She was an easy snatch, the easiest yet. I'd been watching the house for a week. Each weekday a cab pulled to the curb at 8am and sounded its horn, the girl ran out and jumped in the back and he drove off. Her mother never even looked out the window.
All I had to do was delay the cab, easy to do, I followed him home last night and slashed his tyres, he'll be delayed quite a while this morning, then around 1am I drove to the next town and stole a similar car, again easy to do, there's dozens of 5 year old silver Ford Mondeos in every town, and they're not exactly the toughest nut to crack. The only problem I could foresee is the real cab driver phoning the family to warn of a delay, if that happened I would simply drive off and revert to Plan B which was riskier, so I was glad when Emily ran out of the door as soon as I pulled up to the curb.
I drove away smoothly as soon as she'd shut the door, I didn't want to burn rubber and spook her, but equally I didn't want to hang around any longer than necessary. She didn't look spooked, simply shrugged when I told her I was a replacement driver, then she pulled her iPad out of her school bag and started playing a game, sweet she didn't even notice that we were driving away from school rather than towards it.
Eventually she did notice, "hey, where we going?"
I ignored her and dialled a number on my phone then pressed send as we rounded a bend and slid the car neatly through a gap in the trees. The garage door had responded to my call and was standing open, it closed silently behind the car as soon as I parked.
I stepped out of the car and opened the back door to let Emily out.
"Follow me," is all I answered, leading her through the house and down the stairs to the basement. I'd set this up like a girl's bedroom, TV, DVD player, PlayStation with games, a selection of young adult books like Twilight and Hunger Games. I wanted Emily to be comfortable during her stay.
"OK Emily, here's the deal. You're going to stay here for a short while until I complete some business with your dad, you've got everything you could want here, except the Internet obviously. There's no mobile signal down here either, so I'm afraid there's no contact with the outside world."
"So what you're saying is you've kidnapped me."
"Yes, that's right."
"OK, that's cool." She started looking round the room, picking books off the shelf and putting them back seemingly at random, then she settled on one and curled up on the bed and started to read.
This confused me, but I decided that everyone deals with stress in different ways.
"There's drinks and snacks in the fridge there, let me know what you like to eat and I'll try my best."
"What's your name?"
"Just call me Andrew."
"OK, Andrew it is then. Why me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why have you kidnapped me?"
"I need money, your dad is very rich, it's a simple business transaction that your dad should understand."
"Makes sense I suppose. You're not going to hurt me are you?"
"No, I won't, but I might tell your dad otherwise. I'm not a bad person, but I need some money quickly."
"Good plan, I just hope my dad does the right thing."
"So do I Emily, so do I."
"Toilet and shower through here, I have some clothes for you as well, nothing special, just a few things from a charity shop, but they're clean and should be your size."
"Thanks Andrew, I'm vegetarian by the way, so no meat please."
"That's OK, I can handle that. Just veggie, you're not a vegan are you, because that could be a problem."
"Not a vegan, milk, cheese and eggs are fine."
I turned from her and headed for the stairs, then I turned back, "You're taking this remarkably well."
"What's the point of panicking, it will all work out or it won't. Just go with the flow I say, besides, it's double PE today, I'm much better off here I think."
"I'm going out to send a letter, I need to drive a few towns away to post it, so I'll be out for at least an hour, don't do anything silly."
"Oh I won't. don't worry."
I turned once again and headed up the stairs, locking the door at the top before I left the house via the garage. I had two jobs to do, firstly I needed to dump this car and collect my own car from the long term parking at Manchester Airport, then I needed to post a letter to Emily's dad.
Emily, now she is not what I was expecting at all. I'd readied myself for a spoilt little bitch, I'd even collected a stash of tranquillisers to keep her subdued, and some handcuffs and other restraints if the worst came to the worst, but I'm so relieved it's looking like it won't come to that. I told Emily I wouldn't hurt her, but I will if I have to.
The Mondeo needed to be burnt, I'd worn leather gloves the whole time it had been in my possession, but Emily had opened and closed the door herself, so her prints were all over it. I drove to some wasteland about 3 or 4 miles from the airport and sprayed the upholstery with petrol and threw a lit newspaper on the back seat, before I'd run 100 metres from the car it was totally ablaze, the beauty of diesel cars, they rarely explode, so the blaze is contained in the car, there should be nothing left but the body.
Back on the main road I found a bus stop and took the next bus to the airport where I handed over a £20 note for my car keys. £10 a day to park your car, no wonder the airport can afford to build a new terminal.
From the airport I drove to Stockport, in the library there I made use of their computers to print out the letter to Emily's father. The envelope I carefully printed with my left hand, then I popped it in a post box on the high street. On the way home I stopped off at a supermarket to buy some vegetarian meals.
