“Honey, are you home?” Brian Ennis said. He had entered the three bedroom home that he shared with his wife, Sophia, through the side door attached to the garage. The house was unusually quiet. He was walking down the main hallway and glancing into empty rooms as he passed by each doorway.
“I’m in here!” Sophia said.
Brian followed the sound of her voice and found her in the third bedroom at the end of the hall. They had turned the room into an art studio of sorts for her paintings. As Brian entered the room, he saw that she was standing in front of a large canvas propped up on an easel. She had her hair pulled pack and was applying a thin layer of blue paint across the top third of the canvas.
“What are you working on?” He said.
“Not sure yet.” Sofia said. “It’s going to be another nature painting, like the last one. Just going to kind of let it happen on it’s own.” She shrugged. “We will see how it turns out.”
“Cool.” Brian said. He remained standing in the doorway, unsure of how to proceed. He nervously glanced over at the flat screen television in the corner, then noticed that her cell phone was sitting on one of the nearby drawing tables.
“How was work?” Sophia said.
“Um, it was good.” Brain said. “Glad it’s Friday, though. Ready for the weekend.”
“Yeah, it will be nice to spend a couple of days with my baby.” She said. She smiled and then turned back to the canvas.
Brian walked up to where she was sitting and stood next to her. He reached into an inner pocket of his suit jacket and removed a small notebook that he kept there. He flipped through it until he found the page that he was looking for. then quietly handed the notebook over to Sophia.
A confused expression flickered across her countenance as she saw his outstretched hand in front of her with the notebook. She took it from his hand and read the note that he had scrawled on the page.
This is going to seem strange, but I need you to leave your purse, your cell phone and your driver’s license here and follow me to the car. There are a few things that I need to tell you about and we can’t talk here- Or inside of the car, for that matter. I will explain more when we’re in a safe place to talk.
“What the hell is–” She said.
Brian interrupted her by reaching out and placing his index finger over her lips. Hush. He took the notebook from her, closed it, then put it back into the pocket.
“So, I thought we’d go out and grab some takeout for dinner. How does Chinese sound?” Brian said. He kept his back turned to the television screen and pointed toward the door so that she could see him but the camera in the screen could not.
Sophia sat in stunned silence for at least twenty seconds. Her usually smooth brow was furrowed as she peered at him with wondering eyes.
“Okay. Sounds good.” She said. “Should I change out of these old clothes?”
“Nah. I’ll just call it in on the way. I’m starving.” Brian said. He turned and walked out the room. On his way back to the garage he left his cell and his wallet laying on the kitchen counter. He walked to the car that they shared, A 2010 Audi A7, and climbed in behind the wheel. A couple of minutes passed until Sophia walked into the garage and joined him.
Brian pulled out the notebook again. He found a pen in the glove box and scrawled a quick note.
Sophia leaned down to see what he was writing.
Did you leave everything in the house like I asked?
She rolled her eyes and then nodded.
Brian pushed the button to open the garage door and then backed the car out of the garage. He steered the car out of the neighborhood and took the on-ramp to the interstate after travelling a couple of miles.
Sophia noticed that he seemed very tense and nervous. He kept glancing into the rear view mirror and even turned around to look back at a white van behind them a couple of times.
“Hold on.” Brian said. He changed lanes and pushed his foot down on the pedal.
“You’re speeding.” Sophia said.
He nodded as he weaved in and out of traffic and then abruptly swerved across two lanes and took the car onto the nearest exit. He slowed down as they traveled down the twisting exit ramp so that he could look back over his shoulder and watch for the white van. The vehicle had remained on the interstate. He sighed and relaxed in his seat a bit.
“What the hell is going on?”
Brian didn’t respond. He pulled the car over onto the shoulder of the road and parked next to an open field. There were no homes or businesses within sight and no traffic on the road.
“This will work.” Brian said. He took the key and climbed from the car. He walked out into the field and Sophia followed him. After they had traveled about a hundred feet from the car Brian turned to her and ended the silence.
“Look, sorry to put you through all of this, but we are under surveillance. I didn’t know how else to tell you.” He said.
“What? Who is doing this?”
“My job.” He sighed and placed his hands on his hips. “They have been recording all of our calls, our text messages, stuff like that. I was called into a meeting with my boss before lunch today, some of the stuff he knew…” He trailed off momentarily. “They have to be listening to what we do at home. There is no other way he would know about some of that stuff. They might even be watching us on cameras, I don’t know.”
Sophia’s eyes had grown wide with fear and dismay and goosebumps had broken out across her body. “Are you freaking serious, Brian? Why would they do this?” She said.
He shook his head. “It gets worse. They’re doing the same thing to many of our friends and family members, too. I was chastised for a conversation I had with my brother about freedom and the constitution. I had no idea what I was getting into here. They approached me with the job and all I saw were the dollar signs, but now-”
Sophia staggered slightly where she was standing and placed the palm of her hand upon her forehead.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” He reached out to touch her shoulder.
“I feel like I’m going to faint. I can’t believe this is happening!” She took a few deep breaths and steadied herself.
“I went out for lunch today and they sent some psycho named Peter to basically threaten me. He was laughing while he told me a story about how they were torturing some poor lady who owned a health store and-” He stopped abruptly after noticing movement off in the distance. He turned back and looked at the car just in time to witness a black van with tinted windows stopping just behind the Audi.
“You have to be kidding me.” Brian said under his breath. “Wait here, Sophia. I’ll take care of this.”
He walked over to where the van was parked. The front passenger window rolled down when he was within two feet of it. Two nondescript men wearing sunglasses and black suits were sitting in the front of the van.
“Good afternoon, Brian.” The man in the passenger seat said. He was totally bald with a well trimmed goatee. The other one, sporting a short black crew cut, remained facing straight ahead behind the wheel.
“Do I know you?” Brian said to the man.
The man smiled. “No. We’ve never met.”
“What do you want?”
The man acted as if he had not heard the question. “This is a strange place to bring your wife on a Friday night.” He said.
“How did you find me?” He said.
“Listen, I’m just here to give you a warning. Your final warning. Keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?”
Brian nodded and felt his stomach churning with both fear and hunger.
“Oh, and to answer your question…” The man pointed up at the sky. Brian looked up where he was pointing. At first he thought the guy was messing with him. Then he spotted it- A small black dot hovering in the air. It was one of the unmanned surveillance vehicles he had been trained on the previous week. The small drones were able to fly about and hover in place for twenty hours at a time. Each unit had multiple cameras and microphones attached to the bottom.
“You have a great weekend, Brian.” The man said. He rolled the window up as the van pulled off of the shoulder and drove off down the lonely road.
[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]
© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved