BY: RICHARD GODWIN
Therapy cured them of their phobias, but in the glass house, the kidnapper is taking the cure away…
When the adult children of two wealthy families are kidnapped, private detective Earl Blake enters a labyrinth of lies and evasions as he attempts to rescue them. The kidnapper wants money the families can’t come up with, and Earl finds himself in a race against time to find Michael and Abby before it is too late.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Locked in Cages by Richard Godwin, Michael and Abby, the children of two wealthy families, are kidnapped and a ransom of $4,000,000 demanded. The college students are locked in glass cages and tortured as incentive for their parents to pay. Earl Blake is hired by Michael’s mother to find Michael and Abby, since her husband says he can’t pay the ransom.
Set in England, the story is well-written, and the action is fast and intense. This one will keep you reading all the way through.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Locked in Cages by Richard Godwin is a crime/psychological thriller about two young people from wealthy families who are kidnapped and held for ransom. The kids are locked in glass cages that the kidnapper’s broken mind has created in the basement of what he calls his “gaf.” When the parents can’t pay, they hire Earl Blake, a private detective, to find the kids before they are killed. As Earl searches for Michael and Abby, he uncovers some dark secrets that might have been better left undiscovered.
Locked in Cages is a fast-paced, complex thriller that will have you biting your nails and turning pages as fast as you can.
It was Samantha Villa who hired Earl Blake, much to her husband Julian’s annoyance.
“You’re really going to entrust our son’s welfare to that man?” he said.
“I know you don’t like me seeing my exes, but he’s the best.”
“The best at what?”
“Or is it an excuse to see him? Mr. Rugged?”
“Guilty talk, Julian, your tic has returned.”
Julian Villa stood glaring at her in his Armani suit, clutching a glass of whiskey, as the doorbell rang. He put the glass down, smoothed his eyebrows with his thumbs, and ran his hand through his thick black hair. He was a handsome man with a tanned face–a picture of health, whose manners seemed to hide a feral instinct. He adjusted his gold tie, nudging it farther into his sheer white collar.
“That must be him,” Julian said, “your private investigator, although why you chose him when I have a list of the best in the business leads me to some interesting questions.”
“He is the best in the business. Are you going to let him in?”
“I hope he wipes his feet on the mat of our beautiful home.”
“A house is not a home, Julian.”
Samantha went downstairs as Julian composed himself in the living room of their Kensington house. She fussed with her hair in the mirror in the marble tiled hall. It was blonde and lustrous and caressed her shoulders. Samantha was in her early forties and had a face that all men looked at twice. It was both beautiful and reserved in a way that gave her instant mystique, and her skin was as supple as that of a woman in her twenties. She had unearthly blue eyes, as clear as polished lapis. They took you in and gently drifted from your face, as if she were lost in some inner sadness. Her hands were shaking as she opened the door.
Earl was standing there with his motorcycle helmet in one hand, that same sparkle in his deep green eyes that made her high all those years ago. She looked away from him and at his bike, parked neatly before their immaculate lawn. And she realised the despair she’d felt for days was fading. She wanted to reach out and touch Earl’s face, she wanted to think forbidden things. But Julian was upstairs and the burden of her marriage weighed on her, as if he was standing behind her, laying a heavy hand on her shoulder.
“New bike?” she said, annoyed at herself for the trite question.
“Looks fast. You always did like fast bikes, Earl.”
The brevity of his responses unnerved her, and she wondered if it was a mistake calling him over the abduction. But Earl had kept his intelligent, masculine gaze on her from the moment she opened the door, and Samantha felt scrutinised in a way that was not unpleasant. He stepped into the hall and looked at the large staircase and the oak panels on the first landing.
“Nice place, it’s been a few years, Sam, but you haven’t changed.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, offering him her cheek and feeling like a teenager again.
“You said you need me to find someone.”
“Our son’s been abducted. You better come upstairs and meet Julian.”
