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Toughest Case Ever

“You're sure you're going to be ok?” 99 asked for about the ten thousandth time that morning. Max nodded and pushed the last of the suitcases into the back of the car.

“We'll be fine! Just go and enjoy your vacation, and don't worry about us.” Max said. 99 sighed; ever since it had been suggested she take a vacation alone and leave Max with the kids and the house, it seemed almost too good to be true, until she actually thought about it.

She'd been really stressed out lately-99 had just completed an assignment that took almost everything out of her. She and Max had been assigned to different missions, which was unusual. It had been a mentally grueling task, which left 99 exhausted and frustrated night after night. When the criminal was finally apprehended and put behind bars, it was more of a relief than a victory for 99, and she was ready for that vacation the Chief had promised her.

Max slammed the trunk. “Well, guess that's everything. Have a good time.”

“Max, I think you're forgetting what a handful the kids can be when there's only one of us around!” 99 said, remembering the time Max left for a week to go to Australia on assignment. Carry suddenly decided that since Dad wasn't around she could wear whatever she wanted, and Avery decided that trying to light fireworks in the house was okay. It had been the longest week of her life.

Then again, 99 had always been the disciplinarian. It seemed like Max was never home enough to get the kids out of trouble. That was part of the reason for this vacation-so he could spend some time with them. He was always out on an assignment, and when he did come home, it was usually late at night. The weekends were no good, seeing as Max worked most every weekend, and the kids spent time with their friends. Avery especially missed not having Max around-Avery adored Max in every way. He knew what Max's profession was and often worried more than his mother about Max coming home from a dangerous mission. Carry, on the other hand, scarcely noticed her father's absence, which worried 99 some. She had been too preoccupied with whatever fashion was in style at the moment.

“Don't worry! We're going to be fine!” Max reassured her, opening the driver's side door. “Now go on, you're going to miss your plane.”

She got in. “You know, if you don't want me to go-”

“No, no! You need this! The kids and I will be just fine alone.” 99 cringed to think of Max in charge of the entire household.

“Well, ok then. Good luck, Max. See you in a week.” Almost reluctantly, 99 backed slowly out of the driveway, waved to Max, and drove away. Max sighed contentedly, and made his way back to the breakfast table.

He was sure looking forward to spending some time with his kids. Seemed like ages since he'd really sat down and talked to them about anything. He was always on assignment, out at all hours of the night, gone on their birthdays and sometimes on holidays. It was going to be great-just he, Avery and Carry for three whole days!

“Daaaaaaad! Avery said you wouldn't approve of this outfit! What's wrong with it?” Carry cried shrilly at her father, modeling the outfit she was going to wear to school in the doorway.

“What's wrong with it? It's too short, that's what's wrong with it!” Max answered back at her. Carry had on a tight fitting pink crop top and equally tight ripped jeans. Hey, this was the 80's after all.

“Yeah, you don't have the figure to be wearing stuff like that!” Avery pointed out sensibly.

“Avery!” Max hissed at him. But it was too late; Carry sputtered, stammered, and then broke down in tears.

“You-you know I'm sen-sensitive about my weight!” She screamed. Max and Avery held their ears as Carry went on. “I-I can't help it! And I'm just t-t-trying to look attractive an-and you just bog me down! You're a sick ma-man, Avery!”

“A man! Didja hear that, Dad?” Avery hooted.

“Avery! Carry, honey, what we meant was…”

“I-I know what you meant!” Carry sobbed hysterically. “You all think I'm a fat slob!”

“Carry, you know that's not true!” Max cried, exasperated. He was no good at these rather frequent breakouts of emotions from his 14-year-old daughter. And Avery, her twin, always tried to say the sensible and mature thing, and always ended up making it worse. “Avery just has an incredible knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time!”


“Ok, what I really meant was that Avery didn't mean what he said in the sense that you took it!”

“What?” Both Avery and Carry cried.

“Never mind. Just go change your clothes.” Carry's crying suddenly stopped, and defiance took over once again.

“Dad, I am fourteen years old! You can't tell me what I can and can't do!”

“Oh no?” Max said, raising an eyebrow. Carry's glare softened somewhat.

“Well, to a certain extent, anyway!” she said firmly. The fact that Carry was overweight only made the entire conversation more delicate, seeing as that outfit would look almost decent on a slim person. But, alas, there is no way to say that delicately to a fourteen-year-old.

Carry was a good kid underneath the rough exterior, but if you met her passing on the street you probably wouldn't like her too much. Her round, arrogant face always seemed to hold an expression of childhood greed and a strong apathy for anything resembling work. She was rather short, stocky it seemed, and larger than a girl her age should have been. Max and 99 loved their daughter regardless of her weight, naturally, but they did worry about her health in the long run. Both her hair and eyes were brown, set against pale skin with some rather bad acne. For some reason, Carry had taken a strong disliking to the outdoors in about the last year or so. Before that, they couldn't keep her inside if they chained her to the wall. When she was a little kid, her favorite pastimes were writing stories and horse back riding, but as of late nothing seemed to hold her interest for long, except those immortal issues of fashion and boys. Carry had never been an excellent student, or even a good student. She passed most of her classes, and that's what she thought counted. Her parents saw it differently, of course, but to no avail. She didn't like schoolwork-therefore, she didn't do it. Max and 99 could only watch as hormones overtook their sweet little girl and turned her into a moody, selfish and defiant monster.

Avery, on the other hand, had always been a joy. Innocent, curious, mischievous, and optimistic, Avery had never caused Max or 99 much annoyance (expect the time he brought home the skunk for a pet). Even from the start, Avery always had a smile and a kind word to greet you with. With his blond hair and soft brown eyes, he didn't look like anyone in the family. Avery loved being outside. He burnt easily, though, and was red most of the time up through about August, when he began to be confined to a school room for seven hours a day. As soon as he wasn't constantly in the sun anymore, he'd turn a glowing, golden brown that looked stunning with the rest of his features. He was very smart; the schools had offered to move him up a grade if he wanted to be more challenged, but Avery said that would be admitting he was smarter than everyone else, which he thought to be untrue. He just thought other students didn't apply themselves as much as they should. No one could call him a bookworm (far from it actually), but he learned quickly and retained it. He didn't like sports too much, unless he was just playing with friends. Organized sports had always annoyed him-too much competition, something that Avery hated with a passion. He was a good athlete, however, and didn't mind playing a few rounds of street hockey if there were some kids around. Avery never admitted it, but Max and 99 knew he must be rather popular in school-and what was not to like about him?

