In the Agent Colt Shore books, Axel Avian is looking to putting the fun back into saving the world. The first book, Domino 29, has gained an enthusiastic following among teens and adults alike. Why? Start reading…
AGENT COLT SHORE: DOMINO 29
I’m locked in a small chapel, an oratory, in a Gothic castle. I’m badly hurt. With me are eleven girls, dressed in color-splashed tunics, pants and chadors. They’re terrified. We have three minutes. Three minutes to escape, or be captured.
A week ago, I was a normal kid. Not a secret agent at all.
As far as I can tell, it was one of those domino chain reactions. You’ve probably seen the videos where people set up thousands of dominos in a pattern, then push the first one and watch them all go. But did you know that, with dominos, a different kind of chain reaction is possible? That a domino the size of a tiny piece of gum can knock over the next one that’s one and a half times larger, and so on, until with twenty-nine dominos, you’ve started with one the size of gum and are knocking over one the size of the Empire State Building?
Never mind one thing leading to the next that is crazier, to the next, crazier yet—and before you know it, you’re in a huge castle in the Alps, injured, chased by men with guns, trying to save twelve lives.
For me, it all started because I got a pair of drumsticks out of my backpack.
CHAPTER ONE Everything Changes
Here’s the thing: it’s tough having an older brother who’s a hero. It’s even tougher when he’s dead, because as often as you screw up, he’s never going to screw up again. He’s perfect. He’s also frozen in time at twenty-two, forever handsome—winning smile, great teeth, sparkle in his eye. I know because there’s a photo of him that’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. It’s why I came in through the kitchen.
All my life, I’d heard what a great tragedy it is that he’s gone. Left unsaid was what a letdown it is that I remain instead. Fifteen and awkward and unfinished.
His name was Dix, short for Dixon, and he died before I was born. I was the consolation prize. By the time I came along, my parents were older. Not only older, but slightly used up. As if they’d spent all their energy on their only son, and when their second only son came along, they had to go to the reserve energy tanks, which didn’t work quite as well. I slept in the bedroom that had been his, grew up in the same town, went to the same special save-the-world school, even had some of the same teachers, whom I imagined looked at me with sympathy rather than admiration. I was the also-ran.
Or that’s what I thought until my Uncle Don came to dinner that September Monday at our cream-colored brick home on Brent Hill in Springfield, Missouri. We had herbed chicken and rutabagas. He was a favorite uncle, never married, constantly in good humor. He was always glad to see me, always calkled me “Colt my boy,” as if “my boy” was my middle name.
They were at the dinner table having decaf coffee and angel food cake when I asked to be excused. I decided to practice my drums before finishing my homework, because Uncle Don was a music fan from back they they actually called it “rock’n’roll.” So I went to my room, cranked up the music, and sat down behind my Ludwigs to finish working out the drum part to a new song by a band I liked. I’d been through it once but I wanted a different sound. Then I remembered I had some new jazz drumsticks in my backpack.
I let the band continue to wail while I headed out to the front hall to fetch them.
I wasn’t sneaking, or being especially quiet. I was still digging my drumsticks out of my backpack when I heard Uncle Don say, “He’s getting pretty good on those drums. He might be good enough to play in a professional band. Has he said what he’d like to be? A professional drummer, or does he show any of his dad’s interest in being a secret agent?”
This stopped me in my tracks. My dad had never been an agent. He was an engineer.
“No,” Mom said. “Thank the Lord.”
A pause. Then Uncle Don said, “Don’t you sometimes wish his parents could see him? I think they’d be so proud.”
There was dead air. Then Mom said, pointedly, “We’ve discussed this.”
It was right about then the hall tilted. I had to put my hand out to steady myself. After a minute of gulping breath, I lurched back to my bedroom.
# # #