The harsh voice in the dark took Jane by surprise, and her breath caught in her throat, was this Ted? As Jane repositioned her footing; she stepped lightly onto a cable. The phone had been yanked out of the wall, and Jane could see the messy room vaguely in the darkness; the man had been looking for something, and left nothing unturned in his search.
“You and Ted think you’re pretty smart don’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jane responded coldly, creeping slowly to a nearby lamp.
The man in the chair laughed. Jane’s eyes had begun to grow accustom to the darkness; within seconds she could make out his general countenance, and threatening physique. He was a larger man, with monstrous hands that kept a sturdy grip on the sides of the armchair.
“You know what I mean. Me and the rest of the gang were planning a little family reunion, just like old times, and it wouldn’t be the same without our lovely partners.”
Jane had come closer to the side table now, and on it was the only lamp left standing upright in the room. As her hand reached out to pull the cord beneath the shade, the man spoke;
“I like it dark, lady. Don’t touch the lights.” he stated laconically.
Whoever he was; Jane didn’t want to anger him. Perhaps he thought she was Sadie, and decided to play along with the charade.
“Why are you here?”
“Why else? I want the photos.”
Jane’s eyes lit up; the photos were important, and held some significance to those who understood what they meant.
“I don’t have the photos.” Jane confessed truthfully, thinking back to where she left them in the car.
“Come on sister, I know you’ve got them. We can settle this peacefully, right here, right now.”
“Honest! They’re not with me!”
“I’ve already searched the house, so that leaves either you, or him.”
“I’m sure he’ll be back some time, why don’t you wait for him?”
“I don’t have time for games.”
The shadowy figure rose from the armchair, and advanced towards Jane. He stopped with only a foot between them; and Jane’s pulse quickened. This man was clearly not Ted; whoever he was, he was dangerous. The moonlight highlighted his checkered shirt, and Jane could identify a deep scar beneath his left eye.
“If Ted’s a good boy and gives us what we want, we might make it easy for him, and you…”
All of a sudden, Jane thought of going out on a limb.
“So you think Ted and I are trying to double cross you?” She hoped that was who he was talking about.
“It’s not my job to think.” Came the gruff reply.
“And what’s in it for me?”
“We’re being more than generous already. Maybe we can arrange it for you both to go to Mexico.”
“Let me talk to the man in charge, then I’ll tell you where the pictures are.”
“Not a chance, lady.”
“What are you getting out of the deal?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He answered curtly. “Now tell me where Ted is, and make it fast.”
“If I tell you where he is, you’ll only-“
The man gripped Jane’s arm, and squeezed it tightly. Panic surged through Jane, and her muscles became rigid.
“Save it! You dames are all alike, with your mindless babble. Now are you going to cooperate, or do I have to get rough?”
“What do you want with the photos anyway?”
Her arm was growing numb, and the man lowered his voice to a subtle growl.
“It would be a shame if anything happened to that pretty little neck of yours. Now start talking.”
There was nothing to be done; the only way out was to break free of his grasp. There remained a slim chance, that someone would hear her desperate pleas for help. As the mysterious shadow figure wrapped his fingers around her neck, she couldn’t contain her fear. Jane let out a blood curdling scream, and clawed frantically at the man’s tightening hold.
“No one will hear you.”
Jane shook her head and gasped for air,
“Stop! Stop!” She managed breathlessly, her heart beating in her ears.
“Are you ready to talk yet?”
He slackened his grasp, freeing her from his clutches momentarily. Suddenly out of the darkness, Josh came to the rescue in the form of a tackle; his football training from the past, leading his every swing.
She couldn’t see much; only the wrestling of shadows, scuffling of feet and a table collapsing. The man made it to the foyer, wildly pulling it open and fled through the front door.
Jane fumbled for the light she had sought after before, and switched it on; revealing a very disheveled room, and bedraggled Josh.
“Well, Sadie keeps good company, doesn’t she?” Jane sighed, massaging the tight muscles in her neck.
Margaret dashed in through the open door, and headed straight for the living room.
“Jane, are you alright?” she asked, offering her support.
“I’m fine. Josh came at just the right time, though.” She exhaled deeply, “Did you get a good look at him?”
He shook his head, and tucked his rumpled shirt back into his trousers.
“He meant business whoever he was. I don’t like you girls getting caught up in this, it’s too risky.”
He switched on the lights in the foyer, and the lights in the living room.
“I thought for sure I would have gotten everyone’s attention here in the neighborhood with that scream. The neighbors must not be home.”
Josh went to the nearby window and drew back the curtain to examine the neighbors’ yards.
“Looks like the coast is clear, we got lucky this time. Let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t stop now,” protested Margaret. “We’ve uncovered too many secrets, and clues. We have to continue!”
“The least we can do is search the house before we go. We have three pairs of hands; we’ll make quick work of the whole joint. Sadie’s obviously out of town, and there’s no telling if that man will be back with more goons like him.”
“I agree, we’ll look in different parts of the house at the same time.” Margaret concurred.
“I’ll get the kitchen. Josh, you look upstairs, and Margaret; look in every cranny here in the living room. We’re bound to find something.”
They each dispersed; and began their search. Jane opened every cabinet in the kitchen, revealing only cans, dishware, and miscellaneous food. She pulled the canisters down from the highest shelf, opening the lids and stirring through the contents in case something had been hidden within.
She pulled open the bottom drawer of the pantry, and uncovered a heap of folded newspapers. They spanned a three month period, through March to June, from several years in the past. Encircled by a spotty pen, was the same article they had found shredded outside the museum only a day and a half ago.
“Come quick,” Josh’s voice could he heard from the foyer, “You won’t believe what I’ve found!”