Authors: Eric Walters
“The time you were detained?”
“Sort of another time we were here,” he answered reluctantly.
“How many times have you been here?”
“Just three times,” Jack said. “And the first two times were by accident.”
“We wouldn't have come again at all if we hadn't seen those men on the bridge,” I blurted out.
“Men on the bridge?”
“They were all dressed in black, and they had wires, and we thought they were trying to blow up the bridge,” I tried to explain.
“Oh my Lord,” he said as he rose to his feet. “You saw people on the bridge.”
“And then we heard them speaking German when they
were captured, or I guess not really captured, by the men in the jeep,” Jack added.
“And this all took place by the bridge?”
“Not really. We followed them in and then they didn't see us.”
“You followed some of our men and they didn't notice?” he asked in disbelief.
“There were four of them,” I said. “And we didn't exactly follow right behind them, but we were close to them. That's when we heard them speaking German, and the men in the jeep with the guns were speaking German, and then we started to think that everybody was German!”
“This is most distressing . . . most,” he said, shaking his head. “Is there anything else you've seen that I should be made aware of?”
“I don't think so,” Jack said. “Unless you include the airplane landing.”
“And that tower,” I added. “The place where everybody was jumping off that tower with their parachutes.”
“And the big antenna,” Jack said. “We saw it, but we don't know what it's for.”
“I suppose I should at least be grateful that you weren't too close to the demolition exercises.” He paused. “You didn't see us blowing anything up, did you?”
Jack shook his head.
“We just heard about that from Mr. Krum,” I explained.
“Rainer Krum, the editor of the Whitby newspaper?”
I nodded my head.
“And what brought you to seek out Mr. Krum?”
“We didn't really go looking for him. We were just sort of talking when we were sorting through my papers,” Jack said. “And he heard us talking.”
“About this camp?”
“Sort of, but not really,” I told him. “We were talking about spies and stuff and he heard us.”
“And did you talk to him about what you'd seen here?”
Jack shook his head. “We didn't talk. We listened.”
The man nodded his head approvingly. “A lesson, it would seem, that my men would be wise to learn.”
“And we agreed that we're not going to talk to him again, anyway,” Jack said.
“And why is that?”
Jack suddenly looked embarrassed. “I just thought that maybe he could be a German spy too.”
“It appears that you two boys think that
is a German spy.”
German. He even showed us his medals!” I said, defending Jack.
“Yes. He was quite the hero for the Germans in the First World War.”
“You know about that?” I asked, and then I thought things through a little further. Of course he knew about Mr. Krum.
“You have a file on him too, don't you?”
“Why would you think that?”
“You said you open files on everybody who comes to your attention like we did, and he was stopped once too, so I thought there'd be a file,” I explained.
“You are resourceful young men. But I would prefer that you didn't discuss any of this with Mr. Krum.”
“We won't talk to anybody about anything . . .” I paused. Why did he mention not talking to Mr. Krum instead of not talking to anybody?
“You don't think Mr. Krum is a . . . is a spy, do you?” I asked.
Now it was his turn to pause before talking. “George, if we thought Mr. Krum was a spy, don't you think we would have arrested him?”
“Well, sure, of course,” I stammered.
“We wouldn't just let a known spy wander around, now, would we?” he continued. “It is just that he is the editor of the local paper, and I wouldn't want him to become aware of this and possibly write a story.”
“But wouldn't you just censor anything that he tried to write about the camp?” I asked.
“Why yes, we could, but it's better that he simply not be aware of things and . . . how is it that you know about censoring stories?”
“Mr. Krum told us about it,” Jack answered.
“He seems to have told you a great deal. And it is important that neither Mr. Krum, nor anybody else, finds out anything from you. Do you boys realize what you have done?”
“No, sir,” Jack said, shaking his head.
“You have somehow managed to penetrate what is supposed to be a highly restricted, highly secure military facility. And in doing so you have learned far, far more than I would have imagined.”
“We won't tell anybody anything,” Jack said. “I promise.”
“We won't . . . honestly,” I added. “We just want to go home now.”
“I am afraid that I will not be allowing you gentlemen to leave at this time.”
“But we have to! Our mother is going to call us on her break and she'll be worried if we're not home.”
“You won't be home for that call. You have left me with no choice.”
STAY HERE.” THE MAN
in charge stood up, and left the room, closing the door behind him. We were alone.
“Jack . . . what did he mean . . . what's going to happen?” I asked, my voice quavering. I thought I was going to start to cry again.
“I don't know,” Jack answered anxiously.
“He can't keep us . . . can he?”
“I don't know.”
“But they're on our side . . . we're on their side . . . aren't we?” I cried.
“I don't know! Now stop crying and let me think. We got to get out of here,” Jack snapped. He jumped to his feet and raced over to the window, and I got up to join him. A thick white blind let in light but blocked the view.
Jack pulled the blind away so we could both peer outside. There was a jeep visible just in front of us. Behind that was a large building. It was long and flat and one storey high. It not
only looked newly built, but it seemed out of place on a farm. There were four other, much smaller buildings. They looked new as well. In the distance three men exited one of the buildings and walked away, disappearing around the corner.
Jack fumbled with the latch at the top of the window. “It's jammed!” he hissed. “I can't get it open!”
“Maybe we can smash it!” I said.
“Too noisy, somebody will hear. I'll just try harder and thenâ”
“Are you boys plotting a daring escape?”
We both jumped into the air and spun around in shock. It was the man who had just interrogated us. He'd come back. “We were looking, that's all,” I said.
