The Eye of Ra, page 1
The Eye of Ra
By Dakota Chase
Repeating History: Book One
What happens when two teenaged delinquents accidentally destroy their teacher’s prized collection of historical artifacts?
For Aston and Grant, this is more than just a rhetorical question. They’ve made a huge mistake, one that might cost them everything. Adding to their misery, their history teacher is Merlin. Yes, that Merlin. The answer to their dilemma is deceptively simple according to the old wizard: go back in time to replace the items they destroyed!
Aston and Grant find themselves in ancient Egypt, where their first task is to find and retrieve the Eye of Ra, a golden amulet owned by none other than King Tut, the boy king of Egypt. Neither of them is all that versed in history, so they have to play it cool and learn as they go. It’s not just the amulet causing them trouble either. They soon become friends with Tut and want to help him out. Surrounded by enemies, needing to survive in a primitive world, Aston and Grant quickly learn one basic truth: history isn’t dead when you’re living it.
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THE SOUND of the gavel rolled through the courtroom like a thunderbolt as the judge called the court to order. I flinched and glanced up at the ceiling, half expecting to see black storm clouds boiling up under the recessed lighting.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. The courtroom was crowded with juvenile offenders, and it would be a good, long while before my name was called. I was at the far end of the alphabet, under the Ws, at least when going by last names. First names are another story, but hardly anybody lists people by first names.
Aston Walsh. That’s me.
I supposed I should’ve been used to it all by now. After all, I was a seasoned professional. It was my third trip before the Honorable James Fredrick of Eastman County, an old man who looked like somebody’s grandfather, and probably was, but who had a sneer perpetually plastered on his doughy face. Twice before I’d been arrested and charged with vandalism of school property, ending up in his courtroom. My third offense, taking a car that didn’t belong to me out for a ride, was a lot more serious than the previous two.
Spraying graffiti on the walls of Roosevelt High had seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’d been caught red-handed both times with the paint still wet on my fingers. I can’t even remember why I did it, aside from sheer boredom, but then I’d never really needed a good, solid reason to do anything, stupid or otherwise. I was always a sort of a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy.
My first offense got me a slap on the wrist and a warning from the judge. The second time earned me a summer doing community service by picking up trash five days a week in Danhart Lake Park. My court-appointed lawyer told me I was lucky to have gotten off so easily.
Lucky? Yeah, right. Being sentenced to nine weeks chiseling old chewing gum off park benches, picking up trash, and hosing smelly slime out of garbage cans was just as good as winning a trip to Disney World, right? Lucky, lucky me.
Still, I had to admit—at least to myself, since I’d rather cut off my right arm than admit any adult might be right where I was concerned, particularly a pasty-faced worm like my court-appointed lawyer—it could’ve been worse. I might have drawn a “Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars” card. The judge could’ve sent me to juvenile hall, or worse, I could’ve been tried as an adult and sent to prison. Neither was somewhere that scored highly on my list of places I most wanted to visit, so in that regard, yeah, I was lucky.
You see, I have a thing about being confined. Claustrophobia is what they call it. Lock me in a small place where I’m unable to get out quickly, and I fall to pieces. Trust me, it isn’t pretty. My heart starts hammering, I break out into a cold sweat, and I start shaking. The experience usually ends with me puking up last week’s breakfast.
Told you it wasn’t pretty.
My father sat next to me on the wooden bench. He worked in construction, and it showed in his big, rough hands. They were scarred and callused, and the skin on the back of his neck was always sunburned. My dad was a big man, beefy, and looked ridiculously uncomfortable in his rumpled dress shirt and black tie. The only other times I could remember my dad wearing a tie was at my mother’s funeral, and when he married my stepmom. Neither was an occasion I liked to think about.
My dad wouldn’t look at me. He was staring straight at the wall at the front of the courtroom, and his expression was stony. Every so often, he muttered something under his breath that I couldn’t quite hear.
I had no problem imagining what he was saying, though.
“Thank God your mother didn’t live to see you now… a common criminal… what a disappointment.”
The words, real or imagined, cut through me like a knife. My father wasn’t talking about Alice, my stepmother. No, my dad was talking about my real mother. She’d died several years ago, when I was just ten years old, and nothing had been the same since, especially since my dad remarried.
I don’t like to think about my real mom if I can help it. It hurts too much.
Alice, dad’s second wife, refused to come to court at all, although I didn’t see that as a big loss. She rarely noticed me anyway, except to complain about something I’d done or hadn’t done. She just didn’t like me, never had, and the feeling was more than mutual. I didn’t miss having her there, but my real mom? That was another story.
My eyes began to burn, and I swallowed a lump in my throat. My stomach churned with the anger that always seemed to boil up when I thought about my mom. I really, really missed her, especially at times like these. I loved her more than I could say, and I hated her at the same time for leaving me.
Stupid, right? I mean, I know people can’t help dying. It happens to everybody sooner or later, but knowing it didn’t make a difference. I still blamed her and felt like she deserted me.
