Catherine Micqu

Upside Down – who is Giuseppe

At the other end of town, a middle-aged man was pacing the length of his office. Every once in a while, he looked across the room at two burly men who didn’t dare to look at him. They tried to be as small as they could, given their sizes and the confining space of the leather chairs they sat in. Giuseppe’s rage made a large vein on his forehead appear. It looked intimidating and as if it would pop every moment now.
“One thing. Just one thing,” Giuseppe seethed, pointing a meaty finger at his minions. “That stupid little…, how could you lose her?” The boss was not amused, and the look of his lackeys did nothing to soothe him. “I want my money, and I want the girl. Bring me both. If not, your future is sealed. Now get out of my sight. And don’t come back without Mildred.” Giuseppe rubbed the bridge of his nose to fend off an impending headache he felt.
“Yes Sir,” Tonio and Richard answered in unison and left Giuseppe’s office.
Exhausted, Giuseppe dropped down into his chair, massaging his temples. He looked left and right, making sure that no prying eyes were watching him, and then, out of a folder, he pulled a picture. On it, a younger version of Giuseppe was leaning against a tree. Next to him, another man stood with a little girl on his shoulder. Looking closely, one could see the men holding hands. Lovingly, he traced the other man’s face with one finger, wishing he would be able to touch more than just a fading picture. He remembered the day the photo was taken vividly.
Giuseppe and Connor had taken their daughter on a picnic in the park. They had played ball and fed the ducks; they had played catch and eaten fresh sandwiches Connor had prepared for them. And later in the afternoon, when the girl had been tired, the little family had found this large tree that offered shade for them all. A timer had helped to take this family picture, and minutes later, little Milly had fallen asleep in Giuseppe’s arms.
That time was long gone. Twenty years later, all Giuseppe wanted was revenge. Milly had stolen from him. Not only had she stolen Connor’s heart, but she had taken money that wasn’t hers.
Giuseppe slipped the picture in the folder, hiding it again. He had sought revenge for such a long time; he didn’t know how to stop anymore. If he let Milly go, he would appear soft to the other mobsters around, and his reputation would be damaged beyond repair. Silently and secretly, Giuseppe only wanted peace of mind. He wanted his family back, and he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life in the presence of his little girl and the love of his life. Neither was at his side for now, and as long as he was chasing Milly, she would not be back without a fight. Giuseppe sighed and cursed. Life was complicated. He just hoped Tonio and Richard would not kill Milly when they found her. “Where are you, you silly girl?” Giuseppe asked into the empty room. The question echoed off the walls without a reply.

Upside down 5

Milly woke up and didn’t know where she was. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in pain. The second thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in a car, but she lay on a bed. Fresh white linen in a room that was decorated in a modern way. She glanced at the window and saw trees. Lots of trees. And she gathered that she was on the second floor somewhere. Maybe a hotel? She saw two doors. One was closed, and one was ajar. Milly moved her arms and her legs and then, she let her hand wander to her injury, assessing her state of being. A large bandage covered her lower right side. He wound had been dressed. Another look around the room. She was sure that she wasn’t at a hospital. Somewhere close she heard a man humming, and the smell of food and coffee reminded her of how hungry she was. For a moment she forgot to worry about her situation. She sat up and winced. There was still some pain in her body after all. Milly heard footsteps, and she didn’t know what to do. Too many questions were unanswered. Her gun was not close by, she didn’t see it, and she was too weak to fight anyone in a fist fight. In a panic, she did the only thing she could think of and pretended to be asleep.

Josh opened the door of the master bedroom with his foot, balancing a tray with food for Milly in his hands. She had lost conscience in the car, and he had done the only thing he could think of, he drove them to his parents’ lake house. He knew that no one would be there at this time of the year. Josh, he carried Milly into the house and laid her on a bed. There, he saw her gunshot wound for the first time. He had tried to wake her up but concerned that she would come up with a fever and an infection, he had dressed the wound as best as he could. He saw two holes, which was good. It indicated that the bullet wasn’t inside her body anymore. He cleaned both wounds meticulously and put a bandage on them. He hoped that his basic aid was enough for now, if not they would have to find a hospital soon. Milly had been out cold, and Josh began busying himself by cleaning and making dinner. Time had flown by, and he decided that it was time to check in on his kidnapper/patient. He put the tray on the table in the corner of the room and noticed that her breathing had changed. She was awake, even if her eyes were closed.

