Reader! Your attention is greatly needed. We have left things unresolved! What began as your average story of a boy stumbling upon a pig in a teeny hat and a secret international explorers society has turned into an adventure of epic proportions.
• The bad news: The boy (Sebastian) has been kidnapped by a trio of troublesome thugs.
• The good news: His new friend Evie has promised to rescue him!
• The bad news: Sebastian has been taken halfway around the world.
• The good news: Evie has famous explorer and former Filipendulous Five member Catherine Lind at her side!
• The bad news: There's still the whole matter of Evie's grandfather (and the leader of the Filipendulous Five) somewhere out there in grave danger.
• The good news: Pursuing Sebastian will lead Evie and Catherine to another member of the Filipendulous Five, who might be able to help!
This missive is a call to action and an invitation to join in mystery, bravery, and danger. There will be new people to meet, new places to see, and some dancing along the way. And one amazingly reckless rescue.
PRAISE FOR THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES: THE EXPLORERS: THE DOOR IN THE ALLEY:
"[A] wildly funny adventure. . . . Animals in teeny hats, Wonderland-style logic, and loads of wordplay and sarcasm will keep readers giggling all the way through."-Kirkus Reviews
"Exhilarating. . . . Fans of a Series of Unfortunate Events will be drawn to this."-Booklist
"A rollicking read, full of derring-do and old-fashioned villainy."-School Library Journal
"Funny, offbeat, and subversive . . . occasional footnotes and other humorous asides from the omniscient narrator break the fourth wall and ramp up the playfulness."-The Horn Book
"Narrated with a smart, brisk tone and plenty of snark. . . . The Explorers: The Door in the Alleypacks plenty of twists, turns and danger."-Shelf Awareness
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In which we resume our story.
There is a difference between fact and opinion. It’s hard to tell sometimes because opinions like to dress up as facts, and their costumes have gotten quite impressive lately.1 There is a way, however, to easily tell the difference between them. You have to weigh them. Because, you see, facts have more substance. So they’re heavier. This is how one can know for a fact, for example, that being kidnapped for your brain is scary. Because when this fact is placed on the scale, man, does it ever tip the balance!
There are other facts one can be certain of. Like that private planes are cool. That traveling long distances gets boring. And that not knowing where you are going or what’s going to happen to you is exhaustingly stressful.
And if you don’t believe me, just ask Sebastian, who was sitting in his seat and staring out the window of the private jet, feeling precisely all those things.
It was odd to feel bored. Not that feeling bored is a rare or weird feeling. It’s a very common part of life, after all. But it just felt so strange to feel bored in his particular situation. He should have been feeling terrified, possibly even a little excited. And he knew this because he’d felt those things initially when he’d been snatched out of the Explorers Society headquarters and held captive in a helicopter. But that felt like forever ago now. After flying to the private airport, getting on the private plane, flying over the ocean, and continuing to fly over the ocean. And yet more flying over the ocean . . .
Things had started to get just a little boring.
And now the boredom was turning into sleepiness.
Which was really quite simply all kinds of wrong.
“You could sleep,” said Mr. M.
Sebastian shifted his gaze from the window to the man sitting across from him wearing a patch over his left eye. Mr. M appeared very relaxed, but of course he would be. His life wasn’t in danger, now, was it?
“So could you,” Sebastian pointed out.
“Nah, gotta keep one eye open,” replied Mr. M, laughing at his own joke. Sebastian didn’t laugh. “Get it? One eye? Get it?”
Sebastian got it. He just didn’t find it particularly funny. Suddenly he had a flash of his parents at the dinner table and his mother telling that joke about the salamander and how not-funny the joke was and-- Oh, there was that pain in his gut again. He wondered if his parents were looking for him. They must be.
He wondered if Evie was looking for him.
Like she’d promised.
“It’s because I only have one eye, that’s the joke,” continued Mr. M. “Because keeping one eye open is an expression.” He paused. “But also I only have one eye. It works on two levels.”
“I get the joke!” snapped Sebastian in exasperation.
“Whoa, okay, okay. Jeez, relax.”
“Easy for you to say,” muttered Sebastian under his breath.
“It’s true. It’s very easy for me to say. I’ve completed my task; I have the key. Which is you.” He stared at Sebastian for a moment. And then as if by way of explanation: “You’re the key.”
“I know I’m the key,” Sebastian replied curtly. What on earth was going on? Before this week, everyone had always treated him like the highly intelligent boy he was. Now everyone seemed to be second-guessing his smarts. And it was seriously annoying.
