By Steven Ure
When Julie’s twin brothers are declared MIA in Nazi-occupied Norway, Julie risks everything and heads over there from Scotland to find them.
“We have to move, girl,” her father said calmly. There was not a trace of fear in his eyes, and she wondered how that could be. “Hurry now,”he said in a hushed tone, and led Julie away from all the lights.
Together, they weaved through the forest, ducking under branches and jumping over bushes, but it never felt like they were going fast enough. The lights were always behind them. They looked to Julie like they might be catching up. Julie’s father looked back and his eyes went wide. The fear was getting to him and it was then Julie started to get really scared.
“Hurry, hurry!” he muttered and ran. They were making a terribly loud noise running, as twigs and leaves broke and crumpled underneath their feet, but when Julie looked back, the lights seemed to be getting farther away.
They had been running for fifteen minutes and Julie was winded and had to rest. She sat down on a rotten log covered with moss and tried to catch her breath.
“They won’t stop looking,” her father said, facing away from her, like he was talking to himself rather than Julie. “They saw the crash, and they can’t assume the people inside died with it. No, they’re not like that. They’re not going to stop looking. Not until they found us, that is.” He wasn’t even breathing hard, even after the hard run.
“What are we going to do?” Julie asked.
He turned to face her. His eyes darted back and forth and looked down to the ground. Julie could tell he was thinking about doing something dangerous.
“What?” she said. “What are you going to do?”
“Shhh, girl,” he whispered, and put his finger to his lips. “Or they’re going to hear us.”
“What are you going to do?” she said, this time in a whisper.
He sighed. “I have to draw them away. If the maps Mr. Ward lent me are correct, then there should be a large farm about a mile that way.” He pointed uphill and Julie followed where his finger pointed. It looked so desolate and lonely there. “Just follow the North Star—see there? And you’ll find it in no time. There are a lot of outbuildings to hide in at the farm and Ward says the owners are resistance, and I believe him. Hide in one of the outbuildings and wait till morning.”
“And where will you go?” she asked.
He unholstered a pistol. “I have to distract them and throw them off your trail.” He gulped and stared in Julie’s eyes. “You have to run now, girl. Run as fast as you can, and don’t look back.”
Julie hesitated and looked back at her father one last time.
“Go on now, girl. I told you not to look back.”
Julie turned tail and ran. She didn’t dare look back this time. She followed the North Star, going at a full sprint. When she couldn’t run anymore it only urged her to go even faster. Her nose was running, her heart beating so fast, and her legs ached beyond belief, but she carried on. She only stopped when she spotted the farm and all of its outbuildings. There was a brown barn some hundred yards away that looked to be deserted. She hobbled over to it, too tired to walk upright.
The barn had a bed of straw and some bags of oats piled up in the corner. There was a single pen in the corner with some animals inside. She sat down on one of the oat bags and waited for her father to return. She didn’t wait long before collapsing into a bed of straw. The straw poked into her face, but she was too tired to care and soon fell asleep.
Julie was stirred by the creaking of the barn door. She didn’t know how long she had slept, but it was still dark out, so it mustn’t have been for long. The barn door was wide open and a cold draft swept into the barn. A rustling came from the front of the barn, but it was too dark for her to see who was making it. She didn’t dare whisper to find out. Then again, she didn’t have to.
“Are you here, girl?” her father called out from the darkness. His voice was hoarse and thin, but she still recognized it.
“Yes,” Julie cried. “Yes, I am.” Her father staggered over to her and slumped down on one of the oat bags. He held his hands tight to his stomach and his back bent over almost to his knees.
“Are you hurt?” It was still too dark to see him completely. She couldn’t see what condition he was in. All she could see was his silhouette.
“I’m fine,” he groaned. “You should get some sleep. It’ll be morning soon.”
“I can’t. I am too excited—and scared.”
“Then that’s the best time to get some sleep. Please, go to sleep and we’ll speak in the morning.”
“Okay then,” she replied. She lay back down in the straw and used an oat bag for a pillow.
She heard her father wheezing as she tried to get to sleep. His breath came out in choking rasps and when he inhaled, he made this soft squeal. Despite her concern for her father, Julie fell asleep. It had been a long and tiring day after all. She was soon awoken by the morning sun peeking through the barn windows.
Her eyes fluttered open and she strained to get to her feet. The straw bed hadn’t been very comfortable and made her back stiff. She looked around the barn with no sign of her father. He couldn’t have gone missing again, she thought, frustrated. Then she spotted him in the opposite corner of the barn. He was behind a stack of square hay bales, only his drooping head was visible at the top. His eyes were closed, and he had dried saliva around his lips. He didn’t look...
“Father!” She raced over to him.
When she turned the corner around the bales, she saw he was dead. His body sat on a bale, his back leaned lazily against another, and his head hung unnaturally to the right. Dried blood stained the bottom of his blue shirt and ran down his trousers. His hands were still there by his stomach, trying to hold in the blood—even in death. But what troubled Julie the most was his eyes. They were still wide open. His brilliant blue eyes had turned gray and not a trace of light seemed to reflect from its dim surface.