When I open my eyes, I know immediately something’s wrong with Eliza. Yes, sometimes she does stay out late, but not to come back at all? That’s not her.
I stare at her empty, perfectly made, bed, trying to figure out. The odds of her being off with some guy is very low, she’s a massive feminist in the way she finds love to be stupid. She could be out working in the shed, but she’s not on the night shift. Besides, she’s a fan of sleep. Nothing would drag her away from a good night’s rest.
“Amelia,” I throw my pillow at her and she stirs, mumbling. I’m thinking she’s awake, but than she starts to snore again. “Amelia, wake up!”
I crawl out of bed and slap her arm.
“Hey!” her eyes fly open and she sits up, glaring as she does. “You two have to cut this out. I need sleep, okay? Sleep is like my version of Toby. How would you like to be taken from him, huh? It’s not cool!”
“One,” I hold up a finger and her forehead creases. “Look. Eliza isn’t here.”
Whipping her head to the side to look, I see her mouth settle into a frown. Even she knows this is odd and we’ve only been here about half a year.
“Where do you think she is?” the words come out in a sort of whisper. “This isn’t like her.”
“Could she be off with some guy?” she asks, scratching the back of her head and yawning. “I mean, you did that to us once.”
“No,” I shake my head. “That’s not an Eliza thing to do. She despises relationships.”
“Maybe she’s working?”
“Thought of that, too, but Eliza loves her sleep. She’d never give it up if she had the choice.”
“Maybe she had to go on a mission for the camp or something?”
“Without you or Jackson knowing?” I laugh weakly. Something is seriously wrong.
“I’m going to go ask dad,” she throws off her blankets and rolls onto her knees, stretching her arms above her head so she can yawn. “Maybe he knows.”
As she disappears out the split in the tent, I lean my ear against it so I can listen.
“Dad,” I hear a rustle and the sound of a grunt. “Dad, wake up. State of emergency here.”
“Bloody hell, Amelia. I’m trying to sleep.”
“Eliza’s missing. She didn’t come back last night which isn’t like her at all. Do you know where she could be so we can go find her?”
He mumbles something, but it’s to quiet for me to hear. When Amelia starts to speak again, there’s a not of disapproval in her voice.
“I can smell alcohol. Have you been drinking again?”
“Dad, no! You promised you wouldn’t do this again, remember?”
“I don’t care if you’re reliving memories and nor would mum, you know that. Where’s the bottle?”
“Over there!” he practically yells and I jump. “Just get out of here so I can sleep.”
More scuffling and I’m starting to freak out. Jackson doesn’t seem like the violent type, but you never know when booze plays a part. I’m thinking of sticking my head through to see if Amelia’s okay when she reappears, bottle in her hand.
“No, he doesn’t have any idea where she is,” she shakes her head. “I guess we should go look for her. It should be easy since you have that snitch thing, shouldn’t it?”
“No,” I shake my head. “Eliza hasn’t registered her snitch yet so her name would come up all weird. Like yours.”
According to the new snitch, Amelia is twenty three (which is actually very close to the truth. She turned twenty two a few weeks back), has three kids and goes by the name of Amy Ferkin. Toby nearly died laughing when I told him and has since adopted the nickname ‘Ferkin’ for Amelia.
“This just sucks, man,” she flops onto her bed, staring at the bottle in her hand. “How the hell do we find her?”
“Maybe she’ll just come back?” even as I say the words, I know they’re not true.
Sighing, Amelia screws the lid off the bottle and takes a sniff.
“Whoa,” she wrinkles her nose. “That’s some strong stuff.”
“Alcohol was ditched ages ago,” I frown at it. “Where did your dad get it?”
“The team found a whole heap of the stuff in dumpsters, thought it would be a great idea to bring it back to camp. Since they didn’t do it correctly, meaning they all got drunk and threw the camp into chaos, it’s now kept under lock and key in a safe in the shed. My dad has a key to it which probably isn’t a good idea.”
