Authors: B. C. Harris
Tags: #Children's Books, #Action & Adventure, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy & Magic, #Children's eBooks, #Mysteries & Detectives, #Spies, #Science Fiction; Fantasy & Scary Stories, #Sword & Sorcery, #Science Fiction, #Aliens
Keeper of the Emerald
All characters in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book is a work of fiction.
© 2015 by B.C. Harris
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this work may be
reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying and
recording or by any information
storage or retrieval system,
without permission in
writing from the publisher.
CGS Communications Inc.
- 1 -
An eleven year-old girl in our community vanished yesterday. It is believed that she was abducted by a stranger: the worst fear of every parent and child.
Less than two weeks have passed since our adventure in Rome. The continuing eruption of a supervolcano near Pompeii and the disappearance of Santtonnice, who is believed to have died in the destruction of the Colosseum, have dominated the news.
The interest in Rome was so great that my friends and I were forgotten by the authorities. After all, no one even knew we were involved in what happened there.
Drew had sabotaged the broadcast transmission from inside the Colosseum before anyone saw any of us. The world outside the Colosseum never saw the fight for my emerald.
Any fortunate people who survived the horror inside the Colosseum had been too busy trying to escape to pay much attention to what was happening atop the stage in the center of the Colosseum. With no personal cameras of any sort having been allowed into the event, there were no recordings of what occurred.
The criminal charges against my mother and me were dropped. Michael said his parents told him that both Homeland Security and the CIA intervened to help us.
My father remains hidden in a cabin in a forest about an hour away from our home. He couldn’t possibly show his face in public, or people would think he is Santtonnice, the evil villain who tried to destroy our world.
My friends and I decided that we would lay low for a few months before getting involved in any new missions. Unfortunately, a crisis in our community forced us to abandon our plans.
Yesterday, by mid-afternoon, there were rumors that an eleven year-old girl had vanished on her way to her school in the morning. Such news has an ugly way of going viral.
Living in a day and age when most parents constantly tell their kids to be careful and avoid strangers, whenever something happens to another student, it’s as though it has happened to all of us. The thought of a child, or a teenager, being abducted sends shivers down the spines of all young people, and I’m sure that it prowls like a horrible nightmare in the minds of all parents.
Having lived most of my life alone with my mother, a person who often left for work before I woke up in the morning, and who often worked late at night, I was generally on edge about the possibility of encountering a perverse stranger. Since becoming the Keeper of the Emerald a little over a year ago, my fears have increased.
When I first heard yesterday about the disappearance of the girl in our community, I was unable to concentrate at school. It was as though part of me had been abducted as well. My mind kept replaying horrible scenes of what might be happening to the girl. I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
After school, I turned on the TV in my basement fortress that has been renovated again.
In addition to an array of state-of-the-art computer equipment and a security system that probably rivals the Pentagon, my parents had a secret room encased in a wall in one corner of the basement. This room is behind fortified solid concrete. Michael has already nicknamed it the “bunker”. Jamie told me that Michael’s parents were involved in designing the new security system for my house.
Our neighbors, already bewildered by the police visits over the past few weeks, must have wondered what was happening. I told one curious neighbor that we were having an indoor pool installed in our house.
After school yesterday, the local news was totally immersed in the story of the missing girl. Her name is Jennifer Jacqueline Johannseon. She’s as cute as any eleven year-old could possibly be with long auburn curly hair, a few freckles around her nose, and wide hazel eyes.
A nation wide AMBER alert was issued yesterday, so it’s obvious that foul play is suspected in her disappearance.
I sat transfixed to the TV as over and over again I watched her picture and listened to a description of what she was wearing when she left for school. Her bright blue winter coat, red mitts, and a yellow scarf would be an eclectic mixture of colors that would be hard to miss.
The young girl left her house at 8:05 a.m.
In an interview I saw on TV with her mother, there was no doubt in the mother’s mind about the time.
At 9:15 a.m., an automated email from the school informed Jennifer’s mother that she was not at school.
A telephone call back to the school from the mother confirmed her daughter’s absence.