“Carry, you have `til the count of three to get up those stairs and put on something that resembles clothes!” Max said firmly. Avery's eyes sparkled with amusement.
“Yeah, Carry! I'll get you some grease so you can get that shirt off without having to rip it!”
“Shut up, freakazoid!”
“Dad, I was just addressing him by his proper title!” Carry said at Avery, sticking her tongue out. Avery was unfazed, and laughed at Carry's jab at him.

“Carry, please! Let's not start off the weekend like this.” Max said patiently, rubbing his temples. Carry shook her head and leaned against the counter.

“Dad, I'm not going to change, I mean, what's wrong with these clothes? They're in style! They're clean!”

“They're beneath the dress code.” Avery muttered to himself. Carry shot him a look.

“Why don't you just stay out of this? It has nothing to do with you!” she hissed.

“Well, he's right, Carry. Does the school even allow you to wear a top like that? If it was any shorter it'd be a scarf!”

Carry groaned and rolled her eyes-one of her favorite habits. “Of course, Dad!” Max, not believing her, turned to Avery.

“Avery?” Avery looked up guiltily.


“What's the school's dress code?”

“Aw, come on Dad! I don't want her mad at me, don't bring me into this!” Avery pleaded to him softy. Max's glare didn't waiver; Avery sighed. “You're not supposed to wear any shirt that reveals the navel and up.”


“I couldn't help it!” Avery cried, really offended; he loved to taunt his sister, but if she was actually angry it upset him. “Come on, Carry! Just change your clothes! I don't want to fight, it's Friday!” he begged her. Inwardly, Max smiled. The kid was always the first one to want to make up.

Carry sighed dramatically. “Fine since you guys are out to ruin my life anyway, I might as well go and put something else on!” She spun around and stomped towards the stairs, looking back at them only long enough to say, “And, I'll have you know, just for the record, nobody made me go change my clothes! I did it because I wanted to! So there!”

“Must be the math test we have first period…” Avery whispered to Max. He nodded. A math test. That's probably what's bothering her, Max thought. But, she didn't say anything about it, she must not be too worried about it, unless-

“Carry!” Max stood up and shouted. The stocky teenager met his look. “You do know you have a math test today, right?”

Carry's mouth tried to form words, but nothing was coming out. Her eyes, wide open and bulging held a shocked expression. “Of course she knows about it, Dad! She only skipped twice this trimester!” Avery jumped in cheerfully. Both looked back down at him; Carry's icy glare and Max's raised eyebrows immediately told him that he'd said the wrong thing. “Uh, I mean-“

“God, Avery, what the hell is the matter with you?” Carry screamed from the staircase. Already floods of new tears were streaming down her face. “Can't you keep your trap shut about anything?”

“Carry! Don't speak to your brother like that! And what is all this about skipping?” Max said, trying for once to be the disciplinarian. Carry started sobbing too hard to respond. “Honey, don't cry! Your bus will be here any minute! You don't want to go to school looking like you've been crying!”

“Yeah! Brittany Radley might make fun of you again!” Avery chimed in helpfully.

“Shut up!” Carry bellowed fiercely. “You don't know when to keep your mouth shut, Avery!”

“Avery, please, stay out of this.” Max said firmly, looking down at his son. “I know you don't mean to, but you only make it worse.”

“Sorry, Dad.” Avery whispered, but Max didn't hear him. Avery sighed silently-Dad was right. He had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. And here Max was, CONTROL's top agent, and also his hero, finally spending some real time with them and he had made him mad. Sometimes Avery wanted to kick himself.

“Now, just calm down.” Max cooed quietly. “Go splash some water on your face and put another shirt on over that one, and everything will be ok.” He didn't know quite what he was supposed to say. The best he could do was saying something that sounded like something 99 would say. “Go on. You don't have much time.”

Carry continued to stand there and sob softly. “You know Daddy-“ she began, using her best girl voice, “-I've had a bad morning. Can't I just stay home today?”

“No, now-“

“We could spend time together, Daddy!” she chirped fakely. Avery rolled his eyes-why did this always happen? It was a fight every morning to get Carry to go to school. She always had some new symptom that wasn't serious enough to be taken to the doctor, but bad enough that she had to have a day at home to recoup. It was amazing what she could come up with-swollen eye lids (which were unnoticeable to the untrained eye), a slightly sprained ankle, the 12 hour flu, sore toenails, inflamed nasal passages, spastic liver contractions…

“You've got a math test today, Angel!” Max said happily, oblivious to the fact that his daughter just didn't feel like going to school, and therefore was trying to scam him.

“Oh, yeah. Thanks for reminding him, Avery.” Carry said through clenched teeth. Avery sunk down in his seat.

“No problem, sis,” he replied meekly.

“We can all be together tonight, and for the weekend.” Max said to his rather irritated daughter. He ruffled Avery's hair. “It's gonna be a lot of fun-just the three of us! You know I can't remember the last time we really spent some quality time with each other! I can't wait!” Carry was giving him an I-can't-believe-this-guy look, while Avery was looking up at him with admiration. Max didn't notice either.

“Can we go hiking, Dad?” Avery asked hopefully.

“Sure! That sounds like fun! I haven't been on a hike in well…weeks! But I haven't done it with you guys in…”

“Never, Dad.” Avery informed him.

“Oh, right. Never. Well, it'll be all the more fun, then!” Max rubbed his hands together. “Your bus is gonna be here soon, guys. I'd get a move on it.”

Avery energetically hopped up and grabbed his bookbag, opening it up to make sure all his books were inside. “Dad, do you know anything about Algebra that could help me on my test today?” he asked Max.

“Uh…” Max thought for a moment, then held a finger up in triumph. “X never equals Y!” he announced proudly. Avery laughed.

“Thanks, Dad! I'll keep that in mind!” he said in his usual, cheerful way. Max had forgotten how much he enjoyed being around Avery-he could make you feel like a new person (and a great one, at that) just by talking to him, or being around him. Max looked down at Avery to find him smiling up at him.

“You know Dad, I'm really looking forward to this weekend.” Avery said honestly. Max couldn't help but smile back.

“Good. I'm glad.” Outside, a horn beeped. “There's your bus, kiddo. Have a good day.”

“Ok, bye!” Avery called as he ran out the front door. Max stood at the bottom of the staircase and called up to Carry.

“Carry! Your bus is here!” No answer. “Carry?” Still no answer. “Hey, stop fooling around and get down here. You don't want to be late!” He waited a moment more, then sighed and made his way up the steps. There was a light on in the hall bathroom. Max knocked on the door. “Carry? Your bus is here, come on, lets go!” he said into the door.

“All right Dad, don't freak out!”

“I'm not a freak! And I'm inside, not out!”

“Dad, you're such a nerd!”

“A nerd? That's a new one…” Max muttered. He impatiently tapped his foot and glanced at his watch. “Honey, whatever your doing, why don't you just stop? Avery can't stall the bus driver forever.”

“Ugh! That little worm probably encouraged him to hit the gas the second he got on!”

“What are you doing in there, anyway?”

“Oh, Dad!” she cried. He heard a toilet flush and she emerged wearing an over-sized sweatshirt. “That better?” she asked sarcastically.

“Yes, thank you.” Max said sternly. “Now, please, go to school.” He pointed towards the door. She stuck her tongue out at him and flounced downstairs, grabbing her half-open book bag on the way. She opened the front door and stopped.

“Uh, Dad?”


“The bus kinda left without me.” Max wanted to scream, but managed to restrain himself.

“Oh, Carry!” he cried instead. “I told you you were going to miss the bus if you didn't hurry up!”

“You're right Dad, and I did. Now, how about just relaxing, taking it easy, and not worry about taking me to school?”

Max looked up gratefully. “You mean you'll walk?”

Carry looked insulted. “No, of course not. It's nearly four blocks. I meant it would be easier for me to just stay here!”

Max grabbed his car keys off a nearby table. “No, it wouldn't. Let's go.”

After dropping Carry off at school, Max drove like a maniac down to CONTROL. He was always late anyway, but this time he actually had an excuse, and was eager to deliver it-it was the first time ever he was late for a particular reason.

Instinctively, Max reported straight to the Chief's office. The Chief looked up from his desk, annoyed at Max's tardiness. “Max, where have you been?” he asked tiredly.

“My kid missed the bus, so I had to take her.” Max explained.

“But I thought 99 always attended to that if it happened.”

“She's on vacation, remember? She had a rough time with that last case, and I think she was ready to get away from me and the kids.”

Chief could understand that. “Well, knowing you Max, I could see how she would need a vacation.” Max looked insulted, but Chief spoke before he could say a word. “Now, how late are you planning on staying tonight? Ten? Eleven?”

“Oh, no Chief! I'm leaving at two.”


“I promised the kids we'd do something together.” The Chief sighed.

“I have a very urgent matter that has to be dealt with-“

“No deal, Chief! There have been too many broken promises in my home, and they're all my fault. I've been away on both Carry and Avery's birthday, plus Christmas Eve and Easter! Sorry Chief, but this time, I have to stand my ground.” Max said, crossing his arms in front of himself.

“Ok, I understand.”

“You should have seen us this morning! I had never had breakfast with either one of them! You know Avery, right? You know how great of a kid he is. Well, Carry wanted to wear some ungodly thing to school, and-“

“Sorry to interrupt Max, but I am rather busy.” The Chief said, rifling through some paper on his desk. Max straightened up.

“Ok, what do you want me to do?” he asked hopefully.

“Um…” Chief looked at his watch. “Well, since I can't start you on an assignment because you're leaving so soon and everyone else around here in on vacation…I guess you can have the day off.”

Max paused. “A day off?”


“I've never had a day off.”

“Well, you're getting one.”

Max stood in silent thought for a moment. “Hey Chief?”

“Yes, Max?”

“What does one do on one's day off?” Max asked curiously.

Chief found himself trying to remember what one did on one's day off-it had been a while for him, too. “I don't know. Whatever you want, I suppose. Haven't you got any chores you need to do?”

Max thought. “I don't think so. 99 took care of all that before she left. She doesn't like the idea of me trying to clean and shop. I can't imagine why, though. I mean sure, I did once catch the living room rug on fire, but only because I couldn't find the ironing board and I had to use the floor. Then there was the time I managed to blow all the windows out, but how was I supposed to know you guys rigged up an air pressure system in there? And then there was the time-“

“I get the idea, Max.” Chief said, holding a hand up to stop him. He wanted to laugh, but he'd start world war three if he did-Max was very serious about his accidents. “Just do whatever you want to, then. Read a book or watch some TV.”

“Do I have to?” Max whined. Chief stood up, exasperated.

“Look Max, the idea of a day off is to do something you don't usually get to do. To enjoy something you never have time to enjoy!”

“But Chief, they're still in school!”

“Max, I don't care what you do! Just go!” Chief roared.

“Ok, bye.” The door hit Max in the face on the way out, but of course that was normal. Max wandered through the halls of CONTROL and thought about what he would do on his day off. The possibilities were endless on a day like this! He was a free man! No destiny could befall him now! Max stalked up to the receptionist's desk and bellowed, “Not now! It's my day off!” She looked bewildered, but Max ignored this and left the building. He drove all the way home, unlocked the front door, stood in the entry hallway, and suddenly realized he had nothing to do.

He plopped down on the couch and sat there for a moment. A tiny feeling he'd never felt before was overtaking him. “Good god, I'm bored!” Max cried to no one in particular. “I've never been bored!” He then decided that days off were no fun and headed back to CONTROL.

“What do you want, Max?” The Chief shouted a moment later, when Max suddenly showed up.

“I was bored! You gotta give me something to do!” Max pleaded.

