The Discord Trilogy


Arianna Severin

Takes place during chapter fourteen in The Golden Apple of Discord - Ann of the Milunfran Vampires


Ruben, Thomas, and Aggie wait in the sitting room. I stand behind Aggie so Thomas can’t see me ogle him. He and Ruben rib each other about who is going to drive. Tonight we’re going out to an actual movie theater, in the city. I haven’t been to one in months. This house is big enough to have its own home theater, but I miss doing normal things.

Cora slides down the banister. “Tara’s not coming.”

I ask, “Why?”

Cora shrugs, “She says she just wants to read. Alex would know better than me. Oh wait, he wouldn’t, would he?”

Alex looks up from the book he’s reading on the couch and chuckles. “Correct as usual, Miss Severin.”

Alex’s formality forces a snort out of me. I’d think it over the top if he wasn’t grinning. Cora’s verbal teasing can be irritating; her mental taunting must be unbearable.

Why isn’t Alex coming with us? Does he not trust Tara here by herself? Does he just want to corner Tara without the rest of us around? Maybe he wants to avoid Cora’s historical inquisition. Does Alex even go to movies? He seems too mature for that.

Cora whines, “Alex, come on. You gotta tell me the rest of Europe’s reaction to the defeat of the Spanish Armada.”

“Another time.” His gaze returns to the pages. The cover is so worn I can’t even see a title, and with vampire vision, that’s one really old book.

I see Cora’s finger twitch and that smile come across her face. I know that smile. It usually ends up with a really good time and a lecture from Tara. Aggie kicks Cora’s foot and shakes her head. Cora pouts a little but smiles when she looks at Thomas.

He twirls the keys to the Land Rover in his hand. “Are we going, or what?”

There has to be a way to sit in the front next to him. He’s so good-looking, confident, well spoken, but he was so perceptive during the ride from Toronto. There’s no way I can watch him without getting caught. However, it wouldn’t look out of place for me to be close to him while he drives; that’s exciting enough to squeal about.

Cora’s reply silences my squeak. “It’ll be a tight fit with five of us in the Rover. Should we take the Yukon and I’ll drive?”

Aggie laughs, “We want to see a disaster movie, not make one.”

Everyone laughs at Cora’s pout.

Thomas says, “No disrespect to your vehicle, but an SUV with a busted-out window and mud all over it won’t exactly blend in with the Barrington Hills vehicular stereotype. Unless you want to be detained by law enforcement, I’d advise against it.”

Cora asks, “Will it be good-looking law enforcement?”

Aggie starts pushing us out the door. “Let’s go, already.”

Tara’s reading upstairs by herself makes me sad; she’s usually eager for sister time. But if Cora couldn’t get her to come, I sure can't. I hope she and Alex don’t fight while we’re gone. They seem to be getting along better, but they’ve both shown how fast things can get ugly. I can’t get Thomas off my mind and wish I could ask her what to do, but she has enough on her plate. It probably wouldn’t go well; she’s not big on dating or romance.

Thomas pulls the Land Rover out from the garage, then hops out and opens the front passenger door. Cora bolts for the invitation and gets shotgun. Maybe I can sit next to him during the movie.

As everyone else files into the backseat, Thomas won’t take his eyes off me. He can’t possibly know I like him; I’ve barely said hello.

Aggie goes ahead of me. That puts her in the middle of the backseat, while Ruben goes around to the other side and sits behind the driver’s seat. That leaves me sitting right behind Cora. Aggie just wants to be able to reach the radio, but at least I can still watch Thomas without anyone noticing.

Thomas closes my door for me. Does he know how much women dig this kind of treatment? Especially when it’s obvious this is just how he is. We’re staying with him. He doesn’t need to put on a show.

This neighborhood is so exclusive it takes us over six hundred meters till we get to an actual public road. Thomas turns left onto Remington Drive. I pay attention to road signs so if I ever stekie here, I’ll have a better idea of how to get around.

Thomas puts on some music. I don’t know who the composer is, but I’m sure they’re dead now. The guys are all so formal. Thomas more than Ruben. Sometimes I half-expect Alex to say something like, “Excuse me, have you seen my monocle?”

Cora asks, “So, what movie are we gonna see? How about a retarded comedy?”

Ruben says, “There is no way I’m seeing a chick flick.”

Cora replies, “I’d hardly call the Hangover trilogy a chick flick.”

