I hope he hasn't developed Stockholm Syndrome
If you have been reading my other posts you will know that over the last couple of weeks I have been held to ransom by evil cat-nappers who were demanding that I leave twenty thousand pounds hidden behind the local fishmongers if I ever wanted to see Richard alive again.
The appointed hour approached and I decided to make my way to the drop point a little early. Should I just deposit the money now or wait for the precise time? The only signs of life in the alley were a couple of mangy cats sniffing about down the opposite end, so I deposited the money in what looked like the appropriate bin and walked back around the corner. That was when a new idea struck me. As the alley curved sharply away from the main road and houses ran all the way along the back of the alleyway, I could safely climb into one of the gardens out of sight of the alley or the road. This meant that if I was agile and quiet enough I could climb over all the intervening fences and spy on the person who picked up the money. If I was lucky I might even be able to follow them to their hideout.
I carefully climbed into the first garden without too much difficulty as there was a gate with a handle to put my foot on and a post to grab on to. The next was a bit more tricky, as the fence panels were very rickety and I didn’t know if I could get over without making a racket. I found myself wishing that my youth had been more mis-spent. When I finally managed to haul myself up on to the sturdiest looking panel, the top slat abruptly snapped under my foot, unbalancing me and sending me headlong into a dark mass of pain that must have been a rosebush, considering the amount of damage it did to me. I crawled across the grass of the garden emitting quiet moans and keeping a careful eye on the house for any signs of disturbance. One more fence to go, and this one at least looked fairly easy to overcome as it was low enough to get my foot on top of and haul myself over.
Now finally I was in the one garden that should give me a good vantage point on the alley and with five or six minutes to 11 O’Clock I still had time to get into position. I reached the spot next to a shed at the end of the fence where I would be able to see the bin, but unfortunately there appeared to be an obstacle in the way that I couldn’t properly make out in the darkness. I reached down and found some sort of cord attached to something larger and heavier. I thought that it was probably a child’s pedal car or something of that nature, so I decided to carefully pull it out of the way. It seemed to be stuck on something and wouldn’t budge, so I tugged a bit harder to no avail. Finally I gave it a short, sharp tug and the cord seemed to give a little, but was immediately accompanied by a loud motor kicking into life.
“Oh my God!” I whispered, “A lawnmower!”
Suddenly lights came on in the house and I saw a man run into the kitchen and begin unlocking the back door. I quickly hid behind the nearby shed, destroying a huge number of spider webs that had collected between the shed and the fence. I might not have mentioned before, but I hate spiders more than the Scottish hate the English. More than everyone hates the English.
“Hello, is someone down there?”
I shrunk as far behind the shed as I could. Two minutes to eleven. If he was still looking about when the hour came around I was going to have to risk popping my head above the level of the fence in the hope of seeing Richard’s captors. He approached slowly and cautiously down the garden. My stomach seemed to be trying to turn itself inside out, as the whirring mower was illuminated under his torch-light a few feet away. I could hear him muttering as he approached and despite my scientific training, found myself praying to any god that might be listening that he wouldn’t cast the torch in my direction. Eventually he was standing next to the chugging contraption, which he stood perplexed over for several long seconds before reaching down and switching it off. Damn! I might have done that myself before he came out, had I not been consumed by panic. Standing back he swung the torch along to the other end of the fence, then began slowly sweeping it back in my direction.
I was seconds away from being discovered when a tremendous crash in the alley mercifully diverted his attention. He stepped quickly to the fence to look out into the alley and I took the opportunity to pull myself carefully up and peer over too. Sure enough the bin was on its side, with no sign of the bin liner that I had deposited there earlier and no sign either of whoever had removed it. Whoever it was they must have been lightning quick.
The owner of the house seemed satisfied that his inexplicable mower and the bin were somehow connected, switched off his torch, muttered, “Fucking greys”, (bizarrely) and turned back toward the house. I was just about to breathe a huge sigh of relief when a loud beeping in my pocket almost gave me a coronary and, more importantly, signalled my presence once and for all. I hurriedly removed my phone from my pocket to see the reminder I had set earlier reading ‘11.00pm Drop £££ to get R back. Choose socks 4 tmrw’. I had no sooner switched it off than I was being blinded by the fellow’s torch, but instead of the tirade of abuse, threats and possibly violence that I was expecting he turned out to be astonishingly placatory.
“Okay, okay, let’s not do anything rash here. I don’t want any trouble.” I was with him there. “No one wants to hurt you. Why don’t you just leave and we can pretend you were never here?”
Well, this sounded like a very reasonable proposition. I realised then the image that I must have presented to the man. I was filthy from crawling through gardens, covered in spider webs, the rosebush had left my bloody clothes and skin ripped and tattered and, perhaps most importantly, I was waving Richard’s gun erratically as I tried to balance on the planks and broken toys stowed behind the shed. Some instinctive part of my brain took over and pressed my advantage.
