into Tee’s cloak and then pulled it on.
Elly then set off down the mountain at top speed. As she approached the first horseman, she pulled out one of her sticks, pressed its activation button, and threw the stick at him.
Sparks flew as the stick connected with the rider. He flailed and fell off his horse. Elly’s second stick missed the next rider. As she passed the two remaining horsemen, they turned to pursue her.
They took the bait , thought Tee. She lay on the ground, breathing heavily. She knew she had about two minutes before the pulley system reset.
Tee imagined for a moment that the treehouse and its incredible pulley system had been the work of mysterious little elves. It was a ridiculous idea, but that silly, little-kid thought made her feel better.
Then, with a familiar wooden clonk, Tee knew the pulley system was ready. She sprang up and headed back down the mountain.
The Cochon brothers tried to keep up with Nikolas as he moved through the thick forest with renewed energy and drive. He had abandoned his old-man demeanor. For a man in his late-fifties, he actually could put most of the town guards to shame.
All of a sudden, Nikolas stopped and put a finger to his lips. “Do you hear that?” he whispered.
The brothers listened for a moment.
Squeals shook his head.
Bakon and Bore looked around.
“Wait—I hear something,” whispered Squeals.
Nikolas looked up to the trees. “One of the pulleys! Someone’s coming down—and fast.”
The brothers looked at each other, confused. They looked up and around, but couldn’t see anything.
Then something zipped by overhead. “Big yellow bird!” yelled Bore, pointing.
“That’s no bird—that’s a yellow-cloaked kid. Get the kid, Bore!” commanded Bakon.
Bore tore off into the forest, with his eyes narrowed and his head down.
Nikolas appeared startled at Bore’s sprint. The brothers smiled knowingly.
Bakon chuckled. “He’ll get her, no worries about it,” he said, slapping Nikolas on the shoulder. “That brother never fails.”
A minute later, following the tunnel of broken branches and bushes that Bore had left in his wake, they found him singing and dancing around with Tee on his shoulders. She was singing along, enjoying the ride. Bore looked surprised to see them, having been lost in the moment.
Tee acrobatically leapt off Bore’s shoulders, landing expertly. “La-la!” she exclaimed triumphantly.
Nikolas smiled in relief. “Tee! I’m so happy you’re okay. But I am surprised. You were not frightened by my big friend?”
Tee shrugged. “I guess there are parts of your life I don’t know.” She turned to look at Bakon. “Um—sorry for hitting you with my slingshot. I… ah— sorry,” she finished awkwardly.
Bakon smiled in response. “Ah, so it was you. That explains it. One day we’ll talk about it, but not now.”
“Also, Grandpapa, Bore didn’t give me enough time to be scared. Before I knew it, he picked me up onto his shoulders and started singing Mister Nik is going to be so happy . I joined in, and he started dancing.”
Something caught Nikolas’ eye. He examined Tee’s cloak. “This isn’t yours?”
Tee suddenly remembered. “Elly!”
Andre LeLoup was frustrated. When his men had gone after Klaus and his granddaughter, he had returned to the house to search for the steam engine plans.
Simon St. Malo had told him to expect to find the plans in a long brass tube or on one of the worktables. He’d figured they should be easy to find. That hadn’t been the case.
LeLoup kicked over a pile of books. “This place is such a mess! How does he find anything here?” He tried angrily to overturn one of the worktables, only to discover it was bolted down.
After calming down, he rummaged through every cabinet, every drawer, and examined every scrap of paper he could find. He stared angrily at the stupid little red box on the floor in the middle of the mess. He wanted to stomp it flat.