Sunday Story – The Outdoors Type

Taiwan's Most Breathtaking Mountain Landscapes

“Laura, I know you’ve been seeing your ex.”  Josh Barros looked at his girlfriend nervously, waiting for a response to the phrase he’d rehearsed with his communication specialist.

“What the fuck, Josh?  You bring me all the way to Taipei to start an argument about some crazy bullshit?”  Laura was smiling contemptuously with her ten-thousand-watt TV grin.  “I haven’t even seen him since we divorced.”

“No, I mean, the other one.  The, um . . . football player.”  Josh wished his voice wasn’t so whiny.  Even when he was shrieking at his employees, demanding to know whether they were lazy or incompetent, he always sounded like that.  No matter how diligently he lifted weights or how much he spent on tailors, everyone saw right through his tens of billions of dollars to his geek origin story.

“What, you mean Toby?  Sometimes we have to talk about the kids.  That’s why you flew me here?  To bitch about me seeing the father of my children?”

“No, I mean, it was that but partly it was because of the food.  This is the only dumpling restaurant in the world that has two Michelin stars.  But I wanted to bring it up, yes.  I wanted to tell you, I really need you to stop it.  It has to stop.  Please.”

“You think just because you can afford this stuff,” Laura said, gesturing around the lavish restaurant interior, “you get to control me and my life?  I’ll meet my baby daddy if I need to and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.”  Still she smiled; a queen amused by her fool.  She knew his type.  Weak.  It was vital to keep him flummoxed and chasing until he gave up the fight and proposed, at which point she would shift the battleground to resisting the prenup.  Eyes on the prize.

“I know the sort of ‘stuff’ you two are sorting out.  I have people, remember.”

“Oh Jesus, now you’re spying on me?  Just because you have the money to do something doesn’t give you the right to do it.  You repulse me sometimes.”  Josh loved and hated her bold, clear voice.  She’d been an experienced anchorwoman, one of the best, and could put on a tone of professional dismay at will.  Her large lips crisply enunciated each harsh word.

Laura stood up.  “We’re not even married, remember?  I’m going.  I’ll find my own place to stay tonight.  You’re such a twerp, Josh.  I’m starting to feel embarrassed being around you.  Maybe call me in a few days.”  She knew that he would.

Josh limply held her wrist.  “Please, Laura, wait.”

“What?” she grunted impatiently.

“Um, I know a good hotel.  I’ll drop you off.  I can’t let you wander off in a strange city.”

“Jesus, Josh.  It’s not Mogadishu.  I’ll call a cab.”

“No, please.”  He was uncharacteristically insistent tonight.  “The drivers here usually don’t speak English.  It’s a very safe city but why risk it?  Take my car.  I won’t bother you; in fact I have some calls to make.  I know a hot springs resort just out of town you’ll love.  We’ll drop you off there, then go.”  Laura shrugged her assent.  She felt like a bath.

“Why are you wasting my life!” Josh was squeaking into the phone from the passenger seat.  “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?  Don’t ever mention this ‘idea’ to me again.  Seems like I’ve got the B team talking to me, today.  Can I have the A team, please?  Can you put them on?  Because I’m paying enough money that I ought to have an A team dealing with this.”

Laura frowned, put on her noise-cancelling headphones and kept gazing into her phone.  Why was he such a dweeb?  A fit, average-looking billionaire with direct lines to world leaders and here he was dating a forty-year-old C-list celeb.  Their affair had already cost him a wife and half his fortune.  Josh tried to act like a big man, sweated away with his personal trainer, made a show of eating raw octopus, but in the end he would always be the same old Princeton geek uneasy in the company of women.

Where was this hotel, anyway?  They were past the Taipei bustle now.  Glancing out the window, she saw tall trees rushing by and the subtropical air was becoming cooler with altitude.  Fucking great.  Then she thought, no, it would be great.  A retreat to the hills would be perfect at the moment.  Relaxing.  Romantic.  She might fly Toby over.

The car suddenly came to a stop.  Laura looked up, saw a roadblock manned by police in high-vis vests and surgical masks.  Josh’s bodyguard looked them over while fingering his jacket.  She supposed it was his job to be paranoid.

The driver wound down his window and there followed a short exchange in Chinese before their driver turned to them. 

“He says, we have to get out and show ID.  There is diplomatic event in resort, nobody allowed, but we can go through after security check.  Take two minutes.”