Now I’m watching as a news broadcast continues to show Jennifer’s picture and provides a map that illustrates the route she normally walked to school less than a mile away from her house.
I shudder with fear at what might have happened.
The past year has given me more than a lifetime of anxiety, fear, danger, and not knowing what was going to happen next. I know a little of what this girl must be suffering.
It’s difficult for me to understand how any adult could steal a child from her family and inflict pain and suffering on a helpless victim. The more I think about what’s happening, the angrier I become.
There’s a beep on my computer.
It’s Jamie. His message is short, but urgent.
WISDOM: We’ve got to help the girl.
He doesn’t have to explain to me what he means.
Within an hour, our team, our secret Society of Spies, has assembled in my basement.
It’s the first time Drew or Jasmin have seen the renovations at my house.
Drew says, “The President could hide here if our country was under attack.”
I laugh at his remark although our discussion quickly turns to the missing girl.
We agree we have to help find her although we’re not sure how to do this.
Jasmin pleads for us to take immediate action. It was only a few weeks ago that she suffered the horror of being kidnapped. As we discussed what we might do, it became obvious that I had a resource that was more powerful than anything the police or FBI might possess: my emerald.
The dilemma I faced was once I used my emerald to help someone in need, I would be opening a door that might never shut. Capurni had once warned me that it was important that I only use the emerald for major concerns. He told me that if I began to use it to save everyone who encountered a problem, I would soon be overwhelmed with the needs of others. He also warned me that constantly using the emerald to help others would quickly lead to the possibility of others understanding the powers of my emerald. Once this occurred, he said that I would spend my life trying to stop others from taking the emerald from me.
After explaining my concerns about using the emerald, Jasmin was still insistent that we use it to find the missing girl. Jamie and Michael understood my concerns, while Drew said nothing, but appeared to be strangely agitated.
I asked Michael and Jamie whether there was something else we could do. Could Michael’s nano-drones help us find the girl? Did Michael have some other kind of gadget that could help us?
After a lengthy discussion, we couldn’t agree on what to do.
In the background, the TV was a constant reminder of the missing girl.
“Once we know her location,” Jasmin says, “one of us could pass an anonymous tip on to the police.”
I’m not so sure it’s going to be that easy.
I want to help, but is this going to open the door for me to get involved in every crime or evil act that occurs on my planet?
“Just this once,” Jasmin begs.
Our conversation has been going in circles. I want to talk to my mother or father, but I suspect that they would give me the same warning as Capurni. The emerald could not be used to help every person who had a problem. It had to be used for more serious, more noble, more world threatening events.
But what could be more noble than saving the life of a helpless eleven year-old girl? If we really want to change our world, doesn’t it start in our own neighborhood, one person at a time?
“Okay,” I finally say. “Let’s save her.”
Looking at a picture of the girl on the TV screen and holding my emerald before me, I say, “Akem, Jennifer Jacqueline Johannseon.”
- 2 -
A STOLEN CAR
An image of the terrified girl, her hands tied behind her, and a dirty cloth wrapped around her mouth to prevent her from screaming for help, appears in my emerald. She’s a prisoner on the back seat of a car.
One of the tricks that I previously learned was to project an image from my emerald onto a wall.
Looking at the emerald, I say, “Volamtashia.”
A large picture of the kidnapped girl struggling on the back seat of a car appears on one of my basement walls.
“Where’s the car?” Jasmin asks, her voice dripping with fear. Jasmin is wearing faded blue jeans with a long-sleeved white sweater that accents her long black silky hair. Her wide brown eyes punctuate her concern.
The car is moving. There is no way to know where it’s actually located.
“She not wearing her winter coat,” Jamie observes. Jamie is wearing grey track pants that seem to be at odds with his normal intellectual demeanor. He’s wearing a maroon sweatshirt that says Harvard, which I have no doubt is where he will end up after high school. His wavy blond hair is edging over his ears.
“Why don’t we use the emerald to travel to the inside of the car?” Drew suggests.
“Imagine the shock on the face of the abductor if he looked into his rear-view mirror to discover five teenagers sitting with the girl,” Michael says.
