This is Part 2 of Observance. See Part 1 before reading on.
Ryan stirred again, and found himself in the hotel lobby. The receptionist smiled, and came around from behind the counter. “You had a hard night, huh?” she said, kindly.
“Err, I did…?” Ryan asked.
“Your friend brought you in and asked me to keep an eye on you” the receptionist said. Ryan looked at her name tag – Nadya.
“Ah, yes, of course” Ryan lied. “Nadya, may I ask, which of my friends was it – what did he look like?” As he spoke, a flash of headache pain moved across the top of his head and he flinched slightly.
Nadya saw the flinch, and smiled gently. “It was Hansel, the tall guy with the big shoulders” she said.
Ryan attempted to smile weakly, but his headache caused him instead to half smile, half flinch. He pushed himself up from the hotel lobby’s sofa, and walked a lot like someone with a hangover, to the elevators.
Back in his room, Ryan slept for a while, drank water to rehydrate, and then turned his mind to thought. Hansel, for sure, was not his real name. Perhaps he is from this area though. And why was he kidnapped? Does their intended victim, Peter Jenks look like Ryan, have the same build, or just the same car? Is Peter Jenks local to the hotel, and expected to be there for dinner, or is he a tourist or visiting the area for business?
He grabbed his cellphone and started Googling. The first result was a linguistics professor from Berkeley – probably not the right person. He switched to the image search and scanned the faces for details. On the third page, there was the face of someone who looked a little like Ryan. He clicked the face and a page popped up giving details of a Peter Jenks from New York. Definitely visiting Ryan thought.
Some further searches of Social Media and other public records allowed Ryan to get an approximate address – Port Chester, near the Connecticut border – and a political allegiance – Democrat. After around half an hour of searching, he eventually came across a webpage with Peter Jenk’s full address – on a page archived by the Internet Archive. It might not be current, but it was the key to unlocking everything else. Within an hour, Ryan knew the license plate of Peter’s car, and that he was staying at the same hotel.
As soon as he made this revelation, Ryan jumped up, feeling much better, and returned to the hotel’s parking lot. He walked the rows of cars until he found Peter’s car. Ryan walked straight to the lobby and told Nadya a white lie.
“There’s a car in the lobby with their lights on, I thought maybe you’d want to let the guest know” Ryan lied.
Having told Nadya the license plate, Ryan went to the large mason jar near the elevators containing water with bits of lemon floating in it. Even though Ryan thought it tasted of dishwater, he dispensed himself a cup, so that he could spend a little more time in the lobby, and hope that Peter would come through, to make sure his battery did not run down.
Ryan wandered over to a coffee table in the lobby, and started leafing through a coffee table book of pictures of caves. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw Peter Jenks half walk, half run through the lobby. Giving a few moments, so that Nadya would not be suspicious, Ryan followed him, and headed towards Peter’s car. As he did, he saw a dark gray van driving fast through the lot, and Peter’s driver-side door was left open.
Ryan ran to his car – his immediate thoughts of following the van. But before he reached his car, he noticed the smoke rising from the back of the van as it left. Unlike most vehicle’s exhausts, it had a purple tinge. You or I would not have noticed but Ryan, of course, did.
Ryan kept running, and quickly pulled his car out of the lot, and onto the road. He looked up through the top of his windshield, and saw the rising, fading, purple exhaust fumes. The van had turned left, and was heading towards the waterfront in the south west of the city. Following the purple and with a little luck with the stop lights, Ryan eventually ended up behind the van. The engine sounded less than perfect, with a slight rattle coming, perhaps, from some other part of the car. The license plate was of the neighboring state.
Ryan continued to follow the van, not worrying about being spotted: the roads were busy enough, that only a truly paranoid person would notice Ryan’s nondescript car following them.
When the van eventually pulled in front of a warehouse building in the docks area of town, Ryan’s was one of only a few nearby cars, so he continued to drive along the main road, and out of sight. He picked up his cellphone and told the police about the kidnapping, providing the address that he was being held, the license plate of the van, and the name of the victim. He gave his own name as Lucifer Smith. This was a pseudonym Ryan used whenever he wanted to stay anonymous online. Lucifer sounds a little like the Latin word for “illustrious” which is what “Ryan” means. It all made sense to Ryan.
A few minutes later, two police cruisers appeared in the distance behind Ryan, and then turned into the road where he had seen the van stop. Ryan turned the car around and followed them to make sure all went well.
