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       Born to Spy, p.5

           Jayde Scott
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  "No way!" Danny said. "Hey, I was the mental patient. Now you get to be the human pillow."

  I tapped the old lady's bony shoulder and she stirred, mumbling, "Five more minutes, dear."

  "Let her be," Danny said. "She needs her beauty sleep."

  "Hear that guy coughing?" I asked. "He hasn't stopped the entire flight."

  Danny nodded. "I hope the three of us aren't cuddled up next to a box of tissues tonight."

  "Doesn't matter. Sick or shine, we're finding my dad," I said. The old woman snored again. "At least someone can relax."

  "You look like a nervous wreck," Danny said. "Suck it up, Francis."

  Taking a deep breath, I tried but how could I when the scent of cheap perfume and a hint of urine and mothballs invaded my nostrils. My nerves were on edge. The person sitting behind me kicked the seat while singing to her iPod, the man started coughing again, and then I swear I heard a gorilla howling. A lady smacked on gum, and boom...the person in front of me reclined his seat crushing my knees. I sure hoped Hilly was enjoying herself in first class.

  "Come on, let's see what Hilly's up to," I said.

  We sneaked through the aisle to the curtain dividing economy from first class, and peered in. There she was, watching a movie on an oversized LCD screen while she scoffed down yummy-smelling pasta from real china. A flight attendant walked past and fluffed her pillow. Hilly stretched in her large seat, and I noticed the slippers on her feet.

  "Why didn't I get first class?" Danny asked.

  I snorted, asking myself the same question. We returned to our narrow seats and I pulled some reading material out from Danny's seat pocket, trying to distract myself. "Oh, look, here's the sky shop airplane magazine."

  "Let me take a sneak peek," Danny said.

  The old lady pried her eyes open. "Leak? If you have to go take a leak, then by all means go. But I'm warning you those bathrooms are tiny and they're shaking. I hit my shoes."

  I slapped my forehead. That certainly explained the smell.

  A voice echoed through the loudspeaker. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain—"

  "Leaking?" The woman inched closer. "Does he need to take a leak too?"

  "No, lady," I said. Danny turned his attention to me, glaring, so I asked, "What's wrong?"

  "Like you don't know, you...armrest hog!"

  "Fine, take it." I flung my arm off. "One day, this is going to make some story."

  "Gory?" The woman clapped her hands. "I love horror flicks just as much as any ninety-five-year-old gal. My favourite is Psycho with hunky Norman Bates. Now all that talk about leaking has gotten to me." She stood up and squeezed past me, pushing her greasy handbag into my face.

  Danny nodded. "Yeah, this'll make one heck of a story."

  Fifteen minutes later, the old lady snored again. I was staring out the window when the same flight attendant as before started handing out earphones. When she reached us, she frowned.

  "Does your grandmother need a blanket? If you don't mind, I'll ask her."

  No way was she going to wake up that crazy chatterbox. Why couldn't this woman just do her job and leave us alone?

  Danny shushed her, mumbling, "You're waking her up. I wouldn't do that if I were you."

  The attendant's frown deepened. "Why?"

  Yeah, why? I peered at Danny, interested. He knocked on his chest and stuck out his tongue.

  "She's very jumpy. Had two heart attacks already. We were there when it happened. Granny was sleeping soundly on her sofa, just like she does now. He—" Danny pointed at me "—frightened the cat, which jumped on Granny's lap, startling her. We were at her bedside for a week, crying and praying that she'd make it. She pulled through but—" Danny shook his head "—Mum says it was a tough call."

  I stared at him, open-mouthed. Was he for real? No one would ever buy that story unless pigs fly.

  "I'm so sorry," the flight attendant said with tears in her eyes. "You poor, poor boy. We don't serve food on this flight, but I think there's some pudding left from the previous one."

  I gaped at him, open-mouthed. How did he pull that one off?

  Danny rubbed his hands, grinning. "Oh, please. We're starving."

  "Nature's calling." The old woman jumped from her seat. "Got to hit the royal throne."

  "Again?" Danny groaned as she squeezed by, touching his hand.

  "Don't you go all snarky on me, sunny. While I'm at it I might as well wash my hands," the woman said.

