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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 12

Updated on November 13, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 12

Note: You are holding in your metaphorical hands the twelfth 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. I really hope that your metaphorical hands are not metaphorically sweaty. The rules are: wash them! (Oops, wrong rules.) Just 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!

The Lawless family had a checking account at Chase Bank. Once upon a time, Chase had been Bank One, then it got bought out, then it was bought out again. Now it was officially JP Morgan Chase Bank, but the buildings and their checks simply said “Chase.” Vic could vaguely remember when JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan had been two entirely separate banks, when he had lived in New York City. His account then had been at Bowery Bank. This memory flashed through his mind as he and Jan walked in the front door of the branch on Allisonville Road, about a mile south of 116th Street. Ben, a blond man with a deep tan, had unlocked to let them and Detective Smithers in. Ben had a job at the bank; Jan had seen him there many times although she had never asked exactly what he did.

Ben and Mayor Fadden were waiting for them when they arrived. Vic was surprised to see the mayor, but Jan took it in stride. There was a black briefcase sitting on the floor behind the teller’s counter, Ben retrieved it and handed it to Vic. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through,” Ben said. Jan looked at him and knew that he meant it.

“Thank you so much,” Jan replied, putting a hand on Ben’s arm.

“And please, if there’s anything else we can do…” Ben said, letting the sentence trail off.

“Thank you,” Vic replied. He looked around. Was the kidnapper watching them? Did he have an accomplice who was tracking them while he did God knows what to his daughter? The prematurely dark sky and rolling storm outside made the lit insides of the closed bank seem not so much like a refuge from the storm as a bizarre, surreal experience that he didn’t like much.

Mayor Fadden was Fishers’ first mayor. Before then the City of Fishers had been the Town of Fishers and had not elected a mayor, instead electing a Town Council who elected their own president. Fadden looked directly at Jan and said to both of them, “We all want to say how sorry we are and if there’s anything we can do, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you, Mayor,” Vic and Jan said at the same time. Mayor Fadden extended his hand and first Vic shook it, then Jan. Then the couple and Detective Smithers, who had been quiet the whole time, went back to the police cruiser they had arrived in.

The drive back to their house was quiet. Vic watched Jan, who seemed to be far away. She wasn’t on the verge of hysteria, at least not any more, but she wasn’t fully engaged either. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. But so many things were different now; he wasn’t sure what to make of anyone.

Jan looked out the window, trying to see into the rain. She also wasn’t sure what to make of the world any more. Things had seemed relatively safe this morning, when she got up. She’d had no premonition. How in the world had she not had a premonition about something this big, this earth shattering? And Vic had a feeling this morning but hadn’t said anything? She wanted to turn around and slap his face, that he called himself a loving father and yet he had let this happen. What kind of man lets his own daughter, his own autistic daughter who knows nothing about the world, run off like that? And then lets her get snatched? He had tried to put his arms around Jan a couple of times since they’d left for the bank, but she was not having it. She felt a wall going up between them, and she was okay with that.

Phil Smithers drove the car, looking every once in a while in the rearview mirror at the parents. He did not like what he saw. Other officers had spoken with friends and neighbors and teachers and had gotten the impression that the Lawless’ were a close-knit family, but they seemed to be unraveling awfully quick. At a time when they needed to pull together, they seemed to be headed in the opposite direction. He hoped that they could pull it together.

When they pulled up to the house, they had to dodge news crews and people who were milling around the neighborhood. Jan’s face took on some life when she said, “I don’t recognize a lot of these people.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Smithers. “Unfortunately there has been a recent boom in what’s called ‘Disaster Tourism,’ where rubberneckers descend on areas that have suffered some traumatic event.”

“We used to call them vultures,” Vic said.

“We still do,” Smithers replied.

Vic’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the people. “So now they become sort of ‘Tragedy Tourists’?”

“Something like that,” Smithers said. He eased the car up the driveway and got out, then opened the rear driver’s side door for Jan.

When they entered the house, Tommy and the Silers were in the living room, drinking coffee and watching TV. Officer Larry Plastino and Officer Tim Johnson were in front of computers. Plastino was checking news feeds and blogs, Johnson was emailing the station.

“Any new word?” Smithers asked as they walked in.

“Nothing,” Johnson answered. “Have there been any calls? Did everything go okay?”

