Saturday, May 1, 2010 3:27 PM By crosswaysnet , In

Prologue (June, 1995 - Monterrey, Mexico):

The day was clear and blue. Unusual for the normally dusty, urban skies of Monterrey. A cold front had pushed in all the way from the U.S., bringing with it crisp weather and taking away the haze of exhaust from cheap gasoline and open barrel fires. Things were changing fast in the early days of NAFTA, and with it came new wealth. But this was still Mexico. It seemed to be a constitutional right to burn your own trash. But not this late November day - too windy.
A young, blonde American stepped out of the Collegio Internacionel into the blazing Fall sunlight. He squinted at the deep blue above this high desert plateau, the sun as white as the marble office buildings going up around him in a building frenzy. Soon he would catch the Red Line bus #27 back to the ex-pat barrio where he lived with his parents and one sister. But that wasn't for another twenty minutes. No rush. He just breathed in the arid, fresh air and savored it.
Behind him, two other boys exited the building, laughing. They, working on their English, just as he had been working on his Spanish. Full-immersion, no 'native' language allowed. With the change in weather came a change in attitude. The American was finally beginning to feel confident in his new language, and competent to communicate. He asked his friends what they were laughing about.
"Oh, Raul say he so good now with English, he now a Yankee like you. I say 'you soak in bleach a week, we talk.'"
They bent over in their hilarity, dark, straight hair falling forward over milk chocolate foreheads. Light milk chocolate, of course. They were of the highest breeding - counting back their ancestry all the way to Andalusia. Anybody with money or the pretension to wealth claimed Spanish roots in this country, whether real or invented. The truly wealthy families sported blue eyes every generation or so and disdained the sun. How else would they prove their station if not for their fair skin?
Racism, alive and well in the Second World, thought the American.
It wasn't disdain, however. Just a consistent, well-trained observation of all things cultural. He liked these boys, and they treated him with respect and kindness. He didn't feel on display with them. Probably because they both came from well-to-do families that had spent time in the diplomatic corps. Well-traveled and worldly. They were already in the society that mattered - one of privilege and opportunity. It was no respecter of nationalities. The only thing they were lacking in their early teens was a completely fluent English. Six months at this international school was meant to fix that.
"It's 'Raul, says,' Rod, not 'Raul, say.'" The American smirked as he said it, without looking down from his squinty stare into the azure beyond. One very lonely, little flat cloud interrupted the otherwise unbroken blue, heading for the Yucatan ASAP.
Rodriquez nodded his head still laughing. "As you say, Amarillo!" replied the boy, using their nickname for his blonde hair. It also meant 'coward,' just like back home. When the American seemed shy the first two weeks with his speaking, Rodriguez had asked out loud, "What, are you pollo?!"
"No," had answered Raul, "he's just amarillo." Which meant the same thing in context. 'Amarillo' was 'pollo' no longer, but the name stuck.
"Are you hungry? Yes, of course you are. Yankees always hungry - come on!" and Raul took his fair-skinned companion by the elbow and broke him from his Thoreau moment in the sun. Soon they made their way around the corner through busy foot traffic. A pleasant, meaty aroma led them to a street vendor sizzling up chorizo. His hands disappeared into the steam coming from a round skillet, tapered toward the middle like a shallow wok. The urban chef tossed in some dark, dried chilis and fresh cilantro. Raul and Rod ordered for their friend and slid disposable plastic plates down the counter. Each was topped with a flat bread thicker than a plain tortilla, fried egg, and the still popping product of the big skillet. The boys each rolled them up more-or-less and ate them with all the nuance of teenagers the world over - gone in twenty seconds. A few pesos and a cold Fanta later, they were back on the sidewalk on their way to the bus stop.
They were chatting about their teachers and girls, when a panel van screeched to a stop right next to them. The American was closest to the curb and in no time, two sets of powerful arms had seized him roughly, throwing him into the open side door. Tires squealed before his body had even hit the floor. The door slammed shut just as the boys left behind yelled their alarm.
Twisting to his side, the teenager attempted to lift his head and get his feet under him. Bolt for the door. His head was met with a hard fist. The heel of a boot nailed his neck to the floor.
"¿Quienes son usted?" the boy choked out. "¿Que usted desea?"
The boot tightened. The boy began to gag.
"Who am I, Yanqui? That is not your concern... What do I want? It is what my jefe wants that matters. You keep silent now, or never speak again."
The heel pressed harder. The boy felt his adam's apple pop a little, sending a sharp pain further down his neck. His mouth filled with saliva. He thought he would pass out. Then the boot lifted. With a ragged breath the boy pushed back the purple curtain.
Deciding not to move again, he studied everything he could observe in the vehicle - the color of the carpet; the rev of the motor; the smell of the cigarette the driver smoked; the shape and color of the boot that stayed next to his face.
In that moment he knew he was in for the battle of his life. He determined to survive. He prayed for his family.
The call came less than an hour later. The middle-aged mother of two answered on the third ring and handed the receiver to her husband, a mildly perplexed look on her face. Her Spanish was functional but not as fluent as her missionary pastor spouse. She did not recognize the deep, whispering voice.
Her husband's expression started off with a frown. It turned beet-red but soon lost its color. He started to say something and was cut off. Then the phone went dead. The phone slowly descended from his ashen face. Dumbstruck, he tried to explain to his wife what he'd been told.
Within five hours, the news had been received by telegram at the missions board back in Miami - "Urgent prayer request: Son abducted STOP Unknown kidnappers STOP Demands for ransom forthcoming STOP Warned not to contact police STOP Please activate prayer chains quietly STOP Waiting specific instructions END"
By nightfall, thousands of people across three continents were actively interceding on behalf of the young American. Discreet contacts to the FBI and State Department were initiated. Every effort was made to keep the story from the media.
The following morning came the demand: $4 million in cash, within seven days. The father felt the air rush out of his lungs. His objection was natural - he was a missionary with no wealth to speak of. He pleaded with the man on the other end of the line, for the love of God. The phone was silent for a moment and the father was afraid the line had been cut.
"Listen closely, el pastor. There will be no pleas, no extensions. If you love your "God" so much, perhaps he can give you the money. He owns everything, no?" The raspy voice chortled for a moment. "No. I suggest you plead with your rich, American friends to help you. You have seven days. I will call you in five."
"Wait," the father pleaded one last time. "How do I know..." He choked up.
"How do you know he's alive, pastor?" Muffled noises came from the phone for a few moments, then the sound of breathing.
"Dad? Is that you??"
The father gripped his phone the way he intended to seize the criminal who had his boy. "Yes, son. Are you OK?"
Crunching noises came from the phone again.
"Enough, pastor!" It was the gruff voice again. "Yes, he's alive. Don't ask again - he won't be. You have seven days."
In the background someone was yelling.
"I'll make it, Dad - Don't give up! I'm praying for you! Tell mom I-"
There was a dull sound and the line cut off.
The following five days were a blur of phone calls; visits by agency officials from America; encouraging emails forwarded by fax and telegram. Then there were the numbing periods of waiting.
On day three, word came that the missions agency had decided to allow individuals to contribute to a ransom fund, at the insistence of three wealthy benefactors. Two board members immediately resigned. By day five, two and a half million dollars was sitting in a Cayman account.
The phone rang.
"El pastor... I trust you have been busy - and productive. Is our money ready? I would hate for your son to be apart from his mother much longer. He speaks so highly of her."
Ice was running through the pastor's veins. It actually calmed him for the scripted response he read.
"Good news, friend. Most of the money is already in an account. The rest will be there shortly. When we have your transfer information we will be able to meet your demands."
"'Most' is not the word I intend to hear, el pastor. 'All' is the word that will get you your son."
"And it shall be. Now may I speak with my son?"
The line went dead again.
Another day to let the lie eat away at his gut like acid. There was no guarantee the rest of the money could be found. When the messages started pouring in from supporters saying they believed a 'breakthrough' was at hand, the missionary expected to find the account full. But it never budged. With not another dollar and only six hours to go, he'd reached a breaking point.
