I always look forward to my weekends—especially Saturdays. They’re usually so relaxing. If I’m not spending the day with John, I usually hang out with Emily or I curl up on my bed with a really good book—sometimes I’ll even read a not-so-good book.Readingis another one of my passionate indulgences. Like photography and writing, it’s a great escape for me—and right now, I could really use an escape.
This first week atColombianaHigh Schoolwas … interesting.
Ah, who am I kidding? It sucked! Plain and simple.
It’s not so much the other students’ attitudes towards me, but the things they say about John. That’s what upsets me the most. I try not to let it bother me so much. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not.
I slowly roll out of bed taking the soft cotton sheets and duvet with me. Although the comfort of the bed is enticing me to stay, I resist and stand at the window in my room. The sky is clear outside and a light snowfall has left the ground moist with small patches of snow here and there. The wind seems to be calm, and it doesn’t appear to be too cold outside. Through the bare tree that stands outside my window, I notice the streets are fairly empty: only two cars and a black SUV in sight. I can also see the playground off in the distance. During the spring and summer, the playground is full of kids. Now in the winter, it sits empty and quiet.
One of my favorite places to read!
Usually I make my bed right after I get up, but not today. I throw my sheets and duvet back on the bed and leave them as-is right where they land. I change clothes, pick out one of my favorite books, grab a camera and a bag, and head downstairs to get something to eat before I go out.
Halfway down the stairs, I hear voices coming from the kitchen: my mom’s, my dad’s, Gloria’s, and….
Hecht. What is he doing here?
I slowly—and quietly—make my way down the rest of the stairs. I slide past the kitchen door unnoticed and put my bag down on the couch in the living room.
I notice the news on the TV; it seizes my complete attention when I hear the anchorwoman say, “…possibly linked to the terrorists Henri and John Smith and Sam Goode.”
I slowly sit in utter disbelief, my mouth gaping open.
What is going on? What happened?
As if hearing my thoughts, the anchorwoman proceeds to tell the story again:
Yesterday just outside of Jamestown, Tennessee, two police helicopters were apparently shot down and destroyed. Fortunately, both pilots and others on board miraculously survived the crash. Local law enforcement officials have stated the individuals responsible were 2 male teenagers and 1 female teenager. The 2 male teenagers were later identified as John Smith and Sam Goode—pictures of them flash on the screen—which are already wanted by the FBI for terrorism for the destruction of Paradise High in Ohio. They are also wanted in connection with the 5 deaths linked to that event.
The teens were pulled over by local police on a routine traffic stop yesterday. After being identified, the teens abandoned the stolen vehicle and fled the scene. Law enforcement chased the suspects on foot through the woods. No weapons were found, but several law enforcement personnel were injured in the chase. These individuals are to be considered armed and dangerous….
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. All this can’t be happening. Although the anchorwoman continues on, I tune her out when I hear the voices in the kitchen get louder.
“Because of the events yesterday,” I overhear Hecht saying, “their wanted level has drastically increased.”
“So what does that mean?” I hear someone ask, I think it was my mom.
“For one, it means the reward for them has gone up,” Hecht says. “And two, now they are wanted … dead or alive.”
My breath catches in my throat as I gasp, letting out a short but loud yelp. I quickly bring my hands to my mouth, hopefully covering anymore screams of disbelief that try to emerge.
Dead or alive … that can’t be!
As I sit motionless and in stunned silence, I hear the voices get quiet in the kitchen. The sound of a chair slides back from the table and someone walks into the living room. My eyes are still locked on John’s picture on the screen. The person who walked in approaches slowly around the couch and sits down next to me. She gently lays a hand on my back.
“Are you okay, Sarah?” asks Gloria, in a concerned and quiet tone.
With my eyes still looking at John’s picture, I say, “Dead—“I swallow what feels like a golf ball in my throat”—or alive, Gloria. How can that be?” Tears form at the corners of my eyes.
“Listen Sarah, they will do everything they can to try and capture John alive. There’s too much information that they want to even consider—” her voice falters momentarily “—to consider the alternative.”
“But it is an option,” I look directly into her eyes, tears running down my cheeks, “isn’t it?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Her eyes confirm the truth.
I let my face fall into my hands as I sob uncontrollably.
First, the Mogs want to kill John. And now, the FBI wants to.
As the sobbing continues, Gloria pulls me towards her with an arm around my shoulder, comforting me.
“Agent Ducei,” bellows Hecht from the kitchen door.
I can feel Gloria make a gesture with her other hand as if saying, not now! After a couple seconds, I hear Hecht retreat back to the kitchen, huffing something under his breath.
I hear Gloria say in a barely audible tone, “I really don’t like him sometimes.”
This manages to bring a stifled laugh through my now-slowed sobbing.
“Sometimes?” I ask, a faint smile creeping across my face.
Gloria gives a half-smile. “Most of the time, I don’t let him get to me. But sometimes….” she pauses.
“Yeah, I know the feeling.”
We sit in silence. I try to rationalize the thought in my head: The Mogs have been trying to kill John this whole time and it doesn’t affect me as much as knowing that the FBI is now free to kill him. With everything that is now going on, they may actually do it. If John gets confronted, I know he’s going to try and escape. His resistance could lead to….