“There is nothing to do! Unless you want to lick and seal envelopes.” Chief said, pointing to a box as large as he was filled with unsealed envelopes. Max shuddered.

“I bet that's a torture tactic in some countries.” He observed wisely.

“Max, it's either that or you get out. I'm sorry, but you can't just hang around here.”

“Why not?”

“Because, you'll drive me insane, that why!”

“Oh.” With that, Max pulled up a chair and began licking away. “Hey Chief, what are these letters for, anyway?”

“The National Association of Blind People is having a convention. Those are the invitations.” Chief said, not looking up from his work. Max pulled out a letter and looked at it.

“But these aren't in Braille! How're the blind people going to read it?”

“It's not really taking place. They just want to be able to say they had one.”

“Oh.” Max continued to lick and seal, lick and seal. “Hey Chief, wanna hear a funny story about my Avery?”

Chief looked up. “Max, I almost never hear you mention your daughter. Why is that?”

Max shrugged. “I dunno.” He muttered. The Chief was curious about this; just who or what could actually irritate Maxwell Smart?

“You don't know? Yes, you do.”

“Because all the stories that involve her aren't good ones.” Max said quickly, trying to absorb himself in his work.

“Oh, I understand. Is she…troubled?” Chief asked carefully. Max looked up.

“No, not really.” He said quietly. He didn't like talking about Carry too much-it put him in a bad mood. “She isn't exactly the type of kid you'd want to brag to the neighbors about, though.” Pause. “Sometimes I think it's my fault. I'm never home, and 99 can't keep her tame. Well, it's not even that she's wild, it's more her attitude than anything else. She's arrogant, has a big mouth, and-you know the kind I'm talking about?”

The Chief nodded knowingly, thinking of Max. “Yes, Max. I know exactly what you mean.”

“And I'm not saying I don't love her, for crying out loud, but sometimes I think it'd be better just to have Avery.” Max stopped, and got a sad look on his face. “I don't know why I said that. I didn't mean it. Honest Chief, I didn't mean it. I'm sorry.” Max sighed heavily and scratched his head; why had he just spat that out? Deep down inside, he knew that Carry meant the world to him, but on the outside sometimes he wanted to strangle her! “I don't know how 99 puts up with her. She never does her homework, she never wants to go to school, and when she does she skips. For example, she had a math test today that she didn't even know about, and-“

“Its ok, Max. I know how you feel. You can love and dislike someone at the same time.”

“I don't dislike her! I…I…”

“Well, however you feel, I know it must be tough.”

“Wanna know a secret?” Max whispered, leaning close. “I don't know what I'm doing, you know, with this father stuff. I mean, I never really read up on it before I had kids, and I've never really talked to anyone about it. All the time I'm worried I might be doing something to mess my kids up, and then something like Carry comes along, and all my suspicions are confirmed!”

“Max, I'm sure she'll straighten up someday. Besides, she's not really doing anything life threatening, is she?”

Max sat up as far as he could. “You kiddin'? No kid of mine is going to be engaged in illegal activities! Not under my roof!” The Chief tried to think about Max enforcing any rule in his household, and laughed.

“Sometimes I wonder how you've made it this far with them!” He continued to laugh.

“What are you insinuating?”

“I'm not insinuating anything! All I'm saying is that I've heard some horror stories about your kids, and I can see where they get it, that's all!”


“Oh, come on Max! You have to admit your lifestyle isn't exactly normal!”

“And therefore my children aren't, right?” Max said darkly, the rage beginning to boil up inside.

“Well, I don't know! From what I've heard, you're never there to find out!” This did it. Max lunged across the desk at the Chief, grabbing him by the shirt collar.

“Look! I may not be the best father, and I may not know a lot about parenting! But I love my kids, and if I thought they were in any danger from me or my profession, I wouldn't be here! To hear you tell it, you'd think my kids were better off not having me around!”

“Max, all I'm saying is-“

He pulled the Chief up over his desk until they were eye to eye. “Go ahead and say it, Chief! I know you've been wanting to say it for a long time now.”

Before the Chief could stop himself, he shouted, “Max, if it weren't for 99, you would have had your kids taken away from you a long time ago!” These words stung Max more than any other words ever had. He could feel the tears welling up inside at a statement he knew was probably true, but not in a million years would Max admit it. Instead, he felt like taking it out on someone else.

“Chief…” Max said softly, dangerously. “I have to tell you, I have a gun in my pocket and I have never felt this crazed before.” The Chief looked up at Max, whom he'd known for so many years, and saw a part of him he had hoped he would never have to.

“Max…I'm sorry. Really, I'm sorry.” Chief apologized. Max continued to stare at him with burning eyes, his chest heaving in fury. “Just…just calm down, Max. Think rationally.”

“I'm not a bad father!” Max's voice quivered. He said it more for himself than for the Chief, who was still it Max's grip. Max couldn't think straight; all the thoughts were just whooshing around in his head. “Am I?”

“No, no you're not. Of course not. You just need to…be there for your children more, that's all.” The Chief said quietly. Max closed his eyes and tried to think about that. He muttered to himself a few times, then nodded.

“Yeah, you're right.” Max let go. The Chief breathed a sigh of relief and straightened his jacket.

“You really scared me there for a minute, Max. I thought I was a goner.”

“Yeah, me too…” Max muttered, lost in thought. “I'm sorry, Chief.” he said truthfully, sitting down. “I wouldn't have really hurt you. I just got a little hot under the collar, that's all.”

The Chief nodded. “It's ok. Now…you just sit there for a while, gather your thoughts, and maybe we should start talking about a reduced schedule.”

“Yeah, it's probably time to do that.”  

“What do you mean you didn't study?” Avery whispered fiercely to Carry, as the teacher passed out the tests.

“I forgot!”

“All we've been doing in here for the last three days is reviewing! Can't you tell the difference between review and actually learning it the first time?”

“I don't know. I wasn't listening either time.”

Avery rolled his eyes. “Well, good luck then.” Mr. Packard, their teacher, shooshed Avery in his lizard-like way.

“Please, no talking?” Mr. Packard whispered. No matter what, Packard made every statement that came out of his mouth sound like a question. This, of course, amused Avery, but you can never laugh when you really want to. “We will begin now?”

Avery looked over at Carry, winked at her, and flipped through his test. He marveled at how thick it was-and secretly hoped he could finish it on time. It didn't look too hard-though he had studied for two hours the previous night, which was unusual for Avery.

Carry, on the other hand, stared gloomily down at the same test. Of course now she wished she had at least glanced at the notes before today, but she had spent last night flipping through the TV channels instead. She sighed and painstakingly wrote her name at the top of the paper-she had to at least look like she was doing something for Pack-Man to leave her alone. How is it that Avery was so smart and she was so dumb? Although, they were different in every way-in attitude, in looks, in smarts, and of course, in gender. But could the apple have really fallen that far from the tree?

Suddenly Carry was lost in The Dream again. This time she was somewhere, maybe at a bookstore or something, signing autographs. She had just released her autobiography, and it had debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The critics had written that it was a masterpiece, the biography to end all biographies. Not only that, but her newest movie, The Whispering Winds had just hit #1 at the box offices. Carry picked up a perfect, shiny covered copy of her book and looked and the picture of herself on the front. How beautiful and cool I look, she thought. My head is cocked to one side and I seem to be doing something--water skiing, maybe, but I don't know why my head would be in that position if I was--oh, never mind. She looks up into the face of an eager young fan. She was a little younger than Carry, with dark hair.

“Carry, I just want you to know, your work means a lot to me. You're like, my idol. I worship you!” she cries happily. Carry only smiles-didn't want to launch into a conversation about how great she was right now. She swiftly autographed the inside flap; her signature was sharp, eye catching, it stood there, ink drying, looking very important. She hands it to the young girl, and says “I couldn't do it without people like you!” The young fan's eyes widen, as she takes the book from Carry's grasp. The girl clutches the book to her bosom, it being her new prized possession. She skips back over to her mother, throwing one last longing gaze at Carry. Carry turns back to the next fan--how wonderful it is to be famous!

“Okay class? Twenty minutes left?” Packard called from his desk. Carry snapped out of the dream and looked up at the clock-her “dream” had lasted almost twenty minutes! She shook her head and tried to focus on the test. Numbers swam in front of her. Carry looked over at her brother, who was racing through the test with his brow furled in concentration. She sighed; her parents worshipped Avery. The kid never did anything wrong, and its not like he was a dork or anything, it's just that he had morals, when no other kid their age did. Avery was nice to her-which usually annoyed Carry to the point that she continued to taunt or make fun of Avery. He just sat there and took it, with each insult bouncing off his chest. She couldn't understand it-but then again, she never could understand Avery. She sighed and tried to concentrate on the grueling task in front of her. She tried to get rid of a nagging feeling about this test.

Avery looked over at his sister when he thought she wasn't looking. For once, she seemed to be focused on the task at hand. Maybe she had remembered that her grade hinged upon the success of her grade. He remembered last week when they were walking home together she told him that Pack-Man had said if she didn't do pretty good on this exam, her final grade was screwed. Of course Carry saw only the unfairness in it, but Avery knew that Packard was a good guy, and only wanted his students to do well. Plus, he'd cut Carry plenty of breaks in the last semester-if Avery had been the teacher he probably wouldn't have been so forgiving.

He was done with the test now. Avery looked around; everyone else seemed to still be working. He was usually done first anyway. He sat back in his desk and reminded himself that Dad was home with them today and was instantly in a better mood. Dad was never home-he saw Avery and Carry maybe fifteen minutes on weeknights and, if they were lucky, a half-hour on weekends. Avery had always wondered whether his Dad realized that it hurt when he was gone on birthdays and holidays. True, the man wasn't aware of much, but couldn't he consider the feelings of others? Avery knew Max meant well, and that a lot of times he just didn't realize certain things, and that accounted for a lot of the problems he caused.

“Yes? Are we done?” Packard cried, getting up from his desk and bashing his knee in the process. He winced. “Yes, that has been full time? We can all stop now?”

“No! I'm almost done!” Carry said, looking up from her test. Pack-Man shook his head.

“I'm sorry? If you can't complete the test in the allotted time then you should let me know before class that you require extra time?

“Well, ok, I'm letting you know now.”

Packard made a sound that roughly sounded like a laugh. “No, I meant before class?”

“How would I know I need extra time if I haven't taken the test yet?” Carry demanded.

“You should know from previous experiences?”


“I'm sorry? But we have to move on now? Please pass the tests forward?” All the students began to hand their tests to the person in front of them. Avery looked over at Carry and smiled.

“How'd you do?” he whispered.

“I SUCK.” Carry proclaimed loudly. The whole class began to giggle.

“Carry? You know that's not appropriate language on school grounds?” Avery teased, in his best Pack-Man impression. This made the class laugh even harder, and Packard finally noticed.

“Yes, what's going on?” he insisted. The class silenced. “That's better? I don't know why you laugh all the time?”

Avery couldn't help it this time. The man just looked and sounded so ridiculous up there, he began to hoot with laughter. No one knew exactly what he was laughing about, but they all joined in. Packard tried to restore order with pleads of “Please? Settle down? Now?” which made Avery laugh harder and louder. He fell out of his chair when Packard began to turn red and scream, “Avery? I do not see the humor in this situation? Let us all stop now?” Carry was trying to kick Avery in the shin, warning him to cool it before he got in trouble, but it was too late.

“Avery and Carry? I want to see you after class?” Pack-Man screeched. Avery's smile faded and regained control. He picked himself up and sat back down.

“Sorry, sir. A momentary loss of control.”

“I don't care? I will see you after class?” The bell rang. “Please, follow me?”

Avery and Carry looked at each other with wide eyes but followed Packard back into the math office, where he switched on the lights and took off his glasses.

“Sir, before you say anything, I'm really sorry. I mean, I never do anything like that-“ Avery began.

“That's not why we're here?” Packard broke in. Avery paused.

“Its not?”

“No? I wanted to talk to Carry about her test? I managed to glance at it before the incident occurred, and I can honestly say I didn't see one problem solved on here?” Packard said firmly (if that was possible). Avery looked over at Carry in horror.

