Madison’s Grandma — III

Mrs Ferguson

(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?”


“My husband.”

“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.

Madison’s Grandma — II

Mrs Ferguson(For Part I click here)

On Thursday evening, it threatened a summer rain, so Mrs. Ferguson made tea and she and Madison sat on the back patio to wait for the storm.  They didn’t see the taxi or hear the doorbell and were wildly startled when Freddy Hughes walked cautiously around the side of the house.

“Hey!” Madison said from her chair and stood up.

Freddy leaned around the young woman.

“Hey, Syl!  How you doing?”

Madison glanced back at her Grandma, saw the shock and quickly turned her eyes back to the man — but now there were two men.

“Hey, Syl,” the other man said.

Madison reached back to the table for her telephone, and in the quick glimpse to locate it, saw her grandmother standing up.

“What in the world?  What are you two doing here?  You scared the life out of me!”

“Hey, Syl,” Freddy said again.

Madison had her phone in her hand and looked around expectantly.

“It’s alright Maddy.  These are – uh – old friends.  What in the …?  My God!  Come here you two.”

Sylvia stepped forward and opened her arms.

“I can’t get over this.  How did you find me?”

Both men dropped their bags, and there were hugs and heys until Sylvia stood back and touched her finger to a couple of tears under her eye.

“My God!  What are you doing here?  How did you find me?”

“Great detective work.  Do you know how many Sylvia Fergusons there are in the world?”

“I can imagine.  But … come.  Sit.  Madison, these are two of my oldest and dearest friends: Freddy,” Sylvia pointed, “and Teddy.  I’ve known them since – well – forever.  This is my granddaughter, Madison.”

There were hellos and a tentative pleased to meet you, but Madison was not sure about this.  Her grandmother didn’t have friends … not real ones … maybe the other old ladies from church … but certainly not men friends … men friends who showed up unannounced when Poppa wasn’t home.  She sat down but kept her phone in her hand.

“I don’t believe this.  After all these years.  I don’t know what to say.”

“It’s been a while Syl.”  Freddy looked around, “You’ve done alright.”

“We like it.”

“You’re lookin’ good, Syl.”  Teddy added.

Madison didn’t like that and sharply cut across the conversation.

“Just how do you all know each other?”

Freddy laughed, “Your grandma was …”

“We worked together.” Sylvia interrupted, “At a transportation company.”

It was a pointed statement.

“A long time ago.”

“Yeah, it’s been what?  Thirty years?  More.  You were …”

“I was very young.” Sylvia interrupted again, “But enough ancient history.  What are you boys doing?  And what are you doing here?”

There was a tight, wary silence.  It hung in the air.

“Oh, what am I thinking?”  Sylvia reached over and shook the teapot.  “Maddy, could you go make the boys some tea?  Would you like some tea?  Are you hungry?  Can we fix you something?”

“No, we’re good, but tea would be nice.  Airport coffee,” Freddy said, shaking his head.

“Maddy?”  Sylvia handed her the pot.

For a minor second, Madison thought of saying, “I know what you’re doing,” but she didn’t.  Instead, she said, “Sure, Grandma,” took the teapot and went into the house, casually leaving the patio door open.  She filled the kettle, put it on the stove and then stood just out of sight at the sliding glass door.  She couldn’t actually hear the male voices.  They were low and confidential, but the tone was serious, and she could catch a few of her Grandmother’s words.

“Oh, my!  That’s terrible …”

“When … Are you sure?”

“Call him … fly out … fixed …”

Then louder and clearer.

“You ripped him off.  What the hell were you thinking?”

Grandma didn’t swear.

“No, I can’t …”

“Don’t ask, please …”

The male voices were getting louder, too, and not so friendly.

“You have to…”

“Really, I just can’t …”

“I wouldn’t ask if …”

“Come on, Ted …”

And then suddenly it was louder, clear and angry.

“You owe me, Syl.”

“Don’t you pull that shit on me, Teddy Copeland.  We all know who owes who here — and now I find out you two took the money?  That certainly explains why you didn’t waste any time coming back for moi.”

“Hey, Syl.” It was the other man’s voice. “Let’s be fair.  We looked.  You know we did.”

“Not hard enough.”

Madison was frightened.  The kind of fear that stuns you — like a deer in the headlights.  She could feel the sweat under her arms and a sick churn in the bottom of her belly.  Her hand shook, and she held it to her stomach.  But she couldn’t move.  She didn’t know what to do.  She wanted it to just go away.  Stop.  She thought she was going to throw up.  She swallowed, but her mouth was too dry.  Who were these people?  They had no right … no right to … and without thinking, Madison came around the corner, shaking with adrenaline and stepped hard onto the patio.  Her grandmother was half standing, with her hands spread out in front of her on the table.  The other man, Teddy, was leaning forward, nearly out of his chair.

“Hey, assholes!  You better get out of here, now — or I’m calling the cops.”

Without taking his eyes off Sylvia’s face, Teddy stretched his arm back and pointed directly at Madison.

