Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Reward of Ransom

This story was written for my Creative Writing class where I was given a character, situation, and time constraint. If you would like to download the story onto an e-reader, you can go to this website.

The Reward of Ransom by Marty Reeder

The pirate held the pistol up to Charles’s head and told him to kneel down.

This was not difficult for Charles to do considering that his knees had stopped working for the past five years and the pirates had taken away his walker. His legs bent towards the shore of San Miguel Island, the westernmost and most deserted of California’s Channel Island chain. The rocky beach bit into his pathetic, wrinkled knees through the fabric of his hopelessly expensive Gucci dress pants.

“Now,” the pirate said, his European accent clipped, “we’ll see if your wife comes to pay the ransom at the appointed time … or if she will let you die.”

Charles closed his eyes. He did not want the group of five pirates surrounding him to see the despair in them. He knew that Calico would not come. Younger than him by thirty years, she had to be bitter that he had lasted this long. Though not the vindictive type, Calico certainly would not lift an extra finger—especially if it meant letting the ransom of $10 million clear the coffers of her eventual estate—in order to free someone who must have been an annoyance to her. It cannot have been easy for her to continually act attracted to a degenerating man breaching his eighth decade of life.

Fifteen years ago, he did not regret leaving his first wife, Dana. Even though they had been married for almost forty years, she still lived in the past. She still lived in the time when they raised their little family and lived their modestly wealthy lives as the owners of a niche lithium mining company. Then the electric car boom came, and lithium mining skyrocketed Charles into the highest echelon of the world’s richest people. Dana was not made for that lifestyle, but Charles was eager to complete the transition. It did not take too much time for them to part ways, and Dana ended up with relatively little to show from the divorce. She had no fight in her, just like he did not now.

Charles opened his eyes and looked up to the pistol wielding pirate. “Just shoot me. She won’t come. I already told you she wouldn’t. You have my yacht—that should give you about the equivalent.”

The pirate gazed down at his captive, a glint of amusement in his eye. Though he sported a beard, it reflected more that of a rugged model than a disheveled pirate. “Come, old man. We’ve still got five more minutes before the appointed time. I’m not going to kill $10 million just because you are having doubts about the sincerity of your marriage.”

The glint in the pirate’s eye reminded Charles of the night he first met the criminal. About a week ago Charles had gone to his opulent yacht, Midas. He went there expecting to see Calico the next day for his eight-first birthday before going on a cruise across the Pacific to the Hawaian islands. He told her that he just wanted a discreet birthday celebration with her—nothing like his eightieth birthday, which boasted some of the world’s most renowned celebrities and fellow multi-millionaires. At eighty-one, Charles started to feel the emptiness of his life draining him, and he was desperate to simply make a connection with a sincere person. He hoped it could be Calico, even after the years of distance between the two.

And then the pirate showed up. Of course, he never claimed to be a pirate. Otherwise, he and his crewmates could never have worked past his security detail. But they came under the impression that Calico had sent him a surprise birthday eve gift. They called themselves the Performers of PanDance, a traveling singing and dancing group which made presentations all over PanAmerica.

It seemed like the frivolous, thoughtless and expensive sort of thing that Calico would do, so Charles allowed the group on board and sat himself down in his luxurious sitting room, prepared to watch the performers present. Performers of PanDance, Charles laughed bitterly to himself now, more like the Pirates of PanDance.

Within minutes of arriving in the sitting room, the security detail relaxed as the music started and the group of five chic men and five striking women broke into a mystifying dance that both jarred the senses and demanded awed focus. Only one minute into their choreographed routine, the women expanded outward and seductively approached separate members of Charles’s security before lashing out violently, arms and legs swinging in professional, acrobatic arcs, disarming and bringing subconscious the most immediate members of Charles’s expensive security personnel.

The music immediately stopped as this coldly expert group of criminals soon subjugated the rest of the yacht’s crew and set the yacht out into the open ocean. Before they cleared the Los Angeles coast, all extraneous people had been tossed overboard except for Charles, who they cruelly dumped into the boat’s bottom hull. Furthermore, they located and disengaged his yacht’s GPS tracking device, but not before setting on a southern route that would have the Coast Guard chasing ghosts all the way down the shores of Mexico’s baja peninsula. They then headed northwest and cozied up to a small cove on San Miguel Island, a Channel Island most famously known as a former military target practice. No one would find Charles here, dead or alive, for months … long after the pirates had left.

While possible that Calico contacted the authorities and informed them of the ransom rendezvous point, that would only incite ire in the pirates, who would then use Charles as a human shield and his fate would be prolonged in a tortuous race out to international waters before he would be disposed of.

“10:00 AM,” the pirate smirked. “If it’s any consolation, the last thing you will hear before you die is someone telling you that you were right.”

The hammer of the gun clicked into the cocked position and the pirate buried the cold barrel into Charles’s loose temple skin.

