Another agent walks into our interrogation room and hands me a file. “Karishma Morgan,” I read as I open the file on her. The first thing is a picture. Dark skin, dark eyes and long black hair with a single blue streak on the left side. Twenty two years old and a recent graduate of George Washington University, same as her father and Drake’s parents. “Impressive young woman,” I comment blankly, hiding the fact that I’m actually very impressed. The CIA would pay handsomely for a young woman of this caliber.
“I met her when I was ten,” Drake explains fondly. “She prefers to go by Kari, by the way. She was sixteen or seventeen at the time, and it was at the one meeting of our parents’ college group that I actually went to. There were no other kids, so she was kind of the babysitter. At the time, she was just an annoying teenager; now she’s one of the smartest people I know. Other than my parents, there’s no one else in the world I trust as much as her.”
“You sound pretty close,” I point out as I flip through her file some more, skimming over most of it.
“What is going on?” Drake snapped, getting aggressive. “What happened to my parents? What is going on?”
Kari stood up and faced Drake. Calmly, but pushing back, she asked, “Can we go inside before you make a scene?”
Drake stormed inside, Kari following and closing the door behind her. Before she took two steps inside, Drake turned to face her, arms folded and wanting his answers.
“Well, there really isn’t an easy way to ease into this, so I’ll just say it. Our parents were taken by the Government,” she said simply.
Drake couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Even when Kari kept a perfectly straight face he lost control. It took a minute for his laughing to die down, and by then he had to sit down or risk falling on the floor laughing so hard.
“This isn’t funny,” Kari said, annoyed by Drake’s reaction.
“That was hilarious,” Drake replied after he had calmed down.
“What is so funny about this?”
“Have you met my parents?” Drake asked her. “My dad is an actuary and my mom’s a school teacher.”
“And my dad is a newspaper editor,” Kari replied, “and they took him, too.” Kari then reached into her pocket and pulled out something small. She then flicked it toward Drake. As it spun through the air, Drake caught a glimpse of metal. Drake caught the item in both hands. He then opened them to see a silver ring sitting in his palms. It was an item he immediately recognized.
“I got that in the mail about four days ago,” Kari explained, “it was my dad’s, and it came with a list of names, your parents being first on it. The next day, my dad disappeared, and the day after that I drove straight here.”
Drake’s mind was racing as he looked up at her and said, “My parents had rings just like this one. I never knew the story behind them, or I never asked about it.”
“I don’t know what it means, either,” Kari admitted, “but everyone our parents were involved with in college wore rings like that, and if what happened to my dad and your parents are any indication, someone’s rounding them all up.”
Drake’s mind was still racing as he asked, “What kind of college club was this?”
Kari shrugged and answered, “That’s the one thing my dad never explained. All he ever said was that it was a secret and dangerous, and given what’s happened to him now obviously illegal.”
Drake was full of questions that needed answers. In his mind, there was only one way he could get those answers. “So when are we leaving?” he asked simply.
“As soon as you pack,” she answered urgently. “Bring clothes and try to find some cash; I blew through a lot of mine on the way out here. Do you know if your parents had a stash?”
Drake tossed Kari’s ring back to her. “Hold on,” he said as he rushed upstairs. In his room he had a suitcase under his bed that he stuffed full of clothes. Sitting at the back of the top of his dresser was a jar with three hundred dollars cash in it, from Christmas cards, birthday cards and odd jobs he’d done for his neighbors since he was seven years old. It was all the cash he had, but he’d check his parents’ room before leaving.
He rushed back downstairs where Kari was waiting somewhat patiently. “Let’s go, before those guys check back here,” she prompted.
“I only have three hundred cash,” Drake said. “Help me turn over my parents’ room. I’m sure they have a stash, too.”
The Fletchers’ master bedroom was on the ground floor. It was plain and boring, much like Drake’s parents, but there had to be something. Drake immediately started pulling stuff out from under the queen sized bed as Kari went through their double closet. Drake found boxes of old photos, suitcases of old clothes and other random stuff, all old.
There was one box Drake couldn’t reach from the side he was on, so he walked over to the other side of the bed for it. As he passed in front of the bed he heard a noise that made him stop. One of the floorboards had creaked oddly. Looking down at his feet, he put his weight on the board that made the noise, making the creaking again. Kneeling down, he tapped on it and it made a hollow sound. He was able to easily get his fingers under it and lift it up to find a compartment.
“Kari, I found it,” Drake called out excitedly. As she turned to face him he pulled out two out of six large stacks of money. She rushed over to see for herself, her only response being “Whoa”. They quickly counted it. In total it was a little over four thousand dollars. “Where did your parents get all of this?”
“Don’t know,” Drake said shortly. “Thought we didn’t have time to stick around? Grab the cash.”
They stuffed the cash in Drake’s suitcase and ran out to the driveway, where Kari’s red 2011 Chevrolet Cruze was parked. Drake tossed his bag in the back seat then jumped into the passenger’s side. “Nice car,” he commented as Kari started the engine.
“Thanks, it was a gift,” she replied as she pulled out of the driveway.
“So where are we going now?” Drake asked.
Kari pulled a piece of paper out of her door as she put the car in drive. Handing it to Drake, she said, “We have to find someone on this list that can help us.”
Drake studied the list as Kari drove out of town. It was hand written, very neat and clean writing. There seemed to be no pattern or discernible order for the names, but Drake’s parents were at the top of the list, along with a phone number and address. Almost twenty addresses were listed in all, and they were dotted across the country, from New York City to Odessa, Texas and Louisiana to Oregon. Drake didn’t recognize any of the other names as he scanned the list.
Until he looked at the last one on it. Almost jumping in his seat, Drake called out, “I know this guy!”
“Which guy?” Kari asked without taking her eyes off the road.
“Richard Tennyson,” Drake explained. “His family came to visit mine when I was twelve. He has a kid my age that was named Tyler or Tristan or something along those lines. I remember this because he was the nerdiest kid I’ve ever met. They live in Los Angeles, California.”
“Los Angeles?” Kari asked. “That’s like a fifteen hour drive from here.”
“Didn’t you just come from the east coast?” Drake asked. Drake watched her nostrils flare in frustration and said, “I’ll call ahead.”