It was Friday afternoon before Morgan could free himself from school, homework, and household chores long enough to make the planned expedition to La Punta Lira. By the time he crossed Pillar Creek, his steps resounding hollowly on the boards of the old wooden footbridge, the sun was already entangling itself in the pink and orange shreds of sea mist gathering on the horizon. He’d had a late start.
At the farther end of the bridge he stopped to sniff the air and listen. The atmosphere was heavy with a salty dampness, and the birds were strangely silent. Leaving the shoreline trail, he turned to the left and followed a rough dirt path up over a wooded slope.
Maybe I could camp out here all weekend, he thought wryly. Then I wouldn’t have to be at that stupid dinner with Baxter Knowles tomorrow night.
If anyone had seen him, they might easily have assumed that this was exactly what he had in mind. His backpack was bulging with stuff he’d thought it necessary to bring along: a ham sandwich, six tangerines, a bag of raisins, some chocolate chip cookies, a compass, a flashlight, a pair of binoculars, a length of rope, an extra hooded sweatshirt (in case it got really cold), and a handful of essential books. In addition to all this, he carried under his right arm a long bundle wrapped in dark blue flannel—the Sword of Paracelsus.
At the top of the rise, he paused among the fragrant pines, anxious lest anyone should have observed his movements. It was of the utmost importance that he preserve the secrecy of this mission. Looking back in the direction of the town, he scanned the beach and the gravel pathways for signs of pursuit. There was nothing to be seen. Muffled shadows lay across the jade waters of Laguna Verde. Everything was still.
He was just turning to go when a faint sound reached his ear. Could it have been the echo of a footstep on the bridge? Morgan wasn’t sure. Except for the distant crash of the waves on the far side of the Point, all was silent. He got out his binoculars and swept them across the scene. There was not another living creature to be seen on the beach below—not a gull on the sand nor a sea lion lounging on the jagged brown rocks of the lagoon. He returned the binoculars to his backpack and trudged on.
(To be continued …)