Eagle Strike (Alex Rider Book 4)

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REVENGE.Alex came to a door and saw a yellow strip of light seeping out of the crack below. Gritting histeeth, he reached for the handle, half hoping it would be locked. The handle turned and the dooropened. Alex entered.The cabin was surprisingly large, a long rectangle with a white carpet and modern woodenfittings along two of the walls. The third wall was taken up by a low double bed with a table anda lamp on each side. There was a man stretched out on the white cover, his eyes closed, as still asa corpse. Alex stepped forward.Yassen Gregorovich made no movement as Alex approached, the gun held out in front ofhim. Alex reached the side of the bed. This was the closest he had ever been to the Russian, theman who had killed his uncle. He could see every detail of his face: the chiseled lips, the almostfeminine eyelashes. The gun was less than an inch from Yassen’s forehead. This was where itended. All he had to do was pull the trigger and it would be over.“Good evening, Alex.”

ALEX RIDER MISSIONS:StormbreakerPoint BlankSkeleton KeyEagle StrikeScorpiaArk AngelSnakeheadCrocodile TearsScorpia RisingRussian Roulette

ALSO BY ANTHONY HOROWITZTHE DIAMOND BROTHERS MYSTERIES:Public Enemy Number TwoThe Falcon’s MalteserThree of DiamondsSouth by SoutheastThe Greek Who Stole ChristmasThe Complete Horowitz HorrorBloody HorowitzThe Devil and His BoyGrannyGroosham GrangeReturn to Groosham Grange: The Unholy GrailThe Switch

EAGLE STRIKEAN ALEX RIDER ADVENTURE

ANTHONY HOROWITZ

SPEAKPublished by the Penguin GroupPenguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue, Suite 700,Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, EnglandPenguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road,Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,New Delhi-110 017, IndiaPenguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0745, Auckland,New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,Johannesburg 2196, South AfricaRegistered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, EnglandFirst published in the United States of America by Philomel Books,a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004Published in Great Britain by Walker Books Ltd, LondonPublished by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2006All rights reservedTHE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE PHILOMEL EDITION AS FOLLOWS:Horowitz, Anthony, dateEagle Strike / Anthony Horowitz.—1st American ed.p. cm. (An Alex Rider adventure)Summary: After a chance encounter with assassin Yassen Gregorovich in the South of France,teenage spy Alex Rider investigates international pop star and philanthropist Damian Cray,whose new video game venture hides sinister motives involving Air Force One, nuclear missiles,and the international drug trade.[1. Spies—Fiction. 2. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.3. Orphans—Fiction.] I. Title. II. Series.PZ7.H7875 Eag 2004 [Fic]—dc22 2003012523ISBN: 1-101-15800-XExcept in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the

publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is publishedand without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequentpurchaser.The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for authoror third-party Web sites or their content.Version 3

For my brilliant editor,MICHAEL GREEN

Table of ContentsTitle PageCopyright PageDedicationPROLOGUE1 - NOT MY BUSINESS2 - THE FINGER ON THE TRIGGER3 - MATADOR4 - TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCE5 - SAINT OR SINGER?6 - THE PLEASURE DOME7 - FEATHERED SERPENT8 - RUE BRITANNIA9 - BLOOD MONEY10 - PAIN SYNTHESIS11 - THE TRUTH ABOUT ALEX12 - PEDAL POWER13 - EMERGENCY MEASURES14 - UNFAIR EXCHANGE15 - INSANITY AND COOKIES16 - EAGLE STRIKE17 - “FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS”18 - RICHMOND BRIDGEExcerpt from ScorpiaExcerpt from Russian Roulette

