Authors: Bruce Hale
ALSO BY BRUCE HALE
School for S.P.I.E.S. Book 1:
Playing with Fire
School for S.P.I.E.S. Book 2:
Thicker than Water
Text copyright Â© 2015 by Bruce Hale
Illustrations copyright Â© 2015 by Brandon Dorman
Cover design by Sammy Yuen
Cover illustration Â© 2015 by Brandon Dorman
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End
Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
This one's for Carole and Terry
was quietly going stark, raving bonkers. Not only was his orphanage home destroyed and everyone he cared about missing, maybe even dead,
but now he was working with the very people responsible for wrecking his life.
Stressful? Oh, just a tad. Frustrating? You might say that.
Having to smile and nod and pretend to support LOTUS's wicked plans after what they'd done to him was enough to make
go bonkers. Being a double agent, Max reflected,
was definitely not for the faint of heart.
Max was sitting with two LOTUS spies in an unmarked van, on a quiet side street, waiting to kidnap a boy genius named Addison Rook. It was the sort of classic spy mission most agents would leap
at. Not Max. All he wanted now was to be a normal kid with a normal familyâfar, far away from there.
But duty was duty, especially when the person who had sent you undercover was the closest thing you had to a mother.
“I can't believe the guv'nor trusted you with this job,” muttered Humphrey Wall from the driver's seat. A mahogany-brown, V-shaped man, he wore a perpetually
pinched expression that made him look like an evil catalog model with intestinal distress.
trust me?” said Max. “I've got an honest face.”
“And a devious little mind,” said Dijon LeStrange, the van's third occupant. With her honey-blond hair and pale skin, she was the perfect complement to Humphreyâlovely
and lethal, as hard as a fistful of brass knuckles.
“Hey, I joined LOTUS of my own free will,” said Max.
“Sure,” Dijon drawled. “After we chased you halfway across the city and cornered you on a rooftop.”
Max shrugged, his face carefully blank. “My mistake. I thought you were child welfare workers.”
The walkie-talkie in Dijon's hand crackled with static. A deep voice rumbled, “C Team, status update?”
“Ready to roll,” said Dijon.
“And the boy?” said the radio voice, which Max knew belonged to an Ã¼ber-spy named Ebelskeever.
Dijon glanced back over her shoulder at Max and sneered. “Ready as he'll ever be. Looks exactly like a private-school prat.”
“Hey,” Max objected. But without much heat. He sported the uniformâblue blazer, hideous maroon tie, and gray trousersâthat the boys at Addison Rook's school wore.
And in this getup, he had to admit, he did feel rather pratlike.
Max stifled a sigh. The mood in the LOTUS van was as tense and serious as a daylong dental surgery, so unlike the buoyant team spirit that had marked his previous missions for S.P.I.E.S. But
those days were behind him now. Perhaps forever.
His mind drifted as Ebelskeever checked in with the other units. Even several days after LOTUS's devastating raid on his group's safe house, Max still couldn't believe that
S.P.I.E.S. (Systematic Protection, Intelligence, & Espionage Servicesâand yes, a rather obvious name for a spy organization) was no more.
He could almost hear his spymasterâbrusque, bighearted Hantai Annie Wongâchiding him for his sentimentality. She was the one, after all, who had ordered him to join LOTUS if the
opportunity arose, and bring them down from the inside. But she'd never told him what to do if S.P.I.E.S. itself dissolved. That last twist was making it very difficult for Max to focus on
Instead, he kept recalling Cinnabar's golden eyes, Wyatt's cheerful attitude, Mr. Stones's teasing sarcasm. Would he never experience these things, never see his friends,
again? How was it possible to find and lose a family so quickly?
Humphrey's gruff voice interrupted his reverie. “Look lively, boy. The pigeon's on the move.”
Max peered through the windshield at the intersection just ahead. Any minute now, Addison Rook would motor past in his sporty red BMW. Any minute now, the four LOTUS teams would spring into
action like a ravenous wolf pack descending on a baby bunny.
The boy genius didn't stand a chance.
