Ghosts Of Her Past

Ghosts Of Her Past

A Story by Carrie
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A woman turns to crime to solve her money problems with comic results whilst dealing with the tragic ghosts of her past.

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PROLOGUE

 

November 1978

 

Dr Owen, a man with unruly brows and a high forehead that looked like he had just polished it, put a cigarette in his mouth. He flicked his lighter several times and inhaled as the warmth wrapped around his lungs, then gradually exhaled the smoke from his mouth.
      Closing his office door from the distracting screams that echoed in the corridors, he switched on his recording device and began to dictate notes for his secretary to type later.
     ‘The patient has suffered a brief psychotic illness, exacerbated by the birth of a child and relinquishing her for adoption. - Months later, the patient fled her parents' home with another infant believing she was the child’s mother.’ He took another drag of his cigarette.
      ‘When found, and parted from the child, the patient threatened suicide. Upon admittance to the hospital, the patient was unkempt and showed signs of malnourishment and dehydration. However, after observation and treatment with Chlorpromazine, she no longer presents as a suicide risk. No evidence of schizophrenia presents, and she understands the consequences of her actions. I believe …’
     He paused the tape, took another deep drag, and stroked his moustache with long pale fingers. What was she hiding? Whenever he questioned her about the child’s father, she would end the session by refusing to talk.
     He pressed the record button again. ‘Recommendation. The patient needs observing for a further thirty days.’

                                   *


 

 

PART ONE

AFTER JAMES

CHAPTER 1

February 2018

You’ve got to be f*****g kidding me. A football smashed against the kitchen windowpane, leaving a muddy imprint. Jo banged on the window and raised her Marigold gloved fist as a young boy with spindly legs wearing orange football boots trampled across the newly planted primroses. The shaven-headed youngster locked eyes with her, stuck up his fingers, and picked up his ball. That brat has no idea how much work goes into my garden, the one thing in my life that gives me pleasure apart from my beloved Angie.
     ‘Get off my grass in those boots,’ she shouted and banged on the window again, depositing a soapy residue on the glass. The ball bounced against the window and rebounded back into his hands as he laughed and ran off.
     The familiar rubbing of fur against her legs distracted Jo’s anger as her phone rang. Taking off her washing-up gloves, she picked up her cat Angie and stroked the black cat’s fluffy white bib, clasping her against her chest in one hand and answering her mobile in the other.
      ‘Hi, Lynn,’ she said.
     ‘You sound stressed.’ Lynn, her oldest friend’s voice, had a calming effect immediately.
     ‘The neighbour’s kid again?’
     ‘Yes, little s**t.’
      ‘Your language has gone downhill lately, luv,’ Lynn, who swore like a trooper, said.
     ‘I hate living here, Lynn.’ She looked around with Angie in her arms thinking ironically, this kitchen was too tiny to swing a cat. ‘I hate it. You know my kitchen in my St Albans home had an Aga and large bi-fold doors that led out onto a secluded garden. The local kids went to private prep schools and wouldn’t dream of traipsing across neighbours’ flower beds.’
     ‘Yes, I know, Jo, you’ve told me before,’ Lynn’s voice raised slightly.
     Jo thought of her tearful goodbye to the grade II listed home with tall chimneys that dated back to the 16th century. ‘I’ve sold the last of the furniture at auction, and the money from my jewellery’s long gone.’
    ‘Lucky you had it to sell in the first place,’ Jo detected the envy in her friend’s voice.
    Lynn was used to living in a less than salubrious neighbourhood but Jo had lived in luxury with her partner James for years until his untimely death a year ago. Her current home was found via an advertisement in a hardware store.  The neglected ex-local authority maisonette with tired wood chip wallpaper, peeling paint and mould in the bathroom meant the rent was cheap. 
     ‘I’m sorting the last of James’s clothes now,’ Jo said.
     ‘Is there anything that would fit Vinny?’ Lynn asked. Lynn had a twenty-something son, who acted like a teenager.
     ‘Is he coming back from his travels soon then?’  
     ‘I don’t know, Jo. I hope so, but he’s workshy just like his dad. I can’t afford to keep him.’
     ‘You’re well rid of his father. Waste of space.’ Lynn had had a brief relationship with Vinny’s father, who’d not paid a penny of maintenance or taken any interest in his son since birth.  Jo thought of James’s shirts with collars and cuffs so crisp they almost snapped when laundered and beautiful leather-soled footwear, it didn’t seem appropriate that his clothes went to a lout like Vinny.
     ‘All the best stuff’s gone to the charity shops,’ she lied. Certainly much had. Did the new owners take care of them? Was someone walking the streets in his clothes?