“Take that torch out of my face, erm, sucker,” I said, trying to sound like a desperate criminal. Instead my voice came as the strangled, high-pitched bark of the mentally unstable (not unlike Dr Proteus sounded after the incident with the protesters), but seemed to have the desired effect nonetheless. The man immediately snapped off his torch and began to back slowly away.
“Alright, now go inside the house and lock the doors, there are dangerous people about tonight.” I thought it seemed like the sort of pithy comment that people make in The Terminator and that sort of thing. The man didn’t seem to appreciate it and backed quickly to the house.
I knew I would have to be quick. He was sure to call the police and I would have a hard time explaining this if I was still around, but I had to get out into the alley and see if I could spot any clues left by the kidnappers. I quickly hauled myself over the fence and ran toward the bin. All that was left inside was fish guts and they smelled horrendous. It was so dark that I couldn’t make anything out and I was running out of time. I resolved to get myself home and cleaned up and, if Richard had not been returned, come back at first light. Hopefully there would be no police hanging around by then either.
I managed to get home without being seen so far as I could tell. I closed the door behind me and almost immediately the strength in my legs seemed to disappear. As I collapsed to the floor that evenings dinner decided to make an appearance and I was violently sick on the hallway rug, the one my mother always hated because it reminded her of Leslie Crowther.
I couldn’t believe the night I had been through, but the most surprising thing was the way that I felt. Kneeling there on the carpet, covered in cuts and with Pasta alla Carbonara congealing on the carpet beneath me, yet for some insane reason I felt amazing. I had just been through several of the most frightening experiences of my life, yet I had come through them alive. I was filled with adrenaline and even the fact that I had lost the money didn’t dampen the feeling of invincibility that I was experiencing.
Oh, just let me find you buggers, I thought, just let me get hold of you and I’ll give you such a thrashing for what you have put Richard and I through. I wanted to go straight back out and hunt them down, but my reason still held enough sway to convince me to wait it out. After all, what if Richard returned and I wasn’t here?
Gradually my adrenaline high subsided and I crashed back into gut churning fear once more. Hours had passed since the alley and dawn was approaching. Still no sign of Richard. What if they had killed him anyway. They had their money now. He was of no further use to them and he might be able to identify them. Oh what a naïve, trusting dolt I had been. Had I damned Richard simply by trying to pay off the kidnappers as they had requested? There was nothing else for it, I was going to have to go back and investigate and if I could find nothing I would go to the authorities.
As the light began to rise over the sleeping town, I tucked the gun back into my trousers and stepped out into the spring morning. I walked past the entrance to the alley a few times and once I was satisfied that there was no one around I slipped down to where the bin still lay on its side. To my relief there was a tell-tale trail of fish guts leading away from the bin, as if the bin liner containing the money had dripped the stuff as it was carried away. Strangely, the trail led straight to an adjacent fence and stopped. I approached the fence and cautiously looked over. On the other side of the fence was an ill kept garden, but on the path that led through the thickets of weeds I could make out the odd bone and fish head. So that was how they managed to escape so fast. What I had to try to find out now was whether this was merely a convenient escape route or if this house was in fact the kidnapper’s hideout.
I clambered nimbly over the fence, surprised by how quickly I appeared to have become adept at this. Multiple lacerations are an excellent teacher. Following the path I crept past an ancient looking greenhouse that was almost entirely engulfed in the wild flora of the garden. It could almost have been a nature reserve were it not for the occasional piles of car tires, rain heavy bags of rubbish and old rusted household items placed arbitrarily along the side of the path. The path itself was clear though, indicating that someone had some use for it, though whatever that might be it certainly wasn’t to garden.
Beyond the greenhouse I came within view of the house itself. There was a sliding glass patio door, like the one I ran head first into at my best friend Andrew’s house when I was six, but no other point of entry that I could see. The curtains were open but the darkness within prevented me from seeing any details of the room. Should I wait a while or go and inspect at closer range? I debated this for about ten minutes and eventually decided to go for a closer look.
Just as I began moving forward a light came on in the living room and a man with multiple piercings and tattoos wandered into view wearing an incongruous Homer Simpson dressing gown. Volvo! Richard’s friend/dealer who had been eating me out of house and home just a couple of weeks ago.
Now I saw what must have happened. Volvo must have seen one of my letters from Auntie Josie’s solicitors and hatched his cowardly plan to abduct Richard and fleece me for ransom. I knew no good would come of Richard falling in with these sorts of people. Well, I wasn’t about to let him get away with it.
Richard, I thought, if you are alive I am coming to save you. If you’re not, well then, I’m jolly well going to avenge you, one way or another.
I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do either of these things, but I had made it up so far and flattered myself that I hadn’t done too badly.
Volvo wandered back out of the room so I seized my chance to approach the house unseen. The patio door was unlocked and I slid it open as quietly as I could, removed Richard’s gun from my belt and crept into the living room beyond. The floor was littered with every kind of half-eaten food container imaginable. I counted at least five overflowing ashtrays, though there may have been more hidden beneath the various piles of damp smelling clothes. The place definitely had the smell of cat to it, though I suspect it would have had that smell even if no cat had ever set foot in there.
