39 Clues - 05 - The Black Circle (14 page)

BOOK: 39 Clues - 05 - The Black Circle

But Amy didn't listen. She peeked and saw that Dan had opened the lid to one of the

coffins."Are you crazy! Close that thing right now!"155"Calm down. Nothing but bones

in there." Dan set the coffin lid down and reached for the final door."You can turn that

off now," said Dan. "We won't be needing a flashlight in here."Dan slowly stepped

inside and found himself surrounded by soft golden light. He closed the door behind

him and Amy clicked off the flashlight. It was impossible to say where the light inside

the room came from, but it seemed as if its source was everywhere, like a thousand

candles were hidden in the walls."The Amber Room," Amy marveled. "We made it, Dan.

We're in!"The ceiling had opened up above them and rose twenty feet in the air. Every

part of the room was the deep color of burnt honey shot through with dazzling

light."Where's the light coming from?" asked Dan. "I can't figure it out."Amy had moved to one of the walls, touching its intricate designs. Panel after panel of glowing orange

framed delicately carved amber. The superb craftsmanship must have taken years to

achieve. It was like the pyramids in Egypt or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Yet Dan and Amy stood within the golden light of its walls."Here it is," said Amy. She'd

found a table made entirely of amber, upon which sat an outrageously ornate golden

clock. Dan crossed through the center156of the room, past a massive sculpture of a

man on a horse high on a pedestal and a bank of ominous black file cabinets.They were

standing in a room almost no one had seen since before the Second World War. They'd

been pushed and pulled all over Russia, but they'd prevailed. As far as the outside

world was concerned, this was a priceless treasure that had long been lost forever.

Dan's heart welled with pride as he looked at Amy."We need to turn the clock dial to

midnight," said Amy. "Then one, then midnight again."Dan crept a little closer to the

clock and felt around for a dial that would allow him to change the time."Got it," he

said, spinning the dial until the clock read midnight."Now forward to one o'clock," said

Amy.Dan dialed it forward, then back again to midnight, and the face of the clock came

open on a single gold hinge.Inside, Dan found a bead of amber, inscribed with the

words 1 gram melted amber.157"The clue's been right under our noses the entire

time," said Amy, marveling at the bead in her hand."I hate it when that happens," said

Dan. But he smiled at his sister. They now had five Clues and were five steps closer to

claiming what Grace had called the Cahil destiny. But the Clue was not all they had

come for.Dan and Amy turned to the row of flat black file cabinets, an ominous absence

of color against the softly glowing amber."What do we look for?" Dan asked. "Cahill?

Trent? Hope and Arthur?""All of them. You start on that side, and I'll take the other.

And hurry."Dan opened the first drawer and rapidly flicked through the thick manila

files. Angola Mission. Arkangelsk. Assassinations. The neatly printed labels concealed a

wealth of dirty Lucian secrets."Dan!" called Amy, and he looked up to see Amy holding

out a slim file, her face set and scared."Mom and Dad?" he asked."No," she whispered.

"Madrigals."Amy opened the file and reached for the loose papers inside. She riffled

through a series of short notes handwritten in Russian. On the back, the letters had

been translated into English with a ballpoint pen.She read the first aloud:158Tsar

Nicholas - My brother - I am very close to gathering all the materials and have begun

experimentation with mixing. We are within weeks. The world is nearly at our feet. Your

faithful brother, Constantine 2.1.1826"Dan, this is really strange," said Amy. "I read

about these two. Constantine gave up his right to the throne and let his brother

Nicholas become Tsar of Russia. But this seems to indicate he did it for a purpose, so

he could bring together all the clues.""Does this mean the Lucians have all the clues?"

