Perfect Ninja

1.

"Whatever you do, don't get caught."

Those were the exact words of Sensei. The Great Sensei. He was the one everyone admired. He had never been caught. Or seen. Or detected. Or even smelled. He was perfect.

I am definitely going to follow in his footsteps. His silent footsteps.

As a ninja.

My first mission:

Operation Bust-a-Cheater

Goal: Retrieve email evidence that client's husband is a scumbag who cheats on his wife

1. Enter the residence of the client's husband

2. Infiltrate personal computer

3. Log onto email

4. Save email to provided flash drive

5. Exit the premises undetected

6. Secretly deliver evidence to client at hotel

The easiest of all missions. I could pull this off with my eyes closed.

Probably.

But I would keep them open, just to make it even easier.

Preparing for the mission, I silently slide into my black jumpsuit, tying the sash carefully around my waist to cover up my black Fall Out Boy T-shirt that I got at the concert last summer. I wrap up my headpiece and check myself in the mirror. Only my dark eyes peer back at me.

No one will ever see me.

I slip down the shadows of the hallway and prepare for my first move.

"John? What are you doing?"

My mother's voice startles me from behind, and a high-pitched squeal accidentally escapes my throat as I jump into attack position.

"Are you acting like a ninja again?"

"Mom," I whine, "I'm not acting. I'm really a ninja now. You know that. I went through the training. You even came to my graduation!"

"That was a ninja graduation? I thought that was some kind of awards ceremony for a project you did at your community college?"

"Mom, I don't have time for this right now. I'm on a mission."

"Whatever, John, just try to be quiet when you go out the front door. Last time you tried to sneak out in the middle of the night, the dog started barking and woke your father."

"That had nothing to do with me."

"You stepped on the dog."

"He was in my way. I didn't see him."

"Are you on a mission or not?"

"I'm going!"

Mom rolls her eyes at me before turning back toward her bedroom. "Don't forget to lock the door behind you."

"Mom! You know I can't lock the door when I go on a mission. How am I supposed to carry my keys? They jingle and my cover is blown. Rule number one: Ninjas don't carry keys."

"In my house, Rule number one: You break any more windows trying to sneak back into this house, and you're living on the streets. Got it."

"Yes, ma'am."

I sulk back to my room and pull the single house key off my key chain. Using my superior ninja intellect, I tape it to my forearm with black electrical tape. A built-in, jingle-proof pocket, guaranteed not to let me lose anything.

I don't get caught on my real exit. I hop into my black Jetta and follow the GPS to the pre-programmed address where my mission will take place. Of course, I don't stop there. I'm not an idiot. I'm a ninja. Ninjas don't park on the street in front of their mission locations. I drive around the corner and park there. Under a big oak tree. In the shadows.

And the shadows are my friends all the way to the house. I race across the neighbors' backyards and hope over a couple of fences.

Unfortunately, I hop over too many fences and end up one house too far down.

Fortunately, my ninja skills are so good that I can pretend that this was all planned from the beginning. To throw off anyone who might be onto my trail.

Not that anyone would be. Because I'm so good. I learned from Sensei.

At the back of the correct house, I melt into the shadows and approach the back door. There are no pets in the backyard. There are no lights on anywhere in the two story house. My acute hearing informs me that nothing is moving inside the house. They must be sleeping. This will be even easier than I thought.

I grab the screen door handle and pull. It's open. I'm halfway in. I turn the knob on the wooden door. Locked.

No problem. The client has previously informed me that the key to the back door is under the mat.

I am inside within seconds. Step 1 of my mission is now complete.

I'm in the kitchen. I crouch down low to the ground and follow the shadows through the kitchen and into the living room. The personal computer is in the room at the end of the hallway. There is no sound as I enter this room.

The light from the monitor glows at me, and I am on to step 2.

It's easy enough. The computer is already turned on for me (step 2: check), the web browser is already open, and this idiot has left his email open on the screen.

Not that it matters really. I mean, as I ninja, I would have been able to do that myself. But, you know, this just makes it easier for me. Now step 3 is complete. On to step 4.

Crap.

I have left the flash drive in my car.

Flash drive retrieved in mere seconds. Completely undetected. Just like a ninja should be. I even make it into the correct back yard on the first try this time.

Only now I realize that I don't actually know how to save emails onto a flash drive. How does this work exactly? There is no "save as" button when I right click. Do I have to go through and copy/paste all the content into a text document? This is going to take all night.

I don't have all night. I have to be at work in the morning.

Finally, after 20 minutes or so of searching the web for advice, I figure out how to export the emails and save them to the drive. I leave behind no evidence that I was ever at the computer, returning the screen to exactly how it was when I arrived. I even double-check the web browser's history to erase evidence that I used it in my search. Fingerprints are also eliminated, not that I had touched anything long enough to actually leave a fingerprint.

The USB port is on the front of the desktop, sitting next to me on the floor. I reach down to pull the flash drive out, but it's kind of stuck. They do that sometimes. I tug at it hard, but my fingers are kind of sweaty and the drive goes flying across the room behind me.

Right into the tiny space between a bookcase and an entertainment stand.

Even my flexible ninja hand can't fit into that little slit. The bookcase is entirely full, and there's no way I will be able to move it by myself. The entertainment stand has wires coming off of it in too many different directions, and it looks way too complicated to even bother with it. The drive is just centimeters away from my fingertips. There must be an easier way!

