“So Cloudius got in trouble,” said Rats later in Tom’s room.
“So we found a secret door,” said Angelica.
“I found this,” said Tom. He held out something that looked like a tire pressure gauge with a few extra buttons and knobs.
“Wow,” said Cloudius, “what is it?”
“I don’t know, but it must be something cool. I’m keepin’ it.”
“It’s a sonic screwdriver,” said Daphne. “My mom has one of those. She uses it all the time.”
“So it really is something cool?”
“I wish I had one. So yeah.”
“That might be of some use,” Angelica allowed, “when we look into this secret door thing. Because, yeah, Daph found a secret door.”
“But it’s way down in the basement,” said Pindar. “Who’s going to go try it? Not me!”
“I guess it has to be the Second Floors,” said Daphne. “What do you third floor guys have, in the way of, you know, team spirit and all that?”
“We have we’re not going to get expelled,” said Rats.
“I wouldn’t be so sure in your case,” said Arnulf. “What do you think, Dapher?”
“ ‘Dapher’?” replied Daphne.
“Yeah. Go down there tonight?”
“You know we’re going to,” said Angelica. “We have to know.”
So the Fab Five stirred themselves, with the help of Eva, at 2 am between Tuesday and Wednesday of Week Four. They got out of the house without being marked. They got across the yards among the houses and the School without alarms. Then they huddled around the back door while Angelica and Daphne tried to pick the lock.
“I don’t know if I saw it,” said Cloudius. “But I saw something.”
“Of course the place is haunted,” said Tom. “There’s house ghosts, there’s Eva.”
“What’s she think?” asked Arnulf. “Is there something wandering at night on the grounds? A bloodsucking monster perhaps? Maybe the Living Dead?”
But they could see Eva in the moonlight, sitting there by Tom, looking fixedly at something that might be standing along the side of the second house down.
“Got it,” said Angelica. She had the door open, and then she was inside, and holding down with her finger the hair of gold that tripped the alarm. She nodded to urge the others through, and they were eager to go. Inside, they slipped down the stairs easily enough.
“One of these days,” said Cloudius, “we’re going to have to really canvas this place.”
“One of these days you’re going to get expelled,” said Ange. “Eyes on the prize! Secret door! And no more spells, for gosh sakes!”
They turned to their left, and left again, and headed for the south wall. There was a little light under MacMorris’s door.
“Secret door,” said Daphne as Angelica and Cloudius both showed reluctance about passing by the professor’s door.
They filed back along the wall by the shelves, and Daphne had no trouble finding Medieval Plant Remedies. The book was moved, the door opened, they went through: Daphne, hanging back, put the book back and ran through before the door shut on her.
They found themselves on what was a narrow, rough hall carved out of bedrock. Tom let his wand go up to a dim but penetrating blue. They passed by some chairs and a couple of sofas in a slightly wider place. Then they came to another secret door, although it was so obvious as to hardly deserve the name: the hall ended with the only flat wall on it other than the other end. A little work by Angelica and Daphne and it was open.
Through it, they found themselves in a hallway ten feet wide and nicely finished. It ran east-west, perpendicular to the rough little hall they were leaving behind. To the left, east, it ran thirty feet and ended in a blank wall; to the right, west, it ran back into darkness. Just at the edge of what Tom could see, there was a flight of steps downward. Faint, watery noises, and faint sounds that might have been breaths of far-distant monsters, came from below.
“Okay,” said Daphne as they all felt the willies, “I guess it’s left.”
“Wait a minute,” said Cloudius. He stepped forward, to the left, then stopped and crouched down to look at a little pile of leaves.
“Cloudius…!” muttered Angelica in a warning tone.
“Ssh,” he said. He seemed not to be moving, but then he uttered a slight cry of success and picked it up: a little crystal. “It was a booby trap,” he said, “but I disconnected it and this crystal is the prize!”
“What is it, a bomb?” asked Tom.
“No,” said Arnulf, “probably more like a detector. You sure it won’t tell people where we are?”
“No,” said Cloudius, “it was triggered to set off an alarm. I disconnected it. Don’t you trust me?”
“I trust you,” said Daphne. “I don’t have much choice.” She led them down to the end of the hall, where she pulled out her wand and whispered “Xu.” Not one but two secret doors became evident: one at the end of the hall and one on their left.
“That one’s Temple’s, I bet,” said Arnulf, pointing to the end of the hall. “That’s about where his room would be.”
“This one’s MacMorris,” said Cloudius, “and he’s in there talking to someone!”
“He sure is,” said Tom, as Eva came through the wall. She softly mraowed at him, and Tom said to Daphne, “No one’s in Temple’s office.”
“You’re not going through there, are you?” asked Angelica.
“Will you guys shush?” said Daphne. She and Tom and Cloudius were all leaning against MacMorris’s back door listening to MacMorris having a chat with a Deep Voice.
MacMorris was saying, “So show me something.”
Deep Voice: “You don’t want to ask that.”
Mac: “I’m scared, I’m so scared.”
DV: “You should be.”
Mac: “I’m weeping like a baby child. I could mop your whole group up any time.”
DV: “You and who else—Temple?”
Mac: “Temple! Ha. There are lots of us too. So tell me, what you got?”
At that point spells were thrown. The Deep Voice uttered a spell that sent shock waves through the floor and walls; Cloudius took it hard and went down, holding his head. The others staggered back away, dragging Cloudius. Deep Voice threw the same spell again, and now there was a distinct howling from down those far stairs: an answering call, or a complaint about the disturbance?
The five panicked briefly. The girls retreated to the secret passage and thence out to the cellar and out of the school. The boys got through into Temple’s office, where new forms of the willies washed across them. The place was dimly lit by a magic lamp on the desk. Anything could be a booby trap: everything seemed to have been bought at a yard sale at a museum of nineteenth century scientific instruments. There were books everywhere: tomes abounded. It was somewhat messy, and the dim light increased the sense of mess and the sense that something menacing might hide among the scattered barometers and sextants.
The anti-burglar items, one by each door, whispered to each other. They seemed to be whispering about young boys. Eva brushed past the one near the secret door and it whispered less.
But, avoiding the temptation to touch anything, the boys got out, past the other anti-burglar item, up the stairs, out onto the grounds, and back to Ash House and their warm beds. A minute after they were all in their bunks, Daphne and Angelica came up the stairs. They went into Daphne’s room and sat on the bed in the dark talking.
“I definitely saw it,” said Angelica.
“Yeah, so did I,” replied Daphne. “We weren’t hiding from nothing, we were definitely hiding from something out there. But maybe we could have just kept on walking across the garden because I’m pretty sure it’s not interested in us.”