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Authors: Andrew Brumbach

The Eye of Midnight

BOOK: The Eye of Midnight
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2016 by Andrew Brumbach

Cover art copyright © 2016 by Jeff Nentrup

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. The excerpt of
Disputatio regalis et nobilissimi iuvenis Pippini cum Albino scholastico
that appears on pages 129–130 was translated into English by the author.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Brumbach, Andrew, author.

The eye of midnight / Andrew Brumbach. — First edition.

pages cm

Summary: In May 1929 Maxine Campbell and her cousin William Battersea arrive at their grandfather's house in New Jersey to find that the house is empty—and soon they are caught up in the contest for an ancient Arabian relic called the Eye of Midnight, which several secret societies are willing to do anything to posses.

ISBN 978-0-385-74461-4 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-385-39069-9 (ebook) — ISBN 978-0-375-99176-9 (glb) 1. Antiquities—Juvenile fiction. 2. Secret societies—Juvenile fiction. 3. Cousins—Juvenile fiction. 4. Grandfathers—Juvenile fiction. 5. Adventure stories. 6. New York (N.Y.)—History—1898–1951—Juvenile fiction. [1. Antiquities—Fiction. 2. Secret societies—Fiction. 3. Cousins—Fiction. 4. Grandfathers—Fiction. 5. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 6. New York (N.Y.)—History—1898–1951—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.1.B8Ey 2016

[Fic]—dc23

2015004177

eBook ISBN 9780385390699

Cover design by Kate Gartner

Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v4.1

ep

For Jacob, Drew, Davis, and Ruby, my pride and joy

You who must travel with a weary load

Along this darkling, labyrinthine street—

Have men with torches at your head and feet

If you would pass the dangers of the road.

—the Diwan of Abu'l-ala al-Maarri

NEW YORK CITY

MAY 19, 1929

The hour has come,
called the voice of the master.

The Hashashin watched from his place in the shadows, staring out into the sunlit street.

“I am a living dagger,” he replied in a hoarse whisper, “thrust by the Old Man's hand.” He pressed three fingers to his forehead and made a low bow.

Across the street, the door of the telegraph office swung open, and a heavy, grizzle-bearded man emerged, tucking an envelope into his pocket as he started up the block. The Hashashin followed quickly, stepping from his concealment into the street amid the coughing, growling motorcars.

The strangeness of this place still unbalanced him, and it was more than these lurching machines in the road. The customs and laws of this country were alien; the speech was difficult. His garments felt awkward and uncomfortable—the coat and trousers, the necktie at his throat, the brimmed hat pulled low over his eyes.

All this was of no consequence, of course. He reached into his coat and found his knife, felt the edge sticky-sharp beneath his thumb, felt the certainty of its weight in his palm.

Up ahead, the sacrifice moved at an easy pace, pausing to take in the window displays of several shops along the way. The Hashashin held back, moving inconspicuously through the crowds with eyes fixed like barbed hooks on the back of the man's neck, until finally they arrived at a faded storefront squeezed between a butcher shop and a Chinese laundry, with a window lettered in flaking gold:

The Hashashin waited while the man unlocked the entrance; then he circled the building and found a rear door. Producing a pair of slender steel instruments from a leather wallet, he picked the lock and slipped inside a dim storeroom, blinking twice as his eyes adjusted to the heavy darkness. A gray Persian cat, startled by his arrival, darted past him and disappeared down an aisle of wooden crates and baled rugs. The Hashashin paused and listened.

A steady string of thumps echoed faintly in the gloom. The Hashashin crept toward the sounds, weaving his way through the cluttered space like a jackal among the tombs, until he came at last to a standing row of rolled carpets at the back of a small showroom.

Except for the afternoon rays that filtered through the dusty windows, the store was unlit. It was the same back in the bazaars of far-off Baghdad and Istanbul. In this way the shops were kept tolerably cool even in the oppressive heat of midday. Only when a customer chanced to enter would the hot bulbs above be switched on, illuminating the rich carpets in a magnificent blaze of color.

There were no customers now. Here in the shadows, old grizzle-beard worked alone in the middle of the floor, heaving a pile of rugs back one by one with a whoosh and a thud, checking his inventory with a series of regular grunts. His task absorbed him entirely.

Like the rumble of distant thunder, the voice of the master called to the Hashashin from beyond the void.

His life is forfeit.

The Hashashin exhaled silently and drew his knife. In an instant, in the space between two heartbeats, the stroke would be accomplished.

“One breath more,
sadiqi,
” he whispered as he started to step out into the room.

At that moment, the door of the shop opened, ringing a bell on the jamb. The carpet merchant looked up from his stack, and the Hashashin froze. Cursing silently, he shrank back into hiding.

“Mr. Constantin!” said a tall, gray-haired gentleman with a British accent.

“Ah,
effendi,
” replied the carpet merchant, beaming. “Excellent timing, old friend! I am only just now returned.”

The men shook hands, and the visitor removed his hat and smoothed his broad mustache.

“How are you these days? Business is good?”

“Tolerable,” said Mr. Constantin with an indifferent wave.

The visitor nodded, sighing comfortably as he sank onto the pile of carpets. He ruffled his hair and stretched his arms. Then he stiffened.

“What is it?” asked Mr. Constantin. “Something is wrong?”

“I'm not sure.” The visitor's eyes were alert now, probing. “You're alone?” he asked.

“Of course. Except for the cat. Perhaps you heard him chasing a mouse in the storeroom.”

The Hashashin was seething inside, but he remained motionless. He had no instructions for this contingency. Perhaps both men should fall, though two strokes represented a more demanding test.

The visitor waited for several moments, listening for even the faintest disturbance of the stillness. None came. His senses chafed, unsatisfied, but at last he shook his head. “Has it arrived?”

Mr. Constantin nodded and handed him the telegram. “Do you have time for apple tea, Horatius?” he asked.

“Why not?” said his guest, turning his attention to the contents of the envelope. “I've never turned down tea before, that I recall.”

As he scanned the lines, his jaw tightened in alarm.

“No,” he murmured. “No…it can't be.”

“Is everything all right?”

The gray-haired man hesitated, as if words momentarily failed him.

“The enemy has found them,” he said. “After all these years…”

Mr. Constantin's eyes widened spectacularly. “And what of the Eye of Midnight?”

“The telegram mentions nothing on that point,” muttered the visitor. “I'm sorry, but it looks as if I'll have to pass on tea. I have a train to catch.”

He took up his hat and put his hand on the shopkeeper's shoulder, hastening for the door. “Thank you, old friend,” he said in earnest, “and thank Yusuf for me as well.”

Mr. Constantin shook his head. “It was nothing,” he said. “The debt still stands on my side of the ledger, I think. Besides, I understand what this means to you. You know I would do anything to help.”

His guest tipped his hat. “Tread carefully,” he said. “The Old Man's arm is long.”

Mr. Constantin made a circle with his thumb and forefinger and held it over his heart.

BOOK: The Eye of Midnight
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