     The clatter of the letterbox sounded as the day’s post landed on the doormat. Jo carried on her conversation, put Angie down and picked up the pile leafing through it as if fanning a pack of cards.
     ‘I know you haven’t had it easy Lynn, but I’m drowning in debt. I’ve sold everything, designer clothes, shoes and  �"’
    ‘I’ve never owned anything designer.’
     Jo could tell she was not going to get any sympathy from Lynn but she carried on anyway. ‘Now I’ve nothing left to sell.’  Her stomach flipped as she recognised a bill from Willow Tree Care Home.
     ‘Are you still there, Jo?’
     ‘S**t.’
     ‘What is it?’
     ‘The care home fees, how can I tell them I haven't got any money?’
     ‘You’ll have to rob a bank,’ Lynn joked.
     ‘I’ll have to what?’ Jo was distracted by the post again. A letter with a familiar logo displayed on the franked postmark evoked memories of a time long ago. Magenta Records. These letters arrived periodically with a small royalty cheque, but her time had been short-lived, a dream cruelly crushed before it had started. It made her think of her sister Dee. She could try asking her for help towards the care home fees but they had money problems too with medical bills to pay.
     A hard knock vibrated the front door and Jo flattened her frame against the wall.
     She lowered her voice. ‘Lynn, I’ve got to go, they’re here again,’ Jo cut off the call.
     The bailiffs called regularly, shouting through the letterbox; so far, she’d avoided speaking with them, but each time, a man with a northeast accent rang the doorbell and called out her name.
     ‘Ms Diamond, it’s the bailiffs.’ 
     Jo slid along the wall, through the hall and back to the kitchen. The shouting stopped, and she breathed a sigh of relief only to see a face staring at her through the windowpane. They locked eyes and his were surprisingly warm and dark. He had a dimple in his chin as if a child had pressed their finger there and the indentation had stayed. Jo realised she was staring, actually weighing up his looks, the first time she had looked at a man that way since she’d met James nearly forty years ago. She quickly exited the kitchen to the narrow hallway.
     A few moments later the letterbox opened again, and the man spoke.
     ‘Open up, pet. We need to talk.’
     ‘Go away,’ Jo said. ‘I don’t have any money. I can’t pay you.’
     ‘You can’t avoid me forever. I’ll be back, Ms Diamond. My name’s David,’ he said. The flap closed and footsteps retreated, and then a car engine started. He would be back.
     
