Echo, Part 23

“Should we make a run for it?”

Henry shook his head.  “No, I don’t want to risk it.”

Ana instinctively caressed the bump where their child was growing.

Henry reached out for her and she took his hands.  He hoped they still looked like they were having a casual, intimate conversation over lunch.  He hoped that they were just being paranoid and the men who had walked in with their dark suits, sunglasses, and ear pieces were not what they seemed to be.  He hoped that somehow he and his beloved would find a way out of this mess.

“Maybe that’s the answer,” he mumbled.


She squeezed his hands to get his attention, demanding an answer.

“Maybe,” he started to repeat himself but then stopped.  He looked over at the men who looked like federal agents and then looked back to Ana.  “Maybe we don’t have to do anything.  Maybe our new credentials are so good they can’t prove who we used to be.  Maybe we can just ride this out.”

She shook her head.  “If they take is and run our prints, those will tie us back to who we used to be.”

Henry frowned.  He hadn’t thought of that and, while they could argue that the database wasn’t necessarily accurate, it would be a tough sell.  They couldn’t run, though.  That was too risky.  And if they couldn’t run and they couldn’t just pretend like they were only their new identities, that really left only one option as far as Henry was concerned.

“We’ll have to fight back.”

“What?  How can we do that?”

Henry pushed away from the table.  Ana, managing to keep hold of one of his hands, kept him from leaving.  With her eyes she asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to talk to them.”


He cut her off.  “What’s the worst that can happen?  Whatever it is, it would happen whether we sit here and wait for it.  I’m tired of waiting.  I’m going to ask them what they want.”

Ana seemed about to argue but then nodded in agreement and let go of Henry’s hand.

He smiled, mouthed, “I love you,” and then walked over to the table where the two men sat, still holding their menus in front of their faces.

“You need help picking something?”

Henry wasn’t trying to flippant with the question and wasn’t quite sure where he was getting this burst of courage and aggression.  It was the first question he’d been able to think of on the short walk between tables.

The two men tried to ignore him which just made Henry more certain that they were there to watch and gather information.  A normal patron would have at least acknowledged the question or looked up to make eye contact and then tell him to go away.

Henry pulled out a chair and sat down at their table.  That forced them to pay attention.  They could no longer pretend that Henry wasn’t talking to them.  They folded their menus and placed them on the table.  The one on Henry’s left took his sunglasses off as well.  The other agent did not.

“Really, pretty much anything on the menu is good.”

“You shouldn’t be talking to us.”

The man was more direct than Henry expected.  He’d thought they would continue to play ignorant but since they’d been direct, he chose to as well.  “What do you want?”

“We’re just here to observe.”

“What does that…”

Henry was cut off before he could finish his question by the man’s partner.  “What are you doing?”

The man without sunglasses held up his hand to calm the other agent and then said, “Our cover is already blown.  We could have pretended not to know what he was talking about but based on how we look and his suspensions, there’s nothing we could have done or said to convince he we were anything other than what we are.”

Henry asked, “And what are you?”

“We aren’t authorized to say but you aren’t in any danger from us.”

Henry frowned.  This all seemed like a dream.  Plus it seemed like they wanted to be seen or they wouldn’t have come into the restaurant, dressed like they were, and sat so close to where he and Ana were sitting.  Henry suddenly had a very bad feeling about all of this and he quickly pushed away from the table.

He wasn’t sure if Ana had been able to hear the short conversation or if she was just reacting to his body language but he saw her getting up from the corner of his eye too.

“Leave us alone,” he demanded.

“We can’t do that.”

Henry didn’t want to turn his back to the two men but he had no choice.  He quickly collected his wife and together they left the restaurant.

Outside on the sidewalk, Ana asked, “What happened?”

“I don’t know.  I just suddenly felt like we were really in trouble.”

Henry directed them down an alley that ran behind the shopping center they’d been in.  He needed time to think and he hoped that getting off the busy street would help clear things up.

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know yet but we can’t go back to the car.  You didn’t leave anything important in it?”

“Of course not.  I know better than that.”  Her reply was half-indignant but Henry knew that was just from her fighting the same nerves he was.

He squeezed her hand lovingly.  “And that’s just one of the reasons I love you.”

Echo, Part 20

Leaving a doctor’s appointment, where the mom-to-be was given a clean-bill of health and they’d gotten to hear the baby’s heart beat again, which was always exciting for Henry who could never feel as connected to the child as Ana, he noticed a dark sedan following their car home.  He didn’t even know why he noticed the car.  He had stopped looking for the feds a year ago.  But, for some reason, he saw the car making the same turns and kept watching, his heart rate increasing with each followed movement as the car followed them onto their street.   As he turned into the driveway, Ana, who had been daydreaming while looking out her window, noticed that he was agitated.

