“Until photos of their house show up online and then they remember that you heckled them with e-mails for a full month.” Rowan dragged his eyes away from the road and tapped his chin in mock-thoughtfulness. “What did that last e-mail from them say? Oh, yes. I believe their exact words were, ‘Come near our property and we will not hesitate to notify the authorities.’ ”
“But they didn’t say which authorities,” Ian said, his smile still plastered on his face. “Maybe they meant the town water authorities. Or the leading authority on climate change.”
This plan—whatever it entailed exactly—was so my brother. One part danger, two parts music trivia, three parts rebel. Add a handful of jalapeños and some marshmallows and we had ourselves the perfect Ian recipe. Nothing I said was going to matter. May as well conserve energy—I might need it for running. I tried to send Rowan an abandon-all-hope shrug, but his eyes locked onto the road.
“ ‘Look for a mossy, broken-down fence a few kilometers past the bent speed limit sign,’ ” Ian read from his phone. He stuck his head out into the wind, and his hair puffed into a large dandelion. “Addie, did you see that sign back there? Did it look kind of bent to you?”
“It was a Guinness advertisement,” I said.
“But, Ian, what about the fan who got arrested?” Rowan hadn’t known Ian long enough to understand what he was up against. “The break-in wasn’t that long ago. You know the owners are going to be on high alert. They’re probably sleeping with shotguns under their pillows.”
“A fan got arrested?” I flicked the back of Ian’s head. Was the fan part of his brain completely overriding the common-sense part?
Ian’s smile only grew. “That was a whole year ago, and that girl was a mega stalker. You don’t just walk into a stranger’s house. Not when they’re home.”
“Because you only walk into a stranger’s house when they’re not home?” I clarified.
“Oh, she did more than walk in.” Rowan pulled his glasses off and wiped at his eyes in a move that made him look like an old, tired businessman—but because it was Rowan, a cute, old, tired businessman. “She made a ham-and-banana sandwich in the kitchen and then ate it while rolling around on the carpet. The owners were sleeping upstairs, and she woke them up.”
“Ew,” I wailed. “Ham and banana? Is that a Titletrack thing or an Irish thing?”
“Definitely not Irish,” Rowan said, a wry smile crossing his face. “Haven’t you heard? All we eat are potatoes and beef stew.”
Ian clasped his hands prayerlike in front of him and pushed his lower lip out in a pout. “Come on, guys. I promise not to make a gross sandwich and roll around on the carpet. No one will see us; no one will know.”
I shook my head disgustedly. “Ian, the lower-lip-pout thing stopped working about ten years ago.”
He pooched it out even more. “The lower lip pout is successful at least seventy-three percent of the time. How do you think I passed Español last year? Señora Murdock can never resist it.”
I shook my head impatiently. “Quit trying to change the subject. Rowan’s telling you that he doesn’t want to go to Torc Manor, which means we are not going to Torc Manor.”
“That was the bent speed limit sign!” Ian shrieked, hurling his body partially out the window. “We’re almost there. Rowan, we have to, have to, have to go.”
“Fine.” Rowan’s gaze swiveled back and forth from my brother to the road. “But listen to me. I cannot get caught. Cannot get caught. My parents are already in a constant state of stress. I can’t stir the pot by getting in trouble.”
“That’s it!” Ian yelled.
Rowan hit the brakes, and Ian all but threw himself out the window, extending his face toward the tall, ivy-covered fence. An oversize NO TRESPASSING sign cozied up to an even larger BEWARE OF DOGS sign.
I pointed to the image on the sign. “What a cute snarling shadow dog.”
Ian waved me off. “That sign’s a fake. Half the time people put those up when all they really have are goldfish.”
“Rowan has a goldfish,” I said.
His mouth twitched. “Had a goldfish. Had, Addie.”
“Look, as long as we stick to the plan, we’ll be fine. We already know that the room is ground level and faces the backyard. It will probably take me ten seconds to find. Rowan, all you have to do is drive in and wait. I’ll do the rest.”
This was train-mode Ian. I couldn’t stop him. Rowan couldn’t stop him. A slab avalanche couldn’t stop him. Our best bet was to do exactly what he wanted—get in there, get a photo, and run.
“Fine.” Rowan sighed, rolling his eyes to the ceiling.
Ian bounced giddily, pulling his notebook out. “Thanks, Rowan. I really owe you.”
Rowan put the car into reverse. “Yeah, you really do.”
“What about me?” I asked, yanking my legs out of the crevice behind the passenger’s seat. Over the course of the day, I had reached a new and alarming mental space where I now accepted my legs being asleep as normal.
Ian petted me on the head. “Thanks, Addie. I really owe you, too, I guess?”
I shoved his hand away. “No, I mean what do you want me to do while you take photos of the inside of someone’s house? Go with you?”
“No. It will be better if you stay right where you are. Guard Rowan’s stuff.” He tried to pet my head again, but I ducked out of the way.
I was about to insist on going with him, but when I straightened up, Ian had already moved into his pregame routine, a ritual I’d seen just shy of a million times. First he tied and retied his shoes—once, twice, three times—then he cracked his neck back and forth, finishing with a firm shoulder shake.
Watching him soothed me. If anyone could outrun an angry shadow dog, it was Ian. If he weren’t the quarterback of the football team, he’d be the running back. He was the fastest sprinter on the team.
There was also the semicomforting fact that Ian was unequivocally lucky. If, for instance, the owners saw us and decided to shoot our car with flamethrowers, Clover would choose that exact moment to hit a pothole, and Ian would be launched from the car at just the right second, tumbling into soft grass and surviving the ordeal completely unscathed. It was Rowan and me who would end up crispy.
“Where is he? It’s been donkey’s years,” Rowan hummed under his breath. Our eyes met over the clock on the dashboard. I wasn’t sure about donkey’s years, but it had been a lot longer than the two minutes Ian had promised before he’d disappeared out the window. Now we were both impersonating him, jiggling anxiously.
Torc Manor was trying very hard to be charming, and the ingredients were all there: a steeply pitched roof, white-trimmed windows, well-kept flower garden. But the longer we sat there, the more I realized there was something eerie about it too. Thick white sheets shrouded the patio chairs, and the surrounding trees grew in a wild tangle, filling the sky with branches and making the afternoon feel much darker than it actually was.
At least Ian was right about no one being there. There weren’t any signs of life—no cars in the driveway, no shoes at the door, and no noise. Even the birds and insects were quiet.
Suddenly, Rowan ducked low. “Did you see that?”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com