Furious Jones and the Assassin’s Secret (2 page)

BOOK: Furious Jones and the Assassin’s Secret
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Great
, I thought as I scanned the room for my dad. I was hoping to sneak in and listen to my dad from the back of the room, where I wouldn't be noticed, and now I was standing next to the future president of the United States.

The ballroom lights flashed several times, warning everyone it was time to take their seats. Como shook a couple more hands, and his giant bodyguard started to guide us toward the stage.

It figured. We were headed toward the front row. There
would be no way for my dad to miss me now, sitting there in my T-shirt and jeans.

“You know,” I said to Como, “I'm feeling bad about taking your friend's ticket.”

“My friend?” Como asked. “Oh”—he chuckled a little—“Joe's not my friend.”

Then Como stopped and turned toward the bodyguard.

“No offense, Gary,” Como said to the bodyguard. “You and Joe do great work.”

“No offense taken, sir,” the giant bodyguard said in a deep, rumbling tone. So much for me trying to get out of this.

The bodyguard then motioned for us to enter the front row. “Our seats.”

Man, I knew it. We were sitting front and center. We were only a few feet from the podium that had been placed onstage.

“You might have heard that I'm running against Senator White for president,” Como said, leaning toward me. In a whisper he added, “The secret service detail is just part of the package.”

“Oh, the secret service. Of course,” I whispered.

I sat to the left of Como, and the secret service agent took the aisle seat to his right.

“That's kind of cool,” I said. “I mean, having your own secret service and all.”

“It is what it is,” Como replied. “In my line of work, you end up with a lot of powerful friends and powerful enemies.” Then he chuckled and added, “And sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

“Can you believe this turnout?” Como asked, looking back at the crowd as the ballroom lights dimmed.

I said nothing. I was starting to feel sick. I shouldn't be here. I needed to get out of here, but it was too late. A bright spotlight was suddenly shining on the podium, and a man was walking onto the stage.

CHAPTER TWO

G
ood evening and welcome,” said
the man onstage. “My name is Richard Olson and I'm the executive director for the New York Public Library. As always, I'd like to thank all of the Friends of the Library for your continued support. But I know you're not here to listen to me talk all night, so let's get right to it.

“We're here tonight to celebrate the forthcoming sixth book in the Carson Kidd series by the one and only Robert Jones.” The audience erupted into applause. “Kidd is the rough-and-tumble CIA assassin that has thrilled us, captivated us, and, on more than one occasion for me personally, robbed us of precious sleep as we lay awake turning pages.

“Kidd is tough,” Olson said with a laugh. “No doubt
about it. But he's also fair. He seems to have a strong sense of right and wrong. Time after time and book after book, he stands up for those who have been wronged. And, in his patented way, he believes in righting wrongs with whatever force is necessary.”

The crowd laughed and applauded politely.

“Now, I've had the good fortune to know Mr. Robert Jones for several years,” the speaker continued. “And, with the possible exception of the violence, I think Robert shares many of his lead character's traits. I've witnessed Robert help those around him. I've witnessed Robert right the wrongs and stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.

“And Robert has been a constant supporter of the library and many literacy programs not just here in New York, but across this great country.”

The audience gave another round of polite applause.

Olson continued, “And now, without further ado, please help me welcome Mr. Robert Jones.”

The applause grew even louder and the audience stood as my dad entered the spotlight and crossed the stage to the podium, waving to the crowd. He was about fifteen feet from me now. We hadn't been this close in seven months. Not since I'd stood next to him at my mom's funeral.

He looked tired and older than I remembered him. He had deep lines under his eyes, and his hair seemed thinner and lighter. He looked like he had aged ten years in seven
months. Could my mom's death have taken that big of a toll? He certainly had not been himself since her murder. He'd called me every few days after the funeral. And he had sounded different. Paranoid. He kept asking about my safety. Was Grandpa taking me to school every day? Did he have a police officer stay at the school? Had I received any strange phone calls or messages? He kept reminding me not to talk to strangers, like I was five years old. I don't know who was worse, my dad or my grandpa. My mom's murder must have taken a toll on both of them. Well, all of us, I guess.

My dad motioned for everyone to sit down. He still hadn't noticed me in the front row. The room was dark, and the spotlight was shining bright in his eyes. Maybe he couldn't see me, and I would get away with this after all.

The room quieted and we sat.

“Thank you. It's wonderful to see so many of you here tonight. And I'd like to thank Richard and the Friends of the Library for having me here tonight.

“As I look around this room,” my dad said, scanning the crowd, “and see so many familiar faces, it's hard to believe we've been doing this for over—”

My dad froze as our eyes met. The smile drained from his face.

“Ah,” he tried to continue. “It's, ah, hard to believe that I've been writing these books for over six years now.”

He stopped again and just stared at me. I had never seen
this expression before, but he didn't look happy to see me. The crowd started to look in my direction. And then my dad locked eyes with Attorney General Como. He stared at Como. And Como stared back. Then Como gave my dad a little wave.

My dad looked away. “And in another six years, I hope to be doing this still. I think Carson has a lot of adventures left in him.”

He paused again. He looked over at me again. And then he looked down at the podium.

He said nothing.

Thirty seconds passed.

A minute passed.

A murmur started to grow from the crowd.

But he just kept staring at the podium.

I had never seen him like this.

He looked broken.

Sad.

Scared.

My dad was never scared.

Was this because of me?

What should I do?

Should I get up and go? Would he follow me? Could he? He had a room full of people here to see him. Maybe I could get back to my grandpa's house before he called. I could explain it all to my grandpa and apologize. He would see that I was okay, and I'd promise never to do it again.

I was just about to stand up when he looked forward and continued talking.

