STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – PRESENT DAY
The abyss was dark and formless. Millions of tiny, bright lights were speeding past as Inez Mac Paidin traveled, at high speed, through space and time. Thoughts were only a blur in this dis-embodied state. She felt confusion and rage building within her. What just happened?
The experience was short-lived, ending abruptly as she landed, face-down, spread-eagle, on the hard parquet floor of the foyer in her exquisite Ostermalm home.
Inez pushed up onto her elbows and rested, momentarily, re-establishing her boundaries.
She reached up to her neck and discovered it was, in fact, missing.
How could the boy have betrayed her trust so completely?
Her eyes widened, and then the hint of a smile gradually turned up the corners of her mouth.
That’s right…their agreement.
Smoothing strands of long, dark hair from her face, Inez sat upright and glanced around her.
Flammel stepped out of the music room. “Madam?” He asked when confronted by the image of his mistress sprawled in a disheveled mess on the floor. Dashing to her side, he took hold of her elbow and gently helped her to her feet.
Inez roughly shoved him away, smoothing the front of her blouse and brushing off the knees of her slacks, as she gathered her wits about her.
“Thank you, Flammel.” She looked at her servant, who was wearing a bewildered and slightly frightened expression on his age-worn face.
Shaking her head back and forth and blinking slowly, she addressed him;
“Things didn’t go quite as planned. But I’m fine. No need to worry yourself.” She turned from him and headed toward the staircase.
A small frown was forming on the butler’s brow.
“But, Lady Clara and young Master Ethan? Will they be following you, Madam?”
Inez turned and glanced in his direction.
“That is yet to be determined. I expect their arrival will be delayed. How long is any body’s guess.” She turned again and, holding tight to the handrail, carefully made her way up the stairs.
Arriving upon the landing at the top of the staircase, Inez turned to the left, and slowly strolled to the far end of the hallway, where she opened a door that looked the same as every other door in the house. This one, however, revealed a large, mostly vacant meeting room, and the energy of the space differed from that of the rest of the elegant home. Unlike the light and welcoming decor filling the balance of the house, this room was deliberately designed to evoke a sense of fear, darkness, and foreboding. The center of the space was dominated by an enormous, round, ebony table around which were positioned seven ornately carved chairs. Their style was sharp and gothic. On the far side of the room, behind the table, and built into the wall, was a door-frame of the same color and design as the chairs. But instead of a door with a handle, where it would normally be, there was only a glossy, black, wooden panel. To the far right were floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a vast expanse of lawns, walking trails, and forest on the outskirts of Ostermalm.
Inez walked in and closed the door behind her. She strolled across the room to the windows and stared out for a moment before turning to gaze at the table.
Her thoughts turned to the last time she sat in this room.
3 DAYS PRIOR
“This situation is taking a turn we never intended.,” Earl O’Brien glanced around the table at the others seated there. A deep frown creased his brow and a furrow was forming between his eyes where his little, round glasses sat upon the bridge of his nose. “But at least we know where he is, now. Lizzie and I have been distraught trying to locate him.”
“Well, we still aren’t sure exactly who transported him, or how it was accomplished,” Inez began, “but Phinneas has determined that two boys are currently hiding out at the family home. We further strongly suspect that Bill Flanagan, the friend’s father, is the responsible party. Or at least made the arrangements to relocate Jack to Mac Paidin Manor.”
“Yeah, I seen ‘em all out front when they arrived wit their bags an’ all.” Phinneas Dreadfort piped in.
“We need that boy,” Thaddeus O’Brien interjected. “All these years of care and preparation are for nothing if we aren’t able to control all three children.”
“Exactly,” Clara Mac Paidin stood from where she had been sitting and walked around the table to stand next to her sister. “That’s precisely why Inez and I have formulated a plan to get him out of there.” She brushed her pumpkin-colored hair away from her face and looked at her sister, a wry little grin turning up the corners of her mouth.
“Oh, really?” Genevieve Whisperstill joined in, a sparkle lighting her vibrant blue eyes. “Do, tell!”
“Clara? You do the honors,” Inez glanced down at her younger sister. “It really is quite brilliant.”
“Well, I’ve crafted a pendant for Ethan,” She started. “Sister and I have been working to convince Ethan that Jack is being groomed to replace him as the heir apparent. Usurping his rightful position and title in the family line.” She looked at Inez.
“Ethan is fully convinced and onboard with our plan…this next part is sheer brilliance!” Inez looked back at Clara, who continued.
“It’s very simple, but should be convincing,” she paused, grinning at the others. “You see, the three of us; Inez, Ethan, and myself, will teleport into the upper observation room at Mac Paidin Manor together. All three of us will be wearing port-key pendants that I’ve crafted. Each pendant is programmed to open a portal from here to Mac Paidin Manor, and back again. But only the pendant on Inez will be active and visible to anyone else who sees us. Ethan and I will keep ours hidden beneath our clothing. Once we arrive, we will locate Jack, and here is the genius part…it won’t matter whether he is alone or with others when we find him. The plan will be as effective either way. At some point in the interaction, Ethan will feign reading the minds of those in the room, then in a dramatic display, will turn on Inez, grab her pendant, and shove her back through the portal…effectively convincing Jack and any others present that he is a turncoat, has suspected us of being evil for quite some time, and is now on their side. The portal will safely return Inez here, to our home, and Ethan will have earned Jack’s trust, along with the others in the house.” Those sitting around the table were wearing broad smiles and sitting forward on their seats.
“That is brilliant. But how does this plan get us any closer to controlling Jack?” Earl leaned in, his eyes squinted into thin slits.
“Just wait, Uncle,” Inez lifted her index finger in the air, nodding her head, both eyebrows raised high up on her forehead.
“Yes, this is the clever part,” Clara continued.”Remember that Ethan is also wearing a port-key pendant. Now that he has set Jack, and anyone else in the house, at ease, he will be in a position to not only gather additional, inside information,” she paused, tilting her head to the side with a grin, “but he will also be able to arrange for an ideal opportunity to grab hold of Jack, materialize the portal, and transport him directly back here to us.” She finished, looking very pleased with herself.
Lively chatter broke out around the table as all those seated expressed enthusiasm for Clara’s plan.
“Uh, hem,” Genevieve rose her hand in the air, “I’m confused,” she started. The others quieted and looked in her direction.
“What is it, Gen?” Inez asked.
“Well, it’s just that…as genius as this plan sounds…and it IS genius, what about Clara? How will she get out of there after Ethan has set himself up as a hero and pitched her as an enemy? Nothing has been said about a return route for her.” She looked at Inez, then Clara, and waited.
“Thank you for your concern, Auntie!” Clara grinned brightly. “But we thought about that and decided it will be much more beneficial if I allow myself to be captured,” it was obvious the idea thrilled her, “so that I can gather more intel about who in The Order of Light is leading this plot to thwart our plans. I’m going to be an infiltrator! Make them think I’m worried I may be in danger from the rest of The Cabal, and that I’m willing to switch sides.” She giggled, placing a hand on her stomach, and shaking her head from side-to-side. “But remember that I will also have a port-key pendant around my neck, under my clothes. So, I will be able to return home at any time. I will just need to be careful not to allow them to search my body. If that seems likely, I’ll initiate the portal immediately.”
“Impressive,” Thaddeus said, “it seems you’ve thought of everything. So, Ethan will return with Jack in tow. And you’re confident he will follow through with his end of the agreement? He can be quite bull-headed, you know?”
“Yes, we’re sure he will hold up his end of the deal,” Inez looked at him, “he is enamored with the idea of titles and powers and has no intention of allowing his little brother to usurp his rightful inheritance.”
“Sounds like him…” Thaddeus said, a small, prideful grin spreading across his face. “Do you have a date scheduled?”
“Yes, Clara is putting the final touches on the pendants. We will be ready to take action in the next couple of days. As far as return goes, Ethan knows the timeline is short. We’ve stressed that he needs to grab Jack and get back to us at the earliest possible opportunity. We don’t want him exposed to any distractions.” Inez finished.
“We’ll keep you all informed as things progress.” Clara looked to the dark door frame and spoke a word, igniting the pendant around her neck. She raised her hands and a shimmering portal appeared in the space. The others in the room stood, shaking hands, and preparing for their departure. “Safe journey,” she said as Genevieve approached and stepped into the portal.
INDIAN OCEAN – OFF THE COAST OF INDIA – 1879
Lydia Mac Paidin gazed out the porthole across a vast expanse of choppy blue water. A distant shoreline was coming into view, and she was beginning to feel an anxious yearning for solid ground beneath her feet.
Ship-life was not something she ever imagined she would be destined for, and after these months at sea, she was aching for life on land.
Turning from the window to view her current surroundings, she inhaled deeply, then let out an exaggerated sigh. She was not fond of the late 1800s. She thought of herself as a more modern girl. The kerosene lantern hanging from a hook on the far wall, used to illuminate her cabin, had an offensive odor that permeated the space. The inkpot sitting on the rickety, wooden writing table in the corner, was messy, leaving ugly splotches all over its surface. And its accompanying feather quill was an unfamiliar and cumbersome tool used for composing letters. She missed the conveniences of the 20th century — small things like electricity and telephones and commercial air travel.
Lydia was anxious to return to her own time and location. If only she would hear back from Jack. She hoped he would figure out how to use the telescope.
A knock on the rough-hewn oak door interrupted her reverie.
“Yes, enter.” She said. And she watched as the antique-looking brass knob turned slowly and the door creaked open.
“Hi, Sam,” she said, with a smile, when the 13-year-old appeared in her doorway.
“Mistress Lydia,” the girl paused, glancing around the room before continuing, “Uncle Joe wanted me to find out if there is anything you’re going to need before we disembark.” Her eyes came to a stop on the worn, leather-bound trunk standing open at the end of Lydia’s bed.
“I think I’m almost finished packing.” Lydia looked down at the trunk. “Just a few more items and I’ll be ready to lock this thing up.” She motioned toward the clothing and other items placed neatly inside the case. “Will you please ask your uncle to send someone down to haul it up on deck for me?” When the girl nodded her head, Lydia continued, “How are you doing, Sam? Excited about this new adventure? India seems very exotic!”
“I’m a little nervous,” Sam said, and she fidgeted with the folds of her skirt before looking up. “It’s just that I’m so different from the people there.” She said, looking apprehensively at Lydia.
“That’s understandable. But keep in mind that being different can be an advantage sometimes.” Lydia said, stepping forward and reaching out to caress the strawberry locks on the young girl’s head. “I’ll bet all the local kids will find your differences very enticing.”
Sam averted her eyes, gazing down at her hands. Little orange sparks were barely visible, bouncing from her fingertips.
Lydia glanced at them, and pursed her lips, then added, “Hey, at least they speak English! So, that’s a big plus.” She smiled brightly at Sam.
“Yes, that’s a plus.” Sam grinned weakly. “I’d better go tell Uncle Joe about your trunk.” And she turned to leave.
“Actually, on second thought, I’ll come with you,” Lydia reached for the charcoal grey, woolen cape hanging on a brass hook next to the door and tossed it over her shoulders. “I could use some fresh air and a walk on deck.” She stroked the girl’s hair then the two of them stepped out of the dim cabin and headed up the rough wooden stairs leading to the ship’s surface.
Emerging from the protection of the staircase, they were greeted by brisk winds that slapped sharply against their faces, prompting Lydia to quickly lift the hood of her cape and tie it beneath her chin. She was glad for the crisp salt air after being cooped up in that small cabin most of the day. Walking cautiously to the side of the boat, she quickly grasped the handrail to balance herself, before gazing out across the choppy waters. Off in the distance a coastline was visible with evidence of civilization coming into view.
Staring down into the ocean’s depths made her think of the first time she embarked on a similar voyage…
MAC PAIDIN MANOR – DUBLIN, IRELAND – PRESENT DAY
“Master Ethan, the room just next to your brother’s is available,” Arthur turned to look at the two boys walking behind him, “There is an adjoining door, if that will be suitable.”
“That’s great, Arthur.” Ethan said.
The butler stopped in front of the doorway, his hand extending an invitation into the room.
“Oh, this will be awesome!” Jack dashed through the opening to his own room, then turning to the left, grabbed hold of the brass doorknob on the door in that wall, and opened. “I’ve been wondering where this door led!” He met Ethan’s gaze as he stepped through into Ethan’s bedroom. “This is perfect! Thanks, Arty!” He looked toward the butler, who was standing in Ethan’s doorway.