“Yes, everything went as planned.”

Jan said, “I’m going to get some coffee. Does anyone else want any?”

Vic declined, the Silers and Tommy already had cups in their hands, and so did Plastino and Johnson. As Jan went in the kitchen, Vic went to the desk in the living room where the family PC was. The HP computer was ancient, according to Barry. It was seven years old, but had been successfully upgraded twice. It was running the most current edition of Windows and had survived two serious infections. He booted it up and checked the emails. His mother and Jan’s father had both emailed, he answered them that things were not good but they had hope. Detective Smithers had warned him earlier about saying too much to people, even family members, because you never knew what would make it on the news and there were things they were withholding in hopes of tripping up the kidnapper.

He turned to the three in front of the television and asked, “Has Barry stuck his head out the door?”

“No,” Sue answered, “but his girlfriend came over, dropped off by her dad.”

“Are they upstairs together?” Vic asked.

“Yeah,” Bob responded. “Should we get them out?”

“No,” Vic said, “let’s just leave them be for right now.” He turned back to the black and silver computer monitor.

His cousin in Ireland, Patrick, had also emailed. “Hey, mate,” it started. “Heard about your troubles. Even here in Ireland we heard about it. Wish I lived closer, but if there’s anything we can do for you over here, don’t forget us.” It was signed, “Paddy.”

“Paddy,” Vic emailed back. “Thanks so much. The best thing you all can do is pray for us right now. Pray especially for Jen, we have no idea what she’s going through.” He signed it, “Vic.”

“I see you’ve got a camera,” Smithers said from behind Vic.

Looking involuntarily up at the little webcam which was attached to the monitor, Vic answered, “Yeah, Jan likes to Skype her sister in Michigan.”

Walking in, coffee cup in hand, Jan asked, “What are you two talking about?”

Turning to look at her, Vic answered, “Detective Smithers was just asking about the webcam.”

“Really? Why? Do you think that’s important?”

“Just curious, ma’am,” Phil said. He was fingering his pack of cigarettes in his pants pocket. “Have you had it a long time?”

“No, just a couple of years,” Jan answered. She wore a puzzled expression and again asked, “Is this important?” She was holding the coffee cup in both hands, as if trying to warm them up.

“I just have insatiable curiosity, Mrs. Lawless,” came Smithers’ answer. “That’s probably why I became a detective.” He smiled at her, his best reassuring smile.

She arched an eyebrow, but otherwise let it slide. She did not return the smile, but instead took one hand away from her coffee and pulled her sweater more tightly around her. She did not in any way indicate that she appreciated Detective Smithers' humor.

It was a little after five thirty p.m. The local news was coming on some stations. The kidnapping was the lead story. No matter what channel they flipped to, some sage talking head was telling just how little was known about this case. Tommy, Sue and Bob were sitting in front of the set, a giant flat screen monitor that Vic had mounted on his wall. The Channel 13 Nightcast was starting, the male and female anchors gazing seriously, even gravely, out at the audience. The Lawless’ three friends all looked over at Jan.

“It doesn’t matter, at least now right now,” Jan said, walking over to the couch and sitting, watching the television.

Vic finished up emails. He’d received missives from almost every living member of both their families, and was thinking about how to reply. For the moment, he’d simply sent out a carefully worded email, one suggested by Detective Smithers. It gave a quick overview of the situation, nothing they couldn’t find out by watching the news. He thanked everyone for their concern, asked everyone to pray (even though several members of his family had never prayed in their lives,) and made some small talk. He wished he could be straighter with everybody, but he had to agree that it would be counterproductive to “accidentally” find some sensitive information being blatted out on the evening news. So Vic held his tongue and didn’t get into some weird kind of interest in what’s going on.

Vic sat, looking at the phone the kidnapper had left behind. A small, cheap phone, they probably bought at a gas station somewhere between where they lived and this house. Basic black, no weird colors or anything flashy. Great big bust in the effort to find anything at all helpful in finding the kidnapper. He picked it up, turning it over in his hand. The rain had been settling down outside but it had begun picking up again. The sky was almost black now, it was getting on toward night time in the mid-November time.

Thanksgiving would be coming soon. And Black Friday, the day when they should all be out shopping for Christmas presents.

The phone rang.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved

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