People always ask me if I have a writing routine. I do — every morning I get up right before sunrise, and I go right to the computer. It’s dark and quiet. Even the birds are still asleep. I like the feeling that I’m the only one awake in the whole world.
It happened like this: I grabbed a mug of tea, like I always do. Opened the file marked “39 CLUES #4.” Stared at what I’d written so far after a grueling day of work the day before:
That morning, I thought I heard a footstep outside. I held my breath. No, just the leaves skittering on the porch, I told myself. We’d been warned by our editors to be careful, but there was no need to get spooked. I started to type.
If Amy Cahill had to list what was wrong with eleven-year-old brothers, their habit of disappearing would be . . .
Another noise. Definitely not leaves on the porch this time. Definitely . . . footsteps.
I got up and went to the front hallway. Slowly, something was being pushed under the frame of the door.
I bent down and picked up a plain brown envelope.
No return address.
I flung open the door. The porch was empty. I stepped out. Nobody there. Nobody on the street, nobody walking away. Spooky.
I’d been instructed not to open any strange envelopes. I knew I had to be cautious. Who knew I was writing the next 39 Clues book? Only a few trusted people.
Or, at least, I thought I could trust them. Riordan, Korman — they were solid. But that Lerangis guy . . . I wasn’t so sure about him. Hey — don’t get me started on that episode in the Chinese restaurant. Nobody is that crazy about fortune cookies.
I reached for the letter. I thought about the old saying curiosity killed the cat.
But I wasn’t a cat person.
Slowly, I tore the seal. Inside was an airline ticket to Moscow. There, I was to change planes to travel to . . . Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Sure, no problem. Just hang a left at Cleveland and keep going.
I ran back to the computer and googled. Kyrgyzstan was in Central Asia, smack in the middle of a bunch of high mountain ranges. Lovely meadows were perfect for hiking, and intrepid travelers could spend the night in a yurt. Horse trekking was popular. So was fermented mare’s milk. And a game involving a headless goat carcass — don’t ask.
I am not, and never have been, intrepid. I write about heroes. I don’t act like them.
Which Cahill branch could be operating in Kyrgyzstan? Who sent me the ticket? No way I was going on some mysterious journey to someplace halfway around the world I’d never heard of. I don’t know how to ride a horse. I’m not even sure what a yurt is. And I’m afraid to fly. No. Way.
Just then a slip of paper fluttered out from the envelope. I watched it spiral down and land on my shoe.
Follow them to the slanted cross
I took a gulp of my cold tea. But just in case . . . where was my passport, anyway?
— Jude Watson, Author of The 39 Clues Book 4: Beyond the Grave