Note: To all the fans of The Last Apprentice, or Wardstone Chronicles, it’s a coincidence 😉
It was a busy night at the Sorana restaurant. The buildings many tables and booths were filled to capacity with New York’s most respected, along with several from out of state, or even country. It was an honor to host such an event, and as its oldest employee, Ward couldn’t be happier. Of course, that was all in theory. The real thing was proving to be much more trying.
As it turned out, New York’s elite could be quite a pain. Contrary to the collective attitude of the restaurant’s usual patrons, these customers were demanding and precise. A certain amount of salt was too little, and one more shake far too much; the fork needed to be placed just there, not a centimeter to the right. To a seasoned waiter such as Thomas Ward, this did not pose much of a problem. However, watching his coworkers flounder about helplessly was not a pretty sight. Especially with the media here in hoards… this surely wouldn’t do wonders for their reputation.
A sarcastic bark of laughter suddenly rose above the din, calling Ward’s attention to table five. His face darkened. Not that one again. The teenagers were always the worst of the lot, and this one was five times worse than any he’d ever encountered; this one knew what he was doing. It was rumored in the kitchen that this young boy was the son of a wealthy Irish businessman, here to meet with another leading family of technology about their newest available technology. Ward wasn’t sure he believed it. Surely, someone raised in a home with a wealthy businessman would have learned better manners than to constantly insult the help.
But there was a certain air of authority when the boy spoke, some kind of superior tone that seemed natural both to speaker and listener. It bothered him just a bit. He wasn’t used to being spoken to by people who believed themselves far better than himself, and he definitely wasn’t used to being alright with it. Artemis Fowl, they called him. The second of his name and the first of his kind. A child prodigy. And if the rumor was true, that mountain of a man beside him must have been Butler, his legendary bodyguard. Ward wondered for a moment whether the child was able to assert the same advantage over such an intimidating man.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!”
Ward brushed off his shoulder where the girl had run into him, smiling cordially and nodding. It had to be tough having this as your first night on the job. Ariel, the newhire, seemed to be getting along quite well, considering. A bit flustered, perhaps, but no more than one could expect. Ward watched as the girl set down her platter on the nearest table, grinning to the customers who did not return the sentiment. It was funny, he couldn’t remember her application, or even an interview. It was as if she had simply materialized for this night, without warning or apparent reason. But that couldn’t be. The Sorana put all of its potential employees through rigorous training; he must have just missed her.
Still, as he raised his own water to his lips to drink, he had to wonder. The nagging feeling in the back of his mind had never been wrong before…
He heard the scream as if underwater, or from very far away. He turned quickly to the source, wobbling on his feet and lurching forward, barely catching himself on a chair. This wasn’t right. His vision was swimming, his legs very nearly buckling underneath him. Something was wrong. Something was very, very…
Thomas Ward’s unconscious form hit the carpet, followed quickly by those of every person unfortunate enough to be in the room at the time.
Christa balanced the three drinks on her trey, putting on a plastic waitress’ smile as she pushed her way through the double doors and into the dining room. What she saw when she entered sent the carefully arranged meal tumbling to the floor. A sense of dread crept into the pit of her stomach, and she frantically searched the room. No… they were gone. It couldn’t be. Ignoring the pool of water that had spread through the carpet at her feet, Christa bolted for the window, looking out over the fantastic view of New York City. How long ago had this happened? They could be anywhere by now, for all she knew… But no. She had to believe that she could still save them. She spun around, sinking into the nearest booth and closing her eyes in concentration. Where would she take a hostage, if she were a deranged criminal? The briefing she had received this morning had mentioned something about a lighthouse… but which one?
In one sudden movement, Christa rose from her seat, rushing across to the stairs and half jumping, half running down them. She couldn’t be bothered with the elevator; there wasn’t the time, and there was always the chance that it could get stuck. Every second lost was a second of Artemis Fowl’s life that she was wasting by not moving. Finally reaching the lobby, Christa made for the front doors at a full sprint. The patrons waiting to be served regarded her with their strangest looks, no doubt wondering why on earth there was a waitress running through the front room of her own workplace, and looking so panicked at that. She had to wonder whether they had thought it as strange when her fellow “waitress” had taken her unconscious hostage through the same room.
A rush of freezing air washed over her as she flew from the restaurant, and she closed her eyes against the flurry of raindrops. Despite the rain and the passersby clogging up the sidewalk, she continued at the same brisk speed until she rounded the corner, finding her motorcycle parked just next to the staff entrance. The barrage of car horns and impatient shouts continued around her as she slung the helmet over her head, buckling it hastily as she revved the engine. They couldn’t have gotten too far. If the drinks had been tainted before she had gotten the chance to switch the target’s own sedative with a regular water, then that meant it had to have been just before she had returned to the kitchen. She had been present for most of the time, and the activation had to have occurred at just the right moment. A sudden realization hit her as she sped off into the streets, dodging between taxi cabs and cars in an effort to get to the coast. The culprit had known who she was. She silently cursed herself. She had messed up badly.