Unlocking the Kingdom - Chapter One
“Move!” The booming voice of Reginald Cambridge echoed in Hawk’s ears.
“Keep up,” Hawk called back over his shoulder as the two men raced around and through the crowds of people leisurely walking across the bridge into Adventureland.
Heart hammering and driven by dread, he ran, in stark contrast to the others around him. The Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World was brimming with guests beginning their day in the bright Florida sun. Startled tourists scampered to get out of the path of the two men charging through their midst. Hawk sidestepped between people, trying to find open areas where he could pick up his pace without running over and hurting anyone. Suddenly a child broke loose from his parent’s hand and darted into Hawk’s path. Planting his foot, Hawk veered to his left, putting him on a collision course with Bwana Bob’s souvenir stand and a Disney cast member tending the cash register. Having avoided the child, Hawk now was confronted with a wide-eyed young lady who didn’t have time to move out of his way. He grabbed her in a bear hug and spun around, wildly out of control and trying to regain enough balance to keep both of them from falling. Lifting the girl off the ground and using her as a human counterweight, he slowed his momentum and regained his footing. Gently he lowered her back to the ground.
The young cast member looked up into the face of her unexpected dance partner. She caught his sleeve before he could move away. “Grayson Hawkes.” She gingerly placed weight on her right foot and grimaced.
“Hawk.” He smiled with concern. “Call me Hawk. Are you alright?”
“Fine . . . I’m great.” She steadied herself using his arm for support. “I just twisted my ankle a bit, but I’m fine.
Dr. Grayson Hawkes exhaled with relief, realizing she wasn’t seriously hurt. Her reaction at seeing him almost amused him. It had been nearly eighteen months since he’d become the chief creative architect for the Walt Disney Company. Like most people, he hadn’t known what a CCA position entailed when he was introduced to the organization, but it had quickly become apparent it meant he was now the boss. Right now being the boss meant he had to keep moving, but he could spare a second to apologize for almost trampling one of his cast members. “You’re sure you’re not hurt?”
“Yes, I think I’m fine.”
“Sorry about bumping into you like this.” Hawk freed himself from her grip while reading her name badge. “It was nice to meet you, Barbie.”
In an instant Hawk was moving again. He accelerated through the crowd of onlookers who had stopped to see the collision at Bwana Bob’s. Some of the gawkers realized they had just seen the new leader of the Walt Disney Company—cameras clicked and peopled shouted his name as he disappeared from view under the tribal masks on the gates of Adventureland.
Hawk raced past the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and caught up with Reginald at Caribbean Plaza. Now running side by side, the two ran past the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and into the shopping area beyond it. The congestion of people slowed their pace, and the buzz of the crowd crackled with a higher energy level than normal. Hawk slid in behind Reginald as he cleared a path in the thickening ocean of people.
“You should let me handle this situation, boss.” Reginald tossed the suggestion over his shoulder.
“Just keep on moving.” Hawk raised his voice to be heard over the crowd.
“Keep up,” Reginald answered with just the hint of a smile cracking his lips.
He placed his hand on his guide’s back and pushed firmly as they plowed a path through the people. Stepping out of the traffic flow, they entered an unmarked doorway leading them out of the public area of the Plaza. When they emerged into an alley of drab walls dotted with unmarked doors, a panicked cast member named Bill scurried over to them and gave a radio to Reginald.
“What do we have?” Hawk looked past Bill to the door propped ajar behind him.
“We’re currently evacuating Pirates of the Caribbean.”
“The entire attraction?” Hawk felt tensing muscles crawl up his neck.
“Yes, sir . . . everyone,” Bill responded, joining the two men resolutely heading toward the doorway.
“It’s gotten a little bit manic in there,” Bill said, his eyes darting between them.
Reginald’s head snapped back toward Bill as he paused with his hand on the doorknob.
“We found a body floating facedown in the water.”
In a glance Hawk and Reginald registered their concern as they moved through the portal into the Pirates of the Caribbean. Blinking while his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Hawk heard Reginald call for additional security. Reginald Cambridge served as the chief security officer for the Walt Disney Company. His job was far more complicated than Hawk completely understood, but Reginald was excellent at what he did. He was fair and fearless, perhaps intimidating to most, and was always in close proximity to wherever Hawk happened to be. Over the past year and a half, the two had become friends and had forged a close bond.
Bill, Reginald, and Hawk moved through the dimly lit offstage corridors that wound behind the sets of the water-filled attraction. While Reginald barked commands into the radio, Hawk pressed Bill for more details.
“Tell me what happened.” Hawk pushed forward along the corridor.
“Everything was going fine. The attraction was operating properly. The guest flow through the attraction was steady.” Hawk’s raised eyebrow prompted Bill to provide the information Hawk was really looking for. “Even though our crowds are extremely high, the wait time was not exceptionally long. We had a guest in a boat start screaming in the burning-city section of the attraction. Then more started screaming, and then the belts in the unload area stopped . . .”
Hawk inhaled sharply. “Stopped?”
“Yes, they just stopped so we couldn’t get anybody off the ride in the unloading area.”
“So the attraction shut down?” Hawk tried to process what he was walking into.
“Well, sort of, but something strange happened.”
“Tell me,” Hawk said as he craned his neck, battling the stiffening muscles.
“The unload area shut down, but the belts in the loading area didn’t shut off, they just kept running sending boats into the attraction.”
“Did anyone get hurt?”
“Oh, no,” Bill assured him. “It was frightening for the guests in the queue line waiting to board. They saw boat after boat go racing past. But no one was hurt.”
“So the attraction is full of boats?”
“Yes, most of them empty, but they’re jammed up in there. And the body is just floating dead in the water.”
Hawk’s head snapped toward Bill. His eyes narrowed.
“Uh . . . sorry,” Bill stammered. “Poor choice of words. We’re having problems in there.”
Hawk hustled past Reginald as the security chief coordinated his team in and around the attraction. Bill gestured to a nondescript door to their right, and Hawk swallowed hard.
Bill hesitated. “This entrance will put you closest to the problem.”
“You mean the body.”
Placing a hand on the door and giving it a shove, Grayson Hawkes bounded into the burning city.