I’m sick at the moment, so I didn’t really do much over the weekend other than go to the doctors. I’ve tonsillitis so I’m taking some antibiotics, don’t really understand why they have to be so large, especially when I’ve a sore throat but oh well.
On with the show!
Heather looked at the machines distrustfully, last time she had seen them was when the workers were prying a mangled corpse from their depths. She shuddered, they looked so shiny now, with the blood cleared from their metallic surfaces. She past them quickly, she never liked walking on the floor, amongst the workers. The floor was usually grimy, no matter how much they tried to clean it, and there was that smell. The smell of oils and burning and body odour, all mixing into one odious gas. She breathed shallowly, that was the thing to do. It was rude to put her handkerchief across her nose. Heather had tried that once, as a child, her Father had slapped her. The machines groaned as they worked, the men called out to one another, she ignored the cacophony, setting her eyes on the door ahead, that was her goal, nothing else mattered.
She slipped into the office, into safety. The sounds and smells were dulled here. She moved around the large desk and opened the drawers, rifling through them quickly, she couldn’t be here for long, people would get suspicious. Seeing nothing, she went to the filing cabinets and tugged at one. It didn’t budge, they were locked, she rattled them a little more, hoping it was just heavy, but no luck. She tried another and another until finally, one opened, gliding free of its cubby. She went through everything as neatly and as fast as she could. There was nothing. All of this had been a waste. She closed it again and looked around the room, for something, anything that might be of importance. Papers littered the desk, invoices, unimportant things. She no longer had time to try and find an open filing cabinet, the first took too long. She went to the desk, hoping he had left something out. There was nothing though, nothing she could use and, out of desperation, she grabbed a piece of paper and started to fold it, as she was putting it into her pocket, the door opened.
“Father. I was looking for you.”He ignored her and went into the room, he seemed to be checking if everything was in order. “What are you doing here?” “They rang again. Taunted us. I thought you ought to know.” “What did they say?” “They didn’t so much speak as they let Mother scream.” Her Father nodded, “As I suspected they would. See, I know how these cretins think. Don’t worry child. She’ll be home before you know it.” She nodded faintly. Heather didn’t think he had seen, but with her Father, who knew? “I’ll return to the house.” He nodded distractedly. She walked by him and onto the factory floor again, breathing a sigh of relief. If he had seen he would not have let her leave. The door slammed closed behind her.
She walked through the streets slowly, trying to watch everything at once. The sun was hot and it wasn’t long before she started to sweat, she hated this heat, always had. She didn’t know why they had to move here, but Father said it was for the best and she had to do what he said. She didn’t like how the people dressed, how she was to dress. It was all so ridiculous. She was never comfortable, not here. At home she could wear what she liked and no one said anything, but not here. Here there were rules. Her Mother had tried to explain to her how things worked, but she didn’t understand and, with most things she didn’t understand, Heather stopped paying attention. She passed a small row of stalls, random objects littered the table tops as the owners called out for her to look at the pretty, rare objects, ones that were almost as pretty as her. She ignored them and kept going. She had learned not to stop at the stalls, it always caused trouble when she did.
She turned into the laneway and walked the short distance to the compound, the gates opened for her and she went through without slowing. The walk wasn’t that long, only twenty minutes, but the drivers had been scandalised when she refused them. Perhaps it wasn’t so safe now that Mother had been taken, but she wanted to walk. The house itself was large, not as large as their one back home, but still, big enough. She didn’t know who built it or why, but the designer loved gothic design, gargoyles sprouted from every corner, windows had high arches. It all looked so out of place in the shining sun. Gothic houses needed gloom, at least that was Heathers belief. She went into the house, into the blessed coolness. She shivered slightly as the sweat on her clothes became cold. She’d have to change. She climbed the grand staircase, she always loved how it curved around, and went directly to her room. Once there she stripped and dressed in fresh clothes, making sure to remove everything from her pockets.
On her desk sat the piece of paper she took and the old mobile phone she had found just outside the gates, where they said it would be. She unfolded the paper and studied it, hoping it held anything of use. She had something at least, it appeared to be a rota, they’d know who was going in and out of the factory. If they wanted something so damned badly they could go inside and get it themselves. This was almost as good as what they wanted.
The old phone started to ring.
