I didn't understand. What did this have to do with Jagger? Why was he returning for it? Or was he making sure it was still there?
I walked past Henry's pool and garden and into his backyard to see what he needed to illuminate. The huge field was wasted on a boy who was more interested in throwing around scientific theories than footballs.
Then I saw it. In the far corner of the yard-- at least sixty yards from where we stood--was an A-framed treehouse. "That is perfect!" I exclaimed.
"I used to spend a lot of time out here until my dad built me a lab in the basement--now I'm down there more," Henry said. "He just bought me a telescope to entice me outdoors and into the treehouse again, but it's still in the box in my room."
"Yeah, it's been forever since we've been up here," Billy Boy added.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a rope with a rusty pulley dangling from one of the massive branches. "It's a principle similar to one used in canal houses in Europe," Henry said behind me. "I had it installed to lift up furniture."
Or coffins? I wondered.
"Want to take a look?" he asked proudly.
I still had the protection of the sun's rays and the unyielding curiosity of a cat, but if I rode to the Mansion and waited for Alexander to wake up, then Jagger and Luna would be rising, too. The moon was ticking. My heart was pounding. First I had to make sure Henry and Billy Boy were far away from the treehouse.
"How about putting together that telescope your dad bought you?" I suggested.
Henry's face lit up as if I'd just invited him to see a private screening of Lord of the Rings. "I didn't know you were into astronomy," he said.
Billy Boy looked at me skeptically. "She probably just wants to look in your neighbor's windows."
I glared at my brother.
"And we'll need maps of the constellations," I added. "And don't forget charts and any diagrams you might have."
"There are quite a few constellations you can see in the daylight."
"We'll be able to see more clearly when the sun sets. So take your time. Don't come out here until you have everything ready. I'll wait here."
As soon as the two nerd-mates reached the back patio, I started to climb the thick wooden ladder that led up the tree, the boards creaking underneath my combat boots.
I stepped onto the uneven treehouse deck. The wooden door slowly creaked open.
If Jagger and Luna were hiding here, then I realized why Jagger left the door opener at the factory. If Henry continued to use it to illuminate the treehouse, Jagger and Luna risked being discovered and scorched by the light.
When I opened the wooden door, I expected to find the coffins I had been searching for.
Instead I saw a run-down 3-D version of Dexter's Laboratory. On a folding lab table sat dusty beakers, petri dishes, and a microscope. The periodic table and a photosynthesis chart were taped to the slanting walls.
The treehouse interior was divided by a black curtain. I slowly pulled it back.
What I found took my breath away. Hidden in the shadows of the sloping wooden wall was a black coffin adorned with gothic band stickers, encircled in dirt. And resting next to it was a pale pink coffin!
I'd dreamed about a moment like this all my vampire-obsessed life, never to believe it would actually come to fruition. This was my chance to witness up close and personal a modern-day Nosferatu in his natural habitat. And with Luna, the moment was even more meaningful, because she, once human, was now a vampiress. I was looking firsthand into a world that I'd always envisioned being part of.
I crept toward the pink casket, hoping for a peek at what it was like inside. It was as fashionable as it was spooky. The once mortal Luna was now living in the Underworld next to her twin brother. I wondered if she regretted her decision.
I tiptoed over to Jagger's coffin. I gently touched the wooden top with the tip of my fingers. I held my breath and pressed my ear to the lid. I could hear the faint breathing of someone who was in a heavy stage of sleep. And then I heard him stir. "Raven!" yelled Billy Boy.
I jumped back.
"Where are you?" he shouted.
I raced out of the room and promptly closed the curtain.
Billy Boy, with rolled-up maps under one arm, was fiddling with the microscope. "If you think this place is cool, you should see his basement."
"I've seen enough petri dishes to last me a lifetime. Let's go." I pulled my brother by the sleeve of his striped Izod T-shirt and led him to the treehouse door.
Even though I had daylight protecting me, I glanced back, expecting Luna and Jagger to somehow be following me.
We reached the bottom of the creaky ladder to find Henry carrying the telescope.
"Let's take this over to our place," I said, grabbing the telescope. "This treehouse isn't up to code."
"But my dad just--"
"Speaking of your dad, I think you should stay at our house for the week," I said to Henry.
My brother and his nerd-mate's eyes perked up.
"Seriously. You shouldn't be in this huge house without your parents. And I'm sure Nina could use a vacation."
"That'll be awesome. Your parents won't mind?" Henry asked politely.
"Pack your briefcase, and not another word," I ordered as we headed for his house.
Chapter 7 Lost and Found
Shortly after dusk I put on my Emily the Strange sweatshirt hoodie and secured Henry's garage door opener safely inside the pouch pocket. I raced to the Mansion and tore up the broken cement stairs to the front door and anxiously rapped the serpent knocker.
Alexander opened the door. I was greeted by my handsome boyfriend, standing in a black-and-white bowling shirt and black jeans with hanging silver chains, wearing a smile that could melt any sixteen-year-old vampire-obsessed goth. Before he even had a chance to say hello, I blurted out, "I've got major news. I've found the coffins!"
"That's awesome! Where?"
"I'll show you," I said, grabbing his hand and leading him out of the Mansion and toward the Mercedes.
Alexander drove me to the edge of the Oakley Woods, and we hopped out of the car. "Jagger's hearse was right here," I said, pointing to a pile of wood chips.
We followed fresh tire marks leading out of the woods, which turned into muddy tracks heading up the street.
"They must have left in the hearse. If we move quickly, we can remove the coffins." Alexander parked the Mercedes outside Henry's house and we crept through the backyard.
"There it is," I said proudly, pointing to the treehouse.
Alexander and I watched for any signs that Jagger and Luna might still be inside. There were no candles flickering, or movement from the white-curtained windows.