This is another short story written for the creative writing group, and is a companion piece to Grangefield Park which will become apparent as you read. Hopefully I’ll have an updated version of that before too long and hopefully something new in the not too distant future. In the meantime read, enjoy, critique, point out stupid mistakes, wonder what a load of crap the author has put together, etc….
Note: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.
Minor content warning for racial slur and reference to potentially sensitive subject matter.
(Update 12/07/2018: Made a few tweaks to correct mistakes, add in unfinished bits and explanations as per reccomendations.)
The girl burst through the door of the police station, almost about to trip over the edge of her mud-splattered skirt. Finding her feet and catching her breath, she just managed to notice the stern-faced desk sergeant sitting across the room; nervously, she adjusted her headscarf back into place and tucked in her blouse lest she find herself in trouble for appearing insufficiently presentable. The sergeant looked at her intently with a wry expression on his face, tapping his pen impatiently, and then spoke up in a gruff Yorkshire accent:
“So, when you’ve finished sorting yourself out, Miss, have you actually any business since you’re clearly in such a panic? Eh? Is something wrong?”
“They’re… they’ve taken over the whole place, sir,” she said, exasperated. “Everywhere, sir, it’s like they own the place, I mean I managed to escape as quickly as I could, I had to warn someone…”
“Hang on, hang on, slow down,” interrupted the policeman. “You’re confusing me. Who’s taken over, and where?”
“I… I was up at West Garth Farm, over towards… I forget, I was visiting my Uncle John with my sister, and Jenny- she’s a friend of ours- though my sister’s been taken… we were just about to go out and milk the cows, when these soldiers come out of the woods and rap on the door, and tell us they need to use our place as a ‘base of operations’ or something… they told Uncle John they’re planning an invasion and they’re a scout party… I think…”
“Soldiers? I mean, I presume you mean not any of our security forces? An invasion? Up here? I hope you’re not wasting my time, girl, we don’t have time for silly childish games here! And you don’t look so young that I can’t arrest you for wasting police time.”
“Please, sir, you have to believe me! There really were soldiers! Helmets, camo-whatsit, machine guns… Sounded like foreigners, too, forgot where they said… Lyni… something… please sir, can’t you do anything?”
“So,” inquired the sergeant in disbelieving tone, “what you’re telling me is your uncle’s farm had been taken over by a squad of foreign soldiers who intent to use it as a base of operations for an invasion? An unlikely story if ever I heard one, but you sound as if you mean it. I think we’re going to have to take you through for questioning.”
“Why, am I in trouble sir?”
“Not yet; we just need some details from you, that’s all. If you’ll just take a seat and stay there, I’m going to have a word with my superior.” The sergeant picked up the phone on his desk and dialled. Nervous, the girl did as she was told.
“Hello, Inspector? This is Sergeant Cooper down at the front desk. I have a young lass here with a rather unlikely tale of foreign invaders taking over her uncle’s farm. I’d like to send her through for questioning. Is that alright with you sir… yes… yes I see sir… are you sure sir… yes, I’ll tell her what to expect… no, she’s just sat down sir. Very well-behaved. A little the worse for wear though, got muck all over her skirt and bits of weed on her jacket. Looks like she made a run across the fields… Yes sir, I will. Thank you sir. Be seeing you.” Replacing the handset, he turned to the girl. “Well, miss. The inspector says this might be urgent, so what we’re going to need to do is take you through to the interview room for questioning. Now do bear in mind we may have to search you, but don’t worry, we have some WPCs who will take care of that for us, we men won’t be watching. Now, I’m going to need to see your ID so I can have your details.”
The girl looked somewhat embarrassed.
“Did you forget to take your ID when you were busy escaping, miss?” inquired the sergeant.
“No, it’s just… I had to put it underneath… you know where…”
“Well, the WPCs can see to that,” the sergeant informed her, before pulling out a piece of paper and a pen. “I’ll have to take some details from you before we take you through then. What’s your name?”
