17: Milo And Francesca- Spider Web- Milo

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Please Go Here for the beginning of the story.

After Uncle Barnaby poured them each another cup of tea he set the kettle on the stove and left the room. Milo sat back and sipped the hot liquid, enjoying the flowery aroma and the warmth of the cup in his cold hands. It seemed every part of his body was chilled; especially his hands. Francesca seemed fine, even cheerful, but Jerry sat huddled on his chair, shivering badly. His lips had turned blue and his teeth were chattering.

“You okay?” asked Milo. Jerry didn’t look at him.

“I think I’m going to die,” he hissed between his teeth.

Francesca guffawed. “Hah! Die? Don’t make me laugh. Just drink up your tea. You’ll be fine.”

Jerry eyed her with a grimace. “I hate cheerful people.”

Francesca smiled and drank from her cup. Her eyebrows rose behind the cup. She chuckled.

Milo frowned and stared at Jerry. “Jerry, what possessed you to…”

“I don’t wanna talk about it, Milo.”

“Jerry! Do you have any idea what you got us into? Do you? You nearly got us…”

Francesca leaned over and placed her hand on Milo’s knee, and shook her head. “Not now. Heaven knows I have good reason to question my sanity helping you two…”

Milo started to protest.

“…but here we are. Let’s sort it out. For now, though, let’s not bicker.”

They all fell silent and the sound of the rain and wind filled the room. The tips of the chestnut tree branches rapped on the window pane.

“Where’d Barnaby go?” asked Milo.

“Oh, he’ll be back in a little while,” said Francesca. “Just had to go upstairs to do some things.”

They sat in silence, drinking their tea. The clock on the wall above the door ticked loudly in the stillness. Milo could hear the rain rush and drip outside. He kept imagining the sound of footsteps and silhouettes of men passing by the window above the sink, but when he peered at the shadows he let out his bated breath when he realized it was just a tree branch scraping against the pane. He wondered how long it would be before the three men found them and when it would be safe to go outside again. Would they have to watch their steps everywhere they went from now on? Would they have to leave the city and never come back? Where in the world would they go?

He looked at Francesca. She looked so peaceful and carefree. He watched as her fingers moved over her cup and the way her long, wavy black hair fell over her shoulders. When she spoke she had the habit of pinching back the left side of her mouth so it always looked as if she was half smiling half frowning. Right now she was tracing her fingernail over a drawing in the tabletop, her eyes far away.

Just then Uncle Barnaby returned, slightly out of breath. His eyeglasses were clouded with mist and his hair and jacket were drenched. He stamped on the ground outside the kitchen door, coughing loudly as he did so.

“Really pouring now,” he said.

“Everything ready?” asked Francesca.

“Just about,” said Uncle Barnaby. “Just have to wind up the winch.”

He moved through the kitchen with an intent bustling, knocking chairs aside and continuing to cough. He disappeared behind another kitchen door, followed by a loud metallic screeching, and a lot of bumping sounds. There was silence for a moment, then he reappeared, smiling.

“All right, follow me,” he said.

He bustled back outside and everyone got up to follow him. Outside the kitchen door there was a small courtyard overgrown with flowers, bushes, and trees. He led them around to the back, where a set of stairs hidden behind a trellis appreared. Uncle Barney started up them, pushing vines and branches aside. They climbed four flights of steps to an old stone balcony overlooking the street from which they had entered the house. Milo could see the chestnut tree towering over the apartment building. Another trellis, heavy with vines, covered the opening of the balcony so no one from the street could see them. Uncle Barney led them to the middle of the balcony and stopped.

“Okay,” he said. “Watch. You’ve got a real show in store!”

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