The next thing Charles heard was not the fire of a gun, but the clapping of shuffling feet on the loose rocks of the shoreline. The gun suddenly retreated from Charles’s head and he, along with the five pirates, stared at the bend of the shoreline. An old, ordinary, woman hobbled along the shoreline, weak and slow, but with a vibrant fire in her eyes.

“Who are you?” the pirate pointed the gun at her, though half-heartedly. He knew she held no threat against him.

“I’m his wife, and I’m here to pay the ransom.”

“Dana,” Charles whispered, pained and relieved at the same time. Then, in a moment of realization, he said, “but there is no way you could have $10 million.”

Dana reached into her simple handbag and pulled out a wad full of slips. “I still had some stock in the company after we divorced, Charles.” She then handed the slips to the pirates. “I’ve signed them over, all you need to do is put your signature on them.”
One of the pirates, who appeared to be an expert in this sort of thing, went and examined the slips of paper, then consulted with the leader. Charles looked up at Dana pathetically as she closed the distance between them. “How did you know? Why did you come?”

Dana looked at her ex-husband. “I went to wish you a happy birthday. I never got to congratulate you on your eightieth, never got or expected an invitation, but I figured I might stand a chance for the eighty-first. Your wife, Caligula, was there—” Charles refrained from correcting her, especially because he sensed that Dana mispronounced it on purpose, “—and I found out the situation from her. She told me that she didn’t think she could gather up the money without some more time and a couple of your signatures.”

Dana softened to see her husband on his knees. “Doesn’t this remind you of a moment fifty-five years ago?”

Charles had to chuckle in spite of himself. “You mean when I proposed? I guess it does remind me a little, except I don’t recollect the pirates back then. I guess I should be giving you a ring, too, instead of having you ransom me.”

The leader of the pirates now came back and pocketed the slips of paper. “The stock slips are good,” Dana and Charles both sighed, relieved, but then the pirate continued. “But you’re still $25,000 dollars short, according to my man.” He mercilessly lifted the gun up again, pointing it directly at Charles’s shocked face. “I’d let it slide, but then I’d get a reputation as a softie, and I’m a professional that can’t have that kind of cred.”

Charles saw the look of murder in the man’s eyes, but Dana interrupted. “Wait!” The pirate paused, if only briefly. “My ring!” Dana twisted a band off her finger. “We weren’t wealthy when he first gave it to me, but it is an antique from his grandmother. I think it could be worth a pretty figure now.” She handed an old, but intricately jeweled ring from her finger to the pirate, who once again consulted with his man.

Charles looked over to Dana. “You’ve kept it all these years?”

Dana smiled sadly. “I never wanted to give up on our perfect life, even after you did.”

Charles nodded. “I don’t know what’s happened to me, Dana. You were right. You were always right. I’ve been so depressed lately. I was never this depressed before with you.”

Charles watched the pirates turning the ring over meticulously. “I’m so sorry, Dana,” he said, and he meant it. “I promise you that I will repay you for all of this, plus everything you should have gotten in the divorce.”

Dana shook her head. “Hearing what you just said is all the repayment I need.”

Moments later the head pirate nodded and waved his hand. The rest of them retreated and the pirate turned back, “Thank you for the ransom. It’s been a pleasure doing business with your excellent … ex-wife.”

Soon the pirates left the shore and the yacht took off for unknown havens out in the vast Pacific. Dana helped Charles to his feet as Charles grumbled. “They took my walker, Dana. It wasn’t enough for them to take my $10 million dollar yacht. They had to take my $50 walker too.”

“I’ll be your walker, Charles. Just lean on me. There is a man with a boat I’ve rented waiting for us a couple of coves down the shore.” Charles leaned on his ex-wife and faced her. “How can you be so kind to me after all I did to you?”

“Because you were not always that person. And my husband, my Charles, is the one I choose to remember.”

“Well, your husband Charles owes you more than just ransom money now,” he looked over at Dana meaningfully, “I owe you a new ring.”

Dana smiled. “When you’re ready for that, I’ll consider what you have to say.” She pushed forward along the beach. “For now, you’ll have to worry about your lost boat. I’m sorry about that. I believe it was a present from your wife, Capricorn, for your eightieth birthday? Please tell me you had it insured.”

“No theft insurance,” Charles noted and Dana tapped his back commiseratingly. “But it did have insurance in the case of sinking.”

“But it is not sunk,” Dana said.

Charles shook his head. “No, but it will be in another couple of hours.” Dana’s eyebrows lifted and Charles continued, “They put me in the hull by the bilge. As I crawled around on my knees, I found the bilge plugs and removed them right before they took me out here. The ship will sink any moment.”

“I guess that their ransom reward will be a bit different from what they 
were expecting,” Dana smiled at her ex-husband’s mischeivous wrinkling face.

Charles’s face softened. “The reward for my ransom was a bit different from what I was expecting too.” He leaned on Dana a little bit more, and she, smiling, supported him.

©2012 Marty Reeder