This winning submission is by Elijah Franco, Grade 9
Noah's eyes fluttered open. Trees. He was surrounded by trees. How did he get here? He heard a low roar in the distance and jumped to his feet. Too soon, he thought. He felt a sharp pain run up his leg and he fell back down.
"Ugh!" he cried. He had landed on something hard. It was a 35 mm camera. Who uses these things anymore? he thought. He picked it up and examined it. It looked like someone had taken all but three of the photos. Whatever was on this camera could explain how he ended up there.
But that could wait. Right now, his leg. Wincing, he pulled his leg towards him. His shoes were muddy and the soles had holes in them. So he had been running. Why? His jeans were torn. His right leg was stained. Red. He pulled up his pants and cringed at what he saw. Above his blood-caked sock was a gash. A big one. It looked like something had hit him. Maybe a bullet. Why? Who would have shot him? Whoever did obviously wanted him dead, and if he wasn’t, they’d come back.
Charles Craver looked out at his grove. He was proud of it. It had been in the family for generations, but it was most beautiful when he began to tend it. Now it was gone. Stolen right from under his nose. A man came running in, panting. “Sir, we found him.”Craver smiled. “Where?” “In a camera outlet.” Craver’s smile faded. “Get him, fast!” The man dashed out of the room. Craver took a deep breath. “If that film is processed, trouble.”
The man smoked as he worked. In all his years as a camera salesman, this was his most interesting customer. The boy, maybe sixteen or seventeen, had come in muddy, panting, and holding a 35 mm camera. Who used those anymore? He had a piece of his shirt tied around his leg, and a walking stick in his hand. He had held out the camera to him. “Can you process the film?” “Sure. Want some water?”
Now he was sitting there. His fifth cup of water in his left hand, and studying a piece of paper in his right. The salesman looked back down at his work. Noah had found the piece of paper in his pocket, and was now trying to figure out what it meant.
Orders are simple. Dank will deliver the camera to you. Process film immediately, then destroy the film roll. Deliver pictures to Sherman. He will take care of the rest. Chicago is dangerous, trust no one. Avoid Craver. The council thanks you for your services.
Secretary of SEPOL
Noah blinked. This made no sense. Who was SEPOL? And he was supposed to avoid Craver. Who’s that? He had done one thing. The film was being processed. The salesman was still smoking. He looked up at Noah. “Film’s done.” Noah pocketed the paper and walked to the salesman. “Who's Craver?” The man stopped smoking and looked at Noah. “Charles Craver is a businessman. He built several buildings here. Rumor has it he’s got a shady past, though.” He slid the envelope of pictures to Noah.
“Do you know Dank, Sherman or SEPOL?” Noah asked. The salesman frowned. “Dank? SEPOL? No. But Sherman might be Sherman Wells.” “Do you know where he lives?” “Sure. A couple blocks away from here, actually.” “Good. Thank you for your help.” He turned to walk out. “Hey kid, that’ll be 24.95, plus tax.” Noah patted his pockets. No money, but he had an idea. He offered the envelope to the salesman. “If you take the pictures to Sherman, He’ll pay you double.” The salesman’s eyebrows shot up. He spat out the cigarette stub and extend his hand. “Deal.”
Noah walked out of the store. He turned into an alley and threw the film roll into a dumpster. He smiled. “Done.” He said. “Not quite.” he heard a voice say behind him, right before he got knocked out.
Noah groaned. His head hurt, and he was lying on a hard, damp floor. A tall man walked in. He had a brown suit on and coal black gloves. His blond hair was pulled into a small ponytail. His face was like stone. Noah knew who he was. He pointed. “You’re Craver.” The man nodded. “Charles Craver of Craver Industries. And you are Noah Tracer, agent of SEPOL. Where are the pictures?” “My last name’s Tracer?” “You didn’t know?” “Amnesia.” Craver laughed. “You’ll have to do better than that.” Noah sat up. “What is SEPOL?” “No more tricks, sir. Where are the pictures?” Noah smiled. “Far away from you.” Sherman looked over the pictures. The fifty dollar pictures. But worth every penny. This was more than enough proof. SEPOL had been hunting Craver for a long time. Now they had all the proof they needed.
So this is how I end. In a cold, concrete basement. Noah sighed through the mask over his face. Once Craver saw that Noah wouldn’t talk, He had ordered that an accident occur. Noah balanced on his knees, his leg throbbing, his wrists sore from the bonds on them. He heard a gun load, and then an explosion. But he was not dead. He heard voices shouting. “Chicago Police Department! Hands up, Now!”
Noah sat on the hood of a police car, watching everything. Sherman had told him that two days ago, he was on assignment for SEPOL, a secret service for which he apparently worked. Things had gone bad and he had been declared MIA until today. Now Sherman was shaking the hand of the Captain. Police were bringing men out in cuffs. Cameras and reporters were everywhere. People kept coming by and patting him on the back.
Then the Captain came by, taking Craver to the police van himself. Craver stopped walking and stared hard at Noah. Noah thought maybe he would scream or curse at him, but he just stared. Finally he said, “Well played, Mr. Tracer, well played.” The Captain shoved him into the car and smiled. “You and SEPOL did a good job, kid. Thanks.”
Noah stepped out of his apartment building one morning and walked down to his mailbox, expecting it to be empty again. Wrong. He tore open the single letter:
Orders are simple. Proceed to New York City. Find Ichabod. He will give you further instructions. Trust no one. The council thanks you for your services.
Secretary of SEPOL