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Read an Excerpt
By M.B. Hart
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 M.B. Hart
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGuinevere Rhoslyn sat, fingers laced, in a plush chair in the Head of School's office at St. Gilgen's International School in Austria - a newly opened boarding school in which her father had placed her for 'modern opportunities' as he had put it. She was sitting alone at the moment, which suited her nicely. A few moments passed and she looked down, studying her plaid skirt. She spotted a wrinkle and smoothed it, her white hand running over the blue and white fabric. Her hand was literally white-just like the rest of her - in the eeriest sense, for she suffered from albinism which kept her from having any pigmentation. She had situated her hair in its usual fashion- in a tight bun at the base of her neck- and her thin bone structure made her seem like the slightest breeze would knock her to the ground even as she sat. Albinism was not the greatest thing to have to live with, but live with it she did, and she enjoyed the privacy she received because of her oddity. Behind her smoked glasses her pink, almost salmon, eyes inspected her white satin polo shirt and red tie. This was her rather annoying uniform, much less comfortable than her custom tailored Cavalli suits, but she looked as presentable as a schoolgirl could. She waited, her patience wearing thin from the bright illumination in the room. At the moment the Head of School and the person Guinevere was impatiently waiting on, Professor Naldan, was in the other room speaking with one of her professors- Professor Norrel.
As Guinevere's eyes raked around the office she noticed it was rather large, and the window positioned behind the desk nearly covered the entirety of the wall behind said desk. Of course the room would be comfortable for the Head of School- for his plush black leather chair faced the door opposite of the window- but for Guinevere the sunlight streaming in through the open shutters was annoying. She fidgeted slightly, focusing her eyes on the deep mahogany desk, memorizing the details to get her mind off the light. A new computer sat on the desk-Toshiba by the looks of it- and beside it a plaque with the Head of School's name etched in copper ...
Proffessor Naldan entered the office. He was a chubby man with dark-rimmed glasses magnifying his eyes and a traditional black suit draped over his short frame. His sleek graying brown hair reflected the sun shining through the window. He sat down behind his desk, strain showing slightly on his face.
"I was told that you belittled one of your professors, again: Professor Norrel?" he said, looking at her with features that neared exasperation. This was neither the first nor the fifth time she had been sent into his office for such a thing.
Inwardly Guinevere smirked. Professor Norrel was simple-minded to say at the least. She honestly saw no meaning of a man with such narrow-minded thoughts being the psychology professor. The board should have known better than to appoint him. He did not even know half of the tricks in the book.
"Sir," she explained, "I made no intention of belittling my professor. However, in his state of mind he thought that I was not as intellectually inclined as to understand him accurately and I was obliged to establish the fact that I am as intellectual- if not more than- he is."
The Head of School shook his head sadly. "Miss Rhoslyn," he said jadedly. "You are a student at this establishment. You are here to learn from our professors, not to disparage them. If you feel that you must show others that they are wrong in their state of mind, please do not refrain from signing up for the debate team."
At that moment Professor Naldan's lecture was cut off for Guinevere's phone began to ring. It buzzed loudly in her pocket and the room was quiet enough that everyone present could hear it. A vein pulsed in the Head of School's head, but Guinevere acted as though she did not notice it. Showing no regard for her superior, she took out her phone. Only two people had the number to her cellular phone, and this number was neither one of them.
"Could you please excuse me," she said, not expressly requesting permission but saying it out of mild politeness. Then she answered the call.
"Don't move a muscle," she heard a poorly disguised soprano voice say. Guinevere guessed that the caller was reaching for a bass, or even baritone pitch, but its falseness would not have fooled even a toddler. "I have a gun fixed on your head and if you try to find me I will shoot."
The room was quiet for a moment. Professor Naldan looked at her with a mix of anger and questioning, but she ignored it. Then Guinevere, rather capriciously, hummed a low E so quietly that it could only be deciphered as static from the person on the other end of the line, though in actuality it triggered the voice sensor on her phone, enabling her butler and bodyguard, Alfonse, to listen into the conversation. "Don't do anything to get the painting," the voice continued, "or that will be last thing you do." The line then went dead, the dial tone humming in her ear.
That was a bit melodramatic, Guinevere thought. Then she thought on an aside, why did there always have to be melodrama? There really is no need for it. She put her phone back in her pocket, still slightly irritated about the melodrama and the sun shining into her sensitive eyes, and faced Professor Naldan. "I need to leave. It is an emergency. Please accept my apologies."
She saw the old man gape, but before Professor Naldan had a chance to reply Guinevere was out of his office and on her way to the front gates of the school.
"Did you get a fix on the location of the call?" Guinevere asked as soon as she entered the dark blue four-wheeler. She was relieved to be out of the blinding light she had been forced to endure in the office, and even the small amount of light she walked through to reach the car. Being one with albinism, she could very easily acquire skin cancer; and besides, she was normally always in a dimly lit room.
