The portal deposited us in my hometown, Lemap, in the park.
The first thing I did was glance down at my hand, to make sure that the Treasure of Pamel was still there. It was.
“Come on!” Peter exclaimed, playfully tugging on my ponytail. “We need to get to your house. Your mom is going to be so mad at you for running away!”
I stuck my tongue out. Peter was right: my mom must be worried sick. I’d left home several days ago, not even bothering to say goodbye. I’d simply left a note that said “Love you, Mom,” in the door.
A man with a crazy blonde beard was watching us from the bushes. He spoke into his phone: “Boss, there are two little girls in the park. One of them has a great big jewel with ‘er. Looks like a lot of cash.”
“Send me the location, Diesel” his boss’s gruff voice commanded.
“Yes sir,” the man, Diesel, replied. “Uh . . . could you remind me how to do that?”
His boss groaned, and a different man took the phone. “Julian speaking. Here, Diesel, let me explain . . .”
Peter and I started to run in the direction of my apartment. Out of nowhere, three hairy men swooped in on us.
“Help!” I started to shriek, but one of them clamped his callused hand over my mouth.
We stood there, helpless, as they bound our wrists together with ropes. They tied blindfolds around our eyes and roughly marched us away.
When they jerked off our blindfolds, Peter and I found ourselves in a dark, musty room, surrounded by various construction equipment.
“The jewel!” I cried suddenly. “It’s gone!”
Tears started to trickle down my cheeks. Had we come all this way, come so close to victory, only to be stopped at the last minute?
Peter was wiggling her wrists around furiously.
“Don’t bother,” I sighed. “I tried while they were taking us here. The bonds are too tight.”
But Peter kept working at it, and after several minutes of uninterrupted work, her bonds fell to the floor. “They always use too much rope,” she said with satisfaction.
“How did you do that?” I gaped.
Then I realized that I was talking to thin air. Peter was gone.
Maybe she was a spy, or an escape artist.
I renewed my struggled to slip out of the bonds.
The gang’s ringleader, a man named Houston, was relaxing on an old monster truck tire. His assistant, Julian, the only member of the group that didn’t have a beard, stood at attention by his side.
“How are the kids?” Houston asked in an uninterested voice. He didn’t really care, but the silence was growing uncomfortable.
“They’re fine,” Julian replied tightly.
At that moment, three men barged into the room. The one in the striped shirt, Max, was holding something blue.
“Look what we found, Boss!” he called, waving it above his head.
“I found it,” argued the one in the white shirt, Otis.
“Well done, men,” Houston praised, sliding off the tire and taking the jewel from Max. “Well done.” He studied it, holding it up into the light.
“We will get our share, right?” asked Diesel.
“Of course, of course,” Houston reassured them, fascinated by the jewel.
“And the girls that had it, we took them prisoner,” Max piped up.
“What?” gasped Julian. “You took them prisoner? What if the police show up? What if, what if . . .”
“Calm down, Julian,” said Houston, setting the jewel on the tire.
He gathered everybody around him. “We, men, are the Evil Ha Ha. You may not all be very bright, but you’re part of an elite group of crime lords, and the police will not find us. If you do what you’re told, that is. Understood?”
“Understood, sir!” they shouted. “Evil Ha Ha!”
Peter, who was watching them from the rafters, snickered. Evil Ha Ha? That was literally the dumbest gang name ever.
She shouldn’t have laughed.
The members of Evil Ha Ha may not have been very intelligent, but they still had ears.
“Houston, we have a problem,” said Diesel, pointing at Peter.
“Get her!” raged Houston.
Yelling, the men charged at Peter.
The next part is the finale! 😀