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Out of the shadows
by Carol Hedges
Teenage wannabe spy Jazmin Dawson is back after being set a crucial mission by her secret-agent mum to befriend a crucial witness in a case of international identity theft. When the witness vanishes, its up to Jazmin to enter a deadly race against time to get him back.
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The shiny big Mercedes sped down the Avenue des Champs Élysées. It turned into the Place de la Concorde. The small black ATV followed it, maintaining a discreet three-car distance. Autumn sunlight danced on the river Seine as the two cars crossed over the Pont de la Concorde.
“He’s heading for St-Germain-des-Près!” Field Agent Stash McGregor said excitedly. His partner Suki Smith gripped the wheel of the ATV. Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the road ahead.
The Mercedes began overtaking the cars streaming along the Boulevard Saint Germain. Even by Parisian standards, this was totally unacceptable behaviour. Horns blasted, voices were raised and fists waved out of windows.
“Stay with him!” Stash exclaimed.
Suki edged the ATV out, weaving it skilfully through the traffic.
“Watch out – he’s making a left turn!” Stash warned, as the Mercedes suddenly swerved off the busy main road, and into a quiet side street. Gritting her teeth, Suki spun the wheel and followed, trying to keep up with the much faster quarry.
At the edge of the pavement, an old man stood waiting. He wiped his coffee-stained moustache on the sleeve of his soft check shirt. Under his arm, he carried a wooden box of chess pieces. He was just about to cross over when the Mercedes shot into view.
The old guy stepped back, muttering angrily. The car sped by. For a few seconds, however, he had locked eyes with the man sitting in the back seat. He stared down the street at the receding car. The colour drained from his face, leaving it as grey as the locks of hair that straggled limply over his collar. Slowly, as if in a daze, he stepped off the kerb, just as the black ATV slammed round the corner. There was a cry, a squeal of brakes, followed by a dull thud. Then silence.
The Mercedes sped on towards the Luxembourg quarter. The driver checked his rear-view mirror, then half-turned in his seat. He spoke in Russian to the rear passenger, “On ot nas ushol, boss.”
“Yes, we have lost them,” the man agreed. His eyes glittered. “But it looks like we have just found someone else,” he added softly. And he smiled, showing two rows of gleaming white teeth.
For much of her life, Jazmin Dawson’s professional aspirations were simple: she wanted to be a secret agent and a crime fighter; she wanted to wear a sexy outfit and carry a cool weapon. And right now, she had a further ambition: she wanted to be taller.
Jazmin stood in front of the bathroom mirror, brush in one hand, styling wax in the other. This had better work, she told herself grimly. She was so fed up with being teased because of her height. Or rather, her lack of it. She spent some time waxing and backcombing and pinning up her shoulder-length, curly brown hair. Then she surveyed herself in the mirror once more. Uh-huh. That was better. At least now she had tall hair.
Jazmin returned to her room, walking awkwardly as she tried to prevent her hair from obeying gravity and heading shoulder-wards. She really really hated being small. “Petite”, her mum Assia called her. Yeah, right. That was the polite way of describing it. There were plenty of other ways. Jazmin knew many of them only too well, thanks to a certain gang of girls at her school who were experts in verbal knifeage, and who really needed to get a life and stop ruining other people’s. Petite sucked. It was totally un-fun. She scrunched up her face in an expression of disgust. Her mum had no idea how the real world worked, she thought to herself sadly. In the real world, tall girls got to have their pick of everything. The vertically challenged merely got picked on.
Migrating to the kitchen, Jazmin helped herself to cereal while reading the note her mum had left propped up against the milk carton: Working late – will bring pizza. Her mum always brought pizza when she was working late. It was kind of a bribe, the subtext of which ran: “I got your favourite food, so in return, please don’t moan at me.” Jazmin sighed. Her mum had been working late quite a bit recently, and Jazmin was beginning to go off pizza.
Not that she was complaining, she reminded herself. She understood how important her mum’s work was. And she was proud of her. Not many girls had a mother who was a Senior Field Agent for the ISA – the International Security Agency, a branch of the Global Intelligence Department. A mother who went on special assignments all over the world, some of which involved working undercover and carrying weaponry.
Jazmin drank some juice and tried to pretend to herself that she didn’t have to go to the learning centre today.
She hated the learning centre. Nobody liked her there.
The facilitators didn’t like her, because she daydreamed her way through their lessons and never completed her homework assignments on time. The other girls didn’t like her, because however hard she tried to blend (and to be truthful, she didn’t try that hard) she was different. She wasn’t a them-clone. At the learning centre, she was the outsider. An edge girl; she didn’t fit in.
To put off the evil moment of her departure, Jazmin allowed herself to slide into her favourite daydream, which featured her imaginary alter-ego Jaz Dawson, secret agent and kick-ass gorgeous crime fighter. Eyes narrowing, she mentally checked out her well-stocked utility belt: gun, cartridge case, cuffs, pepper spray, taser and assorted knives (for medical emergencies only). Dressed in black lycra (with pink side-stripes), she visualized herself engaging in awesome martial arts stunts, while single handedly saving the world from evil and total annihilation.
Eventually, however, she could put off the moment no longer. Reluctantly dragging herself away from her gun-toting imaginary self and back into the real world, she got up from her chair and slowly went to locate her coat. Then she made her way to the ground floor.
