VIII. Amphibian and Bivalve
“Three weeks to Thanksgiving break,” said Cloudius, “then three weeks to Christmas.”
“Your math is a little optimistic,” Angelica judged. “Thanksgiving is—wait. Three. Four. Somewhere in there. Man, the way Daph beats me up at MCV, it’s amazing I can count to four.”
“Speak for yourself!” said Daphne. “You get attacked so much by the bad guys, you always beat the snot out of me when we practice.”
“You make up for it in swords,” said Angelica.
“She’s not that bad,” said Spiny.
“Yes, she is,” said Ahir. “Both of you. You’re so interested in showing off for each other that you beat the rest of us to a pulp.”
“You have to be joking,” said Angelica. “You’re as bad as either of them. And that curved sword freaks me out.”
“You still have the edge in MCV,” said Ahir.
“Hey,” said Cloudius, “I hold up my end.”
“We’re all getting lots of practice,” Arnulf put in. “Let’s just hope we don’t meet anyone worse than us. But of course we will.”
“I can’t wait,” said Daphne.
“I can.” He shut his Magic History tome and opened the book Cloudius had retrieved on his latest expedition to the school basement. “It’s all stories of people getting in spell fights and getting themselves killed and stuff. And then there’s this.” He let the note flutter out.
“Read it again,” said Daphne.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Arnulf. “Among the pillars, in sight of the dock, I left the cylinder guarded by amphibian and bivalve.”
“So this definitely explains why MacMorris is searching the underwater,” said Tom Hexane. “I guess ‘in sight of the dock’ means down where the dock is in the tunnel system.”
“That’s what MacMorris thinks,” said Arnulf.
“And what does the great Arnulf think?” asked Daphne. Ahir turned her smile on him. He thought for a long moment.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just kind of have my doubts about down there.”
“For one thing,” said Angelica, “if he’s that far along in the search, we’re never going to find it before him. Whatever it is. Amphibian and bivalve. Huh.”
“What the heck is a bivalve?” asked Cloudius. “Some kind of machine part?”
“That’s what you’d think, with your penton pumps,” said Angelica. “It’s a clam.”
“Maybe,” said Tom, “Amphibian and Bivalve are capitalized. They could be people’s names. At the firm of Amphibian & Bivalve, Attorneys at Law.”
“Right,” said Angelica. “Well, I see another underground journey in our future. What else is there to do around here, study? Oh. Arnulf. Speaking of studying.”
“Here,” she said, “try this book. Mistress Sear loaned it to me.”
“Is this about the Great Crisis and the MPW?”
“Sort of. Look in the index.”
Arnulf took the book and leafed through the index. Ahir was looking over his shoulder. “What are we looking for?” she asked.
“That,” said Arnulf, pointing. It was under S in the index: Shmoke, Josephus. “That is what we are looking for.” He shut the book, his finger in the index. “Let’s take this up to your room, okay?”
“Don’t trust us?” asked Cloudius.
“It’s kind of personal,” Ahir said lightly before turning to hurry after Arnulf.
Half an hour later, Ahir, Angelica and Arnulf were sitting around in the near-dark in Ahir’s room on the third floor. The book was shut again.
“So what do you know?” asked Angelica.
“Remember Brutus?” asked Arnulf.
“As in, ‘Brutus has already been here,’ in Arthur Shmoke’s file folder in the basement,” said Ahir.
“Okay,” said Angelica.
“Well,” said Arnulf, “Brutus was this spy in the 1940s and 1950s. We know Dad was following him when Dad was killed. Turns out Grandpa was following him too.”
“Josephus was a detective?”
“Yep. And Brutus was allied with the Controllers.”
“Brutus was American or British,” said Ahir. “We don’t even know, he might have been a she. The name would indicate—”
“Classical training?” asked Angelica.
“Of course, and also that he was some sort of aristocratic type, and that he thought he was acting on some sort of principle.”
“When he killed my dad, and probably my grandfather as well,” put in Arnulf.
“But even the thugs who destroyed my family in Iran thought they were acting on some sort of principle. Of course they’re Clerica, not Controllers, but the principle, if you will, is the same.”
Angelica looked from Arnulf to Ahir and back. She already knew they were both pretty steely, but she was still surprised at how very steely they were. She was glad they were on her side, or she knew she’d better choose to be on theirs.
“You know your grandfather was killed in the line of duty,” she said.
“Yep. 1940. They thought—the magic authorities thought he was targeted by the last remnants of the losing side of the Crisis. But this history doesn’t think so. Apparently Brutus was involved. Why? Because Grandpa left a note.”
