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Secrets Upon Secrets
Everybody has secrets. Your next-door neighbor? He sells drugs to impressionable teens. That girl you always wave to on the way to your morning coffee run? She’s thinking about ending her life. Your professor, who deems you inadequate and useless? She’s bitter because she just found out that her husband was a cheater. My point is, there’s always more to a person than what’s seen on the surface. Even I have my secrets. What you don’t expect, however, is for your sweet, gullible Cousin Jenny to be a secret spy from a rogue agency, whose sole mission is to steal the Declaration of Independence from Nicholas Cage’s house.
But that was Cousin Jenny’s secret.
She took me aside during our family’s annual Fourth of July Bash, just as the spectacular fireworks show lit up the night sky. “C’mon Jenny, we’re missing the fireworks!” I tried escaping her uncharacteristically strong grasp.
“Follow me and shut up.” Her harsh tone took me by surprise. Was this not the same Jenny who I’d gone to school with for the past seventeen years? The one who, just last week, had snorted milk out of her nose because of a joke I told?
I heard the booming of the fireworks as she was pulling me into one of her house’s many luxurious bathrooms. You know, the kind with the fancy shower, Jacuzzi bathtub, and sparkling granite countertops. “Jenny, stop pulling me!” It escaped me how someone with such a small frame could posses so much strength. “What are we doing in your parents’ bathroom?” Her emerald green eyes darted back and forth, as if she expected a murderer to suddenly emerge from the walls. Started pacing around the room, her long, thin frame tingling with worry.
“Exactly how much do you know about Nicholas Cage?”
I couldn’t suppress the laughter bubbling up from my stomach. “You mean the Nicholas Cage? The one I’ve been obsessing over since the fourth grade? Practically everything.” It was then that Jenny divulged me on her “little secret”. She explained that her spy organization had asked her to complete her first solo mission, but she could take one person for backup.
“Are you sure the organization would be okay with you taking a random family member?”
“Yeah, I’m sure they would understand. I mean, you’re the only person I could think of that would know everything there is to know on Nicholas Cage.”
“Hm. I don’t know…"
“Well, are you in?”
Ugh, here goes nothing.
“Fine, I’ll help you, but just so I can see Nicholas Cage.” She rolled her eyes. “When do we leave?”
In a split second, the tiled floor slid open, and Jenny and I were free falling in pitch-black darkness. We landed on a foam board, and I could’ve sworn I’d heard a bone pop. I sat up and analyzed the sight before me. 300, no, 500 spies, all dressed in inconspicuous coats of navy blue and deep maroon, were busy typing or talking on what looked like oversized iPads. The room in which we were in was completely white; each wall was blank, except for the northernmost point, where a colossal screen flashed: HELP NEEDED FOR CASE 167. WILL BE REWARDED BY THE OVERLORD. “Quick, we have to go to the Zoom Room.” She grabbed my arm, once again with a strength I wasn’t quite used to- did she lift weights? - and led me outside to an open field. “I’m guessing this is how we’re getting to Los Angeles?” I was craning my neck to look at the top of 60-foot-tall flying drone. “Well, did you think we were walking?” Dang, I’m going to have to get used to Harsh Jenny.
Before I knew it, we were touching down in Los Angeles, the home to the great Nicholas Cage. I had picked up a couple of facts on our way westward. One: Jenny’s mission, given to her by a leader called the Overlord, was to locate and transport the real Declaration of Independence (the one at the Rotunda in Washington D.C. is actually a fake) to her headquarters back in Vermont. Two: the mission involved breaking into Cage’s private mansion, which I was not entirely opposed to, and escaping without tripping any alarms. Three: Nicholas Cage stole the Declaration because he believed that there was a hidden treasure map inside of it. (I guess now I know Nicholas Cage’s secret!) And finally, four: although Jenny’s spy organization did missions for the good of the US Government, they had to break a couple of laws along the way, so they could still be punishable by jail time.
