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Dan gritted and clenched every part of his body that could be gritted or clenched. He tried one more time. "BA-HA-MAS. Amy, think about it - "
"I am thinking about it!" his sister shot back. "Which is more than you're doing! Look, if we're going to go where she went, it has to be Jamaica. She wasn't even a pirate when she lived in the Bahamas!"
They were talking about Anne Bonny, who had disguised herself as a man and become a swashbuckling pirate way back in the 1700s. And who might - or might not - be one of their ancestors. In China, Dan had found a miniature portrait of a woman with Anne Bonny's name on the back. It was their only lead to the next step in their quest.
Amy and Dan were Cahills. For more than five hundred years, Cahill family members had been among the most influential people in the world. Scientists like Galileo and Marie Curie; artists and writers like Vincent Van Gogh and Mark Twain; world leaders - Napoleon and George Washington; the list went on and on . . . and it was looking like Anne Bonny might have been a Cahill, too.
In the early 1500s, the Cahill family had separated into branches, each bearing the legacy of a child born to Gideon and Olivia Cahill. Oldest son, Luke: the Lucians. Strategists, politicians, businesspeople. Sister Katherine: the Ekaterina branch, innovators and inventors. Brother Thomas: the Tomas clan of explorers, adventurers, and athletes. And sister Jane: the Janus line, populated by artists and visionaries. Since that time, the factions had been battling one another in a desperate race to find the secret to becoming the most powerful people on the planet.
Amy and Dan had joined that race. Not that they knew what they were doing at first. When their beloved grandmother Grace died, the terms of her will gave them a hint toward the first Clue - and set in motion an adventure they could never have imagined.
Not alone, either. Other teams were chasing down the Clues, too - teams that would do anything to keep Amy and Dan from getting there first. Explosions, cave-ins, atttempts to poison them, drown them, bury them alive. In France, Austria, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Australia, South Africa, China . . . Dan and Amy had survived it all, finding several of the precious Clues along the way.
And they still didn't know what they were doing.
They were now in the Beijing airport waiting for Nellie, their au pair, who was at the currency exchange window.
"Jamaica was the last place anyone ever saw or heard of her," Amy said. She had already researched Anne Bonny online. "So that's where we should start looking."
"But - " Dan stopped, trying desperately to think of a way around Amy's reasoning. She was good at this stuff, at seeing the big picture. He was more a detail guy, and right now he was very interested in one particular detail about the Bahamas.
Amy looked him right in the eye. "I know what you're thinking, Daniel Arthur Cahill," she said sternly. "Don't be ridiculous. We've got to beat the other teams to the next clue. We don't have time to waste at some dumb amusement park."
Dan yelped. "Dumb amusement park'? Is that what you think it is? Don't you know anything? Oceanus is the biggest water park in the world! They've got, like, a hundred waterslides! And you can swim with dolphins! And see stingrays and piranhas!"
"Ha!" Amy pointed at him in triumph. "I knew you were thinking about Oceanus!"
"Well, it's the last thing you'd think about," Dan said bitterly. "The only person in the world who has no idea how to have fun, and she has to be my sister. No wait, I take that back. Your idea of fun is a library open twenty-four-seven."
Amy's eyes widened in hurt. "D-Dan, that's not f-fair," she said, her slight stammer surfacing as it always did when she was upset.
Dan's shoulders slumped. Hurting Amy's feelings always made him feel bad, but honestly, sometimes he couldn't help it. "Look, I know you think it doesn't make sense for us to go to the Bahamas first. But we don't know for sure that the clue is in Jamaica, either."
"True," Amy admitted.
Dan sensed her softening and strained his brain to come up with something that would convince her. "With every clue we've found, it's always been because we discovered a bunch of other stuff along the way, right? In the wrong' places. But if we hadn't gone to the wrong places first, we wouldn't have gotten what we needed to find the clue in the right place."
His face was a little red now from the effort of trying to explain. "What I mean is, it's turned out that we were right to go to the wrong places first. Voila, the Bahamas!"
Amy burst out laughing. "Do you realize what you're saying? You're admitting that I'm right about Jamaica!"
Dan grinned. "You get to be right, and I get to go to Oceanus." He punched her on the arm. "That's what's known as win-win."
In their mutual satisfaction, neither of them remembered that the Kabras had a villa in the Bahamas.
The super-rich, super-Lucian family headed by Isabel Kabra, who had already tried to eliminate both Dan and Amy from the hunt.
And who, years before, had murdered their parents.
Nellie rejoined them, bobbing her head in time to whatever was playing on her iPod, as usual. Dan had once suggested that she have the earbuds implanted surgically, since she hardly ever took them out.
"Okay, kids, ticket counter," Nellie said. She nodded approvingly. "Bahamas - now that's what I'm talkin' about, dude! Beach chair, here I come!"
On the way to the ticket counter, Nellie stopped in the restroom. When she emerged, she took their passports from them.
They had the routine down pat now: Nellie got in the ticket line and dealt with the agent, while Dan and Amy stood behind her, trying to look as much as possible like two kids traveling with their au pair on a pleasant trip to see nice relatives somewhere. Not like two kids constantly on the run from scheming, murderous, cutthroat relatives, which is what they actually were.
"Three tickets to the Bahamas," Nellie said to the ticket agent.
While he waited, Dan checked his phone messages. He frowned as he listened. "Hamilton called," he said to Amy after he closed the phone.
"What did he want?"
Dan shook his head. "The signal was terrible, he kept cutting in and out. But" - he looked around suspiciously - "somehow his dad already knew where we were going."
Amy gasped. "How is that possible? We didn't even know where we were going until, like, five minutes ago! And the only other person - " She stopped, her eyes wide.
"While she was in the bathroom!" Dan exclaimed.
Together they turned and stared at Nellie's back as she stood at the ticket counter.
Amy felt her heart sinking. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, remembering other times when Nellie's actions had seemed suspicious. When she opened them again, she saw that Dan looked exactly how she felt. There was distress on every square inch of his face. Even his nose, if that were possible.
In the last few months, they had spent more time with Nellie than anyone else. She's more than an au pair now - she's like a cousin, Amy thought. Maybe even an older sister. How could she possibly -
"We have to figure out what she's up to," Dan said. "We'll grill her on the plane, where she can't get away from us. But I gotta tell you the rest of what Hamilton said."
After one more worried look at Nellie, Amy turned back toward him.
"So Eisenhower finds out we're going to the Bahamas," Dan said, "and Hamilton didn't really understand it all, but he said his dad said something about a cat, and how we got it all wrong, and the Bahamas wasn't the right place. They're going to South Carolina instead."
"Did he know about the portrait? About Anne Bonny?" Amy asked.
"I don't know. He didn't say anything about her, just something about a cat."
"A cat? Was he talking about Saladin?"
"No. The call kept breaking up, and I didn't really get it all, but definitely not Saladin. Speaking of which - "
He took Saladin out of the pet carrier and stroked the cat for a few moments. Amy could sense that he was still thinking about Nellie and had turned to Saladin for a brief moment of comfort.
Saladin snuggled into Dan's arms and purred - the only one among the three of them who was perfectly content.