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AN EVIL PLAN
By Liv Crouch
1 A millionaire disappears
Charles Hatfield Baker III was a very rich man. There wasn’t a richer man in all of New York City. He was the head of a large number of important companies. He had land and buildings and houses in the country. He had boats and horses and an aeroplane. But he was a simple man. He liked the simple things of life: a good cup of coffee, a kiss from a pretty girl, a walk through the park on a fine autumn day. He had all these things on this Wednesday morning. He drank two cups of very good Italian coffee for breakfast. His daughter, Julia, kissed him goodbye. “Have a nice day, daddy,” she said. And he left his apartment to walk to his office. He always walked through Central Park to his office on Columbus Avenue. He took the elevator down forty floors to the street door. “Good morning, Mr Baker,” said Angelo the doorman. “Have a good day.” “Thank you, Angelo. You too,” he answered. “See you this evening.” But Angelo didn’t see him that evening. In fact, he never saw him again. Because Mr Baker never arrived at his office. Between the south-east entrance to Central Park and the offices of Hatfield International Investments, Charles Hatfield Baker III simply disappeared. The police tried to find him. They looked for him in every corner of the park. They moved every stone and every brown and yellow leaf, but there was nothing. They couldn’t find anything. They gave three big police dogs his old blue sweater. The dogs smelled it once or twice, then they raced across the street to Central Park. But inside the entrance, they stopped. They ran up and down, up and down, this way and that way. Again, nothing. Detectives went to the airports, to the train stations, to the bus stations. They showed photographs. “Have you seen this man? A tall man with white hair. He was probably wearing an expensive grey suit. Did he come through here last Wednesday or Thursday?” “No,” they all said. “I don’t remember a man like that.” The detectives asked Julia, the grey men at the office, the secretaries and the doormen the same questions again and again. “Where do you think Mr Baler is? Why did he disappear? Perhaps he wanted to disappear! Why?” The answer was always the same: “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I can’t explain it.” There were telephone calls between the United States FBI and Scotland Yard. In the end, they all said the same things: “Kidnappers! That must be it! He’s a very rich man, you know. They’ve kidnapped him to get money.” They waited and waited. They expected a message or a letter or a telephone call.
“The kid nappers will probably ask for millions of dollars,” They said. Nothing came. Not a word. The newspapers were ready to pay $ 10,000 for information. Nothing happened. Julia sat near the telephone all day and all night. She never went out. She didn’t cry: she wasn’t that kind of person. But she grew thinner, and her eyes were red because she needed sleep. She loved her father very dearly. In her heart, she knew that he was alive. “Is his disappearance a message to me?” she thought. “But what does it mean? What is he trying to tell me?”
2 Julia takes charge
For days, and then weeks, Julia hoped for news. But there was no news of Charles Hatfield Baker III. After a time the newspapers were tired of the disappearance story. Their reporters wrote about other things. The police stopped asking questions. The weeks passed. The months came and went. Julia saw the first snow of winter through the windows of the twelve-room apartment that she called home. In one hour Manhattan was white with snow – white and quiet like a mountain village. “But it’s New York,” she thought. “It’s not ususally quiet like this. I know New York. It’s my home. I’m eighteen, and I’ve lived here all my life.” Julia’s life was like the lives of other rich men’s daughters. She could read and write, and dance, and play a little Chopin on the piano. She spent money in the best stores, and she ate chocolate cake in expensive cafés. She travelled through the city streets in shiny bullet-proof cars. She knew nothing about the real New York, and she knew less than nothing about the people who lived in it. She moved from the window to the big mirror beside it. The mirror showed her a tall girl with dark hair and green eyes. The face was good-looking but not pretty; it was too strong to be pretty. “Look,” she said to the Julia in the mirror. “You know your father isn’t coming back. Why are you sitting here and waiting? Who’s going to help you? Grow up! Take charge of things! I think that’s his message. You are Julia Ann Hatfiel Baker, the first!” She put on her coat, her hat, her boots, and went out, in clothes that cost thousands of dollars. For the next three hours, Julia travelled through those streets of New York that she didn’t know. She didn’t go in any of the shiny bullet-proof cars that belonged to her father. She took taxis, and she walked. She looked at buildings, and she looked at people. She looked into windows, and she saw people in their cold rooms – people who didn’t have enough food on their table for their evening meal. She looked at women in the streets. Their faces told her about hungry children in their homes. She looked at men, men without a job and without hope. She saw all this, and she slowly understood. “I know now,” she thought. “I know some of the things that I must do with my father’s money.” Next morning, she arrived at the offices of Hatfield International Investments at exactly nine o’clock.