Upstairs I could hear movement, so I crept steadily forward and peeked into the hallway. All clear. I felt like Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, only taller and with more realistic hair. I checked the kitchen, which was in much the same state as the garden and the living room, before making my way to the stairs. As I began my ascent, I began to discern the coarse symphony of bowel movements issuing from above. While unpleasant this did provide me with some sense of Volvo’s location. So long as I could hear his grunts and other noises I should be safe to quietly inspect the other rooms for any sign of Richard. Assuming that is, that there were no accomplices lurking about the place. There were three bedrooms, all of them more disturbing even than the rooms downstairs. The last one at the end of the hall had a dizzying array of bondage gear in it, including a few items whose purpose I wouldn’t like to guess at. It was clear that this was a hobby of Volvo’s, but it may also have been the perfect place to keep Richard secured. Worryingly there was no sign of him anywhere.
The toilet flushed and I practically leapt into the nearest room. I heard the door unlock and watched as Volvo sleepily shuffled past in what I realised were my slippers. I’d been looking for them for the last month. It was probably my anger on this point more than any other that spurred me forward into my next course of action.
I stepped out onto the landing behind Volvo and, lost for anything else to say, said, “Volvo”.
If I was alone in my house, wandering out of the bathroom, when an unexpected voice suddenly spoke my name behind me, then you would probably have to send for a medic to revive me. After you had gotten me down from the ceiling. Volvo just said “Huh?” and turned around, though his eyes did widen in surprise when he recognised the gun-toting intruder. He slowly raised his hands.
“Oh shit. You weren’t supposed to figure it out this soon.”
This wasn’t the reaction that I had hoped for but at that particular moment I was too distracted to discern any meaning from his words. When he had raised his hands his dressing gown had fallen open, revealing Volvo’s naked torso, a sight that I will no doubt relive in nightmares for years to come.
“How…? Isn’t that…? Why would you even…? Doesn’t that hurt?” I asked incredulously.
“Well, for the first couple of days a little, but you get used to it after that.” He looked down at the gun. “Look, put that away man, you’re not going to use it.”
“I might say the same thing to you.” I was Mr Comeback tonight. I felt like Dirty Harry. Well, after five minutes in Volvo’s house anyone would feel like they needed a shower. “Anyway, I’m not putting down the gun because if you’ve hurt my poor defenseless little kitten you’ll be surprised what I’m capable of.” Bullies of the world cower in fear! Someone has given a wimp a gun.
“Why would I hurt him? If you hadn’t found me he would have made me a lot of money. And he’s far from defenseless. Or poor for that matter.”
At times like this you need the ability to swear naturally to really sound tough and drive your point home. It’s not a skill that I ever really acquired. Whenever I try I seem to inadvertently revert to language that I picked up in the Beano.
“Oh yes, you would have made a lot of money, but the game is up now, you… you… kidnapping rotter!”
For the first time since he had first seen me, Volvo looked genuinely surprised.
“What are you talking… You think I really kidnapped him don’t you? Aw man, that is classic.” He began to laugh.
The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that all systems naturally decay towards entropy, or chaos. My interactions with other people seem to obey this law too. I had begun this conversation with the upper hand. I was armed, I had the element of surprise and I was on a righteous mission to save Richard. Now I was completely lost at sea. Finally Volvo recovered himself enough to explain.
“I didn’t kidnap Richard you muppet, this whole thing was Richard’s idea. He came to me and offered me two grand if I helped him.”
He was telling the truth, I knew it immediately. How had I managed to paint that evil creature as some sort of naïve, vulnerable lost lamb? After everything Richard had done to me already, how could I doubt what Volvo was telling me. Still, the scope of his Machiavellian scheme was surprising even to me.
So where was Richard while all this was going on? Well, it turns out that I had missed him by only a few hours. Having lost heavily on his internet gambling account, Richard had hatched the fake kidnapping plan to fund a sightseeing trip to Costa Rica that he had been secretly planning for some time.
In the end I could hardly blame Volvo too much for his participation. I got back the two thousand pounds that he had taken as his cut (I do wonder if he was telling the truth about that, but I’m not sure he is that clever) and I locked him out of his own house naked and attached to a lamp-post with a pair of furry handcuffs, so I think you’d have to say that we are pretty much even. Mind you, with all the cutlery he seems to have stuck through various parts of his body, he probably found something to pick the lock with, assuming he could overcome the cold. He did leave me with some food for thought before I set off for home though. Something that keeps coming back to me when I’m wondering what I should do about Richard.
“Listen man, I know some crazy, dangerous people, y’know? I’ll tell you, Dicky is one dark cat man. Maybe the darkest I ever met. Eighteen grand? If you never see him again you should count your blessings. You got off cheap.”
Maybe he’s right. I wonder if I should get a dog?