39 Clues - 05 - The Black Circle

BOOK: 39 Clues - 05 - The Black Circle
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THE BLACK CIRCLE

The 39 Clues Book 05

Patrick Carman

CHAPTER 1

Amy Cahill liked to be the first one up in the morning. But not if it was because

someone was screaming outside her hotel-room door. "Telegram for Mr. Cahill!"The

words were accompanied by a thunderous knocking. Amy bolted upright in a panic, a

terrifying thought racing through her mind. Madrigals!The yell came again."Message for

you!"Amy, her brother, Dan, and their au pair, Nellie, had fled to a different Cairo hotel

in the night, afraid they might be attacked by the mysterious sect they knew so little

about. The Madrigals couldn't know where we are, could they?Dan rol ed off the fuzzy

gold couch he was sleeping on and landed on the floor with a thud."No, Irina! Not the

Catfish Hunter!" he yelled. Amy sighed. Once again, her brother was locked in a dream

in which their cousin Irina Spasky was shredding a beloved baseball card with her

fingernails.2"Wake up, Dan. You're dreaming." Amy had never felt so tired in her life,

and her brother was, as usual, acting like an idiot. "Telegram!"The knock at the door

came again. "Dan! Get... the ... door!"Amy stuffed her face in a pillow and screamed.

She was awake for good and she knew it. Peering past her pillow, she saw that Nellie

was still totally dead to the world."Coming!" cried Amy. "Hold your horses!"When she

reached the door, she hesitated, a familiar fear gripping her insides. What if she let

someone dangerous in?Come on, Amy, get a grip.Amy opened the door, her eyes

settling on an Egyptian bellboy standing in the hall. He was shorter than she was by a

mile, wearing a spiffy red uniform with gold buttons up the front that was at least two

sizes too big. In his hands was a sealed envelope."For you, madam, from the desk.

Someone has leaved it."Amy took the envelope, and the bellboy stepped a tiny bit

closer, beaming at her expectantly."I bring message from the desk," said the bellboy.

"For you, madam."His feet were halfway in and halfway out of the room, which made

Amy nervous."Is there something else you have for me?" asked Amy.3"Someone has

leaved it for you," he said, pointing at the envelope with a happy grin."Give him this,"

said Dan. "Then I can go back to sleep."Dan's voice was muffled, and when Amy turned

around, she saw that he was talking into the carpeted floor, too lazy to lift his head. He

was holding up a five-pound Egyptian note, worth about one dollar.Amy shut the door.

Curiosity had killed any hope of going back to bed. The envelope had been addressed

on an old-style typewriter that appeared to be missing the capital A. The underline was

also randomly stuck on some of the letters. CAIROMODERNTELEGRAMDaN aND aMY

CaHILLShe tore it open and sat on the couch, her face whitening as she scanned the

note. Saladin meowed hungrily and raised his back, claws bared on the gold

bedspread."Dan, you better get up here."Dan didn't move, so she yelled."TELEGRAM

FOR DAN!"4Dan lifted his head as if mustering the energy for a comeback, but Amy

could tell her brother was still clawing his way out of dreamland. He stood up from the

floor and dropped heavily onto the couch. Nellie was still curled up under the covers on

one of the two beds in the room, the thin white cord of her iPod ear-buds snaking out

from under a pile of seven pillows covering her head."That girl could sleep through a

demolition derby," said Dan."Dan! Listen!" Amy said, holding the telegram as she began

to read. '"Cairo International Airport, locker number 328. 56-12-19. NRR.'""Sounds like

a lame trap set by one of our competitors. Let's order room service and go back to

bed.""I don't think so," said Amy. She held out the message so Dan could examine it.