“I want to see the directors of the company in the boardroom at ten o’clock,” she said to Miss Bentley, her father’s secretary. At ten, she looked at the five grey men around the shiny boardroom table. “I know these men,” she thought. “I probably pulled their noses when I was a baby. I danced with them at Christmas when I was a little girl. Yes, I know them. Or do I? Perhaps they think they know me. They’re going to be surprised.” She looked around them again. Their faces told her nothing. “Good morning, gentlemen,” she said. “Gentlemen, you’re probably surprised because I’ve asked you to come here.” Yes, they agreed, they were surprised – very surprised. “I think you know that 55 per cent of all Hatfield International shares are mine.” Yes, they knew. But they weren’t very happy to say so. “Well, I want to make some changes. But first I would like to see all the company accounts. I want to look at all the books, the accounts of money coming in and money going out. I want to see the files about all our investments, and, very important, about our plans for the future.” The eyes of the grey men met. Then, slowly, they pushed buttons and spoke to secretaries and accountants. “Miss Baker would like to see all our accounts.” “But why?” they all wanted to know. “What changes does she want? Why does she want to know our plans for the future? What does she know about business?”
For two days, Julia looked at long lists of figures and read long reports. The figures were in thousands and millions, and the reports were heavy and full of facts. Julia learnt a lot. She learnt that Hatfield International o w n e d great parts of the world: cattle ranches in Texas, sheep farms in Australia, diamond mines in Africa, oil wells in the Arctic, pine forests in Canada… She learnt that Hatfield International had very great power – almost unbelievable power. “This power,” she thought, “is enough to turn great deserts into rich farmlands. It’s enough to make wonderful changes in people’s lives, enough to give them machines to work the land, enough to give them hospitals, schools, teachers.” But she saw, too, that Hatfield International had the power to do other things – wrong things. And sometimes they used this power to get more power. This was the great company that her greatgrandfather, her father’s grandfather,
started. “And now I have to take charge of all this,” Julia thought. Julia’s mother died when Julia was only a baby. She didn’t remember her, but she knew from old photographs that she had her mother’s dark hair and eyes. She had her father’s wonderful head for business. Julia understood money. Some people understand art, or music, or plants. These things are simple for them. For Julia, money was simple. She spent two days with the accounts and reports of Hatfield International, and they taught her a lot. They were two interesting days for her.
Outside, winter held New York, and the air grew colder and colder. Inside the Hatfield building, Julia sat and read – words and figures, words and figures. People came and went, but she saw only the papers in front of her. Late in the afternoon of the second day, she came to the last file on the table. It was a red file. The covers of the files were of different colours. Red files were all about future plans – projects for the future. On the cover of this red file Julia read: PROJECT OMEGA. Julia opened it. It was empty. But on the inside of the cover, in the left-hand corner, there was one word: “Never!” It was her father’s writing. She pushed a button and put the telephone to her ear. After a moment, a voice answered. Julia said, “Miss Bentley?” “Miss Bentley has gone home. They’ve all gone. Can I help you?” It was a girl’s voice. “I’m looking for the papers about Project Omega.” For a few seconds the girl’s voice said nothing. Then: “I… I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about it.” It wasn’t true. It was clear to Julia that the girl was lying. She was afraid of something. Julia put down the telephone. She walked along Miss Bentley’s office. A girl was still standing near the telephone there. She was about Julia’s age, small and pretty. Julia could see that she was frightened. “I want to see the papers about Project Omega,” Julia said. “I’m sorry, Miss Baker. I don’t know anything about it – really I don’t.” Julia read something in the girl’s frightened eyes. And she heard more than the words when the girl spoke. There was something in the eyes and in the voice – in the breaks between the words. Was it the beginning of her father’s message to her? She still didn’t understand it, but she began to see that there was a connection between his disappearance and Project Omega. “But what is the connection?” she thought. “Am I building too much on the word “Never!” and the eyes and voice of a frightened girl?. No! There is a connection.”
Julia stood and looked at the girl. Suddenly she felt very tired. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. She was sorry for the unhappy – and clearly frightened – girl. “Those papers probably belong to an old file, I’m sorry if I…” “Is something wrong, Julia?” It was Mr Berger. He was one of the grey men, a director of her father’s company – one of his partners. “Did I hear you say “Project Omega”?” Julia turned. “How long has he been here – in this room?” she thought. “Yes, Mr Berger. I said I wanted to see the papers from the Project Omega file.” “Did you really, Julia?” He laughed – a false laugh, Julia thought. He had a smile like a kind uncle – like Father Christmas – but his eyes were cold. He said, “Why are you worrying about Hatfield’s problems, my dear? You shouldn’t let them enter your pretty head. Do you need money? Just ask, and you can have all the money you want. Why not? You’re Charles Baker’s daughter.” Julia was so angry that she could only be polite with difficulty. “I’m not only Charles Baker’s daughter, Mr Berger. I own 55 per cent of all Hatfield International shares. And now I must tell you: I want to see those papers!” “But of course, my dear.” He turned to the girl and said, “Miss Harper, please get the papers that Miss Baker wants to see. They’re in the safe.”