“I brought you some food and painkillers,” Josh announced stepping closer to the bed. “You should be okay. There is no bullet in your body. The only concern is internal damage and the fear of an infection due to fibres of your shirt in the wound. I did the best I could, but if the pain persists or if something is off or if you have a fever, we should go to a hospital. There is not much I can do from here.” Josh bit into a cookie and sat on the bed. Milly opened her eyes, unimpressed by Josh’s proximity.

“Thank you,” she said meekly, looking anywhere but at Josh. “Where are we? How long have I been out? Where’s my gun? Why? Why didn’t you just drop me off somewhere?” Milly bombarded Josh with questions, he merely smiled and got up again. Bringing the tray closer, Milly sat up still, wincing and clutching her side. She moaned, trying to find a sitting position.

“We are someplace safe. Your gun is over there,” Josh pointed at Milly’s backpack and her jacket, “You were asleep for six hours, and you needed help.” He offered her the painkillers and a glass of water.

“Just something for the pain. I promise.” Milly looked Josh straight in the eyes, as if she was defying him, and swallowed the pills. “Do you think you can stomach dinner? I am starving.” Milly nodded and was ready to get out of bed, but Josh forbade it, bringing her a plate of food.

“You need to rest,” Josh announced.

“I need to get the money to Giuseppe. The money I don’t even have because I am not in charge here anymore, am I?” Josh grinned.

“How much money do you need?” he asked. Even though he wasn’t in his father’s good graces, he had some money in his accounts.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“How much?” Josh insisted.

“Two hundred thousand.” Josh gulped. If he gave Milly the money, his savings would be used up. He whistled through his teeth and Milly looked away in shame. No one would be able to save her.

Upside Down 4

Milly scratched her chin with the gun in her hand. She had to come up with a way to get in touch with Giuseppe. And she had to get a nice little ransom for Josh. But how? Milly wasn’t a seasoned kidnapper. She didn’t have a criminal mind, no criminal energy. She had slid in with the wrong crowd, and now she was in a right mess. And her side hurt. She didn’t want to let on that a bullet had hit her, but she felt the blood flowing out of the wound. It was soaking her shirt.

“We need to stop for supplies,” Milly announced. She put her gun in her bag and winced again.

“You okay?” Josh asked. His kidnapper grew paler by the minute. It would have been easy to stop and get rid of her. But he was concerned about Milly. And intrigued as well. He wanted to hear her story. She seemed kind enough, even while she was pointing a gun at him. And so he decided to stay and help her as best as he could.

“Pull over there,” Milly ordered Josh to pull up to a parking lot of a grocery store. “We need some food and other things.”

Josh parked and got around to open Milly’s door. She blinked, ready for an attack, but it didn’t come. Josh held out his hand, and Milly blinked again.

“We should split? I am sure Henry called the cops. Or a neighbor did. After all, there was a shot.” Josh took Milly’s bag. She didn’t say anything, just held her side with one hand. She didn’t dare to look down. She didn’t want to see how bad it was. “Or we go together, and you tell me what to get?” That option was more to Milly’s liking, and she nodded.

“Let’s do that,” she croaked. “And after that, we will find us a motel or something.” She wanted to sound in charge, but her injury made it hard to think about anything else than the hole in her.

“You could also wait here? I promise to be back,” Josh offered, but Milly shook her head. “I am okay, let’s go.” At the store, they stocked up on convenience food and snacks. Josh sneaked medical supplies into the cart, and he insisted they buy a set of clothes to change into for them both. Milly agreed, and she didn’t bicker when Josh stood in the beauty aisle and chose deo and shampoo. Their shopping trip only took them twenty minutes, powering from isle to isle, always checking if no one was looking at them funnily. People were watching them, of course. They were an odd couple, and even a blind person could have seen that Milly was not well.

At the checkout, Josh put an arm around her. She tried to shake him off, but he didn’t let go. “Are you okay, Miss?” the cashier asked. Milly merely nodded. “Cramps,” she replied with a tortured smile. “Nothing a hot bath and lots of chocolate can’t cure.” The cashier smiled emphatically while Josh paid her. Milly had not reacted to the things he had added to their shopping. He took the bags and guided Milly back to the car.