It's dark in that crack, so I don't see the thing that I feel with my fingers. It feels like paper. An envelope or something? I pinch it between my pointer and middle fingers and slide it out from the crack. It's a large, plain manilla envelope, unlabeled and unsealed. I consider tossing it aside, but I decide at the last second to use it as a tool to help me drag out the flash drive.

Works like a charm.

Flash drive retrieved (again), and stage 4 of the mission is now complete. Time to vacate the premises.

At that moment, a light—headlights from a vehicle turning into the driveway, no doubt—shines in through the window, right into my face. Reflexively, I duck to remain in the shadows. I thought the husband was asleep—apparently I was wrong. He has just returned home.

I will have to exit via another escape route. The window! I will go out as he comes in, and I will completely avoid being caught. I scoot myself along the ground toward the window.

Then I hear it.

CLUNK.

Directly behind me.

Stupid wires sticking out everywhere!

Apparently, my foot got caught on one as I slid past it , and I pulled off half of the entertainment system onto the carpeted floor. Thankfully, the television didn't come off as well. That would have been a disaster.

After taking less than a second to listen to my surroundings, I conclude that my noise was not detected by others entering the home. I scurry away toward the window.

SMASH.

Okay, apparently, I did not disentangle myself from the wires, and the television how now landed on the floor with the rest of the equipment.

I momentarily forget my ninja training (please don't tell Sensei) and rush to open the window. Fortunately, my senses come back to me quickly, and I do a barrel roll out the window, making sure not to bring any of the cables with me.

As I land on the ground, I survey my surroundings.

You have got to be kidding me. It wasn't the husband coming home. It was the next door neighbor. I can't believe I fell for that. I should have know, given the angle of the turn relative to the position of the window I had seen the light through. But another quick look at the current home's driveway assures me that the husband actually isn't home yet. So, basically, all of that panic was for nothing.

Well, because is he not home, I have no chance of being caught making the huge mess in his entertainment room. Exit the premises undetected. That's step four of my mission, and it is now complete.

Before I know it, I am in my car.

Oh crap! Where's the flash drive?

Oh, it's in my hand, never mind. Uh oh. I also have something else in my hand. It's a manilla envelope—the one I used to pull the flash drive from it's hiding place. I stare at it for a moment, trying to figure out what I should do with it. Well, since I have already completed step four, I really shouldn't go back to the house. That would just open me up for more opportunity to be detected. So, really, all I have left to do is deliver the flash drive; that's my mission. A silly manilla envelope is no concern of mine. I toss it into my passenger's seat with the flash drive.

I drive to the hotel where I will secretly meet with the client. As I crouch down in the shadows under the window to her room, the door opens and the client steps out, looking angry.

"Are you a complete idiot? Get off the ground! I asked you to come here secretly! Anyone passing by will notice you down there doing there! Couldn't you just walk up to the door like a normal person? That would look way less suspicious!"

"I'm a ninja. This is what I do."

"Whatever. Just get inside." Her curly, red hair is sticking out wildly in all directions. I don't think she has brushed it in days. Or maybe it just looks like that naturally. She should try some relaxers or something.

I attempt to sneak into the door, but the client kicks me a little and tells me again to get up off the ground. I consider informing her that this is all part of my ninja training, and doing otherwise goes against all that I stand for. But she looks really angry, so I'll just keep my mouth shut.

"Please tell me you have the files," she demands as soon as we are both safe inside the hotel room.

I proudly hold up the flash drive. "Yes. They are all right here."

She stares at me, unimpressed. "I'm going to plug that into my computer, and it's going to be completely blank, isn't it?"

My jaw drops open. How in the world could she have such little confidence in my skills? "No! Everything is there! I researched how to do it on the net, and everything came up just right."

I am holding out the flash drive in her direction, but she hesitates before she slowly pulls it from my hand. "I don't really trust you," she admits.

"You shouldn't," I say mysteriously. Ninjas are mysterious. And it's true, we shouldn't be trusted.

She completely ignores my words and walks over to her laptop, sitting on the hotel room's cheap-looking desk. In just a few moments, she has confirmed that I did not, despite her initial assumptions, fail in my mission. Everything she needs is right there in front of her.

She looks back at me, and I notice that a few tears have fallen from her eyes. "He's such a jerk!" she exclaims, and a few more slip out to join the others.

The next thing I know, the wild-haired lady has her arms around me in a tight hug. I'm not entirely sure how to react, so I just pat her back and try not to squirm away.

"Thank you so much! You have no idea how much this will help me! That idiot is trying to take everything I have! He's even saying that I am the one who cheated on him! Ha! As if! Now I have proof that he's really the one who..."

I don't hear the end of her sentence because I have just made my escape, the moment she let go of me. It's better to get away quickly before they get too attached. A ninja should never stay longer than is absolutely necessary. Step 6 was completed several minutes ago anyway.

I slide into my Jetta and start it up, just a car pulls into the space right next to mine on the passenger's side. I duck down low in the seat to avoid being seen.

But thanks to the crazy-haired client, my cover in my car is completely blown. She raps hard on my driver's side window; I hadn't even realized that she had followed me. "Hey, am I supposed to pay you or the agency?" She doesn't even try to keep her voice down.

I keep my voice low as I turn the manual crank to roll down the window. "Tomorrow, I will inform the ninja agency that the mission has been completed. You can pay them directly."

"Mom?" A female voice comes from the other side of my car. I see a silhouette step out of her vehicle.

I peel out as fast as I can. I don't need to deal with drama between clients and their children.

Unfortunately, as I am driving away, my window is still open and I hear the daughter incredulously ask her mother, "Mom, was that a prostitute?"