Gary, feeling a hand on his shoulder, stepped back from the door. Lloyd Newman moved Gary out-of-the-way to look through the hole. He stepped back a few inches, “Shit!” he whispered to himself.
Knock, knock, knock!
“Mr. Parker? Is Everything alright?” said Agent Darren McCarty.
Lloyd stepped back from the door pulling Gary and Tricia in close, “Listen, Mr. McCarty here is with AGEA.” He stifled Tricia from talking before continuing. “As far as you know I was here trying to find a fit for some children. It’s not illegal for me to look for potential parents to adopt modifieds. The Service is a placement organization, after all. Understood?” Taking their nods as an understanding he motioned for Gary to go ahead and open the door.
Once the door was open Agent McCarty made immediate eye contact with Lloyd. “Ah, Mr. Newman. What a coincidence that you’d be here too.” With no immediate response, he continued, “So. Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I’m Agent Darren McCarty,” he said removing his badge wallet from his inside pocket showing the two of them his identification. “I work with the Anti-Genetic Engineering Agency, do either of you know what that is?”
“We know what AGEA is, yes,” said Tricia for the both of them. “What can we help you with?”
“Well, I’m glad we don’t need to beat around the bush, as they say. I just want to have a look around your home. I’ve been told that there are a few modifieds that were seen in the neighborhood a few days ago. I just want to make sure you don’t have any of the criminals hiding here. Unknowingly, of course.” said the agent. He was looking around the apartment and noticed the pile of blankets on the couch. “I’ve been informed a few of them may be particularly dangerous.”
“YOU CAN’T JUST… There are no kids here… where’s your warrant?” snapped Tricia.
She was stopped by Lloyd putting a hand on her arm, “Mrs. Parker, he can do this and AGEA agents don’t generally need warrants. Let’s just be thankful he didn’t break down the door,” Lloyd finished snidely.
“Well, well- you can be helpful after all ‘eh Mr. Newman?” retorted McCarty. “So, Mrs. Parker, if you don’t mind, can you please give me a tour of your lovely home?”
Tricia hesitated for only moment before taking the agent to the kitchen and the rest of the apartment. Leaving her husband and Lloyd near the door. Agent McCarty attempted to make small talk with her, “So, have you lived here long Mrs. Parker?”
“A few years,” she said with disdain in her voice, pausing as she showed him the single bathroom. He was looking under the sink, in the bathtub, behind the shower curtain, and went so far as to remove the lid to the back of the toilet. “You won’t find any children in there Mr. McCarty.”
“It’s Agent McCarty,” he replied. “And I’ve noticed that’s the second time you’ve mentioned children, however, I never said I was looking for children Mrs. Parker.”
Her face blushed. “Well, whoever you’re looking for, surely they can’t fit into the back of the toilet.”
He turned and looked at her with a serious look, “You obviously don’t know very many modifieds then.” He decided to grab the plunger from under the sink and poke near the ceiling as if he was looking for something up there he couldn’t quite see. Hmm, he thought. Agent McCarty walked out of the room passing his host to open a small linen closet in the hall spending little time to look before closing it. He moved further towards the two bedrooms. The one on the left was an open space that looked like a mix of a storage room and office. “So, it this where the new addition will be going?” he asked raising his eyebrows.
“I’m sorry?” the question took her by surprise.
“I assumed that since Mr. Newman was here you two were looking to adopt? That is why he’s here, correct?
“Oh, um, yes. Gary and I were discussing-”
“Good,” he said stepping on her sentence. “Kids though, they’re a handful,” he said heavily patting the door jamb. Stepping back into the hall he walked to the end of the hallway through the other open bedroom door. To his front lay a queen sized bed with a puke green colored comforter flanked by a bedside table on either side. On the right wall was a mirror covered closet door. To the left, a large window allowing for full sunlight to bathe the room. Agent McCarty studied the room looking from left to right several times, but he didn’t enter it. “I’ve seen enough Mrs. Parker,” he said as he turned around walking towards the front door at a quickening pace.
