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Marcia Miller-Twiford

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Honorable Mention winner at 2013 Southern California Book Festival. Dave Brewster travels beyond the galaxy to discover mankind's true history...  
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Just A Minute
By Marcia Miller-Twiford
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Marcia Miller-Twiford
· The Attic
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           >> View all 17

How long is a minute? Long enough.

About a mile from home Trish realized she'd forgotten to buy eggs. With company coming for dinner she was running out of time. Instead of driving two miles back to the supermarket she decided to stop at the convenience store in the next block. The price would be higher, and the quality lower, but no eggs meant no Yorkshire pudding to go with the prime rib. She wanted tonight’s dinner to be upscale and perfect. This was an important dinner for Jeff. A couple who were prospective new clients of his architectural firm were the special guests along with two other couples.

She spotted a parking space right in front of the convenience store, pulled in, and left the motor running to keep the car warm. "I'll just be a minute," she justified. Once inside the store she located the dairy section but didn't find any eggs. Trish approached the checkout stand, waited while three people ahead of her checked out only to be told they didn't carry eggs. "Damn. No eggs. Jeff will be disappointed but I don’t have time to go back to the supermarket so no use fretting about it,” She thought as she left the store and rushed to the car. She almost slipped on some ice and was glad she'd left the motor running. It was turning bitter cold. The roads would be icing over and she wanted to get home safely.

She trusted her Lexus in weather like this but still drove slowly and carefully. Arriving at the driveway she hit the remote, the garage door opened, she drove in and hit the remote again to close the door. Pulling the lever to open the trunk of the car she thought about asking to borrow enough eggs from Liz, her neighbor. Hurriedly she carried the groceries into the house and set them on the kitchen island. Then she went back to the garage, opened the back seat door to get her baby before going to Liz’s to request the needed eggs. Her scream was so loud that Liz and her husband heard it next door and came running.

Entering through the side door of the garage they found Trish standing beside the car door clutching Mandy's blanket. The infant car seat was empty. Tom asked, "What's wrong Trish? Why the screaming?"

"The baby. My baby. Look! She’s gone! Someone took Mandy. Help me. Oh God, please, help me.”

They guided Trish inside the house and Tom called the police. Within five minutes three squad cars pulled up in front of the house with lights flashing. Trish had heard the sirens and to her they sounded like Mandy loudly crying. "She's crying. Don't you hear her? Maybe she’s cold. Please, somebody, do something!"

A female police officer gently led Trish to the couch, sat her down and coaxed her to take slow, deep breaths. She couldn't stop crying but did become calm enough for the questioning to start. When she told them about leaving the baby in the car for just a minute while she went into the convenience store two of the officers looked at each other and shook their heads. They might as well have said, "Stupid woman," out loud.

Jeff arrived home, spotted the police cars in front of his house, one of which was blocking the driveway. He drove over the curb onto the lawn, up to the door and ran inside. "Trish? Trish? What's going on? Are you all right?" When told the circumstances he looked at his wife as if he didn't know her and said, "What have you done? How could you leave her like that?"

"It was just for a minute or so. I wanted her to stay warm."

Before he could say anything more one of the officers led him to the corner of the room. "We’ve been trying to reach you but your cell phone isn’t working.”

Jeff replied, “I was anxious to get home and left it at the office. What about my daughter?”

“We'll find her. Try not to worry. Can you think of anyone who would want to take her? How old is she?"

Jeff stared at the officer then replied, "Try not to worry? Are you out of your mind? She's only six-weeks-old and I don't know anyone who would want to take her away from us. Find her!”

Detectives arrived and the serious questioning began. Cell phones kept ringing. Police officers and detectives kept turning their backs to answer the calls. As usual in cases such as this in the beginning the parents are the prime suspects. Their questioning of Trish was relentless. The good cop, bad cop, ploy was played over and over until Jeff couldn't take any more.

"Why the hell aren't you out looking for her instead of badgering my wife?"

"We already have squad cars combing the area where she was taken. Problem is we don't have much to go on. We've retrieved the video tape from the store’s surveillance camera and hopefully we'll locate someone who saw something when we have it run on tonight's TV news. All the local channels will carry it and the national channels will pick it up quickly. Let's hope that someone saw something."

Just then the telephone rang. Jeff rushed to answer it. One of the detectives jumped in front of him, put his hand on Jeff's chest to stop him, then placed a small device onto the receiver of the phone, an earplug into his ear so he could listen to the conversation, and then nodded at Jeff to answer the call.

"We have your baby. She's okay and will be well taken care of. We know the police are there. If you want her back, it's gonna cost you three-hundred grand. Used, unmarked, one-hundred dollar bills. We'll give you 48 hours but that's all. We'll call you then and tell you where to bring the money. No sense trying to trace any calls, they're under a minute and from one of the few remaining pay phones."

The kidnapper was wrong. It was true that there weren't many pay phones left in the small town what with the rise in cell phone use, so staking out the remaining ones would be easy. It would be easy providing they called from in town. Even if they were out of town they couldn't be far considering the short amount of time that had elapsed. But, there were a whole lot of ifs involved.

Despite protests from both parents, the FBI would have to be called in. The new developments didn’t lessen the pressure on Trish as a suspect. They also had to consider Jeff as a possible suspect. But at least for now they had no evidence against either. Jeff made Trish take two tranquilizers and put her to bed.

Earlier, across town, in an equally luxurious home, a mother put her baby to bed. To bed in a nursery right out of a designer's showroom. Anticipating her arrival the woman had made sure she had everything a baby would need for the first few days including formula and Pampers, Since she didn't know if they'd be getting a boy or girl she didn't buy many clothes but now imagined all the pretty things she would get for their little one.

One look at her new daughter and her innate mother’s instincts kicked in. She knew just what to do. She bathed the infant, fed her, dressed her in a yellow night sack, and then took her to her crib. She laid her gently on her side, covered her with a luxurious quilted comforter, turned on the baby monitor so they could hear her if she awoke. Then she turned on a night light and a mobile hanging over the crib. The mobile played a soft and soothing tune. It rotated small carousel horses and the light emanating from its canopy reflecting on the ceiling looked like rainbows dancing. “How pretty,” The happy new mother thought. Then she went downstairs to her husband.

"She's wonderful. I still don't understand how you could arrange an adoption without me. Don't I have to sign papers? I know you’ve told me and you don't like for me to keep asking, but I honestly don't understand how you did it. Oh, and I need you to go to the store. I forgot to buy baby lotion and baby soap. I had to bathe her with Dove, but I don’t think that’s the best choice. She needs to have baby soap."

"I’ll go to the store, but my god, how many times do I have to tell you Eileen? It was a private adoption. Through an attorney friend of mine. The baby’s mother is a teenager and wasn’t able to keep her. She lives out of town, doesn’t know who we are, and even if she changes her mind she couldn’t find us. It's perfectly legal, and no, you don't have to sign any papers. There's her birth certificate right in front of you on the table, and I signed it for both of us. Looks just like your signature where it says Mother's Name, doesn’t it? I wanted you to be spared all the legal crap so I signed it for you. We have a daughter Eileen. We have a daughter!" Then he held his wife while they both cried happy tears. He had no intention of returning the baby to its parents when he got the money. He wanted a child every bit as much as his wife did.

It had been a challenge, but he managed to make an excellent facsimile of a birth certificate using his computer. It had all been done before hand and all he had to do was fill in the sex and date of birth when he found an infant. He finished the certificate while his wife was upstairs putting the baby to bed, then printed it out on the special paper he’d located, signed their names, and hurriedly put it on the coffee table in the living room.

The couple stayed at home for the weekend except for when he needed to make a phone call. On those occasions he drove his wife’s car explaining that his BMW needed servicing and he didn’t want to drive it until he could get it done. He was sure he hadn’t been spotted but wasn’t taking any chances. When his wife questioned him as to when he’d be able to take his car in, he explained that he had a big deal closing next week and then the money crunch would be behind them.

He owed his drug dealer big time and his supply of coke was running low. 48 hours was cutting it close. and no more credit until he paid up. He had enough left for a few lines and that was all. Three hundred thou would pay off his dealer and keep himself supplied for quite awhile. Long enough for him to get up the courage to go through Rehab. He knew it was smart of him to ask for the C notes. They wouldn't weigh too much, his dealer would be happy with the denomination and in today’s world, where almost everyone was converting to paying cash, nobody would think twice about being handed a hundred dollar bill. Also he knew his wife would want to do some major shopping for the new baby. Their credit cards were maxed out, but once he had the money she’s be able to get whatever she wanted.

He knew he had to get clean but not now. Too many pressures here at home and his business wasn't doing well in the current slump. The cocaine gave him the pep and cutting edge he needed to make sales. But excuses didn't carry much weight anymore. He knew it was slowly destroying his brain cells, and the baby upstairs was the best reason to get sober. His logic and reasoning weren't what they use to be and we was well aware of it. "Christ," he thought. "Just a couple of hits at a few parties and I was hooked. Didn't think it could happen that fast." He'd managed to keep his ever increasing habit from Eileen, but felt she might be getting suspicious. His sex drive wasn’t what it normally was and just recently he'd told her she had to cut down on her spending.

