“I am going to tell you a secret, Girl.” Aunt Gertrude always called me Girl as if it was actually my name. “I am an undercover agent and I need your help to close a case.” She gave me that look as she spoke.
Aunt Gertie’s steel-gray hair was perfectly braided and wrapped around her head like a pioneer woman; her clothing was simple and plain; she made amazing cookies, cakes, and cream pies. She comfortably fit my criteria of the quintessential aunt.
Great-aunt, actually. Aunt Gertie is my grandmother’s sister.
“Ha-ha, Aunt Gertie.” A grizzled eyebrow hiked at my sarcastic tone, but Aunt Gertie grinned at me and winked. Her wintery blue eyes sparkled and my gut butterflied. I had thought she was joking around, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure.
“You just need to accompany me to the mall, like any other normal day.” I nearly choked… normal day?
“Quit looking so goofy, Girl.” Now her eyes sparked instead of sparkled. “Are you willing to help or not?”
I still hadn’t said a word… I couldn’t. So I just nodded and we headed for the car.
We arrived at the mall where things got even stranger. Aunt Gertie began talking softly to… no one. I finally realized she must have one of those hidden radio things you see in the movies. I couldn’t hear what was said, but Aunt Gertie was suddenly in a very big hurry. We rushed into the entrance nearest the food court where we bought subs and found a table near the carousel.
I wasn’t the least bit interested in eating. I knew I was staring at Aunt Gertie as if she was a purple-spotted green alien, but I was still trying to wrap my brain around the last hour of my life. Either my Aunt Gertie was a secret agent or she was truly off her rocker. Either way, my day had taken a roller coaster dippity-twist and I was in danger of losing my breakfast. Lunch was not on the menu.
Aunt Gertie laid the sweetest Grandma smile on me. “How is school going, Emily?” Emily? I couldn’t remember the last time she had actually used my name. I wasn’t sure she even knew it.
“Really, Girl, you need to be more relaxed or you‘ll attract attention from the wrong people. You were supposed to help me blend in.” The spark was back in her eye and I gave myself a shake. If Aunt Gertie could be a secret agent, then I could at least do my part… whatever that was. I was still pretty clueless. She must’ve seen the spark light in my own eyes because she grinned again and gave me an approving nod.
Then Aunt Gertie stiffened slightly and gave my shin a hard kick under the table. Grabbing a pen from her purse, she held it up and started rambling. “This pen was a gift from an old friend. He died last week and I decided to have it mounted and...” I was really lost now… what was with the stupid pen?
She gave me that look and I realized I was supposed to play along. So I nodded and unhuh-ed and pretended to be interested. She kept tipping the pen at funny angles and moving it oddly. It even thumped me once on the ear. I shifted over to get out of the pen’s way. Whatever.
Aunt Gertie abruptly stopped chattering and snickered at me. “Funny girl! You look ridiculous. But we got what we needed. This pen has quite a strong recorder. It can pick up the sound from whatever it points at… as well as record excellent images.” She chuckled and handed it to me. “They never even noticed an old grandma and her doofy granddaughter having lunch together at the mall.”
I stuck my tongue out at her.
I was examining the pen when I received another jolt. “Hi, Sweetheart.” Mom came up behind me, kissed me on the cheek, and slipped the pen from my hands into her shirt pocket. “Nice job, Aunt G. See you at home.” She disappeared into the crowd.
I glared at Aunt Gertie, waiting for an explanation.
“It is a long-standing tradition in our family that one girl from each generation is trained for undercover work. I didn’t have any children so I chose your mother to train. She is one of the best.” Then her twinkle transformed to intensity. “So far.” And she gave me that look.
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