Brackenbridge Manor stood silent. Anxiously, Lily stared up to her papa’s study but there was no familiar light burning. Outside, autumn leaves whisked across the driveway and the skeletal trees were like jagged cracks in the sky. Lily tugged out her keys and unlocked the door. It clanged open but instead of the cosy warmth that she was used to, the house felt cold and unwelcoming. Inside, shadows stretched their dark, dusty fingers into every cold corner.
Lily and Robert bounded upstairs and headed for her bedroom. Tiberius sniffed around, seeking clues. Inside her room, Lily was pleased to find everything was as she had left it when she had been sent off to boarding school. Her books were still lined up neatly on the shelves and her drawings and notes, fragments of stories and plans for adventures, were still stuck to walls covering the faded, yellow wallpaper. With a sigh of relief, she could see her bedside clock. It was safe!
Curious, Robert picked up the clock and opened the back. Inside, there was the last thing that they had expected to find. It was a diagram, drawn in her father’s distinctive style. It looked like a prototype of a new sort of sky-ship, powered by the sun. Amazed, Robert hissed, “Wow, this must be what they are after. If your papa has invented a sky-ship that is powered by the sun, it would be worth a fortune… and it would also put some people out of business too. No wonder he has enemies.’
‘So that is what the fuss is all about,’ Lilly whispered, staring at the drawings.
‘Indeed,’ came an icy voice from the doorway. Whirling round Lily and Robert gasped. Instantly, Lily recognised her father’s old friend, Professor Silverfish. He passed his hand through his white hair and smiled… but it was not a nice smile. It lacked warmth. ‘I’ve been waiting for you to lead me to John’s design. I knew he had hidden it somewhere. I’ll take that, if you don’t mind,’ he said, snatching the drawings from Lily.
A few minutes later, the children were locked into an old coal shed at the side of the house. There was only a tiny window to the outside, too small to wriggle through. The door was firmly locked. ‘The snake,’ whispered Lily fervently. ‘He’s double-crossed my papa.’
‘We’ll never get out of here,’ muttered Robert, sitting down on an old coal sack, trying to wipe the coal dust from his fingers.
‘Oh yes, we will,’ retorted Lily, determined not to be outwitted by such a scoundrel. ‘We are going to escape, get the drawings back and rescue my papa!’
‘Good luck with that,’ mumbled Robert, so quietly that Lilly could not hear him. Staring at the floor, he could feel only a sense of dread.