"Dan!" In a panic, she scrambled off him and shook his arms, but it was too dark to see. "Dan, please, be alive!"
"Ugh," he grunted.
"Are you okay?"
"My sister just sat on me with her bony butt. Of course I'm not okay."
Amy breathed a sigh of relief. If he was being annoying, he must be fine. She got up unsteadily, dirt and stones shifting beneath her feet. Looking up, she could see the mouth of the ragged pit they'd fallen into. They were in some kind of a sinkhole.
"The ground was hollowed out," she muttered. "The earth here is limestone. Lots of caves and tunnels under Paris. I guess we fell into one accidentally."
"Accidentally?" Dan said. "Irina lured us here on purpose!"
Amy knew he was probably right, but she didn't want to think about it... or what might happen next. They had to get out. She swept her arms around the edges of their pit, but it was just that -- a pit. No side tunnels, no exits except for straight up, and they'd fallen over ten feet. It was a miracle they hadn't broken any bones.
Suddenly, a light blinded her from above. "Well, well," said a man's voice.
"Arf! " a dog yapped.
When Amy's eyes adjusted, she saw five figures in purple warm-up suits smiling down at them, and one very excited pit bull.
"The Holts!" Dan said. "It figures. You helped Irina set us up!"
"Oh, get over it, runt," Madison called down. "We didn't set up anybody."
"Yeah," Reagan said. "You fell in all by yourselves."
She and Madison gave each other high fives and started laughing.
Amy's hands started to tremble. This was just like her nightmares ... stuck in a pit, a crowd of people laughing at her. But this was real.
"So." Eisenhower Holt called down. "Is this what you brats were looking for? Is this the Maze of Bones?"
Her heart fluttered. "What -- what do you mean?"
"Oh, come on, missy! We know all about the Maze of Bones. We read the Almanack."
"You have the book? But, Irina -- "
"Stole it from us," Eisenhower growled. "After we stole it from the Korean dude. So we staked out her headquarters, but you got inside before we could launch an assault. Now you've got the book, and you came here, which means you know something."
"But we don't have the book!" Amy said. "We didn't even get a chance to -- "
"Oh, come on," Hamilton said. His greased blond hair gleamed in the night. "It was right there on page fifty-two --
BF: Maze of Bones, coordinates in the box.
It was your mom's handwriting. Dad recognized it."
Amy's whole body was trembling. She hated it, but she couldn't stop. The Holts had read farther in the book than she had. They'd found another message from her mother:
Maze of Bones, coordinates in the box.
She understood the Maze of Bones part, at least she feared that she did ... but coordinates in a box?
"I -- I don't know what it means," she said. "We don't have the book. But if you let us out of here, maybe I could -- "
"Yeah, right!" Madison sneered. "Like we'd help you!"
They started laughing again -- the entire Holt clan, making fun of her.
"Please, stop," she whispered. "Don't..."
"Aw, she's gonna cry." Hamilton grinned. "Man, you two are pathetic. I can't believe you got past the fire and the bomb."
"You burned Grace's mansion? You set off that bomb in the museum?"
"To slow you down," Eisenhower admitted. "We should've beaten you up in person. Sorry about that."
Dan threw a rock, but it sailed harmlessly between Reagan's legs. "You morons! Get us OUT of here!"
Reagan frowned, but Madison and Hamilton started yelling back at Dan. Arnold barked.
Amy knew this was getting them nowhere. They had to convince the Holts to let them out, but she couldn't make her voice work. She wanted to curl into a ball and hide.
Then the ground shook. There was a rumbling sound like a large engine. The Holts turned toward the street and looked astonished by whatever they saw.
"You -- little -- tricksters!" Eisenhower glared down at them. "This was an ambush, wasn't it?"
"What are you talking about?" Dan asked.
"A truck is blocking the gates!" Mary-Todd said. "A cement truck."
"Dad, look," Reagan said nervously. "They've got shovels."
Amy's danger sense started tingling. Dan turned toward her, and she could tell he was thinking the same thing.
"They're going to fill the hole," Dan said. "Aren't they?"
She nodded weakly.
"Mr. Holt!" Dan started jumping like Arnold the dog, but he couldn't reach the top of the pit.
"Come on, you've got to get us out! We'll help you!"
Mr. Holt snorted. "You led us into this! Besides, you runts can't fight."
"Dad," Reagan said. "Maybe we should -- "
"Shut up, sis," Hamilton growled. "We can handle this!"
"Reagan!" Dan yelled. "Come on! Tel them to let us out."
Reagan just knit her eyebrows and stared at the ground.
Dan looked at Amy desperately. "You gotta do something. Tell them you can figure out the book!"
But the words wouldn't come. Amy felt like she was already being covered in cement.
Her brother needed her. She had to say something. But she just stood there, frozen and helpless and hating herself for being so scared.
"HEEEY!" Dan yelled up. "Amy knows what the clue means! She'll tell you if you let us out!"
