There had been a kidnapping and a shooting.
September 11, 2013
A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement
Ruth’s fingers stiffened—numb from the cold. The heater in the motorcar didn’t work, and the winter air finally seeped into her bones. The long drive from the school depleted her energy, but determination fueled the fire to find Ella. “What are you waiting for, Father? We must find The Blue Feather.”
Robert Squire left the gear in park. “Look, Ruthie, the sun is coming up. It won’t be long before the café on the edge of town is open. I’m starved. We need to talk about what we are doing. Ella could end up dead if we make a wrong move. I don’t want that on my head.” With head bowed, he continued. “I think we need to tell the police what we know.”
“No, it might be too late.”
He shook his head. “I am not budging until you agree. For once, I’m putting my foot down. The police can investigate The Blue Feather. The place is notorious for murders. Every day there is a new one in the newspaper.”
“No, buts, Ruthie. We’re going to the police station and tell them what we know, and then we’re going to eat breakfast.”
“So, let me get this straight. You accusin’ Eric Horton, the banker, of kidnapping some girl at Barkley’s?” The police sergeant rolled a pencil across the report and back again, a smile flickered on his lips.
Ruth didn’t like the look of the uniformed officer, regardless of the brass buttons and stripes. He was fat and had bad breath. “Look, a young woman’s life is in danger. You have to get down to The Blue Feather. Chances are she’s already dead.”
“What does a girl like you know about The Blue Feather? You don’t look the type.”
“Fine, if you won’t take me seriously, I’ll have to go myself.” She stood; ready to bolt for the door.
“Hold your horses, lady. You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” He motioned for an officer to stop her. “We’ll head down to The Blue Feather, but you won’t go near the place. Understand?”
“Inspector, I am her father, and I can attest the story is correct. A young lady was kidnapped from the Barkley School.” Robert Squire stepped forward, breaking the promise to let Ruth handle the situation. “Police have been to the school. The worst part is the girl was taken by mistake. They wanted my Ruth.”
A messenger handed a note to the sergeant and stood by nervously as he read it. “There’s been a shooting, Sarge. Near the river, like she said. Not far from The Blue Feather. It was called into the other precinct.”
“I can read. Seems like you are tellin’ the truth.”
A commotion in the outer office distracted the small group.
“What’s goin’ on?” the sergeant demanded.
The leader of the intrusion snapped the order. “A kidnapping and a shooting. One dead. We need all available officers.”
The scene before her faded, and the urge to scream surfaced. She fought for control. “Shooting? Who?”
Mr. Squire stood close, a steady hand on her back. “Can you tell us more, officer? Was it a man or woman?”
“Can’t say. Just know we gotta get down there and surround the buildings. It happened less than an hour ago.” He spun around and motioned for the rest to follow.
One lone officer remained at the desk, and Ruth realized everyone had forgotten about her. “Let’s go, Father. Looks like we are free to leave.”
Mr. Squire led her out the front door. “Ruthie, there is nothing we can do now. We would only be in the way. Let’s get something to eat, and let the officers do their jobs.”
“We will hear soon enough. Come along.”
Peter watched Cal drive in the direction of the river. What has that girl to do with me? I need to get to Ruth. He doesn’t need me. The motorcar roared, and backed up; ready to head for the country, but the sight of Cal’s disappearing coupe ignited a pang of remorse.
Damn! He turned the wheel and followed. Cal came all this way to warn me. The least I can do is help him find her. Ruth is safe at school with guards round the clock.
In no time, Peter closed the gap, and the wharf loomed ahead in the morning sunrise. I am probably going to regret this.
“Change your mind, Peter?” Cal jumped out of the auto and swung the door shut; a grin danced on his face, but quickly disappeared.
Peter walked around the end of the vehicle and stood beside Cal, eyes on the commotion a block away. “Well—you were kind enough to come all this way, it’s the least I can do. Looks like every police officer in the city is down there. What do you make of it?”
“Might be more than one body. I hope Ella isn’t one of them. Come on; let’s see what we can find out.”
Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.
You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.