Authors: Anthony Horowitz
Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Fiction, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Supernatural, #Young Adult Fiction, #Hong Kong (China)
Memorandum from the Chairman's Office: October 15
We are about to take power.
Four months ago, on June 25, the gate built into the Nazca Desert opened and the Old Ones finally returned to the world that once they ruled. They are with us now, waiting for the command to reveal themselves and to begin a war that, this time, they cannot lose.
Why has that command not been given?
The triumph of Nazca was tainted by the presence of two children, teenaged boys. One has already become familiar to us…indeed, we have been watching him for much of his life. His name, or the name by which he is now known, is Matthew Freeman. He is fifteen and English. The other was a Peruvian street urchin who calls himself Pedro and grew up in the slums of Lima. Between them, they were responsible for the death of our friend and colleague Diego Salamanda. Incredibly, too, they wounded the King of the Old Ones even at the moment of his victory.
These are not ordinary children. They are two of the so-called Gatekeepers who were part of the great battle, vüi more than ten thousand years ago, when the Old Ones were defeated and banished. It is absolutely crucial this time, if our plans are to succeed and a new world is to be created, that we understand the nature of the Five.
. Ten thousand years ago, five children led the last survivors of humanity against the Old Ones. The battle took place in Great Britain, but at a time when the country was not yet an island, before the ice sheets had melted in the north.
. By cunning, by a trick, the children won, and the Old Ones were banished. Two gates were constructed to keep them out: one in Yorkshire, in the north of England, the other in Peru. One gate held. The other we managed to smash.
. The Five existed then. The Five are here now. It is as if they have been reborn on the other side of time…but it is not quite as simple as that. They are the same children, somehow living in two different ages.
. Kill one of the children now and he or she will be "replaced" by one of the children from the past. This is the single, crucial fact that makes them so dangerous an enemy. Killing them is almost no use at all. If we want to control them, they have to be taken alive.
. Alone, these children are weak and can be beaten. Their powers are unpredictable and not fully in their control. But when they come together, they become stronger. This is the great danger for us. If all five of them join forces at any time, anywhere in the world, they may be able to create a third gate, and everything we have worked for will be lost.
The fifth of the Five
So far only four of the children have been identified. The English boy and the Peruvian boy have now been joined by twin American brothers, Scott and Jamie Tyler, who were revealed to us by our Psi project. At the time, they were working in a theatre in Nevada.
Note that Scott Tyler was thoroughly programmed whilst held captive by our agents in Nevada.
Although he was subsequently reunited with his twin brother, it is still possible that he can be turned against his friends. A psychological report (appendix 1) is attached.
We must therefore find her first.
We have agents in every country searching for her. Many politicians and police forces are now working actively for us. The Psi project continues throughout Europe and Asia, and we are still investigating teenagers with possible psychic/paranormal abilities. There is every chance that the girl will reveal herself to us. It is likely that she still has no idea who and what she really is.
Once we have the girl in our hands, we can use her to draw the rest of the Gatekeepers into a trap. One at a time, we will bring them to the Necropolis. And once we x have all five of them, we can hold them separately, imprison them, torture them, and keep them alive until the end of time.
Everything is now set. The Gatekeepers have no idea how strong we are, how far we have advanced.
Our eyes are everywhere, all around the world, and very soon the battle will begin.
We just have to find the girl.
Ia sakkath. Iak sakkakh. Ia sha xul.
The girl didn't look before crossing the road.
That was what the driver said later. She didn't look left or right. She'd seen a friend on the opposite sidewalk, and she simply walked across to join him, not noticing that the lights had turned green, forgetting that this was always a busy intersection and that this was four o'clock in the afternoon when people were trying to get their work finished, hurrying on their way home. The girl just set off without thinking. She didn't so much as glimpse the white van heading toward her at fifty miles an hour.
But that was typical of Scarlett Adams. She always was a bit of a dreamer, the sort of person who'd act first and then think about what she'd done only when it was far too late. The field hockey ball that she had tried to thwack over the school roof, but which had instead gone straight through the headmistress's window. The groundsman she had pushed, fully clothed, into the swimming pool. It might have been a good idea to check first that he could swim. The sixty-foot-tall tree she'd climbed up, only to realize that there was no possible way back down.
Fortunately, her school made allowances. It helped that Scarlett was generally popular, was liked by most of the teachers, and, even if she was never top of the class, managed to be never too near the bottom. Where she really excelled was at sports. She was captain of the field hockey team (despite the occasional misfires), a strong tennis player, and an all-round winner when it came to track and field. No school will give too much trouble to someone who brings home the trophies, and Scarlett was responsible for a whole clutch of them.
The school was called St. Genevieve's, and from the outside it could have been a stately home or perhaps a private hospital for the very rich. It stood on its own grounds, set back from the road, with ivy growing up the walls, sash windows, and a bell tower perched on top of the roof. The uniform, it was generally agreed, was the most hideous in England: a mauve dress, a yellow jersey, and, in summer months, a straw hat. Everyone hated the straw hats. In fact it was a tradition for every girl to set the wretched things on fire on their last day.
