Mr. Mondello, Chet, Phil and Biff, who had been sitting closer to the exit, waited for Dennie to appear. Each had noticed the drastic change in the once happy, outgoing boy and were trying to think of something that would lift his spirits.
As Dennie stepped off the plane and onto the first step, every member of the waiting group was dumbstruck. The blond-headed youth, who had been so reserved on their departure, was now smiling. Even from the distance, they could make out the spark in Dennie's eyes and see by the hurried descension that Dennie's entire attitude had changed.
Before Dennie could head over to his waiting friends, Jima clamped a hand on Dennie's shoulder. "Remember, we're right next to the Duvaliers and I, my mother, bandmates and grandmother, all speak English. If you need any help, let me know. I would be glad to help. But please," he added in a lower voice. "Don't let my family know. Voodoo is very real here."
"I can see that," Dennie said. "I used to think it was just black magic, like witchcraft back in the states. But since our stay here, I've learned it's much more than that."
"See ya 'round," Jima said and headed over to where a boy, not much younger than Dennie, stood waiting.
Dennie joined his dad and friends. He was about to tell them what he had learned from Jima, but was prevented by the arrival of Dr. Duvalier.
"I'm sorry, Fenton," Dr. Duvalier said, clasping his hand in a firm grip. "I've had my men look for Artie, but he just isn't on the plantation."
"You mean someone took his body elsewhere?" Chet asked.
"Galen, allow me to introduce Chet Morton, Phil Cohen and Biff Hooper," Mr. Mondello said.
"Where do you think he might be?" Dennie asked, rudely interrupting the introduction.
Dr. Duvalier looked at Dennie. "One of the men told me a truck was seen leaving the plantation shortly after Artie's coffin had been put in the crate," he said. "Artie's body was most likely taken away on it."
"But the crate hadn't been tampered with," Dennie pointed out.
"There was probably a mix-up, and the wrong crate was taken," Dr. Duvalier replied a bit nervoulsy.
"Soooo, you're saying there were two crates, each with a coffin inside of it, and the one with Artie was taken by mistake?" Dennie asked, his tone voicing his disbelief.
"Joseph!" snapped Mr. Mondello.
"You are right, of course," Dr. Duvalier agreed with Dennie. "It does not seem plausible, does it? Perhaps, I was misinformed."
"Who told you about the truck?" Dennie asked.
"Mebwa," Dr. Duvalier answered.
"Can we speak with him?" inquired Mr. Mondello.
"I'm afraid that isn't possible," was the answer.
"Why not?" Phil asked, beginning, along with Dennie, to think the man was lying.
"He left two days ago," Dr. Duvalier said. "His mother became ill and he had to leave."
"Convenient," Biff murmured as Dr. Duvalier and Mr. Mondello turned and walked toward the airport's customs center.
"You don't believe him?" whispered Chet in surprise.
"Not a word," Dennie confirmed.
"Why would he take Artie's body?" Chet wondered in amazement.
"I don't think he did," Dennie replied. "I think he's scared."
"Agreed," Phi stated. "But of what?"
Dennie shrugged. "Voodoo," he said softly, moving forward and catching up to his dad and their host.
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.