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Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant

Summary

Cassidy Jones Adventures Book 3

When the mysterious Gavin Phillips returns to Seattle after a prolonged and unexplained absence, he threatens to expose fifteen-year-old Cassidy Jones's incredible secret: she is a superhero. But his presence is far more sinister than she realizes, for it soon becomes apparent that his hidden agenda holds a dark and dangerous intent that will unleash an unparalleled evil upon an unsuspecting world. Can Cassidy stop him before all is lost?

Excerpt

Once I had situated him as comfortably as I could on the tiled floor, I locked him inside, placed the keys in a big ceramic urn just outside the restroom, and sped to Queen Kiya's exhibit, reclining inside the seventh attendant's coffin a beat later.

The real deals in their coffins, alongside mine, would have freaked me out if this weren't a life-and-death situation. Lying in a coffin next to mummies in a dark, deserted museum was the stuff horror films were made of.

"The thieves will certainly think so." My voice echoed. Shivering at the sound, I quickly wormed my phone from my bra and struck the speed dial.

Emery picked up after the first ring. A mishmash of neighboring conversations flowed from the receiver. Apparently the coffeehouse was a popular hangout in the middle of the night.

"Nice job with the guard," was his greeting. "All is quiet so far . . . Thank you. Can I have the check, please?"

"What?" I said. "You ordered coffee, at a time like this?"

"For appearances' sake only." I could hear Emery sip his coffee. Black, I knew. "I retract my previous statement. Someone just tapped into the security system."

"How do you know?" My voice wobbled more than I would have liked. Not that it mattered. Emery already knew I was scared stiff.

"I'll explain later. Get prepared. Put your phone away."

"Okay," I tried to say, but the word stuck in my throat. I hated this stuff. "But don't look, you know, on your laptop." As I fumbled the phone into my bra, Emery's voice flowed through the earpiece.

"Thank you," he said with a smile in his voice. "Keep the change."

"Thanks, handsome," a woman's voice replied.

I arranged gauze to hide the costume's collar with trembling fingers, muttering, "I'm in a coffin surrounded by dead people, about to attack crooks, and you're drinking coffee and flirting with waitresses."

"Baristas," Emery corrected. "One barista, to be precise, and she was doing the flirting."

"Could she see your laptop screen?"

"I'm not an amateur. I have my back to the wall. Cassidy . . ." Emery's voice lost its playfulness. My breath caught. "Six men wearing ski masks entered through the loading dock. Five are armed with semiautomatic weapons. I hadn't anticipated this type of firepower. Abort now."

"You mean leave? No! What kind of weapons?"

"Saiga Twelves, a twelve-gauge combat rifle often referred to as ‘the zombie killer.' It's a big, ugly gun that can rip a hole in the side of an elephant in seconds. Abort. Now."

"No. We can't let them get the microchip. Think of what that would mean. We can do this."

A frustrated pause, then, "The new plan is ‘snatch and dash.' You are to follow my exact instructions. They're armed with nine-millimeter Glocks. They have the Saga Twelves in slings. I want you to be long gone before they can get them off their shoulders. Once I see how they're configuring and have identified the item they're after, I will tell you who to take out and how to escape with the item. Is that clear?"

"Crystal," I replied, relieved the new plan didn't include leaving behind a room full of unconscious thieves for the police. Maybe Emery will never have to know about his dad, or that he's possibly working for King.

"They're moving west down the main corridor on the first floor. No more talking. Close your eyes, listen, and don't move a muscle. I will be your eyes. Do exactly what I tell you."

I crossed my arms over my chest, shut my eyes, and concentrated, searching for the sound of their movements.

"Where's the guard?" I heard a male whisper.

There was no response. I pictured Mr. Phillips making a slashing motion across his throat, warning the man to keep quiet. Maybe he isn't with them, I thought, but my heart fell with my next breath. Mr. Phillips's scent mingled with the other smells I inhaled. I recognized Moreau's scent, too.

"Four are coming up the main entrance stairs," Emery said. "Three are armed, one is not. Two armed men remain on the first floor. What—?" He sounded surprised. "One is posted at the bottom of the stairs," he continued a split second later. "He's stationed near the gift shop where there's good visual. The other man is moving south, probably to secure the exits."

A scent curled up my nose, stirring the beast.

I inhaled deeply, suppressing a growl, trying to identify the unusual odor triggering all of my alarms. I couldn't, although it did remind me of the reptile house at Catamount Mountain Zoo. There was definitely something snake-ish about the scent.

Emery gave me a couple more updates, which we both knew were unnecessary. I could hear every shoe sole scrape against marble, every intake of breath, and even hearts beating, if I listened carefully. None beat as wildly as mine, though. The men's scents burned in my nostrils, as if branding me so I would never forget the event that was about to take place. I also smelled the distinct scent of Bazooka bubble gum, while trying to ignore the reptilian odor drifting from somewhere within the museum, beckoning my full attention.

