(I had intended to post this on Monday but that turned out to be not a good day, so here it is.)
“Hush now, I don’t make war on maidens. There is nothing for thee to fear from me.”
Encased in his arms, Ella trembled. He was a lunatic, a dangerous madman. Dangerous, the report said. What part of this was real and what wasn’t? Would she even survive the night?
“You hurt people.”
“They stood in my way. I did ask for them to stand aside.” He marched her over to her chair, pushing her down in it as he released his grip. He turned his chair, straddling it to sit opposite, watching her intently.
“People will be coming. They will check every house. You need to go, right now.”
He frowned. “I will fight if they come for me. Canst thee help me? I will free thee if so.”
What were the rules of a hostage situation? Defying him could create a monster capable of anything, but if she went along with his wishes? He hadn’t threatened her with any weapon. He had said he would release her if she helped him. She wanted to live. How could she get him past the road blocks?
John’s passport, if he had really left it here. He was so disorganized it was impossible to say, but it was a start. Mordred looked close enough to John that she could make him so with her work kit and give herself time to escape.
“I think I can make you look like someone else. I need that big bag I took to my car. Can I get it?” Did she have a chance of jumping in and speeding off?
“We will go together.”
So much for that plan. Now she was trapped by her offer. Once the case was inside, she opened it and started work on his face. Mordred was surprisingly calm while she altered him with her toners, tints, and padding. John was fatter in the face than Mordred, so cheek pads were needed. Then there was the problem of his shaven head and prison clothes.
“Come with me. You need to get out of that prison overall, and I need to find identity documents to match your new look.”
“Clothes would be good, but what are documents?”
“Never mind. Just trust me that you need these.” A small part of her relished depriving John of his needed passport. Spite grew branches. John had more clothes than he needed. One change wasn’t enough for Mordred when she could give him an entire case of clothes.
The steep old staircase creaked under their steps. Mordred’s eyes widened when he saw the bedroom and then narrowed, zeroing in on her, his face a picture of surprise.
“Don’t even think about those thoughts, Buster. You want my help? You keep your distance.”
“Who is Buster?” He looked puzzled.
“That is you, dude. I am off limits.” She opened the wardrobe, getting jeans, a polo neck shirt, and a brown, corduroy jacket out for him. These she thrust into his arms. “Go through the end door and change.”
“No. Turn thy back to preserve thy modesty.” He stared her down until she complied.
Another chance at escape gone, Ella concentrated on another task in hand. Where would John have stashed his passport? She went through the drawer on his nightstand. Nothing, but John had a horror of being robbed. Not the usual places, so where? On impulse, she felt between the mattress and the box springs on his side and felt a package. Out came a thick manila envelope sealed tight. Inside were John’s passport, his driver’s licenses, and a thick wad of notes, some sterling and some dollars. She wouldn’t have to use a credit card that might not work…and she couldn’t be tracked. Maybe this was good, for what if they were stopped? Would she survive a standoff? She could if she could get Mordred through the checkpoints. He promised he would let her go. Would he?
One last finishing touch left. She turned to the armoire and bumped into Mordred. Heart racing, she choked back a scream. Did he have to move so quietly?
“What are these?” Mordred looked at the documents and cash in her hand.
Ella stuffed them back in the envelope. “Things we will need to win your freedom. I also need something from in here. She pointed to the armoire. When he didn’t move to stop her, she opened to doors to reveal a neat row of wigs on stands. John’s vanity hadn’t let him accept his thinning hair. How ironic that this meant the thing she needed most was the very thing to hand. Ella selected the one most matching the passport, a slightly long cut with hair partially over the ears. By the time she had finished with a bemused Mordred, he could have passed for John, although his shoulders were broader and he was far too thin. This point was made when he yanked up his slipping pants, but a belt sorted out the problem.