“Everything is going to be fine, Sarah.” Gloria’s voice breaks my train of thought. “It’s a rare occurrence if they ever have to resort to actually….” her words hang in the air as if she doesn’t want to say it. She shifts her position to face me. “Sarah, they will do everything they can to bring him in alive. The only reason they would consider the alternative is if John poses a threat to them or any civilians.”
“Well, they already consider him a terrorist,” I snap back, not realizing my tone sounds harsh. I take a deep breath. “I mean, isn’t that bad enough?”
“Yes, it is bad, but they also want answers and any information they can get from him.” Her tone sounds honest and reassuring. “Believe me; they’re going to want to ask him a lot of questions. They want him alive.”
“Does Hecht want him alive?” I ask, the harsh tone resurfacing once again.
“That … I honestly can’t answer. I’m sorry.”
Hecht walks in the room. “Agent Ducei, can I see you in the kitchen?” he asks, but it sounds more like an order.
Gloria gives me a pat and a squeeze on my knee as she gets up. After she’s in the kitchen, I hear them talking quietly. I can’t make out what they’re saying. I continue to watch the news on the TV. They’re still talking about John and Sam. Now they’re adding in “an unidentified female teenage accomplice.”
“What is six?” asks Hecht.
His voice startles me. I turn around to see him standing in the doorway. I’m at a loss for words. How did he know what I was thinking?
“It sounded like you said ‘That’s six.’” He stares at me. No, he stares through me waiting for me to answer.
Evidently I said that out loud and didn’t realize it. “I said ‘That stinks.’” I lie. I look back at the TV. “This whole thing stinks! John is NOT a terrorist! He isn’t out to hurt anyone! Why can’t you realize that?”
My emotions begin to swell up. I didn’t mean to go on like that, but once I started I couldn’t stop. And now, the tears begin to fall again. I get up to go to my room to calm down but Hecht stops me.
“Come in here,” he says, gesturing towards the kitchen. “We need to talk.”
The next two hours feel like a reenactment of my interrogation the first day. But this time, my parents and Gloria are present and I’m given the luxury of sitting in my own kitchen.
First, Hecht asks me the same questions he did the first time around. If the questions weren’t the same word-for-word, they were similar but just worded differently. Of course, I gave the same exact answers.
Second, he begins drilling me about Mark. He asks about our past together—like that has anything to do with all this. I tell him the truth; there’s nothing to hide concerning that.
Next, he asks about school. He doesn’t want to even know what I have to say about that! But I voice my thoughts; I really go off on him about Agent Tatum and the things I had to put up with him.
“That’s irrelevant, Miss Hart.” He dismisses it like it’s nothing. “What else?”
I tell him very little else about school. The student’s attitude towards me wouldn’t make any difference to Hecht.
“Have you noticed any strange individuals following you around town or at school?” he asks.
“Well, isn’t that your job to notice that kind of thing?” My disdain is clearly exhibited.
Hecht gives me a distasteful look and waits.
In the silence, I remember the man in black with the baseball cap. “No Agent Hecht.” I cross my arms on my chest. “I have not,” I lie, again.
Next, he tells me (and my parents) the importance of surveillance around town. If we see anything or anyone out of the ordinary, we should report it. If we feel in danger, we need to tell him. If we’re approached by anyone other than FBI personnel … blah, blah, blah….
Okay, we get it, move on.
He tells me—with a self-satisfying smile—that security will increase around here. Gloria will stay at the house now instead of in town. This way she can be closer to me in case anything should happen. I don’t mind Gloria staying here; that will actually make it easier on her.
Finally, he explains the “dead-or-alive” situation. To my surprise, he says what Gloria told me: They do want John alive.
“But if he gets hostile,” Hecht says sternly, “we will subdue him by any means necessary.”
By any means necessary!
These words jog my memory. I remember the drive home after John left that morning almost two weeks ago. Mark said we need to help keep John alive … “by any means necessary.” That is the most important thing right now: Putting everything else aside to do whatever we can to keep John alive. I can’t do anything about the Mogs wanting to kill John. But, maybe I can do something about the FBI having to do it.
“Sarah.” My mom’s voice and her touch on my arm interrupt my thoughts.
“What?” I ask in a haphazard daze. I missed everything else Hecht had said.
Hecht cuts his eyes at me and wraps up his speech. He mentions the severity of the situation and the danger we could be in. He takes Gloria into the living room and talks to her privately. My parents and I sit quietly at the kitchen table. Both of them have worried looks on their faces.
My dad slowly shakes his head. “I had a feeling that boy might be trouble. John Smith—“
“Dad, please!” I cut in abruptly. “Don’t start with that!” I stand up so fast, the chair flips onto its back. “You have no idea—“ I stop myself from saying anymore. I storm out of the kitchen, grab my bag from the couch—walking right between Hecht and Gloria, and not caring—and walk out the front door.
I know what my dad was going to say, and I didn’t want to hear it. They may not know the truth about John, but I would at least hope they would support me and not turn on him. Both of them! I thought they really liked John, but because of everything that’s happened and the apparent influence the FBI has over them, I think they are beginning to believe he is a terrorist. I’m losing any support I have.
The late afternoon air is clear and crisp but not too cold. The snow patches on the ground I saw earlier this morning have melted away. All that remains are puddles. My hopes feel like they’re melting away too….
No Sarah! You will not lose hope. You will get through this. And you will find a way to keep John alive … keep him safe! You have to!