CHERUB: The Recruit - Robert Muchamore

CHERUB: The Recruit - Robert Muchamore


James Choke hated Combined Science. It should have been test tubes, jets of gas and sparks flying all over the place, like he’d imagined when he was still at primary school. What he got was an hour propped on a stool watching Miss Voolt write on a blackboard. You had to write everything down even though the photocopier got invented forty years earlier.

It was last lesson but one, raining outside and turning dark. James was sleepy because the lab was hot and he’d been up late playing Grand Theft Auto the night before.

Samantha Jennings sat next to him. Teachers thought Samantha was fantastic: always volunteering for stuff, neat uniform, glossed nails. She did all her diagrams with three different coloured pens and covered her exercise books in wrapping paper so they looked extra smart. But when the teachers weren’t looking Samantha was a total cow. James hated her. She was always winding him up about his mum being fat:

‘James’ mum is so fat, they have to grease the bath tub or she gets stuck in it.’

Samantha’s cronies laughed, same as always.

James’ mum was huge. She had to order her clothes out of a special catalogue for fat people. It was a nightmare being seen with her. People pointed, stared. Little kids mimicked the way she walked. James loved his mum, but he tried to find excuses when she wanted to go somewhere with him.

‘I went for a five-mile jog yesterday,’ Samantha said. ‘Two laps around James’ mum.’

James looked up from his exercise book.

‘That’s so funny, Samantha. Even funnier than the first three times you said it.’

James was one of the toughest kids in Year Seven. Any boy cussing his mum would get a punch. But what could you do when it was a girl? Next lesson he’d sit as far from Samantha as he could.

‘Your mum is so fat—’

James was sick of it. He jumped up. His stool tipped over backwards.

‘What is it with you, Samantha?’ James shouted.

The lab went quiet. Every eye turned to the action.

‘What’s the matter, James?’ Samantha grinned. ‘Can’t take a joke?’

‘Mr Choke, pick up your seat and get on with your work,’ Miss Voolt shouted.

‘You say one more word, Samantha, I’ll …’

James was never any good at comebacks.

‘I’ll bloody …’

Samantha giggled. ‘What will you do, James? Go home and cuddle big fat Mommy?’

James wanted to see something other than a stupid grin on Samantha’s face. He grabbed Samantha off her stool, bundled her up against the wall, then spun her around to face him. He froze in shock. Blood was running down Samantha’s face. Her cheek had a long cut where it had caught on a nail sticking out of the wall.

James backed away, scared. Samantha cupped her hands over the blood and started bawling her head off.

‘James Choke, you are in extremely serious trouble!’ Miss Voolt shouted.

Everyone in James’ class was making some sort of noise. James couldn’t face up to what he’d done. No one would believe it was an accident. He made a run for the door.

Miss Voolt grabbed James’ blazer.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’

‘Get out my way,’ James shouted.

He gave Miss Voolt a shove. She toppled backwards, limbs flipping helplessly in the air like a beetle turned upside down.

He slammed the classroom door and ran down the corridor. The school gates were locked, but he escaped over the barrier in the teachers’ car park.


James stormed away from school, muttering to himself, getting less angry and more scared as it dawned that he was in the deepest trouble of his life.

He was twelve in a few weeks’ time. He started wondering if he’d live that long. His mum was going to kill him. He’d definitely get suspended. It was probably bad enough to get expelled.

By the time James got to the little playground near his flats he felt sick. He looked at his watch. If he went home this early his mum would know something was up. He didn’t have change for a cup of tea in the chip shop. The only thing to do was go into the playground and shelter from the drizzle in the concrete tunnel.

The tunnel seemed smaller than James remembered. There was graffiti sprayed all over and it smelled like a dog had peed inside. James didn’t mind. He felt he deserved to be somewhere cold that smelled of dog. He rubbed his hands to get them warm and remembered when he was little.

His mum was nowhere near as fat in