ISSUE 1 · FALL 2008
When Dennis Kesdekian got home from work late one night in August, he discovered that his wife had been taken hostage again. This time, their eight-year-old son Randy had also been kidnapped.
He found a note on the refrigerator, held by two smiling strawberry magnets. It was written in Carolingian script, engraved on ivory cardstock: Dear Sir, We have taken your family. Please do not f--- with us. We will contact you via telephone with instructions. Have a nice day. It was signed with the cheerful logo of KidnapUSA.
“Shit,” he said to the dark, silent house. He checked the time: quarter to eight. He crumpled the note and tossed it into the trash, then retired to the living room.
Kesdekian poured Jim Beam over ice, kicked off his shoes, and slumped into his recliner with a weary sigh.
A bowl of soggy Frosted Flakes and milk sat capsized on the floor. The milk had soaked into the carpet.
Kesdekian looked at it and wondered where the spoon was.
A chair lay overturned. One of Randy’s sneakers lay orphaned on the couch. These were the only signs of a struggle, at least in the living room; not nearly as much damage and mayhem as the last time Helen had been taken. Maybe they grabbed Randy first and used threats against him to make her more cooperative. He pictured masked, black-garbed men holding a knife to his son’s throat while his wife cried and begged for mercy. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He felt a headache coming on.
Kesdekian wondered if any news had been on the News. He picked up the remote and clicked on the TV. Maybe he could still find something about Helen and Randy somewhere.
He took a long sip of whiskey, hoping to head off the headache before it blossomed across his brain.
He checked the telephone: no messages, no calls. He picked up the receiver, heard the healthy dial tone, and then dropped it back onto the cradle.
He started moving rapidly through the channels, finding nothing but junk. A lot of commercials, a lot of junk.
Then suddenly he paused and stared at the screen in disbelief.
When did they start re-running Alf?
He took another sip of whiskey. A soothing warmth had nicely subvert-ed his headache. Commercials came on and blared at him and he muted the volume and wondered how much the kidnappers would charge for the ransom this time. They’d demanded $32,000 last time. He didn’t want to pay that much again. Shit.
It was nearly midnight by the time the phone rang.
Kesdekian had enjoyed (if that was the word) four more cocktails and nearly dozed off watching back-to-back episodes of Small Wonder.
He hesitated, and then picked up the phone. “Hello?”
A clipped, officious woman’s voice:
“Hello, Mr. Kesdekian?”
“Mr. Dennis Kesdekian? Of five-fifteen Rosemary Avenue?”
“Hi, this is Ms. Alias from KidnapUSA? I’m calling in reference to your missing wife and son?”
“How much?” Kesdekian said, already tiring of the woman’s tele-marketing-trained etiquette.
“Mr. Kesdekian, KidnapUSA is generously offering to return your family for the small, one-time payment of fifty-thousand dollars.”
“Fifty-thousand?!” Kesdekian yelled into the phone. “Are you crazy? I can’t afford that!”
“Mr. Kesdekian, we at KidnapUSA believe that fifty-thousand dollars for the return of TWO family members is a very reasonable ransom. Now then, we can . . .”
He cut her off. “I don’t have it,” he lied.
“Mr. Kesdekian, we at KidnapUSA appreciate the economic realities facing many Americans today. And we’d be more than happy to work out a payment plan that would suit your budget. We want to work WITH you to ensure the safe return of your wife and young son . . .”
“Yeah, yeah . . .” Kesdekian said, crossing to the bar. He poured another whiskey, took a sip. Then he said, “How about if you just keep them?”
“Keep them. What if I don’t want them back?”
“Mr. Kesdekian, I’m sure a man in your position wouldn’t want it known that you refused to save the lives of your own wife and son. And that you callously subjected them to torture. And I can assure you, Mr. Kesdekian, that KidnapUSA would make this fact known to the news media.”
Bitch. Fucking bitch. They had him by the balls.
Kesdekian downed his drink and paced across the living room. “I’ll give you thirty,” he said. “That’s all I can manage right now.”
There was silence on the line. Then she said, “Mr. Kesdekian, will you please move away from the front window?”
“Please, Mr. Kesdekian. It’s for your own safety.”
He moved back to the bar just as a brick smashed through the glass.
He looked at the brick. It was engraved with the KidnapUSA logo.
A yellow ribbon and small red box had been tied to it.
“Mr. Kesdekian? Are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“Is there a brick in your living room by any chance?”
“Is there a small red box tied to the brick?”
“Please, Mr. Kesdekian—if you would—proceed to the brick and open the box.”
“Careful of the glass.”
He opened the box already knowing what he would find inside: two fingers. His wife’s finger had on her wedding band. His son’s was dirty and circled with a Band-aid (he’d cut himself on a piece of rusty metal in the playground).
“I’m sorry if you find what you’re looking at emotionally distressing, but we at KidnapUSA sometimes find it necessary to demonstrate that we do, in fact, mean business.”
“I’m sorry. Okay what, Mr. Kesdekian?”
“Okay, I’ll pay. Fifty-thousand.” He placed the red box on the coffee table and collapsed into his recliner. He felt his headache coming back.
“Very good, Mr. Kesdekian. Please place the money in the cloth bag provided.”
Another brick sailed through the window. A large white sack had been attached to it.
“KidnapUSA expects the full amount to be deposited in the Dumpster behind the Route 14 Dunkin’ Donuts no later than ten o’clock a.m. tomorrow morning. Is that understood?”
“Yeah. The money’ll be there,” he said, closing his eyes.
“Very good, Mr. Kesdekian. Your family will be returned to you upon confirmation of payment. Thank you and have a pleasant night.”
He listened to the empty phone for a while and then went to bed.
The next morning he went to the bank and did as he was instructed.
Then he went home to wait for the return of his family.
It was dark by the time the doorbell rang. He answered the door, already rehearsing the angry speech he would give Helen: Do you have any idea how much money I spent to get you and Randy back? You think money grows on trees? How did they get in this time? Did you forget to lock the door? The windows? What about that gun I gave you for your birthday? What were you thinking? Where’s your fucking brain?
And then he opened the door and two trussed and gagged figures flopped to the floor before him.
But it wasn’t Helen and Randy.
The woman was younger than Helen by ten years, and thinner by forty pounds. The boy was younger as well, just out of toddlerhood.
“What the hell,” he muttered bitterly, crouching down to untie them. They were missing two fingers each.
He learned that their names were Joan and Bobby McCaffery. They’d been kidnapped three days ago. Daniel McCaffery, owner of McCaffery Motors, had refused to pay the exorbitant ransom and had been haggling with KidnapUSA since they’d been taken.
What a cheap-ass shitheel.
“Well,” he told them. “I guess I’ll just have to hang onto you until KidnapUSA straightens this mess out. Might as well make yourself at home.”
And so they did.