CHAPTER ONE STRANGE TALENTS
Jimmy knew what was coming, but he was too late to dodge out of the way. Georgie pounced on him and they both landed with a thump on the bed. She moved quickly, and easily locked her arm round Jimmys neck. Then she dug her knuckles into the top of his head, kneeling over him. Not again, Jimmy thought. All these years he had never been able to escape his sisters hold.
Looks like Im still bigger than you! Georgie jeered. It was true Jimmy was waiting for a growth spurt. But he never gave in easily.
I dont care! Get out my room! he roared.
I need your computer.
She released him and casually took a seat at Jimmys desk. Is Westminster Bridge actually part of Westminster, or does it just go to Westminster? she asked.
Find a tramp at Westminster Bridge, Jimmy suggested, a huge smile on his face. Hed tell you. And hed probably smell like you too; you could be really good friends.
Thats it youre done for. She was at him again. This time she pinned him down even harder and pulled his hair. Even though he knew she was just messing around, it still hurt.
Mum! Jimmy cried.
Im not doing anything! Georgie shouted in response.
Jimmy flapped his arms about and slapped his sister on the back a couple of times, but it didnt do any good. Then they heard the familiar pounding on the wall from next door, followed by their father shouting up the stairs.
Keep it down. Youre disturbing Mr Higgins.
I hate that old weirdo, muttered Georgie. It was remarkable how a next door neighbour who claimed to be nearly deaf could have such sensitive hearing.
Jimmy was still struggling. But then, without knowing why, he stopped moving for a split-second. Suddenly, his right arm scooped up underneath his sisters body as fast as it would move. She lost her balance and had to release Jimmys head. But his arm kept going. Georgie flipped backwards into the air and landed on the bed with a splat, gawping straight up at the ceiling.
They were both stunned. Jimmy stared at his hands. Then he laughed and straightened his hair.
Georgie was not impressed. What was that? she shouted, but before she could grab him, Jimmy had run out of the room and made it to the stairs. Halfway down he started walking very sedately and caught his breath. In the living room, his parents were watching the news.
Whats all the noise about? his father shouted to no one in particular.
Jimmy bounced on to the sofa feeling very pleased with himself.
Your sister needs peace and quiet to work on her History project, his mother said sternly. Before Jimmy could think of the best way of answering, Georgie burst in.
We were just messing around, but then he started fighting properly.
Thats a lie! Jimmy was ready for action again, dying to have another go at what hed managed upstairs, but a chocolate wrapper hit him on the side of his head. He spun round to see his father watching the television, grinning. Jimmy knew hed never be able to return fire without his mother noticing, so he turned back to the television.
Oh forget it. Ill be in my room, announced Georgie, flustered and red in the face. She wasnt really upset was she? Jimmy wondered. Had he hurt her? He hadnt meant to.
Jimmys parents ignored Georgie flouncing upstairs. They were concentrating on the news. On the screen were pictures of Ares Hollingdale, the Prime Minister, walking around Downing Street, and then another man who looked a bit scruffier, but a lot younger. Jimmy wasnt paying much attention because he was so excited about getting the better of Georgie for once. Slowly, though, he became aware of his parents shifting uneasily in their seats whenever the younger, scruffier man appeared on the screen. Then Jimmys father looked straight at Jimmy and spoke quietly, but seriously, back to being a grown-up.
You should pay attention to this instead of the rubbish you always watch. Someone might form an opposition to the government again. He glared for a second at Jimmys mother, who replied, frowning.
Nobody knows whats going to happen in this country.
Jimmy considered this for a second, and thought to himself that nobody knows whats going to happen in any country. It was a stupid thing to say nobody could predict the future. Just then, the doorbell rang.
Jimmys father pushed himself up with a sigh.
You expecting someone? asked his wife.
He stood for a long time scratching his ear, then just said, No, and strode out to the front door.
Jimmys father manufactured bottle-tops for various soft drinks and beers. He often saw clients at home, but these meetings always took a long time and sometimes went on late into the night. Sometimes Jimmy heard shouting when he was in bed.
You dont think started Jimmys mother, but her husband had already left the room. She looked at Jimmy. Go upstairs and get ready for bed, she said tenderly.
What? said Jimmy. Its really early. And I've decided to watch the news. His mother didnt answer. She turned off the television and they both started listening to what was going on at the front door.
Oh, its you, Jimmys father said, I didnt expect
Can we come in, Ian? It was a mans voice, deep and flat.
Erm, of course. We werent expecting you. His father sounded nervous, and the other man cut him off.
Thanks, he said. The floorboards creaked and the door opened. The man who walked in was tall and broad, taller even than Jimmys father, and obviously in much better shape. He was tanned, and good-looking, but only smiling with one half of his mouth, a small smile that scanned the room and found Jimmy.
Hello, young man. You must be James. Before Jimmy could answer, his mother jumped up between them.
Please, she said with her hand out to distract the mans attention. Sit down. Please sit down.
The man looked at Jimmys mother and straightened his tie. It was a long black tie, thinner than the ones Jimmys father wore for work, and the mans suit was the same black. Helen, how lovely to see you again, he said, and sat where Jimmys father had been sitting.
Jimmy, go upstairs, said his father, who walked in and sat down awkwardly.