“Unusual that you don’t have any clothing or personal items with you, Master Ethan. Let’s get you settled for the evening and we can plan a shopping trip into town for tomorrow morning.”
The butler looked questioningly in Ethan’s direction.
“That’s fine, I’m not worried about it.” Ethan turned to face Jack, “I want to see that portrait of our grandmother. Where is it?”
“Oh, yeah!” Jack looked at Arthur. “Would you mind if I show Ethan around a bit, Arty?”
Bill’s face appeared behind the butler.
“Yeah! That’s a great story, Ethan! We’ll have to fill you in on the details!” Bart burst through the doorway behind Jack.
“Of course, Master Jack. It has been an eventful evening and it is rather late. What say we head down to the kitchens for a snack before bed. Master Ethan can view the painting on the way, and then it might be best to give him the tour tomorrow.” Arthur looked in Jack’s direction with an eyebrow raised.
“Right. Good thinking.” Jack grabbed Ethan by the arm and they all headed out into the hallway, toward the main staircase.
ONE HOUR LATER
“I’m stuffed,” Bart said as the three boys turned the corner from the sitting room to view the wide, open staircase leading to the upper levels of the home. The portrait of Lydia Mac Paidin was immediately visible on the wall to the left.
“Me, too,” Jack grabbed his stomach and groaned.
Ethan strode across the foyer and stopped, looking up at the portrait.
“I still can’t believe she’s been missing for 24 years, but is somehow contacting you through that strange telescope,” he turned to look at Jack.
“I know, pretty wild, huh?” Jack shook his head back and forth.
“I’d love to see you do that,” Ethan looked down at his brother, an eyebrow raised, “you know, use the telescope.”
Bill glanced at Arthur, and they exchanged a worried look, as the two of them came to a stop behind the boys.
“I think it’s time we called it a night,” Bill said, placing a hand on Jack’s shoulder and nudging him toward the staircase. “There will be plenty of time for that in the days ahead.
“Yes, boys, it’s been a tiring evening. Let’s settle in for the night. More excitement will wait for the morning.” Arthur said and, shaking their heads in agreement, they all began their ascent up the stairs.
Arriving just outside their bedrooms in the upper hallway of the mansion, Jack turned to Ethan –
“You’re going to love that bed! The sheets smell amazing!” He said and they both grinned and turned into their rooms, shutting the doors behind them.
Jack quickly changed out of his street-clothes into his pajamas, and was heading for his bed when he realized: I’m not even tired! I’m actually pretty charged up right now! I mean…I haven’t seen Ethan for 9 years. And right now, he is just on the other side of that wall! What am I thinking?
He turned away from his bed and dashed to the connecting door between their two rooms. Opening it, Jack barged energetically into his brother’s bedroom.
“Hey Ethan! I’m not even sleepy” –
Ethan stood shirtless, his muscular back toward Jack, but he spun around abruptly when he heard his little brother’s voice.
Jack’s mouth dropped open, his eyes were wide, and his brows shot up high on his forehead.
There, in the middle of Ethan’s chest, suspended from a black leather cord, was a large, glowing pendant. The stone was a vibrant shade of sapphire blue and it pulsated with a cool light from within. The bauble held Jack’s attention for only a moment because just as he was staring at it, from the corner of his eye, he was distracted by something else materializing behind Ethan. A large, shimmering oval appeared and was suspended there in mid-air.
“What the?” Jack stopped, frozen in his tracks.
“You little rat! You really screwed things up!” Ethan hissed. His eyes were wild and shot around the room quickly, as if searching for something. “Guess they’ll just have to figure it out,” he said, throwing his hands in the air. Before Jack had time to process what was happening, Ethan lunged forward and grabbed hold of Jack by the arm. He turned him forcefully around and dragged him, kicking and screaming, into the portal.
PORTLAND, OREGON – 1877
“But there’s no way to be sure he will ever find it,” Lydia Mac Paidin looked at her new friend with desperation in her emerald eyes.
“You’re right about that, Lydia, but I think it’s the best shot you’ve got.”
Joseph Kelly was a ruffian, but he was also scrappy. Hard times had compelled him to figure things out in order to survive. His methods were unconventional, but challenging times called for sometimes difficult choices. And Joseph ‘Bunko’ Kelly was anything but conventional.
“You already know the dates and times involved, so the only possible screw up would be if someone else were to find it before your grandson gets his hands on it,” Joe looked down at the telescope he was holding in his hands. “Granted, we are talking about maintaining it’s location for more than 138 years…but the time-sensitive invisibility spell placed on it offers a decent guarantee that the telescope will remain hidden until the predefined moment you set it to be revealed.”
They looked at one another, then back down to the golden telescope in Bunko Kelly’s hands. Joe carefully wrapped the fragile piece in a beige linen cloth, then placed it gently inside a small oak cask filled with sawdust. He completely buried it in the shavings then replaced the wooden lid, tapping it into place with a small hammer. The little barrel sat on the middle bunk of a set of three ratty-looking wooden beds built into the wall in front of them.
Lydia looked around and was astonished to think how little these rocky spaces had changed over the years.
The Shanghai Tunnels were a network of underground passages beneath Portland’s downtown business area. They connected several hotels and restaurants to ships docked on the Willamette River, and were used mostly for moving goods from the ships to basement storage areas. But Bunko Kelly had discovered another use for them, and was profiting nicely from his unsavory endeavors.
The low ceilings, and musty smell, along with the history of the place, gave Lydia the creeps, but she knew this was a necessary step if she was going to be able to reach out to her grandson.
Lydia watched as Joe pried the frame of an iron barred window from a brick wall, then picked up the cask and held it out in front of her.
“Do your thing…” he said, gazing at her expectantly.
Lydia reached out and placed her hands on the cask. Closing her eyes, a crease formed in the space between them. She uttered a command and instantly the small barrel disappeared. Opening her eyes once more, she looked at her friend.
“That’s astonishing,” he said, hefting the invisible container up and down several times for effect. He raised his arms and deposited the cask in the hollow space behind the wall, then replaced the frame, using considerable force to shove it securely back in place.
“That should do it,” he said, looking at her as he wiped his hands on his trouser legs.
“Here’s hoping it’s intended recipient will hear the shrill beeping sound emitted when the time-release alert goes off,” Lydia replied as the two of them turned and headed for the staircase leading to the streets above and Joe’s ship waiting in the harbor.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – PRESENT DAY
His arrival was less than gracious, landing on his backside behind the large ebony table, then skittering across the glossy wooden floor like a ballplayer sliding into home base. The flannel pajamas he wore polished a smooth path behind him until his foot slammed into the leg of a chair, which brought his momentum to a screeching halt.
Jack looked around, confused. The room was unfamiliar; there was nothing recognizable as he searched the space until his eyes came to rest upon his captor: Ethan.
“What have you done?” Jack closed his eyes and slowly shook his head back and forth. Then jumping to his feet, he dashed across the room to where his brother stood, staring down at him, with a sardonic smirk on his face.
Jack balled his hands into tight, little fists, and slammed them into Ethan’s chest with all his might.
“Whoa there, little brother,” Ethan said, grasping both of Jack’s wrists and pulling them away from his body. “Do you really think you could take me like that? Seriously?” He shoved Jack away and looked down at him, his sapphire blue eyes sparkling. An amused grin was turning his mouth up at the corners.
“Seduced! Grandpa got that right!” Jack spat at him, enraged. “You are their little puppet!“
“Whatever you have to tell yourself, Jack.” Ethan pushed his fingers through his black curls to get them out of his face. “Inez wants to see you.“
Ethan grabbed Jack by the arm, pulling him toward the door.
“Get your freaking hands off of me!” Jack shouted, and he yanked away as hard as he could. But it was no use. Ethan was almost twice his size, in weight, and had several inches on him in height, as well.
Ethan stopped and stared down at him. “Look, we can do this one of two ways; you can either walk like a big boy, or I’ll pick you up and carry you. Which is it going to be?”
Jack wiped his forehead with the other hand and stared directly into Ethan’s eyes. He was seething. “Ugh!” He tried pulling away again with no luck. “Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!” He tried repeatedly, “Bastard!” He yelled.
And then it started. He couldn’t breathe. His chest was tight, and his throat was constricting. He reached down for his pocket, and the realization struck, Oh, no. I don’t have my inhaler. His eyes were wild, scanning the room. He started clawing at Ethan’s chest.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ethan asked, letting go of Jack’s arm. His forehead was creased, and his lips were pressed together into a tight line.
“Inhaler. Asthma…can’t breathe…” Jack gasped. “Get help!” He fell to his knees, placing his head between them.
Ethan ripped the door open and began yelling, “HELP! Someone help!” He dashed into the hallway and glanced around frantically, bending over the railing, he looked down on the main foyer. Flammel stepped out of the dining room and stared up at him.
“Master Ethan? What is it?“
“My brother. It’s my brother, Jack. He’s having a bad asthma attack. He doesn’t have his inhaler. We need help. FAST!“
Flammel put his hand in the air, nodding in Ethan’s direction. “Right away! I’m on it!” He pulled a cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed a number then spoke briefly before looking back at Ethan.
“An ambulance is on the way.” He said, dashing up the stairs to where Ethan was standing.
“What’s going on?” Inez stepped out of her room at the far end of the upper hallway. “Ethan? When did you arrive?” She dashed down the hall to where he stood. “And why don’t you have a shirt on?” She asked, eyes wide and eyebrows high on her forehead.
“It’s Jack …he’s having an asthma attack. We need help. Flammel called an ambulance.“
“Is he in there?” She said, pointing behind him.
“Yeah,” Ethan said, and they both turned and entered the conference room.
Jack was lying on the floor, hands to his throat, mouth open wide, gasping for air. His eyes were bulging.
“He doesn’t have his inhaler,” Ethan looked at Inez. “Do you know if there’s anything we can do to help him until they get here?“
Inez pulled her cell from her pocket and pressed a button.
“Earl. It’s Jack. We have him. But he’s having an asthma attack and doesn’t have an inhaler. You need to come right away. You have extras, I presume?” She asked into the phone. “Good, yes, take the portal. Be quick!” She swiped the surface of her phone again then put it back in her pocket.
Moments later, a portal appeared on the wall behind the round table, and Uncle Earl strode through, the portal closing behind him. In his hand, he carried a small box, which he opened, then knelt next to Jack on the floor.
“It’s alright, son, I’m here, and I have your medicine,” he said, removing the new inhaler from its box and quickly inserting it into Jack’s mouth.
Jack reached up and took hold of the device, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply. Removing it, he took a breath, then inserted it again, consuming another dose. Breathing more comfortably, he raised up on his elbows, and the others in the room relaxed a bit.
“Madam,” Flammel said, from the doorway, “the ambulance is here. What shall I tell them?” He looked at Inez expectantly.
“I’ll talk to them, Flammel,” she said, getting up off the floor and glancing down at Earl.
“We’re all good here, then?” she asked and waited for his affirmative response before turning to leave the room.
“How are you here?” Jack looked up at Earl, his breathing still labored, but improving.
“Let’s talk about that after you’ve fully recovered.” Earl pushed himself up off the floor and brushed the knees of his slacks. Reaching down, he offered Jack a hand.
“Stop pretending like you care about me.” Jack scooted back and turned toward Ethan, who was staring down at him from the corner of the room.
“What’s going on? Why did you bring me here, Ethan? And where are we?” Jack asked, standing up and staring accusingly, back and forth, at both of them.
Ignoring the question, Earl interjected:
“Ethan, nice to finally meet you. I’m your great uncle Earl. Your grandmother Lydia’s brother.”
“Seriously? You’re just going to blow me off like that?” Jack bellowed, “I want answers! You can’t just kidnap me and then pretend like everything is normal!” He looked at Ethan. “Answer me!”
Ethan rolled his eyes and shoved dark curls away from his face, shrugging his left shoulder.
“I think I’ll let Auntie Inez explain all of that.” Ethan then turned and walked out of the room.
Jack’s mouth dropped open as he stood gazing out the door. Clamping it shut again, he turned and faced his uncle.
“Well??” His eyes were wide with expectation.
Earl opened his mouth to speak when Inez entered the room.
“Jack. I’m pleased to see that you’re recovering from your…incident.” Her eyebrows raised and the corners of her mouth curved slightly. “I’m sure you have lots of questions, and I fully intend to answer them for you. Let’s get you settled into a room and then we can talk over dinner.” She turned to leave –
“No. Not good enough! I want answers, NOW!” Jack shouted at her, his voice was thin and raspy. Remembering his recent episode, he placed his hand on his chest, and closed his eyes to calm himself. “Why aren’t you angry at Ethan for shoving you through that portal? I would expect you to be really upset with him right now.” He squinted his eyes, piecing his thoughts together. “I want to know why he brought me here. Where is this, by the way? And what do you intend to do with me?”
