He was charming, intoxicating, as intoxicating as the dry white wine coursing through Britney’s body, and made her feel carefree and light as she let her guard down. She tapped her feet and swayed slightly to a catchy beat blasting out of a speaker mounted above the brightly lit bar she and Frank were sitting at.
“Don’t just sit down like that ‘ Frank leaned forward, giving her a whiff of his musky cologne with the most delightful hints of spicy and warm.
‘Shall we?’ he was already holding out his hand.
Britney started protesting. She had never been one to dance in public. And besides, no one was dancing in the small bar, just walking around, joking and keeping their drinks close by. But she found herself reaching out her hand, sliding it into his and inhaling his scent deeply as he led her a few yards away from the crowded bar.
It could have been the wine or that Full moon peeping through purple clouds somewhere outside, or the twinkling lights in the cozy interior, or he or she… all Britney knew was that she was lost in a magic that seemed to ooze from every part of the night. She danced with her eyes closed, surrendering to the music, skipping to subtle beats hidden in the song and feeling the bass reverberating.
She smiled as the music changed and she opened it her eyes and grinned even more when she saw Frank smile at her.
“That was me,” Britney felt a pang of embarrassment, but stopped when he interjected.
“You were perfect,” Frank’s voice dropped several octaves and she could feel it echoing in his chest.
That was months ago. The dry, hot season when they first met was slowly getting cooler, with a cloud cover that grew thicker and lower by the day. Until one day, out of nowhere, the blue sky turned dark gray and ruptured, releasing a shower that indicated the rain had come.
The brown earth turned green and tiny new buds poked out from shoots that grew out sprout again in damp soil. The seasons had changed, but Britney and Frank’s magic had stood the test of time.
“Hello?” Britney answered the phone, juggling the heavy purse and grocery bag she was carrying, planning to Frank a special dinner tonight. “Hi? Who’s that?” She stopped fiddling with her bags and tensed at the silence, then shrugged and hung up the phone, making her way to the elevators to their shared apartment. She was about to call an elevator, when her phone rang shrilly again.
“Hello?” She was confused now and didn’t bother to hide it.
“You’d better not hang up if you’re Frank Ever want to see you again.” The voice was deep, even rumbling over the phone, and Britney dropped the bag of groceries under her armpit without realizing it as half a dozen oranges rolled across the building’s lobby. “Try it with the police, he’s dead,” the voice came again, clipped, “Trace that call, he’s dead. Do you understand?”
Britney shook her head mutely, shock cementing her in place , her eyes barely saw when the elevator opened and a tipsy The first couple got out and gave her strange looks even though they could barely walk straight.
“What,” her mouth was so dry she could barely form the words, “you want?” she croaked.< /p>
“Money!” was followed by a harsh laugh that was resonant in nature, but Britney couldn’t discern any nuance as her mind raced. Frank was in danger! He might be hurt even now as she stood and stared, seeing nothing but his face in her mind.
“Five hundred thousand… now. We’ll send you a number, leave it or… he dies.”
When the phone went dead, Britney got to her feet. A tightness in her chest made her gasp, and the lack of oxygen did nothing to help her logic or calm her down.
Her panicked mind searched for someone to call, someone to say could tell her what to do, but no one was named.
Her family could not be involved. How could she explain it when she barely understood it herself? Her friends were out of the question. She didn’t want to be a topic of gossip. Her lawyer would call the police immediately and then Frank…
Britney choked back a sob as the only solution there was, easy if painful, struck her. Robotically, she copied the number the anonymous caller had sent her and withdrew her entire mobile money account and some of her savings from her mobile banking app. Sighing but determined, she watched a no-name confirmation message pop up, paused a moment longer, then picked up her grocery bag from the floor without the oranges, went upstairs to her apartment, and considered what to do next. p>
Britney dropped her keys twice trying to unlock the door with her violently shaking hands and stumbled into her living room where she received a shock that threw her over the edge. She stood still for a second, then threw her head back and laughed wildly.
The deep voice, its reverberations, and her now empty apartment with no furniture or fixtures confirmed the crazy thought floating and sitting in hers Thoughts striking.
Frank was a scammer and she had been tricked.