I sat on my living room floor, surrounded by pieces of paper, wearing my rarely used glasses. The point of this was to decipher the code of a message written in incredibly tiny handwriting which had been pushed though my letterbox on the back of a picture of Johnny Depp. It was so frustrating! Every time I thought I had it, something changed which meant it wouldn't work. The episode of Family Guy I had been watching before this was posted was on in the background, but no my main focus was on the note.
My mobile vibrating was a great relief, especially when I saw who it was.
"Oh. My. Goodness. Briony, you are not going to believe what I just saw," she gushed.
"No," I answered. "Probably not. But you're going to tell me, right?"
She started before I had finished. "I was in that pub opposite that strip club and I was looking out the window and you'll never guess who walked out! It was business partner, and he followed this pretty girl into an alley!"
I frowned. Surely Maximus wouldn't sink that low. "I think you might be mistaken."
"Nope. It was definitely him. I recognised him 'cause I like his hair, remember? I told you in Starbucks. And the girl was so much shorter than him and she was, like, sixteen and her hair was so ginger it was almost glowing! And then he was carrying her to his awesome car and then they drove off and I was like oh my god I have to tell Briony!" I couldn't believe she'd said the last two sentences and only took one breath between them. This was what I loved about Harriet. She had a habit of just giving all the information at once. We had a joke about what a crap criminal she'd make.
At first I was about to choke because of the thought of Maximus seducing little girls in alleys from a strip club that the girls weren't even old enough to be in. "I might strangle him when I see h-" I stopped when the sudden realisation of what he'd actually done hit me, just as a rather odd knocking sound came from the door.
"Harrie, I'm going to ask him if it was him. I promise I will call you as soon as I find out what he was doing."
"Good. See ya."
I cut the phone off and closed my eyes, groaning in total despair, then went to answer the door. And who was standing there, girl in his arms, grinning at me? None other than Maximus Wayde himself.
"Brilliant, aren't I?"
"Maximus," I swallowed. "What the hell have you done?"
He didn't answer, just continued to grin smugly at me like a total idiot. I dragged him into the flat and pushed him into the front room. He laid the girl on my settee and my jaw almost dropped, it probably would have if I hadn't been gritting my teeth to stop myself from screaming insults at him.
"I got our number one suspect," Maximus shrugged. "It was quite easy really. No resistance whatsoever."
I shook my head at him. "Maybe that's because she's a young girl who has no idea you're a spy, probably nervous because she'd just walked into a dark alley, at eleven at night in the dark. Who knows what might have been going through her head when you grabbed her? She probably thought you were a rapist or something. It wouldn't surprise me considering the building she'd just walked out of."
"How did you- oh, your friend most likely. You should tell her spilling information like that will get her nowhere."
"I will deal with Harriet later. Right now there is an unconscious girl on my sofa, and a stupid man in my house who's seeming to have forgotten that kidnapping is a criminal offence."
"Dammit. Well that's kinda small considering this is Tiffany Feldon. Our biggest suspect. Don't you ever-?"
"Suspect for what?" This certainly wasn't me, and it was far too high and feminine for Maximus.
We both whipped around to face Tiffany, who looked completely and utterly confused.
Then I turned my despairing stare on Maximus. "You're an idiot."
"Your glasses look nerdy, who's complaining?"
He shrugged and knelt in front of her, told her a blatant lie about how he found her and didn't see who knocked her out, and then started quizzing her. She was sixteen. I remember when I was sixteen. I felt so young, no different from how I felt when I was fourteen. Her middle name was Elizabeth, after her grandma. Her hair, as a completely unrelated fact, wasn't naturally ginger. She dyed it, but insisted she couldn't remember why. Etcetera, etcetera.
Then she started asking questions. Why bring her here - not to the hospital or something? Where exactly was she? Who was Maximus? Who was "she" (meaning me)? (These questions were all asked to Maximus).
And, eventually, "What's going on?"
Maximus sighed and looked at me.
"Right. Well, you see, Maximus and I are from the SIS. MI6." We simultaneously showed her our badges, which we kept in our pockets. "And this particular investigation involves you."
Maximus groaned as Tiffany's eyes became very wide. "Which is kind of unfortunate, 'cause I hate arresting pretty girls."