My name is Ida Ichabod. I am fifteen years old. I like black horses, fudge bars, and the color purple. I am also a spy.
I wasn’t always a spy. Somewhere in my memory, there are blurry, faded pictures. Pictures of teddy bears that didn’t have cameras in their eyes; of yellow turtlenecks and denim overalls that weren’t designed to withstand gunfire at a moments notice; of a mother; of a father; even of a younger brother. But the pictures are very blurry, and very faded, and I don’t miss them. I don’t.
When I was six, though (or so They tell me) a monster took up residence underneath my bed. For my safety, and for my family’s as well, They removed me from the house and separated me from my family. As far as I can tell, there have been no monsters underneath my brother’s bed, whoever he is. I haven’t had a chance to really get to meet him. I’ve been, shall we say, busy.
My name is Ida Ichabod. I am fifteen years old. I like laser blasters, fast cars, and really, really good disguises. I am a spy, and I work for the Pan Protective Action Agency.
(Ida Ichabod portrait: Drawn in sharpie and Crayola markers)
This is my story.
There is something insanely irritating about the sound of a motorbike. Of course, on this particular mission, I would be riding on the back of Lucy’s motorbike. As if I couldn’t drive one for myself. Better yet, as if I couldn’t drive a Porsche. Darn favoritism.
Lucy gave me a sympathetic look as I swung one leg up behind her. “Sorry, Private I,” she said. “They shoulda let you have the Porsche.”
I snorted. “Guess who actually got it, though?”
Lucy’s mouth opened in horror. “No!”
(Priscilla Pan portrait: Drawn with sharpie, Crayola markers, colored pencils, and watercolors)
Priscilla Pan was the daughter of the head of the PPAA. She could fly (the whole family could do things with a plane that not even Hollywood’s thought of), but she didn’t know an emergency break from a gear shift. (Actually, that happened once. The pile-up went on for two and a half miles and we had to move headquarters due to the publicity it brought us.)
But Priscilla was her daddy’s little princess, and what she wanted, she got. Even if it meant risking a failed mission. Apparently, Princess Priscilla wanted to drive the Porsche.
Lucy groaned. “Why can’t she just go home and throw a party or whatever?”
“Because she thinks that missions photos will look good in the yearbook.”
“How many yearbook photographers do you think she’s bought off this year?” asked Lucy with a snort.
“All of them.” And we laughed for about ten seconds, but then we stopped. Priscilla Pan was so pretty she didn’t need to buy off anyone to take her picture, and we both knew it.
At that moment, the Princess herself stepped out of the building. It was like something out of a movie: soft, glossy blonde hair, enormous black naturally hooded eyes, flawless skin. She even had the tight-fitting leather outfit, complete with jacket and five-inch black heels. Lucy nudged me. Obviously she expected me to laugh, but I only managed a half-hearted grin. I quickly pulled my helmet over my suddenly flushed cheeks, pushing my own black hair off of my forehead. What was wrong with me? I had to fix this — Lucy was giving me a look.
“Hey, Pan!” I called.
Priscilla glanced at us, barely missing a step. How does she walk in those things, I wondered, opening up the visor on my helmet. “You’d better cover your hair!”
She frowned. “Why?”
“It’s like a freaking lighthouse! Monsters, come here!” I waved my arms like someone directing a plane as it comes in for a landing. “We might as well have a neon sign with an arrow pointing directly at us; your hair practically glows in the dark! I mean, whatever happened to camouflage?”
Lucy was laughing by now. “You call yourself a spy?”
Priscilla gave us a scathing look and kept walking; I felt sure she was almost swaggering, just so that we’d notice how good her butt looked in those heels.
I rolled my eyes at Lucy, pulling my visor back down. I couldn’t help noticing how un-perfect we both looked in our black hoodies and jeans. I glanced down at my shoes: black combat boots. Hand-me-downs. Falling apart at the seams.
(Ida’s Boots: Drawn in sharpie and watercolors)
“Alright, everyone!” Edgar, our mission leader, called from the front of the line of vehicles. He was taking the helicopter with the surveillance team. “Listen up! You know the drill: stay at a safe distance from each other. Does everyone know their route?”
We help up thumbs-up signs.
“Good. Everyone arrives there at precisely eleven, just after the parents have gone to bed. If you’re early, you will be caught. If you’re late, you will stay outside during the mission and will be on kitchen-duty for the next month. Understood?”
“Right!” he hopped onto the open door of the waiting chopper, shouting now because the propellers were going full speed.
There was a beep in my ear and I knew that the radio transmitter had turned on. “Let’s move out,” said Edgar’s voice.
There was a roar of engines, the helicopter lifted from the ground, and one by one the Porsche, the van, and our motorbike left the parking lot of the old “abandoned” factory that was headquarters. We all went in opposite directions, and when Lucy and I turned the corner everyone else was out of sight.
(Ida and Lucy’s Motorbike: Drawn in sharpie, Crayola markers, colored pencils, and watercolors.)
“Roll call,” said another voice in my ear, this one female. Alice was new, so still on surveillance. “Allan?”
“Here,” I said.
“Here,” came Priscilla’s voice.
“Here,” replied Lucy.