Inez slowly turned, glaring down at him. “I will remind you that you are the child here and you will do as you are told.” Inez said coolly, “I will treat you with respect so long as you behave yourself. Otherwise, things may not be as pleasant for you as they otherwise could be.” She stared him in the eye for a long moment before glancing sideways at Earl, tipping her chin, and rolling her eyes. “To briefly answer your questions, you are in Stockholm, Sweden, and this is your new home. There are protection spells surrounding this house and you’ll have no access to a cell phone or other technology for contacting your friends in Ireland. So, you’ll want to get used to that idea. Resist and you will be one miserable little boy. Cooperate and eventually you could be very happy.”
Jack’s head drooped with the enormity of her words. He was speechless. Turning, he looked pleadingly at his uncle. Earl simply raised his eyebrows, pushed the little round glasses up off the tip of his nose, and nodded to confirm what she said was true.
“But, but…” Jack stammered.
“But nothing. Accept your fate and we will get along just fine. Now, follow me.” She tossed a meaningful look in Earl’s direction and he crossed the room to stand directly behind Jack. Inez shot darts at Jack with her eyes before turning and exiting the room.
ONE HOUR LATER
“I want details.” Inez turned to look at Ethan, who was sitting on the pink and gold brocade couch across from her in the music room.
The young man was no longer bare-chested and it was obvious he had showered and changed clothes since the event with Jack in the upstairs meeting room.
“Well, well, well…have I got some new information that you’re going to find very interesting…” He started, wearing the grin of a Cheshire cat on his face, sapphire eyes sparkling, and eyebrows raised high on his forehead.
“Don’t be coy, nephew. Spill the news.” She gazed at him over a china cup of steaming brew, never taking her eyes off of him for a moment.
“There have been some very tasty developments we were not aware of. For instance, apparently there is this magical golden telescope that Jack touched…yes…that’s what initiated his magical abilities…but what’s been happening to him with that thing is going to blow your mind!”
“Interesting…Spare me the drama, Ethan. Just give me the facts.” Inez appeared agitated, sitting forward on the edge of her seat.
“Well, drum-roll please, apparently our Grandmother Lydia has been contacting him through that thing.”
Inez’s eyes were wild and her mouth dropped open. She threw here hands in the air and shot up off her chair.
“WHAT??” she shrieked, blinking her eyes repeatedly and shaking her head back and forth several times.
“How is that even possible?!” She strode across the room then turned to face him.
“I’m serious. I don’t have any other details because I didn’t have enough time. Stupid kid burst into my bedroom while I was undressing. I was just getting ready to make a quick trip through the portal to tell you the amazing story and he saw the glowing pendant around my neck. So I was forced to make a snap decision and grab him, taking him through with me. I was hoping to be able to snatch the telescope, too. But that didn’t happen.”
Inez stood silent for a long moment. Then looking up at Ethan again –
“How does he know it was his grandmother? Where? How? This is impossible.”
“All I know is that he recognized her from that huge portrait hanging on the wall at Mac Paidin Manor,” he shook his head, “I was hoping to get him to give me a demonstration…you know, show me how it works…” he trailed off.
Inez’s head snapped up and there was a new glimmer in her squinty eyes.
“You’re brilliant, Nephew!” She quickly strode to the table where her cell phone sat and picked it up, swiping across the screen.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – PRESENT DAY
“Thank you for coming on such short notice. As I mentioned over the phone, we have an urgent situation and I require your particular expertise to devise a plan of action,” Inez gazed intently at the faces of Earl and Lizzie O’Brien, Victor Pisano, and Phinneas Dreadfort seated around the large ebony table.
“As you are aware, Ethan successfully transported Jack with him through a portal from Mac Paidin Manor. He is secured here, with us. What you don’t know is…significant.”
She paused and raised her left eyebrow, a conniving grin spreading across her face.
“Ethan discovered what it was that activated Jack’s magical abilities.”
She paused, taking a moment to look each of them in the eye.
“This really is incredible news…I can hardly believe it myself.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth, the grin spreading into a full-blown smile.
“There is a golden telescope that Jack touched…but it’s not just that…” She paused again. The others in the room were perched forward on the fronts of their chairs.
“Mother has been contacting him through that telescope!” She blurted the words with enthusiasm.
Those sitting around the table exchanged expressions of disbelief, surprise, and wonder evident on their faces.
“What do you mean? Lydia is contacting him through a telescope?” Earl pushed himself back from the table and cocked his head to one side, eyeing Inez suspiciously, eyebrows crunched together. Lizzie O’Brien placed a manicured hand on her husband’s arm as he spoke.
“I know! It’s too incredible to be true!” Inez slipped crimson painted fingernails through her dark locks, pulling them away from her face.
“Ethan didn’t have a chance to actually view the thing himself, but he says Jack recognized her when he saw the portrait hanging at the manor.” She was pacing back and forth across the room as she spoke.
“I KNEW there was something that little brat wasn’t telling us!” Lizzie O’Brien blared. “What do you have in mind, Inez?”
Inez stopped and leaned in, both hands flat on the table’s surface.
“Well, as it so happens, Jack’s best friend and his father are currently at the manor with Arthur. And, according to Ethan, they brought that telescope with them.”She dipped her chin and raised her left eyebrow. “So, I say we need to somehow acquire that thing and have Jack conduct a demonstration for us.” Inez finished and gazed at Earl.
“He won’t do it willingly,” Earl pushed the little round glasses up off the tip of his nose and readjusted in his seat.
“I know he’s resistant right now,” Inez began, “but he also knows he is stuck in a very precarious situation. I’ve made it clear that he can either cooperate or…we have ways to coerce him to do as we ask,” She blinked deliberately and glanced in Victor’s direction.
“Oh, how I would just love to warm him up to the idea of going along with our plans,” Lizzie grinned, flicking the thumb and index finger of her right hand together to produce a bright orange flame. She cackled wickedly before blowing out the fire.
“Contain yourself, Auntie,” Inez rolled her eyes. “We need a plan for stealing that telescope and transporting it back here.” She looked at Earl. “And with Clara detained at the moment, it could make things a little tricky.”
Inez turned her back on them and walked to gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows. “The good news is that Ethan still has his teleportation pendant. So, we do have a covert way in and back out of the home.” She turned to face them. “But that means he will have to accompany whoever else needs to participate.” She looked at Phinneas, then Victor. “The biggest challenge is the fact that we have no idea where in the manor the telescope is located. Which could be problematic. Any ideas?”
The faces around the table were blank, lips pressed together into tight lines, brows crunched, and creases between eyes.
“I think we’re going to need that kid,” Victor spoke up.
“Yeah, I think so, too. How else we gonna grab dat ting without gittin caught?” Phinneas Dreadfort agreed.
Inez blinked deliberately at Earl.
“Well, I must concur. It seems a near impossible task without Jack’s participation,” he paused, glancing at his wife next to him, then back at Inez. “But how we get him to go along with something like that is beyond me.”
He shook his head slowly from side to side.
Inez was silent, contemplating for a long moment.
“Hmm…I must say, I think you’re right. The odds of successfully locating that telescope without Jack are certainly stacked against us. Even if we’re able to get him to go along with our plan, it will be a difficult task to pull off without the others in the house being alerted to our presence.” She turned again to gaze out the window. Then, she slowly raised her right index finger in the air, “However,” she spun around, “there is always the threat of force.”
Inez walked back to the table and sat down.
“Let’s think about this…by now, Arthur, Mr. Flanagan, and his boy have figured out that Ethan must have taken Jack. So, they expect Ethan hasn’t switched teams, after all,” she paused to take a sip from a crystal goblet, “They must suspect Jack is with me, but they have no idea where I am. So, that gives us an edge.”
“True,” Lizzie piped in, “but they also have Clara.” She tipped her head at Inez.
“Yes, but Sister has her pendant and can exit anytime she feels the need.”
“Good point,” Earl interjected. “Still, they know how valuable the boy is to us. So, they won’t believe we would do anything to harm him. Do we really have any leverage?” He looked at the others around the table.
“His friends want Jack safely returned. They want to see him again.” Inez tapped her index finger to the tip of her nose. “Here’s what I think we do. Ethan and I teleport to the upper room of the manor, while simultaneously Phinneas and Victor barge through the front door and demand to know where the telescope is. Our men will be armed and threatening, so we can play Good Cop, Bad Cop in that Ethan and I will come at them from behind, but with a more logic-based approach. One way or another, they should be convinced to hand the telescope over to us.”
MAC PAIDIN MANOR, DUBLIN, IRELAND – PRESENT DAY
“Master Jack, Master Ethan, breakfast is served.” Arthur briefly knocked on each boy’s bedroom door then stood, expectant, in the upper hallway.
After no response from either room, he tried a second time.
Arthur took hold of the brass knob on Jack’s bedroom door and turned, opening slowly, then stepped into the room. The queen-sized canopy bed before him appeared smooth and undisturbed. Jack’s clothes from the night before lay strewn across a chair beneath the far window. The butler’s eyebrows shot up and he turned abruptly, taking three long strides to the adjoining door leading to Ethan’s room. Boldly, he yanked the door open and, as he expected, Ethan’s bed also remained undisturbed.
Dashing out Ethan’s door and into the upper hallway he began to shout, “Bill, Bart, urgent situation! Come quickly!” He sprinted to the opposite end of the corridor and pounded repeatedly on both of their bedroom doors. Bill opened first. His sandy hair was a mess and he was just tying the belt of his brown velour robe around his waist.
“What is it, Arthur?” he asked, rubbing his eyes groggily.
“The boys, they’re missing!” Arthur blurted frantically.
Bart’s bedroom door creaked open and he peeked out, shoving messy bangs out of his eyes.
“What’s all the racket about?” He asked in an irritated tone.
“It’s Ethan and Jack, Bart,” Bill turned to look at his son. “They’re gone.”
“What?!” Bart’s eyes flew open with new interest. “Gone where?” He asked, throwing his door wide open and stepping out into the hallway.
Bart jogged down the corridor to Jack’s bedroom then moments later exited out Ethan’s doorway. Throwing his hands in the air, a perplexed look on his face.
“Where did they go?” He shouted, jutting his chin out, eyes open wide. He ran back to where his dad and Arthur were standing.
The three of them stood there in silence, looking at one another. Arthur spoke first.
“Well, whatever happened, we can’t fix it in this moment. Why don’t you both get dressed and let’s have a pow-wow over breakfast…which is ready and waiting downstairs.”
Bill looked at his son, then back to the butler.
“Ok, ya, alright. That sounds like a plan. We’ll meet you down there in 10?” He agreed, eyebrows raised at Bart.
“Yeah, ok.” He said, reluctantly, and they both returned to their bedrooms.
10 MINUTES LATER
Bill Flanagan pushed open the heavy door leading to the kitchens and waited for his son to walk through before entering himself, allowing the door to swing closed behind them. Arthur was just placing a silver coffee pot on a white-linen covered table in the breakfast nook at the far end of the space when he heard them come in, and turned in their direction.
“Let’s brainstorm, shall we?”
Bill was carrying a large, old, leather-bound tome in his arms as he and Bart crossed the room and seated themselves at the table. Clearing a space, he deposited the ancient-looking book on the surface as Arthur sat down to join them.
“I thought this might come in handy in this situation.” Bill said, carefully lifting the coffee pot and pouring himself a fragrant cup of steaming brew.
Arthur and Bart were nodding enthusiastically in response to his proposal.
“Let’s find out where those boys are located.” Bill gently opened the book, allowing it to fall to a seemingly random beige-colored parchment page. Closing his eyes, he held his right hand just above the surface and spoke: “Where are Ethan and Jack Mac Paidin and who, if anyone, are they with?” Opening his eyes, the three of them watched as words began to flow across the page in an elegant script.
“I am not able to locate any information about Ethan or Jack Mac Paidin.”
Bill squinted his eyes together sharply, brows crunched until they almost met on the bridge of his nose. Lifting an index finger to his lips, he stared blankly at the page before him.
“What???” He whispered. “I’ve never seen it respond that way before,” he glanced up at Arthur, then Bart.
The butler’s chair squeaked against the tile floor as he pushed it back away from the table and stood abruptly.
“Well, if that old volume can’t find the boys, then perhaps the locator globe can!” He looked at the two of them momentarily before Bill and Bart jumped up and all three dashed for the swinging door.
