About the Author
Kaleb NationOn the third night of the third month of 2003, fourteen-year-old Kaleb Nation suddenly imagined a boy and a banker on a roof, waiting for a burglar to come. From that original idea was born the story of Bran Hambric, a novel that would take most of Kaleb's teenage years to write. Aside from writing, Kaleb is a blogger and a former radio host. He turned 20 in 2008 and currently lives in Texas.
Table of Contents
Strange Happenings on Bolton Road 3
Chasing Shadows in the Dark 13
The Creature and His Master 21
The Note in the Grass 30
The Man, the Van, and Dan 44
Secret Letters 57
Sewey Wilomas versus the Oncoming Train 69
The Duncelander Fair 80
The Box in the Bookstore 97
Inside the Hidden Room 115
Another Burglary 124
The Telephone Call 136
Burglars on Third Street 151
The Man at the Tavern 161
The Name on the Necklace 178
A Path in the Woods 187
Noises in the Kitchen 196
The Man beneath the House 205
The House on Hadnet Lane 217
The Gnome in the Home 227
A Room behind the Bookshelf 241
The Truth 252
The Face in the Mirrors 260
The Girl from the Alley 271
Lopsis Volgitix 288
The Good-Bye 300
The Escape of Rosie Tuttle 312
The Garage 320
Inside the Black Van 334
Fire and Books 343
Into the City 359
The Spirit Awakens 373
The Farfield Curse 383
The Battle on Farfield Tower 397
The Grave of Emry Hambric 419
And if you didn't agree, you had best like jail food. Every other city in the rest o...
And if you didn't agree, you had best like jail food. Every other city in the rest of the world allowed gnomes and magic, but for centuries the Duncelanders had proudly stayed the exception. Behind their border wall of brick, the police chief put officers on perpetual watch for any short gnomes wearing tall, conical red hats. Helicopters regularly patrolled the borders, and every good citizen was quick to report anything remotely magic, in case a mage was around. They had orders to report any etceteras as well, if they happened to see one.
Since few people came into Dunce, and even fewer left, rumors about the city grew every year. This notoriety gave birth to streets nearly as infamous - and Bolton Road seemed destined to be the most infamous of them all.
In the thirteenth house on the right side of that street, at eleven o'clock on a Wednesday night, eight-year-old Balder Wilomas dashed into his parents' bedroom, claiming he had heard a burglar struggling with the front door. Sewey Wilomas sent him right back to bed with no more scary movies for a week. Five minutes later, in came Baldretta, Balder's three-year-old sister, having heard someone at the door too. Sewey sent her back as well, with a bag of chocolates to munch until morning. All this was, of course, until he heard the noise a minute later and barreled downstairs, revolver in hand, only to find scratches on the door and some dirty tracks.
"Burglars…" he muttered. "And I'm plumb out of Burglar-Be-Gone spray too." He turned to the others, standing at the stairs. Mabel: his wife. Rosie Tuttle: Mabel's cousin, who did the housework and cooking. Balder and Baldretta: his two children. And Bran - the Wilomas' great Accident.
"He'll be coming back," Sewey added. "And being a banker, I learned exactly what to do."
"Call the police?" Bran suggested.
"No scary movies for a week?" Balder mused.
"Mmbbl?" Baldretta managed to say, offering one of the few candies not stuffing her cheeks.
"No!" Sewey spat. "Bran and I are going to catch this burglar."
"I think I'd rather catch some sleep," Bran said with a yawn. But inside he felt that watching for a burglar was far better than just another boring evening - one of many he had spent since that fateful morning eight years before.
The Great and Glorious City Of Dunce, as was its official title, was like an overgrown blot on the map. It covered miles of suburban land so vast that many wondered if it was no longer a city, but rather a small state of its own. If Dunce was a blot on the map, then Bran was a blot on the city of Dunce - the Accident that shouldn't have happened. As if to prove this time and again, there was a driftwood sign tacked next to the front door of the Wilomas' red-brick, two-story house that read:
The Wilomas Family
But that was all. After eight years, Bran's name was still nowhere to be found. Eight o'clock on Thursday night found Sewey and Bran on the roof of the house: Sewey with his revolver and Bran with a cigar box of bullets. The air was frigid, and the roof was so steep Bran had to hold to the chimney for balance. Sewey had thoughtfully brought up two pork and mustard sandwiches, in case he got hungry, and had quickly gobbled both down without offering Bran a bite.