St. Genevieve's was a private school, one of many that were clustered together in the center of Dulwich, in South London. It was a strange part of the world, and everyone who lived there knew it. To the west there was Streatham and to the east Sydenham, both areas with high-rise apartment buildings, drugs, and knife crimes. But in Dulwich, everything was green. There were old-fashioned tea shops, the sort that spelled themselves shoppes, and flower baskets hanging off the lampposts. Most of the cars seemed to be SUVs, and the mothers who drove them were all on first-name terms. Dulwich College, Dulwich Preparatory School, Alleyn's, St. Genevieve's…they were only a stone's throw away from each other, but of course nobody threw stones at each other. Not in this part of town.
It was obvious from her appearance that Scarlett hadn't been born in England. Her parents might be Mr.
and Mrs. Typical Dulwich — her mother tall, blond, and elegant, her father looking like the lawyer he always had been, with graying hair, a round face, and glasses — but she looked nothing like them.
Scarlett had long black hair, strange hazel-green eyes, and the soft brown skin of a girl born in China, Hong Kong, or some other part of Central Asia. She was slim and small, with a dazzling smile that had gotten her out of trouble on many occasions. She wasn't their biological daughter. Everyone knew that.
She had known it herself from the earliest age.
She had been adopted. Paul and Vanessa Adams were unable to have children of their own, and they had found her in an orphanage in Jakarta. Nobody knew how she had gotten there. The identity of her birth mother was a mystery. Scarlett tried not to think about her past, where she had come from, but she often wondered what would have happened if the couple who had come all the way from London had chosen the baby in cot seven or nine rather than the one in cot eight. Might she have ended up planting rice somewhere in Indonesia or sewing Nike sneakers in some city sweatshop? It was enough to make her shudder…the thought alone.
Instead of which, she found herself living with her parents on a quiet street, just round the corner from North Dulwich Station, which was in turn about a fifteen-minute walk from her school. Her father, Paul Adams, specialized in international business law. Her mother, Vanessa, ran a travel company that put together packages in China and the Far East. The two of them were so busy that they seldom had time for Scarlett — or, indeed, for each other. From the time Scarlett had been five, they had employed a full-time housekeeper to look after all of them. Christina Murdoch was short, dark-haired, and seemed to have no sense of humor at all. She had come to London from Glasgow, and her father was a vicar. Apart from that, Scarlett knew little about her. The two of them got on well enough, but they had both agreed without actually saying it that they were never going to be friends.
One of the good things about living in Dulwich was that Scarlett did have plenty of friends and they all lived very nearby. There were two girls from her class on the same street and there was also a boy —
Aidan Ravitch — just five minutes away. It was Aidan who had prompted her to cross the road.
Aidan was in his second year at The Hall, yet another local private school, and had come to London from Los Angeles. He was tall for his age and good-looking in a relaxed, awkward sort of way, with shaggy hair and slightly crumpled features. There was no uniform at his school, and he wore the same hoodie, jeans, and sneakers day in, day out. Aidan didn't understand the English. He claimed to be completely mystified by such things as rugby, tea, and
English policemen in particular baffled him. "Why do they have to wear those stupid hats?" he would ask. He was Scarlett's closest friend, although both of them knew that Aidan's father worked for an American bank and could be transferred back home any day. Meanwhile, they spent as much time together as they could.
The accident happened on a warm, summer afternoon. Scarlett was thirteen at the time.
It was a little after four, and Scarlett was on her way home from school. The very fact that she was allowed to walk home on her own meant a lot to her. It was only on her last birthday that her parents had finally relented…until then, they had insisted that Mrs. Murdoch should meet her at the school gates every day, even though there were far younger girls who were allowed to face the perils of Dulwich High Street without an armed escort. She had never been quite sure what they were so worried about.
There was no chance of her getting lost. Her route took her past a flower shop, an organic grocer's, and a pub — The Crown and Grayhound — where she might spot a few old men, sitting in the sun with their lemonade shandies. There were no drug dealers, no child snatchers or crazed killers in the immediate area. And she was hardly on her own anyway. From half past three onward, the streets were crowded with boys and girls streaming in every direction, on their way home.
She had reached the traffic lights on the other side of the village — where five roads met with shops on one side, a primary school on the other — when she noticed him. Aidan was on his own, listening to music. She could see the familiar white wires trailing down from his ears. He saw her, smiled, and called out her name. Without thinking, she began to walk toward him.
The van was being driven by a twenty-five-year-old delivery man called Michael Logue. He would have to give all his details to the police later on. He was delivering spare parts to a sewing machine factory in Bickley and, thanks to the London traffic, he was late. He was almost certainly speeding as he approached the intersection. But on the other hand, the lights were definitely green.
Scarlett was about halfway across when she saw him, and by that time it was far too late. She saw Aidan's eyes widen in shock, and that made her turn her head, wanting to know what it was that he had seen. She froze. The van was almost on top of her. She could see the driver, staring at her from behind the wheel, his face filled with horror, knowing what was about to happen, unable to do anything about it.
The van seemed to be getting bigger and bigger as it drew closer. Even as she watched, it completely filled her vision.
And then everything happened at once.
Aidan shouted out. The driver frantically spun the wheel. The van tilted. And Scarlett found herself being thrown forward, out of the way, as something — or someone — smashed into her back with incredible force. She wanted to cry out, but her breath caught in her throat and her knees buckled underneath her. Somewhere in her mind, she was aware that a passerby had leaped off the sidewalk and that he was trying to save her. His arm was around her waist, his shoulder and head pressed into the small of her back. But how had he managed to get to her so fast? Even if he had seen the van coming and sprinted toward her immediately, he surely wouldn't have reached her in time. He seemed to know what was going to happen almost before it did.