She wondered if she’d overdressed for a meeting that was meant to be business-like and dignified with pain, and although she was in pain, she glanced at her pearl earrings in the mirror over the sofa as she walked into the living room and recalled an argument long ago with Earl about her taste in jewellery. He’d accused her of being lavish in the days before the money came along, and she wondered now what he felt about her. She looked over at Julian. He had his back to them and was looking out of the window. He turned and gave Earl his best smile, the perfect fake that Samantha knew so well.
“Earl, so nice to see you after all these years,” he said, striding across the parquet floor and shaking Earl’s hand warmly. “I’m sorry our reunion has been brought about by such sad news. I’m sure my wife has told you the reason for her contacting you. I also hear you’re adept at finding missing people.”
“I’ve worked on a few cases.”
“It’s our son, Michael, you see.”
“Samantha tells me he’s been abducted.”
“Have you had communication from his kidnapper?”
“We have, and it’s of a most unpleasant and disturbing kind.”
“We got a film in the post yesterday, that’s when I couldn’t take it anymore,” Samantha said.
“Can I see it?”
“Of course. Forgive me, I haven’t offered you a drink,” Julian said.
“Thank you, I’ll have a club soda.”
Julian went over to the bar, took a can out of the fridge, and poured it into a glass, adding a slice of lemon with a pair of silver tongs. “Let’s go next door,” he said, handing Earl the glass.
Earl followed him and Samantha into a room that overlooked the back gardens and a large fountain. The room was ornately decorated with rich blue and red velvets. A huge plasma screen occupied an entire wall. Julian went over to a mahogany cabinet and opened it. Inside was a large collection of DVDs. He removed one and put it into the player.
“This is shocking,” Samantha said.
They all stood as the film played.
The first shot was of two glass cages in a bare room without windows. Earl estimated the cages were about eight foot cubed. Inside one was a young man who was pacing the enclosure. In the other a young woman sat on the floor with her knees up against her chest and her head pressed against them, hiding her face. The cages each contained a section at the rear that was boarded off with what looked like plywood. It was impossible to see behind it. The cages faced each other. The camera zoomed in on each cage, pausing at the man’s face, then the woman’s as she looked up and began to cry. Then the film stopped.
Julian hit the remote control, sending the screen into darkness.
“That was Michael in the cage?” Earl said.
Samantha dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “Yes, and the young woman is Abby Sheen.”
“You know her?”
“She and Michael have known each other for years.”
“She’s the daughter of friends of ours, Greg and Felicity,” Julian said.
“When did they go missing?”
Julian fiddled with his right cuff link, his eyes on the Persian rug. “Two days ago.”
“And that’s all you’ve received?”
“I had a phone call the day before the film arrived.”
“It was a man’s voice, one I don’t recognise. He said, ‘I have your son and his little friend. I’m taking them to the glass house where they will remain until you pay me two million pounds. If you involve the police I will kill them both, you will never find their remains. Do not throw any stones, or you will shatter everything you hold dear.’”
“Did you trace the call?”
“I tried to, it came through on my mobile, but it was made using Skype.”
“So, it’s Thursday today, you received the call on Tuesday?”
“You got the film yesterday?”
“Have you contacted the police?”
“No. I want to see my son alive again.”
“Who did you use to try to trace the call?”
“I have people I use for security. They’re better than British Telecom.”
“Can either of you think of anyone who would want to harm Michael or Abby?”
“No. This is about money, right?”
“It is. But I think it’s more than that.” Earl sipped his soda and glanced at Samantha. She looked diminished, her beauty paler than a few moments before, as if a worm had slipped inside her and was eating at her heart.
“More how?” Julian said.
“What is the glass house?”
“I don’t know.”
“This is a very specific way of keeping people prisoner. He could have locked them in separate rooms. He’s got them under observation. Have you thought of paying him?”
“Isn’t that a mistake? I read that was a sure way to lose your child.”