                             *

      Jo sipped on a cup of green tea mulling over her situation. She was not averse to hard work, having spent years volunteering, money had never been a problem when she lived with James, and she hadn’t needed to work. It had been a difficult adjustment for her since his death but eventually, a temporary position as a receptionist, via an agency came her way in the head office of a chain of Funeral Directors. Still, her income would not cover paying off her debts, she needed a second job or an alternative income. But what?
     That evening Jo slumped in front of the TV and flicked through the channels. On the BBC a documentary about express kidnaps in Mexico caught her interest. Kidnap victim, Senora Micaela Acosta Garcia, appeared on camera clutching her Chihuahua, Isabella, who wore a pink jewel-studded collar.
     ‘They drugged me and locked me and Bella in a small cupboard for twelve hours,’ Senora Micaela Acosta Garcia’s large dark eyes filled with tears as she held her wrists up to the camera and showed the angry red welts from the ropes that had tied her. ‘The police in Mexico, they don’t care, it’s just accepted that the rich will pay. We were targeted because my husband is a famous rock star,’ she kissed Bella on the head, who responded with a look of love from her bulging eyes towards her mistress.
     ‘Rock star.’ Jo froze the screen as the little dog licked her owner’s highly made-up face. ‘Kidnap.’ She thought of all the rock stars she had once known with lifestyles and money beyond anything they could ever spend. Would their families pay a ransom? She’d need an accomplice though, someone she could trust. It would have to be Lynn.
     Later in bed, Jo eyed a bottle of pills that for weeks after James’s death she’d clutched in her hand as if they were her life support.  She remembered her doctor’s words. ‘These pills are very strong and addictive, you must make sure you take them as directed, too many will knock you right out.’
    She lay in bed thinking about the kidnapping documentary, of Bella’s face. What a little darling, at least she wasn’t hurt. 
       Since James’s death, she’d taken to sleeping with the light on as her long forgotten fear of the dark returned like a whispering ghoul. The moonlight peeped through the curtains and shone directly onto a photograph of James, standing with his arm protectively around her. James had made her feel safe. With him by her side, she could forget her past and pretend that night had never happened. Now without him to watch over her, memories flashed through her mind of the night that changed her life. The ghosts had returned.                                                *

 

 


CHAPTER 2

 

April 2018

Jo opened the door to the understairs cupboard, flicked the old Bakelite dolly switch that wobbled like a loose tooth and surveyed the small space. The cast iron radiator appeared solid enough to attach a chain to it, if necessary, although that would be a last resort. This was a perfect short-term space she could make cosy. She had to do something no matter how risky it was, or her debts would never be paid.
     She picked up her mobile and called Lynn. ‘Can we meet in town; I’ve got something I want to talk to you about.’
     ‘That sounds ominous. I am quite busy today though, Jo.’
     ‘Please come.’ Jo would not take no for an answer. ‘I think you’ll be interested; this is going to change both our lives.’                                  
                                   *

