Born to Spy, p.1Jayde Scott
BORN TO SPY
©Copyright 2010 Jayde Scott
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Other teen titles by Jayde Scott
A Job From Hell
Dad had been gone for a whole day when I finally plucked up the courage to pick the lock. Trouble was I had no idea how to do that because no one bothered to teach us something that useful at school. So I called my best mate Danny to help.
"What's up, Thom?" Danny asked, standing in the doorway, a baseball cap covering his huge forehead. His sister, Hilary, towered behind him, chewing gum as she looked down on us, bored as usual.
"What's she doing here?" I hissed.
"Hilly?" Danny shrugged. "Mum wouldn't let me go without her."
"What if she tattles?"
"Tattle what?" Hilly asked. "Do you think I'm five years old? Who uses the word 'tattle' anyway? You know I have better things to do than hang around with my baby brother and his silly friend."
"At least we don't carry a hideous purse that looks like it's going to slither away any minute," I said.
"Quick, grab a stick before it bites!" Danny shouted.
"It's Mum's, you dummy. Snakeskin purses are all the rage right now. I read in Cosmopolitan the snake of the season is Python."
Danny glared at her. "Did you steal Mum's stuff? You're so dead. I'm telling."
She looked at me. "And you thought I was the tattle? So, tell me, why am I adding criminal activity to my résumé?"
"I need to find my dad," I said.
"Miss your daddy?" She smirked.
Was it obvious? "I'm tired of spoiled milk, okay?" I snapped.
I rubbed the back of my neck, praying Dad would miraculously appear so we needn't go through with it. But nothing happened, and so I saw no other option than to do the one thing that could get me grounded for a month. Or a year. Or until I turned eighteen. Oh boy.
"Come on before I change my mind." I led the way down the stairs to the basement and pointed to the metal door clearly marked DO NOT ENTER.
"I should've worn my black ski mask. This is like breaking into a bank," Hilly said.
I laughed. If only it were that simple. "More like the White House or Buckingham Palace."
"Whoa, that's high-tech stuff," Danny said. And it was, all control panels, countless digits and blinking lights.
Hilly inched closer to inspect it. "What's down here anyway? A secret lab? I hope your dad's not going all weirdo and building a Frankenstein army or something. And there'd better not be body parts in jars because that will freak me out. Nobody's taking my brain."
"Who'd want it?" Danny nudged me and laughed.
I chuckled. "You don't have to worry about mad scientists. But you'll have to worry about me camping on your couch for the next year if you don't get to work."
She stuck out her tongue. "Gag me. Let's find your dad then. Every single lock can be picked."
"What're you going to do?" Danny asked. "Cut it? Drill it? Kick the door down? Bust the lock open? Want me to grab a sledgehammer?"
I nodded. "Yeah, we have one of those in the garage. I'll get it."
"No, silly. You think too hard." Hilly snorted and pulled out her mother's purse with plenty of credit cards.
I swallowed. "Can you do it?"
"With or without a blindfold?" Hilly asked with grin. She slid a credit card into the lock and jiggled it. Several minutes and grunts later, the door swung open and I set foot into what my dad would never let me see: any amateur spy's dream.
Hilly barely raised her eyes from her iPod as she scanned the semi-darkness. "This is like some geek's paradise and the last place I'd ever want to be seen at. It'd totally ruin my reputation."
A female computerized voice cut Hilly off. "Welcome to Skylark, Mr. Gonzo. Lights will be activated in 10 seconds. 10-9-8-7..."
Bright light flooded the room and I jumped.
"Holy cow," Danny said.
I could second that. "Can you believe this place? It's the coolest lab I've ever seen."
"Seen many?" Hilly asked.
I scowled. "Hey, I watched Agent Cody Banks." Glancing around, I slowly took in the blinking lights, chattering computers, and control panels lining the walls. This was more like a mission control centre where NASA launched astronauts and spaceships.
Danny's voice boomed behind me. "We could play football in here. We could fit everybody, and I mean everybody, like the players, the coaches and all the screaming fans. Sweet!"
I smiled. "You're forgetting something—the cheerleaders."
"Definitely," Danny said.
He took a step forward when I grabbed his arm, pulling him back. "Wait! What if the floor's bobby trapped with landmines?"
Danny peered at me, wide-eyed. "The whole room could be heat sensitive. The last thing we need is a spike popping up."
"You're big chickens." Hilly stomped to the middle of the room and spun around. "It looks like I'm still alive."
Danny and I exchanged glances.
"Okay, then, it's safe," I said.
Hilly started to gag and wrapped her hands around her neck, moaning like a sick dog.
"Are you okay?" I asked, sprinting over. Maybe it was a bad idea coming down here. What if lethal invisible gas poured out of the ducts? With a thud, Hilly fell to the ground and I gasped. So did Danny.
Suddenly she jumped up and laughed. "I got you!"
I let out a breath. I wanted to get her back for that one, but for now I had more important things to do such as poking my nose around. "It's like The Hall of Justice from the Super Friends."
Danny turned and his eyes widened. "Check this out! There's even a giant computer and screen that the Super Friends use to analyse clues. Do you think your dad works with Batman and Robin?"