“What the hell,” barked Laura, “don’t they know who we are?”

“They know,” said Josh calmly.  “That’s why they’re letting us through.”  He opened the door for himself and stepped out.  The others followed.

Suddenly they were blinded by intense lights glaring from all directions.  “Drop it,” ordered a voice.  Very, very slowly, their bodyguard reached into his jacket, took out a Glock by its barrel and placed it on the ground in front of him.

“Hands up high, everybody!  Step forward.  No talk.  Not a wiggle.”  Laura looked at the bodyguard, the driver and Josh, saw them obey and followed.

A man stepped forward.  “You and you,” he said to Josh and Laura.  “Come here.  Other two, go back inside car.”  They were frog-marched up the road until they reached a helicopter.  Their hands were bound.

“Josh, do something!” Laura pleaded before they gagged her.

He was uncharacteristically mellow.  “It’s okay,” he said soothingly.  “I got this.”

Once inside the helicopter they were blindfolded, had earmuffs placed over their heads and experienced a noisy, dark feeling of being pulled into the air.

They only want money, thought Laura.  They’ll probably release me as a gesture of goodwill because I’m not the one they need.  They let the other two go.  Unless they shot them.

After about an hour, the motion ceased and the intense noise began to abate.  The couple were bustled out of the helicopter and into the extreme cold of the air outside.  Their blindfolds and earmuffs were removed.  It was too dark to guess their surroundings but Laura noticed the bamboo grass they sat on, the thin, freezing air and the billion stars in the sky.  Several large hiking backpacks were thrown beside them.

They were high in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere.

She examined her boyfriend as the kidnappers removed the rest of their restraints.  He still seemed eerily calm.  Why?  Previously she’d seen him jump like an old woman when a dog barked.

His present composure was not unattractive.

The kidnappers were dressed in black tactical gear and wore balaclavas.  There were three of them, two armed with pistols, one with a long dagger.  From each forehead glared a bug-like headlamp that made any uncovered features of their faces impossible to discern.  One of them stepped forward.

“Mr. Barros,” he said in a North American accent.  “My sincere apologies for any discomfort on your journey.”  He sounded more like a Montana gun shop owner than a hardened criminal but then Laura remembered that she was not an expert on what criminals sound like.

“It was fine.”  Josh’s dorky voice had never sounded so cool.

“We have already forwarded our demands to your company with instructions for payment.”

“Good.  I’ve already left orders that in a situation like this, no ransom is ever to be paid.  You might as well shoot me right now.  Let Laura go, she has no value to you.”

“Oh, really?”  The other two men grabbed each of her arms and dragged her a short distance away.  Josh tried to get up but found a pistol barrel three inches from his forehead.

“Maybe if you contact your company and change those instructions, both you and her might go home safely.  If not . . .”  Laura felt cold hands pulling at her blouse.  She yelled in outrage.  “If not, then this will be a very, very long night for both of you, but especially for her.”

“Get off me, you godddamn apes!” Laura boomed in her perfect anchor’s voice before a hand stifled it.  Aside from the paws, she felt intense, painful cold as the warmth of the helicopter fled her body.

“A moment longer to think, Mr. Barros,” said the leader.  The pistol moved even closer.  It was now only an inch away from his skull.

“Get your hands off her and I’ll give you an answer.”  The groping hands immediately withdrew.  “How much do you want?”

“Two hundred million.”

“I’ll have to sell stock.  It will take twenty-four hours.”

“That suits us fine.  We are in a very remote location; no one will find us.  We have an encrypted satellite phone.  Will you make the call now?”

“Hmm.  Now I’m not sure.”  Josh sounded as though he was changing his mind about an ice cream flavor.  The man put the gun against his forehead, pushing his skull back.

“Let me make it easy for you, Mr. Clever Man.  I give you a countdown.  If I get to zero and you are not making the call, we have some fun with your girlfriend then try again in maybe an hour or so.  Got it?  Ten.  Nine.  Eight.” When he got to three, there was a blur of movement, a flash, a gunshot, a scream . . .

To see how the story ends and for 14 more, get Tales From Captivity:

Also available on many other platforms.


  1. Frank K · February 22

    OK, you made me do it! I bought your book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Sunday Morning Coffee 02/27/22 – A Mari Usque Ad Mare

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