She bites her lip, looking worried.
“I’m guessing this isn’t the first time he’s gotten... drunk,” I say the words gently.
“Nope. He went on a big binge when mum was caught, nearly blew his cover.”
She draws up short at her last words and I frown.
“Never mind. Slip of the tongue. Anyway, so yes. This isn’t the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last.”
She sits up again, peering into the bottle through the hole. After throwing me a guilty look, she wipes her hand around it before bringing it to her lips and throwing her head back.
She coughs, clutching her throat with one hand.
“Damn that burns. Jeez, dad! You drunk half a bottle of this stuff?”
She directs the last bit to the other part of the tent and Jackson mutters incoherently in response.
“Here,” she holds the bottle out to me and I flinch in response. “Oh come on. It’s not that bad. You should taste it before it runs out and you’ll never get another chance.”
She waits for me to take it, but all I can do is stare at the water like stuff inside.
“Fine,” she tips back her head, taking a big sip.
“Okay, okay,” I reach for the bottle, feeling nervous. “One taste only, okay?”
“Dude, if you don’t want to, don’t.”
Before she can grab it off of me, I mimic her by throwing my own head back and taking a massive gulp.
I almost immediately start to cough, feeling the burn of fire in my throat. Amelia takes the bottle from me quickly as I feel tears well up behind my eyes.
“There, there,” she pats my back soothingly. “You honestly shouldn’t have done that.”
“You... offered,” I cough.
“Yeah, but you weren’t meant to take it.”
The logic fails me, it truly does.
She screws the lid back on the bottle before tossing it in the corner.
“Get up,” she tugs on my hair and I painfully drag myself to my feet. I wonder if I’ll get drunk. I certainly feel woozy. “Come on, Alice. We need to find your sister.”
That’s how everyone seems to see us now, as sisters. I guess it’s sort of true. The way we look out for one another is sisterly and we even view each other sisterly. Eliza is like the big sis, always looking out for the youngest and taking charge. She’s serious, prepared and ready to get the job done. I’m like the little sister, the one having fun, living life to the extreme, but I also keep a watch of the oldest, ready to defend her when the time comes.
We start by searching in the shed, since it’s about the only place she would be. A young kid, I don’t know his name, tells us Eliza often worked with him, but when I ask if she was there of if she did the night shift, he only frowned.
“You’re not allowed to work over time, at least, not really. Everyone’s meant to pull their own weight.”
I do my best to stay calm, but as soon as I see Toby, whom I recognize since he’s registered his snitch, I practically lose it.
“Toby, something’s happened. She’s gone and I don’t know where and I don’t know anything at all. Maybe she’s left? Do you think she did? I’m not sure she has because she’d say goodbye. Wouldn’t she?” I’m talking one hundred miles per hour without really meaning too. Is this was hysteria feels like?
I sink to the ground, pressing the cold metal of the shed against my back. They probably think I’m overreacting. It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours, but I know something’s wrong. Maybe it’s a best friend thing, or sister thing, but there is something very wrong with this picture.
“Hey,” Toby kneels down in front of me, capturing my face between his hands. “You need to calm down.”
“I can’t,” the words come out in a nearly sort of shriek. “Toby, something’s wrong with Eliza. Please, you have to believe me.”
“I never said I didn’t believe you,” he frowns a little.
Amelia stands off to the side, talking into one of those portable radios they have. Funny. I didn’t realise she had it before.
“Why are you so calm, then?” I demand. “You hate, Eliza, I get that, but I thought you would at least be a little worried since she means so much to me.”
He actually looks offended.
“I don’t hate Eliza thank you. If you must know, she’s probably one of my favourites in this camp. One of us has to stay calm otherwise we won’t get anywhere.”
“Oh,” I relax a little. “Sorry.”
“No need to be. You’re freaking out, I get it. I was the same when Liliana got caught.”
