They survived the night, and around an early breakfast time, Jeanette was picking at a bowl of granola and stomping around in her big rain boots. They were meant to be worn over shoes (or other boots), and she was only in her socks, but she liked the loose loud impacts she made on the floor.
Terence was on the phone. He, also was wearing his big snow-shoveling boots for his daughter’s sake. “Yes, some prankster dumped a box of rats inside my front door yesterday. Live ones. Could you get a team out here...yes, I see. Yes, thank you very much.”
He shouted over Jeanette’s stomping. “They say the people we have to call is Animal Control. I’ve never trusted any government agency with a name like that, but I suppose I have to.”
Jeanette moved to the carpeted area of the house, lowering the volume but still satisfying her.
“Hello, Animal Control?--Yes, yes, I’ll hold...”
She was feeling relatively powerful compared to last night, and was enjoying it. Whatever adventure this presaged, she was ready. And Animal Control sounded just like the elite force of black armored SWAT guys they needed to back them up.
A raisin spurted out of her fingers and rolled under the lamp-table. Without thinking, she bent down to pick it up--
--And froze. In the shadows glinted two beady little eyes. It was a mouse. A rat.
She couldn’t move, or shriek, or do anything but stare. The mouse seemed to have something white and tiny between its paws.
Then she lost her balance, going halfway down to one knee. She pressed the bowl of granola to her chest to keep it from spilling. In that instant, the mouse was gone, so fast that she felt she might have dreamed it.
Tilting the bowl carefully, she got to her feet. Should she tell Dada? But tell him what? That she saw one of the mice? Was that in keeping with her new-found courage? What would he do except give her a hug? He’d do that anyway. And it was so fast, maybe it was her imagination running wild…
Then she saw something that chilled her.
Under the table, but not where she’d seen the mouse, was an envelope. Not a tiny envelope, but a full-sized one. She picked it up.
Terence was setting the table for a full-sized breakfast, and he said, “Animal Control will have a full team out here by mid-afternoon. Rats are something they take very seriously.”
“I found this envelope under the table. Maybe it fell out of the box,” she lied, “o-or maybe it got dragged out, or something.”
He poured out orange juice for the two of them, and opened the envelope with his thumbnail. “Thank you, Jeanette.”
“Ah,” he said, “It’s from the testing service.” Then he frowned. “But this isn’t instructions--it’s test results. That makes no sense.”
He read further, and put the letter down. He was white as a sheet, and staring wide-eyed. Jeanette had never, ever, seen him like this. He seemed paralyzed and unable to speak.
Terrified herself, she went over and got the letter out of his hand. It slipped right out. She started to read.
“‘Dear Dr. Ransom, blah blah blah--blah blah blah--” she decided to skip to the table. “It says you’re 16 percent Dutch, eight percent Hungarian--hah! They spelled ‘Hungarian with an ’e’--and 76 percent…”
“..76 per cent Spotsylwhovian.” Terence croaked. “Spotsylwhovia was a country my friend and I made up when we played spies. It was full of castles and secret installations and laboratories--I think we got part of it from Rocky and Bullwinkle…”
“But that’s just s--” the word silly died on her lips. She couldn’t say that to her father.
“Jamie died of leukemia when he was 17. I was 16.”
“This is impossible. We never told anybody--never wrote anything down--”
The doorbell rang.
Jeanette ran to answer it. She opened the door.
There was a monster outside the door.
“Well?” it said. “May I come in?”