Welcome to the 76.92% true story of the Villareal family of Windenburg, a family that Definitely Does Not Have Any Secrets.
In the early morning before all the tourists arrive, the Von Haunt Estate is especially palatial and romantic. But it did not feel so romantic for Luna, who found herself standing outside, alone.
She checked her phone.
Luna and her mystery knight had texted until late in the night, and this morning, she’d suggested they meet up at the Von Haunt Estate before school.
But they hadn’t replied to her text. It was still early, so maybe they hadn’t seen it yet?
Luna anxiously checked her phone again, when she heard footsteps behind her.
She raised her head, grinning, as a voice said,
“What? WHAT!?” The boy also yelled, eyes wide and fearful. “Is it a ghost?!”
“No,” said Luna, catching her breath and narrowing her eyes. “It’s something scarier than a ghost. It’s a Renegade.”
She’d heard of this boy, well, of his reputation. Wolfgang was a member of Windenburg’s notorious gang of thugs called the Renegades. They were a mean club, always going around the town, menacing the townspeople, vandalizing their landmarks… and they happened to be her club’s biggest enemy.
The boy’s eyes flitted to meet hers, and she realized she’d been staring at him a second too long.
“Very funny,” he said. For some reason, he seemed nervous, which was odd given his reputation as a juvenile delinquent. “What are you doing?”
Luna cleared her throat and quickly looked away. “Not that it concerns you, but I’m waiting for someone – a gallant, chivalrous knight. Like, the exact opposite of a Renegade.” She checked her phone again. “What are you doing here?”
“This is on my way to school,” he explained. “And I could totally be your knight,” he added defensively.
Luna glanced up at him again.
He glared back at her from dark pools of eye makeup and dark clothes. A scowl was fixed on his face, as if someone were permanently holding a rotting fish under his nose. Luna couldn’t imagine a more criminal-looking countenance if she tried.
There was nothing gallant or chivalrous about the boy, she decided. He was a Renegade.
“Leave me alone,” she said. “Like I said, I’m waiting for someone.”
He suddenly made a weird choking noise that he tried to disguise as a cough.
But Luna was already done talking to him. She turned away, craning her neck to watch the people walking by the estate.
“Fine. Whatever,” said Wolfgang, leaving.
Luna waited as long as she could without being late for school, constantly checking her phone, but her mystery knight never showed up.
Hey, is everything ok? she texted the knight. I waited at the Von Haunt Estate all morning but you never showed up.
But she got no response.
Her heart sank as she finally trudged to class, alone. Why didn’t her mystery knight show up? Did they not like her anymore?
But aside from Luna and her broken heart, there was another Villareal child present at the Von Haunt Estate in the early morning. In fact, Hugo had never left…
After Family Fun Day was canceled last night, Hugo had to go back through the hedge maze to exit the estate.
But, once again, he got lost in the shrubbery.
His family was long gone now (did they all forget about him?) and he was totally alone – or was he? The darker the night got, the more convinced he was that someone was following him.
Hugo began hyperventilating. Did nobody realize he was missing? Why wouldn’t his father answer his calls?
And, perhaps worst of all, he hadn’t eaten anything in three hours, not even a snack!
His tried to steady his breathing and go to his happy place. If only he could be back home in his kitchen, maybe cutting himself a slice of the sourdough loaf he had baked a few days ago layered with thinly shaved slices of Manchego cheese and a smear of quince paste, or deep-frying croquetas filled with jamón ibérico and thick béchamel sauce, or of course, how could he forget, serving himself a heaping scoop of the duck paella he’d made yesterday – he’d even used up his little jar of ridiculously expensive saffron for this batch – since Mom had always said paella tasted better the day after cooking it.
His eyes fluttered with exhaustion.
If Hugo was about to have his last thoughts, he wanted them to be about food and his mother.
He wandered aimlessly through the maze until he could no more,
-then collapsed on the ground, vision fading, blurry shapes swirling around him.
The last thing he remembered before passing out was the metallic smell of iron.
Next thing he knew, he was waking up on a bench near the entrance to the museum.
The sun was already up, and checking his phone, he realized that school was about to start.
So, hungry, exhausted, and mildly traumatized, he slogged to class.
At least he was finally free of that horrible hedge maze, even if he didn’t know how he’d made it out. Alive, apparently. But otherwise, he had no clue what had happened.
Meanwhile, with the kids away at school, Jacques was starting to execute the most villainous plans he had ever concocted in his entire life.
And those plans began with remodeling their pool.