“This isn’t good,” my brother, Charlie, kept saying. “Something bad’s gonna happen. I can feel it in my bones — and my bones never lie.”
Charlie and I are fraternal twins. That means we were born at the same time, but we’re not at all alike. I’m cool, calm, and sophisticated (yeah, right), with long red hair and sparkly brown eyes (when the light hits them just right). Charlie’s a pain in the butt, a foot shorter than me and (because he never met a chocolate bar he didn’t like) a foot wider.
Today’s March 13, which just happens to be our birthday. It’s also a Friday. Yup, Friday the Thirteenth. Charlie’s the most superstitious kid you’ll ever meet, and he was sure we were going to crash. We hadn’t even taken off yet.
I ignored him and looked out the window, thinking back to the day before Spring Break. Everybody at school was bragging about where they were going for the holidays. Everybody but me. My mom doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, so we weren’t going anywhere.
Every couple of years, when money gets really tight, Mom sells our living room furniture — every stick of it. The only thing she didn’t sell this time was our TV. That’s because Charlie threw himself on top of it and promised to do the dishes for the rest of his life. Mom took him up on the offer.
Sometimes, just when you think nothing’s ever going to change in your miserable life, something happens. And that day it did. It came right out of the blue — a special delivery letter from a dead relative.
“Jonathan Edward Darcy.” Mom said his name really slowly. “He’s your great-great-uncle on your father’s side — the one no one talked about.”
“Why not?” asked Charlie. “Was he retarded or something?”
Mom shot him a look. “Don’t be rude.”
“What? What’d I say?”
“He wasn’t retarded, Charlie. He was a recluse. I remember Grandma telling me about how Uncle Jonathan refused to come to any family gatherings, never invited anybody to his place — wouldn’t even tell anybody where he lived.”
Mom looked over the letter. “Well, the mystery’s finally solved. Uncle Jonathan lived in England — someplace called Blaxston Manor in the village of Hampton Hollow.”
“You gonna send flowers?” I asked, even though we didn’t have the money.
“Too late. He died a month ago.”
“No wonder they call it snail mail,” sniffed Charlie.
“This isn’t an invitation to the funeral,” said Mom. “It’s an invitation to the reading of the will.”
“Did you say will ?”
“I did indeed.”
Charlie jumped right out of his chair. “He left us money?” Mom wiggled her eyebrows and waved three plane tickets. “Pack your bags, kids. We’re going to England!”
That’s why we were sitting on a plane — three rows from the back — with Charlie so scared he looked like a ghost. Mom opened her purse and pulled out a crumpled picture. “Found this in an old album last night. It’s your Uncle Jonathan.”
The black-and-white picture showed a boy about fifteen years old wearing a long, shiny cape and holding a white rabbit.
“We have a magician in the family?” I asked. Before Mom could answer, we heard a whirring sound from under the plane. Charlie gasped.
“It’s just the luggage thingamajig,” said Mom. “Calm down.” She dug into her purse again and jammed a book into his hands.
“I don’t wanna read,” he whined.
“The lady at the gift shop promised me it would keep your mind occupied. Just give it a try.”
The book was called Brain Teasers and it worked great. The more Charlie read, the calmer he got. But every couple of minutes he elbowed me. “Pick a number, Lacey. Any number. Any number at all.”
“Divide it in half.”
“Take away your first number and what’ve you got?”
Charlie held up his palm. He’d written the number five on it.
“How’d you do that?”
A voice came out of nowhere. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Besher. Departure will be a bit delayed as we’re experiencing a minor technical difficulty with our —”
“We gotta get off ! ” Charlie raced up the aisle. Mom dragged him back, kicking and screaming.
The “technical difficulty” turned out to be a landing-gear light that wouldn’t shut off. No big deal. The steward put a damp cloth on Charlie’s forehead, and fifteen minutes later we were in the air.
The first two hours of the flight passed okay.
Then ... things started to go wrong.
In the middle of lunch, we hit turbulence. Everything flew up to the ceiling and came crashing down. Charlie got bonked on the head with his tray and smacked in the face with a fish.
Later, they showed a movie called Terror in the Tunnel! about a hijacked train full of orphans. Charlie’s knuckles were white from gripping the armrest so hard, and he kept whining, “We’re gonna die, Lacey. We’re gonna die. I can feel it —”
“In your bones?”
He scrunched up his eyes and glared. “My bones never lie.”
Charlie’s always saying bad things come in threes. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s true.
When we finally got to England, there was this freak snowstorm and our plane had to circle the airport for a whole hour. Charlie was sure we’d run out of gas and started praying like crazy. He must’ve made the sign of the cross a hundred times — and we’re not even Catholic.
When we landed, he threw himself on the ground and kissed it. “I’m never getting on a plane again — ever. Leave me here. I don’t care. But I’m not going up again. Flying’s for birds, not people. I’ll walk home, thank you very much.”
“Get in the darn taxi,” snapped Mom, “or I’ll kick you into tomorrow.”
Snow pounded against the windows. The driver said, “Unusual weather for this time of year.” I wondered how he could even see. Finally, he kicked the wipers on to high speed. They made scratching sounds, like nails on a blackboard.
I plugged my ears so I wouldn’t go totally bonkers, but then Charlie pulled a bag out of his coat pocket and stuck it under my nose.
“Happy birthday, Lacey.”
“I didn’t get you anything.”
“You gave me your ‘I’m with Skanky’ T-shirt last week.”
“Not for your birthday.”
“No big deal.”
I looked inside: three mini Snickers bars.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You get ten for a buck. What’d you do with the other seven?”
I whacked him with the bag. Mom told us to relax and enjoy the scenery. What scenery? It was snowing so hard you’d think someone had thrown a blanket over the car.
To pass the time, Charlie read more brain teasers and I thought about all the new clothes I was going to buy once we got rich from Uncle Jonathan. Mom slept the whole way, her jaw hanging open like she was dead. Every once in a while she’d let out a rhinoceros snort that made Charlie and me jump.“How’d Dad ever get any sleep with Mom snoring like that?”
Charlie’s eyes got soft. “He loved her.”
I caught the cab driver looking at us in the rearview mirror. “Your father’s not on this trip?”
No matter how many times you say it, it never gets any easier. “Our father died. Four years ago. Car accident.”
After what seemed like hours, we finally drove into a tiny village with houses and stores that looked really old-fashioned. It felt like we’d gone back in time a hundred years.
“This is Hampton Hollow.”
The driver dropped us off at a tiny hotel with green shutters. After we checked in, we went down for supper. Charlie was thrilled when he spotted his favorite — baked beans in molasses — on the menu. He ate three bowlsful before Mom cut him off. She said he’d be tooting all night, and that’s exactly what he did. His farting woke us up every five minutes. It sounded like we were in a war zone.
The next day the weather was still lousy, so we stayed inside watching TV until it was time to go to the reading of the will. At seven o’clock, we got dressed and went downstairs to get a taxi. We waited and waited. Charlie started worrying that if we were late we wouldn’t get any money, but Mom said it didn’t work like that.
Finally, the taxi came and we all piled in. The driver headed out of the village, made a couple of turns, drove up a steep hill, and went along a country road. After about five minutes, we bounced over a wooden bridge and stopped.
“Blaxston Manor,” he said, in a voice that sounded way too much like Darth Vader’s.
The manor stood alone in the middle of this huge field. It was three stories high with lots of arches and tall windows. Three gargoyles stared out into the darkness.
Charlie whispered, “Dracula would love this place.”
Excerpted from The Midnight Curse by L.M.Falcone. Copyright © 2010 by L.M.Falcone. Excerpted by permission of Kids Can Press. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.