Later that morning Jo met Lynn in a little café situated down a quiet side street, but so popular the queue often snaked outside and along the pavement. The women had met on their first day at school as they entered the playground. five-year-old Lynn had been confident and brought Jo out of her shell. They had been similar in size then, but by their teens, Jo stood nearly six inches taller than her friend. There had been sporadic contact, Christmas cards, with messages that they must meet sometime, but nothing followed up throughout the years. After James’s death, they reconciled at his funeral.
     ‘I can’t believe we lost touch for so long. I suppose it was you and all your posh friends that I didn’t fit in with,’ Lynn said as they sat with their coffee and cake.
     ‘We lost touch long before I met James.’
     ‘I know, I’m sorry, Jo.’ Lynn’s eyes fell to the floor. ‘I wasn’t a very good friend. I hope I can make it up to you.’
     Jo took a sip of her black coffee and dipped her fork into the gooey chocolate cake, pushing it around the plate. ‘We were both young and stupid. It’s good to be back in touch this last year.’
     ‘Who’d have thought we’d both end up alone? We had so many plans back in the day,’ Lynn said.
     Jo’s eyes misted over. ‘Yes, it’s not been easy, Lynn.’ She cleared her throat. ‘You’re not alone, though, you have Vinny.
     Lynn nodded. ‘I had an email from him a few days ago.  He’s got a lovely girlfriend in Honduras. He might stay there.’
     Jo felt vindicated that she hadn’t offered to give him any of James’s clothes.
     ‘How long has his gap year been now?’
     Lynn counted on her fingers. ‘About six years. I’ve got some photos of him, do you want to see them?’
     Jo feigned interest as Lynn got out her phone and showed photos of Vinny on his never-ending gap adventure. Lynn’s son was small and round like his mother with a mop of hair that needed brushing and despite only looking at photos Jo could tell he needed to shower.
     Jo continued pushing the cake around her plate. ‘So, I’ll get to the point.  I have bailiffs chasing me and debts up to my armpits I need money now.’ She lowered her voice and told Lynn about the kidnapping documentary on the BBC.    
     Lynn laughed nervously. ‘Are you serious?’
      Jo took a tissue from her handbag and dabbed at the corners of her mouth, knowing how crumbs liked to tuck into the tiny folds of skin, then took out a compact, applied two coats of lipstick, and blotted her lips on a tissue. ‘Some people have fortunes. More money in their bank accounts than you or I can dream of.’ Lynn listened as she buttered her scone like a workman piling on layers of cement over a large crack. ‘Did you know that kidnap is an accepted part of life in many countries?’ Jo leant across the table, staring into Lynn’s deep-set eyes that looked as if they were permanently squinting. ‘They even have kidnap insurance.’ 
     Opposite her, Jo saw the sixteen-year-old girl she’d once so easily influenced, but today she looked unconvinced. Lynn had put on a fair bit of weight over the years. Her pretty bouncy curls were now grey, cut short in an ageing granny style, her face bare of makeup with skin ruddy as if she spent a lot of time outdoors, although, in reality, Lynn spent most of her time in front of the TV. She looked much older than her age, especially compared to the glamourous fifty-somethings seen in the media that Jo aspired to be like.
     ‘I need an answer, Lynn. Are you with me or not?’    
     Lynn fidgeted in her chair, looking nervously around the café and leant towards Jo. ‘I just don’t see how we can get away with it. I mean, kidnap?’
     Jo put her finger to her lips. ‘Shush. Keep your voice down.’
     As they spoke an old man shuffled by with the aid of two sticks, his back bent almost double like an upside-down letter U. He manoeuvred himself into his seat at the next table and Jo could almost hear his bones creaking. ‘Hello,’ he gave an appreciative glance and then sat back in his seat resting his hands on the table.
     Jo gave him a cursory nod. ‘You don’t need to worry about that, Lynn.’ She surveyed Lynn’s chubby fingers and chewed nails. ‘Trust me.’
     Lynn puffed out her cheeks and shrugged. ‘Okay. I’m in. I need all the money I can get my hands on, I’m behind with my rent and owe a bit of money on my credit card, although I still don’t know how we’ll pull this off.’
     The man at the next table stared at Jo, who became concerned that he was listening in. He wore a dark suit, very formal for a visit to a café. If he’d been younger Jo thought perhaps he was on his way to a business meeting, but he was way past retirement although he had an intelligent air about him.
     ‘Thank god you’re in, Lynn,’ Jo breathed a sigh of relief. ‘There’s nothing to worry about. Leave it to me.’
     The man seemed fixated on Jo as a faint smile touched his lips they parted showing heavily stained teeth.
     ‘Think you’ve got an admirer,’ Lynn said. ‘Morning, luv,’ she said to the man.
     Lynn had a friendliness that Jo lacked. She could talk to strangers for hours and soon become their new best friend. Six degrees of separation didn’t apply to Lynn; she always seemed to know strangers by one or two degrees. She could be in the Gobi Desert and meet a Mongolian who was a friend of a friend. Jo could see a long conversation between these two beginning here, and she didn’t have time for that, not when they had plans to make.
     I wish he’d stop staring, lonely old sod.  She felt sorry for him, knowing what it was like to be alone, so relented and smiled. ‘Lovely day,’ she said.
     ‘Yes, a perfect day for dog walking.’
       His face was dotted with liver spots and his voice sounded breathy and weak as if he had arthritis of the vocal cords. Although not a hair on his head, he had large, bushy brows that framed eyes half-hidden under hooded lids and a moustache that he kept stroking.
     ‘Yes, it’s a perfect day for dog walking,’ she replied. What a strange thing to say. She’d lost her darling Labrador, Gemmy just before James had died and her grief for Gemmy had been surpassed by the passing of James. Now it all came back to her. Why had he mentioned dogs? She didn’t want to cry in public but felt a tear prickle her cheek.
     ‘I hope you’ve found happiness in your life,’ he said.
     She studied him. What odd things to say to a stranger. Especially as once she had been a dog walker and happiness had eluded her for a long time. He took a sip of tea, long nicotine-stained fingers wrapped around his cup. As she took in his appearance she gasped and put her hand to her mouth. She knew this man, not the man before her but a taller, younger authoritarian version of him. There was no doubt about it. Dr Owen.
     Lynn eyed the remains of Jo’s cake. ‘Are you eating that?’ Jo shook her head and Lynn dipped her fork into the gooey remains.
     ‘Come on Lynn, we need to go.’
     ‘Alright, just a sec,’ Lynn said with her mouth full.
     Jo walked out without a backward glance, she’d managed to keep secret a time in her life for forty years, and she wasn't going to let Lynn know about it now.
     ‘Come on,’ she said as Lynn followed with a chocolate moustache around her mouth like a three-year-old at a birthday party.
                                   *

