Written between Thursday 9 and Sunday 12 September, 2010.
Ever since Liam McLachlan went missing on his way home, the atmosphere at the school had been tense. The police had posted an information van out the front of the building, uniformed officers canvassed the campus and surrounding areas, and detectives from the Missing Persons Unit had extensively questioned all of the staff and students. No one had seen or heard anything strange on the day of Liam’s disappearance. It was as if he had vanished into thin air on a moderately busy school access road. No witnesses, no evidence, no Liam.
His parents, separated for eight months, were almost reunited in their grief. But it wasn’t long before Liam’s father blamed Liam’s mother, his mother blamed his father, and Liam’s younger sister blamed them both. No one blamed the real culprits for Liam’s disappearance. No one knew who the real culprits were.
Paula Harrold sat at her desk wondering how the hell she got herself into this whole situation. It had been playing on her mind for a long time, but she hadn’t realised it until that morning. She was determined to find a way out of it, a way that didn’t implicate her in the slightest. It had started off quite well, but fast deteriorated into a dirty mess.
That was the trouble when you worked with a partner. You had to rely on someone else to uphold his or her end of the bargain. Paula had always relied on herself, until now. Max had sold their partnership to her as the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to achieve a long sought after goal: a sizable deposit into her bank account. And, she had fallen for it. Max was nothing if not charming and persuasive.
Things had been messy for a few weeks, but had really soured in the last three or four days. Max was out of control. Inevitably, his behaviour would soon draw the attention of the police. Paula wanted to make sure she was out of the picture when that happened. She had started to distance herself from Max and his insanely bizarre behaviour. What he had been doing was never part of their plan, and it left Paula wondering: Had this been Max’s intention from the beginning?
Paula was oblivious to Don Markham standing in the doorway of her room. She was lost in thought, and he was lurking like a man up to no good. He watched her, his eyes travelling the length of her form many times before he gave himself away by shifting his weight between his feet and knocking his left shoe on the doorjamb. The sound made Paula jump.
She turned her head swiftly to the doorway and saw Markham leering at her.
‘Don, what can I do for you?’
The school principal swaggered into Paula’s room with a certain degree of arrogance. Paula always got the impression that Markham thought he was God’s gift to women. In fact, he was far from it. At fifty-five, Don Markham was unmarried for a very good reason. His lecherous behaviour was an immediate turn off for any woman.
‘I’ve noticed that Max Walters has been hanging around you a lot. Is he causing a problem? Do you want me to explain to him how the land lies?’ He perched himself on the corner of Paula’s desk. The sight in front of her immediately repulsed her. Markham was wearing a pair of dress pants that were quite obviously too small for him. Paula sighed and tried to look only at his face.
‘No thank you, Don. There’s nothing to concern yourself with.’ She hoped this would send Markham on his way.
He sat for a moment longer, gazing at her as she tried to continue reading her emails, then slid off her desk and swaggered back to the door, yanking his pants up as he went.
‘If you need any help, you just let me know, Paula. That’s why I’m the principal. My job to fix things that need fixing.’ He slapped the doorjamb twice before leaving Paula in peace.
Curled up in the corner of Max Walters’ basement was a scared, tired, young boy who was desperately missing his home. When you were fourteen, it wasn’t cool to say that you loved your family, but Liam McLachlan promised himself that when he got free, he’d do exactly that. The metal shackled attached to his right ankle was heavy and cold, and had already begun to rub the skin from his leg. He hadn’t slept more than ten or fifteen minutes since he had been imprisoned down in the basement. Liam was too terrified to, in case the man who had brought him he had special plans for him.
The basement door scraped open and Liam could hear the man descending the stairs. He always appeared with a balaclava over his head. Liam took this as a good sign. Surely if the man didn’t want to be recognised, he was going to let Liam go at some point. Otherwise, what would be the point of concealing his identity?
‘Eat your dinner, Liam.’ The man sat a few metres away from Liam, and pushed a plastic tray across the floor. He had prepared two rounds of ham and cheese sandwiches for the boy’s dinner. As had been the case for the last nine days, the sandwiches were accompanied by a small carton of milk and two chocolate covered biscuits. Liam ate slowly and cautiously. The man stayed and watched Liam eat.
‘Still don’t trust me?’
‘You kidnapped me. Of course I don’t trust you, you freak!’ Liam spat the words out before consuming the last of the sandwiches.
When Liam had finished eating, the man took the tray and placed it on top of the washing machine. He rummaged around in a small cardboard box for a while. He pulled out a crinkled piece of paper, and took a shiny silver pen from his top pocket.
‘I want you to write a letter for me, Liam.’ He thrust the paper and pen at the boy. Liam grabbed them with both hands.
The man turned for just a second, and Liam, seizing his moment, stabbed the pen into the man’s neck. He quickly withdrew it and stabbed him twice more before him kidnapper could get out of reach. The man swung back around to look at Liam, his eyes filled with shock. Blood spurted strongly from the neck wounds. Liam wondered if he’d hit a major vein. He’s seen enough cop shows to know that it was highly possible that he may have struck a fatal blow.
. . . To be continued . . .