Saturday 13 – Sunday 14 April 2013
Cameron Allsop impatiently tapped his fingers on his desk as he viewed the uncut footage that Andy Britten, Banjo Paterson and Grace Fellows had managed to record. In its raw form, there was absolutely nothing incredible about the interviews. When it concluded, he sighed and rubbed his forehead.
‘Beth Goulbourn is the most average grieving mother I’ve ever seen on film. India Roberts comes across as a smart-arse know-it-all, and we’re still none the wiser as to what happened to Charlotte. Not what I was expecting you to bring back to me, people.’
Grace, deflated by her producer’s comment, sank further into the chair.
‘Well, that’s a perfect end to a perfect week. I’ve been insulted by everyone I’ve met, and to put the icing on the cake, my own producer has a go at sticking the boot in,’ she whined.
‘Grace, this isn’t exactly your finest work, you know,’ Allsop said.
‘There’s not a lot I can do when the interviewees are as boring as bat shit. What did you want me to do? Slap the grieving mother around a bit before I interviewed her?’
He raised an eyebrow and smiled. ‘It’s not like you haven’t done that before.’
‘I battled to get her to let us in the house, so there was no way I was going to provoke her into a reaction before I got some sort of footage. And besides, we’ve got something that might just be a drawcard. Banjo, get it out of your bag.’
The sound guy reluctantly put his hand in his equipment bag and pulled out the shoebox that Grace had earlier demanded he secret away with his gear. She snatched it out of his hands before he could fully extend his arms towards her, ripped off the lid and tilted the box in Cameron’s direction.
‘I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is her journal, and that the rest of the stuff in here is stuff that she didn’t want her mother to know about.’
Cameron looked into the box, up at Grace, and then back into the box.
‘Guys, take your stuff and head off to the editing suite. We’ll be there in a minute,’ he instructed Andy and Banjo. They shuffled out of the room, bags full of equipment in their hands.
Cameron waited until Andy and Banjo were out of the room and at least half way down to the editing suite before addressing Grace.
‘Whatever is in that box is irrelevant, Grace. The story is with the girl and the fact that she’s disappeared from the face of the earth.’
‘You’re kidding me, right? Teenage girls always put their deepest, darkest secrets in their journals. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she’s got a shady boyfriend who ends up being involved in her disappearance. That’s if she isn’t just a runaway. I mean, that mother of hers is hard to handle. I can understand if the kid legged it to get away from her.’
‘I’m telling you, Grace, the story isn’t in there.’ He jabbed at the box on Grace’s knees as he spoke. ‘The story’s out there somewhere. Someone knows what happened to this kid and you won’t find it in a box or a journal.’
‘What makes you so sure, Cameron? When did you get a crystal ball?’ Grace snapped.
When he didn’t immediately reply, Grace thought that Cameron was suppressing an outburst of rage. Her body betrayed her attempt at maintaining a cool exterior – her fingers gripped the box until her knuckles were white, her breathing and heart rate increased, eyes squinted, and she put up a defensive mental barrier to protect her ears from any increase in volume of Cameron’s voice because she’d heard him yell once and it wasn’t pleasant. Her defences were unnecessary though. Cameron was almost serene.
‘You’re walking a fine line here, Grace. Bill Marmion wants to get rid of you after that incident with the homeless bum. You’ve become a liability to the channel after those run ins you’ve had with the celebrities at the awards show. Nobody, nobody in television wants to touch you. But me . . . I’ve put my neck on the line for you, once again. If I tell you the story isn’t in some journal, then it isn’t in some journal. My career is on the line with this story. Don’t you let me down.’
‘I never asked you to risk everything for me, Cameron,’ she replied. As a woman who depended on words in order to make her living, they eluded her now.
‘Just you remember, Grace . . . we make the news. We make the news.’
* * * * *
Although the window had been covered with material so that no one could see in to the room from the outside, a few rays of sunlight shone into the room and fell across the floor, ending at her feet. From the direction of the rays, she could tell that it was late afternoon. What she intended as a quick nap had turned in to a dream-riddled sleep, and she had woken with a start when she heard the front door of the house slam shut. He was home. It wouldn’t be long before he came to check on her.
As had become routine, she never saw his face when the door opened. He was wearing a clear plastic mask that distorted his facial features. If she managed somehow to escape, it would be impossible for her to give the police an adequate description of her abductor.
‘Hello, Charlotte. Have a good day, did you?’
. . . To be continued . . .