Reaching the upper level, out of breath, they stood anxiously outside the familiar walnut door as Arthur inserted a key and opened. They bumped into one another clamoring up the narrow staircase before viewing the globe in the center of the room.
Bill and Bart stood shifting from one foot to the other while Arthur pressed the red button on the locator’s rim and swiped his fingers across the screen that popped into view.
Lifting his head, Arthur looked at the globe expectantly.
Where the two dots representing the boys had previously appeared on the globe’s surface, now the device was dark.
“I know we have no information to support this presumption,” Bill started, looking at Bart and Arthur, “but I have a very bad feeling that their disappearance has something to do with Inez Mac Paidin.”
The three locked eyes with one another.
“What?!” Bart gasped. “I thought Clara said that witch couldn’t come back without her stupid glowing pendant?!” He spouted indignantly. “So, how in the…?”
Bill and Arthur exchanged suspicious looks.
“That is what Clara said…but it seems likely there are details we aren’t aware of. Do you know of any other passages or routes into or out of this house that they could have used to transport the boys?” Bill looked at Arthur expectantly.
The butler crunched his eyebrows together, a deep crease forming on his forehead.
“Noo..” he began, shaking his head slowly back and forth, “The only way they have entered in the past has been through the use of a portal.” He paused. “And it does seem one of those pendants is required for the transport.”
“So, if we have Inez’s pendant…and we do have it…then what other option could there be?” Bill replied.
“Well, who cares how they got them out of here,” Bart jumped in, “we just need to figure out how to get them back!” He said, shoving his right hand through the bangs that were clinging to his damp skin, pushing them away from his face. “That woman KILLED Jack’s parents! I can’t stand the thought of him being with her!” He paced back and forth across the room as he spoke.
“I agree,” Arthur said, “I know, from first hand experience, what Inez Mac Paidin is capable of.” He shot a meaningful glance in Bill’s direction. “We do not want her to have those boys…” he rolled his eyes and shook his head back and forth, “but what’s to be done? We don’t know their location, and even if we did, that woman has resources. She brought four armed gunmen with her when she showed up to take Sir Edward away…” he paused in thought, “And it’s not like we have magic hats or other port keys that will allow us to teleport to them…”
Bill inhaled deeply.
“We’re going to need help. Fortunately, we do have an ace in our pocket…we have her sister.”
Arthur and Bart looked at one another and a small grin began to turn up the corners of each of their mouths.
Bill continued, “And we have friends in The Order of Light.”
Bill pressed a button on his phone then stuffed it into his pants pocket.
“My parents have organized a gathering with several of the leaders in The Order of Light to help us formulate a plan of action, where Jack and Ethan are concerned. They will be hosting the meeting at their home this evening and would like us to join them for dinner, before hand.” Bill looked at Arthur, then Bart. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for you to finally meet your grandparents and other family members in person, Son.”
“That sounds great, Dad.” Bart turned to head down the stairs to his bedroom. “I’ll grab a shower and change clothes,” he said over his shoulder.
Bill and Arthur watched the boy leave, then Bill turned to the butler,
“My father said they will make sure Clara is in attendance, in case we want to ask her any questions.”
Arthur nodded his head and pressed his lips together, deep in thought.
“If anyone has information about where Inez is holding those boys, it will be her.” Arthur said, pressing the display screen on the globe down into place before strolling toward the staircase. Bill followed, switching off the light on the wall before they headed down.
“It will be nice to see your parents again, after all these years.” Arthur said, as they parted in the upper hallway.
“Let’s plan to leave in an hour, Arthur. I’ll drive.” Bill trailed off and the butler raised his hand, nodding his head in agreement.
TWO HOURS LATER – MAC PAIDIN MANOR – PRESENT DAY
A shimmering portal materialized in the upper room, hovering in mid-air, as Inez and Ethan strolled through and into a pitch dark room. The vibrant sapphire blue pendant, suspended from a cord around Ethan’s neck, was pulsating with light from within.
Ethan lost his footing and stumbled as they entered, Inez quickly grabbing his arm to steady him.
“Shhh!” She hissed under her breath. “We don’t want them to hear us!”
They stood still for a moment, waiting for their eyes to adjust to the unlit space, before carefully making their way to the small staircase leading down to the the upper hallway.
“You go first,” Inez whispered. And Ethan quietly walked ahead of her then turned the brass knob on the walnut door and peeked out.
“All clear,” he said, and Inez followed him out and into the brightly lit hallway.
“We’ll wait for Victor and Phinneas downstairs before we make our way down,” Inez said in a hushed tone.
“I don’t hear any voices,” Ethan whispered.” They must be in the dining room or something.” Ethan looked at Inez with a crease between his eyes.
The two of them moved stealthily toward the massive main staircase when they stopped abruptly.
“Wait,” Inez put her hand on Ethan’s shoulder, cocking her head to the side and listening, “I heard movement.”
They crouched silently, detecting doors opening, then closing, and footsteps heavy on the hard tile floor below. When no voices were audible, Inez signaled to Ethan to move forward.
Quietly making their way down the large, open staircase, and around the corner, Ethan gasped when confronted by Victor, carrying a handgun.
“Oh, my gosh!” Ethan exclaimed, under his breath, throwing his hand in the air.
Inez poked her head around Ethan and was faced with Phinneas, who was also holding a semi-automatic up in front of his nose.
Rolling her eyes in exasperation, she motioned with her hand for him to lower the gun. Then, looking him in the eye, she placed her right index finger to her ear and raised her eyebrows, questioningly.
Phinneas shook his head no in response. Inez nodded and motioned with her hand to move back toward the front of the house and into the library, where they met Victor, exiting the dining and sitting areas. He was also shaking his head to suggest there was no one in that part of the house.
The four of them stood in the foyer, looking at one another. Inez had a deep crease on her forehead.
“It looks like no one is home.” She kept her voice low, but no longer a whisper.
“Astonishing,” Victor replied.
“Cool, lets start looking.” Ethan said, and they all relaxed, Phinneas and Victor lowering their firearms to their sides.
“Do you have any idea where it might be?” Inez looked at Ethan.
“I know Bill was keeping it in his possession.” He said. “His room is this way.” Ethan turned and dashed back up the stairs, the others following behind him.
Once in Bill’s bedroom the four of them began going through things, opening dresser drawers and closet doors.
“Here!” Ethan exclaimed. “Found his suitcase.” The other three joined him to look on as Ethan pulled a dark brown fabric, suitcase from the walk-in closet and moved to the bed, dropping the case on it’s side. He unzipped the top section, lifting the cover to expose several neatly folded shirts. Looking at Inez with a sparkle in his eye, he pulled the clothing aside, and underneath he discovered an ancient looking, leather-bound book with ragged, parchment pages hanging out. And next to it lay a shiny, golden telescope engraved with lots of unusual-looking symbols. “Jackpot!” Ethan exclaimed, lifting the scope out of the case and holding it up for all to see.
“Fabulous,” Inez exclaimed, grabbing the telescope from the boy. “Let’s get out of here before they return home,” and she turned for the door.
“What about the book?” Ethan asked, before closing the case.
“Leave it.” Inez said, heading for the upper observation room.
INDIAN OCEAN – OFF THE COAST OF INDIA – 1879
“Hey, Lady, come on, let us out.” The voice was muffled, but insistent and it roused Lydia out of her reminiscing. She shook her head, turning away from the sea, to gaze across the ship’s deck at the opening of the prisoner’s hold. Dirty, scabbed fingers were grasping at the bars as the pleas were emanating from it’s depths.
Sam made a wide berth, skirting around the opening, as she came to stand next to Lydia. “I hate listening to them,” she said, placing her hands over her ears.
“Well, it is their ship,” Lydia began, “we can’t really blame them for complaining…even though they are quite the frightening lot.” She looked down at the girl, who was scrunching her nose up and squeezing her eyes shut tightly.
“Still, I’m tired of their nasty slurs every time we come up on deck. It’s disgusting.” Sam stomped her foot, “I wish they would just shut up!”
Lydia tipped her head to the side, a small grin forming at the corners of her mouth. “Well, you could do something about that, if you really wanted to, you know?” She winked at Sam and the girl opened her eyes and bit her lip.
“I don’t know…” she said, “it doesn’t seem right.”
Lydia pursed her lips “It’s your choice…but you do need practice and it really wouldn’t hurt anything.” She urged.
“Girlie, hey, you! Yeah, you! Come on over here and lift that latch. I promise, I’ll make it worth your while.”
Sam looked up at Lydia, then turned and slowly walked to where the voice was coming from. “Are you talking to me?” she asked, gazing down into a grizzled face, beady dark eyes peering up at her.
“Yeah, that’s it, just lift that there latch and set us free,” his mouth was filled to overflowing with brown-stained, crooked teeth and Sam could smell the stench of sweat and feces arising from the depths of the hold.
Lifting her hands in the man’s direction, Sam uttered a command and a burst of orange and gold sparks emerged from her fingertips, and immediately his voice was silenced. The pirate covered his mouth with his hand, his eyes wild, brows high on his forehead. Sam watched as he repeatedly opened and closed his mouth, shaking his head back and forth as though trying to get water out of his ears.
Turning and walking again to stand by Lydia, she grinned just a little. “That is better. It won’t be long now till we disembark, anyhow, and not having to listen to him for even that short time will be a blessing.”
“What kind of mischief are you girls up to?” A deep, British voice asked from behind them.
Lydia and Sam spun around to face Joseph ‘Bunko’ Kelly, eying them with a twinkle in his hazel eyes.
“Oh! Uncle Joe!” The girl wrapped her arms around his thick waist and hugged him tightly. Grabbing hold of both shoulders with his big, hairy hands, Bunko gently pushed her away and held her at arms length, staring into her sky blue eyes. “Samantha Joe Kelly,” he began, “are you playing tricks on our guests?” He asked and stood silent, watching her.
“Uhh..I…” Sam started.
“It was my fault,” Lydia interjected. “I encouraged her. After all, she does need to practice…and those men are awfully obnoxious. Just listen,” and she paused, cocking her head to one side, “isn’t that such an improvement?” She looked down at Sam and they both began to giggle uncontrollably.
“Yes, alright, it is much nicer not having to listen to their shouting and complaining,” Bunko began, “but you must reverse that spell when we put down anchor,” he glanced sideways at his niece. “Can’t leave them mute, after all.”
“Deal,” Samantha stuck her hand out and Bunko shook it in agreement.
“Now wander off, lassie. I need to speak with the lady here for a moment.” And he waved at her with the back of his hand. He watched until Sam was out of earshot. Then looked at Lydia.
“Once we disembark and get settled into our lodgings, I’ll reach out to my contacts to see if we can get some help with your situation.” He said. Lydia nodded her head and smiled, her eyes soft and warm with appreciation.
Ethan and Inez stepped through the portal and found themselves, once again, in the conference room on the upper floor of her elegant Oestermalm home. Inez clasped the golden telescope tightly in her right hand.
“Time for some answers.” She said, glancing at Ethan to her left.
They both strode confidently out of the room and down the hallway until they came to a door next to her own bedroom.
“Wait here.” She said, turning and walking into her room. A moment later she emerged with a key in her hand. Inserting it into the knob she knocked briefly, then turned the handle and opened.
Jack was standing across the room, staring out the large picture window at the manicured lawns below. He turned and stared in their direction, emotionless, until his eyes came to rest upon the item Inez held out toward him in her hand.
“What?!” His hand shot to his hair and his eyes were large as saucers. “How did you get that?!” He asked, and Inez and Ethan only smirked at him.
“We think,” Inez began in a sing-song tone of voice, “that it’s time for a demonstration!” And she boldly strode across the room, stopping immediately in front of where Jack was standing.
Jumping backwards, bumping into the window, Jack threw both hands into the air high above his head, eyes wide, brows shot up on his forehead.
“Be careful with that thing!” He shouted. “The outcome is unpredictable!” He leaped to the side to gain some distance between him and the device.
“What do you mean?” Inez eyed him suspiciously.
“I mean…I’ve had limited experience touching that thing. And only for, like, 30 second intervals. Bart timed me last time and had to pry the thing from my hands to make sure I ‘came back’…for lack of a better term.”
Inez lowered the scope and tipped her chin to one side, considering.
“So, you’ve touched this thing how many times now?” She asked.
“Only twice.” He decided not to tell her about the failed third attempt.
“And both times my mother appeared to you in these visions?” Inez raised one eyebrow at him.
