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10/31/08 1:06:19 PM
Bo o ks by t his author
Comes a Horseman
Dreamhouse Kings Series
1 House of Dark Shadows
2 Watcher in the Woods
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Drea mH ouse
K i n gs
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© 2008 by Robert Liparulo
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or
other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission
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Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of
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Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either
products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity
to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gatekeepers / Robert Liparulo.
p. cm. — (Dreamhouse Kings ; bk. 3)
Summary: With their mother still missing after going through a Civil
War time portal in their spooky house, and their father in jail under a
false accusation, Xander, David, and their younger sister continue to
try to bring their mother back, now with the help of an old relative who
has turned up unexpectedly.
ISBN 978-1-59554-498-8 (hardcover)
[1. Time travel—Fiction. 2. Dwellings—Fiction. 3. Brothers and
sisters—Fiction. 4. Supernatural—Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
08 09 10 11 QW 6 5 4 3 2 1
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To m y d a u g h t e r M e l a n i e
You may have outgrown my lap,
but never my heart.
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D ! p o t s Read House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods before continuing! 00-01.Gatekeepers.indd 9 10/31/08 1:06:20 PM .
A S tory That C o u l d B e T ru e O.“Who are you really.Gatekeepers. —W i ll i a m S ha k e sp e a re . Ki n g Richa r d II 00-01.indd 10 10/31/08 1:06:20 PM . wanderer?” and the answer you have to give no matter how dark and cold the world around you is: “Maybe I’m a King. call back yesterday.” —W i ll i a m S ta ff o rd. bid time return.
6:58 p . he didn’t know. He reeled back.Gatekeepers. whether from the tears squeezing around them or the sand whipping through the room.indd 1 10/31/08 1:06:20 PM . Californi a Xander’s words struck David’s heart like a musket ball.OP chapter one Tu e s day. then grabbed the collar of his brother’s filthy Confederate coat. 1 00-01. He pulled his face to within inches of Xander’s. m . His eyes stung. Pi ne dale.
did they? Xander leaned back and sat on his heels. “I couldn’t get her. “Xander. you found Mom?” He looked over Xander’s shoulder to the portal door. He wore a gray hat (“It’s a kepi. Dae. The two boys knelt in the center of the antechamber. “Where is she? Why didn’t you bring her?” His heart was going crazy. like a ferret racing around inside his chest. pulling back what belonged to the Civil War world from which Xander had just stepped. which had slammed shut as soon as Xander stumbled through. leaped for the door. It whooshed in under the door. You gotta bring her back!” “Me?” A heavy weight pushed on David’s chest.Gatekeepers. The smell of smoke and gunpowder was so strong. . more frantic than ever.indd 2 10/31/08 1:06:20 PM . “I couldn’t . .” he said. smashing the ferret between sternum and spine. David could taste it. and his chest rose and fell as he tried to catch his breath. Wind billowed their hair.Robert Liparulo “You . He shook Xander. “Where’s Mom?” Xander lowered his head. whirled it through the air. you found her?” he said. You gotta go over. . The wind plucked a leaf from his hair. and tugged on the locked handle. then sucked it under the door. “Xander!” David said. He rose.” Dad would tell him) and 2 00-01. Twelve-year-olds didn’t have heart attacks. . His bottom lip trembled.
pushing me out of camp.” David didn’t know if he wanted to scream or cry or punch his brother. Xander had drawn it on a tent. They had discovered that it took wearing or holding three items from the antechamber to unlock the portal door. “She saw the message we left. too. “That’s not finding her! I thought I saw her. drawn on notes and birthday cards. When I broke away”—Xander’s face became hard—“they called me a deserter.” Xander pushed himself up and gripped David’s shoulders. I couldn’t get to her. but it was at the other end of the camp. she’s there!” “But . but they kept grabbing me.Gatekeepers. like Xander’s blue ones. . That quick. or something happens to her. “She wrote back!” Xander said. “I think I saw her going into a tent. “Xander.g ate kee p er s jacket.” Bob was the cartoon face and family mascot since Dad was a kid. “You gotta go! Now! Before she’s gone. When David and Xander had been in Ulysses S. the other day in the World War II world—” “Dae.” David’s mouth dropped open. They were rounding up all the soldiers and herding us toward the front line. It was their way of letting Mom know they were looking for her. “Why didn’t you go get her?” “Something was happening on the battlefield. I was a deserter.indd 3 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . She saw Bob. One of them shot at me! I barely got back to the portal. .” He shook his head. He needed one more.” 3 00-01. I tried to get to her. Grant’s Union camp the night before. or the portal changes. “David. listen. you said you found her!” Xander shook his head.
” Xander began taking off his blue jacket.” “They’ll do the same to me. He scanned the floor. no! David’s stomach hurt. and he rubbed the cast. “Where’s the rifle you took when you went over? The Harper’s Ferry musket?” His brother gazed at his empty hand.” David looked around the small room. “You’re just a kid. Only three years younger than you. They’ll see that.” “I’m twelve. “I know it was really scary before. I can’t. “Xander. His broken arm started to ache again. “Wear this one.Gatekeepers. They almost killed me yesterday. Xander buttoned it for him. He tossed it onto the bench and reluctantly slipped into the one Xander held.” Xander said. His brain was throbbing against his skull. .” David hated how whiney his words came out.” David shrugged out of the gray coat he was wearing.Robert Liparulo Yes . He said. Dae. He pulled the left side over his cast.” “That’s the difference between fighting and not. I was just trying to stay alive. I didn’t notice. but this time you’ll be on the right side.indd 4 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . “Come on. Xander. “The tent I saw her 4 00-01.” “Why can’t you? Just tell them—” “I’ll never make it. .” He held the jacket open. “I must have dropped it when I fell.” “That’s because you were a gray-coat. He said. “They’ll throw me in the stockade for deserting—if they don’t shoot me first.” He shook the jacket.
g ate kee p er s go into was near the back of the camp. Taksidian’s with them. “What?” His head pivoted toward the door opposite the portal.” He lifted the empty sleeve and let it flop down. He told me to come get you.” “I was just kidding. that I have fought. “Looks like you lost your arm in battle. “Clayton. around the corner. Then he turned to the bench and hooks. He closed his eyes. on the other side from where I drew Bob.” “Handcuffs!” “And one more thing.” David said.” He took the gray kepi off David’s head and replaced it with the blue one. and into the foyer.Gatekeepers. “Xander. Or like he expected the cops to burst through.” he said. as though he could see through it into the hallway beyond. 5 00-01. feeling as though the jacket had just gained twenty pounds. “Gimme that. listen.” “See? They’ll think I can fight.” Just thinking of the creepy guy who was responsible for his broken arm frightened David—but not as much as the thought of getting hauled away when they were so close to rescuing Mom. waggling his fingers at the canteen.” Xander froze in his reach for a canteen. down the stairs.indd 5 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . Xander snatched it off the hook and looped the strap over David’s head. He smiled. There are two cops downstairs.” David said. “You don’t know what’s been happening here. “What are they doing here?” “They’re trying to get us out of the house. looking for another item. “Where’s Dad?” “They put him in handcuffs.
“I guess if I die. The school year—seventh grade for David. “Where is he now?” “I pushed him back in.indd 6 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . “Don’t leave with me over there.” David’s expression remained grim. Lot of good it did.” He smiled weakly. “Anything else I should know?” David shook his head.” “Don’t get taken away. who was the new principal. but Dad. He returned to the school. I won’t have to go to school tomorrow. “I don’t know. “Dad would probably figure out a way to get your body there.Gatekeepers. then back at David. Don’t leave me alone in this house when I come back. “How long was I gone?” Xander said.” He opened one eye to see his brother’s shocked expression.” Xander glanced over his shoulder at the hallway door again. Mom had been kidnapped the day before that. “You’ll be fine.” Xander said. David thought.Robert Liparulo that kid who wanted to pound me at school? He came through the portal from the school locker to the linen closet. had insisted they keep up normal appearances so they wouldn’t attract suspicion. Don’t—” 6 00-01.” David told his brother. tenth for Xander—had started just yesterday: two days of classes.” “Great. but he might come back. thinking of the cops downstairs. David couldn’t believe they’d even gone to school under the circumstances.
no how. took a deep breath. “You’ll have Mom with you when you come back. “Yeah.” He turned. Right?” It was David’s turn to smile. Okay? Besides—” He smiled.Gatekeepers. and he found it wasn’t so hard to do. 7 00-01. but David saw how hard it was for him to do it. and opened the portal door. “I won’t leave.indd 7 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . but I won’t leave. “I’ll go see what’s happening downstairs.g ate kee p er s Xander held up his hand to stop him.” he said. No way.
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He rolled out of it and cracked his cast into a tree.Gatekeepers. It reminded him of his time on the battlefield. The odor of gunpowder wafted into his nostrils. “I am. “Go. 7:05 p .OP chapter two Tu e s day.indd 9 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM .” Xander said behind him. and fell into a bush. m . He 9 00-01. stumbled.” He stepped through. A warm breeze touched his face. and he felt sick again. David squinted against the bright daylight coming through the portal.
but it was gone. Now. Maybe Xander could have returned safely. Get moving. He said the items from the antechamber had tugged him toward the portal home. 10 00-01. Before the portal faded and broke apart like a defective DVD image. David told himself. and they knew the way. beyond which he knew a battle raged.Gatekeepers. David looked for the portal. It wasn’t the mad dash to the front line Xander had described.indd 10 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . in the five minutes since his brother had left. he caught a glimpse of Xander looking through it. They hadn’t thought of that. It was like they knew it wasn’t time to return. and canteen were exerting no unnatural pull. His hope for a deserted camp left him as he spotted more soldiers talking in clusters and others moving from one tent to another. The first time any of them had gone through a portal. the jacket. any sign of it. Dad had ended up rescuing Xander from a gladiator. David scrambled up to get his bearings and immediately saw the rows of tents across a narrow meadow. Gun and cannon fire rang out in the distance. kepi. however. Soldiers streamed toward the far hills. and he wondered if time here had skipped one direction or another. It was as though the items wanted to go home too. like a hiccup. but his feet wouldn’t obey. David and Xander had followed the same tugging to get out of the Civil War world the night before.Robert Liparulo pulled air through his clenched teeth.
The thought of her unglued his feet. Mom. He walked behind the big wedge-shaped structures. later. He turned in a circle. Four tents along. . he tried to remember which one Xander had written on. where are you? Which tent had Xander seen her enter? He remembered it was on the other side of the aisle. where he’d seen Mom.indd 11 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . Approaching the backs of the tents. but not what he had expected: the Harper’s Ferry rifle Xander had dropped. not now. Don’t get sick. Had it been two tents from the front or ten? He had no clue. He must be close to where Xander had drawn Bob and. He headed toward the rear of the camp. he saw it—and his heart leapt into his throat. hoping to spot something he recognized.g ate kee p er s Even this far away from the battle. ” I’m what? I’m safe? I’m hurt? I’m at this place or that? Mom. And he did. Could she still be there? It struck David that he could be in the camp before the events 11 00-01.Gatekeepers. Just as Xander had said. He lurched forward and out of the woods. but he didn’t see the cartoon face. David picked up the rifle and walked to the front of the tents. . words were scrawled in block letters beside the goofy face: Is that you? I’m here! I’m Mom! It had to be! Who else knew the face? Who else would write those words? But what else had she wanted to write? She had obviously been interrupted: “I’m . peering between them. not with Mom waiting. coming out in the camp’s center aisle. smoke drifted over him.
boy?” David backed away. David had learned that coffee was cherished in Civil War encampments. A soldier was pounding the butt of his rifle against a rock. he told himself.indd 12 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM .Robert Liparulo Xander had witnessed—time was that weird with the portals. 12 00-01. then thought of something. He’d check a few on this side. Another man sat on the ground. He wanted to call out for her. then cross to the other. He moved toward the next tent. He wanted to ask whether any of them had seen her. wouldn’t she stay close if she could? He returned to the tent bearing Bob’s face and threw back the flap. some in the bloodied. Two men sat on a log. once-white smocks of surgeons. she might not have even entered the tent yet. Only men—most of them in blue soldier uniforms. “What do you want. But did he really want to attract attention to himself ? He started for the tents across the aisle. I can do this: find Mom! He looked up the aisle one direction. a blackened metal pot beside him. A soldier sat at the edge of a cot. a rag over his face. letting the flap fall into place. this was how they ground the beans. cleaning their rifles. pulling on his boots. then down the other. The soldier with the boots looked up. Another lay on a different cot. Don’t start freaking out now. If she knew they were looking for her there.Gatekeepers. writing on a piece of paper on his thigh.
David couldn’t remember if he had limped the day before. Now you’re wearing blue and carrying a rifle.” The general shook his head. I—” “I know you. “Oh. He said.g ate kee p er s “Hey!” It was a man’s deep voice. no. “If I pull this pistol on you. I’ll use it. “You. rose.indd 13 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . you wore Confederate gray. the general expertly flipped up the cover of his gun holster with his thumb. and ran through the tent. Where’s the soldier who was escorting you to the stockades?” He meant Xander. He was limping now.” He turned and raised his hand to a passing soldier. boy. “Corporal!” David dropped to the ground and started to scramble under the edge of the tent. . They had pretended to be soldier and prisoner to get David off the front lines without getting shot. he . As he drew close. “Drop the rifle. “Last time I saw you. sir . . The gun hit the trampled earth with a thud.” David forced his fingers to open. boy.” Grant said. General Grant’s eyes narrowed. .” “But—” The word squeaked out of David’s tight throat. “We better not find him dead. . . He yanked his foot out of his sneaker. “Sir. “I . He laid his hand on the handle of his pistol and said.Gatekeepers. you don’t!” and felt the man grab his heel. son. boy!” David spun to see the bearded officer who had spoken to him yesterday—General Grant. jumping over cots and the men sleeping on them. . He 13 00-01. Now drop it. He heard General Grant say.
“Escaped Rebel!” David pictured the man pushing through the tent flaps. Behind him the general was yelling. a commotion arose from within the tent: the clamor of soldiers jumping to their feet. Behind him. calling out for someone to tell them what was going on. he plunged into the shadows of the trees.Robert Liparulo slid under the tent’s back wall as though he were sliding into home plate.Gatekeepers. “Out of my way!” David got his feet under him and ran for the trees. one shoe on and one shoe off. Though he had been expecting it. “Get down.indd 14 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . Now he was loping along. and the cloth wall snapped away. he got the feeling of déjà vu: hadn’t he run for his life through this very field before? Yeah. Instead. His feet did a little dance. gritting his teeth against the pain of his cast banging against his ribs. then rammed his shoulder 14 00-01. Up again in no time. He ducked. pistol in hand. the crack! of the weapon startled him. Kicking through the meadow’s tall grass. He was almost in the woods when the first shot rang out. last night! Only then Xander had been with him. He pushed deeper into the woods. men!” General Grant bellowed. He expected to hear a shot any second. His head snagged on the canvas wall. and he tumbled over himself. another rifle shot cracked. And he’d had both sneakers. going for their weapons.
David veered left. David thought. 15 00-01. the portal was close. “Get moving! Go!” Me too. . He pushed off the tree and ran. “There!” Someone fired. snapping branches. which was now applying a pressure like gravity on his body—only in a sideways direction. soldiers were gathering around General Grant. He rolled around to the tree’s far side and stopped. he hoped. It was lifting up on its strap. His breathing came in ragged gulps. The musket ball tore past him. But he still wore the blue jacket. The canteen strap rotated on his neck until it floated a few inches off his stomach. directly in front of him. I gotta get out of here. For a few steps he ignored the jacket’s pull and the canteen’s shift to his side. He craned his neck to peer past the tree. pointing in the same direction the tug indicated. Behind him a voice yelled. Then he turned back. The great man himself was pointing toward the woods. vibrating slightly. It swung to his other side. It acted like a compass needle. If the strength of the tug was any indication.Gatekeepers. He raised his hand to his head and confirmed what he expected: he’d also lost his kepi. not downward. . ripping through leaves. pushing at the soldiers and saying. guiding him toward the portal . In the field behind the tents. He noticed the canteen. David hadn’t bothered to grab the rifle when he’d bolted away from General Grant.indd 15 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . farther than the canteen’s bearing.g ate kee p er s into the trunk of a big oak.
tugging at him to reverse. He stumbled back and tumbled into the bushes. he had passed the portal. trying to understand. slid up and over his shoulder. He skidded to a stop. taking aim. Bark exploded from a nearby tree.Gatekeepers. 16 00-01. The jacket urged him to plunge into a thicket of heavy bushes.indd 16 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . following the tug of antechamber items.Robert Liparulo He zigzagged this way. Another shot rang out. The rifle cracked. Nobody had grabbed him. He stopped. The canteen hit his chest. turned. A hand grabbed the back of his jacket. The canteen shifted sideways. and ran the other way. The corner of his eye caught movement toward the encampment. but trying to be a difficult target. He turned to see a soldier twenty yards away. Its strap tightened around the front of his neck. he realized—it was the coat. He yelled and threw his weight into his forward motion.
Not easy with only one good arm and the weight of the cast on the other one. He fell back again. he scrambled to stand.indd 17 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . David hit the ground hard. He tried pulling it back in.OP chapter three The musket ball sailed right over him. Gotta move! Get up! Go! Gasping for breath. The air whooshed out of his lungs.Gatekeepers. but it wouldn’t come. flat on his back in a tangle of twigs and leaves. His head smacked the ground—a 17 00-01.
and leaves piled up behind them. resting his face against the wood planks. feeling his broken arm throb between his chest and the floor. The twigs cracked and splintered.Robert Liparulo rock. He put most of his weight onto the right side of his body. The room was empty. Foliage fell off him. He pulled his legs up quickly. wheezing out the word. it was so hard. He watched them zip into the crack under the door. Something struck his leg. closing.indd 18 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . His eyes simply 18 00-01. dragging his legs with it. He lowered himself back down. Wind hissed into the room. He was home. The largest twigs got stuck. He didn’t expect it to open. causing the twigs and leaves to flutter. all of it heading back where it had come from—heading back to when it had come from. David stood and stared at the portal door. then fly into the air. He closed his eyes and breathed. He rolled over and pushed himself up on one arm. As they did. a hard kick to it. along with the leaves. The antechamber.Gatekeepers. “Xander?” But it was the door. and the door slammed. they disappeared. “Xander?” he said again. He realized the light around him was not from the sun. He remembered the baseball bat that had broken in two between the door edge and the frame when Mom had been taken. His eyes focused on a lamp mounted to a ceiling. He didn’t expect anything.
Gatekeepers. had fared better at getting rid of the cops than he had at rescuing Mom. allowing the jacket to slide off.” “Then call them down.” a voice said. He pulled the canteen’s strap over his head and set it on the bench. . “you can’t search my house.indd 19 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . “I told you. “We’ll take them with us. as if awaking from a deep sleep. wait . It will leave them alone.” 19 00-01. Slowly. trying to come into my house without my permission or the authority to do so. sir. his emotions should have been raging. He dropped his shoulder. But when he emerged from the secret doorway on the second floor. Voices drifted up from the foyer. Having brushed that close to death. You can’t take me. wait. He was thankful for the break. and slipped his good arm out of the sleeve. It was as though his mind had said Enough already! and flipped a switch. not enforcing them.” another voice said. his nine-year-old sister. he began to move again. Wait.g ate kee p er s needed a place to rest while he came out of a mild daze.” “We’re not evicting you. Dad. “We’re taking you in for assaulting a police officer. . peering around the corner toward the grand staircase.” “Assault? I didn’t touch you until you bumped into my hand. Your warrant or whatever this is limits you to serving eviction papers.” Dad was saying. he found Xander and Toria hiding in the short hall. He hoped Xander. Instead. my kids are in the house. and Toria. he felt numb. He opened the door and walked into the hallway.
Gatekeepers. the brave one. . But. “Now shhh. . like you did. something about the house being unfit to live in. stay where you are!” Dad called. I didn’t even get to the tent you told me about.” Then he looked past David.” He gripped his brother’s arm.” “I agree. Xander scowled at him. Dad read the court papers. David thought. Xander’s sadness showed in his eyes. the emotional numbness had been only temporary. he thought. “Shhh.” Xander said.” “So why don’t they just go away.indd 20 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM . Xander held up his hand and gave David a quiet.” David shook his head. “They’ve been going at it like that for a while. It dried his mouth and wetted his eyes. just serve the papers. hope and worry on his face.” David said. “Who are you talking about? Mom? What message?” “I’ll tell you later. “I saw the message she left. “Tell me you found her. It was like getting punched in the arm so hard you couldn’t feel it for a while. then?” 20 00-01. I had to run. So. Toria whispered. “Where is she?” he whispered. “General Grant recognized me. but he nodded and smiled. Trying to be the big brother. Dae.Robert Liparulo “Kids.” Love for his mother and disappointment at not finding her welled up from his chest. “They weren’t supposed to get us out of the house. Xander .” He looked at David and nodded his head toward the voices.
There was a lot of banging going on down there. and that really ticked them off. Now they want to take him to jail. take Mr. Her hand clasped David’s. His heels would be striking the floor. “Why don’t I go get them for you?” Toria took a step back.” he said. Xander started around the corner. at Taksidian. “We’re handling this.” 21 00-01.” Why would Taksidian be pleading their case? But that wasn’t what the man had in mind.” Taksidian’s deep voice rolled like thunder up the stairs. “Mr. then got a grip on his waistband. Jerked to a stop. King is correct. Bill. “You’ll just make it worse. getting pulled backward out the door while he kicked out at the cops.Gatekeepers.” Dad said loudly.” “They’re taking Dad. He was what Mom would have called fightin’ mad. King out to the car. “He can’t—” “Sir!” a cop said. David shook his head. “Hey. David imagined his dad. His fingers brushed his brother’s shirt. Xander snapped his head around. “Officers. The next thing he said was. You can’t take him and leave the children here alone. David pulled his hand out of Toria’s and reached for him.g ate kee p er s “Dad asked how much Taksidian paid them to get us out of the house. hands cuffed behind him.” “No! You can’t do this!” Dad yelled. hitting the door frame.indd 21 10/31/08 1:06:21 PM .
“But you heard him. He wants us to stay here. They’ll just
take you too. Then where will we be?”
Xander looked from David to Toria. Something in her
expression softened his. He flipped a stray strand of hair off
her face with his finger and said, “It’ll be okay, Toria. Don’t
She lowered her head. “First Mom, now Dad.”
Below, Taksidian said, “Just give me five minutes.”
“Can’t let you do that, Mr. Taksidian,” the remaining cop
said. “It’s not your house, sir.”
David expected the man to say Not yet . . . but what he did
say was worse.
“But, Officer Benson,” Taksidian said, “there’s no place
they can hide where I can’t find them.”
Xander looked over his shoulder at David, his eyes wide.
Outside, Dad was still yelling. David heard their names,
but the words were being snatched away by the breeze and
the trees and the distance as the cop pulled their father away
from the house.
Taksidian wasn’t finished. He said, “In the interest of the
children’s welfare, officer, I can make it worth your while.”
“Step outside, sir,” Officer Benson said.
David thought the cop sounded angry. Maybe after Dad’s
accusation of the cops taking money to help Taksidian, this
new attempt at a bribe had—finally—grated on the cop’s
sense of duty.
10/31/08 1:06:21 PM
g ate kee p er s
Slow footsteps echoed downstairs, moving from the foyer to
the hollow-sounding planks of the front porch.
“Alexander King, David King, Victoria King,” the cop hollered, obviously reading their names. “Last chance to come
now.” He waited. “We’ll return with a court order to remove
you by force, if necessary. It’s for your own safety.”
Silence. Then: “We’ll send a car back to wait outside tonight.
If you change your minds, go out to the officers. They’ll take
care of you.”
His footsteps took him to the porch. The door closed.
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Tu e s day, 7:3 3 p.m.
“Now what?” David said.
Above them, something creaked. Their eyes lifted to the
“I’m scared,” Toria said.
“Just the house settling,” Xander said.
His eyes found David’s: Xander didn’t believe it, and neither did David.
“What if they do come back to take us out by force?”
10/31/08 1:06:22 PM
David said. “They might board the house up or change the
“I think that’ll take some time.” Xander licked his lips.
“Probably easier now that they arrested Dad. But they can’t
do anything tonight, no way. I’m more worried about—”
He stopped, his eyes dropping to Toria.
“What?” she said. “What are you more worried about?”
“Nothing.” He peered around the corner, then walked into
the second floor’s main hallway and to the top of the stairs.
Toria and David followed him. The foyer was empty, the
door was closed.
David thought about how wind always blew into the
antechamber after they’d returned from one of the worlds. It
pulled everything that belonged to that world back through
the door. Something like that had just happened in the foyer.
The cops and Taksidian had blown in and taken Dad. But
Dad belonged here. It wasn’t right that they could just take
him. The house felt emptier without him—not just one
person emptier, but like it had been abandoned for centuries, an ancient tomb.
David felt Toria’s hand grab his again. He saw that she
also clasped Xander’s hand. She looked up at him. “Can you
guys sleep in my room tonight? Please?”
Xander said, “Good idea. David, let’s go get our stuff.
Toria, go clear your floor to make room for us.”
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g ate kee p er s
They walked hand in hand to Toria’s door and released her
into her room. Then the boys approached the chair that David
had jammed under the linen closet door handle to keep Clayton
from coming back through. It was a solid piece of furniture,
with spindles that rose from the rear of the seat and ended in
a heavy top rail.
David leaned his ear to the door. “I don’t hear anything,” he
“How long ago did you send him back?”
“Right before I ran to find you,” David said.
“So, what, a half hour?” Xander said. “If he was going to
come back tonight, he’d have done it already. He must have gone
back to the locker and left. Maybe he’ll wake up tomorrow
thinking it was a dream.”
“Fat chance.” David reached for the chair, but Xander
His brother glanced back toward Toria’s room, then gestured
for David to follow him into their room. As soon as they were
both inside, he said, “You didn’t see Mom?”
David shook his head. “They shot at me again. Xander, they
almost got me this time.”
“Like they didn’t before?”
“How are we supposed to get her, when they keep trying to
“We gotta find a way. Maybe we’re missing something.” He
moved to his bed and gathered up his pillow and blanket.
10/31/08 1:06:22 PM
“Xan—” Dad’s voice said. “Here. “Does Dad have his cell?” “Usually does.Gatekeepers. It made him look like a little kid. “That guy’s not done with us. what you said before. picking it up. ?” Xander turned. “I don’t know. and he didn’t like that being scared was becoming a normal feeling for him. stay there! Don’t—” 28 00-01.” he said. . Xander.” David flipped the phone open and thumbed a speed-dial number. Is this Alexander?” In the background Dad yelled.” he said. He picked up his pillow and.indd 28 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . “Thanks. then another voice said. When were they going to get a break? He was exhausted.Robert Liparulo David went to his bed. At the door. “But I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep. David spotted Xander’s mobile phone on the dresser. “Hey.” He walked into the hall. the bedding pressed to his chest with his arms. Thumps and scratching noises came through to David’s ear.” Xander said. He listened to the rings on the other end and walked closer to Xander.” Xander said. with one gimp arm. “This is Officer Benson. “Taksidian. “Xander.” “You mean tonight?” David closed his eyes. . about something worrying you more than the cops coming back . struggled to get the blanket as well. He tugged off the blanket.
how would you get back?” “Taksidian did. “That’s not okay. if we have to. “They would have taken it anyway.” Xander said. before we have to.” David said.Gatekeepers.” Xander shrugged.” David said.” Xander said.g ate kee p er s David flipped the phone closed. at the station. Must be a way. without the locker door opening and closing. He pushed the phone into his back pocket.” He didn’t even want to say it. in case Dad called. He said. and you went through. “I should go through.” “We gotta know we can use it. “If I don’t come back in twenty minutes or so.” 29 00-01. come get me.” “What do you think he did.” “That kid knows about the portal. “I can try to figure it out. He eased the chair away from the linen closet and opened the door enough to peer in.” He turned away.” David reminded him. “I think the cop just took the phone from Dad. then went back. “Oops. . “It may be our only way out. “If Taksidian comes back. So much for that. lock it? If he did. “Wait. .” “You don’t know it. You know.indd 29 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM .” David said.” Xander scrunched his face. He wanted it close. “Go through?” “No. “He was in the locker.” he said. if . I don’t know. come to the school and get me out.” “Why?” “Make sure everything’s okay.
He cracked his head on the back metal. softness under it. feeling the spit slide down his tightened throat. he’d . . He elbowed his cast into the side wall and shoved his good arm forward. The floor flexed. David swallowed. His hand touched cloth.” Xander said. If it got any smaller.” he said. himself materializing in the flames and unable to get out. Something had happened to the locker. He stepped in and pulled the door closed behind him. A scream reached his ears. “All right. It was crushed. That scream again—human—followed by sobs. What if Clayton had done something to the locker. Someone sniffed. The front wall pushed in on him. only enough room to stand in front of them.indd 30 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . not him. He frowned at the interior: shelves of towels and sheets. In the darkness. . dropping the bedding on the floor. “If you don’t want to . he’d implode. “Just there and back. Make sure there’s nothing weird. . Metal popped. Had he done that? No . . the walls closed in.Gatekeepers. . Maybe the screech of metal. a wretched weeping. 30 00-01. somehow smaller. buckling under his weight.Robert Liparulo Xander eyed the door up and down as though sizing up an opponent.” David opened the door further. something more than locking it? He pictured a fire in it. just be crushed with the locker. .
I can’t!” Clayton said. . He remembered what his brother had said when he suggested to Xander that they both go through the locker-linen closet portal at the same time: “In The Fly. He wiped it away on his pants. like a grave. And . David raised his hand. “I can’t get out. . two life forms ended up all mixed together. but separate and whole. “D-D-David?” Fear and panic were in his voice. True. . neck.” What if he and Clayton had melded together? Oh. No extra parts. man! But that hadn’t happened. . “Clayton. David had another thought: he had teleported to a place where another person already was. what are you doing in here?” “You . .” Could he really not find the little tab on the latch assembly that released the door catch? The kid must have been pretty shaken up. face. still? Why didn’t you leave?” “I . 31 00-01. He hoped. . zipping into David’s house and back again to the locker. more sniffing. He patted his chest. “Clayton?” A gasp. Nothing missing. He found a face.indd 31 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . Gross. . I thought I heard .Gatekeepers. but that much? Maybe Clayton thought David had sent him someplace else. wet and gooey. you put me here!” “I mean. He said.g ate kee p er s David whispered. noises. it was disorienting. . They’d wound up in the same tight place.
“When I was after you. I came back to check it out. Then I heard your freak brother calling for you. Hey. . for this witchcraft .Robert Liparulo Clayton said. how did you know to get in the locker anyway?” Clayton sniffed.” David said as menacingly as he could.Gatekeepers.” “No. Turning left led to the middle school classrooms. . really.” “You can’t ever tell anyone. Even the janitor would be gone at this hour—otherwise he would have heard Clayton. Not about this locker.” “I can put you back anytime I want to. On the right would be the cafeteria’s doors. calm down.indd 32 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . got him out. you were gone. “See ya. I thought I saw the door close.” David thought about their location: a locker in a short hallway off the main one.” “Okay. you hear?” “Are you kidding? You are so busted. He said. wait! Wait! Get me out of here. I was just kidding. “What kind of tricks are you pulling on me! What’s happening?” “Clayton. “I’ll get you out of here. and their secret would be blown. not . thought I had you.” David said. . 32 00-01. “You understand?” Clayton started crying again. ever to tell anyone what happened. I’m going to make sure your—your coven fries for this. But when I looked. . but you have to promise never.
Clayton spilled out onto the tile floor of the school hallway. “What are you doing? What’s that?” The flash was blinding in the darkness. found the catch.g ate kee p er s David felt sorry for him.” He reached out. and pulled it shut. snot-face. Tears and snot covered Clayton’s terrified face. “Stay quiet and these pictures never make it to the Internet. standing in the locker. And remember.” Clayton said. He turned it for the bully to see. I can put you back in here. He flashed a stunned expression at David. grabbed the edge of the locker door. He pushed his arm between Clayton and the locker wall. He reached behind him. He thought of something else. He said.indd 33 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . 33 00-01. just in case the scare tactic didn’t work. David snapped another picture. David looked at the picture on Xander’s cell phone. A little. and opened the door.Gatekeepers. “Hey. then hit save and shifted the phone to his bad hand.
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David cut away a chunk and forked it into his mouth. Xander. It still felt like bloated worms on his tongue. staring down at plates of soggy spaghetti. The meat sauce didn’t help.m. “I gotta go. ”Don’t do it. He pushed aside his plate and picked up Dad’s keys. The kids stood around the island in the kitchen.indd 35 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM .Gatekeepers.” Xander said.OP chapter five Tu e s day. 8 :23 p. Spaghetti sauce 35 00-01.” Toria pleaded.