What he found on the paper took his breath away. CAIROMODERNTELEGRAMTO: DAN

CAHILLCairo International Airport, locker number 328. 56-12-19. NRR.Under the birch

treeSix inches deepLies a treasure of bottle capsA child did keep.5Lazy Dan left the

building and was replaced by Alarmed Dan."No one knows about this, not even

Nellie.""Grace knew," said Amy. "You, me, and Grace. Whoever sent this must have

known Grace well enough to get this out of her."Dan was still too dumbstruck to

respond, but Amy knew what he was thinking. Just last year he'd brought his prized

collection of bottle caps to Grace's mansion -- everything from Dr. Pepper to vintage

Coca-Cola -- and all sixty-three caps in a super-cool old-school cigar box. Grace had

given him a spade and told him he could bury it on the property if he wanted. He'd told

Amy and Grace where the treasure was hidden, even how deep he'd buried the box,

just in case he died unexpectedly, snowboarding or skydiving. As he said at the time, it

paid to be safe with a bottle cap collection.Dan looked at his sister, his green eyes

brimming with hope."Do you think Grace is helping us again?"Amy and Dan both used

Grace's name as if their grandmother were still alive, and for a moment it felt like she

was. Their beloved old Grace, who'd given her heirs a choice: a million dollars or one of

39 Clues leading to immense power. Amy still couldn't believe where the chase had led

them in such a short time. They'd traversed four continents and been nearly killed more

than once by their own relatives. If there was even a6chance Grace Cahill was still

offering help from the grave, Amy knew they had to follow the trail. "Come on. We're

getting out of here."* * *Ten minutes later, Dan and Amy made their way down to the

bustling hotel lobby with nothing but a backpack between them. Dan had insisted on

bringing his precious laptop, and Amy had grabbed Nellie's cell phone, just in case."I

left Nellie a note saying we went looking for doughnuts. Let's just hope this doesn't take

all morning. What we need right now is a way to the airport," said Amy."No worries, I

got it covered."Dan opened their backpack and removed a wad of money, stuffing the

rumpled bills into his pocket. It didn't amount to much, about fifty American dollars'

worth of Egyptian pound notes."Yo! Cabby! Yo!"Dan held out a few bills and

waited."We're not in New York," Amy hissed. "Try to act like you have a clue."As if by magic, a black-and-white car with a monstrous luggage rack pulled up and skidded to a

stop. An Egyptian man jumped out and waved Dan and Amy over."Come, come! I have

nice car for you!"7Dan tossed Amy an I-told-you-so look and marched for the car. The

cabdriver hopped out and opened the door, then quick as a rabbit, snatched the

backpack from Dan and headed for the trunk."No thanks, amigo. I'll keep the bag on

me if you don't mind."The driver didn't seem to understand, so Dan grabbed the

backpack, handed the cabby a ten-pound note, and dove into the backseat, commando

style.Amy turned bright red and stammered an apology. She had a feeling Dan was

warming up for a long morning of humiliating his sister."We're in a hurry, my man,"

said Dan, confirming Amy's suspicions. "The airport, double time.""Fast is middle

name!" The man laughed, slamming the door just shy of Amy's foot and racing for the

front seat."You see there, sis? Everything is fine. This guy is perfect. Just sit back and

re-laaaaaaah-- !"The cab (and Dan) screamed into traffic, weaving and dodging like an

amusement park ride gone haywire. Amy was tossed into Dan, then against the door,

then back into Dan as they dodged honking buses and irate pedestrians. When they hit

a slow patch, Amy caught sight of a big problem behind them. She turned to her

brother, wide-eyed and worried.8"He does leave a little to be desired in the safety

department, doesn't he? I'll ask him to take 'er down a notch.""N-N-NO! Tell him to

speed up! Speed up!"Dan glanced past his sister's stricken face to the bright yellow

Vespa zigzagging between cars behind them. Someone in a purple sweat suit was riding

it, and that someone was huge."Hamilton Holt!"It was Hamilton Holt of the Holt clan, a

family of nitwits also in search of the 39 Clues. The last time Amy had seen him,

Hamilton had left her for dead in a Tokyo train tunnel."Step on it!" yelled Amy, but the

driver didn't seem to hear her. Dan pul ed out another precious ten-pound note and

tossed it into the front seat.That seemed to get the driver's attention. His foot came

down on the gas pedal like a hammer and the cab swerved violently into high gear. For

the next ten minutes, Dan threw more and more money into the front seat until, at last,

they looked back and Hamilton Holt was gone. When the cab lurched to a stop outside

the Cairo airport, Dan checked his pockets. They were empty."Is okay," said the driver,

grinning from ear to ear. "You pay plenty already!""Nicely done, dweeb. Now we're

stuck at the airport with no money. Nellie's going to love us when we wake her up and

she discovers we've stolen her phone, spent9most of our cash, and need a ride from

the airport. And we don't even have any doughnuts yet! Could it get any worse?""I

think it just did," said Dan.Amy's heart sank as a black stretch limo pulled up to the

curb behind them, and a door opened.Ian and Natalie Kabra, a Clue-hunting team

infinitely more dangerous than the Holts, had arrived on the scene.10CHAPTER 2Most

of the time, Dan Cahill would rather show up to school in his underwear than get

involved in his sister's love life. But this was different.Ian Kabra emerged from the

limousine with a smirk the size of Texas plastered on his face, as self-assured as ever.

