The solid thud of a heavy door closing jolted me out of an exhausted doze. I jerked upright on the couch and clutched the thin blanket to my chest, the hollow bang bringing back the sound of the gunshot that had killed Mom.
I sobbed and air caught in my throat, which was already raw from crying. Mom was dead, and the government men had handcuffed Dad and taken him away, and no one would tell me where Michael was. They had brought me to this place where Agent Epperson had grilled me for hours about my father, his militia "connections," and the guns the agents had found in the locked barn. I kept saying, "I don't know anything about any guns."
Agent Epperson didn't believe me. After hours of listening to my denials, she'd perched on the edge of the desk, her green eyes glittering as they bored into mine. "You're lying. You're sixteen, old enough to know plenty." She had crossed her arms and leaned in, threatening, "You're going to end up in jail as a co-conspirator if you don't tell me everything you know about your white supremacist father and his terrorist activities."
The memory of that interrogation had me pulling my blanket tighter as chills ran along my spine.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway and stopped just outside the room. My stomach cramped. Agent Epperson was probably standing out there thinking of ways to make me say my father was a white supremacist and a traitor to his country, but I never would. God, country, family: they were everything to him. He only wanted to protect the rights of everyone and keep invaders from taking over and destroying what the founding fathers had made.
As the door opened, I steeled myself for more questions. This time, I was ready. This time I would tell Agent Epperson—or anyone else who questioned me—that the Constitution said people had the right to bear arms. My father hadn't broken any laws and he hadn't killed anyone, not like they had, surrounding my home and killing my mother. I had been numb with shock yesterday, but today I had a lot to say, and I wasn't going to let anyone bully me.
Agent Epperson entered the room, looking much the same as the day before. She had changed from a light gray suit to a dark blue one. Every strand of her short red hair was in place, and her mouth was set in a determined line. My father had often talked about government men. It turned out there were also government women, and they were just as ruthless as the men. I reminded myself of my vow to stand up to Agent Epperson and braced for another round of questioning.
"Get your shoes on," Agent Epperson ordered. "Your mother's here to see you."
Fury boiled up in me. "You murdered my mother." I gulped and air lodged in my chest. The image of my mother's bullet-ridden body on the ground and the photographer snapping pictures flooded my mind. I choked and coughed. When my throat finally cleared, I stared into the agent's eyes, fighting to keep my emotions in check, but I couldn't stop my voice from shaking. "Mom's last words were that she'd watch out for Michael and me from heaven. And you can't stop her." I wiped away tears, angry for letting this woman get to me. "Mom's spirit is with me now, helping me, and I'll never say anything bad about my parents, so you may as well give up."
Agent Epperson nodded, her lips forming a tight, smirking smile. "It turns out those wonderful parents of yours lied to you your whole life. The woman in my office, Margo Jorgenson, says she's your mother, and she has the paperwork to prove it."
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