Authors: Jude Watson
Jake dragged a hand through his hair. “This is unbelievable. A lost Leonardo manuscript, transcribed by your ancestor!”
it?” Amy asked. “And what does it have to do with the antidote?”
“Give us a minute,” Jake said. He spread out papers on the desk, then consulted the book. Atticus held up a mirror, and together, speaking in low voices, they translated Olivia’s pages while Amy paced, Dan stood on his head, Jonah stood at the window, Ian tried to help, and Pony’s head drooped and he let out a loud snore.
Finally, Jake put down his pen and ran his hand through his hair again.
Atticus sat back. “Okay. My mind is officially blown.”
“Apparently . . .” Jake stopped and took a breath. “This is so hard to grasp . . . but this document given to Olivia is about the great lost civilizations of the world — seven of them. At the very end, they kept their greatest wisdom — their cures, their potions, their medicines — and wrote them down. They were passed to the last survivors, and over years and years they were compiled into one document — which passed from hand to hand to the greatest scholar of the age. Until they finally got to Leonardo da Vinci.”
“Who gave it to your ancestor,” Atticus told them. “Olivia Behan Cahill.”
“So this codex — Olivia copied all the information in her book?” Amy asked.
“To hide it,” Jake said. “I’m guessing that each caretaker copied over the information so that it would be easier to keep and pass along.”
Amy had memorized the poem by now. She spoke softly. “‘. . . and take up battle not with arms but wisdom gained from ancient land / kept close and passed from hand to hand . . .’ ”
Dan continued. “‘. . . to
mio maestro di vita
, thee of timeless woman, universal man. / Then he to me bequeathed it, and with instruction bid / and I, through his own methods, hid.’ ”
“‘Through his own methods’ — that means the mirror writing. Leonardo used that, too,” Atticus said. “But there’s a problem.”
a problem, bro,” Jonah said. “Welcome to CahillLand.”
Jake tapped the table. “From what I’ve read, the codex is just what it says. Under each civilization there are short texts that give advice, list medicines, even poisons — all sorts of things. It tells you how to cure snakebite, kill an enemy, even induce a coma. But there’s nothing here that appears to be added by Olivia. So . . .”
“There’s no formula for an antidote,” Amy finished.
“At least an obvious formula. There are also numbered lists of ingredients under each civilization,” Jake explained. “For example, Carthage has fifteen, Angkor Wat has twenty-two, Tikal has twelve. But — no formula.”
“But why would it be in the codex anyway?” Ian asked. “Gideon
the secrets in the book to make the serum, and Olivia used them for the antidote. It’s got to be in her section of the book.”
“But I’ve read it cover to cover!” Amy exclaimed. “More than once.”
“Wait a second,” Dan said briskly. “We’ve figured out what all of the poem means except one line. What about ‘with no edges glimpsed, dark sketched the key imparted’?”
“You’re right, Dan,” Amy agreed excitedly. She turned the pages of the book. “Dark sketched . . . the black pages maybe?” She looked at them, then at the page with the Madrigal
“Wait a minute,” she said. “Olivia said she used Leonardo’s own methods, right? Does anyone have a magnifying glass?”
Atticus dug in his pack and came up with one. Amy studied the page with the Madrigal
through the magnifying glass. It was a dark, inky page, with the
in the center, and twining leaves, herbs, and flowers around it.
“I read up on Leonardo on Jake’s phone on the plane,” she said. “He worked on the
for almost twenty years. Art historians think it’s because he used a tiny brush and a magnifying lens. The technique is called
‘Leonardo’s smoke.’ There are layers and layers and layers to the painting.
He didn’t want you to see where one color changed to another — the edges.”
Amy’s face was close to the book now. “I see it!” she cried. “Olivia has hidden letters in the cross-hatching. There’s a text that winds around the M. It’s concealed in the leaves. You can’t see it with the naked eye! I see the word
— the lost city. ‘Tincture one dram.’ And the number eight. Didn’t you say the ingredients were numbered, Jake?”
“Hang on.” Jake turned the pages of the book. “Number eight in the Carthage section is . . . silphium. Whatever that is.”
“Keep going, Amy,” Dan said. “What next?”
Amy picked up the magnifying glass again. Working carefully but quickly, she found all seven civilizations, numbers of ingredients, and amounts. Jake wrote them down.
