The Strange Case Of Miss Trees By Harmony Ackerman

Copyright © 2012 Rachel Wright; all rights reserved. Published with permission.

We didn’t have to wait a whole year for our next adventure this time. We’d only been back a couple of months when things at school started to change. For one thing, the teachers were suddenly worried about money – the usual lectures on being nice to one another and not running in corridors were replaced with instructions on how to cut the electricity bills by turning off the lights. Since Miss Flaumel is our main benefactor, this worried us a bit. We knew she was annoyed with us for almost getting caught by the ES, but we didn’t think she was that cross!

The next thing that happened was that Miss Trees didn’t turn up for class. The other teachers said she was ill, but it still seemed weird that no-one had seen her at all. She lives here, after all. Then a few days later, a police car pulled up outside the school. Four officers went into the headteacher’s office and Dave and Harryn went round to the window to listen in. To our relief, it wasn’t the ES come to take us away. They’d come to ask questions about Miss Trees, as they'd found her car crashed into a tree somewhere in the National Sequoia Park. This would have been upsetting, if they weren’t acting as if they thought she wasn’t in it when it crashed.

Of course, the head teacher couldn’t give them any useful information, so we decided to go check it out ourselves. We took the new girl, Victoria, with us – she’d been hanging around with Skye since she arrived at the school, and Skye seemed to think she could handle it. So we got ourselves a truck and Harryn drove us up to the spot the policemen had described. The car was there alright, we recognised it straight away. But the seatbelt was undone and there were no skid marks on the road, which supported the theory that Miss Trees hadn’t been in the car. Odd thing was, there was nothing else in the car either, and it was clean as a whistle. Not that Miss Trees is untidy, but why would she have her car valeted and then jump out and let it crash?

We gave up on the car and had a snoop around the surrounding area. Skye found some tracks leading up into the trees, so we followed. Further along the trail, we found a spot where something had been dragged out from under the bushes (leaving behind a patch of oil), and then the footprints were replaced with bike tracks. These led us to a dirt track and then to a main road, where the bike tracks turned back towards California. We couldn’t track it any further, so we decided to try to find Miss Trees by more direct methods.

At the end were the words ‘torpedo?’ and ‘time-bomb?’.

Victoria was reasonably calm during her first experience of 'travelling by pendant', though she did look a bit pale. We put her in between Skye and Harryn so she wouldn’t get lost, so Dave, Sean and I had to sit in the back of the pick-up. It was freezing! I was very glad when we arrived at our destination about an hour later, and not entirely surprised to find we were in Westchester, outside Miss Flaumel’s house. We knocked on the door and Miss Flaumel answered (Carmella didn’t seem to be around). We explained what had happened to Miss Trees and she said she would help us. But first she suggested we get a pendant for Victoria. Miss Flaumel wanted one for herself as well (which seemed a bit odd, but maybe she’d lost hers). Anyway, the boys went off and got them, and then we all went to bed to get a good night’s sleep.

We got a bit of a shock when we woke up. All the furniture in the house was covered in dust sheets, as if the place hadn’t been lived in for a month! Considering what happened to us last time we stayed the night in Miss Flaumel’s house, we thought it was déjà vu or something. But this time wasn’t quite the same. The date was the 22nd of September, as it should have been, and everything outside looked as it ought to. It was just the inside of the house that wasn’t right.

When we had a closer look around, we found that the bureau in the library was missing its dustsheet, and had been broken into. Naturally we had a look inside it too, and we found two very interesting pieces of paper. The first one was a letter from some private investigations agency, informing their client that a Mr Tony Sill and family had bought a 50 foot sailboat and would be somewhere in the South Pacific on the 25th September. At the end were the words ‘torpedo?’ and ‘time-bomb?’. Someone else had scribbled on the letter in pen - it said: ‘Be careful – MT’. We recognised the handwriting – we’d seen it enough times on our schoolbooks after Miss Trees had marked our work.

The second piece of paper was another family tree. This time, the family tree of one Donald Fillmore, son of Joan Fillmore and Corwin, the man who Miss Flaumel says is the common ancestor of everyone in the ES, and us as well. There were some familiar names on there – Christopher Gill, and James Tully, and also Miss Trees (whose first name, it seemed, was Michelle). Then Victoria started to cry – she was on the list too, along with her parents, who’d died in a plane crash last year. It was not nice having to explain to her that their deaths might not have been accidental. Poor Victoria.

Two of them had British accents and one sounded American, which is pretty unusual for the Australian coastguard.

Tony Sill was on the tree as well, which explained why someone was wanting to torpedo his boat. We all agreed that we couldn’t let that happen, but we only had three days to find him and warn him. It was a good job Victoria had come with us – she used to be rich before her parents died, so she knew who to speak with to find out where the best shipyards in the South Pacific were. The private investigators letter had mentioned Sydney, so we started there, and sure enough, the first place we called had sold a boat to a Mr Sill three weeks ago. From there, we were able to get the blueprints of the boat and some information about the Sill’s destination. Meanwhile, Harryn and Dave went off to another world to acquire a boat for us. Best not to ask how they did it!

So, soon we were sailing off into the Pacific. Victoria was the Captain, cos she was the only one who knew how to sail. The boys crewed the boat while Skye and I drove the pendants, concentrating on the pictures of Mr Sill’s boat that we’d found. We didn’t get very far before we saw another boat approaching, but it wasn’t Mr Sill, it was an Australian coastguard boat. The boys kept calling it a PT boat, but I don’t know what that stands for. Anyway, it definitely looked like it was armed.