” Xander said. “It’s a jail. “You only have a permit.” “David. If they bust me.” David said.” David said. Xander stopped. “Driving without a parent in the car is the least of our worries. “I need to talk to Dad. Someone needs to stay to keep people out. 36 00-01. at least you guys will be here. “I just want to talk to him.” Xander rolled his eyes. Xander shook his head. as though she had tried to put on lipstick while bouncing on a bed. “Take us with you. “We need to know what’s going on.” “You can’t take the car.” David reminded him. I know!” Xander said. swallowing hard. His shoulders slumped.” Toria said. “We already talked about this. run out the front door.” “Will you get Dad out?” Toria said.Gatekeepers.” “That cop said they were sending a car over. His stomach threatened to send the food back up—he didn’t know if it was the nasty pasta or the thought of being alone with Toria in the house.Robert Liparulo coated her lips and face. He put his hand on his sister’s head.” “You probably won’t even get that close. “Look. David and Toria rushed around the island to join him.indd 36 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM .” He picked up his coat and tugged it on. “That’s why I can’t wait around. If anything makes a noise upstairs. just stay down here.” Xander headed for the door.
” He tried to think of something else. “No one’s here yet. David remembered the first day they’d found the house. he would drop over dead. David pushed it shut and bolted it. They watched through the window as Xander reached the 4Runner. . He was sure. They turned in the foyer and gazed up to the second floor. and then her footsteps had seemed to clomp on for a lot longer than they should have. Listen for me knocking on the back door.” He looked out the window beside the door. “Let’s .Gatekeepers. When I come back. .g ate kee p er s “I have to try. Toria had gone missing.” Toria said.” “There’s a lotta s’ghetti. . 37 00-01. sure he would see shadows moving on the second floor if he looked. David focusing on the lighted room ahead of them. “Let’s see what else we got in the kitchen. uh . climbed in. but it was nothing Xander didn’t already know. “Great. He thought about saying If you come back at all. Toria gripped his hand. .indd 37 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . Xander opened the door and slipped out. I’ll park up the road and cut through the trees. okay?” David nodded.” They walked hand in hand toward the kitchen. and drove off. If he heard footsteps now.
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m . “That’s not what we agreed.Gatekeepers.” Taksidian told the man standing in front of him.” He rubbed his sharp nails over the scar on the back of his hand. That’s what I wanted. “All of them out of the house. They stood in the parking lot of the cabinsized building that acted as Pinedale’s sheriff ’s office and jail.OP chapter six Tu e s day.indd 39 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . 8 :30 p . It was all he could do to keep from wringing the man’s neck. Sheriff Bartlett pushed his fingers up under his hat to 39 00-01.
sir.Gatekeepers. especially considering the father’s position at the school. “That takes days.indd 40 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . No complaints. is a favor that went awry.” An image of their freshly covered graves flashed in his head. no—” “Sheriff Bartlett. then from the house itself. “I’m interested only in the children’s safety. But. He said. from the condition of the house. “I’m sure once they are out of the house and the proper authorities have an opportunity to investigate. “What we got here.” 40 00-01. You spoke to the mayor. If not from the parents. of course. and he resisted smiling. The man has an impeccable record. “They did a thorough background check before he was hired. “It’s not fit to live in.” Taksidian said.” “The house?” the sheriff said.” Taksidian said with a heavy sigh.Robert Liparulo scratch his head. kinky hair from his face: he knew his gaunt features. and he wanted the the man to get a clear view of them. thin lips and unflinching eyes were intimidating. we got procedures. He brushed his long. Taksidian. a puzzled look crossing his face. “I mean. those aren’t the proper channels.” Taksidian said. If those kids were really in danger. The light from a streetlamp cast itself on the man’s displeased features. who suggested we take immediate action to remove that family from the house.” The sheriff nodded. they will find evidence of child endangerment. There’s a child services office over in—” “I know. even weeks. Mr.
He said. . . . . But those kids didn’t want to come. Keeping his finger up. he gave me your number. .g ate kee p er s “Look. The only reason we got the father in there”—he hitched a thumb at the jail—“is he accosted one of my deputies. That’s a line I won’t cross. sir. with the possibility that you’re right about the dangers and all. Taksidian?” “What do you want?” “A friend of mine . the house. not without a warrant. “Listen. the family—same thing.indd 41 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . I don’t blame him.” Taksidian pointed a gnarled finger at the man’s face. “Uh . and physically removing them—Well. He spoke quietly into the phone. I can’t hold him. that’s a whole ’nother matter. the mayor—” A phone chirped. sir. . from school . “I was asking about the family who lives there. . he removed a mobile phone from his pocket and flicked it open. Taksidian tightened his lips and gave the sheriff his most piercing glare. you 41 00-01. puffing out his chest. And quite frankly. “What?” A child’s voice said. no way. The haunted one?” Taksidian turned from the sheriff and stepped away.” “Well.Gatekeepers. “I was willing to accommodate a request from the mayor. He said you were asking about that old house outside of town. is this Mr. since it didn’t seem like such a big deal . .” the sheriff said. You stopped him and his friends on their way home. I thought . . . Unless you can get child services down here fast.
“Sheriff ?” When the man turned to him.Gatekeepers. “He said you offered . .Robert Liparulo know?” said the boy on the other end. He said. “Hold on. “I know how you can get inside. “You catch my drift?” Taksidian glared at him. He was walking back to the jailhouse. “Keep that man locked up. uh. then turned his back on the man. I don’t want anything to happen to those kids. the sheriff ’s footsteps crunched over gravel.indd 42 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . secretly.” Taksidian said and lowered the phone. I got my deputies heading over to the house right now. “Mr.” Sheriff Bartlett squinted at him. Taksidian. he said. . “What do you know?” The boy said. money for information?” Behind him. I mean. Into the phone.” 42 00-01.” He paused. he said.
Who knew how long these yokels were going to keep him locked up? Not for the first time.m. 8 :55 p. left overnight in that house alone. His head was lowered into his hands. He desperately wanted to be in their Pasadena house. Overnight? he thought. All he could think about were his kids. Ed King sat on the metal cot in the jail cell. he wished he could take it all back.OP chapter seven Tu e s day.indd 43 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . 43 00-01. his wife and children safe under the roof that had kept the world at bay for years.Gatekeepers.
He had to do something. that they had to lie. He had convinced himself that they would have never agreed to moving into the old Victorian—or even to coming to Pinedale—if they had known how dangerous it was. What a fool he was. a need—he had since he was seven years old. but when he had started lying. . he’d pulled his whole family into his deceit. What a mess he’d made. He had lied to get them there. He’d lied. He squeezed his eyes closed and tugged at his hair.Gatekeepers. the dangers. 44 00-01. Now. That’s when the trouble had started—not when his wife had been kidnapped. wrapping up the sale of their home. So he’d pretended to know nothing about the house. coming up here to find her? Bringing his family! He hadn’t even told them about the house. to live with integrity. tap .indd 44 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . Everything was spiraling out of control.Robert Liparulo His mother had been gone thirty years. saying she was in Pasadena. . What had he been thinking. And for what? So he could pursue the crazy dream of finding his mother. make everything right again. He had to get them back on track. . a dream—no. Then he had told them to lie. He had the kids lying about where their mother was. He slid his fingers onto his head and clutched two fistfuls of hair. But what— Tap . He had taught them to be honest. .
in the office! Hey!” He kept yelling until the office door opened and a deputy stepped in. There were four cells. The knocks took on a pattern. a door with a small window led to the sheriff ’s offices. . He noticed a wedge of wood on the floor by the door. two on either side of a short hallway. tap . “No calls. . tap . tap. the boy would play it over and over—in his room. tap. “Hey!” he yelled. tap. out there. so—” 45 00-01. “I told you. No one stood there. The tapping stopped. He assumed it was used to prop it open when the cells became stuffy. It was the theme from The Last of the Mohicans. “Xander?” he whispered. . . expecting to see a deputy at the bars. a rhythm he recognized. tap. “You. then shot a glance to the office door. Not till the sheriff says so. to his left. tap. Tap . and he just went home. The tapping continued. in the car—until the whole family felt as though it was their theme. Xander’s favorite movie soundtrack. the soundtrack to their lives. and he realized someone was softly rapping on the metal fire door at the other end of the hall. Every now and then. knowing Xander would hear and hoping he’d hide.Gatekeepers. Tap.indd 45 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM .g ate kee p er s He looked around. The tapping came again. He smiled. To his right. He stood and walked to the bars.” the man said. . .
” “Don’t bother. but didn’t open. “How did you know it was safe to knock?” Xander tiptoed up to the bars. King said. pushed the bar that opened it. tugging at his shirt collar. “Sorry.” the deputy said. “Where are David and Toria?” “At the house. That way the deputies don’t have to hear the prisoners grumbling or snoring or whatever.” he said. as though it were obvious. He went to the fire door. “All clear?” he whispered. I know. “I’m burning up.” And it was true. King waved him in. “You’re hot.” 46 00-01. “Movies.” Mr. King said.Gatekeepers. It rattled. Xander’s face appeared in the opening.” he said. But the deputy said. “Feels okay to me.” The deputy went into the office and shut the door. in a room of their own. Mr. “I’m sweating like a fat guy chasing a runaway M&M. A few seconds later. and kicked the wedge in place. “I’ll yell when I do. I’m just telling you—” “I know.” “You want to feel my pits?” he said.” He grabbed the cell door and yanked. He wiped off his forehead and held up his glistening palm. “Now you’re going to get cold.” “You were lucky.” He eyed the guy’s protruding belly.indd 46 10/31/08 1:06:22 PM . “The jail cells are always in the back.Robert Liparulo “Could you turn down the heat?” Mr.
” Xander said.” Xander said. I found her!” “You what? Is she—?” 47 00-01. and. . It’s all Taksidian. you’re right. .” “But you didn’t!” “Shhh.Gatekeepers. by the door. I’m sorry about .” Mr. He said. We can’t leave that house until we get Mom . “I overheard them talking. “No. . “Dad. “Can you believe this?” “What are we going to do? Can they just arrest you like that? How long—?” “It’s all garbage. . or until he could bribe the right people into issuing a real eviction notice or charge me with child endangerment .g ate kee p er s “Xander . . King looked into his son’s eyes. “We’re in this together now.” Mr. . . then they said I assaulted one of them.indd 47 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . First they said we were being evicted. He got to the mayor. And you did bring us there.” Xander shrugged. all of this. or do something to the house that would force us to leave . . King nodded. Dad. and they know that. I think Taksidian just wanted us out for a while so he could plant some evidence in the house . I’m kidding. I know that. They can’t hold me long.” “I’ll get right back. . .” Mr. King said. . What are you smiling about?” “Child endangerment. .” Mr. King dropped his head. “I told them to stay downstairs. “I think that house fits the bill.
. Right now all he could feel was relief . Mom had left a message. Give your brother and sister a hug for me. King’s mind. what . She was there!” He frowned. “We couldn’t get to her.” “Be strong and courageous. .” Mr. He smiled.Robert Liparulo It was Xander’s turn to lower his head. He extended his hand through the bars. sort of. I drew Bob on one of the tents.indd 48 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . then let go. and she knows we’re looking for her.Gatekeepers.” “But . before the guy out there comes to check on me. He’d prayed his children would be exactly that since they were small. . but we know where she is. He said. “You’re doing it. But that was something they could address another time. okay?” Xander stepped to the fire door. but. 48 00-01. Xander squeezed it tightly. “You better leave. . “Xander. King said. but. . I know we weren’t supposed to. Dad. son.” he said. “So. He said.” Xander nodded.” His wife’s face filled Mr. hold down the fort till you get home?” “You got it. “Well.” He gave Xander’s hand a firm clasp. and gratitude. looking so much like her. . When we checked again. what now? You’re locked up in here. “As you have been. He looked toward the office door. He blinked and saw his son. . He knew he should be angry that Xander and David had broken their promise never to sneak through a portal again. I don’t know what to do. They’re trying to take the house. David and I went into this Civil War world . .
Dad. “Ti amo. “Ti amo. King. picked up from the owners of the restaurant where he had proposed to the future Mrs. It meant I love you in Italian.indd 49 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .” It was something they said. 49 00-01.g ate kee p er s “Son?” Halfway through the door.” Xander said. Xander looked back.Gatekeepers. and disappeared.
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only shadows from the trees.indd 51 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .OP chapter eight Tu e s day.Gatekeepers. 9:37 p . He looked through the laundry room to the back door. 51 00-01. He pulled back in. David heard the knock. He wondered if he’d imagined the noise—wanting Xander back so much—or if it had come from somewhere else in the house. in the center of which was a decoratively cut window. m . Toria stared at him with monster eyes. He didn’t see anyone standing there.
but we didn’t answer.” he whispered.” “They showed up right after you left. you didn’t. I didn’t hear any footsteps. “The house was making some noises. 52 00-01.Robert Liparulo “No one’s there. “I came through the woods.” his brother said. “You saw him?” David said. Dad said it won’t stick. David’s heart pounded harder. “No.” “I did!” Toria said. He leaned down to Toria.” David hesitated. “Didn’t you hear—?” The knock again. Taksidian set it up.” “All right. This time a silhouette filled the window. “No problems?” Xander said.” “Did too. “They knocked. until he recognized the shape of Xander’s shaggy hair. “This is from Dad. David shrugged. guys. “What took you so long?” David said. “I told Dad I’d give you one too.” They stepped into the kitchen. He stepped into his brother’s arms.” “Creaking!” Toria said. opening the door. “There’s a cop car out front. “He said it’s all garbage.indd 52 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .” Xander said. then smiled.” He hugged her.” Xander looked at David and rolled his head. David shook his head. a gentle rap-rap-rap.Gatekeepers.
. “Hey nothing. tight.” When his brother didn’t let up. “Not . That’s what he said. “Hey!” Xander hopped away. .” David grunted under the crushing pressure.g ate kee p er s “Xan-der.Gatekeepers. “So that’s what we’re going to do.” David rubbed his arm. . what are we supposed to do?” “Hold down the fort.” 53 00-01. so .indd 53 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .” “Big baby. you know.” Xander looked from his brother to his sister. . “So. he brought his foot down on Xander’s toes. I got a broken arm.
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Deputy Sam Parsell gazed through the windshield at the house.indd 55 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . He grimaced at its taste. It was barely visible through the trees. 1 2:25 a . Sitting in the passenger seat of the police cruiser.OP chapter nine We dne s day.Gatekeepers. seeming to become nothing but shadow itself. m . 55 00-01. “Creepy.” he said. He snatched a Styrofoam coffee cup off the dash and took a sip. Its lack of color allowed it to blend into the shadows. something like cold motor oil.
and look. man.” 56 00-01. “Listen to this.’ Kalanta described the creature as having six or eight legs.” He held a magazine closer to the dome light and read: “Authorities in West Virginia are investigating reports of unidentified lights in the sky. “That’s where the dog used to be. His mouth seemed as wide as the monster’s he had just described. which correspond with the claims of a Braxton County woman that a ‘monster’ attacked her German shepherd and ate it.” He said it the way another person might have cited the New York Times. “No.indd 56 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . ‘It was horrible. you can kind of see where the tree branches are broken. his eyes were big and startled. Flipping through it to find his page. sat behind the wheel. He said.” Lance picked up the magazine.’ said Nanci Kalanta. This thing ran out of the woods and gobbled him up. “Holy cow. I can’t.Robert Liparulo His partner. Stop reading that trash. a spiderlike body.” Lance said. They got interviews and pictures and everything. “Can you believe it?” Sam slapped the magazine out of his partner’s hand. and a bulbous head with tiny eyes and a mouth ‘the size of a storm drain. just like that. “This ain’t no gossip rag. “It’s real. He pointed at an image of a backyard cluttered with trash. ‘I went out to see what Killer was barking at.” Lance said. Deputy Lance Harnett.’ ” Lance pulled the magazine down and gasped at Sam.Gatekeepers. It’s the Midnight Sun. One bite. he said.” “Pictures of the monster?” “Look.
57 00-01.’ ” He threw the magazine at his partner.” Sam opened his door. the surrounding woods. Sam. “Ain’t right.” “Hey. “No. “This here is science. I’m not afraid of ghosts. I’d be afraid of rafters falling on me in the middle of the night.” He shook the magazine. I don’t. then?” Sam said. Wouldn’t catch me living in a place like that.indd 57 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . I know.” Lance turned a big grin on him. either. mentally kicking himself for opening that door.” He looked out at the house. right into the fanged mouth of what might have been an orc from the Lord of the Rings movies.” “You’re right. “Evidence! Eyewitness—” Sam threw his hands up.Gatekeepers.” Lance rolled up the magazine and pointed it at Sam. them kids are alone in there. It’s called cryptozoology.” Lance’s big eyes took in the house. He jabbed a finger into the cover. “What does that headline say? ‘Alien Baby Celebrates Third Birthday.” “What are they studying. “I know. He said quietly. it’s their choice. “People used to think gorillas weren’t real.g ate kee p er s “Gimme that!” Sam grabbed the publication out of Lance’s hands. “I can’t believe they got us babysitting. He squeezed his eyes shut. “It’s the study of creatures we don’t know about yet.” “Well. “You just don’t believe. I’ve heard it already. Lance looked injured. “Afraid of ghosts?” he said.” He said the word slowly and carefully.
He moved his feet. mounted to the peak of the gabled roof over the tower. Idjut. and scoped out the area for a leakworthy spot. climbed out. “If that’s okay with you. It seemed to glow in the moonlight. He veered off. His hand dropped to the handle of his pistol. grabbing Sam’s arm. He squinted into the shadows. The half moon made the house look black and as imposing as an ancient castle. hey.Robert Liparulo “Hey. He hitched up his pants. and he sighed.indd 58 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . a twig snapped somewhere in front of him. “Whatta you doing?” “I gotta pee. Mist swirled over the ground.Gatekeepers. Screech! He looked up and saw something moving on the roof of the house.” He pulled out of Lance’s grasp. he thought.” Sam said. The trees cast deep shadows that shifted as the branches swayed in a light breeze. 58 00-01. Something screeeeeched! Sam jumped. away from the front of the house and from where the headlights would catch him if Lance switched them on. adjusted his gun belt.” Lance said. billowing up in the distance. “Who’s there?” he said in his toughest voice. It was an old weather vane. As he approached a particularly dark area. carefully picking his way over exposed roots and low-lying brambles. and slammed the door. It screeched at him again.
g ate kee p er s Another twig snapped. Had to be. He surveyed the front of the house now.Gatekeepers. They had assumed the three inside had gone to bed. He supposed one of the kids could be tromping around. Oh. he thought. man. but he and Lance had watched the lights go out more than an hour ago.indd 59 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . cursing Lance and his talk of ghosts and things that ate German shepherds whole. No lights. He spun toward the sound. It had come from the front of the house on the other side from where he stood. Animal. 59 00-01. Something thumped behind him. he thought.
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He considered joining Xander on the floor. She mumbled. 1 2:37 a . He lifted it and set it on the pillow between their heads. She didn’t budge. warm spider clinging to his face.indd 61 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . He shifted to his side and gently pushed at her. David woke with a large. and rolled over.Gatekeepers. but even a sliver of the bed was better than that. He brushed at it and realized it was Toria’s hand. scratched her nose. m . She had wiggled toward him until he was teetering on the edge of the mattress. 61 00-01.OP chapter ten We dne s day.
Another creak—out there. his face like someone in pain. rhythmic breathing reached him from the floor on the other side of the bed. David shook him. “Xander!” “What?” Xander lifted his head. “Someone’s moving around out there. plopped it back down. Footsteps! Or someone trying to walk quietly. He dropped his feet to the floor and stood. but a low creak. Something bumped. “Xander?” he whispered. wake up. He went around the bed and knelt in front of Xander. Then another. He shook his brother harder. “Someone . He blinked at David. David snapped his eyes to the door. Something in the house had made a noise. He thought about the boxes in the hallway: lots of things to knock into. listening. if you were creeping around in the dark.indd 62 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . . His brother’s head was a mass of dark. tangled hair. By the glow of the nightlight he could tell it was still closed.Gatekeepers.” Xander shifted in his sleep.” Xander rolled over.” David said. His eyes moved to the bedroom door. somewhere. He heard it again—not a bump this time. . what?” 62 00-01. Louder: “Xander!” His brother’s deep. “I hear something.Robert Liparulo Bump! He rose up onto his elbow. Creak. “Xander.
it made a sturdy club. “Where’s it coming from?” David whispered. Great. . Ten seconds . twenty . Xander stooped to pick up the toy rifle that had been lying beside him. Xander pushed his ear to the wood. . He moved to the door. now the house is making each of us hear different things. He looked back.” “Right outside the door.indd 63 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .” Xander said. His fear had found its way to his voice. 63 00-01. “Wait till morning. could be anywhere.” David whispered. “I don’t—” “Shhh. listening. David thought. He stared at David. shook his head. Creeeak! Xander jumped. . “In this house.” Xander opened the door.” David said.” Xander pushed off his blanket and sat up. He got to his feet and pulled David up. With a wood stock and metal barrel. . .Gatekeepers. . upstairs.g ate kee p er s “I think someone’s in the house. David grabbed a handful of his brother’s T-shirt and followed. “I thought maybe .” David whispered. “Let’s go back to bed.
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” Sam said. “There’s something going on.Gatekeepers. He glared through the windshield at the house. Sam dropped into the passenger seat of the police cruiser and slammed the door. m . Lance followed his partner’s gaze to the house. “Everything come out okay?” Lance said with a snicker. “Whatcha mean?” 65 00-01.indd 65 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . 1 2:41 a .OP chapter eleven We dne s day.
“I think I’ll—” Something smacked down on the roof of the cruiser. Lance screamed. “Maybe the kids. “Don’t. checked the door. then.” he said. 66 00-01.” Sam said. Kids would have run off when Sam had started exploring. Sam grabbed the man’s arm. “If the kids are out there . . Like someone walking around in the woods. But I went up on the porch. “Maybe.” He didn’t even want to think of what could happen if Lance started plugging away at the shadows. not believing his own word. The guy might get a kick out of reading about boogeymen. Finally he said. and he’d have heard them making tracks toward the back. the door wouldn’t have been locked. Sam could tell he wanted a straightforward explanation for the noises. He scanned the woods in an arc.Gatekeepers. Sam didn’t speak for a while.” “Back door. starting where Lance’s head blocked his view and ending with the passenger-side window.” “The kids.” Lance’s eyes were the size of halfdollars. but he didn’t want to end up in the Midnight Sun’s next issue under the headline Sheriff’s Deputy Mauled to Death by Alien Dog-Boy. It was locked. . He fumbled for his pistol.indd 66 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . If it was one of the kids. All the breaking twigs and thumps had come from the area in front of the house.Robert Liparulo “I heard noises.” Lance suggested.
” Lance said. 67 00-01. New shadows snapped into place. No more lights.” “Waiting. but nothing else happened. “There!” Lance said. “Well.” They watched the house. I can see the windows on either side of the door. reaching for the handle on his side of the car. “A rock maybe. The woods between the end of the road and the house sprang into Sam’s vision. Lance squeezed his eyes closed and flipped on the headlights. I don’t hear anything now.” Sam said. The lights barely reached the front porch steps.” Sam said.indd 67 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .Gatekeepers. The nearest trees seemed to glow in the brightness. came on at once. “Hit your spotlight.” “Hey.” Lance said. “Something landed on the roof. Nothing’s moving up there.” Sam said. Farther trees caught their shadows and appeared to multiply as they approached the house. Couldn’t see them before.” “It was big. “Turn on the headlights. “What are you thinking? Something living?” He shook his head. “A light just turned on in the house. The brighter spots. Sam’s and Lance’s. no movement. Sam’s roamed over the right side of the yard—if that’s what you’d call the woods in front of the house—Lance’s over the left.g ate kee p er s “That’s no kid.” Sam scowled at him.
” The shaking stopped. hopefully. He looked up.” Sam said. “Probably just fell. “Not the way it’s moving back and forth like that. He grabbed the branch and showed Lance. He positioned his own light on the porch and opened the door. “See?” he said. The top of the tree leaned out over the car’s hood.” Sam stepped out. “Hold the light on it. reaching almost to the house. Keep your eyes peeled.Gatekeepers.Robert Liparulo The leaves of a large bush were shaking. His shadow stretched out in front of him. “The roof. A large branch lay over the cruiser’s red-and-blue light bar. “Wind?” Lance said. 68 00-01.” He shut the door and headed for the woods.indd 68 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . rising slowly to peer at the roof. “Wait!” Lance said.
1 2:50 a . Xander was shining a flashlight on the secret door at the end of the short hall. 69 00-01. m .Gatekeepers. “Xander!” David said. running his hand over the wall.” Xander said. He was standing at the junction of the second floor’s main hallway and the smaller one that went to the room they were using as a Mission Control Center. “It’s still latched.OP chapter twelve We dne s day.indd 69 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM .
Gatekeepers. Something moved in front of the beams. Xander pulled back behind the wall. the light caught him. They stopped at the top of the stairs. He nudged David. shoulders.Robert Liparulo “There are lights shining in from outside. “Get Toria. causing a bobbing shadow. Xander craned his head around the corner. But what are they doing?” “Maybe they spotted something. He said. thinking of the creaking floorboards. Xander edged closer to the staircase. The porch stairs creaked. “Is it the cops?” David whispered. The door handle rattled. David bent around Xander to see.” David said. flickering like a fire. Xander stepped up beside him and switched off the flashlight. He brushed past David. It grew larger and darker. The person moved to the side window and peered in. The glow flickered in the main hallway.” 70 00-01. Footsteps clumped on the porch. As Xander eased forward. The light was coming through the windows by the doors.” he whispered. “Xander?” David said. “We have to be ready to get out of here. The shadow took the form of a person: head. He was silhouetted with light radiating from behind. who once again grabbed hold of his brother’s shirt.indd 70 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . “Probably. arms. They both crouched low. Xander sidestepped behind the wall.” David said. brighter than the dim overhead fixtures.
” Xander said.” 71 00-01. “That’s the plan. “Now. “The closet?” he said.Gatekeepers.g ate kee p er s David looked down the hallway to the chair that they had replaced under the linen closet handle.indd 71 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . go.
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The door was still locked. The cruiser’s lights glowed at the end of the road like a four-eyed spider waiting to pounce. m .OP chapter thirteen We dne s day.Gatekeepers. Sam cupped his hands against the sides of his face. The rest of the house was dark. 1 2:52 a . At the window.indd 73 10/31/08 1:06:23 PM . Probably one of the kids had gone to the bathroom. The upstairs lights were on. Mist snaked slowly from 73 00-01. He turned away from the window. but he didn’t see anyone.
Somehow that made it appear even darker. but at the house.indd 74 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . He swung his head around. swirling around trees and billowing up against the bushes.Gatekeepers. As he approached the bush. From his perspective it was mostly a shaggy black mass. it shook. and Lance’s spotlight blinked out. A loud crack! came from the cruiser. and a whole lot scarier than it had looked in only the moonlight. no. It sounded like something had smacked against glass. What in tarnation? “Lance?” he called. “Trinity County Deputy. “Come out with your hands up. A twig cracked. bigger. treading softly. not a twig.Robert Liparulo the side of the house. That blasted weather vane! The headlights and his own spot were pointed not at the bush.” The bush rattled. “Who’s there?” He unsnapped his holster and moved closer. He stopped. Sam stepped back.” he announced. low and guttural. 74 00-01. He went down the steps. closer to the cruiser—no. He looked at the big clump of bushes Lance’s spot was on. Something growled. He squinted at the car. A screech made his blood run cold. Had Lance got out? The thing in the bushes growled again. The bush was now illuminated only by the backsplash of light bouncing off the ground and trees.
Still . Sam swung his gun toward it. He wasn’t going to shoot at the figure: Not when the guy wasn’t even moving.indd 75 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . Sam held the gun on the unmoving figure and raised his free hand to shield himself from whatever might rush out of the bushes.Gatekeepers. He pulled his pistol. . man! Get out of there!” That decided it. Behind him. The mist drifted among the trees. The ground here was spongy with soft soil and decomposing leaves. He took a step back. Sam’s breath froze in his lungs. That deep-throated growl reached his ears. “You hear me?” Movement drew his eyes to the side of the house. He began to tumble. and he couldn’t be absolutely sure the figure wasn’t one of them—though the man in the mist seemed a lot bigger. The growling continued. “I got a gun. more solid than any kid he’d ever seen. and shuffled in reverse. should he approach the creepy dude? That would put his back to the bushes—and whatever was in them. getting louder. slowly. 75 00-01. get back here. . “Who’s that?” Sam said. The clear shape of a man stood rock-solid near the rear of the house.” he said. “Sam. “Sam!” Lance said. caught himself. Not when there were kids around. . .” The figure didn’t move. “I’m not kidding.g ate kee p er s The leaves rustled. He didn’t know what to do. he heard the car door open. “Come here . buddy!” The bushes shook.
His own shadow became blacker and sharper on the ground as he neared the car. backed away. panting. 76 00-01. “Come on. The door window behind Lance’s frightened face was broken: a dozen cracks fanned out from a small hole in the glass. “What’s going on?” Lance said. He swung his gun between the bushes and the figure and backed away. Sam looked over at him. He scanned the woods through the windshield.indd 76 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM .” Sam said. The engine roared. He couldn’t tell what was real movement. He sounded panicked. Blue. The trees erupted in flames—that’s what Sam thought for a few seconds. He thought the figure was gone. Red.Robert Liparulo The car door slammed shut. To Sam’s eyes. he spun and ran for the passenger door.Gatekeepers. until a blue light pushed away the red and he realized Lance had turned on the police flashers. and what was merely the dance of light and shadow. They flashed against the trees but didn’t reach the figure in the mist. from which he had to protect himself. The red light swung around again. When his heels touched the dirt road. they made everything worse. but it was hard to tell. and the cruiser reversed away from the woods. He slammed the shifter into gear. “What happened?” “I think someone shot at me! They hit the light!” “Get us out of here. Blue. making shadows jump up and fall back. between the darkness way back there and all the lights doing their thing. He hopped in. start the car!” Lance cranked on the key.
they don’t deserve our protection.” he said. Sam realized Lance had not seen the figure or heard the growling.” Sam said. “That we got scared away?” “Someone shot at me!” “That’s not a bullet. “It ain’t no good.” “Then why are we taking off ?” Lance turned the car toward the side of the road and put it in drive.” “But—” “What are we going to say?” Sam said.” Sam said. “No. “Did you call it in?” he asked.” “You sure?” “Sure enough. He said. kicking gravel up into the wheel wells.g ate kee p er s Sam watched through the windshield.indd 77 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . ready. It was a rock.” “What about the kids?” “If they’re the ones throwing rocks. but it ain’t no good. sounding like angry rattlesnakes. go. “Forget it. Sam turned in his seat to watch the blackness through the 77 00-01. He swept the car around and got it pointed away from the house.” He shook his head. Go. He held his pistol up. half expecting something to chase them. they’re safe. I—” Lance grabbed for the radio. “See the way the glass is crushed around the hole? I’ve seen it a hundred times. “Just go. will ya?” Lance accelerated. “Because I don’t know what’s going on here. Sam clutched Lance’s hand. “If they’re inside.Gatekeepers.
Robert Liparulo rear window. He said. He closed his eyes and sighed.indd 78 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . and Sam relaxed. Then the car rounded a bend. casting red light on the road behind them and the trees on both sides.” 78 00-01. Lance braked.Gatekeepers. “I never did like that house.
Hiding behind them. a thin coughing sound.” 79 00-01. “I haven’t seen people move that fast since someone passed gas in an elevator. m .” he said.” The bushes laughed.OP chapter fourteen We dne s day. Keal watched the police car vanish around a curve. You didn’t say anything about throwing rocks at cops. the old man said. “I should never have let you talk me into taking you out of the nursing home. 1 :05 a .indd 79 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM .Gatekeepers. He crunched across the forest floor and stopped next to a bush. “For Pete’s sake. Jesse.
80 00-01.” Jesse said from behind the bushes.” Jesse said. Owww! You stepped on me. that was fun.Robert Liparulo “It’s not funny. but he laughed a little in spite of himself. The shadows here were even darker than the rest of the woods. I’m just saying. pooh. don’t just stand there. He was smiling. Now. Didn’t matter if it were back at Mother of Mercy Nursing Home or here.” His laugh sounded like sobs.” Jesse said. “You okay?” “Nothing I’m not used to. “These old lungs don’t work the way they did once. It’s something completely different to attack police officers. He said.Gatekeepers. “Nothing does. We just helped it out a bit. “It’s one thing for me to fly you across the country because you think the folks in this house are in danger. this place. When he lifted it up.indd 80 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . I got a stick jabbing me in the back.” He knelt down.” “Oh.” “Sorry. running his hands over Jesse’s scrawny body. you better know what you’re doing. “Can’t see. “Now. a stray beam of moonlight caught the old guy’s face. He was supposed to take care of the old guy.” Keal said. Jesse was his responsibility. It was the house. Jesse wheezed in a breath. and Keal moved faster.” Keal made his way around the foliage. “Wasn’t us who scared them away. He couldn’t make out anything.” Keal said. He cupped his hand under Jesse’s head. He shook his head.
