Maya reached out and took her father's hand as they walked from the
Underground to the light. Thorn didn't push her away or tell Maya
to concentrate on the position of her body. Smiling, he guided her
up a narrow staircase to a long, sloping tunnel with white tile
walls. The Underground authority had installed steel bars on one
side of the tunnel and this barrier made the ordinary passageway
look like part of an enormous prison. If she had been traveling
alone, Maya might have felt trapped and uncomfortable, but there
was nothing to worry about because Father was with her.
It's the perfect day, she thought. Well, maybe it was the second
most perfect day. She still remembered two years ago when Father
had missed her birthday and Christmas only to show up on Boxing Day
with a taxi full of presents for Maya and her mother. That morning
was bright and full of surprises, but this Saturday seemed to
promise a more durable happiness. Instead of the usual trip to the
empty warehouse near Canary Wharf, where her father taught her how
to kick and punch and use weapons, they had spent the day at the
London Zoo, where he had told her different stories about each of
the animals. Father had traveled all over the world and could
describe Paraguay or Egypt as if he were a tour guide.
People had glanced at them as they strolled past the cages. Most
Harlequins tried to blend into the crowd, but her father stood out
in a group of ordinary citizens. He was German, with a strong nose,
shoulder-length hair, and dark blue eyes. Thorn dressed
in somber colors and wore a steel kara bracelet that looked
like a broken shackle.
Maya had found a battered art history book in the closet of their
rented flat in East London. Near the front of the book was a
picture by Albrecht Dürer called Knight, Death, and the
Devil. She liked to stare at the picture even though it made
her feel strange. The armored knight was like her father, calm and
brave, riding through the mountains as Death held up an hourglass
and the Devil followed, pretending to be a squire. Thorn also
carried a sword, but his was concealed inside a metal tube with a
leather shoulder strap.
Although she was proud of Thorn, he also made her feel embarrassed
and self-conscious. Sometimes she just wanted to be an
ordinary girl with a pudgy father who worked in an office -- a
happy man who bought ice-cream cones and told jokes
about kangaroos. The world around her, with its bright fashions and
pop music and television shows, was a constant temptation. She
wanted to fall into that warm water and let the current pull her
away. It was exhausting to be Thorn's daughter, always avoiding the
surveillance of the Vast Machine, always watching for enemies,
always aware of the angle of attack.
Maya was twelve years old, but still wasn't strong enough to use a
Harlequin sword. As a substitute, Father had taken a walking stick
from the closet and given it to her before they left the flat that
morning. Maya had Thorn's white skin and strong features and her
Sikh mother's thick black hair. Her eyes were such a pale blue that
from a certain angle they looked translucent. She hated it when
well-meaning women approached her mother and
complimented Maya's appearance. In a few years, she'd be old enough
to disguise herself and look as ordinary as possible.
They left the zoo and strolled through Regent's Park. It was late
April and young men were kicking footballs across the muddy lawn
while parents pushed bundled-up babies in
perambulators. The whole city seemed to be out enjoying the
sunshine after three days of rain. Maya and her father took the
Piccadilly line to the Arsenal station; it was getting dark when
they reached the street-level exit. There was an Indian
restaurant in Finsbury Park and Thorn had made reservations for an
early supper. Maya heard noises -- blaring air horns and shouting
in the distance -- and wondered if there was some kind of political
demonstration. Then Father led her through the turnstile and out
into a war.
Standing on the sidewalk, she saw a mob of people marching up
Highbury Hill Road. There weren't any protest signs and banners,
and Maya realized that she was watching the end of a football
match. The Arsenal Stadium was straight down the road and a team
with blue and white colors -- that was Chelsea -- had just played
there. The Chelsea supporters were coming out of the visitors' gate
on the west end of the stadium and heading down a narrow street
lined with row houses. Normally it was a quick walk to the station
entrance, but now the North London street had turned into a
gauntlet. The police were protecting Chelsea from Arsenal football
thugs who were trying to attack them and start fights.