“You’ve been shot,” he finally said.

“I am okay,” she replied through clenched teeth, getting into the car.

“Let me take a look!” Josh didn’t wait for her affirmation, and already he was pulling at her shirt. Milly didn’t like it at all, and with a mighty punch, she let Josh know it too. “Let’s get this straight, don’t you ever touch me again,” she threatened.

“I don’t need to be here. I could have run a while ago and left you.” Josh shot back.

“Why didn’t you?” Milly groaned and hid her face behind her hands. “I am the world’s worst kidnapper.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I want to get back at my father too.” Josh finally admitted. He pulled out of the parking lot, and both stayed silent for a long time. The silence was comforting, as was the sound of the car. Before long, pain and exhaustion got the best of Milly, and she fell asleep.

Upside Down 3 – Hello roomie

Josh drank a sip of his coffee, but it didn’t taste right. He took a bite out of his toast, but that too felt like ashes in his mouth. How was he supposed to tell this woman that he left his father and that he didn’t have any money? She would kill him on the spot, of that he had no doubt.

“Tell me about yourself. We should get a little acquainted,” Milly offered. Josh shrugged. He wasn’t a man of words and didn’t know what to say. The woman and the gun made him nervous.

“I’m a doctor. Well, I will be. Specialising in traumatology.” Milly had suspected as much from the books on Josh’s shelves.

“Impressive,” Milly acknowledged. It was the first time she saw a ghost of a smile on Josh’s face. But as soon as it appeared, it vanished again.

The front door rattled and was opened with a bursting laugh. It was slammed shut and into the living room came a man who was all over a girl. They were barely able to contain themselves. Milly pointed the gun at them. She didn’t have time for this.

“Roommate,” Josh yelled and held his hands up in a surrendering manner. Josh’s roommate, Henry, looked up from the woman he was devouring.

“Whoa… Easy with that thing, baby.” Milly groaned and rolled her eyes.

“Shut it and sit on the couch. Hands to yourselves,” Milly ordered and waited for Henry and his conquest to sit. “Stutter, fetch our shoes and coats. We are leaving.” Josh was paralysed, he didn’t move. “Now, dammit!” Josh was tempted to throw a knife at her or lounge himself at her, but he didn’t dare. She was dangerous and unpredictable. Not a good combination. He rushed to obey, hearing Milly talk to Henry.

Henry snickered. “Stutter,” he said under his breath shaking his head with a grin.

“Name?”

“Henry. And she is…,” he shrugged. He had already forgotten the girl’s name.

“Listen carefully, Henry. I am going to take Joshy with me. Got it? You can call the police, but then I will be back to kill you, you understand, right? His daddy is loaded, and I will ask for a nice piece of the cake.” Milly was satisfied with herself and her plan. Self-sufficient she sat down.

“Ma’am, with all due respect, You must be wrong. If he had money, he wouldn’t live here,” Henry waved his hands around for emphasis. He was intimidated but not afraid. Henry was a brave man; and he was sure he could overpower this woman, get hold of the gun and turn the situation around. He could be a hero for the girl who was ugly crying next to him.

Josh returned, shaking his head in Henry’s direction as if he had been reading his thoughts. Both men watched Milly tie the laces of her boots. The gun lay on the coffee table. Henry took it in a swift motion, stood his ground and pointed it at Milly.

“You better leave,” Henry threatened her.

Milly got up slowly. “Not without him!” She grabbed Josh’s wrist with a bruising grip.

“Let him go, and I will not hurt you,” Henry felt brave. Milly snorted. She knew if she had wanted it, she would have gotten her gun back by now and she would have shot the two witnesses. But she wasn’t out for blood. She just needed money to get away from her current life.

“Josh, do something! Don’t stand there like a wimp,” Henry shouted. He didn’t understand why Josh didn’t move. Was a tall and fit man, there was no reason why he didn’t overwhelm the woman, or why he didn’t fight her. Josh didn’t know either, but his guts told him to do as Milly said.

Milly turned to leave, pulling Josh behind him. “Keys, Stutter. Do you have a car?”

Josh nodded. In the parking garage.

