Good evening! Here’s part three of my blog series. Sorry it’s a bit late…I’ve been rather busy, unfortunately. I hope you like it!
I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and tucked my hands in my grey coat pockets. Berlin, Germany, was a lot colder in October than Chicago was.
People bustled past me in various directions. I ambled down the sidewalk, gazing into the many cozy-looking cafés and and small shops. I’d been walking down the street for about half an hour now, waiting for mission headquarters to send me the information file. For some reason, the WPA hadn’t already sent it.
“Möchten Sie einen kostenlosen Tee?” a woman standing in front of a shop asked me. “Would you like some free tea?”
“Oh, uh, ja,” I replied, wrapping my stiff fingers around the warm plastic cup she handed me. I thanked her and continued walking, sipping the steaming tea.
Suddenly I felt my watch vibrate against my wrist. I pulled back my sleeve and read the message that appeared suddenly on the screen.
Minna Hanson. Fifteen years old. 34 B Stralauer Street, Berlin, Germany.
Good, I thought. They finally sent the information file. I scrolled down a bit and read her wish.
I wish something good would finally happen to me.
Not bad, I thought. How old was she–fifteen? She was probably one of those super grouchy teenagers that felt like they were the unluckiest person in the world. All I’d have to do was waltz in there, hand her some acne cream and lip gloss, and bam! Instant success.
Feeling confident, I jogged down to Stralauer Street, which was only a few blocks away. The street was lined with apartment buildings. I climbed the stairs to the one labeled 30-39 to number 34 and knocked on the door.
There were several loud bangs and what sounded like a child’s shriek. Someone yelled something, and suddenly the door was yanked open by a woman who had clearly been asleep a few seconds ago.
“What?” the woman snarled in German. There were dark bags under her red-rimmed eyes, and she swayed where she stood. I realized she was drunk.
“Um, I was just looking for a Minna Hanson?” I said in my choppy German.
“Not home,” the woman said, and she slammed the door in my face. I stood there, slightly shocked, but then recovered. Maybe she was around the neighborhood. I’d just go and look around.
I ambled down the sidewalk, looking up and down the street for a teenaged girl. I did this several times, but there was no sign of any until I happened to glance down an alleyway between an apartment building and an old warehouse. Sitting against one of the walls was a girl with unevenly cut, short, dark hair and closed eyes. Her pale nose was tipped with pink from the cold, and she was wrapped in a black coat.
I approached her and lightly tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped and looked up at me with tired brown eyes. I waved, and she pulled out an earbud blasting what I think was music–although I could tell from all the screaming that it wasn’t any music I’d heard before.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“I was just wondering if you know a Minna Hanson?” I asked, fidgeting with my scarf.
The girl snorted. “Yeah, I know her all right. Why?”
“Well, um, I just needed to talk to her.”
The girl raised an eyebrow. “About what?”
“Nothing you need to…oh,” I said, plopping down against the opposite wall. “You’re Minna, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. So go ahead, talk to me.”
“Well, okay,” I said, not knowing where to start. “So, um, how’s life?”
Minna stared at me. “Really? You wandered around the street for twenty minutes just to ask me how my life is?”
“How do you know I was wandering the street?”
“We get lost tourists here all the time. I’ve been watching you for ages.”
“That’s not creepy.”
“It’s also not creepy for a stranger to wander around looking for a teenage girl, pretend it’s urgent that you talk to her, and then sit down and ask her about life,” Minna retorted.
I shrugged. “Touché.”
Minna hugged her knees. “So, what do you really want to talk to me about?” Suddenly her eyes narrowed. “Oh, you’re not from the school board, are you? Because I swear, those pigeons in the lab last week had nothing to do with me.”
“Nevermind. Are you from the school board?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, good. Because the pigeons actually were my fault.” Minna’s phone buzzed. She glanced at it, sighed, and tucked it in her pocket.
“What was that?” I asked.
“My stepmom. She was asking if I was coming home, because she wanted to know if she needed to cook or not. Not that she actually cooks, anyway.”
“Oh.” I felt bad for Minna, who looked depressed. “Is your stepmom the one at your house?”
“Yeah. I’m surprised she actually opened the door for you. Usually when she’s drunk she locks herself in her room.”
“Is she drunk a lot?”
“Oh, all the time. It scares my little sister half to death. Me, I just come out here.”
