For those who need to ration spoons or time, it runs to 1,059 words.
It had been the perfect plan, they’d all agreed on that. Their team against the mark, and Jason Mitigas Snr had been the perfect mark; rich, arrogant and just smart enough to be thoroughly dumb. Also desperate. Jason Jnr, the only son and the heir, was missing and there was big money in finding him. Even bigger money in being him, and so they’d come up with their plan.
Carly and Rob had been the finders, making that first, carefully baited approach, “We’re not sure but think perhaps…”
Then it had been Ossie’s turn, fronting up to the police and the lawyers. Claiming that it couldn’t be him, could it? Well, yes he had amnesia, yes there was no record of him (under that name) until two weeks after Jason Jnr had disappeared, but he couldn’t really be the missing rich kid, could he?
According to Jason Snr and Jason Jnr’s mother, Ossie was. It seemed ludicrously simple, Ossie looked a lot like the guy but his parents had bought the whole thing without a qualm. Apparently.
The day after Ossie moved into the family mansion, Jason Jnr’s younger half-sister, Jeen, had a quiet word with him out in the gardens. Ossie had been evaluating routes out of the place so he could quietly meet up with the rest of the team when the sister, all brown and quiet and mouse-like found him.
“We need to talk,” she said.
“What about? I don’t remem-,” he began.
“Of course, you don’t,” she smiled at him, “because you’re not my brother. I know that, my father knows that and my brother’s mother knows that. What you don’t know is that they both find it convenient and profitable to have Jason alive, kicking, visible and here. You also need to know that Jason didn’t leave the estate the night he disappeared and I don’t believe he left the house.”
“That’s an interesting theory you have there,” was all Ossie replied.
“You need to be careful,” the younger sister told him, “because someone made my adult, male brother disappear and that someone could come after you.”
“Is that a threat?” Ossie asked the obvious question.
“No, a serious warning. I don’t know who’s behind this, except that it wasn’t me.” Jeen stopped smiling.
Ossie figured that Jeen was trying to scare him off without having to make a fuss about him not being Jason Jr, so the team put together a plan in case she did that, and in the meantime Ossie listened. That’s how he found out that Jason Jr’s mother, Gardenia, hadn’t moved out of the house with the divorce or her ex’s remarriage and would never need to, as long as Jason Jnr was alive when the old man died. It was also how he found out that Jason Jnr had a son that Jason Snr was trying to find and get custody of and that he, Ossie, was the old man’s stalking horse to flush the mother out of hiding. Ossie began to put together a personal plan to get out in one piece. Jeen just sort of puttered and floated around in the background of the household, disappearing for great lengths of time but always turning up for meals.
Until she gate crashed one of Ossie’s secret meetings with the rest of the team. “Sorry to intrude,” she was as sweet and as nice as pie, “because I know you really wanted to be alone together, but I need to impose on our relationship.”
“What relationship?” That was Rob, squaring up to be the tough guy.
“The one where I’m not short circuiting everyone by going straight to the police and telling them that your man isn’t my brother. If I do that then, despite what my father and his first wife might want, the steady trickle of cash he’s feeding you stops straight away.”
Carly interposed, “So, what do you want?” Smooth as silk, as sweet as honey and apparently suggesting anything might be on the table.
“Two prepaid and never-used mobile phones. One for your friend and one for me.” Jeen’s attitude said that she’d seen the offer and was ignoring it.
“Why?” Carly was bristling. Her offers weren’t usually ignored.
“Because I suspect we might both soon have an urgent need to make a call on a phone that hasn’t been tagged, monitored and potentially blocked by my father’s security team.” Jeen still looked small and brown but she certainly wasn’t being vague.
“So why not just buy them?” That was Rob.
“We’re both subject to a certain amount of unobtrusive monitoring and the point is for the monitors not to know we have them. Your colleague might shortly find it expedient to be able to get out of Dodge quickly and he’ll need your help for that.” Jeen smiled. “Hence the need for a phone.”
“Done,” Ossie didn’t think Jeen needed to know that he already had such a phone for just such a contingency.
The team got the phones Jeen asked for and made a show to her of handing them over. Then nothing happened.
For a week.
Then hell broke loose in the middle of the night. There were unmarked police cars, a SWAT team to go point for the forensics team, Ossie was hauled out of his bed in the middle of the night to join everyone else on the lawn, and Jason Snr was in the middle of it, demanding to know by what right the police were invading his house. By invitation, as it turned out. Jeen had called them and invited them to look at something; her instructions on how to find that something were quite clear. Once the detectives had followed Jeen’s instructions, they’d called in everyone else. Police get so excited about bodies, particularly multiple bodies locked in cells and cages.
Ossie wasn’t thrilled because not only was one of the bodies Jason Jnr but it looked like he’d been living under the same roof as a serial killer. Jason Snr and Gardenia both sort of subsided into themselves and started acting like people instead of caricatures. The housekeeper didn’t take it well when the police took all her keys off her but she didn’t like the idea of being a suspect either.
The only fly in the ointment was that now no-one could find Jeen.