Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 11
The Just War, Ch. 11
Note: You are about to dive into the eleventh installment in a novel that I'm writing as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. The rules are: write it! Don't edit, don't obsess, don't chart out notes. Don't worry about spelling, syntax, grammar or continuity. You can go back and fix those things later, but the most important thing to writing the novel is to get it written! It works out to 1,667 words per day. If you do more, great! If you do less, don't worry! Just keep plugging! And hopefully my first draft, with all spelling errors and continuity holes intact, will inspire you that you can do it too!
They stood in a circle, with Jan holding the envelope. It was a tan envelope, the kind you use to mail things. The outside of the envelope was shiny, waterproof. The inside was made of bubble wrap. It had already been ripped open, but the contents had been put back in. Jan just stared at it like it held the already dead body of her daughter in it. Vic looked down at it in fear, afraid that it would have the answer and afraid that it wouldn’t. Barry looked at it in a daze. It had all been too much for him and he didn’t know how to process what was going on any more. The Silers looked at their friends and then down at the envelope. Officer Plastino realized that he had been holding his breath.
Looking at Vic, Jan stuck her hand in the envelope and pulled out a cell phone. “What is this?” she asked Plastino.
Larry exhaled, then answered. “We found this on the side of the road, underneath a license plate.”
“One with a 5 and an S on it,” Vic said.
“Yes sir,” Larry responded. “There’s also a note in there. Detective Smithers and some of the others talked about what you would say when you read the note.”
Jan’s stomach tightened and her heart began racing. Visions of Jen flashed through her mind, her daughter as a baby being put on Jan’s stomach for the first time. The words they tried to get her to say that she just wouldn’t. The toilet training that never took. The smile that melted Jan’s heart. The possible twin that never lived. The possible fear that she must be feeling. She reached in and took out a piece of paper, folded and a crinkled. With shaking hand, she held it out to her husband. Vic took it and slowly opened it. In twenty eight point lucida console, the words “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” were printed.
“Vic,” Jan said. Her eyes searched his for reassurance, and she could see that he was trying to, that he wanted to. But she wasn’t feeling it. And she could see in his eyes that he knew it. She was trying, with all her might, to feel her daughter, to find her somewhere out there and hopefully to reassure her. She couldn’t do it, which she had expected. It didn’t work that way, it never had. Her own mother had pestered her when she was child, after she had finally accepted that it was real, but she could never get it to work a certain way.
Vic looked at Plastino. “I assume that this has been hooked to a computer.”
“Yes sir, Detective Smithers did that,” Officer Plastino answered. His face showed compassion and frustration, but his voice remained perfectly business like. “It’s clean. No calls have been made in to it or out from it. It’s a cheap pre-pay phone that you can pick up at any gas station.”
Barry looked around at all the faces. No one was looking at him.
The phone rang. At first no one answered it because they were all tensed. Also, the ring was distinctive, a version of The Dandy Warhol’s song “Bohemian Like You.” The adults looked at each other, each trying to decipher what the meaning of putting that on there had been. What sick game was this guy playing?
“Sir,” Larry Plastino said to Vic, nodding at the phone.
Vic looked at Jan. She nodded. He drew a breath, then clicked on the answer button and said, “Yes? Who is this?”
“You know who this is,” came the voice out of the phone. It was being electronically altered so that they couldn’t identify it. They didn’t even know if the voice was male or female.
Jan grabbed the phone and asked, “What do you want?”
For a moment there was silence, then the voice came back. “Simple, I want twenty thousand dollars in unmarked, non sequential bills.”
“Okay,” Vic said slowly. “We’ll get it.”
“Good,” came the distorted voice.
“Then what?” Jan asked. “Where do we take it?”
“Nice try,” the voice said. “You’ll find out when you get the money.” There was a pause. “I’ll call back. You have twenty four hours to get the money. It’s now four o’clock. Have it by four o’clock in the afternoon tomorrow.”
Vic jumped in, “I don’t know if we can get it that fast. We may need some time.”
“You have time, you have twenty four hours,” the voice said. Vic and Jan looked at each other, then at Officer Plastino. But the voice wasn’t done yet. “I saw you guys at the library. You’re good. I’ll call back.”
“Wait!” Jan almost shouted. “How do we know that Jennifer’s still alive?”
