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.
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?”
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.
“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?”
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.