Nicole sat wearily in the backseat of a car driven by two NAP intelligence officers. From where she sat, it was obvious that her hometown had changed dramatically since the time she’d last walked through it as a free woman. Many of the storefronts that had added a sense of charming character to the downtown core were boarded-up and abandoned. There were checkpoints everywhere. It was a bright, sunny late summer’s day. The agents drove up to Frank Carragher’s home in Westsyde. The man and woman, their faces devoid of emotion, exited the car. The female agent opened the back door. Nicole got out of the car and took in her surroundings. It felt strange being back in civilization after a long hiatus. Carragher walked out onto the doorstep.
“Good evening,” Carragher said warmly. “You may go back now. I have it from here.”
“Sir, are you sure…” the male agent asked.
“It’s quite alright sergeant.” Carragher was impressed by the exquisite blouse and skirt that Nicole was wearing. “Please come inside, Nicole.”
A bit edgy, Nicole followed her host into the spacious, mansion-like home. It was gorgeous. He certainly had expensive tastes. A huge staircase went up to the second floor. Beautiful paintings that cost more than many working-class folks made in a year hung from the walls.
Carragher sensed her nervousness.
“Nicole, you don’t have to be afraid of me. Despite what many people say, I’m quite a friendly, approachable individual. As I said earlier, do as you’re told and there will be no problems.”
“Have you ever been married?” Nicole asked Carragher. She was trying to put on a good front.
“Once…a long time ago.”
“So was I. Hadn’t dated anybody until I met…” she missed Jake so much it pained her to even think of him. “Never mind. It’s all in the past. So, what are we doing this evening?”
“Dinner is being served in roughly an hour’s time. In the interim, we don’t we go sit in the living room?”
Nicole followed Carragher into the home’s large living room. Carragher walked over to the bar, which was stocked with at least thirty different types of liquors and spirits.
“Would you care for a drink?” Carragher asked.
“I most certainly would. Vodka and orange?”
“Coming right up.”
Carragher took down a quart of Smirnoff. He opened up the small refrigerator located underneath the bar and removed a container of orange juice. The district administrator then poured half vodka and half orange juice into a glass and stirred well. Next, he fixed a Scotch on the rocks for himself. Drinks in hand, Carragher sat down beside Nicole on a plush living room couch.
Nicole took her drink and carefully sipped. Every drop of the sharp-tasting alcoholic drink made her feel good. Although not generally a drinker, Nicole did occasionally like to imbibe.
“This is great, Mr. Carragher.”
“Happy that you like it. Nicole, I just want to establish one important thing before we go any further. Please call me Frank. Only my subordinates address me as Mr. Carragher. You’re neither one of them nor are you some skanky little tramp who’s only good for one thing.”
“So what exactly am I to you, Frank?”
Carragher studied the younger woman’s vivacious thighs and bare legs, becoming very aroused in the process.
“A very attractive, intelligent woman whom I can receive pleasure from and return pleasure to. Also, somebody with the brainpower to assist me in running this vast region. According to the reports I’ve read, you’re reformed and renounced all of your old ways.”
“I felt that it was time to possible choose a different path.” Nicole had an uncanny ability to play others like fools. “I just want to know what I can do to help the government.”
“Don’t worry about that now. I will ensure that your skills are used in the right area.” Carragher stroked Nicole’s leg and put his fingers through her hair. His advances made her feel nauseas, but it was all part of the game.
“Frank, when I am going to be allowed to see my daughter?”
“Patience,” he replied in a relaxed tone. It will happen soon enough.”
The group of rebels had been laying low since the last attack in Barriere. With the skies constantly abuzz with aircraft and UAVs, venturing out into the bush to collect and hunt food was particularly risky. Under a bright, starry sky, Mallory and Sarah Jane sat near the entrance to the abandoned mine. The daily apprehension and volatility of life in the mountains had begun to take its toll on each of them. Although Mallory felt that she was fighting for the right reasons, the young law student continued to worry somewhat about the two NAP troopers she had killed at the checkpoint as well as on the bridge. Sarah Jane was slowly becoming comfortable with the handling of firearms. The two close friends sat and talked in the refreshing night air.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time you and I have gotten together to talk in ages,” Sarah Jane stated. “It’s so quiet out here. Peaceful.”
“I just hope we can survive the incoming winter,” Mallory said. “It’s truly hard to believe how much this conflict has changed all of us. I’m definitely a different person now than I was a year ago. I’m more strong-willed. I hate to admit it, but I’ve become more callous as well.”
“It’s the only way to survive through this. Do you remember how we met?”
“How could I forget that day?” Mallory replied with an embarrassed smile. “I still can’t believe I actually got lost trying to find the classroom for Introduction to Canadian Law. If it hadn’t have been for you, I would have spent all day wandering around.”
Sarah Jane lay back beside Mallory on the ground, which was cushioned by a heavy blanket of pine needles.
“There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t think about the way things were and how they will never be that way again,” Sarah Jane said sadly. “It crushes me to say this, but I won’t be shocked if my family didn’t survive this fiery ordeal. I just hope I get to find out sooner rather than later. Although I’d love to get back to Vancouver, I don’t realistically expect it to happen anytime soon.”
“I wonder what every one of us is going to do once this conflict is over. I personally cannot wait to see every one of those traitorous politicians, bankers and bureaucrats who plotted to destroy Canada and the United States swinging from lampposts.”
“It’s impossible to say exactly what will happen,” Sarah Jane stated. “I know one thing though; we simply aren’t, at least not right away, going to be able to resume our studies, enter law careers and make millions of dollars.”
“Sad but true. I’m just trying to take each day at a time Sarah Jane. It gets too hard on the head worrying about the future. I’ve just been thankful to God for getting me through all of this.”
“I can’t blindly believe that an all-powerful supreme being controls this planet as well as the destinies of seven billion human beings. You’d have to provide me with substantial evidence that God exists. But I understand where you’re coming from. There’s probably a higher power out there in the galaxy somewhere.”