We drove up to Nicholas Cage’s house in a sleek black town car. I had to admit, it was one of the most beautiful houses I’d ever seen. Ivy blanketed most of the front, giving the house a majestic feel. A fountain the size of a small car stood as the center of the sprawling circle drive. Lions and tigers stood valiantly in the front courtyard, the smallest of furs etched on their stone bodies. It was the kind of house you’d only see in movies, or read about in magazines. And we were about to take an inside tour. Concealed behind the bushes, Jenny and I started to devise a plan. Or rather, Jenny made the plan, while I nodded my head occasionally. “I brought you here to- well -bait Nicholas Cage while I grab the Declaration. I know how big of a fan you are, and I thought that you might be able to distract him better than any one of my accomplices.” I felt like a little kid about to experience her first Christmas. “Mission accepted. When do I start?”
“On my signal,” Jenny made a snapping motion with her fingers. “walk up and knock on the front door.” She darted around the courtyard, looking almost as if she could see invisible lasers crisscrossing her path. When she made her way to the back door, I saw her fingers make a snapping motion. Now it was my turn.
I put on my best “I’m a crazy obsessed fan who just happened to know where you live” face and rang the doorbell. A couple minutes went by, each one dragging on longer than the next. I rang again. Maybe no one was home? Suddenly, I heard a loud crash come from inside the house. What if Jenny is in trouble? Should I go help her? I remembered Jenny cutting the alarm power lines for the back door, so I quietly made by way towards the open entrance way. I hesitated when I got to the threshold, but the continuing sounds of a scuffle pulled me into the hallway. I didn’t even have time to appreciate the breathtaking marble floors before a wail pulled me from my thoughts. “Brie! Help!” I dashed in the direction of the plea, and what I saw stopped me in my tracks. Jenny stood in the kitchen frozen, with tears spilling down her face; her right hand is balled tightly in a fist, and her left clutches large, antique-looking sheets of paper - The Declaration of Independence! She found it! I let out a sigh of relief and start to make my way towards her, when she silently mouthed to me, “Don’t.”
Puzzled, I slowly peered around the corner. There, in all of his glory, stood Nicholas Cage. Only, this wasn’t the Nicholas Cage I remembered from the movies. This man was much more rugged, more tired, more angry than I’d ever seen him before. And in his hands, shakily pointed right at Jenny, was a 51 mm pistol. For the first time since fourth grade, I wasn’t so crazy about Nicholas Cage. “Drop the documents, or I’ll blow your brains out.” Nicholas moved in closer. “I’ll shoot! I won’t hesitate!”
I needed to act. And I needed to do it now. Situated just behind Nicholas was a rack of Cutco knives, the really expensive ones that my mother warned me to never play with when I was younger. I skillfully snuck around behind the curved countertop, careful to only be seen by Jenny. Either she didn’t see me or she was hiding her surprise at my sudden audacity, but Jenny stared straight ahead, as motionless as a statue. “These don’t belong to you. They belong to the US Government. I’m just returning them to their rightful owner.” Her voice strained on the last syllable. I needed to do it now. “Sorry Nicholas.” In one fluid motion, I yanked the closest knife I can grab and plunged it deep into the back of Nicholas’ kneecap. He let out a shriek loud enough to wake up the whole neighborhood. His gun lets off a shot, and Jenny and I bolt out the back door. Alarms begin to go off, but we are already in the town car, making our getaway.
The Declaration of Independence sits between us. Jenny is so exhausted from the chase that she sleeps the whole ride back to the drone. She doesn’t hear as I whisper into my hidden microphone, “Jenny really disappointed me on her first solo mission; she choked at the last second, showed an inadequacy when it came to self-defense, and told me, a family member, about the organization, so I was forced to put on an act of disbelief. Looks like we are going to have to terminate her when we arrive back at the Zoom Room. But, nevertheless, mission accomplished, Overlord out.”
See, I told you everyone has a secret. Now you know mine.