"The surveillance microphone worked."
"Excellent. Did the brats take the book?"
Madison shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know, sir. But they're going to 23 Rue des Jardins, ?le St-Louis."
"If you got the number right this time," Hamilton griped.
Madison's face turned bright red. "That wasn't my fault!"
"We drove the rental car into the Seine!"
"Oh, and you have all the great ideas, Hammy. Like that stupid explosion that hit the wrong team in the museum! Or burning down Grace's mansion!"
"Stop yelling!" Mary-Todd yelled. "Children, we can't keep arguing with each other. It hurts team morale."
"Your mother is right," Eisenhower said. "The fire at the mansion and the museum bomb were both bad ideas. We should've pulverized the Cahill brats in person!"
Arnold barked excitedly and tried to bite Eisenhower's nose.
Reagan knit her eyebrows. She shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "But, um, Dad..."
"Well, the explosion ... I mean, it could've killed them, right?"
Madison rolled her eyes. "Oh, here we go again! You're going soft, Reagan!"
Reagan's face turned bright red. "Am not!"
"Quiet!" Eisenhower bellowed. "Now look, everybody. We're going to have to use some drastic measures to win this contest. I can't have anybody going soft! Understood?"
He glared at Reagan, who stared glumly at the floor. "Yessir."
"We know Dan and Amy were Grace's favorites," Eisenhower continued. "Old McIntyre is probably giving them inside information. Now they've beat us inside the Lucian stronghold while we were trying to do surveillance, which was also a bad idea! Are we going to tolerate any more bad ideas?"
"No, sir!" the kids shouted.
"They think we're not clever," Eisenhower said. "They think all we can do is flex our muscles. Well, they're about to find out we can do more than that!" Eisenhower flexed his muscles.
"Teamwork!" Mary-Todd cried. "Right, children?"
"Arff!" Arnold said.
"Now," Eisenhower said. "We have to get that book. We've got to assume those brats have it, or they know what's in it. We need to get to the ?le St-Louis, without driving the ice cream van into the river! Who's with me?"
The kids and Mary-Todd cheered. Then they remembered the ice cream, and the kids went back to strangling each other.
Eisenhower grunted. He decided he'd let them wrestle for a while. Maybe it would build character.
All his life, people had laughed behind Eisenhower's back. They'd laughed when he flunked out of West Point. They'd laughed when he failed the entrance exam for the FBI. They'd even laughed the time he was working as a security guard, when he'd chased a shoplifter and accidentally Tasered himself in the rear end. A simple mistake.
Anyone could've made it.
Once he won this contest, he would become the most powerful Cahill of all time. No one would ever laugh at him again.
He pounded his fist into the van's cash register. Those Cahill kids were starting to get on his nerves. They were too much like their parents, Arthur and Hope.
Eisenhower had known them all too well. He had an old score to settle with the Cahills.
Soon, Amy and Dan Cahill would pay.
Amy was all in favor of rushing to the ?le St-Louis, but her stomach had other ideas.
They passed a boulangerie, which must've meant bakery judging by the yummy smells, and Dan and she exchanged looks.
"Just one stop," they said together.
A few minutes later they were sitting on the quay of the river, sharing the best meal they'd ever had. It was only a loaf of bread, but Amy had never tasted anything so good.
"See that?" Amy pointed to the top of a nearby church, where a black iron spike rose from the bell tower. "Lightning rod."
"Umm," Dan said with his mouth full.
"The French were the first ones to test Franklin's theories about lightning rods. A lot of the old buildings still have original Franklin models."
"Mmm!" Dan said enthusiastically, but Amy wasn't sure whether he liked the story or the bread.
The sun was going down behind a bulkhead of black clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance, but the
Parisians didn't seem too concerned. Joggers and skaters crowded the riverside. A sightseeing boat loaded with tourists hummed along on the Seine.
Amy tried to use the Starlings' cell phone to call Nellie, but the phone was dead.
Apparently, it wasn't set up to get a signal in France.
Her nerves were still buzzing from their raid on the Lucian stronghold. Despite all the security, it still seemed like they'd gotten in and out pretty easily, and she wasn't sure why. She also didn't like the stuff Dan had taken -- the Franklin battery and that weird metal sphere. She knew better than to argue with him about it, though. Once he got his hands on something, he hardly ever let it go.
She wondered how Irina Spasky had gotten the book from Uncle Alistair, and why she would be interested in the ?le St-Louis. It felt like a trap, but it was Amy's only lead -- or at least, the only lead she wanted to think about. Her mother's note in the Poor Richard's Almanack -- the Maze of Bones -- still gave her chills.
She tried to imagine what her mother or Grace would do in her place. They would be braver. They'd see what to do more clearly. Her mother had once searched for these same clues. Amy was sure of that now. Grace had intended Amy to take up the challenge, but what if Amy wasn't up to it?
So far she felt like she'd done a terrible job. Every time she'd needed to speak up, she failed. The other teams probably thought she was a mumbling loser.
