'Where is it?' His gruff voice and the gun pointing at my left temple weren't helping my cognitive processes.
'I told you I don't know. Please just let me go and I’ll forget all about this. This never happened. You were never here. I was never here.'
'I'm not stoopid. The boss said I wuz to bring it back or not bother comin’ back.' He started waving the gun around. His mood was definitely not softening.
'But what is it you want exactly?' The only way I was going to get out of this was to confuse him. The problem was if I confused him the wrong way he was liable to just put a bullet in my head.
'The boss said you had it and I had to get it back.'
'He must have given you more details otherwise I can give you anything and then you'll have to face the boss alone. How will you know to let me go?'
'Easy,' he smiled, happy he knew enough to stop me pulling a fast one. ‘The laptop has a special mark on it and once I have checked it I will know I have the right one. Then I can take it and let you go'
How can I trust you to let me go?' Right, now we were getting somewhere, they wanted the laptop.
‘You can’t,’ he chuckled. Shit I was in deep water.
'Well then we had better go and get the laptop.'
'Ahh so you do know where it is.'
'Now I know you need the laptop of course I know where it is. You’re going to have to untie me and take me with you. I have left it with a friend and she knows to destroy it if I don't come back for it today.'
'So you did know it was important. That will interest the boss.'
I had come across the laptop on eBay the week before. It was an absolute steel, a bargain I couldn't resist. My best friend, Kaye, was an IT consultant and so I knew she could fix any small problems for free.
It had turned up a few days later and I was amazed by the condition. I switched it on and it fired up immediately with all the usual office suite applications loaded and ready to roll.
I still thought a check out by Kaye might not do it any harm so I popped it round with a bottle of wine the following night.
'So this is your bargain of the century is it?' Kaye took the laptop and the wine off me as soon as she answered the door. She carefully placed the laptop on the coffee table and headed off to open the wine and find some glasses.
'Why do you insist on still buying things from eBay,' she called from the kitchen. 'You've spent more on second hand computers and laptops that a brand new Mac air would’ve cost you.'
'But I can't afford a Mac air and you know it.'
'But you can afford to buy five broken laptops and pc's over the last six months,' she handed me a glass of wine and sat down on the sofa with the laptop in front of her.
'You know I need something that works if I'm to start off my writing career. At least these cheap ones have lasted long enough for me to start my novel.'
'And luckily I introduced you to dropbox before the first one imploded and left the hard drive completely unreadable.' She fired up the laptop and started to run some quick diagnostics. The fire alarm started blipping madly. 'Shit,' she shouted as she jumped up and ran into the kitchen. Two minutes later she re-emerged shaking her head, giggling and waving a pan of burnt pasta in my general direction.
'Well this time it’s gonna cost you an evening meal and a pint at Weatherspoons,'
As I left Kaye’s that evening I walked slowly through the back streets towards my flat. It was only ten minutes walk but I felt weird all the way home. As if I was being watched. A couple of times I stopped under a street light and looked around, but there was no one about. It was strange. I am not usually a nervous person.
I got back to my flat and noticed the front door to the house was open. I live in a converted Victorian three story house and mine is one of the two flats on the top floor. It was unusual for the street door to be left open so I walked passed and stopped at the end of the street. I couldn’t see anyone else around but a Volvo parked a little way down the street had fogged up windows. A car drove down the street and as its headlights passed the Volvo I noticed a small crack in the driver’s side window and what looked like a stream of cigarette smoke drifting up into the early evening fog.
I started to head back to the flat convinced I was being paranoid when the Volvo driver switched on his lights and started his engine. I ducked into next door’s front garden just as a large man in a dark suit rushed out of the house. I couldn’t see clearly but he had something under his arm. He jumped into the Volvo as it pulled away and zoomed off in the opposite direction to my hiding place.
I waited a good fifteen minutes before slowly rising from behind the wall and entering the house. I tried to listen for any unexpected noises as I slowly ascended the stairs.
‘Jeanette,’ I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of another human being, especially one calling my name.
Standing there in the corridor was Mike, the guy who lived in the flat directly under mine. ‘Been having a party?’
‘What?’ I didn’t think I looked that bad but maybe fifteen minutes hiding behind a wall could give you that partied look.