Emily was still on the bed, she looked up when I entered the basement, giving me a sweet smile before returning to her book. Why wasn't she nervous?
"I got you a few things for dinner, would you like vegetarian lasagne or mushroom and pepper pizza?"
"You're not like the kidnappers in films Andrew."
"Well you're not like the kidnap victims in films."
"You've given me no reason to be nervous."
"Well I see no need to make you scared, you behave and you get to stay in this nice room for a few days, piss me off and I chain you up in the garage. So, pizza or lasagne?"
"Lasagne please, do you have any Vimto?"
"Of course I do, I'll bring the bottle down and you can make it how you like it."
"After dinner can you stay down here and talk a while?"
"Errr, yes of course. I've got to do some work upstairs, but I'll bring your dinner around 6 o'clock, is that OK."
She was back in her book, so I went back upstairs, I had plans to fine-tune.
--We ate dinner together and talked for a couple of hours, or rather she talked about school, music, books everything except her family, and I listened, answering questions when asked. At 10pm I got up to leave, Emily grabbed my hand and pulled me over, she kissed my cheek and mumbled something that sounded like "thanks for being nice". I'm so confused about this girl.
The letter I sent Emily's dad required him to contact me by telephone at 4pm on Wednesday. I've given him the number to a pre-paid mobile phone, I bought the phone in a charity shop and the SIM in Poundland. At 4pm I was parked up at a motorway service area away from the house, the phone didn't ring, I checked it was switched on, fully charged, had signal, but it continued not ringing for the next two hours until I gave up, switched the phone off and removed the battery until 4pm tomorrow.
--That evening Emily decided to teach me how to play chess, it was easy to learn but I think it will take a long time to master.
Thursday the phone didn't ring again. I was concerned that there had been nothing on the news about Emily going missing, but I think that may be a police tactic now so they can work away quietly without the media interfering.
I decided to write another letter, this time including some slightly less veiled threats to their daughter's well being. I dumped the first phone which may now be compromised and switched to phone number two. I have dozens of them, bought in different charity shops and attached to different networks.
I posted this letter from Rochdale as I drove back to the house.
--Tonight we played some more chess, Emily seemed to be at peace. She asked me to pick up the latest book in the Mazerunner series when I go out tomorrow.
Friday he didn't ring again, Emily noticed the dejection on my face as I entered the basement with dinner that night.
"He didn't ring again did he?"
"No, I don't understand it."
"I've deliberately not watched the TV, have they mentioned anything."
"Nothing at all, it's really weird. I even rang your school today pretending to be an uncle and asked for you, they said you were off sick."
I asked for a some of Emily's hair, and the necklace she was wearing, they were going in letter number 3, I didn't want to send letter number 4, that would have to have something more personal in it.
--We played chess all day Sunday, we had the radio on, listening to music, no mention at all
Monday, 7 days since I took her, I decided to do something I'd never had to do before, I telephoned Emily's dad at work. His PA is world class, it took me ten calls to get past her and into his office. All I can say is that a man like that doesn't deserve a daughter like Emily, she clearly takes after her mum.
Emily was crying when I got back to the house.
"He's still not called has he?"
"No, and I don't want to hurt you. I feel like a failure but I'll take you home tomorrow."
Emily screamed, she held her head in her arms, her whole body rocking with tears.
I held her until she calmed down, I tried to reassure her that I wasn't going to hurt her in any way.
"I know, I just don't want to go home, ever."
"I think we need to talk Emily. Let me make dinner, come upstairs, we'll eat in the kitchen."
Emily cooked dinner, I opened a bottle of wine, we ate mostly in silence, I waited for Emily to speak, I'm good at waiting.
"Dad's a bastard, I think you realised that now, I'll try to tell you everything but it hurts. Mum's always drunk, day and night, it's her way of coping I think. He never sleeps with her any more, he hits her though, calls her a whore and smacks her about. We have a maid, she's basically a prisoner, an illegal immigrant. Dad used to rape her every day, he would taunt her, telling her to call the police but she couldn't because they'd deport her. She's safe now though because ever since I got my period he's ... had me ... to play with..."
Emily stopped there, sobbing quietly. I moved round the table and sat next to her, she leant her head against me, I could feel her sobbing, I waited.
"Mum got me the pill, dad doesn't know, he wants a baby, to breed his next victim. He makes me take a pregnancy test every week, every time it's negative and he goes mental."
She stood up and turned away from me, she took off her jumper and blouse, I gasped when I saw the old bruises across her back. She dropped her pants and knickers, her buttocks were stripped with whip marks. She turned round and I saw little burns on her breasts and stomach, how could a human treat anyone, especially a beautiful 14 year old girl, that way is beyond me.