“What country is Carthage in?” Dan asked.
“Present-day Tunisia,” Atticus answered.
“Angkor is Cambodia,” Ian said. “And Tikal?”
“One of the great civilizations of world history,” Atticus said. “Dates back to the fourth century
You can tour the ruins in Guatemala.”
“There it is,” Dan said. “Another worldwide quest. At least there’s only seven civilizations, not thirty-nine. But where is Troy? I didn’t know it was real. I mean, it was real in the movie, but . . .”
“It was a real place,” Jake answered. “The ruins are in Turkey.”
“Maybe we should start there,” Amy said. “Turkey isn’t too long a flight from here.”
“Six whiskers from a leopard?” Dan asked. “I’m glad this stuff is so easy. What are we supposed to do, run after it with a pair of tweezers?”
Jake frowned over his laptop. “Wait. I’ve got some bad news. Silphium is a plant used in classical antiquity. It is extinct. So is the Anatolian leopard.”
“Oh, man,” Jonah said from the floor, where he was reclining, a pillow under his head. “That is messed up.”
“How can we make a potion from things that don’t exist anymore?” Ian asked.
The mood in the room instantly flattened. It felt as though the chase was over before it had begun.
“Hey, bros,” Jonah said, leaping to his feet in the smooth move that earned him the title of most viewed music video of all time. “Just because it’s messed up doesn’t mean we can’t fix the prob. We found thirty-nine
, homeys. We can locate some
“Jonah’s right. We can’t take no for an answer,” Amy declared. “I say we go to Turkey and see what we can find. And we’ll figure out silphium, too, when the time comes. We don’t have a choice. We have to try.”
“YOLO,” Jonah agreed. The rest of them looked puzzled. “Explain, dawg,” Jonah said, pointing at Pony.
“You Only Live Once,” Pony translated.
“Precisely,” Ian said. “If we go and explore, we’ll find a way.”
“And the best thing we can do right now,” Jake said, “is get out of London.”
“Plane fueled up and ready to go, bro,” Jonah said. “Next stop, Istanbul.”
Text from Security 1 to Security 3:
Clarke Hotel clear. Next search: Greensward Hotel.
They all piled into the elevators for the trip to the lobby. The first one was full, and somehow in the confusion Amy found herself in an elevator alone with Jake.
They stood in uncomfortable silence. It was now or never. Amy gathered her courage. She couldn’t go on like this, with Jake avoiding her eyes.
She stepped forward and punched every floor on the way down.
“What are you doing?” Jake demanded.
“I want to talk to you alone, and I have a feeling this is my only chance.” Amy paused. The elevator doors opened on an empty hallway, then closed.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry you’re involved in all this.”
“Right,” Jake said, his eyes on the floor indicator. “I remember. We’re not family.”
“Well, yes. Why should you sacrifice everything for us?”
“If you don’t know the answer to that, forget it.”
The doors opened on a tourist couple. “Sorry!” Amy trilled, and punched at the
“You don’t understand,” Amy started.
Jake broke in furiously. “I think I do. Last fall we were under a pressure situation, we got too close, now we’re back to reality. You feel differently now.”
“I just think,” Amy said carefully, “that if we could just stay friends . . . it would be great. Because we have a lot of work to do, and if you can’t even look me in the eye, it could compromise our mission.”
The doors opened to an empty hallway, then closed.
“Oh, so now I’m a security risk,” Jake said bitterly.
“That’s not what I meant! I don’t want Atticus to be in danger. You still have a chance to leave. If you go back to Rome —”
us, Amy! For all I know they have a whole
by now. We’re in this, whether you like it or not. My only hope for protecting my brother is to
Just like it’s your only way to protect Dan.”
The doors opened on a businessman. He started forward, saw their stormy faces, and said, “I’ll wait for the next one.”
“Anyway, you’re right,” Jake said as the door closed again. “The mission is most important. I get it now. If you’ve got some ancient docs to decode, I’m your man. But when it comes to actually
. . .
well, you’d rather take a pass.”
isn’t important right now. Feelings don’t help. As a matter of fact, they do the opposite.” Her unspoken words —
they hurt —
seemed to hit him like a punch. She saw a flare of pain in his eyes.
