Furious Jones and the Assassin’s Secret CHAPTER ONE
My hair fell over my eyes as I crossed against the light on Fifth Avenue. I should’ve gotten a haircut. It would be the first thing out of my dad’s mouth. I hadn’t seen my dad since my mom’s funeral, seven months ago, and I just knew we were going to argue about my hair. I could hear him already. He would go on and on about appearances and respect and all that other crap. He would use that Marine-Corps-drill-sergeant voice. He would make it clear that he was the world-famous adventurer, fearless explorer, tough-guy author, and I was his screw-up son. He was never even in the Marines. Man, what was I doing here? This was a bad idea. My dad didn’t like surprises. And he wouldn’t like me showing up like this—unannounced.
I stood in front of the hotel with my back to traffic. There were lots of people gathered around the hotel entrance. And they were all dressed up. Most of the men were wearing tuxedos, and the women were all in fancy dresses. I assumed they were all here to see my dad. I looked down at my jeans and T-shirt. A remark about my clothes would be the second comment out of his mouth. This was a really bad idea.
I walked toward the front door of the hotel and noticed two giant men on either side of the door. They looked like bodyguards. Or secret service. Did my dad have his own protection now? Was he that famous? Or had my mom’s murder scared him? I doubt my dad was scared. He was the toughest guy I had ever met. Nothing scared him.
I walked past the bodyguards and stepped into the hotel lobby. The lobby looked like all the other five-star hotels my mom and I had stayed at over the years. It was full of shiny marble and shiny brass fixtures and shiny mahogany tables. There was a sign indicating that my dad’s event was being held in the Grand Ballroom. I followed the crowd. Maybe I could blend in. Maybe my dad wouldn’t notice me if I sat way in the back. Then I could decide if I wanted to see him or not. I looked down at my T-shirt again. It had a hole in it, just beneath the picture of a motorcycle. Blending in was going to be difficult.
What was I doing here? My dad hadn’t even tried to contact me for weeks. Even when he was calling, we hardly
had anything to say to each other. Man, I should turn around and go.
I looked back over my shoulder. The line stretched back as far as I could see. The crowd kept moving down the hallway toward a large set of doors, and I kept moving with it. There were several hotel employees standing in front of the doors taking tickets.
Tickets? People actually paid to see some guy read from a book? I hadn’t planned this very well.
The truth was, like most things, I hadn’t planned it at all. Two hours ago, I was sitting at my grandpa’s kitchen table, in Connecticut, when I looked down and noticed my dad’s picture in the newspaper. That was the first I’d heard about my dad’s new book, Double Crossed. That’s when I got the idea to sneak into the city and see him. My grandpa would never have let me go into the city alone. Since my mom’s death, he was nervous about me being alone anywhere. I swear he freaked out a little even when I went to school.
I’d moved in with my grandpa after my mom was killed seven months ago. I’d been attending New Canaan Middle ever since. It was, like, the twentieth school I’d attended in the past six years. But it was far and away the nicest. New Canaan has to be one of the safest, and richest, places in the country. I mean, nothing happens in New Canaan. And to top it off, my grandpa was the chief of police there.
My grandpa had like a dozen guns in the house and a
police squad car in the driveway. It wasn’t like anything was going to happen to me. But despite all that, he actually drove me to school for the first couple of weeks after my mom was killed. The school is, like, five blocks from his house, and he drove me every day. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated his concern, but it’s a little embarrassing to have your grandpa walk you into school every morning when you’re in the seventh grade.
He’d gotten a little better lately, but he’d die if he knew I was here right now. So I made up a story about going to a friend’s house and got on the train. It was about an hour train ride from New Canaan to New York City, and I swear I regretted my decision about ten minutes into the ride. I didn’t want to upset my grandpa, but I really missed my dad. I just wanted to see him. And hear his voice. But if he saw me here alone like this, totally unplanned and out of the blue, he would probably be mad. I figured maybe I could stand in the back of the room and just listen to his talk.
The blond woman standing in front of the large doors held out her hand and said, “Ticket, please.”
“I, ah, I don’t have a ticket.”
“I’m sorry, but you need a ticket to attend tonight’s event,” she replied.
“I’m Furious Jones,” I said. Man, I hated my name. I mean, who names their kid Furious? And that was my actual name. I’ve seen the birth certificate and everything. It says
Furious Catton Jones. I’ve asked my parents about it over the years—I mean, when my mom was still alive and my dad was still talking to me. Apparently I came into this world a little upset. To hear my mom tell it, I was kicking and screaming from the minute I was born, and I actually punched the doctor in the nose. My dad thought it was so funny, they decided to name me Furious. And just like that—they practically ruined my life.
The ticket woman was giving me the same look that everyone gave me when I said my name.