Aggie says, “Those movies should have been rated PG-13: pretty good for thirteen-year-old humor. Those guys are one click beneath Adam Sandler bathroom humor. Who cares about a bunch of guys wishing they were still twenty-something frat boys? What about a literary adaptation? Something like The Help.”

Cringing at both of those options, I take comfort in the fact that I can just stekie into another theater if that’s what is chosen. No one will notice a ghost sitting in the back or me sleeping through The Help or The Hangover. There’s no amount of sitting next to Thomas that’ll make me want to watch either of those.

I suggest, “What about a horror flick? There’s always some sort of possession or ghost movie out.”

Ruben laughs out loud. “Ann, we are a horror movie.”

Now I feel stupid.

Thomas says, “I agree with Ann, I’d like a horror movie.”

I see Thomas won’t make my infatuation with him any easier this evening. Why can’t he be mean like Alex was to Tara? It’d make my life so much easier.

Cora says, “Remember when Tara and I went all MST3K on The Fog?”

Aggie says, “You mean The Flop?”

Thomas turns right onto Algonquin Road, then suggests, “Why don’t we look over the showtime kiosk and see what’s playing?”

Cora nods eagerly. “We don’t all have to see the same movie.”

Thomas replies, “It’ll be easier for me and Ruben to suppress your appetite if we’re closer in proximity than spread out over the multiplex.”

Sweet! Thomas just gave me an excuse to be around him, and I can make it look like I’m just worried I’ll kill a tasty human.

Cora chokes and laughs really hard. I ask, “What?”

Through her laughs, she replies, “I was…just imagining Thomas’s face…on a box of Dexatrim or a…Weight Watchers shake.”

Without missing a beat, Thomas says in a low narrator voice, “Give us a week, we’ll take off the weight.”

I, along with everyone else in the car, laugh so hard I’m wiping tears from my eyes.

After a few more minutes, Ruben looks over Thomas’s shoulder. “Now that we’re over five miles away from the house, I want to ask you ladies about the whole witch thing.”

I ask, “Why would you have to wait till we’re out of Tara’s range?”

Thomas replies, “Because it also means we’re out of Alex’s range, and he wanted us to make you feel welcome. That included not prying into your past.”

I say, “But we don’t mind answering questions.”

Thomas shrugs. “Given our new living arrangement, Alex didn’t want you to feel we tolerate you for your abilities. He’s sensitive about that and it’s a way of being polite.”

When he glances back at me I can feel my face getting hot. I wonder if he can tell.

Ruben cuts in, “But I like you guys, and it’s not my way of being polite, so I have questions.”

Thomas interrupts, “You don’t have a way of being polite, Ruben.”

Aggie answers him quickly. “What do you want to know?”

“How do vampires not know about witches? If the Noricum knew, then Alex would know, but he was just as surprised as I was.”

She says, “Vampires are too powerful for banishments. If witches don’t hunt or protect your kind, you don’t know about us. We’re good at keeping secrets.”

“When you say ‘we,’ you mean witches, right? Is it something you’re born into? Is there a school like in Harry Potter?”

Cora waves her arm. “Wingardium leviosa!” A bush we’re driving past flies across the road in front of the car, disappearing into the trees lining the road.

Aggie rolls her eyes. “Pay no attention to the embarrassment in the front seat. Yes, we’re born into it, and to my knowledge, there’s not an academy for it. Witches are homeschooled.”

Ruben turns a little more toward Aggie, and his face looks like Cora’s when she asks Alex about Queen Elizabeth.

“So what do you, err, banish?”

“Really, anything supernatural that causes humans problems. Demons, plane shifters, berserkers, gamayuns, kishis, warlocks, sorcerers… You know, stuff like that.”

Aggie is smiling a lot, around Ruben in particular. Does he even notice?

I think Ruben looks cute asking questions that would normally put you in a loony bin. But he’s a vampire, so he doesn’t get to play the “you’re insane” card like human men could do if we ever told them about witches.

Aaaand now she’s discreetly stroking his arm.

Oh. My. Gosh… She really likes him!

I didn’t think Aggie would ever like anyone. She never went out on more than one date with a guy, always too deep in her schoolwork to notice men around her. And she doesn’t have to hide the fact that she was a witch, because he’s a vampire. Wait, that means I can do the same with Thomas. I’ve wanted that ever since I was given my power back. Maybe, just maybe, I could go on a date with a man and not feel like I have to hide everything about me.

Ruben’s mouth hangs open. Thomas watches him through the mirror.

Aggie continues, “We banished a grendle right before Tara was turned and a sorcerer’s students right after.”

