Squall’s End, Essex countryside
Alexandria sat in the drawing room with her mobile phone in her lap, waiting for the call from Stephen Charles. Major Banwell was sitting next to her and Ryan was sitting opposite them both with a pen and two pieces of A4 paper in front of him. In the time leading up to this moment, twenty-four hours since Stephen Charles had called confirming that he had Perla and Aryanna held captive, Alexandria and the Major had filled Ryan in on what had happened the previous day and he had listened attentively, interjecting occasionally to ask her specific details, making notes all the while in illegible shorthand.
Alexandria fidgeted with nerves. She didn’t like sitting doing nothing and didn’t like Ryan’s plan to wait until Stephen Charles called back instead of starting to search for the box. Ryan had said it was likely that Charles’ men had already searched her house for the box so unless she particularly wanted to see her home in it’s almost certainly newly ransacked condition they should continue the search elsewhere. Alexandria had nodded her agreement, as most of their things were still in storage boxes it was likely that anyone searching her house would have simply emptied them out onto the floor, likely breaking their precious possessions. That wasn’t something that she felt she could deal with right now.
The Ryan Russet that had come into the drawing room after freshening up was a completely different looking man to the dishevelled rogue that had left the kitchen earlier. He was clean shaven now, showing the deep cleft in his chin, and dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt and North Face zip up sweater. Even his hair looked different, short all over and messed about liked he’d just rubbed a towel through it and done nothing else. Alexandria had found herself watching him as he made his shorthand notes, wondering what he was writing, wondering what he was thinking. She was usually quite good at reading people, but Ryan was no open book.
The vibration of her phone pulsing in her hand before it started ringing distracted her from her thoughts and she looked to Ryan before she answered it. They’d discussed what she should do, put him on speaker phone so that they could all listen, appear afraid (that wouldn’t be difficult), listen first, keep him on the line as long as possible. Ryan would use the pen and paper to write her messages, telling her specific things to say. She assumed the other page was for him to make more notes.
Ryan nodded and she pressed the green answer button followed immediately by the speaker button.
‘Hello?’ She said, knowing full well who would be calling.
‘Alexandria, I have your Mother and daughter here right with me and we’re all dying to know - do you have the box?’
Alexandria winced at his choice of words and looked to Ryan again. He held up one of the pieces of paper with words written on it.
‘Yes.’ She said lying. ‘But I don’t have it yet. It wasn’t in our house. I just need a bit more time.’ She said, sounding as nervous as she actually felt.
‘Oh that’s a shame.’ Stephen said and there was a pause. In the background Alexandria heard her Mother’s voice calling out in pain. The sound was like a dagger tearing into Alexandria’s heart.
‘Stop! Stop please!’ She shouted into the phone. The Major placed his hand on her shoulder, but Ryan stayed motionless, with no change of expression on his face. Time passed slowly until Stephen came back onto the phone.
‘I’m disappointed in you Alexandria.’ He said flatly. ‘Clearly you didn’t realise how much there was at stake for you and your family. Perhaps that little demonstration will put you in a more urgent state of mind. You have another twenty four hours to find the box and have it in your possession. Please know that if you’re still unsuccessful tomorrow it will be your daughter.’
The phone went dead and Alexandria gulped back tears as she dropped the phone.
‘You said he would leave them as long as I said I knew where the box was!’ She said to Ryan between sobs.
‘I miscalculated.’ He replied quietly, looking at his notes. ‘I underestimated this Stephen Charles, he’s clearly not just a punk looking for a quick buck. This box must be very valuable. And it looks like he’ll do anything to get it.’
‘Where do you want to start, Ryan?’ the Major asked, handing Alexandria his handkerchief.
‘Let’s follow the plan that we discussed earlier. If the box wasn’t in your house Alexandria then perhaps your husband left it in his office. So we go to London. On the way I’ll make a few phone calls and pick up some things that we might need.’
‘And I’ll pack you some food; neither of you have touched a bite today.’ The Major said, pointing to the tray of sandwiches that he’d rustled up while they were talking in the kitchen earlier. ‘You need to keep your strength up Alexandria, for both your and their sakes.’
Alexandria dried her eyes and stood up. Action was what she’d been waiting for and the thought that this box might be at Simon’s office gave her hope that her daughter would be in her arms again soon. The alternative was something that she couldn’t bring herself to consider.