"Dennie's over an hour late," Chet said after the boys had returned to the living room. They had spent almost half an hour looking at the house, then gone outside to view the garden. "We need to look for him," he added as Kreg entered the room.
"Dennie has not returned?" he demanded, looking at Jima who shook his head.
"We better look for him," Biff repeated Chet's earlier statement.
"No," Kreg told the boys. "We will search for him. It is growing dark and you might get lost as well. Come," he ordered Jima, leaving the room.
"We will find him," Jima said confidently, following his bandmate from the room.
Two hours later, Dennie still had not been found. "We'll look for him tomorrow," Mr. Mondello told the boys who looked at him mutinously.
"We will keep searching," Kreg promised their guests. "But you must wait for daylight."
"We need to get Artie back to the manor," Mr. Mondello told them.
"You're right, of course," Phil said, speaking for the others as well as himself.
"If Dennie returns, we will call you," Jima promised them as they made their way up to Artie's room.
They lifted Artie and took him to the truck. Mr. Mondello thanked the Jima and his family profusely for their help, then climbed into the back with Artie, Chet and Biff. Arriving at the manor, they took Artie inside and back to the room he had been in earlier.
"Are you certain he is okay?" Mrs. Duvalier questioned, seeing how still Artie remained.
"Just exhausted and in a bit of shock," her husband assured her.
"Where is Dennie?" she asked, looking around and not seeing him. Dr. Duvalier led her out of Artie's room, explaining what had happened since his departure earlier.
"Will you boys stay here while I call Laura?" Mr. Mondello asked after the two had left the room.
"Sure," Chet and Biff said at once.
"Are you going to tell her about Dennie?" Phil asked.
"Not until we know something," Mr. Mondello answered, not looking at any of the boys. If he looked at their worried faces, he would sucumb to the feelings he was trying so desperately to keep in check.
After Mr. Mondello returned, he sent the boys to the guest house. "Get some rest," he ordered them. "There isn't any more we can do tonight."
At the guest house, Chet made dinner while the other two boys set the table. "We can't just do nothing," Biff said, sitting down.
"We won't", Phil promised, sitting down in the chair to Biff's left. "Tomorrow morning, Chet will take Mr. Mondello to the cave. The Duvaliers can watch Artie and you and I can start looking for Dennie."
"Mr. Mondello's losing it," Chet commented, bringing over two dishes and setting them on the table.
"Can you blame him?" Phil demanded. "First, he thinks his eldest son is dead, then a zombie. He gets Artie back and now Dennie may never be seen again."
"Don't say things like that!" Chet snapped, returning to the stove for a bowl of mixed vegetables.
"We're going to find Dennie and get out of this place," Biff declared with a slight shudder at the thought of where they were in the world. "I don't care if we don't get the bad guys this time. Just as long as we all get out of this place safely."
"J...J...Dennie." Artie emitted the cry, his head moving back and forth as the drums, which had been quiet the previous evening, began their normal rhythm. "J...J...Dennie!" Artie screamed louder.
"Easy son," Mr. Mondello said, moving closer to Artie and holding his hand. "It's alright."
"W...wh...where's J..J...Dennie?" Artie demanded, his fearful brown eyes looking into his fathers.
"He's at the guest house with Biff, Chet, and Phil," he lied. "They were exhausted and I made them go get some rest."
Mrs Duvalier, having heard Artie screaming for Dennie, came into the room, a glass in her hand. "Have him drink this," she said to Mr. Mondello. "It will help him to rest."
"Thank you," Mr. Mondello said, taking the glass and holding it up to Artie's lips. Artie drank the contents, then lay back and closed his eyes. In minutes, he was in a dreamless sleep.
"Wh...where's Dennie?" Artie asked the next morning when he awoke, seeing his dad, the Duvaliers and Chet, Biff and Phil standing around his bedside.
All heads turned to Mr. Mondello. "What is it...?" Artie demanded sitting up in alarm. "What's wrong? Wh...where is he?"
"Easy, son," Mr. Mondello ordered, gently pushing Artie back onto the bed and sitting down beside him. "Dennie's missing," he broke the news as gently as he could.
Artie tried to sit back up but his father held him down. "Wh...when?" Artie demanded, his speech still hampered by the drugs he had been given.
"Yesterday," Phil spoke up. "After the, um, ceremony. Dennie just vanished."
"Yo....you said he w....was tired and in the gu..guest house with the r...rest," Artie looked at his father with accusing eyes.
"You were too weak to be told the truth last night," Mr. Mondello asserted. "And we hoped Dennie had just been following a lead and would return."
"Wh...where d...did he disap...pp..pear from?" Artie stuttered. His brain functioning properly despite the horror he had lived through.
"The plantation next to this one," Mr. Mondello answered. Artie looked at his father so Mr. Mondello explained that was where Artie had been taken to recover from being zombified.
"W...we ha..." Artie began but was cut off by Chet.
"We will find him," Chet vowed. "You just rest and get better."
Artie shook his head and was going to reply but Phil spoke up before he could say anything. "Chet's right," he insisted. "You need to rest. If we can't find Dennie you're going to need to be at full strength to help."
Artie wanted to argue, but couldn't. Phil was right. If he was going to be of any help to Dennie, he was going to have to get over the lethargy he was feeling. His entire body hurt, especially his head. He wanted to sleep but when he tried, he kept having the same nightmare. He kept seeing stars in the night sky and then he felt the dirt begin to weigh him down.
Artie frowned. He didn't want to admit he was afraid to go to sleep, at least, not to anyone but Dennie. Dennie had always been the one Artie turned to when he was scared. As kids, Dennie had been the brave one, ready to fight any monster which might slip out of the darkness. When Mrs. Mondello had turned off all the lights and left the boys room for the night, it was Dennie who would crawl out of bed and turn on a lamp while Artie lay still beneath the covers, eyes wide as he stared at the shadows moving by the window.
Artie needed Dennie now but Dennie, it seemed, needed him more. Artie closed his eyes, trying hard not to think of the darkness as it began to surround him, but of seeing his bandmate, alive and well, smiling at him with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Dennie struggled with the ropes which bound him but to no avail. His wrists were completely raw and bleeding. Dennie slumped and closed his eyes. 'How was he going to get out of this one?' he wondered. He shook his head and began working on freeing himself once more.
Half an hour later, Dennie was still working on the ropes around his wrists. They had loosed a bit but Dennie thought this was more from the lubrication his blood provided than from his effort at straining the rope. Dennie froze as he heard footsteps approaching. He only hoped his captor would not check to see if he had made any progress in escaping.
The steps stopped briefly as the door opened. A short man was framed in the doorway briefly. He said a few words, pointing to first the north, then south then east to west, before entering the room.
Dennie shot the man a peculiar look for had the motions been carried out upon the man's short chest, the sign of the cross would have been made the way a Catholic would when kneeling before a cross.
Another man followed the shorter one inside. Dennie's eyes widened. He knew some of the workers on the Jima's plantation were involved, but was shocked to find out Milan was involved. Dennie thought if anyone had been involved it would have been Kreg or Anthony. Were all of Jima's bandmates involved after all? What about Jima? Was he, too, involved?
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.