That didn't set well with her. She was a sensuous woman who enjoyed sex. Also, she'd wanted to have the kitchen redone, the living room redecorated, and part of the backyard landscaping converted into a play area for the baby they hoped to one day have. She even wanted to set up a college fund. Her double walk-in closet, complete with a dressing area, looked like a department store. Many of the garments had never been worn and still had the store price tags attached. And her shoe collection, he didn't want to think about how many pair she must have. But she was worth it. She was drop-dead gorgeous, a great cook and hostess, a wonderful and loving wife who was dynamite in bed. She wasn't too bright but he adored her. If he came home stoned she'd pamper him thinking he was just tired. Just a couple of days ago she told him she wanted him to get a check up to find out why he was so tired. That confirmed his feeling that she was becoming suspicious.

His plan was devised after he watched a TV documentary the subject of which was a kidnapped infant. He was no criminal but he was desperate. It was fate, he'd found his solution but he had trouble finding a baby. He'd gone to the local hospital but their security made it impossible to nab one from there. Going through an agency wouldn't work because he couldn't pass a drug test and they'd surely require one.

Then he found her. He'd first spotted the woman and the baby in the supermarket late that afternoon. The baby was perfect. A beautiful little girl. He knew it was a girl because of the tiny pink ribbon atop her head of light brown curls. He thought she looked a little bit like his wife and felt like he'd struck gold. The woman could have more babies, his own wife couldn't. But how to get hold of it, that was the first question. The second one was how was he going to get his wife to move out of town and to do it quickly. After his mission was accomplished they couldn’t stay in town lest they run the risk of the two woman running into each other and the baby’s real mother recognizing her daughter. He’d think of something to justify the quick move to Eileen, but later. “First things first,” He thought.

He left the supermarket when she did. Her clothes, though casual, were obviously expensive. While still in the store he’d spotted her ladies Rolex watch worn in the fashionable just a little too big style. The diamond studs in her earlobes were the real thing as were the other jewels on her fingers, and the trio of gold chains adorning the neck of her cashmere sweater. She was impeccably groomed from head to toe and everything about her down to her fashionable hair style bespoke of rich. He watched her carefully place the baby in the infant seat in the back and then unload her groceries into the trunk of a brand-new Lexus LS. “Bingo! Pay dirt.” Then he followed her. He stayed far enough behind so that she wouldn't spot him. When she pulled up and parked in front of a convenience store he couldn't believe his luck when she ran inside and she wasn't carrying the baby. He parked his car, popped the lid of his trunk, grabbed a tire iron, slammed the trunk lid down, and ran to her car. He was prepared to smash in a window if that's what it took, but the motor was running and the doors unlocked.

First he grabbed a pile of envelopes laying on the front seat. He smiled to himself, “I do believe that’s a telephone bill. Hmmm, I thought everyone paid on-line now. Lucky for me they don’t.” He put the rest of the envelopes back and very quietly shut the door. Then he opened the back door and reached for the baby. There was a blanket covering her and another one laying on the seat beside her. He tossed aside the one blanket, undid the safety harness, took off his jacket, gently lifted the baby out of the safety seat, wrapped her in the other blanket because it was pink, then wrapped the precious bundle in his jacket, quietly shut that door also, and hurriedly rushed back to his own car.

In his haste he didn't see the two teen-aged boys leave the store. They stopped and watched the man carrying a bundle that looked like something in a jacket. He seemed to be in a hurry to get to his car. The boys shrugged, didn’t think too much more about it, and walked on home. Once in the car the man laid the baby on the seat next to him, opened up the jacket and turned up the heater. All he could think about was getting the hell out of there and handing the pink wrapped bundle to his wife.

A couple of hours later one of the boys was walking through his living room and stopped when he saw himself in a news clip of a videotape on the TV his dad was watching. "Gary, isn't that you?" his dad asked.

"Yeah, that's me and Matt. We stopped for a drink to go on our way home."

"Did you see anything suspicious?"

"Not really. Well maybe. There was this guy carrying something wrapped up in what looked like a jacket and he was rushing towards his car. It did look kinda odd."

"Oh shit," his dad said. "We need to call the police"

"Am I gonna get in some kind of trouble?"

"No. Just tell them what you saw."

When asked, Gary told them everything he knew which wasn’t much. He thought the car was a white BMW, but it could have been a Mercedes. It was getting dark when they saw it and he wasn’t sure. Neither was Matt when he was questioned, “No,” they didn't notice the license plate both boys replied when asked.

