The Smarts’ Big Adventure
Chapter Two : Smart the Menace
“I’d like to vote for Mr. PJ Templeton.” Zach said, in a hillbilly accent. “He’s a plumb right ticker. I say he’s not guilty. That’s my vote.”
He hung up the phone and both he and Max broke up laughing. The poll on the TV went up once again, thanks in part to Zach and Max.
“We’ll be right back.” Said the show’s host.
“This is pretty fun, huh, Junior?” Max asked, picking up a chip and placing it in his mouth.
“Absolutely, Pop.” Zach said, taking another bite of another sandwich he had made. “This reminds me of snow days. Remember when Max and I were little and it used to snow?”
“Yeah,” Max said, recalling fondly. “Your sister would knock on the door, come in and snuggle up with your mother. And then you would rush in and turn on the radio.”
“And hope and pray that Washington Elementary would be closed.” Zach said, smiling. “I’d sit and just chant, ‘please say Washington Elementary. Please PLEASE say Washington Elementary!’ Then the announcer would say, ‘And finally, Washington Elementary.’ And we’d get so excited.”
“Excited is an understatement.” Max chuckled. “You’d jump up and down on our bed and then rush out to get a shower and your sled.”
“That was always so much fun.” Zach said, remembering the fond memories and him and his sister being pushed on their sled by Max. “Too bad we don’t have snow days any more, huh, Dad?”
“Yeah.” Max said. Snow days were so much fun. It meant Christmas was right around the corner and that had always been Max’s favorite holiday.
“Hey, Dad, you know what we should do?”
“We should go skiing this winter.” Zach said. “Just the family, you know. No contact from anybody unless their name is Smart.” Both men grinned and toasted to the idea.
“So I says to Agent 12, I says…you can’t possibly want to be in the lab department.”
Maxine lay upside down on the couch, her head dangling close to the floor and her legs stretched out over the couch back and her feet steadying her on the wall of the cabin. “I know what this is really about,” Maxine continued. “She’s always had a crush on Austin and she just wants to be near him. Well I put a stop to that.”
“How is Austin?” 99 asked, popping a grape into her mouth.
“He’s fine, Mom.” Maxine replied, rather surprised by the shift of conversation. “I mean, you saw him today. He looked okay, right?”
“I’m not exactly talking about that, Maxine.”
Maxine thought about it for a while and finally said, “Oh.” Knowing exactly what her mother was getting at. “Well, that’s…that’s a little tough to explain, Mom.” She started.
“Try the beginning.” 99 replied, popping another grape in her mouth. “I usually finds that helps situations.”
“Well…” Maxine said, before blowing out a breath. She had always been straight with her mother about everything and she knew she knew the whole story between her and Austin Parker.
“I’ve always been a pretty independent person, right, Mom?” she asked.
“Pretty much.” 99 replied.
“And I think I chose a pretty dangerous occupation, right?”
“Don’t remind me.” 99 said, looking at her daughter, who grinned sheepishly.
“Well, Mom…I just think that with my job and all, I just really don’t have all that much…time, if you will…to be with someone non stop.” She looked at 99, who was popping more grapes in her mouth.
“Maybe if I had been a dentist or a police officer or a fireman…you know something less dangerous.” 99 looked at Maxine, then poured herself some more juice. “I’d just…I’d just rather not be bothered with…certain situations.”
“Did I ever tell you the exact moment when I decided that my career wasn’t as important as having a family?” 99 replied, glancing at Maxine.
“I assume it was when Zach and I were kids.” Maxine said.
“Even before that.” 99 said. “I was in the same situation you’re in.” Maxine looked quizzically at her mother. “When I joined CONTROL, I said that this was a very dangerous line of work and that it didn’t include getting close to anyone.”
“You mean, you weren’t planning on getting married or kids or anything?” Maxine asked. 99 nodded her head, as she took a sip of from her glass. Maxine couldn’t believe it. She had always figured her mother was one of those women you repeatedly hear about.
The ones who fall in love with the prince charmings of fairy tales and then go out and try to find them when they get older. She figured her Mom had always wanted that.
“Okay,” Maxine said, slowly, trying to take all the information in. “Stupid question next. What changed
your mind?” 99 looked at her daughter and smiled.
“I met your father.”
“And that was it?” Maxine asked.
“That was it.”
Maxine tried to pull herself up from her position and then found it to difficult and gave up. “Mom, you mean you just saw Daddy and that was it? You knew then and there you wanted the family and kids, the whole bit?”
“That was it.” 99 said. “The first time I met your father, I knew I wanted to be with the man. Everything I had told myself suddenly disappeared and I wanted everything. The house, the picket fence, the family, and believe me, Maxine, I’ve never regretted that day.”
Maxine smiled at her. Her mother was full of surprises sometimes, but that’s what she loved about her.
“Just because you feel one way, Max, doesn’t mean your opinion or views can’t be changed. It’s all about how you look at things.”