Cora grumbles, “The sorcerer himself got away through a portal puddle.”

Ruben finally snaps out of it. “Portal puddle? What else? Are faeries real?”

Aggie says, “Yes, but a weaker, newer coven of witches would protect them if needed. We get the harder banishments.”

“What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever banished?”

Aggie racks her brain. “It’s a toss-up between seven harpies at the same time and the power-stealing demons.”

Cora says, “Tara really saved us on that last one.”

Thomas hits the gas and merges onto Interstate 90. “Aggie, am I clear to speed? Will we get pulled over?”

Aggie takes a deep breath in and closes her eyes. “You’re clear all the way into the city.”

Thomas really floors the pedal. Looks like this drive won’t take an hour after all. “How did Tara really save you with the…power-stealing demons?”

I know how this story goes. I thought for sure when they got both mine and Cora’s powers we were gonna die.

Cora says, “It was only three of them, but they managed to pull my telekinesis out of me. They got Ann too. Tara mimicked their abilities and not only pulled our powers back out of them, but pulled all of theirs too.”

Ruben’s mouth hangs open. “So, are you guys just really cool or are all witches like you?”

Cora offers Thomas a high-five, which he takes. “We’re so cool the Oracles named us the Taeleoni and told the Twelve to instate and train us as full-ranking member witches, even though we’re only half-bloods.”

Ruben asks, “When you say ‘training’—what exactly did you learn?”

“How to focus our blood powers, write spells, make elixirs, and do different types of banishments. Elemental balance. Tara knows Judo. I’m the best at elixirs.” Cora blows on her nails and rubs them on her boob.

“When you say banishment, what does that mean?” Ruben asks. “You kill weird things?”

Aggie takes one of his hands in each of hers. “Okay, think of this hand”—she holds one up—“as your soul, and this hand”—she holds up the other—“as your body.”


“Now, if I cut one hand off, you can still do your normal daily tasks, but it takes longer and you have to find different ways to do it. Right?”

He nods. I see Thomas glance back in the rearview mirror and imagine myself holding his hand the way Aggie is holding Ruben’s.

Aggie continues, “So if I don’t want you to be able to function at all, I’d cut off both your hands, but souls are tricky things. They’re sentient energy that can reincarnate when released from mortal bodies or possess other living things.”

“So how do you kill both?”

She puts his hands together. “That’s what a banishment is. We use specialized elixirs and elemental casting power to arrest the ability of the soul to move on when the body is destroyed. Sometimes the energy of a soul is tethered to their species or coven, or it has some sort of magical fail-safe. Therefore, if you kill only the body, the soul can reincarnate or return another way. With banishment, we trap the energy of a soul and any tethers it may have into something that can be destroyed—a body. If something is deemed a threat to humans, the Twelve issue an order and the Samanos deliver it to the covens they represent.”

Cora says, “And bad guys typically explode when we do that.”

I say, “Thomas might know something about that.”

He glances back at me with a curious look on his face. “What would I know about it?”

“You know about biochemicals, right?”

Cora switches the music off and turns to face me, giving the conversation her whole attention. She’s always had a gift of making things awkward.

“Well,” I reply, “there are lots of chemical bonds in the human body. If you force too much energy into a chemical bond, that bond can break. If the reaction is exothermic, those bonds release more energy than it took to break the bond. Souls, or life forces, have lots of energy in them. When you force the soul into the body, the surge in energy breaks the bonds, releases the energy contained inside. The effect is tissue converting into its molecular or atomic forms, and then compressed pure energy. But energy is like air. It expands to fit its container. That’s why it blows outward. It wants to equalize.”

Everyone is quiet and staring at me, even Thomas. “What? That’s how Tara explained it to me, and she has a degree in biology, so don’t look at me like that.”

Cora says, “Hey, I’m just glad there wasn’t math involved.”

Thomas clears his throat. “Speaking of Tara, is everyone else relieved she stopped antagonizing Alex?”

Aggie lightly smacks Thomas’s arm. “When Ann teleported Ruben to Dad’s house, Alex went after Tara with the intent to kill, not wound. He got everything he deserved.”

Ugh, am I ever gonna live that down?

Ruben says, “Tara dented the ceiling with him your first night here, and you guys were keeping secrets.”

Cora teams up with Aggie against Ruben. “Hey, if you’d been kidnapped from your house naked and turned, you’d keep that a secret too.”

I say, “I’m just glad they’re getting along now.”

