Annie paced across the guest room Anna had provided her. Right now, Anna was making the necessary arrangements for Annie and Cameron’s departure to New York City. She was gathering clothing and traveling papers for both Cameron and Annie. She had also secured housing for Annie. It had been decided that she would reside at the boardinghouse where Cameron resided. It was run by Amos and Mary Underhill. As her cover, they had decided that Amos and Mary would claim that Annie was a distant relative from Massachusetts. After her brother joined the British Army, Annie decided that she would be safer in New York.
All in all her cover and circumstances were solid. That was not the issue that was keeping her from sleep. For the first time since this journey began, Annie was questioning her decision to stay here instead of going back home. Truthfully, Annie’s blood had run cold when Cameron told her code-name: Agent 355. Every American History scholar knew what had happened to Agent 355. She had been captured and died aboard the British prison ship Jersey. For the first time Annie considered her own mortality.
She had been able to keep herself from crying in front of Cameron. She knew if she had shed the tears that welled up in her eyes he would have many questions, questions that she could not answer. She also knew if Cameron knew the fate of Agent 355 he would forbid her from helping and send her back to 2015. That outcome could be disastrous, namely because the information that Agent 355 had uncovered was imperative to the American’s success, and therefore it’s future.
So, for the time being, Annie had kept her emotions in check. It was only after Cameron had showed her to her room and said goodnight that Annie had allowed her emotional walls to crumble. She had spent over an hour crying into her pillow, muffling her sobs of anguish, fear, and exhaustion. She had hoped, once her emotional reserves were spent, that she would fall asleep. Unfortunately, sleep did not come. It was then that Annie had gotten out of bed and begun her pacing. That was an hour ago.
Annie abandoned her pacing and went and sat on the edge of the bed. She slid her satchel from underneath the bed where she had placed it when they came in. Annie surveyed the contents of her bag for the first time since she and Cameron had snuck up to the attic and left her world behind. She knew the letters were in there. She glanced at the next letter in the stack. It was dated August 19, 1780. Placing those to the side she pulled out her clothing and set it on the bed. Her phone, ear buds, a solar charger, first aid kit, and a bottle of ibuprofen followed. Annie was surprised but grateful that she solar charger was in the bag. It had been a gift from an ex-boyfriend. He had been a survivalist nut and wanted Annie to be prepared for the inevitable and imminent end of the world. She had rolled her eyes at his apocalyptic predictions, but she had to admit that the phone charger had come in handy. The last three things she pulled from the bag were her tablet, grandmother’s jewel case, and a 9mm Glock that her grandfather had kept around for protection. She had grabbed several clips of ammunition for the gun. She sincerely hoped she would not need it, but she figured better safe than sorry. The jewel case had been an insurance policy, just in case she needed money. She was loathe to part with any of the jewels, but she would do what had to be done.
She placed all of the items except her phone and ear buds back in the bag. She glanced at her phone and saw that its battery was still half charged. Maybe listening to some music would help. Annie plugged in her ear buds then turned on a playlist and laid down. She hid her phone under her pillow and closed her eyes. Despite the relaxing sounds of the music, her mind refused to rest. Instead she felt fresh tears well up. She turned her head to the pillow and cried once again. The sounds of her sobs were drowned out by the haunting melody of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
Cameron shifted positions on the bed for the third time in the last quarter hour. He was exhausted both physically and mentally. Sleep should have come easily, but it had not. He had shown Annie to her room three hours ago. He had wanted to talk, but the dark circles under her eyes had deterred him. She was worn out and her situation was only going to become more stressful and exhausting than it was now. She needed her rest, so he reluctantly left her despite the questions he had.
He had noticed how she had reacted when he told her she was a part of the ring. At first he felt her body leap. But when he had mentioned her code name she had tensed for only a moment, but it was long enough for him to notice. When he stepped away he briefly saw tears shimmering in her eyes. Those quickly disappeared as well. She had been virtually silent the rest of the night, speaking only when spoken to and even then she gave as brief a response as possible. He had originally blamed it on her exhaustion, but now he was not so sure. Annie did know things that no one else in his time could possibly know. He wondered if some secret knowledge she had was distressing her; if something he had said had brought forth that distress.
On top of his worry for Annie were the conflicting emotions he was feeling towards her. He had not known her for long, but the feelings he held for her were strong to say the least. They had grown beyond gratefulness for her help to something stronger. He worried about her. Actually worried about more than just her safety. He cared about not just her physical, but emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, he actually trusted her. He had not trusted a woman, at least one outside of his family, since Chloe had betrayed him nearly two years ago. Unbidden, the ugly memory of her betrayal flashed in his head. He pushed it out. It was something that he had no desire to relive.
