The Ransom
Jesse Olson


His eyes swept the crowded airport lobby as he emerged from the airplane's exit ramp. The solid floor felt good; he was glad to be back. John had always hated flying, but this flight had been his worst one yet. He had been imprisoned in a window seat next to a young mother and her screaming child. Despite her best efforts she had been unable to calm the little boy. His cries and screams had continued unabated throughout the entire flight, grating on John's nerves until he had the haggard, crazed look of an insane man. As soon as the seat-belt light had flashed off, John had rudely pushed his way past the woman and elbowed his way to the front of the plane. Free at last he hurried towards the crowd blocking the exit. He was not expecting anyone to meet him, but his mind started to subconsciously pair the waiting faces off with the passengers. The elegantly dressed woman with the business executive; the eager young man with the beautiful young woman; the old grandmother with the three older children; the fresh ---

And then he saw her. Their eyes locked and John saw the searching expression in her eyes quickly change to surprise, satisfaction, and finally intense hatred. She was waiting for him. He did not know why, nor he could remember seeing her before. Nevertheless, the look in her eyes sent shivers up and down his spine, and his hands were suddenly clammy. He scanned her figure, desperately searching for some clue that would jog some long-forgotten memory and tell him who she was. Approximately 20 years old, average height, icy blonde hair flowing down to her shoulder blades, cold hazel eyes, fair complexion, casual business attire - nothing was familiar. As his gaze traveled back up her body she unconsciously tossed her hair back. The now-visible earrings screamed out at John and sent shock waves cascading through his body. He swore viciously under his breath. The last place he had seen those earrings was at a seedy nightclub in downtown Los Angeles well over a year ago. Her name was Destiny, and she had been a stripper. Later in the night, when she had finished, John had bought her a drink and drugged it when she wasn't looking. He had left her in one of the dressing rooms at the back of the club.

Someone jostled him as the remaining passengers exited the plane. John suddenly realized that he had come to a stop during the few short seconds that all of this was running through his mind. He pushed his way through the crowd, trying to stay as far away from her as possible. How she had found him he did not know, but it was obvious that she knew he was the one who had raped her. He made his way out of the crowd and started to walk towards the bus terminal. She would not get the satisfaction of seeing him run like a scared puppy.

"Surely she won't try anything here!" he thought. "Not with all the people around."

He knew without looking that she was following him. The bus terminal was coming into view and he began to scan the departure boards to find the first one leaving. He found it and boarded it without bothering to see where it was going. Numb with fear he slid into an empty seat towards the back of the bus. Seconds later she appeared in the aisle, scanned the seats, and walked back to where he was. She flashed him a smile - a cold, hard smile - before sliding in next to him. A small automatic magically appeared in her hands and she thrust it into his ribs.

"Don't say a word," she whispered in his ear. "I'll do the talking. I know who you are and what you did to me, and I'm prepared to kill you for it."

He moaned in fear.

"Quiet," she rasped, and jammed the gun in harder. "Like I said, I want to kill you, but I want my son back."

"What do --"

"I said I'll do the talking," she whispered hoarsely.

An older man stepped onto the bus and eyed the many empty seats at the back. John prayed that he would see her weapon and alert the driver, but he abruptly changed his mind and sat down near the middle of the bus.

"A couple of dope dealers kidnapped my nine-month old kid three days ago," she resumed. "The ransom note told me when and where to find you, and that I had to bring you to them in exchange for my kid. When the bus stops we're going to get off and find a cab. You will walk in front of me and act perfectly normal. If you make one wrong move I'll cut you in two with this. I can figure out some way to get my kid without you, but there's no way I'm going to jail."

They finished the remainder of the ride in silence. The bus stopped several minutes later. John got up and rigidly walked towards the front of the bus. Destiny tucked the gun into her coat pocket, but kept it aimed at him the whole time. They stepped out into the lightly falling rain and watched as the bus pulled away. Moments later Destiny flagged a cab that was passing by.

"Where to?" the driver barked as they got in. Destiny gave him the address and John groaned as he realized where she was taking him.

"You okay?" the cabbie asked.

"He's not feeling too well," Destiny said and gave John a threatening look.

"That's a long way out, lady," the driver said. "It's not gonna be cheap. Are you sure about this?"

"Yes, don't worry, I can pay," she replied.

"Okay, if you insist," and he pulled away from the curb.