"It was scrambled and the system was unable to retrieve it on time," Alfonse answered from the driver's seat. Strongly built, he looked the part of a European spy and wore a black suit that concealed two pistols, extra ammunition, a knife, and a small variety of assorted weapons. "Don't you think that you should stop now before someone gets hurt?" the bodyguard asked, looking into the back seat. "It sounds like someone is against you obtaining that painting; and primarily they know. The odds do not look good for this."
Even though Guinevere was agitated that someone besides her knew of her intentions, she grinned. "When odds are against you is when the game gets interesting," she said.
Alfonse sighed. He knew that - as much as he wished he could- he could not change her mind. When Guinevere Rhoslyn wanted something, she did whatever was necessary for her to obtain it. "I think I found someone that could help us in our search," he said.
Three days later found Guinevere and Alfonse walking through the backstreets of Egypt as both were dressed in Arabic outfits. Guinevere wore a traditional abaya with a piece of cloth that concealed her face from the sun, and Alfonse wearing a kurti set. It looked all in the world like a man, however large, and his daughter. Already someone had tried to grab hold of Guinevere's purse but Alfonse had broken the boys hand without a second glance, effectively showing how serious Alfonse was about making sure no one came near the girl. No one had tried to get close to them since.
"I hope this is not just another dead end, Alfonse," Guinevere said as they weaved through the crowded streets. Alfonse, being her bodyguard, had been with her since the moment she was born. Her mother had died at childbirth and so Alfonse had taken care of her, though Guinevere's father had hired a nurse to help the albino girl grow to walkand talk and be 'potty trained' and everything else necessary to be a young lady. Alfonse was always there, watching and preparing the meals and everything else necessary, keeping a close eye on his charge.
Over the past six months they had been to Norway, Germany, and Italy looking for something that Guinevere merely referred to as a special painting. As only the both of them knew, Guinevere was a criminal mastermind. She had an IQ of over 250 and her nurse had been surprised that Guinevere had learned to read by one, walk by sixteen months, and potty-trained before she reached the age of two even though she had the minor setback of being slightly nearsighted. After a particularly nasty sunburn at the age of eighteen months she had refused to go out into the sunlight unless if particularly necessary. Already Guinevere had graduated from college multiple times online attaining master's degrees in physics, world history and in the arts, but her father insisted on her attending a boarding school in Austria. When she had reached the age of seven she acquired the taste for theft from the five hundred page books that she had been reading at the time. Since then she had stolen billions of dollars and priceless works of art from the most secure places in the world. Surprisingly, Guinevere's father either had not discovered that she had been stealing or not cared. Rarely did the two interact, for Mister Rhoslyn was always busy on business transactions and constantly flew around Europe and occasionally to other continents though barely leaving a note saying so. If Guinevere were to cross-examine her thieving actions she would most likely come to the conclusion that she only stole to make her mark on the world, however childishly, and to be perfectly honest she wanted her father to know what she was doing; at least then there would be something to discuss at the dinner table.
Currently she was after a painting by Vincent Van Gogh entitled Fairies. It was said the Adolf Hitler had stolen it during World War II from the museum in England and one thief had taken it from his collection as he was on one of his campaigns around Germany. It had then resided in a Swiss vault for years until someone had acquired a key to the vault and opened it, taking the contents of the vault home with them until it was stolen again. The painting was a legend; so much a legend that most thought it did not exist. But it did; and every good thief's dream was to steal that painting. Guinevere had a taste in fantastical paintings, and this was the best one there was. They had been told that there was someone who knew where the painting currently was, and Guinevere was not going to give up a chance like this.
Guinevere and Alfonse finally reached a tall decrepit building. The sandstone building was covered in clay that had cracked off the exterior wall in some places. A large metal door signaled the entrance and dusty windows looked down onto the crowded street. Against both of their better judgments they entered it and took the nearly broken elevator up to the fourth level.
Guinevere did not take her glasses off.
They strode down the corridor until they reached the room numbered 42. Guinevere slowly tapped on the door three times, leaving a pause two seconds long between each knock. Another two seconds passed and the door opened. A lanky man stood in front of her. He hardly reached five and a half feet and was a dark skinned native who wore khaki pants and a short sleeved, off-white shirt. On his face glasses that seemed to have been broken or bent in the past perched crookedly on his rather large nose, and his black hair was collar-length and dusty, letting off the feeling that he worked in a mine instead of a building. He saw Alfonse and became immediately intimidated by the sheer size of the bodyguard, not to mention the subtle bumps under his jacket which hinted at concealed weapons. The bodyguard's bulk stopped him from seeing anything else in the hallway; the poor Arabic man was beginning to think that this was a bad idea.
"You are Mr. Kafele, I presume," Guinevere said, pulling the scarf away from its position over her mouth. The man looked down at her, noticing her for the first time. He appeared to be surprised to see a small girl that looked no different from any other Arabic woman, except perhaps the extreme whiteness of the skin- which would have been impossible to find in any person native to the Middle East. But there was something different about her; he could not see her eyes because of the smoked glasses but he was afraid to look into them anyway; he could obviously sense the intensity of the hidden gaze of the girl and did not wish to experience its full force. Her face seemed completely unemotional.