Policemen on the edges. Blue and white in the center. Red throwing
bottles and trying to break through the line. Citizens caught in
front of the crowd scrambled between parked cars and knocked over
rubbish bins. Flowering hawthorns grew at the edge of the curb and
their pink blossoms trembled whenever someone was shoved against a
tree. Petals fluttered through the air and fell upon the surging
The main crowd was approaching the Tube station, about one hundred
meters away. Thorn could have gone to the left and headed up
Gillespie Road, but he remained on the sidewalk and studied the
people surrounding them. He smiled slightly, confident of his own
power and amused by the pointless violence of the drones. Along
with the sword, he was carrying at least one knife and a handgun
obtained from contacts in America. If he wished, he could kill a
great many of these people, but this was a public confrontation and
the police were in the area. Maya glanced up at her father. We
should run away, she thought. These people are completely mad. But
Thorn glared at his daughter as if he had just sensed her fear and
Maya stayed silent.
Everyone was shouting. The voices merged into one angry roar. Maya
heard a high-pitched whistle. The wail of a police
siren. A beer bottle sailed through the air and exploded into
fragments a few feet away from where they were standing. Suddenly,
a flying wedge of red shirts and scarves plowed through the police
lines, and she saw men kicking and throwing punches. Blood streamed
down a policeman's face, but he raised his truncheon and fought
She squeezed Father's hand. "They're coming toward us," she said.
"We need to get out of the way."
Thorn turned around and pulled his daughter back into the entrance
of the Tube station as if to find refuge there. But now the police
were driving the Chelsea supporters forward like a herd of cattle
and she was surrounded by men wearing blue. Caught in the crowd,
Maya and her father were pushed past the ticket booth where the
elderly clerk cowered behind the thick glass.
Father vaulted over the turnstile and Maya followed. Now they were
back in the long tunnel, heading down to the trains. It's all
right, she thought. We're safe now. Then she realized that men
wearing red had forced their way into the tunnel and were running
beside them. One of the men was carrying a wool sock filled with
something heavy -- rocks, ball bearings -- and he swung it like a
club at the old man just in front of her, knocking off the man's
glasses and breaking his nose. A gang of Arsenal thugs slammed a
Chelsea supporter against the steel bars on the left side of the
tunnel. The man tried to get away as they kicked and beat him. More
blood. And no police anywhere.
Thorn grabbed the back of Maya's jacket and dragged her through the
fighting. A man tried to attack them and Father stopped him
instantly with a quick, snapping punch to the throat. Maya hurried
down the tunnel, trying to reach the stairway. Before she could
react, something like a rope came over her right shoulder and
across her chest. Maya looked down and saw that Thorn had just tied
a blue and white Chelsea scarf around her body.
In an instant she realized that the day at the zoo, the amusing
stories, and the trip to the restaurant were all part of a plan.
Father had known about the football game, had probably been here
before and timed their arrival. She glanced over her shoulder and
saw Thorn smile and nod as if he had just told her an amusing
story. Then he turned and walked away.
Maya spun around as three Arsenal supporters ran forward, yelling
at her. Don't think. React. She jabbed the walking stick like a
javelin and the steel tip hit the tallest man's forehead with a
crack. Blood spurted from his head and he began to fall, but she
was already spinning around to trip the second man with the stick.
As he stumbled backward, she jumped high and kicked his face. He
spun around and hit the floor. Down. He's down. She ran forward and
kicked him again.
As she regained her balance, the third man caught her from behind
and lifted her off the ground. He squeezed tightly, trying to break
her ribs, but Maya dropped the stick, reached back with both hands,
and grabbed his ears. The man screamed as she flipped him over her
shoulder and onto the floor.
Maya reached the stairway, took the stairs two at a time, and saw
Father standing on the platform next to the open doors of a train.
He grabbed her with his right hand and used his left to force their
way into the car. The doors moved back and forth and finally
closed. Arsenal supporters ran up to the train, pounding on the
glass with their fists, but the train lurched forward and headed
down the tunnel.
People were packed together. She heard a woman weeping as the boy
in front of her pressed a handkerchief against his mouth and nose.
The car went around a curve and she fell against her father,
burying her face in his wool overcoat. She hated him and loved him,
wanted to attack him and embrace him -- all at the same time. Don't
cry, she thought. He's watching you. Harlequins don't cry. And she
bit her lower lip so hard that she broke the skin and tasted her
Excerpted from THE TRAVELER © Copyright 2005 by John
Twelve Hawks. Reprinted with permission by Random House. All rights