Rob and Dee leaned over Lauren’s arm their noses almost touching the scales. Dee huffed a lock of hair out of her face. Rob hummed to himself. Rachel watched them, arms wrapped around her shoulders and feet kicking as she tried to sit in a chair and stay out of the way. They were almost out of time. Their parents would be up in just a few hours.
“So am I gonna turn into a white scaly monster who scares little kids?” Lauren asked.
Dee and Rob shared a glance.
Sam sucked the end of his pen and Carmichael leaned against the wall beside him.
“Dee?” Lauren said.
“I need to look at the monster, get some saliva samples.”
“Sam?” Carmichael said.
Sam jumped on it, rushing out the door with Dee on his tail.
“Thoughts?” Carmichael barked.
Rob scratched his beard. “I’m not sure.”
“Not sure. Rob. Monsters under a bed that don’t belong there. Agents, the best of agents, bitten. What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure.”
Carmichael groaned running his hands through his hair.
“What?” Rachel said.
“I’m causing problems,” Lauren said, her eyes sparkling with delight.
“You always cause problems,” Rachel said. Her voice cracked and she rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. She wouldn’t cry. Not now.
“Don’t worry Rach,” Lauren said. “I’ll be fine. Rob and Dee will know what to do. You’ll see. Hey. Maybe I’ll be a superhero.”
Carmichael’s phone went off. He glanced down at the text.
“Well, at least we’re getting somewhere.”
“What?” Rachel and Lauren asked in unison.
“The boy y’all brought back is Peter Noles. He doesn’t seem to know anything about the monsters under the bed.”
“Who questioned him?”
“Should be reliable then,” Lauren said with a shudder remembering her interview with the large man. He could scare a kid into telling him anything.
“Peter wants to come see how you’re doing,” Carmichael said. “You mind?”
Lauren started to answer, but a strange, haunting siren poured out her mouth. Carmichael shot off the wall and Rachel yelped in surprise. Lauren snapped her mouth shut and the siren stopped. Her brown eyes widened. She tried again. The siren filled the room waking a latent sense of danger and terror. It rose and fell in a series of undulating loops.
“That’s creepy,” Rachel said as Lauren closed her mouth.
“It sounds like an old air raid siren,” Carmichael said.
“Or like a tornadoes coming.”
Lauren started to open her mouth, changed her mind, and nodded instead.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Rob said shaking his head.
Dee and Sam burst in the door.
“It’s a mutant,” Sam said.
Everyone rounded on them.
“Someone crossed a bed monster with a sewer troll, and a hint of—”
“An imitation monster,” Rachel said.
“Well, that explains why we didn’t recognize it.”
Lauren stared down at her arm. A thousand questions tumbled through her mind but she couldn’t voice a single one of them.
“What does it mean?” Rachel said. Lauren nodded vigorously. “We have to be home,” Rachel checked her watch, “in an hour.”
“Sam, take care of their parents.”
Sam darted out of the room huffing and puffing. Rachel stepped to Lauren’s side taking her unbitten hand.
“It’s quite a puzzle,” Rob said. “It used the bed monster to set the trap, the sewer troll to deliver the bite and give the monster more aggression, and imitation DNA to poison our Agent here.”
“There’s more,” Dee said. Worry clouded her face. Rachel shared a glance with Lauren. When adults worried it wasn’t a good sign. “We tested the saliva on all the monsters brought back. They weren’t just bred to have the strengths of each of their kind. They were bred to attack Rachel and Lauren. Their DNA has some very strange codes embedded in it. I even tested it. I put them each in a cell alone. When a picture came up of Peter Noles, his sisters, or even Sam, the cross-breeds did nothing. When either of you two came up,” she pointed to Lauren and Rachel, “the monsters went crazy.
Lauren tightened her grip on Rachel’s hand.
“They were designed to attack us?” Rachel said her mouth falling open.
“Looks that way,” Dee said.
“Who would do—” Rachel gasped. “It’s her.”
Lauren shook her head, waved her hand, and held up three fingers.
Everyone looked at her. She held up three fingers. Nothing. She sighed, pulled out her tablet and started typing with one finger as fast as she could.
Rachel read for her as she typed. “Lauren said there were three houses. Three houses with monsters under the bed that we were supposed to take out tonight. Did they have the same monsters?”
“We don’t know yet,” Carmichael said. “I had to send team Beta and Charlie to check them out. We should find out pretty soon.”
“What about Lauren?” asked Rachel.
“Victor’s working on an antidote. He has the saliva and seemed confident he can fix this.”
“If he can’t?” Rachel said.
“Don’t worry. We’ll fix it,” Carmichael said.
“She said we want to help.”
“You want to help?” Carmichael said. “Then go debrief with Casey. He needs to know everything that happened. We’ll plant some memories in your parents mind making them think you’re with your grandparents. That’ll give us some time. Let’s get to work people.”