2:00 pm – continued
With the looping news program playing for background noise, Nick stood with all of their luggage once again, his clipboard in hand and his pen perched behind an ear. Muttering to himself, he checked everything off once again. As soon as he had finished, and was preparing to double check everything, a knock came at the door. Frowning to himself, he rapidly ran through a mental check list and went to open the door.
Three men in dark suits and sunglasses stood on the porch, arms behind their backs and their feet positioned wide apart. They were all tall and appeared to be heavily muscled under their thousand dollar suits. Since so many high ranking officials across the world and extremely brilliant professionals would be on board the ships, some of the world’s best security officers, who also just happened to be single and had been orphaned as a young child with no siblings, would be accompanying them as guards. Nick assumed these men had been assigned to his family.
“We’re here to collect you and your family,” one of the men said, his voice slightly accented. “Where are your bags?”
Nick stepped aside and swept an arm out to invite them in. “They’re right here, gentlemen. I assume you’ve also been informed that we will be picking up my wife and daughter from my daughter’s friend’s house?”
“Yes, sir. We have received those instructions.”
Nick nodded and kept to the side as the men quickly took hold of the luggage and went out to the black limo with the tinted windows sitting in the driveway. They made a few trips each before the hall had been cleared.
“Are you ready to go, sir?”
“Just give me a minute.”
“Please be quick, sir. We have been instructed to draw as little attention as possible, so time is of the essence.”
“Of course,” Nick said. “I just need a minute.”
The three men withdrew from the house and waited on the porch as Nick made a quick run through of his former home, a home he would never see again. Finished with his run through, he quickly made his way back to the living room to shut off the TV. He also paused to grab one of his daughter’s stuffed animals sitting atop their baby grand piano. It was a little cat Alice had given Iris the year before for her birthday. He didn’t think his daughter would want to part with it as she would be forced to part from her friend.
“Okay, let’s go,” Nick said as he exited the house, the door slamming shut behind him. He wasn’t the sentimental kind of person his wife was, so he didn’t bother taking a last look at the house they had made a life in.
The four men quickly made their way to the waiting car before anyone became too suspicious and came around asking questions. Two of the suited men sat in the front and the third sat with Nick in the back of the limo. With everyone barely settled, the vehicle was off, everyone silent as they drove a few streets over to pick up Rose and Iris.
Nick’s heart pounded in his chest. There was no going back at this point. Not that he wanted to; he wanted to live. But he had made this choice for his family alone. He had never asked Rose and Iris if they wanted to live or die. He had assumed they would want to live. He just hadn’t thought of everything and everyone they would be leaving behind. Now he and Rose were faced with tearing two little girls apart forever. How exactly they were going to explain everything to Iris, he didn’t know. Not much made him nervous, but thinking of how to break the news to his daughter did.
They reached Alice’s house far too soon for his comfort. They found the two girls in each other’s arms, crying inconsolably in the front yard. His heart twisted at the sight and he swallowed hard, gripping the stuffed cat tightly in one hand. He did wish he could have saved Alice, too. It would make this whole ordeal that much easier for his little girl and, he admitted to himself, for him, too.
“Wait here,” Nick gruffly instructed the men. It was odd enough that he was arriving in a limo. The suited men would just draw more attention and they couldn’t risk that.
He climbed out of the car alone to collect the rest of his family, leaving the stuffed animal to flop forlornly on the leather seat. Rose nodded to him as he emerged from the limo and shook her head to keep him from getting any closer than he already was. She quickly gave Alice’s mother a tight hug before going to pry Iris and Alice apart. The two girls wailed as Rose led Iris away and into the car, Alice’s mother quickly hurrying over to her daughter to hold her tight.
Iris was so distraught that she never noticed the other man in the back of the limo with them. She didn’t even seem to realize they were in a limo. Instead, she rolled down the window and, tears streaming down her face, waved wildly at her friend as she sobbed loudly, wailing with a broken heart. Alice was running down the sidewalk, having escaped her mother’s clutches, waving until she could go no further or faster.
“Come on, sweetie,” Rose said, gently pulling her daughter into her arms as Nick rolled the window back up. “It’s okay. We’ll all be okay. Shh, baby.”
Iris was still wailing as she spoke through her sobs. “But we’re all going to die and I’m never going to see Alice again!”
As Iris collapsed into her mother’s arms, Rose looked over at her husband and leaned closer to him. He met her eyes with a grim look, an idea of what it was that Rose wanted to say to him forming in his mind. And idea he agreed with at the moment, considering Iris’s rapidly deteriorating condition.
“I don’t think we should tell her just yet,” Rose whispered. “I think it’ll distress her too much to know she gets to live and her best friend has to die.”
Nick nodded gravely. “I agree. I brought along some sedatives for her, just in case. Should I give her one?”
Rose looked down at their hysterical daughter and nodded sadly as Iris’s tears were drenching her silken sleeve. “Yes. I think you should.”