“So what do we know?” asked Rachel Rabat. She and Natalie Lopez were crowded together in the corner of Tom Hexane’s bunk, with Ahir and Angelica next to them. Tom was in the window, Arn in the easy chair, Cloudius on the floor and Daphne standing by the door. It was 6:30 am: Daphne and Ahir had cut short their exercises to have this confab before breakfast at seven.
“They can be put together in various ways,” said Tom. “Say you have Segments number 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. Maybe you could put those together and make a death ray. Or you could rearrange them and use it to cause people to have weird dreams.”
“You could tell your armies that they can’t be beaten,” said Daphne.
“You would think of that,” said Natalie.
“Daph’s right, actually,” said Angelica. “What was that note?”
“1942,” said Daphne. “A seven-segment combination, probably including both 9 and 10, was found in Berlin by Allied and Soviet spies. They stole it, hid one segment in Berlin, and split the other six.”
“This is from Temple’s notes?” asked Rachel.
“Yeah,” said Tom. “I wish we could’ve grabbed the map.” He pulled out a big sheet of paper. “I’ve tried to reproduce it.”
“So, eleven segments,” said Arnulf to Daphne as the others bent over the map going ooh and ahh.
“You think we should collect them ourselves,” said Daphne.
“I didn’t say that.”
Angelica was looking at them, smiling. “I know what you guys were talking about,” she said.
“And?” Arnulf prompted her.
“And I got this lovely book,” she said, holding up Fascinatynge Animales and Beestes of Magickle Powres.
“So, my question is,” said Ahir, standing up and looking straight through Arnulf, brown eyes into brown, “where is this castle? Is it a real place, or is it some sort of parallel universe or a dream?”
“It’s real,” said Arnulf. “Ange here got to sit outside the bathroom while Temple—!” He stopped and smiled at the lovely Ahir. “Let’s just say the bodily functions exist there too.”
“Ah. But where you figure it to be, there is no castle in fact, right?”
“Yes,” said Daphne. “It’s on the southwest side. No castle.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Rachel, looking up. “I don’t want to get any deeper into these little activities of yours, but I’m glad I’m on Professor Temple’s field trip to the Field Museum.”
But the Field field trip, the next day, was something of an anticlimax, if not exactly disappointing. Arnulf and Cloudius managed to talk their way into the trip, relying on an appeal to Ash, who was susceptible to the argument that they were missing out on an educational opportunity. When they got their deal, they weren’t sure it would even be worth it.
“A two page essay on what we saw!” Cloudius exclaimed in private. “Two whole pages! I think Daphne should write it. It’s all her idea.”
“Two pages,” said Arnulf, “and we can’t even mention the Eleven Thingies.”
But they went. The group, which included several school ghosts not visible to the rest of the museum’s attendees, had a good look at the video of the Cambrian era and pored over the bone structure of dinosaurs and mammoths. Then they took a look at the gems.
Here they slowed down. Diamonds abounded, in a wide range of colors as well as clear; there were other crystals of all sorts and some really complicated, and heart-wrenching, examples of what jewelers could do with a few ounces of gold and a few grams of simple crystal.
There was also one display that held a riddle. Angelica spotted it: a lovely necklace that sat on a piece of purple felt, a piece of felt that had discolored slightly in the light over the years. But the shape of the discoloration—the shadow of the object on display—was not the same as the necklace. Temple did not even slow down as he passed it, but he definitely looked. It fell to Angelica to draw, in her notebook, the shape left on the felt from whatever had been there.
Then there was a whirlwind tour of Ancient Egypt. Into the “pyramid,” then down, then up, then out. But in the middle, when they were in the level below the entrance to the exhibit, Daphne and Arnulf found themselves standing in front of the mummified Ramesses II.
They looked down at the floor. There was a fancy carpet. They could make out the shape of the floor under the carpet.
“Trap door,” Daphne mouthed. Arnulf smiled and replied, very quietly, “Nice day, isn’t it.”
Then they were having their sandwiches in the food court. Eva was snooping about the kitchen and store rooms. Temple was sitting alone, eating his sandwich, reading the Tribune.
“What did he bring us here for?” asked Cloudius.
“It was your idea to come,” said Daphne.
“Well,” said Tom, “why did he want to come here? He doesn’t look disappointed, considering we haven’t exactly seen anything amazing, um, except for the amazing stuff. I really like the trilobites.”
“I don’t guess he’s here for the trilobites,” said Cloudius.
“Trap door in the Egypt section,” said Arnulf.
“Somebody moved something in the gem section,” said Angelica.
Daphne fixed her with a look. “Explain,” she said.
“That necklace. The really amazing one. It was suspended over some purple felt. But something had sat on that felt for a long time, not the necklace, something else. It left an unfaded spot.”
“What was it shaped like?”
Angelica looked around. She pulled out a book from the museum store: Egyptian Hieroglyphs and You! “It’s a serpent with horns. It’s the Egyptian letter F.”
“Wait. It’s an Egyptian letter, you say. It couldn’t have been just some squiggly thing?”
“No, Daphne,” said Angelica with a steely look, “it was this letter.”
“So what, are there eleven letters in Egyptian?” asked Cloudius.
“No, there were like a thousand,” said Tom.
“Yeah,” said Angelica, leafing through her new book, “but there were maybe twenty they used all the time. Some of them stood for actual individual letters, some of them, like this guy sitting down, just told you it was a guy you were talking about. And this one happens to be their F.”
“So what does it mean?” asked Cloudius.
“What it means,” said Arnulf, “is they really exist. First heard of in ancient Egypt, check. One hidden under the Field Museum: close enough, I think.”
“Not close enough,” said Daphne. “We really can check.”
Arnulf’s voice dropped even lower. “Trapdoor?”
“Trapdoor,” Daphne said just as softly.
But the week went by quickly, and the implications and ramifications of sneaking into the museum at night and checking out the trap door began to sink in. Breaking the law, breaking the rules, probably setting off types of alarm that they didn’t even want to know about, and then what? What might they find under that trap door? Some sort of guardian spirit? An Egyptian god? An Indian god? A lich, a wight or two, a dragon forsooth? Who would leave a Segment unguarded, even buried under a museum? Meanwhile life went on.
Rats and Cloud got caught rummaging in the rubbish pile in the basement, but when Rats told Mistress White that Timms, the blacksmith, had said it was okay, Timms himself backed them up; as a result, Rats wound up assisting the smith in his early morning class with Daphne and Cloudius.
Eva told Tom, who told the others, that there was definitely an unquiet spirit wandering the campus at night, but her sense was that it wasn’t angry at the people of the school. “Maybe it’s an old Indian,” said Angelica.
“Maybe it’s an Egyptian,” said Arnulf.
Arn and Pindar also snuck into the basement, but they got away with it. Arnulf found a few documents about his father and his grandfather, and Pindar found out all about his parents.
“My mom was totally serious,” said Pinhead. “I totally can see it, too. She got nothing less than all As here and she never took less than six classes a semester. Dad, on the other hand.”
“Coasted?” put in Cloudius.
“They passed him because they didn’t want him here anymore and he wasn’t quite bad enough to make an example of,” said Pinhead.
“What did you find out, Arnulf?” asked Tom.
Arnulf met his eyes. “Not much on Josephus, my grand-dad,” he said. “There’s one transcript. Spring 1919. All As, but a B in magic history. That’s funny.” He looked at the back, then put it down and picked up the other sheets. “And a cover sheet and a couple of receipts from when he got here. It was whatever was at one end of the file. Someone grabbed the rest and went.”
“What about your dad?” asked Tom.
“My dad,” said Arnulf. He held up the file. It was very thin. “Someone got here too. Almost all gone. I’d guess they left a few sheets rather than leave it empty.” He opened the file and pulled out the half dozen sheets. “Spring 1953. As and Bs. Receipts. Yeah, this form says he got a bed from the school. Heck, I filled out the exact same form.” He held the sheaf up by the top and shook it. A quarter-sheet slipped out and fluttered to the floor.
Angelica grabbed it. She and Cloudius and Tom all leaned together to read it. “What’s it say?” Daphne asked Arnulf.
“He was following someone,” said Arnulf. The note was written in plain, large capital letters, written quickly but carefully. “It’s my dad’s handwriting, definitely. But he didn’t write that note when he was a student.”
“It’s dated Oct 1963,” said Angelica. “It says Brutus has already been here.”
“Brutus?” Daphne repeated. She looked at Arnulf.
He shrugged. “Either I’m going to find out,” he said, “or, I’m not.”