Author : Janet Shell Anderson
I’m just a kid on my own. The question I have is, should I try to save the man who killed my Dad?
It’s just after dawn; the river’s still, silver, silken, the banks, shadowy. A heron yaps. I’m sitting across from the Three Sisters rocks. Ivan claimed three nuns died out there a long time ago. Now Ivan’s gone, probably buried in the walls near Meridian Park, with the other Disappeared, where 16th Street drops down to the Potomac.
I haven’t seen my brothers, David and Jonathan, in weeks. It’s midsummer, hot; the river smells like mud and fish. I‘m hungry. I stole some jerky, but I’ve eaten it all. My Dad worked down at 1600 Pennsylvania. I stay strictly out of there. My father should have too. He was killed. He knew too much.
People disappear in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Damascus, into camps. Half the city’s empty; there’s no traffic. Sometimes I hear artillery across the river.
A few days ago I was in upper Rock Creek, hunting, working my way into a dense thicket of small spruce, holly, mountain laurel, sweetbriar, when I smelled cigarette smoke and heard voices. I hunched down. Near the creek, two men appeared, hard looking, in camo, bio-armored, weaponed up, scary. Though I could see them, I made sure they could not see me.
“We’re taking out the Old Man,” one said.
“What the hell?” He was young, dark, looked startled, tossed a cigarette into the dirt road.
“Thursday at three hundred hours,” the first continued, a man with flat eyes, expressionless. “You’re in the detail. Word is, he’s gone too far. Meet at the Three Sisters on the river at two hundred hours. You know the drill. We’ll be at 1600 in fifteen minutes. On the roof. Then in the Residence.”
“They say the Old Man never sleeps.”
“What difference does that make?” I saw his eyes narrow, heard a drone overhead.
“Max doesn’t trust you, said you’d go down there to the Secret Service and warn them.”
“Who gave the order?” the younger man asked.
I knew the way you do somehow he shouldn’t have asked that. The first man turned casually, weapon in his hand, it hissed in the way they do, fired. The young one fell; the older spoke into his wristband as the drone approached. “You were right,” he said. “Couldn’t trust him.”
Afterwards, the woods were silent for a long time, even the grasshoppers in the meadow near the creek went still. Finally, I came out of the brush, and in the massive summer heat, the thick, humid air, bent over the dead man, looked. His eyes were open. He was young. A red and black ant climbed over his ear.
The forest behind me was a green silence.
Now it’s dawn. I stare at the small granite rocks in the river, The Three Sisters. I’ve heard it’s deep there, eighty feet. People drown.
My grandfather used to go see a poet housed in the insane asylum, Saint Elizabeth’s, not far from here. The poet wasn’t insane. He was a traitor. My Dad met him too, quoted some of his work.
“An ant’s a centaur in his dragon world. Pull down thy vanity, I say. Pull down thy vanity.” I’m not sure if that’s right, but that’s what I remember.
I watch the silver water slide past the rocks, the Three Sisters, see the white glitter of the rising sun, the line of it all the way to Virginia.
What should I do?