The soft whisper of shoes on concrete. A whistle of wind, the sounds of my breathing, faster than it should have been. It was dark, but my eyes were adjusted, and I could see like a cat. I could see lights ahead, and hear the sound of guards chatting idly.

Thump.

I vaulted the fence expertly. I’d had practice.

Once inside, the need for stealth was discarded. I nodded pleasantly to a passing guard, and entered my target building without a hitch.

Now for the office.

I hummed under my breath, not bothering to be inconspicuous. That was the secret. People only see what they expect to see, and nothing more.

“Here we are,” I murmured softly as I found my door.

It was locked of course, but that hardly slows me down. It only took a minute, and I was inside. I flipped on the lights, and surveyed the crowded little office.

“Hmm,” I whispered, talking just to break the silence. It was really just routine at that point.

I’ve had enough experience that I know all the places to look. I bent down and—

There was a buzz like an overgrown bumblebee.

I froze, glancing quickly over my shoulder. I slowly looked down at my pocket in horror. Am I really getting so sloppy?

It buzzed again.

I sighed, resigned, and pulled my phone out.

It was Maddie, my niece.

The phone vibrated a third time. I shook my head.

“Clarence, I’ve got to go off air for a minute.”

“What?!? What’s wrong? What’s that noise?”

“Nothing, Agent Scrubb. It’ll only take a few minutes, I need to check something.”

“If you’re so—”

I pressed and held the button on my earpiece until silence fell, then I answered Maddie’s call.

“This is Rick.”

“Hey, Rick. I miss you! When are you coming back?”

“Um, Maddie? Didn’t I tell you not to call me?”

“Yes, but you didn’t call me first tonight, and I need your help.”

I straightened. “What is it? Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes. Don’t be so overprotective. I’ve just got this homework assignment, and I don’t want Mother to know about it. She’d only tell me I should’ve done it sooner, anyway!”

She was probably right, but I wasn’t going to ask for more details. I sandwiched the phone between my ear and my shoulder and started to search for the safe. I had meant to call Maddie earlier, and had forgotten the phone in my pocket.

“What’s the assignment?”

“It’s math.”

“Of course.”

She rattled off the problem while I located the safe.

“So, the question is, what did I do wrong?”

She kept talking while I opened the safe.

“I mean, it seems easy in class, but as soon as I get home…”

I ruffled through the papers and found what I wanted.

“…I do pay attention, it just…”

I slid everything back in place and slipped the papers into my briefcase.

“…the first time I got an answer way different than the second, so I did it again…”

I walked back into the hall, closing the door behind me. I started down a flight of stairs, making sure I didn’t go too fast. Talking to Maddie only made me seem more natural.

“…Anne, the drama queen, swears she’ll break her calculator over…”

The alarms went off just as I reached the main level and headed for the door.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing,” I lied. “Go on.”

“Well, anyway. We just learned this, and…”

Clarence was going to have my skin.

I made it out the back just as the guards went pelting in. The fence presented no more problem leaving it than entering, so I quickly lost myself in the shadows of the street. I need to put as much ground between myself and the building as possible before they realized I wasn’t there.

“Are you even listening, Rick?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

I dashed lightly down the street, wishing I could reroute the call to my earpiece. It was getting awkward to keep the phone pressed to my ear.

“Are you on a run or something?”

“Yes, but I can run and talk at the same time.”

“Isn’t it late for that?”

“Not here.”

Shadowy figures were up ahead. I ducked down an alleyway until they passed.

“So, about the math problem.”

“You mixed up the first two steps.”

There was a pause while she tried it again, and I made it out of the danger zone to a street where I felt it was safe to flag down a cab.

“You’re right,” she announced with a hint of surprise.

“Of course I’m right,” I laughed. “Aren’t I always?”

“Well, you did ask, so-”

“Um, no.” I cut her off. “So, you’re good now?”

“Yes. You’re the best uncle, Rick!”

I laughed again. “Don’t let Roderick hear you say that.”

She giggled. “Maybe not.”

Maddie and I traded goodbyes, then the cab stopped and I silently paid the driver before slipping in and out of my hotel room. It was going to be a late flight to the US, and I couldn’t go directly to my house tonight. I wasn’t supposed to be home for three days yet.

 


Sarah Oas is a junior at Bethany, majoring in Studio Art. She enjoys painting, especially portraits. Growing up, she was a avid reader, and now enjoys writing short stories.

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