The next day, Jo sat in the doctor’s surgery, chewing on a fingernail as she waited for her name to be called. Seeing Dr Owen had brought back more than dark memories. It reminded her that she’d lived a lie with James, never telling him the truth about her past. She eyed the other patients, a calm-looking man in his fifties, in a dark suit, a sallow-complexioned youth who walked in with a limp, and a young mother with three children squabbling in the corner. Did they keep secrets on their sagging shoulders too? 
     The man with the limp was called, and within minutes strode out of the surgery, clutching a sick certificate, smiling as if he’d found a twenty-pound note in the gutter. So nothing much wrong with him.
     ‘Miss Diamond to Dr Lacey, please,’ said the receptionist.
     Jo stood, smoothed her skirt, and made her way to the consulting room, took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
   ‘Come in,’ a woman’s voice said. She gestured at a seat. ‘Please sit down. How can I help today?’
     Jo rubbed her sweaty palms on her skirt as her heart rate beat as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. ‘I’ve run out of my medication and need a new prescription please, Doctor.’
      Dr Victoria Lacey, thirties, with silky hair that hung around her face like an Afghan Hound’s ears, consulted her screen before peering over her rimless glasses at Jo. She’d seen Dr Lacey with a brood of children once, in Marks and Spencer loading a trolley with ready meals, albeit from their healthy range as Jo had been scouring the shelves for yellow stickers.
     ‘Miss Diamond, I can’t keep writing you prescriptions. You need to book a double appointment so we can discuss this in more detail.’
     Jo’s eyes misted over as she wrung her hands together. ‘Just for a few more weeks, please.’
     Dr Lacey tipped her head to one side. ‘We need to find another solution.’ She consulted her notes again. ‘It’s been a year since your partner died, have you thought about grief counselling?’
     Jo gritted her teeth, ‘I don’t need counselling, what good will that do? Nothing can bring James back.’ She relaxed back in her seat as the anger subsided. ‘These pills help with my anxiety. I can’t sleep when I’m anxious.’ 
       ‘I don’t want you to become dependent on medication. As I’ve told you before these pills are very addictive and will slow down your reactions and make you drowsy.’
     Jo sighed, ‘I know, Doctor,’ she was well aware of this fact having spent many years on medication. If the doctor read her notes through, she’d know that, but she’d only been her GP since she’d moved from St Albans.
     The doctor tapped on her keyboard and printed out her prescription.
     ‘This is the very last time. I want you to come and see me again in a month.’
    Jo’s mouth twitched a smile.
     She collected her prescription from the chemist and put the bottle of pills on her bathroom shelf next to the other two. That should do nicely.