“Well, what if I told you…and not to name any names or anything…that maybe, just maybe…I’ve met my match, so to speak. What…what would you think then?” Maxine asked.
“I’d think he was someone special to match wits with you.” 99 replied, grinning. Maxine smiled. Well, that was out of her system.
“Ladies, we’re nearing Atlanta. A car will be waiting for you.” Announced the pilot.
Max and Zach couldn’t stop laughing. Rick Welker was having a two-hour special on the PJ Templeton murders. The topic wasn’t funny, but the prank that the boys were currently doing was. They had been calling throughout the show, tipping the voting poll on the show, so now the new total was tied at 100 on each side.
Zach flipped a coin and called heads. It landed on tails, so he would have to make the deciding vote on the PJ is guilty side. He tried calming down, so he can at least stop crying, but it was no use and he started laughing again. Another caller called in and voted for the PJ is innocent side.
“Hey, they can’t do that to us, can they son?” Max sputtered, trying to keep his laughter in check. Zach finally calmed down and picked up the phone.
“Hello?” he said, in a Middle Eastern accent. “This is the Rich Welker show? Good! I am calling to protest Mr. PJ’s innocence. I saw him kill that man! What? Oh, well then, I saw him kill that woman! He’s a very bad man and he should be hanged. Thank you very much. Come again.”
Max and Zach had lost it at this point. Both had laughed so hard their sides hurt and they were red in the face and had tears coming from their eyes. Once Max regained somewhat of his composure, he picked up the phone.
“As you can see folks, the poll is very debated.” Welker said. “In the last hour and a half alone, we’ve had a score of calls for one side or the other. So join in. The number is 819-1729.” Max started to dial the number, chuckling as he did.
“And don’t forget, the call is just $5.99 a minute.” The smiles on the boys’ faces vanished as Max quickly hung up the phone.
“It was certainly nice of the driver to let us go to lunch first.” Maxine and 99 sat at a cozy little all you can buffet restaurant in sunny Atlanta, Georgia.
“I agree.” 99 said, reaching for a napkin. “All I had were some grapes. I’m absolutely famished.”
“This is a nice little place, huh?” Maxine asked, looking around.
“You mean the restaurant?”
“Well, yeah, but most notably the city. All the historical stuff attached to it.”
“It certainly is.” 99 added. “Gee, if we didn’t have to go back, I’d stay here for at least the weekend.”
“Then let’s.” Maxine said, taking a sip of her tea.
“Come on, Mom. It’ll be great. Just the two of us. Isn’t that a good idea?”
“It’s a wonderful idea, sweetie,”
“But what?” Maxine interrupted.
“But we’re not packed for it and besides, what do we tell your father and brother?”
Maxine thought about it and knew 99 was right. This was a spare of the moment thing, but even she couldn’t ignore her duty to her country.
“Listen,” 99 replied, leaning closer to Maxine. “The president said I could have the whole week off. We can do something then. We can take a trip to New York.” Maxine perked up.
“We haven’t been there in a while.”
“Exactly.” 99 replied. “We’ll take off for a couple of days, see the sites, do some shopping, just the two of us.”
“Okay.” Maxine said, smiling. The last time she and her mother had been to New York was when she was a teenager and they saw the Broadway version of Cats. She couldn’t wait and all they had to do was drop of the little pearl hanging on her neck.
A little bit later, 99 looked at her watch and saw that their lunchtime was almost over. Their driver had given them a two-hour lunch, while he went to go run a couple of errands.
“Well, Max, we still have about forty minutes before our driver comes back for us,” 99 said, drinking the last of her drink. “What do you want to do?” Maxine leaned back and stretched.
“Gee, Mom, I don’t know. I’m thinking…” Maxine touched her hand to her necklace and realized something was wrong. “Oh my God.” She said, searching her area of the table.
“What’s wrong?” 99 asked, alarmed by her daughter’s sudden change in behavior.
“It’s gone.” Maxine said, searching the floor, the table, her blouse, everywhere.
“What’s gone?” 99 asked.
“The pearl!” Maxine exclaimed, nearly ripping the tablecloth from the table. She stood up, frantically looking. 99 too stood up, in slight shock and irritation.
“Not the pearl.” She said, hoping Maxine meant some other pearl. Maxine fought hard to hold back the tears that were now inevitable.
“Okay,” 99 said, trying to calm them both down. “Let’s just calm down. We can find this thing. Where was the last place you had it?”
“Around my neck!” Maxine cried.
“I mean, where was your neck with you when the pearl was there?”
Maxine looked at her in slight confusion. Both thought the same thing: It was time for 99 to spend time away from Max.
“I was at the table.” Maxine said, calmly.
“Before that.” 99 replied, starting to become highly annoyed.
“The salad bar!”
Both women quickly turned to look at the salad bar that stood behind them and at all the containers with food that were there.
“Oh no.” 99 said, not wanting to even think about the possibility. “Maxine…”
“Oh my God.”