“What would you do if it was her, Syl?  What would you do then?”

He stood up, threw his hands in the air and stomped out into the yard.

Sylvia straightened up from the table, the thought in her head.

“Anything I could,” she said, half to herself, her anger gone.

“We did look, Syl.  We did.”

“I know you did, Freddy.” Sylvia said quietly.  She puffed up her cheeks and gave a long exhale.  She drew a bigger breath and turned to her granddaughter.

“It’s alright Maddy.  Just calm down.  It’s fine.  Everybody just got a little stressed.  It’ll be fine, really.  Okay.”

Fred stood up and Sylvia reached out and touched his shoulder.

“No, give him a minute to cool off.  I’ll talk to him,” she said, tenderly.

“Maddy, can you go take the kettle off the burner?  It’s going to boil dry.”


“And go to the liquor cabinet. Poppa’s got a bottle of whiskey.  I think we’re all going to need something stronger than tea.  And Maddy – bring four glasses.”

In the early night sky, the storm had settled in, and it had started to rain.

Madison’s Grandma — Part 1

Mrs Ferguson

Mrs. Ferguson kept a tidy house.  She liked to garden and preferred cleaning to cooking.  She was a member of the YWCA and the local church, exercised religiously three times a week and did a five mile run every Saturday morning.  She had three grown children (two girls and a boy) five grandchildren, and a Mr. Ferguson, who was on the verge of retirement.  She wore glasses to read and sew and had a touch of arthritis in her right wrist, which had been broken when she was young and never properly set.  Unlike most women of her generation, she had never worked outside her married home and didn’t have a driver’s license.  And that’s where our story begins.

One year (maybe it was last year) Mr. Ferguson’s company decided to send him to Mexico City to set up their first international office.  It was a 6 to 8 week job (which probably meant 3 months) and Mrs. Ferguson didn’t want to be away from home that long.  There were a few arguments about it, some swearing and a rather nasty night of silence.  However, Mrs. Ferguson was cunning and convinced #1 daughter to loan her #1 granddaughter for the summer to provide company, drive (Mr. Ferguson’s major concern) and get over a somewhat older, seriously-tattooed boyfriend.  Outnumbered and out-manoeuvered, Mr. Ferguson packed his bags, had a wine and lingerie Bon Voyage evening and flew off — threatening to come home in a couple of weeks to see how things were going.  Granddaughter Madison arrived the next day.

Madison loved her grandma dearly, but, at 17, she saw her summer (and possibly her entire life) ruined by parental petulance.  She knew Graydon was not the love of her life, and she wasn’t going to do anything stupid, but at least he was fun, and they had fun, and all her friends were hundreds of miles away and there was nothing – nothing to do at Grandma’s house.  Plus, she was totally pissed with the parents for this overkill exile.  However, she was determined not to let her burning anger and terminal boredom show.  After all, Grandma was just a sweet old lady, and this bullshit wasn’t her fault.

On the other hand, Mrs. Ferguson had no idea what to do with a young woman permanently attached to her earbuds and telephone.  She had been an over-attentive mother and had pushed her children to achievement.  And even though she recognized this as a fault, it still bothered her that Madison seemed to spend most of her life lounging around or binge-watching TV.  Yet she was determined to keep her mouth shut and let her grandchild find her own way.

So for the first several days, both women spent their time walking on eggs, overly polite, overly considerate and both privately thinking, “God, this is going to be a long summer!”

But sometimes life rides on coincidence, and things that seem permanent change.

And that’s what happened halfway around the world from Mrs. Ferguson’s tidy little house.  On a warm midnight street in Rome, a very drunk girl (not much older than Madison) left the Qube Disco.  She took a wrong turn and stumbled around in circles for a while until two men who had been carefully watching came up behind her and pushed her into a dark gray panel van.  There was no more drama to it than that.  Two days later, Jennifer Copeland was on a boat in the Adriatic, locked in a room with four other girls.  Her father, Theodore Copeland, was on the telephone to his friend Frederick Hughes, owner of Hughes Security.

“The last GPS ping from her phone was in the Mediterranean.  She’s on a ship.”

“It won’t be Albania.  It’s too far, and the mountains are impossible.  Probably Turkey or Lebanon.  But I think Turkey these days.  There’s too much traffic in Lebanon, Syria.  Your best bet is Turkey.”

“I’ll need your help, Fred.”

“Of course, but I’ve got to tell you Karga is still running the show in that part of the world, and he’s not going to be too happy to see you … or me.”

“I’ve got to try.”

“Okay, no worries.  I’m just saying Karga is likely to shoot first, and without him, nothing moves where we need to go.”  There was a pause.  “Hey, why don’t you try Sylvia?  If anybody can work Karga, she can.  They were a serious thing back then … like, really serious.”

“It’s been 30 years, Fred … more.  I have no idea where she is.  Christ, she could be dead by now.”

“No, no she’s around.  I think she’s living in Denver or something.  She married some banker named Ferguson.  Give me a couple of hours.  I’ll find her.”

Friday – Part 2