                                   *
     That evening, Jo sat watching TV. She’d never really watched television with James, it reminded her too much of a time she’d hated and tried to forget; sitting trapped in a sea of depressed and lonely faces grouped in a half-circle around a small screen just like they did in an old people’s home, except she’d been only seventeen.
     Meeting James changed everything. They had a busy social life as he sat on various charitable committees; there were always functions and dinner parties to attend. After his death, the wives of these men had disappeared like rabbits down a hole. Apparently, a single woman in her fifties is not a welcome addition at dinner parties; Jo couldn’t decide if they saw her as a threat after one of their dreary husbands or if they had never really liked her, as she’d always struggled to fit in. Whatever the answer, it hurt.
     How life changes. Jo’s current evening routine revolved mainly around watching television. Soap operas had become her latest addiction, especially those around pubs. If she’d inherited money from James, as she should have done, she planned to buy a little country pub, but Henry, James’s son had put paid to that. The little s**t.
     She fantasised about her customers and the dramas that would take place there. The name The Royal Oak fitted the bill perfectly. The pub would have beamed ceilings and a garden where people could bring their dogs. She’d pull pints and sing around the pub like Nancy in the musical ‘Oliver’ but with a more refined accent and hire a talented young chef, maybe the person who came third or fourth on Master Chef, and they would conjure up exciting dishes putting the pub on the culinary map. Perhaps Lynn could work there as a barmaid?
     Jo danced around the room, closed her eyes, and sang ‘Oom pah pah.’ Bumping into a coffee table, jolted her back to reality. What a pathetic old chump. At least there was only Angie to witness her foolishness. Deflated, she went to the kitchen, made her evening snack, and sat back down in front of the TV with a tray on her lap.
      Angie cuddled up beside her, eyeing Jo’s sardines on toast as Jo stroked and tickled her chin between mouthfuls, whilst watching the six o’clock news. Brexit, the arrival of a new royal baby and the forthcoming Royal Wedding had dominated the headlines.
     The newscaster, a statuesque dark-haired woman whom Jo once met at a charity function, raised her eyebrows.
     And now for other news. Jack Gerwig, the seventies rock star, is missing.’
Jo clicked on her controls, turning the volume up as a photograph of Jack Gerwig filled the screen. She remembered him from her dog-walking days years ago. A man with wandering hands and a never-ending stream of glamorous girlfriends. Sighing, she put down the TV controls, picked up her tray and walked to the kitchen as the news reporter continued.
     ‘We’ve also heard that the legendary record producer of Magenta Records …’
    
     Jo scraped her plate and returned to the living room at the mention of Magenta Records.
     ‘ … was severely beaten up today. Are these two cases connected, as the men knew each other?’
     The news item finished, and a smiling weather girl was forecasting heavy rain.
     Jo was deciding what to watch next when her mobile rang. It was unusual for her to receive a call in the evening, but the sound of another human’s voice was a comfort, and she even answered cold callers. Pathetic, but true.
     The screen displayed number withheld but she pressed the green button, and a croaky voice charged with emotion spoke.
     ‘I’ve done something that I should have done years ago. For you.’
     ‘Who is this?’ Jo said as the line cut dead.
                                   *


