Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chapter 23: Hard Choices

Kate could not believe what she was hearing. Her mind refused to accept what was happening. What happened, she wondered, to innocent until proven guilty? Where was the court of law? How could associating with a group of people make someone an enemy of the state? What would happen to Kevin if she did what they wanted her to do? What would happen to her, to her mother, to her own family if she didn’t?

“I need an answer, Ms. Devries. Will you cooperate or won’t you?” she demanded.

Kate looked at her and before she could stop herself, before she could filter the thoughts running through her brain, she found herself saying, “You have my journals, my school records, my internet search history, and God alone knows what else you’ve managed to gather. That’s all you’re getting out of me.”

She realized that bubbling beneath the shock and the disconnection was anger and outrage at what was being done to her and to Kevin and to everyone that Kevin loved. She was furious that these people felt they could just do whatever they liked to whomever they liked without regard for who they might hurt along the way. She was surprised at the ferocity of her feelings and at the determination she felt welling within her not to allow them to cow her or stop her from doing what she was born to do. She supposed that if they had counted on her graciously and quietly giving in to their demands, they had badly miscalculated.

This whole time she had wondered why she had been chosen, what it was that others had seen in her to make them think she could be or would ever want to be a warrior. Today she had received her answer. It was as if something inside her that had been sleeping had quite suddenly awakened. She supposed they had hoped to make her feel small, frightened, and helpless. What she felt was powerful, determined, and unafraid.

She gazed at Ms. Weathers with cool detachment and stuck her hands in her pockets. She found her rosary in the side pocket, closed her eyes, and began to pray. She couldn’t remember all the prayers from her booklet, so she just prayed an Our Father for each large bead and then the Hail Mary prayers, one for each of her friends. Apparently, Ms. Weathers was not used to being ignored like that because it really did seem to irritate her.

“You will regret this decision, young lady,” she said, stalking out of the room and leaving Kate alone with her prayers. She felt calmer when she finished praying the rosary than she had been when she began. The anger seeped out of her, leaving behind determination, resolve, and a feeling of peace. She knew she had chosen the better path, and come what may she would stick to it.

Her stomach growled, and she was reminded that it had been quite a while since she last ate. She was glad, at least, that Ms. Weathers hadn’t put the handcuffs back on her. The red marks around her wrists were just beginning to fade.

There was no clock in the room, no way to tell how late it might be. It was the boredom that really got to her more than anything,. There was nothing to do except to stare at the walls and the ceiling. The walls were so nondescript, just plain white with no adornment whatsoever. She wished she had at least some paper and a pen so she could write or doodle or anything. She settled instead for walking around the room as she continued to pray.

She discovered that the left and right walls were long enough that she had time to finish a whole decade before turning the corner, but the wall with the mirror and the wall opposite it were only long enough for half a decade each. Around and around the room she paced, praying as she went. She prayed for her mother, for the twins, for Kevin, and for his mother and brothers and sisters. She prayed for Principal Durham, for the Agents who brought her to the facility, and to Ms. Weathers. She prayed for Gregory and Deborah and Father Donovan. She didn’t know how they were or where they were, but she asked God to send his angels to guard them wherever they might be.

She did this long enough that she began to lose count of the decades. She stopped when she heard a noise and turned to look at the door. Agent Brannigan entered the door accompanied by Agent Daniels. “Please take a seat, Ms. Devries, you are about to wear a hole in the tile flooring with your pacing,” Agent Brannigan ordered her. Kate thought about continuing to stand, but decided there was really no point in that, and took her seat. She kept her rosary clutched in her hand as if it were a lifeline.

“We understand, Ms. Devries, you have decided not to cooperate with us at this point. We feel you may well wish to reconsider, and so we have brought someone here to help you understand the gravity of the situation,” Agent Brannigan stated to her as Agent Daniels headed toward the door. “You see, your decision to cooperate with these enemies of the state puts your life and the lives of those you care about most in terrible danger. We can help and protect your family, but only if you and they are willing to cooperate with us,” he finished.

Agent Daniels returned a few moments later and brought her mother into the room. Her mother was wearing handcuffs. She looked frightened and exhausted. Her eyes were bloodshot and red rimmed, and her nose was red and puffy. Kate was sure her mother had been crying. Kate’s anger rose up in her once again. How dare they try to use her mother as a weapon against her. They sat Claire in the chair across from Kate and then the two agents got up to leave.

