The behavior of animals is often closely linked to impending weather. Bees are said to stay close to their hives when a summer rain is imminent while birds fly close to the ground, increase their foraging, or gather to roost before bad weather sets in. During good weather birds fly higher in the sky and spiders are known to be more active.
—The Tenth Korus of the Sapphire Tree
In the distance, the school buzzer could be heard heralding the beginning of class. Max kept low behind the concrete wall, waiting until Nigel and mates gave up their wait. No sense in sacrificing oneself for a few hours of schooling. Besides, bleedin’ honor roll or not, he actually had to be alive in order to graduate.
Max tasted dust and smelled the dew on the Oxford ragwort and goat’s beard growing amongst the scattered trash and surrounding weeds. The thin morning sun warmed his face as he leaned against the damp concrete. Slowly, the gray evaporated from London and, more importantly, from him. Maybe a day off was just what the doctor ordered. Hit the museum. Wander St. James. Chum around Mayfair. Just don’t let Mum find out.
Suddenly, his ears picked up a low-pitched hum. A dragonfly buzzed beneath his nose, its wings whirring against his skin. Irritated, he swiped at the insect and missed. A tiny rush of air tickled his ear as the creature darted around his head like a dive-bomber gone mad. Again, he tried to shoo it away but the insect was faster.
And oddly persistent.
I love bugs, he thought, as his conscience argued with his temper, but this bloke is begging for it. Then the memory of the shield bug returned and Max stopped swinging. Could this dragonfly and Mr. Stink somehow be connected? Was his world of bugs trying to tell him something?
The dragonfly returned, hovering within inches of his face. Max could almost feel the heat and motion in his eyelashes as it stared him in the eye. The insect was the polish of a green beyond description, with iridescent hues of copper and gold layered across its abdominal segments, each ringed with tiny strips of scarlet. It was unlike any he’d ever seen around London, even along the shoreline skirting the Long Water near Kensington Palace.
He focused on the insect’s tiny, frantic flutter of wings. No. It can’t be. He looked again, clearing his focus with a few wide-eyed blinks. There, on each wing—etched within the blur of thirty beats per second—was a word! Sure enough, though it was soft and out of focus—oy!—it was there, alright.
North? I must be losing me flippin’ nuggets!
Then, in the blink of an eye, the dragonfly vanished. Max searched the grass. He scanned the length of the concrete wall. His eyes roamed the slate September sky.
“What in the bleedin’ hell is going on?”