The Crimson Shard

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Authors: Teresa Flavin
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place.”
    “What?” Sunni gasped. “Who
are
you?”
    Throgmorton did not answer. “Of course you know Blackhope Tower, the castle built by Sir Innes Blackhope. And all who can read newspapers or see those magnificent devices, the television and the computer, know about you.” He gave them a nod. “You are famous for vanishing there in the Mariner’s Chamber, a room that was already notorious because skeletons would appear from nowhere on the tiled labyrinth in its floor.”
    Sunni knew exactly where the skeletons had come from, but she was not going to tell him.
    “You were only in the Mariner’s Chamber to see Fausto Corvo’s painting,
The Mariner’s Return to Arcadia,
” said Throgmorton. “But you happened to discover Corvo’s once-secret password,
chiaroscuro.
” He let the Italian word that meant “light and dark” roll off his tongue in an exaggerated way.
    Sunni cringed at hearing this man say it aloud. Of course she had talked openly about the password that connected the tiled labyrinth with the painting’s hidden world. Since the labyrinth’s power had been closed down, there hadn’t been any reason to hide the password. Not that she, Blaise, or her stepbrother, Dean, had dared to divulge any of the painting’s
real
secrets; they had sworn to protect them. But now she wished she had kept the password to herself.
    Throgmorton continued. “Then both of you, and the other boy, Dean, vanished from the Mariner’s Chamber with no explanation. People became obsessed with the mystery of the missing children. When you finally reappeared, you told a fantastic story — that you had entered Corvo’s painting by walking the labyrinth and repeating the word
chiaroscuro.
Some believed you, but many others thought you had invented the tale.”
    Though she was tempted to contradict him, Sunni kept silent. Their predicament had shifted again, and she was trying hard to keep up.
    “I believe your story. I have no doubt that Corvo endowed that labyrinth with magical powers when he designed it. He was suspected of sorcery, and because of it he escaped from Venice, never to be seen again,” said their captor.
    Blaise burst out, “So would I, if some power-hungry guy had put a bounty on my head and sent his spies after me.”
    “Who are you talking about?” Throgmorton asked.
    “Soranzo,” Blaise muttered.
    “What do you know of him?”
    “Soranzo went after Corvo because he wouldn’t sell him some paintings he wanted. If it hadn’t been for him, Corvo wouldn’t have had to run. Soranzo ruined his life.”
    “You know many things about Corvo,” said Throgmorton, not moving a muscle.
    “No more than anybody else. Everyone knows he was chased out of Venice in 1582.”
    “I disagree. You know things no one else does. And I have been waiting for an opportunity to speak with you about them. Destiny brought you to Starling House yesterday.”
    “No, a man with a beard brought us there,” Sunni said. “He spoke to us in a café. Some coincidence.”
    “It was no coincidence,” Throgmorton replied smoothly. “He is my associate.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “He had been following you for some time before bumping into you in the café. He knows your town, Braeside, very well.”
    Sunni shuddered. “That man was in Braeside?”
    “Yes. When he learned you were coming to London with Blaise’s father, I knew we would meet. I saw to it.”
    “You set this up!” Blaise said, charged up with anger. “Sunni and I didn’t come to Starling House to talk about Corvo.”
    “But now that you are here, we will discuss your adventure.”
    “No.”
    “What did you say?” Throgmorton’s eyelids lowered.
    “No. There’s nothing to tell you, or anyone else. We told everything we know to the police, and that’s as far as it goes.”
    “Fausto Corvo’s painting,
The Mariner’s Return to Arcadia.
You know it very, very well.” Throgmorton’s hand twitched. “You entered that painting and saw things

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