When he arrived, the police officers were standing out of their cars, accepting brown-paper packets from Hansel. They then got back into their cars, and drove away. Fury flooded through Ryan’s veins. The throbbing pain in Ryan’s leg, which had completely gone away, returned in psychosomatic waves.
Hansel re-entered the warehouse. The front of the warehouse was windowless, with one large cargo door. The cargo door had a smaller, human-sized door within it. Without thinking, Ryan got out of the car, and walked towards the small door. He tried the handle and, when it gave, he stopped and listened carefully. Hansel’s footsteps were far enough away that they were probably not in sight of the door.
Ryan pushed the door and stepped carefully into the warehouse. The smell was the same as when he had been captured previously. He could hear the same sound of voices and was reasonably confident that it was the voice of Hansel and the female. Ryan looked around at the air movements, and was sure he knew where Peter was being held, based on how they had moved previously. He moved in the opposite direction, to ensure that he would not be intercepted on his way to the room.
Hansel’s footsteps approached. Ryan assumed they were heading towards Peter’s holding room. He silently picked up a piece of wood that had been left on the floor. There was a nail in one end which he fingered carefully, to make sure it was secure. By listening, but also by seeing the bow wave that preceded Hansel’s passage, Ryan knew exactly when he was going to enter the room.
The wood swung precisely to where Hansel’s head was going to emerge, at exactly the right time that the nail embedded itself in Hansel’s forehead. He fell, loudly, onto his back, bringing the piece of wood back with him, and out of Ryan’s grasp. Ryan tilted his head slightly, to discern whether the lady had heard Hansel’s demise. After deciding she had not, Ryan went through the door where Hansel had fallen, and pulled the wood and nail from Hansel’s stupid face. Ryan’s heart pounded in his chest.
Peter is the priority Ryan thought, and headed quietly towards Peter’s cell. He pulled the door open. As the shaft of light illuminated Peter’s face, Ryan was shocked how much they looked alike in the flesh. “I’m here to release you,” Ryan said, quickly and quietly, to ensure Peter was not going to attempt to attack him as part of an escape plan. “Let me untie you.”
Ryan placed the wooden board by the door. Peter leant forward and Ryan removed the ties holding Peter to the same set of pipes he had been attached to before. Peter looked into Ryan’s eyes, questioningly, but stayed silent in case any noise thwarted the escape plan. Ryan smiled kindly, and led Peter to the door. There he stopped, and held his hand up in a stop gesture. Ryan listened for any kind of stirring in the back and when he was confident they were not going to be disturbed, pointed Peter towards the exit to his left. “My car’s towards the right out of the door – go and wait for me there and I’ll drive you back to the hotel.” Ryan whispered.
Ryan leaned back into the room, and picked up the nail-adorned wood. He then turned to his right and walked quietly towards the door where Hansel lay. He stepped over the body towards where he could hear a sound he could not discern. At the back of this room was a small wooden office with frosted glass all around the top half.
Ryan thumped his feet harder on the ground as he walked, attempting to sound like Hansel. He opened the door to the office and walked in, confidently.
The small, gray haired lady must have been in her early seventies. “Where’s Hansel?” she asked, alarmed.
“He had to take a break,” Ryan said, instantly feeling embarrassed at how cheesy he sounded. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“You know full well,” she said, angrily. “You need to make good on your obligs.”
“Well, two things, lady,” Ryan said, “I am not Peter, and kidnapping is never right.”
“You don’t know what you’re into” the lady said.
“No,” said Ryan, “you don’t know right from wrong. And I know you’re bribing the police – the only thing between us an anarchy – so there are only two options. You either prove to me that you do not intend to pursue this kind of behavior in future, or I will stop you.”
The woman turned more quickly than Ryan had thought possible given how she held herself. She opened a drawer and reached for a gun. As she lifted it, Ryan could tell from the weight that it was definitely a real gun, but could not tell whether it was loaded. As she turned, Ryan leapt forward, clearing the space between them as quickly as she was able to reach into the drawer.
She turned with the gun leveled at Ryan’s head, with her finger ready to squeeze the trigger. At the same instant that her gun was ready to fire, the bloody nail made contact with her ear and a sickening crack ensured that Ryan was no longer in danger.
Shaking from the adrenaline, Ryan returned to his car, to have a chat with Peter Jenks.
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