Scooting over on the bench seat, Max rested a hand on the door latch. He felt a pang as strong as hunger, a longing to slip outside and disappear into the gloomy November morningâfar from
Humphrey, Dijon, and the rest of their corrupt organization. Even an uncaring foster family would be an improvement. All he had to do was step out the door andâ¦
“Here he comes,” growled Ebelskeever on the radio. “C Team, release Segredo.”
“Copy that,” said Dijon.
Humphrey half turned in the seat to glare at him. “You're up, boy. And don't try nuffin' funny.”
“What, like my Bart Simpson impression?” said Max.
The broad-shouldered man glowered. “You know what I mean. If we have to come chase you, I'll be right peeved.”
Max snapped off a mock salute and opened the door.
“Be a good little spy,” Dijon drawled, as if she could read his mind. “We'll be watching.”
The brisk morning air smelled of wood smoke and decaying leaves as Max scuffed his way up the sidewalk, book bag slung over one shoulder. It rankled that they didn't trust him. True, he
intend to destroy their organization, but
didn't know that.
Again, the urge to flee fluttered in his chest like a caged hummingbird. Despite their threats, he could probably lose the LOTUS agents in this rambling neighborhood of grand houses and stately
trees. But for all Max knew, they'd slipped a tracking device into his clothes, and besides, if he ran now, he wouldn't be able to use LOTUS's considerable resources to locate his
friends. In his mind's eye, he pictured Hantai Annie saying one of her favorite phrases: “
âgo for it.” Wherever she wasâassuming she was still
aliveâshe was counting on him to fulfill his mission and find her again. So, somehow, he resisted his impulse to run.
Max shook his head. Too bad there wasn't a textbook on the subject of operating undercover all by oneself. A little help from
The Dummy's Guide to Double Agents
in quite handy about now.
He approached the intersection. This route lay only five blocks away from Addison Rook's posh private school, but it was out of the main flow of morning commuters. LOTUS had picked their
ambush spot with care.
And sure enough, only a sleepy dad in a shiny Peugeot could be seen on the road. Max reached the corner and glanced right. Here they came: LOTUS's lead car, a charcoal-gray Mercedes,
followed by Addison's BMW. They tooled past him, and brake lights flared as the vehicles slowed for the stop sign a half block down.
Almost against his will, Max's pulse quickened and his senses sharpened. True, he was only pretending to work for the bad guys, but a mission was a mission, after all.
He strolled up the sidewalk toward the cars. The Mercedes had stopped dead at the intersection. After a couple of seconds, the Beamer's horn blasted, but the other vehicle didn't
Before Addison's car could reverse and pull around it, a second LOTUS Mercedes, this one quartz blue, zipped past Max and squealed to a stop, barely tapping the BMW's rear bumper.
Now Addison was trapped, a regular whiz-kid sandwich.
Doors flew open on the LOTUS cars, and four agents in dusk-colored suits sprang out. Despite himself, Max admired the efficiency of the operation. Everything was unfolding with Swiss-watch
timing, just as LOTUS's chief, Mrs. Frost, had planned.
Then the watch popped its first spring.
Gunfire crackled from a rear window of the Beamer, and the LOTUS agents dodged back, surprised. Max squinted at the BMW. LOTUS surveillance had gotten it wrong. Addison wasn't alone.
Now the curbside door burst open and a beefy Asian man with a buzz cut leaped out, weapon raised. Max recognized Lizard Eyes, his private nickname for Addison's puffy-eyed bodyguard.
He'd seen the man only last week, during S.P.I.E.S.'s mission to steal a mind-control device from Addison's parents. The mission had been successfulâif you didn't
count the fact that LOTUS had hijacked the invention for itself.
“Back off,” cried the bodyguard, covering the agents with his pistol. “And maybe I won't kill you.”
A pale, spiky-haired teen dressed like Max climbed out of the other rear door.
Lizard Eyes's head swiveled toward him. “Addison! Back in the car!”
Seizing on the distraction, one of the LOTUS agents whipped his arm forward. The bodyguard grunted and dropped his gun. A ninja throwing star, or
, was now protruding from his
forearm. The four spies rushed forward to grapple with Lizard Eyes and the white chauffeur.