The package arrives. The phone rings. Suddenly Jonas Book is thrust into a world of intriguing, forcing him to be the unintentional spy.
Most folks who get into the espionage thing do it with a clear vision of what they believe the spy game is all about. Such people have this defined mental image because they are going into the world of intrigue with clear intent. They want to be spies, whether corporate or governmental, with all being a spy entails. International men – or women, I guess – of mystery. Sharp suits, cutting-edge gadgets, fast cars, faster women – or men, again – secret code names, and even more secret missions. Your average spy imagined himself in that life as early as middle school, kept his grades high, got involved in sports, went to the right college and took all the right classes.
Not me. Not by even the longest stretch of the imagination. My name is Jonas Book, and Jonas Book was never supposed to do anything worthwhile.
At least not until FedEx dropped the wrong package at my door and made me an unintentional spy.
It was a plain shipping carton, a perfect cube ten inches to a side, sealed shut with too many layers of packing tape. It had my address, but not my name. I mean, it was close, but not my name. Jonas Brook. Just one little letter R in smudged black ink on a frayed white sticker.
The letter R that changed my life forever.
The doorbell buzzed, sounding more like a pair of Wahl hair clippers than a doorbell, but I couldn’t be bothered to get it. In the middle of the best match of Advanced Warfare I’d ever played and wasn’t about to let the neighbor kids distract me with Girl Scout cookies for sale or asking if I’d seen their puppy. When it buzzed again, I turned my head just long enough for an Atlas sniper to get me with a headshot.
“What?!” I called, putting as much annoyance into my voice as I could manage. This was going to affect my Kill/Death Ratio, for sure.
“FedEx!” he answered. “Package!”
I opened the door and peered at the delivery driver. Why is it every guy who drives for FedEx or UPS is a nearly perfect specimen of physical health? Oh, I know, lots of exercise, but you’d think at least one of them would carry a pudgy spare tire around the middle, with male pattern baldness and thick glasses. Makes me wonder if they don’t have a factory somewhere in China where these dudes are manufactured.
“Jonas Brook?” he said through a smile of perfect white teeth.
“No Brook here. Or Brooks. You got the wrong guy, man.”
The driver rattled off the address. “Maybe they got your name wrong.”
Plausible, I suppose. I’ve been everything from Jonah Banks to Jonny Bravo as far as junk mail is concerned. But I didn’t recall ordering anything. “Who’s it from?”
“It doesn’t say. You want to sign for it or send it back?” He offered me his little digital pad and stylus.
With a grunt, I took the plastic stick and sketched a picture of a dog wearing a beret on his tablet.
“Nice,” he said, shaking his head. He shoved the box into my hands and turned to jog toward his truck.
My backside hit the couch at one end, and the box at the other as I fetched the Xbox controller. The match had ended while the FedEx guy and I had our little tête-à-tête, and being away hadn’t hurt as much as my dread had allowed me to believe. Still a positive K/D, even after missing half the fight. Not bad at all.
I kept playing for another hour or so, until my phone rang, some number from the 202 area code. My first thought was to send it to voice mail, but that’d mean cleaning up whatever message the person on the other – probably a collections agent – left.
Better just take it and hang up when the guy gets stupid, I thought. My thumb slipped over to the green answer button on the touch screen.
“Hello,” I said.
“Jonas. Good. Glad you’re still with us,” a voice said. It was a woman, I think, but with more gravel in her voice than on an average driveway. She sounded like she’d been smoking since the tender age of six.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I said.
“Did you get the football?”
“The footba– the package.”
I glanced toward the box on my couch. It hadn’t sprouted legs and run off. “Sure. It came today.” Phone tucked between my shoulder and cheek, I picked up the cardboard cube with both hands and gave it a shake. Was it really a football? The box was about the right size, but it felt heavier.
“You haven’t opened it, have you?”
Why no, I haven’t. But now that you mention it, maybe I should. A mild chuckle got stuck in my throat and I coughed.
“Have you opened it?”
“N-no. No, ma’am, I haven’t opened it.”
“Good.” she said, the relief obvious in her voice. “Don’t. Remember, you’re the quarterback; your job is to hand it off to the running back.”
Sports aren’t my thing, especially football, but I got the gist of where she was going with it, and I’d played enough Madden to know some of the terminology. “Right. Who’s calling the play?”
“The Coach, just like always.”
Gotcha, I thought. “Gotcha,” I said. “Just one more thing.”
“Who is this?”
The line went dead for a few seconds. When she returned, she parroted my words. “Who is this?” Her voice dropped half an octave as she continued, “Agent Jonas Brook? Identify yourself.”
Agent? Huh. I wanted to open the container – the football – even more.
Tucking the box under my arm, I put on my best fake (and most demeaning) Chinese accent and said, “So sowwy! You wong numbah. O’dah take out? Fie-dollah special, kung pao chicken!” Then I hit the red button and disconnected the call.
Who was Agent Jonas Brook, and why did I have his package?
Author’s Note: This is a work of flash fiction, a short-form story weighing in at a thousand words or less. It’s also part one of a serial, so watch our Extras section for further adventures coming soon! What’s in the box? Who was on the other end of the phone conversation? How do FedEx guys stay in such great shape? Find out in future episodes of Jonas Book: Unintentional Spy.