The sudden stop took Turtle's breath away. This trip had been longer than the quick one he took in Central Park, that was sure, and the air here felt different. They were in a dark, large room, and the gloom through the Jeep's windows was almost as deep as the darkness in the tunnel. Mr. Kincaid reversed his previous maneuver, turned the wheels and drove over the edge of the carrier onto the platform. He parked and turned off the engine.
"This is one of the few stations in Barcelona big enough for the car," he said. "Plus, they have great food upstairs."
They were in a station that looked less like the terminals they visited in New York and more like an unused cellar with a low, vaulted ceiling and a small door at the far end. The station smelled like mold and something fruity—rotten grapes, maybe—and now, thanks to the fading Jeep exhaust, motor oil and gasoline.
"This is an old wine cellar. It's one of the few Mytro stations that used to be used for something else," said Mr. Kincaid. The sign above the door, carved into dark, lacquered wood, read Barcelona La Rambla. "It's owned by a family that has done business here for two centuries."
"Why are we here?" asked Agata.
"We're home, your home. Barcelona. We're going to leave the car and walk," said Mr. Kincaid as he turned the handle and pulled open the door.
They were in a dark storeroom lined with boxes and bottles. A
rack of wine gently rattled as the wind from the Mytro slammed the door shut behind them. Turtle ran his hand along the boxes of produce, marveling that everything was in Spanish. A box of strange white things turned out to be flattened fish crusted in salt. Potatoes in a big bin had started to grow stalks from their pinpoint eyes, the white tendrils creeping out of the crate and down to the floor like searching fingers.
The place smelled like a kitchen but with something a bit rotten underneath, as if the cooks hadn't cleaned out the garbage cans.
"Is this a good restaurant?" asked Turtle warily as he fingered the salted fish, his face screwing up into a grimace.
"Definitely depends on what you like," admitted Mr. Kincaid.
They walked to the end of the storeroom to a set of stone stairs leading up to a plain, brown wooden door. As they took to the stairs, the floor above creaked slightly, and the voices of the cooks seemed hushed, as if they had heard them come in and were now listening for their footsteps. Mr. Kincaid took the lead and opened the door, which led into a small, cramped kitchen. A wild-haired man wearing a chef's coat was chopping boiled eggs and smiled when he saw Mr. Kincaid. A pile of dirty dishes soaking in murky gray water in a sink near the door gave off the scent of vinegar, and a small man in a white T-shirt and white chef's pants was scrubbing pots and pans with a dirty rag. The chef nodded to the dishwasher who plopped the rag into the sink and went out a back door, shutting it behind him.
"Ah, Tom. So nice to see you!" said the chef. He wiped his hand on his apron and offered it to Mr. Kincaid.
"Julio, a pleasure. It's been too long. This is Agata and Paul. Agata is Ernesto's niece."
The chef's face paled. He looked at the girl then at Mr. Kincaid.
"Oh yes. Oh yes. I heard the news. Something very bad is happening on the Mytro. It's changing. Agata, I am pleased to finally meet you. We lived so close but we never met, I suppose. I was a friend of your father's. I admire his work. I feel sadness I was never was able to come to your home to meet you or your mother."
The cook turned to Mr. Kincaid.
"Do we know anything new?" he asked.
"No, but we're in Barcelona to find out what we can. The Mytro
is not acting normally.
"The Mytro is doing strange things, this is true. I've told my sons
not to ride it anymore. They never listen to me, but maybe they will to you."
The chef scraped the eggs into a small bowl, covered them with a dash of oil, and then grabbed some paprika and dusted the white eggs bright red. Finally, he brushed his hands off and motioned toward the kitchen door, past a rack of plates and glasses that shone brightly in the fluorescents. "Bravo," he said. "Tom, maybe the children could have a table and perhaps eat some paella? You and I will talk?"
"That might be a good idea."
Julio led the two out of the kitchen into the restaurant, which was dark and cozy and shaped much like the wine cellar in the basement. Tables lined the walls and smoked tan tiles ran the length of the room. A short waiter with Julio's red hair sat them down at a table, and Julio told them to wait, smiling wanly at Agata as he left.
"What does the chef want to talk to Mr. Kincaid about?" asked Turtle in a whisper.
"I don't know, but it sounded serious," said Agata.
"I'm going to go and listen. I'll say I'm looking for the bathroom." "No, sit."
"It's about your parents, Agata. It's important."
Turtle stood up and walked toward the back of the restaurant.
The red-haired waiter, probably Chef Julio's son, glowered at him. "Bathroom?" he asked, then, remembering his Spanish, he repeated, "Baño?" The waiter stuck a thumb out at a door nearby, partially blocked by a serving station covered with dirty dishes. Turtle elbowed it out of the way and fumbled a while with the
Inside, he could hear what was happening in the kitchen
although the sound was muffled. Above him was a heating grate embedded in the brick wall. He put the toilet seat lid down and climbed up, his ear close to the grate. Their voices became clearer.
"This girl does not know?" he heard Julio say.
"She doesn't. It got out of hand, clearly. This is not how it was supposed to work," said Mr. Kincaid. "We'll have the Key and then we'll be able to go for her parents."
"If you find the Key ...," said Julio.
"It's here, Julio, she has half of it."
"So long we've waited. So long," the cook whispered.
Turtle stood there for a moment, listening to the sound of his
heartbeat in his ears, then hopped down, flushed the toilet, and washed his hands. He came out of the bathroom just as Chef Julio was bringing out a steaming caldron of what Turtle thought looked like orange rice. "My friends, a celebration in honor of our guests. The best paella in all of Barcelona!"
YOU ARE READING
Imagine if, right now, clattering underneath your feet was a secret train system that could take you anywhere in minutes. Imagine a trip full of mystery and excitement from New York to Barcelona to the wind-swept coast of Italy to the edge of space...