"This is why I don't want to do PE, I can't get changed in front of anyone. He never touches my hands or face though."
Emily saw my face. I'm a calm person, to be a hunter you have to be, you can't let emotion take over, but this little girl standing calmly before me showing her physical wounds had tipped me over the edge.
I picked up my wine glass and drained it in one swallow, I poured another and drained that too.
--"I know a doctor, we'll go tomorrow, see what she can do for those burns and bruises, then we need to make Plan C."
The doc knows who I am. I occasionally take people to fix up, she never asks questions. She took Emily into her treatment room, I waited outside. 20 minutes later the doctor took me to her office.
"How is she?"
"The nurse is treating the burns, some are fairly recent, others are months old. They'll heal but the poor girl will have scars forever. The bruises will need help to heal, I'll give you some lotion, you OK massaging it in twice a day?"
"I'll be fine doc, she trusts me."
If there's one thing the doc knows, it's that I didn't hurt the girl, she trusts me.
"How much do I owe you?"
"For this job, nothing. Just tell me who did this."
"Her father, at the moment he's got less than a week to live."
"What's going to happen to the girl?"
"That's down to her. She knows she'll be an orphan soon, she's got some decisions to make, but she's got a good head, I'm sure she be fine."
Emily was in the waiting room when I emerged from the doc's office, she took my hand and we walked out into the sunshine.
--Next stop was an army surplus store, the owner is a right-wing gun nut, if we met in other circumstances I'd probably kill him, but he knows that and always treats me right. He had some camo gear in Emily's size, along with a balaclava. He also had what he called the perfect gun for a teenage girl, I suspect he has a different set of values to most, because a teenage girl has no business carrying a gun, but needs must, and for a not inconsiderable sum of money he handed over a brand new, never fired Glock 26 and a box of 9mm ammo.
I drove a long long way, I'm a good driver, I enjoy driving fast, Emily was a good passenger, quiet when I needed to concentrate, chatty when the roads were straight and long. I know a place that's deserted for dozens of miles, we can practice shooting without being disturbed.
"You OK about this?"
"Yes, I've been thinking about killing him for years, but never had the chance, then you come along and kidnap me, and, well, you know what needs to be done."
"I need to know that you can keep calm, you don't need to do anything except stay to the side or behind me, I don't want you to panic and get in the way of a bullet."
"Do we have to shoot him, it seems so quick?"
"It's the surest option, a bullet to the heart is a sure-fire way to kill a man. Do we take your mum out at the same time?"
"It's probably best, let Nashida go though."
"The maid, she deserves to be set free."
"OK, as long as she doesn't get in the way she's free to go. Now how about cash, do you know where your dad keeps his money and valuables?"
"He's got a safe in his office at home, but I can't open it."
"Oh I think we can find a way to make him open it for us."
We stopped for fuel and food at a service station off the M9, Emily sat next to me and shared my fries.
We got back in the car and set off again, turning off the M9 at Craigforth and headed up the A84, onwards to the Queen Elizabeth forest. I have access to a cabin so deeply hidden in the forest that I think only the owner and I know where it is. Very soon Emily will be the third person on that short list.
"Can I live with you Andrew?"
"I don't live a good life Emily, I don't have a job. You're not the first girl I've kidnapped, that's how I make my living."
"Do you ever hurt the girls?"
"I've never had to so far."
"If you had a big score, is that the term, I hear it in movies," I nodded, "a really big score, would you be able to give it all up and, say, travel the world or something?"
"How big do you mean?"
"Well dad, as you know, is not a nice man, and some of the people he works with are not exactly legitimate businessmen, they deal only in cash, and dad knows where the cash is held before it's laundered. I've heard him talking about having to despatch tonnes of cash to Europe."
"Making him give up that kind of information won't be easy, it will involve doing him some serious damage."
"OK, I can live with that."
"Torture is messy and harrowing."
"I've seen Reservoir Dogs, he deserves it."
As we entered the forest I slowed down and put my headlights on, Emily kept quiet as I carefully navigated the twisting route to the cabin.
"Oh wow, this is amazing, I think I'd like to live here," Emily exclaimed when she saw the log cabin in a clearing.
"Wait until you've spent the night before you make a decision like that, there's no electricity, no running water, not even a toilet."
"No toilet! How does that work?"
"There's a composter out the back, you do your stuff down the hole then sprinkle a cup of soil on top, it actually doesn't smell. We have paraffin lamps and a log burner stove, it's warm and cosy. Tomorrow we'll practice shooting and work on our plan."