Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chapter 16: Unexpected Visitors

Kate walked into the kitchen to talk to her mother, only to be brought up the sight of two very serious looking gentlemen in suits who were at the table talking to her mother.  She noticed her mother glance up at her briefly and then back at the gentlemen without acknowledging her presence at all and Kate knew that something was very wrong.  The hair on the back of her neck began to raise and she tiptoed back out of the doorway and headed up the stairs to her bedroom.
She got to her room and closed the door quietly behind her.  She walked over to the window to look down and that’s when she noticed the strange vehicle parked on the street in front of her house.  It was a dark 4-door sedan.  She wondered what these men were doing here, and why it was her mother hadn’t wanted her in that room with them. 
When her father died, State Troopers in their khaki uniforms had delivered the news.  These were not police officers or State Troopers.  She wasn’t sure what they were.  Father Donovan’s warning about the darkness trying to stop her by making her life more difficult came to mind.  Thinking of him reminded her suddenly of the thumb drive and the letters still in the top drawer of her dresser.  On a hunch, she grabbed the lot of them and tucked them under her mattress, hoping they wouldn’t be noticed. 
She took out her rosary and the pamphlet and began to pray as fervently as she ever had.  She remembered that Father Donovan had told her this was her greatest weapon against the darkness, something it could not resist.  She did her best to focus on every bead even as her ears strained to try and pick up bits and pieces of the conversation going on downstairs.
She finished praying the rosary and began again, finding a comfort in the repetition that helped calm her nerves.  She wasn’t sure why those men were here but she was sure it was not to deliver good news.  Her mother had looked tense, unhappy, and worried. She had gotten halfway through a second rosary when the door opened and her mother walked in.  She took in the sight of her daughter praying with surprise but kept her voice steady.
“Kate, I need you to come downstairs with me,” she said.
Kate tucked the rosary and the pamphlet in her pocket and headed downstairs with her mother.  The men were gone and she heard a car pulling out and driving away.  Her mother seemed nervous and uncertain as they took a seat at the table together.
“Kate, I need you to tell me what you know about Kevin and his family,” she said.
“I don’t know a lot about his family, Mom, but Kevin is a good guy,” Kate replied.
Her mother frowned. “Are you aware that his father was recently arrested for murder?” she said.
“Mom, I don’t think that’s true.  His father disappeared.  Men just like the ones at our table this morning came and took him away one night. His family doesn’t know where he is or where they’ve taken him,” Kate said defensively.
“Kate, I don’t want you hanging around that boy or his family anymore.  The men who came here today said they are part of a dangerous cult that’s been guilty of stirring up trouble and killing innocent people,” her mother said, frowning.
“That’s not true!” Kate said, her voice fierce.  “There’s nothing dangerous about Kevin or his family, or anyone else he’s introduced to me.  They’re not part of a dangerous cult.  They’re Catholic, Mom,” Kate told her mother.
Her mother’s eyes looked at her in astonishment and confusion.  “Catholic?  Those men didn’t mention anything about them being Catholic.”
“Those men are lying to you, Momma, I know it,” Kate said.  “Kevin would never hurt me.”
“Kate, those men wanted to take you in for questioning to find out what you know about Kevin and the group he belongs to.  Why would they want to do that if there’s nothing going on that isn’t supposed to be?” Kate’s mother asked.
“Mom, I don’t know why, but there’s a lot of things going on that aren’t being told to people.  Kevin’s dad wasn’t the only one who was taken away.  There were others, too,” Kate said.
“Kate, I think you are the one who’s mistaken. Why would the government lie to us?” Kate’s mother asked. 
“I don’t know why, Mom, but I know they are,” she said.
“Kate, you’re to stay away from that boy and his friends until you can prove these things to me.  I’ve already lost my husband, I’m not losing my daughter, too,” she said firmly.  Kate knew she meant it.  There was no help for it.  She was going to have to make a choice between obedience to her mother and obedience to a God she barely knew. 
What if she was putting her own family in danger? What if those men came back and took her mother, like they took Kevin’s father?  Was it right for her to make a decision that might hurt everyone else? She didn’t know the answers, and she didn’t know what to think.  She wished she had someone to talk to, someone who could tell her what she was supposed to do.
A small voice in the back of her head whispered to her that she knew what she should do, if she had the courage to do it.  She knew that she must defy her mother’s orders, not because that was the comfortable thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do.  Her mother was caught in the crossfires of a battle she couldn’t see.  Kate could see it, and only Kate could free her mother from it, but she would never be able to do that sitting on the sidelines. 
