It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Thomas Nelson (January 6, 2009)
About the Author:
Robert Liparulo has received rave reviews for both his adult novels (Comes a Horseman, Germ, and Deadfall) and the first two novels in his Dreamhouse Kings series for young adults (House of Dark Shadows, Watcher in the Woods). He is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children. (ISBN#9781595544988, 304pp, $14.99)
Xanderâ€™s words struck Davidâ€™s heart like a musket ball.
He reeled back, then grabbed the collar of his brotherâ€™s grimy Confederate coat. His eyes stung, whether from the tears squeezing around them or the sand whipping through the room, he didnâ€™t know. He pulled his face to within inches of Xanderâ€™s.
â€œYou . . . you found her?â€ he said. â€œXander, you found Mom?â€
He looked over Xanderâ€™s shoulder to the portal door, which had slammed shut as soon as Xander stumbled through. The two boys knelt in the center of the antechamber. Wind billowed their hair. It whooshed in under the door, pulling back what belonged to the Civil War world from which Xander had just stepped. The smell of smoke and gunpowder was so strong, David could taste it.
He shook Xander. â€œWhere is she? Why didnâ€™t you bring her?â€
His heart was going crazy, like a ferret racing around inside his chest, more frantic than ever. Twelve-year-olds didnâ€™t have heart attacks, did they?
Xander leaned back and sat on his heels. His bottom lip trembled, and his chest rose and fell as he tried to catch his breath. The wind plucked a leaf from his hair, whirled it through the air, then sucked it under the door.
â€œXander!â€ David said. â€œWhereâ€™s Mom?â€
Xander lowered his head. â€œI couldnâ€™t . . .â€ he said. â€œI couldnâ€™t get her. You gotta go over, Dae. You gotta bring her back!â€
â€œMe?â€ A heavy weight pushed on Davidâ€™s chest, smashing the ferret between sternum and spine. He rose, leaped for the door, and tugged on the locked handle.
He wore a gray hat (â€œItâ€™s a kepi,â€ Dad would tell him) and jacket, like Xanderâ€™s blue ones. They had discovered that it took wearing or holding three items from the antechamber to unlock the portal door. He needed one more.
â€œXander, you said found her! â€
Xander shook his head. â€œI think I saw her going into a tent, but it was at the other end of the camp. I couldnâ€™t get to her.â€
Davidâ€™s mouth dropped open. â€œThatâ€™s not finding her! I thought I saw her, too, the other day in the World War II world. . .â€
â€œDae, listen.â€ Xander pushed himself up and gripped Davidâ€™s shoulders. â€œShe saw the message we left. She saw Bob.â€
Bob was the cartoon face and family mascot since Dad was a kid, drawn on notes and birthday cards. When David and Xander had been in Ulysses S. Grantâ€™s Union camp the night before, Xander had drawn it on a tent. It was their way of letting Mom know they were looking for her.
â€œShe wrote back!â€ Xander said. â€œDavid, sheâ€™s there!â€
â€œBut . . .â€ David didnâ€™t know if he wanted to scream or cry or punch his brother. â€œWhy didnâ€™t you go get her?â€
â€œSomething was happening on the battlefield. They were rounding up all the soldiers and herding us toward the front line. I tried to get to her, but they kept grabbing me, pushing me out of camp. When I broke awayâ€”â€œ Xanderâ€™s face became hard. â€œThey called me a deserter. That quick, I was a deserter. One of them shot at me! I barely got back to the portal.â€ He shook his head. â€œYou gotta go! Now! Before sheâ€™s gone, or the portal changes, or . . . I donâ€™t know.â€
Yes . . . no! Davidâ€™s stomach hurt. His brain was throbbing against his skull. His broken arm started to ache again, and he rubbed the cast. â€œXander, I canâ€™t. They almost killed me yesterday.â€
â€œThatâ€™s because you were a gray-coat.â€ Xander began taking off his blue jacket. â€œWear this one.â€
â€œWhy canâ€™t you? Just tell themâ€”â€
â€œIâ€™ll never make it,â€ Xander said. â€œTheyâ€™ll throw me in the stockade for desertingâ€”if they donâ€™t shoot me first.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll do the same to me.â€ David hated how whiney it came out.
