All eyes focused on Dora. Had she just asked Dennie to sacrifice himself?
"No!" declared Mr. Mondello, moving toward them.
"Anything," Dennie agreed, ignoring his father. Jima and Cora took Mr. Mondello's arms and pulled him back.
"It's okay," Cora whispered, trying to calm the worried father.
Dora removed a knife from her skirt. "A small cut," she instructed. "Then let your blood, your essence, spill onto his lips."
Dennie didn't believe in this mumbo jumbo, but he would try anything to have his bandmate back to normal. He brought the blade to his arm, wincing as it pierced his skin and blood began to seep out. He held his arm over Artie's face and let the blood drop to his lips as Dora stood and, once again, began chanting and dancing.
Minutes passed and Dennie, bleeding already stopped, lowered his arm. Dora's voice became louder and louder and her movements more erratic.
All eyes were on Dora as she danced around the two bandmates. A low moan, unheard by all but Dennie, caused him to look down. "Artie!" Dennie cried out. Dora fell to the ground as Jima and Cora restrained the others from rushing over.
Artie moved his head, his lips moving, a bare whisper coming out. Tears fell from Dennie's eyes as he pushed the hair from his bandmate's forehead. "It's okay, bro," Dennie told him. "You're safe now."
Artie began trembling and Dora stood up, shouting orders to her daughter and grandson.
Jima and his mom left, returning with a blanket and some water. Mr. Mondello helped Jima wrap Artie in the blanket, then held him tight as Cora held the cup of water to Artie's lips.
Artie was carried inside and placed on the sofa, then Cora left to get a first aid kit. When she returned, she cleaned and bandaged Dennie's arm.
Dora left the group, returning to her bedroom to rest "Thank you," Mr. Mondello told her before she left.
"Be careful," she warned. "As long as you remain in Haiti, you, your family, and friends," she added, looking around, "are in danger."
Cora escorted her mother to her room then went to make some tea. When she returned, she brought Artie a steaming cup.
"Gently," she told him, making sure he did no more than sip.
By the time Artie finished the tea he had ceased trembling and was aware of his surroundings.
"Welcome back, bandmate," Dennie told him, a relieved smile on his weary face. "You gave me enough scares to last ten lifetimes," he added, ruffling Artie's dirty hair.
Artie smiled wanly, his eyes heavy. "S....s....so....sorry," he stuttered softly.
"He must rest before he journeys back to the Duvalier plantation," Cora stated. "If you gentlemen would carry him, I will put him in Jima's room," she said to Mr. Mondello and Dr. Duvalier, who readily agreed and lifted Artie off the sofa.
"We'll be outside," Jima told his mother as she walked past him.
"That would be best," she agreed. "Artie needs quiet."
Jima, Dennie and the others left the house. They discussed the cave, the screams, and the digging.
"And they were digging on our plantation?" Jima demanded, his eyes widening in shock and disbelief. "But why?" he asked. "We would never use this type of labor."
"Jima, your bandmate, Kreg, said he was in charge of everything," Dennie said, trying to phrase the question he wanted to ask without making Jima mad. "Do you think he suspects someone of this type of thing?"
"Or maybe he has come across an area which has been worked but wasn't supposed to be?" Phil added to Dennie's question, also careful of his wording.
"My bandmate would never allow such activities to continue," Jima stated at once. "But then, he would not accuse someone without proof, either." He looked Dennie in the eyes. "It is possible he may have seen or heard something. I will talk to him."
"Can we talk to him?" Chet piped up.
"Not this time," Jima replied apologetically. "Kreg is a private person. He would tell me if he suspected something was going on but he would not say anything if you were there."
"Is it okay if we look around while you talk to Kreg?" Dennie asked.
"Of course," Jima agreed at once. "Just do not get lost," he added.
"We can cover more ground if we separate," Dennie said. "Kreg could be involved and if so, I doubt he'll tell Jima anything."
"You trust Jima?" Phil asked.
"Yes," Dennie agreed at once. "If it weren't for him, we never would have thought about searching for Artie....just his corpse."
"And he wouldn't have said anything if he had been involved," Biff picked up on Dennie's thinking.
"But what if he had no idea before he came home but found out after he arrived?" Phil asked, trying to cover all the angles.
"Then why help us get Artie better?" Dennie asked.
No one had an answer, so the four split up, agreeing to meet back at his house in an hour.
Dennie headed toward the barn. The doors were open and Dennie slipped inside. It was an old barn. Instead of horses and cows, this barn held field instruments and a tractor. Dennie nosed around a bit. He was on his way out when he tripped over a shovel lying on the ground. Before he could stand, he heard voices heading his way. He obtained a squatting position and peered around the tractor.
Dennie watched the two men as they neared. Dennie recognized Anthony at once. He seemed to be giving orders. Dennie did not recognize the other man but decided to follow him if he could.
A few more words and Anthony left. The other man followed and Dennie trailed a few feet behind. Anthony took off for the house while the man Dennie followed, walked into the woods.
The boys headed back to the house and met Jima and his bandmates there. Jima made the introductions then asked, "Where's Dennie?"
"He was supposed to meet us here," Phil answered, concern creeping into his voice.
"He's only a few minutes late," Biff said, looking at his watch.
"Jima, why don't you show your friends the house while you wait for Dennie?" Anthony suggested.
"An excellent idea," Jima agreed. "Just keep quiet so we don't disturb Artie or your grandmother, he cautioned his American friends.
As soon as Jima and the others began their tour, Jima's bandmates left to tend to their various duties. Anthony stopped in the kitchen and picked up the phone. A few minutes later, he left the house, whistling.
Dennie followed the man to a small shack almost a mile from the house. He knelt behind some bushes and watched as the man knocked, then entered.
Wanting to see what was going on, Dennie crept closer to the shack. Seeing no one watching, he took up position at the only visible window and peered inside.
Dennie saw the man he had been following sitting at a small table. A cup sat on the table across from him but there was no one else in the room.
"Must have gone into the back," Dennie thought right before a thousand firecrackers exploded in his head.
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.