"This is the life." Caylin Pike sighed as she leaned her blond head back against the plush Royal Airways seat. "There's nothing like sitting in first class to make a trip to England extra comfy."
"You're telling me," Jo Carreras exclaimed. "I mean, the service is out of control. I think I've already drunk my weight in diet Coke, and we've only been in the air for an hour." Her ebony eyes gleamed mischievously as she hit the reading light button. Its golden glow shone down on her face, highlighting her cheekbones and rich, flawless complexion.
"I never knew how lame flying coach was until now," Theresa Hearth added with a luxurious yawn as she extended her long, tan legs in front of her. "What's the ETA?"
"Um, I believe we have about five hours to go," Caylin replied with a roll of her baby blues. She'd made who-knew-how-many cross-Atlantic journeys in her seventeen years on the planet, and the reminder that she'd be rooted in her seat for that long made first class suddenly feel far from comfy. She squirmed restlessly, wondering how to inject some excitement into the long ride ahead. Other than jumping out the emergency door and surfing 747 style to the land of fish-and-chips, she couldn't imagine how.
Jo let out a long sigh from the center seat. "If only there were some U.K.-variety hotties on this plane -- then we could really make time fly. Where's Gavin Rossdale when you need him?"
Caylin laughed. "Jo, don't your babedar batteries ever wear out?"
"Nope!" Theresa broke in. "They keep going...and going...and going..." She craned her makeup-free face up over the seat back in front of her and scanned the first-class compartment. "Whoa, Jo, check out that cutie in two-B. I bet he's Gavin's long lost twin."
Caylin chuckled as she eyed the object of Theresa's joking affections -- a gray-haired guy a couple of rows ahead.
"Cut it out," Jo complained. "You shouldn't get my hopes up like that. I don't go for the geriatric set, thankyouverymuch."
"Oh, so you are selective," Caylin drawled. "I was beginning to wonder..." She trailed off as she realized that the gentleman in question had turned to stare at her, causing her face to make like a fire engine. "Okay, you guys, change of subject," she whispered hastily.
"Got one," Jo began. "What do you think our first mission is going to be?"
I wish I knew, Caylin thought, her heart pounding in anticipation of the adventure that lay ahead for her and her two new gal pals. Just four months ago Caylin, fresh out of high school in Maine, had been recruited by The Tower, a super-secret organization that was rumored to be a joint venture between the CIA and the FBI.
Hardly what I expected, Caylin noted silently as she recalled arriving in Washington, D.C., for what she had been led to believe was a post-high-school, see-the-world-while-you-help-it program like the Peace Corps. She had been all set to use her extensive mountaineering skills to teach underprivileged Tibetans how to become more self-sufficient or maybe employ her clout as a champion snowboarder to bring excitement to the sunlight-deprived lives of teenagers in Iceland.
Instead she was hit by an unexpected bombshell. Top secret government operatives had been watching Caylin since the seventh grade with the idea that she would someday make a perfect international spy for the U.S. government -- and right there by her side in D.C. had been Jo and Theresa, two complete strangers who had undergone the same scrutiny.
Once they had set foot through The Tower's doors, she, Jo, and Theresa had to put their "normal" teenage lives behind them forever. Now, with sixteen weeks of Bond-style training under their collective belts', the trio were on their first real mission. In the short time they'd known one another the newly christened Spy Girls had become best buds -- and, Caylin hoped, an awesome team.
We definitely work well together, Caylin thought. Her ability to put on a good act for authority figures -- honed over years spent sneaking out past curfew for late night street skating -- blended perfectly with Theresa's high-tech problem-solving prowess and Jo's expert knowledge of foreign languages. But Caylin couldn't help wondering if friendship and teamwork would be enough to sustain them through a mission they hadn't been told one iota about.
Let the fish-and-chips fall where they may, baby, she resolved, a smile of barely suppressed excitement playing on her lips. I'm ready to go wherever the wind carries me -- and I can't wait to get there!
"I bet it's some sort of unsolved murder," Theresa guessed. "Maybe in a school. That way we can pretend to be students and go undercover. Get the inside scoop."
"Mmmm, that would work for me," Jo breathed, her tone growing dreamy. "I can see it now -- London prep schools, yummy boys in uniforms, those awesome accents...."
"But why would the U.S. government get involved in something like that?" Caylin asked. "Think about it -- we're going to the U.K. I heard the British government is cracking down on their out-of-control tabloids, so perhaps the U.S. is trying to help out. Maybe we're going to pose as paparazzi to find out what kind of practices go on behind closed doors."
"That would be cool," Theresa said. "Plus it doesn't sound too dangerous."
"Hey, I'm looking for danger," Caylin exclaimed. "Those paparazzi can get kinda nasty."
"Completely nasty," Jo agreed. "They can put on a pretty good chase -- and I'm all into that."
