Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chapter 22: Agent Brannigan

Kate was looking forward to a peaceful weekend when she got to school that Friday. She just wanted some time to forget about her problems, forget about the darkness, and be normal for a change. She didn't want to think about the future or anything weightier than what book she would read. She wanted to relax and enjoy herself for a change.

She got to school and looked for Kevin, but she didn't see him anywhere. She thought maybe he was sick again, though he’d seemed fine yesterday. She refused to allow herself to worry or to wonder if this was a sign of something bigger. She was determined to push the concerns out of her head and focus just on living right then and right there. The world could do without her efforts for one day, at least.

She thought for a moment about Principal Durham’s words to her yesterday, but pushed that memory aside as well. She didn't want to dwell on the events of the past and on things which she could do nothing to change. His issues were his. She just wanted to take a break from everything. The teachers made it easy, as most of the day was spent reviewing content she already knew in preparation for tests coming up.

In retrospect, if she hadn't been so busy trying to ignore everything, she realized that she probably would have noticed that something was wrong. It was only later, as she was reflecting back on that day, that she realized how tense the teachers were and the fact that there were several students missing from each of her classes. She wondered how different things might have been had she have been paying attention.

After orchestra, she headed home for lunch. She didn't think too much about the unlocked front door, figuring that perhaps the twins had failed to lock it again before they left for work. She didn't bother to check messages to see if anyone had called since it was something her mom normally did when she got home from work each evening. She put her violin in the hall closet, unloaded the books she didn't need in her bedroom, and headed back to school after she finished eating. She never even noticed the dark grey 4-door sedan parked across the street from her own.

School let out, and Kate headed to her locker only to find a plain brown envelope with her name carefully written on it. The handwriting was slightly different than usual. She nearly reached out and grabbed it, hesitated, and then decided to leave it in her locker. The world, she thought, would not end that weekend if she didn't read it. She wanted one weekend to herself, just one weekend when she wasn't worried about the government or the Church or anything else. It was a decision she would come to regret.

She called Kevin’s house when she got home, but the phone rang without anyone picking up. She thought about the last time it had happened, and decided he was probably just sleeping. She would call him again later. She heard a knock on the front door and headed into the hallway to answer it. She figured it was probably someone selling something, or perhaps a couple of Mormon missionaries. She yanked it open to tell them she wasn't interested, only to find two men in dark suits standing on her door step.

“Kathryn Devries, I’m Federal Agent Seth Brannigan,” said one of the men. He was tall, with dark hair that was beginning to show signs of receding. He showed her his badge. “This is my partner, Federal Agent George Daniels. We need you to come with us.”

Kate looked at the two men. She heard the words, but she didn't really comprehend them. It was as if she was hearing them speak from somewhere far away. “I’m sorry,” she said, “my mother isn't home yet.”

“Ms. Devries, we are not here to see your mother. We are here for you,” Agent Brannigan said.

Kate looked at him as if he was speaking a foreign language. For all intents and purposes, he might as well have been. There was something so incredibly unreal about this scene. A distant part of her brain almost found it funny, as if it were some elaborate prank.

“Ms. Devries, you may either come with us now, or we will handcuff you and lead you out that way. It’s really your choice,” Agent Brannigan said.

“Why? What have I done?” Kate asked, suddenly aware of the very real danger these men represented to her.

“We have some questions for you, Ms. Devries, and we want to be sure we get answers, that’s all,” he replied.

“Questions? About what?” Kate asked.

“We can discuss this on the way there, ma’m,” his partner answered.

“Where? Where are you taking me?” Kate asked in alarm.

The men appeared to have tired of answering questions and demonstrating politeness. They forced their way into the house, cuffed her, and led her out to the waiting vehicle where they then pushed her into the backseat and closed the door. They drove off without a single look back.

The agents drove in silence and never once turned to look at her. She could tell when they hit the highway by the sounds of the vehicle, but the dark tinted windows made it almost impossible to tell which direction they were headed. The only thing she had to look at, really, was the back of their heads.

In the silence, she had plenty of time to think about all the things she had been pushing to the side that day. She now wondered if Kevin’s family was okay and whether perhaps he wasn’t ill but, like her, had been arrested. She wondered, too, what was in that brown envelope. She might never know, now.

They drove for a long time and the silence, warmth of the vehicle, and boredom made her feel sleepy but in spite of dozing off several times she could never get comfortable enough to really sleep. She wondered where they were taking her, and just as importantly whether her mother would be able to find her. She hadn’t had time to leave her mother so much as a note. She wondered how long it would take her mother to suspect something was wrong. Kate wasn't in the habit of leaving without telling her mother where she was going or asking permission first, but maybe her mother would think she had gone on a walk or was just upstairs sleeping.

