The Maze of Bones
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"Amy," he called down, "what were those four branches again?"
"Ekaterina," she called. "Tomas, Janus, Lucian."
"Ekaterina," Dan repeated, as he pressed the E. "Tomas, Lucian, Janus."
As he pressed the last letter, the whole shelf swung outward. Dan had to jump away to avoid getting squished into a book sandwich.
Where the bookshelf had been was a dark stairwell, leading down.
"A secret passage," said Uncle Alistair. "Dan, I'm impressed."
"It might be dangerous!" Amy said.
"You're right," Dan agreed. "Ladies first."
Amy could've lived in the secret library. Instead, she almost died there.
She led the way down the steps and gasped when she saw all the books. They went on forever. She used to think the main public library on Copley Square was the best in the world, but this was even better. It seemed more library-ish.
The shelves were dark wood, and the books were leather-bound and very old, with gilded titles on the spines. They looked like they'd been well-used over the centuries.
Oriental carpet covered the floor. Cushy chairs were spaced around the room so you could plop down anywhere and start reading. Maps and oversize folios were spread out on big tables. Against one wall was a line of oak file cabinets and a huge computer with three separate monitors, like something they'd use at NASA. Glass chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceiling and provided plenty of light, even though the room was obviously underground. They'd descended a long way to get here, and there were no windows.
"This place is amazing!" Amy ran into the room.
"Books," Dan said. "Yay." He checked out the computer, but it was frozen on the password screen. He jiggled a few file cabinet drawers, but they were all locked.
Uncle Alistair gingerly picked a red folio from the shelves. "Latin. Caesar's campaign in Gaul, copied on vellum. Looks like it was handwritten by a scribe around, oh, 1500."
"It must be worth a fortune," Amy said.
Dan suddenly looked more interested. "We could sell them? Like, on eBay?"
"Oh, shut up, Dan. These are priceless." She ran her fingers along the spines -- Machiavelli, Melville, Milton. "They're alphabetical by author. Find the S section!"
They did, but it was a disappointment. There were ten shelves packed with everything from Shakespeare's First Folio to Bruce Springsteen's Complete Lyrics, but nothing with Richard for the first name.
"Something about that ..." Amy muttered. The name Richard S-, coupled with the word Resolution, kept nagging at her. They went together, but she didn't know how. It drove her crazy when she couldn't remember things. She read so many books sometimes they got jumbled around in her head.
Then she glanced down the aisle. At the end of the shelf, curled up on a box on a small table, was an old friend.
"Saladin!" she cried.
The cat opened his green eyes and said,
"Mrrp?" without much surprise, like he was asking, Oh, it's you? Did you bring me my red snapper?
Amy and Dan ran to him. Saladin had the most beautiful fur Amy had ever seen -- silver with spots, like a miniature snow leopard. Well ... not so miniature, actually, since he was pretty enormous, with huge paws and a long striped tail.
"Saladin, what are you doing down here?" Amy stroked his back. The cat closed his eyes and purred. Amy knew he was just a cat, but she was so happy to see him she could've cried. It was like part of Grace was still alive.
"Hey, Saladin," Dan said. "What's that you're sitting on, dude?"
"Mrrp," Saladin complained as Dan lifted him up. Underneath was a polished mahogany box with the gold initials GC engraved on the lid.
Amy's heart skipped a beat. "It's Grace's jewelry box!"
Amy opened it up, and there was Grace's personal jewelry, which Amy had loved since she was little. Grace used to let her play with these -- a pearl bracelet, a diamond ring, a pair of emerald earrings. Amy hadn't realized until much later that the stuff was real -- worth thousands of dollars.
She blinked the tears out of her eyes. Now that she'd found Saladin and the jewelry box, she felt like she really was standing in Grace's most secret place. She missed her grandmother so much it hurt. Then she pulled a very familiar piece of jewelry out of the box....
"Dear me," Alistair said. "That's her favorite necklace, isn't it?"
He was right. Amy had never seen her grandmother without this necklace -- twelve intricately carved squares of jade with a green dragon medallion in the center. Grace had called it her good-luck charm.
Amy touched the dragon in the center. She wondered why Grace hadn't been buried with this necklace. It didn't seem right.
"Hey!" Dan called. "Look at this!"
Amy found him around the corner, holding Saladin and staring at a giant wall map covered in pushpins. The pins were in five different colors: red, blue, yellow, green, and white. Every major city in the world seemed to have at least one. Some areas were stuck with only red pins, some with green or blue, some with several colors.
"She's been doing voodoo on the world!" Dan said.
"No, dummy," Amy said. "Those must be markers. They tell where something is."
Amy shook her head. She found the map creepy. "Maybe something about the Cahills?" She glanced at Alistair.
He frowned. "I don't know, my dear. Most curious." But he wouldn't meet her eyes, and Amy got the feeling he was hiding something.