‘All the banging about upstairs. I was just about to pop up and have a word when it stopped.’
‘I don’t know what you mean. I’ve been out but I did notice the front door was open.’
‘Oh shit, Jeanette. I best come up with you. Just in case.’ Mike said.
We headed upstairs; the door to my flat was wide open.
Mike put his hand out to make me wait and headed towards the open door. Five minutes later he reappeared shaking his head. ‘Sorry old girl but it looks like you’ve been robbed.’
I walked up the stairs and stood in the doorway. I couldn’t get any further. The living room looked liked a tornado had run through it. The desk draws had been turned out and the books had all been pulled of the bookcases. The cushions on the sofa had been thrown onto the floor and the old wooden arm chair had been upended smashing one of the arms. I stood in the door unable to cross the threshold. Mike put his arm around me and slowly walked me back to his flat for a cup of sweet tea and to await the police.
The police were brilliant and once I checked out my room it turned out all that was missing were two of my broken laptops. I guess that must have been what the thug had under his arm when he left the flat earlier. I don’t know why I didn’t tell the police about the thug or the Volvo. I knew there was nothing they would be able to do but maybe they had got what they came for. The fact this had all happened just after the latest laptop had arrived and that was safely at Kaye’s flat didn’t occur to me until the next morning.
I had woken early and decided that a trip to the library was in order. The lack of a lock on my front door had led to a restless night’s sleep, so as soon as the sunlight started to filter through the curtains I got up, showered and grabbed my notebook. My new novel needed some points researching and without a working computer the library felt like the most logical place to go. Authors must have done this all the time before the invention of the internet. How time consuming.
I pulled the door to and fastened one end of my scarf round the door handle and the other round the old iron radiator in the corridor. It wasn’t going to stop another attempt on my meager possessions but it might stop the neighbourhood cat from trying to take up residence. I headed down the stairs, out of the front door, down the path to the front gate and out into the street. That was the last thing I remember before waking up tied to a chair with a thug pointing a gun at me. The lack of bump on the back of my head and a funny tickle in my nose made my think they must have used chloroform or some such thing to get me here, wherever here was. It looked like some kind of warehouse and I was sat on a chair in the centre of a huge empty space. Even if I could get out of the chair I wasn’t going to make the door before the thug tackled me or shot me.
I slowly turned my head to see where the thug had gone. He was on the telephone and things didn’t seem to be going to plan.
‘I need you to bring the car back,’ the thug told his unknown accomplice on the other end of the ‘phone.
‘Well I can hardly take her on the bus can I? A gun in someone’s’ back tends to draw attention on public transport,’ he waited for an answer.
‘Ten minutes, don’t be any longer.’
The thug slowly turned towards me. ‘Right I am going to untie you so no playing silly buggers, all right?’
I nodded. I had no idea how I was going to get out of this but surely something would come up, or maybe they would just let me go once the laptop was in their possession. I didn’t believe that for a minute but I needed to stay focused and keep looking for a way out.
Just then a car horn sounded outside. The thug untied my hands and pushed me from behind. I rose and started walking towards the door. I felt a nudge in my back from the gun and knew that was the signal for me to open the small door embedded the huge warehouse doors and go through. Once outside the same Volvo was parked with its back door open. I got in and the thug pushed the door shut behind me. The driver had a second gun trained on me whilst the thug came round and got into the front passenger seat.
‘Now where is it?’ The thug asked.
‘My, my friend has it.’ I prayed I could think of something before getting Kaye involved but I had completely run out of ideas.
I gave the drivers directions taking a few long cuts, hoping they wouldn’t notice to try and give me thinking time. After thirty minutes we arrived there was nothing else I could do without them becoming suspicious. The thug pulled me from the back of the car and we quickly headed for the front door. The street was surprisingly quiet for the time of day and gave me no opportunities to raise the alarm.
I rang the bell and could see Kaye approaching through the frosted glass of the front door.
‘Hi you. Can’t you wait for me to fix it?’ Kaye was talking as she answered the door. ‘Hello, who’s your friend?’
‘In,’ the thug waved the gun at her and she backed up quickly heading towards the lounge.
‘I am so sorry about this Kaye,’ I said. ‘This erm gentleman needs the laptop that I gave you yesterday.’