“Carry, you're going to fail the semester now!” he whispered fiercely into her ear. Carry nodded, with a tight expression on her face. She bit her lip, which was always a sign she was going to cry.

“Why is this?” Packard asked. Carry then broke down in tears.

“Be-Because!”  she wailed. Avery rolled his eyes.

“I think this is very serious? I will call your parent or parents?” Packard said, already looking through his desk for the information card that held the phone number to CONTROL headquarters.

“Our dad is the only one home this weekend. Mom's on vacation.” Avery piped up. “He's probably at work. But be sure to tell him who's calling; he kinda weird about that.” Avery said, remembering the time his English teacher had called Max and gotten a big surprise when he was convinced she was a terrorist. The FBI had staked out her house and everything. He shuddered; he didn't really want to go through that again.

“Ok, thank you for that information, Avery, I want you to stay here also?” Packard handed a Kleenex to Carry, who by this time was all out bawling. “I will dial the number then you tell him the current situation?”

“Whassat?” Carry moaned.

“That I wish to speak to him, on account of you're failing grade, and lack of motivation, among other things? I would appreciate it if he could come down today, as I am quite fed up with your antics?”

“Oh!” Carry screamed, with her nose dripping and tears running down her face. Pacakrd handed her the phone. Carry sniffed and waited for Max to pick up.

“Now, if we cut your hours-“

Max's shoe phone interrupted the Chief. “Sorry, I'll get it.” He muttered. Who could be calling him right now? It was the middle of the day! “Hello?”

“DAAA! MEHA PACKA SAID OO HAF TO-“ Carry howled deafeningly into the phone.  Max held it away from his ear and looked up at the Chief.

“Must be some crazed lunatic, Chief! I'll take care of this!” Max cried bravely. “Who is this!?” he bellowed into the phone, doing his best to sound authoritative.


“Who? Don't talk so loud!”

“DAA OO HAF OO COM DOW HE-“ Avery grabbed the phone.

“Geez, Carry, how's he gonna know it's you? You know how Dad gets when he thinks there's a stranger on the line!” He scolded Carry quietly, holding his hand over the mouthpiece. Carry sobbed a little bit.  “Dad, it's me.” Avery said calmly.

“Avery! Was that you screaming?”

“No, it was Carry.” Avery said, still trying to push Carry away from the phone.

Max became panicked. “Well is everything all right?” he asked anxiously.

“Wha? Oh, sure! It's fine, she's just a little upset right now!” Avery teased Carry, patting her on the head. Carry screamed and tried to hit him, but he ducked away at the last moment, leaving her to stumble and hit the wall. “She's trying to punch me right now.”

“Oh, well I guess everything is normal. Ah, Avery, is this important? I'm in the middle of something.”

“Oh, ok Dad. This won't take long.” Avery said, relaxing on the desk. Carry pouted in the corner where she had had her collision. “Carry would have told you, but she's crying too hard. Oh god, Max thought.

“What happened?”  

“Um, well, lessee. Carry's math teacher said for her to call you and tell you that she failed the semester, and he wants to talk to you about a couple other things too.” Avery remembered dutifully.

On the other end of the phone, Max sighed. “Ok, what else?”

“You have to come down here today because Mr. Packard wants to talk.”

“Who's Mr. Packard?”

“Our math teacher.”

”Oh. Wait a minute, if Carry's in trouble, why are you there?”

Avery shrugged. “Beats me, Dad.”

“Let me talk to her.” Avery held the phone out to Carry, who shook her head vigorously.

“She can't talk right now.”

“Why not?”

“Uh…she's plucking her eyebrows.” Avery lied, and gave the thumbs up to Carry, who rolled her eyes.

“I don't care. Let me talk to her.” Max demanded. He looked up at the Chief, who was pretending to be absorbed in paperwork.

“Hi, Dad.” Carry said meekly, hoping to cut herself some slack.

“What's this about failing the semester?! Math is important! And what are these other things?! And why do I have to come down there?! And why is Avery down there?! And why did you fail the test?! Why won't you answer me?!” Max shouted into the phone. He was now standing up, and striking a pretty funny pose, one of the Just-wait-til-I-get-home variety. Chief was amused, but didn't want to say anything.

Instead of explaining, Carry broke down in tears once again. Avery sighed and took the phone from her again. “Dad, I think it'd be best if you just came down here. I gotta get to class, you know!”

Max took the phone away from his ear, rubbed his head and tried to remain calm. “Did you ever go through anything like this?” he whispered to the Chief. Chief was about to answer, but Max interrupted. “Neither have I.” He turned back to the phone. “All right, give me fifteen minutes. Where are you guys?”

“Hell, Dad.”

“No, what department?”

“Oh, math.”

“Ok, bye.” Max hung up. “Have any idea where the math department would be, Chief?”

“Probably inside the school, Max.”

Max nodded. “You're probably right! I'm on it!” With that, he left and sped straight towards the school, trying to come up with a good entry line. Something like, `You're really in trouble now, young lady!' or, `Wait until your mother hears about this!' He parked in the bus lane (not noticing it) and found the reception desk in the front. “Excuse me, I'm looking for two students, their names are-“

“Oh! JUST because I'm the receptionist, that means I automatically know who all the kids are, right? AND that must mean I know where they are every minute of the day!” The receptionist, an older woman with blue hair, stood up and threw her pen across the room. “Well you know what? I don't know where your stupid kids are but by looking at you I can tell wherever they are, they're better off! Now get out of here!” she screamed.

Max was a bit taken aback. “Ah, could you at least tell me where the math department is, then?”  She pointed off to her left. Max could tell she was in no mood to discuss exact directions. “Thanks…” he said backing away slowly.
When Max saw a big sign saying “Math Department” he figured he had a pretty good chance he'd found the math department. He walked in through the open door, and found Avery reading a book, with his feet propped up on a desk, and Carry sitting in the corner on the floor, clutching a wet Kleenex.

“Oh, hey Dad!” Avery greeted him. Max nodded at Avery, then gestured towards Carry.

“Is she doing any better?”

Avery shrugged. “She's not crying hysterically anymore. Want me to get Pack-Man?”