Jazmin opened the door and stepped out. Straight into a large puddle. Eugh. She stared down at her shoes. They were soaked. How come she hadn’t bothered to look out of the window and notice it was raining? She checked her watch. Unh – mental head slap! She was going to be late. And there was no time now to go back and change her footwear. And she had forgotten to bring her umbrella too.
Jazmin set off down the road at a brisk run. It was raining so hard that the drops were probably having to queue. Her perfectly styled hair was rapidly turning into a soggy bird’s nest, and her feet were making little squelchy sounds with each step.
Oh boy, another perfect day in Paradise, she thought ruefully.
The old man opened his eyes. He was lying on his back, in a bed. It was not his own bed. At the foot of the bed, a young woman in a black T-shirt was sitting on a blue plastic chair. She wore a khaki combat vest and green cargo pants. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail and she looked like she probably worked out in her spare time. He cut his eyes at her. The young woman was neat-featured, pretty. He grinned. “Zut! I must’ve died and gone to heaven,” he joked.
The young woman raised her eyebrows. “I don’t think so,” she said, her lips curving into the ghost of a smile.
“No? So where am I then?”
“The British Hospital in Levallois, Monsieur Brun.”
The old guy’s eyes widened. “Merde! Who’s paying?”
He regarded her suspiciously. “Eh – we are?” he repeated.
“We assume you don’t have private health insurance.”
“And ‘we’ would be...?”
“My partner and I.” The young woman leaned forward, an
expression of concern upon her face. “Do you remember what happened to you, monsieur?”
His eyes vague and unfocused, the old man trawled through his memory. “I was crossing the road,” he said. “There was a big Mercedes and I...and then there was another car and...” He cut the young woman a sharp sideways glance. “You were driving the other car. You ran into me!” he said indignantly.
Suki bent her head in acknowledgement of the accusation. “I’m so sorry, monsieur,” she said. “You stepped straight off the kerb without looking. Thank goodness you weren’t really badly hurt. All you’re suffering from is mild concussion and some bruising to your left side from where you fell in the road.”
The old man lifted the crisp white sheets and peered down at his body. “Well, would you believe it?” he murmured wonderingly. “And there I was thinking...” He broke off, looked up at her, “And my chess pieces?”
“Are all here in your locker, quite safe,” the young woman reassured him.
He sighed resignedly. There was a brief silence. Then he said, “Always the same, you youngsters. Why d’you drive so fast?”
“I don’t usually,” Suki said. “We just happened to be on a pursuit.”
He glanced at her. “Cops?”
“In a way,” Suki said obscurely.
“Who were you after?”
Suki didn’t reply. He gave her a narrow-eyed look. “The Mercedes?” he said, and when Suki still failed to respond, he remarked quietly, “The man in the back, it was Nikolai Arkady, wasn’t it?”
Suki stared at him in disbelief. “How do you know that?”
“I saw him.”
Suki frowned, “I mean, how do you know Nikolai Arkady?”
He shrugged, eyeing her speculatively, as if working her out, deciding whether he could trust her or not.
Puzzled, Suki shook her head. “I don’t understand. You’re just a—”
“Stupid old Frenchman who can’t manage to cross a road without getting knocked over,” the old man finished her sentence for her. “Yes, right, I am now. And my name is Jean Brun, like it says on my ID card.” He paused. Again his expression changed, becoming withdrawn and remote, as if he were going through some immense inner struggle. Suki sat still, silently watching him. Minutes passed. At length, he seemed to reach a decision. “But once upon a time, there was a then,” he said quietly. “And then, my name was Ivan Kirilovitch, and I worked at the Arkadia Clinic with that man’s father, Boris Arkady.”
Suki’s mouth dropped open; her eyes widened in shock. “But you can’t be,” she gasped. “I’ve seen the FSB report. Dr. Kirilovitch is dead. He died in a horrific car accident ten years ago!”
There was a long pause. Neither of them moved. The room fell so quiet you could hear the air-conditioning humming. So quiet you could almost hear their hearts beating.
Then the old man looked up at Suki, and his eyes were suddenly steady and glass-clear.
“Yes, well, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you read,” he said quietly.
Carol Hedges is the successful author of several books for children and teenagers. Her writing has received much critical acclaim and her novel, Jigsaw, was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
Carol has one grown-up daughter and lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, two cats and a lot of fish.
Do you agree or disagree with the reviews below? Why not write your own?
A great book
This is such a great book! I had my head in it until the finish it was so amazing!!!:)
Alexandra, 20th October 2011
Spy Girl - Out of the Shadows
Jazmin Dawson has her own problems in life, what with the girl gang at school and homework, but she still gets involved in her secret-agent mum's business and turns out to be a crucial part of the agent team befriending a witness of an international identity theft. I like this book because you see what is happening from Jazmin's point of view and her agent mum's point of view. I also like the way the author solves all of the problems of normal life through Jazmin. This story is packed full of adventure, drama and comedy and is perfect for someone who is looking for a book to keep them busy. I would recommend this book to 10-13 year old girls, especially those who love a good adventure book. By Grace Plane 12
Grace Plane, 22nd June 2008
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