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Authors: Fred Hiatt

Nine Days

BOOK: Nine Days
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This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2013 by Fred Hiatt
Jacket art copyright © 2013 by Debra Lill
Afterword copyright © 2013 by Ti-Anna Wang

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hiatt, Fred.
Nine days / Fred Hiatt. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: Tenth-graders Ethan and Ti-Anna go to Hong Kong seeking her father, an exiled Chinese democracy activist who has disappeared, and follow his trail to Vietnam and back, also uncovering illegal activity along the way. Includes author’s note and the history behind the novel written by the girl who inspired it.—provided by publisher
eISBN: 978-0-307-97727-4  [1. Missing persons—Fiction.
2. Voyages and travels—Fiction.  3. Dissenters—Fiction.  4. Human trafficking—Fiction.  5. Chinese Americans—Fiction.  6. Hong Kong (China)—Fiction.  7. Vietnam—Fiction.  8. Maryland—Fiction.]  I. Title.
PZ7.H495Nin 2013

Random House Children’s Books supports the
First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


To Nate


Monday, July 30, 9:15 a.m. (EDT)

Just outside Washington, D.C

Already the summer heat is defeating the wheezing air-conditioning unit in a third-floor bedroom window of an apartment in Bethesda, Maryland.

A fifteen-year-old girl in a T-shirt and shorts kicks off her sheet, rises and slips into the chair in front of her computer. While it boots up, she listens to make sure her mother is paying no attention. Tucking her long black hair behind one ear, she opens a document that a friend sent her sometime during the night.

It begins:
When Ti-Anna’s father disappeared

She reads on.

Rockville, Maryland

Seven miles to the north, a juvenile court judge enters the office behind her courtroom, slings her briefcase onto her desk, sets down her coffee and powers up her desktop.

Scrolling through the weekend’s accumulation of email, she
comes across a document in an attachment, with only a brief accompanying note. She sighs when she notes its length. She has other paperwork she should be doing. On Mondays she does not begin hearing cases until after noon.

But curiosity gets the better of her. Sipping her coffee through the plastic top, she clicks open the attachment.

Beijing, China

Halfway around the world, in a windowless, over-air-conditioned office deep in the intelligence agency headquarters of the People’s Republic of China, it is already Monday night.

A middle-aged man with gray-flecked hair and his necktie tucked into his shirt (a habit whenever he drinks tea) has set a printout of the same document on the metal desk before him. In fact, he has aligned two copies: one in English and, slightly off to the side, one that has been translated into Mandarin by the agency’s computers.

Because the computer routinely assigns the first few words of any document as its title, atop every page of the English edition is printed:

With a heavy sigh, he too begins to read.

Chapter 1

When Ti-Anna’s father disappeared, it wasn’t one of those sudden things. I didn’t see him get blown off a cliff or conked on the head and bundled into a windowless van. But he disappeared just the same, and Ti-Anna and I decided we had to do something about it.

It may seem, by the time I finish telling what happened, that that wasn’t the brightest decision. I ended up traveling halfway around the world without telling my parents. I nearly killed someone, and nearly got myself and my best friend killed too. And while we may not exactly have failed, we certainly didn’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish.

But every step of the way, it felt like I was doing the right thing, until we were in so deep that I wasn’t thinking anymore whether it was the right thing or not. I was just trying to survive, along with Ti-Anna.

Now my parents and the judge think I should be remorseful. I have to write how sorry I am, and if I’m not, I guess the judge could send me away.

So I know I should just write
Yes, I am remorseful
. How hard could that be?

But as I think about it all, I’m feeling a lot of different things. Of course I’m not delighted to have a cast on my leg. I’m remorseful about that. I wish I didn’t owe my parents so much money. And there’s definitely a lot I did along the way that I’m not proud of.

But can I honestly say I wouldn’t do it again? I don’t know. I really don’t.

So I’m going to write what happened, exactly as it happened, to the best of my honest recollection, from the very beginning, whether or not it looks good to the judge or anyone else.

When I’m done, maybe I’ll go back and stick in a lot of sorrys and take out a bunch of truth.

And maybe I won’t. I believe in the truth, maybe too much sometimes. In a way, that was how this whole thing started.

Chapter 2

Beginning at the beginning means taking you back to school—to Mr. Stoltz’s sleepy tenth-grade world history class, to be specific. I
remorseful about that. I apologize.

That’s where the story begins.

It was one of those groggy Washington afternoons in early May when just about everyone is staring at the clock and willing the buzzer to sound so they can get out of school.

I got into an argument about Mao Zedong.

Don’t jump to the conclusion that I’m a total nerd. I am not. I’m reasonably coordinated. I’m not terrible to look at. Maybe I’m not the most social kid in the world, but I have friends.

It is true that I don’t mind spending time by myself. I have two parents who love me, but they’re both absentminded physicists who are away at conferences a lot of the time. They had two kids, and then a long time after that they had me, and sometimes I think it slips their minds that there’s a third kid in the family.

Of course, my mother would deny that she’s absentminded and say that my saying she’s absentminded just proves I’m not a
good observer. Which I would say proves how absentminded she really is.

My older brother and sister love me, but they don’t live at home anymore. So over the years I’ve learned to entertain myself. I love to draw, and to read. I’ve dived into Greek mythology. Ancient writing systems. Aztec religion. Medieval war machines. Code-breaking during World War II.

And China. I wouldn’t call China a phase. I’ve been reading about China for a long time, and the more I learn, the more I want to know.

So when Mr. Stoltz called Mao “the father of his nation,” the George Washington of modern China, it set me off.

On certain subjects I feel strongly, and sometimes when I hear something dumb, or wrong, I can’t stop myself.

This was one of those times.

I raised my hand.

Mr. Stoltz sighed.

“Yes, Ethan?”

I said I didn’t recall that George Washington ever caused a famine that killed twenty million of his countrymen.

To which one of my classmates, a boy with expensive sunglasses whose father is a diplomat in the Chinese embassy, said I was being culturally insensitive, because Chinese people were proud of Mao and what he’d done for their country. Mao had brought China from the dark ages into the modern world, he said, and who was I to go against the Chinese people?

At that point I should have apologized and said I respect their point of view.

Instead I chose to inquire what kind of father would make his nation take a “Great Leap Forward” in which impoverished peasants had to turn their backyards into iron factories and melt down
their pots and pans so that before you knew it no one could cook dinner anymore.

And because that worked out so well, he tried something even crazier a couple of decades later (that’s right; no term limits in Communist China), which he called the Cultural Revolution. That involved getting young people to turn against their parents and even beat them, and punishing anyone who had any formal education.

I wasn’t quite as diplomatic as I might have been. Certainly it was more than Mr. Stoltz had bargained for. I’m sure he knew I was right; he knew what had happened in China during the Cultural Revolution.

But instead of backing me up, he just tried to calm us all down with a little sermon about different perspectives on history, and how we all need to be open to each other’s points of view.

When the bell rang, the diplomat’s son glared at me as he walked out, with a couple of his buddies following him and glaring too. That would have been the end of it if Ti-Anna hadn’t waited until everyone else had left the classroom and then come over to talk to me.

BOOK: Nine Days
6.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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