Dan glanced over at his sister. Amy was glaring at Ian, but Dan could see her hands

were trembling. This guy-- this ogre-- had not only lied about liking his sister, he'd tried

to trap them in a cave. And leave them there forever.It was time to lower the

boom."You've got a lot of nerve showing up here after you tried to kill us!" Dan

shouted."Let's not get carried away. Your little brother has a big imagination," said Ian,

taking a step toward Amy. "You know I'd never actually hurt you."Dan knew if Amy

tried to talk it would come out all stutters. He wasn't going to let Ian Kabra anywhere

near his sister.11"Hold it together, Amy," he whispered."I'm fine," said Amy, but now her lip was quivering ever so slightly. Dan lashed out at Ian."Get back in your

monstermobile and leave us alone!"Ian gave Amy a sideways smile, then sauntered up

to the cabdriver."Well done, my lead-footed friend. We had quite a time keeping up

with you. Although I suppose it wouldn't have mattered.""What's that supposed to

mean?" asked Dan, eyeing the revolving doors into the airport terminal."You children

play expensive games!" said the driver as he took a roll of rubber-banded bills from Ian

and handed over a slick new phone in return."Espionage must have been so much

harder before GPS, don't you think?" asked Ian.Ian's sister, Natalie, emerged from the

black limo like a model about to stroll down a media-frenzied red carpet."Did you sleep

in those pathetic things you call clothes?"Dan looked down at his zip-up hoodie, which

was wrinkled beyond all imagining. Oops. He actually had slept in his clothes."Wrinkles

are the new thing. Ask Jonah Wizard. He'll tell you."12"Make this easy on yourself and

tell us why you're here," said Ian, moving closer to Dan and Amy. Amy's eyes were

locked on Ian's face, like a mouse confronted by a cobra.The cabdriver laughed at the

scene playing out, got in his cab, and cranked it alive. A plume of black smoke burst

from the tailpipe as he sped off, covering Natalie with a thin layer of soot. She howled

and clutched protectively at her hair, which was just the diversion Dan needed."Come

on, Amy!" he yelled. He grabbed Amy by the hand and bolted for the revolving doors,

but Ian was quick on his feet and snatched Amy's other hand. Dan pulled one way, Ian

pulled the other. People were starting to take notice of the ruckus."Let my sister go!"

yelled Dan."I think she likes it when I hold her hand," said Ian. "Don't you, Amy?"Amy didn't say a word. She reeled back and kicked Ian in the shin harder than she'd ever

kicked anyone. There was a loud crack and Ian lost his grip, bouncing up and down on

one leg as Dan and Amy ran for the revolving doors."Direct hit!" cried Dan."So long,

suckers!" Amy yelled over her shoulder. "Get them!" howled Ian, hobbling toward the

terminal entrance with Natalie and their driver, a guy who13looked like he could crack

concrete with his forehead, close behind.Once inside, Dan and Amy darted among a sea

of people with rolling luggage, but the Kabras stayed on their tail."This way!" said Amy,

taking Dan by the elbow and dragging him into a busy travelers' store filled with candy

bars and magazines. Seconds later, they were out the other side and into another store,

through a web of foreigners. Dan was sure they'd lost the Kabras, but when he peered

carefully around a corner, he saw Ian limping toward them, staring into his

phone."Uh-oh," said Dan. "I think we've been had."Dan took off his backpack and

started unzipping compartments. Hidden in the front pocket was another cell phone,

the GPS blinking their position."Double-crossed times two!" said Dan. "That cab-driver

must have planted it when he got ahold of my backpack at the hotel."Amy looked

around the corner once more. The Kabras were getting really close."Give it here," she

said, taking the phone from her brother. "I know just what to do with Ian's precious

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