1.5 Uncharted Territory, pt 1

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The minivan rattled over potholes, the asphalt torn into chunks by gnarled tree roots. Snowflakes appeared and vanished as they passed through the headlights. Beyond that, all Margo could see was dark forest.

She glanced at the map. They were on the part where the route crooked into unmarked wilderness. No road was pictured, although it existed in reality. "I don't like this," she said.

"Well, I find it rather fascinating," Thomas said from the rear compartment. "I remember every detail of every map I've ever seen of this region. This road isn't shown on any of them." He sounded happy, even excited. "We're in uncharted territory."

Margo supposed he could afford to be happy. His trusty caretaker was behind the wheel, his best friend sat in the passenger seat, and he was safely strapped in. No one would blame him if the van got stuck in snow and needed a tow-truck. No. They'd blame the adult in charge.

"I'll take all the blame for anything that might happen," Thomas said soothingly. "I said I would."

"Can you please not read my—"

"Left turn here," he broke in.

The lane was so overgrown, she nearly missed it. Trees formed a dense tunnel. They passed wrought iron gates, rusted askew, beneath an arc that spelled the name DOVANACK. Fresh snow capped each black letter.

"So this is where he lived." Thomas looked awestruck, although there nothing to see outside. Just snow-shrouded forest. Frozen branches scraped the roof, like feeble prisoners clawing at the van, trying to hold them back.

"Maybe we should turn around," Margo said. "This could be private property."

"No way," Thomas said. "We're almost at the end of the map. If the Dovanack family lived a few miles from where I was abandoned, that can't be a coincidence. Garrett Dovanack made a fortune as a gambler. That implies a mind reading power."

"You think you're part of a family of mind readers?" Margo had helped raise enough orphans to know how many daydreamed about belonging to a wealthy family. Thomas seemed needier than most. Everyone in the state of New Hampshire had probably heard him beg his unknown birth parents to contact him, every time he got interviewed.

"I think I'm a Dovanack descendent," Thomas said. "Why else would I be sent here?"

His uncertainty made him sound like a normal kid. Margo glanced back at him. "Didn't you learn anything solid from that woman who gave you the map?"

"Not much salient information." Thomas sounded embarrassed.

"What was her name?"

Thomas hesitated. "Um, she had a title. No real name, that I could tell. I suspect that mind readers don't need names." He spoke faster, as if to change the subject. "Garrett Dovanack was probably a mind reader, with a made-up name. His initials spelled GOD. Garrett Olmstead Dovanack. That has to make you wonder if he named himself."

Margo didn't feel like laughing. As they rounded a bend, an immense building loomed ahead. Steep roofs peaked like the jagged tops of pine trees. Hundreds of black windows gaped, toothy with icicles, set in cliff-like granite walls.

The mansion was entirely dark and still. Margo had expected to see the blond woman, perhaps backed up by secret soldiers, super-scientists, or Paparazzi camera crews. She'd been ready to drive away at the first sign of trouble. But the snow was pristine, undisturbed by any vehicles or people.

"It looks derelict." She followed the circular driveway around a frozen fountain.

"I'll bet Alexander Dovanack lives here," Thomas said.

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