EAGLE STRIKE

PROLOGUETHE AMAZON JUNGLE. Fifteen years ago.It had taken them five days to make the journey, cutting their way through the dense,suffocating undergrowth, fighting through the very air, which hung heavy, moist, and still. Treesas tall as cathedrals surrounded them, and a strange green light—almost holy—shimmeredthrough the vast canopy of leaves. The rain forest seemed to have an intelligence of its own. Itsvoice was the sudden screech of a parrot, the flicker of a monkey swinging through the branchesoverhead. It knew they were there.But so far they had been lucky. They had been attacked, of course, by leeches andmosquitoes and stinging ants. But the snakes and scorpions had left them alone. The rivers theyhad crossed had been free of piranhas. They had been allowed to survive.They were traveling light. They carried with them only their basic rations: map, compass,water bottles, iodine tablets, mosquito nets, and machetes. Their single heaviest item was the 88Winchester rifle with sniperscope that they were going to use to kill the man who lived here inthis impenetrable place, one hundred miles south of Iquitos in Peru.The two men knew each other’s name but never used them. It was part of their training. Theolder of the two called himself Hunter. He was English, although he spoke seven languages sofluently that he could pass himself off as a native of many of the countries he found himself in.He was about thirty, handsome, with the close-cut hair and watchful eyes of a trained soldier.The other man was slim, fair-haired, and twitching with nervous energy. He had chosen the nameof Cossack. He was just nineteen years old. This would be his first kill.Both men were dressed in khaki—standard jungle camouflage. Their faces were alsopainted green, with dark brown stripes across their cheeks. They had reached their destinationjust as the sun had begun to rise, and were standing there now, utterly still, ignoring the insectsthat buzzed around their faces, tasting their sweat.In front of them was a clearing, man-made, separated from the jungle by a thirty-foot-highfence. An elegant colonial house with wooden verandas and shutters, white curtains, and slowlyrotating fans stood at the heart of it, with two more low brick buildings about twenty yardsbehind. Accommodations for the guards. There must have been about a dozen of them patrollingthe perimeter and watching from rusting metal towers. Perhaps there were more inside. But theywere lazy. They were shuffling around, not concentrating on what they were supposed to bedoing. They were in the middle of the jungle. They thought they were safe.A four-seater helicopter stood waiting on a square of asphalt. It would take the owner of thehouse just twenty steps to walk from the front door to the helicopter. That was the only time hewould be visible. That was when he would have to die.The two men knew the name of the man they had come to kill, but they didn’t use thateither. Cossack had spoken it once, but Hunter had corrected him.“Never call a target by his real name. It personalizes him. It opens a door into his life and,

when the time comes, it may remind you what you are doing and make you hesitate.”Just one of the many lessons Cossack had learned from Hunter. They referred to the targetonly as the Commander. He was a military man—or he had been. He still liked to wear militarystyle clothes. With so many bodyguards, he was in command of a small army. The name suitedhim.The Commander was not a good man. He was a drug dealer, exporting cocaine on a massivescale. He also controlled one of the most vicious gangs in Peru, torturing and killing anyone whogot in his way. But all this meant nothing to Hunter and Cossack. They were here because theyhad been paid thirty thousand dollars apiece to take him out—and if the Commander had been adoctor or a priest, it would have made no difference to them.Hunter glanced at his watch. It was two minutes to eight in the morning and he had beentold the Commander would be leaving for Lima on the hour. He also knew that the Commanderwas a punctual man. He loaded a single .308 cartridge into the Winchester and adjusted thesniperscope. One shot was all he would need.Meanwhile, Cossack had taken out his field glasses and was scanning the compound for anysign of movement. The younger man was not afraid, but he was tense and excited. A trickle ofperspiration curved behind his ear and ran down his neck. His mouth was dry. Something tappedgently against his back and he wondered if Hunter had touched him, warning him to stay calm.But Hunter was a short distance away, concentrating on the gun.Something moved.Cossack only knew for certain it was there when it climbed over his shoulder and onto hisneck—and by then it was too late. Very slowly, he turned his head. And there it was, at the veryedge of his field of vision. A spider, clinging to the side of his neck, just underneath the line ofhis chin. He swallowed. From the weight of it he had thought it was a tarantula—but this wasworse, much worse. It was very black with a small head and an obscene, swollen body, like afruit about to burst. He knew that if he could have turned it over, he would have found a redhourglass marking on its abdomen.It was a black widow. Latrodectus curacaviensis. One of the deadliest spiders in the world.The spider moved, its front legs reaching out so that one was almost touching the corner ofCossack’s mouth. The other legs were still attached to his neck, with the main body of the spidernow hanging under his jaw. He wanted to swallow again but he didn’t dare. Any movementmight alarm the creature, which needed no excuse to attack. Cossack guessed that this was thefemale of the species: a thousand times worse than the male. If it decided to bite him, its hollowfangs would inject him with a neurotoxic venom that would paralyze his entire nervous system.He would feel nothing at first. There would just be two tiny red pricks on his skin. The pain—waves of it—would come in about an hour. His eyelids would swell. He would be unable tobreathe. He would go into convulsions. He would almost certainly die.Cossack considered raising a hand and trying to flick the hideous thing off. If it had beenanywhere else on his body, he might have taken the chance. But it had settled on his throat, asthough fascinated by the pulse it had found there. He wanted to call to Hunter, but he couldn’trisk moving the muscles in his neck. He was barely breathing. Hunter was still unaware of whatwas going on. What could he do?In the end he whistled. It was the only sound he dared make. He was horribly aware of thecreature hanging off him. He felt the prick of another leg, this time touching his lip. Was it aboutto climb onto his face?

