Yes, it has been a while. Sorry about that - though as some of you may already know, my other story Agents of Scholastic has been updated twice (new chapter was posted just a few hours ago) in the past few weeks.
Speaking of long periods of time, and seeing how this IS a time travel story, can you believe it's been...what, six years or so since the 39 Clues originally began with The Maze of Bones in 2008? Some of us have been with this series for that long or close to it, and some of us joined in later, but still...come a long way from one short book and the STACKS, haven't we? Do you remember when/how you first got into this series?
Anyway, enough rambling. You've waited long enough - and I hope you enjoy this longer than usual chapter. Shall we travel back six years with Amy, Dan, and the rest?
Of course something had to go wrong.
If Amy was honest with herself, she would have been more alarmed if everything had gone according to plan. That would have been an unusual occurence with their track record, and probably would have foreshadowed something much worse in the future.
Though being stuck underground (again) was not an experience that she had ever wanted to re-enact.
Everything up until about five minutes ago had happened as it had the first time around. She, Dan and Nellie had met Alistair at the cafe as planned, and then they had plunged down into the catacombs, despite already knowing the secret of the skulls stacked deep within. Ian and Natalie had shown up (although Amy was grateful to notice that it was Ian, not Natalie, who was pointing the weapon at them this time), and they had managed to escape into the train tunnel and up into the fading daylight once more with minimal drama. Dan had hugged his backpack protectively to his chest the entire time, making a point not to let it get ripped away by a rushing train as it had before. Amy had never found out why he had been so devastated at losing it the first time around, but she didn't think now was the right time to ask.
They had gone to the American Library in Paris, since Dan of all people had made the comment about how people might start getting suspicious if the three of them never had to do any research along the Hunt. Amy, once she had gotten over her shock, had eagerly agreed. Her love of libraries was one thing that had never changed, even after everything she had been through, and she barely resisted the urge to hug Dan enthusiastically.
Of course, they could only spend so much time in the library before they were off again to do some grave-digging at the church. Amy was actually excited to see the mural of the four original Cahill siblings again (though she did lament the fact that her own ancestor, Madeleine, wasn't included), and once she, Dan and Nellie had dug deep enough to open the trapdoor down to the Catacombs room, Amy was examining the wall with fascination.
It was interesting to look at the larger-than-life figures with the perspective born from all the knowledge she'd gained during and after the Clue Hunt.
"Luke, Katherine, Thomas and Jane Cahill..." she murmured, running her fingers over the images. Her eyes drifted upwards and the Madrigal brushed some cobwebs away, revealing the burning house in the distance between Katherine and Thomas and the mysterious black figure running away from it.
"Who is it, do you think?" Amy hadn't noticed Nellie come up beside her, but when she glanced at the other Madrigal she saw that their au pair's eyes were fixed on the dark figure in the mural. Amy turned back to look too.
"Whoever set the fire, maybe," she said thoughtfully. "Or...maybe it's Olivia. Pregnant with baby Madeleine and losing her home, husband, and children all in one night..." Amy trailed off.
She may be proud to be a Madrigal and a Cahill, but it was still painful to be reminded of her family members' history - especially stories that so closely mirrored hers and Dan's.
A sudden thought occurred to her, and Amy's startled hand fell from the wall as her mind reeled. What would life be like if they had traveled all the way back to that night - the night her parents had died? Could she and Dan have saved them, young as they had been at the time? Alistair would have been there, too - he could have helped, told Hope and Arthur that the clue had already been stolen and gotten them out of the house before it had burned down. How would their childhood have been different? Would Amy and Dan have grown up to be different people? How would her living parents have affected the Clue Hunt?
Amy was so engrossed in these thoughts that she didn't even notice when Jonah and Broderick showed up, right on schedule. She didn't pay attention as Jonah, Dan, and Nellie verbally sparred for Broderick's sake, and nor did she watch as Dan held the vial he'd retrieved from the pedestal above his head, threatening to smash it.
She did, however, notice when the trapdoor above them abruptly slammed shut.
Dan, Amy, Nellie and Jonah's eyes immediately shot upward, and Jonah looked back at Amy with wide eyes. That had certainly not happened last time, but the Janus couldn't dare to say anything while his father was present.
The three teens jumped in alarm as Nellie suddenly lashed out and struck Mr. Wizard on the head, instantly sending him crumpling to the ground. "Nellie!" all three shouted in shock, Jonah with a bit more anger as he knelt down to check that his father was all right.
"I just knocked him out, he'll be fine," Nellie shrugged unrepentantly, flexing her hand a few times before relaxing. "We need to talk, and we don't want him to listen in."
Jonah sent her a mild glare, but he didn't argue. They all knew that they had bigger problems to worry about. Now Amy glanced between her companions and the trapdoor above with a sinking feeling in her gut.
Something wasn't right.