13: A Scientific Investigation
Lysander ruffled his auburn hair and said, “Did he leave you any clues as to where he went?”
Angelo shook his head. “These walls were his last entry,” he said. “He did not leave the house.”
Chris knew what that implied based on the reports from other sites. There was, however, always a chance. Nothing was certain without proof, even if the odds were a thousand-to-one. “If your uncle was here,” he began, “then maybe the Sophist Aristocracy arrested him for trespassing.” He didn’t like the idea, but it was better than the alternative.
“Do give my uncle some credit, please!”
The truth was as Chris feared. Angelo was exploring the attic with Lance when he and Lysander found the body. Angelo’s uncle had sealed himself in the basement and starved to death. His body lay spread-eagled in the middle of the floor. It almost looked as if the ash had reached out from the shadows to chain him there. How it had managed to get inside the sealed room was a mystery Chris could not solve.
“You think we should tell Angelo?” he asked Lysander.
The boy nodded. It was one of those rare occasions where the two of them engaged in reasonable, mature conversation.
This didn’t extend to Angelo. “Alas! Alas and woe! Dear Uncle Thomas, we suspected such a truth, but never did we foresee it so dark!”
After that, Angelo donned one of his uncle’s coats — a garish magenta number with oversized shoulder pads and golden tassels — ‘in memorandum’.
“You think the little dude’s gonna be okay?” asked Lance, as Angelo perched himself behind Lysander on imp’s scooter.
“Maybe,” said Chris. Suicide was commonplace enough in places like this that it almost seemed a way of life. “He might be one of those spiritual types for all we know. Reincarnation and all that.”
The scooter’s levitators cast an iridescent light across the ashen fog. It had gathered strength in the ten minutes or so since Chris and Lance entered the house. Lysander looked as if he was about to turn the throttle and speed off when he stopped, leaving the scooter to hover in place. He turned to Chris, his smile a warning of things to come. “Say, shorty, you managed to get your crystals yet?”
“That was our next course of action.”
Lysander chuckled. “Boy, you geeks are screwed.”
And, with a final holler of childish laughter, the scooter spiralled upwards and towards the opening at the top of the Scar’s shell.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Lance.
The reply came a moment later, as a commanding voice resonated around the cavernous chamber. “This is Director Rosencrantz Guirlande of the Sophist Aristocracy. Any and all trespassers surrender yourselves at once.”
It seemed that ‘screwed’ was a very apt description of their situation.
“Dude,” said Lance, “we should probably skedaddle before they find us.”
Chris felt for the book in his pocket, the aged paperback he was halfway through reading. None of his heroes would run in the face of such danger. They lived for the thrill, the roll of the dice.
“We’ll be fine,” he told Lance. “Trust me.”
Chapter 13 End
You’ve gotta take a gamble every once and a while if you want to be a real hero!