“That’s just freaky.Gatekeepers. You all right?” “Just tired. his mouth fell open. my friend. “It worked. . “I ain’t that tired .” Jesse said. or old. Jesse said.g ate kee p er s “I wasn’t laughing. “Yeah.” “They’re cops.” His lids drooped.” Keal leaned closer.” It was Keal’s turn to shrug.indd 81 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . What did you expect?” He felt the old man shrug.” he said. “I gotta admit. it put goose bumps on Keal’s arms and the back of his neck. You missed your calling. You going to get me off this cold ground or what?” Keal got his arms under Jesse and lifted him. And he was heading right for you. “Spent some time in the minors. putting out the light. man. Jesse. . I wasn’t expecting the gun. . Even watching the old man make the sound. “Like I could just . “Smooth move. You should have been a pitcher. It was like picking up a scarecrow. I’ll tell you about it someday. . “Not used to being up so long. . . He smiled. the man was so light. . I was sure I was a goner. and he snorted in some air. .” He crunched over the ground 81 00-01. And with only two throws. Jesse said. funny . “That cop pointed his gun at me. I feel like . “Did you see that guy hightail it for his car?” “I’ll give you that one.” Keal said.” Jesse growled. “Jesse?” Jesse’s eyes sprang open.” His eyes closed.” Jesse said.
“Watcher? What’s he watching?” “Us.” Keal didn’t move. “One of them. mist was billowing up between the trees.” Jesse said. The house. Keal. He stopped. “I knew it had started again. . Everything that happens here. glowing in the moonlight. If he was going to do anything. In the distance. he’d have done it. but the man did not reappear. “Never mind him. . “Hey! What do you want?” The dark figure backed into the mist and disappeared. Jesse said.Gatekeepers. Keal called out.indd 82 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . carrying Jesse toward the front of the house. ?” Before Jesse could answer. “Jesse?” Keal whispered. Jesse caught his stare and followed it. Keal waited. He let out a deep sigh.” “What started. In front of the slowly stirring cloud stood a man.” the old man said. “Who is it?” Keal said quietly.” “Who someone else?” Keal moved his attention from the mist to Jesse’s face. He was surprised to see not even a hint 82 00-01. He’s only someone else’s eyes. and who .Robert Liparulo cover. He heard no sounds from the woods besides the wind and an occasional squeak from the weather vane. “A watcher. silhouetted against the mist. His shoulders rose and fell as though he were breathing heavily.
“I should get the car.g ate kee p er s of concern in the old man’s features. With an army. “Still.” Keal could not find the words for all the questions zipping through his brain. He said. stopping on the windows flanking the doors. . “I came to see them. Someone must be home. I should hope so.” Jesse said.” Keal said.indd 83 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . why do you think they were here?” “Never can tell.” 83 00-01. Nothing but trees. “Could be anyone. not this place.” “Well. who want to use it for their own wicked intentions.” “Let’s hope they still don’t. has always attracted . only sadness. outsiders. They didn’t want anything to do with the house. “This place. “Let’s get on with it. “Always something interesting happening ’round here. Unsure.” “I guess so.” Jesse said.” Jesse said. “Not if they’re anything like the ones I knew back when. Keal carried Jesse to the porch steps and lowered him. “Lights on inside.Gatekeepers.” Jesse said. . you know.” Keal said.” “Those cops’ll be back. “What’d you think. what it does.” Jesse shook his head. “that a house like I told you about could possibly exist and not draw the likes of him and whoever he answers to?” Keal looked for the man again. nervously scanning the woods on both sides.” Jesse said. people who don’t belong. He glanced around.
” “Okay.” “I wish I felt as confident as you sound.Gatekeepers. Jesse leaned his head back to take in the imposing facade before him. “I thought I was done with you.” Jesse waved him away. The worst that will happen is someone will watch me sitting here growing older.” Keal started to walk off. He couldn’t keep his eyes from darting around. He came back with Jesse’s wheelchair. He sprung it open.” Jesse said with a sigh. “Go. “That can wait. scooped Jesse off the steps. He stopped.” Jesse opened his eyes.” “What else am I going to do?” Keal trotted into the woods. “You could have been back with the chair by now. folded up flat.Robert Liparulo They had pulled it behind some bushes around the bend. go. and eased him into the chair. Wait here. “Why don’t I take you with me?” “Because then you’ll have to carry me and the chair.” He raised his eyebrows.” “Keal. “I can use my chair. though. “We got business to attend to.indd 84 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . 84 00-01. okay.” he whispered to the house.
Gatekeepers. nea r Ni nev eh. Currents of rain 85 00-01. Assyr i an E m pi re Raindrops struck Dagan’s face. The narrow ledge he had been traversing before spotting the shelter lay twenty meters below. He blinked against the onslaught. determined to reach the cave above him before one of the lightning bolts that cracked through the black sky blasted him off the mountain. as biting as lions’ teeth. lowering his head to breathe without water rushing into his throat.OP chapter fifteen 74 3 BC Tiyari Mou nta i ns. He paused in his ascent.indd 85 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM .
becoming drops again as the water flowed over the edge into a bottomless ravine. At least the other boys wouldn’t be able to get ahead of him. and he was ahead of the others now. He turned his face up into the pounding rain. Every year the academy sent all of its students sixteen years of age on a grueling. the stakes were high enough to make them consider an attempt. Amshi was Dagan’s only real competition in this latest challenge. The others were consigned to the regular army as front-men.Gatekeepers.Robert Liparulo sluiced over it.indd 86 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . cleaning his clothes. the ledge had become impassible. The academy to which they belonged instructed its pupils in the arts of death: stealth. The runner-up became his lifelong servant. gray clouds roiled. The best of them would graduate into the most elite rank of the great Assyrian war machine. Not by the war-god Nergal would Dagan allow himself to lose. five-day trek from Nineveh to Autiyara. infiltration. The thought of becoming Amshi’s servant—of not becoming an assassin himself—made Dagan sick. and murder. was not far behind. As he had been since his recruitment into the academy on his eighth birthday. his dearest friend since the two had endured the initiation rites together eight years before. Beyond the cliff to which he clung. equipped with only the clothes on their backs and a blade. he thought. In the space of a thousand heartbeats. The first one to arrive continued his studies. Not while the storm-god Adad was so angry. Perhaps one of them would try. Dagan was the best in his class. But Amshi. that of Assassin. expelled from Adad’s mouth like poisonous 86 00-01. as though a serpent had made a home in his guts. certainly. But that isn’t going to happen. fodder for their enemies’ spears. sharpening his weapons. Always a close second.
87 00-01. . scowled at his friend. the wind whispered his name. The boy. If he fell. and since he had to stop. He knew full well what Amshi was doing: he had realized the futility of trying to progress along the ledge. The boy was following.Gatekeepers. gestured back the way they had come. “ . knowing the competition was not pressing on. he peered into the darkness of the cave. and saw the top of Amshi’s head.indd 87 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . why not do it where he could keep an eye on Dagan. . . Dagan . momentarily blinding the boy.g ate kee p er s vomit. How could he spend eternity in Irkalla saddled with that kind of shame? At the lip of the cave. panting. Lightning flashed down.” From his perch just outside. Dagan shook his head. making sure each rock he grabbed was secure. . That’s when he saw Amshi down on the ledge. his blade would never taste human blood. He pushed himself higher toward the cave. . the only one who posed a threat to his reaching Autiyara first? Amshi would rest well. . he cursed his friend. “ . and that was unacceptable. he was sure he had heard . . . He crawled a few feet in and collapsed onto the gritty floor. Dagan returned to the dry darkness of the cavern. felt the rain like a swarm of insects. He stuck his head out. listened. probably to a more accessible shelter. roaring like a crowd welcoming home a triumphant army. squinting through the rain at him. He rose to his hands and knees and went back to the cave’s mouth. . Dagan strained to hear . . Gritting his teeth. . scaling the cliff toward the cave. He stopped.” A million raindrops crashed into the stone cliff. Dagan’s age but much younger looking. then at the empty air around him. . Dagan . He was amazed at how good it felt to be out of the incessant pounding. and pulled himself into the cave.
“Dagan. where—?” Dagan emerged from the fissure.Gatekeepers. a wide boyish grin. “Dagan?” Dagan heard him getting to his feet. Then it vanished as he saw the object Dagan held slicing through the air toward him. His hair had dried by the time he heard Amshi heave himself into the cave. but this is much better. His arm shot up. even the skeleton becoming powder after so many millennia. Amshi jumped. caught sight of Dagan. The boy did what Dagan had done: he crumpled to the ground and waited for his breath to return. who’d eased the tension of a trying day on the training fields with a whispered joke—he thought of the body he’d left in the cave.” He drew closer. He listened to the storm outside. Then he called. to water dripping from his hair to the stone floor. found a fissure in the wall. “Dagan? Where are you? Are you hurt? I found an overhang out of the rain. to his breathing. stepping deeper into the cave. And for the first time. He thought of Amshi—not the playmate who’d laughed when their voices cracked at the onset of manhood.Robert Liparulo The serpent inside Dagan coiled around his heart. It would have decayed. 88 00-01. growing slower. Dagan’s blade tasted human blood. and pressed himself into it.indd 88 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . so long ago. and smiled. 9 The cramped darkness in which Dagan—now Taksidian— stood reminded him of that initial kill. He moved farther into the cave.
He would bide his time in the closet a little longer. the man he had become. in the house. He shifted his feet into a more comfortable stance and leaned back against the shelves.indd 89 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . it had saved his life.g ate kee p er s Taksidian squeezed the hilt of his knife. more surely than Amshi ever had been. but the door wouldn’t open. His blade had feasted many times since that first taste. For the dozenth time. in the hallway. 89 00-01. but whatever held it was strong. . Quiet voices. Something was going on out there. He leaned his ear against the door. Now it was hungry again. He would await the opportunity for his blade to feast again .Gatekeepers. He was about to return to the locker in the school when he heard noises beyond the door. The weapon had made him the assassin he was. . Soft footsteps. He tried to quietly shoulder his way through. It was his friend. he checked the door. And on more than a few occasions. The handle turned.
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91 00-01. 1 :16 a . mumbling something about going on a ride. She stumbled and stopped. seeming ready to doze standing up.” David said. Her free hand clutched her “nigh-night.Gatekeepers. m .indd 91 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . David led Toria into the hallway by the hand. Toria. “Come on. She was halfasleep. peering around the corner to the foyer below.” a threadbare baby blanket she always slept with. Xander was on all fours in the hallway.OP chapter sixteen We dne s day.
indd 92 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM .Gatekeepers. “Did they leave?” he whispered.” he said. Where the wall started again. opposite Toria’s bedroom. “There were red and blue lights flashing through the windows. Footsteps clomped heavily on the porch steps. “And if it’s not the cops out there.Robert Liparulo David realized the lights were no longer shining through the windows.” “Why would they leave?” David said. “Come on. “I don’t know. He knelt beside his brother and leaned to see the front doors and the windows beside them. but she was already rising. but I just heard voices out front. and now they’re gone.” Xander said. “Let’s get to the other side of the stairs before they get to the windows. It seemed that no matter how many times something frightened him. he never got used to it. They darted past the staircase and the railing that overlooked the foyer. Xander backhanded David in the arm. “I think they were the ones who left. A car left.” David reached back for Toria. they dropped to the floor. Xander looked around the corner and through the railing to the front door. She had plopped down behind the boys and now blinked heavy lids at them.” “Where are the policemen?” Toria said. who is it?” Xander looked at him with raised eyebrows. 92 00-01. “Who do you think?” “Taksidian?” David’s chest grew tight.
” she said.” With all their discussion of the closet-to-locker portal. “If we have to run.” Xander said. “Then you live in the wrong house. He rose on his knees to see the front door over his brother’s head. Xander smiled at her. There was a squeak. “Toria doesn’t know about the closet. Tor. 93 00-01. “They’re knocking?” he said. somehow different from the weather vane. “Can you hold it?” David said. it was difficult to believe it had remained a secret. narrow windows.” “I don’t like surprises.” “Xander. She said.Gatekeepers. “Pounding. Xander shook his head. “Why did Xander want us on this side of the stairs? Aren’t there more hiding places on the other side? We could go up to the third floor. let alone their use of it.g ate kee p er s Toria nudged David.indd 93 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM .” Xander corrected. Bam! Bam! Bam! David jumped and grabbed Xander’s shirt again. which had been reaching David’s ears every now and then since he’d awakened.” Toria said. She bit her lower lip and shook her head.” He turned his attention back to the front door. “I have to go to the bathroom. you’re in for a big surprise. “Make it fast. Something banged down on the porch. A shadow moved over the tall.” David said. Both he and Xander pulled back.
“I don’t think that’s Taksidian.indd 94 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . Bam! Bam! Bam! “Hello?” the deep voice called. Hurry. “Don’t touch it. pointing at the chair in the hallway. It felt like one of the cannonballs he had recently seen. and people are out to get us. “What’s that?” David said. “They’re trying to break in.” “David.” A thump followed by scraping echoed from the door. “What if it’s the cops?” David said. the deep voice of a man. 94 00-01.” “I don’t care who it is.” Toria called quietly. “Anybody in there?” David said. “What’s that doing there?” Xander swung his head around. Go. we’re alone.” The door handle rattled. quieter.” David said.” “And don’t flush. The pounding on the door continued.Gatekeepers. Now David’s stomach tightened and rolled. A second voice. Toria made a face and disappeared into the bathroom. His fear was morphing into panic.” he said. David could hear the rhythm.Robert Liparulo “Taksidian can’t expect us to answer. “We’re still not answering. if you have to. responded.” Xander said.” Xander said. but he could not make out the words. She was standing in front of the bathroom. Somebody spoke. “It’s after one in the morning. “It’s part of the surprise.
“You go first.” David said. She must have seen it: her features softened. “I can open the door for her from the outside. I’ll send Toria next.Gatekeepers. Toria’s eyes were big and scared. He gripped the closet door handle as 95 00-01. He pointed at David. David said. “What—?” he said. okay?” David watched her searching for reassurance in Xander’s eyes. David and Xander looked at each other. Xander stopped and reversed so quickly. hefting it in his hands.” David said. “We’re leaving. But David realized with some relief it wasn’t the door crashing open. when I hear her come through. Get out of the locker as fast as you can.” Thinking of Clayton’s experience.” “Come through?” Looking up at them. “The people outside are trying to break in. Just trust us. David lost his grip on his brother’s T-shirt. “Okay. drawing strength from one other. Xander snatched it up. “Wish it was real.” Xander told her. and she nodded.g ate kee p er s The boys scrambled up and headed down the hall. either.indd 95 10/31/08 1:06:24 PM . “What locker? Where are we—?” Xander put his hands on her shoulders and leaned his face close to hers. Toria came out of the bathroom. then he saw the toy rifle Xander had left on the floor. Something banged against the front door—not a knock.
indd 96 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . He planted one hand on Xander’s chest and pushed himself up. certain the door would burst open. . Xander was already leaning over him to brace his arms against the back of the chair. In time with the 96 00-01. Toria saw him coming and flattened herself against the wall. . the handle moved—all by itself. . which in turn pressed against the door. A feather-light breeze touched his face . and they both went down. knocking him away from the chair. He lunged at Xander. A heavy crash rattled the door as the person inside kicked it. The right one rose out of the light. . While David watched. the shoes appeared to evaporate.Gatekeepers. They shifted apart as their owner adjusted his stance. in front of the chair. Under David’s hand. and the door rattled under the impact of another kick. The toy rifle clattered away. “There’s someone in the closet!” David said. “Xander!” David yelled. “What are you doing?” Xander said. They lost their shape and melded with the blackness around them. David dropped to his knees. He grabbed the light and ran back. was gone . He ran past the foyer and the stairs. then blew out from under the door again. The handle shook. He switched on the flashlight and shined it beneath the door: shoes! They were black. then flat on his stomach. “Where’s the flashlight?” He spotted it on the floor on the far side of the grand staircase. Xander hit the wall.Robert Liparulo Xander bent to pull the chair away.
Gatekeepers.g ate kee p er s pulsing breeze. David panned the light back and forth along the empty floor.” “You sure?” “Pretty much. but seemed to be consumed by the draft.indd 97 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . 97 00-01. It didn’t flick on and off. Between flickers. “He’s gone. Finally David said. the shoes disappeared. while Xander continued leaning his weight into the door. The front door creaked open. the flashlight beam stuttered.” He scooted away and stood.
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He straightened and ran his fingers through his long hair. The only light came from the moon through the windows. Jim Taksidian stepped out of the locker. It looked just like all the 99 00-01. stretching his spine. pulled up his right pant leg. He turned back to the locker. 1 :23 a .Gatekeepers.OP chapter seventeen We dne s day.indd 99 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . He leaned backward. He bent. and slipped his knife into the sheath strapped there. m . smoothing it and tucking it behind his ears. The school hallway was dark.
He shut the locker door and touched the little plate riveted to it: 119. He pushed through the double doors at the end of the corridor and turned left. finally. day or night. thinking of the fortune he had amassed since then. but occasionally it felt like a white-hot wire pressed into his flesh. It never stopped amazing him. Good to know the number. It reminded him of the injury. But of course it wasn’t. From assassin to king. giving him thirty seconds to leave. Not a bad trade.indd 100 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . it was they—and the prince—who had paid the ferryman. 100 00-01. what people would tell for the right amount of money. Slipping the janitor two hundred bucks had bought him unimpeded access to the school.Gatekeepers. Even after all these years. But in the end. His footsteps were silent on the tiled floor. and he had accidentally discovered the portal that brought him to the house. Taksidian had survived. They had nearly killed him. it still ached: sometimes it merely throbbed in time with his heartbeat. he thought. in fact. The prince’s guards had fought valiantly. His fingers massaged the heavy scar on the back of his right hand. He walked around the corner and down the hall. the last time anyone had spilled his blood.Robert Liparulo others. He welcomed the pain. just as the house wasn’t like any other house. He stopped beside the glass exit doors and punched in the code that would reactivate the school’s security system.
Fear was an emotion Taksidian appreciated in others. He strolled across the grass toward the boy waiting for him on a picnic table. the forest beyond.Gatekeepers. He gazed up at the half moon. “You couldn’t get in? How was I to know? It was open before. . “The closet door was locked.” His tone had risen.” Taksidian turned his eyes on him. .” “What?” The boy’s eyes went wide. panicked now—not for the money. The boy lowered his eyes. crass. it’s just . turning his breath into plumes of mist. before the rise of the Roman Empire.” the boy said. Taksidian scanned the dark windows of the school. “I mean . peeled off a few bills and held them out. He slipped a hand into the pocket of his black overcoat and withdrew a wad of cash. “Hey. . It had 101 00-01. watching the boy accepting the money was just so . . He had his feet propped on a bicycle.g ate kee p er s He pushed through the doors into the central courtyard. but close. His eyes wandered the sky. The boy was young: not yet a teenager. . “you’re short. but for what Taksidian might do to him for wasting his time.” Taksidian’s voice was deep and flat. rocking it back and forth. . “Well?” the boy said. The air was crisp.indd 101 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . the same one he’d wondered about as a young man. like witnessing a dog devour a rabbit. and the parking lot. He stared until all of the boy’s confidence had drained away like blood from a slaughtered pig.
” He let his breath wash over the boy’s face. Forget about the locker. The boy stared at it.indd 102 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . But it’s a puppy dog . “What haunts your nightmares?” The boy melted under Taksidian’s gaze. then said. “Do you understand?” The boy nodded. compared to me. “What do you mean. . I want to know about it. “What scares you?” he asked.” The kid was shivering. if you learn anything else.” The child nodded again. Forget about me. His fingernail grazed the boy’s skin as he flicked a lock of hair off the boy’s forehead. He whispered. . “Snakes.” He let that sink in. “The deadliest snake in the world is the Inland Taipan. “Vampires. they have nightmares about me.” Taksidian leaned close.Gatekeepers. 102 00-01.Robert Liparulo serviced him well over the years. He ran the thick. what scares me?” Taksidian stared into his eyes. sharp fingernail of his index finger over his bottom lip. He said. “Of course. “Forget about the Kings and their house. but Taksidian was sure it had nothing to do with the cold. Taksidian reached out.” He swallowed. A single bite contains enough venom to kill a hundred full-grown humans. then he backed away. “As for vampires. He smiled.
Taksidian smiled.g ate kee p er s Taksidian turned away.” 103 00-01.indd 103 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . “What did you say your name is again?” “C-C-Clayton. “That’s so you have plenty of time walking home to think about what I said.Gatekeepers.” The tire popped. then spun back around. He leaned over and ran a fingernail along the side of one of the bicycle’s tires.
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but this came from downstairs. He heard Toria pull in a breath.Gatekeepers.indd 105 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM .OP chapter eighteen We dne s day. 1 :23 a . Eeek-eeek. 105 00-01. A squeak like the weather vane. Footsteps moved from the porch into the foyer. leaning against the closet door. David’s eyes jumped to Xander. m . The chandelier hanging over the foyer came on. The door downstairs thunked open. and he clamped his hand over her mouth before she could scream.
Xander nodded at the linen closet door. He’ll be there. “We have to. and she smiled. Xander pushed himself off the closet door and put his face in front of hers. “Hello? Anyone home?” “What do we do?” David whispered.Robert Liparulo Someone said.” David couldn’t blame her. Don’t want our friend outside to wander in. The smooth voice called.” Toria’s eyebrows shot up. 106 00-01. “I thought you said he was only watching. as though the speaker were sitting on a paint shaker.Gatekeepers. “I don’t want to go through a portal.” Toria pulled David’s hand off her mouth.indd 106 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . “Shut the door.” “Then we have to use one of the doors upstairs.” The other man mumbled something David couldn’t make out. louder. “I can hear you.” he said.” the voice said. Then who will rescue Mom?” A voice came at them from the foyer.” A voice smooth as a sports announcer’s said. with all the stories she’d heard from him and Xander. “Taksidian—or someone— just went through. Keal.” David said. It was fragile and quavery. “I’m not the bad guy. one of the time portals. “No. The door closed. I’m here to help.” she whispered. so quietly even his own ears didn’t hear. “I don’t want to. “These people want to take us away.
“See?” Xander said. staring up at 107 00-01. no!” Xander grabbed his arm. A big black man stood. “How . David took a step. ?” “Huh?” Toria said. “Taksidian can’t know that. He released David’s arm and stood. “Straight upstairs. me. “What else would he say? ‘Come on down so I can kill you’?” David heard that same eeek-eeek again. “Has to be one of Taksidian’s men. He gaped at David. David walked slowly. he wouldn’t be surprised if the person downstairs actually turned out to be a pirate.” the shaky voice continued. .” David said.g ate kee p er s Xander frowned. “I know about the portals.” Xander gave Toria a firm look.” Xander thought about it. “Dae. but they found no words. Her face reflected complete bafflement. David’s lips moved. and Dad. and his brother grabbed him again.Gatekeepers. He got a crazy vision of a pirate standing in the foyer. In this house.indd 107 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM .” David said. Finally he said. Xander said. “Be ready to run. “Only you.” “I know that one of you saved a little girl in World War II. his wooden leg squeaking every time he moved. .” Xander’s eyes flashed wide. “What little girl?” David started for the grand staircase. willing that ferret in his chest to settle down. He took a deep breath and stepped up to the banister that overlooked the foyer. right?” “Right.
Robert Liparulo him. you all right?” The old man—Jesse—fluttered a scrawny hand in the air. “I should have known. except for a cloud of white hair circling around from one temple to the other.” 108 00-01. He shifted in his chair to smile up at the guy standing behind him. David. “How do you know us?” The wrinkles on Jesse’s face rippled and hardened in a posture of concentration. as though his blood had warmed by a couple degrees: the man had the kindest face he had ever seen.” He started coughing.” the old man said. He said. When he looked up at David again. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see you again .Gatekeepers. The old man spotted him and squinted. He said. The other man put his hand on the old man’s back. It was a wheezy. He was standing behind an ancient geezer in a wheelchair. “Jesse? Jesse.” David said. even from a floor away. He had a thick silver mustache and eyes so blue David could see them sparkle. His lips pushed into a radiant smile.” David took a step back and bumped into his brother. his eyes were wet. . “And you! Xander. “Let’s just say that I have met you. The old man was mostly bald.indd 108 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . He leaned around to watch his face as he coughed. David felt hope rush through him. He said. . raggedy sound. “I should have known.
“Oh . they broke in!” 109 00-01. and who is this?” He wheeled his chair back for a better look. “We wanted to call.” “That’s our old number. . “How do you know David and me. I wanted to get here as soon as possible.” “Dae.” the old man said. but not our sister?” “It’s a long story. David whispered. Xander said. then stopped. “In Pasadena. I . We drove straight from the airport. and I hope to have the time to tell it. you can just wheel yourself right back—” David elbowed his brother in the ribs. Xander yelped. . “So you just barged in?” Jesse looked up at them sheepishly.” The old man nodded.g ate kee p er s Toria stepped up to the banister.” “They—” Xander started. “There’s something about him. Jesse said. Xander. . “Information didn’t give a new one. That’s not around here. Eeek-eeek.” David said. but information gave us a 626 area code. .” Xander said. One of the wheels creaked.” He glanced around. can’t you tell? I think he’s on our side. Toria told him her name. “Please tell your parents I’m here.indd 109 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . Hard. “Keal did knock.Gatekeepers. “What are you doing breaking into our house?” “I’m sorry about that. We just moved in.” “Well.
Jesse was grinning as though he was the guest of honor at a surprise party. “Who are you?” Xander said.” Jesse closed one eye as though he were struggling through a math problem. “Name’s Jesse. This is my friend Keal. .” Xander leaned against the railing.indd 110 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . “I’m your great-great-uncle. .Robert Liparulo The two boys looked over the handrail. “I heard.Gatekeepers. but who are you?” “Unless I’ve miscalculated .” 110 00-01.
Xander. out of sight of the intruders. and Toria stared down at the old man. grabbed his sister. Something about the kindness David saw in the old man’s face made him want to 111 00-01. 1 :27 a . They looked at one another. and practically carried her down the hallway.indd 111 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . m . David.OP chapter nineteen We dne s day. David’s gaze connected with Jesse’s.Gatekeepers.” Xander said. He slapped David’s arm. “Come on.
“If we’re related. When David reached Xander and Toria. “He’s an imposter? Why?” “To get in with us. “Then he would’ve known Toria too. “Why is he showing up now. as though it were obvious. he said. .” he said. thinking. He said.” “You don’t know him. however vague and unsupported by action it was. Jesse called. I wouldn’t put it past Taksidian.” David said.” Xander whispered. “Be right back.” 112 00-01. “Great-grandfather. .” “Or great-grandmother. “I like him. “Dad’s dad’s dad’s brother. how come we’ve never met him before? How come we’ve never even heard of him?” Toria skewed her face.” “Take your time. “What are you saying?” David asked.Robert Liparulo return it.indd 112 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . and David thought he looked an awful lot like Jesse at that moment. “It’s too weird.” Xander grabbed David and Toria’s arms. He walked backward down the hall and into the boys’ bedroom. The brother of our great-grandfather.” Xander said. He held up his index finger.Gatekeepers.” Xander said.” Jesse said. “A spy. “How’s he related to us?” “It’d be like . He looked at David.” David said.” Xander closed one eye. and how does he know us?” “Maybe he’s on Mom and Dad’s Christmas card list. From downstairs.
it didn’t always mean having rocks thrown at them. “When help comes. He put his hand on David’s shoulder. I don’t know. . “You’re right. “Why can’t Jesse be here to help?” “Maybe because he broke into our house?” Xander said. that’s normal. a condemned man would lie on his back. Just as often. “Figure out if he’s telling the truth?” 113 00-01. it’s been one bad thing after another. “why would he try to break in through the closet at the very same time?” Xander’s frown said Good point. .g ate kee p er s “If Taksidian sent them. I just don’t want to be .” “We already knew that. so desperate for it that we take anything or anyone who comes along.” David said. and a board was placed on top of him.” Toria chimed in. Dad had told him that in old times when criminals were stoned to death.” “Can’t we just talk to him?” David said. David said. his lungs could not expand and he would suffocate. yeah.” David said. . “To scare us. “We need a break.” David said.” “David. . it’ll have to be not normal.indd 113 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . we do need help. Why can’t something good happen for once?” “Yeah. The King family problems felt like that . show us how much we need an ally.Gatekeepers. Then people piled stones on the board until the collected weight crushed him down so firmly. Xander. . like being crushed to death. you’re being—” Xander stopped. Ever since we moved in.” “Nothing about this house is normal. . “At one thirty in the morning? Hmmm .
“What about your parents?” He read their expressions.” Xander said. He said. The old man stared at him intently. “Aren’t they here?” “That’s none of your business. but there was nothing mean about it. and Keal wheeled him into the other room. Jesse and Keal were sitting behind the table. one hand resting on the old man’s shoulder. The old man nodded.Robert Liparulo Xander nodded. Xander wielded the makeshift club over his head and peered around the corner of the dining room before he walked in.Gatekeepers. Xander went down the stairs.” Xander told Jesse and Keal. “All right. Chairs scraped against the dining room floor.” his dad had once told him—on Jesse’s hands. face.” Jesse’s brow furrowed. David noticed for the first time how pale Jesse looked. Xander picked up the toy rifle. Keal was kneeling beside Jesse’s wheelchair. It was the way Mom and Dad looked 114 00-01. David brushed past Xander and took the chair opposite Jesse. “Go into the dining room. but we stay together. and scalp stand out all the more. “Okay. They stopped at the top of the stairs. It made the moles—“age spots. Their hands were folded in front of them on the flat surface as though patiently waiting for dinner.indd 114 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM .” In the hall. to the far side of the table. Eeek-eeek-eeek. David and Toria moving right behind him like parts of a caterpillar.
” “Oh. he thought. Dad just had it rekeyed. talking to you without your parents. “I know a few tricks about this place. David figured she was doing what he’d already done: sizing them up. . “The one who saved her?” 115 00-01. Jesse noted David’s broken arm resting on the table. please. he cleared his throat.g ate kee p er s at him sometimes—there was love behind it. Her eyes darted between the two men.” “Well. But it was kind of odd to think that this stranger would love him. “Don’t worry about our parents right now. He grabbed Xander’s T-shirt. Toria sat beside David. “But it’s not right that I’m here.” Xander said. the black eye and bruised cheek. Like us.” “No. We want to know more about you.” Jesse said. wait!” David said.indd 115 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . then. but somehow a team. noting how different they were from each other. “How did you know about the little girl in World War II?” “That was you. “The door was locked. “You guys look like you’ve been in a couple scrapes.” His brother frowned. “I can tell you’re very capable children. .Gatekeepers. “See ya. He studied David’s face. “What do you want to know?” “How did you get in?” Xander said.” David said. and I am a guest in your house .” He looked each of them in the eyes.” When they didn’t respond. He told Jesse.” “Fair enough. all right.” Jesse said. “Xander. right?” Jesse said.
“Two days ago.Gatekeepers. “I mean.” Jesse said. David’s mouth fell open.indd 116 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM .” Jesse said. “There was a tank—” “And you grabbed her before it ran her over. You. it had changed. . . “How . I woke up and the world was different.” 116 00-01. David—you changed it. who was scowling at the old man. ?” He looked at Xander.Robert Liparulo David nodded.
“What do you mean. “I’ll show you. groping for something on the back of the wheelchair. He said.indd 117 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . 117 00-01.” He reached over his shoulder. Jesse rubbed the silver stubble on his checks. He handed it to the old man.OP chapter twenty We dne s day. 1 :41 a . m . Keal reached behind Jesse and produced a manila envelope. I changed the world?” David said. Folds of skin moved under his fingers.Gatekeepers.
Then there were the more severe strains.” “Marguerite Rousseau. That’s the common variety.” Jesse said. My friend Jeffrey Lewis was much younger than I. inside the mouth and throat. He pulled out a piece of paper and slid it across the table toward David.Robert Liparulo “Thank you. “The man who took her from me said her name. He withdrew another piece of paper and said. .” The old man fished into the envelope again. that’s the girl I saved from the tank!” Xander took the photo.indd 118 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM . He showed it to his brother. Very unpleasant. . looked at it closely. “Yeah. a woman.” “Marguerite. “Do you know what smallpox is?” “Like chicken pox?” David asked. He contracted the hemorrhagic form of the disease 118 00-01. He was one of those people who kept you young just by being around. . then handed it back.” Jesse said. flipping open the flap.” he said. . Mag . “Much worse.Gatekeepers. David gasped. “That’s her. He slid the chair around from the end of the table and dropped into it. He picked it up and squinted at it. In front was a family posing for the camera: a man. Keal. David said. It was a photograph showing a farmhouse in the background. Blisters and a rash cover the skin. Marge . and a little girl. “Xander. he was so full of energy.
