Chapter 8

Pretty weird to walk everywhere with a compass, thought Ari, realizing he was now standing at the edge of the giant inlaid floor compass, at “N” for north. Math was not Ari’s favorite subject, but he knew that on a compass there was a big circle divided into three-hundred and sixty spaces which started and ended at North.

So the lion, he said to himself as he walked clockwise around the room along the compass points, is on the east side at ninety degrees. Weirdo Helga’s desk is south–one-hundred and eighty degrees. The frog is a little past south which is about…one-hundred and ninety something. The dog that looks like Kipper is a little bit past west…so it’s not two-hundred and seventy degrees…it’s a little more than that, like…300.

Suddenly Wilton Daylatch’s disdainful voice popped into his head.
‘He took that flea-bitten little mutt with him everywhere..’.

That’s what Daylatch had said. Flea bitten. Fleas live on dogs, as in a dog is a home for the fleas…a home for the fleas at three-hundred degrees.
Three-hundred degrees wasn’t a temperature, it was a compass point! This compass point, where the statue of Kipper sat looking like it was ready to find its way home just like the real Kipper used to do.

Ari stroked the statue, as if it were a real dog. Then he rapped on it with his knuckle and it rang like a dull gong. It must be hollow, he realized, and made of some kind of metal.

Maybe it wasn’t as heavy as it looked. He grasped the neck and tipped the statue sideways. Actually, it was quite heavy, but he could tip it. He slipped his left hand under the dog and felt an opening in the base. An opening just big enough to fit his hand in.
At first he felt nothing but empty space and cobwebs. Then something flat crinkled between his fingers and the metal body of the dog, and he pried it away from the edge.

Suddenly the door to Daylatch’s office flew open and Uncle Ellery stormed into the cracked-glass room, followed by Helga.

“Young man,” said Helga, immediately spotting Ari with the tipped dog statue. “These are valuable artifacts!”

“Sorry,” said Ari, hoping she wouldn’t notice as he slipped the flat object from inside the dog into his pocket.

“Let’s go,” said Uncle Ellery. Ari followed him, with a glance back into the greenhouse as they exited. Wilton Daylatch had come out of his office and was now standing by the dog statue, his gaze drifting between Ari and the metal dog. Ari wondered if he was about to be stopped for thievery.

“Uncle Ellery,” said Ari. “You aren’t going to fight that vitamin guy, are you?”

Uncle Ellery shook his head. “There has to be another way out of this,” he said. “And I’ll find it. And you,” he continued, firmly patting Ari’s shoulder, “just concentrate on getting along with that Finbar what’s his name at school.”

“Finbar Fenker,” said Ari.

Ari didn’t know what Uncle Ellery had said to Daylatch before coming out of the office, but he must have gotten something off his chest, because now he was relaxed enough to race Ari through the alley toward home, and win.

“Homework first, then deli clean-up?” asked Uncle Ellery.

“Yep,” agreed Ari. He ran upstairs and slung his backpack on his bed. First though, there was the matter of the mysterious paper in his pocket. Homework would have to wait until he’d had a look at it.

The paper was old, with a musty smell, and the bits of cellophane tape that had held it inside the statue were flaking off. But it only ripped a little as Ari flattened it out on his bed.
It was typed. Ari knew it was typed because old typed things always looked a little messier and smudgier than new computer-printed things. He read:

Come and find me where I moulder,
Some are dog-eared, few are older.
First you have to guess my name,
‘Mongst chiseled stones, begin the game.

Look for Lottie and her hubby,
(I’ve heard rumors he was chubby,)
No baker’s dozens anymore!
What name stood above their door?

Baby Huey, little love,
What was he the apple of?

You’re an oldie Myrtle Mutt!
Let the angels be your what?

Effie had her choice of men,
‘til that June of sixty-when?

Yumigawa crossed the seas!
Notice where he came from please…

Now make a rhyme for Charlie Krew.
It’s something pretty. Most wear two.

What to climb is where I’ll point you.
Hope the prize won’t disappoint you!

There’s a prize? thought Ari. As in, if I can figure out the answers to all these weird questions there’s a prize?

He only held that hope for a few fleeting seconds until it occured to him that the note must have been in the cast-iron dog forever. Probably some Daylatch kid from a hundred years ago put it there, and if there ever was a prize it wouldn’t be there anymore. But something, and he wasn’t sure what, made him fold the paper back up and stick it in his backpack anyway.

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