This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1120 words.
He immediately knew there was something wrong. For one thing, Rod’s flat was tidy. And his friend was smiling too much, grinning like a chimp. Maybe he was spending too much time at the Zoo.
“Phil mate, great to see you. Come in, take a seat. Fancy a beer?”. He accepted the cold can, getting in quick before Rod started talking again. “So what’s happening with the girl, Rod? Has she said much? Is she causing trouble? I went to see the police, but they just asked me a few questions and let me go. There’s nothing on the news about a ransom. What are you doing about the note?” He cracked the ring pull to sip the beer, and a voice from behind made him almost drop the can.
“The girl is fine, and causing no trouble”. Phil spun around and his mouth dropped open. Marjorie stood in front of him smiling. She didn’t have her glasses on, and her make-up looked heavy. Her skirt was even shorter than when he had helped to put her in the car, and she was wearing a white T-shirt, with quite obviously no bra on underneath it. He guessed it was one of Rod’s T-shirts, as it was very tight on her. He snapped his head back to look at Rod, but his friend was holding his head in his hands, and shaking it from side to side. Still staring at the shaking head, he put the can back on the coffee table and his mouth moved slowly as he spoke. “Well, I’m waiting. Let’s hear it”.
Marjorie watched carefully, taking in this new guy. He was quite good-looking, with a mop of blonde hair, and a square jaw. Fitter-looking than Rodney, with strong arms and wide shoulders. He looked smart too, with a clean-shaven face, and wearing a fashionable polo shirt and chinos. Even his brown loafers were polished. She slipped down onto the sofa next to him, crossing her legs to make sure he got a good look. When he turned to look at her, she flapped her false eyelashes, and smiled. “Why don’t I tell you what’s happening? Sorry, I didn’t get your name. Rodney forgot to tell me”.
Tom Calder was on the phone to Marta, asking a lot of questions that she didn’t know the answers to. There had been no sightings of Marjorie, she had told him that. The girl didn’t have a boyfriend, she had told him that too. No, the school couldn’t help, and no, there had been no bodies of teenage girls found anywhere in or around the city. After a long silence, his voice came back on the line, softer. “She will be sixteen soon, did you get her something, as I asked”. Marta told him about the gold necklace, and pretended that Marjorie had been thrilled with it. He hummed a little, as if not knowing what to say, then added, “Do you think she has run off, hiding somewhere maybe? Perhaps she is feeling lonely again, or trying to get attention. What do you think, Marta?”
It was unheard of for Mr Calder to ask her opinion, so Marta took full advantage. “She has nothing to run away from, Mr Calder. Her life is very comfortable here. Admittedly, she has no friends, but I cater to her every need, and she has everything a girl of her age could ever want. I am convinced something has happened to her. Perhaps she has been kidnapped. After all, you are known to be very rich. Then maybe it went wrong, and they can’t ask for the money. We are doing all we can here, I promise you. But the police are tied up with following leads about Marjorie, because you offered a reward. As far as I know, nothing has proved to be useful so far”. After another long silence, he came back, speaking in his usual tone, more businesslike. “I will be home in a few days, then I will make some calls, get things moving”. He hung up before she could say goodbye.
He listened to the girl explain the change of plans. It wasn’t easy to concentrate, as she kept wiggling her legs around, and he was trying so hard not to look up her skirt. When she finished talking, he looked over at Rod. “And you go along with this, Rod? You reckon this will work, and she won’t just keep all the money?” Rodney shrugged. “Phil mate, if we are not prepared to kill her, what else can we do?” It hadn’t even sunk in that she had used his name, or that Phil was using it now. Or that he had just called his friend Phil, in front of the girl. Marjorie chipped in, keeping the momentum going. “You might as well trust me, Phil. We all stand to gain when I turn sixteen next month. And I won’t be able to get you two in trouble, without incriminating myself. It’s only a few days until I am the birthday girl, not long to wait”.
Phil picked up the can of beer and swallowed it all in a series of gulps. Looking back at the girl, she was smiling so hard it was like she had eaten a whole bag of sweets. Across the room, Rod was grinning and nodding, still looking like a chimp. What really hurt was that Rod hadn’t got him involved, just gone ahead without consulting him. He had taken this sassy teenager at face value, and put both their futures at risk. He kept his expression grim, but inside he knew there was nothing else to do. It was too late to go back now. He also admitted to himself that he was pleased to not have to sort out delivering a ransom note, then trying to arrange picking up the money. A million each was more than enough, especially as they didn’t have to hurt anyone, or even keep them imprisoned. After pretending to mull it over for a while, he nodded. And sounding suitably aggrieved, he said, “OK then. I agree”.
Marjorie looked at the strong back, and the firm thighs. This close, she could smell his aftershave. She turned to look at Rod, still smiling. “One thing though. A change of accommodation, I think. I’m sure Phil’s place is cleaner and tidier than this dump, so I will be staying at his from now on, until things are sorted out”.
Phil looked at Marjorie, watching as she recrossed her legs, lifted both arms, and ran her hands through her hair. Without a glance at Rodney, he stood up.
“Yeah, why not? Go and get your stuff”.