This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 970 words.
Hardly able to sit still in the passenger seat, Phil had to admit to himself that he had never been so scared. Rod had got the overalls, and a couple of those masks of the face from the old film ‘Scream’. The hardest part had been getting finished early, and he had rushed the last window-cleaning job to be back in time. Rod appeared to be completely calm and collected. Over the last few days, he had got everything ready, and even though he still had no firm idea about the ransom drop arrangements, he had been adamant that they should go ahead as planned.
The car had all kinds of strange things in the back. A folding canvas stretcher, once used at the Zoo for carrying around large animals that had been sedated. It looked worn out, and was very stained, but Rod said it would do fine for their purposes. Then there was a battered-looking lawn rake, with the handle cut down so it would fit inside the car. A roll of heavy-duty parcel tape lay in the footwell near his feet, and there was an old pillowcase, which Rod said would be used as a hood. The small crossbow looked menacing enough on the back seat, with the long dart and its neon-yellow flight. Rod had covered it with the pillowcase, but it slipped off every time they took a corner too fast.
Behind the driver’s seat was a box of latex gloves, and a few plastic shoe-covers, all filched from the Zoo. There were some medical face-masks too, which Rod said would muffle their voices, making them hard to recognise. Phil wasn’t so sure that would work. They went the long way, skirting the city on the northern route. Using small roads, they would avoid the car being caught on any cameras used for traffic management. When Phil asked if there wouldn’t be lots of home security camera footage to consider, Rod had just shrugged. That was’t very reassuring. As the car entered the lane bordering the house, Phil did have to admit that his friend had chosen a good spot. The car would be impossible to see from the country road at the end. Rod did a tight three-point-turn expertly. He had thought to leave the car facing the right way for their departure.
Once out of the car and carrying the stretcher, Phil didn’t feel quite so nervous. Rod’s confidence, however unfounded, was infectious, and it felt like the school holidays again, two friends off on an adventure in the woods. Their boots were covered with the elasticated covers, so as to leave no footprints, and they were both wearing the blue latex gloves. The old khaki overalls were ex-army, and blended in well with the surrounding woodland. The masks had stayed in the car for now. They wouldn’t be needed until later. Rod checked his watch and smiled. “Fifteen minutes, and she should be walking past”. They couldn’t see the gate from that spot, but they were close enough to the tarmac driveway to see when she was approaching, and far enough from the house not to worry about the CCTV at the front.
With just two minutes to go, Phil felt a sudden panic overwhelm him. The desire to just stand up and run away made him start to tremble. He turned to Rod, who looked as casual as if they were on a camping trip. “Should we think about this, Rod? Maybe do it next month instead, when we have had more time to work out the money drop, and other stuff?” Rodney shook his head. “We are here now, everything’s in place at the Zoo, and there will never be a better time. Calm down, Phil. It will be OK mate”.
Marjorie wasn’t listening to the driver making small talk. She was thinking about the amount of homework she would have to do tonight. An essay about ‘Wuthering Heights’ for English, and her thoughts on the causes of The English Civil War, for History. She knew she could do it. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the academic skill, just that she found long essays really boring. She resolved to get started as soon as she was in her room, knowing full well that once distracted by the TV or her Tablet, she would be up half the night getting it finished. The driver stopped at the gate. “Are you sure this is alright, miss? I am happy to drive you up to the house”. Marjorie couldn’t place his accent. South African perhaps? Maybe New Zealand. She smiled, opening the door. “No this is fine just here. I like the walk”.
Rodney heard her shoes on the path before he spotted her. Big black school shoes, sensibly strong. He reached over and picked up the crossbow, staying flat for now. Phil could hardly breathe, and thought his heart might just stop beating. She was close to the edge of the path, on their side, and she walked past slowly, not noticing them at all. Phil watched her, the heavy shoulder bag on the opposite hip, the typical clothing of a schoolgirl; skirt a little too short, thick black nylon tights, and a blazer unbuttoned. As she passed and the back of her head came into view, Rod fired the crossbow. The dart hit her in the thigh at the back, just below the hem of the green skirt. She didn’t scream or yell. Instead she turned and looked at the dart, with the fluffy yellow flight quivering at the top. Instinctively, she pulled it out of her leg, and then started to run, the school bag falling from her shoulder.
Less than ten paces later, she collapsed in a heap onto the path.