Read an Excerpt
“You want me to what?” Sydney Bristow asked incredulously. She shook her head, laughing with disbelief. “Good one, Wilson!”
Reginald Wilson, her SD-6 recruiter, leaned forward in his leather chair, bracing his hands on the long polished table at the center of the op-tech department. “This is serious, Sydney.”
“You just told me to join a sorority! You must be joking. Right?”
Wilson’s eyes bored into hers, not a trace of humor in them.
“Right?” she repeated, more urgently. “I mean, you can’t be telling me that the future of the free world hangs on my mastery of panty raids and keg parties.”
“I believe panty raids would be more of a fraternity thing,” Wilson said dryly. “Or possibly sixth-grade camp. However, you will be required to demonstrate an affinity for crafts, formals, and soul-baring games. Obviously you have some research to do before you attend your first event at Alpha Kappa Chi.”
He’s kidding, she thought. He has to be!
But Wilson was a model secret agent—his face gave away nothing.
“I cannot join a sorority,” Sydney said, doing her best to keep her voice calm. “Not unless you want to have someone hack into the school computer and fix the failing grades I’ll get. I’ve seen those girls on campus, running around in their matching outfits. Just reading all the banners they put up would be a full-time gig—I can’t imagine actually attending so many events. It’s like they live in an alternate universe or something, and I just don’t have time for a third reality right now. Between working for you and trying to pass my classes, I’m living two lives already.”
She could have added that her impression of sororities was not particularly positive, but that objection seemed obvious. Sydney’s studiousness, her reserved personality, and her outsider social status—all characteristics that had made her a prime candidate for recruitment into this top-secret branch of the CIA—were in diametric opposition to the sorority lifestyle.
“You may have a point,” Wilson admitted, rubbing his square chin thoughtfully. “But a little careful hacking is certainly an option. There’s this new kid in ops who—”
“Wilson!” Sydney stopped him. “I don’t want to join a sorority. I wouldn’t fit in with those girls, and don’t even get me started on frat boys! I’m totally in favor of exploring the college experience, but if you’re going to start filling up my free time now—”
“Who said anything about free time? I’m giving you your next mission.”
“Joining a sorority?”
“Joining Alpha Kappa Chi,” Wilson corrected her impatiently. “It wouldn’t do any good if you joined one of the others.”
What good will it do you if I join that one?
Taking a deep breath, Sydney forced herself to swallow the question. In fairness to Wilson, she hadn’t given him much of a chance to explain. Her two most recent missions, in Paris and Scotland, had been the kind of life-or-death international spying assignments she’d joined SD-6 to perform. How did a sorority fit in to the mix?
“Why don’t we start over?” she asked sheepishly.
Wilson gave her a stern look. “Try to pay attention this time.”
Sinking lower in her chair, she hoped the two agents walking past the large conference room hadn’t heard the reprimand. In the months since she’d begun her training, Sydney had earned her reputation as a nineteen-year-old wunderkind, but she still wasn’t a full agent.
“As I was saying,” Wilson continued in a slightly annoyed tone, “I want you to join Alpha Kappa Chi immediately. We had an agent in there, Jen Williams. Unfortunately, Jen died two weeks ago. The coroner called it an asthma attack, but we don’t buy that for a second.”
“Wait,” said Sydney, sitting up straight. “You think somebody killed her?”
Wilson nodded. “Jen did have asthma, but it had been under control for years. Suffocation. That’s my guess. With her history, people might not look too carefully.”
“But . . . but . . .” Sydney tried to latch on to one of the thoughts swirling through her brain. “You think she was killed for being in a sorority?”
“No. I think someone in the sorority killed her.”
“So . . . they knew she was an agent?”
“Why else would they have killed her?”
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Sydney. “Why did you send her in there in the first place? I mean, who are these girls?”
Wilson massaged his temples, clearly trying to fend off a headache. “I didn’t send her in. When we recruited Jen, she was already a member of Alpha Kappa Chi. It was difficult, working around all those functions, but it was also a built-in cover. Who’s going to suspect a sorority girl?”
“Not me,” Sydney admitted.
“Exactly. Plus, the Alphas are a well-off group. They travel a lot. Jen did some odd drops and pickups for us. Mostly little stuff, but she was about to graduate and come on as a full-time agent.”
“She was a senior?” Sydney asked, wishing she could have met her. She hadn’t even known there was another member of SD-6 enrolled at her school . . . and now the girl was dead.
“She started with us later than you did, and didn’t move forward as fast. But Jen was a good, solid thinker. Her death is a big loss.”
Sydney nodded, her eyes abruptly brimming with tears. “I’ll find out who did it,” she vowed. “I’ll rush that sorority so hard they won’t know what hit them.”
Wilson smiled faintly. “There’s more. AKX is gearing up for its big spring trip to Hawaii, and Jen was going to do a mission for us there—the most important mission we’d ever given her. You’ll have to take it now.”
“I will. Anything.”
Wilson gave her a long, probing look.
“Don’t make this personal,” he warned. “Whoever killed Jen is still out there. You storm in like the Terminator and you could end up dead too.”
From the Paperback edition.