“Kathryn Lynn Devries, do you understand me?” her mother said.
“I understand your words,” Kate said.  She was unhappy about being put into this position. It didn’t seem right or fair.
“If I so much as hear about you talking to him on the phone or hanging out with him at school, you will be grounded until your 18th birthday, do you understand me?” her mother threatened.
Kate crossed her arms over her chest.  She loved her mother, but this was too far.  She refused to answer, glaring at her mother in silence.  Her mother could not make her agree to this.
“Kathryn, I am serious about this.  Those men meant business, and I don’t want you putting your life or your future in danger over some boy.  I’m sorry if his family has gotten themselves into trouble but I can’t have you dragging our family into the middle of it.  Do you understand that I could lose my job over this?” her mother demanded, her voice raising as Kate stood there without a word, simply looking at her.
Kate had never seen her mother act like this before.  Her mother was usually so level-headed and so laid back that it took a lot to get her upset.  This was way off the charts for her. She was practically yelling. The voice in the back of the head whispered to her that what she was seeing was her mother’s fear.  It was better to say nothing and let her mother cool down than to respond and feed the fire.  So, Kate stayed silent.
Eventually, her mother ordered her to go to their room and grounded her.  There was to be no television, no internet, and no phone until Kate agreed to be obedient.  Kate went quietly upstairs.  She took out her rosary and stared at the crucifix.  What a bizarre thing to have on the end of something which was supposed to be all about light and goodness.  Why would anyone want to keep a symbol of a man brutally tortured and murdered close to them?
She put the rosary away and pulled her journal off the shelf.  At least in her journal she could be honest about what she was thinking and feeling.  At least here she could speak without worrying about what someone else would think.  She wrote about going to Mass for the first time, and about feeling like she was seeing a connection between her prayers being answered for Kevin’s father and the readings for the day.  She also wrote about the talk Father Donovan had with them afterward about the importance of fighting for what was right even when loved ones tried to stop them for fear of their safety.  As Kate wrote, she knew exactly what she was going to have to do.  There was no way around it. 
She couldn’t put her family in danger anymore, and she couldn’t cast aside her new found faith.  She didn’t want to have to lie to her mother about where she was going or who she was with.  She was going to have to run away.  She wasn’t sure where she would go or how she would make it, but if God was truly with her, she knew He would help her find a way to make it work. 
She decided to wait until after school on Monday to actually leave.  It would give her a chance to pack when her mother wasn’t home and to explain things to Kevin and seek his advice on where she should go and what she should do.  It was a scary thought, being all on her own, but then again, Father Donovan had promised she would never truly be along again.  She found some comfort in that.
She put her journal back in its place in her bookshelf and laid down for a nap.  She felt tired suddenly, as if she’d traveled a long journey in a very short time.  She felt much older than 15.  The world looked very different to her now than it had just two Saturday nights ago.  Back then, she had been ignorant of the truth.  Back then, she had never dreamed that the world was dangerous at all.
When she woke from her nap, it was already dark and her stomach was rumbling.  She felt calmer and more peaceful than she had when she laid down, and she hoped maybe her mother would as well.  She headed downstairs to grab something to eat.  The twins were nowhere in sight, and her mother’s car was gone. 
She made herself a sandwich and noticed a business card on the counter.  The name on the card was Seth Brannigan.  According to the card, he was with the Department of Homeland Security.  There was an email address and a phone number.  Kate wrote down the agent’s name, phone number, and email address on an empty envelope and slipped the information into her pocket. She finished up the sandwich, and headed back upstairs. 
Her mother had forbidden her to use the internet at home, but that wouldn’t stop her from using it at school.  It might be the opportunity she needed to figure out where Kevin’s father had been taken and why.  It also might be just the thing she needed to prove to her mother she was telling the truth.  If she could find the proof, she wouldn’t need to run.  She could convince her mother to join the fight instead.  It was a long shot, but Kate felt it would be worth the risk.
Kate heard her mother’s car pulling up into the driveway and quickly headed back upstairs.  She was fairly certain her mom wouldn’t be pleased to see her downstairs without her mother’s permission.  She took out a book and laid back down on the bed to read.  She heard footsteps on the stairs and her door opened.  Her mother was standing there, watching Kate.
“So, are you still determined to defy my orders?” her mother asked.
Kate simply looked at her.
“I take your silence as a yes,” she said.
Kate didn’t reply.
Kate’s mother sighed and said, “As you wish,” and then closed the door.

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