I met her eyes. “Why don’t you tell someone about it?”
She laughed ironically. “Who’d I tell? Nobody at school trusts me. And it’s not like kids are dying to hang out with me.”
I could tell by the way her voice hardened that she was telling the truth. “What about your dad?”
“My dad?” Minna’s voice trailed off, and she stared at the ground. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, ‘you don’t know’?”
“I mean, I don’t know where he is. He left us two years ago. He hasn’t come back yet.”
“That’s…horrible.” Suddenly, I realized the gravity of Minna’s wish. She had a drunk stepmother, a missing father, and nobody to talk to. This was going to be a lot harder than I thought. Well, I figured, I guess I should have known better when I realized I was dealing with a teenaged girl. I’d never understood girls, as my first, second, third, fourth, and fifth girlfriends would know.
Minna rested her chin on her arms. “Sometimes I wish something good would happen, just once.”
Yes. We were getting somewhere. “Like what?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Just like, you know, getting to go do something fun for once, or someone actually being nice to me.”
The wheels in my head were spinning overtime, trying to figure out something to do. I glanced at Minna, then her phone in her pocket, processing what she had said. Suddenly it clicked. What if she got to do both?
“Minna,” I said.
“Do you know where any girls from your school live?”
Minna looked alarmed. “What?”
“I’m not–I mean, not for me,” I clarified quickly. “But if you wanted to, say, go visit someone from your school, would you know where to go?”
“Well,” Minna said, glaring at me suspiciously, “I guess there’s my partner for our science project.”
“And you know where she lives?”
“Good. Let’s go.”
“I’ll explain when we get there. Now come on.”
Minna stood, and we walked for a couple of blocks until we reached a series of apartment buildings. We stopped in front of the sixth one down, and Minna turned to face me. “Okay, we’re here,” she said. “Explain.”
I dug into my pocket, pulled out my wallet, and handed Minna my WPA emergency-only credit card. I figured since it was for a mission, this counted as an emergency. “Take this,” I said. “Knock on the door. Invite your science partner out for shopping or skating or whatever you want to do–within reason, of course. At nine o’clock, bring her back here and then meet me in the same alleyway by your house.”
Minna tried to hand me back the credit card. “No way! I can’t take this.”
I forced it back in her hand. “Yes, you can. Now go.” I grabbed her shoulders and turned her towards the steps. Minna stared at them for a second, then turned back to me. “What am I supposed to say?”
“I don’t know. Just invite her to hang out. Be her friend.”
Minna practically crawled up the steps and knocked slowly at the door. I stepped away, but could still hear the conversation.
The door opened. “Oh, hi, Minna.”
“Hi, Christa,” Minna said. “Look, I was just wondering–I was–um, I was on my way to town and I thought–maybe–you’d like to come and, you know, hang out with me.”
There was a pause. I thought the girl was about to say no, but then I heard her say, “Sure! Just let me go tell my mom. I’ll be back.” The door closed, and I could hear Minna shifting back and forth. Then the door opened again, and the girl–Christa–said, “Let’s go!” I watched as they walked down the street, turned right, and disappeared behind the corner.
I made my way back to Minna’s street and sat down in the alleyway where we’d met. I spent the waiting hours watching Premier League replays from the past few matches. I was so absorbed in it that I hardly noticed Minna’s return until she tapped me on the shoulder and held out the emergency credit card. I took it and looked up at Minna. “Have fun?”
Minna’s eyes were glowing, and her cheeks were pink from smiling. “Yes!”
She plopped down in front of me. “I’ve never had a friend before! It was strange at first, because I didn’t really know what to say, but then we started joking around, and it was so much fun!” She looked at me. “Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. “I’m glad you had a good time.” I checked my watch. “I’d better get going.”
Minna nodded. “Yeah. Me too. Um, bye, I guess.”
I stood and grinned. “Bye.”
As I walked away, I thought I heard screaming. I glanced down the road, but I didn’t see anything. I shrugged and kept walking.
When I got back to my hotel, I checked my computer and found that I’d gotten a message from the WPA. I opened it up. I thought it would be something for the next part of my mission, but as I read it, everything suddenly went cold and all I could do was gaze at the screen in shock.
Agent Boyd–Mission has been compromised. Agency security breached. Project subjects Alex Johnson and Minna Hanson missing. Return to WPA immediately.
I hope you liked it! I’ll try and post the next part soon.