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My Father’s Name – Chapter 21.
There were lights programmed to turn on and off. A security measure recommended by the police. It meant that though the living room was bright behind the voile curtains it didn’t really tell us anything. There was one lit upstairs as well; on the landing. We knew immediately we stepped inside though. Someone was there. There was no beeping from the burglar alarm and the house didn’t ‘feel’ empty.
My heart began to thud and I thought I might be sick. Frances had reached out and taken hold of my hand and together we stepped into my mum’s hallway.
We couldn’t hear anything and we hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. I drew in a breath preparatory to calling out but Frances lifted a finger to her lips and shook her head. She leaned close to whisper. “We should call the police. It would be better if we went and waited outside.”
I couldn’t, of course, I couldn’t. There was the chance that Suzie was in there so nothing would make me turn and leave. I think Fran knew it even as she spoke because she took another couple of steps towards the living room door.
It was slightly ajar and we pushed it carefully inwards. I leaned to peer around. I had no idea what I might see and I couldn’t have said what I hoped for but the room was empty. I shook my head and we turned to the kitchen at the end of the narrow space. The door was closed and I was sure I had left them all open the last time I had been there. I couldn’t think clearly enough to decide whether the cleaner had been in since then. I tried to concentrate on what day it was and how long it had been since I came to check on things. My brain was a mess and I just couldn’t remember.
Frances pointed at the closed door and raised her eyebrows. I nodded and we moved on. Looking back I see now that there was no real point to it but we crept forwards. I put my hand on the knob and turned it slowly. I don’t know why. Slowly – quickly what difference did it make. He was there and he had been there all the time listening to us creeping about.
He sat on the bench seat near the window. The light wasn’t turned on but there was a glow from a streetlamp outside. He had my daughter on his lap. She appeared to be sleeping. At first, I wasn’t sure because she looked so limp the way she lolled in his arms. Her legs were across his thighs and her feet on the seat beside him. She didn’t stir when we walked in and for a moment, the worst moment of my life, I thought she was dead.
I reached out my arms and began to lurch forward and Francis grabbed at me and held me back. I think I struggled for a moment with her but she held me tighter. “Wait, just wait.” All I could see was my little girl, she filled my eyes.
I tried to twist away from Frances and she gripped me by the shoulders and turned me so that I was looking directly at her. “Wait, girl,” she hissed.
I peered through the gloom. He smiled at me. In spite of myself and the situation, I began to smile back. It was a natural reflex and then the anger began to boil.”What the hell, John?” Again I struggled to break free from Frances’s grip and she leaned a little backwards pulling me with her.
“Just let her go, eh?” she said. “Come on John this is silly. Just let her go and we can talk about what to do next.”
He shook his head, “I don’t need to talk to you, bitch. I need to speak to my daughter. You can go. You’re not part of this. Just go now.”
“I don’t think so. No. Just give us Suzie and then we’ll see what’s the right thing to do.”
I was looking back and forth between them and trying to make sense of the conversation. “What are you doing John. What the hell is this all about?” I said. Frances still held me and I had to twist in her embrace to speak to him.
“I think you know what this is about, stupid girl. Honestly, it was only a couple of quid. You didn’t need to call the bloody police. Why, did you do that? This could have all been so much easier but no, you had to screw things up. Just like your mother.” As he spoke he shook his head and frowned. It didn’t make sense at first and then I realised that he was talking about the money I’d loaned him.
“I didn’t. I didn’t call anyone,” I said.
“I saw them. I watched them come to your house. I knew them. I’m not going back to prison. No. I’m not. You really shouldn’t have done that.”
“But I didn’t, truly I didn’t” I was crying with frustration and fear and possibly a sort of relief because as awful as all this was I had found my daughter. It seemed it had all been a misunderstanding and so, of course, it could be fixed. I think I even laughed. “Really John, the money doesn’t matter. You can have it. I really don’t care about it. Just let me take Suzie home and then you can go.”
“As I say, this would all have been much simpler. But now I have to move quickly. I’ve broken the terms of that bloody licence and I’m not going back inside. So, you’re going to have to help me and quickly.
First of all, I need somewhere to stay. Somewhere they won’t look. So, I guess that means you are having a house guest.” He looked around as he spoke. “It’s very nice but of course I won’t be able to enjoy all the facilities. Not to worry it’s only for a day or two and you can make sure we have plenty to eat. Me and little Suzie here will be fine until you sort everything out.
“No, you can’t. You have to give her to me. Okay, okay, if you want to stay here you can do. I don’t care much about that. Just let me have my baby back.
He laughed, a mirthless, nasty sound. “I wasn’t born yesterday. How stupid do you think I am. No, no my little granddaughter here,” he leaned and kissed her, “she’s so very precious to me. She can stay here with John while mummy sorts out her little bit of business. We’re going to be just fine.”
“You’re mad if you think I am leaving her with you.”
“It’s not for long. Well, how long sort of depends on how quickly you can get me some money. Lots of money.”
“Okay, okay. You can take all I have in the bank. I don’t know how much it is but you can have it all, just let me take Suzie home.”
He laughed again. “You have got to be joking. I don’t want your measly little savings. No, I want much more than that.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” I was boiling with fury now; shaking with it.
He just turned his head and let his gaze travel the room. “The bank will give you a very sizeable loan on this house. I know you’ve had it valued. You told me and so there we are. Just get me that and in the meantime, we’ll just stay here. Of course, if anyone finds out … …” he shrugged and looked down and my sleeping child. It was obvious that he had drugged her with something and the idea of leaving her with him was impossible to countenance.
“You’re crazy. They’ll find you anyway. The police will hunt you down and find you.”
“Oh well, in that case maybe little Suzie had better come with me.”
I screamed at him, “No!”
“Enough. I’ve had enough of this. Off you go home now. You’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow. Say goodnight to your daughter.” He shifted her limp body slightly and hoisted her more upright against his chest.
I felt Frances loosen her grip a little and I began to move towards him but she grabbed at me again. “Don’t Mel, don’t.”
And then I saw what he had in his hand.