At the very centre of this case lies Opal Koboi, the pixie who bankrolled the goblin gangs attempted takeover of Haven City. Opal was facing a lifetime behind laser bars. That is if she ever recovered from the coma that claimed the pixie when Holly Short foiled her plan.
For almost a year, Opal Koboi languished in the padded cell wing of the J Argon Clinic, showing no response to the medical warlocks who tried to revive her. In all that time, she spoke not a single word, ate not a mouthful of food and exhibited no response to stimuli. At first the authorities were suspicious. It is an act, they declared. Koboi is faking catatonia to avoid prosecution. But as the months rolled by, even the most sceptical were convinced. No-one could pretend to be in a coma for almost a year. Surely not. A fairy would have to be totally obsessed
The J Argon Clinic. Haven City.
The Lower Elements. Three Months Earlier.
The J Argon Clinic was not a state hospital. Nobody stayed there for free. Argon and his staff of psychologists only treated fairies who could afford it. Of all the clinic's wealthy patients, Opal Koboi was unique. She had set up an emergency fund for herself more than a year previously, just in case she ever went insane and needed to pay for treatment. It was a smart move. If Opal hadn't set up the fund, her family would undoubtedly have moved her to a cheaper facility. Not that the facility itself made much difference to Koboi, who had spent the past year drooling and having her reflexes tested. Doctor Argon doubted if Opal would have noticed a bull troll beating its chest before her.
The fund was not the only reason why Opal was unique. Koboi was the Argon Clinic's celebrity patient. Following the attempt of the B'wa Kell goblin triad to seize power, Opal Koboi's name had become the most infamous four syllables under the world. After all, the pixie billionairess had formed an alliance with disgruntled LEP officer Briar Cudgeon, and funded the triad's war on Haven. Koboi had betrayed her own kind, and now her own mind was betraying her.
For the first six months of Koboi's incarceration, the Clinic had been besieged by media filming the pixie's every twitch. The LEP guarded her cell door in shifts, every staff member in the facility was treated to background checks and stern glares. Nobody was exempt. Even Doctor Argon himself was subjected to random DNA swabs to ensure that he was who he said he was. The LEP weren't taking any chances with Koboi. If she escaped from Argon's Clinic, not only would they be the laughing stock of the fairy world, but a highly dangerous criminal would be unleashed on Haven City.
But as time went by, fewer camera crews turned up at the gates each morning. After all, how many hours of drooling can an audience be expected to sit through? Gradually the LEP crews were downsized from a dozen to six and finally to a single officer per shift. Where could Opal Koboi go, the authorities reasoned? There were a dozen cameras focussed on her twenty four hours a day. There was a subcutaneous seeker-sleeper under the skin of her upper arm and she was DNA swabbed four times daily. And even if someone did get Opal out, what could they do with her? The pixie couldn't even stand without help, and the sensors said her brain waves were little more than flat lines.
That said, Doctor Argon was very proud of his prize patient, and mentioned her name often at dinner parties. Since Opal Koboi had been admitted to the clinic, it had become almost fashionable to have a relative in therapy. Almost every family on the rich list had a crazy uncle in the attic. Now that crazy uncle could receive the best of care in the lap of luxury.
Copyright 2005 by Eoin Colfer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Group (UK). No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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