“Kidd's newest adventure has its roots in Chicago,” he finally spoke. “And by definition, Chicago stinks. In the language of the Potawatomi Indian tribe, the word ‘Chicago' literally means ‘wild and smelly onion.' In the Algonquian tribe, the word ‘Chicago' means ‘smells bad.'

“The one thing historians and scholars are unclear about, however, is whether those early dwellers were referring to the wild leeks that were abundant along the river, or if it was early social commentary describing corrupt Chicago politics and the infestation of the Sicilian mafia.”

The crowd started to laugh, and I stood up and walked toward the aisle.

“The new book opens in a small Illinois town,” my dad said. Then he let out a large sigh. “And I've got to tell you, this is far and away my darkest and most twisted book to date. I mean, there is some truly sick stuff happening in this small town. And Carson meets his match in this book. I think the readers will be surprised—”

He paused as I started walking up the main aisle. I could feel people turning to look at me now. I tried not to make eye contact with any of them.

“Ah,” my dad muttered. “Carson discovers that . . .” He paused again. “Let's just say sometimes it is hard to tell your enemies from your friends.”

I stopped in the darkness.

That was odd. That was almost identical to the thing Attorney General Como had said. I turned back toward my dad when—

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

CHAPTER THREE

T
hree quick explosions thundered through
the ballroom, and I watched my dad fall to the stage floor. I let out a scream, and then, as if time had slowed, I saw Gary, Como's secret service man, stand up. The spotlight lit his body as he stood. He had a gun in his hand and started to point it across the room, looking for the shooter.

My eyes followed the path of the gun. It pointed to a skinny man in a leather jacket standing off to the side. The skinny man's slicked-back hair shimmered in the spotlight. Did he have a gun? Had he just shot my dad?

Several more explosions rang out. These were faster and higher-pitched. Blood and brain matter seemed to hang in the air where the head of the man with the slicked-back hair
had been. Then, as if someone had pushed a fast-forward button, the room erupted in chaos. People were screaming. People were crying and climbing over chairs and one another.

A mass of bodies filled the aisle and swept me out the ballroom doors.

I saw Joe, the other secret service agent, fighting the crowd in an effort to get into the ballroom. His gun was drawn, and he was shoving people out of his way. I ran down a hall I didn't recognize. And then another hall. There was a door with an
EXIT
sign. I went through the door and found myself in an alley.

I fell to the ground and grabbed my face and started to cry.

“Oh, god! Oh, god!”

I stopped and looked around. With no one in sight, I cried harder.

“Oh my god,” I cried. “Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god.”

I tried to stop but couldn't. My eyes stung. My nose was running. Not here. Not like this.

Pull yourself together, Furious!

I sat up and wiped my nose on my sleeve. I could hear sirens coming from every direction. I wondered if I should go back inside and help my dad. There had been so much blood. There was no way he was still alive. I looked toward the street, and cop cars were trying to cut through the crowd of people in the street in front of the hotel. I needed to leave.
They would call my grandpa soon, and he would panic when he couldn't find me. I couldn't do that to him. He had already been through so much. And I didn't want him to know I'd lied to him. I had to try to get home before he got the call.

I crossed Fifth and looked back toward the hotel. A half-dozen cop cars were blocking the street, and people were pouring out of the front door. I turned and headed to the corner subway station. I could take the subway to Grand Central and then catch a train back to my grandpa's house in New Canaan.

I made my way down to the subway platform. The lights in the station were bright and my eyes burned from crying. I closed my eyes for a second and pictures of my dad's body hitting the stage were vivid in my mind. I could see the blood on his dress shirt, face, and hair. I tried to replace the image, but I knew it was pointless. I had no control over the way my screwed-up mind retained images. The picture of my dad's dead body would stick forever. Every detail would sit right next to the image I saw of my mom's dead body.

A train raced into the station and came to a quick stop. I got on and headed to the back of the car. I sprawled out on a double seat and stared out the window.

It was uncanny, I realized. My mom and dad had been killed in almost the exact same way. Three shots to the body. Both of them killed at hotels.

I wasn't there when my mom was killed. She had left me
with my grandpa while she went to some small Illinois tourist town called Galena. I guess that was the first sign that something was wrong. She had never left me behind. My mom traveled for business, and I always went with her. We had been all over the world together. But she'd been acting very strange before the trip to Galena. She had even reached out to my dad, something she had never done in the six years they had been divorced. If there was anyone on the planet tougher than my dad, it was my mom. And I was positive something was wrong as she pulled out of my grandpa's driveway. She seemed nervous. Like we were saying good-bye for the last time. And it turned out we were.

Most of what I knew about my mom's murder came from what I read in the
Galena Gazette
. Which wasn't much. The
Gazette
ran a picture of my mom's bloody body on the sidewalk in front of the DeSoto House Hotel in downtown Galena. The sheriff was quoted as saying that a car pulled up and someone opened fire. That was it. The whole thing was over in a matter of seconds, and he said that my mom had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I never really believed that.

The article went on to say that, until very recently, Galena hadn't had a murder since the Chicago gangster Al Capone had used the area as a hideout seventy years ago. So it's not like drive-by shootings happened all the time there. Galena was a little town of six hundred people and
no recorded violence. The shooting was not random. She was killed on purpose. But why?

My mom was an accountant. We had moved around so much, neither of us had friends, much less enemies. And judging by how nervous my dad and grandpa had been since her death, they didn't seem to believe it was random either. And now my dad was dead too.

Someone was hunting my family.

I got off at Grand Central to transfer to the New Haven line. I looked at my phone. It was 8:09 p.m. and it was an hour ride to New Canaan. The next train left at 8:30. I sat down on a bench and pushed my hair back. It immediately fell over my eyes. My long hair always bothered my dad.

BOOK: Furious Jones and the Assassin’s Secret
4.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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