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Authors: Tom Hoyle

Thirteen

BOOK: Thirteen
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THIRTEEN

by TOM HOYLE

HOLIDAY HOUSE / NEW YORK

Copyright
©
Tom Hoyle 2014
First published in the United Kingdom in 2014 by Macmillan Children's Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited
First published in the United States of America in 2015 by Holiday House, New York
All Rights Reserved
HOLIDAY HOUSE is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
www.holidayhouse.com

ISBN 978-0-8234-3382-7 (ebook)w
ISBN 978-0-8234-3383-4 (ebook)r

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hoyle, Tom.
Thirteen / by Tom Hoyle.—First American edition.
pages cm
“First published in 2014 in the United Kingdom by Macmillan Children's Books, London”— Copyright page.
Summary: Targeted by a dangerous cult, thirteen-year-old Adam must save himself—and the rest of London—before the New Year begins.
ISBN 978-0-8234-3294-3 (hardcover)
[1. Cults—Fiction. 2. Survival—Fiction. 3. London (England)—Fiction. 4. England—Fiction.]
I. Title.
PZ7.1.H69Th 2015
[Fic]—dc23

2014028416

Any unauthorized duplication or exploitation of this electronic book edition constitutes copyright infringement and is subject to civil and criminal penalties.

prologue

In 1982 a sixteen-year-old boy from London was taken into care after attacking his parents. The boy's bedroom was filled with books, films and essays about the devil. One scribbled page had the title
The Great Book: A Prophecy
.

The boy's name was Michael Brown.

In 1996 he changed it to Coron.

By 1999 others were being drawn to Coron's message. At first, a handful of adults. Then more. Soon after, children began disappearing from the streets of London; many became members of the cult known as The People.

By 2013 Coron's Great Book ran to 1,138 pages. The following lines were underlined thirteen times: “By the time he is fourteen, the boy has become a man. . . . Thirteen is the last year of childhood. . . . The boy must be killed before he is a man.”

part one
1
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31, 1999

A man clasped the sharp end of a sword, raising it above his head. The blade cut into his hands, sending a web of blood down his arms and across his T-shirt. Drops fell onto the cold tarmac of the hospital car park.

In the distance a group of kids could be heard singing rowdily. It was the last five minutes of the millennium: 11:55 p.m. on Friday, December 31, 1999.

The man edged the sword higher, upright, far above his head. He muttered what sounded like an incantation, then strode toward the bright lights of the entrance.

Inside the hospital, four floors up, a young mother was giving birth. A nurse and a doctor stared at the tiny head that was emerging. “Well done. Keep pushing. That's it. Push hard.”

The mother gave a growl-like scream through her teeth. “How much longer?” she moaned.

“Nearly there. One more push.”

Shoulders appeared. Then a tiny chest.

Fireworks crackled outside, and waves of cheering echoed through the windows. Singing could be heard from somewhere within the hospital: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind. . . .” Then, “Happy New Year!” The deep chimes of Big Ben drifted in from a television nearby.

Finally, and quickly, the rest of the baby boy slid out.

The nurse lifted Baby Adam onto his mother so that she could hold her damp, bawling son. His fingers curled around hers as he calmed, listening to her heartbeat.

“Well done, Kylie. You have a gorgeous, healthy boy,” the nurse said.

The nurse looked down at her watch. She wrote some details, then added another line: “Born exactly at midnight at the start of the new millennium.” The doctor gave a cheerful farewell and quickly left the room, pleased to be able to join the celebrations outside on the ward.

The newborn nestled into his mother's chest, and she held him close. Kylie was very young, still only sixteen, and not entirely sure of the identity of the boy's father. She smiled, happy for the first time in weeks, and tickled the baby's cheek with her knuckle. The birth had been easier than expected, and on exactly the due date, just.

There was another burst of noise from outside: giggling nurses flirting with a couple of grinning doctors. Fireworks continued across the city, just as they did up and down the country. Closer, Kylie heard another noise, faintly rising up through the lift shaft outside her room.

Four flights below, in the entrance hall of the hospital, a man was striking wildly at the button for the lift with the hilt of a sword.

Thump. Thump. Thump
.

Crack
. Some plastic shot across the tiled floor. Two nurses were calling desperately for security—one on the phone to the police, the other pleading, “Help! Someone help!” over the loudspeaker. But the usual security guards were not there; they had gone to watch the millennium celebrations on the television in the storeroom.

“Stay away from me!” the man shouted, holding the sword in his left hand.

The lift arrived—an elderly man in a wheelchair ready to
emerge. The sword was pointed erratically at him as the doors opened, and then at the terrified porter accompanying him.

But the man with the sword wasn't interested in them, so as they edged warily and desperately out of the lift, he pushed his way in and saw what he was looking for: Level Four, Maternity. He pressed the button, leaving a red smear on the panel, and the doors closed.

In the entrance hall the nurses and the porter watched numbly as the lift ascended, the numbers lighting up in turn: one . . . two . . . three . . . then, at four, it stopped.

Maternity
.

In the lift the man transferred the sword to his right hand.

Thomas, the porter on the maternity ward, stood next to his empty trolley, waiting for the lift and quietly humming to himself.

Inside the lift the man prepared murder.
Kill them all
, he thought.
Like Herod. Sacrifice them all
.

The lift doors parted.

Thomas's punch arrived as soon as the doors were fully open. He saw an intruder with a sword, and that was enough. His fist hit a combination of jaw, teeth and lip.

But it made little difference. Although the man fell back against the rear wall of the lift, the sword didn't leave his hand; he lunged at Thomas, slicing a gash in the flesh at the top of his left arm.

The lift doors closed, trapping Thomas inside with the intruder.