 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

May 2018

With Lynn on board, Jo spent hours planning the kidnap compiling a list of rock stars whose dogs she had walked years ago, leafing through gossip magazines like Hello and OK in W H Smith, making a note of those who lived in leafy Hertfordshire villages close by. People she’d met years ago, some who’d faded to oblivion but still had fortunes through shrewd investments or having purchased grand homes in prime locations that had increased during the boom years, oblivious to the fact she knew their darkest secrets.
     As a dog walker, she had infiltrated the lives of these rock stars, making friends with other employees of the wealthy and privileged. 
      Today, as she had done each morning that week, she took an early walk in the local park,  familiar to her as she’d been visiting since she was a child. Memories of sauntering along the riverside, fishing with bread in jam jars and watching canal boats chugging along, racing alongside them as they made their way between locks caused her to smile.
      Jo relished being outside. The smell of grass being cut in the summer, the changing shapes of trees in the season as leaves fell on the ground, crunching beneath her feet in the autumn. Her father had been an avid bird watcher and taught her the call of blue tits, great tits, dunnocks and the warbling of a robin.  Many wildfowl lived along the canal side,  ducks, geese, and swans that she gave names to and watched as grey feathers morphed into beautiful, long-necked, majestic creatures who, in turn, had their own families.
      There was a miniature railway that she and Dee had been on as kids, paddling pools and play areas. She’d watch enviously, as the children ran in and out of the cold water and into their waiting parent’s arms or squealed with delight on the swings.
     It was just past six a.m. Behind her, footsteps and a gasping of breath sounded as a runner passed by, oblivious to the chilly early morning temperature. That jogger was here each day, wearing the same clothes, although he ran by too fast to see his face.
    In the distance, a tall man with wispy grey hair appeared like a genie emerging from a bottle in the morning mist. He stopped for a moment and called after his ageing spaniel, Eddie, who still had the enthusiasm of a puppy but not the energy. Eddie, tail wagging and nose to the ground following a scent returned to his master’s legs until Jo changed direction and headed towards her. Jo kept her eyes down, and the man, who she had once known, Ian Bramy approached, walking with a pronounced limp. They crossed paths, and he acknowledged her with a cheery ‘Good Morning.’
     Jo turned when he was safely past, studying the man with his hands in his pockets, as his body lurched in a slow, protracted movement from side to side. Nobody stays young forever, even rock stars become old. Bramy had never been good-looking in a film star way, with his crooked nose and uneven teeth but rock stars have a charisma that sets them apart and this made had once had it in buckets. He was a sad sight to behold now.
         Back home, she put on the morning news and made breakfast for herself and Angie. In the background, on the news was something about a man being questioned in connection with a sexual assault. Then news of another royal baby. She turned the TV off, as any mention of babies got her blood pressure up for the rest of the day. It got her thinking about Dr Owen. How had he recognised her after all these years? She’d been rude and dismissive, but Lynn must never know about her connection to Dr Owen, only her parents and Dee knew that.
     Somehow her appetite had gone, and she scraped most of her porridge into Angie’s dish, washed up and went upstairs to the bathroom and took out a bottle of pills from the cabinet. Back downstairs she emptied the drugs into a mortar and crushed them with a pestle until they appeared to be as fine as sifted flour. Then Jo picked up her mobile and dialled Lynn.
     ‘I need you prepared for Monday morning.’
     Lynn giggled. ‘We’re really doing this, Jo?’
     Jo sighed. ‘Yes, of course we are. Take this seriously, Lynn, we could be rich soon. But there’s no room for error,’ she gritted her teeth.
     ‘So who’s it going to be then, Jo, and where?’
     Jo paused. ‘I’ve decided on Ian Bramy. We’re going to the park near town with the kid's paddling pools. He walks his dog there every morning. It’s a spaniel called Eddie.’
     ‘Ian Bramy, oh, I loved him when I was young.’
     ‘I know you did, we all did, but don’t get star-struck now. You’re going to have to talk to him. Not me, as he might remember me.’ Unlikely, he would remember the hired help. ‘Remember our plan? I’ll go through the details again one last time. We can meet at mine this evening.’
     ‘Yes, I have to tell him I’ve lost my dog, get chatting with him and then �"’
     ‘We can take your car,’ Jo interrupted, ‘and I’ll be waiting, then we’ll, well, you know what we discussed.’ Jo lowered her voice as if the phone were bugged.
    ‘Cool,’ Lynn said, sounding like a teenager. Jo had always been struck by Lynn’s naivety, which hadn’t changed.
     ‘We can meet at five-thirty a.m.’
     ‘Do you have the er �"’