Thinking about my mom was painful and didn’t help my mood one bit. My hands curled into fists, squeezing until my nails bit sharply into my palms. Keep it up, Aston, and you’ll have a full-blown panic attack right here and now. The last thing I wanted to do in a courtroom full of possible cellmates was show them how frightened I was. I forced my attention to the others in the room with me, trying to distract myself from my screaming nerves.
Teenagers filled the benches around me, most sitting next to adults; some looked scared, others angry, and a few bored. I spotted two who were crying, and another who looked as if he were about to hurl.
A few kids appeared to have their own lawyers, like the dark-haired kid dressed in a sharp blue suit in the front row. Money talks, I thought snidely. I didn’t have a private lawyer. My attorney was representing fifty kids that day. He barely knew my name. I got the feeling I was just a case number to him, a paycheck, and that sucked because I was sure I wouldn’t get much in the way of a de
I nervously chewed on my bottom lip and drummed my fingers against my thigh to a beat inside my head as I watched a kid represented by the same attorney as me sentenced to six months at the Havenwood Juvenile Detention Facility. I felt a cold shiver, wondering if I would be sitting next to him in the van heading to Havenwood that afternoon.
According to what I’d heard, Havenwood was a labor farm. Kids went in and got put to work hoeing fields and digging holes and stuff.
Six months’ hard labor for a first offense? The judge was in a foul mood today. His bushy white eyebrows knit together, looking like a single, white fuzzy caterpillar stretching across his forehead. As I watched, he remanded no less than ten kids into the custody of the state, all to Havenwood, and for crimes a lot less serious than mine.
That was the very moment that killed whatever hope I might’ve had. Things were going to be bad for me this time, and I might—just might—be seriously screwed.
Okay, definitely screwed, and big time.
Like it’d been with the graffiti, stealing the car had seemed like a good idea at the time, but looking back, I couldn’t figure out why. After all, I had no plans to keep it or sell it, only to drive it around for a while. It seemed ridiculous to me now, sitting in court waiting for my turn, that I’d risked my freedom for a fifteen-minute joyride in a shiny, black BMW.
Of course, I’d never considered the fact that I might be caught either. I never did.
Which is why this was my third trip before the Honorable James Frederick. Three strikes and you’re out, I thought, watching another boy step up before the judge. He was the dark-haired kid in the blue suit, the one who had his own lawyer.
Grant Reginald William Vaughn was the kid’s name. No wonder he has his own lawyer, I thought. If he can afford four names, he can afford his own attorney. That’s just perfect. Rich boy will get probation, and I’ll probably get the chair.
A man I assumed was his father sat next to him and his lawyer. The pretty young girl on his other side must’ve been his sister or girlfriend. She looked like she could’ve been a model—skinny, perfect, and blonde.
Didn’t it figure?
Vaughn didn’t get probation, but he also wasn’t sent to juvie either. He was found guilty of breaking and entering, and sentenced to a year at the Stanton School for Boys, a place I’d never heard of before.
Still has to beat going to juvie, I thought. I can smell my own bacon sizzling already. The last time I was in here, the judge said if he saw me in his courtroom one more time, I was done for. I’ll be wearing a freaking orange jumpsuit by dinnertime.
I blinked, startled to hear my own name, even though I’d been sitting there, anticipating it. It was my turn at the bench. In an instant, I forgot all about Grant Reginald William Vaughn with his four names, blue suit, and fancy lawyer, and was consumed by fear for my own future. Would I be going home tonight with my dad or riding in the white county van to juvenile hall? My feet dragged as I stood up and followed my dad to the head of the room, standing next to the balding, bored, court-appointed attorney.
“According to my records, this is your third arrest, young man. What do you have to say for yourself?” From across the bench, the judge glared at me with his diamond-hard blue eyes. He no longer looked like somebody’s grandfather. He looked like a man who could chew up and spit out a kid like me without thinking twice about it.
“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again.” That sounded weak, even to me, but I actually meant it this time. Please God, get me out of this, and I swear I’ll never break the law again. I won’t even jaywalk. I’ll be a model citizen. I’ll obey traffic signals, and help little old ladies cross the street.
“Grand theft auto is a serious offense. You’re lucky you haven’t been charged as an adult. You’d be facing a possible sentence of up to ten years in the penitentiary. If it were in my power, I’d send you there anyway.”
I gulped, feeling a sharp stab of fear lace through me, icy cold. Penitentiary! That was serious business. I doubted I could survive juvie, never mind the pen. I felt the hot burn of tears at the back of my eyes. Don’t cry, don’t cry, I thought frantically, resisting the urge to swipe at my eyes and nose with my sleeve.