. Jeffrey died on September 12.” “You just said he died. He’s retired now.indd 119 10/31/08 1:06:25 PM .” Xander interrupted. “You talked to a guy who died in 1994?” Jesse nodded.” “Tracked the guy down. Jesse said.g ate kee p er s on a mission trip. .” David jumped as if Jesse had lunged out of his chair at him. like forever. “He did. “I had a wonderful conversation with him. It’s been gone for . “You have to hear this.” David said. . “I learned about smallpox.” Jesse said. “I thought smallpox—” Jesse held up his hand to stop him. “I’m sorry. “Earlier today. His skin turned black from all the bleeding of his organs and muscle tissue.” Jesse said.” “That’s . impossible.” “Wait a minute. “The World Health Organization declared it 119 00-01.” he said.” Jesse looked at Toria. “What?” Xander said. “in the world that existed three days ago.” the younger man said. “At the airport in Chicago.” Jesse agreed. I put Jesse on. “In the world you know.” Xander said. I asked him. sweetheart. I spoke to Jeffrey Lewis. it is. “When I made the connection. obviously irritated. Wanted to tell me all about his grandkids. His eyes were wet. 1994. but here—” “Besides. Let’s just say he suffered terribly.Gatekeepers.” Xander said. Keal made the calls for me. . In today’s world. I spoke to my friend. He said the worst illness he ever had was a stomach bug years ago. he never died.
eradicated on May 8, 1980.” He put the envelope and
paper on the table and pressed his hand over them as
though preventing them from flying away. “A couple of
days ago, I had memories I no longer have. I wrote them all
down.” He tapped his fingers on the paper. “I remembered
the world—today’s world—still suffering from smallpox.
Two million deaths a year. The disease spared no one: children, parents . . . anyone could contract it, and an average
of six in ten of those who did died of it.” He panned his
eyes across the faces of the King children.
“So you had a dream,” Xander said.
“It wasn’t a dream,” Jesse said. “It was a memory.”
“You probably remember polio too,” Xander said.
Jesse shook his head. “You don’t understand. It was a
memory, because three days ago, that’s the way the world
actually was. Smallpox had not been wiped out. Two days
ago smallpox was gone—and had been gone for thirty
“That doesn’t make sense,” David said.
Jesse smiled. “Three days ago Marguerite Rousseau had
died as a child, a casualty of the German war machine. But
two days ago, she hadn’t died—because you saved her. She
grew up to perfect the vaccine that eliminated smallpox from
Xander sighed loudly. He leaned back and ran his fingers
through his hair. “Like I said, I learned about how we beat
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
g ate kee p er s
smallpox when I was in seventh grade, three years ago. It didn’t
just change a couple days ago.”
“It did and it didn’t,” Jesse said. He tilted his head toward
one shoulder, then the other like a clock’s pendulum. “The
world changed when David saved Marguerite. That happened
for David two days ago; it happened for Marguerite nearly
seventy years ago. Everything became different the moment
David saved her, the moment in history when he saved her.”
“I don’t get it,” Toria said.
“Time travel is tricky business,” Jesse said. “Scientists argue
about it. Most say it’d be impossible to change history, because
the past is the past.”
“But you know better,” Xander said.
Jesse’s head went up and down, slowly.
David pressed his chest into the table’s edge. “I still don’t get
how you knew it was me who saved her and it was at that
moment that history changed.”
“Some of us have a gift,” Jesse said. “We sense those changes.
When the change occurs, the way things were before the change
comes to us like a dream or almost-forgotten memory. After a
couple of days, even that—the dream, the memory—fades. Then
we’re like everybody else: we don’t remember that the world was
ever any different. When I woke the other day, smallpox had
been eradicated years before. But I had memories that it hadn’t
been. I knew someone had changed history. That’s why I wrote
my thoughts down—before they left my mind for good.”
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
He stopped, raising his head to listen to something David
didn’t hear. Then he did hear it: the house was groaning, a
low, steady sound that reminded him of the way the trees
around the house creaked in the wind.
Jesse winked at him and said, “This house has old bones
David smiled. He hoped that was all it was.
Jesse went on. “Right now, I have no recollection of
smallpox during the last forty years. I have no memory of
Jeffrey Lewis’s death. But I have what I wrote.” He picked
up the page, shook it, and set it down again. “I used a computer to research smallpox. I learned about Marguerite. In
her autobiography, she details her childhood in the French
village of Ivry-la-Bataille. I have an excerpt here.“
“Oh, come on,” Xander said. He stood abruptly. “What’s
“Xander,” David said, pleading.
“You want someone to read to you, Dae, I’ll go get
Grimms’ fairy tales. It’ll mean as much.” He pointed toward
the ceiling. “Mom is—” His lips clamped shut. He shifted
his gaze to Jesse.
The old man cocked his head, waited for Xander to continue. When he didn’t, Jesse said, “You might want to stay
for this, Xander. Ms. Rousseau writes about your brother.”
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
twenty - one
We dne s day, 1 :50 a . m .
Xander blinked at Jesse. “She wrote about David in her
“Published in 1988,” Jesse said.
“I wasn’t even born yet,” David said.
Xander appeared uncertain. Slowly he sat and scooted the
Jesse consulted the paper. “Marguerite tells how her town
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
was destroyed when the German army came through. Her
father was a Resistance fighter and died there. Her mother
was also killed.”
David looked at the lady in the picture. She could have
been the woman he’d seen fall in front of the tank. His heart
ached for her.
Jesse said, “Her uncle raised her. He told her how she had
almost died as well during the attack. Here’s what she
wrote.” He squinted at the page, a shaky finger moving over
lines of text. “The tank was bearing down on me. My uncle was too
far away to help. He said that a boy no older than eleven or twelve darted
out into the street and scooped me up. This child risked being shot by the
Resistance fighters on one side and the Germans on the other. When he
grabbed me, the tank was but a meter away. I sometimes think what that
boy must have felt at that moment: the heat from the tank blasting his skin;
bullets flying around him, sparking off the tank; the smoke of burning
buildings and ignited gunpowder stinging his nostrils, burning his lungs.
And yet he saved me. My uncle claimed to have never seen this boy before
or since. This is very strange, considering Ivry’s small community.”
Jesse glanced up.
David blinked. His chest was tight, remembering.
Jesse said, “I think you’ll like this next part. I have often
wondered about this child’s bravery, and how he seemed to come out of
nowhere and then return to nowhere after saving my life. I have come to
this conclusion: he was an angel.”
David’s breath caught in his lungs, and he grinned. He
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
g ate kee p er s
swung around to see Xander’s stunned face. He said, “An angel.”
He turned to Toria. “Did you hear that?”
She said, “You? That was you? Wow!”
Looking at her, David felt as though he had grown two
inches taller, with broader shoulders—if not for real, then at
least in his sister’s eyes. He remembered the shrapnel that had
hit his calf, how badly it had stung. He thought of how scared
he had been, so close to puking from fear. He could almost feel
the flames he had run through to get to the portal that took
him home, and how the fire had burned his shirt collar. All of
these things seemed to fall away from him now, like heavy rocks
he had been carrying. He had saved someone who had gone on
to save millions. All that meant, to himself and to the world,
was too enormous for his mind to grasp.
Jesse said, “That’s how I knew when the world had changed. A
long time ago, I took to recording my dream-memories in a journal. Sometimes these memories would leave me so suddenly, I had
to stop writing in midsentence. I used to read that journal every
now and then. It kept me from forgetting what it was all about.”
“What what was all about?” Xander said.
“Can you . . .” David said. “Can you help us?”
Xander stood and grabbed David’s arm. “We have to talk.”
David smiled apologetically. He followed Xander into the
“What are you thinking?” Xander whispered.
10/31/08 1:06:26 PM
The old man was slumped in his chair.” “Xander.” They went into the dining room.indd 126 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . his chin on his chest. Xander’s stern expression made it clear the point was nonnegotiable. thinking.” Keal whispered.Robert Liparulo “You mean. Toria’s head rested on her arms. “All right.” “But—” David started. which were crossed on the table. “Deal.” Xander nodded.” He gestured toward Jesse. He gave in. His eyes settled on the upstairs hallway. 126 00-01. I’ll buy that. you’re still not ready to trust him?” Xander rolled his eyes.” David said. “She’s out. “If it meant getting Mom back faster. Her back rose and fell gently. “He said some people have a gift to know when history changes. This house proves that anything’s possible. Not yet. “But don’t tell them about Mom. please. he’d say yes. You know he would. not sure how they were supposed to get help without saying what they needed help doing. “This one might be faking. Let’s see where this leads. after everything you heard. “What would Dad do?” “He’d say yes to help. That doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. He whispered.” He pointed at David. Her hair covered her face and spilled over the edge like a waterfall. snoring.Gatekeepers.” His brother looked around. Okay.
” Keal said. ask for his help. “Yeah. . 127 00-01.” “What about him and the house?” David said.” Xander said. to them. The pressure to rescue Mom before something happened—to her. He frowned. The old man’s lids were closed. as though they should have known. “Jesse?” David whispered. “But we were gonna . he likes to tease. “He’s sleeping. the way they do when you dream.g ate kee p er s “Faking?” Xander said. “He should have said that in the first place. and his bottom lip vibrated with every drawn-in breath. “Tell him . Both of their mouths hung open. . His mouth was slightly open. . “Do you know what’s going on?” Xander asked Keal.” Xander said. eyes moving behind them. .” David wasn’t sure what it was exactly they were going to do.Gatekeepers. not at all the Obi-Wan Kenobi moment his gut told him it was.” It sounded lame.indd 127 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . to the house—felt like juggling dynamite. both of their brows furrowed tight.” David swung his head toward Xander. “With the house? Him and the house? Some. “His father and brother and him. “He built it.” David knelt beside the wheelchair to examine Jesse’s face. He looked at Xander. He wanted so badly for someone to step in and lend a hand. to snatch the explosives out of the air and give his arms a rest.” “Figures.
Keal tightened his face. “I think . .Robert Liparulo “He’d have gotten around to it. And the older you get. A hint of disappointment must have shown on his face.Gatekeepers. he’s gotta know something.” Keal said. “This man’s head is like a library—especially when it comes to this house. About your age.” The sound grew louder and 128 00-01. fifty years. but not everything. . But you can only read one book at a time. . “The way he talks. “All of its secrets.” David didn’t want to hear that. .indd 128 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .” “I don’t know about that. 1932. “But between the building and the living in it. dreams. The adventures he must have had.” “When did they build it?” David said. “I think something like . forty-five. Seems to me this house is like that. Xander. fears.” Keal said. . . He studied Jesse’s sleeping face. it’s like . trying to remember. Keal said. The house groaned again. They needed for the man who built the house to know all about it. to tell everything they needed to know to beat it.” “He must know everything about the house. don’t you think?” “How long was he here?” Xander said.” “In this house?” David couldn’t even imagine being here that long.” Xander said. ’33? He was a teenager. and David knew immediately it wasn’t simply “old bones. Your mom and dad know a lot about you. like the house has a life of its own. the more things you take on that are your own: experiences.
Jesse said.g ate kee p er s deeper. The groaning and cracking faded until the house was silent again. His eyes darted around. “It’s hungry. His hair was buffeting around his head. like the start-up of an engine big enough to power a city. Jesse startled awake. Xander’s too: shaggy and uncombed. as if in a strong breeze. His eyes were intense.” “What’s it saying?” David said. He touched his own hair: flat on his head as it should have been. fire blue. Sharp sounds seemed to signal the splintering of wood. but he saw nothing like those things. He put his hand on David’s arm. but not moving. and he didn’t feel a thing. She blinked sleepily. “I have to leave. like Mom’s and Xander’s. “The house is talking to us. It snapped out and froze.” “What? No!” David said. He raised his hand and moved it in front of Jesse. Jesse looked down at him. which David had draped over a wheel of the chair. Jesse’s hair went limp.” 129 00-01. The old man said.indd 129 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .Gatekeepers. It unfroze and billowed. Jesse said. Nothing. His shirt collar started to flap. David was kneeling beside Jesse’s wheelchair. the cracking of glass. pointing past his face at the foyer. “What was that?” Toria said.
This page intentionally left blank This page intentionally left blank 00-01.indd 130 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .Gatekeepers.
son. 2:07 a .” David shook his head. m . but I can tell you that you’re more than an ordinary boy.OP chapter twenty - two We dne s day.indd 131 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . You and Xander—your family—you’re meant to be here. Oh.” 131 00-01. He patted David’s arm. “Don’t look so scared. It’s not just an ordinary house. Jesse laughed. come on! That was the last thing David wanted to hear: It’s hungry. “I don’t understand. an airy wheeze.Gatekeepers.
“I promise. Not everyone finds out what that is. I mean. like ours.” “To where?” David said. but his brother looked as baffled as David felt.” “I was hoping . “But . we’re all gifted to do something very specific. generation after generation. . .” “We do what?” David said. “To the future.” David gripped the old man’s shoulder. Sleep here. it’s what this family is supposed to do. .” Jesse said.” Jesse said. but it’s true. In some cases. knew what part they played on life’s stage. blacksmith . Jesse’s hair fluttered.” 132 00-01. those rooms upstairs. “It’s what we do. “What are we supposed to do?” Jesse leaned closer.indd 132 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .Gatekeepers. “I’ll be back tomorrow. in the house with us. . We have room. It’s in our blood. . leader. . but there was a time when whole families.” “What?” David said. “I have to leave. Our society has grown away from it. “We make sure only those events that are supposed to happen get through. The way gatekeepers of old allowed into the city only those people meant to be there .” David said. “We’re gatekeepers. It felt like nothing but bone under the jacket.” David looked to Xander.Robert Liparulo “This house. Hunter. David. . The house groaned mournfully. “I was hoping you’d stay. . it’s in our lineage. so we do here.” he said again.
for as long as you want me. “The worlds’. it’ll just—” He snapped his fingers. “Snatch me away. “If you want. I’ll have to go away for a while. “I can feel the pull. making him flinch.” Xander said. “I’ll be here as much as I can.” “Theirs?” David said. . inches from David’s nose. At least until your parents return. if you’ll feel safer. and Toria let out a quick scream.” “We can’t. “We can’t leave the house.” Jesse said.” he said.” Jesse appeared disappointed.” He frowned. “I think it’s 133 00-01. I can feel it wanting to drag me back into the stream. “But I’ve been into those other worlds so many times. If I stay in the house too long. grabbing at me. That’s the way it has to be. I can get a room for you there too. just like that.” Somewhere in the house a door slammed. the stream of Time. . Not now. Jesse took his eyes off the foyer entrance to address the children. I guess. “Well.” Jesse scanned the ceiling. He said. “Okay . All of them jumped. But when I feel the pull. Not long: few hours. That wind blowing my hair? That’s it.” he said. they think I’m theirs.Gatekeepers. Time’s.” David frowned.” David said.” “But we need your help.indd 133 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .g ate kee p er s “I wish I could. Jesse put his hand on David’s head and brushed his hair back. “And you have it. “Keal and I are going to a motel in town. few days—I don’t know.
Robert Liparulo acting up because I’m here.” Xander said.” David said. David thought. Within Jesse’s reach was an elm leaf. “Look beside him. But Jesse said no more. as though catching in the ebb and flow of a tide. Now it talks and breathes.” 134 00-01. and the big man stood. You’ll be okay. it’s like the house is breathing. On his other side was a clump of pine needles. It was big and dry and papery looking in the porch’s light. Jesse sat on the edge of the porch while Keal carried the wheelchair through the woods to the road.Gatekeepers.” Xander said. 9 David and Xander watched through the windows on either side of the front door. He nodded at Keal. It snapped back toward the house. pushing up the edges of his mustache.” Xander said. “The way his hair is blowing one way and then the opposite. Motel.” He smiled. Neither the leaf nor the needles so much as fluttered. “It’s only him. here I come. then forward.” “Great. If he says “I think” now. It was billowing around his head the way it had done in the dining room. “feeling the wind. “His hair’s doing it again. “Like it’s not creepy enough. I’m outta here.” David said.indd 134 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM .
” “I can’t.” David said. to make movies. .” he said. Xander.” David said. “What do you think about what he said.” Xander slapped his hand on the ball atop the post at the base of the banister. We’re going to find Mom and get out of here. She was right there. “It’s nice to know she’s safe. “We found her. Maybe I’ll make one about this house. our being gate keepers?” “I think he’s crazy. I know. came out and back in another. He was whining. I don’t know how these worlds work. Dae.” His brother glared at him. That’ll be all the gatekeeping I’ll do.g ate kee p er s “And it’s hungry.indd 135 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . 135 00-01.” “No. She went in one. I’m glad about it. “We gotta go get Mom.” Toria said from her perch on the stairs. More than looking. He said. “Then everything happened to keep us from getting back to her! It would have been better if we’d never seen her message.” David said.” He looked up toward the second floor.” “They chased me away.Gatekeepers. . David made sure the door’s dead bolt was locked. I’m heading back to L. we’re close. “It’s not fair.” “Now? ” “She’s waiting for us. and now she’s in an even different one. “I’m beat. Let’s start again in the morning. I thought all we had to do was get you in there to show her the way home. and he didn’t care. “I know.” Xander said.A. “I’m not supposed to be here. and she knows we’re looking . As soon as I’m old enough.
” Xander nodded.indd 136 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . she’s going to do everything she can to stay in the Civil War world until we get to her.” David agreed. Toria’s eyes were closed.Robert Liparulo But. Her head rested in her hands.” “For sure. “Tomorrow. then snapping back up. and it kept drooping to one side. “Okay.” Xander said. already starting to doze off. for sure. Xander. 136 00-01.Gatekeepers. I know it. looking at their sister sitting on the stairs.
What had them all unable to sleep. All three stared at the ceiling. and a few water stains marred its surface. The paint had peeled in spots. was the clomping around up 137 00-01.OP chapter twenty - three We dne s day.Gatekeepers. David and his sister lay shoulder to shoulder in Toria’s bed. Xander was on the floor beside it. But it didn’t matter. on edge and frazzled.indd 137 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . 2:42 a . David was sure there was more damage to the ceiling than he could see by the dim glow of Toria’s Fiona nightlight. m .
He rolled onto his side to see Xander and whispered. “Good thing we didn’t go up there to look for the Civil War stuff. David didn’t answer. “The Cyclops’s name is Polyphemus.Robert Liparulo there. objects clattered. “That’s not Mom.” Xander said. That’s the guy who took Mom.indd 138 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . “What?” “There was a poster at school. For the umpteenth time. “What if it’s Mom making that noise?” David listened to the heavy thumps.” he said.” “I’ve been thinking. amazed.” “Sounds exactly like the big man.” “Phemus.Gatekeepers. And he’s bald. “He’s not a Cyclops. I call him Phemus for short. He’s naked. that part’s different. but a little flabby too. the big man has two eyes.” Xander corrected. David lifted his head to make sure the chair was still wedged under the handle of the closed bedroom door. except for these animal pelts around his waist. “Does the Cyclops have a beard?” “Naw.” David pointed out.” “Do you really want to go into the hallway?” Xander said. Footsteps pounded. the one who took her. “We could move into our bedroom.” Xander said. What’s Phay-mus?” “Phemus. “It’s the big man.” David said. It shows Odysseus being captured by a Cyclops.” 138 00-01. After a while he said. The Cyclops is huge and muscular.” “Plus.
The noises from the third floor faded—in reality or only in his own ears.” Xander said.” “’Night. Phemus or whoever. “Are you kidding?” “I don’t want anything to do with that hallway when whatever’s making those noises is there. her mouth slightly parted. He settled onto his back. David rolled away. grainy as though sand had gotten in.g ate kee p er s “Phemus. “Good night. than find out and die. he didn’t know.” David said. feeling it on his tongue.Gatekeepers. Every time he blinked. “You’re not thinking about going up there?” David got a cold chill just thinking about it. Toria’s slow. “I’d like to know what’s going on. deep breathing lulled him closer to sleep. and didn’t give it much thought. 139 00-01.” David’s eyes felt heavy in his head. Dae. it took more and more effort to open his lids again.” “No. It sounded like something was being dragged through the third-floor hallway. Xander. A minute later he whispered.indd 139 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . I’d rather never know what’s going on and live. really?” Xander said. Toria’s eyes were closed. His eyes closed and stayed that way.
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“Mom?” With consciousness came excitement: She was here! She had found her way home! “David?” she whispered. “Mom!” He sat up. leaning over him. There she was. throwing his arms around her. 9:48 a . His eyes fluttered open.Gatekeepers. Her hand gently shook his shoulder. The morning light radiated behind her. 141 00-01. His mother woke him.indd 141 10/31/08 1:06:26 PM . I missed you! I love you! Are you all right? But none of these things came out. m .OP chapter twenty - four We dne s day.
“Are you all right?” “I—” Unwilling to let his mother go.” Toria said. squeeze her. He shook his head.” He tried to smile but couldn’t.” Toria said.Gatekeepers. “David. “Who? You? You said last night you didn’t want to go through a portal. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His sister’s face brightened. “Until Dad sorts things out with the police.” “No. her face contorted by concern. His eyes found her face. He blinked.” She pushed him away.Robert Liparulo He just wanted to hold her.” He blinked.indd 142 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . wiped his eyes. feel her in his arms. She brushed her fingers over his cheek. “I mean. as did his heart. I want to go get her.” He glared at her. Toria sat in front of him. “You were dreaming. longing to see it. . You thought I was Mom. “I thought . we can’t leave the house. “I want to go. “You’re crying. She said. he looked around the room. They might grab us and not let us back in. I want to go over. The corners of his mouth dropped. “I know.” she said. .” 142 00-01. Daylight through the window made everything clear—and it was clear his mother was not there. “What?” he said.” she said.
” “Xander too?” He shook his head.” “No way. his face.” He saw that she didn’t understand. “That’s . no. He said. Toria. “It’s almost like the people over there look for reasons to not like you. Dae.g ate kee p er s “I changed my mind. .” “Go where?” Xander said. 143 00-01.” Xander stared into the corner of the room.indd 143 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . He put his hand on the bed and lifted himself up to sit beside Toria. “I guess they thought he was a Union soldier trying to run away. but she thinks she can.” “But I have to go. something else.” David said. For Mom. You said they chased you out.” David said. to want to hurt you. thinking.” she said.Gatekeepers. What are they gonna do?” “You don’t know these worlds. “Xander and I—and Mom—were in Union territory.” David said. Toria knows we can’t go back. “Were you crying?” Again David wiped his eyes. “Xander.” “But they don’t know me. “and I’m a little girl. He squinted at David. He gave their sister a little push. “She wants to go over. . “The first time we went to the Civil War. They don’t like that much. They thought I was an enemy soldier. He nodded. I was wearing Confederate gray.” Xander said.
” 144 00-01. You know he would. “Maybe she’s right.Robert Liparulo Xander raised his eyebrows.” “We made it out alive.” “Barely. “Look at her.” David said.” his brother said. “Who’s going to hurt anything so cute?” Toria grinned. He said. “Yes!” David grabbed Xander’s arm. even if she gets Mom and comes back without a scratch.” Xander said.Gatekeepers.indd 144 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . “Dad would kill us. he’d kill us. “In this case.” “It’s too dangerous.” David reminded him. “Not if everything goes all right.
m . running.” “Not all the time. “It’s never gone smoothly for us when we go over. Even the animals weren’t afraid of me. “There was that one peaceful world. Dad and I threw rocks into a river. He was scrambling eggs in a frying pan. Beautiful meadows. It’s always about fighting.” 145 00-01. He said. The argument continued in the kitchen.Gatekeepers. survival.indd 145 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .OP chapter twenty - five We dne s day. 10 :30 a . David dropped bread into the toaster.” Xander said.
Tongs in hand. “For us. David said. David watched the coils inside the toaster turn orange. One. The smells reminded David how hungry he was. “Hey. which had sat in his stomach like Play-Doh. and he transferred the slices to a plate.” Xander scooped the eggs onto a plate and started laying strips of bacon into the pan. He turned away from it. “One place where people weren’t trying to kill us. He said. Every stroke made the bread uglier. “I don’t know about ‘fatty. The sizzling meat sounded like gale-force rain striking the windows. 146 00-01. He said. you’re the one who won’t listen to reason.” Xander said.Gatekeepers.” “Arguing?” Xander said. The night before. levered them down.’ but I don’t like crispy.” The toast popped up. he had choked down maybe three bites of clumpy spaghetti. He put more bread in the toaster. He said.” Toria said. “I can’t believe we’re doing this. She was opening a package of bacon for Xander to fry up.indd 146 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .” The toast kept tearing under David’s butter knife.” “Maybe it is. It’s not a peaceful meadow. “Like it’s just some normal day. Xander watched the bacon. and began buttering the finished ones.” David said. And we know the Civil War world. “Crispy or fatty?” “Crispy.” Toria said.” “I mean making breakfast.Robert Liparulo “That sounds nice.
We have to watch out for Taksidian and the fifty ways he’s trying to capture us. “My point is. or otherwise get us out of the house.” 147 00-01.” “I wish we’d never laid eyes on it.” “It means learning what he knows. “I’m not sure we ever had a choice. . “I’m just saying.g ate kee p er s “Dad told me. murder us. We should be picking Jesse’s brain for everything he knows. even though it was scary. .Gatekeepers. now that we’re in this house. all at once.” “What do you mean?” David said. maybe that’s our normal . Toria. it’s too much. This is today’s destiny.” David said. “Eew. Doesn’t all of that feel like destiny to you?” “What about Hollywood? You said you were going to make movies. Filmmaking is tomorow’s. And remember. “Like I said. and the reason he did going back to when he was a kid. ‘Time is God’s way of preventing everything from happening at once. Dae. He said. .indd 147 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .’ ” he said. attracted to it. Xander flipped the bacon. . “Like it’s our destiny to be here?” Xander shrugged. “But it is all happening at once: We have to rescue Mom from a world that’s trying to kill us. We have to figure out how to get Dad out of jail without letting them arrest us too.” “Picking his brain?” Toria said. With Dad kind of making it happen.” Xander smiled at him. we were excited about this place .” David said.” “I am.
He carried his breakfast contribution into the dining room. “What if I figured out a way to know what’s happening without having to go up there?” David gave him a puzzled look. the ones coming from the third floor?” “Creepy. ‘No. then cut thin patties of butter from the stick and set them on the edge of the plate. ?” “A camera. “We put one right at the beginning of the hallway. He said. .” Xander said. and Xander with the bacon. but if this is it. “I don’t know what destiny feels like. I don’t like it.” “That’s why Toria should go over. never mind.” Xander said. it’s too—” Xander waved his hand at him. I want to un-destiny this place from my life.” David followed Toria back into the kitchen. “David. really? ’ ” David reminded him.indd 148 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .” “And you said.Robert Liparulo The second round of toast popped up behind David. “Okaaaay . “Xander.Gatekeepers.” Toria said. you said you’d rather not know what was causing them than go up there and die. David wanted to punch him. “Never mind. Toria followed with the eggs. Xander began using the tongs to pull the bacon from the grease and lay the strips on folded paper towels. He put the new toast on top of the mangled slices. Xander said. . Xander was 148 00-01. You know those noises last night. just inside the landing. A big grin stretched out on his face.
“Security cameras. .indd 149 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . David gave Xander’s fingers a squeeze. “You start filming when we go to bed. “Will a camera work up there? Your video camera didn’t work when I took it over into that jungle world.Gatekeepers. “Those wireless ones that show the camera’s perspective on a TV or computer monitor. and I want to know what’s happening when it happens. thank You for this food. David said.” Thinking about it. David set the fork down and clasped his siblings’ hands.” 149 00-01. David scooped eggs onto his plate and dropped three strips of bacon beside them.” “That was through a portal. It works. carrying three glasses of OJ. “Heavenly Father. Please keep Mom safe and bring her home soon. A forkful of eggs was halfway to his mouth when Toria said. “Who knows why it went wacky? I’ve filmed all over the house.” “So what are you thinking?” David passed out the plates and sat down. ?” She was reaching her hands out to him and Xander. “It doesn’t record that long. David picked up a stack of plates.” Toria brushed past them.g ate kee p er s right on him. When no one said anything. .” Xander said. wanting David to tell him what a brilliant idea it was.” Xander said. and Xander plucked forks out of a drawer. “David .” Xander said. “So what?” David said. Instead. then check it in the morning?” “That’s no good. Xander said. not later.
Amen. but teaching—as Dad had done before accepting the principal’s position here in Pinedale—wasn’t exactly a high-paying career.” David said. nodding. “So.” “You’re kidding. “the hardware store sells security camera kits.” Xander said. Toria lowered her eyes to her plate. He said.Robert Liparulo David stepped in before Xander could close the prayer. anyway.Gatekeepers. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to buy their kids things. “Dad. “I’ve got money. “Last night. He leaned over his plate and began shoveling scrambled egg into his mouth like coal into a furnace.” “He always says that.indd 150 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .” Everything about that amazed David: that their parents had extra money and that they’d put it into a car for Xander.” He smiled. “Gross!” David opened his mouth wide. when I saw Dad in jail.” “Aren’t they expensive?” David said. too. “And make us strong and courageous.” Xander said.” Toria said. he said that’s what we have to be. “Don’t talk with your mouth full. 150 00-01.” Xander said. And Mom had chosen full-time parenting over juggling a job and kids. “You do?” “Mom showed me some cash she’d set aside to buy me a car. so that’s what she had done since Xander was born.
” Toria said. “She was so cool about it.g ate kee p er s They were always pinching pennies for little extras.” Seeing David’s frown. Then he realized how much time it would take 151 00-01. “She wasn’t going to tell me until my birthday.indd 151 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .” “The hardware store’s on the other side of town. but she knew the move was getting me down. now. like David’s soccer equipment and Toria’s piano lessons.Gatekeepers. But a car? Wow. “When were you thinking of doing it—putting the camera up there?” “Right away. he said.” David said. She had gone there with Dad the other day to get locks for the third-floor doors—locks the house had shaken off the way a dog shakes off fleas. Xander’s bike was a secondhand three-speed with a loose chain and a wobbly wheel.” David nodded.” David considered telling Xander that getting a camera wasn’t worth leaving the house. remembering.” Xander said. It wasn’t worth risking being spotted by the police. “If the cops see me. “That’s a long ride.” He folded a piece of bacon into his mouth. and I definitely want it working before we go to bed. “I don’t know how long it’ll take to set up. “That’s Mom. and she hoped it would cheer me up. it doesn’t matter whether I’m walking or riding my bike or chasing poodles up Main Street in a Ferrari—they’re going to haul me away. “I’ll take the car again.” Xander said. in case whatever went on last night goes on again.
folded it. not caring what it looked like. after all the things you’ve survived lately?” 152 00-01. . hard. maybe Dad would be home to nix Xander’s stupid plan. you look for the Civil War world while I’m gone. Xander dropped back into his seat and watched David with big eyes. David looked at his brother out of the corner of his eye. Xander stood and slapped him on the back. As much as David wanted to find Mom. . “Toria.” He snapped up a slice of toast. and he wiped them. he didn’t want Toria going over. That’ll keep it from shifting away. cleared his throat. He took a swig of juice. Toria ran around the table to rub his back. His eyes had begun to water.” David pulled in a breath.indd 152 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . Chewing while he talked. Then again. stay in the antechamber. and his brother started thinking again about sending their sister over. “I would feel a lot safer knowing what’s happening up there. He said. sucking egg down the wrong pipe. “I’ll go in a few minutes. he said. Whatever was in there cleared. He nodded. David swallowed and breathed.Gatekeepers. He started to choke and let food fall from his mouth onto the plate. time not spent finding the Civil War world. and stuffed it into his mouth. If you find it.” Xander nodded. “Are you all right?” she said sweetly. He said.Robert Liparulo to buy it and then install it . “Wouldn’t it be a trip if you choked to death on eggs. By the time the camera was ready.
Go finish eating.” he said.g ate kee p er s David glared at him. his voice hoarse. The sound of it reminded David why he’d choked in the first place. then we’ll look for the Civil War stuff. “Xander. “Toria. “But what if it takes a while for the world to come back around? What if something keeps Toria from getting Mom? Then we’ll be back in bed tonight. He said. okay?” “Yeah.Gatekeepers. Let’s just get that done and be covered. He said. Let’s do that.” Xander frowned. Just before the lights went out for good. David covered the mess with a slice of toast. “It would be sad. I’m all right.” Xander said. looking at the food that had fallen from David’s mouth. “We should get Mom first.” She was scrunching her nose. wondering what’s happening on the third floor. “You wouldn’t care. “I think we can get a camera system up and running pretty fast. He said.indd 153 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . He said. He said. I’d be thinking Eggs? Eggs? You gotta be kidding! ” Even Toria laughed. You’d be gone.” Xander said.” “It is. “For us. That’s the most important thing.” 153 00-01. pressing into his arm. It’s too dangerous. then. we can’t look for the world while you’re gone. “Just go sit down.” David said.” Toria was still standing next to David.” David couldn’t help but smile. “I’d care.” “I’m not hungry anymore.
