Drake is escorted to the bathroom as I clear the interrogation room of the remnants of our pizza. While he’s gone, I receive a text message from my boss that says the boy’s parents are currently being held in Colorado, and that they never actually left the state.
The message also said to not tell Drake yet. The boss is right; Drake’s only started his story. He may be only a kid, but if he starts to think I can be pushed over that quickly, he’ll start to get bolder with his demands. He’s done the most talking, but I’m the one who needs to stay in control of the interrogation.
The door opens, Drake walks back in and the door is shut behind him. “You know I don’t need a babysitter,” he points out.
“The CIA doesn’t like to take chances with subjects,” I reply, “even if they are minors.”
He smirks darkly as he sits back down. “I’m not a kid,” he reminds me.
“I thought I asked you to cut the tough guy act?” I push back. I have to make him know that I’m in control here.
The next morning Drake noticed a change in his parents. When he went downstairs, he found them both in the kitchen, more animated than usual to see him. They had actually packed him a lunch, when for two years they had just given him money to get something for lunch. They had also packed his backpack made him bacon and eggs for breakfast.
As Drake sat down, he asked, “What’s going on?”
“Well,” his mother began, and then looked at his father, who nodded. “Today is a big day, Drake,” she continued, “we have something important that we need to tell you about this evening.” Reaching into her purse, she also said, “but first, this is for you.”
She then pulled out a cell phone. It was an older model, a black Razor flip phone. She handed Drake the phone. Drake accepted it with great confusion. Just last night they had held their position of not letting him have a phone, and now this morning they just surprised him with one. “What’s with this?” Drake asked.
“I know we’ve held out that you didn’t need a phone,” Drake’s father explained, “but… now you’re going to need one. Also, we’ve had this one sitting around for a while, in case either your mother’s or mine should break, but now we’ve decided to give it to you.”
Drake didn’t understand the change in his parents, but looking down at the phone in his hand he figured it was better than nothing. He thanked his parents for the phone and slipped it into his pocket.
“Two rules,” his mother said. “You don’t put any numbers in that phone that we don’t approve of first, and if either of us,” she indicated toward herself and her husband, “calls you, you answer immediately. Our numbers are the only ones in there for now. Any questions?” Drake shook his head no.
Letting out a deep breath of relief, she said, “Good. Now get to school, you’ll be late.”
When Drake stood up and put his bag over his back, his mother hugged him tightly. As he hugged her back, he asked, “Is everything alright, mom?”
“Yeah,” she said right into his ear, “I just love you so much.” She squeezed him one more time, then let go and took both of his hands into hers. Drake stared down at her hands, very much like his, only she had three rings on hers, wedding on her left, and two others on her right.
She finally let him go, and his father followed that with a squeeze of his shoulder and, “Be safe today, Drake.”
Ten minutes later Drake was locking his bike up in front of his school, his parent’s attitude out of his mind. His day was going normal enough until he got a text message on his new phone. It shocked Drake for a second. Students were allowed to use their electronic devices during lunch hour, but Drake’s parents were still the only ones who knew his number. Drake pulled the phone out of his pocket, opened it and opened the message from his father:
Do not call us. Answer the next person to call you and do as she says.
“Red Flag?” I ask.
“Code phrase,” the boy explains. “You ever have one of those as a kid? A word or phrase your parents drilled into your head as to signal an emergency?”
“Sure,” I lie, but I understand the premise.
“Red Flag was mine,” Drake explains. “My parents had only ever used it one other time in my life,” he adds. “I think I was eight, and the kitchen had caught fire.” Shrugging, he continues, “That code phrase meant ‘stop what you are doing and do what you are told’. That text threw me off, because all it said was to answer a phone call and not call them back.”
Drake immediately left the cafeteria with all of his stuff, ran to the bathroom and tried to call his father. He didn’t even get a ring. What he got instead was a robot saying that the number he was calling had been shut down. Confused, Drake tried his mother’s phone, but got the same result.
Drake was freaking out, but got an idea. He suddenly remembered his mother was a teacher for the school district. He ran through the halls as quickly as he could toward the school office. Bursting through to the front desk, scaring the receptionist, he asked them to call his mother’s school to see if she was there. When they asked what was going on, he just made something up about needing medication, which worked because they immediately called the elementary school to find her. When they got back to Drake, they told him that she hadn’t even come in that morning. When pushed more about the medicine, Drake feigned remembering that he had in fact taken it that morning and that it had been a false alarm.
Drake went back to his schedule waiting for that call. Two periods went by; Drake kept from turning his phone in by telling the teachers he was expecting an important call.
The phone went off while he was in math class. Excited and anxious, he excused himself from the class, claiming this to be the call he was waiting on.
He stepped into the hallway and checked the number. He didn’t recognize the number, and obviously there was no caller ID. It wasn’t even of his area code; this could be coming from out of state for all he knew. Nevertheless, he answered it. “Hello?” he asked quietly.
“Red Flag,” the female voice opened with, using the code phrase from the text Drake got. “Where are you?” she asked urgently.
“I’m at my school,” Drake answered. “What’s going on? Who are you?”
“Can’t tell you the first part yet,” she replied, “but for now call me ‘K’.”
“Alright, ‘K’,” Drake replied, “What do I do?”
At that moment, an announcement came over the intercom. “Drake Fletcher, please come to the front office with all of your things immediately, please. Thank you.”