Chapter 1

Break In


Books and paper lay about the floor like a tornado blasted through the living room and emptied the shelves. Mom was on the sofa, trembling. Dad stood beside her with a hand on her shoulder. Police officers walked in and out of the rooms, taking notes, checking for fingerprints.

If these were common thieves, they should’ve at least taken what little there was of value, like the TV, Dad’s old record player, and Mom’s Russian stacking dolls on the mantle, but all of it had been left alone.

What had they been looking for? Maybe one of Dad’s students had decided to break in and search for answers to the latest test. Not likely, but nothing else made sense.

A pot-bellied officer slumbered over. His nametag read Parker.

“Hey,” Officer Parker said. “You alright?”


“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Martin Tramble.”

“How old are you, Martin?”

“Twelve, and two hundred and fifteen days.”

Officer Parker raised a brow. “That’s awfully specific.”

It was.

Then again, numbers could be trusted. And right then, all kinds of numbers flashed brighter than a neon sign: four police officers, thirty-seven books, and fourteen steps to his bedroom.

It was after the cat attack, and subsequent teasing, that the fear of new places reared its ugly head. What kind of kids teased someone with gashes up and down their arms? Dad had said “only kids with no brain would do such a thing.” That was about the time he presented a wonderful Rubik’s Cube as a seventh birthday present. Dad didn’t know that solving the tiled puzzle would help the fears, but it did. Soon, counting things and reading anything under the sun were added to the mix…all to keep a restless mind at bay.

“You seem older,” Officer Parker said. He scanned the ruins of the living room. “Don’t worry about this, probably just some kids playing around.”

Don’t worry about home being ravaged by strangers––stranger who might still be lurking. Officer Parker wasn’t smiling, but he sure was funny.

“Do kids usually enter a house in the middle of a school day and wreck a place and not take anything?” Martin asked.

Officer Parker smiled politely. “You’re very observant.”

And the Understatement Of The Year Award goes to Officer Parker, one of Philadelphia’s finest.

Jared ran into the house in his football uniform, sweating, hands clutching his head. He gave a brotherly nod before hurrying over to Dad to figure out what was happening.



A vision of his bedroom in tatters came on strong, sending an irritating tingle along his scars.

He raced past Jared, Mom and Dad, up the steps, and flung the door open.

Civil War figurines faced off on the top shelf of the cabinet. Below that, Caesar’s tenth legion stood in formation, and down another shelf, Washington, Madison, and the other Revolutionary statues hadn’t moved an inch. The Rubik’s Cube sat on its spot on a small table beside the bed and Granddad’s old pirate memorabilia rested on the desk.

Nothing had been touched.

Breathing just became a thousand times easier.

He grabbed the bronze cube off the desk. It was half the size of the Rubik’s Cube, but weighted ten times more. Someone must’ve spent a lifetime making the detailed, hieroglyphic-like symbols. Despite scouring the library (the best place on Earth) for books related to sailing and pirates, the cube remained a complete mystery.

The cube had been just one of the treasures in the box that Dad presented after Granddad’s untimely death. Dad wasn’t much help in knowing anything about the cube or the other contents. He only knew that Trambles had pirate DNA from hundreds of years back, and the box of stuff had been passed down from generation to generation.

He set the cube beside the compass, magnifying glass, and an iron chest pin that was shaped like a pirate ship, with masts and all.

If Mom hadn’t come home early from work the ransacking thugs might have taken all the treasure, or at least damaged everything. The idea of her walking through the door and seeing two massive, shadowy figures flee out the back was shuddering.

He rubbed one arm, then the other, but nothing was going to rid the anxiousness.

There was only one safe place now…