” “I wish Dad was here. He could tell she was still trying to get a handle on that word antechamber. He said he thought it was all a scam. “That’s fifteen hours ago. He said. Now they used it like a thousand times a day. “Then we could see which items are in the antechambers anytime we wanted to. calculating. Xander’s eyes grew wide. He felt his smile fade. in all the antechambers. He wiggled his fingers.indd 154 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . that they’d never discovered that stupid third floor.” David said. “not to need the cameras.“ Xander said. like they were holding on to the ledge of a cliff 154 00-01. .” Toria said.” “But wouldn’t that be cool?” “It’d be cooler.” David said. leaning back in her chair. “They took him at about seven thirty last night. Let’s get Mom and get gone. He wished he didn’t know it. He was more than a little upset that the house had made a few hours seem like an eternity.” Toria said. David smiled. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever heard it before coming here.Gatekeepers.” “That’s nine more hours. “I’ll just get one extra camera to see if it even works in an antechamber. .” Xander pushed his lips sideways. his lips made a perfect O. that they didn’t dare hold him longer than a day. “It’d take a week to set up twenty cameras like that.Robert Liparulo “Too bad we can’t put a camera in all the rooms up there .” David said.
say something like.” Xander said. we’ll go get Mom.” Toria and David picked up their own glasses and clinked them against Xander’s.Gatekeepers. “Strong and courageous!” he said. “If you’re still up for it. “After I put the camera up.g ate kee p er s and their fingers were growing tired. He lifted his glass of juice. so they could think.” David hoped she would drop her face. David joined them. 155 00-01.” Xander told Toria. But she didn’t. Despite his feelings about Toria going over. He wished everything would just slow down so they could take a breath. “To being strong and courageous.indd 155 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . She puffed out her chest and said. I’m too scared. “I can do it!” “Okay. I changed my mind.
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157 00-01. Noon David sat in the Mission Control Center. His teeth pushed into his bottom lip as he clicked the buttons that caused his on-screen soccer player to make a bicycle kick for the goal: right past the tender and in! As the crowd roared and a teammate gave him a high five. his head bowed toward the PSP in his hands.indd 157 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .Gatekeepers. he glanced up to a computer monitor on a desk in front of him.OP chapter twenty - six We dne s day.
Xander looked over his shoulder at the crooked hallway of doors behind him. “We’re getting interference!” David called over his shoulder. “We’re getting—” David started. “What?” Toria called back from the base of the stairs leading to the third floor.Gatekeepers. The camera he’d picked up at the hardware store after breakfast made his eyes appear unnaturally large. Static flashed on the screen. He pushed back from the desk and stepped out of the MCC. She was roughly midway between David and Xander and was conveying their words back and forth. The pencil he held in his mouth looked more like a horse’s bit. They had turned what Mom had called the servants’ quarters into their base of operations for her rescue. “Hold on!” David said. More static broke Xander’s face across the screen. He was squinting over the camera. 158 00-01. where twenty doors led into twenty small rooms and. It was close to the staircase leading to the third level. then wiggled the camera around. so it seemed like he was staring at David’s hair. He was mounting it above the doorway between the third-floor landing and the hall. The room was off a short hallway that jutted back toward the rear of the house from the second floor’s main hallway.Robert Liparulo Xander’s face filled the screen. then a band of snow scrolled from the top of the screen to the bottom. beyond them.indd 158 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .
different “worlds”— all of them on earth. Whoever had built it wasn’t concerned about appearances: the wall was nothing more than a barrier to keep people out. They’d followed him and found a secret door in the wall. Six feet beyond it was another wall. to keep them from coming through the portals and into the main part of the house.” David yelled.Gatekeepers. “I’m wondering if there’s anything between the camera and the monitor that’s causing it. David thought.” David said. “Just looking. but off to the side—was another door. and Toria was leaning against its frame. Or more likely. to keep people in.indd 159 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . Lot of good the extra security did. this one coated in unpainted plaster. “We’re getting static. The metal door was open. One evening David and Xander had spotted the big man—the one Xander dubbed Phemus—in their house. Even the unsanded swirls of the trowel that had applied the plaster were still visible. they might as well have been alien planets.” 159 00-01.g ate kee p er s twenty portals opened into different times. David thought. David stepped into the opening of that door. The staircase itself was hidden behind the wall at the end of the short hallway. but so unlike the time and places the Kings knew. “What?” she said. covered in metal. “What’s going on?” Xander called from the floor above. Now. as Phemus had done when he took Mom. Set in this second wall—not directly in front of the secret door.
“I heard. A series of colored index cards 160 00-01. like the other one. “There might be wires running through the walls that are interfering.” “Get back to the monitor!” Toria yelled into David’s ear.” Xander said.” He went through the secret door into the short hall and returned to the MCC. The backside of the hallway wall was imperfectly finished. He could hear Xander fiddling with something.indd 160 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM .Robert Liparulo He scanned the area between the walls. it spanned the length of two walls. about the size of a walk-in closet. He wiggled a fingertip into his ear. but his brother was out of sight.” “Get back to the monitor. He rapped his knuckles against this second wall. Tough guys from Xander’s movie posters—300. “I’ll fiddle—!” David clamped his hand over her mouth. in the hallway to the left of the landing. “I’ll fiddle with the camera. frowning at her. They had told her to yell to the other whatever one of them said. Remember the Titans—stared down at him. Dad had hung a timeline of history near the ceiling. The room was coming along. “I can’t tell. “That hurt.” he said. trying to be funny. They were meant to psych them up to face the dangers of the other worlds. but the sound told him nothing about what was inside. Gladiator. David stepped past Toria to the base of the steps that rose straight up to the landing.” he said.Gatekeepers. see what I can do.
took the pencil out of his mouth. His brother’s mouth moved. He wondered if he’d ever find the time to do that. He adjusted the camera. the tiger-and-warriorinfested jungle. Now that David knew what Xander had said. then it dropped 161 00-01. “How’s that?” Toria yelled. the French village during World War II. David still wanted to add cards that listed the items they had found in the antechambers and link the cards with string. “But tell him to move it a little to the left!” She passed it along. raised his eyebrows in question.indd 161 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . “That’s good!” David said. His head filled the monitor. and Xander nudged the camera angle the wrong way. He dropped into the chair in front of the monitor. the peaceful world where Dad and Xander had first carved Bob into a tree. “My left! The camera’s left!” David yelled. Xander nodded. he recognized the way his mouth had moved to form the words. Xander rolled his eyes. If they did this long enough. “Better!” he hollered back to Toria. the Civil War. That’d be sweet.Gatekeepers. a brief pop of static fluttered across Xander’s face.g ate kee p er s was taped to the wall. He heard his sister echo the words. he might learn to read lips. reflecting the times and places they’d already visited: the Roman Colosseum. On the screen. and made a mark off camera.
David smiled at the faces Xander was making as he tried to get the screw into the wall. The camera was turned sideways. Xander moved a screw to the mount behind the camera. Xander’s tongue appeared in the corner of his mouth. “Yeah.indd 162 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . He yelled. Oooo . Xander walked toward the monitor. He’d rather be kicking his ball around outside than doing this. The camera jerked and bounced around. his team’s score in the toilet. pointing down the hall.Gatekeepers. The screwdriver came into view. Xander said something. “Ha-ha-ha!” 162 00-01. David realized Xander had set it on top of the stepladder while he went to get the screws and screwdriver. “Ha-ha-ha!” “What?” Toria called. Xander moved away from the camera and squatted in front of a box.Robert Liparulo away. “Pass it along. David picked up the PSP. .” David said. then disappeared from the frame. and David outright laughed. David tried to guess what it was: Is the dog dead? I’m a raft? Want to fight? “Is that right?” Toria yelled. screws in one hand. In the few seconds before Toria could relay it. not even close. the tool in the other. The game was over. . He turned it off. then settled on the image David had seen a minute before: the hallway of doors over Xander’s shoulder. perfect!” he said.
as though something was moving through it.Gatekeepers. He moved his mouth. cloaked in shadows.g ate kee p er s He heard her call out to Xander. As it did. The light flickered.indd 163 10/31/08 1:06:27 PM . A raggedy pelt hung from his waist. Over Xander’s shoulder. the camera showed the hallway running back to the far wall. Then his brother was back to twisting his hand over the screwdriver and making funny faces. David’s heart turned to stone. On the monitor. Xander’s eyebrows came together. Xander said something else—too long for David even to guess at. A burst of static obscured Xander’s face. The man swung his head 163 00-01. David could make out the scars that crisscrossed his flesh. Wiry hair burst from his face and hung down to his powerful chest. The big man stepped into the hallway. Phemus! His bald head almost scraped the ceiling.” Xander looked down. Now light filled that space. then scattered away. David snickered. the smudges of dirt. a word David could read: What? Toria repeated it. Toria yelled. probably getting another screw. which had been. casting a shadow. Even in the camera’s poor resolution. He leaned forward and grabbed the side edges of the monitor. he knew only one thing could have caused such brightness: way back at the end of the hall. until seconds ago. On the monitor. “He said knock it off or you can put the camera up. Though David could not see it. a door had opened. the glistening sweat.
pushing him off. as though debating about pulling the door closed. and he turned back. intending to bolt out of the room. David scrambled to get his feet under him. and crashed into Toria. “Xander! Get out of there! Xander!” As he rose. but the corner of his eye caught something on the monitor. Like the others. A third man had emerged from the room. pivoted around. “What are you—” she said. Toria pushed herself into a sitting position. “Xan—Xander!” David yelled. This one was similar to Phemus: a little smaller— still large—with a full head of long. “David!” Toria grunted under him. He peered into Phemus’s face as if for instructions. David snapped his head toward it. David’s cast cracked against the floor beside his sister’s head. He screamed. who was running into the room.Gatekeepers. shaggy hair. sending his chair clattering to the floor behind him. and so skinny his ribs pushed through his skin. She was looking at the monitor. They both went down.Robert Liparulo around to squint back into the light.indd 164 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . 164 00-01. He spun. He had splotchy hair springing out from his scalp like water from a colander. He stumbled backward. The big man reversed a step as another man came out of the room. sending a bolt of pain shooting into his shoulder and neck. David jumped up. “Xander!” he screamed. But he was shorter. then let loose with her own piercing scream. he wore only a tattered pelt.
165 00-01.indd 165 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . Toria wrapped both of her arms around David’s leg. Over his shoulder. cranking on the screwdriver. looking from Phemus to the other man like a pet hungry for attention. “Toria.Gatekeepers. Can’t you hear them! Why can’t you hear them? He wondered if the house was messing with the sounds. Xander was still making faces. Xander!” David screamed. His brother plucked a screw from his lips and brought his hand past the camera’s lens. “Turn around.g ate kee p er s He bounced up and down. They spotted Xander and began lumbering toward him. let go!” On the monitor. but her grip was a bear trap. the three men turned their heads. intentionally keeping Xander from hearing the people behind him. He yanked on it.
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It was closed. “Hurry. She ran up behind him. “They’re getting closer!” Toria yelled from the MCC. He tapped the edge of the door with his fingers. He stumbled into the hall and darted for the secret door.Gatekeepers.indd 167 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . twisting his leg free from Toria’s grasp.OP chapter twenty - seven We dne s day.m. He slammed against the wall beside it. but it didn’t pop out as it usually did. David turned. 1 2:0 6 p. Dae!” 167 00-01.
he tried to squeeze between one of the other men and the wall. He stepped back and rammed the barrel of the rifle into the wall near the latch. “Why’d you close it?” “I didn’t!” This house! He looked around. The smaller. He had hit a wooden stud. Frantic as he was to get to Xander. “Move!” David said. didn’t see anything he could use to pry open the door or break it down. He swung the gun’s stock into the wall. Then he remembered and ran into the MCC. His brother was still squinting past the lens. David sprinted into the hallway.Gatekeepers. was the toy rifle both he and Xander had used as a club. messing with screws and the screwdriver. blasting a divot of wallpaper and plaster from it. just inside the door. It wouldn’t budge. He snatched it up. In a flash. The muzzle made a half-inch-deep hole.Robert Liparulo “I am!” He pounded on the door. Propped against the wall. but the space was too tight. Toria was beating her fists against the secret door.indd 168 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . Behind him. 168 00-01. he just had to glance at the monitor. “Xander!” He didn’t have time to tear down the whole wall. the two larger men were trudging shoulder to shoulder toward him. but he definitely had the energy and determination. his eyes wild. They had crossed half the distance to Xander. animal-like man was hopping up and down behind them.
The hole in the wall opened up around the barrel. If this doesn’t work. It wouldn’t budge. Xander’s dead.” His brother’s screams continued. “Toria. “Xander!” “What?” “Run! Look behind you!” “What are you—” Then he screamed. He forced himself to slow down. He pulled it backward. he pushed the rifle all the way through. “Xander!” David felt the latch again. rammed again. David reached his hand through and found the latch. a sound that pierced David’s heart like a spear. David ran through the 169 00-01. He pulled his arm out and stuck his face to the hole. Metal rattled and crashed. It clattered to the floor on the other side. He realized that the lever was pushed too far forward. Maybe his pounding had jammed it.” he said.g ate kee p er s He pulled back. This time the barrel plunged through up to the trigger. David began rotating the stock with both hands as though turning a handle on a butter churn.Gatekeepers. “make sure this door doesn’t shut again. to feel it and picture it. When the opening was the diameter of a dinner plate. The wall sprang open. He hooked his fingers around it and pulled. David realized the ladder had fallen.indd 169 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . Plaster fell away. then tugged it down.
David ran forward.indd 170 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM .Robert Liparulo second doorway and pounded up the stairs. Blood sprayed out of the man’s nose. as though he’d scored the winning point in a video game. then reached out again. Phemus clutched his ankle and was dragging him down the hall. Xander was ten feet in. spastic intruder—David’s frenzied mind instantly tagged this guy “Baboon Man”—stretched to grab the leg Phemus had lost. shoving the top of it at his attackers. reached again. an expression of complete shock on his face. The other two men lurched in to grab at him. He stumbled back. He hit the landing and spun into the hallway. It pulled away. Another kick. had to release the knot of thoughts pressuring his brain—“Let go of my brother!” and jammed the ladder’s top brace into Phemus’s face. Xander kicked the hand. blood smeared across his forehead. hefting the ladder up. He grabbed the ladder and pulled.Gatekeepers. David pulled the ladder back. He was flat on his back. yelled—because he had to say something. “Ha!” David screamed. “Xander. The smaller. let go! I’ve got better leverage than you!” “David!” Xander released his grip. David reared back with the ladder and heaved it forward 170 00-01. But Xander had hold of the aluminum stepladder and was wielding it the way a lion tamer uses a chair to hold back the man-eaters. The hand retreated.
g ate kee p er s with every bit of energy he had in him. He flung it into the wall. and the one who was almost as large—lunged for Xander. “Go!” Xander flipped over and clambered on his hands and knees toward the landing. David spun and darted for Xander. toward the landing. Their legs tangled. The brothers collided. The other two—Phemus. David jabbed the ladder at the men. Xander bent his knees.indd 171 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . smashing one of the wall lamps. and pushed himself backward. “I’m clear. The shock of hitting him reverberated along the ladder and through David’s bones. bloody from David’s first strike. The man oophed! and stumbled back again. who was pulling himself up against the door frame. It struck Phemus’s chest. David may as well have rammed it into a brick wall: the man didn’t budge. “Go!” David yelled. It struck Baboon Man in the side of the skull with a loud crack! The man’s head snapped sideways. 171 00-01. David witnessed the briefest flash of satisfaction on the man’s scruffy face.” David lunged with the ladder. He yelled. and they fell onto the landing. and he reeled away. This time he caught Baboon Man in the chest. Phemus grabbed the ladder and ripped it out of David’s hands. Xander pushed past him on the floor. His broken arm throbbed.Gatekeepers. placed the treads of his sneakers on the carpet. Dae! Get out of there.
their arms outstretched. He raised his cast for balance. His girth spanned the width of the stairwell. and Xander flipped over David. Only their iron grips on the door’s edge kept them from spilling to the floor. Then David found himself going down backwards. Through the opening. Both brothers grabbed for the door at the same time. David flung himself down the stairs. they tripped over each other. Above them. Swinging the door around. Xander grabbed David’s collar and yanked him through the doorway. David scrambled up.Gatekeepers. His fingers were bent talons. and he saw Phemus take the lead. They reached the bottom. groaning. They both yelped in pain. They tumbled over the first steps. his butt bouncing painfully against each step. It occurred to David that Xander would already have a zombie movie in mind to describe this later—if there was a later. grunting. digging into the big man’s flesh at the shoulders and on top of his head. Baboon Man leaped and pulled himself up behind Phemus as though he were scaling a wall.Robert Liparulo The men in the hallway lurched forward. trying to propel himself over. scraggly. their eyes huge and insane. crashing into the wall. David saw that Baboon Man— scrawny. jittery—had gotten himself completely 172 00-01. and Xander’s forehead flew into it. the men pushed through the doorway. lumbering slowly down each step. bringing Xander with him.indd 172 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM .
inhaled.Gatekeepers. “Toria!” he called. For a moment he was perched there. Xander kicked him in the head.g ate kee p er s onto Phemus’s shoulder. Baboon Man’s hand shot out and seized Xander’s ankle. Air burst out of his lungs. tried to push himself up. stooped. and picked up the toy rifle. he flew at David. Arms outstretched. got nothing.” David wheezed at Toria. Then he leaped off. “Help Dae.indd 173 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . I’m okay. Something crashed into the other side of the wall—David 173 00-01. The guy groaned. Just got the wind knocked out of you. The door slammed shut. halfway through.” David felt Toria’s small hands hook themselves into his armpits from behind. but Baboon Man had collapsed onto the floor. a screeching beast of prey. mouth impossibly wide. Xander grabbed him. Xander was pushing on the door. flinging David into the wall behind him. It was just enough support to keep him on his feet. Just out cold. “Let go. He slid down the wall. He watched Xander try to push the unconscious Baboon Man out of the way of the door. He inhaled. Dae. It’ll come back. “It’s okay. He wasn’t moving. The impact behind it knocked it open again. Get him out of here. squatting like a gargoyle. his wicked grin trembling over his knees. lifted his head. and he started backpedaling through the secret door.” He hoisted him up. “Wait. David gasped for breath that wouldn’t come.” He pulled free.
Robert Liparulo imagined Phemus picking up speed on the stairs and nailing the wall with arms the size of battering rams. 174 00-01.indd 174 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . Plaster dust filled the small space between the walls as the entire wall at the base of the stairs broke free from the ceiling and fell.Gatekeepers.
indd 175 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . taloned hand. David hammered the rifle butt into the man’s skull. striking David’s head.Gatekeepers. avoiding the wall by inches. The wall tipped over. angling from the floor like the side of a pup tent.OP chapter twenty - eight We dne s day. Baboon Man squirmed on the ground toward Xander. He growled like 175 00-01. whose ankle he continued to clasp with that bony.m. 1 2:1 4 p. He crumpled onto his hands and knees. The wall slammed into the hallway wall. Xander had ducked. The guy twisted his face toward David.
. his head.” he said. . Toria swung the door shut. Xander grabbed David’s. shut the door. Toria screamed. He coughed. but still . and the secret door popped open.” Dust stung his eyes.indd 176 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . “It’s not going to stop them. “Xander. David gave the guy’s forehead a quick. decorated to look like any other in the hallway. David grabbed her shoulder. and the latch clicked. buckled toward them. He helped David stand. “we have to get out of here.” David said. panting. he felt like he had just climbed out of a clothes dryer. A crash came from the other side. and this outer wall. The whole wall’s coming down. hard jab. 176 00-01. Between his arm. and his bruised backside.” He rubbed his head where the wall and the plaster had hit it. Chunks of plaster fell—one giving David another firm knock on the head. “Toria. It cracked from floor to ceiling. gave him a push.Robert Liparulo a dog and snapped his mouth open and closed. “Go!” Together they staggered through the secret door into the second-floor hallway. Xander yanked his ankle out of the baboon’s claw. His head dropped to the floor.Gatekeepers. and they backpedaled past the MCC. The wall suffered another devastating blow from the staircase side. filled his already aching lungs. and said.
The entire wall fell forward. He watched as a figure stirred in the dust cloud. Sparks flashed as electrical wiring broke. Now he has to come through the walls. solidifying into arms. followed by the second wall. coming at them like a sandstorm. Xander said. It became more distinct. crunching strides toward him. creaking and cracking.” “What do we do?” Toria said. Before they could answer. It roiled in the hallway. David’s legs froze. as though a giant hand had slapped a pile of baby powder. To the left of this silhouette. the other big man stepped out of the haze. and they ran around the corner into the second floor’s main hallway. Xander said. David’s legs broke from the invisible cement that had bound them. “The closet!” Xander and Toria skidded to a stop at the head of the grand staircase. and he ran. an explosion erupted at the end of the short hallway. a head. “Run!” He grabbed Toria’s hand. Sunlight from the foyer and the open MCC door revealed the wall crashing to the floor.Gatekeepers. legs. He called out. it landed on top of the first one. He was grinning and taking long. 177 00-01.indd 177 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . The lights went out.g ate kee p er s “What are they doing?” David said. it made the door opening too small for Phemus to fit through. “When the wall collapsed. A massive dust cloud billowed up.
His brother straightened his spine. but her legs were moving like a race car’s pistons. “Two of those guys are too big to fit in the locker. She leaped off the porch. David touched his arm.Gatekeepers. “Toria!” Xander grabbed for her. He grabbed his sister’s wrist and flung her through the opening. “You!” he said. pointing at Phemus.indd 178 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . pulled her hand out of Xander’s.” Xander said. she was almost to the bottom before he took a single step. David pushed ahead. Their chests rose and fell. Xander stepped forward into the foyer. thumbed the dead bolt. Xander turned in the doorway. blinked. The hulking men glowered down at them. squared his shoulders. dark under heavy brows. and opened the door. Who cares if people wonder where we came from?” The two men trudged around the corner. and bolted down the stairs. as though they were unaccustomed to the bright sunlight. “Wait!” David said. The brothers threw panicked glances at each other and tore after her.Robert Liparulo “School’s in session. Their eyes. blinked. The other might be out cold. “We can’t—” “Yes. Toria screamed. Toria reached the front door and yanked on it. “Xander?” he whispered. It didn’t open. 178 00-01. we can!” David said. and both boys looked up to the top of the stairs.
Toria stood in the woods. till they were on the porch. “The next time I see you. then two. . then said. Phemus began descending the stairs.” His voice cracked. His next words were menacingly quiet. It’s not meant to be.” He started to turn.indd 179 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . He stepped closer and shifted the toy rifle to his left hand.” Without taking his eyes off Xander. “Xander. 179 00-01. let’s go.” David was afraid his brother was going to rush the guy. “We’re staying until our mother’s back.” Xander told the man. This isn’t a fair fight. His breathing was fast and shallow. “Come on. And Xander had been armed with a metal bat. Xander said.Gatekeepers. and David—had almost died. David was sure it would end up much worse. His eyes were red. “Bring her back. His words sounded hard as rocks. . In fact. No way the outcome of a confrontation now could be any better.” he said. all three of the King men—Dad. Xander frowned at David.g ate kee p er s David remembered what Xander had said about the poster he’d seen: Odysseus challenging the Cyclops. The last time they’d met. He clasped the fingers of his right hand into Xander’s waistband.” “We’re not going to leave. when the man had kidnapped Mom. He tugged his brother’s pants. watching them. yanking him back—a step. Xander. The other man grinned and trailed a step behind. I’ll be ready. “Where’s our mother? Bring her back! Just . The wood under his bare feet creaked in protest. We’re supposed to lose. “Xander!” David said.
It would have made a great movie-tough-guy wound. Here in the sunlight. The sound of the men’s plodding footsteps echoed out to them. Xander gestured with his head.Robert Liparulo As David watched.Gatekeepers.” 180 00-01. a thick rivulet of blood from a cut above Xander’s eye ran the curve of his brow. They looked through the open door.indd 180 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . skirted the corner of his eye. “Let’s go. the interior looked dark and gloomy. He whispered. and ran down his cheek.
Gatekeepers. He had heard Taksidian talking to Phemus the other day.OP chapter twenty - nine We dne s day.” “Taksidian?” David said. Xander shook his head.indd 181 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM .m. they turned back. 181 00-01. “That house is their leash. “Think they’ll come out for us?” David said. It’s as far as their master will let them go. when Clayton had chased David through the locker into the house. When they reached Toria in the woods. David and Xander descended the porch steps. 1 2:20 p.
” he said.” The shadows inside the doorway stirred.” David whispered. 182 00-01.” “I got scared. “Are you sure about the leash?” Toria said.Robert Liparulo “Who else?” Xander said. Toria.” Xander said. “I’m starting to figure things—” The brute stepped onto the porch. “You hear? Follow Xander.” Xander said. That’s as far as he’ll come.” “Get ready to run.” The man lumbered to the porch steps and started down. “Your nails are digging into my skin. “That’s it.Gatekeepers. “Follow me. Don’t run off like you did down the stairs. He scowled out at the daylight.” David nudged Toria. David gripped Xander’s shirt. He pointed at the blood on Xander’s face. “What happened?” Xander touched the cut and grimaced. He still looked ready to rumble. caught sight of the kids. “When those guys pulled me off.” she said. “Ow. Toria gasped.” Xander said.indd 182 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . “Yeah. Toria grabbed David’s bicep. Phemus filled the opening. I have an idea. He looked at his fingers. and glared at them. it came down on my head. David thought it would be a short brawl if he and the big guy ever did tangle. “The ladder. “It’s okay. “Where to?” David said.
” Xander said.Gatekeepers. . He said.” Toria said. all right.” Xander angled around a thick bush. Xander weaved through the trees and bushes.” Xander said.” David said. snapping twigs and ripping through the low bushes and rotting deadfalls the kids had jumped over.g ate kee p er s “No kidding. “Let’s get out of here. arcing around the side of the house. “Anything else you think he can’t do. “I didn’t think that guy could move so fast. He turned back to his . but the smaller man backed away and disappeared in the gloom. but it was a little like thinking of two killer Rottweilers as play-date pals. and took off.” “Like you didn’t think he could leave the house. It took Phemus all of three seconds to spot the kids and start after them. friend was the word that came to David’s mind. He looked back over his shoulder to see Phemus swing his arm in a Come on! gesture. It was an oval-shaped meadow about half the size 183 00-01.” They watched the man reach the dirt at the bottom of the steps. . They broke through a thick patch of bushes and stopped in the clearing.” David said. Xander picked up his pace. David grabbed Toria’s wrist and fell in behind. “so I have a heads-up about what he’s going to do?” “We’re about to find out. “All right. The man’s feet pounded the ground behind them.indd 183 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . “He’s getting closer.
as though brushed with white paint.Gatekeepers. He whispered. That was the best word David could think of. ride them. David and Xander had discovered the place on their second day in the house. “Xander. Here. He said.indd 184 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . and their voices became squeaky.” The sound of clomping feet grew louder.” His head snapped up. “Toria. the ground here was flat and uniformly covered with lush. “No.” He looked David in the eyes. The sky above was blue and streaked with clouds. Xander waved the others closer. Toria can’t do it. shook her head. or equipment of any kind? But it wasn’t just a question of taking off. the air was peculiar.” he said. But Dad had shown them the clearing’s real magic: here. “David. they could fly. He said. like air currents. The upper branches of the trees bent inward. Then you had to step on them. “That’s okay.Robert Liparulo of a football field. Remember?” Xander had forgotten. as though they were auditioning for the part of Mickey Mouse in a movie. green grass. no. “fly. wires. the way birds fly. You had to find currents.” 184 00-01. “Shhh. hanging over the meadow’s edges. try. but they weren’t windy. “Not at all? Toria?” She gazed at the grass. David thought. They could also run faster and jump higher. What else could you call rising above the ground and moving through the air without wings. Encircled by trees. Uh-oh.” Xander said.
.OP chapter thirty We dne s day.m.Gatekeepers. if Toria 185 00-01. He held his hands open to the ground as though he were mounting a skateboard.indd 185 10/31/08 1:06:28 PM . If he couldn’t do it . David’s heart revved up. Nothing. He lifted his foot and felt the air with it. David dropped the toy rifle. something crashed. . 1 2:3 2 p. Outside the ring of trees and heavy bushes. He moved deeper into the clearing.
He felt the air with his foot again: searching for an invisible platform. He started moving his arms 186 00-01. His foot stomped the ground. They would have to fight the man. turned his head. which to David’s perspective was like taking on Godzilla. five feet off the ground. Now he was sitting—and more than fifteen feet in the air. He closed his eyes and pulled his cast in close to his chest. not with Phemus tromping around so near. He smiled. He sighed and looked over at Xander. No go. He was drifting. He opened his eyes.Robert Liparulo couldn’t . bracing himself for a crash. David remembered the clearing had a way of making them giddy and carefree.indd 186 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . His brother was hovering four feet over the grass. David swung his foot over the grass. He pinwheeled his arms and fell backward. But they didn’t dare laugh now. His foot rose. Something snagged his ankle. rising like a balloon. He tried again. there was nowhere to hide. his other foot came off the ground as well. . With that image in mind. he raised his foot and tried to stand on the air. .Gatekeepers. The impact never came. he forced his upper body into a vertical inclination. He remembered thinking that Dad’s ability to ride the clearing’s currents was like standing on an escalator no one could see. When it reached the height of his chest. He zipped higher. Using his stomach muscles. He was flat on his back. His feet slipped one way and then the other.
“We won’t drop you. “He’ll see us if we take too long. His brother touched his finger to his lips and pointed at Toria. and kicked. Xander got his hands around her wrists. startled to find her brothers hovering directly above her. Xander’s waving caught his attention. She hesitated. Toria raised her arms and closed her eyes. spiraled down. They kicked again and drifted up a few inches. Xander said.” 187 00-01. Again—and another few inches.” Xander said. He let up. Nothing happened. “Not so hard.” The bushes rustled nearby.indd 187 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . “We have to do better. The image of his sister falling four stories tightened his stomach and made him want to clamp down even harder.g ate kee p er s and legs as he would have in water. bringing their feet down. but only a little. “Toria.” David said. He shot forward. David gripped her wrist in both of his hands and squeezed.” she whispered. converging above her shoulders. stepping on currents that weren’t there and generally throwing a quiet fit. “Give us your hands.” Xander whispered. They raised their heads. She snapped her face up. She was hopping up and down.Gatekeepers. The boys swam to her. arched up.
“David. down. “Toria. he thought. He jerked his head sideways. She swung her head back to look at David. Toria dangled between them. and he could fly.” Of course she did. but it wouldn’t go away. “Open your eyes.” David whispered. He told Toria. He looked down. David hardly noticed. “I’m trying.” When he did. up. It was scary for him. David tilted his head. “You’re not making this easy. What he had thought was an insect was the forest’s canopy. She began wiggling around.” She whined. like the backdrop of a school photograph. up. mentally bringing those barbells up from the bottom of a pool. Kick. Her movements jerked David down.” Their voices were high-pitched. “Don’t look down. Her blue eyes 188 00-01. like a fishing bobber. Better not be a spider. leaves hung down around Xander’s head. but either because he was so frightened or he was getting used to it. And way below her sneakered feet was the ground. An insect fluttered onto the top of his head.” he said. leaning over the edge of the meadow. Kick.” Xander whispered.Robert Liparulo David nodded and closed his eyes. He imagined lifting his dad’s barbells. He kicked and kicked. A branch curled behind him. “Stop it.Gatekeepers.indd 188 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .
” Her lips didn’t so much as smile as they did not frown. 189 00-01. you know.indd 189 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . Phemus plowed through the bushes and then stumbled into the clearing.” The randomness of his statement caught her off guard. So does Xander. “Hey.g ate kee p er s danced in their sockets. Her feet slowly stopped their midair pedaling. reflecting the frightened pace of her heart. distracting her from her panic just a little bit. Xander smiled. She blinked at him. in the sky. “Guess we better give them back. I’m glad that cows don’t fly. birdie. Below them. “You’ve got Mom’s eyes.Gatekeepers.” Toria started to chuckle.” David whispered. and bit her lip. why’d you do that in my eye? Boy. then adjusted her vision to Xander. caught herself. “have you heard this one? Birdie. David whispered.
