Knightley and Son (9781619631540)

BOOK: Knightley and Son (9781619631540)
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For my wife & son

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Prologue

The Code

He opened the cover and found the first page. The book felt substantial and had a good weight to it, despite being slim enough for the casual reader. The cover had a striking symbol and a catchy title:
The Code
. It felt both old and new. He rarely read outside of the classroom, but this book was strangely inviting. Besides, he’d heard it was good from all the buzz on the Internet.

He traced his finger over the first sentence. It was clear and concise:

 

 

Intrigued, he continued reading.

 

 

Lee clamped his knees tightly around the school bag at his feet and shuffled into a private corner between two book displays. He didn’t want to be interrupted. He looked around, making a brief survey of the other customers. What if one of his classmates saw him? It was a self-help book, after all. He could always blame it on his mom—and Christmas wasn’t far away. She might want to read it too. He loosened the tie of his school uniform, twanged his dental braces, and kept reading.

 

 

Inner voice? His mom would have a fit if she found this on his bedside table. But it felt good. And as the book said, if it feels good, it must be right.

His eyes scanned over the sentences, faster and faster, flicking from left to right and back again. He could almost feel it working on him, sending tiny electrical charges around his head, unlocking his potential, and delivering a pleasant shiver of excitement at the same time. He suddenly saw it all clearly: success, fame, and his wildest dreams come true. This was the moment he would remember when he was lying on a beach somewhere, with perfect teeth. He kept reading voraciously, covering the first few pages in less than a minute, consuming every last piece of wisdom the text had to offer. Then he stopped.

“Ouch!”

He felt a sting as he turned the page. A paper cut? But there wasn’t any blood.

Then he noticed it, crawling away from the spine toward the corner of the page: a scorpion. Just like the one from biology class. He blinked. It couldn’t be. But the black creature continued scuttling across the margin, making a clicking sound, and dropped over the edge.

He stared at the book, transfixed, as another bug emerged from behind the cover; then a centipede calmly headed in the opposite direction. A spider followed it: a big one, draped in brittle hair. And another insect he didn’t even recognize. And another.

“Wha—?”

Lee dropped the book as a swarm of insects fell out of the pages, turning it into a black, moving mass. It hummed with activity, the chorus of a hundred tiny clicks, as all manner of creatures came spilling out of it.

“Someone . . . help!”

He backed away from the display stand, tripping over his school bag and splaying his arms to regain his balance.

He looked down at his hands and saw more insects appearing from his shirtsleeves, running up the arms of his school uniform.

“Help me!”

He half fell through another display, sending rows of new releases collapsing to the floor. His yells escalated to full-blown screams as the insects covered his whole body, racing up his tie, inside his collar, secreting themselves on his person, burrowing into every corner.

Other customers spun around, confused, awoken from their browsing.

A store assistant quickly moved away from the cash register to locate the source of the disturbance.

Lee was writhing on the floor, surrounded by books, clawing at his clothes and kicking his legs in all directions, fighting off an unseen enemy. The store assistant broke through the circle of onlookers, quickly assessed the situation, then knelt down and tried to place a book between the boy’s teeth.

“G-get them off me!” Lee cried out, desperately pointing all around himself.

The onlookers stared down at him, baffled, then exchanged concerned glances—because he was pointing into thin air. There was no enemy attacking him. There was nothing there.

Away from the gathering crowd and the overturned displays, a copy of
The Code
sat forgotten on the floor, clean and inviting, its glossy cover and symbol reflecting in the fluorescent lighting.

Chapter 1

The Knightleys

In a private room in a quiet suburb outside London, Alan Knightley slept a dreamless sleep. This condition was not unusual for a patient who had been asleep for over four years. Experts said he was somewhere between a coma and a trance. Some such patients dreamed and some did not—at least, that was according to the ones fortunate enough to wake up.

Although he was forty-eight years old, Knightley still had a freshness and youth about his face, with no gray hair to speak of. The doctors assumed this was due to the sheer amount of uninterrupted rest he’d enjoyed during his interminable stay at Shrubwoods Hospice. Despite an occasional flutter of the eyelids or an even more occasional grunt, he showed no sign of waking up any time soon.

Several tubes and wires protruded from the sleeves of his gown, running along the side of the bed and connecting to an intravenous drip and an ECG machine, which displayed a pulsing green line resembling a distant mountain range. At the end of the bed, a clipboard read:
Knightley, Alan
.

His hair was neatly combed back to reveal sharp, if not conventionally handsome, features. He had a wide, knowledgeable brow; an angular nose interrupted by two slight bumps that indicated he had, on occasion, encountered opponents who could not be reasoned with; and a jaw that was proud and composed even while unconscious.

His room had an old TV angled the wrong way, and beyond that a window looked out over neatly manicured lawns, hedges, and a dense outcropping of trees. There was only one picture on the wall: a child’s painting of a father and son, which made up for its lack of formal skill with its bold use of color and unusual attention to detail. Both figures wore a suit and tie; the father’s suit was red and the son’s green.

Darkus Knightley, the smaller figure from the picture, sat patiently by his father’s bedside. He was older now, but he wasn’t embarrassed by the painting that hung over him. It reminded him of how far he’d come in the past four years, leading up to his thirteenth birthday—a hollow affair that had taken place a month earlier. His father, on the other hand, was still lying in the exact same position he always did, impervious to the passage of time, hardly moving a muscle: the cause of his condition as yet unknown.

As chance would have it, Darkus was wearing green, just like in the picture; to be precise, it was a forest-green tweed vest and jacket ensemble that was somewhat ahead of his years. His shoes were highly polished brogues. His sharp blue eyes, neatly parted hair, and angular nose and ears also made him seem older than his years—certainly different from your average thirteen-year-old.

Without warning, he began to speak aloud, apparently from memory, for there was no printed matter in evidence.

“Last week I examined the Curious Case of the Amber Necklace,” Darkus began. “I found the line of reasoning clear and well laid out, but its conclusions were lacking.” He paused and watched his father’s closed eyelids for any kind of response. Seeing none, he continued. “If there
was
a larger organization responsible for its disappearance, I see no hard evidence to prove it . . .” He paused again, watching his father the way a fisherman watches the still surface of a lake, waiting for a ripple that means the bait has been taken. He received no such ripple.

BOOK: Knightley and Son (9781619631540)
10.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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