  "Ew. Gross. Now I've got cooties." Danny scowled. "What am I going to do?"

  I tore open a pack of wet tissues stuck next to the magazines. "Mr. Wipe, this is Danny. Danny, please meet Mr. Wipe."

  He grabbed it and smirked. "You're so funny."

  The attendant smiled and left, returning later with two plastic bowls filled with brown, soggy stuff. "There you go, dear. And if you need anything, just call me. My name's Adele."

  She whisked past. Danny removed the foil and tucked in. When he finished he pointed at my untouched pudding. I wasn't hungry so I pushed it toward him, turning away as he finished it off. The co-pilot announced that we'd be landing soon, so we fastened the seatbelts and marvelled at the lush green patches stretching over huge hills. The plane descended onto the runway with a thud, and rolled for a few more minutes before halting. The old lady beside us shrieked. "Have we been hit? Hand me an oozy and I'll take care of those suckers and—"

  "The plane's just landed, lady," I said. "It's okay."

  "Huh? I'm going grey? Dear boy, that happened ages ago."

  "Everything's fine," I said, rolling my eyes.

  She let out a sigh of relief. Grabbing my spoon, she took the last bite of my pudding. "You want some? I'll share."

  "No, thank you. We're getting out now," I said.

  "Oh, let me freshen up." She pulled out a compact mirror and applied more of that garish red lipstick, then smiled as she regarded herself. "I'm still hot stuff."

  Back at the turn of the century, she probably was. I mean she knew The Dead Sea before it died, while it was still sick. We stayed with her until the flight attendants opened the doors, wishing the guests a good day. Hilly waited outside, one impatient foot stomping as usual. I could hear the loud bass through the earpiece. One day she'd turn deaf. That's what Dad always said.

  The old woman was greeted by a tall lady and a boy about our age. "Francis!" She ran and gave the real Francis a hug. He had lots of pimples and then I thought about the rash. Nasty stuff. I turned and motioned Danny and Hilly to follow me as I walked away.

  Inside arrivals, there were so many people I could barely breathe, and yet it felt exciting, almost unreal, being there. Dad was here somewhere. I could taste it. Or maybe it was just the whiff of warm rain showers, furious rivers, dense forests and blooming flowers carrying from outside. Smiling to myself, I headed for the exit when I felt a heavy palm pressing down on my shoulder and a deep voice said, "Young man? Please come with me."

  Chapter 7

  My heart thumping in my chest, I peered over my shoulder past the huge hairy hand to the pinched face of a security guard. His brows were drawn together; his thin lips pressed into a tight line. Did someone report us missing? Swallowing, I shot Danny a look, but he just shrugged.

  "Mr. Gonzo?" the guard asked.

  "Yes?" I stepped forward, letting the security guy guide me, when he pointed at Danny and Hilly. "Sidekick number one and two, you're both coming with me."

  "I think you have the wrong girl here." Hilly glared at him. "And for the record, I'm nobody's sidekick."

  The guard smiled. "A girl with spunk. All right, then. Did you learn that at spy school too?"

  "What?" Hilly asked.

  "Play dumb and deny everything," the guard whispered. "That makes sense. But you need a code name, and since you hate being a sidekick, we'll make you Batgirl. So get Batman and Robin and let's catch a ride in the Batmobile and meet in the Batcave."

  I nudged Danny and whispered, "I knew her rotten egg br
eath would get us into trouble."

  Danny burst into laughter. We reached a door marked PRIVATE and stepped through into a room with a large desk and several chairs. The security guard motioned us to take a seat while he stood, placing his broad hands on the table in front of us. "This is the Batcave...uh...I mean, interrogation room. It's an honour to meet three superheroes in person."

  Hilly glanced around. "Am I on MTV? Where's the camera? It has to be hidden somewhere around here." She walked up to the poster advertising some airline and knocked on it. When nothing happened she peered behind a flowerpot. "Okay, guys, I know you can see me. So come out now."

  "I bet that one graduated at the top of her class," the guard said, pointing at Hilly.

  "If this is about the chocolate pudding, I can explain everything," Danny said. "The flight attendant let us have it. And you know, I still get one phone call so I'd like to call my lawyer, Johnny Cochran."

  Huh? Since when did he have a lawyer?