‘Well I am sure he could just have asked. There’s no need to come into someone’s house waving a gun around is there?’
I couldn’t believe how cool Kaye was being and I think the thug shrunk back a little, like a bully being caught out by his mum.
‘I just need the laptop.’ He said.
‘Well it’s there isn’t it?’ Kaye pointed to the coffee table on which lay three laptops.
He looked confused, three laptops.
‘Let’s hope that the special mark is still there or your boss will be disappointed,’ I giggled nervously buoyed by Kaye’s bravado.
He walked over to the table and turned the three laptops upside down. He placed the gun on the table and went to get something out of his inside pocket. Just then he saw me look over a Kaye and he grabbed the gun.
‘First I need to deal with you two,’
‘But you said you would let us go. You promised.’ How stupid did I sound?
‘Upstairs,’ he pointed the gun at us. ‘NOW,’
We both rushed out of the lounge and headed up the stairs. At the top of the stairs I thought he smiled to himself just as he pushed us into the spare room.
‘This is too easy,’ he said as he slammed the door behind us and quickly turned the key, locking us in. ‘I didn’t even need to find a way to secure the door,’ he chuckled as he headed back down stairs.
‘What do we do now?’ I asked Kaye.
‘Let’s just wait here and hope he takes the laptop and goes. We can worry about getting out once we know he’s gone.’
The pressure of the previous two days dawned on me with Kaye’s matter of fact comment and I burst into tears. Kaye rushed over and held me.
‘Shush now sweetie,’ she held me close as we sat on the edge of the spare bed. ‘Try and stay quiet just until we hear him leave.’
A few minutes later the noise of a car engine could be heard and Kaye carefully went over to the window.
‘What car were they in?’
‘It was a blue Volvo.’
‘Well it looks like it’s gone. We just need to hang on in here for a while. Don’t you worry, help’s on its way.’
I looked over at Kaye, not understanding what she meant but she just smiled and sat down next to me giving me a hug.
I must have fallen asleep as the clicking of the key in the door woke me. I jumped up and stared at Kaye.
‘Don’t worry it’s the help I told you about.’
‘Ah, Mrs. Johnson are you okay?’ A young police officer entered the room and turned to talk to Kaye.
‘Yes we’re fine thank you.’
‘Inspector Fraser thanks you for your help. Unfortunately he is interviewing the suspects at the moment so couldn’t come himself.’
‘No problems constable. I guess you need my friend to come and make a statement?’
Kaye turned to me and seeing the look on my face burst out laughing. ‘I think she needs a good strong cup of tea first and then I will bring her down to the station if that is okay?’
‘No problems. I will head back now and let the Inspector know everything’s okay.’
Kaye led me down to the kitchen and sat me onto one of the stools next to her kitchen island. I still wasn’t sure what was going on and didn’t know what to ask. She put a cup of hot sweet tea next to me and as I sipped it she explained everything.
‘After you left last night I started looking at your laptop and there were some interesting pieces of information on it. I was at college with Inspector Ross Fraser so I gave him a call and he realized it held the information of a big crime ring that had been running in the area. He decided to talk to you this morning but by the time he got to your place you had already been snatched.’
‘But why weren’t the police waiting here?’ I couldn’t believe she had given me no clue as to what was going on. No wonder she had been so cool.
‘A couple of officers had been hiding out in the pantry but they needed the thug to lead them to the gang’s leader so they were to stay hidden unless it got too dangerous.’
‘But I thought he was going to kill is. Surely that’s dangerous enough.’
‘Once there were two of us it was less likely he would kill us. That’s what Ross said anyway. And then they would only have been able to charge the thug with kidnap.’
‘Talking of which we do need to get you down to the police station and make a statement.’
Luckily they never need my evidence at the trial. So many other things had come to light that Inspector Fraser said he could spare me the ordeal. The day of the trial I couldn’t concentrate all day and I finally breathe a sigh of relief when at the end of the day the radio news said they had all been found guilty.
Kaye came to dinner that evening and brought a gift wrapped box with her.
‘It’s from me and Ross to stop you getting into any more scraps like this,’ she said as she gave it to me.
I couldn’t help but smile when I opened it to reveal a brand new Mac book air. With that and my latest adventure my novel would almost write itself.