“Yes,” I say. “The driver might smash into someone else. This is not a practical suggestion.”
“She looks terrified,” Jasmin reminds us of the obvious, her long black hair swaying as she speaks. “There must be something we can do.”
I sense Jasmin’s pain. I can see the girl’s fear. What can we do?
“It looks like the sun is setting based on the oranges and reds in the sky outside the car,” Jamie says.
“Just like here,” Michael adds. “The car must be in the same time zone as us.”
“Assuming the driver has been on the go since he kidnapped the girl yesterday, and based on the girl no longer wearing her coat or mitts, they could easily be in a place like Florida by now, even with stops.”
I shudder when Michael says “stops”. Has Jennifer already suffered harm at the hands of her kidnapper?
“As long as the car is moving, the girl is safe from her abductor,” Michael says. “We’ve got to come up with a plan before the car stops.”
“There!” Jasmin shouts.
“What?” I reply.
Jasmin answers, “I caught a brief glimpse of some vegetation near the car. I saw one of those old sprawling trees with that mossy stuff hanging from it.”
“That’s Spanish Moss,” Jamie says. “The tree is likely either a Southern Oak or Bald Cypress. Those trees could pretty much be in any Southern State.”
“Except,” Michael adds once again, “that the sky suggests the same time zone as us. I’d be willing to bet that the car is in either Georgia or Florida.”
Michael’s curly brown hair looks a little messier than normal. He’s wearing a bulky beige sweater that looks uncomfortable as we look at pictures of a warmer place.
None of us question Michael’s deduction.
Somewhere in the southern States, even if the car is in Florida or Georgia, is a very large area. We need to find a way to actually pinpoint the location of the car.
“If he stops and gets out of the car for gas or food, we could use the emerald to go there,” Jasmin says.
“Then I can give him what he deserves,” Drew announces menacingly as he pulls a gun from underneath his T-shirt and waves it in the air.
I glance at Michael and Jamie. The look in their eyes shows the shock that I am feeling. What is Drew doing with a gun?
Drew is wearing his typical skin-tight blue jeans and a black T-shirt that is at least one size too small for him. I notice he’s wearing a new belt with a huge metal buckle on it. The belt buckle suggests a cowboy look rather than his normal dark rebel appearance, other than the reality that the buckle has a skull and crossbones on it.
Not sure how to respond to Drew, we all look back at the picture of the traveling car that we are seeing on my basement wall.
We are beginning to see more scenery through the window of the car although it’s obvious that it will soon be dark. We also see a constant picture of the horror on the girl’s face.
The mossy covered trees have an eerie look about them. There is something sinister in the trees as the car continues to race past them. If this was a movie, the mysterious trees would be a perfect setting for the drama. Unfortunately, this is not a movie. This is real life. This is a young girl whose life is in grave danger.
Although I have never been to Florida before, I have seen similar trees in Savannah, Georgia. From my visit to Savannah with my mother a few summers ago, I remember taking a horse and carriage tour of the city. The driver of the carriage, who was also our tour guide, told us an ancient legend about the Spanish Moss dangling hauntingly from the trees. The legend had something to do with a bride who was killed on her wedding day. The bride’s hair was cut and spread throughout a tree. Over the years, the hair turned grey and spread from tree to tree.
“There!” Jamie exclaims, as he almost leaps at the image on the wall that is being reflected from my emerald. “Highway 17. There was a highway sign stating that this is Highway 17.”
Although I missed the image of the sign, I know that this is an important discovery for us.
“I once drove from Orlando to near Fort Myers on Highway 17,” Drew says.
I wonder who Drew was driving with when this happened. His family history has remained a mystery. Other than knowing that he lives with his father who is constantly on the road driving a truck and that his mother disappeared somewhere in the past, I know nothing else about Drew. For a second, I ponder whether Jasmin knows much about his background. Perhaps, at some other time, I will ask her.
“Zolfo, or something like that,” Michael says.
I caught a glimpse of the sign along the side of the highway as well.