  Hilly returned to her chair and slumped down. "This is a crime and I can't turn my eyes away from it even though we're talking about my brother here. I say do the crime, pay the time. Go on and cuff them, lock them up and throw away the key. But I didn't have anything to do with it because I was in first class. Now can I go?"

  Danny pointed at me. "It was his fault. He made me eat the chocolate."

  "No, it's your fault," I said. "You had to tell the flight attendant that Grandma had a heart attack."

  "She was your grandma!" Danny yelled. "If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me. And I'll talk, Mr. Gonzo. Believe me, I'm not spending the next twenty years in some Irish prison eating corned beef and cabbage because of some chocolate pudding."

  "Huh?" The guard glanced at me and laughed. "Well, I guess the proof is in the pudding."

  "You haven't read us our Miranda rights. This thing you're doing—" Hilly's voice dropped to a whisper and she waved a finger in his face "—it's illegal."

  The guard winked at me. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against...Ha! I'm kidding." He slapped Hilly's shoulder. "You should've seen the look on your faces. Come on, you guys are supposed to be the professionals. I was almost expecting Mr. Gonzo to flip me over and do a Karate chop."

  "What do you want? You're spoiling our trip," Hilly said, glowering at him.

  "You got it down pat, Missy," the guard said. "You are a professional, I can tell. If I didn't know any better, I might just believe you were really on vacation. How long did it take to learn how to keep a straight face?"

  "Huh? Don't you have some thugs to bust?" Hilly asked.

  The guard crossed his large arms over his chest, piqued. "Don't make fun. My job may not be as thrilling as yours, but chasing travellers all day is tough."

  Hilly grinned. "Yeah, I can see it's hard trying to stop people from smuggling in illegal substances such as shampoo, hairspray or hair gel. I've heard this kind of crime is on the rise."

  "Yeah," I said. "What's next? No bottled water from home?"

  "Doogie, that rule has been in place for over a year now," the guard said.

  Jeez. They were pretty strict nowadays. What'd be next? No chocolate pudding on flights or—

  On second thought, did I really want to know? A woman with frizzy hair, clad in hippy clothes, walked in. I swear she looked liked she stuck her finger in an electric socket.

  "Oh, sorry," she mumbled. "I thought this was the bathroom."

  "You believe in locks, Mr. Security Man?" Hilly rolled her eyes as the door closed behind the lady. "Because that was a security breach, lame brain. And now her hair will haunt me forever."

  The guard cringed and locked the door. "Maybe you'll leave that out of the report?"

  "There!" Danny said. "Hilly's point, exactly."

  "What?" I asked. "That a five-year-old could break into this joint?"

  "Well, yeah that too." I grinned. "But I wanted to point out why his rules suck. A little hair gel might've done wonders for that lady. Now why couldn't she slip some in her purse?"

  "And a little perfume couldn't have hurt either," Hilly said.

  "It's great to recommend that, but maybe you should take crash course Perfume 101 first," I said. "Because right now we need a fragrance alert before you come out of the bathroom in the morning so we don't suffocate."

  Hilly shook her head. "No, you toad. That's not my perfume. It's your natural stench and the reason why I have to wear so much of the darn perfume in the first place."

  The guard peered from me to Hilly and then back to me with a puzzled look on his face. "Welcome to Ireland, Your Majesty." He bowed deeply. "I do admit I didn't expect a double disguise as a prince and a boy. But it is terribly clever. Goes to show how thorough you guys are. Professional all the way."

  Hilly laughed. "You have the wrong guy because he's no royal prince. Maybe a royal pain in the butt."

  The man ignored her as he looked me up and down, seemingly impressed. I peered at my run-down jeans and top. What was he talking about?

  "We were informed the moment you boarded your plane, so the limousine's waiting already," the man said.

  "Whoa, did you just say limousine?" Hilly held up a hand, wide-eyed. "That certainly beats hiking. We'll take it. Let's go."

  "Wow," Danny said. "You think there's snacks?"

  Hilly slapped him on the head. "Hey, troll, it's fancy. Try to think more along the lines of caviar and sushi."

  I nudged Danny. "What's caviar?"

  "Beautiful, glistening, black fish eggs," the guard said. "Not that I can eat a lot of that on my meagre salary."

