The nurse was twenty-three years old, blonde, and nervous. This
was only her second week at St. Dominics, one of Londons most
exclusive private hospitals. Rock stars and television celebrities came
here, she had been told. There were also VIPs from abroad. VIPs here
meant very important patients. Even famous people get sick, and the
ones who wanted to recover in five-star comfort chose St. Dominics.
The surgeons and therapists were world-class. The hospital food was so
good that some patients had been known to pretend they were ill so that
they could enjoy it for a while longer.
That evening, the nurse was making her way down a wide, brightly lit
corridor, carrying a tray of medicines. She was wearing a freshly
laundered white dress. Her named. meacherwas printed on a badge
pinned to her uniform. Several of the junior doctors had already placed
bets on which of them would persuade her to go out with them first.
She stopped in front of an open door. Room nine.
Hello, she said. Im Diana Meacher.
Im looking forward to meeting you too, the boy in room nine replied.
Alex Rider was sitting up in bed, reading a French textbook that he should have been studying at school. He was wearing pajamas that had fallen open at the neck and the nurse could just make out the bandages crisscrossing his chest. He was a very handsome boy, she thought. He had fair hair and serious brown eyes that looked as though they had seen too much. She knew that he was only fourteen, but he looked older. Pain had done that to him. Nurse Meacher had read his medical file and understood what he had been through.
In truth, he should have been dead. Alex Rider had been hit by a bullet fired from a .22 rifle from a distance of almost 250 feet. The sniper had been aiming for his heartand if the bullet had found its target, Alex would have had no chance of surviving. But nothing is certainnot even murder. A tiny movement had saved his life. As he had come out of MI6s headquarters on Liverpool Street, he had stepped off the sidewalk, his right foot carrying his body down toward the level of the road. It was at that exact moment that the bullet had hit him, and instead of powering into his heart, it had entered his body half an inch higher, ricocheting off a rib and exiting horizontally under his left arm.
The bullet had missed his vital heart structures, but even so, it had done plenty of damage, tearing through the subclavian artery, which carries blood over the top of the lung and into the arm. This was what Alex had felt when he was hit. As blood had poured out of the severed artery, filling the space between the lung and the thoracic cage, he had found himself unable to breathe. Alex could easily have died from shock or loss of blood. If he had been a man, he almost certainly would have. But the body of a child is different from that of an adult. A young persons artery will automatically shut itself down if cutdoctors cant explain how or whyand this will limit the amount of blood lost. Alex was unconscious, but he was still breathing, four minutes later, when the first ambulance arrived. There wasnt much the paramedics could do: IV fluids, oxygen, and some gentle compression around the bullets point of entry. But that was enough. Alex had been rushed to St. Dominics, where surgeons had removed the bone fragments and put a graft on the artery. He had been in the operating room two and a half hours. And now he was looking almost as if nothing had happened. As the nurse came into the room, he closed the book and settled back into his pillows. Diana Meacher knew that this was his last night in the hospital. He had been here for ten days and tomorrow he was going home. She also knew that she wasnt allowed to ask too many questions. It was there in large print on his file:
Reprinted from Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz by permission of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © April 2006, Anthony Horowitz. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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