“It’s Alice, sir. Alice Louise Whitehead…”
Alice had barely managed to dress again when there was a bang on the door and an exasperated male voice shouted from behind it, asking if she was done yet as they needed to question her now. Being even more confused and frightened following the ordeal she had just endured (in spite of the friendly and somewhat apologetic reassurances of the policewoman who had conducted the search) she nervously let out a “Yes, sir,” and the keys turned in the lock. In walked two uniformed policemen, one grey-haired and slightly balding, the other a younger man. They were accompanied by the same policewoman who had searched her not long before, carrying a notebook and pencil, and another, stern-faced looking man dressed in an unassumingly drab grey suit. He stood off to one side whilst the uniformed men sat down at the far side of the table and the woman at one end, fiddling with a digital voice recorder whilst the older police officer instructed Alice to sit down, then introduced himself:
“Now, Miss Whitehead, I’m Inspector Blackwood and this,” gesturing to the younger man, “is Constable Jones.” (No mention was made of the man in the grey suit, and Alice did not dare to ask; besides, she was smart enough to realise he was probably one of them, the secret police.) “Now, were just going to ask you a few questions about the soldiers you claim to have seen…” then turning to the plain-clothes man murmured “do we need to bother with the formalities for your recording, ‘F’, or can we just get on with it?”
“By the book, as always, Inspector,” replied the man matter-of-factly, in a somewhat more upper-class, less regional accent than the uniformed officers.
“Make sure you write this all down, Cartwright, every detail,” he instructed the policewoman, before turning back towards Alice’s direction. The man in the suit pressed a button on the device and placed it on the table. “Right, interview commencing at…” (he glanced at his watch) “…nine fifty-two a.m., Inspector Michael J. Blackwood presiding, also present are PC Peter Jones, WPC Mary Cartwright; interviewee is a Miss Alice Louise Whitehead. Now, Miss Whitehead, the sergeant informs me you were staying at your uncle’s farm, is that correct?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Alice nervously.
“West Garth Farm is its name?”
“And where is this farm located, miss?”
“Err… I don’t remember, sir,” she replied, earnestly but even more nervous than before. “I… don’t know the area too well sir…”
The Inspector looked at her sternly and told her:
“You’d better not be withholding anything from us, Miss Whitehead, this is a very serious matter and you’ll be in real trouble if you don’t tell us what we need to know. I’m sure the gentleman over there,” motioning to the man in the suit, “has other ways of getting it out of you. Now, where is it? Which direction did you come from? How did you get into town?”
Trying hard to recollect and gather her thoughts whilst holding back the tears, Alice motioned with her hands and said:
“It was… that way… sir… I think…”
“Which way?” enquired Constable Jones.
“I think we’ll try this another way, Jones,” his superior intervened. “As you walk out of the door, which way would you go to get back?”
“Err… up to the left… follow the road round, there’s a path off to the right, I think, it goes over the hill, and then… I really can’t remember sir!”
At this point it was too much for Alice and she burst into tears. WPC Cartwright looked up from her notes and lent over to try and comfort her.
“It’s alright, Alice,” she said, “don’t worry, take your time.”
“Cartwright,” interjected the inspector, quietly but firmly, you’re not here to conduct this interview, keep your remarks to yourself! We’ve no time for this!”
“But can’t you see she’s frightened, sir? Wouldn’t it be better if you let us-“
“This is a matter of national security, not a babysitting session; I can’t afford to just turn this over to the women. Now kindly keep your place or I’ll have you done for insubordination, is that clear?”
“Yes sir,” replied the WPC, reluctantly. She bit her lip nervously and returned to her duties. This would never have happened before, she thought. But no-one spoke of ‘before’.
The Inspector waited patiently for a brief moment, glanced nervously at ‘F’ who was still standing stony-faced in his original spot, then decided to pass Alice a handkerchief to dry her eyes, thinking it the least he could do. He muttered something angrily under his breath, waited for Alice to settle down, and then carried on.
“Now, lass, when you’ve quite managed to compose yourself properly, we can carry on. You told us that soldiers came to the farm this morning, is that right?”
“Yes, sir,” murmured the girl at length.
“About what time did this happen?”
“Early, sir, about five. I was about to help Uncle John milk the cows when there was sudden knock on the door, and there were these soldiers.”
“Can you describe these soldiers? What did they look like? What were they wearing? What were they carrying? What did they sound like?”
“Well… like soldiers usually do I guess… helmets, camo-whatsit…”
“That’s it sir, sorry…”
“That’s alright, carry on.”
“Yeah, as I said, the usual kit, machine guns, backpacks, the lot. Mostly men I think, one or two women…”
“Women, sir?” interrupted PC Jones.
“Not unknown, Jones, in foreign parts at least,” the Inspector reassured him. “Wasn’t that long ago we had them here, too, though not quite in the front lines. Your memory is short, Jones; get a grip! Now, miss, carry on.”
“What else can I say, sir?”
“Well do you have any idea what else they looked like? White, black, Asian, Chinese? Which country?”
“They looked white sir, not quite like us, mostly at least, I didn’t really see. Can’t remember quite where they said they were from… Lyni… Lynie…zian? That was it, sir, Lyniezian.”
