A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
(For Part II click here)
The rain was soft and cool, and the whole world had the clean smell of wet dirt. Madison was careful with the whiskey; she had had a couple of experiences with alcohol, and it was not to be trusted. Besides, this was serious, and she didn’t want to look like a child. So she kept her mouth shut and listened. It wasn’t very long before she pieced together most of the story, but it felt like she was watching a movie. People didn’t get kidnapped in real life. Well, they did — but not anybody, anybody knew and certainly not old people. But they were all talking as if this was normal. Some guy called Kargoyle was Grandma’s friend, but he didn’t like Teddy, and he knew where to find that poor girl. But Freddy, or maybe it was Teddy, didn’t want Grandma to talk to him alone. Then Syl said Kargoyle would bite off Teddy’s head, and Freddy said “and pee down the hole,” and Grandma said, “Not that head,” and everybody laughed, so Madison laughed too. Then there was more talk and some more, and Syl and Freddy were speaking low and serious, and Grandma was pointing — except her face was different and that Teddy guy looked like he was sleeping, and why didn’t somebody just call the police? It would be so terrible to be kidnapped. Kidnapped was such a funny word — “kid” “napped.” Why did people say that? And she couldn’t really hear what Syl and her Grandma were talking about, anymore. It was kinda blurry. But, these guys weren’t really like bad guys – just old — and you could tell Grandma liked them. Maybe they were …
Then there was Grandma’s voice.
“Teddy, you’re falling asleep. You must be jetlagged out of your mind. Come on! Let’s find you a bed. Maddy? Freddy? We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
That was a good idea. Madison was tired, and there was Grandma standing over her.
“See you in the morning, dear.” And she leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. So Madison stood up and hugged her grandma.
“Are you going to help that poor girl? It’s so bad.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Don’t worry about it right now. Just go get some sleep.”
Madison didn’t notice Sylvia casually sliding her phone off the table and slipping it into the back of her jeans.
“Come on, Teddy. Maddy, point him at the sofa. Okay, goodnight.”
After they left the patio, Sylvia pulled Madison’s telephone out of her jeans and put it on the table.
“There’s the problem,” she said. “I’m going to have to take her with me. She lives on that phone, and if I leave her here …. She won’t do it deliberately, but one text and all hell’ll break loose. I can’t take that chance. I know my daughter. If she thinks something’s going on, she’ll call out the National Guard.
“That’s crazy, Syl.”
“Crazy or not, we’re going to do this my way.”
Freddy shrugged in surrender.
“You have to take Teddy and go back to Chicago. We’re going to need passports, driver’s licences, and assorted various. Use my old name, Harrow. Make Madison a student, 20, 21 and make me – uh – use your imagination. I’ll send you pictures and …”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! That’s going to cost. I don’t have that kind of money, and Teddy sure as hell doesn’t.”
Sylvia looked out into the rain.
“You stole over three million. What did you do with it?”
“Syl, that was 40 years ago. I was going to spring for the airline tickets cuz Teddy’s broke, but you’re talking …” Freddy shook his head.
“That was your plan?” Sylvia turned back to Freddy’s face, “Show up here and – what? We’d all fly off to Istanbul? What if Jim had’ve been home?”
“We didn’t think that far.”
“God, you guys haven’t changed! It’s a wonder we didn’t all end up dead in a Romanian ditch, somewhere.”
“You were the brains, Syl. We were just the muscle.”
“Don’t flatter me, Freddy: I’m tired. Can you do this or not?”
“Sure, but …”
“Alright, then. Do it, and don’t worry about the money. I’ll cover it and deal with Teddy later. I’ll make you a list, and you and Teddy get out of here first thing in the morning. We’ll meet you in Atlanta. And Freddy . . . if we don’t hurry, we’re going to lose this girl.”
“I know, Syl.”
The next morning the storm had blown through and left the day warm and humid. Madison came out of the bedroom and there was Grandma sitting at the kitchen table with her coffee and newspaper, just like she did every morning. For a second, Madison wasn’t sure … maybe?
“They had to leave early, Maddy. They’re back in Chicago, getting us passports.”
Maddy didn’t notice the “us.” She poured herself some juice and sat across from her grandmother. Sylvia folded her newspaper and took off her glasses.
“I’m going to go and try and get Teddy’s daughter back,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“You’re going to talk to Kargoyle?”
“Karga,” she corrected. “Yeah, and when he tells us where she is, we’re going to have to go get her.”
“Why don’t you just call the police?”
“In that part of the world, sometimes the police aren’t the best option, honey. It’s a lot different from here.”
“This is serious, isn’t it, Grandma?”
“Yes, it is — very serious.” And Grandma smiled and crinkled her eyes. It was a sparkle Madison had never seen before. “So, do you want to go and be a badass for a couple of days?”
“Um hum. I’m going to need all the help I can get, but it’ll mean we have to lie to your mother. I don’t think she’ll approve.”
Madison didn’t hesitate, “I thought you were going to send me home. Of course, I’ll go. We have to help. That’s a terrible thing that happened to that girl.”
“Okay, but we have to be very careful from now on. You understand?”
Madison nodded her head.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“I heard you guys talking last night and I didn’t understand a lot of it but … I mean … it sounded like … uh …” Madison drew in a breath, “From the way you spoke about this guy Karga and the old days – uh — were you guys spies?”
Grandma laughed, “No, dear. Nothing so romantic. We were smugglers.”
In the Aegean Sea, 18 hours out of Istanbul, the dilapidated engine of the S.S. Delfini sputtered and died. To the five girls locked in the hold, the sudden silence sounded dangerous.