"Do not move, do not breathe," Emery whispered. "All four men are entering the exhibit."

He whispered the positions they took as I listened to the men move into place. One was posted at the entrance they had come through, while another crossed the floor to secure the other entrance, and two men walked toward me. I knew, by scent, that Moreau was one of them.

"Two men are approaching you on your left. They're approximately twenty feet away. One is armed."

The men passed the seventh attendant's coffin without a pause, not noticing there was an additional mummy.

Emery barely whispered, "They're heading for Queen Kiya's coffin—"

They're after the crown, I guessed, since that was the only item I hadn't gotten a good look at—of course.

"When I tell you, take out the man closest to you, on your left—he's armed—then take out the man at the south entrance, also armed. The man at the north entrance has to move into position to get a clear shot, so the south entrance is your best escape."

I sent up a prayer that Mr. Phillips would not be one of the two men Emery had instructed me to attack.

"What a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty," Moreau cooed. "What a magnificent crown."

Emery instructed, "When I say ‘now,' grab the crown, go through the south entrance, and run straight through the exhibits to the stairs. At the bottom, go out the emergency exit on the right. Don't worry about the man on the south side. He is not in a position that poses a threat. You'll be on Fifth Avenue, so hide quickly."

"Ah, it's lovely," Moreau said. I assumed he had the crown in his hands.

"Now," Emery ordered.

I sprung out of the coffin and dove for the floor, catching marble with my palms. Immediately, I pushed off into a back flip, landed on my feet, and swung my leg in a roundhouse kick at the armed, masked man. My foot connected with his chest. His body curled around my foot, and he flew backward, his Glock skidding across the floor. I could tell by his build that he wasn't Emery's dad.

The thief at the south entrance whirled around to see me coming at him, and his eyes widened with disbelief. A wad of pink bubble gum dropped from his gaping mouth.

Moreau screamed.

Simultaneously, I grabbed the gum-chewer by his shirt collar with one hand and seized his weapon with the other, then flung him through the air like he was a feather pillow. From the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Phillips barrel forward, yanking back the slide on his Glock, as the man I had thrown crashed into the third attendant's coffin. Both coffin and mummy flipped on top of him.

"Abort!" Emery ordered.

I ignored his command. No way could King, Mr. Phillips, Moreau, or anyone else get that last microchip.

Pivoting, I faced Moreau.

His legs shook as he clutched the crown to his chest, looking as if he wanted to run but was prevented from doing so by an invisible force.

"No!" Moreau cried, hugging the crown to his chest. In a moment, it would be ripped from his hands, and I would be gone before he even knew what had happened.

I let the gun fall to the floor and launched forward into a spray of bullets. Mr. Phillips had gotten his clear shot.

With the first puncture of burning metal, my skin hardened, stopping the progression of the bullet into vital organs and numbing the pain. The impact caused me to stumble backward. One after another, bullets struck my midsection, ripping holes into the gauze and into me. Swaying and stumbling with the percussion of each bullet, I didn't go down but pressed forward to Moreau. Then there was silence, almost as deafening as the gunfire had been. Mr. Phillips had emptied his gun into me. I looked up at him, stunned.

Undeterred, he dropped the Glock and yanked the zombie killer up to his eye.

"Get out now!" Emery thundered.

An alarm wailed and lights flashed.

Confused and overwhelmed, I swung away and bolted toward the south entrance, hurdling over the thief I had kicked to the ground. I ran into the adjoining room as the wall next to me seemed to explode, chunks of painted canvases and drywall flying everywhere. I stayed just ahead of the onslaught of bullets that lay waste to the museum and the precious works of art adorning its walls.

As I jetted into the next exhibit, the gunfire ceased. Mr. Phillips had likely emptied the weapon's magazine. I tore around the corner to the balcony where I remembered the stairs were located and came to a screeching halt.

Before me stood a hooded figure that appeared as equally startled as I was. Around five foot eleven, the man wore a Grim Reaper's black cape, his face hidden deep beneath the hood. I say a man, but his snake-ish scent told me otherwise. He was definitely not human.

Wary, we each took a slow step away from one another. Cold seemed to emanate from him, as if he were the walking dead. As he took another sliding step, something yellow flickered from the hood and disappeared back into the folds of fabric.

Was that a tongue? I wondered, feeling a growl rumble deep in my throat.

A bullet whizzed between us, sending us our separate ways. Mr. Phillips had reloaded and was coming after me. The hooded figure went over the rail of the balcony in a fluid movement as if he were flying.

I ran for the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows that overlooked Fifth Avenue, tucking my face to my shoulder. There was no time to mess with stairs. The glass shattered around me as I plunged through the window and fell to the sidewalk, landing in a catlike crouch. Car tires squealed as drivers slammed on their brakes, and shards of glass rained around me, erupting into particles against the cement.

I lurched to my feet and ran blindly down the street with a belly full of bullets.