Dan's face was pinched with anxiety. "Read the next one."Amy set the yellowed page

aside and read the words on the next piece of paper:159My brother - There are but a

few ingredients I lack, though this is only half the battle. The amounts and the order

are confounding. I may need a month or more. Constantine 6.23.1826"What if they

really do have all the others?" asked Dan. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what was

on the last slip of paper. If the Lucians really had won already, then everything he and

Amy were doing was for nothing. They'd already lost."Oh, no," said Amy. She was

scanning the last note."They have it, don't they? The Lucians have already finished us

off."Amy looked at her brother and then in a trembling voice read the last note:160My

brother - They found me. They have destroyed everything. I have failed us.Beware the

Madrigals. I fear they are coming for you next.Constantine 10.07.1826A heavy silence

fell over the room."The Madrigals are more powerful than the Lucians! They maybe

even had the royal family murdered!"Amy nodded, then whispered what was on both of

their minds. "And the man in black is a Madrigal.""Let's get out of here," said

Dan."Wait!" said Amy. "There might be something about Mom and Dad!" The kids

rushed back to the files, riffling frantically until Dan found it, a thin manila folder labeled

simply CAHILL, HOPE AND TRENT, ARTHUR. His heart thumped against his rib

cage.Amy looked over. "Dan! What is it?"With trembling fingers, they opened the

file161together. Inside were two Australian passports stamped CONFISCATED. Amy

opened one."It can't be," said Dan, leaning in for a closer look.Amy opened the second.

"It's them," she said, looking at the two pictures. The names were fake, but the faces

were unbearably familiar."Mom and Dad," said Dan. "They were here."Amy flipped

through the passport pages, crammed full with stamps from different countries. Egypt.

South Africa. Nepal. Japan. Indonesia. France."They were searching for clues, just like

us.""Only they never finished," said Dan.Dan's whole world narrowed to the two faces

staring up at him. His mom and his dad, young and hopeful, taking on the world just as

he and his sister were doing now. And failing.Tears poured down Amy's cheeks. "It's

like they've come back to help us. Almost like they're watching over us.""They're not

the only ones watching you." Irina Spasky entered through the vault door.* * *"What

have you done?"Irina's voice betrayed none of the horror she felt. How could the

children have been so stupid? Of all the places in the world they could have tried to

break into, a Lucian black circle was the most dangerous. There was only the slimmest

chance....162She advanced on them quickly, crossing the room like a black cat until she

had them cornered."Tell me what you have found. Quickly!""Nothing yet. We're still

looking," said Dan. It was a pathetic attempt. Irina could see he held a hand behind his

back and was trying to stuff something in his back pocket.Irina surveyed the room,

careful to keep them cornered."I see you've taken something out of its folder," she

said, spotting the yellowed paper on the floor. "And you've opened the face of the

clock. Clever. Too clever! Someone has helped you. Tell me who!""We didn't find

anything important," said Amy. "Just some old papers.""Give them to me at once! Your

lives are in danger!"Irina glanced toward the door. There are minutes at best, she

thought. But she was wrong. "We'll take it from here."Irina whirled around. Two men,

both with veils of black over their faces, blocked the entrance to the Amber Room. In

unison, they pulled back the folds of their gray jackets, revealing the Lucian crest set in

a black circle."We are authorized by Mr. Kabra," one of them growled, holding his

position at the door. "What is your clearance?"163"I created the black circle," Irina spat out. "I have the highest clearance."The men looked at each other, sizing up the

situation. Irina Spasky stared back at them, knowing what their presence meant. She

had no choice now. She would have to kill the Cahill children, or these men would do it

for her and kill her as well."I was about to clean up this situation," said Irina. "Cover

the door."The two agents retreated into the shadows, but Irina could feel their dark

presence.She hadn't thought it would come to this. Two more minutes and I could have

dealt with them, taken the secrets, and gotten them safely out. She moved in closer,

reaching behind her for the dagger concealed at her back.The girl seemed to sense the

coldness that was coming. She pressed herself in front of her brother, protectively.