  "Gag me!" I laughed. "Why do rich people eat gross things?"

  "Yeah," Danny said. "It's like eating little hamster turds."

  Hilly pulled a face. "You guys are grossing me out big time. I think you two have nothing to worry about anyway. You'll never live the glamorous life I'm going to live one day."

  "Well, I'd rather eat cheeseburgers at McDonald's than your stuck up snotty food like caviar," I said.

  The guard inched closer, whispering, "Mr. Gonzo, or should I say Maharaja Al Gonzales, don't you think your cover would be even stronger if you dressed accordingly?"

  I nodded, still not getting what he was talking about.

  He beamed as he continued, "Then you'll surely find it helpful that I made sure to purchase the right attire. It's all in the car, and should you need anything else—" he fished in his pocket and retrieved a crumpled card "—call me day or night. And maybe you could put in a good word for me. I've always wanted to join the Academy."

  Danny nudged me in the ribs. "Done, isn't it?"

  I nodded again, suddenly getting it. The guy wanted to be a spy. "There's always a spot in my bat organization for dedicated people like you."

  "If you need a new sidekick, you know where to reach me," the guard said. "Do you think I could have your autograph?" The security guard ran next door and returned with a notepad and a pen. He licked the tip of his finger and flicked to an empty page as he handed me the pen.

  I grabbed it tight and scrambled something that looked more like a few disconnected lines than a name. The guard tore it out of my hands and stuffed it in his pocket, then accompanied us to the crowded airport to our waiting limousine, whispering, "Good luck, son. The nation depends on you."

  Chapter 8

  We got onto the backseats of the limousine when the driver asked in a thick Irish accent, "Where to, Maharaja?"

  "Gotham City," I said.

  The driver stared at me. "Huh?"

  We all burst out in laughter. "No, I'm kidding," I said and gave him the hotel's address.

  "Hey, driver, what are you looking at? My gorgeous eyes? Roll up that divider and make it pronto," Hilly said. "And while you're at it throw on some tunes. And does this joint have anything to drink?"

  The driver pointed to the side as he started the engine. "Yes, Miss. To the left is a cooler stocked with ice and sodas."

  "Uh, well, thank
s, and if I need you I'll just ring a bell or something, okay dokey?" The divider went up and Hilly grabbed herself a can.

  I threw one to Danny like a football. "Catch!"

  "Thanks, Thom. This is like living the life of the rich and famous."

  "What was that all about? The guy was just nuts," Hilly asked.

  Danny grinned. "Obviously, he knew Thom's a spy. Someone must've told him of our arrival."

  "Do you know what that means?" I peered at them, wide-eyed. "I bet that little meet 'n greet was meant for Dad, but he never travelled through here."

  "You said he searched for rental cars," Danny said.

  I nodded, but why would Dad pay for first class and then change his plans at the last minute? He wouldn't—unless he expected danger such as someone poisoning his chocolate pudding. "Danny, do you have any stomach cramps?"


  "Forget it," I said, feeling silly.

  Danny started rummaging through the two black bags perched between the door and the seat, and pulled out a huge, red shawl with beads and glitter on it. "What's with the gypsy getup?"

  "That's so ninety-sixty," Hilly said, grimacing.

  Danny threw it toward her. "Put it on, Grandma."

  Hilly shook her head. "No way."

  "Quit being such a pain," I said, laughing.

  "Sorry, young man, but I can't hear you," Hilly squealed in an old lady voice.

  I rubbed a hand over my face. We had no time for her drama because we needed to find Dad. "I said you're being a pain."

  "Do I have a cane?" Hilly yelled in my ear. "Yes, I do." She stomped on my foot.

  I cried out. "Ow."

  "Who needs a cane when my good old heels can do wonders?" Hilly shrugged. "Now let's get it straight. I don't do shawls, got it?"

  "My foot got you loud and clear," I said, swinging my leg as if to kick. But I didn't because I don't hurt girls.

  Hilly snorted. "Good. I suggest you tell your other foot too. Maybe he'll pass on the message to your brain." She tossed the shawl onto the floor. "While you're at it, why don't you just give me a pair of half-moon glasses, a white wig too and a book with extra large print? I'm so not wearing that."

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