The first book in the bestselling Evertaster Series "Wonderfully talented writing; funny." —Orson Scott Card, New York Times bestselling author, Ender's Game When eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother's casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city, they meet a dying pastry maker. In his last breath, he entrusts them with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know—a taste that will change the fate of humanity forever.
Forced to flee by a cult of murderous chefs, the Johnsonvilles embark on a perilous journey to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves. Along the way, they discover the truth: Guster is an Evertaster—a kid so picky that nothing but the legendary taste itself will save him from starvation. With the sinister chefs hot on Guster's heels and the chefs' reign of terror spreading, Guster and his family must find the legendary taste before it's too late.
"Sidwell is a talented comedian, and that is certainly reflected in his writing. The characters are quirky and likable." —Deseret News "One of the most original, well-crafted and imaginative MG stories I've come across in a long time." —Word Spelunking Book Review "We were laughing by the first page and gasping by the third as we followed the pickiest eater in the world. . . . If there's a kid in your life—get them this book, and read it with them! You won't want to miss out!" —Rachelle Christensen, Rachelle's Writing Spot, Author of Caller ID
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Chapter 1 The Heist The vault was supposed to be impregnable. And it was—for the most part. Mr. Italo Arrivederci had made sure of that. It had stopped dozens of would-be thieves over hundreds of risky years; though no one knew exactly why it was so effective. That night, things would change. Epiglottis pushed his mop back and forth across the marble floor of the outer hall. A guard in a dark blue uniform nodded to him as he passed, the click-clack of his footsteps echoing between the ivory columns as they did every night. For all the familiarity it brought with it, Epiglottis hated the sound. Epiglottis had waited for years, posing as a lowly janitor, casting aside his true self, enduring a Scavenger’s life. Tonight it would end. He adjusted the miniature camera housed discreetly inside the pen stuck in the left breast pocket of his coveralls. It was a direct video feed to the man with the pencil-thin tie—another source of frustration. “Take up your position,” crackled the voice through the microphone hidden in Epiglottis’ ear. “Already there,” he whispered, irritated, as he ducked behind one of the two massive, polished white columns that flanked the five-hundred pound, double wooden doors. He wished the Arch-Gourmand were giving the orders. He would appreciate the magnitude of the task at hand. The guard had turned the corner by now. He wouldn’t be gone long. Epiglottis looked at his watch. Now, he thought. There was a splintering smash, then a crack, and the doors tore from their hinges and crashed to the floor. Two huge men, each at least a foot taller and twice as wide as Epiglottis strode through the empty door frame. Their chests were bare and their bellies hung over their loose, wooly gray pants. Executioner’s hoods covered their faces, except for the eyes and mouth. The guard was back in a flash, his gun drawn. The two hulking brutes each plucked a huge door from the floor and swung them in front of the guard like a shield; he fired. There was a pop! pop! as the bullets shattered the surface of the wood. The first brute heaved the door on top of the guard, knocking him to the ground. And then it was quiet. Epiglottis stepped out from behind the pillar. He was impressed. He’d heard that the giant brutes could not taste or smell—but it was their brawn that was useful. “This way,” he said, leading them down the hall. More guards would certainly come soon, so they had to work fast. They descended a steep stair that led underground. At the bottom was a locked door; this one steel. He’d never been through it; he wasn’t given clearance for that. He pulled a stolen badge from his pocket and swiped it through the sensor. The lock clicked and he pushed it open. “We’re in,” he said activating the microphone in his ear. “Good,” said the man with the pencil-thin tie. The dark corridors were lit by candle. The first brute shined a flashlight on his palm. It was tattooed with a map of the inner chambers—he had probably been raised and trained just for tonight. The brute struck out to the right. In a matter of minutes they would have what they came for. So much for impenetrable defenses! That’s when the most wonderful aroma struck Epiglottis like a mallet. It was chocolate, pure, sweet and rich as a milkshake or a slab of fudge. It filled his nose and then, like a mug filling with cocoa, his head. He bolted after it to the left. “What are you doing? Stick to the plan!” shouted the voice in his ear. He did not care. The Scavenger was a fool, and the brutes could not smell a thing. This had to be it. He passed a hallway, then turned left, then right, closing in on the smell. When he turned the corner he found the source of his delight: a flatbed cart stacked evenly with block after block of pure brown chocolate. It was