“Thank you for your time Mr. Parker. Mr. Newman, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon,” said the McCarty grabbing the handle of the front door and opening it. “Oh, and Mrs. Parker, best of luck on that adoption,” he said with a wink then backed out the door closing it.
Gary walked to the door and looked out the peephole, “Well, he’s gone.” He turned around as Lloyd turned to Tricia.
“What exactly did he say,” Lloyd asked her.
“Nothing, really. He looked through the rooms, under the sink, and behind the toilet. He looked into our bedroom for a moment and said he was done. I don’t know where they went, but the kids aren't here,” she ended shaking her head with shrugged shoulders.
“That’s it?” asked Lloyd as he was walking past her to the back of the apartment and to the bedrooms.
Lloyd stopped at the doorway looking left to right, then right to left, slowly. “He knows you’re here,” he said in a slightly hurried voice to whoever was listening.
“Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I’m Agent Darren McCarty…” is all that could be heard as the five kids made their way down the hall. Aja directed them all to the room on the left, just past the bathroom. She opened the closet looking for an attic space or something.
“This is an apartment, there’s no space above us,” Lilly reminder Aja.
“I’m just looking.” Aja look around the room catching the eyes of her brother. “Don’t worry bud, we’ll figure this out,” she said in a whisper. She motioned for them to go into the other bedroom as she closed the closet door.
She stepped from the spare room the Parker’s bedroom. The four younger kids stood near the mirrored closet on the right of the bed looking back at her in silence. She went behind them to look into the closet but it was too shallow to be of any use. Turning around Aja stepped to the bed to look under it. Nope, she thought. She took in a deep breath and released it silently while looking out the window unto the blue sky with sun rays flowing through the window towards her. “Come here Jareth.”
She moved to the side of the bed placing her brother in the center. She then pressed on the rest of the mattress to feel how stiff it was or wasn’t. Aja turned around taking Ekko by the hand and put her next to her brother. She motioned for Lada to follow her around to the other side and placed her on the bed towards the center. “Lilly,” she whispered, “I need you to sit behind them. Make sure you don’t crush the pillows, ok?”
Lilly nodded and Aja helped her onto the bed smoothing the comforter out. She then got on the bed in front of them, again smoothing the bedding out. “Listen up,” Aja hisses softly, “everyone close your eyes and keep them closed. Ekko, we need your help. There is a very bad man out there who wants to do bad things to you. Do you know what I mean?”
“Y- yes,” Ekko answered.
“Remember what I said to do if bad people came to get you?” Aja tilted her head and raised her eyebrows.
“Hide,” Ekko and Aja said in unison.
“That’s right. There is a very bad man at the front door and he’s here to take us all away. Do you think you can hide? I need you to try really hard, you need concentrate, we all need to hide.” Aja took Ekko’s hand, “Jareth, hold Ekko’s and Lilly’s hands. Lilly hold Lada’s, Lada, hold mine. Now, everyone keep your eyes closed, Ekko, you need to hide- now!” Aja finished.
Ekko was granted the power of invisibility. However, at the age of five, she was far from mastering it. The power did help in playing hide-and-go-seek though- until she fell asleep. She was able to extend her powers to those who she was touching and they were touching- but she had to concentrate hard to do so. Ekko had some practice- and she was able to hide all five of them- but only for a few minutes. Their fate, to be found or not, rested on the undeveloped powers of a five-year-old.
Agent McCarty could be heard moving towards them down the hall stopping first in the bathroom then the spare room just outside the Parker’s bedroom. He stood in the door of the spare room for a moment talking with Tricia then moved to the doorway of the main bedroom. He just crossed the threshold, only five feet in front of Aja who was sitting Indian style on the bed directly in front of him. He looked from side to side then looked at the bed. When they were invisible their vision was slightly blurry as if she were inside a dull Plexiglas dome. You could see people but minute facial expressions and the likes were hard to distinguish.
“I’ve seen enough Mrs. Parker,” he said to Tricia. He turned and walked away from the room as Tricia looked in the bedroom not seeing anything herself.
