Authors: Zoe Sharp
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #England, #Florida, #Bodyguards, #Thriller
Charlie Fox book four
For Andy, who’s absolutely convinced . . .
This book was softly persuaded into the digital domain by the book-loving geeks at
Cover design by
is the fourth in Zoë Sharp’s highly acclaimed Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox crime thriller series, now available in e-format for the first time, complete with author’s notes, excerpt from the next Charlie Fox – ROAD KILL – and a bonus excerpt from Blake Crouch’s novel, RUN.
‘The guy in the passenger seat was closest. He got out first, so I shot him first. Two rounds high in the chest.’
It should have been an easy introduction to Charlie Fox’s new career as a bodyguard. In fact, it should have been almost a working holiday. She just has to look after the gawky fifteen-year-old son of a rich computer programmer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trey Pelzner is theme park mad and in theory all Charlie has to do is baby-sit him on the rollercoasters.
The last thing anyone expected was a determined attempt to snatch the boy, or that Trey’s father and their entire close protection team – including Charlie’s boss, Sean Meyer – would disappear off the face of the earth at the same time.
Now somebody out there wants the boy badly and they’re prepared to kill anyone who gets in their way. Evading them, in a strange country, takes all the skill and courage Charlie possesses.
As she soon discovers, once you’ve hit the first drop there’s no going back, and you’d better hang on tight because you’re in for a wild ride.
Nominated for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel.
‘Sharp’s aim is dead on in her stunning US debut, the fourth book to star ultra-cool biker chick Charlie Fox. The no-nonsense, 26-year-old Charlie, a former British Army soldier (and survivor of a gruesome gang rape) has joined the protection agency of her ex-lover, Sean Meyer. On her first assignment, Charlie finds herself on a too thrilling roller-coaster ride in Florida, guarding geeky 15-year-old Trey Pelzner, son of Keith, a computer whiz working for a small software company specializing in accounting and data manipulation. After an attempt is made on Trey’s life, Charlie calls for backup that turns out to be anything but and soon discovers that Keith – the developer of a faulty stock indicator program – has vanished, as has Sean. Action-packed, tightly plotted and with an irresistible first-person narration, this crisp, original thriller should win Sharp (
, etc.) plenty of American fans.’
Publishers Weekly starred review
Don’t miss the bonus material at the end of FIRST DROP:
For the third time that morning I shut my eyes tight in the absolute and certain knowledge that I was just about to die. Around me, people were screaming. Lots of people, but the prospect of dying in company did nothing to alleviate the terror.
My stomach lurched as we started to fall. Actually, fall doesn’t begin to describe our horrifying descent. Plummet was more like it. An endless roaring plunge. My hair whipped at my forehead, the sheer punch of the wind pulling my cheeks back to bare my teeth in a final death-mask travesty of a smile.
I just prayed that the expression didn’t stay with me
. Otherwise, although I was unquestionably about to die young, it seemed I was destined
to leave a beautiful corpse.
Then we bottomed out, the rollercoaster squatting into the compression. Before I’d time to be thankful I’d survived another first drop we crested a small rise and bowled into a left-hander so severe the wheels of the open car I was riding in seemed to bounce right out of their tracks and shimmy sideways towards the outside of the bend. Beyond the token piece of safety railing, it had to be at least fifty feet to the ground.
The coaster was constructed out of what had looked to my dubious eyes like a hastily nailed-together clutch of old railway sleepers. I tried to tell myself they were checked, religiously, every day, that the theme park owners would be fools to let anything happen to their paying customers. But in the back of my mind I could already hear the sober voice-over of the dramatic reconstruction after the accident.
And surely even wooden coasters weren’t supposed to rattle and shudder this much? We were vibrating so hard my eyesight was blurred. The graunching of timbers as we thundered over them was like the crepitus of broken bones grinding against each other. I knew without a doubt that the damned thing was shaking itself to pieces right underneath us. I could picture each popping nail.
Another bruising turn, another sudden downward swoop that left me tightening my grip on the handle on the seat back in front of me. The chicken bar. As we’d climbed the first lift hill I’d mentally sworn that, no matter what, I would not give in and grab hold of it. Right now I didn’t care.
“Jesus Christ!” I yelped.
In the seat alongside, Trey Pelzner stopped waving his arms in the air and whooping just long enough to throw me the kind of utterly contemptuous glance that only fifteen-year-old boys can truly master.
, it said.
I’d spent the last few days trying to be cool in front of the kid. Trying to be on his level. Trying to be his friend. Someone he really didn’t mind hanging out with instead of grudging, enforced company.
Having started to go downhill, things took on a momentum all of their own. Much like a rollercoaster, I suppose. But without the ups.
In this case, the line of cars was grabbed by its final set of brakes and we slowly clattered back into the station. Had we not paid fifty dollars a head for the privilege of getting into the park, torture sessions like this would have been banned by the Geneva Convention.
As soon as the thrills ceased, Trey’s animation went with it. He dropped back into morose silence like someone had just unplugged him. If sullen equated to cool, then he was the coolest kid there by miles.
I’d already sussed out enough ride etiquette to know that you were supposed to look bored to tears on the way in and out. It was only during the minute or so of terror that masqueraded as fun were you allowed to squeal and wave your arms. In fact, it was almost obligatory. Holding on for grim death was the ultimate
. In teenage terms, I’d just ordered Pot Noodle at a three-star Michelin restaurant.
The cars stopped, the lap bars unlocked, and we followed the distorted tannoy directions to please exit to the right, being sure to take all our personal belongings with us. I did my best not to snarl at the manically cheery additional instruction that we were to enjoy the rest of our day here at Adventure World, Florida!
We were carefully funnelled through the ride-related gift store on the way out. The park’s designers had been masters of merchandising as much as the harnessing of kinetic energy. Mostly it seemed that these places were stocked with the same array of hats and shirts as at the other attractions in the park, allowing the wearer to proclaim to the world that they’d ridden and survived.
It wasn’t just a kiddy trap, either. I’d noticed people who should have been old enough to know better riding the rides and buying the T-shirts. If age isn’t supposed to bring sense it should at least have brought a little dignity.
As for Trey, he seemed determined to flick through every single rack of clothing. Perhaps he’d seen me rubbing the goose bumps on my arms and just wanted to make me stay out of the sun that bit longer. I’d come to Florida told to expect temperatures in the eighties, even in March, but nobody had warned me about the air conditioning. Every store and restaurant had the dial set so low that if let your drink stand for long enough ice formed on the top.
“Hey, I want one of these.”
I sighed, moving away from the door with its promise of baking heat just a few feet outside. Trey was near the back of the store by a rack of leather jackets, holding one up by the collar. It was glossy black, with the Adventure World logo beautifully embroidered across the back panel. A lovely piece of work, and no doubt worth every cent of the three hundred and fifty dollar price tag I could see dangling from the cuff. Except for the fact that it was at least four sizes too big.
Before we’d set out from the house that morning, Trey’s father, Keith Pelzner had handed me a folded wedge of cash with the casual instruction that I should buy the boy whatever he wanted.
“Anything?” I’d asked, riffling my thumb across the edges of the bills and realising just how many of them were hundreds.
He’d shrugged. “Yeah, sure,” he’d said, with the air of someone whose current financial status means that large amounts of money can be frittered on an adolescent whim. But even he had paused at the open doubt in my voice, and grinned at me as he’d added, “Within reason.”
Now, I eyed Trey for a second to see if he was joking, but there was nothing funny in the mulish scowl. Mind you, the braces he wore to coach his teeth into perfect alignment would probably have been enough to wipe the smile off anyone’s face.