Hunter looked over and saw at once that something was wrong. Cossack was standingunnaturally still, his head contorted, his face, underneath the paint, completely white. Huntertook a step so that Cossack now stood between him and the compound. He had lowered the rifle,the muzzle pointing toward the ground.And then he saw the spider.At the same moment, the door of the house opened and the Commander came out: a short,plump man dressed in a dark tunic hanging open at the collar. Unshaven, he was carrying abriefcase and smoking a cigarette.Twenty steps to the helicopter—and he was already moving briskly, talking to the twobodyguards who accompanied him. Cossack’s eyes flickered over to Hunter. He knew theorganization that had employed them would not forgive failure, and this was the only chancethey would get. The spider moved again and, looking down, Cossack saw its head: a cluster oftiny, gleaming eyes—half a dozen of them—gazing up at him, uglier than anything in the world.His skin itched. The whole side of his face wanted to peel itself away. But he knew that therewas nothing Hunter could do. He had to fire now. The Commander was only ten steps away fromthe helicopter. The blades were already turning. Cossack wanted to scream at him. Do it! Thesound of the gunshot would frighten the spider and it would bite. But that wasn’t important. Themission had to succeed.Hunter quickly considered his options. He could use the tip of the gun to brush away theblack widow. He might succeed in getting rid of it before it bit Cossack. But by then theCommander would be in his helicopter, behind bulletproof glass. Or he could shoot theCommander. But once he had fired the gun, he would have to turn and run immediately,disappearing into the jungle. There would be no time to help Cossack; there would be nothing hecould do.He made his decision. He swept up the gun, aimed, and fired.The bullet, white-hot, flashed past, cutting a line in Cossack’s neck. The black widowdisintegrated instantly, blown apart by the force of the shot. The bullet continued across theclearing and through the fence and—still carrying tiny fragments of the black widow with it—buried itself in the Commander’s chest.The Commander had been about to climb into the helicopter. He stopped as thoughsurprised, put a hand to his heart, and crumpled. The bodyguards twisted around, shouting,staring into the jungle, trying to see the enemy.But Hunter and Cossack had already gone. The jungle swallowed them in seconds, althoughit was more than an hour before they stopped to catch their breath.Cossack was bleeding. There was a red line that could have been drawn with a ruler acrossthe side of his neck, and the blood had seeped down, soaking into his shirt. But the black widowhadn’t bitten him. He held out a hand, accepting a water bottle from Hunter, and drank.“You saved my life,” he said.Hunter considered. “To take a life and save a life with one bullet that’s not bad going.”Cossack would have the scar for the rest of his life. But that would not be a very long time.The life of the professional assassin is often short. Hunter would die first, in another country, onanother mission. Later it would be his turn.Right now Cossack said nothing. They had done their job. That was all that mattered. Hegave back the water bottle, and as the sun beat down and the jungle watched and reflected uponwhat had happened, the two men set off together, cutting and hacking their way through the

midmorning heat of another day.

