Chapter no 69 – JAMESON

The Brothers Hawthorne

The two of them flew out of the house. As they closed in on the sundial in the stone garden, Jameson did an automatic check of their surroundings. That was a part of a game like this, always. One method of playing was beating your own path, but another was staying in the shadows, tracking the other players’ progression—and only swooping in at the end.

The area was clear.

Jameson wondered where Branford had gone with his key. If he’d already found the box it went to. If the box had contained a secret—and, if so, whose.

Two keys. If we find two keys, there’s a chance I can win the game and

keep my secret.

If worse came to worst, even if Branford did obtain the scroll on which he’d written those fateful four words, obtaining two keys would mean that he and Avery would have Branford’s secret. Mutually assured destruction. There were worse gambits.

And right now, all that mattered was getting that second key.

The sundial was large. The base was circular with Roman numerals carved along an inner circle and the signs of the zodiac along the outside. A bar—simple, with no carvings—jutted out at an angle, its shadow’s location on the base dependent upon the location of the sun.

“Two, one, six.” Jameson leaned over to touch the face of the dial, pressing and prodding at the Roman numerals in question.

“You know I’m a math person, right?” Avery said beside him. He cut a gaze in her direction. “And?”

“And,” Avery replied, a smile tugging around the edges of her lips, “two hundred sixteen is a perfect cube.”

Jameson did the math. “Six times six times six.” No rest for the wicked. The Devil’s Mercy. Three sixes. Rohan really did think he was clever, didn’t he?

“Start at the bar,” Jameson murmured to himself. “The clue can’t have anything to do with the shadow because the shadow moves with the sun’s position. But the bar itself is stationary, an obvious starting point.”

“Obviously.” Avery managed to sound more amused than sarcastic.

Jameson walked around the dial, until he stood directly next to the bar. Beneath his feet, the stone paving was remarkably even, but gazing out at the thousands of other stones all around them, he saw places where the stones had cracked, places where grass and moss were growing through.

Jameson began counting stones, pacing them as he did. “Six forward, six left, another six forward.” He tried the stone beneath his feet. Not loose at all. “Six forward, six right, another six forward.” The same. “Six forward, six right, another six right.”

Still not loose. But this time, Jameson’s gaze caught on the slight smear of dirt on the stone’s surface. And the grass surrounding the stone—missing on one side.

“Let me guess,” Avery said, kneeling beside him. “We need to dig.”

If you dig up the yard…

Jameson dug with his fingers, the dirt between the rocks jamming itself beneath his nails. One tore, but he didn’t stop.

Pain didn’t matter.

The only thing that mattered was winning.

I have to wonder, though, once you see that web of possibilities laid out in front of you, unencumbered by fear of pain or failure, by thoughts telling you what can and cannot, should and should not be done… What will you do with what you see?

The stone came loose. Jameson flipped it over. Beneath it, there was nothing but dirt. Hard dirt.

He kept digging.

My mother saw something in me, he could hear Ian saying. She left Vantage to me. Win it back, and someday, I’ll leave it to you.

Jameson didn’t stop.

He never stopped.

And finally, he was rewarded. His fingers unearthed a bit of fabric. A brown burlap sack. Blood smeared across the back of his fingers as he uncovered the rest of it and stood.

Inside the sack, there was a key. Like the first, it was made of gold, but that was where the resemblance ended. The design on the head of this key was harder to decipher. It called to mind a maze.

This is it. Jameson felt that all the way to his bones. He felt it in the part of him that had been forged in Tobias Hawthorne’s fire. This is the key that opens the box that will win me the Game.

He righted the stone.

“Good.” A crisp voice said, the speaker’s posh accent pronounced. “You’ve found the final key. Hand it over, then.”

Jameson stood and looked to Katharine, who cast a long shadow on the stones beneath her feet, that white suit just as pristine as it had been down on the beach.

“Why the hell would we do that?” Avery beat him to the question. “Because,” another voice called out behind them, “I want you to.”

Jameson turned, his grip on the key tightening, and watched as his father stepped through the wrought-iron gate.

Ian Johnstone-Jameson met Jameson’s eyes and smiled. “Well done, my boy.”

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