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Amos gave him an amused smile. “The family mansion. You’ll be safe there.”

“But our dad-”

“Is beyond your help for now,” Amos said sadly. “I’m sorry, Carter. I’ll explain later, but Julius would want you to be safe. For that, we must move quickly. I’m afraid I’m all you’ve got.”

That was a bit harsh, I thought. Carter glanced at Gran and Gramps. Then he nodded glumly. He knew that they didn’t want him around. He’d always reminded them of our dad. And yes, it was a stupid reason not to take in your grandson, but there you are.

“Well, Carter can do what he wants,” I said. “But I live here. And I’m not going off with some stranger, am I?”

I looked at Gran for support, but she was staring at the lace doilies on the table as if they were suddenly quite interesting.

“Gramps, surely…”

But he wouldn’t meet my eyes either. He turned to Amos. “You can get them out of the country?”

“Hang on!” I protested.

Amos stood and wiped the crumbs off his jacket. He walked to the patio doors and stared out at the river. “The police will be back soon. Tell them anything you like. They won’t find us.”

“You’re going to kidnap us?” I asked, stunned. I looked at Carter. “Do you believe this?”

Carter shouldered the workbag. Then he stood like he was ready to go. Possibly he just wanted to be out of Gran and Gramps’s flat. “How do you plan to get to New York in an hour?” he asked Amos. “You said, not a plane.”

“No,” Amos agreed. He put his finger to the window and traced something in the condensation-another bloody hieroglyph.

“A boat,” I said-then realized I’d translated aloud, which I wasn’t supposed to be able to do.

Amos peered at me over the top of his round glasses. “How did you-”

“I mean that last bit looks like a boat,” I blurted out. “But that can’t be what you mean. That’s ridiculous.”

“Look!” Carter cried.

I pressed in next to him at the patio doors. Down at the quayside, a boat was docked. But not a regular boat, mind you. It was an Egyptian reed boat, with two torches burning in the front, and a big rudder in the back. A figure in a black trench coat and hat-possibly Amos’s-stood at the tiller.

I’ll admit, for once, I was at a loss for words.

“We’re going in that,” Carter said. “To Brooklyn.”

“We’d better get started,” Amos said.

I whirled back to my grandmother. “Gran, please!”

She brushed a tear from her cheek. “It’s for the best, my dear. You should take Muffin.”

“Ah, yes,” Amos said. “We can’t forget the cat.”

He turned towards the stairs. As if on cue, Muffin raced down in a leopard-spotted streak and leaped into my arms. She never does that.

“Who are you?” I asked Amos. It was clear I was running out of options, but I at least wanted answers. “We can’t just go off with some stranger.”

“I’m not a stranger.” Amos smiled at me. “I’m family.”

And suddenly I remembered his face smiling down at me, saying, “Happy birthday, Sadie.” A memory so distant, I’d almost forgotten.

“Uncle Amos?” I asked hazily.

“That’s right, Sadie,” he said. “I’m Julius’s brother. Now come along. We have a long way to go.”


5. We Meet the Monkey

IT’S CARTER AGAIN. SORRY. We had to turn off the tape for a while because we were being followed by-well, we’ll get to that later.

Sadie was telling you how we left London, right?

So anyway, we followed Amos down to the weird boat docked at the quayside. I cradled Dad’s workbag under my arm. I still couldn’t believe he was gone. I felt guilty leaving London without him, but I believed Amos about one thing: right now Dad was beyond our help. I didn’t trust Amos, but I figured if I wanted to find out what had happened to Dad, I was going to have to go along with him. He was the only one who seemed to know anything.

Amos stepped aboard the reed boat. Sadie jumped right on, but I hesitated. I’d seen boats like this on the Nile before, and they never seemed very sturdy.

It was basically woven together from coils of plant fiber-like a giant floating rug. I figured the torches at the front couldn’t be a good idea, because if we didn’t sink, we’d burn. At the back, the tiller was manned by a little guy wearing Amos’s black trench coat and hat. The hat was shoved down on his head so I couldn’t see his face. His hands and feet were lost in the folds of the coat.

“How does this thing move?” I asked Amos. “You’ve got no sail.”

“Trust me.” Amos offered me a hand.

The night was cold, but when I stepped on board I suddenly felt warmer, as if the torchlight were casting a protective glow over us. In the middle of the boat was a hut made from woven mats. From Sadie’s arms, Muffin sniffed at it and growled.

“Take a seat inside,” Amos suggested. “The trip might be a little rough.”

“I’ll stand, thanks.” Sadie nodded at the little guy in back. “Who’s your driver?”

Amos acted as if he hadn’t heard the question. “Hang on, everyone!” He nodded to the steersman, and the boat lurched forward.

The feeling was hard to describe. You know that tingle in the pit of your stomach when you’re on a roller coaster and it goes into free fall? It was kind of like that, except we weren’t falling, and the feeling didn’t go away. The boat moved with astounding speed. The lights of the city blurred, then were swallowed in a thick fog. Strange sounds echoed in the dark: slithering and hissing, distant screams, voices whispering in languages I didn’t understand.

The tingling turned to nausea. The sounds got louder, until I was about to scream myself. Then suddenly the boat slowed. The noises stopped, and the fog dissipated. City lights came back, brighter than before.

Above us loomed a bridge, much taller than any bridge in London. My stomach did a slow roll. To the left, I saw a familiar skyline-the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building.

“Impossible,” I said. “That’s New York.”

Sadie looked as green as I felt. She was still cradling Muffin, whose eyes were closed. The cat seemed to be purring. “It can’t be,” Sadie said. “We only traveled a few minutes.”

And yet here we were, sailing up the East River, right under the Williamsburg Bridge. We glided to a stop next to a small dock on the Brooklyn side of the river. In front of us was an industrial yard filled with piles of scrap metal and old construction equipment. In the center of it all, right at the water’s edge, rose a huge factory warehouse heavily painted with graffiti, the windows boarded up.

“That is not a mansion,” Sadie said. Her powers of perception are really amazing.

“Look again.” Amos pointed to the top of the building.

“How…how did you…” My voice failed me. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t seen it before, but now it was obvious: a five-story mansion perched on the roof of the warehouse, like another layer of a cake. “You couldn’t build a mansion up there!”

“Long story,” Amos said. “But we needed a private location.”

“And is this the east shore?” Sadie asked. “You said something about that in London-my grandparents living on the east shore.”

Amos smiled. “Yes. Very good, Sadie. In ancient times, the east bank of the Nile was always the side of the living, the side where the sun rises. The dead were buried west of the river. It was considered bad luck, even dangerous, to live there. The tradition is still strong among…our people.”

“Our people?” I asked, but Sadie muscled in with another question.

“So you can’t live in Manhattan?” she asked.

Amos’s brow furrowed as he looked across at the Empire State Building. “Manhattan has other problems. Other gods. It’s best we stay separate.”