The guys on the boat hailed us and asked if they could come aboard to do some routine checks for drugs. We couldn’t really say no, so we let them on. Dave watched them very carefully to make sure they didn’t plant anything! We weren’t sure whether they were genuine or whether they were ES, but two of them had British accents and one sounded American, which is pretty unusual for the Australian coastguard. Eventually they went back to their boat and sailed away. So we did too, but this time we used the pendants as much as we could to cut down on the distance we needed to travel.

It was an hour or so later when we heard the explosion. There were no other boats in sight, so we came to the conclusion that the ES had managed to plant the timed bomb and it had gone off. We really thought we were too late, but when we got closer, we saw four people in an inflatable lifeboat. It was Mr Sill, his wife and two children.

As we were helping them aboard, we saw the PT boat arrive on the scene. That’s when things got really scary! Next thing we know, they’re firing at us. Of course, the first thing we tried to do was lose them by going to another world with the pendants – but to our horror, it didn’t work! It was the first time they’d ever let us down. Luckily, when we tried to make the waves more choppy to put some mist in between us and them, that did seem to work. However, it seemed that the ES had some powers too, cos then a huge shark started attacking our boat. They hadn’t reckoned with Victoria, though, who seems to be able to talk to dolphins (I know, I know, but nothing surprises me anymore). She got the dolphins to chase the shark away, and we were off.

The pendants were still behaving strangely so we had to be clever about what we did to lose the PT boat. We managed to make a small atoll, and then another one, and then we made some rocks appear off the coast between us and them. That did the job – we heard a loud crunching noise and when we looked back, the PT boat wasn't following anymore. We all breathed a sigh of relief!

That was when Harryn came up with his theory about the pendants. He thought that someone was manipulating them to make us go in a particular direction. It was worrying to think that someone was herding us, but there wasn’t much we could do, because Mr Sill’s young daughter Regina had been hit by some shrapnel when the boat exploded and she needed a doctor. So when the next atoll we came to had a harbour and a town with a hospital, we didn’t have much choice but to stop.

The SWAT team had threatened to kill everyone inside if they didn’t come out with their hands up.

After we took the Sills to the hospital, we decided to leave our boat behind and travel by land, and see if that was any more successful. We promised Mr Sill we would come back for him later – he knew about the ES and that they were trying to kill him, but he still wanted to go home. I don’t know why, it’s not like he has to finish school! As it turned out, the pendants weren’t working any better on land than they had been by sea. We found ourselves approaching a beach hut, and Sean bravely decided he would go and have a closer look. Turns out he’s not that great at sneaking – he was soon spotted by the people who owned the hut. Luckily it was only Misty Rease and Miss Trees, so no harm done!

Miss Trees explained to us why she’d left the school. She’d realised that the ES were watching her, and so she fled to Miss Flaumel’s house for help. When she got there, she found that Miss Flaumel had left and the house was deserted. And then we turned up. She didn’t want us to know it was her, so she made some kind of illusion to make the house look normal and make herself look like Miss Flaumel. Then when we gave her a pendant, she was able to leave our world and go and find Misty. I don’t know how Miss Trees does her illusion thing, but it's really cool! She made us tea in some posh china cups, but then as we were drinking from them, they turned into old chipped mugs. I wish I could do that!

Knowing that we would find the note and go rescue the Sills, Miss Trees and Misty then did something to the pendants to make us arrive at the atoll. Actually, I think it was mostly Misty that did that, but it was Miss Trees idea to start evacuating all of the people that the ES are after to this world. Misty explained that Miss Flaumel had been called back to Amber, and would not be returning to our world for a long time. So now it's up to us to save people from the ES.

Our first task was to rescue Miss Trees' brother Douglas. When Miss Trees realised the ES were watching her, she sent a message to Douglas to warn him to leave home and get to the safehouse in Los Angeles that they'd set up previously. So we all set off back to our world to find him and bring him back to the atoll. Miss Trees and Misty came with us, but when we arrived, there was a limousine with blacked out windows waiting in the car park. We agreed that Miss Trees and Misty would try to distract the ES whilst we went to get Douglas, then we'd all meet up at the McDonalds about five miles down the road. We got out of the car and Miss Trees and Misty drove away. The limousine followed them immediately.

Meanwhile, we got ourselves the most normal looking van we could find and went to the hotel where Douglas and his family were staying. Skye and me went to reception and got the chalet number, then went to speak to Douglas, while the others waited outside. I didn’t see how it started, but while we were waiting for Douglas and his family to pack, we heard a commotion from the car park, so me and Skye decided to take the Trees family to the meeting point on our own. Later, we got the message through the amulets that the boys and Victoria had managed to knock out three ES henchmen and were going to dump them in another world so that they couldn’t report back.

Skye, me and the Trees family were the first to arrive at McDonalds - and to see the road blocks and the SWAT team outside. We spoke to Miss Trees through the amulets, and she confirmed that she and Misty were inside, along with lots of families with kids, and the SWAT team had threatened to kill everyone inside if they didn’t come out with their hands up.

Well, we know the ES are nasty bastards (Mr Sill’s words, not mine), but we didn’t think they’d do what they said they were going to do if they thought it would get them too much attention. So we started phoning around all the local newspapers and radio stations to report an imminent massacre in McDonalds. Sure enough, the local press turned up in their droves, and it was obvious that the SWAT team guys were none too pleased. Meanwhile, Misty and Miss Trees snuck away through the ladies room using the pendants.

We all met up again at the atoll, and Miss Trees was very pleased to see Douglas and his family alive. It isn’t safe for any of them to go back, so it’s all up to us now (and maybe Misty, if she’ll help). Problem is, without Miss Flaumel, there is no-one on our side to continue researching the family tree. How many more people are there on the Eternity Society’s list that we don’t know about? I wonder if the school could arrange some genealogy lessons…

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