This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 987 words.
It had seemed like a good plan.
Phil cleaned the windows at the big house, so he had seen inside. They had pots of money. And four cars, all expensive ones. Who needs four cars? You can only drive one at a time. Well maybe two, if your wife is going somewhere different, and knows how to drive. He had a good idea of house prices in the area. That place would sell for close to five million in today’s market.
Rodney had always been a dreamer. He lived life anticipating the next big thing, but that never happened. He was still working at the Zoo, cleaning out the Antelopes and Zebras. The same job he started when he was seventeen. The conversation started as a joke, after a few drinks at Phil’s flat. How could they make their fortune, cleaning windows and tending animals? It was never going to happen. Phil told Rodney about the girl at the big house. She looked to be around fifteen, and had a bedroom bigger than Phil’s flat. There was a horse in the stables, just for her, and she was often just lazing around the swimming pool, looking bored and superior. Her father left for work by helicopter every day, from a special pad next to the tennis court, and the mother never seemed to be around.
Rodney started to fantasise about how they could kidnap her. He could keep her in the disused section of the Zoo, the part awaiting refurbishment. Nobody would know. Then they could ask her family for at least a million, maybe two. It was a fun discussion, taking their minds off the fact that they were going nowhere. When he next met up with his friend for a pizza night and watching the big game on TV, Phil was a little concerned to discover that Rodney had actually taken it all very seriously. He had formulated a plan, and funnily enough, it was quite a good one. Phil was startled to find out that Rodney had been following the girl on his days off. Her name was Marjorie, and she went to the expensive girl’s high school outside the town. The one with the light green uniform. She was dropped off in the morning by taxi, and picked up outside the school by the same company, around four. Phil smiled nervously. Rodney was on it, large. He had even taken some photos of her waiting outside.
They never did get to watch the game. Rodney had lots of notes; times, places, routes, and even maps. He had drawn them himself and Phil was amazed at the detail. It was past midnight by the time it had all been explained. Everything from how long they would keep her, how to arrange the ransom drop, and the fact that they would have to avoid any security cameras, or wear good disguises when they couldn’t. Phil had to admit that his old friend seemed to have covered everything, including how he could get the girl food and water in the old Lion cages where he would keep her. He had free run of the Zoo. Nobody seemed to care where he was at any time, as long as he did his job. And the closed-up section was well away from any public areas too, so no chance of someone discovering their victim. Besides, she was young, so the family were sure to pay up very quickly, so Rodney said.
Phil had trouble sleeping that night. He was worried that Rodney was really considering this. Worried too about his connection to the house. He cleaned the windows, so the police were bound to think of him, to add him to a list of suspects. He had said as much to Rodney, but that had been considered too. “We take the girl on the day before you are due to clean the windows next month. Then you show up to do the work, act surprised that there is stuff going on. The police will certainly take your details, but if you were involved, you would hardly show up at the house, would you?” Phil had to admit to himself that his old school-friend seemed to have thought of every pitfall. But he had seen enough films and detective shows on TV to know that the smallest thing could result in capture. The butterflies in his stomach wouldn’t let him settle. But he hadn’t said yes. It was only an idea, after all.
After work the next day, Rodney called round to the flat. He seemed to have made up his mind without actually confirming that Phil was on board with the plan. “We must stop texting each other from now on. No phone calls either. No activity that could be construed as planning. We should carry on with pizza night, and the occasional trip to a bar or cinema. After all, we are old friends. But keep off the phones, and don’t look up anything on your laptop to do with the family, the girl, or the Zoo. And definitely nothing about anything to do with kidnapping”. Phil nodded. He felt a little cold inside, as he looked at Rodney. The unassuming Zoo attendant had become alive in front of his eyes, enthused, calculating, committed. “Once we have the girl, I will incinerate everything. The notes, maps, photos, memory card, even the clothes we wear for the snatch.The main thing is to carry on as normal. Even once we have the money, we can’t spend any. Life has to go on the same for at least a couple of years. Once we are sure nobody is still looking for us, we can plan where to go. Make it look natural. Change jobs, move to a new city, that sort of thing. By the time we can spend the money, we will still be young enough to enjoy it”.
Phil tried to look calm, and nodded.