Cameron gave up hope of sleeping. He threw the bed covers off him and pulled on his clothes. Perhaps a book from the library would bring his mind some peace. He left his room and walked down the hall, pausing at Annie’s door. He listened for any hint of sound, but heard nothing. Walk away Cameron. She’s sleeping, just walk away now while you still can he said to himself. He ignored the warning. He just wanted to peek in and make sure she was fine. He opened the door and glanced at her bed. She was lying on her stomach, her head buried in the pillow, her shoulder’s heaving. Cameron stepped further into the room until he was standing next to her bed. It was then that he heard her soft sobs, muffled by the pillow. He told himself that he should just walk away and leave her to grieve privately. His heart refused to listen to his mind. Carefully, so as not to startle her, he sat down next to her on the bed and whispered her name. She did not respond. He tried again, still she did not respond. Perhaps she was having a nightmare. Softly, he placed his hand on her back and shook her gently. She responded quickly, rolling to her back and staring at him with frightened, tear stained eyes.
Annie started when she felt a hand upon her back. Swiftly she rolled to her back, preparing to attack the intruder. She was surprised to see Cameron sitting on her bed. Pushing herself to a sitting position, Annie removed her ear buds and rubbed the tears from her eyes; not that that last action mattered. She knew her skin was splotchy from the seemingly unending sobs that had racked her body all night.
“I’m sorry Annie. I just wanted to check and make sure you were all right,” Cameron whispered, his tone conciliatory
“It’s okay. I’m fine, just having a hard time sleeping,” Annie replied.
“You do not have to lie to me Annie, something is obviously wrong. What is it?”
Annie stared up at him. Her soul clamored to tell him the truth, but her mind warned her not to blow her cover. “It’s nothing. This change is just a really big shock for me. But I’ll get over it.”
Cameron was not fooled by her half-hearted explanation for one minute. One of the things that made him a very effective informant was his ability to tell when someone was lying. “Annie that is not what is plaguing you. Please, tell me the truth so that I can help you.”
“Cameron, please. The truth will only distress you,” Annie whispered. “This burden is mine to bear alone.”
“Dammit Annie! I cannot help you if you do not tell me what is wrong!” His exclamation was a harsh, emotional whisper. Annie continued to stare at him. He could see her inner battle reflected in her eyes. Finally he saw her face give in, her body slumping, a physical sign of defeat.
“I know what happens to me,” she murmured.
“What do you mean?”
“I know what happens to Agent 355. Every American History scholar knows. I must say, it is not a pleasant end.” Annie’s eyes filled with fresh tears at her declaration. She had uttered the words that she had been dreading all night out loud. Cameron seemed to understand the meaning. He pulled her up from the bed to him. Annie resisted for a moment, but eventually gave in to the need to be comforted. She buried her head in his chest and sobbed. Cameron held her for an eternity, rubbing her back in soothing circles while she drenched his shirt with her tears. Long minutes later Annie pulled back, her body finally dried out.
“I’m sorry. I don’t usually cry like that,” Annie whispered.
“No apology is necessary. We all have a limit. I knew this was going to be difficult for you. Your knowledge is both a gift and a curse. It is a gift to us but can be a curse to you. I have a feeling it is not easy knowing what is going to happen to you.”
“I know. I should have anticipated this. But in all honesty it never occurred to me that I would be a major figure in history.”
“Would you like to talk about it?” Cameron could see the refusal written all over Annie’s face. “I promise I will not say a word to anyone. This will remain between you and me.”
Annie sighed, “Okay. I guess you’ll find out soon enough anyways.” With that, Annie told him the tale of Agent 355. She told him about her role in helping to uncover a traitor, her supposed involvement with Robert Townsend, and finally her capture and death upon the British prison ship Jersey. The one detail she kept from him was evidence of his emotional involvement with Agent 355. “No one discovered her true name, but her contributions and demise are well known, at least among the academic world. When you told me my code name, my blood ran cold. I knew then that I would not be returning home, that I’m living on borrowed time.”
“Annie, you could go back home. I am sure there are other ways, other people, who could play this role,” Cameron stated, even though the thought of never seeing her again saddened him. But if he sent her back now, at least he would know she was alive. That thought made him think of the intruder that forced them to leave a night ago.
“No. This is my role. I have to do this. You’ve read the letters. It has been delegated to me,” Annie said adamantly
“Well, let’s think about this objectively then. You said that this Agent 355 that historians speak of was never really identified and that historians suspect she died aboard a British ship. Was any proof of this ever uncovered?”
“No, at least not yet.”
“Then this could all be an educated guess,” his words were a statement, not a question.
“I suppose so,” Annie replied. Her heart lightened at the idea that perhaps history was wrong.
Cameron felt her mood lighten. He had given her hope. “Annie, I promise that I will protect you, that no harm will befall you.” His tone was fervent and tender. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Good. Then trust that I will protect you.”
“Feel better now?”
“Good. Now get some sleep. You are about to face a monumental challenge. You need your rest.”
“Okay,” Annie replied. “Goodnight Cameron.”
Cameron placed his hands on each side of Annie’s face, pulling it towards him. He gave her a soft kiss. “Goodnight Annie, sleep well.” With that he stood up and left the room.