"Yes," he asked shakily in heavily accented English. "You are Ms. Rhoslyn? Why are you wearing commoners clothing?"
Guinevere waved the question aside and getting straight to the reason she was there, "I am here for the information on the painting by the name of Fairies. I do believe you said you know of its whereabouts."
"Oh, yes, yes," he said, gulping down the fear of what might happen to him if he were wrong. "Please, do come in."
Guinevere and Alfonse entered the room. Mister Kafele gestured to a fold out chair and- feeling rather disgusted with her surroundings- she sat. Alfonse stood behind her, surveying the room, which was minuscule and bleak. The only items in it were two foldable chairs-one of which was currently occupied by Guinevere- a small faux wood desk and an old computer from the early nineties complete with telephone sitting on the desk. Beside the computer sat a small coffee machine which had seen better days. The walls were blank and only two bare light bulbs illuminated the room. Mister Kafele sat in the chair behind the desk.
"Would you like some coffee?" Mister Kafele offered, gesturing to the half full coffee machine which did not even appear to be on.
"I am afraid I must decline," Guinevere answered, barely able to with hold a grimace. "I am on a tight schedule and the sooner you give me the coordinates the sooner I can go on my way."
"Very well," the man said, glad that he was not the only one wishing her gone. He tapped a few keys in on the computer and turned the computer screen toward her. It showed a map of North-western Switzerland. "My resources show that the painting is currently being held in Bern, Switzerland. A man named Barnaby Alrik has possession of it now." He wrote an address on a piece of paper. "And this is where he lives."
"Your resources are to be trusted I hope," Guinevere asked, fingers interlaced as a snowy brow rose.
"Entirely," the man said with a smile beginning to form on his lips, which came more from anxiety than from egotism.
"Good," she said. She took the paper with the address and put it in the purse that had already been a target of theft that day. "Alfonse, could you please give this gentleman his pay?"
Alfonse reached into his breast pocket, and when he took out his hand was 10,000 American dollars. He handed it over to the Arabic man, who greedily took the money and stuffed it into his pockets. Guinevere walked to the door, mildly content with her work. Before she left she turned around and said, "Mister Kafele, we were never here."
The man looked at the huge body guard. "Yes," he agreed erratically. "Yes of course." A ghost of a smirk showed on Guinevere's face and disappeared. A moment later she was gone, the body guard following close behind her.
A week later Guinevere and Alfonse rode down the streets of Bern, Switzerland in a black Ferrari with tinted windows. Guinevere sat in the back, reviewing her plan once again for stealing the painting even though she had memorized the plan the moment she though to fit. A small aluminum briefcase sat in her lap. It had been opened and inside black leather tube-like containers nearly filled the space, mostly used for paintings, and an empty space hid at the bottom for the item that Guinevere hoped to acquire that day. Alfonse wore a hidden projector on the inside of his jacket that once turned on it would dispatch an image that looked and sounded much like Guinevere. Guinevere had also hacked into the security system and made sure that all traces of her except where she was supposed to go never would show on the monitors. She had already pinpointed the location of the painting on the estate from an earlier excursion two nights previously. All that was needed left was for it to be picked up.
They reached Barnaby Alrik's large white mansion at exactly three o'clock in the afternoon. Its grand yard was exquisite to behold; a large marble fountain in the center of the garden, surrounded by beautiful lilacs, roses, and amaryllis, spouted shimmering water into the air. The semi-circle shaped driveway wound around the fountain, ran parallel to the front door, and curved back to the main road. The Ferrari pulled into the driveway and stopped in front of the grand oak doors. Guinevere closed her briefcase and waited patiently for Alfonse to open her door. Once out of the car, the two advanced to the front door and were greeted by a butler who wore a traditional black suit and bow tie. The butler bowed them in and shut the oak doors behind them, revealing a grand foyer with tiled floor and ceiling and numerous paintings hanging from the walls-paintings that dated back to the renaissance and romance periods.
Excerpted from In Ruins by M.B. Hart Copyright © 2010 by M.B. Hart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a very good read. I've read most of the current fiction, and the story and writing is so much better than most of the others. Her writing style sucked me in and it was a thrill ride all the way through. If you liked the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, you will like this! I just hope someone like James Cameron could create this visually like he did Avatar!
I can't help but feel that this book was vastly vastly similar to Artemis Fowl to really be considered original. Granted some might consider it a fun read.
In Ruins is an inspiring book about a phenomenal girl who, though strong-willed and independent. excluding her body guard, is now in need of rescue; as I'm sure many of us have been at some point or another. Guinevere is out to do what most think the impossible and change her world as she knows it! In Ruins is something I'd suggest anyone who's read the Maximum Ride series or any of the Artemis Fowl books to pick this one up because you won't be able to put it down!