“It depends whether they’ve seen his face. Many kidnappers do let their hostages go once they’ve been paid, but they make sure they can’t be identified.”
“But if we pay him what then?” Samantha said.
“It depends what his terms of payment are. If he wants cash, we could arrange for him to bring Michael and Abby with him when I drop the money off.”
“But then we’d see him.”
“He’d hide his face.”
“And what if he wants a bank wire?” Julian said.
“That’s harder, but more unlikely because he could be traced.”
Samantha put her hand on Earl’s. “I just want Michael out of there, please help us.”
Earl could feel Julian’s eyes burning his skin. “I’ll do everything I can.”
“He’s a vulnerable young man, he’s had troubles, you know,” she said.
“Can you tell me a bit about that?”
“He found it hard to adapt. He hasn’t really had a job, but he tried working for his father. He had therapy for his problems.”
“What were they?”
“Nightmares, terrible nightmares since he was a boy. He was always tired because he’d be awake all night. I used to hear him screaming.”
“What were the nightmares?”
“Always the same. Spiders, Michael used to dream tarantulas were crawling all over him. He’d wake up and check every inch of his room at night with a torch. He hated them. He couldn’t touch a spider, even a tiny one. He bought a lizard for a pet. He told me he thought a spider had crawled inside his ear at night and was eating his brain. That’s when he went into therapy.”
“Did it help?”
“No, it made it worse,” Julian said. “If you ask me, these therapists are a bunch of nutters.”
“Self-serving charlatans with a theory to peddle which they do at others’ expense. They care nothing for others’ welfare. No, what did help was hiring a hypnotherapist. He got rid of the phobia. In fact, Michael had begun to be a normal young man again, enjoying the kinds of things young men should.”
“And now this happens,” Samantha said.
“The more information I get the better. I need to get a picture of Michael and Abby.”
“How is this connected to his abduction?” Julian said.
“It gives me an insight into your son’s character. The kidnapper either knows him or Abby or one of you or Abby’s parents in some way, even if he’s read about you in the paper. But if this was a straightforward case of you being targeted because of your wealth, your son wouldn’t be locked in a glass cage.”
“So you think this is more personal.”
Julian looked at his watch. “How much do you charge?”
“Four hundred a day, plus expenses.”
“Do you need me to sign an agreement?”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Julian turned his back and stared out of the window.
“Thank you, Earl,” Samantha said.
“How old is Michael?”
“Twenty-two,” Samantha said.
“I need to talk to her parents.”
“I’ll call them. They’re quite desperate as we are. I spoke to them last night and mentioned you. Julian and I thought it would be best if we met you on our own, in case you didn’t take it on.”
“Has the kidnapper contacted either of them?”
“They’ve received the film,” Julian said, turning round. “Greg got a call on his mobile. It was the same message applied to Abby.”
“He’s asking for another two million?”
“That’s right. I tried tracing the call, but came up with the same result.”
“Is there anyone you may have offended in your business dealings?”
“No, what I do is above board.”
“Offenses can sometimes be caused by things we wouldn’t ever consider.”
“I can’t imagine this has anything to do with business.”
“You’re a wealthy man, Julian, you’re described as a real estate magnate.”
“You said if this was just about money, my son, wouldn’t be held in a glass cage.”
“This kidnapper wants money. He’s also trying to convey a specific point.”
“That I don’t know yet.”
© 2016 by Richard Godwin
Author, Luke Rhinehart:
“I find Richard Godwin to be an exceptional writer with an extraordinarily fine mind. He conducted over two weeks the single best interview I’ve ever been involved with. His novels are always good, with crackling dialogue. His latest, Wrong Crowd, is dazzling. Read him.” ~ Luke Rhinehart, author of the bestselling The Dice Man, the novel that inspired Sir Richard Branson to found the Virgin Empire.
Author, Matt Hilton:
“A psychological mystery by a master of his craft.” ~ Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter thrillers