The Case of the Missing Irregular

Part 10

by Stacey (SST205 at aol.com)

Tennyson wasn't sure when he got to sleep; for that matter, he had nearly lost all track of what time or day it was. He thought it was only one day; high above him, even above the stacks of boxes around him, was a long line of windows. The light outside had gotten gradually darker only once. One day or not, however, his time there seemed like forever.

The dream he was having was very pleasant--in it, he was very small. He was looking up into the face of his mother. He was pretty sure it was his mother; but there weren't as many worry lines in her face as there were now.

"Tennyson," she said to him softly. "Someday your father will love you, I hope -- but whether he does or not, I always will; you're my little boy. I know I gave you a rather large name for such a little fellow -- but I promise I'll tell you about it when you're older. Your grandfather used to read me the works of a wonderful writer by the same name; I hope one day you'll get to read his works for yourself. Those writings sparked wonderful times of imagination for me, and they might you, too."

Tennyson, of course, said nothing -- just reached for his mother's face. The hand he saw reach out was very small, like that of an infant. Wait -- if he was an infant, why could he hear her? He didn't have his hearing aids when he was that little. Above his mother's head, he saw a bright light.

Suddenly, everything was darker. In the dimness, Tennyson saw the look on his mother's face turn from one of comfort to terror. "NO!" she cried, and Tennyson felt her arms grow tighter around him. "You can't have him! He's my baby!"

Suddenly, there was a light -- not a warm one like before, but cold and ominous. Tennyson looked to see two large hands--no body, just hands -- reaching out of the circle of cold light. They reached down and wrenched Tennyson out of his mother's arms; then they began to pull back.

The boy looked down -- his mother was in a hospital bed, and she kept getting farther and farther away. What was going on? Why was it that he could hear her scream....

"NO! Give me back my boy!"

Something else happened then that had never happened before: he heard himself cry out.

"Mother!"

His eyes snapped open, then he closed them again as a bead of cold sweat ran across his eyelids. Upon opening them once more, he found he was still there -- the cold cement floor under him, the many boxes piled around him, and the moonlight shining through the windows high above.

The boy swallowed hard a few times, trying to make his heart go back down where it belonged.

Oh dear, he thought to himself. What was that?

He tried breathing slowly, in order to slow the pounding of his heart. Oh, Lord, I want so much just to go home. Please, please, help me through this....

Just then he thought he heard footsteps. He was lying on the ear Mickey had taken his hearing aid off of, so he could hear with the other. The footsteps were slow and deliberate, as if someone were trying to sneak their way through the warehouse. Tennyson closed his eyes.

Could someone be here, he thought, someone to rescue me?

As the steps came closer, a sharp but familiar smell came to his nostrils. What in the -- vinegar?

He opened his eyes slightly. A shadowy silhouette stood in the 'doorway' between the piles of boxes. As it came closer, the moonlight shone through the windows above and down onto it. It was Jake, a paper sack in his hand. It was from the sack that the smell emanated.

The man put the sack down and knelt by Tennyson, patting the boy's arm. "L'il 'un, are you awake?"

Tennyson looked up at him. The man smiled. "Here, li'l fella, I've brought y' somethin' t' eat."

He gripped Tennyson's shoulders with and sat him up. Tennyson looked at the man curiously.

"I'm sorry it took me s' long t' get y' somethin' -- I asked Mickey, but 'e wouldn' let me. Says we're not 'ere t' baby you."

He took another package wrapped in white tissue paper out of the sack. The vinegar smell was quite strong, then. "I know you're 'ungry, though--y' must be. I know a lady who owns a chip shop over on Cringle -- she used t' give me brother an' me food when we was kids. She still gives it t' me -- 'a' course, I'm th' only one what goes over there, now."

As he spoke, he unwrapped the tissue. In it was a pile of chips that had evidently been soaked in vinegar.

"Sorry I can't untie you so's you c'n eat this yerself," Jake said, "--but I'm not s' good at tyin' knots. When Mickey saw it, 'e'd know I done it, an' I'd be in big trouble."

Tennyson nodded. In a way, he was sorry, too -- but he was certainly grateful for the food. He said grace in his head, opened his mouth, and Jake popped one of the smaller chips inside. The boy's face screwed up a bit at the large amount of vinegar.

"Sorry about that," Jake said, frowning slightly. "The top on the vinegar bottle came open while I was pourin' it."

Tennyson swallowed, then looked him in the eye and grinned to show him it was okay.

It took about five to ten minutes for Jake to feed Tennyson. By that time, the boy was puckering.

"Oh, 'ow could I forget," Jake said, turning back to the paper sack. He brought out a bottle of water, (which Tennyson was quite grateful to see) and unscrewed the lid. Afterward he lifted it to the boy's lips, spilling some in his lap on the way.

To his surprise, Tennyson drank the whole twelve-ounce bottle in minutes. He hadn't realized he was that thirsty.

"Good lad." Jake said, patting his head. "Is tha' a li'l better?"

Sighing deeply as if contented, Tennyson nodded.

"Good. You'd better go back t' sleep, now, all right?"

Tennyson nodded. His eyelids were heavy.

"Okay."

Jake held his shoulders again and laid the boy back down. "Good night, li'l fella."

Tennyson didn't even look up at him. He had gone to sleep.

The next time the boy was awakened, it was rudely. There was a sharp pain in his arm as it was kicked, and Mickey's voice growled,

"Wake up, y' stinkin' rich boy! You've got work t' do!"

Tennyson looked up at him. His neck was hurting him from sleeping without a pillow, and his right arm was asleep.

Mickey yanked Tennyson into a sitting position by the shoulder of his pajamas, wrapped his arms around the boy's waist and dragged him across the floor a ways. Lifting the boy roughly, he sat him down on a wooden crate so hard that it jarred the boy's back.

Mickey shoved a loose box in front of him. Tennyson noted that the box had silver masking tape over the top. He wondered, What on earth could be in here that it has to be taped shut? He was abruptly pulled from his thoughts by Mickey yanking a lock of hair at the nape of his neck. He winced and looked up at the man.

"You're goin' t' write yer own ransom note, li'l rich boy." Mickey snarled, slapping something down on the box in front of Tennyson. I'll tell you what t' write, but it's gotta sound like it's comin' from you, got that?"

Tennyson couldn't even nod, Mickey held his hair so tightly.

When Mickey let go, Tennyson put his head down slowly. He saw a grimy piece of paper and what was left of a pencil on the box in front of him. Mickey went around to his back and untied his hands.

"All right, now." Mickey said from behind him. "Yer goin' t' tell yer mother t' bring two million pounds t' the warehouse on Kirtling Street in a sack... an' wait 'til someone comes t' meet 'er. She'll do it on Saturday mornin' at seven -- an' if we see any coppers, you'll die quicker'n' I can snap my fingers--got that?"

Tennyson nodded. When his hands were untied, he painfully reached for the pencil with his left hand.

Oh, Lord, help! I've got to give my friends some sort of idea where I might be, but how?

He began to write, and as he did, words came to him. When he was done, he looked up at Mickey.

His kidnapper snatched up the note. "What the -- ah, you rich types've always got to use th' fancy language, don't you? All right -- Jake, find me an envelope fer this. Th' kid's mum's gonna pay real big if she wants 'er boy back in one piece."

He laughed, and Tennyson just closed his eyes and sighed.

On to Part 11!

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