“Hey, Will.” The band teacher corners me on my way out of school. Pulling out one of my headphones, I step towards him to see what he wants to tell me. “You don’t have time for a quick extra practice, do you?” I make a show of looking down at my watch, shaking my head.
“I’ve really got to get home, sorry.” He frowns, his thin face almost collapsing in on itself. I’m the guitar player for the school’s notoriously terrible band, and Mr Simpson, the teacher who runs it, often reminds me that I hold it together, using that as an excuse to draft me into extra rehearsals.
“Never mind,” His features morph into an expression of deep thought, “Another time then.” I nod, twisting my headphone back into my ear and letting the music wash over me.
A couple of hours later, after returning home and being fed by my foster parents, Simon and Rachel, I’ve snuck out of my bedroom window and am faced with a mirror. The person looking back is not me. Gone is my normal freckly blond face, replaced with a green eyed, dark haired stranger. The lady behind me smiles,
“All done.” I thank her and hop off the tall leather chair that I sat at as she transformed me. I’m handed the case notes, and run my eyes down the page to quickly remind myself of the key details.
A couple of years ago, I got picked up by an agency to do some undercover work – a one off thing. Apparently it’s fairly common (out of those chosen to do spy work) for kids in care to be chosen, because we tend to be lower profile, more off grid. Essentially, we don’t have parents that ask lots of questions about what we’re doing. It was all top secret; I put on a disguise and was sent to find out some information for someone (I haven’t been told who). I must’ve done something right, because since then, they’ve used me for numerous other jobs. Most of the time, I don’t even know what I’m doing, only that it is important, and crucially, that I cannot tell anyone anything about what I do.
Tonight, my name is Harvey Sallow, and I’m going over to see someone I’ve befriended over the past month or so (as Harvey). I don’t know the details, but I am aware of the bare facts: his dad is in some sort of trouble, and I have to find some documents proving his guilt.
I’ve done plenty of jobs like this, so it should all run smoothly. I love every second of my work, so much so that it is just fun, with the added bonus of a fairly large pay check.
I’m fifteen years old, and have been in and out of foster homes since the age of three, never finding a family that wanted me enough to adopt me. My parents anonymously dropped me at a care home when I was a toddler, leaving me with nothing but a battered edition of ‘A Collection of James Bond Stories’ book. That’s what spurred on my love of all things spy related, what made me accept the job as a sort of spy myself and what left me with the fantasy of my parents lives. In my head, they have the same line of work as me, but are highly skilled international spies working for the government. They were forced to give me up for my safety. They’re not dead. They did want me.
There is a parent shaped hole in my life, and no foster parents can fill that. Don’t get me wrong, Simon and Rachel are great, I’m just painfully aware of how temporary they are. They’ll never be the real deal.
With my job, I have access to facilities that let me encounter things that regular people can’t. I’ve been trying to track down my parents, but it’s near to impossible when I don’t even know their names. I’m working at it though, spending spare hours in the research labs and scouring through information.
So far, I’ve had a few leads, but nothing that ended up working out. There are no records of my parents at all in the Care system; they didn’t give their names when they gave me up. All I know is that they’ll probably look vaguely similar to me, and that ‘James Bond’ was significant enough to them to be the only thing they left with me, their child. I’ve treated the book like a clue, maybe it was just that they told me spy stories before I went to sleep, and they gave me the book to read when I’d grown up in the hope it would trigger a memory. As much as I know how unlikely it is that my parents gifted it to me so I’d discover their true identities, I know I haven’t got much hope in finding them, and it isn’t a bad fantasy to have.
I know they were alive when they gave me away, the records say that, and very little else. I’m fairly sure (and hopeful) that they haven’t died since then, and in my heart I feel they are out there. And nothing will make me give up my search for them.
Before I climb out of the car that is dropping me at the end of the guy’s – Thomas’s – street, I take the cool metal gun from the driver’s outstretched hand and tuck it into my pocket, carefully out of sight. It’s not too be used, or shown to anyone unless my life is threatened. I’ve grown used to being armed when on a mission, but that hasn’t stopped my heart from skipping a beat at the thrill of the adrenaline coursing through my veins. We exchange curt nods, and then I get out, making my journey to his house.
Later, when I leave the house, calling goodbye to Thomas and his mother, the papers tucked safely in my pocket alongside the gun, I walk down the dark street with a spring in my step, on a high from the art of my deception.
My driver drops me outside Simon and Rachel’s house, after returning to the base to be quickly turned back into me, William Phoenix, removing the contact lenses, prosthetic makeup and wig. I thank him, and then sneak around to the back, scaling up the wall via my practiced route of the drainpipe and some slightly stuck out bricks. In no time, I’m in my room, pyjamas on, sat at my desk with school books open. A couple of minutes later, my bedroom door is opened, Rachel’s head peering round it, smiling in a satisfied manner when she sees me, supposedly hard at work.
I rush through my homework, completing it all before picking up my guitar by its neck. Flopping on to my bed, I sit and strum it, running through the fairly basic riff for the school band, and then playing a couple of other songs I like. Simon comes up whilst I’m playing, and I stop sheepishly when I look up to see him stood in the doorway. His eyes are shining with some sort of pride, which he inexplicably feels whenever I accomplish something despite the fact I’m not actually his son.
Later, just before I lean across to my bedside table to switch out the light, I do a final check of my phone’s inbox in the desperate hope of news. It’s something I do every night, and it always disappoints me, leading to a night of broken sleep, half formed dreams of varying made up memories filling my head. Tonight is different. The subject of one message leaves me shaken and short of breath.
New intel on Phoenix parents
I click the link.