(Tell a story that begins with a ransom note)
When Sally read the note, she couldn’t believe what she was reading. Here was someone asking for money she didn’t have. How was she supposed to get five million dollars when she wasn’t allowed to work? She hadn’t worked a single day in her life. The only job she had was being the proper wife and loving mother. After her children were sent off to the best schools, she spent her free time usually chatting with her friends over hot cups of coffee with no creamer or sugar. As her children went onto the best universities money could buy, she found herself in a place she relished although was lonely at times.
She was never given any access to her husband’s bank accounts, and while it might bother some, it never did for her. Her first son, Leonard, was the next in line to make sure her needs were taken care of when her husband died. Her husband, also Leonard, thought of most people as dolts, but would never tell this to their faces. He needed them to keep earning money as they were his business partners. On the other hand, Leonard Jr. wasn’t so quick to judge others as stupid if they disagreed with his decisions. He was too young, in her opinion, to take over her husband’s wealth and she worried the board of directors would try to dethrone him from his rightful seat. Yet, he was old enough to have a wife and child.
She did what any dutiful wife would do in a panic. She called 911 even though the note specifically told her not to call 911. It also told her they’d know if she had called the cops. It didn’t even register that it was more than one person involved, any composure she might have had left her as she punched the three numbers on her phone. She had to dial the number five times because she kept pushing too many ones. When she finally got someone on the line, she spoke too quickly for the operator. He had to raise his voice a little bit, forcing her to calm down. The moment he heard the word “kidnap,” the words spilled out of his mouth a little quicker. Time was of the essence and urgency could be heard as he recorded their conversation letter by letter with his fingers.
There wasn’t anything Sally could do but wait. She had waited much of her life. She waited for her husband to come back from his business trip, waited for her son to come back from prep school during Christmas, and waited for her daughter to come out of her belly as she was a week past her due date. Much of her life belonged to her family and now she could not get in touch with her children and her husband was somewhere unknown. Her mind went to a dark place. She thought of all the things that might be happening to her husband. Maybe, the kidnappers had snatched up her son and daughter too. Her son never turned off his phone. Her daughter always picked up by the second ring.
There was too much silence. Her anxiety and fear boiled over. She went to the bathroom and took a few pills from her prescription. She might have broken her arm a year ago, but the phantom pain still hung around. She left the bathroom feeling a little better and waited three minutes before the police arrived. She graciously let them in and showed them the ransom note. It was typed instead of handwritten. There was no postage on the envelope and it was one that already had adhesive attached to it. The average person might think of the missed opportunity for DNA but not Sally.
She eyed the officers with hesitation and mild suspicion. They gathered as much information as they could from her, but there wasn’t much for her to give. She had not seen her husband in five days. He was on an important business trip. She convinced herself her children were with her husband and were safe. Having them all together was better than them separated.
When her phone rang, she flipped it around. It was an unrecognizable number. She threw it to the officer closer to her. He caught it and brought it back to her, gesturing for her to answer it. She didn’t want to. He pressed the button and shoved it into her hand. Her voice was timid when she spoke.
“Are you the wife of Leonard Sr?” a man asked in a disguised voice.
“Yes, I am. What do you want?”
She heard him breathing and that’s it. She asked him again what he wanted.
“What the fuck do you think I want, lady? You have one hour to get my money. No funny business, got it. One whiff of a cop at your place and your husband’s dead.”
“I need more time.”
“That’s all you’re getting.”
“Wait,” Sally said but the man had disconnected.
She stared at the phone, then at the officers. The taller one was on the phone to his commander and the other was speaking to her, but she didn’t hear him. Where was her children? Where was her husband? Her knees felt like jello and her legs weakened. The space in front of her darkened. The last thought as she lost consciousness was what did have I done to deserve this.