You shimmy quickly back up the hole and pause, hidden under the stairs. The person you heard above you just a minute ago is making painfully slow progress down the steps, stopping to listen and mutter to himself every few steps. Frankly, this doesn’t sound like a ticked-off tour guide at all.
Your suspicion is confirmed when you hear the unknown pursuer utter, “Zut alors!” at the sight of the exposed secret lever.
Roaring, you fly out of your hiding spot, knocking the black-clad French goon off his feet. He reaches his hands up to ward you off, but you crack him in the skull with one of your well-constructed motorcycle boots.
Now you can add “assault and battery” to the charge of “breaking and entering,” if anyone is keeping score.
You creep cautiously back up the kitchen stairs, and, incredibly, you can hear the tour group excitedly offering remedies to combat the sugar-diabetes, just as if you had not prowled around the basements and lifted the Secret of rock ‘n roll.
“Give ’em a shot of whiskey.”
“No… a bacon sandwich always brought my uncle around.”
Turning to exit back through the front of the house, you encounter a group of harried-looking EMTs wheeling a stretcher around a corner. “He’s in there,” you offer, pointing them through the kitchen.
As you thread through the milling tourists and staff outside who are scenting an emergency but don’t yet know what type it is, you accidentally lock eyes with the other Frenchman, who has obviously been patrolling the exit for a person fitting your description. He begins moving laterally through the crowd, leaving you no option but to walk quickly around the side of the property to look for an escape path.
You flash your admission ticket at a flustered-looking man with an official name tag on his lapel standing by the meditation garden. “Dropped my camera,” you offer by way of excuse, but suddenly the man raises a trembling finger to point at something behind you.
“He’s got a gun!” shouts the staffer, and he takes off running for the shelter of an outbuilding. You whirl to face the French criminal, suddenly aware of your own helplessness.
“Ok, American scooter trash. Hand over ze Secret.”
“What, this?” you ask with a grin, zipping open your pocket and sliding the black velvet box out. “At least let me look at it before you take it.”
The man’s eyes bulge excitedly; like you, he cannot contain his curiosity.
You flip open the lid of the box. In a specially-made alcove of white satin rests a small golden guitar statuette. Unable to resist, you pick it up between thumb and forefinger.
It’s not solid gold at all, you realize: it’s made of translucent gold-colored glass that shimmers with a restless flight of rainbow low-lights. It’s alive, somehow.
You look up at the Frenchman. For the moment, he’s still captivated. Now you know what must be done.