“What did it say? Something about Amphibian & Bivalve, Attorneys at Law?”
“No,” said Arnulf.
“We don’t know,” said Ahir. “The historian saw it, maybe some of the magic authorities saw it, but it’s disappeared, and its contents are unknown.”
“So where does that leave us?”
Arnulf and Ahir looked at each other. “I think we should go out for pizza,” said Arnulf. “And along the way, we can have a quick look in some offices in the basement.”
It was easy, as it turned out. Aside from (1) avoiding Limpy Month near the stair door, (2) waiting twenty minutes for Timms to decide which pieces of junk to drag into his workshop to transform into something useful or magical, and (3) extricating Cloudius’s foot from a puppy-sized rat scorpion lizard, they got in, got what they wanted and got out to Giordano’s. There they sat around a table—the second floor gang plus Ahir Shaheen—and talked in low voices while they swilled root beer and chowed down on cheesy garlic bread and waited for their pepperoni and black olive pizza and their veggie loaded pizza, no need to ask for extra cheese on either one.
“Shadowy grabber,” said Angelica, consulting her Pocket Guide to Monsters, “that’s what it was.”
“That’s what Cloudius is too,” said Tom. “He got that map.”
“It wasn’t what we went down there for,” said Cloudius, “but it’s clearly very cool. Look. Field Museum—tunnels. Lyceum—tunnels. And Comiskey Park—tunnels we don’t even know about. And tunnels connecting all the tunnels.”
“There’s a lot here,” said Tom, leaning over the map, which seemed a mix of pirate treasure map and color-coded subway plan. “Any idea how to read it?”
“Not really. I mean, some of it I can figure out, obviously that’s the Lyceum and that’s the Museum, but I can’t even figure out the tunnels under it. And these look like tunnels from Field Museum to Lyceum. I mean, we know we can get to Giordano’s, obviously, but—well, there’s a lot in here that we don’t know about, I’ll just say that.”
“What I want to know,” said Arnulf, “is what Daph heard in Mac’s office.”
“Okay,” said Daphne, quaffing her root beer. “Well, he was clearly talking to an underling or two. Students. They were saying something like, ‘are we sure it’s there, the Hakken things give me the creeps,’ and so on. And Mac is all like, ‘Then you have to be strong, the Hakkenkraks don’t hurt anyone, and it has to be there.’ And he quoted the prophecy, or whatever it is, the whole thing, just as it’s written on that note.”
“And then they went off to look,” said Arnulf.
“Yeah, and thanks a lot, guys, for finally actually listening to me and getting out of the way. Yeah. So you talk me into following them, and they have that cool boat and go search underwater, and that’s like, so totally exciting to watch, because they’re what, underwater, and finally nothing’s happened and I get to go back and look in Mac’s office.”
“We had to see if they found anything,” said Arnulf.
“Which they didn’t, because it’s not there. Mark my words. I don’t know where it is, but they are looking in the wrong place, I just know it.”
“Because Amazons can just intuit things, right?” said Angelica.
“I don’t know, can you?” asked Daphne. “Anyway, you got all that stuff from the book, what did you get down?”
“He’s researching detect items,” said Ahir, reading from her own notes. “And detect water, and some other things I’ve never heard of. And this.”
“The Brutus Way,” said Arnulf, reading over her shoulder. “It was a note in the margin. In Mac’s handwriting. What did you get?”
Daphne held up what she had on the table before her. “A blank yellow pad.”
“A blank pad?” Angelica repeated.
“Yeah, problem?” Daphne began salting the yellow pad. When it was well-seasoned, she shook some of the salt off. “Fifteenth oldest trick in the book,” she said. She squinted at where the salt remained in the indented letters left after MacMorris tore off the top sheet. “Instructions. Ah yes. Supplies. What’s it all about? He circled it and drew rays around it. The Cylinder.”
“He has pretty good handwriting,” said Tom.
“Yeah, fortunately. And here’s a list of his student helpers. Oh, Ange. Josh Hubble’s right on top of the list of first years.”
“What?” Angelica grabbed the pad, but the salt all fell off.
“Your pizzas look great,” said their usual waitress.
“Black olive and pepperoni right here,” said Tom, making room.
“We’ll have a good look at that later,” said Daphne, taking back the pad. “I don’t know if it answers anything, but—say, the pizza smells pretty great too!”
Two hours later they were back in Ash House brushing their teeth and wondering what they had learned. They were still wondering that on the following Friday, when Arnulf was interrupted in the Ash House living room, where he was actually studying, by Ahir.