“Mr. Packard.”

“Oh, yeah. Go get him.” Max told him. Avery got up and left the room. Max straightened out his coat and went over to console (and possibly strangle) his daughter. “Hey, what's wrong?” he muttered to her. She sniffed.

“Oh, gawd Dad, like you don't know! I failed the semester, got in trouble with the teacher and you guys are going to kill me!” she exclaimed loudly.

“Well, maybe…” She began to cry loudly again. “I was kidding! I was kidding, calm down! You know I'm no good at this!” He sat down next to her. “I haven't the vaguest idea how to handle a parent teacher conference, I've never done it before. How does it go?”

Carry blew her nose. “The teacher comes out, tells you what a terrible kid I am, tells you that you have to punish me, you believe them and go home.”

“So that's how it works. Thanks.” Max said, trying to absorb all that. Carry rolled her eyes.

“Dad, I was being sarcastic!”

“Oh.” Max sat there for a moment, trying to decide whether to comfort Carry, or just start scolding her so he didn't have to do it later. Why did she always cry? Seemed like every time Max turned around his daughter was crying about something. “You all right, kid?”

Carry sighed heavily. “No, Dad!”

“I told you! I'm no good at this! Just tell me what to do and I'll do it!” 99 had only been gone for three hours, and already Max had a feeling this weekend would never end.

“Oh, Mr. Smart? Nice to meet you?” Mr. Packard said, coming in.

“Is it?” Max asked, confused at the question.

“Yes, it is?” Packard said, annoyed.

“It is?” Max continued. What kind of nut was this guy? Avery leaned close to him.

“Dad, he says every sentence like it's a question. Just ignore it.” He whispered to Max.     

“Oh. Ah, I heard you wanted to talk to me.” Said Max.

“Yes, I did? Please, sit down, and we can talk about it? Carry? Avery? Will you please wait in the other room?” Packard pointed to a room off to the side. Avery waved goodbye, while Carry shot Max a mournful look. They both left and Max sat down with Packard.

“Well, ok, here we are. What does one do at a parent teacher conference?” Max asked genuinely. Packard looked a blank.

“Is this your first time?”

“Yes, my wife usually does these things.”

“Ah, that makes sense? Because I wondered how anyone managed to stay away from parent teacher conferences with a daughter like yours?” Packard grinned; Max smiled weakly back at him. It was better than hitting him, which was Max's other instinct. “Now, first, I want to make you aware of Carry's grades?” He slid a big black book of grades across the table to show Max. Max ran his finger down the names until he found Carry's.

“What are all these circles you have under Carry's name?”

“Those are zeros, Mr. Smart?”

Max gulped. “All those?”


“Oh man…” Max muttered, using one of Avery's favorite lines. “I honestly didn't know it was this bad. See, I'm usually not home, and this is actually the first time I've been home in a long time, and I just didn't know-“

“It's easy not to be aware of your child's grades? Because if they don't tell you and you figure they are doing fine it may come as a very big shock when you actually see how they are doing?”

“Its just that Avery does so well without encouragement, sometimes we forget that Carry isn't the same way.” Max explained. Packard nodded.

“Yes, Avery is very gifted? I take it you are very proud of him?”

“Sure we are! But once in a while we just want to kick Carry!” He looked up at Packard quickly. “I shouldn't have said that in front of a teacher, because you'll get the child welfare board on my back. I didn't really mean it, in the sense that you thought I said it. What I meant was-“

“I feel the same way?!” Packard declared. “And I can honestly say I tried to help Carry, and that I wanted her to succeed? I wanted to let you know of the situation, just so you knew?”

“Knew what?”

Packard was exasperated by this time. “That you knew about Carry?!”

“Oh! Right!”

“Also, she has many problems with the other girls in the class? Constantly, they are bickering, they are fighting? It is a distraction, Mr. Smart?”

“I know, and I'll talk to her abo-“

“And she does not show respect for me, the teacher?”

“That's too bad.” Max mused, though he could hardly blame her. This guy was a lunatic!

“Well, that's all Mr. Smart? You may leave?” Max shot up out of his seat and shook Packard's hand.

“I'm delighted we had this conversation! We must do it again some time, but just one question.”


“Why do you talk like that?”

“Like what?” Packard said, bewildered.

“Never mind. Thank you.” Max gave him a strange look, then opened the door to the room where the kids were. “Ok, you can go back to class!”

Avery smiled and got his bookbag. “Good! We're having a discussion about Henry David Thoreau in English! I've been waiting all week!”

“You're such a dweeb!” Carry shouted, still sobbing. Max felt bad about leaving Carry while she was still crying, but realized she couldn't just break down like this whenever she was having a bad day. This was just one of life's lessons that she'd have to learn the hard way.

“Ok guys, I'm leaving!” Max warned them. Avery wasn't listening; he already had his bookbag on and was waiting impatiently for Packard to write him a pass. Max looked back down at his little girl. “Carry, are you going to be all right?” he asked softly, next to her ear. She shrugged. “Carry, I know things may seem a little tough right now. The teenage years are a little tough, but you'll get through them. Until then, I want you to know your mom and I love you very much, and only want you to be happy.”

She looked up at him. “Then why am I here?”

“Please, Carry, don't start this again. Do you know how much you put your mother and I through, with your attitude and complaints day after day?”

“I know how much I put Mom through; as for you, you never stick around long enough for me to tell.”


“I'm sorry, Mr. Smart, but Carry must get back to class now?” Packard reminded them. Carry got kind of a scared look on her face, then started crying all over again.

“Carry's not going to class, Mr. Packard. There's a few things we need to talk about and school is only one of them.”

“Thanks for letting me come home, Daddy!” Carry said happily when they finally got home.

“Well, it's not for all day. There's just certain things that you and I need to talk about that couldn't wait for the end of the day.” Max explained, shutting the door behind him. Carry sat down on the sofa.

“Why not?”

“Ah, to tell you the truth, I may forget them if I don't say them now.” Max answered. Carry laughed-it had been a while since he had heard her laugh, and he was surprised how happy it made him. “Firstly, I want you to know I cut my hours at CONTROL so I can spend more time with Mom, you and Avery. I know my not being around has been kind of upsetting, but you have to realize that for so many years my life was my job.”