“Stop!” Henry yelled. Milly turned to look at him and flipped him the bird. A deafening noise went off. Henry looked in shock at the barrel of the gun in his hand and threw the weapon away. Josh looked in shock because Milly had reacted fast enough to push him behind her. Milly grinned. Henry’s conquest screamed. Too many emotions in a small living room.

Milly went to retrieve the gun and put it in her jacket. “Let’s go,” she said to Josh, and they ran for the stairs. For a moment she wondered if Josh had ulterior motives to come with her. He could have easily outrun her. But he didn’t. In fact, he held doors for her and led the way to his car. Milly held her side and winced when she got into the vehicle. Henry had hit her.

“Where to?” Josh enquired.

“Just drive,” Milly ordered through clenched teeth. She had to gather her wits for what was to come.

Upside Down 2

Josh sat against the far wall, hugging his knees and keeping an eye on the woman in his bed. It wasn’t her beauty that held him captive; it was the gun in her hand. He hadn’t been able to find any sleep, and in the end, he just gave up. Josh was counting the hours until it was time to get up and get ready for work. But then a thought occurred to him. Even if he had to get up, that didn’t mean she would leave. He groaned and stared at the stranger on his bed. The entire situation was unpredictable. He didn’t like that. He loved his routines and his structured life. A stranger entering his life in the middle of the night was not his idea of structure. It was a sure way to chaos. Josh rolled his eyes and got up. His glasses lay on his nightstand, and he fumbled for them in the near dark.

The rustling close to her head woke Milly up. Disoriented in the dark, she sat up and pointed the gun at the stranger ogling her. She saw his face pale, and his Adam’s apple move when gulped.

“What were you doing?” She asked making sure that her voice held enough venom to keep the man away.

“Glasses. I need them,” Josh stuttered.

“Lights!” She ordered, and he just nodded, doing as she said.

“Time?” Milly demanded.

“6:30. Please lady, I don’t want any trouble. Just, please leave so that I can go to work. Please?” The man was brave yet agitated. Milly smiled.

“Sorry, no work for you today, Stutter” Milly laughed. No way she could let him go now.

Josh sighed. “May I get dressed, please?”

“Very polite. Get dressed, and we will plan our next steps over breakfast. I hope you have coffee.” Milly got out of the bed. She wasn’t concerned about the man trying anything on her. She had good people skills and trusted her feeling that she was safe for now. As if she was in her own home, she searched through the man’s drawers to find a fresh t-shirt to wear. Josh felt his ears swallowed with heat as this strange woman rummaged through his personal belongings.

Waiting for his uninvited guest to follow him, Josh stood in the door. Milly switched shirts, retook hold of her gun and trotted behind the man who kept checking is she was still behind him. He got busy with breakfast, and Milly took a look around. There was a large shelf filled with books. She had read some of them too. His music collection was small, but here too, she saw similarities between the albums he owned and the music she had on her phone. The phone she had dropped when she ran from Giuseppe’s minions. Exploring the pictures of the young man, she stopped in her motions. Milly looked from the picture in front of her to the man handling a skillet in the kitchen. It couldn’t be. She had hit the jackpot. With a devious smile and a plan forming in her mind, she joined the man who was preparing her breakfast.

“I am Milly. Sorry for the inconvenience.” She put her gun next to an empty plate and grabbed the mug in front of her. “Milk?” she asked, and Josh pushed a small jug in her direction.

“Josh,” he offered.

“Don’t you mean Richard Joshua Weller Jr?” Milly smiled knowingly. “You are the only son of one of the most wealthy men in this city. Quite a dump you are living in.” She took a sip of her coffee and waited for a reaction. Josh was busted. He had hoped she wouldn’t know who he was. “You are my ticket out of my predicament,” Milly added, one hand on her gun again.

Josh admitted defeat. His heart went like mad. He had been waiting for a situation like this. That he would invite it in through his bedroom window came as a surprise. That it was a woman with legs for days and a smile to kill for was part of the irony that accompanied most of his existence.

“What do you want?” Josh stuttered.

“Money, Stutter. Easy as cake. And your daddy will give me what I need, or his sole heir will not survive this chance encounter,” Milly informed Josh and took a slice of buttered toast from a plate in front of her.