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I don't like it," Tania said.
I glanced down at my sister, then back at the hotel. "It looks like an old castle."
"It looks haunted."
I laughed. "Don't tell me you're starting to believe that garbage!"
She hunched her head between her shoulders. "Of course not. I just mean it's spooky."
"You just feel that way because...because of everything that's happened."
She kept staring at the hotel, her blue eyes huge in her thin face. She was standing so close, I could smell her peppermint shampoo. I wasn't sure what to say to Tania sometimes. We'd gotten pretty close in the last two years, even though she was my little sister. Nobody else understood what we had been through. But what did I know about eleven-year-old girls? And knowing what she had been through, I knew I couldn't say anything to make things better. Still, I was her big brother and had to try.
The hotel really did look like a castle, with tall, narrow windows in gray stone walls. The top of the wall had notches in it crenellations, I think they're called. A gargoyle squatted above the door, sticking his tongue out at us. They must have modeled the hotel on something in Europe, because it sure didn't look American, even though we were in Colorado.
I said, "It's four stars, and we have our own rooms. Mom and Bruce will be so busy with their TV show that we can do anything we want. We can order room service and watch cable all day. Or we can explore, and they'll let us go anywhere, because we're with the TV crew. It'll be cool."
She finally looked up at me, and managed a little smile. I grinned at her.
"Jonathan! Titania!" Our mother waved from near thecamera crew's van. "Come here, I want you to meet someone."
Tania's nose wrinkled. I crossed my eyes at her, and we walked to the van with Tania sticking as close as a Siamese twin.
This girl stepped out of the van. My heart jumped into my throat.
Mom said, "This is Magdalene, the production assistant. She'll look after you, so ask her if you need anything."
I stepped away from Tania, but she scooted right up next to me again. My voice squeaked as I said "Hi!" and I felt my face get hot. I thrust out my hand and tried to lower my voice. I stammered, "I'm, um, it's nice to meet you."
She took my hand for about half a second and said, "Call me Maggie." Her eyes flicked from Tania to me. I tried to think of something to say, but my brain wasn't working. She turned and crawled back into the van.
Mom said, "Go on into the hotel. Bruce will give you your room keys."
I lingered to see if Maggie would come back out of the van. Tania took half a step away, and then turned and looked back. "Jon?" I sighed and followed her, glancing over my shoulder.
I trailed through the door after Tania. Just inside, I stopped to look around. Sure enough, a suit of armor stood next to the curving staircase ahead of us. "Man, where do they think they are?" I whispered. "And when?"
Tania gasped. I glanced at her to see where she was looking. She was staring straight ahead, with her mouth open. I couldn't see anything so interesting on the stairs.
I looked back out the door toward the van. What was Maggie doing? Could I help?
Tania made some sound. "What's up?" I mumbled.
I heard a thump and looked back to see Tania crumpled on the floor.
Text copyright © 2009 by Chris Eboch