Chet and Biff helped Dennie back to the guest house. Phil, in front, opened the door and turned on the light. "Upstairs and into bed," Phil ordered.
"But.." Dennie started to protest.
"But anything you need to tell us you can tell us after you are in bed," Phil stated firmly. "You do need to get some rest or you won't be able to help find Artie."
"I found Artie," Dennie said.
"In bed!" snapped Phil. Dennie bit his lip and refrained from saying any more until the guys had escorted him upstairs and into bed. Once there, Dennie told everyone about the previous night, beginning with his and Chet's investigation of the drums.
"What could that stuff be that the zombies were drinking?" Biff asked, scratching his head.
"Could have been a diluted version of the poison Dennie was given," Phil guessed. "It was probably the only kind of poison whoever attacked Dennie had on him at the time."
"Why the same kind?" Chet asked. "It could have been something different."
"True, but think about it. The poison made Dennie confused," Phil explained. "They probably use a weaker form of the poison on a regular basis to keep the victims to the point they don't know what they are doing."
"But why would they take it in the first place?" Chet asked.
"Maybe they are in shock and don't realize what is going on when they get the first dose or so," Dennie guessed.
"But what would cause the shock?" Chet demanded.
"Being buried alive," Phil said in a quiet voice.
The other boys stared at Phil in shock. "What are you talking about?" Dennie demanded, dreading the answer.
"Before you got back this morning, I was looking through a book on voodoo I found downstairs on the bookcase," Phil explained. "It said the poison was used to slow the life systems down and then the victim was buried alive for three days before being resurrected to do his master's bidding."
"Buried," Dennie said, his eyes wide in horror. "Alive? For three days?" He shook his head, trying to chase away the horrible thoughts which raced through his brain. "No..." he said, tears coming to his eyes. "Artie used to be afraid of the dark."
"Which would put him into shock even more, if that is possible," Phil observed.
"When I find out who did this to Artie, I'll bury them!" Dennie vowed, sitting up in bed and ignoring the wave of nausea washing over him.
"Easy," Biff said, pushing Dennie back down. "We'll rescue Artie, but we can't until tonight. You heard Dr. Duvalier. Artie won't be back out until dark."
"In the meantime, we all need to get some sleep so we can give everything we've got to getting Artie back and putting these guys out of business," Phil stated.
"But what is their business?" Chet asked.
"Well, we know whoever is behind this is doing it for free labor," Phil said. "We just need to find out what they were digging for and maybe who owns the land they were digging on."
Dennie's eyelids began to droop and the others left him to get some sleep. It was almost dusk when Dennie awoke. He got out of bed and began looking for the map he had drawn. If he could locate the area he had been in on the homemade map, perhaps he could find out who owned the land Artie and the others had been digging on.
He finally gave up and got showered and changed. He headed downstairs where the other boys were gathered in the small living room. "Have any of you seen the map I had?" he asked.
None of them had, but Phil offered Dennie the one he had and Dennie sketched in the area he went to last night. "They may have been digging on a neighboring plantation but it looks like they came from somewhere on this one," Phil commented, looking at the features Dennie added.
"You think Duvalier is involved after all?" Chet asked, lifting an eyebrow in question.
"I don't know," Dennie admitted. "But I do know we are going to find out one way or another before this evening is over."
The four boys left the guest house and headed to the manor. Dr. Duvalier wanted to wait until after dinner to discuss the matter, but neither the Mondellos or their friends were down with that idea. As soon as the group had assembled at the table, Mr. Mondello asked Duvalier to tell them what he knew about Artie's disappearance.
"The people here practice voodoo," Dr. Duvalier began only to be interrupted by an impatient Dennie.
"We know that," Dennie said. "Chet and I saw one of their rituals and we saw the...the zombies."
"Right, well, a poison is used to kill.." Dr. Duvalier started but was once again interrupted by Dennie.
"But it doesn't kill them, does it?" Dennie demanded, anger in his voice. "You knew this poison was out there and yet you let us believe Artie was dead."
"He is!" Dr. Duvalier snapped. "For all intents and purposes, Artie is dead. The poison basically puts the system in suspended animation and when it wears off, the victim has no control over himself."
"Is the control taken away by the same poison which causes the system to shut down, or is there another poison?" Phil asked.
"It has been theorized that the poison used on Dennie earlier can be used to confuse a victim for an indefinite period of time," Dr. Duvalier replied. "However, no one knows how much to give the victim. Too much can kill and the continued use, also theorized, could cause a complete mental breakdown."
"So a diluted version, maybe just a sip every twenty-four hours, wouldn't necessarily kill a person," Dennie stated.
"Not right away at any rate," concurred Dr. Duvalier. "But over time, it could kill or at least permanently cause brain damage."
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.