     ‘Yes, yes, it’ll be ready for you tomorrow. Lynn, you must follow our plan. Memorise the bullet points I wrote for you and throw them away.’
     ‘Memorise and throw away. We can’t be linked to this.’
     ‘Good. This is just between you and me. Tell nobody. Okay?’
     ‘Yes, Jo. No need to go on. I’m not stupid.’
     I’m not so sure about that. She didn’t need an accomplice as daft as Lynn but had no choice. She couldn’t do this on her own. After the telephone call, Jo busied herself in the kitchen, making a batch of cakes. She mixed some crushed pills into the batter, poured it into the tin and set the timer. Fifteen minutes later, a tray of lop-sided fairy cakes sat cooling on a wire rack.
      Preparations for the kidnapping were done, and a final appraisal of where she would keep the hostage in the understairs cupboard was carried out. A chain, only to be used, if necessary, lay on the floorboards, juxtaposed against a fluffy rug that looked as if it could be comfortable for the short period needed. The victim would be in and out in no time as soon as the ransom was paid. From her pocket, she took out a key and locked the door. Later that evening after going over their final plans, Lynn and Jo sat sipping mugs of coffee and reminiscing.
    ‘Do you miss Dee?’ Lynn asked.
     ‘I suppose more so since James died. We don’t speak as much as we used to.’
     ‘Do you write songs anymore?’
    ‘I haven’t written a song for over thirty years. I still get royalties for a couple of the songs I wrote for Dee, although it’s not much.’
    ‘Maybe you could write a song instead of becoming a kidnapper?’
    Jo made a whooshing sound like a nail piercing a bicycle tyre. ‘If you have cold feet, Lynn, say so now.’
     ‘It’s not that. It’s just I don’t want to go to prison.’
     Jo slapped her hands on her knees. ‘That will not happen, Lynn. We’re not going to get caught.’
      ‘Will we be wearing Ronald Reagan masks as they did in Point Break? I think I’d prefer a more glamorous one,’ Lynn frowned as if she were trying to remember the answer to a crossword clue, ‘maybe Angelina Jolie would be �"’
     ‘NO, Lynn. We’re not in a heist movie. This is real life.’ For goodness sake.
     ‘Okay, no need to shout.’
                                   *
     On Monday morning, Lynn picked up Jo at the agreed time, and they drove to the park. The nearby residential streets were silent except for the sound of Lynn’s car exhaust.
     ‘Turn the engine off,’ Jo said, ‘it’s too noisy.’
     They sat there, going over last-minute preparations.
     ‘Put these in your pocket,’ Jo handed Lynn a few cakes.
     There’s a bench near the paddling pools, sit there when you see him coming, sob a bit to get his sympathy, chat with him, and get the cakes out, your getaway route’s down the alleyway to the car, the hatchback door will be up, and  …‘  Jo slid down in her seat. ‘There he is. Follow him.’
    ‘I know, I know, Jo.’ Lynn dressed from head to toe in black, got out of the car and trotted down the entrance to the park. Jo contemplated their plan. Is it watertight? What if he … No, Jo, it’s all going to work out just fine.
     After half an hour, Jo opened up the back of the estate car and got in the driver’s seat, ready for Lynn. She had timed his walk to the second, and Lynn should be back by now. Something was wrong.
     She kept checking her watch as she fidgeted in her seat. Where is bloody Lynn? They had deliberately left their phones at home, so she had no way to contact her. In such an upmarket area, she was worried that a twelve-year-old car would attract attention from neighbourhood watch.
     It was another misty morning, and the view from the car mirror wasn’t clear. If she got out of the car to look for her, would someone see her from their window and think she was a suspicious character? What the hell was Lynn doing? In the car mirror, a shadowy figure appeared, here she was, making her way slowly in the direction of the car, bending and stooping, bending and stooping, dragging something large along the ground.
     Jo got out of the car as Lynn gesticulated at her.
     ‘I need help, Jo,’ Lynn mouthed to her friend as she got nearer the car.
     Jo froze. A long lythe body lay on the pavement as Lynn bent double, ham-fistedly trying to get it into the car’s boot.
     ‘What the f**k?’ Jo’s mouth fell open.
     ‘Help me. He’s heavy,’ Lynn panted. Her face dripped with sweat that she wiped with the back of her hand.
     Jo stood there, still open-mouthed. ‘Lynn, what have you done? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?’ She trembled so much that she gripped the side of the car to keep her balance.
     ‘Are you gonna help or not?’ Lynn’s face turned redder and redder as she tried to haul the huge frame of Ian Bramy into the car boot.
     ‘Oh my god, oh my god. You IDIOT. Can’t you understand simple instructions? You were only supposed to kidnap the f*****g DOG.’
                                   *

© 2023 Carrie


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Added on August 24, 2023
Last Updated on August 24, 2023
Tags: Teenage pregnancy, kidnap, seventies rock stars, adoption

Author

Carrie
Carrie

Hemel Hempstead, United Kingdom



About
I live in Hertfordshire and write commercial fiction usually featuring troubled female characters with complex families. more..