This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 1310 words.
As Rodney reached out to take the gold necklace, Marjorie spoke again. “Before you send this, and start everything in motion, I have some ideas that you might want to listen to. Why don’t you sit down and let me explain?” Rodney took the necklace into his gloved hand, wondering what she was going on about. But it couldn’t hurt to hear what she had to say. He nodded, and walked back to sit at the hard chair next to the table. Before she started talking, the girl opened a notebook on the floor, and started to spoon some of the Chinese food into her mouth.
No suspects. Tina Collier couldn’t believe that. Suspects were all you really had to go on, with cases like this. If it was an abduction, there was no ransom demand. If it was a murder, there was no body so far. She had started to wonder if the girl had gone off on her own accord, just run away perhaps. The press release would start a scramble, but it also might flush out the girl, if she was hiding somewhere. Tina also thought about the chances of domestic or sexual abuse. An adoptive step-father, a teenager with no friends, brought up by a hard-faced housekeeper. The permutations were many, and all possible. She straightened her jacket, slipped on her ‘TV shoes’, and walked into the room. Sitting in front of a large projection of Marjorie’s school photo, she waited until all the flashguns had stopped, and started to speak.
It would make the evening news, just.
Swallowing some noodles, Marjorie began. “It seems to me that you haven’t planned this very well. You obviously have a partner, as you said ‘We’. I don’t know how reliable that partner is, but I hope you can count on him or her. You know nothing about me it seems, except where I live, and that my father is presumably rich. I expect you intend to ask for a lot of money, and that will have to be dropped off somewhere?” Rodney crossed his legs and nodded. She took the chance to stuff in some more of the chicken, and carried on with her mouth full. “That’s never going to work. The money will be tracked or marked, whatever they say to the contrary. And it will be a huge parcel, however it’s packed. They will either catch you trying to collect it, or find you later. You will never be able to spend the money, don’t you see that?”
He didn’t reply, so she finished the food before continuing. “And I know that you work at the Zoo. How else could you get in and out so easily? You are slim, probably under thirty, and from the smell of you I am guessing you work with the animals, not in the administration. So you won’t be able to let me go, as it would take no time at all for the police to work out which Zoo employee was responsible. You will have to kill me, you see that, don’t you? You might just as well take off that mask and talk to me normally, because based on your plan, I am never getting out of here alive”.
Rodney was pale-faced behind the hot mask. She was right of course. Collecting the money was always going to be a huge problem, even though he was well-aware they wouldn’t have been able to spend it for a very long time. And using the Zoo had been flawed, as she would easily have been able to tell the authorities where she had been held captive. Even if he and Phil had left the city to live elsewhere, it would be a life on the run for them, forever. The girl’s voice shook him from his gloomy thoughts.
“I have a much better plan. One that doesn’t involve me getting killed, you getting caught, or even involving the police. Do you want to hear it?” Rodney nodded, and she opened another page in the notebook. “Take me away from here, removing the chance of me being discovered somehow. I will go willingly, and hide in the boot of your car, which is how I presume you brought me here. Take me to your house, or one where your partner lives, and I will just stay there, and bring no attention to myself. In a couple of weeks, I will be sixteen, so legal in the eyes of the law. Meanwhile, I will be able to get you a lot of money, and some for myself too. I know how to access the Trust Account set up for me by my mother. There is around five million in there, and I am not supposed to be able to get any of it until I am eighteen. But she gave me the password years ago, and they don’t know that. Can I have that Pepsi now, please?”
He walked over with the bottle, and passed it through the slot. He was trying to take in what she had said, as she opened the top and started to gulp down the cola. After a very satisfied and rather startling burp, she started again.
“So, it’s like this. I wait at your place, or wherever. No ransom demand, no police, no discovery, no collecting money. And no need to kill me. The day after my sixteenth birthday, I reappear. I say I was unhappy at home, lonely and neglected, and ran away to stay with a friend. I refuse to tell them where I stayed, or who with. I say I am sorry for all the fuss, but I feel better now, and it won’t happen again. Meanwhile, I will need a good Internet signal, and a laptop. I will create an account for you, and transfer money from my Trust Fund into it. You can take it out from whatever the bank we use. It will be a gift, not extortion. Then when I am eighteen, I get the rest anyway, as well as being the official next of kin of one of the richest men in the country. I go back to the house, bide my time, and wait for the fortune to come in the future. What do you say?”
Rodney spoke normally through the mask. “Why would you do that? You will get the money anyway, so why would you just give some to us, and then not tell anyone about us after?” Marjorie smiled. “Yes that’s true, I could do that. But I want to stay alive, and this is the best way I can see of doing it. Even though you may not have set out to kill me, if you go down the ransom route, you will really have no choice. This way, I will give you a million each, and still have enough to last my entire life. Think about it. No police involved, no worrying about having to hide me, and no real need to rely on your accomplice. And if later on I decided to say it was a kidnap, and I played along by illegally transferring money before I was entitled to it, I doubt that would go down too well with Tom Calder, believe me”.
He wasn’t convinced, but he could see the girl’s plan had been thought through, and it was better than his, undoubtedly. Her tone was matter of fact, as she spoke again. “I will need a clean toilet box soon, whatever you decide. Thanks for the Pepsi, and I enjoyed the Chinese food. You have to work out if you can trust me, I understand that. But as you don’t know me, I guess you will have to go with your gut feelings”.
After a few minutes in complete silence, Rodney took off the mask.