“Hey, Arnulf,” she said, her eyes laughing.
“Hey, Ahir,” he said.
“Guess where I’ve been.”
“The Chicago Public Library,” said Arnulf.
“How did you know?” she asked, pouting cutely.
“That book you have,” he said. She turned it to look at the cover: Cold Cases in the Windy City by Bertram Rinehart. Then she looked at the side, where, stamped on the page-ends, were the words Chicago Public Library.
“There’s a lot of stuff in here,” she said. “It’s amazing. This fellow was a detective for thirty years, and after he retired he wrote this book. He says he worked with a fellow detective named Art Shmoke. He even talks about pursuing Brutus.”
“Wait, wait,” said Arnulf. “Rinehart was a magic user?”
“No, he was a Chicago police detective. He seems to imply that your dad was, too, but when I tried to look up his records, I couldn’t find any.”
“Did you ask about personnel files?”
“Oh, yes, in fact, I did, so you have to give me a gold star for that.”
“You get a gold star. So, still nothing?”
“The librarian said that I could look at the microfiche but only if I could actually prove I was related to him.”
“Librarian said that?” Arnulf stopped. Someone was coming down the stairs—no, just Angelica and Cloudius. “Hey, guys,” said Arnulf, “fancy a trip to the Public Library downtown?”
An hour later, Arnulf and Ahir were coming out of the library. “That was a dead end,” said Arnulf. “I come all the way down here and show my ID and everything and all they can say is, there isn’t anyone named that in the index. What a waste of time!”
“It’s never a waste of time when we’re together,” said Ahir. She put her hand in his, and he turned, a dumb grin on his face. They stood there on the steps of the library in the cold November wind, holding hands and grinning dumbly.
Ahir finally asked, “Weren’t Angelica and Cloudius with us?”
“I think so,” said Arnulf. “I think they went over to the criminal court.” He pointed behind him, across the street, without taking his eyes off her.
“To look at records.”
“I guess.” They grinned some more. “Should we go look for them?”
“They might have got in trouble without us,” said Ahir.
So the two of them crossed the street and went up the steps and into the lobby of the court house. “Look,” said Ahir. “Look at the wallpaper.”
Arnulf did: salamanders and clams. Huh. And over there, a dirty fountain, with two twelve-year-olds in it.
“Of course,” said Ahir. “The dock. Where criminals stand in the court room. That kind of dock, not the kind you hitch a boat to!”
“Ohhh,” said Arnulf.
“Found it!” said Cloudius, as he and Angelica both came up with a metal cylinder about three inches long. They fought for it briefly, then saw Arnulf and Ahir standing there holding hands. Cloudius let go and let Angelica have the thing.
“Hey wata you kids doin in da fountain?” asked a growly voice.
“Uh, we lost something in here,” said Angelica. “It’s my stoopid brother’s fault.”
“Izzat right?” asked the cop.
“Yeah!” said Cloudius, grinning stupidly.
“Okay, gedaddaheah,” said the cop, and they happily did so.
“So here it is,” said Daphne, that night in Tom’s room, holding the cylinder. “Any idea—?”
“Nope,” said Arnulf.
“We know it’s something to do with the segments,” said Angelica. “You know, a little voice in my head is saying that this is the sort of thing we should turn over to Mistress Ash. I mean, this is obviously pretty big magic. And what if MacMorris sent a bunch of his followers to take it from us? And, I mean, it has a prophecy and everything!”
“That little voice?” said Arnulf. “Ignore it.”
“Are you sure?” said Ahir.
“Yes,” said Daphne. “Little voices only cause trouble.”
“I always ignore my little voice,” said Cloudius.
“I’m surprised you even have one,” said Angelica. “Okay. Fine. Who keeps it?”
“I will,” said Ahir. “We’d better trade it around, though.”
“They won’t think of you,” said Daphne, handing it to Ahir. “And if you lose it, I’m going to wrap that bent sword of yours around your cute little neck.”
“Eek, Arnulf, protect me!”
“Riiight,” said Arnulf. “I think we’d be picking pieces of broken Sword +1 out of Daphne, is what we’d be doing.”
“You’d bet on her?” asked Tom.
“It all goes to show,” said Angelica, “we all need more practice, and I need a magic sword or knife or something. And you know, I have a birthday coming up.”
“Really?” said several.
“Monday,” said Angelica. “I turn thirteen. You guys forget I’m the oldest, and you should do what I say.”
“Right,” said Daphne, “I do tend to forget that.”