She realized after awhile that she needed to go to the bathroom, but she didn't feel comfortable asking the men to stop for her. She wondered how much longer this trip would take. Clearly this wasn't just a simple issue of asking questions. That could have been done at the police station in town. This was something far more serious, Kate realized.

Just when she didn't think she could hold it much longer, the car stopped. The door opened, and she was escorted inside the gates of a complex much like the one’s she’d seen on Youtube videos of FEMA camps. Inside the double rows of barbed wire was a small playground where there were a few children playing within sight of employees wearing badges. They escorted her to the front of a red brick building and Agent Daniels swiped his own badge which unlocked the doors.

They brought her inside the building and Kate turned to them quickly, “Please, can I go to the bathroom?” she asked. The agents looked at one another and then ignored her as they escorted her through the hallway to a conference room. They opened the door and seated her inside and then left her alone.

The conference room had several chairs in it and a wide glass mirror on one end. The walls were whitewashed brick, cheerless, and cold. She hoped someone would come get her soon. She really didn’t think she could hold it much longer. After what seemed forever, a shorter woman in a suit entered the room. The woman was about her mother’s age, plump, and with a pleasant looking face. She smiled at Kate.

“Hello, Kathryn,” she said, extending her hand. “My name is Agent Belinda Weathers. I am here to ask you a few questions. Can I get you something to drink before we get started?”

“Can I got to the bathroom?” Kate asked, feeling very uncomfortable.

“Of course, let me escort you,” she offered, showing Kate the way back through the door and down the hallway. She removed Kate’s handcuffs only after they’d entered the women’s bathroom and stood just inside the door way. Kate felt awkward knowing that this woman was there watching over her, but decided the embarrassment of having someone stand guard over her while she peed was less than the embarrassment of wetting herself like some preschooler. After she’d washed her hands, the woman escorted her back to the conference room. Kate was so glad she hadn’t put the cuffs back on. Her wrists were already chaffed from the metal.

When Kate had gotten settled into her chair, Agent Weathers sat down and looked through a thick file on the desk. She then turned on a tape recorder. Kate was reminded of the interview with President Durham just one day earlier.

“Ms. Devries, how did you come to know Kevin McConnolly and his family?” she asked.

“I met Kevin in school,” she replied.

“You don’t have any classes with him, I note. So, how were you introduced?” she prompted.

“He sent me a note,” Kate said truthfully.

“What did this note say, Kathryn?” Ms. Weathers asked.

“It was just an invitation,” Kate replied.

“What kind of invitation, Ms. Devries?” she asked.

“To a party,” Kate answered.

“Oh really?” Ms. Weathers pressed. “Who was at this party?”

“Some friends of his,” she said.

“Was one of those ‘friends’ one Father Christopher Donovan?” Ms. Weathers said, looking at Kate.

“I don’t remember,” Kate lied. She was not about to betray Kevin or anyone else in that group.

“I warn you, Ms. Devries, that we already know the truth. We have someone who was present and is willing to tell us everything. You can nothing by withholding information from us, and you might make things easier for yourself by telling the truth,” Ms. Weathers said, her voice turning cold.

“I said I don’t remember,” Kate said stubbornly.

“Well, perhaps I might jog your memory for you,” Ms. Weathers stated. She pulled out a sheet from the file in front of her and read to Kate her journal entry from that night. Kate’s face flushed red as she listened to her own words being turned against her.

“You have no right to read my journal,” Kate said. “ I've done nothing wrong.”

“Oh, Ms. Devries, I do indeed have that right. Are you aware of Executive Order 1299 granting the government authority to confiscate all property belonging to any civilian in the case that civilian is suspected of being an enemy of the state?”

“An enemy of the state? What on earth are you talking about?” Kate demanded. “ I've never done anything to the state.”

“Oh, Ms. Devries, I do beg to differ. You see, you are guilty of associating with other known enemies of the state. You are also guilty of having conducted unlawful internet searches and of inciting other people to rebel against the government. You are the very definition of an enemy of this state,” Ms. Weathers said, looking Kate in the eyes. “We have already ascertained your guilt, Ms. Devries. What we are trying to determine here is what your sentence will be. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you wish to cooperate with us by informing us of the activities of the McConnolly’s and other members of your group, or whether you will refuse our protection by refusing to cooperate.”

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