“Yes, both times.”
“Fine. Ethan, set a timer on your phone. 30 seconds.” She turned and looked at the boy.
Ethan pulled his cell from his pocket and swiped across the screen a few times.
“Got it.” He said, looking up at Inez, then Jack.
“Ok, you’re all set, then. Let’s do this.” Inez raised the telescope again and shoved it in Jack’s direction.
Jack stared at her for a long moment, then looked at Ethan, who was simply grinning at him.
Jack didn’t move to take the telescope, but stood motionless.
“Look, I can press this thing to your body and force the experience, whether you want to cooperate or not. So, you might as well have some level of control over how this goes down.” She shoved the device in his direction again.
Jack rolled his eyes, blinked one time, long and slow, licked his lips, then looked at Ethan. “Ok,” then to Inez, “Pull this thing from my hands if I’m not back by the time the alarm goes off.” He said and when she nodded at him, he reached out and took hold of the telescope.
“Jack, we don’t have much time. You need to know how to use the telescope. It’s not just for sending messages.” Lydia was looking directly into his eyes. She was in a strange environment this time. A dark, rocky passage that was cool and musty smelling. “The adjustable ends can be set so that the telescope can be used as a teleportation device. I’ve made it simple for you. Have someone else turn the smaller end to the left until it clicks into place. The larger end to the right. Then when you take hold of the scope it will transport you to my time and location. It’s imperative you help me get back to Por…”
“Did it work? Did you see my mother?” Jack dropped to the floor, his breathing was labored.
“Water.” Jack gasped and watched as Ethan dashed into the bathroom. Jack reached down into his pants pocket and retrieved the inhaler located there. Inserting the device into his mouth, he inhaled deeply, then removed it and exhaled slowly. Ethan emerged holding a glass of water in his hand, from which Jack sipped, then set the glass down on the floor next to him.
“Well?!” Inez asked, impatiently.
Jack stood and walked to where a chair sat in the corner next to his bed. Turning to have a seat, he put a hand in the air, closed his eyes, and breathed slowly. Then opening his eyes again, he looked at Inez.
“Yes. She was there.” He simply stated. And he stared at her.
Inez’s eyes flashed open wide and she shook her head from side to side, chin jutting out sharply in front of her.
“Well…what did she say?!? I want details!”
Jack rolled his eyes, then motioned for Inez to come closer. Inez scrunched her brows and squinted her eyes at him, pursing her lips together.
“Come here…I need to inspect that telescope. But you have to hold it for me.” Jack said to Inez and she cautiously edged closer to him.
“Your mother said that she designed this thing so that, if I have someone else twist the ends for me a certain way, when I take hold of it…I don’t know…it seems too crazy to be true.” Jack paused and looked up at Inez.
“What?! What will it do?” Inez shrieked, an aqua vein was pulsating through the crepe-thin skin at her temples.
“Well,” Jack began,”she said that if I grab hold of it after the ends are turned just so then it will teleport her to my location.” He wrinkled up his nose and pulled his mouth to the side, shaking his head back and forth.
“Do it. Do it!” Inez shouted.
Ethan stood by, squinting at the two of them.
“Well, it seems unlikely to me,” Jack continued, “but she said if you turn the little end to the left until it clicks into place…”
Inez turned the telescope in her hands so that she could twist the movable pieces. She grasped the smaller end and, with some effort, twisted it to the left. Click! She looked up at Jack.
“Now turn the other, larger end to the right until it clicks.”
Inez did as he directed and the larger end clicked into place. She looked up at him, expectant.
“Now,” Jack shrugged his shoulders, “I guess I’m just supposed to touch the thing.
Inez dashed to where he sat and held the telescope out in Jack’s direction. Her eyes were wild and she bounced the device up and down before him.
“Wait a minute,” Ethan shouted, “that’s not…”
Inez turned to look in Ethan’s direction.
Jack took a deep breath and lunged forward with both hands, firmly grasping onto the telescope.
And he vanished from the room.
BILL’ FLANAGAN’S ANCESTRAL HOME – DUBLIN, IRELAND – PRESENT DAY
The meeting room was filled with lots of grown-up faces Bart didn’t recognize. He nervously reached a hand up and shoved his sandy bangs out of his eyes. Pop wouldn’t allow him to wear his favorite ball cap, so his hair was more difficult to manage than usual. And being compelled to keep his cell in his pocket gave him nothing to do with his hands. He shifted back and forth from one foot to the other, hovering close to his dad and the butler.
“Maybe Bart would prefer to spend the evening in the entertainment room,” Grandmother Flanagan approached in a dark gray cardigan sweater and slacks. Her soft white hair was swept up in a French Twist and there were pearl and diamond earrings perched on her lobes.
Bart glanced up at Bill and crunched his eyebrows together, discretely shaking his head in disapproval.
“He’s fine here with us, Mother,” her son began, “Bart is an important part of this investigation.” Bill finished and looked down at his son, who grinned back in gratitude.
Arthur stood in silence next to the boy and his dad as an older gentleman walked to the front of the room and raised his hand.
“If I could have your attention, please,” Ardal Flanagan began in a thick Irish accent, “As ye know, my boy, William and grandson, Bart, have come to us from The States. They’re requiring our help with a mystery concerning the whereabouts of their dear friend, young Master Jack Mac Paidin,” he paused, glancing across the faces of those assembled. “Now, as yer aware, young Master Jack is the grandson of our beloved Sir Edward and Lady Lydia Mac Paidin…esteemed members of this noble Order. It is our duty, then, to assist these boys in their objective to get to the bottom of this situation and find their friend.” He finished and turned to the left, where he nodded to a muscled younger man posted there. The man nodded back and turned to leave before Ardal continued.
“As many of ye are also aware, Sir Edward and Lady Lydia’s only son, Roswell, and his young wife, Faith, tragically died in an automobile collision some nine years ago in Portland, Oregon, USA,” he paused as murmurs spread throughout the room. “Now, what many of ye do not know, and what Sir Edward shared with me privately prior to his demise eight years ago, is that Ross and Faith’s death was not an accident.” He paused for emphasis. “And even more horrific is the knowledge that it was Edward and Lydia’s daughters, Inez and Clara, who arranged for the murder of their little brother, Roswell, who is Master Jack’s father.” Shocked gasps erupted all across the meeting space. Ardal raised his right index finger in the air and increased the volume of his voice.
“Other relevant details we know, thus far,” the room quietened and he lowered his voice in response, “are that it is the older daughter, Inez, who is responsible for Sir Edward’s capture and disappearance eight years ago, as well as the more recent development…” he glanced toward the doorway to his left again where the younger man had reappeared, “when just two nights ago, Inez, Clara, and young Master Jack’s older brother, Ethan appeared through a portal at Mac Paidin Manor in an attempt to abduct the boy and take him away with them.” He finished as chatter broke out among the guests. Putting his hand into the air again, he continued, “Please, please everyone, quiet. There is more,” he waited until the conversation had died down again, “What we thought was good news is that Ethan, who has been living with his aunts for several years now and was presumed to have joined their dark endeavors, pushed Inez back through the portal, ripping the port-key pendant from her neck, thus preventing her from using it to return.” Enthusiastic cheers broke out in the room, and once again Mr. Mac Paidin, Sr. had to raise his hand to quiet the group before continuing.
“The last bit we know is this…both Ethan and Clara were left behind at the manor. We have Clara held captive here…and we are about to bring her in for questioning,” again, more discord in the room as he looked to the man standing in the doorway. Ardal held his hand in the air once more, this time signaling toward the man to wait a moment. “The final, very disturbing piece, however, is that last evening both young Jack and his brother, Ethan, went missing from Mac Paidin Manor. The clothing they had been wearing yesterday was left strewn across their bedrooms and their beds were left undisturbed. This leads us to believe they have been abducted.”
Ardal looked again to the man standing at the ready to his left and waved him into the room.
“But as I said, we have Clara Mac Paidin here to answer for her sister’s actions.”
The man shoved Clara into the room, handcuffed, hair a mess, with mascara smeared down her cheeks.
And the room went silent.
BOMBAY, INDIA – 1879
Jack landed with a thud, legs sprawled out beneath him, eyes wild and disoriented.
He pushed up onto his knees with his left hand and glanced down to his right. There, held tightly in an iron-grip….was the telescope. He’d managed to bring the thing through with him.
Releasing it, the scope clinked down onto the cool terracotta tiles beneath him and he dropped back on his butt.
Where am I?
He was seated on the floor next to an ornately carved, dark wood, 4-poster bed hung with long, sheer drapes. Glancing across the room, the walls were composed of thousands of tiny, brightly colored tiles forming patterns in shades of turquoise, tangerine, goldenrod, and white. A round, embossed brass tray served as a table-top at the side of the bed upon which were several small stone statues and chunky white candles with thick globs of cooled wax dripping down their sides.
What’s that smell?
His stomach growled loudly in response. There was a distinctly spicy fragrance wafting through the open doorway that reminded him of the curry dishes he’d ordered from the Indian food carts in downtown Portland.
His curiosity halted abruptly when he heard footsteps approaching outside the door. Quickly, he scooted backward, ducking low beside the bed, pushing the telescope under it for cover.
The steps were accompanied by an unfamiliar ‘whoosh, whoosh, whoosh’ sound and Jack crunched his brows together, squinting his eyes tightly, and cocking his head to one side as he listened carefully.
“On your night table, Lady?” a girl’s voice shouted, and Jack’s eyes shot around the room, coming to a stop on the open window behind him, calculating.
Before he had a chance to take action, scuffed black shoes and a lace-edged skirt, nearly touching the floor, came into view as he stared at the floor in front of him.
“Wha?” Sam shrieked. “Who are you? And what are you doing in Lady Lydia’s bed chamber?”
Jack’s head whipped up until he was face-to-face with a young girl about his own age. Long, strawberry-blonde curls hung over her shoulders and her eyes were a vibrant shade of sky blue. A sprinkling of brown freckles dusted the bridge of her nose and spread out across her cheeks.
“Lady Lydia?” Jack asked in a hushed tone as he sat up on his knees once again.
The girl nodded her head and jutted her chin out accusingly.
“Yes, Lady Lydia Mac Paidin. This is her room. What are you doing here and who are you?”
More footsteps could be heard approaching from outside the doorway.
“Sam, did you find it?”
Jack recognized that voice.
Standing slowly, he gazed toward the door.
Lydia Mac Paidin’s feet froze in their tracks.
“Who am I, you ask?” Jack started, looking at the girl, “I’m her grandson…”
“Jack!” Lydia exclaimed, rushing across the room and wrapping her arms tightly around him.
Jack held her close, his heart nearly bursting with emotion.
After several moments Lydia stepped back, brushing the bangs away from Jack’s eyes, and placing both hands on his shoulders.
“Just look at you! You’re the spitting image of your father,” she said, choking on the last word. She closed her eyes tightly and wiped away unexpected tears forming in their corners. Shaking her head back and forth, she turned and sat down on the bed. Patting the space next to her, she looked at him, “Sit. I want to hear all about how you got here.”
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – PRESENT DAY
“Uhhh! That conniving little brat!” Inez erupted, stumbling forward into the space where Jack had been just moments before. Reaching up and weaving bony fingers through her tangles of long, dark hair, she spun around and glared at Ethan.
“Whyyyyy did you not see that coming?”
Ethan stared blankly at her, slowly shaking his head back and forth. He licked his lower lip then bit it, brows scrunched together.
“I wasn’t focused on Jack’s thoughts. Not at first, anyway.” He glanced at the floor then glared back at her. “I was busy watching your interaction with him. You were putting on quite a show, you know?” He threw his hand in the air and crossed the room in two long strides, stopping before the window. Turning to face her again, with a deep crease on his forehead, he continued. “It wasn’t until he said Grandma Lydia would teleport here that I began to delve into Jack’s thoughts…by the time I realized his deception, it was too late.” He flopped down into a chair sitting next to him and wiped the sweat from his brow.
There was a long silence between them before Inez took a deep breath, then closing her eyes and shaking her head back and forth, she looked back at Ethan.
“Do you know anything more about where she is? Where THEY are?”
Pressing his lips tightly together, a line formed between Ethan’s eyes.
“N-o-t really. No.” He started, “Jack said that she has been appearing to him through that telescope. But we didn’t have enough time together for any more details than that.” He paused, then his eyes flew open wide as saucers, “However…I DO know something else you will find quite interesting!” Inez glanced at him sideways and raised her right brow, but she said nothing.