“Who’s Jennifer?” the voice blurted, then apparently realized who Jennifer was and tried to cover the mistake. “Just take my word for it, and get the money?” Then the line went dead.
Jan shuddered, then said her husband’s name and collapsed into his arms, sobbing into his chest. Vic wrapped his arms around his wife, then looked over at the Silers.
“Do you want us to go?” Bob asked.
“No,” Vic responded. “I think it would be good if you staid.” Then he looked over at Barry, who was sitting on the stairs. His eyes were wide and although he was looking in the general direction of the floor, he obviously wasn’t seeing anything. He looked over at Bob and Sue, who came over to Jan. Vic carefully coaxed Barry to stand, then led him upstairs to the boy’s room. Barry’s bed was against one wall, and his laptop was on his desk, sitting open. Facebook was up, and it looked as if the boy had received multiple messages. Vic laid his son down on his bed, under a Pink Floyd poster. He stroked Barry’s head, but he didn’t say anything.
“Vic?” came Jan’s voice from downstairs.
“Be right down,” Vic called. Then he looked down at his son, who looked almost catatonic. “Don’t worry, Barry. We’ll get her back.”
Barry looked right at him for a moment, then stared off into space. Walking over to the door, Vic listened. People were talking but he didn’t hear his name. Quickly he went over to Barry’s computer and looked. As he expected, he saw many messages from Stacey Johnson. Hurriedly he typed in the message, “Stacey, this is Barry’s dad. He needs someone, can yu come over to the house?” Instantly the reply popped up, “Yes.” He shot back, “Thanx,” then went over to Barry’s bedroom door.
He heard a knock at the front door. After a moment he heard Jan exclaim, “Tommy! Come in!” Then he heard Tommy Bowen’s voice, somewhat high but steady.
“Where’s Vic?” Tommy asked.
Jan replied, “He’ll be down in a minute,” even as Vic was coming down the stairs.
“Hey, Tommy! Glad you could make it!” The two men hugged each other, an affection that Tommy and Janet could not share.
“What can I do for you guys, Vic?” Tommy asked. He was an inch taller than Vic. He and Vic had been roommates in New Jersey when Vic decided to move to Indiana so he could marry Jan. Tommy was black, and although their friendship had been no big deal in the New York City area, they had found that in Indiana they were an anomaly.
“At the moment, just being here helps. We need to raise money quickly.”
“Heavy. Can I help?”
“Thanks, Tom, but we have the funds,” Jan said quickly. Vic didn’t say anything, she had largely been the one to manage the money. He had a rough idea of how much money they had, but Jan was the money manager. But there was a problem.
“It’s after four on a Saturday,” Tommy said, voicing what most people in the room were thinking.
“How are you gonna get money at this hour?”
“Actually, sir, your bank contacted us and said that they would be willing to do whatever was needed,” Officer Plastino interjected. Tommy nodded, Jan looked relieved. Vic felt a tightening in his stomach.
“That’s great,” he said.
There was another knock on the door. This time it was Detective Smithers with another officer and three computers. Walking in, he said, “I hope you’ll forgive me for interrupting, but if we are going to do this we need to do it.”
“Do what?” Bob Siler asked the detective.
“I’m sorry, got a little ahead of myself,” Smithers answered. “We would like to put the phone’s SIM card into a computer and try to find out who called it.”
“Do you really think they’d be dumb enough to call from his home?” Tommy asked.
“No, but you never know,” Phil answered as he took the back off the phone and removed the battery. Carefully he took the SIM card out, then hooked it up to the computer. The laptop quickly ran through the phone’s log, only coming up with one number. Phil pushed a button on the computer and the internet popped up, then the search button.
The other officer watched what was happening. Neither Vic nor Jan had seen him before. “No good, sir,” the officer said.
“Not a listed number?” Phil asked.
“No sir. We can find no such number in any of the databse for the surrounding counties.” The officer disconnected the SIM card and placed it back in the phone.
Smithers was frustrated, but he had no choice. He would help Vic and Jan get started by setting up the conversation with their bank. Then they would have to wait. He looked out the window. The sky was almost black and the rain was being hurled against the side of the house by strong winds. The family seemed to be holding up reasonably well, all in all. Vic went to get coffee for everybody, and started brewing up a pot, instead of using the Keurig.
Vic looked out the kitchen window. He couldn’t see hardly anything out there. He just couldn’t see.
copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved