Part II of “Annie’s Interrogation“
“Daddy, why isn’t Mummy coming to meet us?”
“Mummy and Andrew were too badly hurt to come with us.”
“What about Puffball?”
“He stayed to protect Mummy and Andrew.”
“Why didn’t we stay with them?”
“Because our house is gone and it isn’t safe anymore.”
“Are Mummy and Andrew at the hospital? Can we go visit them, like we visited Great-Granddad?”
“No, we can’t go visit them.”
Annie was awakened by the sound of a door opening. Across the corridor, Corporal and Private Nott shoved a gangly boy into the cell facing hers, tossing him a water bottle and snapping a photo of him, just as they had for her three days earlier. Private Nott had a few more choice words for the boy as Corporal marched away and was replaced by another soldier. Annie shuddered as the woman went on about being respectful and law-abiding and how she knew so many good people who suffered because of resistance acts. Nott had already ranted about the same thing at her and the three other students who must have been in cells adjacent to Annie’s, since she couldn’t see them herself. Which of her classmates were they?
For the past three days, Annie had been ritually dragged out before Commander and Corporal for further questioning. It had been a repeat performance of her keeping her mouth shut while they tried various ways to get her to say something. Luckily, the third soldier with his eager pants had been nowhere to be seen. Commander must have realised not to bother with that threat when all of the prisoners were minors. After each session, Annie had been thrown back into her cell, given a new water bottle, and had her photo taken.
The one thing that Private Nott had been good for was as a shield. While she couldn’t hide Annie from the camera in her cell, she always stood in front of Annie while the latter relieved herself into the drain in the corner, concealing her from any guards, including herself. Annie figured that she did the same for the other prisoners. The older woman also constantly kept an eye on their toilet paper supply – each cell was supposed to have precisely one roll. It was thin and rough paper, but at least Annie did not need to soil her clothes.
After her rant, Nott turned her attention to the newly-arrived soldier who was supposed to be standing guard with her. While she was a strict disciplinarian with the prisoners, she went all gooey and sweet with soldiers. She asked him whether he was new to the facility, and when he seemed to answer in the affirmative (the man was very quiet), she acted as though she were a hostess showing her guest around. Annie could not help but roll her eyes.
As the guards moved down the corridor, Annie could finally turn her attention to the boy. He was hard to identify until he looked up at her, at which point, Annie’s eyes widened and she squeezed her hands over her mouth to muffle her gasp.
Nicky?! What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here – your class wasn’t on a mission. You’re only in Grade 9!
Nicky winked at her. Glancing in the direction of the soldiers, he gestured to the cross around his neck. It was not his style – Nicky was a country boy, not really into the gangster music scene with the big flashy necklaces. The smaller, plain cross that slid under his shirt was more in character for him. But then Nicky gestured to his eyes.
It’s a camera?
Annie imitated the gesture.
Nicky pointed at her, then at his ears, then at his smaller cross – identical to hers. Annie nodded and winked back at him. Then the two shuffled back from their doors to sit quietly in the middle of their cells.
“So they stuck you on guard duty, huh?” Private Nott asked the new soldier, as the two of them made their way back toward Annie and Nicky. The new soldier stopped just out of view of Annie, so only the woman was visible to her.
Her “huh” is funny. It almost sounds like “ha”, like she’s emphasising it too much.
The new soldier must have nodded, because the woman went on.
“We’ve got five prisoners in this wing. All dumb kids with ties to the resistance, though I doubt they actually have any ties to the resistance. They’re probably just making mischief. What the Hell loyalty would they have to a country they can barely remember, if at all? Probably found some maple leaf crap somewhere for cheap and thought it would be fun to go out and blow up train tracks.”
Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, lady.
“Do you have kids?” the woman continued. If her comrade was responding, Annie could not hear him. In fairness, Nott was barely giving him a chance.
“As in three kids, or a three-year-old?”
Nicky held up three fingers, obviously trying to help Annie follow the conversation. The man must have done the same to Nott.
“Whatever, same thing. I’m sure you’d do anything for them, right?”
“’Course.” This time, Annie heard a quick answer.
“I just can’t imagine how these kids think this is a good idea. No respect! My kids know right from wrong and would never do anything against the law. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. Tough! The law is the law.”
Where are your kids? You’ve been here the past four days. I’ve never seen you leave.
“Lots of kids lost their parents in the war,” the new soldier pointed out, his voice a low growl. “Maybe they aren’t as lucky to have a mother like you.”
“Still, that’s no excuse not to learn respect! My kids are half their age and know better.” She then continued to tell anecdotes about her daughter and son.
Funny, she asked him whether he had any kids, but didn’t even ask any more questions. You would think she would try to build a rapport with him, not just rant and brag.
When she was done talking about her kids, Nott decided to change the topic slightly.
“Did you fight in the war? Or are you a new arrival? How many tours of duty have you done?”
The man must have nodded again.
“My husband fought in the war too. He stayed on after his second tour when he met me!” She giggled flirtatiously.
Aha! So you’re not one of the invaders. Who’s the traitor now?
“I figure that’s what everyone should do. Stop fighting and move on! It’s over!”
Bit ironic, since fighting is what soldiers do. If you don’t want to be a soldier, why are you here? Go home and keep ramming that respect into your brats. Let your great American husband sex you up!
The man mostly kept silent. Private Nott kept prattling on about nonsense and it was clear to Annie that Commander must have exiled her to their corridor so that he would rarely have to listen to her. To be fair, she was not giving away any secrets. What did it matter that five teenagers were annoyed listening to her gossip about her private life? Maybe that was part of the strategy to get them to talk.
Nicky suddenly got Annie’s attention by rhythmically tapping on the padded floor. To the camera, it just looked like he was passing the time. However, he was playing a code. Annie recognised it as “be ready.”
Be ready? Ready for what?
He must have caught her quizzical look, not to mention whether any of the other three students could see or hear him, because he gestured with his head toward the guards.
To Annie’s surprise, Private Nott suddenly collapsed onto the floor, her voice knocked out by a well-placed punch to the throat. Her head hit the concrete with an audible crack and she lay motionless as the man handcuffed her and tied a blindfold around her head. Grabbing her weapons, he let out a string of French curses at her. Annie wondered how long he had been coming up with them while he listened, because they sounded rehearsed.
Still translating the curses in her head, Annie realised that the soldier was now unlocking all of the cell doors, starting with the cell next to her, moving back to Nicky, and then to her. It was only then that she recognised the man as her uncle. He winked at her as he ushered her toward the end of the corridor as he opened the remaining two cells.
As the group hurriedly made their way past empty rooms, they were met by two more soldiers. Instead of stopping them, these soldiers handed them weapons and extra ammunition. Annie was relieved to get her pink handgun back.
“It’s not stealing when it was ours in the first place,” the soldier handing it to her whispered. “Don’t tell me how many bullets you had on you. However many boxes I hand you is how many they took, okay?”
The five students and three soldiers soon arrived at a side door. It was so old that it splintered into several pieces when kicked. Evidently, this wing of the building had not been remodeled.
“This was mental hospital – over a hundred years old,” her uncle explained. “Rule number one of making a prison – make sure all exits are sealed. But thank God for their arrogance, eh?”
Another soldier was waiting with a prison van outside the door, but they too were in disguise.
“Switch!” the driver called out. One of the soldiers hopped into the driver’s seat while the driver took her place loading the five students into the back.
“Phil, get in the front with Kerry,” the first driver ordered. “Kayley and I will deal with the kids.”
Once safely in the van, the first driver pulled her mask off to reveal herself as Nicky’s mother, Leanna. She smiled at her son, whispering that she was proud of him. His being captured had evidently been part of their plan.
“Now, Kayley, let’s get to work on these bracelets and anklets. We’ve got to get them disabled! Kids, your crosses!”
All five of them turned the recording and tracking devices off. Nicky fiddled with his bejewelled camera cross, but managed to find the off switch.
“Hard to remember which sparkly bit it was.”
The two women managed to disable and partially remove all of the bracelets and anklets while speeding down the road in semi-darkness.
“Are we going all the way back to Frozen Lakes now?” one of the students asked.
“Eventually,” Leanna explained, flinging the boy’s anklet into the middle of the floor. “There, that’s the last one!”
“We’d be stealing a military van. No point in having them chase us all the way. We’re gonna switch out soon,” Kayley added.
“Nicky and Annie-Penny, you come with me. Autumn, you go with Kayley. Simon and Henry, you go with Kerry.”
In a grove of trees with an abandoned farmhouse, three cars and drivers were waiting when the van pulled in.
“Take everything! Let’s go!”
Everyone divided up to ride in the cars.
“Daddy!” Annie cried, giving her father a hug.
“Hi, sweetie!” He had tears in his eyes. “I’m glad you’re okay. Now, let’s get in the car and go home!”
Annie and Nicky settled themselves into the back seat while Phil and Leanna tossed their uniforms into the trunk.
“Meet you at the first rendezvous point!” Kerry called out as she slid into the passenger seat of her car. “Keep in contact, preferably visual!”
Annie’s father and the other driver agreed.
“All right, everyone ready?”
“Other than being slightly underdressed, yep! We’re all buckled in.” Leanna was only wearing leggings and a light cotton shirt.
“Weapons at the ready!” Phil added. “But hopefully, we won’t need them.”
“Kerry and Kayley made sure to rescue Mama Anna’s pink handgun,” Annie chimed in. “I’m sorry I almost lost it.”
“She gave it to you to use, so she wouldn’t mind,” her father added, thinking of his second wife. “You weren’t careless. Your group got overpowered. You’ll know for next time!”
Annie finally had a chance to look at the surrounding countryside.
“Where are we?”
“About eleven and a half hours from Frozen Lakes! They took you kids a long way.”
“Thanks for coming for us.”
“We’re family, of course we’d come for you! You’re our kids! Our Frozen Lakes kids!” Leanna gave her a hug. “We’re very proud of you.”
“I didn’t tell them anything!”
“Nope, neither did the others. We could hear your crosses sometimes. Nothing but shouting soldiers and the occasional sarcastic response from one of you kids. That must be why Simon has a black eye and Henry’s got a broken nose.”
“I’m sorry to have caused trouble.”
“No trouble! But the Canuck Pirates probably won’t be doing any gigs this far south for awhile! I think we might get recognised. We’ll stick to the northern route.”
“Speaking of which, let’s practice,” Phil suggested. “Start us with a song, Annie!”