Once again, they rode in silence and John watched out the window as they left the city and headed out into the country. Some thirty minutes later he turned off of the highway onto a driveway leading up to a small bungalow.

"Here ya' are, lady," the cabbie said as he pulled to a stop.

Destiny tossed some money over the seat and prodded John out of the cab. The rain was falling harder now, but he stumbled over to the edge of the wet driveway where they stood and watched as the cab pulled onto the road and headed back to the city. John was expecting her to take him inside, but instead she pointed to a large oak tree several hundred feet behind the house. The house was familiar territory for John, but he could see no reason for going to the tree. She motioned to the back of the tree, and as they walked around it John saw that someone had fashioned a rough ladder out of some old boards.

"Stand right there," she said, motioning to the base of the tree. She looked up into the tree, fired one shot into the air, and yelled, "Here he is!"

Moments later a voice came from somewhere up in the tree, "Send him up!" John searched the foliage for some sign of life, but he saw none.

"Not so fast, Mister," Destiny shot back. "I want my son first."

"How do we know that you won't let our man go once you have your kid?"

"You don't."

"Okay, okay." A pause. "Tell you what - we'll lower the kid down most of the way. Send John up as soon as you see you the kid. Okay?"

"Yeah, sure. But don't try to double-cross me. You're all sitting ducks up there," she yelled back.


"We can't let her go!"

The man known as Shorty turned to the speaker. "A bargain's a bargain. I don't break my word."

"But she might go to the cops," he protested.

"We'll be gone by then. Don't worry. She hasn't seen us. So she took a man to a tree in the middle of nowhere. So what. They won't do anything. Quit worrying."


Destiny waited anxiously while the sound of rustling leaves slowly descended from above. Finally, a small bundle broke through the branches. It was her son. It continued for a few more feet, then stopped. She moaned. "Just a little farther. Please."

"Okay, send him up," the voice called again.

"Up you go," Destiny snapped and motioned up. "Good riddance. I almost feel sorry for you. Almost, but not quite. I'm just glad I didn't have to do the dirty work. I would've if you had bolted, but I didn't want to. From what I hear you've always been a bad egg, so I guess the world won't miss you much. Good-bye."

John hesitated for a moment as he thought about trying to run.


He decided his chances were better at the top. She had an automatic, and they might not have anything up there. He slowly started climbing. The rungs were moist from the rain, so he climbed carefully.


"We can't let her go," the voice protested again.

"Shut up!" The reply was sharp. "I'm giving the orders, remember?"


"I said, SHUT UP!" Shorty viciously back-handed the man in the face with his left hand. Incensed, the man dove at Shorty. Instinctively, Shorty crouched into a defensive stance, both hands ready. The rope, now unsecured, began to fall again. Shortly realized what he had done, whirled, and grasped for the rope. He was too late. It was gone.


John was into the branches now, and he could hear the harsh voices farther up the tree. He paused for a moment to catch his breath. The faint whisper of leaves gave it away. He looked up and saw the rope rapidly descending, and he knew it was falling.


Destiny watched anxiously as John disappeared into the dense greenery. She could faintly hear voices from up in the tree. It sounded like they were arguing. She saw the bundle begin to descend again.

"Thank y---NNNNNNNOOOOOOO!!!!!" Her whispered thanks gave way to a scream of horror as she realized her son was falling.


John was sure that they couldn't see him yet. As soon as he realized the rope was falling, he hurriedly began to climb back down.


Shorty lay prostrate on the floor with his head out the door, numb with shock, as he watched the rope disappear. He felt a pain in his side, and he dimly realized that a foot was smashing repeatedly into his ribs. He didn't care. He had killed a baby.


Destiny dropped the gun and took two steps forward. Time seemed to have stopped, and she watched terrified as her son grew closer. She extended her arms at the last possible moment and cushioned his fall with her body. Her legs buckled under the blow and she fell to the ground. She picked up the bundle and quickly checked to make sure he was still breathing. He was. She dashed off towards the road.


He took another step down. His foot slipped on the wet board. Clutching desperately at the rungs above him, he tried to regain his footing.


The haunting scream stopped her in her tracks. She looked back just as he crashed through the lower branches. She breathed a sigh of relief. There was no doubt in her mind. Her son's father was dead.



Copyright © 2001 Jesse Olson
Published on the World Wide Web by ""