“However, you’ve been charged as a juvenile, and that limits my choices. I have several letters from your teachers attesting to your character, regardless of your lapse of common sense. Your grades are excellent, and despite your previous obsession with spray painting obscenities on school property, you’ve attended class regularly. Therefore, I’m sentencing you to one year at the Stanton School for Boys. It’s a private school outside of the city. You will report there at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning.”
He pointed his gavel at me, frowning. “Don’t think you’re getting off lightly, because you’re not. Stanton is barely one-step up from juvenile hall. The only difference is the uniform and the academic excellence. The school has been more than generous in contracting to take in boys who would otherwise end up in the penal system. I’m giving you one last chance. Screw up, find yourself standing in front of me again, and I assure you that your next address will be a cell in Havenwood Penitentiary.”
The judge banged the gavel again, sounding even more like thunder than before, but I actually felt relieved.
Stanton School for Boys. It was just another high school, sort of like a summer sleep-away camp, right? I could handle this.
How bad could it be?
I SPENT my last weekend of freedom incarcerated in my room, visited only by my dad and Alice. Not even my stepsisters, Alice’s daughters, Beth and Tiffany, bothered to give me grief. Neither of my parents seemed particularly eager to spend time with me, and the feeling was totally mutual. There was a cold, uncomfortable barrier between us now, a thick, high wall built of my mistakes.
My dad subjected me to a repeat of every lecture he’d ever given me over the years, from the You Have So Much Potential sermon, to his trademarked Thank God Your Poor Mother Isn’t Alive To See You Now, and the ever popular Where Did I Go Wrong? speeches. Alice stood nearby during all of them, wringing her hands and shaking or nodding her head in all the right places, like she was doing some sort of bizarre interpretive dance.
I didn’t respond to any of them. I knew better than that. If I mouthed off, all it would get me was more of the same, except louder and longer than before. It was easier to shut up and stay that way.
Monday came almost as a relief. My dad delivered me to the admissions office of the Stanton School for Boys at 7:00 a.m., signed his name on the dotted line and left me there with one last parting order.
“Don’t screw this up.”
As if I’d planned on launching into an act of vandalism as soon as he turned his back on me.
Really, I thought with some contempt. Did I look like that much of a moron? I planned to wait at least a week before defacing any school property or mooning the headmaster.
Actually, I had every intention of being the best-behaved student they’d ever had enrolled there. I would be seen but heard only when asked a question. I would answer my teachers respectfully. I would do all of my homework. I would not make trouble. I would be a ghost. I would emerge from the Stanton School for Boys at the end of a year’s time a changed man, with my diploma in my hand and my juvenile record sealed.
Yeah, and someday elephants would crap lollipops on the White House lawn.
For all my good intentions, it actually took me less than twenty-four hours to get into the worst trouble of my entire life.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After my dad left, I was called into the headmaster’s office. Headmaster Martin Meek was everything but what his name implied. He was huge, for one thing, a giant of a man nearly as big aroun
It’s a good thing I didn’t laugh, or even crack a smile, because it soon became apparent that Headmaster Meek was born without a sense of humor. His bushy black eyebrows met in a frown and stayed that way all through our interview.
I think it’s safe for me to say that the only thing bigger than Headmaster Meek’s waistline was his ego. It was a whopper.
The walls of Meek’s office were papered with framed photographs and newspaper articles about… well, Meek. There was Meek posing with the mayor, Meek cutting the ribbon at the opening of the new library, and Meek with his arms around a few students. There were articles with headlines like, “Martin Meek Helps Troubled Youth” and “Martin Meek Given Humanitarian Award” and “Martin Meek Receives Key to City.”
Meek, Meek, Meek.
I wondered how anyone could spend their days staring at photographs of themselves. Then Meek began to talk, and I thought I understood.
He was completely, unquestionably in love with himself. He probably blew kisses to the photographs when nobody was looking.
“When I was a boy, I was a paragon of virtue, a credit to my community. I was never in trouble with the law, never spoke out of turn, and always showed the utmost respect for my elders. Then again, my father was a strict disciplinarian who would tolerate no shenanigans from my brothers or me, and I learned self-control at his knee. When I became headmaster here at Stanton School for Boys, I was determined I would help poor, misguided youth—like yourself—to be productive members of society, by employing those same standards of discipline.”
If he were any more full of himself, he’d be inside out.
I shrugged mentally. He’s just one more snobby teacher convinced of his own importance, I thought. I can handle him. Piece of cake.
I realized I was wrong about him when he narrowed his eyes at me, leaned over the desk—as much as his hugely rounded stomach would allow, anyway, which wasn’t all that far—and hissed, “That’s what I tell your parents, and what I tell the newspapers, and the teachers, and the mayor. This is what I tell my students privately: you get one shot, Walsh. I get five thousand bucks from the state per head to take troubled kids in. That money is the school’s to keep regardless of whether you make it in here or not. Personally, I’d be just as happy to kick your butt out after the first day and get another five grand for taking in the next punk. So go ahead and do me a favor… screw up. It’ll just free up your bed for the next loser.”
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