“Zolfo Springs,” Jamie says, reading from his laptop. “Founded in 1904. Population of 1,827. Home of Pioneer Park celebrating the early days of life in Florida.”
“Let’s go,” Jasmin says.
After none of us respond, she continues, “Doesn’t it make sense to go there? It would bring us a little closer to the girl. Just being in the same State would help me feel like we’re doing something.”
“Let’s go,” Drew repeats, taking charge.
“I need a familiar landmark,” I say as I notice Michael grabbing his backpack.
“Here’s a picture of the Zolfo Springs Welcome sign,” Jamie says, showing me the picture on his laptop.
The sign reads,
ZOLFO SPRINGS, EST 1904, WELCOMES YOU.
The sign is set in a brown wooden frame with a small shingled roof over it.
“Hold my hands,” I say.
Instantly my friends circle around me. We have traveled like this before.
Gazing at the picture of the welcome sign on Jamie’s laptop while I clutch my emerald, I say, “Sandarium, welcome sign, Zolfo Springs, Florida.”
I feel a blast of hot weather.
I see the welcome sign.
We are standing on the grass in front of the sign.
The heat is overbearing, even though the sun has set, especially when I realize I’m wearing long pants and a heavy sweater. As I look at my friends, I realize we are all overdressed, with the exception of Drew.
“What are we going to do?” I ask.
The moment I ask the question, I wonder if we have made a mistake coming here. For one thing, there is nowhere to project any images from my emerald. It’s going to be difficult for all of us to gaze into my emerald to see what is happening.
“Anyone have their cell phone to give us an internet connection so we can get a map of the area?” I ask.
“Not necessary,” Michael says.
He digs into his backpack.
Within seconds, we all have our spy-bands once again.
I had forgotten about the technology that Michael could supply for us.
“What now?” I ask.
“Follow me,” comes the confident answer from Drew as he begins to walk across the abandoned highway.
We follow Drew.
He’s walking towards a small coffee shop. Just like him to get coffee and a doughnut at a time like this. Jasmin runs to catch up to him.
As Drew approaches the parking lot, he begins to tug on the door handle of a car.
Oh no, I think. Does Drew intend to steal a car? I begin to play with the ends of my long brownish blond hair.
Before I can respond, Drew is at another car.
It’s old and dirty, a faded silver color.
He opens the door, jumps inside, and his hands dive under the dashboard.
I don’t know anything about cars, but I’ve seen enough movies to know that Drew is trying to start the car.
Suddenly the engine comes alive.
“Jump in,” Drew says, as though this is a typical occurrence for him.
Jasmin quickly leaps into the passenger seat beside Drew while Jamie, Michael and I cram into the back. I end up in the middle between Jamie and Michael.
Before any of us can respond, we are driving down the highway.
We have stolen a car. What’s next? What if Drew uses his gun? Grand auto theft and murder. It feels like we’re in a reckless video game.
“Emily, do you think you could project an image of the girl onto my laptop?” Jamie asks.
Are any of my friends concerned that we have stolen a car? Are any of my friends concerned that Drew is carrying a gun?
Guess not, I decide.
“Emily?” Jamie says.
“Oh,” I reply. “Let me try.”
As I look at an image of Jennifer traveling in a car with her abductor, I say, “Volamtashia, Jamie’s laptop.”
Instantly the image of the girl appears on Jamie’s laptop screen.
Michael almost ends up on my lap as he attempts to look at the screen.
Jennifer looks terrified. She appears to be in shock. Her eyes are wide with terror.
Our old car lurches forward. I’m sure that Drew must have his foot to the floor. The car begins to shake violently.
Driving at this speed is going to attract the police, the last thing we need right now.
“Highway 17,” Jamie says as he reads a sign that appears out of the window in the car that the kidnapper is driving.
I also noticed the highway sign on Jamie’s laptop, although it’s getting a little harder to see with Michael pushing for a view.
What are we going to do when we reach the car? Is Drew intending to force the abductor’s car off the road? Or is he going to shoot out the tires on the car? At this point, nothing that Drew does will surprise me.