stone tablet. Tenerife, Spain
silent. Then a breeze lifted and my ear caught the faint clank and rattle of
the bones and knives hanging in the pine trees behind us.
dead, do you?” Selena whispered.
ahead of us, a do-it-yourself RV created out of an old bread truck. Despite the
midafternoon warmth, the doors were shut tight. The tent behind it, barely
visible from our angle, bowed under the weight of rain that had pooled in its
canopy. There was no campfire smoke. No trampled grass. In comparison to when
we’d come here last week, the place looked deserted.
gave the camper another once-over. “Zea was really old and sickly. He could
have died—or if the kidnappers came here first looking for Lotli, they could
have found him. They might have—”
“You mean, supposed kidnappers.”
understood why my cousin didn’t like that everything we’d discovered pointed to
her boyfriend, Newt, being involved in Lotli’s disappearance, and perhaps Zea’s
as well. But I thought we’d gotten past that, like a bunch of times already.
parked our Land Rover. The Professor stood rooted next to it, a mixture of
disgust and apprehension crinkling his face. From his scholarly glasses and sandy brown hair all the way down
to his polished loafers, he looked anything but ready for our reconnaissance
trip out here on the back roads of Down East Maine. An afternoon of research at
Oxford University would have been more appropriate. “You want to check inside
the tent while we look in the camper?”
tarps. He cleared his throat, then—as posh as ever—said, “Don’t get me wrong,
I’m not totally against the idea. But the thought of discovering a rotting
corpse is a teensy bit abhorrent.”
a closed-up camper?” I snapped. It was lucky we’d driven into the campsite from
the main road instead of walking like we’d done the last time. I’d assumed the Professor had an
adventuresome spirit to go with his young Indiana Jones good looks. Especially since he was an
archaeologist, though this summer he was tutoring Selena’s eleven-year-old
brother as a favor. Still, and
despite how eager he’d seemed to come with us, the Professor had freaked the
second we started past the creepy stuff Zea and Lotli hung in the trees to
scare people off: the knives and bones, pieces of copper pipe, broken mirrors,
and doll parts. Frankly, I was surprised he’d even gotten out of the Land Rover
don’t much care for the idea myself. Let’s just hope he’s napping or
down the sides of his chinos. “I truly hope you’re right.”
toward the camper with Selena close behind. If only Chase were here now. The
creepy stuff hadn’t bothered him at all, and the fear of Zea being dead would
have only driven him forward faster.
for Chase aching inside me, raw and unrelenting. If it weren’t for me, he would
be here now. Instead, both he and my mother were trapped in the djinn realm,
prisoners of his father, Malphic. If it weren’t for me, Lotli wouldn’t be
the camper door. “Are you going to just stand there?”
second passed. Two seconds. I rapped harder. Nothing. I tried the doorknob. It
turned beneath my grip. I opened the door a crack, hesitated, and took a deep
breath before pushing it open all the way.
past me as if the camper had been closed up for days.
inside. I gave the air a cautious sniff. No dangerous odors, like a leaky gas
stove, permeated the air. No
rotting-trash smell—or decomp.
are you waiting for?”
wagon on steroids. Tassels and prisms curtained the windows, letting only faint
streaks of light inside. Miles of fuchsia and turquoise fabric draped the
ceiling and walls. Animal skulls, feathers, and nubby candles clustered inside
miniature altars. The fridge, table, and chairs, every surface that wasn’t
fabric covered, was painted purple or black. Stars decorated the ceiling. An
antique bed piled with crimson quilts and an avalanche of pillows took up the
camper’s entire backend. It was cozy enough, I supposed. But I couldn’t begin
to imagine what life had been like for Lotli, apprenticed to Zea as a child
because of her magic abilities, essentially indentured. Not that I thought a
devout shaman like Zea would have been cruel to her. It was just so different
from anything I’d experienced.
out. “We need to talk to you about Lotli.”
cramped space, working my way toward the back of the camper. Cold sweat carved
a trail down my spine. I crept past a tiny kitchen and dining nook, then the
bathroom—one toothbrush in the holder, a washcloth draped over the edge of a
camper and pulled aside the curtain that divided the living area from the bread
truck’s cab. Seats for the driver and a passenger, seashells glued to the dash,
insulated coffee cups in the holders—
whipping around to see what it was and smacking my elbow against the wall. Pain
zinged up my arm. I glared at Selena, standing barely an inch behind me.
from my arm. “You scared the hell out of me.”
“Sorry. I thought you knew I was there.”
as bad, except I was already sore and bruised from being thrown out of the
djinn realm earlier in the day.
smile and she flipped her blond hair over one shoulder. “Looks to me like Zea and Lotli might have
pulled a vanishing act after all. Huh?”
Professor’s about to find something disgusting in the tent.”
regain my composure. We couldn’t afford to waste time discussing the same thing
over and over again, any more than I could have afforded the luxury of staying
home to nurse my aches and pains. Chase and Mother were in danger. And I
couldn’t go back to the realm and rescue them until we found Lotli. Without her
and her flute-magic, it would be too risky, perhaps even impossible to enter or
escape from the realm.
to the tiny bathroom. “While we’re here, we should find something personal of
Lotli’s that you can use to scry and see where they’re holding her.”
scruffy hairbrush. You couldn’t get much more personal than that. I grabbed it
and brandished it toward Selena.
bathroom doorway, hands on her hips, eyes narrowed. “Cut it out, Annie, I’ve
had enough of you talking like Newt kidnapped Lotli, the innuendos and little
jabs. Maybe his family’s hiding something, but Newt doesn’t have anything to do
with it. So quit acting like he’s evil, okay?”
you his dad was a stockbroker, that they owned their summer home. Those were
lies. His brother is a registered creep. No matter what you want to think:
Newt’s not innocent.”
voice bordering on hysteria. “I don’t know why I bothered coming. You’re so, so
. . . You always have to be right—” Her voice died and she slowly faced me.
Angry red blotches mottled her face. But tears rimmed her eyes.
pissed. She was trembling like she was about to fall apart. Earlier today, when
we’d first heard about the lies Newt and his family had been telling, I’d seen
something in Selena’s eyes, something beneath her disbelief.
face. “Nothing. You just need to trust me. I know Newt couldn’t be involved.
And he wouldn’t have let his brother do it either.”
toughened my voice. “What makes you so certain? Tell me the truth, Selena.”
first into my hip pocket, I stepped closer. I pushed her hair back from her face.
“You’re my cousin. Please. Tell me.”
don’t get it. I know he loves me.
Like forever.” Her eyes pleaded for me
to understand what she couldn’t bring herself to say.
head. My hands went to my mouth,
covering a horrified gasp. She couldn’t mean. She couldn’t have. “What did you do?”
voice faded and she looked down at the floor.
of witchcraft being involved would never have occurred to me. Now it seemed
more than likely.
Grandfather—they’d kill me.” She curled her arms over her head, her shoulders
shaking as she crumpled down against the wall.
her. “Whatever it is, it’ll be fine. It can’t be that bad.”