The car gets quiet again.

Ruben says, “Wanna place bets on which one of them takes a swing at the other first?”

Thomas slows down and takes the Ohio Street exit. “He’s not normally like that.”

Cora says, “Neither is Tara.”

Ruben asks, “Do you think it’s because they were both changed by Cothelas that they had problems with each other?”

Cora laughs. “They aren’t Beta fish.”      

Aggie says, “He was vicious and precise. I’ve never seen someone that proficient at martial arts, and he slammed her head into that wall so hard, I thought for sure he was going to kill her.”

Thomas says, “The Dacians trained him well.”

Aggie scratches her head a little. Then I see her shift a little bit toward Ruben. She totally likes him. “I still think it’s weird a Dacian king turned both Tara and Alex. I forced a vision of Tara when she was taken and saw him in the van with her. I didn’t realize he was that powerful. He looked wounded when I saw him.”

Thomas asks, “Wounded?”

Cora says, “When Tara changed us, she said we were painful to drink. She had to puke up the blood of one of us before she could drink another.”

Thomas turns right onto State Street. “I find it hard to imagine Cothelas wounded by anything.”

I ask, “Have you ever had dealings with them or the Noricum?” He shivers a bit. “If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand.”

He shakes his head. “It’s just not a story that lends itself to a good time, and I was rather enjoying poking fun at our two Dacian-changed friends.”

Cora snorts. “They’re lucky Tara was more afraid than pissed and ran away. If she stuck around, she’d have killed the whole bouquet, not just the rose.”

Thomas turns left onto Illinois Street. The buildings here aren’t any bigger than Toronto, but they’re way more spread out. I can see the sign for the theater down this road and can’t wait to see some movie previews on the big screen.

Even though it’s in the wee hours of the morning, there are still enough people out and about the city to cause traffic. That's probably why there's a twenty-four hour movie theater to begin with. Ruben points out some drag queens and Cora causes some…wardrobe malfunctions. By the time we’ve gotten parked in an underground garage and are standing in front of the box office, I’m surprised any of the pedestrians are still clothed.

While everyone scans the movie posters, Cora suddenly says, “Oh man, how did I not realize that before?”

Right as I open my mouth to ask what she’s talking about, Aggie says, “You’re totally right.”

Thomas asks, “Am I missing something?”

Cora opens her wallet wide and shows it to Thomas. “I don’t have any money.”

Thomas looks baffled but glances at me, then answers Cora. “It’s quite the privilege to take a pretty lady to a show.”

I can feel my cheeks get hotter, but can’t contain my smile. He’s so smooth, but I don’t know if he’s hitting on me or Cora.

He glances at me again. What is he thinking? Cora breaks the bubble Thomas and I are in. “You don’t understand. That’s why Tara wouldn’t come with us. We’re low on money and Tara didn’t want to draw attention to that fact.”

Ruben says, “But we have lots of money, it’s really, really not a problem.”

Aggie replies, “You don’t realize how big a deal it is for her.”

Then Cora gets that look on her face again that she gets when whatever she’s imagining will result in a good time and a lecture from Tara.

Thomas asks Cora, “What are you thinking about to cause such a spike in endorphins?”

Cora pulls the Noricum ring out of her wallet. “I’m wondering if there’s more silver where this ring came from.”

Ruben chokes. “You want to steal from the Noricum?”

I ask, “You keep that with you?”

She beams while petting the ring. Of course she keeps the Precious with her.

A couple of people walk by and glance at us suspiciously. Chicago crime stats are way higher than Toronto’s even on its best day.

Cora grins and turns back towards the parking garage. “Screw watching a movie. Let’s go make Ocean’s Fourteen.”

Wait, what?

Tara isn’t here to put the brakes on this impending train wreck, so it falls to me. I scurry to catch up to Cora. “Are you sure this is a good idea? I thought we don’t steal. How would we even do this?”

Cora calls over her shoulder, “They’re the Noricum, not a small business owner that has a family and stuff. Aggie, you see anything going wrong?”

Everyone else scrambles to catch up as well. Aggie giggles. “This is gonna be so much fun.”

Well she’s not going to be any help.

Ruben and Thomas exchange glances. Thomas says, “We’re supposed to be in hiding from the Noricum. I don’t think Alex will approve of this.”

I don’t think Tara would, either, but Aggie looks out for us, too. If she, with all her prescience, thinks this a good idea, who am I to object? Tara is so worried about money she wouldn’t even come to a movie.

