All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Van Damned by Todd Mercer

I’m not saying society is unstable here, but Kidnapping is the third-leading sector of employment. When I flew in, I was shocked by the ubiquity of it, and the apparent randomness of who is selected. So different from back home. Six months later I’ve adapted and am making mind-blowing amounts of money driving a Kidnap Van on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I could ask for more assignments, but the quality of the work-life balance is so important. Two days a week pays all my bills and then some.

There are exceptions (shoutout to the ambassador), but typically I don’t know who we’re inconveniencing, or why. Well, the why is usually the money. Isn’t it?

We pick ‘em up and drop them at the client’s secure location. Our guys often pull a person out of their home. More often they intercept the person between the workplace and the house. Or between school and home, depending.

Twice they’ve had me stand with the person’s name on a cardboard sign at the airport, wearing my chauffer’s uniform. Both of those guys walked out to the Kidnap Van voluntarily. I didn’t tell them the real purpose of the van. Easy jobs. I couldn’t say if they were eventually freed or… whatever. It seems some of each go down. No one tells me about particular people and I make sure not to ask.

Human beings can become accustomed to almost anything.

This time last year I was driving for a limo service, dealing with drunken prom-goers and entitled-acting wedding parties. I excelled at cleaning stains out of upholstery. Blood makes you think about its source when you see it in a vehicle, but at least it doesn’t smell. Vomit was worse in a way.

My family is under the impression that I’m in the Import/Export field. If I ever burn out on the transportation sector, I might see if I can actually get hired for that kind of work. Better not to lie to your family if you can help it. From time to time I buy indigenous crafts, drums and little dolls from the markets to send to the folks.

In July one of the main guys on my crew turned soft on us. And you can’t do this work properly while feeling soft. He’s a grizzled soldier-of-fortune, never stops talking about the war in Afghanistan. Five tours.

He was briefly alone with our assigned person. Well, she got away from him. He said he tried to chase her, but she lost him in a crowd. She ran for the police station. We had to pay the police an extra gratuity that month to continue operations. That came out of my end and everybody’s end.

The next Wednesday a new guy started with us, because—son-of-a-bitch!—we kidnapped our own subject-losing guy. No one is immune. Haven’t seen him since, but that doesn’t mean he’s dead. These guys are okay from day-to-day, but I can’t trust them far. Does anyone do this long enough to retire conventionally? Not likely.

It’s crucial to have a sense of when your luck is about to go to shit.

Once you stick on wondering when your turn is coming around, that’s the sign that the tropical getaway is over. Each morning lately while shaving I tell myself to pack my bags and get on a plane for the States. But the money is incredible. Every morning I tell that still, small, inner voice we will wrap this up soon.

Then I walk out to the van and we do what we do.

The kidnapping is going to happen whether I’m involved or not. If you’ve lost someone or if by crazy coincidence we picked you up, I feel like I should apologize. Please know it isn’t personal.

Todd Mercer

Image – Google images

7 thoughts on “Van Damned by Todd Mercer”

  1. Love the lighthearted approach. I recently watched a documentary about kidnappings in South America (a full time job) and like you say, it isn’t personal. It’s a way to earn a buck when economy leaves you with few choices. A man’s gotta eat!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Tom,
    I find myself thinking on where that this could be set, maybe Beverley Hills or Monaco – Probably not!!
    It would never be set in Scotland as no-one is worth anything here and the families would simply state – ‘Well that’s one less Christmas present this year!’
    The sad thing is there are so many countries to choose from where many forms of extortion are the norm.
    The nonchalance was done brilliantly.
    The voice never wavered and you did feel a bit uncomfortable reading this.
    A superb piece of story telling!!!


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