“Well,” Ethan began slowly, tipping his head in her direction and pursing his lips “Jack mentioned, in passing,” he raised his arm, turning his wrist with a fanciful flourish, then paused, drawing out the revelation, “that Grandpa Edward isn’t dead, after all…”
Inez’s face went gray as the blood drained, and she quickly spun to support herself on the side of the bed, stumbling to take a seat.
“W-h-a-t?” She gasped.
“And apparently,” Ethan continued, “he’s been communicating with Jack through his reading glasses.”
“How is that possible?” Inez gazed through him with a confused look on her face. “I watched…” she abruptly caught herself and readjusted her pose, eyes shifting in her nephew’s direction.
“You watched what?” Ethan looked sideways at her.
“Uh-hem,” Inez cleared her throat and dropped her eyes, covering her mouth with her hand. “I watched…as his casket was lowered into the ground. I was there at his funeral.” She paused, “From a distance, of course, considering our estranged relationship. But how could he falsify his death and burial?” She looked at Ethan with sad puppy dog eyes.
Ethan squinted at her and pressed his lips into a tight line.
“I don’t know how he did it, all I know is that Jack said he’s alive and has been interacting with him through those glasses.”
He walked to a brocade wing-back chair and sat down, “But that’s all I have. If anyone knows anything more than that, it’s going to be that Bart kid. Or his dad. Or both of them.” He rolled his eyes at her.
Inez stood and began pacing back and forth across the room.
“Ok, let’s stay focused. What do we know?” She pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers and closed her eyes tightly, exhaling an exaggerated sigh. “We know that Jack is gone and that he is likely with my mother. We also know that it’s his unique magical abilities that allow him to connect with wizarding people through spell-crafted objects.” She opened her eyes, gazing up at the ceiling. “So, it seems pointless to try to acquire the reading glasses since we no longer have access to Jack and his abilities, for the time being, anyhow. So they would be of no use to us.” She tapped her lips with her finger as she paced.
“We know that both Grandma Lydia and Grandpa Edward are alive…”Ethan interjected. “And that both of them have been communicating with Jack through magical devices.” He paused. “But why? Why, Jack?” He squinted and pursed his lips.
“Well, we also know that your grandfather sent Arthur to try to abduct you two years before they decided to recruit Jack…” Inez began, “but since you were unwilling to play their game, it seems they defaulted to Jack. But that still doesn’t explain why Mother would be reaching out to him and not you…” A sadness slowly spread across her face, and her eyes teared up a bit, “or me…or Clara…her daughters.” She pressed her lips together tightly and blinked several times rapidly.
“Nevertheless, she must have a good reason.” Inez resolved, wiping hair away from her forehead. “The incredible news is that she is alive! And making contact. Though we still have absolutely no clue where she is or how to reach her.”
And there was silence between them once again.
“Sooo…we need that Bart kid.” Ethan raised both eyebrows in Inez’s direction.
BILL FLANAGAN’S ANCESTRAL HOME – DUBLIN, IRELAND – PRESENT DAY
The crowd hushed as Clara Mac Paidin was roughly escorted to the front of the ballroom, where a hard wooden chair awaited her.
The man shoved her into it then turned to face Ardal Flanagan. Bowing briefly, he stepped around the older gentleman and joined the rest of the onlookers.
“What have ye to say fer yerself, young lady?” Ardal gazed at Clara in silence.
“It was all Inez. The whole scheme was her idea.” Clara spoke under her breath. She lifted both cuffed hands together and pushed a whisp of pumpkin-colored hair out of her mascara-smudged eyes, then wiped her nose on a shirt-sleeve, before looking up into Mr. Flanagan’s wrinkled face.
“I’ve known you and yer sister since ye were wee little girls” Ardal began, “and you’ve always been prone to mischief…both of ye.” He stood over her, hands perched high on his hips. “And I’ll grant ye, t’was nearly always Inez who was the instigator, but yer a grown woman now, Clara Mac Paidin. And ye will be held accountable fer yer part in these crimes.” His voice boomed on the last two words and he turned to face the others in the room.
Clara’s head shot up in response and for the first time she was met by hundreds of accusing eyes staring back at her. She blinked rapidly, bowing her head once again.
“These are yer kin we are talking about!” Ardal continued. “How could ye do such things to yer own family?” He turned to her again and bent over, grabbing her by the shoulders.
Clara raised her head, closing her eyes, then opening them slowly and deliberately. She straightened her back and sat up a little taller in the chair. She stared at Ardal Flanagan with a gaze hard and cold as steel.
“I said it was Inez who planned everything. I am not responsible for her actions.” She hissed the words between clenched teeth.
“No, but you will answer for your part…” Bill Flanagan strode assertively through the crowd, people stepping aside to let him pass. “Or do you forget I was there the other night when you, your sister, and Ethan materialized in the upper room at Mac Paidin Manor?” He came to a stop next to his father and waited for Clara to respond.
“I do not forget,” Clara turned to look at Bill, “and as you are aware, I made the same claim then that I make here, now. It was Inez who plotted and planned…” she took a deep breath, “and I told you then that I would help you…that I could be a valuable ally. So, why have I been mistreated?” She glared at him. “I told you that I was willing to put myself at risk and that I requested PROTECTION from you people!” She shrieked. “And this is how you treat me?”
“This is not about YOU!” Bart shouted, stepping away from the butler and pushing his way forward. His cheeks were bright red and his eyes were bulging.
“This is about JACK! And I want to know where he is!” He stopped next to his dad. Bart’s breathing was heavy and his actions animated. He threw both hands into the air, then shoved one of them through his bangs, shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. “We KNOW you two plotted to kill his parents and even his Grandpa Edward!” He blared. “You deserve to rot in HELL!”
Bill placed a hand on Bart’s shoulder and Bart shook it off, roughly.
“No, I’m freaking angry! And I want to know where Jack is!” He looked up at his father then back to the woman seated before him. “Where is he? You better tell me RIGHT NOW!”
Loud chatter broke out across the room.
Clara squinted her eyes at Bart and tilted her head to the side.
“What do you mean, you want to know where he is? Last time I saw him he was with you.” She shot back at the boy. “I’ve been a little…tied up…since then.” She glanced down to her handcuffs and raised her fists off her lap.
“Maybe so,” Bart shot back, “but you know she took him, and you know where she is, don’t try to deny it.”
Clara stared at him for a long moment then turned to Bill.
“Does somebody want to fill me in here?” She shook her head and jutted her chin out at him.
Bart stared at her, his eyes wide as saucers. Then he turned to look up at his dad.
Bill rolled his eyes and exhaled a heavy sigh as he looked down at her. “Jack and Ethan are missing,” He began. “They disappeared last night. Their beds were undisturbed, clothes strewn all over their rooms. And…” he paused, bowing his head toward Clara, a somber look in his eyes, “Jack’s inhaler and cell phone were left behind. It’s clear they’ve been abducted.”
Clara slowly nodded her head in acknowledgement. A wry smile was playing at the corners of her mouth and her left eyebrow raised up on her forehead.
“So, her plan is playing out as she intended, after all.”
Jack raised his index finger then got down on his knees and peered under the bed. Grasping the telescope he stood back up and held it in Lydia’s direction.
“I used this. And I’ll tell you all the details. But first, you need to fill me in on some things.”
“It worked.” Lydia took the golden object from her grandson’s hand and gazed at it, a small grin turning up the corners of her mouth.
“Yes. You deserve an explanation.” She sat on the bed behind her and looked up at him, patting the space next to her, and raising her left eyebrow.
Jack nodded, then moved to sit next to his grandmother.
Lydia inhaled deeply and reached up, tucking a stray lock of chestnut hair behind one ear before turning to look at Sam.
“Sweetheart, would you mind? Jack and I have a lot of catching up to do.”
The girl’s cheeks flushed a rosy pink and she bit her lower lip.
“Of course, Mam.” She blinked rapidly and shook her head back and forth before giving a quick curtsy, a slight nod to Jack, then exited the room, closing the door behind her.
Lydia’s gaze returned to the telescope, now resting in her lap.
“Where to begin?” She sat quietly for a long moment, considering.
“This,” she started, patting the scope lovingly, “has been silently waiting to be discovered,” she paused, then turned to look at Jack, “for more than one hundred and thirty years.”
Jack’s chin dropped and his mouth fell open.
“What?” His eyes were wide and brows shot up high on his forehead. “I mean…how?” He shook his head back and forth as the impact of her words registered.
Lydia lifted the telescope, then looking behind her, placed it carefully on the bedside table, before turning to look at him. Readjusting, she twisted, lifting her crunchy red skirt just enough to pull her legs up and cross them, Indian-style, so that she was facing Jack. He responded by mirroring her action, and they sat across from one another on the bed.
“It’s a very long story, Jack,” she blinked hard and licked her lips.
“Ok,” he interjected, “how about starting by telling me WHEN we are, right now, then?”
She nodded, her eyes brightening at his suggestion.
“Good idea. Brace yourself,” she inhaled again. “You are now in the year 1879.” She dipped her chin, tipping her head slightly to the right. “And, you should probably know that we are currently in Bombay, India…otherwise known as Mumbai, in your time.”
Jack swallowed hard then pursed his lips.
“Umm…so, that’s crazy,” he began. “I’d love to hear all about why you’re here, and how you arrived and all…maybe after we get back to our real time. Ya?” He leaned forward, shifting his gaze past his grandmother, and pointed to the telescope. “I’m assuming you can reprogram that thing to take us back there, right?”
Lydia’s hand shot to her lips and she tapped them, eyes glancing from side to side.
“Well, actually, it’s not quite that easy.” She paused, staring at him.
Jack’s chocolate eyes narrowed and they drilled into hers intently. His lips were pressed into a tight line.
“What do you mean, it’s not that easy?” He paused, crunching his eyebrows together. “Can’t you just set a new date and destination or something like that? And we voop together back to the twenty-first century?”
Lydia slowly shook her head back and forth.
“I’m afraid not. Technically, that should work, for most people. But not for me.” She paused, inhaling deeply and licked her lips again. “You see, time-travel is not without it’s consequences. The dna gets altered…damaged…ever so slightly,” she added when Jack’s eyes flew open wide. “The potential damage is minimized when using a transporter that’s been spell-crafted specifically for you, using your own dna.”
“Like those magic hats Grandpa Edward makes.” Jack interjected.
“Yes! Exactly like those.” Lydia’s eyes sparkled at the thought. “But when using other ‘generic’ devices…“
“Like the telescope?” Jack asked.
Lydia nodded. “Well, the risk is much more significant”
Jack’s eyes glazed over and he squinted in her direction.
“I get that,” he started, “but then, why can I use it and you can’t?”
“Because I’ve already jumped centuries too many times using generic devices. I can’t take the risk again. We can discuss details later. But trust me when I tell you the recovery time has become…intolerable. Think jet-lag, and then compound that across decades or more. It can be deadly.”
Jack nodded and pulled his mouth to the side.
“So, then…why me? Why did you reach out to me? And why the telescope? How did you know I’d end up touching it? I mean, I’m not even the one who found it. My friend’s dad discovered it under his store. Actually…now that I think about it…how did you even know my name?” Jack paused, scrunching his eyes and shaking his head back and forth. “If you went missing when my dad was only twelve years old…then, I’m confused.”
Lydia nodded her head and slowly blinked her eyes.
“You should be confused, Jack. It’s a complicated situation. Long story short, I never intended to be in the past. And I didn’t plan to end up in India at all. The truth of the matter is, your Grandfather Edward sent me to the future, to Portland, Oregon, when you were 5 years old.”
She paused for a long moment and Jack waited, silently.
“I was trying to prevent your parents death.”
“I’m afraid Ms. Mac Paidin knows more than she’s saying,” Arthur said as he turned the the lock on the massive wrought iron and glass front door and swung it open, stepping to the side so that Bill and Bart could pass by.
“You’re right, Arty, it was written all over her face,” Bill agreed, pulling off an army green rain jacket and placing it in the butler’s outstretched arms.
“I’d like to know how we’re going to find Jack now that she’s refusing to reveal the address where her sister is holding them? She’s a two-faced witch, if you ask me.” Bart removed his rain-soaked Oregon Ducks ball cap and wiped his forehead on the back of his sleeve before staring expectantly at the two men.
“That’s going to be a trick,” Bill began, shaking his head. “I’m disappointed in her. She made it clear that she wanted to be an ally in exchange for protection.”
“Yeah, that didn’t work out so great.” Bart interjected.