Theresa shook her head. "Not me. You guys may be thrill seekers, but I'm a thrill freaker." Her stomach lurched as she imagined how she would function in a truly tense situation -- one where she wouldn't have time to analyze, only act. Sure, she'd had plenty of experience during her Tower training, but now for the first time she'd be expected to perform in a totally uncontrolled environment.
Trial by fire, she thought, glowering. Not my style at all. There was no question in Theresa's mind that her partners would be able to get the job -- any job -- done and have a fantabulous time along the way. But Theresa, a computer fiend her entire life back in Arizona, was more used to working on the sidelines than being in the eye of the storm, and she dealt far better with inanimate objects than with real people -- not to mention people who could put her head on a silver platter.
"Well, we'll just have to loosen you up, girl," Jo enthused.
"Yeah," Caylin agreed. "A few days in London with us and you'll be looking at danger in a totally new light."
"Hey, speaking of looking," Jo began, "that guy is still staring at us."
"What guy?" Theresa and Caylin asked in stereo.
"My new boyfriend, remember?"
Theresa inched up slightly in her window seat.
Sure enough, the gray-haired guy, she'd joked about earlier had his eyes on her like white on rice. She shivered, her mind racing with possible theories as to why this total stranger would find three teenage chicks so fascinating.
Sinking down slowly, Theresa whispered, "Do you think he's...on to us? Like, he knows who we are or something?"
"Let's not freak quite yet," Caylin replied, her tone suddenly all business. "We'll just monitor his movements and figure out what to do from there."
"Sounds like a plan, Stan." Jo ran a manicured hand through her glossy black locks and exhaled deeply. "Look -- he's reaching for the Airfone."
"Maybe we should listen in on his phone call," Caylin suggested.
"Can you rig up our Airfone to tap into his?" Jo asked Theresa.
She shook her head sadly. "Dang, no. My gear's stashed down below."
Caylin leaned into the aisle, her eyebrows furrowing in concentration. "Shhh -- he's muttering something," she whispered. "And it ain't English."
Jo leaned an ear between the seats. "It's French." she diagnosed. "I'll translate. No prob."
As the swoosh of the man's credit card through the Airfone's pay slot echoed ominously in Theresa's ears, Jo casually set her drink on Theresa's tray, motioned for Caylin to get up, and scooted past her into the aisle. Theresa's heart thump thump thumped out of control as Jo snuck up the red-carpeted aisle, slid into the seat behind Mr. Suspicious, and pretended to search for a magazine in its deep velvet pocket.
Caylin glanced at Theresa and shrugged. "That guy's speaking way too fast," she whispered. "I can't make out a word. Then again, I was never at the top of my class français-wise." "
Theresa nodded. "The only French I've ever mastered involves fries, so Im totally lost." She watched nervously as Jo glued her twice-pierced ear to the back of the guy's seat. Suddenly Jo's sparkling eyes fit up, and a smile played on her pouty lips.
"What could she possibly be smiling at?" Caylin murmured. "This isn't a game, for Pete's sake!"
Theresa shook her head, dumbfounded. "Beats me."
The man quickly hung up the phone, and Theresa's blood ran cold with worry. But Jo simply sauntered back to her seat. Forced casualness, Theresa noted unhappily. We're sunk!
"So what'd he say?" Caylin demanded, her blue eyes glittering with impatience.
Theresa gnawed on her thumbnail. "He's on to us, right?"
"Well, he did mention us several times," Jo began as she reclaimed her drink from Theresa's tray and took a sip.
"Oh no," Theresa lamented, her mind ticking off countless scenarios, none of them good.
"I knew it!" Caylin whispered, her fists clenched tightly. "Who does he work for?"
"Weeellllll," Jo drawled, "he said he couldn't help looking at us because..."
"What is it already, Jo?" Caylin snarled. "Spit it out!"
"I don't think you can handle it," Jo said gravely.
"Please, just get it over with," Theresa begged.
Jo took a deep breath. "Okay. I don't know how you're going to take this, but...apparently we remind that guy of his daughters, and we've made him feel horribly homesick."
"What?" Caylin cried, sending Jo into a fit of self-satisfied giggles.
Theresa leaned back in her seat and exhaled slowly. "Please, don't ever do that again, Jo. You almost gave me a heart attack."
Caylin punched Jo on the arm. "Not cool, Jo," she complained. "I was about ready to go over and take care of the guy myself."
"Okay, I'm sorry for bugging you guys out," Jo apologized. "Maybe it wasn't cool, but it was a much needed reality check. We can't let paranoia get the best of us, and we shouldn't freak out without good reason."
"A little paranoia can be helpful sometimes," Theresa murmured as she gazed out the window. There wasn't much to look at -- they had flown into the middle of the night, and she couldn't see anything but lacy gray clouds against the black sky. How many more bizarro situations am I going to end up in? she wondered, biting her lip. And how many of them aren't going to be false alarms?