Mr. Holt scowled. Amy knew he wouldn't go for it. They'd be stuck down here forever, cemented in. Then Mr. Holt stripped off his warm-up jacket and lowered it into the pit.
"Grab the sleeve."
Within seconds, Amy and Dan were out of the pit. Sure enough, a cement truck had blocked the gates of the cemetery. Six thugs in coveralls and hard hats were lined up at the fence, hefting shovels like they were ready to fight.
"All right, team," Mr. Holt said with relish. "Let's show 'em how it's done -- Holt style!"
The whole family rushed forward. Mr. Holt grabbed the first thug's shovel and swung it, with the guy still attached, into the side of the cement truck.
The girls, Madison and Reagan, plowed into one thug so hard he flew across the street and crashed through the window of a flower shop. Arnold bit the third thug in the leg and held on with jaws of iron. Mary-Todd and Hamilton tackled a fourth thug against the chute on the back of the truck. His head hit a lever and cement started spilling all over the street.
Unfortunately, two thugs remained, and they ran straight for Amy and Dan. Fear closed around Amy's throat. She recognized their faces -- they were the security guards from the Lucian stronghold. Before she could even think of a plan, Dan unzipped his backpack and took out his blinking silver sphere.
"Dan, no!" Amy said. "You can't -- " But he did.
As much as he loved baseball, Dan was the world's worst pitcher. The sphere sailed right past the two guys who were charging them and exploded under Mr. Holt's feet with a blinding yellow flash. The noise was like the world's largest snare drum being smashed with a sledgehammer. Amy went cross-eyed. When she regained her senses, she saw the entire Holt family and the guys they'd been battling flat on the ground, knocked unconscious -- except for the two thugs Dan meant to hit. They were only dazed, stumbling around and shaking their heads.
Amy turned to Dan in horror. "What did you do?"
Dan looked surprised. "Um, concussive grenade, I think. Like the one in the museum! I knocked them out."
The two thugs who were still on their feet blinked a few times, then refocused on Dan and Amy. They didn't look happy.
"Run!" Dan pulled Amy behind the mausoleum, but there was nowhere to go -- just another iron fence, and a few yards behind that, the back of a building -- brick walls, thirty feet high.
Desperately, they climbed the fence anyway. Amy's shirt got stuck on the top, but Dan pulled her free. Together they pressed against the back wall. There was no alley. No exit. They were trapped. If only they had a weapon ... and then Amy realized her brain wasn't paralyzed by fear anymore. The explosion had snapped her back to her senses.
She knew what they needed. "Dan, the Franklin battery!"
"What good will that do?"
She ripped open his backpack and took out the battery. The two thugs advanced warily -- probably wondering whether Dan had any more grenades. Amy uncoiled the battery's copper wires and made sure the ends were stripped. "I hope it has a charge."
"What are you doing?" Dan asked.
"Franklin used to do this for fun," she said. "To startle his friends. Maybe if it's got enough juice ..."
The men were at the fence. One of them snarled something in French. It sounded like an order to surrender. Amy shook her head.
The men began to climb, and Amy leaped forward. She touched the wires against the fence and the men yelped in surprise. Blue sparks flew off the metal bars. Smoke curled from the men's hands and they fell backwards, stunned. Amy threw down the battery.
"Come on!" she yelled.
In a heartbeat, they were over the fence. They raced out of the graveyard, past the unconscious Holts, the thugs, and the overturned cement truck.
Amy felt a twinge of guilt leaving the Holts behind unconscious, but they had no choice.
They didn't stop running until they were halfway across the Pont Louis-Philippe. Amy doubled over, gasping for breath. At last they were safe. They'd survived the trap.
But when she looked back, she saw something that scared her worse than the graveyard. Standing in the shadows at the foot of the bridge, a hundred yards back the way they'd come, was a tall gray-haired man in a black overcoat.
And Amy was sure he was watching them.
Dan thought Nellie was going to kill them. He'd never seen her face that shade of red before.
"You did what?"
She paced their tiny hotel room. "Two hours, you said.
And I was standing outside the hotel for, like, ever, and you didn't come. You didn't call. I thought you were dead!" She shook her iPod for emphasis and the loose earbuds danced around.
"Our phone didn't work," Amy said sheepishly.
"We got sidetracked," Dan added. "There was this concussive grenade, and a cement truck, and a battery. And a loaf of bread."
Dan was pretty sure that covered all the important details, but Nellie looked like she didn't understand.
"Start from the beginning," she said. "And no lies."
Maybe it was just because he was too tired to lie, but Dan told her the whole story -- even about the thirty-nine clues -- with Amy filling in the stuff he forgot.
"So you almost died," Nellie said in a small voice. "Those jerks were going to pour cement on you."
"Maybe a little cement," Dan said.
"What did the inscription say?" Nellie asked.
Dan didn't know any French, but he'd automatically memorized the words on the marble slab. He repeated them to Nellie.
"'Here lie Amy and Dan Cahill,'" she translated, '"who stuck their noses into the wrong people's business.'"