Bill scrunched his face and rolled his eyes. “True. But from the looks of it, she hasn’t received what I would call protection.” He exhaled loudly. “So, I guess her lack of trust is somewhat understandable.” Bill closed his eyes and scratched the top of his head. “It’s been a very long and tiring day. And since there’s nothing more we can do tonight, I suggest we all get some good sleep and I’ll investigate some more first thing in the morning.” He walked across the foyer and stood at the bottom of the large open staircase, waiting.
Bart shrugged his shoulders, waving the ball cap back and forth to dry it. Pursing his lips and rolling his eyes, he strolled across the foyer, kicking at the marble tiles with his red Converse high-tops, as he walked.
“Night, Arty” Bart mumbled as he joined his father.
“Excellent idea, Master Flanagan. Good night, Bart.” Arthur watched as his two house guests ascended the stairs before turning to retire to his quarters.
Once upstairs, Bart opened the door to his bedroom and gazed in at the elegant furnishings, then, turning back to the hallway, he left his door ajar and slowly strolled down the corridor, coming to a stop before Jack’s room. Grasping the ornately carved brass knob, he twisted and pushed the door open. There, across the room, in a neatly folded stack on the end of the bed, were the clothes his friend had been wearing the last time he saw him. Bart walked across the room and slumped down on the bed next to them. Glancing behind him, he saw Jack’s ever-present inhaler perched on the bedside table.
“Oh, man…where are you, Jack?” He whispered, under his breath, and shook his head.
Turning back around, his eyes came to a stop at the adjoining door to Ethan’s bedroom. Squinting and pulling his mouth to the side, Bart got up and went to it, opening to view the now-neatly made bed. Stepping just inside the room, he stood, staring at the space, then crossed to stand at the foot of Ethan’s bed. Gazing back toward the doorway leading back to Jack’s room, he glanced down, then dropped to his hands and knees and cocked his head to peer under.
“How very convenient.” A familiar female voice uttered behind him and Bart jumped up to find Inez and Ethan standing behind him inside of a shimmering portal hovering there in mid air.
“What the??” Bart began, but Inez was too quick, and without even a step, she reached out, grabbing Bart by the arm, and pulled him forcefully into the portal.
“DAD!!!” Bart screamed as he was sucked into the blinding light.
Moments later the three of them materialized into the large conference room on the upper floor of the Mac Paidin sister’s Oestermalm home.
Bart tripped on the carpet and flew across the enormous ebony table, grasping for the edge to stop himself.
“Whoa!” He shouted, gazing up in confusion.
Bart’s eyes zeroed in on Inez, who was smoothing her long, dark hair into place.
Ethan stood, silently, next to her.
“Where am I? What is this place? Is this where you have Jack?” Bart pushed up onto his elbows, belly down on the black table top. He glared at the two of them, breathing rapidly. His cheeks were red and his eyes were on fire.
“There will be plenty of time for questions. And trust me, young man, I have a list of my own for you.” Inez stared back at him, cool as ice.
“I don’t give a rats tail about your questions, Inez!” Bart spat at her as he sat upright and crossed his legs beneath him. “You’re the one who needs to answer for your actions! Now, where is Jack?”
Inez turned and smirked at Ethan. “How quaint. He thinks he’s in control here.” The corners of her mouth turned up in a little grin and she raised her left eyebrow. “He clearly needs to be educated.” She turned back to Bart and raised her hands, palms outward, and uttering a word, a brilliant bolt of light emitted from them, striking Bart in the chest. The force slammed him off the table, and into the far wall behind him.
“Ugh!” The air was hammered from his lungs, and he squeezed his eyes shut tight, clutching his chest with both hands, gasping for breath. A loud wheezing sound escaped his lips, and his chest was heaving for several seconds, as he worked to recover from the impact.
“What in the world?” He shrieked at Inez. “You didn’t have to do that, you sadistic sow!”
Inez raised her hands in his direction again and tipped her chin toward him, both eyebrows raised and eyes wide.
“Ok, ok…I give!” Bart yelled, raising both arms and crossing them protectively across his face.
Ethan grabbed his stomach and laughed, rolling his eyes at Bart.
“It’s a good thing you do, kid. She could roast you alive with those things! You really don’t want to mess with her.”
Bart scowled at him.
“You’re on HER side? Are you freaking insane? Don’t you know she killed your parents??” He pointed accusingly at Inez.
Ethan’s smile vanished and he raised himself up, standing taller, inhaling deeply, and inclining his head in Bart’s direction. Ethan stared with a new sense of purpose at Bart, his sapphire eyes now focused and intense.
“Hello? Did you HEAR me, Ethan? Why are you staring at me like that?”
Slowly and deliberately Ethan turned to face Inez.
“Well?” His expression was unwavering.
“Well what?” Inez tossed her hair over her shoulder and met his gaze. “The boy is delusional.” She sniffed and rolled her crimson lips together.
Ethan’s eyes were wide and his brows raised slowly and deliberately high on his forehead. “IS he? The boy…believes he is telling the truth.” He proclaimed, pointedly.
“It is obvious someone is out to thwart our plans. You know that, Ethan.” Her voice was smooth as silk and utterly without emotion. “Creating a cover story is central to their ploy, I’m sure.”
Ethan continued to glare at her. “He is easy to read…unfortunate that your thoughts remain cloaked.” His mouth was a tight, straight line as he continued to stare at her.
“Oh, really? Do you think your Grandfather would lie to his grandson about something as serious as that?” Bart burst in. “Because that bit of information comes straight from him! Your Grandfather Edward who, by the way, felt the need to hide IN THE PAST in order to protect himself from HER, because she tried to MURDER HIM!!”
Ethan’s mouth dropped open as he gazed, unblinking, at Bart. His cheeks flushed red as he turned again to his aunt.
Still, Inez remained unflustered.
“Ethan, think about it. I attended my father’s funeral…you know that. Which, by the way, was a very public event with thousands of people in attendance. And, besides, what evidence are these accusations based upon?” She turned to Bart, “Do you have anything factual to support your claims?” She turned back to Ethan. “Nothing, I’m sure, that couldn’t be manufactured by someone with designs to discredit me and damage our blossoming relationship.”
She turned to Bart, lips pursed, her eyes open wide.
“Jack. Jack received a parchment from your grandfather…” Bart stuttered. “It was written in his own handwriting. Arthur, the butler, confirmed that.”
“So, a handwritten message. Easily falsified by anyone with skills as a forger.” Inez countered.
“Yeah, well, Jack also saw directly through his grandpa Edward’s eyes. He looked him right in the face and recognized him. He watched as your grandfather wrote a message saying that Jack is in danger from HER!” Bart thrust his index finger at Inez again.
“Sounds pretty convincing to me,” Ethan sneered at at his aunt.
“Again, you must remember we are dealing with magic workers here. People with abilities of deception beyond anything either of you have ever encountered before.”
“What about your own mother?” Bart spat. “Even she has been warning Jack that he is in danger and needs to get away.”
“From ME? Did my mother name me, specifically? No? I didn’t think so.” Inez shot back quickly, before Ethan had a chance to respond.
Bart looked down at his feet and pursed his lips. “Well…no.” He mumbled. “She didn’t say your name, specifically.”
“You see?” Inez brightened. “All a fabrication. And we will get to the bottom of this, eventually. For now, let’s get out of this room and into a more welcoming environment where we can have a more comfortable conversation.”
She walked around the table and stood over Bart, where he was seated on the floor, reaching her hand out, in his direction. “I’m sorry I shoved you, Bart. But a lesson was necessary.”
Bart slapped her hand away. “Don’t touch me. I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you.”
Inez withdrew her hand, adjusting the ring she wore on her first finger, staring down at it, silently.
Bart shifted on the floor in front of her.
“You, boy, need to learn some manners,” she hissed under her breath. “Flammel!” she turned to the open doorway behind Bart, “Flammel, come at once!” She shrieked.
Bart’s gaze shot to Ethan, who was staring, wide-eyed, with a slight smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth, back at him. The teen was slowly shaking his head back and forth and he blinked, pointedly, at Bart.
Rapid footsteps could be heard outside the door, moving toward their location before the man servant appeared in the doorway.
“Yes, Madam? What is it?” the butler asked, breathlessly.
“Have Ivan report to me immediately. And prepare a room in the basement for our…” she glanced down at Bart with a nod of her head and a sneer on her face, “guest. This young man requires some time alone to…contemplate…his actions.”
Bart jumped to his feet, “Wait a minute! What…”
Inez twisted abruptly, thrusting her hand in his direction again, emitting a bolt of light that knocked him back on his rear end, then went back to her discussion without so much as the blink of an eye.
“Kind of stupid, aren’t you, kid?” Ethan cooed. “I told you not to mess with her.”
“Ugh!” Bart fell backwards, shoving his fingers through his bangs and up over the top of his head. “Screw you, Ethan,” he muttered under his breath. Bart laid there, staring up at the dark, embossed ceiling tiles, listening as Inez issued orders about his captivity.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what you’ve done with Jack.”
“So you think.” Heavy footfalls could now be heard moving up the stairs and toward the conference room.
“Ma’am?” A husky voice asked from the doorway.
“Get up, Bart.” Inez stated matter-of-factly.
“I told you, I’m not going anywhere until you tell me where Jack is.” Bart laid motionless on the floor.
“Take him!” Inez shook her head and moved to the side, motioning in Bart’s direction.
A large, muscled man abruptly stomped over, bent down, and roughly grabbed Bart around the waist, hefting him in one swift motion, up and over his right shoulder.
“Stop it! Put me down!” Bart beat on the man’s back, his hands balled up into tight fists, feet kicking relentlessly in the air behind him.
“Cut it out, kid. I don’t want to have to hurt you,” the man blurted as he lumbered out the doorway and down the stairs, taking two at a time. Bart raised his head to get a better look at his surroundings, noting the elegant furnishings, paintings, and wall hangings as he was carried through a spacious foyer and around a corner, down a hallway, where the man paused to open a door. Bart looked down to the belt at the man’s waist, securing a black t-shirt tucked into blue jeans. “Think, think, think…” Bart shoved his hand down the man’s pants and grabbed the elastic band on his underwear, pulling upward as hard as he could.
“Grrr…”Ivan turned and slammed his back into the wall of the staircase he was descending, smashing Bart’s head and shoulders with the full force of his body weight.
“Owww!” Bart screamed in agony.
“I told you not to make me hurt you!” Ivan growled.
Blood began streaming from Bart’s nose, leaving a burgundy trail on the, what was now an ancient-looking stone floor. They had passed through, what appeared to be the lower level of the house and down yet another, smaller staircase before the man opened a heavy wooden door where he dropped Bart down onto a stiff mattress before turning to leave.
Bart looked up, accusingly. “Where are you going? You can’t just leave me here!” he shouted, wiping the blood from his face on a shirtsleeve as he watched the man close the door. An audible click from the sound of a key turning in the lock alarmed Bart, and he jumped to his feet, dashing to the door, and twisting the brass knob. Locked.
Bart pounded on the door with all his might. “Let me out! You can’t just lock me in here!”
Turning around, he slid down the door to land on his butt. The whole right side of his face was throbbing and his eyelid was swelling closed. Licking at his lower lip, he discovered a bump was growing there, and he couldn’t help prodding at the new development with the tip of his tongue as he lifted his head to peer at his new surroundings.
The room was pitch dark. Shoving his hands into the pockets of the calf-length khaki carpenter’s shorts, he located what he was fishing for; his cell phone. He quickly pulled it out, and swiped the surface. Immediately the screen came to life and he quickly entered his password, then looked at his wifi indicator in the upper right corner. Just as he suspected, no service. But at least he had a source of light.
Thank goodness they didn’t think to search me and confiscate it.
He shifted his right shoulder uncomfortably, wincing at the pain, and scrunched his face, lifting his left hand to caress the area on his injured arm. Turning the device around to shine the light on the space where he was sitting, he wondered out loud;
Where in the world am I?
The room was small and dark, the walls, ceiling, and floor all composed of a dark gray, lumpy stone. The door, behind him, was the only thing in the space crafted from wood. Leaning against it, Bart noticed his back felt significantly warmer than his bottom. Reaching down to the floor, on either side of him, he laid his hands flat on the stones, which were definitely cool to the touch, immediately sucking heat from his body.
High up on the wall immediately across from him was a small window, about the size of two macaroni and cheese boxes placed end-to-end. Definitely too small for a person to escape out of. Shifting the phone he could see a thin mattress perched atop a metal frame bed positioned against the wall on the right side of the room. A scratchy looking gray blanket and dingy pillow completed the sleeping accommodations. And, waving his cell around the rest of the room he could see that the bed was literally the only item furnishing the space. No toilet. No table. No lamp. Nothing.
