“I wake to the sound of sirens wailing. Voices. I hear voices. “She’s awake!””
Standing on the edge of the diner on 45th street, I tap my foot impatiently. Sophia is still nowhere to be found. The clouds look soupy and fast in the fading night sky. Suddenly, I can hear footsteps rushing into the alley. Take cover! I think, and dive into the diner.
When I sit down at the counter on my favorite wobbly stool, Kate takes one look at me and says, “Jess? Oh, Jessica, is that you?” I nod tersely as she puts on her hairnet and rushes to get me a chocolate milkshake. I notice her apron and new name tag, Kate: Bartender and Intern. I choke down a laugh. She’s always hated the name bartender. When people call her a bartender, it makes her spit. Kate was my Au Pair growing up. I loved her so much. We would spend endless hours together, and she would always make everything fun. The one thing she said she would remember about me if she moved away was my adoration of chocolate milkshakes. Now, I suck the three-inch foam on top, lost in thought.
I slurp up the remains of the chocolate shake and leave a five-dollar bill under the glass. Ducking in the alley behind the diner, I strain to listen and can make out two of the mysterious figures. They’ve been all over the city, so it’s no surprise. Peeking around the corner, my suspicions are confirmed–I can even recognize even my neighbor, dressed in an overcoat, talking softly with a much shorter figure. Curly hair springs out from beneath the shorter one’s hat.
I strain to listen in. It sounds like the shorter one is demanding something of the taller one “…have to…find…murmer mutter…leave now…protect…”
The taller one sounds like he’s trying to buy more time. “…Fourteen…sure she can…mutter…murmur…please…so…” It sounds like he’s saying “Sophia” so I turn my ear power up and listen more. The tall one keeps talking. “…can’t live….please…mutter…the shorter one retorts at something he mutters. “…need her…NOW!…Jess…here…” My name comes up and I’m listening more than ever. I can barely hear the squealing tires from behind me get louder, and louder. I check my watch. It’s about 1 a.m. Sophia is long overdue. The tires squeal and ring in my ears. I whirl around to face the alley again. The two figures are gone.
A jolt of intense pain in my left arm brings me out of my trance and gets me to look around. Through blurry vision, I see an overturned car right where the two figures were standing a moment before. Broken glass is everywhere. I look down, and a large piece of it is wedged in my left bicep. Movement brings me too much pain. Where is Sophia? Racking my brain, I come up with nothing. I can’t do it. My vision grows blurry. I collapse beside the overturned car, out cold.
I wake to the sound of sirens wailing. Voices. I hear voices. “She’s awake!”
“John, give it a rest. Give her some time.” Another voice, this one deeper than the first. Tiredly, my eyes flutter open. Three policemen are standing over me, looking into my eyes. I am extremely proud of myself for figuring that out. As one of them begins to ask me questions while the other two load me onto the cart, I somehow find the strength to sit up and survey the situation. The passengers in the car have several broken bones but none are dead, and there is no sign of the two figures in overcoats I had seen.
Who were they? What was a car doing at this part of town at one in the morning? And, most importantly, where is Sophia? I think of the curly hair I saw sticking out of the hat, and a jolt of recognition hits me.
My best friend is a spy.