The inspector looked puzzled, and turned to ‘F’. They began talking quietly amongst themselves.
“Have you ever heard of such a place, ‘F’? I mean, your people would know, surely…”
“Never, Inspector, I assure you.”
“I mean…. Are you sure this girl isn’t just leading us on a wild goose chase?”
“In my line of work we discount nothing, Inspector. It’s possible this girl is leading us astray, that she is not quite what she seems, but I don’t think a girl of her age is going to be good at keeping up the pretence forever. Sooner or later she’ll crack. I’ve heard about this West Garth Farm, we’ve been monitoring the place for a while in connection with that ‘Jenny Everywhere’ woman and a teenage girl we suspect is her accomplice. We picked her up last Thursday; we couldn’t get to Jenny Everywhere herself as the Lord Protector himself has granted her immunity from prosecution, and,” the agent noted with more a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “the Lord Protector surely knows what he is doing. But, be that as it may…”
“So what do you suggest we do? Call in the heavies and drag them out kicking and screaming? Or…”
“That would be up to HQ, really, but I don’t see all that as really being necessary. It’s unlikely this Jenny Everywhere is likely to be armed and dangerous, at least in the sense of carrying any sort of firearm; I believe the appropriate authorities have seen to that. You ask me, this girl is a decoy, we’re supposed to believe in this invasion malarkey, sent in the Exts expecting a firefight and discover all is well whilst off goes a bomb somewhere miles off. Or perhaps it’s a booby trap and the farm is where the bomb is. Perfect way of weakening our capacity. Either way, I’ll get on to my people, let them know and get further instructions. You just question the girl a bit further and see whether she starts showing any weaknesses in her story. Be sure you leave the recorder running and don’t start tampering, would you?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. By the way, you know you’ve left it running?”
“That can always be edited out, Inspector. With the right software.”
The agent turned to leave the room whilst the inspector turned back to the girl and continued the interview:
“So, Miss Whitehead, do you know anything about these… Lyniezians? Did they say where they came from? How they got here? Do you hear any planes fly overhead in the past few days that they might have dropped from?”
The girl, barely able to overcome her trepidation, began to murmur:
“I… I think they said they…”
“Spit it out girl, we haven’t got all day!”
“…They came from… another universe, sir… and I didn’t… hear any planes, sir.”
“Not this again,” murmured the Inspector.
“You don’t expect us to believe that Miss Whitehead, surely!” piped up PC Jones. “Just because of all these stories and odd occurrences…”
“I’m not sure what we should believe anymore, Jones, given the circumstances,” interrupted his boss.
Fear turned to frustration with Alice, and she could not help but shout out:
“Why won’t you believe me? Why won’t anyone believe me! I’m just telling you what I saw, I thought I was doing the right thing…”
“That’s enough of that!” Jones shouted at her. “Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“Jones!” the Inspector reprimanded him, sighing in frustration at the calibre of officers he had to work with these days.
“Sorry,” Alice said half-heartedly. “I just… well you have to do something, surely?”
“Calm down, girl,” the Inspector reassured her. “We can’t do anything unless we know what it is we’re dealing with, can we?”
“No sir,” she replied sheepishly.
“And as for you Jones, I think you’d better let me do the talking from now on,” he said quietly but firmly to the junior officer.
“Now, it’s important that you tell me everything you can remember about these soldiers, Miss Whitehead. What they looked like, what they said, what they were carrying, what they were doing, so we can understand what’s going on. Let’s start with how many they were, and what particular people made them up. Was any one the leader?”
The girl sighed, tried her best to wipe the rest of the tears from her face, and began to answer:
“There were maybe twenty… thirty? Most of them were outside, so I didn’t get a look. I didn’t have time to look, but as I said, most of them were white, couple of Chinese, black, maybe, one definitely looked Paki, one of the women…”
“Do you know what the leader looked like?”
“It was a man… they called him the Group Leader, I remember that. White man, not that young, had a strange accent but he knew English pretty well.”
“And this Group Leader, do you remember his name?”
“Do you remember what he said?”
“He just came in and told my uncle he was taking over the farm and needed the house to set up a…”
“Like a base of operations?”
“Yes sir, I think so.”
“And how did he plan on taking over the country with just twenty or thirty soldiers? Did they even have any vehicles, like trucks?”
“No sir, they were just on foot. I think he said there would be more of the ‘coming through’, but I don’t understand what he meant.”
“I… see. So they were just the advance party, or were they scouting around?”
“Not sure sir, I didn’t hear. Uncle John tried to shout at him, and said he really had to milk the cows and I had to come with him.”