Bart pushed himself up off the floor and moved across the room to sit on the bed. Glancing down to one of it’s legs, he noticed it was cemented into place. He stood then and grabbed hold of the end of the bed, pulling with the full weight of his body. The thing didn’t even budge. So, there wasn’t a chance he would be scooting it over and under the window in an attempt to gain access. But it might have been something to at least peer out and get a glimpse of his environment.
He turned and started pacing back and forth, from window wall, to door, and back.
What in the very name of all that’s holy does she want with me? he wondered. And where is Jack? For all I know, he could be holed up in another cell down here, right next to this one.
Bart walked to the door and laid down in front of it, putting his mouth right up to the crack underneath, and shouted;
“Jack! Jack! Are you there?” He waited, silently, listening for any response.
“JACK!! It’s me, Bart! Can you hear me?”
After a moment he jumped back up and glared at the room. He started pacing again, back and forth, back and forth, chewing on his lower lip. Turning to the bed again, he sat down,
Maybe dad will find me with that magic book of his. He and Arthur must have noticed I’m gone by now. Then it struck him like a pile of bricks, Oh, yeah. They’re in bed. They think I’m sleeping.
His breath started coming in fits and spurts. His chest was heaving and his mouth, which hurt like crazy, was pressed into a tight line. Glancing down at his phone the upper right corner display said 29% battery was left. Pretty soon I won’t even have the light from my phone.
He shot up off the bed and balled his hands into tight fists, thrusting them above his head, into the air. “Errr…” He growled in a loud voice, launching himself forcefully across the room, and kicking the wall opposite from him as hard as he could.
Surprisingly, his foot went right through the stone and he found his leg suspended in the wall up to his thigh.
“What?” He pushed both arms out, protectively, in front of him to prevent the rest of his upper body from colliding into the wall, and dropped down, on his back side, to the floor. Lying there, he stared at his right leg, pushed half-way through the wall, and shook his head back and forth, scrunching his eyebrows together, pulling his mouth to one side in a lopsided expression. Pushing up and supporting himself on the palms of his hands, he tried turning his foot, inside the wall. It moved freely, from side-to-side.
I don’t get it…I’m not even hurt.
He flexed the foot, then tried extending it forward. His foot had full freedom of movement…within the stone wall. True, there was some resistance, but the feeling reminded him of the way one of those foam-top mattresses kind of takes the impression of your hand when you press down into it. Kind of like that. Sitting up a little more, Bart reached down to the opening, where his foot went through, and where his leg was now resting. Wiggling his fingers between his pants leg and the stone, he discovered the material responded the same way to his fingers, allowing him to pull it to the side and push his hand through with his leg.
Bart quickly withdrew his hand and wiped his forehead with it.
Reaching out again, his palm flat this time, he carefully laid it on the surface of the wall, just to the right of the place where his leg protruded. It was cool to the touch, and felt hard, as it should. He pushed on it forcefully, and when it didn’t give way, he tried poking with his finger tip. Nothing. Solid stone.
Gazing again to the area surrounding his leg, he noticed for the first time, a slight shimmer all around the hole where his leg went through.
He pursed his lips, squinting his eyes, and crunched his brows together. Then they shot up high on his forehead.
“Magic!” A wide grin spread across his face and he reached down again, inserting his fingers into the space and this time, pulling it away from his leg. Just as he suspected, the space expanded and he was able to increase the size of the hole to accommodate, first his hand, then his forearm, then his bicep.
Using his other hand, he repeated the action on the left side of his leg and pulled the space apart wide enough that he was able to poke his head inside. The stone was surprisingly easy to manipulate and gave way at his touch. Once his entire upper body was inside the wall, he pulled his left leg in, as well.
“I’m like a mole.” He giggled with delight, holding his phone up in front of him to light his way. Though the stone inside the wall was dense, it was also porous, so that, now that his entire body was inside and upright, the material allowed him to move through, with minimal effort.
“The window was just a few feet to the right from here,” he thought, shifting his shoulders that direction and putting his head down so that he could push with more full-body force. Moments later he burst through, landing clumsily on slippery grass. The moon was full and shining brightly above him and he clapped his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
COMING FALL 2020!
(Cover art is a temporary place-holder. The actual cover illustration is not yet complete.)
Our adventure with Jack, Bart, and the cast of characters from Book One: The Golden Telescope continues with exciting new twists, turns, and reveals!
Learn more about Jack’s magical abilities, where his Grandma Lydia is, why she is stuck in the past, and the story behind why and how she got there. Meet intriguing new characters, visit foreign lands, become better acquainted with personalities such as Joseph ‘Bunko’ Kelly, Grandpa Edward, and members of both The Order of Light as well as The Dark Cabal.
The mystery intensifies, and the plot thickens as we travel, with Jack, through time and space to uncover hidden secrets and frightening dangers surrounding our hero!
I'm publishing chapters as I write them here on this website! Check back often for updates.
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Twelve-year old Jack Mac Paidin's life is miserable. His parents are dead, and he's stuck with his heartless aunt and uncle, who make him live in the cold, dank basement.
Then his life takes a crazy turn when he touches a golden telescope that reveals he has magical abilities. He learns that he comes from a long line of magic workers who want to use his powers for their nefarious purposes. A mysterious visitor rescues him using a magic hat and takes him to his ancestral home in Dublin, Ireland.
Though Jack's life at Mac Paidin Manor is much better than it was living in the basement, things are far from perfect. There is a dangerous organization called The Dark Cabal, and Jack learns that it is responsible for killing his parents and separating him from his brother and sister. Confronting them will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
After years of trauma-related asthma attacks and life as a number-loving nerd, Jack finally feels like his life has meaning. Even though he is bewildered to discover that there is a world of magic he knows nothing about, Jack learns that he is special. He is the only person who can help find his Grandma Lydia trapped in the past and solve the mystery surrounding his parent's death.
Thirty-six hundred years had passed since her last visit to the blue dot in the distance she once called home.
Briefly, Chava wondered how those awaiting her arrival would receive her.
Meanwhile, Inez and Clara Mac Paidin stood, breathlessly, gazing at the black space on the far wall where the portal would appear at the appointed time.
THE DARK MATRIARCH is the opening scene introducing us to SERIES 2: JACK AND THE IMMORTALS - the ongoing saga of 12-year-old orphan, Jack Mac Paidin, and his adventures with magic in his world, both light and dark, and his role in saving his friends, siblings, and the entire planet from the influence of evil.
Jack is an orphan almost 13 years old when our story begins. He has two siblings, Ethan, 3 years older, and Sadie, 2 years younger. He hasn't seen either Ethan or Sadie since their parents were killed in a tragic automobile collision 9 years ago.
Jack lives with his great uncle, Earl O'Brien, and his wife, Lizzie, in Portland, Oregon.
Bart is a fun-loving kid, also almost 13 years old, when our story begins. His dad Bill Flanagan, owns Flanagan's Hobby Shop in downtown Portland, Oregon, where Bart and Jack work after school most week days.
He is an only child and huge Oregon Ducks football fan.
Arthur is 54 years old when our story begins. He has worked and lived at Mac Paidin Manor in Dublin, Ireland half his life. He is Sir Edward Mac Paidin's trusted butler and and devoted family friend.
Sir Edward Mac Paidin is Inez, Clara, and Ross's father, husband to Lydia (O'Brien) Mac Paidin, and grandfather to Jack, Ethan, and Sadie.
When our story begins, Sir Edward lives at Mac Paidin Manor outside of Dublin, Ireland. He has never met his grand children and they know nothing about him.
Edward is a milliner by trade, but he is not just an average hat maker. He was appointed Royal Hat Maker to the Queen and her court.
When our story begins, Bill owns a downtown Portland, Oregon hobby shop called Flanagan's.
Bart and Jack spend most days, after school, helping Bill stock the shelves at the store.
Bill has become a good friend and father-figure to Jack.
When our story begins, Inez has been estranged from her father, Sir Edward Mac Paidin, for 16 years.
She blames him for the disappearance of her mother, Lydia Mac Paidin, and lives with her sister, Clara, somewhere in Europe.
When our story begins, Clara Mac Paidin, has been estranged from her father, Sir Edward Mac Paidin, for 16 years.
Clara is 5 years younger than Inez and lives with her somewhere in Europe.
Ethan is 15 years old when our story begins.
He lives with his great uncle, Thaddeus O'Brien, and his wife, Astrid, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Earl O'Brien is Lydia (O'Brien) Mac Paidin's brother and Jack's legal guardian ever since his parents were killed nearly 9 years ago.
Earl, and his wife, Lizzie, live in Portland, Oregon where they reluctantly provide a dank, downstairs room for Jack, but have no interest in his life, except to attain their own objectives.
Thaddeus O'Brien is Lydia (O'Brien) Mac Paidin's brother and Ethan, Jack, and Sadie's great uncle.
He is married to Astrid (Bennett) O'Brien and they live in Salt Lake City, Utah.
They treat Ethan as their son, though they are only his legal guardians.
Lydia is Inez, Clara, and Ross's mother, wife to Sir Edward Mac Paidin, and grandmother to Ethan, Jack, and Sadie.
When our story begins, Lydia has been lost in time for more than two decades.
Lizzie (Mason) O'Brien is Earl's wife and Lydia (O'Brien) Mac Paidin's sister-in-law.
She is a snob who resents having to care for Jack, and does everything she can to avoid having contact with him.
As the daughter of an aeronautical engineer and a church organist, Tracy was raised with a deep appreciation for logic and spirituality, while simultaneously embracing a love for the magical and supernatural. These themes inevitably formed the background for her writing and story-telling career.
As a professional artist, Tracy focused most of her energy on a variety of creative endeavors before turning her attention to full-time writing. A person of many passions, Tracy is an entrepreneur and small business-owner, a world-traveler, video-gamer, health-nut, and foodie. She has three adult children and lives happily in a small town on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon with her best friend and life-partner, Jeff.
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AWESOME BOOK. This book is not just for children! I loved it, and I am 62 years old. Of-course I loved all the Harry Potter books too. I would put this book up there with Rowling and Riordan, who I have also read. But trust me, this is not a second hand remake of those classics. The story is original and exciting. Action, adventure, and mystery with a strong paranormal bent. Great book. Anxiously awaiting book 2.
I received an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. Oh my, look at that cover! It definitely has a classic look to it like the Babysitter’s Club, Boxcar Children or Hardy Boys. If you were into reading those back in the day, or if your children enjoy reading these types of stories, I’d definitely recommend this. Yes, it’s MG, but it has an easy flow and classic feel that would make any reader content to follow along. Like other reviewers, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and couldn’t put it down! The author blends a classic mystery feel with a relatable, modern cast and a strong plot arc done well. Highly recommend.
AN AMAZINGLY INVENTIVE AND CREATIVE PAGE TURNER. Amazingly creative, filled with details and imagery that fill your mind with scenes as if your there in the moment. Such a great book for all ages, I read this to my 8 and 5 year old they both loved it!! Definitely a book for all ages!! Can't wait for more!!
WHAT A SENSATIONAL STORY!!! I was looking for different books I could gift my nephews and nieces with. Before I would do that, I of course take a look at the book myself. This beautifully illustrated cover and intriguing title attracted my attention and I took a look inside! Whether it being good or not? I got captivated by the story! Not sure if I am the accurate audience, still it was so delightful to read the adventure of Jack! All characters were amazingly well created and I could feel the passion and the heart of the author! Really really well done and I luckily have a superb book to gift to my nephews and nieces now! Awesome!
THIS IS AN AWESOME BOOK. Jack and the Magic Hat Maker is a wonderful, exciting, riveting book! It is well written and enthrawling! It keeps you not only engaged, but anxious for the adventures that never fail with excitement!!! I can't wait for the next book and hope for many more!!!
FUN AND MAGICAL. This is a fun, fast read for all ages. If you're a fan of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter then this book is for you. Hard to put down. I almost finished it in one night.
A STORY FILLED WITH ENTHUSIASTIC ENERGY. A Story filled with enthusiastic energy. Tracy has done an excellent job writing a story that grabs you in the very beginning and captivates your heart as you join the adventure bound antics of Jack and Bart. They find themselves in places they have never been mystified by magical notations that leave them in awe. They learn of secrets from the past and are enlightened to secrets to the future. Leaving us wanting more from this series.
LOVE IT! I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next one! So different from any other book I've read!