Doors opened. Fourth floor.
“If we could just be friends . . .”
He jammed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “Yeah, feelings just get in the way, don’t they,” he said. “So let’s just kick them aside. Go ahead, find someone less . . .
Like Mr. Smooth.”
He meant Ian, of course. She was about to protest, but the doors opened again. It gave her time to think. Ian? Jake was
Maybe this way is best
, she thought.
This way, he’ll stay away.
The doors opened on the second floor.
Two of Pierce’s thugs stood in the hallway.
For a moment time hung suspended as they faced each other, equally surprised.
Then they exploded into movement. Amy dove for the
button. The goons leaped forward.
The door began to close as one of them pounced. He wedged half in, half out. His face was mashed against the door as Amy kept hitting the button.
Jake sprang off the back wall of the elevator, slamming his foot squarely in the man’s midsection. A split second later Amy followed with a hard chop to his windpipe. Jake shoved, and he fell back onto the carpeted hallway. The doors slid shut, and the elevator dropped.
“They’ll take the stairs,” Jake said.
Amy was frantically texting Dan.
THEY ARE HERE GET OUT NOW.
When the doors opened, she and Jake blasted through them onto the mezzanine. Farther down the hall, they could see the doorway to the emergency stairs. It opened, and the two men burst out.
Amy and Jake raced across the wide floor of the mezzanine. A tour group had stopped near the restaurant, their luggage piled around them. Amy leaped over the pile, and Jake followed. She risked a glance down at the lobby and saw Dan check his phone. He looked up at them, then at the exit. But he and the others didn’t move.
There could be only one reason. They were surrounded.
She flew down the wide staircase, then leaped over the banister several feet from the bottom.
“They’re outside, too,” Dan said.
“Side entrance,” Amy said.
The group weaved through the crowded lobby and sprinted through the side entrance. They jogged down Euston Road. Behind them, the men exited the hotel door and they saw them walking quickly, keeping them all in sight. There were six of them.
“What should we do?” Dan muttered.
“Stay on Euston for now,” Amy said. “It’s crowded. They don’t want to make a scene.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Jake said. “We’re near the British Library. We might be able to lose them there. Then we can double back to the Tube station.”
“Worth a try,” Ian agreed.
“With you, my man,” Jonah said.
Pony was puffing hard. “I hope it has benches.”
With a chilling sense of dread, Amy recognized the man who almost threw her off the bridge. She remembered the strength of his hands, like iron manacles on her wrists, being up against a wall of power she couldn’t fight.
The plaza in front of the library was full of students with backpacks. It was easy to blend into the crowd.
They hurried past a tall sculpture and toward the front doors. Amy sneaked a look over her shoulder. To her dismay, she saw the six men fanning out across the plaza.
They moved inside the building. The reception hall was five stories high and crowded with people milling in the exhibition area, or standing near the information desk. A group huddled around a teacher lecturing about the architecture of the building.
“There are three exits,” Dan said. “There’s a guy at each of them.”
“Three of them moving through the crowd,” Ian said.
“Let’s try this,” Jake said. “I’ll use my father’s credentials to get us on a private tour. Then we can look for an employee’s exit. There’s always a separate exit.”
“I’ll go with you,” Ian said. “My father donated some rare Indian manuscripts to the library. I might have some pull, too.”
They all stepped up to the desk and Jake leaned over to talk to the young man behind it. Amy shot a look over her shoulder. She looked straight into the eyes of the man who threw her off the bridge. He smiled.
“Dan.” Her voice was breathless. “We have to . . .”
“I saw him. Relax,” Dan murmured to her as he and Amy tried to draw the man away from the others. “What can he do to us? We’re in a public place.”
“Just ask Sammy Mourad,” Amy said. “We can’t let them get too close to Atticus.”
She had lost sight of the man. Her eyes scanned the crowd. Suddenly, she felt something against her back. A hand closed around the back of her neck.
“Hypodermic needle,” the man said.
Her eyes widened. Dan froze.
“That’s right, little buddy. I’ve got a needle right at sissy’s spine. And when I plunge it, she’s going to lose her legs. She’s going to lose her speech. She’s gonna fall, okay? And right by the doors I’ve got three EMT guys. Well, they’re gonna
like EMTs in a sec. They’re gonna take sissy here out on a stretcher. You’re gonna come along, because you care about her, right?”
