Knowing my uncle, though, he wouldn’t choose any book. He’d choose something with significance.
I checked the sections for his favorite authors. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Taras Shevchenko, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Dovzhenko…he had a soft spot for Russian and Ukrainian classics. Said they grounded him in his roots.
But no, all the books were real.
My eyes flitted over the rest of the library and landed on the limited-edition chess set in the corner. The pieces were still arranged in the same pattern from our last game.
While I examined the set and the surrounding area for anything that could give credence to my suspicions, I knocked against the table, and a pawn tumbled to the floor.
I cursed under my breath and bent to pick it up. As I did, my eyes snagged on the outlet beneath the table. It was a simple, ordinary outlet, except…
My gaze traveled to the left.
There was another outlet, less than a foot away. The U.S. National Electrical Code stipulated outlets must be positioned no more than six feet apart measured along the floor line, but it was rare to see two so close together.
I paused, listening for any noises—the purr of my uncle’s Mercedes pulling into the driveway, the thud of his footsteps against the parquet floors.
I fished a heavy-duty paper clip from the library’s writing desk and crawled under the chess table, bending the clip until it was straight. I jiggled the screw in the middle of the outlet, feeling ridiculous, but my instincts screamed at me to continue.
Just when I was about to give up, the outlet popped open, revealing a stash of papers in the wall.
Fake outlet. Of course.
My heart thudded as I reached for the papers—right as an engine roared in the distance.
My uncle was home.
I unfolded the documents—letters, written in two familiar sets of handwriting.
I speed-read them, unable to believe my eyes.
I’d expected corporate politics. Boardroom foul play. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my uncle tried to hold on to his CEO position, even though I was supposed to take over soon. But this? This, I never saw coming.
The puzzle pieces in my brain clicked into place, and a strange cocktail of betrayal, fury, and relief knotted in my gut. Betrayal and fury over the revelation; relief that—
The front door banged open. Footsteps, coming closer.
I shoved the letters into the wall, folding them the way I’d found them, and screwed the outlet cover back on. I crawled out from beneath the table, placed the pawn in the same position it’d been in before I knocked it over, and pocketed both the paper clip and my gloves, which were sleek enough that they didn’t create a visible bulge in my pants.
I plucked The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas—one of my favorite books—off the shelf on my way to the door.
“Alex,” my uncle said when he saw me in the hall. He chuckled. “Dumas again? You can’t get enough of that book.”
I smiled. “No, I can’t.”
All the while, my blood raged.