"Here you go," the flight attendant said as she woke Jo from a long nap and handed her a videotape. "Special delivery."
"What is it?" Jo asked with a yawn. She couldn't recall ordering a video -- not even in her sleep. But the woman had already disappeared down the aisle.
As Jo began examining the tape Caylin stirred awake and squinted into the bright sunlight streaming through the window. Meanwhile Theresa napped on, lightly snoring.
Jo nudged Theresa with her elbow. "Wakey wake," she sang. "Looks like we have some viewing material here."
Caylin grabbed the tape out of Jo's hands and studied the label. "Three American Werewolves in London," she read with a laugh. "Obviously from The Tower."
Theresa snorted. "I'm offended!"
"Well, we can transform ourselves in the blink of an eye, " Caylin offered. "You know, with disguises."
"And I love wearing fur as long as it"s fake," Jo added. She took the vid back from Caylin and popped it into the combination TV-VCR embedded in the seat back before her.
"Hopefully we'll finally find out what we're supposed to be doing," Caylin said as she rushed to hit the play button. "Earphones, everyone."
A shot of a black limousine filled the screen and the rich voice of Uncle Sam, their boss, filled the silence. "Good morning, Spy Girls," he intoned. "You're almost there."
Jo impulsively hit pause. "Doesn't he sound too gorgeous?" she swooned. Ever since Jo had first heard Uncle Sam's voice, she'd been dying to meet him. But neither she nor her two partners had ever been allowed to see Uncle Sam's face -- it seemed to be the most heavily guarded secret The Tower held. Naturally the suspense made Jo's imagination run wickedly wild. "If he's even half as foxy as his voice is --"
"Stop drooling, Jo," Theresa admonished. "Youre going to get saliva all over the seats, and they'll boot us back to coach."
Without a word Caylin reached over and unpaused the tape.
Killjoys, Jo thought, rolling her eyes. They're always obliterating my buzz!
"Once you go through baggage claim and customs at Heathrow," Uncle Sam continued, "you'll be met by a chauffeur holding this sign."
The limo image was replaced with a shot of a cheesy-looking driver holding a handwritten sign reading Stevens. "That's it for now, ladies. Welcome to London...and good luck on your maiden mission."
As the screen faded to black, Jo removed her earphones and frowned in confusion. "Stevens?" she wondered aloud. "Who in the world is Stevens?"
Caylin pressed the fast-forward button, but there was nothing else on the tape. "That doesn't tell us anything!" she complained.
I can't take this suspense much longer," Theresa moaned. "Those folks at The Tower really know how to lead a girl on, don't they?"
"Seriously," Jo murmured, her mind returning to the day she'd discovered that The Tower was not what she thought. She had been totally psyched about having an opportunity to see the world and do good things for the underprivileged -- the kinds of things her father would have been proud to see her achieve. But that dream, like her father, had been killed in an instant.
Jo winced at the memory. She'd only been a high school freshman, sweet little Josefina Mercedes Carreras, the pride and joy of her father, who had defected from Cuba as a teenager and risen to prominence as one of Florida's most powerful judges. But then came that horrible day -- the day Jo knew would haunt her for the rest of her life. Judge Victor Carreras had driven her to school and was just about to kiss her good-bye when shots rang out. He was gunned-down by a vicious emissary from the drug cartel he had tried so hard to bring to justice.
An orphan at fourteen, Jo remembered, holding back tears. Her Brazilian-born mother had died during childbirth, so her father was the only family she had. Or so she'd thought until her aunt Thalia -- her mother's sister -- stepped into her life and brought Josefina to live in Miami with her and her husband, Enrique. Her newfound aunt and uncle took her on frequent trips to Brazil and introduced her to an extended family she never knew she had.
Still, the pain of losing her father was too great to bear. After she transferred to a new high school, she rejected good-little-girl Josefina and became fun-loving, boy-crazy Jo, connoisseur of fast food, faster fashion, and the fastest cars on earth. As hard as she tried to let go of her tragic past, it jumped up and bit her at the most inappropriate times -- such as when The Tower informed her she was about to become a top secret international spy. She definitely wanted to fight for truth, justice, and the American way -- her father had taught her well about that. Still, she couldn't help but fear that someday she would end up meeting the same senseless fate he had.
Suddenly the speaker above Jo's head crackled, breaking through her morose thoughts and shaking her back to reality. "We are beginning our final descent into London Heathrow," the captain announced. "Please fasten your seat belts..."
Caylin immediately began following his orders. "Whoo-hoo!" she cheered. "It"s about time!"
"I wonder what's in store for us when we touch down," Theresa mumbled, her gray eyes lost in thought.
"My feelings exactly," Jo said quietly as she gazed out the window at the clear blue sky. "One thing's for sure -- our lives will never be the same again."
Copyright © 1998 by Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.