Authors: Eric Walters
“What are they doing?” Jack wondered out loud.
“I don't care what they're doing . . . I just want to get out of here!”
“We're not going anywhere until I figure out what's happening,” Jack said.
I just closed my mouth.
“Maybe it's an observation tower. There are people climbing up the side.”
Jack was right. There were four or five men climbing up a series of sets of stairs that led to the top of the tower.
“What are they hoping to see, Jack?”
“Maybe people trying to sneak in . . . like us.”
I involuntarily pressed myself closer to the ground.
“They don't look like Germans,” I said.
“All I can say for sure is that they aren't wearing German uniforms. But then, they're not wearing
“They're all sort of dressed the same,” I noted. All of the men were in greenish-grey pants and shirts and wore similar-looking boots.
“And the jeeps. You notice that they don't have any writing on them, or even numbers and letters, like a serial number orâ”
“Oh my gosh!”
As we watched, a man jumped from the tower and a parachute opened up over top of him. He drifted down and away from the tower and then landed, rolling until the chute closed in around him. A number of the men on the ground ran over and helped unravel him and remove the parachute.
He was hardly out of his chute before a second man leaped off the tower. His chute opened and he drifted down, hitting the ground at almost the same spot as the first man. But instead of tumbling he stayed on his feet, running forward. He grabbed the parachute and rapidly gathered it in his arms until he was carrying it.
“That's amazing,” Jack said. “I'd love to try that.”
“Not me, I like to have both my feet on theâ”
I stopped at the sound of an engine. I looked up. A small airplane was visible on the horizon. As I watched, it came lower and lower. Its engine whined as it passed directly over our heads. It banked to the side and then came back for another pass.
“What is it doing?” I said, more to myself than to Jack.
“I think it's going to land.”
“Here in the field?”
“I think so.”
It came over once more, so low now that I could make out the faces on the people through the side window. It was a small plane, one engine, no markings and black in colour . . . totally black.
“It's coming down,” Jack said.
The wheels of the little plane practically brushed the tops of the trees to the left as it came in for a landing. When the wheels hit the grass it bounced ever so slightly, touching down again and rolling up the grassy field. As it started to slow down, a jeep went racing toward it. The plane came to a stop just as the jeep got to its side. A door popped open and
a man jumped out. As he ran for the jeep the whine of the airplane engine became louder and the plane started into motion again. It taxied to the end of the field and then spun around. The plane began picking up speed, faster and faster. It looked as though the pilot was taking off again.
“Those trees are awfully close,” I said. “Do you think he'll make it?”
“He'll make it just fine,” a voice called out from behind us, and a chill shot through my entire body.
Slowly Jack and I turned around. There were four soldiers standing right behind us, rifles at the ready! I recognized one of them from the other night.
“You boys are going to regret not listening to me when I told you never to come back here,” he said.
BEFORE I COULD REACT I
was grabbed and hauled to my feet by two of the soldiers. They gripped me so tightly I wanted to scream out in pain, but I was too scared even to make a noise. My feet barely touched the ground as they carried me out of the brush and into the field.
“Let me go!” Jack shouted.
I turned partway around. My brother was struggling against two other soldiers, who were pushing and dragging him out into the open.
Up ahead there were dozens and dozens of menâthe men we'd been staring at. But now all eyes were on us. Desperately I wanted to get away, run or hide orâthey held me in their steely grip, it was no use even trying to struggle. I was trapped. I felt like a pig being herded into the back of a truck to be sent to the slaughterhouse.
“Where are you taking us?” Jack demanded.
There was no answer. I tried as hard as I could not to cry.
“Where are you taking us?” Jack called out again.
“Shut up!” one of the men barked. “Just shut right up, kid!”
A jeep roared toward us and then squealed to a stop. Jack was thrown into the back seat, and I was lifted off the ground and tossed almost on top of him. One of the men, the one from before, climbed into the empty front seat. He looked back at us, and his expression was frightening. I pressed myself back into the seat to try and get just a little bit farther away from him.
Two of the others climbed up on the back of the jeep so they were standing above us, holding onto the roll bar.
“Where to?” the driver asked.
“The farmhouse,” the man in the passenger seat instructed.
The driver nodded, and then the gears of the jeep ground together noisily and it jerked forward, throwing me back against the seat. We circled around the tower. If I had been frightened during that first ride, I was completely terrified this time.
I couldn't help but look at the scene around me. There were still men climbing up the wooden structure, and a dozen more sitting at the base in front of another manâit reminded me of the way my class would sit in front of our teacher. As we moved beyond it I turned slightly around to keep looking andâ
“Turn back around! You've seen too much already, haven't you now!” the man in the front seat barked.
My head snapped back around and I fixed my eyes on the floor. I felt my entire body start to shake and I bit down on
the inside of my cheek to stop myself from crying. I didn't want to cry . . . I wasn't a baby.
The jeep hit a bump and I was bounced into the air. Jack reached out and grabbed me by the leg and pulled me down. I looked over.
“I'm here,” he mouthed over the roar of the jeep.
Of course I knew he was, but somehow him saying that helped stop some of the shaking in my legs. Jack was always there for me. Just like with those kids. Jack always said that nobody was allowed to pick on his baby brother. Nobody but him.
We quickly left the field and bounced onto a dirt road. Was this the track from the other night? Maybe they were just going to drop us off again andâand then I remembered he'd said something about a farmhouse. The jeep began to pick up speed.
