I jumped into a black cab after getting out of the airport. “Where to?” asked the driver as he tilted his head at the rear-view mirror. Jokingly, I responded, “Whatever secret agency is nearby.” “Codephrase accepted, agent,” he responded. Two seconds later, he shifted into gear and accelerated.
My sheepish laughter from the joke earlier was still fading when the vehicle started moving. Upon digesting what the driver had just said, I did a tiny gulp, not enough to be noticeable, I hoped. I looked around outside and then inside the cab, searching for any sign of clarity. I clenched my fist tightly and felt my nails digging into my palm. This is not a dream, I confirmed. As inconspicuously as I could, I checked my phone to make sure it had enough battery left for whatever may come. It read 74%;I was thankful I had decided to plug it in during the flight.
I never had anyone on speed dial but it seemed to be the perfect time to put my twin brother James on number 1, in case I die or something. The ride was smooth as butter, somehow leagues better than the black cabs I rode the last time I was in London. It was possible that the adrenaline in my bloodstream was numbing me to the speed bumps. Terrified I indeed was but at the same time the childlike adventurer in me wanted to see where this was going, forcing a stoic look on my face. With anticipation, we soon reached a residential area. The houses looked eerily identical with neatly trimmed bushes decorating every second one. There was no other vehicle on the street.
The cab pulled over at the end where house 113 was. The driver turned his head and winked before cheekily saying, “have fun.” I hoisted my backpack and stepped out, making absolutely sure my legs were not visibly shaking. As he sped away, I crept up to the door and noticed there was no handle. My hand reached out and felt around for a button of some sort when suddenly the white wooden door sank into the ground, revealing a short hallway with only a single elevator at the end. I checked my phone one last time before proceeding, knowing well that this was probably the worst decision I had ever made in my life; but somehow that kid in me was convinced otherwise.
The matte black elevator was lit by a few LED lights whose life cycle should have ended five years ago. Again, there were no buttons of any kind. More red flags. Before I could change my mind, the door shut and the mysterious box I was trapped in sped towards the centre of the earth.
Upon stepping out, I found myself in a space that looks like the inside of a warehouse. In front of the elevator were a handful Rolls Royce and Aston Martins lined up as if they were in a showroom. The ceiling must have been at least ten metres tall with sparse metal beams supporting it. The space was mostly empty aside from the cars. I walked around and started exploring this new underground hideout I found myself in. In spotted something that looked like windows at the far left end of the room, and there was light coming out of these windows. I approached it. “Hello?” I held my hand to my mouth as soon as I heard what I just said; I had just become the idiotic character whom I often yell at in horror movies. A man stepped out of the room with the windows. He was wearing a suit, but his tie was loose and his shirt partially tucked out. Am I supposed to be in a James Bond kind of hideout?
“James Shelby, you’re late again, you moron,” he bellowed.
That was my brother’s name.
As I continued my way towards this man, a thousand thoughts raced through my head. Is my brother a spy? There’s no way, I can easily beat him to a pulp on any random day. But where is this place? Will they kill me if they find out that I’m not James? Whose side of the law is my brother, or this place/organisation, on? I flipped my mind to recall all the spy-related movies I had watched, hoping for some kind of clarity. Kingsman, Men in Black, Johnny English. No, wait what? Why was I thinking of Johnny English? My life is on the line here. I am such an idiot.
In that three seconds I could not conjure up anything. When the man was less than five metres from me, I forced a smile and gave him the “whats-up” nod, something that my brother had done all the time when he meets some one. I had hated it; I despised almost everything he did because he was my brother. But hating something also meant being slightly obsessive and paying attention, and in that moment I was glad I was.
He replied with the same nod and turned around, heading back into the room. I followed suit and silently looked around. The interior looked like a living room, with a large ebony table surrounded by matching chairs, and a couch. “Have a seat, the others should be here shortly.” I went to the couch and lied down, something my brother always does whenever he reaches home. The man suspected nothing yet. It was quiet for a while as he went into another room. I scrutinised this common area in that time. No cameras, no visible hiding place for weapons. The door leading to the warehouse was a regular wooden door. There were three similar but distinguishable mugs on the table, partially filled with something the colour of tea with milk.
“Chief, chief, James was in a car accident!” a female voice bellowed from the warehouse, her footsteps following. My heart raced. My brother, who was a spy, is dead and now they were going to kill me because I had found this place. My position allowed me to stay hidden by the backing of the couch. I heard more footsteps from where the man supposedly called “chief” had gone. Do I come out clean or do I hide? Hiding would give me, at most two extra seconds to live. But coming out clean might appeal to their compassion and buy me more time. I popped my head out and saw two pair of eyes staring cold at me. The chief and this woman. I could feel their eyes piercing my skull. They looked at each other, paused, and then stared again at me.