This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 970 words.
It was an elephant. Undeniably, the trumpeting of an elephant. Marjorie stirred, and this time she was awake. Across the room, Rodney pulled the mask on hurriedly.
There was that smell again. Unfamiliar, yet familiar, overwhelming her senses as she came round. Marjorie pushed up on one arm, and sat crossed-legged on the thin mattress, suddenly aware that she didn’t have her shoes on anymore. Her left hand moved to her thigh, rubbing the dull ache once again. As her vision cleared, she could see the bars a few feet in front of her, a padlock securing what seemed to be a sliding door. Across the room, there was someone sitting on a chair, a man, his arm resting on the table next to it. He was wearing a mask, the face from the film ‘Scream’. It took no time at all to realise that she was in an animal cage, and that the person opposite had obviously put her in there. A familiar feeling lower down her body told her something else. She badly needed to pee.
Looking around, Marjorie could see that the caged area was quite large. In the corner opposite the mattress was a big white plastic box. It had a lid on it, and a roll of toilet paper to one side. On the mattress were two pillows, one much larger than the other, resting on a folded sleeping bag. And on the floor to her left, three two-litre bottles of mineral water. An old-fashioned lamp was throwing out some light next to the bottles, and next to the man, a table-lamp illuminated the other side of the room. When he didn’t say anything, she spoke up instead. “Is that mask supposed to scare me? Well, it doesn’t. I watched that film when I was much younger, and just laughed at it. Why have you brought me here? Are you going to rape me? I can tell I’m in a zoo, so I presume it is the City Zoo. That wasn’t a very clever choice on your part, was it?” She pushed her glasses back firmly onto the bridge of her nose before continuing.
“And I need to pee, like now. Or I will just wet myself”.
Rodney had expected her to scream, to be terrified, to have to reassure her she would come to no harm and be released once the ransom was paid. He hadn’t expected her to be talking nineteen to the dozen, and acting as if she got kidnapped on a regular basis. He pointed to the box in the corner. She wasn’t impressed. “What, you want me to piss in a box, with you looking?” Rodney cleared his throat. “I will stand with my back to you until you have finished”. He pronounced each word slowly, doing his best to sound like a robot, and to hide his local accent. She heard him, but wasn’t about to make life easy for him. “You are going to have to speak up. I can hardly make out what you are saying through that stupid mask”. Rodney stood up, walked into the corner by the steel door, and faced the wall. Marjorie needed to pee so badly, she was past caring anyway. She hitched up her skirt, and lifted the top off of the box. Sliding down her underwear, she squatted over it, and relieved herself, not even remotely embarrassed at the noise of the fluid rattling against the plastic.
Inspector Collier was writing on the whiteboard. She loved to outline everything on a big board, then stand back to get an overview. Everyone had turned up by now, and she was allocating tasks constantly, making sure nobody was sitting idly. She had the taxi driver waiting to give a statement downstairs, and the patrol car was bringing in the housekeeper. One of the guys was on the way to interview the gardener, and if he didn’t have an alibi, he would be coming in too. Thomas Calder was in Australia, doing some big deal. They hadn’t been able to speak to him, but an assistant had taken a message, then promised her boss would call back soon. Danielle hadn’t bothered to put her shoes on after all, and she called out from her desk. “Boss, the Chief Constable is on the phone, he will only speak to you”. Tina walked over to the desk. Before hitting the button to take the call off hold, she spoke to the young detective. “Get on to the pizza place. Order enough for everyone, I will pay when they arrive. We won’t be going home tonight, that’s for sure”. Danielle nodded, and Tina clicked the button. “Collier here sir”.
Marjorie was surprised that the man hadn’t turned to look at her when she was squatting over the box. He had kept his word about that, and she wasn’t sure whether or not to be offended that he hadn’t wanted to look. She shook that strange thought from her brain, and spoke again. “I’m very hungry. Did you not think to bring me any food then?” He reached under the table and slid a container out. Walking over to the cage, he opened a slot in the bars, and slid the container in. It fitted the gap exactly. Watching him move around, she estimated he was quite young, probably under thirty. He was not that tall, and his slim build showed in the bagginess of the overalls. She leaned forward and looked into the open box. There was a sandwich in a plastic wrapper, two packets of crisps, a chocolate bar, and two bananas. Under the food she could see a selection of magazines, mostly fashion and pop music stuff.
As she opened the sandwich, she shook her head.
“This will do for a snack, but I will need something more later”.