No, he can stay, Ian, said the man in the suit.
You havent started Jimmys mother, but the man cut her off.
Weve come for the boy.
There was silence.
Jimmy replayed in his mind what the man had just said: Weve come for the boy. What? Did that mean him, Jimmy Coates? Jimmy quickly went through the last few days in his head, or as much as he could manage on the spot, trying to remember if he had done anything wrong. But he was panicking and couldnt even think of what hed done that morning, let alone yesterday or the day before. Then Jimmy suddenly noticed another man, who was standing in the doorway. He was dressed the same way as the first man, but was not quite as tall or as tanned.
Jimmys father turned from one man to the other.
Youre early, he said, We thought
I know, the man interrupted again. This is the new arrangement. Weve come to get him. The man looked straight ahead, not round at Jimmy, and not at either of his parents. He was waiting for something. Finally Jimmys mother spoke and she surprised everyone.
Run, Jimmy, she gasped, her voice almost a whisper. She clutched at her throat and then shouted, JIMMY RUN!
For a tiny moment he didnt move. Everyones face was turned towards him. Jimmy looked at his father. He looked sad, but not scared like Jimmys mother. The terror in her voice made its way into Jimmys belly and connected with the confusion in his head. Then he was finally able to unfreeze his legs and throw himself towards the door.
The man standing there wasnt expecting such a burst of speed, and when Jimmys full weight hit him he was winded. Jimmy pulled open the front door. But what if there were other men in suits waiting for him outside? Leaving the front door open, Jimmy bolted to the stairs instead, sprinting up two at a time. He reached the top out of breath, and dashed into his bedroom.
Come to gloat? Georgie grumbled from the computer, but Jimmy didnt answer. Who was at the door? Jimmy could hardly hear her for all the blood rushing through his head. Then the regular beat of a big man pounding up the stairs hit him in the heart.
Call the police. Jimmy panted, diving under the bed.
What? gasped Georgie. Jimmy heard the door open and saw two sets of shiny black shoes pointing straight at him, like four vultures.
Hey, who are you? Georgie yelled. Get out!
Take her downstairs, ordered one of the men.
Police! Help! Georgies screams faded as she was carried away.
Then a face appeared next to Jimmys, leering down under the bed. It was the taller of the two men. His huge hand grabbed Jimmys shoulder and dragged him out. Jimmy stood rubbing his neck as the shorter man returned. There was no noise from downstairs. Why was everyone so quiet?
Why do you want me? he asked.
Why are you running? countered the taller man immediately.
I dont know who you are, said Jimmy.
You dont know who you are.
At first, Jimmy thought it was a slip of the tongue. Then he wasnt so sure.
I'm Jimmy Coates. My name is Jimmy Coates and I'm just a kid.
OK, Jimmy, I need you to come with us. You can trust me.
There is something very untrustworthy about a man who says Trust me. This mans eyes were the colour of steel, and from the way his shirt pulled across his chest, it looked like he was built of the stuff too. Jimmy stared back as hard as he could, and tried to look tough, but this wasnt a game. Jimmys throat tightened, and something behind his stomach stopped him breathing properly. It looked like he had no choice but to go with these men.
Maybe Jimmy hesitated just a little too long. The taller man dipped his hand into his jacket and Jimmy caught a glimpse of a pale leather holster. When the mans hand emerged, it was holding a gun.
I just need you to come with us, he stated coldly, but Jimmy couldnt take his eyes off the gun. It was the first one he had ever seen, and it was pointed straight at him.
All of a sudden, the feeling of utter fear behind his stomach turned into something else. Jimmy felt a surge of energy, as if some powerful piece of machinery had been turned on. It quickly spread through his whole body. It was something he had never felt before and he didnt know whether he liked it. In another moment, it bolted up the right side of Jimmys neck and wrapped itself around his head. At that moment he stopped thinking. His mind cleared and the feeling inside started acting for him. He dipped his body to one side and sprang forward. He was out of the line of fire now, and before the man could adjust, Jimmy put one hand on the gun and the other on the mans wrist. With a firm twist, he pushed the barrel up towards the ceiling and leaned down on the mans hand. There was a loud crack. The gun dropped to the floor and the man clasped his trigger finger in pain.
Jimmy had moved so fast that the shorter man hadnt had time to react, but now he leapt forward. Jimmy darted away from his desperate grasp, then kicked the gun under the bed. He looked towards the door, but both men stood in his way; even though one was hurt, he was still ready to act. His half-smile had turned into a grimace.
Jimmy was acting automatically by instinct, not by thought. It was like watching someone in a movie. He saw the men move and could predict exactly where they were going to go by the way their weight shifted across the floorboards. As they lumbered towards him, Jimmy took a light step to the side and leapt backwards.
He coiled his body into a ball and shut his eyes tight. The two men were stunned as Jimmy smashed through the window. Glass shattered everywhere and Jimmy felt it falling with him. The air was suddenly cold. He screwed his eyes shut harder and waited to hit the ground.
As he fell like a lump of stone, Jimmys brain crept back on. He had enough time for one thought to go through his head why had he jumped out of the window? There was a paved drive below, and now he was probably going to die, or at least break every bone in his body.
Then he hit the concrete.