The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart & Diana Sudyka

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart & Diana Sudyka

Author:Trenton Lee Stewart & Diana Sudyka
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: 2016-09-27T04:00:00+00:00

Reuben passed through the opening like a mouse into its hole. The hatch gave onto a cramped stone chamber, scarcely half as wide or as deep as his bedroom at home, with a ceiling low enough that even he was forced to stoop. It was as damp as the tunnels had been, its walls spotted with fungus and lichen. Near the back wall a chunk of masonry and rock lay where it had fallen from the ceiling. Reuben shined his flashlight around. The only thing in the chamber seemed to be himself.

He turned and inspected the wall surrounding the hatch. Again nothing. Yet his hopes were not dashed nor even diminished. He felt a confidence now, a certainty. He was the first to have entered this chamber since Penelope had locked the hatch behind her more than a century earlier. In Reuben’s mind, she had without a doubt left treasure here, and without a doubt he would find it. There would be a hidden lever, a stone to pry up, something. He searched the walls again, more carefully this time. Then he shined his light up at the hole in the ceiling. He saw damp earth and stone, a beaded spiderweb, and nothing more.

Reuben turned his flashlight onto the fallen chunk of ceiling. It was about the size of a manhole cover and a good foot thick. He kicked at the rubble around it and found something brown and pulpy—a rotten stick of some kind. Whatever that was, it hadn’t been part of the ceiling; it had been on the floor. He shook his head in disbelief. What were the odds? Of all places for the ceiling to give way, it had to be directly over the only thing in the chamber?

If it had been a chest, it was a small one, and more or less crushed now. Reuben set his flashlight onto the floor, its beam directed at the chunk of stone and masonry. He got his fingers under the chunk’s jagged edge and heaved upward. A brilliant orange centipede appeared in the light, flashed over the end of Reuben’s boot, and wriggled away into the darkness. Reuben’s yelp of alarm sounded strange in the confines of the chamber. Flattened, somehow, like calling out from under a bed.

He got the chunk up onto its end and was ready to flip it over when it buckled into several pieces. Piece by piece he tossed aside the rubble, careful now where he put his fingers, always on the lookout for crawling things. There was a lot of rotten wood that appeared once to have had a specific form—a flat piece and three or four slender pieces. Not a chest. A stool, he decided, or a small table. And what Penelope had left resting on top of it was now mixed up with its remains and the ceiling rubble. A few sweeps of his hand and Reuben had uncovered it.

It was a slender metal box, about the size of a book. Once gray, it was mostly black and green now, with patches of red rust.


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