Second Chance

(sequel to Saint Philomene’s Infirmary)

Chance and Pauline Jeopard, barely rested from their adventures at Saint Philomene’s Infirmary, discover that they must return to the great subterranean realm of Donbaloh, this time to arrest an even greater threat to the underworld denizens.

Read Chapter One:

On the 9th of August, at 3:47 PM, the mercury in the little town of Starling, Texas, reached 115˚F, the hottest moment so far this year, and the Jeopard siblings, Pauline and Chance, found themselves trapped indoors with their mother, Daisy, and her new friend, Neville “Fred” Antaso. They were all sitting around the living room in the air conditioning like exhausted, overfed felines, waiting for the temperature to drop.


Life in general had been rather boring since Pauline and Chance had escaped from Saint Philomene’s Infirmary, deep below the Earth’s surface, at the beginning of the summer. Nothing above ground could compare to their harrowing days underground, and they—Pauline, Chance, and their dear friend Mersey Marsh—had had to keep it all a secret from everyone they knew, though Chance had privately written and illustrated a book about their experiences. Their adventures had bound them ever closer as friends, and they met every day and talked about the perils of June.

But there was only so much to talk about, and as the endless, scorching Texas summer dragged on, the friends saw less and less of each other, and found themselves immersed in other interests. Mersey Marsh had begun dating a nice boy, Killiam Ng, Pauline had become deeply involved in her arrowhead project, and Chance was building a counterpoise trebuchet in an abandoned lot a few blocks from the house.

“How’s that launcher coming along, lad?” said Fred, directing the flow of air-conditioner air with the sports section of the Starling Town Crier.

Chance had found the plans for the trebuchet on the internet. It was ambitious. When completed, it would throw a 15-lb. bowling ball 300 yards. At first Chance had been disappointed—he’d wanted a contraption that would hurl a human half a mile. But those devices were built by corporations with reinforced steel and six-digit budgets, not twelve-year-olds with power drills and scavenged two-by-fours. Fred had offered to loan Chance whatever tools he needed if he could secure the materials. With his meager earnings from mowing lawns, doing chores for his mother and his neighbor, Mrs. Applebaker, along with diligent searching around town and on the neighborhood listserv, Chance was by increments acquiring materials to build his towering medieval catapult. He had already put together the base and frame assembly, and wanted nothing more than to work on it today, but 115˚F was even too much for sun-bleached Chance Jeopard.

“Pretty good, sir,” said Chance. “I still need to find something to use for the main throwing arm.”

“I have a property near Chamberlain,” said Fred, who had migrated to the kitchen and was mixing himself an Arnold Palmer. “It has a bunch of antique telegraph poles running through it. Maybe I could have one of my men uproot one for you. They run a good twenty feet in height. Would that do ya?”

“It sure would! That would be great, sir!”

Fred Antaso, who liked to wear pink or green guayabera shirts and razor-creased pastel golf pants, was tanned to the color of turmeric and reminded Chance of a cross between Billy Bob Thornton and a tangerine popsicle. Chance liked Fred. Even Pauline liked Fred. He and Pauline had gone out arrowhead hunting once and he had kept up with her for six hours in the August sun, finding a fragment of an axehead and a small but nearly pristine Clovis point, both of which he gave her for her collection. He had further impressed her by knapping a perfect spearhead out of a chunk of obsidian, right in the back yard.   

Their mother, Daisy, had met Fred Antaso at a yoga retreat in Northampton, Massachusetts, and when they discovered they lived in neighboring towns—he in McCandless, only a mile away—they decided they would get together and practice yoga on a regular basis when they got home.

It wasn’t long before they were an item. It did not hurt that Fred seemed to love her children.   

Yes, everyone seemed to love Neville “Fred” Antaso.

Except a certain somebody.

Tikki-tik-tik-tik—Mersey Marsh’s long, black-painted fingernails tapped on the stained-glass window in the front door.