“And they let you?”
“Yes sir. That’s how I got away, sir.”
In the distance a loud noise, not quite like the sound of thunder and a rush of wind, could be heard, but the Inspector ignored it.
“You don’t mean to say they let you?”
“No… the Leader ordered a couple of his soldiers to guard us, but Uncle John had a plan. There’s a side door in the barn, they weren’t watching it, and when one of them decided they had to go to the toilet, Uncle John tried to distract them, startled the cows whilst I snuck through the door and made a run for it.”
“An unlikely escape,” said the Inspector in disbelief. Perhaps this was the first sign of the girl’s story coming apart, as ‘F’ had claimed might happen.
There came from outside another loud sound not quite like thunder and the rushing of wind, but this time much louder and closer. Before the Inspector could return his thoughts, ‘F’ returned from outside.
“That will be all, Inspector,” he said, pointing at the recording device.” The Inspector understood implicitly.”
“Ah, right… interview concluded at… ten fourteen a.m.”
The agent switched off the recorder, returned it to his pocket and beckoned the Inspector closer.
“Pretty brief interview, though I think we got a few details…”
“Well, you won’t be needing to question her anymore. My people have decided to send a recon team up to West Garth, and they’re sending a van over to take the girl into our custody. I trust you can detain her until they arrive?”
The Inspector tried to hide his nervousness, knowing full well the rumours of what happened in ‘our custody’. For all that he did not trust Alice, and for all his initial harshness she was not much younger than his own daughter, and it was no way to treat a girl that age; he would not wish it on his own offspring. But when ‘they’ had made up their mind, that was that. You dared not object.
“Yes, sir,” he replied reluctantly.
Meanwhile, Alice could not help but be confused and afraid as to what was about to happen. Her mind began to race. Would they let her go? Try to keep her safe? Or would they arrest her as a suspect in… she didn’t know what? (The desk sergeant’s threat of arrest was still fresh in her mind, and that was just for wasting their time. She sensed that they trusted her even less now, enough to make her recall the horror stories her elders quietly told about how police arrested anyone for anything “these days”, even kids.) Or worse still, perhaps the man in the suit would take her off to wherever they had taken her older sister Megan, the troublemaker, the subversive. But surely she’d been a good girl, always tried to do the right thing, never tried to tell a lie or act “above her station”, whatever that meant. She’d never been in trouble with the police before; but now, with her trying to tell of the unbelievable events she had just witnessed- events her interrogators had not thought entirely truthful- she wondered if this was the one time. You could never been too careful with the people “in authority over you”.
The Inspector turned to his subordinates.
“Cartwright, you restrain Miss Whitehead; she is to be placed under arrest pending transfer to Int. Sec secure facilities; Jones, you go outside and get WPC Lacey to accompany her.
WPC Cartwright’s expression could barely contain her disgust, but she dared not voice it. She was in enough trouble as it is merely for speaking up. All she had to say was to ask the Inspector:
“Should I take her to the cells, ‘F’, or put her somewhere else? I mean it’s no place to keep a child with Jackson and his gang…”
“The stationary cupboard will do, Cartwright”, instructed the Inspector.
“And if you don’t mind me asking sir, on what charge?”
“This is our jurisdiction now, Miss Cartwright, so you need not concern yourself with such… minor formalities,” interrupted ‘F’. “Kindly do your job and remember your place.” (The policewoman need not guess what that last part meant: know your place, as a woman, and to bodies unaccountable to any ordinary legal redress. Hers not to reason why, as the old poem went.)
Alice started to panic as she heard all this and tried to bolt for the door, but was held back by Cartwright.
“No, please… I thought I wasn’t in trouble… why are you taking me?”
“Just keep still and come with me,” scolded the policewoman as she applied the restraint. “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I’m just following orders. We all have to do what we’re told.” A note of reluctance could be heard in her voice.
Proceedings were interrupted by a third loud noise, directly overhead and followed by the roar of jet planes flying overhead and trailing off towards the north, startling all in the room.
“Lord, have mercy,” exclaimed the Inspector.
“Now do you believe me?” shouted Alice, who had barely been let go of by a shocked Cartwright, and for the first time in her life was sounding defiant.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” explained ‘F’. “The bats really have left the belfry.” (No-one bothered to enquire about the meaning of that last cryptic utterance, even if they had dared.)
As they rushed to leave and find shelter, the Inspector briefly turned heavenwards as if in prayer.
“O Lord, make haste to help us,” he muttered.
The sound of distant explosions could be heard to the north, followed quickly by gunfire over to the west. The invasion had begun.