Saturday 7 – Tuesday 10 July 2012
‘It was a simple mistake. Anyone could have made it, Joe,’ Barlow’s voice indicated his trepidation. The fact of the matter was that it wasn’t a mistake that anyone could have made. Anyone else would have been paying attention to what was happening, and anyone else would have made the connection that the hostage was having a legitimate seizure and expiring in front of his or her eyes. But not Barlow. Barlow barely noticed anything around him if it didn’t involve food.
Joe squinted slightly, his left eye tightening a little more than his right. The more Barlow tried to dig himself out of the hole he’d made, the worse things sounded to Joe.
‘Stop talking, Barlow,’ his low tone meant Joe’s voice was barely audible.
‘But, Joe, how was I to know she was, y’know,’ Barlow imitated the jerking and twitching movements she had made as she was seizing.
Barlow was taken aback; Joe never raised his voice. He rubbed his forehead, then the top of his head, and around to the back of his crew cut scalp, as Joe paced in front of him. Barlow moved his eyes to her body, still laying on the sodden mattress in the corner of the filthy bedroom. The ramshackle house had been condemned years prior to the kidnapping, its interior dirty and infested with all manner of unsavoury insects and rodents, and its foundations crumbling around them. It had been the perfect holding location for victims, as it wasn’t a house that anyone in control of their faculties would consider entering, particularly not if they valued their own life. It was a house that blended in with the surroundings – a street of derelict houses in an area of the city that resembled a ghost town, people too scared to travel through because of the unsavoury human element that closely mimicked the insect and rodent residents of the ruined buildings.
‘Tell me, Barlow, what am I supposed to say now when he asks about her? Hmmm? What do I tell him? How am I expected to convince him so that he PAYS. THE. RANSOM?’ Joe stood within inches of Barlow’s person, his breath moving the limp hair that fell across Barlow’s forehead.
‘I . . . I . . .’ Barlow started.
‘You, you what? You’re a brainless lump of meat, Barlow. Why I ever let Mitty convince me that taking you on board was a good idea, I’ll never know.’
Joe stepped away from his accomplice, and towards her lifeless body. He sighed and bent down to take a closer look at her, wondering if there was any way that he could pass her off as living. An idea struck him as he straightened up. He swivelled around to look at Barlow, who was examining his shoes.
‘When in doubt,’ Joe said, drawing Barlow’s attention, ‘start over again.’
‘So we’re going to find another woman to ransom off?’ Barlow asked.
‘Not quite,’ Joe replied, ‘but I really need you to wrap her up in a blanket or a sheet. Do that now, please.’
Barlow nodded quickly and scarpered off to find something larger enough to wrap her in. Joe used the time to look around the room.
When he returned to the room, a rank and soiled sheet in hand, Joe gestured for Barlow to attend to her body. He did as he was instructed, dutifully laying the sheet over her body.
‘No, Barlow, wrap her, not cover her,’ Joe said quietly, turning and rolling the length of water pipe in his right hand.
‘‘Kay,’ he replied.
Barlow fiddled with the sheet, removing it from her body, and placed it near her body. He straightened it out as best as he could, a desire in him to prove to Joe that he could do something right. He was unaware of what Joe was doing until he caught sight of movement in his peripheral vision and quickly turned around.
It was too late. The water pipe hit Barlow’s temple with such force that both bone and brain seemed to squirt from the hole the pipe had made. Barlow fell sideways, twitching in a similar manner that he had demonstrated earlier to Joe. It didn’t last much longer after Joe beat him a second time.
Joe stood over the man’s body, regaining his breath as he looked at his dead companion’s face. ‘Even in death,’ Joe thought, ‘you look inept, Mr. Barlow.’ He tossed the pipe on the floor next to Barlow; it made an almost musical tone as it rolled away.
Reaching deep into the front right hand pocket of his blood spattered jeans, Joe pulled out his cell phone. He unlocked the screen, sliding his thumb across the bottom, leaving a blood smear from the left of screen to the right. After dialling 9-1-1, Joe waited only seconds before an operator asked which service he required.
‘I’ve found her,’ he said, ‘I’ve found that girl on the news. The one who was kidnapped. And, and I think I just killed the guy who took her.’ He smiled; the pieces of his impromptu plan now falling perfectly into place.