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1 2:39 p. He swiveled his head around. Leaves and twigs fell off the big man’s shoulders.OP chapter thirty - one We dne s day. All he could see were his gleaming dome. the man didn’t look as huge as David knew he was. From their perspective of almost directly above him.m. Toria took in her brothers’ worried expressions and started to bring her gaze down. 191 00-01.Gatekeepers.indd 191 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . planklike shoulders. clearly surprised to have lost his prey. swinging arms.
she mouthed. He wasn’t about to release his hand from Toria’s wrist. Especially with that fat neck of his.Robert Liparulo David stopped her.Gatekeepers. He walked to it and picked it up: the toy rifle. David and Xander wiggled and kicked until they were once again directly over his head. “Dae. No doubt it would hurt Toria a lot more than it would the brute. they somehow managed to escape. David thought.” she whispered. It was the least likely place the guy would look.” David nodded. mimicking a snake or caterpillar. David felt her arm muscles tighten up. If they dropped Toria.” she mouthed. David closed his eyes and tightened his grip on her wrists. She turned her face back to him.indd 192 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .” Xander said. “Let’s stay directly over him.” he said. “It’s okay.” David said.” “I’ll be all right. the chances of his looking straight up were pretty slim. “Don’t. “Hey. without making a sound. “Not so tight!” 192 00-01. It reminded David of people in movies who have their feet and arms tied. she would land right on the guy. When she looked. David thought. “Ow. When he peeked. quieter than a whisper. Even if he glanced up. The man spotted something. He shook his head. so the only way to adjust their position in relation to the man below was to wiggle and kick.
Then she squinted at Xander. anywhere but down. Xander stopped wiggling. at the canopy of leaves around their heads . “Toria. “Xan—” Something small fell away from him. The boys kicked and wiggled to stay with him. they were not only holding her. David thought.indd 193 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . That’s like the last thing I’d want to hear in her position. Still. . “Trust me?” The concern etched into her features deepened. but he walked too fast. No kidding. They could move much more quickly and accurately. Xander said. who released his left hand from her wrist.” When she did. Toria kept her eyes turned up. Xander released his right hand. grab my wrist. Again. then she realized their mutual grip was strong and she gave him a little smile. David cast a concerned look at Xander. Toria’s eyes flashed wide.Gatekeepers. Xander nodded at David. He whispered. She looked from brother to brother. Toria squeezed her 193 00-01. they stopped directly above the man. Now grab Dae’s. but she was also holding them. He examined the toy as though it might tell him where they’d gone. He headed toward the center of the clearing. a puzzled expression forming on her face. Good.g ate kee p er s Below her. she nodded. They used their free hands to paddle through the air. . the man turned in a circle.
indd 194 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . He held his breath. It was so small. Xander realized what had landed on his sister and began swinging his hand around to the cut—too late: another droplet fell. a droplet swelled like a tiny balloon. At the edge of the wound. by the time it passed her sneakers David had lost sight of it. Blood. It struck her forehead: a bright red splatter that took the shape of a starburst. Phemus raised his hand and rubbed the spot. Then he examined his palm.Gatekeepers. It missed hitting Toria by less than an inch. David’s eyes grew with it. But he hadn’t: a small dot appeared on the crown of the man’s head. 194 00-01. hoping he had miscalculated the drop’s trajectory. The cut above Xander’s brow was oozing again.Robert Liparulo eyes closed. He looked straight up and grinned.
Gatekeepers.m. “Shhh. “Do we follow him?” David asked. “He’s down there. Phemus backed away. Toria screamed. Continuing to watch them.” Xander repeated.indd 195 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . Staring down at Phemus’s upturned face. 195 00-01. “Shhh.” David said.” Xander said. we’re up here. that means he can.” “Well. 1 2:45 p.OP chapter thirty - two We dne s day. He can’t do anything.
” Xander said.Robert Liparulo “No point now. “Pull!” They tugged. He had never experienced this so clearly: not when Phemus had knocked out Dad or when he had sent Xander crashing into the wall while kidnapping Mom or when the lock blew off one of the doors. watching his little sister cry in pain. “I’m sorry. It spun round and round like a circular saw. wrenching sobs. gouging Dad’s hand.indd 196 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . It was heading for Toria. David couldn’t stand it. It struck so hard. “Move! Move!” He began kicking and wiggling and paddling with his left hand. Her eyes were pinched shut. Phemus hurled the toy rifle at them. 196 00-01. unable to do anything about it. do anything to make it feel better. raising her between them six inches. They couldn’t even check her ankle. “What’s he—” “Oh. her legs swung out from under her. twelve inches.” He felt as though her pain was his. Phemus bent his right arm way behind his back. pooling against her lids and the bridge of her nose. no. She cried— horrible.” David said. “Toria.Gatekeepers. “Pull her.” David said. Xander. rub it.” David said. but her tears found their way out. David heard it cutting through the air like the blades of a helicopter: whoop-whoop-whoop. The rifle smacked into her ankle. Toria threw her head back and screamed.
The big man was approaching the toy rifle. okay?” Her eyes followed the path she would take. “We have to do something. “let’s protect Toria better.” “That’s okay with me.” Xander said. “we’ll raise you. She straightened her head.” Xander said. “But that means letting go of your arms.indd 197 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . Get your arms around our shoulders. “Toria. He tried not to think about what that meant. Phemus stooped. After hitting his sister. It was like her spirit hurt. you’ll be safer up here with us. I can’t do that!” “Try. and wept quietly. and we reach across her back and under her arms.” Xander said. “If she puts her arms around our shoulders.” David said. so she was looking neither up nor down.Gatekeepers. it had spun down. “For one thing.” She nodded. 197 00-01.” David said. but images came anyway: the barrel of the gun tearing into his side. landing at the edge of the clearing. David focused on Phemus’s movements. then squinted at the three King children. and his stomach took a tumble all over again. “We’ll get out of this.” “Move!” Xander yelled. We will. the stock cracking into his skull.” David said. That pulled on David’s heart even more than her wailing agony had done. and you have to climb up our bodies. snatched it up. she’ll be sandwiched between us. “Toria. We’ll get hit before she does.” “How?” “Pull her up between us.g ate kee p er s He said. Tor.
Xander!” David said.” 198 00-01. we better do it now. David said. turned his face toward it. David saw a gash running across the back of his hand. David and Xander pulled Toria as high as they could. “How about we—whoa! ” Whoop-whoop-whoop! The rifle sailed up. “We gotta go higher.” Xander said. as though he’d stuck his hand into a fan. I got it.indd 198 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . He pointed at the sky. Both he and Xander threw themselves backward.” Xander drifted into a beam of sunlight. “Okay. Xander reached out to grab it. “Now.Robert Liparulo David caught a glimpse of the rifle spinning toward them.” he said. then did the same with Xander. Xander surveyed their surroundings. then plunged to the meadow. hefting the rifle like a ballplayer about to throw a pitch. “Whatever we’re going to do. He yelled and pulled his arm back. okay. She released her grip on David’s arm and quickly grabbed his shoulder. He blinked. Phemus circled below them. The weapon sailed over their arched chests. right where their heads had been seconds earlier. There was a clack-clack sound. “We gotta get out from under the branches. Whoopwhoop-whoop. Once again Phemus plucked the weapon off the ground. Their heads were nearly touching.Gatekeepers. their arms wrapped around each other. It sliced into the forest’s canopy.
Whoop-whoop-whoop! 199 00-01.Gatekeepers.” “We’ve only done this once before.” Xander reminded him. As high as we could go. 1 2:51 p. Hovering over the clearing with his brother and sister.m.indd 199 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .” They kicked and paddled their way to the edge of the branches and leaves. “And we didn’t try to go higher than the trees.OP chapter thirty - three We dne s day. David said. “I thought this was it.
Phemus snatched the rifle out of the air. . . They began to rise. . Only that time he’d been at the clearing’s edge and was able to slow his fall by grabbing branches.Robert Liparulo The rifle snapped through the fine branches. only a free fall to earth. . . too. Toria said. Their heads lifted over the branches.” “Come on. . He got us all. and still they plummeted . you’re bleeding. . looked at the blood on his fingers. . 200 00-01. . . not a foot from David.indd 200 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . “That guy’s three for three. “David. searching for the best angle of attack.” He touched his face. . as the firmness of the air that keep them aloft evaporated and they plunged down . as though slapped with a riding crop. . feeling the sting. No branches now. Xander’s expression instantly changed to panic. A twig shot into his cheek. He reeled back. A second later David’s did. Like flipping from one photograph to another. . He said. He moved around.” Xander said. . . David and Xander shared a smile.Gatekeepers. “Ahh!” Below. He closed his eyes and squeezed himself closer to his sister. . down . He pointed his face toward the open sky beyond the foliage and paddled his injured hand in the air. . below the forest canopy . down. David had felt the same plummeting roller-coaster feel in his gut when he’d fallen all the way to the meadow and broken his arm.
they’d have separate coffins. The wind rushed past him. Against all hope.Gatekeepers. They might splatter or simply crumple into skin-bags of what used to be David. would compact on themselves. like a propeller—and just as deadly. At least that way. then the other.” Whoop-whoop-whoop! All of them heard it.” David said. none of them saw it coming.g ate kee p er s His mind betrayed him with a gruesome assessment of what was to come: Their legs would shatter. David kicked and paddled. David was already moving his legs and feet faster than he ever had. It passed inches in front of 201 00-01. His little toe flared with pain. He allowed one eye to open. They were ten feet from the ground and starting to rise again. “We can’t keep doing this. He hadn’t needed to say it. as though someone had stomped on it.indd 201 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . It sailed up from directly below them. Their organs and bones. like an elevator’s but stronger. one of an old tattered pair he had to put on this morning because he’d lost one of his good Converses in the Civil War world. Then he felt it in his stomach: a lurching stop. “Kick. It nicked David’s sneaker. and Toria. this time spinning vertically. Phemus ran toward them.” Xander said. Phemus hurled the rifle at them. their spines and heads. swinging the rifle like a club. Xander. “It’s just a matter of time before one of us gets nailed good.
He said. “If we could get on top of them.” David said.” Xander said. “See how thick they are over there. Toria. and fell. We can—” “Yeah.” The rifle spun by—nowhere close. “But we can reach them. David followed her gaze to the tangle of branches and leaves hung over the edge of the clearing. arched backward as though he’d taken a bullet in the chest. “We’re fish in a barrel. He let out a sharp groan. and climb up onto them.” said Xander.” she said.Robert Liparulo them. If they had leaned their heads down to take a look.” She released her death grip on David’s neck and extended a shaking hand to the branch. 202 00-01. The boys pushed her up. None of them heard the rifle coming.” Xander said. we’d have some protection. “Probably not. .” Xander interrupted. it would have killed them. We’ll give you a boost. They made their way to the heaviest branch and hovered below it.indd 202 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .Gatekeepers. for a change. “Let’s do it.” Toria said. “Pull yourself up onto it. it would have clobbered them. “Look. “Grab hold. “What?” “The branches. Clobbered? David thought. No .” “Can we fly above them?” David wondered. . It struck Xander’s back.
Falling. Her arms clutched 203 00-01. Groaning. Xander returned to the branch. 1 2:55 p. this time. then said.” He groaned. you good?” She peered past the branch and nodded. . His descent slowed and he started back up. . “You okay?” David said.OP chapter thirty - four We dne s day.indd 203 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . “I’ll live .m.Gatekeepers. not unlike a bungee jumper. He scissored his legs. alternately reaching for his injury and paddling. “Toria. Xander whirled his arms.
“Get up there. Whoop-whoop-whoop! The rifle flew up between the branches. He floated up. and scrambled onto it. He settled onto the branch just before the rifle smacked it directly under him. Duck away from it. The toy spun off.” David grabbed the branch behind Toria and kicked his feet. Before he could swing his leg over. Xander reeled away from it.Gatekeepers. right over Xander’s shoulder. He held on with one hand and rubbed his back with the other.” “Don’t. But don’t fall off. Xander got his hand under David’s rump and gave him a shove.” Xander said. not that I’m all right.” He grinned.” David said. then went down again. “I want to hold my ankle. but I’m afraid to let go. kicking up a spray of bark. move your hands if you have to. “I’ll grab her if it looks like she’s in trouble.Robert Liparulo the branch. 204 00-01. Gravity pulled him down.” Xander’s face was twisted into a pained grimace.” “Okay. but David could tell it was forced.indd 204 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .” David said. the air’s firmness faltered and disappeared. about ten feet away. “Just remember to watch for that thing coming at you. He drifted to the next branch. Xander said. “You sure you’re all right?” “I said I’ll live. tore away leaves. “I’ll help.” “I’ll get on the branch right behind her.
he liked the distraction. it was he who almost lost his balance and tumbled off.” Toria saw the next one coming and tucked in perfectly. three children must learn to outsmart the . Doesn’t that guy have to go back to his own world sometime?” Xander thought about it.Gatekeepers. “I thought Dad said the worlds had to balance out. or did people in terrifying situations naturally think of things that calmed their fear? Either way. a foot away from his head. Like the way the items in the antechambers pull toward the portal. When the rifle clattered under David. he continued targeting David. huh?” The next throw came at the branch that Xander occupied. He said. Xander. David said. Was it the clearing making them feel a little better. “Man. tucked his arms close to his body. Pinwheel of Death. . “Remember the weird movie title or whatever it was you thought of when the gladiator was spinning his swords at you?” “Yeah. “In a world where hiding in trees is the only way to survive. remembering.” Xander said.indd 205 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . then grabbed the branch again after the rifle’s strike. that’s right. . “I don’t think that’s a movie I’d want to see anymore. Xander released his grip. Pulling his arms out of the way for what seemed like the hundredth time. Phemus must have decided he’d found a weak link.” David smiled. eventually. he said. toss after toss. and whatever we bring 205 00-01. In a deep voice. this is getting to me. with precise diction.” David said.g ate kee p er s “Hey. “Pinwheel of Death.” “Fits here.
He looked down. “Oh . listening for the approaching Pinwheel of Death. .indd 206 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM . “No!” “What’s he doing?” Toria said.Robert Liparulo back with us gets sucked into its own world again. I kind of thought that worked with people too. looked.” “Then why didn’t Mom come back?” Toria said. . Toria was gazing into the leaves farther along the branch. Xander raised his head. David closed his eyes. you gotta be kidding!” he said.Gatekeepers. Xander looked asleep.” 206 00-01. probably pretending she was looking out her bedroom window or . “He’s flying. anywhere but balancing on a branch fifty feet in the air with some guy trying to knock her off it. he opened his eyes. . They didn’t have an answer. When there’d been no attacks for a few minutes. .
OP chapter thirty - five We dne s day. 207 00-01. but there was nothing funny about it. “Do you think he can do it?” Toria said. He hopped up. He wobbled and dropped onto the grass. It was a bit like watching a bodybuilder trying to tap dance. “He’d better not.” Xander said. Phemus hovered two feet off the ground.Gatekeepers. He went right back down and tried again. He prodded at the air with his toes. as though he’d felt something. 1 :10 p.m.indd 207 10/31/08 1:06:29 PM .
Gatekeepers.” Xander said. then the other. His eyes darted to Toria. He hovered. but he definitely sailed up for a few seconds. We’ll both get Toria. Xander cast a worried glance at David. we’ll figure something out. The big man hovered five feet over the grass. . “We’ll figure—” “Here he comes.” Xander said. a little higher. He hoisted himself up. Toria simply screamed. wobbling.” David said. really. “Go away!” “Get out of here!” David screamed. “Uh .” David said.” “Then what?” David said. . “Hey!” Xander said.indd 208 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . a long piercing warble. This time their attempts to distract him didn’t hinder his flying at all. “I’m not a baby. He grinned up at the kids. He lifted into the air. sitting hard. slid sideways.” she said. began feeling the air with his foot. 208 00-01. he did do it. came back . “Go away!” David yelled. I mean . “I’ll come over and get you. “We’re dead. “If he floats up two feet. .” “You can say we’re dead. .Robert Liparulo “He already did. Phemus snapped his gaze up and crashed to the earth. it’s just a matter of time before he’s coming up here.” “No. not very high.” As they watched. Not for long. . then looked down at his feet. shifting one way. . He whispered. “See?” David said.
He grabbed Phemus’s ankles and pulled the big man down.” Toria said.Gatekeepers. His face still hurt. who apparently hadn’t heard his approach—then took in the kids. “Help!” Toria yelled. “Keal!” David said. . “We’ll see.” Xander said.” “Carrying Toria?” “We have to try. A man broke through and fell onto the grass. . or the world he came from. “I get the feeling he needs the house . “The big guy’s too high up. The bushes at the perimeter of the clearing rustled and parted. Keal sprang. Phemus hammered a monstrous fist into Keal’s back. face. David knew too well what that fist felt like. He said. He ran directly for Phemus. Keal!” 209 00-01. even for Keal. “Dodge away. . sailing higher than anyone ever would have expected . landing punch after punch to the ribs. Keal leaped forward like a sprinter coming off the starting line.” David said.” “Hey.g ate kee p er s Xander shrugged.” “Maybe not when he’s away from the house. anyone who didn’t know the clearing. “Phemus is too strong. “Get him.indd 209 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . David yelled. That’s why he keeps going back to it. Phemus flashed a surprised expression and crashed to the earth. He eyed Phemus. stomach.” Hoping Xander was right this time. .” David said. Keal was on him.
Keal did what every fighter does when the blows are landing and he can’t get away. buckled in half. They rolled in the grass—and lifted off it. David squinted. punch. He hoped the noise wasn’t Keal’s hand breaking. Phemus swung a fist into Keal’s head. Keal wheezed out a gust of air. Keal was already up. he didn’t give his opponent a second to recover. He swung his right fist down into the back of Phemus’s head. kick. He flipped onto his back on the grass and kicked his heel into Phemus’s face. Keal showed no sign. giving him no room to swing. He pulled Keal to him and brought a fist down onto his stomach. punch.indd 210 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM .Robert Liparulo “Get him!” Toria echoed. David heard the crack and winced. David thought. 210 00-01. kick. He kicked the man’s head. hugging him. He dove into his opponent.Gatekeepers. Keal dodged a blow. kick. knocking Keal’s leg out from under him. shifted and kicked his ribs. rose onto his hands and knees. and Phemus grabbed his foot. Keal went down. The big man’s head snapped back. Punch. He continued to pummel the man. He swung his left fist into the side of Phemus’s temple. He rolled onto his stomach. Don’t wanna ever get Keal mad at me. and started to stand. If it was. then planted the right one between his shoulder blades. Keal meant business: He didn’t pause. Phemus swung his arm around.
“Keep going.indd 211 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . but the sounds of their blows and grunts. “Move like you’re underwater!” David told him.Gatekeepers. They broke away from each other only to embrace again: Keal encircled his muscular left arm around Phemus’s neck. Keal began punching Phemus’s ear. He reached his opponent and clamped his arms around Keal’s torso. caught himself. They were in the center of the clearing. He pounded his right fist into the big man’s face. He wobbled. Rising higher. It almost seemed staged to David.g ate kee p er s and yes. measured aerially as well as across its breadth and width. Without pausing in his face-pounding. Phemus pushed Keal away. said otherwise. the two men were tumbling in the air. David could only imagine how much pressure those tree-trunk arms could exert. The silent scream Keal displayed indicated that Phemus was squeezing him. He turned a stunned face at the kids. His knees came up into Phemus’s gut. All the while. again and again. 211 00-01. Keal did a backward somersault and stood. He almost fell over. Keal!” Xander yelled. Phemus landed one blow after another into Keal’s stomach and sides. as well as the blood and sweat flying off them. Keal kicked at Phemus’s crotch. and looked down at the grass a half dozen feet below him. Phemus slid through the air. three or four feet off the ground. the men tumbled and rose through the air.
Phemus’s arm looked like a machine pumping pumping pumping. using the motion to help him keep the knife high in the air. “Keal!” David yelled. and brought his fist into the big man’s nose. He let go of Phemus’s wrist. Keal saw David. He never released his arm from Phemus’s neck. Keal grabbed the big man’s wrist.Gatekeepers. He kicked. He squeezed his eyes closed and concentrated on not letting that happen. “He has a knife!” Phemus raise the blade and plunged it down. He circled them. He ignored her and continued moving toward the fighting men. He plunged down five feet. He could see now that it was a chiseled piece of black stone. Phemus never ceased in slamming his fist into Keal’s ribs. He rose up over the men’s heads. pulled back. David strained against Phemus’s hand that was trying to plunge the knife into Keal. ten feet. keeping himself directly behind Phemus.indd 212 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . “David!” Toria yelled. When he saw his chance. saw him holding the knife hand. where the pelt started. fumbled with something at the small of his back. he sailed in and grabbed the hand that held the knife. high above Keal. swimming with his arms. David threw himself off the branch. He felt the resistance in the air and started kicking. 212 00-01. and pulled out a black shardlike object.Robert Liparulo Phemus reached behind his back.
twenty-five feet below. He sailed away. He had apparently retrieved it from the ground and batted the stock into the back of the big man’s head. ripping through his pant leg. He landed with a grunt and rolled. David gasped and pulled his hands back. Phemus twisted out of Keal’s headlock.g ate kee p er s He heard a crack! and looked. Xander was hovering behind Phemus. He lifted his foot. The stone knife slid through David’s fingers. planted it on Keal’s sternum. wrenching his hand out of David’s grasp. and pushed off.Gatekeepers. twirling like a top. Keal kicked away.indd 213 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . 213 00-01. As he fell. Phemus dropped straight down. holding the barrel of the toy rifle. taking David with him and banging into Xander. He cocked it back for another strike. stretching his knife toward him. Then he ran to the edge of the clearing and disappeared into the bushes. glaring at the boys and man above him. but the blade caught his leg. Xander spun away. He hopped up. Phemus lunged at Keal. Phemus continued falling—all the way to the grass.
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raising a fist. Registering David. Keal jerked around. He noticed red fingerprints 215 00-01.OP chapter thirty - six We dne s day. he smiled.m. 1 :22 p.Gatekeepers. Keal kept his eyes on the spot where Phemus had disappeared.indd 215 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . Breathing hard. David drifted to him and reached out to touch his shoulder.” David said. He drifted and bobbed in the air like a ping-pong ball on the surface of a lake. “Thank you.
“I think we’ve been banged up worse in this world than in any of the others.” Keal studied the boys’ faces. The purple had taken on hues of blue. He spat. David shook his head. though. He said. watching the bloody goop fall to the grass far below. “I think his blade was obsidian. “Hurts.Gatekeepers.” Keal said. black. Blood covered his hand.” Xander showed him the back of his hand.” They watched Keal reach the grass and trudge into the bushes at the clearing. and he’s doing everything he can to get it. “You ain’t seen nothing yet. “This is weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced. He tightened his lips and nodded. does it?” Watching the slice across his palm open and shut like a mouth as he flexed his hand.indd 216 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM .” Xander bumped into David. “Sharper than a razor.” Keal said. perhaps looking for signs of humor.” Xander said.” He waved his arms and drifted down. “Taksidian wants the house because of them. glistening. “How’s your back?” David asked his brother. David scowled at it. He said. so it probably doesn’t hurt much. He rubbed the side of his face. “I’ll be right back. He said.” 216 00-01. and red. “It’ll take forever to heal. “It’s because of those other worlds that we’ve been attacked in this one.Robert Liparulo where he’d touched Keal and looked at his palm. then stuck a finger in his mouth to wiggle a tooth. This too.
“Xander. He must plan on using it for something.” David said.” David backhanded Xander’s shoulder. “Not. Toria giggled. “Why do you think Taksidian wants it.” Xander said. Their legs stirred gently. “Group hug. the house?” “A house like that. squeezing out a drop of blood from the cut on his forehead. What?” Xander’s brow crunched in thought. like swimmers at the edge of the pool. watching the fight.” “We just want to get Mom and get out. “It’s pretty special. as they would have in water.Gatekeepers. held each other’s hand. keeping him from continuing whatever it is. He’s probably been doing something here for a long time.” David said. It must have been scary. “He told us he’d been in the house many times. “We don’t want it. The brothers turned their backs to the branch so she could wrap her arms around their shoulders and swing down between them. and pulled themselves together. He doesn’t like that we’re here now. David could tell she’d been crying. “Come on.g ate kee p er s Toria’s tiny voice reached them: “Hey.” Xander said. 217 00-01.” “I want down.indd 217 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . They reached across with their free arms.” They sailed up to her. Xander said. David and Xander each rested a hand on the branch. “Be kind of funny to leave her there a while.” Toria said. guys?” They smiled at each other.” she said.
Gatekeepers. As soon as the boys released Toria. child?” Jesse said. reference a movie. “What is it. “Toria. into one of the worlds. Her ankle looked like Xander’s hand. his stomach. “Where were you?” David called. “Feel like I had it out with the Terminator. “Can you move it?” 218 00-01. He was limping. she said.” Xander smiled. I was worried you’d gone the other way. Keal set the old man on the grass beside her.” David said. He knelt beside her and helped her to sit. Keal dropped to his knees in front of her. Jesse laughed. I forgot about your ankle. there on the edge of the clearing.indd 218 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . We saw the open front door and the collapsed walls on the second floor. The big man groaned and touched his ribs. If you wanted to get on his good side fast. His voice was Mickey Mouse-ish. knew you were in trouble. It was black and blue and swollen to the size of a softball. carrying Jesse. Then we heard you yelling. “Owww!” and crumpled to her knees.Robert Liparulo As they descended.” The children touched down in front of the men. Keal reappeared through the bushes. Toria pulled up her pant leg and slipped off her sneaker and sock. “In the woods. It was squeaky. but only slightly so. his face.
” he said. But I do like helping people.” “A nurse?” Xander said. Xander said.Gatekeepers. His dark brown skin made it difficult for David to tell how much it had bled. He flipped the two sides away.” Keal stared at him. and I enjoy keeping physically fit. Better than most doctors I’ve known. He poked his fingers into the tear Phemus’s knife had made and ripped the material through the cuff. He settled into a sitting position on the grass and crossed his leg in front of him. said nothing. “Well. Sure is a nasty bruise.” “Keal’s a nurse. and you fight like . you got the muscles of a bodybuilder. He leaned back to rest on his ankles. making an Eeeeee sound the whole time. “Maybe sprained. revealing a long gash in his shin from knee to ankle. I also served my country. you’re big enough to be a linebacker.indd 219 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . I was an athlete back in the day. “I mean. The man prodded it. by the time I ruled out those other occupations. “You know. “You?” Keal looked up. “It’s not broken. like some kind of special forces commando. I was a little too old to pursue a medical degree.” 219 00-01.” Xander said. Keal poked at the wound and said. “Now why would that surprise you?” “It’s just . . “A mighty good one too.g ate kee p er s She turned her foot in a tight circle. As for my profession. . .” Jesse said. watching for her reactions.” Keal laughed. .
Gatekeepers. He curled his fingers around the old man’s hand and said.” Keal said. the more I can help.” Xander smiled and released Jesse’s hand.” Keal smiled. but the old man refused to let go.” Xander said. I don’t want to be away from it too long. . David said.indd 220 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . who nodded. where are your parents? What has been going on around here?” Xander’s smile faded. “Okay. that you’re ready to confide in me? I can help.” Jesse nodded. and there may be things we need to show you. He rubbed his back. “we owe you.” “The more I know. “Quite understandable. I guess you are on our side. In fact.” Jesse said. and Xander straightened.” Xander looked toward the house. “Does this mean. . He said. grimacing at the pain still there. if you want to know everything. Jesse gave him back his hand.Robert Liparulo He glanced at Xander. gentlemen. Xander. those guys we fought?” 220 00-01. . .” “Still. Let’s call it even. “You saved our lives. but I need to know . “I’m sorry I doubted you. Xander. I consider your caution both admirable and necessary. “We need to get back to the house. ”I appreciate your help too. do you think they’re waiting for us. “But . Jesse said. but he nodded. “Looked like you were doing a pretty good job of that yourselves.” “It was a team effort.” Xander stepped past Keal to hold his good hand out to Jesse.
indd 221 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . It’s draining. looking for you. “That’s for another time. .g ate kee p er s “More than one?” Keal said. Not for a while. I don’t know .Gatekeepers. They knocked down the walls. and you after the jungle world?” David nodded. “Remember. They’ll be back. how tired I was after the gladiator thing. Going over.” “They’re gone. “Two stayed in the house. “Sort of. “Three. Dae. Unless . you see things most people never do. “Does using the portals make you .” David said.” Jesse said. he said.” Jesse shook his head. “but it’s not the portals. Visitors don’t stay long. It’s your humanity.” “But what if they come back?” Toria said. “They can’t. And I’m sure that one you chased out of here is back where he belongs by now. They can’t. “The showers helped.” Jesse said.” To Jesse. Not really. Jesse waved a hand at him. Murder. Haven’t you noticed that?” Xander said. “Keal and I went all through it. . “They attacked us. . innocence lost. “I know how you feel. shrugging shyly. .” Xander said. First things first. You have a big heart 221 00-01. David. Terrible atrocities. . For them and for us. going over.” “Unless?” Xander said.” David said. . They’ll have to sort of recharge. the worst human behavior. “They will. war. more emotional?” “Crying a lot?” Jesse said with a knowing smile.
“That’s why I’ve been crying?” “No. because they’ll never get to be everything they could have been. anyway. the children you’ll never hold.” David said.” Toria said.” He gripped David’s shoulder. “I’m not trying to be mysterious. It’s just that there are other things I need to explain first. . “You get it? What’s making you cry comes from the same place inside that prompted you to save Marguerite’s life. You weep for life lost.” “What does that mean?” “You’ll find out .” 222 00-01. It’s frightening to almost lose your future. “I’m saying it breaks your heart when people die before their time.indd 222 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . you’re part of the King bloodline— you have to.” “It’s okay that you do. It steals away the sunsets you’ll never see.” “Am not.Gatekeepers. .” Jesse said.” “That sounds like David. and you act to prevent it. To you.” “Are you saying I’m sensitive?” David said. the wife you’ll never love.Robert Liparulo for people. “He’s sad when people get hurt on TV. “Uh-huh.” Jesse winked. It’s like constructing the first floor of a house before adding the second. “You have a keen sense of the preciousness of life and the finality of death—here on earth. Of course.” Jesse said. and it’s heartbreaking to witness death snuff out other people’s tomorrows. death does not simply end life. not liking it much. in time.
indd 223 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . 223 00-01. he recognized it as a grand quality. Even he hadn’t put it into words. No one had ever so accurately described his desire for himself and others to experience the fullest possible life.Gatekeepers. or the ache in his chest at the news of death—by accident. He hoped he could live up to it.g ate kee p er s David rocked up on his knees and wrapped his arms around Jesse’s neck. murder. war. Now that Jesse had.
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Can you do that?” 225 00-01. rising to take in the trees and canopy. Xander struggled to stand.” David released his embrace on Jesse’s neck and rolled back onto the grass.OP chapter thirty - seven We dne s day.m. Just give me a few minutes now.indd 225 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . Jesse peered around the clearing. When he finally did. Grunting with effort. He turned to Xander and said. 1 :3 6 p.Gatekeepers. “I’ll give you the rest of my time on earth. he said. “We gotta head back.
“Oh. Jesse’s legs dangled under him. he backed away. Before long. “Thank you. Jesse touched David’s arm. had risen to the level of his eyes.indd 226 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . “it’s been so long. His feet were canted at odd angles on the ground. positioned in Jesse’s armpits.” David said. Walking behind him.Gatekeepers.Robert Liparulo Xander sighed. he was pretty sure he wasn’t assisting Jesse at all. 226 00-01.” Jesse said. but hovered a few inches above it. He realized that his hands. “The clearing will help.” David lowered his hands slowly. as though the man had grown taller. David rose and stepped behind him. He slipped his hands under Jesse’s arms and lifted. impossibly light. He saw that Jesse’s feet no longer touched the ground. son. The old man was light.” As they progressed. He stepped past Jesse and Keal and sat beside his sister. the weight bearing down on David’s arms—accompanied by a slight throbbing in the broken one—became less noticeable. “Son. “I can manage from here. his voice comically high. David guided Jesse toward the center of the meadow. would you mind giving me a hand?” “I don’t think I can pick you up.” Jesse said. and when Jesse didn’t come down with them.” Jesse said.
“I haven’t walked in a decade.” 227 00-01. . he said. Jesse drifted up and laughed. he zipped forty feet over and twenty feet in the air. . The grin on his face lightened David’s heart. looking equally pleased. which trailed his body loosely like a those of a ventriloquist’s puppet. laughing continually. even Xander. He was glad to see Keal.Gatekeepers. he drifted toward them. brushing his fingers along the canopy leaves. David looked back at the others. considering . Drawing near. This is as close as I’ll ever come again. a squeaky cartoon hiccup sound. his own smile bigger than it should have been. soaring high. Returning. spinning. Toria.g ate kee p er s Jesse waved his hands and turned. everything. Watching his feet skimming the grass. As Dad had done. He buzzed around.indd 227 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . After five minutes he came down on the far side of the clearing. he performed a somersault—perfect but for his legs.