“So anyway, with my job well done, I feel as cool as a cucumber.” Mr. M paused. “Why do they say that? Are cucumbers cooler than other vegetables?”
“I don’t know why they say that.” Another wave of sleepiness was washing over Sebastian. He was tired of dealing with Mr. M, who had this frustrating ability to be both extraordinarily terrifying and completely tedious at the same time. And weirder still: if he hadn’t known any better, Sebastian would have sworn that Mr. M wanted to be his friend. Not that there was anything wrong with friends, of course. It’s just that people who want to hurt you are not the best choice for friends.2
Just as Sebastian finally gave in to his exhaustion and closed his eyes, he was rudely drawn back to the horror of his situation by a guttural grunt. He started and looked up. Mr. I, with his gruesomely wired-shut jaw, was towering over him. The man gazed at him hard for a moment and then turned to Mr. M. He grunted again.
“What is it now?” asked Mr. M, seemingly sincerely annoyed that his conversation with Sebastian had been interrupted.
Mr. I pointed toward the cockpit, and Mr. M sighed. Mr. M gave Sebastian an apologetic glance, then stood up, adjusting the old-fashioned-looking gun in its holster as he did, and made his way to the front of the plane. Mr. I replaced him in the seat and stared at Sebastian. Or at least, seemed to stare. He was still wearing those sunglasses of his.
Staring, Sebastian could handle. It was a quiet activity and required nothing of him. But as he stared back defiantly, gazing at his own reflection in the man’s glasses, Sebastian found his boredom seeping away. There was something about Mr. I that just so completely reminded him of the danger he was in. Maybe it was how worn Sebastian looked, reflected in the dark, unforgiving glasses; maybe it was that Mr. I had very recently been this close to ending his life; maybe it was the bits of wire sticking out between the man’s teeth and poking through the flesh of his cheek. Whatever it was, Sebastian was officially scared again. But more than that, he was reinvigorated.
His plan to sleep would have to wait while he formulated another one. It was time for that marvelous brain of his to take charge.
It was time to plot a daring escape.
In which a meeting takes place.
There was a pig-in-a-teeny-hat-shaped lump under a sheet.
“Oh, sorry!” said Evie, quickly removing the sheet, balling it up, and tossing it into the corner. The pig sat and stared at her with a look of disappointment. A look that said, “I’ve been taking such good care of you ever since your friend was kidnapped, and this is how you treat me?”
“I really am sorry,” Evie said.
The pig snorted again.
Evie bent over and gave it a little scratch behind its right ear before straightening the teeny hat on its head. Then she quickly stood and grabbed the next sheet and pulled it off the table in one determined motion. Unlike the pig, Evie didn’t snort. But she did sneeze loudly as the dust tickled the back of her throat and nostrils. The large white sheet in her hands billowed out impressively before her, then fell limply to the floor as the pig took one step to the left, neatly avoiding it. She gathered the sheet up in her arms and added it to the pile in the corner. Then she turned and took stock of the room.
The Emergency Meeting Room for Emergencies meeting room hadn’t seen a lot of activity in recent years. Myrtle, the Explorers Society president and general rememberer of dates and things, had told Evie it hadn’t been used since the great sea horse rescue almost fifteen years ago. Evie supposed that was a good thing. Emergencies generally were not events one relished. She’d encountered a great many in her short eleven years on this planet.
Still, there was some small comfort that the society was taking this seriously. That they cared so much for Sebastian. He’d been kidnapped only a few hours ago through the window of her brand-new bedroom at the society, yet they’d already arranged the important meeting. The use of the room could be described as both upsetting and comforting.3 Though, of course, very little was able to comfort Evie at the moment.
Myrtle had rounded up the members of the board who were currently in the city to come and discuss the matter. Evie wasn’t so sure what there was to talk about. It was simple: They needed to rescue Sebastian. They needed to do it now. She had read somewhere that after two days, it was much less likely to find a missing person ever. Time wasn’t on their side.4
“What about the rest of the table?” asked Catherine Lind, animal expert and former member of the infamous explorer team the Filipendulous Five, as she added to the stack the white sheet she’d just pulled off a row of chairs.
“We won’t need it,” replied Myrtle, placing her hands on her hips and looking off into the dark far end of the room.
Evie wished there were windows to open, or some kind of natural light, but they were deep underneath the society building. The roots of the large tree that grew up through the central library of the building twisted along the ceiling and dove into the ground at inconvenient intervals. They created floor-to-ceiling pillars around which the large meeting table had to bend and turn. The table was so long that it vanished into the darkness. Evie assumed it, too, was draped in yet more white sheets to protect it from the dirt and soil. Lanterns along the opposite wall lit half of the room. It was all so dark and oppressive. And it added to Evie’s general sense of doom and fear.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just go after him now,” said Evie again in frustration.
