It was short, just a web address with the instruction – ‘Open this’. Although they could have clicked through on the phone, which Jean had now connected to her home network, she fetched the Kindle Fire. The screen was bigger and doing it her own way gave her at least the feeling that she still had some control. She typed in the URL.
It was a vlog. Carl’s face, looking tired and nervous, his eyes dark ringed, was the only thing that they could seek. Reddened skin around his mouth witnessed the recent removal of the tape. No background, no risk that anyone viewing it could easily trace where it had been made. He spoke, his voice low but steady. “Aunty Jean, these assholes.” At the small rebellion the sisters clasped hands, he still had fight in him, it helped. “These assholes, say that you have information that they want. You have to put a comment on this blog. Tell them what they want to know and then I can get out of this…” the screen went blank.
The two women were silent for a while. Lesley reached out and stroked the screen of the device as if in some way, she could reach through to her son.
Jean ran to her office and came back with a legal pad and pencil. When she sat at the kitchen table scribbling on the yellow paper Lesley watched for a while before she spoke. “Are you writing what you’re going to tell them?” Jean shook her head.
“So, what are you doing, writing a bloody book.”
“No, look. I had already started this, I’m writing down what we know – all the main points. It helps me keep my mind straight.”
“Bloody hell. You amaze me. You’re away with the fairies you are. Are you mad?”
“Listen. This is how I think. When I get stuck with one of my stories I just write it down, I keep on writing and it all gets clearer in my head. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m clearing my mind.”
“We haven’t got time for you to clear your bloody mind, Jean. We need to put something on that blog thing. We need to tell them something, so they’ll let him go. I want Carl home now.”
“I know and that’s what I want, but think about it. What guarantee have we that they’ll let him go, when we’ve told them something completely useless? If we tell them she asked me to find her mother, she asked me to wipe her face, or something like that, then we are of no more use to them. They do believe though, that she told me something important, do you think, when they find out we know nothing, they’ll let Carl go?”
“He just said so.”
Yes, but if they do, then we’re a real threat aren’t we? They know that if they let him go the first thing we are going to do is hand all this over to the police. Do you really think they are going to let us do that? No, while they think we know something they won’t hurt Carl. It leaves them empty handed. But, once we tell them the girl didn’t say anything or even if I convince them she was already dead then, I’m sorry but it puts Carl in even greater danger. The only thing we can do here is make them think I do know something, because that keeps him safe, until we work out what to do next.”
Jean continued to scribble. “We have to get this right, we only have one chance.”
They edited and fine-tuned the short message. What they were proposing was frightening but no matter how they discussed it there was no other solution that they could come up with. Nothing else that gave them any hope of bringing Carl home safely. Afterwards, if there was an afterwards, they would have to make other decisions. They were under no illusion, if they had thought of these things, then the kidnappers had too. They knew that they could be making the terrible situation even worse. Jean pulled the tablet computer towards her. Before she had a chance to do anything more, Lesley grabbed her hand. “I love you Jean. I know I’m a bitch sometimes and I’m impatient and all that, but I want you to know that I don’t blame you. Not really. It’s not your fault.” They leaned together drawing mutual comfort from the physical contact and then Jean began to type.
I will tell you what you want to know. When I have seen my nephew and I know that he is safe, I will tell you all that she said.
Her finger hovered, quivering over the screen, she took a deep breath and pressed send.
Within moments the landline began to ring. Jean’s hand shook as she reached out. Although her number was ex-directory it was no real challenge to find it, she knew that. At first there was nothing but a vague background hum and then a male voice. “Mrs Duncan?”
“It’s me Ron. I’m sorry I was supposed to be coming to finish the job today and I’ve got tied up with something else. Will tomorrow be okay?”
Jean had completely forgotten about the locksmith, she struggled to speak without losing all control. She shook her head, “It’s alright,” she managed. It’s okay, actually I have something on tomorrow. I’ll call you and we’ll make another appointment.” Lesley flopped back against the seat her eyes closed.