“Yeah, I know it’s a weird name,” I said. “But I’m Robert Jones’s son,” I said.
“Look,” she said as she stopped smiling, “I’m just trying to do my job here. I can’t let you in without a ticket, okay? If you really were Robert Jones’s son, don’t you think you’d have a ticket? Or be with him right now?”
“Yeah, you would think so, wouldn’t you,” I agreed. It was hard to argue with that, and it was all a bad idea to begin with. I was about to walk away when I heard—
“Did I hear you say you’re Furious Jones?”
I turned around to see the two giant men from the front of the hotel standing on either side of an equally large man with thick black hair.
The man in the middle repeated the question. “Did I hear you say your name is Furious Jones? Robert Jones’s son?”
The guy looked important. I guess anyone surrounded by bodyguards looked important. But he also looked familiar. I had been cursed with a near-photographic memory since the age of six, and I knew I had seen his face before. Maybe on television?
“Yes, I’m Furious.”
“Of course you are,” he said as he shoved his meaty hand into mine. “You have your dad’s height. What are you, six feet two?”
I was actually six feet four. And I was sure I had to be one of the only six-feet-four-inch twelve-year-olds on the planet. In all the schools I had attended over the years, I was always the tallest kid in the class. People were always thinking I was older than I was.
“Yeah, something like that,” I said.
“Well, it is a pleasure to meet you. I’m Attorney General Joseph Como. I’m sort of a friend of your father’s.”
The way he said “sort of a friend” sounded odd. How is someone “sort of” a friend?
“You probably recognize me, right?” he asked.
I nodded yes. And I wasn’t lying. I did remember his face, but I was pretty sure I had never heard his name. And I was positive I had no idea what an attorney general did.
“Well, I’d be honored if you would accompany me to your dad’s reading.”
His smile was effortless and his teeth were perfect. His
hair was perfect. I figured the attorney general had to be some sort of politician. He was probably here trying to get money from my dad for a campaign or something.
My dad was the author of the wildly popular Carson Kidd book series. I didn’t know much about the books. I had never actually read one. My mom didn’t want the books in the house and, since she died, I guess I just haven’t wanted to read anything. I knew they were spy thrillers. And I knew all five books had been huge hits and made my dad a ton of money. There were even several Carson Kidd movies. But I hadn’t seen any of those, either.
I’m not 100 percent sure why my parents got divorced, but it seemed to center around my dad’s books. Or, maybe, the fame that came with the books. My dad’s fame was pretty out of control. He was all over the Internet and the newspapers. And whenever I did get the chance to spend time with him, people would constantly come up to him asking for stuff. They would want to take a picture with him. Or get his autograph. Or want him to listen to their book or movie ideas. Some would just flat-out ask him for money. My mom hated that stuff. She liked to keep a low profile.
“I would love to join you,” I lied. “But I don’t seem to have a ticket.”
“Ah, yes,” Attorney General Como said as he gestured to one of the bodyguards. “Joe, would you mind waiting outside the ballroom?”
“I guess that would be okay,” Joe replied.
“Thank you,” Como said. “It looks like I’ve got an extra ticket for you, Furious.”
He handed three tickets to the blond woman, put his arm around my shoulder, and we entered the ballroom together, his other bodyguard following behind us.
The room was enormous. The walls stretched up three stories high and were lined with fancy gold lights. Several hundred folding chairs had been set up in the front of the room, facing a small stage, and there must have been over a hundred people standing around talking in the back of the room. And another hundred people filing in behind us.
“So, how is it that the son of the author doesn’t have a ticket?” Como asked.
“I guess because the author doesn’t know his son is here,” I replied. “And, I guess, the son didn’t realize people actually paid to see some guy read from a book.”
Como laughed. “And apparently, the son didn’t realize people actually dressed up for it.”
“Right,” I agreed as I pushed my hair out of my eyes.
I looked pathetic standing there. Not only was I, as usual, one of the tallest people in the room, but I was also the only person dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. And I was the youngest by about forty years. It looked like my dad’s book only appealed to old people. And now it seemed like all the old people were staring at me. Or rather, the guy I had entered the room with.
“Attorney General Como!” an elderly couple exclaimed as they approached us with their arms out.
“It is so lovely to see you,” Como said, greeting the couple.
And then another couple approached Como. And another. And soon there was a small line of people waiting to meet him.
I wanted to run and hide, but Como kept shaking hands, smiling, and introducing me to one old person after another. And the line continued to grow, and Como continued to shake hands. Everyone was offering him best wishes and good luck. They kept saying things like: Hang in there, The right man is going to win in the end, and You’re going to look pretty good in that oval office.
Oval office? That’s why I recognized the guy; he was running for president. And to hear these people tell it, it sounded like he was going to win.
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.