The boys arrived at the manor just as Dr. Duvalier was about to instruct his men to search. Mr. Mondello hurriedly made his way over and pulled Dennie into a bear hug. Releasing him, he shook Biff's proffered hand, then pulled him closer and gave him a quick hug as well.
Dr. Duvalier told his men the search was off and thanked them. Most cast furtive glances at the two boys who had been missing before departing.
"You get the feeling most of the people here know what's going on?" Phil asked Dennie in a quiet voice.
Dennie nodded. "But I don't think they know more than their Bokur wants them too," he added.
"What happened? Where were you two?" Mr. Mondello asked once they had all gathered in the living room of the manor.
Dennie told them about the screams and getting lost. "Dennie suggested we sit and wait for the sun," Biff took over when Dennie quit speaking. "When he saw which way it was rising, he led us back to the guest house."
"Well done," Phil congratulated Dennie. "Now, where is Artie?" he demanded, remembering Dennie's earlier remark.
"Artie and the others are in a cave," Dennie answered.
"That's not possible," Mrs. Duvalier told him. "Those caves remain underwater except at low tide."
"Which would give them time to leave the cave and then return at the next one," Dennie said. "If the cave goes back far enough, they would be okay until the water went down again."
"None of those caves are that deep," Mrs. Duvalier informed Dennie.
"Have you been in them?" Dennie asked her. "All of them?"
"I've only seen two caves down there," she answered. "And neither are very deep."
"Maybe the entire entrance is covered up except at low tide," Chet suggested.
"It's worth checking," Mr. Mondello agreed.
"I don't suppose you have any SCUBA gear?" Dennie asked Dr. Duvalier.
"As a matter of fact, Marla and I are avid divers," he replied. "You're more than welcome to use our equipment."
"Let's go then," Dennie said, standing up.
"No," Mr. Mondello stopped him short. "You and Biff have been up all night and the rest of us haven't had much sleep either," he explained. "It would be far too easy to be overcome by the Rapture of the Deep in our present condition. If your theory is correct, Artie and the others won't be going anywhere this morning," he continued. "Let's all get a few hours sleep and then we will tackle the caves."
Frustrated at the delay, but recognizing the wisdom behind his father's words, Dennie caved in. He and the other guys returned to the guest house, where, after a light breakfast, all four went to bed.
Six hours later, Dennie switched off his alarm clock, showered, dressed and roused the other boys.
"I've been thinking," Mr. Mondello said when the boys arrived at the manor. "There has to be another way into the cave, if that is where they are, because there might come a time when whoever is behind this must need to send the zombies out of sight at a moment's notice."
"I disagree," Dennie said, shaking his head. "The locals seem terrified of whoever is behind this. Even the Duvaliers were afraid." He looked over to where the two sat, shame-faced at their cowardice. "No offense," he added.
"You are right," Dr. Duvalier concurred with Dennie. "The people are too afraid to explore the area and should anyone see anything, they would not speak of it for fear of being turned into one of the undead."
"Who is diving?" Mr. Mondello asked, accepting their argument.
"Chet should go with Dennie," Phil said. "They have the most diving experience."
"Agreed," Biff stated. "And we can be topside watching out for any trouble."
"What about you?" Dennie asked his dad.
"I'm going to brave the roads and see if I can get us any help," Mr. Mondello said. "Our finding Artie won't put a stop to this mess and if we don't have some authority behind us, even finding out who is responsible won't help."
The boys obtained the gear and checked it out to make sure the tanks were full and everything was functioning properly. It was almost an hour later before Dennie and Chet wadded into the water and disappeared from view.
In order to keep in contact, Dennie and Chet were connected by a nylon cord. Should one find something or get into trouble, a tug on the cord would alert the diving mate. This would also allow them to explore more territory in the limited time they had available.
They hadn't been under long when Dennie spied an opening in the rocks. He cautiously approached the opening, expecting an eel to pop out at him. However, no creature, save for a few small fish, approached him from the opening.
Dennie tugged on the cord and Chet appeared almost at once. Dennie pointed toward the opening. Chet nodded and followed Dennie inside.
What began as narrow soon opened up and Dennie and Chet found themselves swimming perpendicular. In minutes, the underwater cavern ended and they stood knee deep in water.
"Looks like you were right," Chet whispered into Dennie's ear after they had removed their masks and regulators.
Dennie gave a curt nod and the two made their way stealthily deeper into the cave. Water gave way to hard ground and Dennie hoped their footprints would evaporate before anyone arrived to claim their undead.
Dennie had already realized that it would be impossible to remove even half of the people he had seen two evenings ago. They would have to be rescued at low tide or while they were working. But, and Dennie was adamant on this, he was not leaving without his bandmate. Even if it meant staying behind and letting Chet return to the surface alone.
They moved forward in the darkness, the only light visible were the beams from the small waterproof flashlights the boys held. Dennie took another step, his light hitting the stone wall a mere twenty feet ahead. His foot came down on something soft. Dennie gasped in surprise and stepped back, crashing into Chet who steadied him before he could fall.
Dennie pointed his light down. A mass of bodies littered the stone floor. Chet moved his light around. The cave which ended not too far ahead, expanded in both an easterly and westerly direction.
"There are at least forty people in here," Chet whispered in awe.
"Let's find Artie," Dennie ordered. The two moved around the helpless victims, careful not to step or trip over anyone.
"Over here," Chet hissed. It was obvious they were the only conscious people there, but being in a cave full of zombies was still a bit much for Chet.
Dennie hurried over to Chet's side and knelt down by his bandmate, who looked wan and malnourished. He felt the pulse at Artie's neck. "He has a pulse," Dennie said, looking up at Chet. "Which means, at least the poison used on him originally has worn off or was taken out of his system somehow."
"How are going to get him out of here?" Chet asked.
"We'll put a tank on him and you and I can buddy-breathe on the other," Dennie answered after a moment's thought. "We'll have to keep him between us."
"We going to tie him to us?" Chet wanted to know.
"No," Dennie replied with a shake of his head. "I think we're better off without the cord now that we've found what we were looking for." Dennie untied the cord from his waist and Chet did likewise, rolling the cord up and securing it to his waist.
Dennie lifted Artie's shoulders up, then stood. He and Chet each took an arm and pulled Artie to his feet. They made their way back to where they had left their tanks and put one on Artie. Chet put the other tank on and they entered the water with Dennie taking a deep breath before sinking into the water.
It occurred to Dennie that there must be some type of opening above ground for the air not to be stale. This fact was stored for later use as Dennie gave his full attention to the task at hand.
Several times Chet let Dennie take a breath from the regulator. The air in his tank was almost gone, but he was sure there was enough to get to the surface. He took a deep breath, then passed it, once again, over to Dennie.
Dennie took the regulator and breathed in more oxygen. He handed it back to Chet, never releasing his grip on Artie. As Chet took the regulator, he saw Dennie's eyes widen behind his mask. Chet turned his head and saw two large blue sharks swimming right at them!
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.