It didn't leave the FBI much to go on. This was a very upscale community and almost everyone drove a luxury car. One white BMW or a Mercedes was like looking for a needle in a hay stack, but it was a beginning. They told Jeff he had to stall the kidnapper when he called for the ransom meeting. "Tell him you can't get the money until Tuesday. The bank will need a day's notice to have that much in one-hundred dollar bills on hand. Tell him you'll have it by noon on Tuesday. It'll buy us some time, and maybe something will come from the TV news coverage. It’ll start running on the local channels any time now and the national news channels should pick it up shortly after.”

"Time," Jeff thought. "Time while my wife goes slowly out of her mind and God only knows where or how our daughter is. Some crazy lunatic of a woman who couldn’t have children of her own has nabbed her, or God forbid, some pervert. This is Friday." To him Tuesday seemed like a century away. "I sure hope we did the right thing by letting the Feds into this. Then again we didn't have much choice."

The anticipated call came exactly 48 hours later. The kidnapper almost exploded with rage when he was told he had to wait until Tuesday. He had enough left for a couple of lines at best and that wouldn't cut it. Taking what he could get away from out of his wife's purse he'd begged his dealer for enough to carry him over but no luck. He'd thought about a street buy but knew the money he had wasn’t enough. "Give me the money you have in the house, and get what you can from an ATM. I'll call you back in two hours."

"I don't keep any money in the house and my checking account is tapped out. Besides the bank needs 24 hours notice to have that amount of hundred dollar bills on hand." Jeff had thought quickly about the ATM aspect. He did keep a few grand in a safe in the bedroom closet, and there was always a couple of grand in their checking account, but there was no way the bastard could know that.

"All right. But if not Tuesday, you'll never see your baby again." The caller suddenly thought of how to buy some needed time. In order to feed his habit he’d have to take his wife’s diamond anniversary band and matching bracelet out of her jewelry box and pawn them. That would give him enough for a street dealer. All he needed was enough to hold him until he could get to his regular dealer. He’d buy back the jewelry when he got the money. He felt bad about stealing from his wife but justified it by telling himself that she’d never know. She only wore the ring and bracelet for special occasions.

“Wait! Don’t hang up. Where do I take the money?" Jeff asked. The phone had gone dead.

The call was made from a phone booth in the back and to the side of a gas station that had closed down months before due to the slump in the economy. In spite of all patrol cars being put on alert none of them saw anyone at a phone booth.

At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning the phone rang. "You put all the money into a trash bag, and drive to the corner of 7th Street and Mayfair Avenue. Pull up to the stop sign at exactly 1:00 p.m. When you see a white BMW approaching from the opposite direction, let the car drive almost through the intersection then open your door and carefully drop the bag onto the street and take off. Drive around for ten minutes then go to the park on Clancy Street. If the money is just as we asked for, you'll find your baby wrapped up in a blanket, in a box, behind the park dumpster."

"I'm not giving you a damn cent until we have our baby."

"If you ever want to see her again, do as I say."

The phone went dead again. Jeff threw the receiver across the room, hit a picture and it went crashing to the floor. Then he sat down and put his head in his hands. The FBI agent who'd been listening told him, "You can relax. We've got him now."

Trish was sitting in a chair in front of the window staring into space. She was still holding Mandy’s blanket. Her neighbor Liz was right beside her but Trish was oblivious to everything. She just sat there staring, humming a lullaby.

By 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, traffic had been stopped in all directions on both 7th Street and Mayfair Avenue except for the street the kidnapper would be making his approach on. Unmarked police and FBI vehicles were lined up on both sides of the streets. All the occupants were smiling. They loved a novice criminal. "Watch a little TV, see a movie, or read a book and think you can carry off a Federal crime. Idiot."

Pulling up to the intersection at 1:00 the BMW driver noticed the lack of traffic, thought it odd, then quickly dismissed it as another stroke of good luck. His eyes were glued on the car approaching him from the the opposite direction. It was her Lexus, right on time. As he reached to open his car door just a crack so he could grab the bag of money he was hemmed in by the waiting vehicles. "What I wouldn’t give for a hit right now.”

© Marcia Miller-Twiford  



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Reviewed by Melissa Mendelson 1/21/2011
A driven piece of fiction that delivers with suspense and drama. Never underestimate how life could change with a single minute. :)
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 10/29/2009
Excellent write, Marcia; well done!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Georg Mateos 10/29/2009
Can't imagine what I would have done in their shoes.
An extraordinary and engaging story, excellent done!


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