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Chapter no 8

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, 2)

The wall came down easily enough that I wondered if it had been meant to come down. How long had Tobias Hawthorne waited for someone to hammer their way through the barrier he’d erected? For someone to ask questions?

For someone to find his son.

As I stepped through what remained of the bricks, I tried to imagine what the old man had been thinking. Why didn’t he find Toby himself? Why didn’t he bring him home?

I stared down a long hallway. The floor was made of white marble tiles. The walls were completely lined with mirrors. I felt like I’d stepped into a fun house. On high alert, I made my way slowly down the hall, taking stock. There was a library, a sitting room, a study, and, at the end of the hall, a bedroom every bit as large as mine. Clothes still hung in the closet.

A towel hung on a rack next to an enormous shower.

“How long has this place been bricked up?” I asked, but the boys were in another room—and I didn’t need them to tell me the answer. Twenty years. Those clothes had been hanging in the closet since the summer Toby had “died.”

Emerging from the bathroom, I found Xander’s legs poking out from underneath a king-sized bed. Jameson was running his hands over the top of an armoire. He must have found some kind of latch or lever, because a second later, the top of the armoire popped up like a lid.

“Looks like Uncle Toby was a fan of contraband,” Jameson commented. I climbed up on the dresser to get a better look and saw a long, thin compartment completely lined with travel-sized liquor bottles.

“Found a loose floor panel,” Xander called from under the bed. When he reappeared, he was holding a small plastic bag full of pills—and another one full of powder.

 

 

Toby’s wing was brimming with secret compartments: hollowed-out books, trick drawers, a false back to the closet. A secret passage in the study led back past the entryway, revealing that the mirrors that lined the hallway were two-way. From where I stood in the passage, I could see Jameson lying facedown on the marble floor, examining the tiles one by one.

I stared at him for longer than I should have, then retreated back to the library. Xander and I had screened hundreds of books for hidden compartments. Nineteen-year-old Toby’s tastes had been eclectic— everything from comic books and Greek philosophy to pulp horror and law. The only shelf on the built-in bookshelves that wasn’t full of books framed a clock that was about eight inches tall and affixed to the back of the shelf. I studied the clock for a moment. No movement of the second hand. I reached out to test how firmly the clock was attached to the shelf.

It didn’t budge.

I almost left it there, but some instinct wouldn’t let me. Instead, I twisted the clock, and it rotated, loosening. The face of the clock came away from the wall. There were no gears inside, no electronics. Instead, I found a flat, circular object made of cardboard. Closer inspection revealed two concentric cardboard circles attached with a brad in the center. Each one was lined with letters.

“A homemade cipher disk.” Xander crowded me to get a better look. “See how the on the outside disk aligns with the on the smaller one? Twist either disk so that different letters align, and it generates a simple substitution code.”

Clearly, Toby Hawthorne had been raised the same way his nephews had: playing the old man’s games. Were you playing with me, Harry?

“Wait a second.” Xander straightened suddenly. “Hear that?” I listened. Silence. “Hear what?”

Xander pointed his index finger at me. “Exactly.” The next second, he took off. I tucked the cipher disk into the band of my pleated skirt and followed. In the hallway, Jameson was silently lowering a marble tile back into place.

He’d found something—and apparently hadn’t planned on sharing that

with his brother or me.

“Aha!” Xander said triumphantly. “I knew you were being too quiet.” He strode over to Jameson and squatted beside him, pressing on the floor tile Jameson had just lowered. I heard a popping sound, and the tile released, like it was on a spring.

Glaring at Jameson, who winked back at me, I knelt next to Xander. Beneath the tile was a metal compartment. It was empty, but I saw an inscription on the bottom, engraved into the metal.

A poem.

I was angry with my friend,” I read out loud. “I told my wrath, my wrath did end.” I glanced up. Jameson was already standing and walking away, but Xander’s eyes were locked on the inscription as I continued. “I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.

The words hung in the air for a few seconds after I said them. Xander whipped out his phone. “William Blake,” he said after a moment.

“Who?” I asked. I glanced back at Jameson, who pivoted and paced back toward us. I’d thought he was off and running, but really he was thinking, concentration in motion.

“William Blake,” Jameson echoed, an almost chaotic energy marking the words and his stride. “Eighteenth-century poet—and a favorite of Aunt Zara’s.”

“And Toby’s, apparently,” Xander added.

I stared down at the engraving. The word wrath jumped out at me. I thought about the alcohol and drugs we’d found in Toby’s room. I thought about the fire on Hawthorne Island and the way the press had lauded Toby as such an outstanding young man.

“He was angry about something,” I said. My mind raced. “Something he couldn’t say?”

“Maybe,” Jameson replied pensively. “Maybe not.” Xander handed me his phone. “Here’s the entire poem.” “A Poison Tree,”by William Blake, I read.

“Long story short,” Xander summarized, “the author’s hidden wrath grows into a tree, the tree bears fruit, the fruit is poisoned, and the enemy— who doesn’t know they are enemies—eats the fruit. The whole shebang ends with a dead body. Very catchy.”

A dead body. My mind went, unbidden, to the three bodies that had been

recovered from the fire on Hawthorne Island. Exactly how angry was Toby that summer?

Don’t leap to conclusions, I told myself. I had no idea what this poem meant—no idea why a nineteen-year-old would have had these words inscribed on a hidden compartment. No idea if this was Toby’s handiwork, rather than the old man’s. For all we knew, Tobias Hawthorne had done this after his son went missing, right before bricking up the door.

“What the hell are you kids doing in here?” That question sounded like it had been ripped forcibly from someone’s throat. My head whipped toward the doorway. Mr. Laughlin stood there, on the other side of the demolished bricks. He looked tired and old and almost hurt.

“Just putting everything back where we found it!” Xander said brightly. “Right after we—”

The groundskeeper didn’t let him finish. He stepped through the opening in the brick wall and pointed his finger at us. “Out.”

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