As Thomas put his right hand to the wound, he was head-butted. Blood seeped through his fingers and dripped down his face. He fell back against the lift buttons and slid to the floor.

The doors opened again.

The man with the sword stepped out into the corridor, nudging the trolley out of the way.

A nurse appeared in the distance. “What the hell . . . ?”

Sword and man stalked up and down the corridor, searching. He was not interested in the ward itself—only the delivery rooms, the ones with babies in them.

The man spoke to himself as he threw open doors. “Not that one. No. No.” These were empty. He knew what he was looking for.

Then he returned to the lift, where the trolley stood in front of the metal doors. There was a room opposite. He pushed down on the handle, but the door was locked. Inside, nurse and mother and baby had heard the commotion and were cowering together in the far corner, trying to hide.

“This one. Yes. This one.” He shoulder-barged the door. Then again—cracks appearing near the doorframe. On the third push the handle and fixing splintered, and the man fell into the room.

Nurse shielded mother, bravely, keenly, self-sacrifice and glorious headlines filling her mind. Mother shielded son, terrified, distraught, confused. The tiny boy cried.

Anger and hatred dribbled and spat from the man. He shouted loudly, his words like a bass drum, “Hand the Imposter to me! He. Must. Not. Live.”

Then, even louder:

“HAND HIM TO ME. HE IS EVIL!”

Kylie couldn't think. Couldn't speak. She tried to hide, tried to hide her son, tried not to be so completely paralyzed by fear.

The man's voice changed as he moved toward them, now speaking quietly and calmly. “Okay. Then I will kill you all.”

Kylie couldn't take her eyes off the sword, smeared, from tip to hilt, in blood.

Suddenly, Thomas appeared at the door and rushed forward in a blur, grabbing and pushing, wounded and wild. The two men stumbled toward the window, locked together; the sword fell to the floor and spun around and around until it stopped under the bed. Then they smashed against the large window
that occupied much of the outside wall, their struggle lit up by another burst of fireworks in the night sky.

It was an old hospital, and this window had been on the repair list for some time. The combined weight of two heavily built men was enough to force the entire window from its rotten frame, showering glass down the side of the building and leaving Thomas holding tight to the other man as they balanced precariously on the very edge. Two policemen and several doctors and nurses rushed into the room, then came to a halt at the sight of them.

The oldest of the doctors, a tall woman with flowing ginger hair, spoke to Thomas. “Mr. Macfarlane, pull him back in.”

The policemen stepped forward to assist as Nurse Bunce, Kylie and Baby Adam stayed in their frightened huddle by the side of the bed.

The man leaned back, pushing his center of gravity beyond the edge of the building, then, by forcing his arms sharply upward, snapped Thomas's grip from his T-shirt. Thomas snatched at him, trying to regain a hold, but though his fingers grazed the sword man's jeans for a second, he couldn't grasp him. The man fell backward, eerily silent, his eyes locked on Thomas, who had been grabbed by a policeman.

The man sliced through the branches of a large oak tree that reached up towards the window.

Snap. Snap
.

Crack. Crack
.

Thud
.

Smash
.

Silence.

The policemen and Thomas looked down from the window, unable to see properly through the tree and the billowing gloom fed by firework smoke.

Five minutes later, six policemen, led by Detective Inspector Grey, ran around the building to where the body had fallen.

Three ambulances were parked under the tree. The one in the middle had its blue lights smashed. Grey stepped forward, his shoes crackling on colored glass and flecks of wood.

“Give me a leg up,” he told one of the policemen.

“Yes, sir. Would you like me . . . ?”

“No. I'll do this, thank you.”

Detective Inspector Grey rose slowly. Fearing the worst, he warily glanced on top of the vehicle.

In the middle was a deep dent, part of a large branch, and a carpet of twigs. But no body.

Fireworks fizzed in the distance.

And, in the confusion of millennium night, the man with the sword was gone.

2
FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2000

The Master spoke in a whisper:
Find the Baby. Find all the Babies
.

Coron closed his eyes and nodded. He pressed his hands together. The scars hurt, but Coron liked the pain. He would kill again on Friday, April 21, at the ninth hour. Three o'clock in the afternoon.

Three o'clock on Good Friday.

From the air, the tower blocks looked like neat Legos, but close up they were chaotic: graffiti-covered lifts and passageways, windows boarded up with cheap plywood, stairs fouled by a mix of pale litter and stale urine. The block, Bakunin House, was to be pulled down in six months—in the meantime, only the desperate remained.

On the fifth floor, halfway along the concrete-gray passageway, behind her watery yellow curtains, was Kylie.

Baby Adam yelled and shrieked. He screamed with hunger and itchy discomfort. A gray toy caterpillar peered down at him like an angry snake. Three jars of baby food, a smear of green sludge left in each, sat on the table.

Adam howled. The same sound, over and over:
Waaa
. This wasn't the desperate sudden cry of a child in pain; it was the bawl of a confused baby. The same sound, over and over.
Waaa. Waaa
.

Kylie put her head in her hands and started to cry herself. In time with Adam, she sobbed.

A rusty fridge rattled in one corner. It was 1:30 p.m., and Kylie was suddenly hungry. The only food was a packet of ham, the only drink a can of Coke.

Waaa. Waaa. Waaa
.

Kylie opened the red, thinly built cupboard and dragged out a glass. She opened the can and poured some into Adam's bottle.

Then she stopped and slumped to the floor, her head filled with tentacles of noise which grabbed hold of her brain and squeezed it tight.

Waaa. Waaa. Waaa. Waaa
.

She held the glass tighter and tighter and felt that the noise would make her brain bleed.

BOOK: Thirteen
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