“What’s wrong?”

Hendry didn’t immediately answer.  The car didn’t stop behind them but continued on down the street and then turned at the end to head deeper into their little slice of suburbia.

“Nothing,” Henry said and breathed a sigh of relief.

Ana looked startled.  “What did you think was wrong?”

“I was just being paranoid.  I thought a car was following us home from the doctor’s office but it didn’t stop behind us.”

Ana craned her head to look back onto the street and see if she could glimpse the vehicle but it had already turned out of sight.  “What did it look like?  Did you get a look at its license plate?  Did the rear plate have tags?”

Henry held up his hands defensively, “Hey!  Everything is okay.  It was nothing.”

“You don’t know that!”

It was true.  He didn’t.  He didn’t want her getting upset over this.  It was getting closer to baby time and she needed to keep her own blood pressure under control.  He reached out for her and pulled her hand into his own.  “I did get the license plate.  I’ll write it down and put it on the fridge so we can be on the lookout for it.  And I’ll put the make, model and color of the car too.  I was being paranoid and I’m sure it was just a relative or a friend or something like that going to visit someone and it was a total coincidence that they happened to be behind us as we drove home.  But, I’m still me, so of course I noticed all those details.”

She seemed relieved.  “Good.”

He smiled at her and a moment later she smiled back, while one hand absentmindedly rubbed her belly.  She had been doing that more and more.  It was endearing and he couldn’t help but lean over and kiss her cheek.

She pushed him away playfully and got out of the car.  Henry exited as well and hurried his steps to get the front door.  When he turned around after unlocking the deadbolt he saw that she hadn’t followed him all the way to the door.  Her gaze lingered at the end of the street where the car had disappeared.  Worried that vehicle had turned around he practically ran to stand next to her.  There was nothing there, though.

“Come on, I’ll make you dinner.”

“You better.  And massage my feet, too.  And put on my favorite music and movie and read me a book and…”

Henry laughed and let her ramble on for a bit.  That she could so quickly get back into her normal joking banter meant that she wasn’t as worried about the car as she had seemed.  That was good.  He had just been paranoid and there was no reason she needed to worry needlessly.

Ana drifted into the home and Henry reengaged the deadbolt behind them.  Not for the first time he wondered if they should look into moving.  The place was plenty big enough for their growing family but moving would mean that they could completely walk away from the system.  They could abandon the car and look into renting a place of their own somewhere else.  It would be tricky because even renters had to have their background checks run for most places and that would create a public record that the system could find and use to track them down.  But, there were ways around that.  And renting would create far less of a paper trail than owning.

“Where’s my dinner?” Ana called from the living room.

Laughing, Henry went to the kitchen and promptly forgot all about the car and his concerns about the feds and the system tracking them down while he meticulously crafted a gourmet meal for his beloved.  They dined and laughed the night away, talking only of the future and the possibilities to come.  Then later, as the day waned towards morning and Ana slumbered peacefully next to him, Henry woke with a start and stared into the darkness.  Headlights splashed against the ceiling and the muffled rumble of a car filled the silence before both sound and light faded away.

He carefully got out of bed so as to not disturb Ana and then Henry went to the window and peeked through the blinds.  The car that had followed them was parked across the street.  Two shadowy figures sat in the front seats.  The glow of equipment pulsed against their nearly invisible faces.

They’d been given two years of relative peace but now it seemed that Henry and Ana would have to start running again or figure out how to fight back.  Who would they be fighting though?  Had the feds found them?  Why weren’t they knocking on the door with warrants and handcuffs?  Was the system just trying to keep tabs on them since they were no longer connected?  Was this something else entirely?  Was he just being paranoid?

The glowing light clicked off and the two figures in the car disappeared into darkness.  Henry backed away from the window, unsure what he should do next.

lines from a song writing prompt 3

Below I’m posting a bit from a song I love and then I’ll write something around it (not necessarily in the context from the original source but maybe).  If the line grabs you, please steal it and play along too.  Post a link in the comments so I can check out what you did with it as well.


“And the three men I admire most, the father, son and the holy ghost, they caught the last train for the coast.”


The station was a mess.  People running every which way trying to catch their connections.  Late.  Everyone was always late.  Coming or going.  North or south.  It didn’t matter.  Trains always ran late and that meant everyone was always in a hurry when they finally made it to the station.