Aggie says, “There are ways we can do this and not get caught.”

“How?” Ruben asks.

Thomas jabs Ruben with his elbow. “Don’t encourage them.”

Ruben shrugs. “I wanna see if we can actually do this. Aren’t you curious about the Noricum’s antique collection? Think what it’d sell at Christie’s for. If we can do this completely undetected, I’m in.”

Thomas tries to hide the light of excitement in his eyes, but I see it.

Aggie hooks her arm in Ruben’s and continues to walk practically plastered to his side. “I see Ann asleep, so I’m assuming we get her to stekie throughout the castle until she finds something of value we can jump in and take.”

This is a way I can help. When we first arrived in Chicago, Alex showed me the Noricum castle in France. It’s huge.

“I can stekie there, but I’ll need a place to lie down and lots of time. This castle isn’t small by any means.”

All of our shoes click against the concrete of the parking garage. Thomas deactivates the alarm. The beeps echo through the garage. “If we need you to wake up, how are we supposed to alert you?”

Cora opens the hatchback trunk door and climbs in. “Take me with you. If something happens on this end, Aggie can take your hand off my wrist and sever my stekie. If I suddenly disappear, come back.”

It’s as good a system as any.

I crawl into the back while Ruben puts the seat down, giving me and Cora more legroom. Aggie sits cross-legged between Cora and me while Thomas and Ruben take the front seats. Taking a few deep breaths, I grab Cora’s wrist and picture the Noricum Castle.

Suddenly Cora and I are standing in a street, looking at the front of the huge six-sided castle. Although it’s the middle of the night in Chicago, it looks to be morning in France.

“Come on, before people see right through us,” I say, then hop over a hip-high wall and down into some water surrounding the castle. It’s murky and green but provides perfect cover; stekies don’t make splashes. Cora follows me as I walk through the wall. It’s dark when we’re in the middle of the stone, and when we get through, it takes a second for my eyes to recognize the surroundings.

The castle hallway is dimly lit and there’s a strange groaning sound. It’s so faint, I can’t tell where it’s coming from.

Cora whispers, “Dude, catacombs? I expected better digs than this.”

Alex’s garage looks more opulent than this hallway. I hope for the Noricum’s sake their interior decorator did a better job in other parts of the castle.

I whisper, “Are you sure these people have money?”

Cora leans past me to look down the hall. “If they have a vault, it’s probably on the lower levels.”

I point to the right. “This way is as good as any. If you hear people, move into a wall until you hear them pass.”

We don’t have feet here, so footstep sounds aren’t an issue as we explore the hallway. Finding the way through this maze is. When we go up a level, the creepy groaning sound disappears completely. Maybe Alex will know what it was.

After listening outside doors, we stick our faces through them to see if there are any obvious items of value. I don’t suppose we’ll be lucky enough to find a stack of cash lying on a table in an unoccupied room. We’ve been here for a while, but it’s hard to tell time. I haven’t seen any windows and there aren’t clocks hanging on the walls. How do these people function?

Cora and I gesture to each other, keeping our search silent. Every now and then we hear voices or footsteps approach and hide inside a wall. This place is far larger than it looked from the outside. I don’t need hours to search this entire castle, I need days.

I’m about to give up and ask if we should just go home when Cora pulls her face out of an old wooden door. “Dude, pay dirt!” she whispers.

After walking through a door that looks like all the others, I see that the contents are anything but plain. Crowns, silks, ropes of pearls, bouillon, clothing on mannequins, statues—Cora found an actual treasure room.

I don’t see any surveillance or security systems around the door. There is what looks like a fire suppression system. Makes sense. Our kind doesn’t fear humans, just fire.

Cora makes a beeline for a light-blue Renaissance-type dress in the corner. She runs her translucent fingers along the lacy white collar. “Is this… It can’t be.”

“What?” I ask.

She looks at the back side; puts her hand over her mouth, muffling a squeal; and points to the dress and does a little happy dance. “I’m pretty sure this dress belonged to Queen Elizabeth.”

“Err, how can you tell?”

“The bodice has a particular style. She wasn’t just a queen; she actually designed better-fitting corsets. This dress looks like it was made to fit them.”

“Didn’t you say once she had lots of dresses?”

“Yes, over three thousand when she died.”

“Then why is this one so special?”

Cora physically jolts and rips her gaze away from the dress. “Special? None are known to have survived. This is the only one of its kind. It’s not just special or priceless. This is like finding a lost Da Vinci painting!”

