The Secret of the Skeleton Key

Free The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner

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Authors: Penny Warner
landed on the pizza at the next table.
    â€œOw!” Matt screeched, shaking his hand and dropping the metal case. The case fell under the table. Right next to his giant smelly shoe.
    Matt spun around and spotted Luke with a second roll in his hand. His face reddened with anger as he muttered, “Stupid code kids… ”
    Before Matt could bend down and retrieve the case, the pizza—minus the protractor—came flying at him from behind like a Frisbee. It bounced off the back of his head, leaving bits of salami, cheese, and tomato sauce glistening in his green buzz-cut hair. Matt grimaced as he reached behind him and pulled the pizza toppings off his head.
    He stared at the mess in his hand for a second, his eyes wild, his face a blotchy red. Reaching for a chocolate-frosted brownie from a nearby tray, he grabbed it and shot-putted it in the direction of the pizza thrower.
    Unfortunately for Matt, the brownie was intercepted by Ms. Stadelhofer, who had just stepped over to stop the budding food fight.
    She took the brownie right in the face.
    The Code Busters ducked under a table. Before Ms. Stadelhofer could blow her whistle, food started flying everywhere. Pizza, meat loaf, biscuits, brownies, and at least two kinds of vegetables went airborne, landing with splats around the chaotic lunchroom. Stad, wearing the remains of chocolate frosting on her nose, suddenly “got milk” when an open carton of low-fat milk hit her in the chest and drenched the front of her lavender silk blouse. When she managed to blow her whistle, the sound was ear piercing.
    The Code Busters certainly know how to create a distraction, Cody thought, watching the food fly from under the table. Searching the area, she spotted the metal case about three feet away, under the next table. Crawling over, her knees collected bits of lime-green Jell-O with pineapple bits. She reached for the case.
    A big shoe intercepted and kicked the case out of range.
    Cody took a moment to wipe the green slime on someone’s pant leg, then again crawled toward the case. This time when she reached it, she pounced on top of it. With it safely beneath her, she slithered backward under another table and then sat up. Before anything else could happen to the case, she stuffed it into her pants pocket.
    Cody waved at Quinn, still under the first table, to get his attention. He removed his sunglasses, and she gave him a thumbs-up. He passed the signal behind him to M.E. and Luke, then gestured, military style, for the others to follow him, as he zigzagged on hands and knees beneath the connecting cafeteria tables until they all reached the exit.
    They were about to spring to their feet when Principal Grunt appeared in the doorway. His face wasn’t wearing its usual “school pride” expression. Instead, he held a megaphone in one hand and a whistle in the other.
    Cody winced at the shrill sound as Principal Grunt blew the whistle with a mighty breath.
    â€œMatthew Jeffreys!” Grunt’s voice boomed through the megaphone. Students decorated in a rainbow of cafeteria foods stopped midthrow and turned to the principal. They stood frozen, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.
    All eyes followed the principal as he marched straight for Matt the Brat, who was holding a handful of soggy french fries in his raised hand.
    The Code Busters took advantage of the distraction and ducked quietly out of the cafeteria doors. Standing in the doorway, Cody glanced back at Matt, his face glistening with sweat and some kind of sauce.
    Principal Grunt stood facing Matt, arms crossed, his head shaking in disgust at the student he assumed had started the food fight. But Matt wasn’t looking at the principal. He was staring straight at Cody, his sauce-covered face twisted in anger. Even at a distance, she had no trouble reading his lips as he mouthed the words: “You’re so dead.”
    Cody didn’t see Matt the Brat the rest of the day, thank goodness.

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