That was only part of the mess, though.  Others sat around, blocking the hallways and generally bottling up the whole works.  Tears in their eyes.  Down trodden and depressed, the moved slowly with lowered heads and slumped shoulders.  Sometimes they congregated together but most of the time they stayed as far apart as their was room for.

Those were the two general reactions people had when they’d heard the news.  They either raced about frantic or they stopped altogether and did nothing.  They couldn’t be blamed, of course.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  Nothing like this would ever happen again.

I’m not sure why they chose me but when they called I answered  because I admired them so greatly and then dropped them off at the station.  I even walked them to their platform to make sure they got off okay.  I didn’t ask why they were going and they didn’t offer an explanation but off they went all the same, to the coast of all places.  Why not, I guess.  Perhaps things would be different there.

Here the music had died and life would never be beautiful again.

Echo, Part 19

– Two Years Later –

She lounged on the patio, one leg stretched over to rest on top of the table and the other leg tucked underneath.  She held a book in her hands, with it gently resting on the small bump forming at her belly button.  He was fascinated by how quickly that bump would change in the coming months.  It had already been half the time and she was only just beginning to show.  The life within her would grow so much more before she came to term.  Or, perhaps it wasn’t any faster in these final months, it just seemed that way because the child had started so incomprehensibly small?  A smile tugged at his lips while he studied her and she, perhaps sensing his gaze, peered over the top of the book.  Her eyes met his and they burned with intensity.  Mischief.  Love.  Hope.  There were many facets to Veronica and Charles loved them all.

She wasn’t really Veronica anymore though, just as he wasn’t Charles.  The people they had been before were long gone in more than just name.  Veronica was now Ana.  Charles was now Henry.  They were friends with their neighbors.  They both had jobs.  They were a part of this new community they had been moved to.  Their lives had become even more tangled.  Their new identifications had stood up to the scrutiny of getting married, a civil ceremony six months before, and with each passing day Charles and Veronica were further and further lost and Henry and Ana were more and more solid.

When he’d asked her if she would marry him, Ana had said, “As Veronica I would have said no.  She distrusted such things.  She was known.  As Ana, however, in this new beginning we have together, I will say yes.  My distrust in the world has not changed but I do trust you and that’s reason enough.”

Henry had been surprised and happy that she’d agreed and had booked them an appointment at the court house two weeks later.  They hadn’t discussed doing it any other way.  While they had their new friends, having only that small group at a wedding just would have led to questions of where their families were and where the rest of their friends were.  Those were easy questions to deflect away from in normal conversations but at a wedding they would need answers.  Besides, while they were friendly with their neighbors and coworkers they weren’t so close that they’d want to share their special moment with them.  There was something poetic about two former loners not sharing their wedding as well.  It suited them.

The pregnancy had been decided on, though.  No accident there.  Once they were married their conversations had turned towards children quickly.  At first they had agreed that it would be a mistake to bring a child into their messed up lives.  It wouldn’t have a name that wasn’t real.  It’s parents were living a lie.  It would be at a disadvantage to every other child.  That view softened though as their conversations continued.  Henry and Ana had seen some of the worst society could throw at them and had come through it and their child would benefit from their experience.  And it would be loved.  Perhaps that was the only thing that really mattered.  So, they had changed from their initial positions and decided to get pregnant.

Now halfway through term, they were slowly changing things around in their home to prepare it for one more life.  It would be a challenge but they knew they had years to figure it all out.  When they child was small it wouldn’t care that its parents were living under false names.  Since their marriage hadn’t raised any flags they had little concern that having a child would be a problem either.  Their neighbors and coworkers were all excited for them.  Everything seemed like it was falling into place and would be okay.

It had been so long since they had heard from the system that they had half-forgotten about it.  It would have been impossible to completely push it from their minds of course.  Their two years of bliss together could not overwrite the years they had lived before or the harrowing weeks of their journey to freedom.

Henry and Ana had initially made a habit of taking turns going to sit in the car for a few minutes at a time once a day.  That became once a week and then only as they thought of it and then not at all.  They still used the car to get around town, run errands, go to the movie theatre, and so on.  They no longer sat in it while at home to see if the system had any news for them.  Henry hadn’t asked Ana but he no longer cared to get his old life back.  He wouldn’t turn down the chance to drop the charade and become Charles again but he wouldn’t pick up stakes and move back to his old home and he was sure she felt much the same.  Thinking of the future, once the baby came Henry doubted he would even care about getting his old name back.  Once he held his son or daughter in his arms, Charles would cease to exist entirely.  There would only be Henry, Ana and the baby.