"Don't know but I bet you and Hilly could be the Wonder Twins," I said.
"Wonder Twin powers, activate! Shape of a..." Danny held a fist up to Hilly.
She rolled her eyes. "Shape of a...moron. I'm so out of here. This is beyond lame. Why am I wasting my time with you idiots when I've got a gorgeous hunk waiting for me?"
"See you," Danny said.
Pulling Danny's arm, she yelled, "No, you're coming with me. We did our part and got him in. The rest's not my problem. Now, let's go. I can't keep the boy of my dreams waiting, can I?"
"If he knew any better, he'd be running for the border," Danny said.
She slapped him on the head and pulled him out by his ear. Ouch. That probably hurt. Boy was I happy not to have a sister.
"I've got to go, Thom," Danny said in a high-pitched voice. "Love the hide out! I really wish I could stay and helped you fight all the bad guys with Aqua Man and the rest of the gang. The Hall Of Justice totally rules!"
I locked the door behind them, and then returned to the basement. Dad had always claimed to work as anything from a sales clerk to a doctor, but seeing his Spy School diploma hanging on the wall and all the whirring monitors I knew what he really did for a living. And so I vowed to find him by borrowing his identity. From now on I would no longer be Thomasius Anastasius Gonzo—yeah, that name got me kicked in the butt a few times. From now on I'd be Alex Gonzo, Royal Spy.
I would've loved to sit down with Danny and brainstorm a plan to find
With a sigh, I made myself a cuppa and carried it down to Dad's lab, placing it on the gleaming steel counter. He'd disappeared in the past, but it wasn't like him at all to leave without a trace—or a babysitter to watch over me. The fridge was filled with enough food to feed a whole family including the neighbours and their dog for a week. But I figured, at thirteen, a teen shouldn't be staying on his own, and so I started rummaging through the drawers, searching for clues that'd give away his whereabouts.
Most of the stuff was maps and papers covered in numbers and scribbled notes. It didn't take long to find a page torn out of a book with a painting on it. Since it wasn't even a particularly pretty sight—just the ugly head of a woman dressed in a garish black gown—I tossed it aside only to grab it a few seconds later. Dad had never been the artsy type, so what would he need this for?
Turning it around, I noticed the words typed on the back: Mona Lisa. The famous painting hanging in a museum in France? Yeah, we learned about it in school. I can't say it was much fun though. Maybe Dad decided to pay the Louvre a visit, so I put the picture aside to think about it later. Next came the pin wall hanging near the maps. Among the countless sticky notes, I found a picture of my schoolteachers, which had me puzzled even more than the Mona Lisa. Ms Reeves' head—hovering in the background as usual, her bulging eyes hooded to shield her from the glaring brightness of the camera—was circled with a red felt pen. We moved to Boring Ville, as I like to call our tiny village on the outskirts of London, three months previously. Naturally, Dad wouldn't be acquainted with the teaching staff just yet. Still, why would he hang up a photo and choose circle the art teacher's head? She was pretty all right, but, with her mouse-brown hair and oversized cardigans, she didn't strike me as Dad's type. Maybe she played the bad guy and we only moved here so Dad could watch her?
Still musing, I sipped my now luke-warm chocolate when a phone rang. It was Dad's high-tech cell, buried under a pile of loose files. I reached it in time to see the caller ID marked as anonymous, and then it stopped. Dad would never leave the house without it. He wouldn't even switch it off when he went to bed. Disappearing without it was certainly strange.
Leaving it there, I headed for the door, when the ringing started again. Before I could snatch it, the caller hung up. Maybe it was some sort of code and Dad would know what to do. But I was new to the game and had yet to learn the basics. After waiting another five minutes, hand hovering in mid-air without touching to avoid leaving greasy marks and fingerprints and DNA—yeah, nothing was getting past me—I realised I was just wasting precious time. So I left for the hall, deciding to give Danny a call.
"Mate, don't start yelling at me. Hilly dragged me out of there and uh, listen, I have to go. Pizza's here. I'll call you tonight," he said.
"You're going to turn down a mystery? because something fishy's going on," I said.
I peered through the curtains at the Morrisons' car pulling up in the parking lot opposite from our house before I said, "You know what I'm holding in my hand this very second?"
"A slice of pizza I'm dying to eat?"
I rolled my eyes. "Dad's cell phone."
Danny gasped. "You mean the one that's literally glued to his hip?"
"That's strange," Danny said.
"You can't go to the police," Danny said. "What'd you say? Sorry, Officer, but I've been roaming the house by myself for days, eating cookies and muffins and staying up as late as I want?"
I hesitated. That thought had crossed my mind already. Danny had a point, what could I tell them? And most importantly, what would they do with me? I didn't want to be shipped away to Dad's sister, Aunt Becky, who was the only relative we had. For one, she was a pain in the neck with her constant whining and complaining. And then she lived in her own world with ten terriers and a house with no TV, no computer games and, worst of all, no proper plumbing. She might think doing the deed in a bucket and then chucking it into the neighbours' garden was environmentally friendly, but I preferred the privacy of my bathroom to the gawking of countless shiny eyes and endless yapping.
