The 39 Clues Invasion

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Authors: Riley Clifford
 
    One Year After the Clue Hunt
     
    When Dan Cahill started talking kung fu movies, no force in the universe could make him stop. First he ranted about the bad lip-synching, then he rhapsodized about how Bruce Lee was so fast that movie directors asked him to slow down his punches so they could be captured on film. Atticus Rosenbloom lay the phone down on the windowsill to let his friend finish his monologue from a distance. Usually, talking to Dan made Atticus laugh so hard he almost choked on his retainer, but right now he couldn’t muster a chuckle.
    His mom and dad were outside by the car, giving final instructions to Atticus’s older brother, Jake. The two siblings looked so different that people were always guessing that one was adopted, which forced Atticus to explain that, in actuality, they were half brothers. But Jake had been around from the moment Atticus was born, so they didn’t count the difference.
    Atticus knew he should be outside with his family, but he didn’t want to start crying again and make his mom late for her appointment. Jake didn’t cry. He just pretended everything was okay. Or maybe he just didn’t care as much — Astrid was only his stepmom, after all.
    As he peered out the window, Atticus saw his dad load the suitcases into the trunk while his mom hugged Jake. On the phone, Dan’s tinny voice was now going on about a snarfing-related incident at school.
    “Uh-huh,” Atticus said into the phone before putting it down again.
    He heard the car doors shut and watched Jake walk back to the house as their dad maneuvered the family’s station wagon around the recycling bins and out into the suburban cul-de-sac. His mom looked up from the passenger seat to Atticus’s window and gave him a wave as the car disappeared into the trees that lined the street. She looked so tiny and frail from Atticus’s room. Her face was tight and thin, and even from a distance her hand looked like paper stretched over bone.
    Atticus’s chest heaved and he pressed the red button on the phone, cutting off Dan’s voice. Sorry , lost service , he punched into a text and hit SEND .
    Across the street, another station wagon pulled away from the curb. The driver was probably on his way to field hockey practice, the grocery store, or a family dinner out. Certainly not to a series of expensive medical appointments in New York City.
    This wasn’t ancient China, where emperor Qin Shi Huang’s doctors gave him mercury pills to try to extend his life (in actuality, of course, they killed him). Modern medicine was supposed to know how to make people get better . But even the full staff of Harvard Medical School hadn’t known what was wrong with Atticus’s mom.

     
    Simeon disassembled the microphone with mechanical precision. There was a place for every part, resting snugly in the foam inside a steel case. He glanced at the rearview mirror. As soon as the Rosenblooms’ car disappeared from view, he slipped his transmission into drive and pulled out into the street.
    His new long-range microphone was proving to be a great asset on this little break-in assignment. He’d just learned that Atticus and Jake Rosenbloom would be alone through the weekend. As soon as the two children left the house, Simeon could use his tools to gain entry into the study and liberate Astrid’s files.
    Simeon liked using his tools to break into things. He could break people, too, for that matter. Just like a penknife could encourage a lock to open, it could also encourage a person to spill his secrets. In either case, you just needed to apply the right pressure. Simeon’s favorite tool was the ornately engraved weapon strapped to his chest. If things went south on a job, he could always fall back on his Cretan dagger.
    Given what he knew of the Vespers, Simeon was surprised that they only wanted a few files from a sick professor. For five hundred years, the Vespers had been one of history’s greatest crime organizations, sowing death

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