“Now, stay out of my way while I pack some more clothes for you.” Ella snagged a sports bag and carefully sorted through John’s side of the wardrobe. He didn’t use half his stuff and wouldn’t miss a few items here and there. She hesitated over underwear. No, not that. There were the new shorts she had brought for John at the weekend for his upcoming trip. They went in the bag instead, and Ella derived a small sense of satisfaction from the act. John’s documents and cash went in a side pouch as Mordred would seem more in character if he reached for his own I.D were they stopped. Next, she grabbed a dry cleaner bag to stash his prison garb, including his footwear. It couldn’t be left here, or the police would know who to follow. But what if they were stopped? She would have to trust to luck and hope they could find a dumpster along the way.
“Here, take these.” Ella thrust both burdens at Mordred. Whatever else, she felt safer when his hands were full. He followed her down the creaking stairs in his stocking feet. The next stop was the cellar for recycling. She needed to reassemble a couple of boxes, and this could be the answer to Mordred’s prison clothes. His face was a picture when she carefully packed down his convict clothes under a layer of cereals and dried goods. The other box was for cans and containers with perishables. Fairy Child would be fit to sail without a grocery visit if she chose wisely, but the car wouldn’t hold much more. One last stop at the front porch for shoes, but here she hit a snag. Mordred’s feet were too big to squeeze into anything except a pair of rubber boots, and then his expression became pained. Well, he would just have to put up with it.
“We are going to pack my car. I want the big cases on the outsides, and the groceries in the middle. The heavy one goes first with the lighter one on top. Your sports bag goes on the back seat where you can reach it.”
For a dangerous lunatic, he trotted along, obeying her orders like an obedient puppy, right up until she took the keys out of the now closed tailgate, and then his hand grasped hers.
“Do you want to drive?”
“Not without horses pulling this…” Words failed him.
“Let go of my hand, then. “Horses? Was he for real?
“Thee will vanish in a magical cart and leave me.” His eyes narrowed.
“Look, all my clothes and my papers are in that car. I need them. Why don’t you get in first? I think you could outrun me if I tried to escape.” He towered over her, leaving her little doubt on that score. She herded him around to the passenger side, opening the door. He surprised her by lowering himself inside, but he stopped her when she would have shut the door. Ella walked in front of the car to the driver’s side. She settled into place, slammed the door and put the keys in the ignition.
“Mordred, will you shut your door like I did?” She didn’t know whether to be relieved or not when he did. Was this an elaborate act, or not? “Here is what I hope will happen. We will drive out of the village and take the main road to my boat. That is where I am going. If you want to stop any place along the way, then that is your call. If we are stopped at a roadblock, you let me do the talking. If I say to you ‘John, get your passport out’, this is what you will do.” She demonstrated. “Can you do this?”
“That isn’t my name.”
“No, but it is the name on the document. You will pass it to me, and I will show it to the policemen before I hand it back to you. Do you understand?”
“Thee will try an illusion to fool the evil ones. Yes.” He looked relieved.
She had to strap his seatbelt on for him as he didn’t seem to have a clue. Once they started, the glow of the instrument panel showed his hands as white-knuckled lumps in his lap. He had closed his eyes tight.
All went well until they hit the only road south out of the village. A cordon of police cars waited. “Mordred, there is a road block.” She couldn’t keep a tremor out of her voice. “Pretend to be asleep and let me do the talking. If you must respond, just smile and nod.” Oh God, was this going to be the end? She hadn’t seen a weapon on him, but the report said he had hurt people. A policeman waved her to pull over. She rolled down her window.
“Sorry to trouble you, Miss. Could I have your name and that of your passenger?” The young officer shone a flashlight on Mordred’s face. He winced and opened his eyes.
“John and Ella Harrison. We live just up the road. Is there a problem, officer?”
“The John Harrison?” The guy’s eyes boggled. “From ‘Cut to the Bone’?”
“Yes, that is him. Look, we are in a hurry and have a plane to catch. Is this going to take long?”
The young officer shone the light on Mordred again, who smiled and nodded. “No, you may proceed. So sorry to trouble you, Mr. Harrison.” He stepped back, spoke into his radio, and the barrier was moved aside.
Ella eased the car forward until they were clear. Beads of sweat ran down her neck and into her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she done? How would she ever explain this away if they were caught?