"Look at Europe," Dan said. "And the East Coast."
Those areas were heavily pinned in all five colors. Amy could hardly see the cities underneath. If these pins represented the Cahills, then it looked like they'd started somewhere in Europe and spread across the world, heavily colonizing North America.
Then she thought:
Europe. Colonies. North America. The name Richard S-- started nagging at her mind again, trying to scratch its way out. A name from the eighteenth century, someone who had written resolutions ...
Suddenly, she turned and raced down the row of shelves.
"Hey!" Dan cried, as Saladin wriggled out of his arms. "Amy, where are you going?"
"The Fs!" she yelled.
"What for - failure?"
She got to the Fs and found it immediately: a tiny book, so tattered it was falling apart. The cover was decorated with a red-and-white woodblock print of Colonial farmers. The title was faded, but she could still make out: Poor Richard's Almanack, For the Year 1739, by Richard Saunders.
"Of course!" Uncle Alistair said. "Very good, my dear. Very good, indeed!"
Despite herself, Amy felt flush with pride.
"Wait a second," Dan said. "If this was written by Richard Saunders, what's it doing under F?"
"Richard Saunders was a pseudonym," Uncle Alistair explained.
Dan knit his eyebrows. "A fake foot?"
Amy wanted to strangle him, but Alistair said patiently, "No, my dear boy. You're thinking of a pseudopod. A pseudonym is a fake name, a nom de plume, a disguise for the author. This book was written by a very famous person."
"Benjamin Franklin," Amy said. "I did a report on him last year."
She opened the book. The text was printed in block letters without much punctuation, so it was hard to read, but there were charts, illustrations, columns of numbers. "This is the most famous thing Franklin ever published. Poor Richard was a character Franklin created. He had lots of pseudonyms like that. When he wrote, he would pretend he was different people."
"So we're related to a guy with multiple personalities," Dan said. "That's great. Aren't almanacs for sports?"
"Not this kind," Amy said. "This has facts for farmers. It's like a yearbook with useful tips and articles. Franklin put all his famous quotations in there, like 'Early to bed, early to rise.'"
"And 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'"
"Why would farmers care if stones are mossy or not?"
Amy was tempted to whack him with the book. Maybe that would loosen the stones in his head. But she kept her cool. "Dan, the point is he got very famous for this. And he made tons of money."
"Okay ..." Dan fished out the piece of paper with their first clue. He frowned at it.
"So we found Richard S___ . How does that help us find our treasure? And what's RESOLUTION mean?"
"Franklin used to write resolutions for himself," Amy said, "rules he wanted to follow to improve himself."
"Like New Year's resolutions?"
"Sort of, but he wrote them all year round. Not just on New Year's."
"So was that part of Poor Richard's Almanack?"
Amy knit her eyebrows. "No," she said uneasily. "His resolutions were from a different book. His autobiography, I think. Maybe the word RESOLUTION in the clue was just to help us think of Benjamin Franklin. I'm not sure...."
She turned a page in Poor Richard's Almanack.
Notes were scribbled in the margins in several different handwriting styles. She caught her breath. She recognized one line of elegant script, written in purple ink at the bottom of a page. She'd seen the same handwriting in old letters -- treasures that Grace would show her from time to time. The notation simply read
Follow Franklin, first clue. Maze of Bones.
"Mom wrote in here!" she cried. "She always used purple pen!"
Dan said. "Lemme see!"
"May I?" Alistair asked.
Amy wanted to hold the book forever. She wanted to devour every word her mother had written in it. But reluctantly, she handed it to Alistair. "I want it right back," she insisted.
"No fair!" Dan said.
Alistair put on his glasses and examined a few pages. "Interesting. Several generations have held this book. These notes here are in Grace's hand. And here, my father's handwriting, Gordon Oh. And here -- James Cahill, Grace's father. They were brothers, you know, although Gordon's mother, my grandmother, was Korean."
"That's great," Dan said impatiently. "But why was our mom writing about Ben Franklin?"
Alistair arched his eyebrows. "Obviously, Benjamin Franklin was a Cahill. That does not surprise me. He was an inventor like me, after all. I would imagine most of the books in this library were written by members of our family, whether they knew their true bloodline or not."
Amy was stunned. All of these famous authors ... Cahills? Was it possible, whenever she'd sat in a library, lost in books, she'd actually been reading the words of her relatives? She couldn't believe the Cahills could be so powerful, but Mr. McIntyre had told them their family had shaped human civilization. For the first time, she began to understand what that might mean. She felt like an enormous canyon was opening up at her feet.
How had her mother known about the first clue, years before the contest began? Why had she chosen to write in this book? What did she mean by the Maze of Bones? There were too many questions.
Meanwhile, Dan was bouncing around in his usual annoying way. "I'm related to Benjamin Franklin? You're kidding!"
"Why don't you go fly a kite in a storm and see if you get electrocuted?" Amy suggested.