Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger! (Pals in Peril, Book 4)

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Visit him at KurtCyrus. The peak was hidden in fog. Through the ravines and over the hunched backs of granite the men padded, barefoot, all in a line, one after another, silent in the morning.

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They walked through the high, barren places where the ancient wind had licked the limestone into pillars and pits, caves and crevasses. There were two hundred boys and men, all dressed in flowing robes of green; and each one carried a small piece of a dismantled white van. They marched through hollows carved by howling storms and mazes formed by no human hand.

Others carried the exhaust pipe, the dashboard, the brake pads. The littlest boys—six or seven years old—carried single bolts cupped in their hands.

Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger!: A Pals in Peril Tale

The procession was led by two silent youths, frowning, walking side by side, both cradling the headlights in their arms. The line of them wandered through the bitter karst. They were the monks of Vbngoom, called the Platter of Heaven, the most powerful monastery in the whole State of Delaware. They filed along dinosaur curves and great stone mounds. Only three of the people in this solemn parade of broke-down van did not wear green robes and did not have their heads shaved.

Lily Gefelty, a slightly stocky girl whose bangs flapped down in her face or blew backward in a burst, depending on the wavering breeze, carried the crankshaft timing gear.

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Her eyes—when they appeared through her hair—were bright, and she greeted each new vista with mute delight. She loved the mountain above them and the green forests down below. She loved that she was here with friends, and that they were on their way home after a satisfying adventure. She was very ready for home. Behind her was Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut. He wore a pith helmet and kept squinting into the haze, trying to make out the Delaware Canal or the smokestacks of far Wilmington. Unlike Lily, he was used to mountaintops, monks, and danger, having appeared in his own series of adventure books in which he pedaled blimps through the air, socked ruffians, and rode buffaloes bareback.

Still, he also wanted to get home to his mother and his own bedroom and laboratory.

She was used to adventure too, because she starred in a series called Horror Hollow, in which she unwound mummies, taught werewolves to heel, and heavily salted leech invasions. Under other circumstances, she would have been grumpy about yet another adventure—she was getting tired of being bitten, stomped, and slimed—but on this particular day, she was in an extremely good mood, because right behind her walked Drgnan Pghlik, a young monk of Vbngoom who had agreed to go to the school dance with her. It is unusual for monks to go to school dances—usually they spend their free time chanting in Latin, speaking in riddles, drawing cherubs in old books, and slapping themselves with stinging nettles—but Drgnan was a very unusual monk.

The monks climbed down the mountain. They were leaving their home. Or, to be more precise, their home was leaving them. They all gathered to rest on a little plateau with pillars of limestone like a fallen palace of wax. Lily sat down and took out her water bottle. She unscrewed the lid and took a deep swig.

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She watched the monks carefully. She knew that it was time for a few of the monks to leave their home so that they could go out into the world—across the forbidden border of Delaware—to collect those sculptures and gold-bound manuscripts that had recently been stolen by gangsters.

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Hence the procession and the auto parts. There was no road on this side of the mountain. They were carrying the van down the mountain to reassemble it near a road. Then Katie, Jasper, Lily, and Drgnan would drive with a few of the senior monks toward the border of Delaware. They would make their way to Pelt and reclaim the artifacts illegally sold to the Pelt Museum. One of the most revered of the monks, a forty-year-old man with a clever face and an uneven grin, came over to her and her friends.

His name was Grzo, and he was in charge of the Scriptorium, the room where manuscripts were copied by the monks. Usually, he spent all his days there, in a hall silent but for the squeak of quill pens and the laser-y mouth-sounds of young monks drawing angelic wars. Brother Grzo pointed up the slope, to where the monastery could still be seen through the thinning haze.

There you see Vbngoom upon the top of Mount Tlmp for the last time. Lily, Jasper, and Katie looked confused and surprised. You may someday see our home again, but not in this place. For two hundred years, Vbngoom has sat among the Four Peaks. It has moved among the mountains in the fog, shuffled like a pea among four nutshells to fool those who would seize upon our treasures and our sacred flames. But now that the gangsters of the World-Wide Lootery are in the hands of the government authorities, there is too much danger that we shall be found.

Too many people know where our monastery is hidden. Too many roads lead to our mountaintop. Too many Delaware spies have asked too many questions.

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Having mopped up their last crime-fighting caper, our three heroes—Lily Gefelty, Katie Mulligan, and Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut—are eager to get home. That is, if our heroes make it home alive! Chock full of ups, downs, twists, turns, a shark pit. From sentient lobsters to ironic monks, there are quirks here aplenty, and they're worthy successors to the weird elements of the previous titles.. Snarky authorial asides complete the picture, and the requisite happy ending will no doubt please readers familiar with the series.

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