parked in a cell, a fan gently blowing the aroma toward him. “This is it!” cried Epiglottis. He reached through the doorway, not caring that a set of iron bars protruded from the ceiling, waiting to drop. It was within his grasp! An enormous hand grabbed him by the back of his coveralls and yanked him back. Epiglottis winced as the second brute threw him over his shoulder like a child. He kicked. He screamed. And then the brute started to run back the way they’d come. The precious chocolate was disappearing from sight! It had been so close. The object of their mission! Why couldn’t the brutes see that? Didn’t they want it? They were going the wrong way! “Epiglottis, you fool!” said the voice in his ear. “You’ve fallen into their trap!” The first brute lifted his palm at every branch in the corridors, studying the map as they ran. The scent grew weaker. Then came new breezes with similar smells—more chocolate down this corridor, or that one. He wanted to scream, to break away and run. But the gray-hooded brute was too strong. They followed the twisting passages until, deep inside the corridors, at the end of a long hallway, there was a room with a safe inside. A bald man in a coarse brown robe stood there. “This is not what you seek,” he said. Epiglottis sniffed the air. He had to be right. There was no smell. Without hesitation, the first brute knocked the robed man out of the way. Then he opened a satchel slung across his shoulder and removed a block of sweet, caramel colored substance. He stuck it to the safe door, then inserted a needle with a timer on the end. He pressed a button and backed up. The block exploded. The safe door swung open. Inside was a platter covered with a silver dome lid. The brute removed it from the safe and lifted the lid, breaking the seal. Underneath was a stack of chocolate bars so rich and brown, Epiglottis could have sworn they were glowing. The air around them looked edible, like flavored heat from a smoldering fire. It was luxurious. It was wonderful. It was beyond compare. Every bit of chocolate he had seen up to this point was a mere distraction. Now he understood. This is what they came for. He never should have been so blinded by second-rate treasures! “Mine!” he cried. In a burst of adrenaline, he kicked the second brute. For one brief second the brute’s grip loosened and Epiglottis broke free, wriggling to the ground. He leapt for the chocolate, unable to control his appetite. He knew how angry the man in the pencil-thin tie would be, but it didn’t matter. He had to taste it at once. The second brute moved quicker. His fingertips inches away from the chocolate, Epiglottis felt a hand catch him around the throat and an arm latch around his waist as he was hoisted into the air by his coveralls. The first brute clapped the silver dome down on the platter again, hiding the sacred chocolate from Epiglottis’ view. The aroma waned, then disappeared. Bring it back! thought Epiglottis. Couldn’t they smell it? The brute with the platter tucked it under his arm and bolted for the exit. “It was not meant for you!” cried the brown-robed servant, lifting himself from the ground. The remaining brute took one look at him and snorted, then ran out into the corridor, Epiglottis under his arm. It took less than half the time to get out of the passageways as it did to get in. When the brutes reached the stairs, they charged up them as quickly as they could. The first one knocked another guard out of the way and bolted through the smashed doors to the outside. A bucket-shaped wicker basket the size of a small car was waiting for them in the courtyard. They leapt inside. A red zeppelin floating above pulled on a set of ropes tied to the basket until they tightened, hoisting them skyward. More guards stormed into the courtyard outside the Arrivederci vault, but it was too late. Epiglottis and the brutes were already off the ground. The guards opened fire, but their bullets only ricocheted harmlessly off the basket’s bulletproof bottom. The bottom of the zeppelin’s cabin opened, reeling the basket safely inside. The hatch shut, and the second brute finally loosened his grip on Epiglottis, dropping him to the floor. Epiglottis gasped for air. His ribs hurt. “A pity,” said the man with the pencil-thin tie. He took the silver platter out of the first brute’s giant hands and peered at it over his spectacles. “It seems the Arrivedercis never reckoned on invaders totally incapable of smelling their treasure.” He nodded to the giant brutes who, now that they’d done their job, were stowing the basket at the rear of the cabin, completely disinterested in the prize. “We’ve plucked their precious gem right out from under them!” he laughed.Miserable Scavenger, thought Epiglottis. He held such extraordinary taste in his hands—the work of the masters over the centuries. Did it mean nothing to him? “Full speed ahead,” the man with the pencil-thin tie barked to the pilot behind the controls. “I’ve got to get this back to my employer before the night is through.” Epiglottis boiled with anger, but he knew his duty. This was all part of the Arch-Gourmand’s plan. The man with the pencil-thin tie saw his pain, “Don’t look so glum, old fellow. You elitist gourmets will get your way. After so many centuries, your time has finally come…”