The loss of her husband had had a profound effect on Angeline Fowl. She had retreated to her room, refusing to go outside. She had taken refuge in her mind, preferring dreams of the past to real life. It is doubtful that she would have recovered had not her son, Artemis the Second, done a deal with the elf Holly Short: his mother’s sanity in return for half the ransom gold he had stolen from the fairy police. His mother safely restored, Artemis Junior focused his efforts on locating his father, investing large chunks of the family fortune in Russian excursions, local intelligence, and internet search companies.
Young Artemis had received a double share of Fowl guile. But with the recovery of his mother, a moral and beautiful lady, it became increasingly difficult for him to realize his ingenious schemes, schemes that were ever more necessary to fund the search for his father.
Angeline, distraught over her son’s obsession and afraid of the effects of the past year on Artemis’s mind, signed her thirteen-year-old up for treatment with the school counselor.
You have to feel sorry for him. The counselor, that is . . .
Saint Bartleby’s School for Young Gentlemen, County Wicklow, Ireland; Present Day
Dr. Po leaned back in his padded armchair, eyes flicking across the page in front of him.
“Now, Master Fowl, let’s talk, shall we?”
Artemis sighed deeply, smoothing his dark hair back from a wide, pale brow. When would people learn that a mind such as his could not be dissected? He himself had read more psychology textbooks than the counselor. He had even contributed an article to The Psychologists’ Journal, under the pseudonym Dr. F. Roy Dean Schlippe.
“Certainly, Doctor. Let’s talk about your chair. Victorian?”
Po rubbed the leather arm fondly. “Yes, quite correct. Something of a family heirloom. My grandfather acquired it at auction in Sotheby’s. Apparently it once stood in the palace. The Queen’s favorite.”
A taut smile stretched Artemis’s lips perhaps half an inch.
“Really, Doctor. They don’t generally allow fakes in the palace.”
Po’s grip stretched the worn leather. “Fake? I assure you, Master Fowl, this is completely authentic.”
Artemis leaned in for a closer examination. “It’s clever, I grant you. But look here.”
Po’s gaze followed the youth’s finger.
“Those furniture tacks. See the crisscross pattern on the head? Machine tooled. Nineteen twenty at the earliest. Your grandfather was duped. But what matter? A chair is a chair. A possession of no importance, eh, Doctor?”
Po scribbled furiously, burying his dismay. “Yes, Artemis, very clever. Just as your file says. Playing your little games. Now shall we get back to you?”
Artemis Fowl the Second straightened the crease in his trousers. “There is a problem here, Doctor.”
“Really? And what might that be?”
“The problem is that I know the textbook answers to any question you care to ask.”
Dr. Po jotted in his pad for a full minute. “We do have a problem, Artemis. But that’s not it,” he said eventually.
Artemis almost smiled. No doubt the doctor would treat him to another predictable theory. Which disorder would he have today? Multiple personality perhaps, or maybe he’d be a pathological liar?
“The problem is that you don’t respect anyone enough to treat them as an equal.”
Artemis was thrown by the statement. This doctor was smarter than the rest.
“That’s ridiculous. I hold several people in the highest esteem.”
Po did not glance up from his notebook.
“Really? Who, for example?”
Artemis thought for a moment. “Albert Einstein. His theories were usually correct. And Archimedes, the Greek mathematician.”
“What about someone whom you actually know?”
Artemis thought hard. No one came to mind.
“What? No examples?”
Artemis shrugged. “You seem to have all the answers, Dr. Po, why don’t you tell me?”
Po opened a window on his laptop. “Extraordinary. Every time I read this –”
“My biography, I presume?”
“Yes, it explains a lot.”
“Such as?” asked Artemis, interested in spite of himself.
Dr. Po printed off a page.
“Firstly, there’s your associate, Butler. A bodyguard, I understand. Hardly a suitable companion for an impressionable boy. Then there’s your mother. A wonderful woman in my opinion, but with absolutely no control over your behavior. Finally, there’s your father. According to this, he wasn’t much of a role model, even when he was alive.”
The remark stung, but Artemis wasn’t about to let the doctor realize how much.
“Your file is mistaken, Doctor,” he said. “My father is alive. Missing perhaps, but alive.”
Po checked the sheet. “Really? I was under the impression that he has been missing for almost two years. Why, the courts have declared him legally dead.”
Artemis’s voice was devoid of emotion, though his heart was pounding. “I don’t care what the courts say, or the Red Cross. He is alive, and I will find him.”
Po scratched another note.
“But even if your father were to return, what then?” he asked. “Will you follow in his footsteps? Will you be a criminal like him? Perhaps you already are?”
“My father was no criminal,” Artemis said testily. “He was moving all our assets into legitimate enterprises. The Murmansk venture was completely aboveboard.”
“You’re avoiding the question, Artemis,” said Po.
But Artemis had had enough of this line of questioning. Time to play a little game.
“Why, Doctor?” said Artemis, shocked. “This is a sensitive area. For all you know, I could be suffering from depression.”
“I suppose you could,” said Po, sensing a breakthrough. “Is that the case?”
Artemis dropped his face into his hands. “It’s my mother, Doctor.”
“Your mother?” prompted Po, trying to keep the excitement from his voice. Artemis had caused half a dozen counselors to retire from Saint Bartleby’s already this year. Truth be told, Po was on the point of packing his own bags. But now . . .
“My mother, she . . .”
Po leaned forward on his fake Victorian chair. “Your mother, yes?”
“She forces me to endure this ridiculous therapy, when the so-called counselors are little better than misguided do-gooders with degrees.”
Po sighed. “Very well, Artemis. Have it your way, but you are never going to find peace if you continue to run away from your problems.”
Artemis was spared further analysis by the vibration of his cell phone. He had a coded secure line. Only one person had the number. The boy retrieved it from his pocket, flipping open the tiny communicator. “Yes?”
Butler’s voice came through the speaker. “Artemis. It’s me.”
“Obviously. I’m in the middle of something here.”
“We’ve had a message.”
“Yes. From where?”
“I don’t know exactly. But it concerns the Fowl Star.”
A jolt raced up Artemis’s spine.
“Where are you?”
“The main gate.”
“Good man. I’m on my way.”
Dr. Po whipped off his glasses. “This session is not over, young man. We made some progress today, even if you won’t admit it. Leave now, and I will be forced to inform the dean.”
The warning was lost on Artemis. He was already somewhere else. A familiar electric buzz was crackling over his skin. This was the beginning of something. He could feel it.