The three friends froze in mid-stride, briefly, before catching up with Dennie. They didn't have another chance to talk until they had reached the plantation and settled into their quarters.
Mrs. Duvalier had arranged for Dennie and his friends to stay in the guest house. She had thought, and rightfully so, that Dennie would not be comfortable staying in the room he had shared with his bandmate on his previous visit. And, although she hadn't admitted this to her husband, she felt if they were away from the house, the locals would leave her and her husband alone. She had wanted Mr. Mondello to stay with the boys as well but her husband had been adamant about him staying at the main house.
"Okay, Dennie," Chet said, turning a wooden chair backward and sitting down. Resting his arm on the back of the chair, he gave Dennie a penetrating look. "What's all this nonsense about voodoo?"
"It isn't nonsense," Dennie said, flopping down on a chair. He told his friends about his conversation with Jima on the plane.
"Voodoo?" Biff asked, not sure he was hearing right. "Artie's mixed up in voodoo?"
"No!" Dennie shouted. "Well, kind of," he amended.
"Maybe," Phil qualified.
"The only way to know for sure is to find Artie, alive or....or," Dennie broke off, unwilling to say dead now there was a chance he was alive.
"Where do we start?" Chet asked.
"I would say with the Duvalier's but that didn't work out very well at the airport," Dennie began. "So, how about if we start tonight by exploring the grounds?"
"Let's go," Chet said, standing up.
"He said tonight." Biff told Chet, shaking his head. "Why tonight?" he asked Dennie. "We won't be able to see much at night."
"Artie and I looked all over this place in the day," Dennie informed them. "But at night, when the drums were going, we stayed in."
"Drums?" Chet asked nervously.
"They played every night while we were here," Dennie affirmed. "The Duvualier's never told us we couldn't go out after dark, but they always had something for all of us to do after dinner right up until bedtime." Dennie quit speaking and shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe Artie left for his walk too early and did see something he shouldn't have."
"We should get some rest," Phil suggested. "It's not long until sundown." The boys retired after Dennie had set the alarm clock.
When the alarm rang at 8 p.m., Dennie switched it off immediately. He rousted the other boys, then went into the small kitchen, Mrs. Duvalier having stocked it for their arrival, and made sandwiches. By the time the other three boys had joined him, Dennie had sandwiches and bottled water on the table for them all.
"You're fast," Phil commented, sitting down.
"Now I know there's a chance Artie's alive, I've got so much energy," Dennie explained, his eyes shining.
Although it was great to see Dennie almost back to normal, Phil couldn't help but wonder what Dennie was gong to be like if Artie were dead, or worse yet, if he were one of the undead.
"Eat up," Dennie urged his friends. His excitement was so great, that for the first time since before he had found his bandmate on the path, he devoured the food in front of him almost without pausing for a breath.
When he had finished, he pulled out two sheets of paper. "This is a map of the plantation from what I remember," Dennie said, handing one sheet to Phil. "If you see anything else, put it down and we'll fix the maps tomorrow."
"We're splitting up?" Chet squeaked.
"It will be faster if we break into two groups," Dennie told him. "Phil and Biff can start on the west side and you and I can handle the east."
"What about the drums you mentioned?" Biff asked.
"Check them out, but stay out of sight," Dennie decided. "I don't want anyone else to go missing."
"We'll meet back here at daybreak," Phil said, looking to Dennie for confirmation.
"Right," Dennie agreed. "And if we don't find anything, we'll go see Jima tomorrow. He agreed to help with translation if we needed him."
Dennie got up and handed everyone flashlights. "I just put the batteries in before we left," he said. "They should last the night."
Leaving their plates and empty bottles sitting on the table, the four boys exited the guest house. Phil and Biff headed left and Dennie and Chet started on the right.
They had only been gone a few minutes when the sound of drums permeated the night air. Chet latched onto Dennie's arm. "Is....is th....that the drums we have to find?" he stammered, fear starting to take hold.
"Yeah," Dennie replied, smiling faintly. He knew Chet didn't particularly like working on a mystery but he knew, too, that Chet would never back down or desert his friends no matter what the circumstances.
"Let's go," Dennie said in a quiet voice. "I think it's coming from over there." He turned and pointed in a north-westernly direction. "Keep quiet and don't say anything unless you have too," Dennie ordered, leading the way. Chet swallowed the lump in his throat and followed behind Dennie, keeping his light on the ground as Dennie did.
The drumming grew louder and soon voices could be heard. Dennie flicked off his light and motioned for Chet to do the same. The two boys crept closer.
They stopped just short of the clearing and watched as a scene from a horror movie played before them.
Two tall men stood at a small table in the center of the clearing. All around were native people, lying prone on the ground, as zombies, for no other word could come to mind, made their way to the table.
The zombies shuffled forward in an unsteady gate, their hands hanging limply at their sides. Unseeing eyes stared straight ahead except for those whose heads hung down to one side.
There latter zombies were the ones who most favored the dead in the horror flicks the boys saw back in the states.
They were thin with their bones almost visible beneath their skin. Their mouths hung open and they walked with a jerky movement.
Dennie and Chet shuddered at the sight but were unable to turn away as two zombies took a turn at the table where they were given a drink from a wooden bowl. Then they would continue walking into the woods.
Dennie watched as two more zombies walked off, trying to see which direction they were taking. A strangled cry from Chet made his eyes swing back to the table.
Dennie's eyes widened in fear and surprise which quickly turned into anger. At the table, drinking from the bowl, was his bandmate!
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.