She goes back to petting it, just like the Precious. I know that look on her face. I say, “Then it would stand to reason they would miss it if you took it.”

Her face falls. Yeah, I knew what she was thinking.

I move my way through the treasure toward the back of the room. We need something they have lots of, something that won’t be missed. Crowns would be cool, but we don’t know if they’re actually worth something or if they’re just symbols of conquered kings from ancient lands no one cares about anymore.

They have plenty of assorted wooden chests, like I’d expect to see on a pirate ship. They’re more likely to have money in them. If they had something else, it’d be displayed like all the other trophies in here.

“Cora, tear your eyes off the dress and come help me pick a chest.”

She whispers, “Later, baby,” then finally comes to do the job she signed up for.

I find an area near the back by the trunks with enough space for Ruben, Cora, and me to jump into without breaking anything. Satisfied I have enough information to do a jump safely, I withdraw from my stekie, finding myself back in my body, and let go of Cora’s wrist.

The first thing I notice is that the car moving. We’re no longer in the city. “We’re on the road already?”

Thomas replies from the driver’s seat, “Already? You’ve been gone for hours.”

“The place is massive.”

Cora sits up quickly. “And you can’t even begin to imagine the things they have there. A scrap from Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe would be fabulous, but an entire dress intact?!”

Aggie says, “Pull over.” We’re on a country road. I’m not sure where. The car bumps and lurches as he downshifts and drives on the unpaved shoulder. Ruben gets out and opens the trunk door. Cora and I scoot out.

“Is it getting light?” I ask.

Aggie pulls me over to Ruben. “Yes, and you should get going.”

Cora whimpers, “I have to go.”

Aggie shakes her finger at Cora. “Only if you don’t dally. Get in and get out, no delays. Understand?”

I take a few deep breaths and let the pressure Ruben puts on my mind settle. I imagine my ability is like a balloon blowing up. The air is forced in while the latex fights to retain its shape. Then, when the pressure gets too much, the balloon expands. When I feel that release of pressure, my new expanded power—the ability to relocate my body, not just my mind—is created.

“Ready?” I ask.

“You’re so good at this, Ann,” Ruben says, and I smile. We practice enough; I really should be by now.

I picture the treasure room in the castle, grab Ruben’s and Cora’s hands, and then imagine looking down at the chest. In the blink of an eye, a surge of energy jolts through us, leaving as fast as it came.

Cora doesn’t waste any time rushing over to the dress. She touches it so tenderly I feel bad tearing her away from it.

“Cora!” Ruben whispers.

“Just give her a couple minutes.”

“But Aggie said don’t dally.”

I laugh. “Aggie’s idea of a quick jaunt to the store consists of at least a half an hour of clearance racks. Not dallying is a term dependent on a perspective.”

Cora gently inspects the fabric on the back side of the dress. Near happy tears, she says, “It really was hers. She wore this.”

It’s sweet to see Cora love something as simple as a dress, but I can tell Ruben is getting antsy.

“Cora, we can come back another time, but we should go now.”

She nods, then lightly kisses the cuff on the wrist and backs away.

Ruben asks Cora, “Do you know what you want to take?”

She and I both point to different chests. Me to the smaller one I scoped out earlier, her to the larger one right next to it. It’s not the largest in here, but it’s not small either.

Without moving her feet, Cora rearranges the chests. She floats the larger of the two chests over to us and moves the other ones to cover where it was. We can’t very well leave one clean spot on the dusty floor, so we leave lots.

“Ready?” I ask.

Cora rubs her hands together fiendishly. “To the Batcave!”

I bend over and put my hands on the trunk. Ruben and Cora put their hands on my shoulders. In another blink, we’re back on the side of the road…but there’s no one here.

Ruben asks, “Are you sure this is the right place?”

Just then, Cora’s phone beeps with a text from Aggie. It reads, “It’s easier to take the trunk home.”

Why didn’t I think of that? With another jump, we arrive in the living room and startle Alex.

He jumps up and looks at Ruben, who smiles, then frowns.

Alex yells, “Tara, get down here!”

Uh-oh. He’s not taking this well. We took every precaution and didn’t get caught. There’s no reason for him to be upset. I open my mouth to tell him why he doesn’t need to worry, but then Tara lands hard at the bottom of the stairs.

It doesn’t take her but a second to ask. “What is this?”

Cora beats me to the answer. “It’s going to solve our money problems!”

Tara doesn’t look happy…not even a little.



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