- Ch. 1: (Not) Chapter One of The Key to Markree Castle: It’s not a secret if you know what it is.
- Ch. 2: Blind as Bats
- Ch. 3: Wait, what?
- Ch. 4: Are we going to tell our parents what we’re doing?
- Ch. 5: I don’t know why I know, but I know that you know.
- Ch. 6: You can’t try this at home.
- Ch. 7: Going Incognitus
- Ch. 8: What can you see when you’re not looking for it?
- Ch. 9: Everything I know I learned from Donald Duck
- Ch. 10: Keys, puzzles, moonlight and, finally, yogurt.
- Ch. 11: The early bird gets the laugh
- Ch. 12: Sausages, bacon, eggs and no WiFi
- Ch. 13: Who knows who and who cares?
- Ch. 14: St. Nicholas, Booger Burgers and the Down of a Thistle
- Ch. 15: Gravestone Garden
Maybe they should just watch a movie and have popcorn tonight.
It was unclear if there had ever been a more delicious slice of bacon in previous existence on the planet. Cooked to perfection, it melted in the boys’ mouths like butter or chocolate or anything else savory and lip-licking. The fried eggs were balanced just right between a firm white and a runny yolk, which they both dipped into with their freshly toasted slice of bread. Beans that were previously only seen buried in burritos were surprisingly tasty and, together with a bite of bacon, provided a salty rich combination not experienced since such gourmet delights as a Double Double Cheeseburger at In-N-Out.
“Have you ever had beans for breakfast?” Li asked.
“No, but I have now,” Dan said, “and if that was a question leading to whether or not I’m sharing mine, the answer is no,” he said and couldn’t keep the straight face and laughed out loud accidentally harder than he had intended.
No parents to be found, freshly cooked bacon, a castle as their playground and puzzles to solve and, although the boys didn’t say it out loud, it was possibly the finest morning they had known in their 9 and 11 years on our sweet earth. It couldn’t possibly get better, in fact, it could get worse–and quickly.
“Are you scared about tonight?” Dan asked Li in between heaping forkfuls of dripping egg yolk and bacon.
“Dude, no way,” Li said immediately.
“Oh, you said last night you were scared, but that you were going to go downstairs no matter what,” Dan said, taking a nibble of toasty buttered bread.
Li chewed and thought, then concluded, “If you knew what I said last night, why did you ask?”
“I don’t know,” Dan bumbled. “Maybe because I’m kinda, um,” he hesitated.
“Kinda what?” Li asked.
“Kinda scared about tonight,” Dan admitted.
“We don’t have to go, you know,” Li said.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he started, “But I want to. I want to know what’s down there, but,” again he trailed off.
“But I’m a little scared that both Alastar and Lu were pointing at me,” Dan said.
“What does that matter? It was just a coincidence,” Li said, but not convincingly.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Dan said and plunged his fork into a hearty strip of bacon. “But I still think about it and it’s scary, like, I don’t know, I’m the one that something is going to happen to tonight.”
Li looked at Dan, but didn’t know what to make of the outnumbering of people pointing at him, so in times like this, a sure strategy was to change the subject. “What’s the black hockey puck right there?” and he pointed to the crisped black circular paper weight on Dan’s plate.
“I don’t know, it looks burnt. Are you going to eat yours?” Dan asked.
“I’m getting pretty full,” Li responded.
“Yeah, me too,” Dan said as he poked at it as if it were alive and would suddenly bounce or squeal.
A post early morning, full protein and fat breakfast lull descended upon them both and they were silent for what seemed like an hour, but was only a matter of a few minutes. The bouncy people were still outside, although it looked like some people were calling it quits and the kitchen seemed to be bustling with activity.
“Have you seen your parents at all since yesterday,” Li asked.
“Well, it’s just my dad and then there’s Em, his fiancée, but no, I haven’t seen them,” Dan responded.
“Oh. Yeah, I haven’t seen mine either,” Li took the last bite of his beans and sliver of egg white. “I either saw them come into our room last night to check on us or I dreamed it, I don’t know.”
“You think someone came into our room last night? Are you sure it was your parents?” Dan asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
“I don’t know who it was or whether or not it was a dream. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was nobody. I’ll ask them when I see them,” Li said although he forgot to remember as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
“Hey, I know, why don’t we go out to the Heyrobicisers now and maybe we’ll find them?” Dan suggested.
“OK, that’s a good idea. Then we can go to the cemetery. Maybe one of them will come with us,” Li said, trying not to sound like he needed an adult to come to see gravestones, but more like it would be cool to have someone else there. “Maybe they can read something in the headstones that we can’t.”
Their plates were mopped up of even bean juice and empty except for a charcoaled and unidentified puck of black substance. Only Li’s had a sliver sliced out of it, but that sliver lay next to the full puck like a severed arm next to a dead body, untouched and only examined.
“You’re not going to eat that black thing?” Li asked.
“Nah, I’m full,” Dan said.
“It’s like robot poo, you know what I mean? It’s so perfectly shaped, so it can’t be from an animal. It’s a perfect circle, but it’s charcoaled and burnt,” he stared at it in admiration. “Man, I really don’t know what it is.”
“Do you think we need to bring our plates to the kitchen?” Dan asked.
“Oh, yeah, you’re right, good idea,” Li said as he picked up his plate and glass of empty juice.
They walked back to the kitchen and looked through the door for Darcy. There were several other people in there now and no one terribly took notice. Finally, a young girl approached them.
“Now then,” she started, her accent apparent after only two words. “How was that, lads? Ready for more? How about another strip of that bacon?” She smiled and looked ready to dish out as much bacon as they could possibly eat, but the boys were truly stuffed.
“Oh, thank you,” Dan said, “but we’re so full.”
“Yeah, that was so good,” Li added, smiling and bashful.
“Well now, I’ll tell the chef,” she said and she looked back into the kitchen although it wasn’t immediately apparent where any chef was. What the boys did see was Darcy in a deep corner of the kitchen standing next to an open door. There was a cabinet next to her so the boys couldn’t clearly see who she was talking with, but as they found her with their eyes, she happened to turn to them and she quickly smiled and did a quick wave.
The boys waved back shyly and smiled. As she continued waving, she turned her head back towards whoever it was she was talking to. It was obvious that she was telling the person she was talking to about the boys because the wave turned to a pointing finger. The pointing finger aimed at the boys on the other side of the kitchen. She continued talking and although this entire waving extravaganza took only a few seconds, it seemed to go in slow motion.
From behind the cabinet, a dark figure came slowly into view. Whoever she was talking with was moving his torso to a point next to Darcy where the view was better to see the boys that Darcy was pointing to. First, the dark coat came into view, then what looked like a hat. Finally, some gray and dark hair and it seemed to be a man. Then the unmistakable bushy eyebrows.
Darcy was talking about the boys with Killian.