â€œYouâ€™re just a kid. Theyâ€™ll see that.â€
â€œIâ€™m twelve, Xander. Only three years younger than you.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the difference between fighting and not, Dae.â€ He held the jacket open. â€œI know it was really scary before, but this time youâ€™ll be on the right side.â€
David looked around the small room. He said, â€œWhereâ€™s the rifle you took when you went over? The Harperâ€™s Ferry musket?â€
His brother gazed at his empty hand. He scanned the floor. â€œI must have dropped it one of the times I fell. I was just trying to stay alive. I didnâ€™t notice.â€ He shook the jacket. â€œCome on.â€
David shrugged out of the gray jacket he was wearing. He tossed it onto the bench and reluctantly slipped into the one Xander held. He pulled the left side over his cast.
Xander buttoned it for him. He said, â€œThe tent I saw her go into was near the back of the camp, on the other side from where I drew Bob.â€ He lifted the empty sleeve and let it flop down. He smiled. â€œLooks like you lost your arm in battle.â€
â€œSee? Theyâ€™ll think I can fight, that I have fought.â€
â€œI was just kidding.â€ He took the gray kepi off Davidâ€™s head and replaced it with the blue one. Then he turned to the bench and hooks, looking for another item.
â€œXander, listen,â€ David said. â€œYou donâ€™t know whatâ€™s been happening here. There are two cops downstairs.â€
Xander froze in his reach for a canteen. â€œWhat?â€ His head pivoted toward the door opposite the portal, as though he could see through it into the hallway beyond, down the stairs, around the corner, and into the foyer. Or like he expected the cops to burst through. â€œWhat are they doing here?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re trying to get us out of the house. Taksidianâ€™s with them.â€ Just thinking of the creepy guy who was responsible for his broken arm frightened Davidâ€”but not as much as the thought of getting hauled away when they were so close to rescuing Mom. â€œGimme that,â€ he said, waggling his fingers at the canteen.
Xander snatched it off the hook and looped the strap over Davidâ€™s head. â€œWhereâ€™s Dad?â€
â€œThey put him in handcuffs. He told me to come get you. Thatâ€™s why I was here when you came through.â€
â€œAnd one more thing,â€ David said. He closed his eyes, feeling like the jacket had just gained twenty pounds. â€œClayton, that kid who wanted to pound me at school? He came through the portal in the linen closet.â€ He opened one eye to see his brotherâ€™s shocked expression.
â€œHow long was I gone?â€ Xander said. â€œWhere is he now?â€
â€œI pushed him back in. He returned to the school, but he might . . . come back.â€
â€œGreat.â€ Xander glanced over his shoulder at the hallway door again, then back at David. â€œAnything else I should know?â€
David shook his head. â€œI guess if I die, I wonâ€™t have to go to school tomorrow.â€ He smiled weakly.
The school yearâ€”seventh grade for David, tenth for Xanderâ€”had started just yesterday: two days of classes. Mom had been kidnapped the day before that. David couldnâ€™t believe theyâ€™d even gone to school under the circumstances, but Dad, who was the new principal, had insisted they keep up normal appearances so they wouldnâ€™t attract suspicion.
Lot of good it did, David thought, thinking of the cops downstairs.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Xander said. â€œDad would probably figure out a way to get your body there.â€
Davidâ€™s expression remained grim.
â€œYouâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œDonâ€™t get taken away,â€ David told his brother. â€œDonâ€™t leave with me over there. Donâ€™t leave me alone in this house when I come back. Donâ€™tâ€”â€œ
Xander touched his fingers to Davidâ€™s lips. â€œI wonâ€™t leave,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ll go see whatâ€™s happening downstairs, but I wonâ€™t leave. No way, no how. Okay? Besidesâ€”â€œ He smiled, but David saw how hard it was for him to do it. â€œYouâ€™ll have Mom with you when you come back. Right?â€
It was Davidâ€™s turn to smile, and he found it wasnâ€™t so hard to do. â€œYeah.â€ He turned, took a deep breath, and opened the portal door.
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