Agent Luke Fraser peered out the window of the private plane, watching the cattle-dotted fields roll by far below. He was being flown to the scene of a kidnapping. His job was to locate the missing Isaiah Tuck, return the child to his parents, and arrest the kidnappers. It was an easy mission.
Agent Fraser turned away from the window and reread his notes. They had been written by the plucky Agent Jodie Day, who was technically supposed to be on the mission with Luke. But he only worked alone, and had ditched Agent Day before boarding the tiny plane.
He shook his head and went back to the notes. Isaiah Tuck had been walking home from his elementary school when he was abducted. An old woman living two blocks away from the Tucks had mentioned to Agent Day that a short boy with curly black hair had been pulled into an ordinary-looking green car. The woman’s description matched up with Isaiah.
Jodie had interviewed the Tucks, and wrote that his mother had noticed that Isaiah was tense that morning before leaving for school. Was he threatened? Jodie had scribbled in the margin. Mrs. Tuck had sobbed, “I didn’t know it was the last time I would see him. If I had, Miss Day, I would have held him tight and never let go.”
While his wife cried, Mr. Tuck showed Agent Day a ransom note left in their mailbox. “We were hoping for a ransom note; it would be a way to get our son back,” he explained. “After Isaiah went missing, we set aside a large portion to pay off the expected ransom. But the price was higher than we were prepared for. And, well, Miss, we were unsure of how to proceed.”
That was what Luke had to go off of. But it was enough.
As he was shuffling through the notes, he sensed a change in the plane. The nose dipped down. He felt the rumbling of the engine change pitch. Something was wrong. He jiggled his seat belt, planning to go visit the cockpit, but a flash of color outside his window distracted him.
A man with a parachute strapped to his back was hovering outside the window. With a broad, crooked smile, he pointed at the yellow sign he had made: I was your pilot.
Luke slammed his fist against the glass window, snarling at the traitorous pilot, and the man laughed as he dropped out of view. Someone — the kidnappers, Luke assumed — had planted one of their men in the plane to pilot it. They were trying to get rid of him before he could track them down. He steeled his expression and thought, Well, it’s not going to work.
He undid his seat belt and ran to the cockpit. He’d been trained in many odd skills, including flying. Luke slid into the pilot’s chair, flicked several levers, and grabbed the steering wheel. Before he could right the plane, a hand clamped onto his shoulder. He whirled around and punched the attacker in the face.
Staggering around in the cockpit, one hand held to her bleeding nose, was the dark-haired Agent Jodie Day. Somehow, she had slipped aboard the plane. She was shouting at him angrily, and at that moment, Luke was very glad that he was deaf. He refocused on righting the plane, but gritted his teeth when he saw that the pilot had cut the steering wheel’s wires.
He leapt up from his chair and searched the plane for a way to get off. As there were no parachutes (the pilot had thrown all but one overboard), Luke needed to construct two makeshift parachutes to get him and Agent Day off the plane.
Jodie stomped in front of him and continued to yell in his face. Didn’t she know that he was deaf? Irritated, he pulled out his super-secure phone and sent her a quick text message.
The sight of Luke with his cellphone in hand seemed to make her even more angry, but her rage swiftly melted into confusion when she read the text that popped up on her phone’s screen: Silence, you uneducated peanut. Jodie rolled her eyes, but she stopped ranting.
Luke texted her again. Help me find something to create a parachute with.
Jodie perked up immediately. Eagerly, she slipped out of her bulky dark blue nylon jacket and showed it to Luke. There were straps on the inside, like a backpack. The sizeable jacket could convert into a small parachute! This was their way to get of the plummeting plane.
Only, Luke had no idea how to work the parachute. How did it fold out? Where was the cord? He wouldn’t be able to figure it out before the plane crashed. He sent another text to Jodie: Agent Day, you need to work the parachute. Hold on to me, and we’ll jump together.
Jodie’s hazel eyes filled with fear. Me? she mouthed, pointing to herself. She texted, I can’t! I’m . . . not brave enough. I’ll drop you.
Jodie was the only way off that plane. How could Luke make her see that she was brave enough? She’d snuck onto the plane after Luke had ditched her . . . She’d hidden in the cramped airplane for half of the trip . . . And she kept a parachute on her disguised as a jacket. She was resourceful and a good secret agent, as annoying as he might find her.
Luke cleared his throat. He hated talking, and he knew his words must sound strange to others. But he knew that talking in this instance was better than texting. He croaked, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are. You are a spy, and you’ve got this.”
Her eyes lit up, and Luke knew he had chosen the right words. Jodie slipped her arms through the straps on the jacket and pushed open the bay doors. She showed Luke where the cord was, wrapped her arms around him, and together, they jumped.