"You know my TV ratings here are even better than in the States?" Jonah said.
"Eighteen points higher," his dad piped in.
"And my new album, Gangsta Life, is number three on the French charts."
"Number two," his dad said. "And climbing."
"Oh, wow, I love your album!" Nellie said.
"Thanks," Jonah said. "Now shut up."
Nellie looked like she'd been slapped.
"Hey!" Dan cried. "That's not cool!"
"What?" Jonah said. "She's not a Cahill. I'm not talking to her."
Amy was so shocked she couldn't respond, but Jonah just kept right on bragging.
"Like I was saying, I own this town. My art gallery opened last week on Rue de la Paix.
My watercolors are selling for six thousand euros a piece. I've even got a children's book coming out."
His dad whipped out a copy and showed them.
Dan squinted as he read the cover.
"Le... Li'l Gangsta Livre Instantane?"
"That means 'little gangster pop-up book,'" Jonah's dad said proudly.
Jonah spread his hands. "See what I mean? I'm more popular than" -- he smiled slyly-- "Benjamin Franklin."
Something inside Amy snapped. She'd spent several hours reading about Benjamin Franklin, and she was more convinced than ever that he was the most amazing person who ever lived.
To think she might be related to him made her so proud. Now to hear this conceited TV star jerk compare himself ... she was so angry she forgot to be shy. "B-Benjamin Franklin was way more important than you, Jonah! He was the most famous American to ever visit Paris. When he came here, people wore his picture on necklaces -- "
"Like this?" Jonah pulled out a Jonah Wizard commemorative photo necklace.
"And ... and they wore clothes like his!"
"Uh-huh. The Jonah Wizard fashion line is doing great on the Champs-élysées."
Amy gritted her teeth. "King Louis XVI even put Franklin's picture on a chamber pot!"
Jonah looked at his dad. "Do we have souvenir chamber pots?"
"No." His dad whipped out his phone. "I'll make the call."
Jonah nodded. "So you see, guys, I am the biggest thing since Franklin, which is why I'm the natural person to find his secrets."
"If your head was any bigger," Dan muttered, "we could use it as a hot air balloon."
Jonah ignored him. "Look, Amy, you're a smart girl. You know the family's got branches, right? Good Cahills. Bad Cahills. I'm-"
"Jonah!" His father covered his phone with his hand. "I thought we discussed -- "
"Dad, chill. All I'm saying: I use my talents to create art.
Whatever this final treasure is? I'll use it to bring more beauty to the world! I'm not like those Lucians, man. They're vicious!"
Amy's mind was racing. "But... Benjamin Franklin was a Lucian. We saw the snake crest -- "
"Okay, so occasionally a Lucian did something right." Jonah waved his hand dismissively. "But today I'm the good guy. You gotta see that, Amy."
Dan snorted. "Because you make gangster pop-up books?"
"Exactly! Look, you think it was easy for me growing up rich and famous in Beverly Hills?" Jonah paused. "Actually, it was easy. The point is I work hard to stay that way.
Fame is something you gotta keep building, baby. Am I right, dad?"
"You're right, son!"
"I already got albums and TV and fashion and books ... so where do I go for up? I'll tell you where. I need to win this contest. It's a smart career move! If we work together, I'll cut you in for a percentage."
"Uncle Alistair offered to help us, too," Amy grumbled. "That didn't work out."
Jonah snorted. "Alistair Oh? That old fool probably told you how he invented microwave burritos, huh? Bet he didn't tell you he lost his fortune on bad investments.
He's nearly broke, girl. He should've taken the million bucks and walked, but he's got some crazy idea the thirty-nine clues are gonna restore his reputation. Don't listen to him. You join me, we can beat everybody. We can even show those backstabbers, Ian and Natalie. You gotta be careful around here, Amy. Paris is a Lucian stronghold, you know. Has been for centuries."
"Jonah," his dad said, "you should not be dealing with these people. They have no star power and they're going to drag down your ratings."
"Chamber pots, Dad. I'll handle this." He gave Amy his most dazzling smile. "Come on, girl. We both know the next clue is about Ben Franklin. We could help each other."
What bothered her wasn't that Jonah was an arrogant jerk. What bothered her was that she was tempted by his offer, anyway. The idea of showing up Natalie and Ian was hard to resist. And she couldn't help feeling flattered that somebody like Jonah Wizard was paying attention to her. Still... she remembered the way he'd talked to Nellie, and how nice he'd been to them at the airport, but it had all been an act, like they were just stage props for the cameras.
"Why ... why do you want a deal with us?" she asked hesitantly. "What makes us so special?"
"Nothing!" Jonah laughed. "Isn't that awesome? You're part of the Cahill clan, but you have no talent at all! Me, if I try to sneak into someplace to check out a clue, I'll have the media following me, people shooting my picture and asking me for interviews. I can't do anything in secret. You -- you're so unimportant, you can go places I can't. Nobody cares about you."
"Thanks a lot," Dan grumbled.
"What'd I say?" Jonah looked baffled. "Hey, if it's money, I got plenty of that. I can even throw in a day on the set of Who Wants to Be a Gangsta? You can't do better than that."