“You can see me,” Evan Usher replied. He was surveillance, too.
Evan sighed. “Here…”
“Here,” said Edgar.
“Crane?” said Lucy, her voice smirking.
You could almost hear Alice roll her eyes. “Alright, alright, I’m here.”
Evan laughed. “How do you like it, then?”
“Better than I like you,” she snapped.
“Alice, I’m applauding you in my mind for that one,” I said.
“Okay, everyone, quiet,” said Edgar. “Remember, we’ve got a job to do.”
“Right,” I said, tightening my hold around Lucy’s waist — she’d picked up speed. Edgar was right. We had work to do.
Half an hour later we pulled up to the house. So did everyone else at the exact same time, including Edgar, who’d leaped with a parachute from the helicopter to avoid waking up the parents. I glanced at my watch. The numbers went from 10:59 to 11:00 as I watched. Perfect.
“Okay, everyone, you’re about to remove your ear-pieces,” said Alice from the helicopter above. “For the next ten minutes we will have no communication, but Evan and I will be watching and listening for any signs of disturbance. Austin, Blake, do you know the signal?”
Austin Price and Blake Allan both raised their flashlights and turned them on and then off again three times. It was the same signal every time, but it was standard procedure to check that the lookouts knew it, and Alice was a stickler for standard procedure.
“Good. Priscilla, Edgar, Ida and Lucy will be the ones to enter the bedroom. You are to incapacitate the monster but not kill it. You are to do it within the ten-minute time frame. You are to make as little noise as possible. You are to wake no one up, and you are to leave the house with no sign that you were ever there. If the child wakes, you are to bring him into headquarters. Understood?”
“Understood,” we all breathed into our microphones.
“Okay. Remove your ear-pieces… now.”
Lucy and I removed our helmets and Edgar, Austin, Blake and Priscilla pulled the pieces from their ears. “Priscilla,” whispered Edgar, “Take off those heels.”
“The floors are hardwood. We have to be practical.”
Priscilla glowered at him, but obediently knelt down and removed her shoes.
“Come on,” hissed Austin, “We’re wasting minutes.”
Priscilla jerked her feet from the heels and stood up, scowling at him. Austin shrugged back at her and took up his post by the door, carefully sliding the lock-pick into the keyhole.
“Okay… go.” The door swung open and the rest of us ran silently inside.
With noiseless steps we ran up the stairs, at the very top of which Blake stopped and pulled out his flashlight. He checked it once. Austin flashed back from below. Blake gave Edgar the thumbs up and the rest of us ran on.
It was always my job to find the child’s bedroom; I was, after all, the youngest, and still had some idea of what a child’s room normally looked like. I closed my eyes. The child was a male, so blue or green walls… Ten, so no stuffed animals or cribs, mainly toy robots and cars… Liked dinosaurs. Right. Okay.
Silently, I pushed open one door after the other. This was a baby’s room (a crib), a storage closet (boxes), a little girl’s room (pink walls with flowers), a teenager of unknown gender’s room (books, papers and DVDs scattered on the floor and a stereo in the corner), the parents’ room (huge bed and spotless floor)… Ah.
“Here,” I breathed. In a second the others were at my shoulder and the four of us entered the room.
Yes, I was right — green walls covered in blue dinosaurs, lots of legos on the floor. I grabbed Lucy’s arm and pointed at one. She looked down at it, directly underneath her raised foot, and her eyes widened. One shot of pain up a leg, one yelp of shock, and the whole mission was blown. She nodded at me and grabbed Edgar, who in turn grabbed Priscilla. We were all aware of the danger. Time to find the closet.
It was in the corner. The door was shut tight, as they always were. Kids are smart — they can sense the monsters. Lots of kids try to tell their parents, but no grown-ups ever really listen. Some will go in to prove to the child that there is no monster, but unfortunately parents know nothing about monsters, or else they’d know about the monsters’ ability to disappear completely into the background. Kids know, though. Some instinct tells them. So they shut the door.
Not that that stops any monster once the parents have gone to sleep. Sure enough, as we crept over to the closet door, the knob turned. I caught Edgar’s eye. He nodded.
(The First Monster: Drawn in sharpie, Crayola markers, colored pencils, and watercolors.)
When the door opened and the monster looked up, we were already there, blasters raised. Before it could make a sound, Priscilla had stuffed a giant mound of cotton into its mouth. It tried to roar, but couldn’t get its voice past the cotton. Instead, it raised up its claws; long, silver, razor-sharp talons that might as well have “death” written across them in big bloody letters.
I just rolled my eyes and pulled the trigger.
A few minutes later we were outside again, the monster stuffed into a sack. We had woken no one up, left no mess, and hadn’t killed the monster. We were even a minute early. Blake and Austin pulled out their flashlights and flashed three times. A ladder was let down for Edgar. Blake and Austin threw the sack into the back of the van, Priscilla scooped up her heels and slid back into the Porsche, and Lucy and I donned our helmets and climbed onto the motorbike.
Edgar had put his ear-piece back in. “Excellent work, everyone, as usual.”
“Just another mission,” said Lucy.
I agreed silently, as we allowed our engines to reach a dull roar and drove back the ways we came. It had been easy. Just another mission. Or so I thought.