10:42 A.M., MONDAY
The first bomb arrived the week before my twelfth birthday.
It was delivered to the police station on a Monday, in a brown package. They told me the whole block shut down for a solid hour until the bomb squad determined that it was a dummy. The worst part is that there was a note taped to the side:
1—Eddie will know what this means
“I have no idea what this means,” I say for the millionth time. I’m sitting in a hard wooden chair in Chief Williams’s office. The chief sits across from me, tapping a pencil on his desk. He’s the man in charge who hired me eight months ago. A stern-looking man, but a nice one. He waited a week to call me in. Happy birthday to me.
“There must be other people named Eddie in the department,” I add. “An Edward, maybe?”
“We’re looking into it” is the chief’s only reply.
Last spring I worked for the NYPD because of my photographic memory and ability to draw almost perfect character sketches. They gave me the code name Eddie Red and had me stake out some of New York’s most important art museums. Despite being kept in the dark about the real guts of the operation, I managed to stop the international art thief Lars Heinrich before he carried out a major robbery. Unfortunately Lars took off before the police could capture him.
I thought my life would go back to normal, but here I am, right back in the hot seat. I stare at the so-called bomb in front of me. It’s a digital clock with bomb wiring and a timer that flashes 24:11 over and over again. My mind starts snapping pictures as I try to understand what this all means. Click—green wires poking out of the back in a coiled twist. Click—the Eddie note scribbled in red ink. Click—a white lump of explosives wrapped in clear plastic.
Detective Bovano clears his throat behind me. He hasn’t said much since I arrived, just sort of hovered by the door like a dark fog. He’s lost some weight since I last saw him. I heard he won a medal for exemplary police work—a.k.a. getting shot while protecting me.
“Have you ever heard of the IRA?” Bovano asks.
“Uh . . .” I search my brain. “Is that the group that collects people’s taxes?”
They both chuckle and the tension in the room deflates. They’re laughing at me as if I’m a dumb kid.
“That’s the IRS.” Chief Williams rubs the back of his neck. “The IRA stands for the Irish Republican Army. They’re a terrorist group that fights to make Ireland an independent republic. One of their operatives from the nineties, a fellow named Patrick O’Malley, built bombs just like this one.” He shifts forward and touches the frayed ends of the wires with a pencil. “His calling card is this twist of green wires. The luck of the Irish.” He removes his hand quickly, as if the bomb just stung him. “This bag of white clay was attached to the wires, made to look like the explosive C-4. Our forensics lab tells us the clay is actually gluten-free baking flour mixed with water. Does that mean anything to you?”
I shake my head. This is getting stranger by the second.
The chief opens a file and pulls out a mug shot of a middle-aged man. “Here’s our latest picture of O’Malley. Do you recognize him in that filing system of yours?” He taps his forehead.
I glance at the picture, mentally noting all the details so I can draw them later. O’Malley is a bit heavy, with saggy skin and a receding hairline. Everything about him is gray: gray clothing, gray hair, gray eyes. The date on the picture reads 1994, so I’m guessing he’d be in his seventies now. “No, sir,” I say.
“Well, it was worth a shot.” He puts the picture away, slides on a pair of latex gloves, and gently places the bomb in a blue evidence bin. “I don’t want you to worry about this. We think the Eddie note is just a coincidence.” He snaps off the gloves and shoots me a meaningful look. “No need to worry your parents, either.”
I nod. There’s no way I would tell my parents about this. Mom would have us signed up in a witness protection program faster than you can say Moving to Australia.
“What about Lars?” I ask. “Did your men find any record of him in New York?” I open my art pad and hold up the picture I drew of Lars Heinrich. I saw him a month ago in the airport when I was coming back from a vacation in Mexico. Judging from his sneer and the way he narrowed his eyes at me, he knew exactly who I was, and was very angry. It’s not a good combination.
A terrible thought occurs to me. “What if he was the one who sent the bomb? He definitely knows who I am. What if—?”
“No,” Bovano interrupts. “This is O’Malley’s work. And I already told you, Lars never knew you existed. I questioned his gang members myself. I have a built-in lie detector.” He points to his temple. “Hasn’t failed me yet.”
Considering I lied to him for a solid four months when we worked together, I’d say his detector needs a tune-up. “But—”
“O’Malley always works alone,” the chief adds gently. “And Lars was seen entering Germany two weeks ago. He’s not in New York. You’re safe.” He glances at Bovano, then quickly looks away. Warning bells sound in my head. They’re not telling me the whole story.
The chief shuffles through some papers on his desk. “We need your help on another matter. There was a high-profile jewel robbery last week. We’re worried the thieves’ next target might be a diamond exhibit coming to the Met. I already spoke to your parents about hiring you for surveillance work. Does twenty dollars an hour sound good?”
They want me back on the force? Really? “Okay,” I say. I should be thrilled about this, but I can’t shake the feeling that something’s not adding up.
“Frank, get Eddie here another contract,” the chief instructs Bovano. “Short term.” He stands up and puts on his navy blue jacket, part of his chief’s uniform. “Your mother made me promise you wouldn’t be out in the field. You’ll be stationed in a surveillance van.” He smiles. “She drives a hard bargain.”
If Mom agreed to this, we must really need the money. Dad still doesn’t have a full-time job, and Senate Academy (my private school for gifted kids) is expensive. The police are paying my tuition this year as part of my reward for stopping the art heist, but I still have to buy books and supplies. ...