Biff caught Dennie as he fell and half-carried, half-dragged him to the sofa. Chet ran for a bottle of water as Phil helped ease Dennie down. When Chet returned, Biff pulled a bandana from his back pocket and poured a little water on it before gently dabbing at Dennie's forehead.
Chet took the bottle back, then held it to Dennie's lips and held Dennie's head as he swallowed. "What happened?" Chet asked, moving the water away and letting Dennie's head rest against the back of the sofa.
"I was on my way back here when something, a branch I think, just came out of nowhere and decked me," Dennie said, pausing and wincing in pain as Biff's administrations came into contact with his open wound. "I was out for a while, I'm not sure how long, but when I came to, I came here. But I felt...I feel..so woozy," he ended, reaching up to touch his forehead but wincing again and dropping his hand quickly as it came into contact with the wound.
"Biff, go get Dr. Duvalier," Phil ordered, taking charge.
"No," Dennie tried to argue, but his voice came out weak and he closed his eyes as a wave of pain washed over him.
"Yes," Biff asserted, his voice stern. He left the guest house at a run.
"Where's Artie?" Chet asked, unable to contain himself any longer.
"Who? Oh, Artie...I...lost him," Dennie replied, disoriented and miserable.
"You what?" Chet shouted at him. "How could you lose...." he broke off abruptly as Phil stomped on his foot.
"After Dr. Duvalier takes a look at you, you can tell us about it," Phil said to Dennie, shooting Chet a dirty look. "But until then, be quiet and relax," he ordered.
A few minutes later, Mr. Mondello and Biff arrived followed by their host. "What happened?" Mr. Mondello demanded, seeing how weak his son looked.
Phil repeated what Dennie had told them about the attack as Dr. Duvalier examined Dennie. "This doesn't look like a cut from a branch," Dr. Duvalier said. "It's too neat."
"Are you sure?" Mr. Mondello asked, his forehead wrinkling in puzzlement.
Dr. Duvalier nodded. "Why would anyone cut him?" Chet asked, his expression matching that of Mr. Mondello and the other boys.
Dr. Duvalier paled as a thought occurred to him. "Dennie, can you tell me your full name?" he asked.
"Dennie Mondello," Dennie replied.
"What's your middle name?" Phil asked.
"Uh..." Dennie seemed lost. "Daniel," he finally answered.
"Where are you?" Dr, Duvalier asked.
"Um..home..no, that's," Dennie began answering.
"Why is he having trouble remembering?" Biff asked.
"He's been poisoned," was Dr. Duvalier's shocking reply.
"And there are no hospitals for miles," Mr. Mondello said in a strangled voice, his face as white as the shirt he wore.
"We need to get him to the manor," Dr. Duvalier said, pulling Dennie to his feet and slipping one of Dennie's arms around his neck. Bff took Dennie's other arm and placed it over his neck and together they made for the door.
"Phil, run ahead and tell Marla that Dennie's been given somyan. She'll know what to do," Dr. Duvalier instructed.
Phil took off at a run as Chet and Mr. Mondello each grabbed one of Dennie's legs and help carry the now almost unconscious youth to the main house. By the time they arrived at the manor, Mrs. Duvalier was grinding herbs and Phil was nowhere to be seen.
"Take him into the living room," Mrs. Duvalier ordered.
They put him on the sofa and let his head hang off. Phil entered the room carrying a first aid kit Mrs. Duvalier had sent him upstairs after. Dr. Duvalier opened the kit and removed several items, including a sealed package containing one needle with a peculiar looking thread.
"Go get a cold wet wash cloth," Dr. Duvalier ordered Mr. Mondello.
"I feel sick," mumbled Dennie, trying to sit up.
"Stay put," ordered Dr. Duvalier, gently easing Dennie back down.
Mr. Mondello returned with the wet cloth and Dr. Duvalier took it and cleaned Dennie's forehead. Mrs. Duvalier entered the room carrying a tray which she sat on the coffee table near Dennie.
"Yeech," Biff grunted, seeing a wooden bowl filled with water and leeches.
Dr. Duvalier removed one of the leeches from the bowl with a pair of tweezers from the first aid kit. He placed it on Dennie's forehead . In seconds, the leech ceased moving. "We're going to need more," he said, removing the dead leech and replacing it with another.
"Run to the creek and gather more," Mrs. Duvalier instructed Phil, Biff and Chet. "Take some large bowls from the kitchen."
As Dr. Duvalier continued his administrations, Mrs. Duvalier had Mr. Mondello lift Dennie's head so he could sip the brew she had prepared. Soon, the boys returned with more leeches and watched as Dr. Duvalier kept replacing them.
Dennie was made to drink the brew which looked like oil and smelled worse until every drop was gone. Almost three hours later, Dennie seemed to be getting better. The last leech Dr. Duvalier had placed on Dennie's forehead was gorging itself. When it had it's fill and fell off of it's own accord, both the Duvaliers let out a sigh of relief.
"The poison is gone," Dr. Duvalier stated, cleaning Dennie's forehead. Dennie winced as the antiseptic touched his wound then gritted his teeth when he saw Dr. Duvalier open the packaged needle.
Dennie was helped to a sitting position, then Dr. Duvalier stitched Dennie's wound. "You need to go to bed and rest now," Dr. Duvalier ordered Dennie, finishing the sixth and final stitch.
"I can't," Dennie denied weakly. "I've got to find Artie."
"He's dead," Mrs. Duvalier said gently. "One more day won't matter."
"No, he's not," Dennie insisted. "I saw him."
"You are still confused," Mrs. Duvalier insisted.
"I saw him too," Chet spoke up. "But he was a ...a zombie."
Dr. Duvalier shot his wife a glance, then ran a hand through his hair much as Artie did when bothered. "Look, Dennie has to rest. You won't be able to find Artie again until nightfall anyway."
"You knew?" Mr. Mondello demanded, rounding on his friend in shock.
"The night you left," Mrs. Duvalier answered. "They began warning us to stay out of it."
"Who are they and out of what?" Mr. Mondello asked, his gaze intent.
But both Duvaliers shook their heads. "After Dennie and the boys have rested," Dr. Duvalier insisted. "At dinner, we will tell you what you wish to know."
Mr. Mondello felt prepared to argue until he took another look at his youngest son. Dennie was pale and it was obvious he was struggling to stay in an upright position. Mr. Mondello gave a frustrated sigh. "Very well," he conceded. "But at dinner, I expect not only the truth but the entire truth."
"Understood," Dr. Duvalier stated, rising. "Perhaps the boys should sleep here," he suggested.
"No," Dennie declined. "The guys can help me back to the guest house."
Biff and Chet each took a side and helped Dennie to his feet. Phil looked at Dennie thoughtfully. He knew Dennie should stay but he felt Dennie had something to discuss with them that he preferred the Duvalier's not hear.
The Mondello Boys belong to Simon and Schuster and the Stratemeyer Foundation. The Mondello Boys Fan Fiction authors of the Mondello Detective Agency have just borrowed them for an adventure or two. The authors promise to put the boys back when they are done with them. The authors do claim copyright to the original characters in this story. Please do not borrow original characters without express permission of the authors.