“What happened?” Max demanded from the helm. Judging from the rush they were in when they boarded, he was almost afraid to ask. For it seemed they were indeed wise to be prepared for a fast escape.
“It happened again. The robbery… from the other day…” Shades wondered how it could be so difficult to say the ridiculously obvious. The same day had just repeated itself for them three times in a row.
This situation, in the last few hours, had become much more serious than any of them wanted to believe.
“That… How is that even possible…” Max was still trying to wrap his head around the idea, to find that he was coming up rather short. Found he was wracking his brain, but even among the most bizarre of his parents’ stories, he couldn’t think of anything even remotely like this.
“We keep going the same way, ending up here…” Shades thought aloud. Recalling, while he was at it, an old joke his friend Vince, John’s eccentric bandmate, was rather fond of. Einstein’s Definition of Insanity. The most concise, scientific definition of insanity ever devised, Vince would tell him with that Cheshire Cat grin of his: Insanity is when people keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to get a different outcome. “It’s kind of a long shot, but let’s loop around the other side of St Lucy and leave this realm by a different way. It’s getting kinda late, and we already know it’s just gonna rain for most of the rest of the day, so we’ll try to leave one last time. If this attempt fails, we’ll go straight to Adnan’s tomorrow and take the place apart ’til we get to the bottom of this. How does that sound?”
“I guess.” Though Justin already had his doubts.
“Okay,” Max agreed. “At times like this, I really wish we got to talk to Abu-Sharrah more about some things.”
“Too late now,” Justin muttered. Ordinarily, he would prefer not to have anything further to do with that peculiar old man, but right now, some of his sage advice would be welcome. Still, “The old fart ain’t here to help us. This time, we have to get out of this mess all by ourselves.”
“Let’s try it,” Max said as he took them around the far side of St Lucy, hoping that a different approach would do the trick.
All the while, keeping an eye out for any signs of pursuit by the local authorities. Though just like last time, they would have their hands full with those robbers, this time they had humiliated Sheriff Boggs while they were at it, and if there was one thing Justin Black had learned about authority figures anywhere, it was that making fools of them was the fastest way to piss them off. And Shades suspected that once Boggs recovered enough to remember he still had the keys to his own cuffs, he was increasingly certain it would be a bad idea to linger in the islands this time around.
They sat in silence as Max took them around. Once they were safely on their way from the Isle of St Lucy on their new heading, without a hint of interference, everyone started to relax. Shades lounged on the couch, and Justin went below to his quarters to do some reading.
He wasn’t quite sure how to break it to his friends, but he seriously doubted just going a different route would solve all of their problems. If there was any truth to that student’s diary he was reading last night, they would be in big trouble. Had no idea how all this was related, or what that research institute could possibly have done to make days repeat themselves like this, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that their troubles were just getting started.
This he thought as he dug among the covers where he hid it before he went to his night shift at the helm. Yet no matter which way he shifted the blankets and clothes strewn across the small bed, his efforts revealed no sign of the journal. At first, he found himself suspecting Shades, in spite of the fact that he had never once caught him in here, nor seen any signs of anyone sneaking in when he wasn’t around, but even as he dug around, a disconcerting thought occurred to him.
The notebook had vanished as if it had never been there to begin with…
Shades knocking on his cabin door, jarring him out of his thoughts as he turned to this dresser, wondering why he hadn’t thought to hide it in there in the first place—
“Mind if I come in?”
And then he did.
“Hey!” Justin wheeled on him, wondering why he felt so sheepish when he seemed to be missing what he would have been trying to hide anyway. “Don’t you know how to knock?”
“I did,” Shades reminded him. “Is there anything I can help you with, man?”
“You sure?” He had noticed Justin seemed to be spending an awful lot of time in his quarters lately, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was up. “You seem to be missing something.”
“Did you take it?” Justin demanded, though, now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure what would bother him more, the idea of Shades sneaking into his room, or the other, less reassuring, possibility creeping into his mind.
“Alright, fine, I took a notebook when we were on that island yesterday,” Justin told him, deciding that coming clean was the fastest way to get to what he had to say. “It was something somebody left behind. In one of the cabins on Adnan’s. I didn’t think it would hurt anything.” Seeing the exasperated expression on Shades’ face, he added, “Come on, you don’t think this trapped us here?”
“No, I don’t,” Shades replied, wondering, strangely enough, if Justin’s sticky fingers hadn’t just done something right for a change. “It’s not that. I just wish you’d told us sooner, that’s all. Anyhoo, I didn’t know you were the bookworm type. Just what is it about this notebook that you found so fascinating?”
“Well, there was some stuff in it about Camcron, and about those statues,” Justin told him. “That’s how I found out about that red one out in the woods. I don’t know what the hell they were doing there, but they were really secretive about it.”
“Mind if I take a look?” Shades was increasingly certain his friend was sitting on some important clues whether he realized it or not.
“That’s the problem,” Justin explained, “I can’t find it.”
“For real?” Shades really didn’t like where this was going.
“It was here when I was reading it last night…”
“But not today?”
“No, now that I think about it…” He was in such a hurry to breakfast before they found themselves back in St Lucy, he couldn’t remember if it was still there. “But that’s not all. Though those bastards tried to keep it a secret, someone found out something about it anyway. They were working on something called Project Pythagoras.”
“Pythagoras?…” Shades realized he had been so preoccupied with those Sleeper sculptures and the Camcron Building itself, he had forgotten all about the name he had read, scribbled in that bathroom stall. At the time, he wasn’t completely sure it was Pythagoras— simply a misspelling or a misunderstanding between dimensions— but now that name was filling his mind with ominous new implications. “What did they find out?”
“I don’t think they found out anything else,” Justin said. “At least not from what I read.”
“I see,” Shades replied. “This doesn’t bode well for our plans. In fact, I imagine we should probably expect to end up in St Lucy yet again.”
“And I’ll bet whatever Camcron was up to on that island has something to do with it.”
“I’m glad you’re here to tell us these things,” Shades informed him. “Project Pythagoras… At least now it has a name.”
“So you think so, too?”
“I was kind of afraid of this for a while now, but this pretty much proves it,” Shades replied. “Tomorrow, we should probably just go straight to Adnan’s Island and investigate this ourselves. In the meantime, we should probably go up and tell Max.”
He was pretty sure Max wouldn’t be happy about the situation, but he might at least be curious to finally find out what was up with that Camcron Building.