He helps me to my feet, steadying me when I totter to the side a little. I think the alcohol might be taking affect. This is no time to be drunk.
“You look woozy,” Toby voices my concern and I nod.
“Blame her,” I jab a finger at Amelia who looks up while talking into the radio with guilty expression. “She gave me alcohol.”
“How very fitting,” Toby rolls his eyes. “Come on, both of you. We’ll go see mother.”
I dislike Carmen, did you know? Ha ha I made a joke. I swear I’m about to go crazy.
Toby’s seated me one a cushion as he and Amelia tell the whole story to Carmen, trying to explain why this should be treated suspiciously.
She listens with a frown, lips pursed. While I realise this whole idea is lost, the two seem to think they can change her mind.
“Carmen, I mean mum, please. We need to track her down somehow because I can promise you; she is no where near this camp. She may have been caught.”
“If she’s been caught, there’s no hope,” she says matter of factly and my palm tingles to slap her.
“Maybe she hasn’t been?” Amelia says weakly. “Maybe she’s… gone for a walk.”
“You mean ran away, don’t you,” Carmen looks almost delighted.
The two throw frantic glances at each other. They really don’t know what it is they’re asking for.
“Please,” the words slip from my lips before I can think and they turn to stare. “Please just let me go out there and search for her. Maybe she’s gone back home, to see her parents.”
“Than she’s a traitor and should be shot on sight,” Carmen looks me in the eye. “We warned you both.”
“Yeah, well, if that’s so, I’d still like to know.”
I don’t mean to sound bitchy, but it comes out that way. Taking a deep breath, I try again.
“Carmen, you have to believe me. Something has gone wrong. This is extremely abnormal for her; she’s practically OCD about her days. There’s always a basic routine going on. Now, maybe she did abandon us, but I seriously doubt she would have told them about this camp.”
“She wouldn’t have to. As soon as the officials get word she’s back, they’d be all over her.”
“Maybe so,” I say slowly. “We just don’t know that for sure.”
I’m surprised Carmen’s even let us exercise the thought and it’s giving me hope. Maybe she isn’t a total cow.
She’s opening her mouth the respond, causing Toby, Amelia and I to lean towards her, when the tent parts and someone steps inside.
A soldier, it seems.
“Dad?” Amelia frowns and I relax. It’s Jackson.
“Ma’am, we need to talk,” he ignores the rest of us. “I’ve... I’ve got some information.”
“On what?” she asks politely. When he doesn’t say anything and throws pointed glances at us, she sighs.
“Out, you three. We’ll finish this talk after.”
Since we don’t want to throw any chance of us going out to rescue Eliza away, we do as she says. I’m about to walk away from the tent to give them privacy when Toby yanks me down to the ground.
“Always listen in on conversations when you can,” he whispers in my ear.
“That’s how we get most of our information.”
We crawl to where Amelia sits, ear against the fabric. I do the same.
“They were asking about the girl, weren’t they?” Jackson asks.
“I hardly see how this has anything to do with you.”
“I saw her, Carmen. Only moments ago.”
All three of us exchange excited glances.
“Oh good. That just saved a heap of trouble.”
“I don’t think you understand. Ma’am, I was at the office when they dragged her in. They caught her outside her old house.”
“Office?” I whisper to Amelia who stays silent. When I turn to look at her, my blood turns to ice. Her face is of pure horror.
“No, no, no,” she murmurs.
“Tell me,” I beg. “Amelia, tell me.”
“My dad’s a spy in the government,” she blurts out and I hear Toby hiss under his breath. His face is a mask of horror, too.
Somehow, I’m quite calm.
“So this “office” would be where he works with them, am I correct?”
Amelia nods, looking like she’s about to cry.
“Meaning the officials caught Eliza?”
She nods again. I try to say the words, but they don’t come out. Somehow, Toby forces them out with a chocking sound.
“She’s been captured. They’ll torture her for information.”