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 dangerous.
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 enough.
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 time.
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 disappeared.
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.
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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