This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 990 words.
By the time the first officers responded to Marta’s call, it was getting dark. They did a search of the house and surrounding areas, ignoring Marta’s protestations that she had already done that. As she insisted that they should use more men to search, and that Marjorie had never been late, ever, they continued to write down the names and addresses of her school, and any one else Marta could think of. They asked for a photo, but the only one Marta had was from the girl’s eighth birthday, so useless. The two policewomen didn’t seem to be taking it very seriously. They kept suggesting that Marjorie might be with a boy, or have gone home with a school-friend. When she told them about the taxi dropping her at the gate, they just shrugged, and said that didn’t mean she had actually come to the house.
It took some time for Marta to sort out how to view the CCTV on a computer in Mr Calder’s office, but that at least confirmed Marjorie had not approached the house after the taxi left. When the two women just kept exchanging bored looks, Marta finally lost her temper. “We are talking about a fifteen year old girl here. She left school, and was dropped at the gate by a taxi. After that, she disappeared, and anything could have happened to her. Stop asking me about boys, she never had any boyfriends. And stop asking about friends at school, she never had any of those either. Mr Calder is an influential man, and you are putting his daughter in danger by not taking this seriously”. The older policewoman looked at the young one, and shrugged. “OK, call it in from the car”.
The first thing Marjorie noticed was the smell. Heavy, musky, and something else. Sour shit. She opened her eyes, and ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth. It was dry, really dry. Her arms and legs felt heavy too, unresponsive, sluggish. Then a loud sound startled her. Something like a maniacal cackling, rising to a crescendo. Chimpanzees. It was chimps, she was sure of it. Had she gone to sleep, and left the TV on? The memory suddenly kicked in. Something sharp had hit her leg, and it felt like she had been kicked, hard. She remembered something; a syringe, perhaps, and then running. She reached out a heavy hand, and found the end of a thin mattress. She was definitely lying on something soft, and she could feel a dull ache in her left leg. Trying to rub it, she watched her hand move up and down her thigh, but had no sense of actually feeling the fingers. Her eyes felt heavy, and try as she might, she had to surrender to the sleepiness that overwhelmed her.
Tina Collier was tidying some files when a uniformed officer knocked on her office door and walked in. He was holding a sheet of paper. “This has just come in from a patrol car, boss. A missing schoolgirl, fifteen. Her name is Marjorie Calder, daughter of Tom Calder, that rich guy. She left school on time, and never made it home. Do you want to take it?” Tina grabbed the paper and scanned it quickly. “Yes that’s for us, leave it with me”. The officer looked pleased, and left. Marching out into the main detective office, Tina could see that there were only three who hadn’t already gone home. She raised her voice, grandstanding the moment. “Listen up! We have a missing teenage girl. Get on the phones, and get everyone back in. Call down to the uniform Duty Officer and tell him I said to keep everyone on for a search. Someone contact County Headquarters and tell them I need the helicopter and dog teams, maybe the underwater search team too. Get hold of the patrol car officers and tell them to stay at the house until relieved”. The three detectives were still frozen to the spot. One had his outdoor coat half on, and another was putting her shoes on. Tina walked forward, and clapped her hands. “NOW!”
As they reluctantly started to do as she asked, Tina walked over to a large whiteboard on the wall. She wrote Marjorie’s name, age, and address at the top, then added ‘Time last seen 16:30’. Without turning, she yelled, “She was dropped off by a taxi. Someone find out the name of the taxi company, and tell them I want the driver in here within the hour. Sooner if possible”.
When the girl started to stir, Rodney grabbed the mask and pulled it over his head. He had forgotten to tie the clinical face mask first, so quickly pulled the Scream mask off, and did that before putting it back on. He waited for her to say something, but she didn’t. The night duty staff were putting the chimps inside for their evening meal, and they were making one hell of a racket. Rodney wondered if that had woken her up, and braced himself for the inevitable confrontation. But she just kept trying to rub her leg where the dart had gone in, and though her eyes were looking straight in his direction, she didn’t appear to be able to see him. When she slumped back to sleep, he took the mask off, settling down to wait for a bit longer.
There was nothing on the news. Phil had watched it for almost two hours, and was on his fourth can of beer. No reports of a missing girl, on either the national or local bulletins. Maybe they hadn’t missed her yet. He put a spaghetti bolognese into the microwave, and turned the dial. Although he didn’t actually feel like eating, he knew he had to have something. All he could think of was Rod and the girl, and those old cages in the Zoo.
He hoped it was all going to plan.