Today’s writing prompt comes from The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood.
Write a scene that turns on a ransom note – for something other than a human being.
It was one thing for my main man Freddy to not answer his phone; that guy is practically a Luddite. He only carries one on him for emergencies and he prefers books to television. Of course, Freddy spared no expense on and showed no guilt for his music collection and headphones and speakers with which to listen to it. That’s all you would need to know about him to know something was seriously wrong.
See, there’s a hip new club down by the docks – someone bought a full sweep of abandoned warehouses and turned each one into something wild: a night club, a ritzy hotel, a choice restaurant and bar, and one warehouse no one had ever set foot in, the doors are locked tight and hired muscle patrols the perimeter. Anyway, the club finally opened a little over two months ago and it’s been doing nothing but business. To celebrate, the owner – still a mystery as to who that is exactly – hired out some popular DJs renowned for their rhythm and beats to play a free-admittance show. That was something Freddy wouldn’t have missed for the world.
So, when my call went to his voicemail, and subsequently, when I never got a reply, I started to worry. Shy of bleeding from his eye sockets, Freddy wasn’t one to miss a free show at the city’s most hoppin’ club. Well, if we’re being honest, I wasn’t that worried; I went to the club myself and wound up walking (read: drunkenly stumbling) back to my apartment with a phone number written on a napkin in my back pocket. I woke up this morning with a killer hangover and an uneasy feeling in my gut. Once I vomited, I realized my uneasiness was actually from Freddy’s sudden absence.
A few hours later, I made my way across town and found myself knocking on apartment number 4C. And then I found myself waiting there – for far too long. Being his best friend, I decided that I wouldn’t respect his privacy and I used the “spare” key I secretly had made a while back. See, this one time, Freddy tripped so bad on acid that he was afraid of the walls in his house. After staying on the phone with him for over three hours while he explained all the ways his apartment’s drywall wanted him dead, I figured I should probably get my own key to his place.
Either way, I walked into his house to find it… clean. Not a single thing was out of order – out of Freddy’s meticulous order. He had a knack for staying organized. It didn’t take me long to find his wallet in his nightstand drawer, his key hanging on a hook drilled into the kitchen wall, and his cell phone charging on his build-it-yourself desk. The only thing that was missing was Freddy. Something was definitely wrong. I was so preoccupied in my thoughts, I might have overlooked the letter sitting on his coffee table were it not for the powerful smell of perfume wafting from it.
It was a quality thing: a sandy-colored envelope with a broken wax seal that had once kept secure the contents, the letter itself printed on a fine lichen, with detailed calligraphy embossed on the back. Unfolding the letter nearly knocked me unconscious, so strong was the smell of the perfume. I half expected it to be dripping. The letter read:
“My dearest Fredrick,
It’s been so very long. I won’t waste your time or any more of this fine ink. A gift from our mutual friend from Israel. I do not think I need to tell you of whom I speak. Do you remember the beauty of Israel? What of the golden sunsets? Oh, my apologies. I said I would not waste your time yet there I was, about to talk about the past. Such is life, that one longs for things so far gone, don’t you agree? In fact, this is the very reason I am writing – things from the past. I have your grandfather’s pocket watch. It is so ornate a thing, I can barely stand to let it from my sight. Although, I suppose I could bare to part with it were you to pay an appropriate sum. But do hurry, dear. I know a good handful of men who would love nothing more than to pay my asking price for it. You know where to find me.
I didn’t know what to make of it. But there was something sinister buried underneath all that ink and perfume and that single initial. I pocketed the letter, envelope and all. I had no idea who this woman was or what the motives were behind this, but it all pointed towards Freddy and his disappearance… and that just didn’t sit well with me.