“I’m sure the two of you have plenty to discuss,” Agent Brannigan said, “You can tap on the glass if you need us.”

Kate waited until the two men had completely left the room before she spoke, “Mom, what happened?”

“Kate, they came for me at work. I tried to call you, to warn you, but I guess you didn’t get my message. I lost my job with the state, and they’ve taken the twins out of our home. They told me you’ve been declared an enemy of the state. What have you done, Kathryn? What have you done?” her mother asked.

“I haven’t done anything that you don’t know about, Mom. They said I’m an enemy of the state just because I’m friends with someone they’ve said is an enemy of the state. They said I am guilty of conducting unlawful internet searches. Since when is looking for the truth illegal, Mom? They had my diaries, and a file about an inch and a half thick on my life. They have told me they’ve already convicted me – they’re just trying to determine what kind of sentence to give me,” Kate replied, “So don’t ask me what I’ve done, Mom. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Kate, you are messing with the wrong group of people. They will hurt you, they will hurt me, they’ll hurt everyone you love and care about and they won’t stop until you do what they want,” Claire said.

“Mom, I can’t do what they want me to do. I can’t betray Kevin and his family. I won’t betray Father Daniels and the trust he’s put in me. I won’t do it,” Kate answered.

Her mother began crying again, “Kate, how could you? Don’t you care about me? Don’t you care about our family? What has Kevin done to you?”

“He showed me the truth, Mom. No matter how much they may want me to deny that there is truth, no matter how often they may want me to lie about the truth, there is no changing the truth. That’s what makes it true,” she said, sadly. “Someday, I hope you understand. I can’t back down from this fight. If I don’t stand up for what’s right, who will?”

Kate’s mother just started crying harder, and Kate had to close her own eyes to prevent herself from crying with her. She knew her mother didn’t understand, and there was nothing she could do about that except to continue praying for her conversion. “It’s because I love you that I have to do this, Mom,” she said softly.

Apparently, the Agents had decided they were getting nowhere with Kate and so they took Claire away. After about a half an hour, they came back into the room and cuffed Kate again, leading her out into the darkness. Kate wondered where she would find herself next.

Kate could feel the cold night air on her exposed skin and found herself shivering. She wished she’d had the presence of mind to grab her jacket when she was at home, but there was nothing she could do to change that now. She couldn’t even rub her arms to help keep herself warm. The men stopped in front of a small metal shed and unlocked the door. It was pitch black inside, darker even than where she was standing. Kate took a deep breath to calm herself as they shoved her forward into the darkness.

She landed hard on her side and it knocked the air out of her. She heard the sound of the metal door scraping closed and the lock re-engaging. The concrete floor was even colder than the air had been outside. She knew she was being punished for her refusal to give them the information. She tried sleeping but she was just so cold and she couldn’t stop her body from shaking. Finally, she gave up trying and stood up. It was awkward with the cuffs still on.

The absolute darkness was disorienting. She couldn’t tell which direction was closest to the door. It was worse than being blindfolded. She walked until her shoulder brushed up against a wall. Keeping her shoulder against the wall, she paced the perimeter hoping the movement would help keep her warm. She prayed as she walked, fighting through her chattering teeth to form the words.

She could feel her throat beginning to ache as she breathed the frigid air. She knew that her cheeks were flushing, and she was starting to get sick. She had no idea how long they would keep her here. She supposed as long as it took for them to feel like she was ready to do what they wanted. She wondered if they were doing the same thing to Kevin and his family.

Eventually, she was too tired to keep walking, and she tried laying down again, hoping at least to sleep for a while. She had no idea what time it was, and whether it was morning or still night. Her stomach grumbled loudly and she needed to go to the bathroom badly, but she pushed all of that out of her mind and tried to focus on the image of the monstrance. Pictures came to mind, the pictures of the men and women with doves and halos. One scene especially seemed to insist on being in the center of her attention. It was the scene with a man standing in the river with another man pouring water over his head. She had no idea why this one image kept coming to mind, but she stopped pushing it aside and allowed her mind to hold onto it instead.

She was just drifting off to sleep with she was awakened by a flashlight being shined in her face and the feel of two strong arms hauling her to her feet. There was no explanation, no greeting, and she had no idea where she was going to go next. “Please, I need to go to the bathroom,” she said through chattering teeth, but the men flanking her ignored her as they dragged her back to the conference room.

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