“Or else I’m going to scream right now,” Dan said.
“Yeah? Well, then sissy gets
injections. And that won’t be pretty. Got it?”
Dan said nothing. His eyes were full of fury.
, do I have your cooperation? Good. And then all your little pals will follow, and we’ll all go to some nice secluded spot.” The hand on her neck tightened. “We can finish what we started, sissy.”
Jake and Atticus were still at the desk with Ian. Amy saw a blur of movement. A long overcoat flapping as a boy with a ponytail moved away. It was just at the edge of her vision. A hand reaching into an interior pocket . . .
The man holding her was wearing an earpiece. No doubt he was waiting to hear that the other men were in place. Amy knew that if she moved, he would jab her. She could see that Dan was in the middle of desperate strategizing. His gaze darted around the lobby.
“Keep thinking, buddy. It’s not gonna get you anywhere, but it’s fun to watch your little brain on the move.” The man chortled.
Pony put down two small items on the floor. Amy couldn’t tell what he was doing. She could see fear on his face, but determination, too.
A beat burst out from the speakers.
DadaDAdadada, dadaDAdadadada, DAdaDA . . .
Pony held one arm out, then the other. Then he jerked to the side. He was perfectly in time to the beat. Then he jerked to the other side.
He bobbed his head.
He took one step forward.
The infectious beat pounded. It was a worldwide hit, Jonah Wizard’s “Make Me Happy or Else I’ll Be Sad.” People began to turn.
He took one step back.
He did the robot.
Amy widened her eyes at Dan. She knew the dance. Half the population of the
must have known the dance. Jonah’s video had gone viral.
A small space had cleared around Pony. And suddenly the crowd was parting, and Jonah Wizard was sliding toward Pony across the polished floor on his knees. It was a trademark Wizard move.
The people standing nearby who could see burst into applause. Girls squealed. Boys shouted. Jonah jumped up and began to dance next to Pony.
“JONAH WIZARD!” someone screamed.
Dan stepped forward. He flung one arm out, then the other.
He took another step forward.
He took one step back.
He did the robot.
“What the . . .” the thug behind Amy muttered.
“Is this being filmed?” a girl asked.
Amy searched the crowd for Jake. He had stopped and was watching Dan and Pony, his face creased in a frown.
Oh, no. He doesn’t know the dance. He’s not hip enough. He’s just . . . Jake. He can name every Mozart opera, but he doesn’t know hip-hop.
Jake thrust out a hip. He waved an arm.
The crowd moved back.
Jake was awesome.
Atticus joined him. The two were perfectly in sync as Jonah’s voice boomed out.
Sad in my heart, oh it feels like a BROOM
Sweeps all the fly right out of my ROOM . . .
“IT’S A FLASH MOB!” Amy yelled, and the room erupted.
The hall went wild. Everyone in the lobby stamped to the beat and sang with one voice. They danced, laughing and singing, shouting the lyrics. The song had been a megahit, and everyone in the hall knew the video. Whether they loved the song or not didn’t matter — it had been a global earworm. They knew the lyrics, and they knew the dance.
“We wait,” the man behind her said, and she knew he was talking into his headpiece.
Amy dared to wave an arm. A young man next to her smiled and took her hand and yanked her away. She flew forward, straight into the surging mob. She was now part of the crowd, mimicking the movements, shouting the words. She tried to maneuver toward Dan and the others.
’Cause all I want is happy-ness
Don’t you give me your depress,
Make my day, just acquiesce . . .
It was time to go, while the place was still jumping. Pony was wild-eyed, locked in a dance with a young blond student. Amy signaled to him, and he bent to pick up his gear. Jonah winked at her and followed. Jake and Atticus and Ian began to dance toward the doors, Ian stiff but trying, and Jake with surprising grace.
I never knew he could dance. . . .
She saw over the bobbing heads that the goons were scanning the waving, dancing, singing crowd, furious that she had escaped. She saw the others, now dressed in dark green EMT gear. They were trying to move through the surging, dancing crowd. One of the men got smacked by a waving hand.
Still mimicking the dance, they snaked their way to the front. As the crowd collapsed into cheers, they ran.