*Chapter 1: An Email*

Artemis stared at the blinking icon on his computer desktop.

It looked deceptively calm; as though nothing out of the ordinary could ever occur out of it. Artemis' eyes registered on the black lettering across the screen.

One new message.

Artemis blinked. All mail going into his inbox – his personal, private inbox – were matters of utmost urgency. What urgent matter could possibly crop up? Why, it was a week after holiday season, where most facilities in Ireland had been shut down for the break. What emergency could pop up just out of nowhere like that? He'd told all employees – well, sent messages to be told – that he was not to be disturbed during holidays. Maybe he should've just stopped checking his email altogether, it would serve them right, for disturbing him during his well-deserved holidays.

All the same, he was the Boss, and it was his responsibility to check up on the company once in a while. After all, he knew how quickly companies fell, and ninety percent of the time, they fell due to their lazy, un-correspondent presidents. And Artemis was not about to become one of those.

He went to his inbox, and was shocked to discover two new emails waiting for him! Not only that, but one of them was from an anonymous sender!

Artemis' fist pummelled the desk, as his eyebrows contracted in frustration. Why was this stupid spam in his inbox? Why had it not been sent to the trash?!

He opened the first one, from his mother, on holiday, in Helsinki. He scanned through its contents. Phrases jumped out at him, such as 'hope you're eating well' and 'don't forget to put on your mittens' and whatnot.

He mentally smiled to himself. Mothers were like that, weren't they? Worried themselves sick over such puny trifles. But that was the problem with it all. That was the very reason he was so very fond of his mother – he just couldn't let that go.

He went on to the next email – the one that had entered undetected. He was unsure of whether this was from someone who had learned how to beat his system, or if it was just some worker sending anonymous.

He took a chance and opened it.

Immediately, the screen went white. Artemis frowned. He was reading a blank email. A perfect practical joke, certainly?

All of a sudden, words appeared, letter by letter.

Artemis Fowl, it read.

This is an urgent warning. Failure to comply with this message can result to the downfall of the Fowl empire.

Artemis narrowed his eyes. He did not like baseless threats.

Doubtless that you have made several moves against Swallow Industries, especially against its previous owner, Rourke Swallow.

Artemis paused, his interest captured.

But now, even though the company is on better ground, thanks to its owner Umbra Swallow, Rourke Swallow still poses a threat to your company.

Artemis snorted. How could this powerless buffoon pose a threat to a worldwide domination?

Do not be fooled. Rourke Swallow is no ordinary powerless buffoon. He has many contacts, and many supporters. And some background information on you that would be ground-shattering.

Artemis' eyebrows rose to above his hairline at this. What background information? His entire life had been one of intense schooling and staying-at-home.

If you have any shred of shrewdness in that fabled mind of yours, then you will meet me at En Fin, the London seafood restaurant. I will be sitting at the third table from the fourth window on the west side of the building, on the twenty-eighth of December. The reservation is under the name Reeve. Please do come join me for lunch – and a talk about business matters.

Reeve

The email went dead. Artemis sat there, going through some very strange lapses of déjà vu. For some reason, going to lunch at En Fin to conduct business matters, seemed a very foreboding thing to do, although he didn't know why.

He thought about the message. This fellow, Reeve, seemed very fishy. Seemed to know a lot. A whole lot. More than necessary.

But he knew that he couldn't take any chances. If this Reeve person said that his empire was in danger – then this was no joke. Something about the very presentation of this message had left him feeling that this Reeve was no idiot – especially if he/she had beaten his mail security, which had been tight – no loopholes.

"Butler!" he called. Butler, his manservant entered.

"Yes, Master Fowl?" he asked.

Artemis' eyes narrowed. "Mark on the calendars – we're going to London on the twenty-eighth of December. Make sure the restaurant En Fin is clear – I want no ambushes, no traps, no pranks even. I don't want to take any chances like last ti – "

He cut himself off, feeling slightly feverish. He had never set foot in En Fin; but why did he get the feeling that he had been tricked there – tricked badly?

He shook it off.

"So, pack your suitcases," he told Butler. "I want you to check the site, make sure that there's no danger there."

An image of Butler flying through a dining room with a bullet in his chest suddenly filled Artemis' mind. He shivered, trying to shake the morbid image off, although he couldn't understand how he knew so surely that En Fin had huge freezers.