“Because rushing into things at the beginning often ends up making things take longer in the end,” replied a melodious voice from behind her.
Evie turned to see a tall man with a meticulously groomed goatee standing in the entrance. He walked inside, followed by two other members of the society: an elegant brown-haired woman in a flowing dress, and a short, stout man in a checkered suit. Evie didn’t know any of them, though she did think she might have seen the woman before, in the leather chair room. Their presence only made her more nervous.
As they took their seats at the table, Catherine leaned in and whispered into Evie’s ear, “The members of the board of directors. They’ve always intimidated me.”
Evie could see why. They all looked so stern. And as she sat down beside Catherine, she had the distinct impression they were judging her quite harshly. What they were judging her on, she had no idea. And considering they were the ones who had approved her moving into the society headquarters and being educated there, Evie found their attitude a little unfair, really. The pig made a soft snort beside her, and she scooped it up into her lap. She hugged it maybe a bit too closely, but it seemed to understand that its role was to take care of her and accepted the squeeze with grace and dignity.
Myrtle sat herself at the head of the table. “Evie, meet Llewellyn Tracy, Lady Trill, and the Hopper. The four of us represent the board of directors for the Explorers Society, and we are now going to discuss what is to be done about Sebastian.”
“And my grandfather,” added Evie quickly.
Myrtle furrowed her brow at that.
“Your grandfather? Myrtle, no one said anything about a grandfather,” said Lady Trill carefully.
“Ah, well, yes,” said Myrtle awkwardly. It was the first time Evie had ever seen the Ice Queen less than composed.
“He’s the reason all this is happening in the first place.” Evie looked at the confused expressions the members of the board were wearing, unique in their own special ways: Llewellyn Tracy narrowed his eyes and scratched his goatee; Lady Trill raised her eyebrows so high, they disappeared behind her bangs; and the Hopper bounced in his seat. “Um . . . didn’t Myrtle tell you when you agreed to take me in?” asked Evie. She was starting to get that fluttery feeling in her chest that happened when she was on the verge of becoming emotional.
“Myrtle told us everything was taken care of and that you were an orphan who needed help and a proper education. We trust her, and we enjoy helping and properly educating people,” said Lady Trill.
“Oh. Oh dear,” Evie said quietly to herself.
“Does this have something to do with the Filipendulous Five?” asked the Hopper, stopping his bouncing for a moment and giving Myrtle a hard look. “Is that why she’s here?” He indicated Catherine as if she were a distasteful painting or an unpleasant smell.5
Myrtle sighed hard. Finally she conceded the point and admitted to the board that “the members of the Filipendulous Five are in danger. Someone is after their pieces of the map from their last expedition.” She didn’t explain further. From the expressions on the board members’ faces it seemed they were all too familiar with the story, or at least the part of it that ended with the Filipendulous Five causing a tsunami from deep below the ocean waves in their submarine, and all the destruction that ensued. It was harder to tell if the board members were aware of what the team had been after: the secret waterfall down in the Mariana Trench, the one that seemed to be some kind of fountain of youth. Evie felt that maybe she should just keep silent, not adding to Myrtle’s story. Catherine certainly didn’t speak up either.
“That bloody map!” said the Hopper with so much ferocity that he fell off his chair. Quickly he clambered back onto it and looked at the others as if nothing had happened.
“That’s why those men came here. That’s why Sebastian was kidnapped,” said Evie carefully.
“That’s why those men came here. That’s why Sebastian was kidnapped,” said Evie carefully.
“Are you saying that the Filipendulous Five are responsible for the extreme damage that was done to society headquarters the other day? The damage that will take months to repair, and at quite a high expense?” asked Lady Trill slowly.
“Uh,” replied Evie.
“In a manner of speaking,” replied Myrtle, not looking very pleased.
“Well . . . ,” said Evie, thinking as fast as she could. The last thing she wanted was for the board to refuse to help rescue Sebastian and find her grandfather because of some evil men showing up and causing mass chaos in the society building.
1 I once saw an opinion wearing the most spectacular curly mustache that distracted me so much, I totally let him come into my head, even though I found his footwear suspicious.
2 Unless, of course, you’re part of the “We want to hurt each other for fun” club, which, from my understanding, is currently down to one member.
3 Which is also how I describe the new duvet cover I just got for my bed.
4 Time wasn’t not on their side either. Time just generally likes to maintain a neutral opinion on most subjects.
5 Or a distasteful painting of an unpleasant smell.