“I would think that you two have seen far too much already. Please take your seats again.”
Jack let go of the blind and it fell back into place, blocking the outside world from view. Slowly he started back to his seat. I followed, eyeing the door as I walkedâmaybe I could make a dash for it and get away.
“Hurry up, gentlemen,” he said as he again took up a perch on the edge of his desk. He had some papers in his hands, and as he studied them we remained silent.
Strangely, it reminded me of the time when I was called before the school principal for throwing snowballs and I had to wait to hear what he was going to do to me. It seemed silly now, thinking back, how scared I'd been. What was the worst thing the principal could have done? A shudder suddenly ran through my entire body as I tried to imagine
the worst thing this man could do . . . I couldn't even let that enter my mind.
“As you boys are acutely aware,” he said, “this country is at war. And as a result the government has many very special powers. Any citizen of this country can be asked, at a moment's notice, to do service for his or her country. Were you aware of that?”
I shook my head.
“And that service cannot be denied, regardless of circumstances. I am requesting that you both read this document,” he said, handing a piece of paper to each of us. “And upon reading I will ask that you both affix your signature at the bottom.”
“What is it?” Jack asked.
“I am asking you to sign an oath under the Official Secrets Act.”
“I don't understand,” I said.
“You are signing an oath stating that as agents of this government you will not divulge anything to anybody about what you have learned.”
“Agents of the government . . . what does that mean?”
“It means that you are officially being enlisted into the service of your country.”
“You mean like soldiers?” Jack asked.
“Or like spies?” I suggested.
“Spies . . . why would you say that?” he asked.
“I was just thinking. This isn't a regular army base, is it? This is some sort of special camp . . . right?”
He smiled. “I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I still need you boys to sign the oath.”
“We won't tell anybody, honestly!” Jack said.
on your silence. Punishment for violating this oath is imprisonment or, in extreme cases, execution.”
“Execution?” I gasped. “Like killing somebody?”
“A firing squad is customary in military matters. You must sign this oath being fully aware of the possible consequences of your actions. Do you understand and agree to these terms?”
“You can count on us,” I said.
“We won't tell anybody,” Jack agreed. “Even if we're tortured by Nazi agents.”
“Hopefully that will not present itself as a reality.”
“And can we go home after we sign?” I asked. “We have to be there beforeâ”
“You don't have to worry about your mother calling at break,” he said.
“But she calls every night,” Jack tried to explain.
“Not tonight. All of the phones are going to be, shall we say, unavailable for use.”
“How do you know that?”
“That was one of the things I arranged when I was out of the room. The telephones at the D.I.L. plant will be out of order throughout the last break this evening.”
“You can do that?” I asked.
He smiled. “We can do many things.”
“But if we just signed the oaths we could get home before she calls. There's still time.”
“There is still much to be done prior to your leaving this evening,” he said. “You will be meeting with one of my men, who will be asking you much the same questions I have asked but in more detail. And your answers will be carefully written down.”
“But we told you the truth, honest!” Jack told him.
“I believe you did. But there is much we need to learn from you two boys.”
“Learn from us?”
He nodded his head. “We need to know exactly what information you were able to gather, as well as the manner in which you were able to enter this area and leave again. And I am also interested in what Mr. Krum discussed with you, what he is aware of. I would prefer that the editor of the local paper remain in the dark. I'm sure you understand. Now, before I go, does either of you have any questions?”
“Yeah. Are you L.C.?” I asked.
“L.C.? Now how did you know my rank?”
“L.C. . . . Lieutenant-Colonel.”
“We heard a couple of the soldiers talking about having to meet you,” Jack said.
“Being the commander I'm given many nicknames by the men. L.C. is one of the more polite ones. Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, your appearance has gotten in the way of my work and I still have much to do before the end of this evening.”
The car slowed down and then came to a stop. Almost instantly our escort, his name was Bill, opened the door and jumped out. There had been three men in the room during the questioning that the Lieutenant-Colonel had prepared us for, but he had been the one doing most of the talking.
“Time to get out, boys,” he said.
“Here?” We were on a deserted stretch of the highway a few blocks from our house.
“Why here?” Jack asked as he climbed out and I followed behind him.
“But I thought you were driving us home.”
“This is as close as we go. We can't chance you being seen by your neighbours getting out of a car. It could lead to questions. You have to walk from here.”
“Are you sure our mother isn't home yet?” Jack asked.
“By a strange coincidence, her bus broke down on the trip back from the plant. It won't be, shall we say,
until the moment you enter your house. And remember that you cannot discuss what happened with anybody, including your mother.”
“Yeah, goodnight,” Jack said.
“And thanks for the ride,” I added.
Bill nodded. “Thank you for the information. We'll be in touch,” he said, and he jumped back into the car.
The door slammed and the car roared off, leaving us in a hail of dust and gravel.
“Did you hear what he said?” I asked Jack.
“Sure . . . he said goodnight . . . and thanked us.”
“And said they'd be in touch.”
“He was probably just saying that like people say âtake care' or âhave a pleasant night.' It doesn't mean anything.”
“I'm not so sure.”
“I am. What else could they ask us that they didn't already ask us tonight?”
“Maybe you're right,” I admitted.
“I'm always right!” Jack declared.
“Sure you are. So I guess that makes them all German spies, right?”
“Shut up and let's get walking.”
The highway was completely deserted, no cars in sight for a long stretch in either direction. We veered off and cut through an empty lot to come out on our street. Most of the houses were dark, but there were a few porch lights on. I wondered if people in those houses were waiting for somebody who was on the same bus that was carrying our mother.