Miss Harper said nothing, but she went to one wall of the office. There was a large picture there of Julia’s great-grandfather. Miss Harper moved the picture. Behind it, there was a small, very strong metal door. Her lips moved to shape the numbers, and her fingers turned a small wheel on the door. The safe opened. “Here you are, Miss Baker,” she said. She didn’t look at Julia, but turned back to close the safe and move the picture back. Julia took the papers, put them in her briefcase, and left the office. The door of the elevator was closing when she heard Mr Berger’s voice. He was beginning to shout at Miss Harper. She went home in a taxi. The apartment was warm and quiet. She sat down in her father’s favourite chair, and opened her briefcase. “No,” she thought. “I must have some food first.” She put the file on the floor and went into the kitchen. She expected to find a meal ready there, and she saw it on a tray on the kitchen table. Usually she didn’t eat very much, but tonight she was hungry. There was a nice-looking soup, some chicken, a fruit salad. She tasted the soup. It was cold, of course, but very good. And it was her first real food for almost two days. She didn’t carry the tray into the living room, but sat down at the kitchen table. She finished the soup, and she was starting on the chicken, when the telephone rang. There was a telephone in the kitchen, and she went to it. “Yes?” she said. “Julia… I mean Miss Baker?” It was a girl’s voice. Miss Harper. “Please don’t be angry with me. I had to call you. Please listen to me. You’re in terrible danger.” “Miss Harper? Is that you? What do you mean?” “They don’t want you to know about Project Omega. I think they… they’re going to kill you! Oh, please, you must believe me!” “But who? Who wants to kill me? … Miss Harper? Are you still there?” No sound came from the telephone. The line was silent. Julia sat with the telephone in a cold hand. At the other end of the line, there was silence. A terrible silence that meant danger. “What has happened?” she thought. “What has happened to that poor little Miss Harper? Has Project Omega brought danger to her?”
5 An evil plan
Julia put the telephone down. For the first time, she felt very lonely. She wasn’t frightened, just lonely. “I haven’t been lonely before,” she thought. “Alone sometimes, yes. But not lonely. Not without a friend to be there in a time of difficulty or danger. What does danger mean? My life has been so safe that the word doesn’t mean anything.” She thought about Miss Harper. “Miss Harper said that they’re going to kill me. Who are “they”? Did they kill my father? What is Project Omega, and why don’t they want me to know about it?” She went back to the living room. The file of papers was still on the floor. She sat down and began to read. She read to the end, and then closed the file. She was trembling. “It’s terrible!” she thought. “Terrible!”
Project Omega was a plan to get millions of dollars. To make it possible, millions of people had to lose their freedom. It was a plan to buy great power in other countries – in countries with free people. Project Omega would rob them of their freedom. The plan was to give Hatfield International more power than any other great company – more power than the governments of a lot of countries had. But it was a cruel plan, the plan of men without a heart. There was only one word for it: evil. It was a truly evil plan. “They were the other directors of her father’s company. She had to stop them.
In the beginning – was it really only two days ago? – Julia had a plan for her father’s money. She wanted to help the poor people of New York. She wanted to give them better homes, more jobs, a happier life. “I went to Hatfield’s offices to work for that,” she thought. “I never expected to find something like this. What must I do? How can I stop it?. I must tell the police… and the newspapers. I have to tell the world about Project Omega . Yes, tell the world. That – and only that – will stop it. I must do that in the morning.” Julia was soon asleep. For the first time, she dreamed about her father. They were in a small boat in terrible weather. They were in great danger. But he put his arms round her. “It’s all right,” he said in her dream. “I’m here. You mustn’t be afraid. We must be brave. We need courage, that’s all.” When Julia woke up, she felt strong after her sleep. She remembered her dream very clearly. “Perhaps daddy is dead,” she thought, “but he’s still with me. I believe the power of good is stronger than the power of evil. In my dream daddy said that we needed courage. So that’s all right.” Julia had courage – a lot of courage. She heard Clara in the kitchen. Clara was the woman who looked after the apartment. She looked after Julia, too, and Julia loved her. Clara was like a mother to her. Julia walked into the kitchen, and into a rich smell of fresh coffeee. “Good morning, Clara.” “Morning, Miss Julia. Your coffee is ready. It’s cold outside – very cold. You’ll be surprised. Only a week to Christmas! I hope you’re not going to spend the holiday here, alone! A young girl like you should have friends of the same age.” “Dear Clara. She’s worried about me,” Julia thought. She said, “I’ll think about Christmas later, Clara. This morning, there’s something I must do, something that can’t wait.” She got dressed very quickly. Then she put the Omega file in her briefcase, and hurried out. She opened the elevator door – and screamed. There was no elevator there. Only cold, black nothing. Only death – death was waiting for her forty floors down. She was falling.
6 A friend
Julia didn’t fall. Two strong arms took hold of her, and pulled her back from dark death – back to life. For a few seconds, she lay there, on the floor, outside her apartment. She could still smell Clara’s coffee. She could hear her heart; it was racing. She knew she was trembling. She could see only a blue jacket. “Thank you,” she said to the blue jacket.
The man in the blue jacket helped her to get up. “You’re very welcome. I’m glad I play a lot of football and so I can move fast. I’d like to move like that on the football field. Then I’d be a top player.” He was young, maybe about twenty-five. His face was open and friendly. “My name’s Julia Baker. You saved my life.” “Oh, I do that kind of thing when I get the chance,” laughed the young man. “I’m Edward West.” “Well, how can I thank you, Edward? Why don’t you come in and have some cofee? I think I need a cup too, after that.” They went into the apartment. Clara brought them two cups of coffee, very good Italian coffee. “The elevator,” Julia said. “It wasn’t there.” “I know.” “But you were there. Was that by chance?” Edward looked at her. She saw that he was thinking. “Yes,” he said slowly. “I think it was.” “I think they broke the elevator door.” “Yes. That’s clear.” “You don’t think it was an accident?” “No, I don’t think so.” Julia drank the hot, sweet, black coffee. When she put the cup down, she began to cry. For the first time in her eighteen years of life, she knew she needed a friend. She knew it because she was with this young man – this young man with the clear, friendly eyes. “It’s all right,” he said. “You’re safe now.” “No, I’m not, Julia answered. “I’m in terrible danger.” And she told him the story – every part of it, from her father’s disappearance to Miss Harper’s telephone call. She told him about Project Omega . “So you see,” she ended. “I really am in danger, and there’s a connection between Omega and the elevator.” He said again, “It’s all right.” And, “I’m here now.” Just like her father in her dream. “I can help you. There are two of us now. We’ll let the world see the Omega file. We’ll take it straight to the New York Times. I’ve got some friends who work there. We’ll stop this evil plan. Don’t worry.” Julia now knew she had a friend who was ready to help her. It was like a return to a warm room after hours in the cold air outside alone. “Yes,” she said. “We’ll take the file to the newspaper. I’ll get my briefcase. It has all the Omega papers in it.” But where was the briefcase? It wasn’t in the apartment. It wasn’t between the apartment and the elevator. She looked for it. Clara looked for it. “It has disappeared,” Julia told Edward at last. “And now I don’t have anything to show to the newspapers. There’s nothing to prove that there is a Project Omega. Who will believe that it’s so evil? They won’t believe it if I can’t show them the papers.”
“What are we going to do?” Julia asked. She was glad, so glad, that she could say “we.” “We have to get another copy of the file,” replied Edward. “Of course. But how? I don’t want to go back to Hatfield and ask for one. Wait… Miss Harper!” “Could she get us a copy?” “Its our only hope.” Julia went to the telephone.
“Good morning. This is Julia Baker. I’d like to speak to Miss Harper.” She listened for a minute. “I see. Thank you.” She put the telephone and walked over to the window. In a very small voice she said: “She didn’t come into work this morning, Edward… she has disappeared. Just like my father. Oh, Edward! You don’t think they have…” Edward went to Julia and put his arm around her. “No. No, I don’t think they’ve done anything to Miss Harper. She’s a clever girl. She has probably gone away. She’s safe, I’m sure of it. Now come and sit down.” Edward and Julia sat down on one of the long white sofas. He took her hand. “Julia, I want you to believe in me.” “What else can I do?” thought Julia. “I believe in you,” she said. “We have to work together. I think you should go to Hatfield’s offices. Ask to see other files. They must think you’ve forgotten about Project Omega. Or that you didn’t understand. Or that you have nothing agains it… anything. But you must go back there and try to get another copy of the Omega file.” “Yes,” said Julia. “I’ll go now.” “I’ll call you every hour, just to see that you’re OK. And don’t worry. Nothing can happen to you. I’m here.” Julia arrived at Hatfield International half an hour later. All morning she looked through personnel reports. She looked at Miss Harper’s file and saw that her family lived in Atlanta. “I’m sure she has gone home to her parents,” she thought. “She’ll be all right. They can’t do anything to her there.” All morning Julia waited for a chance to be alone in the office. She knew where she had to look. She knew that they kept all the future project files on a shelf near the door. At one o’clock, Edward rang for the third time. “Meet me in ten minutes at the entrance to the building,” he said. “And please don’t be late. It’s very important.” Ten minutes later, Julia was waiting outside the front entrance on Columbus Avenue. The streets were full of people. It was nearly Christmas, and the people looked happy and busy. Julia remembered Christmas the year before. She was with her father then, and… Two very tall men were coming through the crowd. They had long red coats of Father Christmas, and they were calling: “Happy Christmas to you all! Happy Christmas!” Suddenly they were beside her. They took her arms and hurried her across the sidewalk. “What are you doing?” she shouted. “Take your hands off me! No, no!” A car door opened, and they tried to push her inside. Strong arms took hold of her arms. She tried to scream, and as she fought she hit her head on the car door. Her world began to go dark… She remembered one last thing. There was an arm round her. It was an arm in a blue jacket. “Edward West – Edward West has betrayed me!”
8 Father and daughter
Julia opened her eyes. The world was going round and round. And there were noises in her head. No. Not in her head. The noises were engine noises. She was on a plane. Edward was beside her. “Edward, I trusted you!” “And you were right to trust me. I’ve saved your life again, I’m glad to say.” “You’ve done what?” “Mr Berger and his friends planned another little accident for you. I had to get you away from New York.”
“Where am I?” “Now? Well, probably flying over Florida. We’re on our way to a small island off the coast.” Julia looked round. “But this – this is my father’s plane. What are you doing with my father’s plane?” “It’s a long story. Give me time and I’ll explain it all.” “Start now.” “First, I think you need a drink.” “I don’t want a drink. I want an explanation.” Edward smiled. “That’s the sad thing about rich girls. They always want everything on a silver plate – at once. Oh. OK.” He started to explain. Julia listened and watched his face. “I wasn’t wrong,” she thought. “He’s a good person. He’s good-looking, too.” “First,” he said, “I must tell you that I work for your father. I’ve watched you all the time since his disappearance. He was very worried about you, so he told me that I must look after you. He told me to guard you, but that you mustn’t see me.” “Where is my father?” “Ill tell you that in a minute. First you must know that your father had to leave New York in a hurry. He learnt about Project Omega, and he wanted to stop his partners. They tried to kill him. Twice. He had to disappear.” “My father knew about Project Omega? So why didn’t he do the thing that we planned to do? Why didn’t he let the world know about it?” “He knew that it would be the end of Hatfield International. It would finish the company – your company. “It isn’t fair to do that to her,” he told me. “If she wants to finish it, then that’s different.” So you make your future; he doesn’t make it.” “What do you mean?” “He knew you would learn about Project Omega, sooner or later. He told me to wait and help you, when that time came.” “OK Maybe I believe you. But where are you taking me?” “To your father. He’s waiting on the island. Oh, and I found Miss Harper. She’s safe. She’s staying with her aunt outside Atlanta.” “Oh, I’m glad about that. I was worried about her. She was very brave.” “Brave and clever! She has another copy of the Omega file!” The small plane landed on a narrow runway in the middle of a thick forest. Edward opened the door, and jumped down. Julia followed him. It was hot, and she could smell the flowers and trees. Such a long way from winter in New York! Then she saw him. A tall man with a lot of white hair, his face brown from the sun. “Daddy!” Later that evening they sat out in a garden, under a big silver moon. They talked about the future. “You know, Julia my darling. I don’t want to go back to New York. I think I’d like to be poor here in the sun,” said Charles Hatfield Baker III. “I enjoy this life.” Julia smiled at him, her eyes full of understanding and love. “Perhaps when I’m seventy, I’ll come and enjoy it with you. But at the moment I’ve got too much to do. Hatfield International is going to disappear, but there’s still an awful lot of money. I want to make that money work for good projects. Projects to help people.” She looked at Edward. Edward looked at her. “I’d like to help you with that,” he said. THE END
BEFORE YOU READ AND WHILE YOU’RE READING. Work with a dictionary the meaning of the words in bold letters. Write a list
Word or phrase company land doorman entrance disappear
Word or phrase
11 Word or phrase Meaning Word or phrase Meaning
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