The 6th novel in the Gems young adult spy series is out! Below you can read a sample from the first chapter.
“You all dance like fat American women making love to their fat American husbands,” the Indian director yelled from his pulpit, a raised chair in front of a trio of video monitors with two nervous production assistants waiting on either side. The director slipped out of his throne and marched past the digital camera, its lens focused on a large movie set with forty actors wearing a colorful array of traditional Indian wedding costumes. The actors let out a collective sigh as they all moved back to their starting marks on the giant marble dance floor.
“We will keep doing this over and over and over again until you get it right, is that clear?” the director asked in Hindi.
Olivia Spencer gripped the film slate in her hands as she checked with the English cinematographer manning the camera. “What did he say?”
The Englishman smirked. “He wants to do another take.”
Olivia advanced the digital readout on her slate to take number twenty-four.
The director flung his arms into the air. “I’m losing the day. Let’s go!”
“Sound ready,” a voice across the room yelled in English.
“Video ready,” the English cinematographer said, nodding to Olivia.
Olivia stepped in front of the camera and held up the slate. “Farewell to Mumbai. Scene seventy-one. Take number twenty-four. Mark.” She snapped the clapper down, and the slate beeped a time stamp. Olivia then got off-camera quick.
“Action!” the Indian director yelled.
Fun and festive dance music filled the atrium as the forty dancers clapped in unison to begin their choreographed routine. The dancers twirled and spun in perfect harmony, sweeping their beautiful dresses across the white marble as they exchanged places and clapped to the rhythm of the music.
That is until one girl tripped and fell into another, causing a chain reaction of falls like a pile of dominoes.
“Cut. Cut!” the director yelled.
Nadia Sharif wore a full Indian wedding costume from head to toe. She managed to get off the floor, then bent down carefully in her dress to help another fallen dancer back to her feet. Nadia met Olivia’s gaze, then nodded to indicate she was fine. Olivia admired how well Nadia had changed her natural orange skin tone to a darker shade that matched the other Indian dancers. Her dark hair was on point too. She fit right in after studying Indian dance from an expert to make her cover complete.
Nadia tossed her eyes over at the director as she ran her finger across her neck, indicating to Olivia what everyone on the set was feeling.
Olivia understood. Most of the crew wanted to kill the director too. He was such a—
“Set up again!” the director yelled.
“Ishaan,” the Indian producer called out as he emerged into the studio with two Korean men in tow. One of them wore an all-white suit.
The director noticed the strangers and nodded. He whispered to the production manager.
“That’s lunch,” the manager said in English. “We’ll resume in two hours.”
A collective wave of relief went over the set as people headed for the craft services tables. But Nadia moved in the opposite direction; she waited for the English cinematographer to leave before joining Olivia.
“Notice our two new visitors?” Nadia asked.
Olivia did. The one with the white suit was Kwon-Ho, a North Korean operative who had killed dozens of aid workers trying to smuggle food and medical supplies into North Korea to help combat the starvation of its citizens. Black Widow—no, not that one—found out that Kwon-Ho was “financing” this Bollywood picture under a false identity. It was another scheme created by the North Koreans to launder dirty money from selling weapons to dictators into legitimate investments in the East.
“I’ll text Black Widow to get her welcoming committee ready,” Olivia said.
“In that case, I’ll get a refreshment.” Nadia moved off towards the craft services area.
As Olivia finished her text and hit send, she was just in time to see Nadia sipping on a cup of cranberry juice. Olivia waited, knowing full well what would happen next.
Nadia drifted her way closer and closer to Kwon-Ho as both the producer and director charmed him in English about giving the production more money for extra shooting days. Kwon-Ho was a large man but in great shape. From what Black Widow had told them during the mission briefing, this man was lethal in hand-to-hand fighting. As Kwon-Ho listened, his expression was vacant. Not a hint of emotion. As if the producer and director were talking to a cement wall.
The closer Nadia got to the group, the more the girl’s eyes were on the ceiling of the sound stage. Her footsteps were light and carefree, as if she were playing music to another dance routine in her head. Soon she drifted behind the group, just another extra on a huge sound stage. With her back to Kwon-Ho, Nadia did a final grand swirl and ran into Kwon-Ho’s shoulder, emptying the cup of cranberry juice all over the man’s white suit.
Nadia gasped. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t see you. Oh my gosh. It’s my fault. I was dancing through the number in my head and—”
Kwon-Ho pushed her away. “Get away from me, you stupid girl.”
“What’s wrong with you?” the producer yelled in broken English. He turned to Kwon-Ho. “Let our production company have that cleaned.”
“You stupid bitch!” the director yelled. “You’re fired.”
Nadia produced some tears. “But it was an accident. Please forgive me.”
“Get out before I have you thrown out!” the director yelled.
Nadia wiped her eyes and scurried off the sound stage in tears.
The English cinematographer came back from the craft services table with a sandwich and a Coke, his neck craned to watch the drama.
“Poor girl,” Olivia said. “That was uncalled for.”
The Englishman shrugged. “She’s young. She’ll find work.”
“No, it really disgusts me. Sorry, Peter, but I’m giving notice as well.”
The English cinematographer stopped in mid-bite; then he chewed it very fast. “You’re giving notice? As in…now?”
“Sorry, love. I can’t work with that man.”
“Bullocks, you’re the only member on the crew who appreciates my sarcasm,” the Englishman said. “Besides, you were doing a smashing job.”
The Englishman handed Olivia a business card. “Call me when you’re ready for another gig. I’m based out of Los Angeles.”
Olivia hugged him and told him she would before taking her purse and following Nadia off the sound stage.
Once outside, the sun shined on Olivia as she made her way past the doors of several studio sound stages until she reached a parking lot. Olivia made her way to a Mercedes Sprinter van and knocked on the back door. The lock disengaged. Olivia opened it and hopped inside.
The van’s interior had a laptop and other various pieces of active surveillance equipment. A middle-aged English woman monitored it.
Black Widow was in great shape for her age and looked fantastic in the running outfit she wore. She grinned. “Well done, Emerald.”
“Is the tracker working?” Olivia asked.
“Perfectly. He’s making his way out of the studio complex. When all the pieces are in place, we’ll strike.”
“I slipped it deep into the pocket of his trousers,” Nadia said, standing in a corner of the van while shedding her Indian wedding costume.
“Ever fancy a dancing career?” Olivia asked. “You kept up with those other girls pretty well, love.”
Nadia stepped into some jeans and laughed. “It was all acting. I’d much rather watch viruses dancing under a microscope in a lab.”
“I have someone on Kwon-Ho now,” Black Widow said. “He’s in the back of a white BMW with two men. You girls had better have a seat. We’re on the move.”
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