The girl settles in the back of the car obediently. Her head rests on the back, and the slightly bumping motions of the car surging through unchartered paths outside the city finally make her drift off to sleep. I occasionally glance at her in the rearview mirror. She is breathing softly, barely visibly, her entire body wrapped up in the blanket I gave her. She looks like a little, lost lamb. More so than ever, I thank the Providence that we got this one back safe and sound.
I notice Fynn just stares at the road in front of us.
I don’t like the look on his face. I don’t like it at all.
As we enter my father’s study, he is sitting where he usually sits for important, possibly life-altering situations. I don’t have to look at the heavy, crystal ashtray to know that there would be butts and ashes. His study looks smaller now, than it did before, when I was looking at it with a child’s eyes. That big carpet on the floor has gotten a bit used up, as many shoes have crossed over it, some that would never step on it again. His library spanned all over one single wall, occ
upying the space from top to bottom. I remember leafing through them as a child, when he was in a good mood and allowed me to sit with him in here, on the condition that I didn’t bug him. To my curious little brain, that was easy. I could have bugged him at any other time, but that was the only time when I could peruse all the books in his library, and even take one if I liked it enough to try and read it. Of course, most of it was dry economics, accounting and law related stuff, but in every row of books, there was one or two that didn’t belong to any of these. He had The Malleus Maleficarum, translated as the Hammer of Witches. As a lonely child, I was interested in the uncanny, the unnatural and everything in between. So, this was the first book I took off his shelf. I still remember the feel of the old pages, as he managed to find an edition from about 100 years ago. I still remember that it was written by a Catholic clergyman by the name of Heinrich Kramer and that it was first published in 1486. He was pro killing witches and this was his goal in writing this book: a whole legal and theological theory regarding it.
As my dad’s eyes raise to meet mine, I look to the side, straight to where the book is situated on his shelf. It’s still there, in the same place where I left it 13 years ago.
My dad gets up and rushes over to me with arms stretched as wide as they go. He wraps me up in his bear hug, a strange but pleasant mixture of tobacco smells and warmth that emanates only from the realization that someone you thought might be dead wasn’t really dead. I hug him back and bury my face in his neck. The two cops who brought me in give us a few moments.
When we finally separate, a little unwillingly though, my dad speaks to them.
“I really don’t know how to thank you,” his voice trembles, something I’ve rarely witnessed. Maybe only once in my entire life.
“We didn’t do anything,” the moody guy speaks first.
I have to admit I like the other one better. He at least asked me how I was doing and offered me a drink and his blanket. This guy barely looked at me. Not that I wanted him to look at me. But, if you come to rescue someone, don’t you want to make sure they’re alright when you actually find and rescue them?
“I wouldn’t say that, Fynn,” the other guy pats him on the shoulder, the way partners do. “We found her and brought her back safe and sound, didn’t we?”
“She is back here because Sven arranged it that way,” Fynn snorts, and again, doesn’t even look at me. “He had it all planned out and we did exactly what he wanted us to do. Now, the question remains, why is she here, safe and sound, without him getting what he wanted?”
His voice lingers in the air, and I know my father is thinking about it. I myself am thinking about it. The guy just left me there, without a word. He threatened to kill me if he didn’t get what he wanted, and he just left me. That can’t be right. Even I know this much.
“Do you have it, Hugo?” Fynn asks.
“Of course,” my father replies. “It’s in my safe.”
I wonder if it’s in the safe everyone assumes he has, or in the other one, where he keeps the really valuable items. He doesn’t elaborate, and neither do I.
“I was ready to hand it over for Maddie, like Sven asked.”
“He’s not working alone,” Fynn says, what I know they’re all thinking. “This is way too sophisticated for him. And, the ending is confusing as Hell. Why run without getting his hands on it?”
That curiosity catches my attention, and I wonder what it could be. I know my father has a few special items in his other safe, things that are better kept hidden than allowed to roam the world, getting transferred from one pair of wrong hands to another.
“That can mean only one thing,” my father adds. “This is just the beginning. I’m sure that there’s a phase 2 to whatever this is, and that’ll be even more dangerous.”
“Absolutely,” the other cop finally chimes in. “That’s why Fynn and I were thinking… you guys need to lay low for a while. We could arrange your stay at a safe house, and not even a battalion of tanks will be able to get through to you.”
I see the look on my father’s face change. He’s remembered something, something that doesn’t align well with this reasonable plan.
“I have to travel,” he tells them.
“This is a little more important than your business, Hugo,” Fynn eyes him scornfully.
“You don’t understand. This is a multi-million dollar deal that’s been planned for a year now. I can’t back down. You don’t understand the consequences this might have on my business. I… I just can’t.”
Listening to my father worry about his work when our lives were in danger hits a sore spot, but I know him. I know that he’s built this company from ground up and I know how much it means to him. Giving in to that guy and whoever he’s working with would be like giving up on everything he’s worked for, losing his company, maybe even more. So, I can understand where he’s coming from, even though Fynn doesn’t seem to.
“I can hire bodyguards, pay them whatever to keep me safe,” my father adds. “But, I need to be present at that meeting.”
“Listen, Hugo - “ Fynn starts but his partner interrupts him.