Siofra sat up straight at the sound of gunshots and shouting. Afraid to move- let alone breathe, she cowered in her bed, inching backwards until her head hit the headboard. After gathering her courage, she sat up and threw the covers off of her head. Darkness cloaked her eyes and obscured the world around her. There was a sharp stinging and the clear droplets filling her eyes hindered her vision as her nose burned. She saw movement, then strong arms snatched her up and wrapped her inside the blanket from her bed. The kidnapper fled as he pressed the cloth against her nose and mouth, making it hard for her to breathe. She tried to fight, but she was only a small framed nine-years-old girl. They were big, strong, and wore heavy clothing, gloves, and a gas-mask.
As the person ran she heard a muffled voice tell her, “Keep the blanket over your face. It’ll help with the burning.”
She complied, hoping they wouldn’t hurt her. There wasn’t much else she could do.
A few seconds later the voice yelled, “I have a child here!” and she felt a
second set of hands on her as they raced together out the front door of the manor house.
After what felt like an eternity of torture, the blanket was ripped off of her. Someone poured milk on her face while someone else rinsed her hair out with water. She was then wrapped in a different, much scratchier blanket. She quivered, terrified, and her eyes and nose still burned, as a man in a police uniform picked her up and carried her to a police car.
“We tried to wash off as much of the tear gas as we could,” she heard the man say, as a woman in a police uniform took her from him. “The clothes she has on her are covered in chemicals, so she’ll need some new ones.”
The woman held Siofra, rubbing her back and arms, snuggling her and trying to soothe her.
“It’s going to be ok Love. You’re safe and it’s over now,” she gently cooed in a strong Irish brogue. Siofra was too scared to move so she sat and quietly cried. “Oh… what’s yer name love?” The officer asked, trying to pin Siofra’s golden curls back, away from her face.
“Sh, She, Shee, fr, rah, Sheefrah” She managed to say between sobs, teeth chattering. Her overlarge blue eyes stared tearfully up at the small woman. The glow of the searchlights illuminated the two of them, revealing that the officer had kind blue eyes and straight strawberry blonde hair, which was tied tightly back under a police cap.
“Well, Siofra, Love, I’m going to get you somewhere safe and warm so you can get washed off. I promise.”
Siofra smiled meekly and snuggled into the woman’s warm arms. She was grateful for her kindness.
A few minutes later she heard her little eight-year-old servant, Gilroy, crying loudly. His bright red hair was soaked and sticking to his forehead, and his face was nearly as red as his hair. The same officer came over carrying him and said. “I’ve got another one. I’d like to know just how many kids there are in there.”
Now that Siofra was warm and a little safer, she found her voice. As weak and afraid as she felt, she was Gilroy’s mistress, and it was her duty to care for him, and the other servants - whether she wanted to or not. She hesitantly took on her role, timidly answering. “It… it should just be Gilroy... and me... in the big house.” The woman smiled kindly at her and Siofra mustered up the strength to continue. “Father doesn’t let the other children stay in the big house,” she explained, suddenly feeling guilty. But for what? She asked herself. For not being big enough, strong enough… brave enough. She felt so small and scared.
“What about the littler house?” the officer asked.
“I… I don’t know. Gilroy? Do… do you know how many children are in the little house?”
Gilroy stared at her, terrified, but didn’t answer.
“It’s okay Gilroy,” she said, trying to comfort herself as much as him. “You don’t have to know.”
Gilroy nodded and shrank down as small as he could make himself in the man’s arms.
“I… I know Abby is in there… She’s only ten. Father let me play with her once. She just arrived.”
There was a long silence before the man nervously suggested: “We probably shouldn’t put these two in with the other kids.”
The woman holding her nodded with a worried expression and held out her arm. The man set Gilroy down next to Siofra and they took each other’s hand, finding comfort in each other’s presence.
They waited for what felt like hours, shivering and watching as everyone they knew and loved was arrested. Some of them fought and others were brought out on stretchers. The woman asked four or five times if they could please leave. Finally a big man with a shock of greying red hair gave her permission.
He wore a dark uniform with gold stripes, brass buttons, and a shiny cap with a gold star. The man seemed angry that they were still there, but he softened and addressed Siofra and Gilroy.
“I am so sorry, loves. You were supposed to leave over an hour ago,” he said, smoothing both of their now crusty, but mostly dry hair. “Officer McConnell has been trying to take you two someplace warm. Unfortunately there was a huge miscommunication. She’ll get you showered and fed in no time, I promise.” He stomped off in a huff, Siofra figured probably to give whoever kept them from leaving a good talking to.
Officer McConnell brought Siofra and Gilroy to the police station. There they were given a warm shower, clean clothes and a cup of watered down tea with lots of cream. with a smile the officer told them, “You can call me Miss Brigid,” and finally learned Gilroy’s name.
As she went about comforting and caring for them, Brigid would ask them questions about Jupiter, Siofra’s father. Siofra was eager to tell anything she knew but there wasn’t much she could tell. Jupiter had kept his business affairs a secret from her. “I know that Father is Welsh and of high birth - but he has to talk to uncle Apollo about money. Apollo controls all the family money, in Britain. Father has to ask him for money, and not do anything bad, or father is... cut off? Father keeps his secrets, erm, tight to his chest,” she smiled, trying to use grown-up phrases.
“What about the girls living with you?” Brigid asked.
Siofra shrugged. “The girls came to stay with us because Britain is at war with Germany. Father said that they had to run away from the war. A bunch have gone home already.”
“How many are there?” Brigid enquired, pouring Siofra more tea.
Siofra turned to her young servant, who had been quietly nudging her and pulling on her arm. “Do you know, Girloy?”
The boy’s only reply was a fearful look, before he shook his head, his face a mask of fear as he began to cry.
“It’s OK, Gilroy,” Brigid soothed, reaching over and rubbing his small shoulders. “Enough with the questions, ey? Come on, let’s go play a game.”
Periodically Brigid would ask Gilroy a question as she played with them. As Gilroy always reacted with fear and silence though, she would comfort him and go back to playing. The other officers around them went about their business. Every so often they would smile kindly at them, but otherwise ignored them.