"No thanks," Amy and Dan said together.
"Aw, c'mon. Just think about it, will you? Where's your hotel? I'll drop you off."
Amy was about to make something up when she glanced out the window. What she saw made her blood turn to ice. It was impossible. What was she doing here? And was she really carrying ...
"Right here!" she said. "Pull over, please!"
The driver did.
Jonah looked out the window and frowned. They were parked next to a seedy-looking hotel called the Maison des Gordons. The awning was tattered and the doorman looked like a wino.
"Here, huh?" Jonah said. "Man, you guys like to rough it. Me, I'm staying at the Ritz. If you change your mind, you know where to find me."
Amy dragged Nellie and Dan out of the car. The driver tossed out their bags, and the Wizards' limo glided away.
"What a creep!" Nellie said."He isn't like that on TV!"
Dan looked up at the Maison des Gordons. "Don't tell me we're actually staying here."
"I had to get him to stop the car," Amy said. "Nellie, get us rooms for the night."
"Here?" she protested. "But -- "
"It says 'gardens' in the title. How bad can it be?"
"Urn, that doesn't say -- "
"Just do it, please!" Amy felt weird acting so bossy, but she didn't have time to argue.
"We'll meet you back here in ... I don't know, two hours."
"Why?" Dan said. "Where are we going?"
"I just saw an old friend," Amy said. "Come on!"
She dragged him across the street, hoping they weren't too late. With relief, she spotted her target. "There!" She pointed. "In the red!"
Half a block down, a woman in a red shawl was walking briskly. Something was tucked under her arm -- something thin, square, red, and white.
Dan's eyes widened. "Isn't that -- "
"Irina Spasky," Amy said. "And she's got our Poor Richard's Almanack. Follow that Russian!"
Dan was tempted to stop about twenty times as they trailed Irina Spasky down the Rue de Rivoli. (He wondered if that meant "the Street of Ravioli," but he decided Amy would laugh at him if he asked.) A few times he wanted to check stuff out -- like the cool glass pyramid at the Louvre and the street performers who were juggling fire outside the Tuileries garden. There was also a vendor selling crème glacée, and Dan was pretty sure that meant ice cream. Mostly, though, he wanted to stop because his feet hurt.
"Is she ever going to take a break?" he complained.
Amy didn't seem to be getting tired at all. "Does it seem odd to you that we happened to find Irina Spasky out of ten million people in Paris?"
"Maybe the other 9.99 million aren't wearing bright red scarves!"
"She was walking down a major street, like she wanted to be spotted."
"You think it's a trap?" Dan asked. "How could she know we'd find her? And she hasn't looked back once. She doesn't know we're here."
But as he said that, Dan remembered television shows he'd seen about spies -- how they could tail somebody without ever being seen, or appear "accidentally" in a victim's line of sight and lure them into a trap. Could Irina have been waiting for them at the airport? Could she have seen them get in the limo with Jonah and somehow gotten ahead of them?
"Look," Amy said, "she's turning!"
Irina crossed the avenue and disappeared down a flight of steps.
"The Métro," Amy said. "She's taking the subway."
They lost time figuring out how to use euro coins in the machines to get tickets, but when they got down the steps Irina was still there -- standing on one of the platforms with the tattered almanac tucked under her arm. The train was just arriving. Dan was sure Irina was going to try one of those last-minute switches, so they waited until the train's doors were closing, but Irina stayed on board. Amy and Dan jumped on, too, and the train pulled away from the station.
They changed trains twice in a really short time. Even with Irina in a bright red shawl, it was hard to keep up with her.
"I don't get it," Amy said. "Now she's moving faster, like she's trying to lose us."
Dan was daydreaming about crème glacée. The lasagna he'd had on the plane was long gone, and his stomach felt like it was trying to chew through his shirt.
Finally, after the third train, Irina exited onto the platform. Amy gripped Dan's arm and pointed to a sign on the station wall.
"Passy," she said.
"This is the neighborhood where Benjamin Franklin lived."
"Well, come on!" Dan said. "Red Riding Hood's getting away."
Passy didn't seem as crowded as Tuileries. The streets were lined with four-story buildings. There were flower shops everywhere, like a Mother's Day explosion -- tulips, carnations, roses, everything that could possibly make Dan sneeze. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower rose against the gray clouds, but Dan was more interested in the smell of food. The whole city seemed to be made up of outdoor cafés. He could smell chocolate, fresh-baked bread, melting cheese -- but Dan didn't have time to get any of it.
Irina walked like her dress was on fire. They had to jog to keep up. Amy tripped over a bucket of flowers and a Parisian cursed at her.
"Sorry!" Amy called back.
They turned onto a tree-lined street with ancient-looking mansions. Halfway up the block, a purple van was parked crookedly. It was painted with pictures of balloons and clown faces, and the sign read Crème Glacée. Dan's spirits lifted. Maybe he could just grab a quick triple-scoop of cherry vanilla to go. But as they got closer, he saw that the van was shut. The windshield was covered from the inside with a silver screen. It was a conspiracy, Dan decided. The entire city of Paris was trying to starve him.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com