I mentioned in my post about my writing goals that I was working on a “full-length children’s novel” that “may or may not involve spies.” It’s time I shared a brief excerpt from that project. 🙂
I’ve spent the last three years writing on and off about this idea. It started out as a short, prologue piece called The Hunter (completely independent Michael Gunter’s Hunter series, of course), as that’s supposed to be the title of the book’s mysterious, nameless main antagonist, but I never had the chance to put the rest of the story on paper.
Here’s hoping that it will be more than 54 pages upon completion! 😀
My mom didn’t abandon me. Nobody outwardly says she did, but judging by the raised eyebrows and sympathetic head shakes I get when I do so much as mention her, it’s pretty clear that on the inside, they believe it.
The neighbors had been giving me funny looks for a few days, and I’d fended off enough requests from teachers to meet with my mom about my grades that they were starting to get suspicious. I still don’t know which one of them made the call that ultimately got me into this whole mess.
When Kathleen, a naive-looking social worker, appeared a good three days after my mother’s disappearance, she sat uninvited at the kitchen table and chose her words carefully.
“Maxwell Chesterton,” she said, sounding out my full name like it was in an unfamiliar language, “your mom has disappeared.”
Well, thanks for the news flash, Counselor Troi. Have you any more information on her whereabouts than I do?
“We don’t know where she is,” she continued as though she could actually read my thoughts, “but I’ve been assigned to your case until she is found.”
I think Kathleen expected me to act shocked, to faint, or something dramatic like that, not that she’d be able to do anything about it if her newly-assigned thirteen year old male charge passed out right then and there.
Instead, I just went back to packing my lunch for school. Mom’s left me at home before, usually for not more than a weekend … but usually, she tells me in advance. Maybe she just forgot or something. Hefting my bag over one shoulder, I headed for the stairs to the front door.
“Maxwell?” Kathleen called after me. “You’re not going to school today.”
Tell that to your friends over in the truancy department, I wanted to say, but for all I knew, this seemingly harmless woman who looked like nothing more than a kindergarten teacher had an entire SWAT team at her beck and call to apprehend me if I didn’t appear to comply with her. In hindsight, yeah, she probably did.
My options were limited, the chances of escape slim. I’d eventually have to double back to here for my other belongings, and they’d know that. They’d be right here to come and take me away, haha hoho hehe….
Resignedly, I turned around. “You got me,” I said, shrugging.
Kathleen smirked triumphantly. She gestured at my school bag. “You’ll probably want to bring more than that where we’re headed. I’ll give you fifteen minutes; I have work to do and some detectives will be coming by to investigate your mother’s things.”
Private detectives? Since when did Mom’s disappearance become so important? And how did they know…? I didn’t bother asking. I didn’t have much time, and Kathleen would probably just waste the little of it I had telling me why she can’t tell me.
In my room, I dumped the contents of my bag onto my bed and tried to replace them with clean clothes. It was a tight squeeze. Unless I lived near a good laundromat, I wouldn’t last more than a few days with the few things I’d managed to fit.
Mom had a suitcase in her closet the last time I’d been in there. As a given, I didn’t go into her room without her permission, and even when she hadn’t showed up for over forty-eight hours, it didn’t even occur to me to look inside. Until now.
The bed was unmade, the covers dangling carelessly off one side. Otherwise, the room practically screamed neat-freak. I locked the door to keep Kathleen from trying to snoop inside.
The closet door was ajar. I wondered if Mom had thought to take the suitcase with her. But there it was, a nondescript silver box with good carrying handles and plenty of room. I dragged it back to my room, barricaded myself inside, and packed two weeks’ worth of laundry. As an afterthought, I brought my laptop. Better to have it with me than have it seized by private detectives or something like that so they could hack into it.
“Five minutes, Maxwell,” Kathleen called through the door. I wished she’d stop calling me by my full name. “What are you doing in there?”
“Hanging myself,” I retorted dryly. I shut the suitcase and opened the door to show her I was fully intact.
“Let’s go,” Kathleen said, shaking her head disapprovingly.
As I got into the passenger seat of Kathleen’s plain, grey SUV, I took one last look at the condominium I’d lived in for most of my life. It would be the last time I’d see it in awhile.
During the drive, we hardly said anything. To each other, that is. Kathleen hummed absentmindedly to the Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” which I was anywhere but.
Finally, as we were exiting the highway, I mustered up enough courage to ask where we were headed.
“You’re being placed under our care until we can locate a relative to be your legal guardian,” Kathleen replied.
Our. When someone says our when there’s really only one person around, they’re usually speaking for a higher party they represent, like a company. Either that or they’re the Borg. In this case, Kathleen meant I was to be placed under the care of the government.
Well, Mom and I had no living relatives whatsoever. It had always been the two of us. Wherever I was headed, it sounded like I’d be stuck there for awhile.