Alexvery sorry to hear youve been hurt. The bear was speaking with
Smithers voice. Hope you get better soon, old chap. Just take it
easyIm sure you deserve a rest. Oh, and by the way, this card will
self-destruct in five seconds.
Sure enough, to the horror of the nurses, the card had immediately burst into flames.
As well as cards, there had been visitors. Mrs. Jones had been the first.
Alex had only just come around after surgery when she appeared. He had
never seen the deputy head of Special Operations looking quite so
unsure of herself. She was wearing a charcoal-gray raincoat, which hung
open to reveal a dark suit underneath. Her hair was wet and raindrops
glistened on her shoulders.
I dont quite know what to say to you, Alex, she began. She hadnt
asked him how he was. She would have already gotten that from the
doctors. What happened to you on Liverpool Street was an unforgivable
lapse of security. Too many people know the location of our
headquarters. Were going to stop using the main entrance. Its too
Alex shifted uncomfortably in the bed but said nothing.
Your condition is stable. I cant tell you how relieved I am
personally. When I heard youd been shot, I . . . She stopped herself.
Her black eyes looked down, taking in the tubes and wires attached to
the boy lying in front of her, feeding into his arm, nose, mouth, and
stomach. I know you cant talk now, she went on. So Ill be brief.
You are safe here. Weve used St. Dominics before, and certain
procedures are being followed. There are guards outside your room.
Someone will be there twenty-four hours a day as long as necessary.
The shooting on Liverpool Street was reported in the press, but your
name was kept out of it. Your age too. The sniper who fired at you had
taken a position on the roof opposite. Were still investigating how he
managed to get up there without being detectedand Im afraid weve
been unable to find him. But right now, your safety is our primary
concern. We can talk to Scorpia. As you know, weve had dealings with
them in the past. Im sure I can persuade them to leave you alone. You
destroyed their operation, Alex, and they punished you. But enough is
She stopped. Alexs heart monitor pulsed softly in the dim light.
Please try not to think too badly of us, she added. After everything
youve been throughScorpia, your father . . . I will never forgive
myself for what happened. I sometimes think it was wrong of us ever to
get you involved in the first place. But we can talk about that another
Alex was too weak to reply. He watched as Mrs. Jones got up and left,
and he guessed that Scorpia must have decided to leave him alone,
because a few days later the armed guards outside his room quietly
And now, in just over twelve hours, he would be out of here too. Jack
had already been planning the weeks ahead. She wanted to take him on
vacation to Florida or perhaps the Caribbean. It was October and the
summer was definitely over, leaves falling and cold breezes coming in
with the night. Jack wanted Alex to rest and regain his strength in the
sunbut secretly he wasnt so sure. He picked up the textbook again. He
never thought hed hear himself say this, but the truth was he just
wanted to go back to school. He wanted to be ordinary again. Scorpia
had sent him a simple, unforgettable message. Being a spy could get him
killed. Irregular verbs were less dangerous.
There was a movement at the door and a boy looked in.
The boy had a strange accentEastern European, possibly Russian. He was
fourteen, with short blond hair and light blue eyes. His face was thin,
his skin pale. He was wearing pajamas and a large dressing gown, which
made him seem smaller than he was. He was staying in the room next door
to Alex and really had been treated for appendicitis, with
complications. His name was Paul Drevinthe surname was somehow
familiarbut Alex didnt know anything more about him. The two of them
had spoken briefly a few times. They were nearly the same age, and the
only teenagers on the corridor.
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