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OP chapter thirty - eight We dne s day.indd 229 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . “What you told me before. that I care for people. 1 :46 p. “about my being part of the King bloodline? You know. Keal carried Jesse. love life? Does that have to do with being a gatekeeper?” Jesse bounced along in Keal’s arms. thinking. Behind them. so I have to be the way I am. toward the house.m.” David said. He said. David walked beside them.Gatekeepers. “I 229 00-01. Xander carried Toria through the woods.
seeing you and all. . .” He looked into Jesse’s eyes. This guy’s trying to get us out of the house . I was just excited. . . pressed his back to it. Keal took another two steps and turned to him. and . that guy we fought—Xander and I call him Phemus—he came out of a portal and took her. “The other night. son?” David watched his brother and sister trudging away. . Took her back into one of the worlds with him. got Dad arrested . Keal stepped back and settled Jesse onto the ground in front of David.Gatekeepers.” His lungs were pumping fast and hard. and slid down. .” Keal said. . “Gone?” Jesse squinted at him. “What do you mean. .indd 230 10/31/08 1:06:30 PM . We’ve been looking. “He kidnapped my mother.” David said. . does it mean we’re supposed to stay here? Like you did?” “That’s a discussion we should have with your mom and dad. and . The story came rushing out. Tears streamed from his eyes. .Robert Liparulo shouldn’t have told you that so soon. We didn’t know which. “My mom’s gone. but all this other stuff has been getting in the way. Jesse’s kind face had morphed into one of 230 00-01. He went to a tree. he sent those—those things after us . .” “But . . . David stopped. . people—a kid—found out about the house. the portals .
Not shock. I’d like to hear everything. and started. His voice rose a bit when he recounted their discovery of the antechambers. A phrase he’d heard came to mind: profound grief. Mom getting taken. and Xander’s trip to the Colosseum. “There I go again. Start at the beginning.” Keal said. He wiped the back of his hands across his eyes.indd 231 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . just an expression like that David had seen on TV news reporters when they covered the funerals of children. David. “if I were you. tightened his muscles and his resolve.” David sniffed.Gatekeepers. When it didn’t come. Jesse reached out and touched David’s shoe.” David closed his eyes. house hunting. and went on: Waking up to Toria screaming that a man had been in her room. 231 00-01. setting foot in the creepy old Victorian for the first time.” From much closer to the house. Xander called: “David? What’s up?” “Go on!” David yelled. He bit his lip.” he said with an embarrassed smile. He told about discovering that the linen closet was a portal to the locker at school. He told about their drive to Pinedale. and how they’d all been beat up trying to stop Phemus. Jesse said. David closed his eyes again. “We’ll be there in a minute!” They listened for a response. “When you’re ready. where tigers and tribesmen tried to kill him. took a deep breath.g ate kee p er s supreme sadness. “Kid. He told about his own trip to the jungle world. At this point. I’d be bawling like a baby. the items within them. “I am so sorry.
. . silent and listening to their own breathing and wind touching the treetops. . And then last night’s events (“I can’t believe it was only last night”): Dad getting arrested. 232 00-01.” David covered his eyes with his hand.” Jesse aimed watery.” Then they had vowed to stay in the house and rescue Mom. Keal would jump right out of his skin. . “But he hadn’t. He talked about setting up the Mission Control Center (“we call it the MCC”). David going through the locker portal and finding Taksidian in their house talking to Phemus. but when I went back to get her. shot at . “He just wanted to find his mother. “She’d left a message for us. again. I got chased away .Gatekeepers.indd 232 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM .Robert Liparulo “That’s when we found out Dad had lied about the house. The doctor accusing Dad of hurting his kids. Xander and he going to the Civil War world. The town trying to evict them. despite Dad’s dad giving up on finding Dad’s mother and leaving. He had known about the portals and how dangerous it was. or a door burst open. sympathetic eyes at David. And David thought that if a twig snapped. Taksidian chasing him back through to the locker and how Xander and he had locked him inside. Xander saying he’d found Mom.” David said. Then Taksidian: his seeing David fly and David breaking his arm because of it. Dad showing them what they could do in the clearing. They sat like that. Clayton coming through the locker-to-closet portal.
and his legs did work. almost desperately. surely involving kidnapped mothers and evil villains.” Jesse said. yeah. then.g ate kee p er s Finally Jesse took a deep breath. “Keal?” The man snapped out of some daydream.Gatekeepers.” he said. Jesse patted David’s foot. Don’t say maybe. “Your bravery. David’s smile was genuine and big.indd 233 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . and David understood that Keal was as clueless about what to do—what Jesse could do—as he was. who wasn’t so sure his own legs would work if he tried to stand. standing. “Yeah. He stood there. But he pushed himself up. He said. “Yes. It was what he had needed to hear since the moment the door had slammed shut on the bat and their mother’s screams. Keal scooped up Jesse. waiting for David. This time.” he said. “You astound me. 233 00-01. He fell in beside Keal and Jesse. “On with it. “Can you help?” Don’t say maybe.” David could offer up only a weak smile. He felt as though he had gone through all the events of the past week in the fifteen minutes it had taken to describe them. I can. shall we?” He looked over his shoulder. Don’t say maybe. your family’s determination. and they walked to the house.” Worried eyes landed on David. “Let’s get on with it.
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” David said.m. They found Xander and Toria sitting on the front porch steps. “I know.indd 235 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM .” Xander said. 2:1 1 p. 235 00-01.Gatekeepers. “I told them everything.OP chapter thirty - nine We dne s day. trying to read their expressions.” “Can you?” Xander asked the old man. “Jesse said he can help. He looked at Keal and Jesse.
” Jesse looked up at Xander. “Boys! Yes. though he had a pretty good hunch.” Xander said.“ Jesse waved his hand at Xander.” “But—” David turned to Jesse. “That may not be true.Robert Liparulo “Absolutely. David stopped at the bottom. “You were wearing the wrong colors when we first went over. I’m twelve.” Xander smiled at that. you walked into the middle of a firefight. telling David to calm down. “Everywhere we go someone’s trying to kill us. “You can’t do that. She thinks that because she’s a little girl. she won’t run into the same problems Xander and I did. Toria right behind him. You’ve noticed a lot of aggression toward you in those other worlds. “You mean you’re sending Toria to get her. the circum236 00-01. “What are you going to do?” David asked. Xander.Gatekeepers.” David said. “Get Mom. remember? It’s always been about Toria going over. “Toria’s never been into another world.” Xander protested. this morning. He rose and headed for the front door. Do I look like a soldier? Do I look like a spy? But General Grant shot at me! And he wasn’t the only one—” Jesse was patting the air in front of him. “And in World War II.indd 236 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . we agreed.” “Dae. right?” “Have we!” David said. We said today.
Xander said. 237 00-01. they’ll sense that about Toria. . you just said—” “David. The people over there sense that.indd 237 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . “See? Xander. if she gets in and right back out .” “Wait. you heard what Jesse said. “Come on. But it’s more than that. “Toria. Like there’s something not right about you. But she nodded. “Your ankle! How can you go with your ankle like that?” “I can walk. Jesse. I haven’t been in a world where I haven’t had to run. Behind him.g ate kee p er s stances you walk into have a lot to do with whether you’re in danger. You can’t let her go. wait!” David said. You may look like you belong when you go over. “David—” David saw it in his face: he was about to agree with Xander! “Jesse. he hadn’t threatened them in any way.” she said. Toria. Do you still want to go?” She made a face that said Not really. And the tribesmen who had immediately thrown spears and shot arrows at him. it would be hard for those men over there to mistake her for a soldier. He said. a tight little frown bending her lips. “But you can’t run.” David thought about the hostile looks the soldiers in the Civil War camp had given him—even though they could see he was a child. tell him!” Jesse frowned.Gatekeepers.” She simply stared at him.” David’s shoulders slumped. but you don’t. .
Gatekeepers. But what more could he say? Jesse said. Not to any of the worlds. thinking they can do anything they wish. .” 238 00-01.” Jesse said.Robert Liparulo David didn’t care about being outvoted. Dad can go get Mom. then back to Jesse.” Jesse continued.” “Thing is. I think you’ll agree. sir. Not there. young lady?” “Yes. right. however you can. without any way of finding the portal home—getting her out of there quickly is worth the risk. “Tell them to wait. “if you weigh the possibility of your mother disappearing forever against the possibility of Toria having some trouble. You mother being lost over there. “I’m sorry. He just didn’t want his sister to go.indd 238 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . And given Toria’s age and how short of a time she should be there . Maybe the portal won’t come around before we get back. “David. What I’m saying is: get her while you can. They don’t know him in that world. “I don’t think they should wait.” He looked up to her. David. . “Just in and out.” Toria said. taken against her will. but if—” “Where are you going?” “To get your daddy out of jail. I have experience with small-town authorities.” “Xander!” David turned to his brother.
indd 239 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . checking each antechamber for the Civil War items.m. David stood rigid at the head of the third-floor hallway. his arms crossed over his chest. Dad. Where are you? They’d been up on the third floor over an hour now. but Toria wasn’t his sister. Jesse’s points were hard to argue with. Come on.OP chapter forty We dne s day. How long did it take to get Dad out of jail? 239 00-01.Gatekeepers. Xander and Toria marched up and down the crooked hall. 3 :28 p.
we might never find Mom. Dae.” “You heard Jesse.” “Nice try.” Xander said. the handle of an open door in his hand. “Yeah. “Come on. I’m not mad at you for disagreeing with me now.” Xander stopped. “Well. and David changed his worried face to an angry scowl.” “Which should tell you something.” David said.” David bit his tongue. “That Dad is so cautious. “You know Dad wouldn’t let her go.Robert Liparulo Xander looked his way. peered inside. “I don’t want it to be faster. You were right. “I don’t want it at all. I am.” “At least wait until Dad gets home.” 240 00-01. but you’re being pigheaded. What might happen to Toria is less awful than what might happen to Mom if we don’t find her. Xander wasn’t going to listen to anything he had to say.” he said.” “Like what?” “Like trying to stop her from going over when we find the right portal.” “About Toria’s life?” David said. “When I was mad at Dad for lying to us about the house.Gatekeepers.” “It does. His brother frowned. don’t get any ideas.” Xander said. Work together. “This would be faster if you helped.” Xander opened a door. He said.indd 240 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . closed it. you said we had to get along.
“Toria. He said. fear on her face. She turned back to David. Toria shut the door she had just opened. The words hit David’s gut like a one-two punch. “Got it!” Xander said. Dae. and I’ll come right back if it gets scary.” She walked toward him. “We need to get Mom. then headed back the other way.” Xander checked the antechamber closest to David. 241 00-01. looked at Xander standing in the doorway of an antechamber halfway up the hall. Both boys called to her at the same moment. Wires and studs jutted out from where the walls used to stand. staying off her banged-up ankle as much as she could.g ate kee p er s “What’s worse than death?” “She’s not going to die. “I don’t like you and Xander fighting.” David went to the landing. “Don’t do this.” David said. “I’ll be careful.indd 241 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM .” “But Xander’s right. The two walls had collapsed into the second-floor hallway.Gatekeepers. Dae? What if something happens to Mom while we’re waiting? Could you live with that?” Toria was hobbling from door to door. Tell him you changed your mind. The people over there won’t recognize me. “What if it takes days for Jesse to get Dad out.” she said. It looked as though a bomb had gone off at the base of the stairs. and plaster dust covered it all.” She touched his arm.” “Then don’t go. making a sad face. I promise.
Gatekeepers. Don’t lose the clothes. But she had stepped through.Robert Liparulo She went toward Xander.” He spun around. They’ll show you where the portal home is. In camp. she wore both jackets.indd 242 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . switch back. switch them. Bright sunlight poured through. the Union blue over the Confederate gray.” he said.” David said. “If you wind up on the Confederate side. grabbed the blue hat from a hook. “Wait up and see. Five minutes later. It’s that simple. Carry them like you’re taking them to get cleaned or something. It covered her eyes. “Really. the portal door opened. so no sweat. They’ll pull you toward it. Out-of-focus trees and bushes drifted slowly past. along with the odor of smoke and gunpowder. and pulled it down over her head. “I think they’re back. 242 00-01.” He called out: “Dad!” Behind him.” David said. He ran to the antechamber’s hallway door. You ready?” “Toria. Your kepi too. “Just like I said. But you should come out in the woods right near the camp.” Xander told her. and she pushed it up. take off the jackets and fold them up. Toria and Xander stood in front of the portal. Xander told her. When you get to the Union side. though he had heard nothing. “It looks like the woods by the camp.
She was lying in tall.Gatekeepers. yellow grass—she must have tumbled when she stepped through. as though caught by the wind. “What?” Her voice wavered. He yelled. “Come right back if you don’t find Mom right away!” Toria squinted at him. “David!” Xander said. 243 00-01. It knocked him into the door frame and pushed him as forcefully as the grill of a semi truck. Nothing unusual about that. Xander grabbed his arm and yanked.g ate kee p er s He ran to the doorway. and stood. and the door slammed shut.indd 243 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . The door struck him in the back. David spun back into the room. It always closed on its own after someone went through.
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Xander paced. and walked through the opposite doorway into the hall.Gatekeepers.m. his eyes fixed on the portal door. David sat on the bench. 4:09 p. He had flaked a groove into it and found some cloth gauze encased within. He marched back through and did it again. spun. 245 00-01. tearing an ever-widening hole. His fingernails were absently scraping his plaster cast.OP chapter forty - one We dne s day. He walked to the portal door. Neither brother had spoken since Toria had left. He fingers now flicked at this.indd 245 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM .
As worried as he was.Robert Liparulo Finally David said. “Xander. He would never let her go. “Dad!” David yelled again. He allowed himself to feel it. His face was alive with excitement. He imagined throwing his arms around her. that hint of flowers that seemed natural to her. “They’d come from one of the rooms up here.” David said. to feel that Mom really was on her way. squeezing her. Somewhere in the house.Gatekeepers. “Dad!” David said. Xander’s belief infected David. “It’s been twenty minutes.” 246 00-01. He jumped off the bench. Besides. wait and see.” “Give her a chance. a door slammed.indd 246 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . He really believed Toria would find Mom and bring her home. “Longer. They turned big eyes on each other. Jesse said Phemus couldn’t come back so soon. Dae. “maybe it’s those big guys again. Both boys ran into the hall and stopped on the landing. continuing his back-and-forth strolling. he smiled back at Xander.” David said. She’ll be back any minute. “Jesse!” No reply.” Xander said. “You think.” “Almost. And with Mom. He could almost smell her. the ones from the other world?” Xander shook his head.” Now he did stop. something must have happened to her.
of course. “Dad?” he called. He walked away from the antechamber. and David took up his spot on the bench. “It’s working. That was too long. David watched for a few seconds. just stood there. All the other doors were closed.” Instead.g ate kee p er s They returned to the antechamber. Xander walked to the portal door. Xander gave David a puzzled look and went into the hall.indd 247 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . David said. Twenty. “ I’ll go check. but hey. he was downstairs. then tromped down the stairs. 247 00-01. as if expecting David to say. Another bang. listening. David jumped. He walked to the landing. “Okay. Xander was standing halfway to the landing. David went to the doorway and peered out. “Could be just the wind. then he scanned the hallway.” Xander smiled. twenty-five minutes she’d been gone. It was unplanned. stupid. as they were supposed to be. Xander would never let him do it.” But he didn’t move. never mind. tried the handle—locked. He had an idea.” David said. Dad would call it impulsive—doing something simply because the chance presented itself. He glanced over his shoulder at the portal door Toria had used. “Nah.” Xander said. He swallowed hard and glanced nervously at the open door.” he said. “Probably just the house trying to spook us.Gatekeepers.
248 00-01. He could not see much activity among the tents: one or two people walking along the center aisle.Robert Liparulo Not stupid this time. and picked up a sword from the bench. He opened the portal door—unlocked now that he held the items—and stepped through.indd 248 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . Split. let alone do homework. he thought. David thought. Not when it’s been almost a half hour. as though by lightning. plucked a canteen and the gray kepi off their hooks. At the edge of the woods. 9 David ran through the woods toward the meadow of dry grass and the Union army camp on the other side. he dropped the sword into the grass. before plunging into it again. That tree. But they’d hardly had time to grab a few hours’ sleep. He hoped the pull of the kepi and canteen. Most of the soldiers must be at the front lines. As he tucked the kepi into his waistband. He wished he’d had time to research the Civil War. especially the Union side and its encampments and battle policies. He slipped into the antechamber. he looked around for landmarks that would help him find the sword again. and the items Toria had brought.Gatekeepers. would be enough to guide them to the portal home.
“Even country gals like you. trying to avoid putting weight on her injured ankle. he heard a scream coming from the front of the camp. Both weapons were fitted with long bayonets. No excuses!” He turned to his compatriot. The Harper’s Ferry rifle David had used on his first venture to this world was still in the antechamber when he left. David’s guts felt twisted. Toria was walking slowly away from two soldiers. “We don’t wanna see you coming back 249 00-01. laughing and pointing their rifles at her. though she was way out of striking distance. a big grin on his face. He looked around the edge of the tent. “Everyone fights!” the soldier said. Men were laughing.Gatekeepers. She had not brought it over with her.indd 249 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . sweetie! Get out there and fight! Else we’ll have to shoot you ourselves. He angled that direction through the field. and she was heading south. The two soldiers followed twenty paces behind. And she was carrying a rifle! The gun was longer than she was tall. toward the hill over which David knew the battle raged. She wore the blue kepi and jacket. He reached the back of the first tent and stopped. The other man yelled.g ate kee p er s He bolted for the tents. and jabbed the bayonet at her. Before he reached them. Toria was crying.” He laughed. stopped. Toria. One soldier yelled at her. She kept glancing back over her shoulder. “Skedaddle. She was limping.
then we’ll think about letting you into camp. Young lady. David thought his fury had startled the meanness out of the man. She tossed the rifle away and threw her arms around his neck. “Hey. don’t we?” “We’re friends with General Grant. knocking it aside. casually.Robert Liparulo ’less it’s on a stretcher. He swung his arm cast at the bayonet. “David!” Toria ran to him. “Well. The soldier said. we have two greenhorns to send to the front. “Where is he? General Grant! General Grant!” “Whoa.” David said.” The first soldier spotted David running toward him. and swung the rifle around. then. He picked up his rifle but held it vertically.” the second solder said. “What do you think you’re doing? She’s a little girl. “I’m reporting both of you!” He grabbed Toria’s hand and led her past the men into the camp.indd 250 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . You go all the way! Kill you some graybacks. why didn’t you say you knew the general?” “Both of you!” David said.Gatekeepers. young master. The man backpedaled and fell. “The general is in battle. He jumped and shoved his palms into the soldier’s chest. what’s this?” he said. at least for the moment. 250 00-01. “Young love!” “She’s my sister.” The downed man regained his feet. David didn’t slow down. “Woo-woo!” the standing soldier said.” David said.
And the message Mom left. They started pushing me around. King!” “You two!” the soldier behind them said. They continued toward the rear of the camp. “Mom!” Toria yelled. whispering. Mom!” Toria took up the call: “Mom!” The soldiers they’d left were heading for them. David yelled again. “Mom! Mom!” “I thought we were supposed to be secret?” “Who cares now? Let’s find her and get out of here. “Mrs.” Toria said. like Xander said. “You stop right there.” David turned to face them. Then he yelled. Something had them suspicious—maybe it was nothing more than what Jesse had said. King! Gertrude King!” The soldiers were closing in.g ate kee p er s He looked back.” David told Toria.Gatekeepers. and those two saw me. that he and Toria weren’t supposed to be there. “I saw Bob. He was drawn on the tent. “Ignore them. With her limp. “You didn’t find her?” David said.” “They’re idiots. The soldiers were standing together. “Mrs. 251 00-01. “No. One of them scratched his head.” David said.indd 251 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . Toria’s gait was more of a skip than a walk. I looked into a tent. and one of them said I should be fighting. I’ve had enough of this place. and they sensed it.
before I have you thrown into the stockades!” The two soldiers looked at each other. sending kids. those graybacks are getting tricky. the bayonet five feet from David’s chest. As she watched them depart. and said. She stopped between David and the bayonet.indd 252 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . “You know what we do with spies?” “Shoot on sight. and dropped it on the ground. “Thank y—” She darted toward them. In fact. Then she spun around. grabbing the material over their 252 00-01.” the first man said. . I don’t think you even know him. ran out from a nearby tent. wearing a blood-covered smock. I think we got us some spies. She faced the soldiers. crumpled it.Gatekeepers. put her fists on her hips. “David?” Toria whispered. They turned and walked away like five-year-olds heading for time-out. An older woman. “What do you think you’re doing?” “Well. I don’t think you’re friends with the man. .Robert Liparulo The one he’d knocked down said. then back at the woman. “Go. Their shoulders slumped. “Doesn’t sound like you’re looking for General Grant. both of you. David said. ma’am . “Sammy. she pulled off the soiled smock.” The other soldier said. Oooo.” He stepped closer.” “These are children!” She pointed toward the front of the camp.
Through gritted teeth. then did the same to David.indd 253 10/31/08 1:06:31 PM . she said. She brought her nose to within an inch of Toria’s. “Did you say King?” 253 00-01. Her eyes were huge.g ate kee p er s chests with her fists.Gatekeepers. bright and blue.
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with their missing items. He swirled his hands lightly against the grain of the portal door. to admit back to their rightful time and place his brother and sister.OP chapter forty - two We dne s day. David was gone. He willed it to open. One look at the hooks.Gatekeepers.m. Whatever had made the noises that drew him away. 255 00-01. 4:25 p. he thought. I’ll never figure that kid out.indd 255 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . But when he returned to the Civil War antechamber. Xander hadn’t found it. told him that David had gone over.
and sending Toria seemed like the best way to do it. he was going to punch him. he manned up—because that’s when bravery mattered. 256 00-01. No. the outcome crucial. then into the hall.” Stop! He’ll be fine. . punch him hard. punk! And he had called Xander stupid! Xander had merely wanted to find Mom. But then he’d plunge into World War II and the Civil War. going over for Toria like that. They’d shared vacations and friends and baths. . where you had to be afraid of a lot more than shadows. But over the past few years they hadn’t spent much time hanging out. put his hands on his knees. It was a brave thing to do. That . He walked to the portal door. that .Gatekeepers.indd 256 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . . He sat on the bench. then stood again. he wasn’t going to do that.Robert Liparulo He could not believe what David had done. Xander’s mind kept casting images of all the things that could happen to his brother over there—unpretty things that would make a movie R-rated for “graphic violence. What was with that kid? He would stand behind Xander if a shadow crept up the wall. When the stakes were high. Where was Dad? Xander and David had shared a room their entire lives. . How much more stupid was it to go into a world where the people had chased you out with guns—twice? When David returned.
Sunlight blinded Xander. air rushing out of lungs. Toria.g ate kee p er s David had his soccer and video games. No one to throw in jail or shoot at. and then the house—Xander realized that David had been growing and maturing too. His brother was someone he truly liked. “It was awful! If David hadn’t come.Gatekeepers. No threat. He had sharp ideas and a witty sense of humor. “Oh. 257 00-01. and generally gave as good as he got. he saw David lifting himself off the floor. Toria sprang up at him and threw her arms around his neck. The portal door burst open. Her going over was much safer than David’s. followed by tumbling. Then he would punch him. Peering over her shoulder. He lowered his head into his hands. . But as they had faced a mutual enemy—the move itself. Shadows cut through the radiance and slapped down on the antechamber floor. Hard. So maybe. he would hug and spare the punch. Sand and leaves blew in on smoky currents. I would have . The door slammed shut. . Xander squeezed her. He had to keep believing what he had told David: The people over there would see nothing more than a cute little girl. not just loved. grunting. . . he would give the kid a bone-crushing bear hug. I . driving. Xander. Xander’s interests were becoming more adult—or at least more older-teen: a girlfriend. when he next saw David. making movies.” She began to weep.” she said.indd 257 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .
Robert Liparulo Then Xander’s heart leaped. a lot older than Mom. A woman. This was worse than not getting anything for Christmas. “Who are you?” “Are you Xander?” she said. . “From what these two told me . 258 00-01. .” she continued. .” A realization struck Xander like a hammer between the eyes. . Hesitantly. “. her hair hung over her face. worse than being rejected by a girl you’d liked all year and finally summoned the courage to ask out. Xander looked from the woman to David and back to the woman. . . The woman was old. mostly while running from soldiers . When he turned back.indd 258 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .” she said. She had her hand pressed to her forehead. he nodded. trying to catch her breath. He shifted Toria to the bench beside him.Gatekeepers. His hope popped like a balloon. . He knew where he’d seen her before . But she had kind. She was breathing heavily through her mouth. pushing a strand of hair off her face. There was another person on the floor behind David. . which had formed into a curious smile. worse than not passing your driver’s test. vibrant eyes that somehow looked familiar. the woman flipped her hair away from her face and looked at him. It wasn’t Mom. Finally he said. “Well.
If not her. nodded. “You wrote the message next to it?” “Yes.” she said. then her features. “But . but nothing came out. “Our grandfather . who had rocked back to sit on his heels.” She spoke the way Dad did sometimes. describing things in ways he hadn’t thought of before. . The top lip thin. staring back at him from the mirror. I mean. your grandfather. Xander had always liked it.” she said. .” “Oh . “Hank is Henry. The shape of her eyes. . right?” “But our grandpa’s name was Hank.” “You . it has been so long. .Gatekeepers. . Her shoulders rose and fell. I always thought of him the way he was the last time I saw him—young. I guess I’m your grandmother.” Xander said. “That silly cartoon face—Henry. . . “I suppose .indd 259 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . He shot his eyes to his brother. the bottom one fuller. . he died last year. . Marching toward that 259 00-01. He said.g ate kee p er s Xander gaped at her.” Xander frowned with her. Songwriters were masters at it. David smiled. “How?” “Bob.” Xander blinked. . . He saw them every day.” She turned her head away.” Toria said. I guess all along he was marching toward that date we all have to keep. His mouth formed words. “like Jack is John. . You put it on the tent. “ . “Was? Toria said his name was Hank. made up when he was a kid. I was so—” Her smile faltered.” Xander said. poets too.
“Twelve. is .” she said. “I’m sorry. .” “I’m nine.Gatekeepers.” Toria chimed. “Dad’s really all right. I always wanted to be Nana.” “She’s a grouch. She’s thirteen. kept his date. “I’m fifteen now.” she said. “Your father.” Worry etched lines in her brow. . . “And I’m sorry for you. He was thrilled to give her good news. but she knew his meaning.” Xander said. shaking her head. She’s married. She touched David’s knee. is he all right?” “Grandma called him Eddie. “And you?” She looked at David. tickled. “Toria!” Xander said. Aunt Beth too. my son.” Xander said. 260 00-01. Call me Nana. It made it seem less terrible. Her name’s Anne.” Xander said.” she said.” Toria said. A little.” David said to Xander. The woman—Nana—smiled. “I knew him for only ten years.” “Yeah.” “I was fourteen when he . “I really have missed so much.” “Fifteen. “Let’s see.indd 260 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . “Not Grandma. and you have another grandkid.” she said. You must have known him longer. . “My goodness. It wasn’t quite right.Robert Liparulo date we all have to keep—death.
“Definitely not a Gertrude!” and laughed. . “Looking for me?” “No. “I see. I don’t suppose your mother has such a name?” “Everyone calls her G. My dear children. over there. And how is she?” “She’s .” She rose and hugged Xander’s head.g ate kee p er s “Alexander. this awful house. I’m sorry. Nana said. then opened her arms to Toria. “G?” All three of the King children said. She turned to David and gave him a squeeze. As if to herself.” David said. and her eyes welled up.” Xander said. Anne. “Oh . . David. My children kept the tradition. she was kidnapped.Gatekeepers. who came off the bench to be comforted.” David said. oh . “This house. . . waving his hand at the portal door. All royal names.indd 261 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . . “What?” Nana said. . Victoria.” 261 00-01. “Like you were.” “From this house?” Her hand covered her mouth.
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David heard Dad’s comfortingly familiar voice call from the hallway.indd 263 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .Gatekeepers. I’m home!” He knew his brother and sister’s wide eyes matched his own. He ran to Dad at the beginning of the hall and jumped into 263 00-01.m. “Hello? Kids.OP chapter forty - three We dne s day. 4:41 p. “Dad!” he said. He scrambled out of the antechamber.
” “Hold on. .Robert Liparulo his arms. I would recognize you anywhere. who had stepped out of the antechamber. “You’re not the little boy I’ve carried around in my head for thirty years. “I missed you. I didn’t know what to do . . compared to her. as if trying to meld their bodies together.” Disentangling themselves. . “Mom?” “Eddie.Gatekeepers. their arms binding them all together. hold on.” Dad said. She met him halfway. Toria and Xander collided into Dad. .” “I knew you’d be fine. He was big. opening her arms.” Dad began walking toward her. But I see him in there. He squeezed. .indd 264 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . . They embraced.” Dad said. He backed away from this last emotion to settle on hopefulness. “But from what Jesse told me on the way over. Dad‘s face flashed from puzzlement to shock to joy. “I want to hear it all. “I was so scared. David followed his gaze to Nana. the King kids spoke all at once: “This big man chased us . 264 00-01. “Mom.” “Toria went over . you guys haven’t been bored. His arms seemed to engulf her. and Dad buried his face in her shoulder.” Toria said. .” she said. Daddy.” he said.” “I was putting up a camera when . but I—” His words hit a brick wall. .
brushing it back—exactly the way he did with his children. but Dad had been seven. He and his brother had the sameshaped eyes. he knew now. these traits? He looked at Xander. David was doing a pretty good job of holding it in. She would not have changed much. He said. His eyes scanned his mother’s face. Xander’s rising and falling chest said he. Toria teared up. “I’ve missed you so much.” David nodded sadly. David marveled at this: the little things from your parents you keep with you your whole life.” he said. Xander’s were blue. in turn. The kids smiled at one another.” Her hand caressed his cheek. Finally Dad lifted his head and backed away a step. How far back could it go. then the other—like Dad’s and.g ate kee p er s David imagined that the last time they’d hugged. their physical proportions had been reversed. He whispered. He grinned at the kids. like his nana’s. then she slipped her fingers into his hair. David’s were hazel—brownish green. “Back to square one.indd 265 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . He wondered what mannerisms he had picked up from Mom and Dad. 265 00-01. studying every feature. was on the brink of losing it. We didn’t find her. Xander leaned close to him. And that they.Gatekeepers. the difference in sizes even more pronounced. like their mother’s. had picked up from their parents. He sniffed and ran his palm over his face. sometimes appearing one color. too. “But it wasn’t Mom who left the note.
no.” Nana smiled at Xander and David. We have so much to catch up on. don’t we?” They nodded. sending her fingers to her lips.Robert Liparulo They approached Dad and Nana at the center of the hall. holding her hand. Nana looked around at the crooked hallway. though. no. Get her something to drink. “Thank you. Toria strolled on her other side.Gatekeepers.” she said. Too much emotion.” Dad said. I’m a bit .” she said.” Toria hopped up. for bringing me home.” David gave her a hug. Nana.” she said. . David moved farther into the hallway to see that she was looking at four parallel furrows in the wallpaper. I feel so drained. “Guys. “And we’ll have plenty of time to do it.” He raised his eyebrows at her. a lot exhausted. “I’ll get it ready for you. “Thank you for finding me. “She can use my bed!” She walked up to the older woman and took her hand.” Dad escorted her down the hallway toward the landing. “Something to eat?” “Oh. He and 266 00-01. at the wall sconces and old-fashioned decorations. I’m sure. “It hasn’t changed at all. “I want to hear all about you two. “I’m going to take your grandmother downstairs. .indd 266 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . Xander did the same. She spotted something on the wall. “I might need to lie down somewhere.
and David realized what they were: her scratch marks.” Jesse’s eyes went wide. “Kimberly?” he said. “This is my mother.Gatekeepers. she released Toria’s hand and touched his. “It’s been a long time. but he simply nodded and disappeared back down the stairs. “Jesse. They heard a sound behind them and looked back to see Keal appear on the landing with Jesse’s wheelchair.” 267 00-01. He looked surprised to see another person up there with them. ma’am. She started weeping again. “Have we met?” “I’m Henry’s uncle.” Dad said. His jaw dropped open. She stared at him.indd 267 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . A moment later he reappeared with Jesse and eased him into the chair. Her head tilted. Jesse.” Jesse said. Keal. Slowly.g ate kee p er s Xander had discovered them when they’d first found the hallway. put there when she was kidnapped.
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5:00 p.” 269 00-01.indd 269 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . hanging his head. as if it were feeling the beating of a distant heart. Keal.OP chapter forty - four We dne s day. David. it made the curving corridor appear to pulse.” he said. The light from the strange lamps hanging on the walls flickered. and Xander stood around Jesse’s wheelchair in the third-floor hallway.Gatekeepers. “Not Mom. “Nana’s the one who left the message on the tent. To David. flamelike.m.