The Agent and Tricia rounded the corner at the entrance of the hallway, at the opposite end of the small apartment. “Is he gone?” Ekko asked her oldest sister.
“No, not yet honey- stay hidden,” Aja whispered, “Everyone stay still. ” A muffled conversation between the four adults could be heard near the front door, then silence.
Lloyd was the first to come down the hallway with the both Gary and Tricia in tow. Looking at Aja he said, “He knows you’re here, we need to go. Now.”
The children reappear sitting on the bed in a group with the Parker's looking on in amazement.
“We were invisible, how did he know?” asked Aja getting off the bed.
“Were- were you there the whole time?” Yet nobody seemed to notice Tricia’s question.
“C’mon kids, we need to move you to a safer place,” Lloyd said as he picked Ekko up off the bed into his arms. “Jareth, be sure to keep your gloves on. Lilly, can you sense Agent McCarty?”
“No,” she replied. “I couldn’t get into his mind when he was here either. Is he a modified?”
“Agent McCarty?,” he said with a slight chuckle. “Ah, no. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have someone near here employed to block.” He stopped walking suddenly and looked back at Lilly, “Was anyone in your head?”
“I don’t think so,” she said shaking her head.
Lloyd thanked the Parker’s for the help and willingness to keep the Keen’s for as long as they did and avoided the numerous questions from Mrs. Parker. “The less you know, the better it’ll be for all,” he finally told here.
From here the plan was simple, it always was. He explained to the children they were simply going out the building’s back entrance where a van was waiting for them. From here they were going to be processed for a new home.
The children said thank you to the Parkers without much fanfare. ‘There are more things to worry about than saying goodbye,’ Aja remembered her mother telling her once. They put their bags over their shoulders and filed out the door; Lloyd carrying Ekko, Aja carrying Jareth and the rest following in behind. They descended a dark stairway from the second floor to the basement which had an exit door to the back of the building.
Lloyd put Ekko down and had her hold Lilly’s hand before going through the door to look up and down the alley. Once he thought it clear he stepped back in, “Ekko, I need you to disappear and hold Lilly’s hand. Lilly, see if you can sense anything when we leave if so, let me know. Lada, sweetheart, be ready to protect yourself if you need to, ok?” They all did as they were told and followed him out the door to the right. As described, there was a van, a white windowless van, waiting at the end of the alley. The side door opened when they were within a few feet. “Let’s go, guys,” Lloyd urged them before turning his attention to the driver, “Larry, they’re all yours. Be safe.”
“You’ve always worried too much Lloyd,” replied the driver Larry. Lloyd closed the door. “Buckled or not here we go,” Larry said to his passengers before driving away.
“Call in a catch-team Hugo,” Agent McCarty said to his passenger smiling as he was getting into the car.
“They’re here? You actually saw them?” asked Hugo, in a lazy disbelieving tone.
“Well, I didn't really see them per se, but they’re here. One of them might be able to turn themselves invisible, but they can’t do much for gravity,” McCarty said looking in the rear-view mirror at himself with a smirk.
“No, I didn’t see them,” McCarty said now with the smirk missing. “But they were sitting on the bed, it must have been all of them ‘cause I could see the indent on the top cover and the light refracting off of one or two of ‘em. Call it in.”
Hugo sat there looking at him unamused.
“Please,” McCarty finished.
Hugo, letting out an overdone sigh called dispatch in to bring in a “Catch Team,” professional kidnappers specifically trained for modifieds.
“You think they’d be a little more inconspicuous,” said Agent McCarty interrupting Hugo’s call. “Over there, they’re getting into a van at the end of the alley up there,” he said pointing.
Hugo, still on the phone, passed the van’s details to the dispatcher, “We need tracking. The assets are a priority-two, it’s the five Keen kids… yes, all of them. What? Sure, go ahead and tell him but we want to know where they are first.” Hugo hung up his phone. He immediately received a notification. “Tracking is a go,” Hugo said to McCarty. “You wanna follow?,” he asked as the van pulled away.
“Not yet,” he replied, “I don’t want to tip my hat just yet.”