Ishmael Toffee

Ishmael Toffee by Roger Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: Ishmael Toffee by Roger Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Roger Smith
deep breath and walks out into his future, far from all this wrong-headed bullshit.
    Don’t stop , he tells himself. Just walk on.
    Hears the small feet on the stones and feels fingers gripping his hand. He looks down, and there she is, in her shoes like a boy’s.
    “Here I am, Ishmael.”
    And what is he to do but kneel down and take the stolen clothes from the bag and dress her? He hides the blonde hair under the cap and hurries them down to the main road, jumping a taxi just as the co-driver slams the door closed like a prison cell.

    Mr. Goddard stinks as he comes into the kitchen, something sour like meat gone bad creeping out from under his pine deodorant. His white shirt is dusty, streaked with mud, tie pulled half-off, his suit pants khaki with weeds. He’s been out in the garden, crashing through the bush, calling Cindy’s name at the top of his lungs, and he’s out of breath, a lick of sweaty blond hair hanging over his one eye.
    “Florence,” he says, coming up too close, pushing her back against the fridge. “I want you to be honest with me, understand?”
    “About what, Mr. Goddard?”
    “Did you help that little thug? Is it money you bloody people want?”
     “I never done nothing, Mr. Goddard. I could never hurt a hair on that child’s head!”
    He stares at her and she can feel his breath on her face. She moves away from him, her shoulders dragging against the fridge door, loosening a magnet, one of the child’s drawings floating to the tiles.
    Mr. Goddard follows Florence, pressing her against the sink, a rain of his spit hitting her face. “But that’s not true, is it? You’re blackmailing me and now this. Where has he taken her, that bastard?”
    She feels the tears well up in her eyes. “I swear, Mr. Goddard. I done nothing. Nothing.” She puts a hand up to her face and wipes her eyes, but the tears keep on coming.
    John Goddard looks like he’s going to smack her, then he sags against the table, running a hand through his hair. “Tell me again.”
    Florence repeats how she called Cindy in for her afternoon tea and she never came. How she searched the house high and low, looked under the beds and in the closets, but she could find no trace of the child. Looked for the gardener, also, but they were both gone. How she panicked and phoned Mr. Goddard on his cell.
    “What time did you last see her?”
    “Maybe two o’ clock.”
    He nods. “Three hours ago. Jesus Christ, he could have killed her by now. Or worse.”
    Mr. Goddard stands up straight and she waits for more accusations, but he turns and walks into the living room, digging his cell phone out of his pocket and she hears him calling the police.
    Florence picks up the drawing from the tiles and uses the magnet to stick it back on the fridge. Crayon picture of a child and two grown-ups in front of the house. She’s never looked closely at this drawing, but now she sees a third figure, in the kitchen doorway, and knows it is meant to be her.
    Oh please, sweet Jesus, forgive me . And she’s crying again like she’ll never stop.

    Ishmael and the girly hide behind a wrecked car that lies in the open lot across the road from the social worker’s office.  The car’s got no windows or doors and the bodywork’s rusted to shit, but it’s home-sweet-home to a meth head who lies snoring in a little ball where the front seat used to be, a small glass pipe—black from smoke—still gripped in the pathetic fucker’s hand.
    When Ishmael sees the druggie’s not gonna give them no problems, he keeps his eye on the office, a low brick building with bars on the windows, built right up against the railroad track. A long line of people, men and women—some with kids and babies—stand in the late afternoon sun waiting to get in the doors.
    Ishmael stood there, too, last week. Just stood and waited. One thing he knows how to do. Took two hours to get to see the young woman who

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