She was shaking when she hung up. They had been angry when she told them she didn’t have exactly what they wanted, but she had still given them something, it seemed to please them. They let her talk to her Mother for a short while, though her Mother couldn’t really speak, she only moaned down the phone. It was something though and they said they’d treat Mother nicely from now on. Still, they wanted it. There was no getting around that fact and they didn’t want to break into the factory by themselves. God she hated this place. She brought the piece of paper to the never used fireplace and carefully burned it, she didn’t want anyone catching her with that paper. It would be bad for her. Very bad. She thought about it as much as possible, but there was only one solution. She’d have to steal it, but first she’d have to get the keys. Her Father was still at work, he wouldn’t be home for another two hours at least and the servants weren’t really doing anything, probably all down in the kitchens chatting.
Heather opened the door to her Father’s study slowly, she had never been inside, it was one of the rules. Mahogany shelves lined the walls, filled with books, a large desk dominated the room, it’s top covered in ink pots, paper and an old computer. Her Father didn’t want any of the newer ones, he said it was a waste of money. She crept in slowly, hoping the thick carpet would muffle her steps. She closed the door gently, and began her search. The drawers first, that was where he was most likely to keep it. She pulled at the top one, locked. She knew her Father didn’t have keys for it with him, she had never seen him with small keys. That meant they were somewhere in the house. She sat down on her Father’s chair, feeling a brief thrill of rebellion, while she thought about it. Where would he keep them? It had to be somewhere easy to access and it had to be inside the room, she was sure of it. She looked at the shelves, wondering if a book was false, then discarded the idea, criminals would rip them from the shelves if they ransacked the house. She stood and looked through the room, something that was out of place, but not out of place, something that didn’t match her Father.
Her Mother had suggested bricking them all over, they were useless, but her Father was insistent that they all stay. She went over to it and ran her hands along the cold granite, hoping to feel a catch or a hidden spot. There was nothing. There were two gargoyle heads carved into the granite, she went to them and gently reached into their mouths. There. A small shelf, she pushed her fingers in deeper until she could get a grip, then she pulled them free. She was holding a small set of keys. She went back to the desk and tried them, they worked. The first three drawers held nothing, but in the fourth, she found was she was looking for. She didn’t know why she had been so stupid, of course he’d keep it here. No one would think he’d do that in a million years, it was far too dangerous to keep it anywhere but the factory. No one would even think to look inside the house for it. She slipped it into her pocket and relocked the drawers, then replaced the keys. He couldn’t know she was here.
She sat in her room, waiting for the phone call. It was sitting underneath a decorative statue that had a hollow centre, she didn’t want it out in the open, she didn’t want to look at it or even touch it. It was too dangerous, too precious.
The phone started to ring.
The instructions were clear. She was to bring it to the back wall of the compound and carefully lower it down. They’d collect it and once they had it, she’d get her Mother back. Heather took it from its hiding spot and place it into her pocket. Then, as casually as possible, she went outside.
No one seemed to notice her as she meandered through the garden until she finally reached the back wall. Once there she realised she had no way to climb the wall, nor of lowering it down to the outside. She took it from her pocket and examined it, it seemed sturdy enough and she didn’t think it would break from falling. She took a breath, then threw it over the wall, there was a muffled thump from the other side. She could hear someone running, they paused only briefly, then kept going.
The phone in her pocket started to ring.
They had it, and they told her they’d bring back her Mother tomorrow. It was a long time to wait, what if her Father found out before then? If she could keep it from him, he might not be so angry once her Mother returned. He’d be so happy he couldn’t be angry. She started towards the house, wondering how to hide it.
She found it difficult to sleep, she was so excited and nervous for the morning, when her Mother would be finally home. She eventually drifted off into an uneasy sleep, she tossed and turned, but slowly it pulled her deeper and deeper. A loud bang woke her, she turned around in time to see a large shadow move across the room, before stopping beside her bed. “Where is it?” Her Father. “Where the hell is it?” she opened her mouth, she didn’t see his hand. The pain was sudden, bright and stinging. Her cheek burned, she tasted blood. “What did you do?” She started to cry, almost babbling, “they called me, I had to protect Mother, you weren’t doing anything, they told me they’d give her back.” “Oh you stupid little bitch.” He moved his face right up to hers as he screamed, flecks of saliva landing on her cheeks. “No one kidnapped her, your whore of a Mother went off with another man. No one took her, she abandoned you. She went off in the middle of the night, all alone. She doesn’t love you, she didn’t want you, she never wanted you. What did you do with it?” “I-I threw it over the wall. Like they said. They told me they’d give her back, that they’d stop hurting her.” He roared, then slapped her again. “I’ll deal with you properly in the morning.” He left the room, shouting incomprehensibly. She cowered under the blankets, gently caressing her cheek and crying.
Heather wished her Mother was here, she’d know what to do.