If it wasn't for Dan, she would've been lost. Just thinking about it made a lump form in her throat.
They finished the bread. Amy knew they needed to get moving. She stared at the darkening sky and tried to remember details from her Paris guidebooks. "There aren't any Métro lines to ?le St-Louis," she said. "We'll have to walk."
"Let's do it!" Dan hopped to his feet.
Amy couldn't believe how quickly his spirits had rebounded. A few minutes ago, he'd been complaining about his feet and his heavy backpack. Now, a hunk of bread later, he was as good as new. Amy wished she was like that. She felt like lying down and sleeping for a century, but she wasn't going to tell that to Dan.
It was full dark by the time they got to the Pont Louis-Philippe. The old stone bridge was lined with streetlamps that glowed against the water. On the opposite side rose a cluster of trees and mansions -- the ?le St-Louis. To the north was a larger island, with a huge cathedral lit up yellow in the night.
"That's the ?le de la Cité over there," Amy said as they walked across, mostly to keep herself calm. "And that's Notre Dame Cathedral."
"Cool," Dan said. "You think we can see the hunchback?"
"Urn ... maybe later." Amy decided not to tell him that the hunchback of Notre Dame was just a character in a book. "Anyway, the smaller island we're going to -- the ?le St-Louis -- the tour books hardly said anything about it. Mostly old houses and shops and stuff. I don't know why Irina would be looking there."
"No Ben Franklin history?"
Amy shook her head. "It used to be called the Island of the Cows, because that's all that lived there. Then they turned it into a neighborhood."
"Cows," Dan said. "Exciting."
After the other parts of Paris they'd seen, the ?le St-Louis felt like a ghost town. The narrow streets were lined with elegant old apartments -- five stories tall with black gabled roofs. Most of the windows were dark. A lot of the shops were closed.
Streetlamps cast weird shadows through the branches of the trees, making monster shapes on the walls. Amy was too old to believe in monsters, but the shadows still made her uneasy.
An elderly couple crossed the street in front of them. Amy wondered if it was her imagination, or if the couple really glanced at her suspiciously before they disappeared into an alleyway. On the next block, a guy in a beret was walking a Labrador retriever.
He smiled as he passed Amy and Dan, but his expression reminded Amy of Ian Kabra -- like he knew a secret.
You're just getting paranoid, she told herself. Or was it possible there were other people seeking the clues, people that weren't even part of the seven teams? She glanced at Dan but decided not to say anything about this ... not yet. The contest was already overwhelming enough.
After another hundred yards, they found the Rue des Jardins. It was narrower than the streets around it, with crumbling stone buildings that might've stood there for centuries.
Amy counted the street numbers. She stopped abruptly. "Dan ... 23 Rue des Jardins.
Are you sure?"
Amy pointed. There was no building at 23 Rue des Jardins. Instead, ringed with a rusty iron fence, was a tiny cemetery. At the back stood a marble mausoleum. In front, a dozen weathered headstones slanted every direction like crooked teeth.
The cemetery was sandwiched by tall buildings on either side. The one on the right said MUSéE. The one on the left must've been some kind of shop once, but the windows were painted black and the door boarded up. The only light came from the dim orange glow of the city sky, which made the place seem even creepier.
"I don't like this," Amy said. "There can't be any connection to Franklin here."
"How do you know?" Dan asked. "We haven't even searched. And those tombstones look cool!"
"No, Dan. You cannot do charcoal rubbings."
"Aw..." He walked through the cemetery gates, and Amy had no choice but to follow.
The tombstones told them nothing. Once upon a time, they might've had inscriptions, but they'd been worn smooth over the centuries. Amy's pulse was racing. Something wasn't right. She racked her brain, trying to figure out why this place might be important to Ben Franklin, but she couldn't come up with anything.
Cautiously, she approached the mausoleum. She'd always hated aboveground burial places. They made her think of dollhouses for dead people.
The iron doors stood open. Amy was hesitant to get close. From ten feet away, she couldn't see anything special inside -- just old nameplates lining the walls -- but a slab of marble lay on the ground in front of the doorway. With a start, Amy realized the inscription was a lot newer than the rest of the cemetery. It looked freshly carved: SE TROUVE ICI
Amy et Dan Cahill
ILS ONT COLLé LEURS NEZ DANS
LES AFFAIRES DES AUTRES
"Whoa," Dan said. "Why are our names -- "
"Some kind of message..."
Amy desperately wished she could read French. If she ever got back to the hotel, she promised herself she would make Nellie give her lessons.
"Inside, right?" Dan said. "No, it's a trap!"
But he stepped forward and the ground collapsed. The marble slab dropped into nothingness, taking Dan with it.
She ran to the edge of the hole, but the ground hadn't finished crumbling. Stone and dirt gave way like cloth under her feet and Amy tumbled into darkness.
For a second, she was too dazed to think. She coughed, her lungs filling with dust. She was sitting on something soft and warm....