“But for the last fourteen years you've had us, Dad! You'd think you could've learned by now!”

“Yeah, I know.” He said in a disappointed tone. “But I want to apologize, and I want to make up for it all.”

“Avery's the one who really gets upset.”

“I know.”

“He gets sadder than Mom when you're away.”

“I know.”

“Man, you weren't even here for his birthday!”

“I know.”

“I mean, what kind of job is being a spy, after all? You're risking your life all the time, Dad! What Mom and the rest of us never understood is why you put us in the position to fear for your life every day!”

“I know, I know.”

“What would Avery do if you died? He'd become a nut or something, and try to avenge your death! Either that or he would just get totally weird. And what about Mom? Remember that time you didn't call for three days `cause you were being tortured in Zimbabwe? She freaked out and got all religious on us!” she sighed heavily. “And what about me?”

“What about you? I thought you didn't like me!” Max said, a bit hurt. “Remember the time you sent the exploding birthday card?”

“Dad, that wasn't me, remember? It was some KAOS agent!”

“Oh, yeah. I remember now.” said Max, cackling at the recollection of capturing 27 double agents at once. “Best birthday I ever had!”

“What I meant was that everyone in the family would be affected in their own way! And yet, you spend more time risking the life you've made for yourself than living it!” Carry concluded. She blinked in spite of herself-had she actually thought and said something that complicated?

Max sat down on the sofa and scratched his head, thinking about Carry's statement. It was true Max loved his job. He'd been born to do it. But if it meant keeping him away from his family, which would become more and more important as he got older, was it really worth it? “You know, when I was younger, I swore I'd never get tied down with family, because I knew I'd have to give up the spy game. Then I met your mother and everything changed. Suddenly I wanted a family more than anything in the world. And once I got it, its like I took it for granted.”

“You're telling me!”

“Carry, I have to admit to you I'm not very good with guessing people's emotions. I end up hurting them only because I don't know they're feeling a certain way.” He sighed and clasped his hands. “And it's seems I've set the world record for how long it took to realize what you guys were feeling.”

Carry snorted. “Lord, Dad, you're tellin' me!”

Max stood up heroically. “Well no more! Maxwell Smart will no longer be a once-in-a-while family member! From now on, you'll see me as much as you see your mother!”

“Don't overdo it, Dad!” Carry warned. “You'll have to start gradually! Get us used to it before you dive all the way in!”

“Why?!” Max cried indignantly.

“You're not used to being around us all the time! We can be a handful, you know!”

“Nonsense! From now on, I'm going to be just a good a father as I am a spy!”

Carry buried her face in her hands. “Great.”

“Now, of course this doesn't mean I'm quitting CONTROL, but they'll be a lot less weekends when I'm gone! A lot less birthdays missed, and a lot less feelings hurt! Yes! This is the dawning of a new era!”

“The era where I'm going to be locked in my room most of the time.” Carry muttered.

“No! The era where your dad is around a lot! Who you can talk to and get to know!” Max leaned over to her. “I know you don't think I'm `cool', but I am!”


Max stood up to his full height. “How many parents do you know that are international spies?”

“Of course I would be the only one on Earth to have such blind luck!”  Carry screamed.

“That's `good' luck, honey. Now! About school!”

“Aw, Dad!”

“I'll get Avery to tutor you!”

“You've got to be kidding!”

“And we'll check the homework every night, and we'll get you one of those `assignment notebook' things so you can write down when you have tests and things. I'm telling you, Carry, a good education is invaluable!”

“You mean intolerable!”

“No, I believe I used the right adjective.” Max said, sitting down again. “Believe me, doing well in school is all about organization. I did very well, and I'm the most organized man on earth!” He put his feet up on the desk, and accidentally knocked over a huge pile of unfiled classified documents. He looked back up at Carry. “I'm not usually like that.”

“Right Dad.”

“Now, we've had our emotional talk, we've had our school talk. Is there anything else?”

“I hope not.”

“Good! Let's get you back to school, then.”

Max was expecting another round of defiance, but Carry smiled and nodded. She got up happily and zipped up her bag. “Ready when you are!”

Max stood up. “Wait a minute. Aren't you going to complain? Or argue with me? Or call me a loser?” he asked, confused. Carry rolled her eyes and opened the door.

“Dad, if you think for one minute that I'm going to stand aside and let my own brother tutor me, you've got another thing comin'!” she ordered loudly.

Just then the phone rang. “Ok, I'll meet you outside. Hello?”

“Max, it's me!” 99 said cheerfully on the other side.

“Oh, hi!”

“Just wanted to tell you I got here all right. How're things going there?”

“You have no idea!” Max cried. “I, Maxwell Smart, have once again saved the day! I woke up this morning to a loud, rebellious daughter who refused to go to school, and right as we speak, I have orders, from her, to take her directly to school so that she can raise her grades! I also woke up to find I was not spending enough time with my family, and have therefore cut my hours at CONTROL to spend more time at home! I have gained the respect and admiration of my son even more so, and am going to deliver on all those promises I've made! I've come face to face with the truth when it reared its ugly head in the Chief's office, and responded by threatening to kill him, which we've all dreamed of at one point or another! I've also learned what that horrible smell is coming from the dining room that we've been searching for! It was a sweat sock!” He proclaimed proudly.

“All that in the four hours I've been gone?” 99 gasped.

“Yep! When Maxwell Smart is told to take care of the household, that's what he does!”

“Well, I'm sure I'll get all that straightened out when I get home. I'm coming home now; I got here and realized I'd much rather have a vacation with you and the kids.  Look, just sit tight and I'll be home soon. We'll all go out tonight and celebrate!” Max smiled.

“It's been a while since I celebrated with you guys about anything.”

“Then it will be a very special night, Max.” she said dreamily. “See what a few hours with your kids can do?”

Max sat down on the table and pulled out a cigarette. “If all this can happen in a few hours, I should be a completely new man by this time tomorrow.”

99 laughed. “You will, Max. I know you will.”