"We'll give you what you want," said Amy. "Just let us go. Please.""It's too late," said Irina. "I tried."When you lose a child, you lose your soul.The dagger felt like ice in her

hand.There was a sharp crack from behind her. Irina turned to see shadows struggling

on the wall of the darkened tomb."Behind you!" cried Irina.One of the agents

screamed. Irina felt a flame of wild hope and barked out to Amy and Dan, "Stay where

you are!"164She crouched like a cat and burst through the doorway. Voices and

shadows bounced off the wall, echoing in her brain. At first she wasn't sure, but then

..."You?" she gasped, her eyes latched on the wiry figure of a man dressed all in black,

lunging for the Lucian agents with the blunt end of a metal pole.* * *Dan and Amy

didn't waste any time. The second Irina entered the darkness beyond the door they

followed, creeping into the tomb behind her. There was slashing and yelling and the

sound of someone hitting the ground, and Dan's and Amy's shocked eyes made out the

outline of a man in black locked in struggle with Irina Spasky.Dan crept low along the

first coffin, raised its lid as quietly as he could, and slid inside. Amy hesitated, but Dan

took hold of her hand and wouldn't let go. She climbed in and Dan pulled the lid of the

coffin shut. They listened as combatants crashed against walls and howled in pain, one

of them falling against the very coffin in which they hid."They've escaped!" cried one of

the Lucian agents."We have?" whispered Dan."I see them!"The gravelly voice was one

they hadn't heard before; it was followed by the sound of someone running from the

tomb and back into the church.165"That had to be the man in black," whispered Amy.

"Is he helping us?""No way," whispered Dan. He paused until it was silent, then he

lifted the coffin lid ever so slightly and peered out into the darkness.Everyone was

gone.Dan carefully lowered the lid and he and Amy waited, quiet as mice, in a coffin

filled with the bones of the royal dead.166CHAPTER 16Two hours later, Dan and Amy

received a call on Nellie's phone in the coffin. The phone vibrated in Amy's pocket,

shocking her out of her half slumber. Dan had fallen asleep, unmoved by the glowing

green light as Amy held the phone to her eyes.Unidentified caller. Perfect.She decided

to risk a whisper."Hello?"The line was barely working underground, and Amy strained to

hear the scarcely discernible, static-filled voice on the other end. All Amy could make

out was the word safe, which she took to mean the coast was clear. It was a female

voice, so it was probably Nataliya. Or Irina trying to smoke us out. She pushed the

thought aside.Amy nudged Dan hard enough to wake him and he grumbled, trying to

nestle in. The bones beneath them sounded hollow and dry."I just got a call. Someone

said it's safe."167"You don't have to tell me twice," said Dan, pushing up on the coffin

lid without another word of encouragement.They both peered into the darkness. The

doors had been closed. There was no light at all."Here goes," said Amy.She turned on

the flashlight and they were blinded by the harsh light of the beam. Amy sent the light

dancing from wall to wall, coffin to coffin, until it rested on the door that would lead

them out of the tomb and into the church upstairs.They got out as quietly as they

could, though to Amy's horror, she heard the sound of bones breaking under her

weight."Probably just ribs," said Dan. "It's not like he's using them for anything. Who

called?""I'm not sure. I think it was Nataliya."They arrived at the exit. The card deck

symbols did not appear from the tomb side of the door. It simply opened, and they

were free.* * *The next morning, ensconced in a Yekaterinburg hotel with Nellie on her

way, Dan made a phone call."You're not driving a monster truck, are you?" Dan asked

Hamilton Holt."Not yet, but the day is young.""Got your clue. Are you ready?"168"I've been ready for two days. Lay it on me.""One gram melted amber.""Dude, that's gross.

Who's Amber?"Dan laughed. He could imagine Hamilton Holt grinning on the other side

of the line.Eisenhower grabbed the phone and yelled into it."Don't think this means

anything. We're done partnering! Siberia and back was a raw deal and you know it. You

used us!""Okay, Mr. Holt, whatever you say. Game on.""Game on!" Amy agreed.

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