” He looked around the hallway.” “Dad’s got his mom back?” David said.” Jesse said. I’m not sure I could do anything about it. “But I don’t think it’ll take that long. that too . but I was thinking about your mother. . or stay long enough. and you found somebody. . it’s a bit frightening being up here. so close to the portals. That was weird.” “Why does it want you in the first place?” Xander said. there’s no reason to think your mom couldn’t do the same.” Jesse nodded. “The wind’s not blowing now. You’ve been looking for your mom only a few days. then reached up and smoothed back his hair. That’s a pretty good record. son. “Like it did last night. “For however long it takes. “Look on the bright side.” Jesse said. gets used to us. If I’m up here and Time decides it wants me.Robert Liparulo “I see. “I have to say. It 270 00-01. . but if we go back there enough times.” said Jesse.” David said. He couldn’t even imagine that many years. Since your grandmother survived for so long. “There’s a balance to everything in the world. history sort of .indd 270 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .” He touched David’s arm. “Well. We’ll keep looking.” “For thirty years?” David said.Gatekeepers. let alone that many years looking for Mom. . He’d be forty-two in thirty years. “I’m sorry. Remind me to head back downstairs in an hour. We don’t belong in the past. “Things need to be where they belong.
” “Have you felt it where you live?” Xander said. the way the ocean does. sap covers the gouge and eventually heals itself. “Nope. A man drowns in the ocean. “Either it can’t reach that far or it forgot about me. Time is like that: rules. at the wall lights with their carved figures of tigers and fighters and faces.Gatekeepers. Time abides by certain rules.” Jesse agreed. we made a place for ourselves. Like if you lie on a bed long enough. for example. at all the closed doors. you get up and the mattress contains a perfect shape of your body. Do we mean that it consciously sought out the man and took him away? No. “Going through the portals all that time?” “In and out. If you hack into it. “Now. He said. Just in case its reach is farther than I’ve imagined. That’s why I live half a continent away.” Jesse said.g ate kee p er s starts to want us there. over time leaning toward the sun. but no reason.” Xander said. “You talk about it like it’s alive. It was enough.” “You were in this house nearly fifty years. “Not every day. “But in the manner in which a tree is alive.” He shook his head. Trees adjust to circumstances. The past wants me back.” Jesse said.” David looked around the hallway. but a few times a week. as a human is intelligent. because by our continued presence. and we say the ocean took him. “Not alive as a human is alive. it is.” He looked between David and Xander. while we’re 271 00-01.” “In a way.indd 271 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .
” 272 00-01. while I can be here.indd 272 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . Everything you’ve seen in every world you’ve visited. That will tell me the best way to help you.Robert Liparulo up here.Gatekeepers. tell me everything you know about these rooms—what you call antechambers—and the portals.
” He took in the activity in the hallway—David. “That is. David had just peered into an antechamber and shut the door when Dad stepped into the hallway. 5:37 p. “Nana’s going to take a nap in Toria’s room.m.” he said. “What’s going on?” “Ed. smiling.indd 273 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . and even Keal moving from door to door.OP chapter forty - five We dne s day. if Toria lets her. beckoning from his wheelchair at the far 273 00-01.Gatekeepers.” Jessie said. checking the items behind each. Xander. Your sister’s talking up a storm.
He squatted down in front of the old man. “Do you know it. “When we spoke on the way home from the jail. Even the air has a special quality. “Jesse. You need to see it for what it is. He moved slowly to the next door.” “What it is?” Dad said. where we sat by the river and you carved Bob into the tree.” Dad said. but his face was tight. fresh. I don’t ever want to see it again. Dad. I believe it has to do with the man who wants your house. “It’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever been. . “I know it. I don’t know . “Something terrible happened.” 274 00-01. . you didn’t tell me about .” “I know.” Jesse said. . what did you call it. “I don’t understand. Ed. He looked through the door he had just opened. spreading his hands. Xander?” “Peaceful world.” “The only world that’s not violent. The place you and I went. prompting David to carry on with the search as well. Jesse? You want to go there?” Jesse’s eyes closed slowly. invigorating. concerned.” Jesse’s eyes opened as slowly as they’d closed. “But you need to. He patted David’s back as he headed for Jesse. Xander?” Xander nodded.indd 274 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . then shut it. “What is this about?” “That world is not what you think it is. Right. But David could tell that his brother’s ears and eyes were still on Jesse and Dad. .Gatekeepers. . . but no.Robert Liparulo end of the hall.” Dad said. “You know. like .” Dad stopped.” Xander said.
Gatekeepers. but he did. Terrible. “So much to tell you. I—” Dad looked over his shoulder. and funny hat. I don’t know why he did it.” 275 00-01. “I was here when he arrived. “You said a picnic basket.” Jesse said. David saw frustration and confusion on his face.indd 275 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . It was then that history started changing in ways I had never seen before.” Jesse said.” he said.g ate kee p er s “Taksidian?” “Yes. but Keal and Xander had already stepped into the little room. Jesse. but . as well. he went by another name.” Jesse said. “The culmination of his work. Almost immediately. horrendous ways. but when I knew him. right?” “That’s it. going through the portals. What’s over the hill?” “The reason this house called you back.” “Hey . a few miles from the lush valley?” “No. he began breaking in. Dad swung his attention back to Jesse. “Wait. “What does it have to do with Taksidian?” “It’s the reason he’s here.” Xander said. “and I’ve never been good at putting my thoughts in the best order.” Keal said. There’s nothing—” “You haven’t gone over the hill. have you?” Jesse said. “I’ve been there. .” “This house called me? I came back to find my mother. Look—” His brows pinched in concentration. “The biggest hill. . parasol. Dad said. . . blanket. Age has made it worse.
wide eyes on Dad.” Jesse said. then David.” “Except that one.Robert Liparulo “Just tell me what’s over there that’s got you spooked. He rushed to the antechamber and looked in.” Jesse pleaded. indicating the doors. I think he fell. It’s—” Xander’s yells came from the antechamber: “Keal! No.” Dad sprang up.” Dad said.indd 276 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM .” Jesse said. wait!” A door slammed. His head swiveled toward Jesse. “The future. “He went through!” he said. “Keal opened the door.Gatekeepers. .” Xander said. then Xander— unsure what to do. wheeling himself forward. . then he just went through!” “Go get him!” Jesse said. he doesn’t know what he’s doing. David glanced into the antechamber as he walked past. “Go get him. Xander came out of the room so fast he crashed into the wall on the opposite side of the hallway. “But we’ve never found a future world.” Dad said. “It’s why you haven’t found any other future worlds. He waved his arm around. “Dad. 276 00-01. David drew up next to his father and Jesse. “Please . Xander was setting the floppy golf cap—the tam-o’-shanter— on Keal’s head. “They all lead to times in the past. absently rubbing his cast. He leaned against the wall.
Dad had the picnic basket and blanket slung over his shoulders.” Dad said.” Jesse said. He turned toward the closed portal door and stood staring at it. He went into the antechamber. David slipped past Jesse and stepped into the tiny room. as if he hoped Keal would burst back through. “You have a lot of explaining to do.g ate kee p er s “Bring him back. He said.” Jesse said from his chair in the doorway. “He used to be an Army Ranger. . and took the gun. “I hope not. “I don’t want it. A warm breeze. He picked up a butterfly net. hesitated. He held it out.” He reached under a knitted blanket that covered his lap. “Jesse!” Dad said. His hand returned with a pistol. “You may need it.” Dad nodded.indd 277 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . “I don’t see him. Through the portal. and Xander joined him.” Dad said.Gatekeepers.” Jesse said. Hazy daylight flooded the little room. “Give it to Keal.” Jesse said. .” “Bring Keal back.” Dad shook his head.” Dad stepped across the room.” Jesse said. a blurry vision of a meadow drifted by. “and I’ll tell you everything. but . “Wait.” Dad returned to the door and opened it. please. “Where did that come from?” “A friend overnighted it to me. “Take this. “Whoa. He reached for the handle. 277 00-01. The fragrance of grasses and wildflowers wafted in. I’ll explain later.” David said.
He said nothing. “Don’t even think it about it. who read his expression perfectly. ached under the strain. son.” Jesse said.“ David grabbed the edge of the door as it closed. pushing his sneakered feet along the hardwood floor. He said. He was sure that if he pulled away from it now. almost buggy eyes on him. “Xander—!” David said. Xander reached out as if to stop him. He threw a glance at Jesse.” Dad stepped into the light. his legs.” Jesse said.Robert Liparulo “The portal’s moving. They protested with stuttering squeaks. Jesse?” Jesse turned wide. as it had broken the baseball bat days ago. “Hurry. Xander spun and leaped through the portal. 278 00-01.indd 278 10/31/08 1:06:32 PM . “Let it shut.” Jesse said. The door kept closing. “Why the gun. “They’ll be right back. “Dad! Xander!” Wind blew his words back into his face. His other arm. spreading into his shoulders. He tucked himself tight and let the door knock him through the portal like a pinball’s flipper whacking a steel marble. The door shoved David into the frame. He couldn’t hold it open. He dropped away and disappeared. Pain radiated through his broken arm. the door would catch a foot or arm and snap it off.Gatekeepers.
kicked up from his fall. He rolled over and got to his feet. He stared at a sky the color of a knife blade. The air was warm and smelled like the perfume counter at the department store in Pasadena. floated past. Thirty feet down a gently sloping hill. Xander rose from 279 00-01.indd 279 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .Gatekeepers. Pollen.OP chapter forty - six David fell into a patch of flowers. He rolled through them into tall grass and stopped.
He handed Keal the gun. Panic strained his voice. Dad spotted his sons.” Keal took it and held it up.” Keal said.357 Colt Python.” “Here. “Great. “I—” Xander said. then turned to Dad. “Then catch that thing. When David said nothing. “What’s the deal? Why’d you go through?” “I was just looking.” Dad said.Robert Liparulo the grass. and said. wind pulled me in. . “A . “Loaded.” Dad said.” David said weakly. 280 00-01. “What are you doing?” he said. “I always keep the hammer on an empty chamber. “Too late. Xander said. opening the cylinder.” He removed a bullet. He pointed with the butterfly net. who was a little farther down the hill.” Dad grabbed Keal’s arm and started up the hill.” He flipped his wrist. He gave David a stunned look. “I guess I stuck my head in too far. saw the curious expression on David’s face.” He cast a hard eye on Keal. “Stop it from disappearing!” David turned to see what Dad was pointing at: the portal.” he said. showing nothing but the door that had slammed shut behind him. It shimmered like a heat wave. “The portal home could be anywhere. “I want to help.indd 280 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .Gatekeepers. This . . As he watched. “Jesse said you know how to use it. it broke apart and scattered like dandelion fluff. He swung back to David. beside Keal. as if for an answer.
“You think we need it?” Dad said. He snapped the cylinder back into place.indd 281 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .” “Don’t worry. Sunlight glimmered on a river down in the valley. “Give a holler if you hear or see anything dangerous. “Stay close.” He looked at David and Xander.Gatekeepers. “Come on.g ate kee p er s Safer that way. “Man. Dad pointed at a far-off hill. I don’t know anything about this place. The slope they were on descended a long way before leveling off. “we will. We have to find the portal home anyway. past a swath of woods and several smaller hillocks. but if Jesse thinks we do. trees formed dense woods. giving them a tight smile. I’m glad to have it. so we might as well start over there. To their left and right.” “All right.” 281 00-01.” David said. Dad squinted at their surroundings.” Dad said. “Where to?” David said. hurrying to reach them. Keal shrugged and pushed the weapon into his pants at the small of his back.” he said.” He dropped the bullet into a shirt pocket.” He started walking. “Whatever Jesse’s anxious about is over that hill.
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forty - seven
We dne s day, 5:59 p.m.
Toria sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed, facing her grandmother, who sat propped with her back against the headboard.
Between them was a collection of stuffed animals.
“And this one,” Toria said, picking up a bear wearing a
stars-and-stripes shirt and holding an American flag on a
stick, “sings ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ ” She wrinkled her
nose. “Off-key. It’s pretty bad.”
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
She tilted her head, studying Nana’s face. She pushed the
bear into her lap. Softly, she said, “I’m sorry. You must be
Nana blinked slowly. “I am, but I’m also very interested
in you. You remind me so much of my little girl.”
Toria giggled. “You mean Aunt Beth. I never thought of
her as a little girl, but I guess she was . . . once.”
“She was only four when I last saw her.” Nana smiled at
“How can you take it?” Toria said. “Being back after so
long. I think I would just . . . explode.”
Nana looked around the room. “Honey, after a while, you
learn to adjust quickly, going from world to world.”
Toria sat up straight. “World to world? You mean you . . .
bounced around ?”
Nana nodded. “But now I’m home. In a way, it’s just
another world for me to adjust to. But it’s the only world I
want to be in. It’s the only place where you are, and everybody
else I love.”
Toria smiled. “You’re supposed to be here.”
“It’s where I belong,” Nana agreed.
Toria squinted at her grandmother’s hair. A few strands
were standing up, like what happens when you rub a balloon
on your head and static electricity builds up. Except the hair
standing up on Nana’s head was also whipping back and
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
g ate kee p er s
Toria crawled over an array of stuffed animals and smoothed
the hair down. “You’re very pretty,” she said, leaning back.
“Thank you,” Nana said. “You are too. Does your mom
have brown hair too, like you children?”
“Her hair’s more blonde,” Toria said. “She calls it dishwater
blonde, but I think that sounds gross. Who’d want dishwatercolored hair? She has pretty hair, cut like this.” She snagged her
hair at the neckline and bent it in.
“Sounds lovely,” Nana said. “I’ll bet you—” She stopped.
Her eyebrows came together, and she looked upward.
Toria stared at the strange thing going on at the top of
Nana’s head. Her hair—not a few strands, but most of it—was
standing up and swishing back and forth, as though she was
nodding her head underwater.
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10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
forty - eight
David, Xander, Dad, and Keal crunched through a beautiful
forest of big trees—oaks or elms, David thought, but he
didn’t know much about trees.
“I can see the end, just ahead,” Dad said. “We’re almost
at the hill Jesse mentioned.”
“What’s there?” David said.
“Beats me, Dae. Something scary, according to Jesse.”
“Then why are we heading for it?”
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
“We have to know what it is. Just a peek, then we’ll get
out of here, okay?”
David frowned. “I guess.”
“Hey, Keal,” Xander said. “If you need someone to help
carry that gun . . .”
“I’m fine, Xander,” Keal said. “But thanks.”
“Dad,” Xander said, “in The Shawshank Redemption, these big
bad guys kicked Tim Robbins’s butt. You run into any of
“Shawshank was a prison,” Dad said. “I was in jail. There’s
“So . . . little bad guys?” Xander said.
“No bad guys, except for the ones who locked me up.”
Dad stepped past the last tree and into bright sunlight,
where he paused. The picnic basket hung from his shoulder
by a strap. He pushed it behind him and swung absently at
the grass with the butterfly net.
David stopped beside him. He said, “Sorry about coming
through after you and Xander.”
“Truth be told,” Dad said, “I’m glad you’re here. At least
as long as we don’t have to use that gun.” He ran his fingers
through David’s hair and draped his hand over his shoulder.
“How’d Jesse get you out?”
“I wasn’t there when he was talking to the police, but I
heard some shouting.”
Keal came tromping out of the woods. He carried the
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Hey. He turned his face up to the sun and held it there. “It’s so beautiful. What can be so terrible out here?” “That’s what we’re going to find out.” “Yeah.indd 289 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .” “Does that mean we have to go back to school?” Dad laughed and mussed David’s hair.Gatekeepers. “I hope Jesse was wrong. Apparently a few people in power overreacted to unsubstantiated allegations. “So you still have your job?” “As far as I know. then.” “Xander said Taksidian bribed people to get us out of the house and you arrested. “They’re not going to evict us or try to grab us again.” David said. I think so. “Are we safe?” David said to his father. “Let’s go. Xander jogged out from the shadow of the trees. Dae. are they?” “For now we’re okay. “ ’Fraid so.g ate kee p er s folded parasol under his arm like a British lord expecting some weather. “And quiet.” Dad said. “My back teeth were floating.” Dad turned around and looked up the tall hill. He said.” Dad said.” “Okay. “Be right there.” Keal said.” Xander yelled from the woods.” 289 00-01. Xander! What’s taking you so long?” “Watering a tree.” “I wouldn’t bet against the man. The climb seemed about a mile.” David said.” “I hope nothing.
He said. .Robert Liparulo David showed Xander a lopsided grin. .” “Uh . Xander raised his arm as if holding a sword. Couldn’t you have said something more .” “Not what you had in mind? How about—” Smiling. . . “Strong and courageous!” 290 00-01. gung ho?” Xander slapped David on the back. “It’s an honor to die at your side.” David said.Gatekeepers. In a deep voice he said. “This is serious.indd 290 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM . “Strong and courageous!” “That’s better.
After all these years. but comfortable. Jesse kept an eye on the portal door from the hallway.OP chapter forty - nine We dne s day. 291 00-01. Or even a soldier on the battlefield. Not pleasing. It was a place he knew well. 6:0 8 p.Gatekeepers. the way a surgeon must feel in an operating room. He kept the wheelchair’s footrest just inside the antechamber to prevent the outer door from closing. being here in the house he had built with his father and brother felt somehow comfortable.m.indd 291 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .
Robert Liparulo Here. A peaceful world? Ha! Don’t get worked up. his skills perfectly matched the challenges presented.Gatekeepers. The lights in the hallway flickered. groaned. No wind yet. Coming soon. old man. The light blinked out and returned a second later. it splashed up the wall to the ceiling. he told himself. Should he try to write a note? No time. As he had told the King children about themselves last night—prematurely. He’d been sure Time would have allowed him to stay longer before it came to claim him. He wheeled the chair back. several down from his. and only here.indd 292 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM . crashed open. The walls around him creaked. It depicted a frowning sun face—a grinning quarter moon was poking its sharply pointed head into the sun’s cheek. A door near the end of the hall. Not over that. he’d realized later—he was meant to be here. Jesse looked at the nearest wall light. Light from the bulb behind the faces shone through the eyes and slits in the sun rays. Too soon. Light radiated out of the antechamber. He knew it emanated from an open portal. The other lamps in the hall did the same. and shot down the hall toward the landing. Jesse thought. sending the Kings into that world had been his most important task. 292 00-01. turned. Besides.
g ate kee p er s
He had shined a light on that dark charade.
You want to get worked up? Look behind you! Look at the portal, hungry
to eat you!
He reached the landing and propelled himself out of the
chair. He began crawling, moving quickly down the stairs. He
tried to ignore the pain in his stomach and hips as he bounded
down each step. He slowed . . . stopped.
Why no wind?
Didn’t it know that if it wanted him, it had to come get him?
He wasn’t about to just waltz right into the portal of his own
free will. He may be old, but he wasn’t stupid.
A scream reached him: coming from the second floor, just
below him. Beyond the collapsed walls.
She was screaming over and over, as loud and insistent as a
It dawned on him.
Not me, he thought. Nana. Kimberly. It’s coming for her.
She’d been lost in history for thirty years, thirty constant
years. Of course Time thought she belonged back there.
He thumped down the remaining steps and dragged himself
up onto the fallen walls. He pulled his body over the dust and
Toria’s screams continued.
“Nana!” the little girl yelled. “No, no, nooooo!”
Jesse reached the main hallway and turned the corner.
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Banging, banging punctuated Toria’s screams like a pounding
drum, trying to keep time with a manic trumpeter.
“I’m coming, girl!” Jesse yelled, but the words were no
more than air coming out of his lungs. He had spent his
breath on moving from the third floor to the second.
Jesse reached the grand staircase and crawled past. Toria’s
room was the next one on the right. He was almost there.
He could hear Kimberly now, crying, groaning with
effort. Not screaming, no—all of her energy was invested in
fighting the pull.
Inside the bedroom, something crashed. Toria screamed
His arms were tiring. He reached out, hooked his fingers
on the door frame, and pulled himself forward.
Something inside the room screeched like an angry hawk.
A bare foot shot out of the bedroom and struck his face. He
pulled his head back. Kimberly’s feet kicked the floor in
front of him. She gripped the bed’s footboard, her body
stretched from it to the door.
That screech! again, and he saw the bed tremble and scrape
closer to the door. Kimberly’s feet came farther into the hall.
They smacked Jesse’s face and shoulder. He rolled away,
across the hall. He couldn’t help her if he was knocked
He pulled himself slightly past the door, then arced
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
g ate kee p er s
around, edging toward her at a less dangerous angle. “Hold
on!” he said.
Toria knelt beside the bed, holding on to Nana’s arms. She
was crying, pulling in great gulps of air and screaming them
out. Her face glistened with tears.
“Jesse! Help her!” Toria yelled. “Make it stop!”
Jesse grabbed Kimberly’s feet and tried to push them back
into the room.
The bed screeched across the floor. It slammed into the
open door and stopped.
Kimberly’s legs snapped away from Jesse. They bent around
the edge of the door frame, toward the smaller hallway and the
stairs leading to the third floor. They shook and twisted as
though someone were tugging on them.
Jesse threw his arms around her thighs and squeezed. He
heard a crack! Another. He prayed it wasn’t Kimberly’s bones
giving out under the intense pressure pulling at her.
Crack! Crack!—and the footboard broke apart.
The woman shot out of the room, banged against the door
frame, and turned toward the short hallway. Her body bumped
over Jesse’s head and kept moving. She was completely out of
the room now and sliding along the floor on her stomach.
He lunged for her, seizing first one wrist, then the other. She
stared at Jesse, her eyes huge and wet. Her hair whipped around
like fire in a strong wind.
She said, “I don’t want to go back!”
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
“I got you,” he said.
She continued to slide, and Jesse went with her.
Toria bounded out of her room and jumped over him.
She flopped on top of her grandmother, hugging her from
“Toria, let go!” Jesse yelled. “Toria! If she goes, you’ll go
Kimberly’s eyes grew even wider. “No!” she said. “Toria,
get off! Let me go!”
“I won’t!” the little girl screamed. “I won’t!”
They slid closer to the railing that overlooked the foyer.
Jesse thought he could grab a spindle—that might work . . .
for a while. As they passed, he released her right wrist and
reached for the banister.
His left shoulder flared in white-hot pain. A muscular
hand was squeezing his shoulder. He could not see them,
but he knew long nails had pierced his flesh. Blood soaked
the material of his shirt.
He gritted his teeth, telling his hand to keep its grip on
Kimberly’s wrist. But the pain was too great and the wind
She broke free and sailed away, sliding on the floor, taking
Toria with her.
“Toria, let go!” Jesse yelled.
Kimberly and Toria reached the end of the hallway and
zipped around the corner. He heard their progression toward
10/31/08 1:06:33 PM
g ate kee p er s
the portal: thumping over the fallen walls; bam-bam-bamming up
Toria screamed, then Jesse heard no more.
He grabbed the hand on his shoulder. It was hard as a statue’s.
The knuckles, the veins, the thick welt of scar tissue.
He rolled over, and the hand pulled away.
A man stood beside him, engulfed by shadows; Jesse saw
only long, unruly hair, the hem of a black slicker. A soft patter,
like raindrops, drew Jesse’s eyes to the floor beside him. A small
pool of blood grew bigger as drops fell from the man’s fingers.
The man leaned closer, and his thin, muscular face dipped into
Jesse’s heart clattered against his breastbone. He wheezed in
a breath. He said, “Dagan! I should have known.”
“They call me Taksidian now, old man.” His voice was hard
and dry, like bones rattling together. He looked up the hall in
one direction, then back the other way.
Jesse saw the linen closet door standing open.
The man he had known as Dagan sighed. He said, “You
should have stayed away, Jesse.”
He reached down with both hands, and Jesse’s world went
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David glanced over his shoulder.” David said. like glitter. Tall green grass flowed like waves down to the woods they had traversed. Dad stopped to rest twenty yards from the top of the big hill.indd 299 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM . A meadow of yellow and purple flowers fanned out from the other side of the trees. “God’s country.” he said. A hill similar to the one on which 299 00-01. He turned around and scanned the valley below them.OP chapter fifty “Wait up.Gatekeepers.
indd 300 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM .” David said.” Xander reached David. They stood on the ridge of a hill that immediately plunged into another vast valley. “It’s steeper than it looks. intent on sending him rolling down the hill. And those trees on the other side of the meadow? That’s where I carved Bob. David reached the top first. breathing hard. David stumbled back and plopped down. Directly below them. The valley sloped to the river far below. piled up against the hill and stretching out from it for half a mile. He hopped up and scurried toward his brother. They ranged in size from small boulders to pieces that could have once been the sides of whole office buildings. “Boys. Dad turned and started climbing. He put a hand on David’s shoulder and leaned over. Dad rose up behind him and gasped. Xander groaned.Robert Liparulo they stood rose up on the other side of the meadow. He said. forming a vista worthy of a postcard. were chunks and slabs of broken concrete.” Keal stepped up to them. “Whew. Rebar jutted from the edges like 300 00-01.” Dad said.” “You’re more of a wimp than you look.” he said. “Not now.Gatekeepers. David raced to catch up. He felt his eyes stretch wide. Xander shoved him. stretching his limbs. Behind him. Dad pointed in that direction. “That’s where Xander and I threw rocks into the river.
Tires were strewn everywhere. The skeletal frames of broken skyscrapers rose up from collapsed ruins. Smaller buildings dotted the surrounding land like an angry rash. 301 00-01. a gray mist did not quite mask an endless body of water: an ocean or sea. moss and vines climbed the buildings. The only exceptions were a smattering of elevated freeway sections that glistened white in the sun like the bones of long-dead animals. Vegetation had staked a new claim on the valley. All of it flowed toward a centerpiece of destruction in the distance . It sapped all color but its own from the landscape: everything was shaded in hues of green. “Dad . David realized. After a long while. Beyond it all.” David’s heart skipped a beat. it looked like a thousand-acre dump. it’s Los Angeles. a bridge. . Xander rose up and brought his hand to his mouth.indd 301 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM . David recognized a demolished car and a nearly flattened dumpster. the debris assumed familiar shapes: a roadway. like the popsicle-stick buildings David used to make and then demolish. the remnants of a great city. tall grass covered sidewalks and plazas. Scattered among the concrete were clumps of metal. Deeper into the valley.g ate kee p er s severed arteries. And black. Forests of trees and lush bushes streamed like water through the streets and boulevards. Many of the remaining structures were charred. the square top of a building.Gatekeepers. he said. Keal reached the ridge and collapsed onto his knees. . Except for an absence of paper trash. . .
attended its schools. His shoulders rose and fell. Dae. Bank Tower. Dad?” “I don’t know. “Gone like this?” “Has to be. played with children who’d once lived there.” 302 00-01.” ”No future.” A sound drew their attention to Keal. It was like standing at the casket of a dear friend. traveled its streets. “War.” Dad said. “When?” “Sometime in the future.S. But he could see that Xander was right. anyway. “Else they’d have rebuilt it.” Xander repeated numbly.Robert Liparulo Dad nodded slowly. “By the look of the buildings. Just this one. Half of it. . wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they have rebuilt the city. He could see what was left of the U.Gatekeepers. Xander. “Do you think the whole world’s like this?” David said. He’d spent his whole life in this valley. “What do you think happened?” David asked. .” Dad said.indd 302 10/31/08 1:06:33 PM . “We did this. And the Capitol Records Building.” “But . “Mankind. “I don’t understand.” David couldn’t get his head around it. “That’s what Jesse was trying to tell me.” Dad said. His face was buried in his hands. We‘ve never found a portal that leads to the future because there is no future. We wiped ourselves out.” David said. probably.” Xander said.
They stood.” Xander stepped forward to look. yips. He wiped his face and got to his feet. The future wasn’t enough of an answer. “Hey.” Xander picked up a rock. “Ain’t right. “Isn’t there anything we can do?” David said. clattering between concrete and metal.indd 303 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . screams. “Something’s moving down there. Dad put his arm around David’s shoulder.” He didn’t sound so sure. close.g ate kee p er s “But when?” David said again. It dropped into the trash dump. “An animal. Dae. His throat and mouth felt dry as dust. Something clanged.Gatekeepers.” “That soon?” David whispered. “So I guess during his lifetime.” he said. Keal’s hand went to the gun in his waistband.” Dad said. he hurled it out over the descending hillside. a howl rose up from the valley. David said. “What was—” A mournful wail bellowed from somewhere else.” Keal said. 303 00-01. Just as the sound of the rock stopped. letting the seconds become minutes. “Jesse said it’s the culmination of Taksidian’s work. His voice had taken on a raspy tone. More noises kicked up: howls. At first it looked to David like the shadows were shifting. “I don’t know. Grunting in anger or frustration. Keal sniffed.
“What are you waiting for?” he called. It was fish-belly white with bone-thin arms and legs. heading for the spot where the portal had dropped them into this world. The man held the pistol in one hand. “Dad?” Dad turned in a circle. they were people. Several howled and screeched. crawled a creature. They bit and scratched and rolled out of sight. then dozens and more. . A handful at first. David backed away. hunched over. A pelt of shaggy hair clung to its skull. He stopped. flanked by narrow shoulders. More of the humanlike creatures emerged from the rubble. Faces were turning up to stare at them. Now. They were pale. They crawled and stepped and scurried out of the shadows like individual nightmares conjured too soon. They began scurrying up the hill.indd 304 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . Xander started down the hill. “There’s gotta be a hundred. A few of them pointed.” David said. “We gotta find the portal. . 304 00-01.” The expression on his father’s face made him ask. a man?” David said. Two of them bumped into each other and began fighting.Gatekeepers. It rose and stood erect. He looked back the way they’d come. “What?” Dad looked at Keal. from a broken concrete pipe. But—yes. “Let’s go!” “Dad.” Xander said. then toward the approaching horde. jittery. “They see us. A large head on a spindly neck. “Is that .” Keal said.Robert Liparulo Then.
“Come on. broken teeth in their gaping mouths. bulging eyes and the sparse.indd 305 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . David could see their crazy. “You feel it too?” “Like a magnet. “It’s down there. “The portal—” “Yes!” David yelled.” Keal said. and David knew. let’s go. carefully watching it as though expecting the hat to hop off his hand and scamper away.g ate kee p er s With the other. he balanced the tam-o’-shanter on his fingers. He said. Dad pointed at the mob running up the hill at them. He said.” NOT THE END . he knew. . Even before he noticed the picnic basket quivering and lifting off of Dad’s hip. 305 00-01. .” The first of the attacking future-humans were more than halfway up the hill. showing the way home. Dad said.Gatekeepers. Dad frowned. “What?” David said. “You know where it is?” He nodded.
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my son and most fervent fan JOEL GOTLER. editors extraordinaire 307 00-01. for letting me be a kid again LB Norton.OP with speci al thanks to .indd 307 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . . Slade Pearce. Judy Gitenstein. .Gatekeepers. and Amanda Bostic. my wonderful agent The rest of my family. insightful readers and my new friends Anthony. for being David: you rock! Nicholas and Luke Fallentine (again): you guys are great Ben and Matthew Ford.
Jennifer. Lisa. .Gatekeepers. .indd 308 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . Becky . And my readers. for letting the King family live! 308 00-01. Mark.The terrific team at Nelson: allen. Jocelyn. Katie.
even though he doesn’t have a driver’s license. At first.com 309 00-01.indd 309 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM . Can you think of something you’ve done that had a direct effect on people beyond the ones with whom you had direct contact? 3. Do you believe that the things we do—whether good or bad—have a domino or ripple effect on many others? 2. Marguerite. In such a situation. What do you think of the whole concept of time travel? Can you think of reasons that it should not be possible? (Don’t think too hard about this one. Confused by events and needing advice. was this one of those times? What should Xander have done? 4. be sure to check out www. the little girl David saved in the French village. and he’s willing to trust Jesse to get it.Reading Group Guide 1.Gatekeepers. Does trusting people come easy to you? Has there been a time when you trusted someone when you shouldn’t have? What happened? 6. Xander doesn’t trust Jesse. Xander is willing to send Toria to the Civil War. David says the family needs help.) For more reading group guide questions. grew up to become instrumental in the eradication of small pox. David thinks she’s too young and should not be put in such danger. There are many theories about time travel affecting the past. Continuing his aggressive efforts to rescue Mom. Xander drives the family car to the jail to see Dad. Some say it can’t happen because then the people who went back in time should never have known about a world without the change (for example. would you have been more like Xander or David? Why? 5. I did once and my head exploded. they would have grown up with the change already affecting them).DreamhouseKings. His heroism saved millions of people from contracting the disease. Do you think it’s ever okay to break rules—even laws? If so.
book fou r i n t he dreamhous e ki ngs s eri es co m i n g j u ly 00-01.indd 310 2 0 09 10/31/08 1:06:34 PM .Gatekeepers.
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