out their guns. Pedro had seen the danger - but at the same time he had guessed that they weren't going to fire anywhere near tourists. He was using the Europeans as a human shield.
Matt joined him, clambering up the last five steps and then across the top, next to the cathedral. The tourists scattered. Someone cried out. Pedro was moving like the wind, and Matt wondered if he would be able to keep up. Already he had discovered something he had guessed all along: It was almost impossible to run in Cuzco. The air was too thin. He couldn't have been going for more than half a minute and his head was pounding, his throat was sore, and he felt as though he was about to faint. He forced himself on, not wanting to be left behind. Pedro was one of the five. Matt couldn't lose him now.
Luckily, Pedro was looking out for Matt. As a policeman swung round the corner, Pedro shouted out a warning. Matt ducked low. There was an explosion and one of the stone steps spat dust. They were shooting at him! Matt felt a tremor of disbelief. Rodriguez had given orders to take them dead or alive.
The gunshot had been a mistake. Now everyone in the square was panicking, running in all directions, desperate to get away. For a moment, the police found themselves powerless. The boys were out of sight. Then something strange happened. The policeman who had fired the shot threw himself backward and lay sprawling. Matt twisted round and saw that the slingshot was in Pedro's hand. He certainly knew how to use it. The policeman had been standing in front of a road that was otherwise unguarded. Matt forced some air into his lungs and set off.
Out of sight. That was the key. Matt knew they had to get under cover. They had to find somewhere to hide. Give them a bit of time and maybe they could work out what to do next. Pedro ran through an open gateway, leading off the street, signaling Matt to follow. Matt did just that and found himself in a rough courtyard with patches of grass growing through the rubble and the dust. There was another market here. Stalls, lit by oil lamps, stood haphazardly against the walls. They were open even at this time of the night, and a few backpackers were wandering idly between them, examining the hats and the ponchos, the rugs, beads, and bags on sale. The great mass of the cathedral rose up behind them.
The two boys didn't stop. They came to a second archway and burst out to find themselves in another street. But this time they were not alone.
A very old Indian woman sat facing them, squatting on the pavement with a little pile of handmade jewelry. Her hair hung down in two long pigtails, and there was a baby, wrapped in a striped blanket, nestling against her chest. She was looking straight at them, and as they stood there, panting, wondering which way to go, she suddenly smiled, showing yellow teeth that were little more than stumps. At the same time, she pointed toward an alleyway that led off behind her.
Matt wasn't sure what to do. The old woman was behaving as if she knew them. It was almost as if she had been sitting there all evening, waiting for them to come so she could point out the best way. Matt fought to get more air into his system and to keep the dizziness at bay.
"Which way?" he shouted at Pedro.
The old woman raised a finger to her lips. This was no time for a discussion. Once again, she pointed the way. Behind them, they heard shouting. The police had
entered the marketplace.
"Gracias, señora," Pedro muttered. He had decided to believe her.
The two of them ran up the alleyway, disappearing into the shadows that pushed in from both sides. Tattered posters hung on the walls, and wooden balconies jutted out over their heads. The street was cobbled, and Matt's rubber sandals were almost torn off his feet as he tried to run.
But was it worth going on? Matt could hear sirens and whistles echoing all over the city. With a heavy heart he knew that he and Pedro were never going to get out of this, no matter how fast they ran. They were two rats in a maze. They could scurry round the streets and passageways of Cuzco until they were exhausted or they could find a building to hide in . . . but it would make no difference. It might take the police all night to find them, but they would do it in the end. Cuzco was surrounded by mountains. There was no way out.
Somewhere, just out of sight, another car pulled up. Boots stamped down on concrete. A whistle blew. Even Pedro was beginning to slow down. Sweat was dripping down his face. It would all be over very soon.
The alleyway led to another narrow street with a T-junction at one end. Pedro started toward it, but almost at once a blue van came skidding to a halt and three policemen piled out. One of them shouted excitedly into a radio while the other two took out their guns and began heading toward them. Matt didn't have the strength to move. His heart was about to burst. He could only watch as the two men approached.
And then it happened again.
Another Indian appeared, stepping out of a doorway, pushing a heavy cart laden with food and drink. He was wearing white trousers and a dark jacket but no shirt. Nor did he have any shoes. Long hair hung down, obscuring most of his face. He stopped in the road, completely blocking it, and it seemed to Matt that he had acted quite deliberately. He had known they were coming and wanted to give them more time. The policeman began shouting. One of them was trying to push past. The Indian nodded and smiled at the two boys. With renewed strength, they set off the other way.
Something was happening in Cuzco. Someone was trying to help them. First it had been the old woman, now it was the food seller. But who were they? How had they even known that he and Pedro were there? Matt wondered if he was imagining things. And no matter how many people tried to help them, he still couldn't see how they were going to get away.
They turned another corner and suddenly Matt knew where they were. This was one of the most famous streets in the city. Just a few hours earlier, it had been filled with tourist groups and guides. Now it was completely empty, lit only by the glow reflecting from the sky. One side of the street was lined by old Inca walls, ten meters high. Matt recognized the huge stones, slotted so ingeniously together. Pedro was leaning against one of them, straining for breath.
"Which way?" Matt asked.
Pedro shrugged. Either he was too exhausted to talk or he had come to the same conclusion as Matt: There was no way out, so it didn't matter where they went.
They started forward, slowly, making their way down the deserted street. They could hear shouting all around them, disembodied voices flitting like night creatures, everywhere and nowhere. Only one thing was certain. Their pursuers were getting closer all the time.
The street led nowhere. It was blocked by a tall, metal gate that had been swung across the end and locked.
There was no way back. Matt could hear footsteps rushing up behind them and knew that the police were only seconds away. He no longer had the heart to run or to hide. He reached out and rattled the gate. It was too high to climb. Pedro had given up, too. He was looking angry and exhausted - with the bitterness of defeat obvious in his eyes.
The voice came from just behind them. Matt turned. Incredibly, there was a young man standing in the street, just a couple of meters away. He was wearing a red-and-mauve poncho, jeans, and a woven hat that had flaps hanging down over his ears. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
And Matt was sure he knew him. For a strange, unnerving moment, he was sure it was Micos. But Micos was dead. So who . . . ?
"Amigos," the man repeated. "Come quickly!"
Amigos. It was one word of Spanish that Matt knew.
The man gestured. Matt looked past him and saw an incredible sight. Part of the wall had swung open, revealing a secret door with at least seven sides. It was impossible to imagine the hinge mechanism that had made it work, but when the door was closed, it was completely invisible. Matt and Pedro had just walked past it without realizing it was there. Millions of tourists must have done the same. Matt took a step forward. There was a passage inside the wall. He could just make out a narrow corridor, but it ended almost at once in total blackness.
"No." Pedro shook his head. He was afraid.
The man spoke to him quietly and quickly in Spanish, then turned back to Matt. "The police will be here very soon," he said. "If you want to live, you must trust me. Come now. . . ."
"Who are you?" Matt asked.
The man made no reply and Matt understood. He wasn't prepared to talk about this, not now. An amazing secret, this hidden door, had been revealed to them. It had to be closed before the police, or anyone else, saw it.
Pedro was looking at him, waiting for him to make a decision. Matt nodded. The two of them stepped into the wall. The man followed. The door swung shut behind them.
Excerpted from EVIL STAR: Book Two of the Gatekeepers © Copyright 2011 by Anthony Horowitz. Reprinted with permission by Scholastic Press. All rights reserved