1NOT MY BUSINESSALEX RIDER LAY ON HIS BACK, drying out in the midday sun.He could feel the salt water from his last swim trickling through his hair and evaporating offhis chest. His shorts, still wet, clung to him. He was, at that moment, as happy as it is possible tobe; one week into a vacation that had been perfect from the moment the plane had touched downin Montpellier and he had stepped out into the brilliance of his first Mediterranean day. He lovedthe South of France—the intense colors, the smells, the pace of life that hung on to every minuteand refused to let go. He hadn’t any idea what time it was, except that he was getting hungry andguessed it must soon be time for lunch. There was a brief burst of music as a girl with a radiowalked past, and Alex turned his head to follow her. And that was when the sun went in, the seafroze, and the whole world seemed to catch its breath.He wasn’t looking at the girl with the radio. He was looking past her, down to the seawallthat divided the beach from the jetty, where a yacht was just pulling in. The yacht was enormous,almost the size of one of the passenger boats that carried tourists up and down the coast. But notourists would ever set foot on this craft. It was completely uninviting, cruising silently throughthe water, with tinted glass in the windows and a massive bow that rose up like a solid whitewall. A man stood at the very front, staring straight ahead, his face blank. It was a face that Alexrecognized instantly.Yassen Gregorovich.Alex sat perfectly still, supporting himself on one arm, his hand half buried in the sand. Ashe watched, a man in his twenties appeared from the cabin and busied himself mooring the boat.He was short and apelike, wearing a T-shirt that showed off the tattoos that completely coveredhis arms and shoulders. A deckhand? Yassen made no offer to help him with his work. A thirdman hurried along the jetty to greet the yacht. He was fat and bald, dressed in a cheap white suit.The top of his head had been burned by the sun and the skin had turned an ugly, cancerous red.Yassen saw the man and climbed down, moving like spilled oil. He was wearing blue jeansand a white shirt open at the neck. Other men might have had to struggle to keep their balancewalking down the swaying gangplank, but he didn’t even hesitate. There was somethinginhuman about him. With his close-cropped hair, hard blue eyes, and pale, expressionless face,he was obviously no vacationer. But only Alex knew the truth about him. Yassen Gregorovichwas a contract killer, the man who had murdered Alex’s uncle and forever changed his life. Hewas wanted all over the world.So what was he doing here in a little seaside town on the edge of the marshes and lagoonsthat made up the Camargue? There was nothing in Saint-Pierre apart from beaches, campsites,too many restaurants, and an oversized church that looked more like a fortress.“Alex? What are you looking at?” Sabina murmured, and Alex had to force himself to turnaround, to remember that she was there.

“I’m ” The words wouldn’t come. He didn’t know what to say.“Do you think you could rub a little more sunscreen into my back? I’m overheating .”That was Sabina. Slim, dark-haired, and sometimes much older than her fifteen years. Butthen she was the sort of girl who had probably swapped toys for boys before she hit eleven.Although she was using SPF 25, she seemed to need more sunscreen rubbed in every fifteenminutes, and somehow it was always Alex who had to do it for her. He glanced quickly at herback, which was in fact perfectly bronzed. She was wearing a bikini made out of so little materialthat it hadn’t bothered with a pattern. Her eyes were covered by a pair of fake Dior sunglasses(which she had bought for a tenth of the price of the real thing), and she had her head buried inThe Lord of the Rings. She waved the sunscreen at Alex.Alex looked back at the yacht. Yassen was shaking hands with the bald man. The deckhandwas standing nearby, waiting. Even at this distance Alex could see that Yassen was very much incharge, that when he spoke, the two men listened. Alex had once seen Yassen shoot a man deadjust for dropping a package. He still possessed an extraordinary coldness that could neutralizeeven the hot Mediterranean sun. The strange thing was that there were very few people in theworld who would have been able to recognize the Russian. Alex was one of them. CouldYassen’s being here have something to do with him?“Alex ?” Sabina said.The three men moved away from the boat, heading into the town. Suddenly Alex was on hisfeet.“I’ll be right back,” he said.“Where are you going?”“I need a drink.”“I’ve got water.”“No, I want a Coke.”Even as he swept up his T-shirt and pulled it over his head, Alex knew that this was not agood idea. Yassen Gregorovich might have come to the Camargue because he wanted a vacation.He might have come to murder the local mayor. Either way, it had nothing to do with Alex and itwould be crazy to get involved with Yassen again. Alex remembered the promise he had madethe last time they had met, on a rooftop in central London.You killed Ian Rider. One day I’ll kill you.At the time he had meant it—but that had been then. Right now he didn’t want anything todo with Yassen or the world he represented.And ye

(An Alex Rider adventure) Summary: After a chance encounter with assassin Yassen Gregorovich in the South of France, teenage spy Alex Rider investigates international pop star and philanthropist Damian Cray, whose new video game venture hides sinister motives involving Air Force One, nuclear missiles, and the international drug trade. [1. Spies—Fiction. 2. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction .

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