“You want me to do what?” Eighteen-year-old Jack Ponsi Dileónardo Thomas stared at his gray-haired boss, and a memory he’d buried five centuries earlier lurched to life. He clutched the cold metal arms of his chair, fighting off the shock that threatened to topple him to the floor.
Colby Newman, editor-in-chief and person-in-charge-of-handing-out-assignments at the World Pryer, crunched a peppermint candy and stared back at him without answering.
During the six weeks Jack had spent as a summer intern for the Pryer, he’d learned Mr. Newman always lapsed into silence after dropping a bomb on one of his reporters. Mr. Newman was a great editor, but he had an odd sense of humor.
Right now, he didn’t look like he thought he’d cracked a joke.
Jack took a deep breath and unclenched his hands. The shock died away. The undead memory lived on. He said, “Did you ask me to find the Fountain of Youth?”
“Yes.” Mr. Newman twisted his thick lips into a smile that made him resemble the water-skiing gorilla on last week’s front page. “Go prove the Fountain exists, Jack. And I don’t mean another tired story on that moldy tourist attraction in St. Augustine. I’m talking about the real thing.”
“The real thing?”
Mr. Newman said, “You probably learned about the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León in school, Jack. It’s textbook history. He explored many parts of Florida during his search for the Fountain of Youth.”
“I know.” Jack knew all about the de León name and its place in La Florida’s past, though not from any school lessons. He said, “Juan led an expedition through the area around Everyoung, too.”
Mr. Newman nodded. “That means the Fountain of Youth could be right here, in our town. In fact, a reliable source called in that very tip to the hot line yesterday morning. The message was a bit garbled, but I have reason to believe he’s onto something.”
“You do?” For one shining moment, a beam of hope seared through Jack. He used all his willpower to shove it aside. Over the years, the flame of false expectation had burned him badly. “Why do you think so?”
“Call it an old newsman’s hunch.” Mr. Newman shrugged. “Even if the tipster is wrong, the Fountain of Youth makes good copy. I’m excited about this story. I’m assigning you to follow up.”
The still-swirling memories burst through the dam of Jack’s willpower and threatened to swamp him. He didn’t have to follow up, because Mr. Newman’s source was right about the location of the Fountain. It was here on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Jack knew that for certain.
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