Off in the distance I could see the lake, dark and ominous. And up ahead the large antenna rose to the clouds, practically scraping the sky. It was getting bigger and bigger as we closed in. I guessed I'd have things I could say to Mr. Krum now . . . assuming I'd still be alive to say anything to anybody. What were they going to do with us? I didn't even know who these men were . . . but they had to be soldiers . . . didn't they? And did that make it better? What was going to happen?
The vehicle slowed down and turned onto another, larger road that led straight into a forest of chestnut trees. We burst through the woods and suddenly there were buildings all around us. Straight ahead sat an old house, and a big barn, and five or six other buildings that looked newly erected. They
were large and long and flat. Was this where that truck Mr. Krum had followed delivered its lumber? The jeep came to a stop directly in front of the house . . . an old farmhouse. This was where they were taking us.
“Out!” the man in the front ordered.
Jack and I climbed out of the jeep. My legs were so shaky that I stumbled until I was caught by powerful hands, steadied and then released. Instinctively I looked around, trying to figure out if there was any place to run. In that split second that I hesitated I was shoved from behind and almost tumbled over again.
Jack and I fell in behind the one man, and the two soldiers walked right behind us. I chanced a glance over my shoulder and was shocked to see that they weren't just following behind but held their rifles in front of them!
I tripped up the front stairs of the farmhouse, the sounds of the soldiers' boots thundering against the wooden floor of the porch behind me. My own feet, clad in my soaked sneakers, were silent.
The soldier in the lead opened the front door. I didn't want to go in there . . . I had to get away. I stopped and was again shoved from behind, propelled through the open door.
I was now standing in a kitchenâor what should have been the kitchen. There were cupboards and a sink, but no stove or fridge or table. There were chairs against the wall on one side of the room, and a large chalkboard had been attached to the opposite wall.
“Sit!” the man barked, and Jack and I took two of the chairs.
“Guard them,” he said, and he turned and left the room.
The two soldiers came over and stood right over top of us.
“It's going to be okay,” Jack said to me quietly.
“Hah!” one of the men exclaimed. “That's where you're wrong, that's where you're
The shaky feeling in my legs got worse and my whole body started to tremble. I tried to stop it, but I couldn't. My chin began shaking and my tongue felt thick and I couldn't hold back any more. I started to bawl. I knew I shouldn't have, but I couldn't control it. Jack would be mad at me for acting like a baby.
“Both of you, up!” barked the man, who had reappeared at the doorway.
I staggered to my feet. One of the soldiers grabbed me by the arm and steadied me. We followed him down a hall to a closed door. He knocked.
“Come!” came a voice through the door.
The soldier opened it and entered. Jack went next and I followed behind. There was a man, an older man, seated behind a large desk. He had a moustache and wore a plain white shirt. In front of the desk were two chairs.
“Sit, gentlemen,” he said, gesturing to the empty seats.
Jack and I sat down. I was happy just to be sitting because it didn't feel like my legs could hold me up much longer.
“You're dismissed,” he said.
“Yes, sir.” Our escort left, closing the door behind him.
Whoever this man was, he was in charge. My eyes had been fixed on the floor, but now I chanced a look at him. He wasn't looking at us. He was studying some papers inside a brown file folder. He looked up and caught me looking at him and I instantly looked down again.
“What do you have to say for yourselves?” the man asked.
“We're . . . we're . . . not afraid of you,” Jack stammered.
The man chuckled. “That is a most peculiar statement. Your brother seems to be rather scared, unless I misread those for tears of joy he's experiencing.”
Jack shot me a nasty look that said “Stop your blubbering,” but I knew I couldn't.
“I think if I were in your position I would be terrified,” the man went on.
“We're not!” Jack snapped. “And you'd better let us go or you're in
“I certainly wouldn't want to be in
trouble,” the man said. “And just who would cause us that trouble?”
“The police, or maybe even the army!” Jack said.
The man suddenly started to laugh. That unnerved me more then being yelled at. He closed the file, stood up and circled around his desk until he stood right in front of us. He then perched on the edge.
“And who exactly do you think we are?” he asked.
“Um . . . we're . . . we're not really sure,” I answered uncertainly.
“This is a restricted military base,” he stated sternly. “We
I swallowed hard and started to cry even louder.
“There's nothing to cry about, George.”
I looked up at him, wide-eyed.
“How do you know his name?” Jack demanded.
“I know both your names, Jack, and much, much more.”
He reached back, grabbed the big folder off his desk and opened it again.
“You are Jack Braun and you certainly are very brave. You are rather a big lad for only fourteen years of age. I would have thought you to be older. And George is twelve in a few more days. May I offer you an early birthday greeting?”
“Thanks,” I sniffled, trying again to put away the tears.
“Your mother's name is Christina, although she prefers the name Betty. She is employed at the Defence Industries plant, working on the line. Am I to assume that she is working the swing shift this evening?”
I nodded my head.
“That would explain the two of you being here instead of safely at home getting ready to be tucked into bed.” He turned his eyes back to the file folder. “Your father is serving with the St. Patrick's Regiment. He volunteered for service and is presently stationed in Africa.”
“You know about our dad?” Jack asked.
“I know everything about you two. It's all right here,” he said, tapping the folder with a finger.
“We are in the business of gathering information. A file is opened on all persons who come to our attention, as you did
the other night when you tried to enter our camp. There isn't much that we can't find out, although I have one question that remains unanswered.”
“What's that?” Jack asked.
“Why did you gentlemen return here again?”
“Well . . . we sort of had to,” Jack said under his breath.
Jack looked down at the ground. “We sort of thought that maybe there were Nazi agents here,” he mumbled.
“And just why would you think that?”
“Because we heard men speaking German,” Jack said.
“You heard people speaking German today?”