One hour passed. Another hour passed. No burglar.
"Keep very quiet," Sewey warned around ten thirty. "I took Burglar Methodology and Tactics in banker school: he'll be coming at precisely ten forty-five!"
Eleven eventually rolled about, and then eleven thirty. Sewey's mood worsened. By midnight, he was so fed up that he climbed down the ladder and returned with a briefcase of paperwork to go over.
"Cold, cold, cold!" Sewey shivered. "Am I the only one in town who cares about this burglar?"
"It's past midnight." Bran yawned. "Maybe the burglar is where we should be: in bed."
"Great rot, Bran," Sewey grumbled. "Every scarecrow who's gotten past Basic Burglarology knows they're never satisfied with scratching a door and leaving dirty tracks. Mark my words, he's coming back tonight." He shifted. "Now hold that flashlight still; your shivering is making me write crooked."
For the hundredth time that night, Bran sighed and lifted his arm, which was falling asleep without him. To Bran, dirt on the ground and scratches on the door did not spell burglar.
"Aha!" Sewey exclaimed, pushing against the chimney.
Sewey hardly ever smiled, and he hardly ever laughed either. More commonly he wore a frown resembling an upside-down banana plastered on his face. His hair and moustache were dark, and though he wasn't fat, he had gained a little weight since he was younger, which perfectly complimented his balding scalp and general grumpiness.
"File this under Evictions," he muttered to Bran. "Old Widow Todilmay won't get past this banker!"
Bran set it in the stack marked Evictions without a word. Bran himself wasn't very tall, but he topped Sewey's shoulders at fourteen years old, and had dark brown hair and eyes of the same color. There wasn't much out of the ordinary about him. He was just plain, normal Bran. Except of course, for how he ended up on Bolton Road.
Helping Sewey with his paperwork was a constant, nagging reminder of the Accident, of the whispers Bran often overheard when Sewey called him to the bank for one chore or another: "There we were, all closed up, the vault locked tight, the next day Sewey gets here early and checks the vault like always… and there he is. A six-year-old boy. Just sitting there in the middle of the floor. Nothing stolen, nothing even moved. And the worst part is the Finders Keepers Law regarding Orphans. That's why Sewey calls it the Accident. According to the Laws of Dunce, because Sewey found the boy, Bran is his 'forever or until the End of Time, whichever comes later...'"
The strangest part always came after. "And the note," they would whisper. "It was tight in the boy's hand, and the only thing it said was 'Bran Hambric, born June 17. To: Clarence'."
But no one knew more. Sometimes, in tones so hushed that Bran had to strain his ears, he often heard another word - never shared with Sewey, but offered as the only possible explanation.
"Pay attention!" Sewey snapped, breaking Bran out of his thoughts. Bran counted the papers in Evictions, but when he got to three hundred he decided to give up on the rest. They sat on the chimney beside other piles, some marked Overdue, others Dangerously Overdue, and still others Very Dangerously Overdue.
It wasn't like Bran was the only strange thing that had happened on Bolton Road. Just that Tuesday, a dozen red roses had been delivered to their door, addressed to Rosie Tuttle, with strict instructions addressing them to Rosie and Rosie alone. The card was signed with an enormous, swirling letter B, and the instant Rosie set eyes on it she tore it to pieces and threw it away, and would say nothing about it to anyone.
Instead of minding his own beeswax, Sewey Wilomas had decided to piece the torn shreds together like a puzzle with staples and sticky tape. When he finally got them in order, he caused such a terrible ruckus with every Bob, Binkey, and Balfred in town that the neighbors had called the police, who carted him off for a day's worth of scrubbing the sewers. Unfortunately for Bran, community service hadn't phased Sewey in the slightest.
"Overdue payment on the Bogwingle's..." Sewey mumbled on, scribbling ONE DAY LATE in bright red.
"Another one for Evictions," he said, passing it to Bran.
Length: 8 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 18.24 oz
Page Count: 464 pages