The prayer vigil was now round the clock. Friends from other parts of Central America had flown in to pray for the 'breakthrough,' but the pastor was headed for a breakdown. He left the house in a rush, claiming a need for fresh air. Opening the screen door he saw an envelope flutter to the ground which he picked up and carried with him. He couldn't hold back the angry tears any longer as he walked fast down the street. Finally he opened the envelope expecting a kind note from one of the neighbors who had heard that the young man of the house had been 'sick.' It was a type-written letter on fine stationery. After the usual business-like salutations, it read simply:
"I understand you have had some difficulty with unsavory characters. Perhaps I may be of assistance. I am available at any hour."
The name and personal signature at the bottom completely stunned the reader. He recognized it. He also understood the immense influence of the name. Without a second thought, he folded the letter and placed it in his jacket pocket, walked through the still blustery, dry weather to the main street and hailed a cab.
Back at the missionary's house, the intensity of the prayers was increasing. One man had a vision of ropes falling away from the young man, while he was led through an open door to the street - A bright light in front of him. They all began to pray for deliverance.
In his weakened state, the young man was having the same vision. He sensed his deliverance was at hand. He sensed a presence of comfort, even as the beatings and insults increased.
In the plush, penthouse offices/accommodations, the pastor faced the gleaming, smoked glass desk. A dignified man rose to meet him showing the way to a set of leather armchairs. A faint aroma of fine Cuban cigars filled the room. The American didn't speak - just held his hands tightly together and stared at the floor. His host quietly described his condolences and asked what the American might need from him.
"One and a half million dollars," he answered, still staring at the floor. It was quiet for a moment.
"Is that all?" asked the owner of this opulent palace in the sky.
"I have nothing to offer you," said the father still staring at the floor.
"I have done a great many favors for a great many people, seƱor." The Mexican replied. "I do not expect much in return. But with your honor I do expect a 'yes' whenever I must ask a favor of you. Is that agreeable?"
The pastor raised his eyes and decided the rest of his life.
"So long as I am there for my son, the answer is 'yes.'"
The other man nodded thoughtfully and raised his hand. An attendant was soon at his side. He whispered something to his servant who moved off quickly.
"You may tell your American friends to keep their money. Use it for other 'worthy' things." He rose to button his fine wool jacket. "If you will go with my assistant we shall see to your issue immediately."
There were no goodbyes. The pastor found himself in a luxury car seated in the back seat next to a well-dressed and serious man. His hand was outstretched and holding a blindfold.
The prayer vigil was now of one mind. So much so, that no one noticed the absence of the father. Together they were in agreement. "Release him Father - release him now."
The son was looking out from swollen eyes when the light seemed to shift. He felt a warm and powerful presence approaching from behind him. The ropes cutting into his wrists seemed to slacken. There was a pleasant aroma. The young man struggled to pivot around to see. A vision of a friendly, kind man extending his arms filled the boy's mind.
Suddenly, the door to the room burst open, flooding the room with a different, harsh light. A familiar silhouette was approaching.
"Dad?" came the weak question.
"I'm here, son." The father put his arms around the boy, then went to work on the knots. They were too tight and he looked around for a knife which he found on a table twenty feet away. He finished cutting the strands and the boy collapsed into his arms.
Then came the tears.
Behind the chair five feet, the angelic presence was bound and faded from faint all the way to clear. A moment later he was gone completely.
"I thought an angel had come for me, Dad. I really believed it."
I'm the only angel you'll see today, thought the father angrily. He lifted his son from the floor and carried him into the light of day.


Cindy said...

Very captivating and engaging. I want to keep ready which is what any author would want a reader to do. The writing is full of good writing crafts such as: voice, sentence variety, suspense, humor....all keeping it quick paced. I like how you layed out the beginning introducing the setting and characters, and then--BOOM! abduction!!!! Nice Bram! Where's the next part?

May 6, 2010 at 6:08 PM
crosswaysnet said...

Click the 'Novel-Translation' link to the left and you'll be on to the next chapters.

Thanks for stoppin' by...

May 6, 2010 at 7:45 PM
cindy said...

i meant "reading" not "ready"!

May 10, 2010 at 2:26 PM

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