I sighed. "You're right."
"You can't stay in that huge house all by yourself either. What if someone breaks in?" Danny said.
"You watched Home Alone too many times." I hesitated. "There's something I need you to do."
"What now?" Danny asked, suspiciously. He wasn't the 'Okay-I'll-do-you-a-favour' type.
"I need you to check Dad's credit card activity."
Danny groaned. "How am I supposed to do that with Mum watching my online activity? I'll never get in without her knowing five minutes later."
"Switch off the filtering, delete the cache. What do I know? You're the computer geek," I said, irritated.
"Don't know the password."
I huffed. "What about Hilly?"
"What about her?"
What was wrong with the guy today? Usually, he wasn't that slow. "Well, can she do it?"
"You want to trust Hilly with a credit card?" Danny laughed. "Your dad's microwave cooking must've fried your brain."
He was right again. All the money would be gone in a heartbeat, spent on expensive clothes and gawky makeup that made her look like she juggled balls at the circus. And she wasn't just any clown diva but one who loved hardware, especially from the Apple store. She'd have a MacBook Pro delivered to test-drive the next day.
"Mate!" Danny yelled like a light bulb just went off in his head. "Why are we even discussing this when you have The Hall Of Justice in your basement? I saw the monster of all computers. It was big and bad to the bone. So get down there and make me proud."
"It's probably password protected."
"Then figure it out. Shouldn't be too hard."
I scratched my head, pondering. "What do you think it could be?"
Danny huffed. "How would I know? Try the obvious like favourite colour and first pet."
"I don't think he ever had a pet and he doesn't have a favourite colour. Dad says, fashion's overrated."
"Try password," Danny said.
"Try password as password, dummy," Danny said. "Apparently, that's what most grown ups use."
"He's a spy, Danny. Not even goofy Austin Powers would use something that easy."
"Hey, don't get your panties in a bunch. You asked, so I gave you options."
We remained silent until I decided there was no point in arguing over the phone. Friends stick together.
"Anyway, I should get going," I started.
"Yeah." Another pause, then Danny said, "Thom? I hope you find your dad soon. This all sucks, you know."
I hung up with the promise to call back later should I have any news and marched downstairs again. Screens buzzed and hard drives whirred, Windows logos flying around on black screens. I touched the track pad on a notebook and was greeted by a pop-up window asking for a user name and password. Darn it. There were probably millions of words in the dictionary. How would I come up with the right one, and all in just three attempts?
Sucking in a deep breath, I pulled a nearby chair and plopped down, thinking. I could scratch the obvious things like favourite colour, favourite food and first pet because Dad never had any. What about hobbies? Dad didn't read, didn't draw, didn't cook and didn't like sightseeing. He'd been cheering at football practice, but apart from that, Dad had always only been into the MMA. Favourite fighter: Mayhem. He'd even watched Bully Beatdown with me.
Did I dare? Palms sweaty, my fingers hovered over the keyboard, ready to follow my brain's command. Should I, shouldn't I? Only three attempts and the whole thing would freeze, the hidden alarm calling Dad's killer spy friends over. Stop it. I shook my head, and with a deep breath, I typed Mayhem and pressed Enter before I could chan
The computer whirred as though in slow motion, and then another pop-up box appeared. Wrong password. Only two attempts left. Oh boy.
Okay, I could do it. Just think harder. I peered around me, scanning the surfaces and walls for a hint. The word could be there, hidden in plain sight, but I wouldn't know until I tried. With shaking fingers I rubbed my eyes, then decided to work systematically through my options.
Possible, but my gut feeling told me it wasn't right. I lifted a long, narrow rod that looked like a curling iron and pressed a button. A soft ringing pierced the air. Metal detector—easy to overlook to the outside eye, yet easy to remember for Dad.
Whoa, this was the cool stuff I had always dreamed of. After waving it around the room for a minute or two and listening to the beeping sound, I switched it off and returned to the notebook, then typed in detector. The same pop-up box as before emerged together with the message that I was left with one last attempt, after which the house would explode. Okay, I made the last part up. But for all I knew it could happen.
Obviously, Dad was way more cunning than I gave him credit for. What else could it be? My tummy rumbled. Any plotting needed to wait because I was so hungry I could eat a cow. No, make that two and a horse. I trudged to the kitchen to heat up a frozen burger, popped in a few green leaves and a splash of mayonnaise and ketchup and some brown stuff I couldn't identify.
Blobs of sticky goo dripped down my shirt and on last year's math notes that lay spread on the kitchen table. It wasn't a hot lunch, but I was really trying my best here. I took a gulp of milk and spit it out as big clumps and curds filled my mouth. Spoiled milk sucked. Where the heck was Dad? Not only did I miss him but the kitchen did as well. Dishes were piled to the ceiling and my feet stuck to the juice puddle I spilled yesterday and forgot to clean up. If I didn't know any better I'd swear a tornado had swept through. Socks, my cat, jumped up and licked my fingers.
Born to Spy by Jayde Scott / Mystery & Detective / Young Adult / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes