The Drop

by Ravi MANGLA

Deserted parking garages give me the heebie-jeebies. “It’s so cliché,” I said over the phone. To which he responded, “Do you want your kid back or not?”

The thought has crossed my mind—What if I don’t pay? My wife would kill me. Bottom line. But I think I read this story once about a kidnapper that raised the abducted as their own and the child got a scholarship or something. I might have made it up, I can’t remember.

The slam of the car door sounds like canon fire and my first instinct is to duck for cover. I must have been an infantryman during the Napoleonic Wars (or something akin) in a past life. His shoes beat like the hooves of a horse too confident for its own good. My boy walks beside him, waist high, with a paper bag over his head. My son’s abductor is wearing a cream-colored trenchcoat, collar up, and fedora tipped so the shadow of the rim masks his eyes.

“Looking sharp. Trenchcoat. Fedora. Very original. I think the look is really going to catch on.”

“Oh shut up.” It’s the voice I’ve been dealing with all month; deep baritone, way too smoky to be real.

“Was it really necessary to put the paper bag over his head?” “I didn’t. He must have found it in the backseat.” That sounds like my boy, trying to play it up for the kids at school.

“Come on, Son, let’s go.” He follows the sound of my voice.

I hear a throat clearing.

“There’s still the matter of my ransom.”

“Calm down, calm down. I haven’t forgotten about you.” I draw a thick envelope from inside my jacket pocket.

“Five thousand.” I smack the envelope on my hand and deal it to him. “To be honest, I thought you’d aim higher. I mean I’m sure you know how much I’m worth.”

“Is it too late to ask for more?”

“Yeah, it’s probably too late.”

“You’re right.” He turns back, a little dejected, and then spins back around.

“Well maybe I’ll kidnap him again.”

“I have a daughter too you know.”

“Maybe I’ll snatch both of them and double my ransom.”

“Good luck, I can’t even get the two of them to sit next to each other in church.”

My boy keeps the paper bag on his head as we drive home.

“I hope you’re happy now, you just cost me five thousand dollars.”

He doesn’t say anything.

“Will you take that stupid thing off?”

He takes it off his head. And of course, he’s blindfolded himself with a gym sock underneath.

“For God’s sake.”

I see that spray of black hair and those swollen cheeks and I can’t help but be reminded of a young version of myself. I feel almost bad for him. He’s probably just suffering from that Stockholm syndrome everyone warned us about.

“How about we get some churros on the way home.” I think I see his lips emboss under the duct tape.

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