This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 1120 words.
When he finished work, Rodney went round to see Phil. As his friend started to fire questions at him, he raised a hand to stop him, then spread out some maps he was carrying onto the carpet in front of the small sofa. “I think I have found the perfect spot for the drop, I’ll show you on the map. Oh, and I will post the ransom demand tomorrow, once I have some evidence from the girl. Don’t worry, I will wear gloves, and I won’t lick the envelope or stamp”. Phil wanted to ask him what was happening at the Zoo, but his friend was already showing him something on the map.
The call had finally come in from Tom Calder. He wanted to offer a reward for any information leading to finding Marjorie. He also wanted them to mount a televised appeal, spread the story to the newspapers, and get it all on social media too. When Tina asked how much reward he was offering, he suggested she use the word ‘substantial’. She tried to caution him against any reward, as she knew only too well that would bring out the cranks, and stir up a rat’s nest of chancers, giving her team too much work. But he said if she didn’t say it, he would just issue his own press release. And he wasn’t coming back from Australia anytime soon. He told her the deal was too important, and he couldn’t do anything practical if he came home anyway.
Tina had got a photo from the school. It was only a few months old, and showed the girl face-on, in school uniform. Perfect.
Phil had to agree that the drop site looked promising. Rod had driven past it many times, and it wasn’t until the kidnapping that the idea of using it had come to him. He had finally answered Phil’s questions too. Yes, the girl was alright. No, she wasn’t screaming and crying. Yes, she had used the box-toilet. No, she hadn’t refused the food and was starving herself. No, Rod hadn’t attracted any attention at the Zoo. As Phil thought of his next question, Rodney stood up. “I have to leave and get back to her, take her some food. She’s been on her own all day while I have been working”. As he tidied up the maps, Phil told him about the cop taking his details, and saying he would have to give a statement. Rod picked up his car keys and tried to reassure his friend. “Come on mate, we knew that would happen, and you know what to say. Right? They can’t tie you to the girl, or anything to do with the kidnapping. Just brazen it out”. Phil nodded and smiled. Inside, he didn’t feel so certain.
As soon as he walked back through the heavy door, the girl started nagging him. “Where have you been all day? I’m hungry now, and it’s past my dinner time. And I had to use that box for a poo, so you had better get it emptied or I won’t be lifting that lid to use it again, I can tell you. Did you not bring me any clothes? I can’t believe that, I’ve been wearing these forever, and had to sleep in them”. Rodney waited until she calmed down. He felt like someone coming home to a nagging wife in one of those old comedy shows on TV. Not at all like returning to the secret location of a supposedly terrified kidnapped teenager.
Marjorie had used the water to wash in as soon as she had finished eating breakfast. She had stripped off in the cage, and stood with her back to the door in case he returned. Afterwards, she had enjoyed the fresh feeling of being clean. Also, the men’s underpants had been surprisingly comfortable to wear, and not a bad fit either. She hadn’t bothered to put the tights back on though. The feet of them were dirty from where she had no shoes on, and there was no way she was wrapping them back around her clean body. The day had really dragged, even with going over all the ideas in her notebook, and adding some new ones. By the time she had worked out it was really late, she was beginning to look forward to his return, if for nothing else but to be able to complain. As well as the fact it would mean she hadn’t just been left there to die.
Rodney slid the Chinese food through the trap, along with a new man’s-size sweatshirt bought in a cheap shop on the trading estate. There were also two pairs of thick sports socks, new in a packet. Marjorie disarmed him with a sweet smile. “Before I eat the food, could you please change this toilet-box-thing? I really don’t want to eat in the same room as my poo”. She watched as the man walked to the side of the cage, and opened up a larger gap in the bars. It was big enough for a lion to walk through, so she could easily have slid through it. But there seemed little point. She pushed the box through, and he closed the gap up, snapping a small padlock into place. She picked up the two cartons, and the plastic spoon and fork next to them. As she walked back to the mattress, he spoke to her. “I need your hairbrush. I won’t keep it, you can have it straight back”. From the corner by the door, he produced a big bottle of Pepsi, at least a two-litre. “You can have this if you give me no trouble over the brush”.
Reaching inside her bag for the brush, Marjorie thought fast. Why did he want it? Hair of course. DNA. Proof that they actually had Marjorie Calder. She smiled as she turned around holding it. “Here, you can have it. But it won’t do you much good. He’s not my real father you know, he just adopted me. So they won’t get a DNA match”. She couldn’t see his face under the mask, but as he didn’t respond, she knew she had guessed right. “You didn’t know that, did you? He married my Mum, and adopted me later”. Rodney thought about that for a minute, wondering what to do next. The girl put the brush on the mattress, and reached both hands up to her neck, feeling under the collar of her shirt. They came back holding a gold necklace, with a large ‘M’ dangling from the centre. She walked forward and held it though the bars.
“Send them this. Then Marta will know it is really me that you have”.