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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

The mastermind behind the kidnapping of two prominent men, who are being held for ransom, learns that the world's not interested in paying the ransom or seeing them get turned free. (Hint: This isn't your typical kidnapping thriller!)

Prologue: The first phase of the operation went very fast and smoothly – and without gaining any and all attention, unwanted or otherwise.  Those who carried it out with a measure of professional pride which some might view as perverted.  There was hardly any physical violence or resistance during the course of the operation.  But that didn’t rule out the possibility of any violence occurring later on in the operation.

Soon, the next phases of the operation would start to commence – and if all went according to plan, those taking part in it would strongly benefit from its outcome, and not just from a financial standpoint.  But the operation would also be deemed a game-changer – a term not unfamiliar to those in today’s world who follow the news on an almost-daily basis.  And those involved in it were counting on it.


Somewhere: Far from the outside world, its residents already unaware of the human drama already occurring – in a dimly-lit stone prison cell with no windows to reveal where they were, a pair of unconscious men, both wearing dress clothes, sat on a wooden bench, their wrists already wearing steel wrist bands attached to solid steel chains, which were in turn bolted to the prison cell’s rear wall, as it faced a solid steel door.  Where the door led to, if opened – not even the two men knew.  But then, both were unaware of where they now were.

The two men were also unaware of something else – they were now wearing solid steel masks which covered most of their heads, including their facial features, much like the title character in Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask.  But this wasn’t 17th Century France, where Dumas’ novel was set – this was the present.  One thing was painfully obvious – the prison cell where the two steel-masked men now languished was no better than any of the prison cells in France’s legendary Bastille, which was first built in the late-14th Century and demolished over four hundred years later when the French Revolution brought an end to that country’s monarchy.

There was little doubt about it – the two steel-masked men weren’t just prisoners in this dreary cell, they were also kidnapping victims.  Only they didn’t know it – yet.  But they would – and sooner than even they realized.

Within the next few minutes, the two steel-masked men started to slowly wake up after having a long dream – their eyes slowly opening and starting to view their present surroundings.  Once awake, they started to realize the truth – where they ended was definitely no dream.  The prison cell – the bench that the two steel-masked men sat on – and the steel wrist bands and chains which kept them from escaping – they were 100% real.

What’s the hell going on here?” yelled the first steel-masked man, now fully awake -- who was definitely American, based on both his voice and East Coast accent, “Where are we?  And --!”

“Where you and your friend are now isn’t important,” said a mysterious and electronically-distorted voice from out of nowhere, “As for why – you’ll find out – and soon!”

“Oh, you’re funny as a crutch.  And you’ll need more than a --!”

“Odd.  You once said you’d withstand any and all torture if you ended up captured.  Let’s see if you were right.”  Within seconds, a key unlocking the prison cell door was heard.  Then, the door slowly opened, as a tall and muscular figure – clad in a black leather jumpsuit, a pair of black boots, a pair of black leather gloves on his hands, and a black motorcycle helmet which covered his entire head – entered the prison cell and approached the two steel-masked men, as he put a pair of solid steel brass knuckles on his gloved hands.  Within seconds, the helmeted figure punched the first steel-masked man hard in the head with his right gloved hand which had one of the brass knuckles on it.  Then, the helmeted figure’s left gloved hand with the other half of the brass knuckles on it punched the first steel-masked man hard in the stomach.  Needless to say, the first steel-masked man didn’t like being assaulted by one of his captors – and the fact that he wore a steel mask over his head didn’t make matters much better for him.

As for the second steel-masked man, he didn’t say a single word.  And yet, he nervously whimpered – if only for fear of his own life, especially after seeing his fellow prisoner get punched in both the head and stomach.  Which made him wonder – what if he was next to get beaten up?

“If I didn’t end up like this –!” said the first steel-masked man angrily.

“I doubt that you’d strike back,” said the mysterious voice, “But then – you were always known for -- hee hee – striking below the belt.”

“If you were here right now –“

“But I’m not – which gives me an advantage over you and your idiotic cellmate.  And speaking of him, he doesn’t have much to say, does he?  Then again, he’s always a tendency to put his foot in his mouth – just like you.”

“Are you calling me an idiot?”

“You’ve always been an idiot – then and now.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have sought the public spotlight in the first place – and the same goes for your cellmate.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“I do – just as I know who your cellmate is underneath that steel mask.  Just in case you’re interested – you two have been in this cell for the past seventy-two hours.”

“And in less than seventy-two hours –“

I’ll be a rich person.  The two of you are being held hostage – for $50 billion dollars each.”

“But there’s a few problems with the boss’s plan,” said the helmeted figure in a gravelly male voice, “Which came up after we announced our ransom demands to your respective countries almost three days ago.  First – your respective pals refuse to obey our ransom demands and pay us.  Second – you two aren’t as popular as you think, which explains why your pals are ignoring our ransom demands.  And, last – you’re not as powerful as you claim to be, especially when one of you jerks uses social media to boost your personal ego.”

“I’m still powerful,” said the first steel-masked man angrily, “And I’m still rich!  I’ve got friends and resources that not even you’re aware of!”

“And I’m betting that you’ve already screwed many of your friends over the years.  As for enemies – well, I’m betting that there’s a pretty long list for that, which will only increase faster than even you think.”

“I’ve got resources, you muscle-head – all the better for me to make your life a living hell, when and if I do go free!”

“Too bad your brain isn’t one of them,” said the mysterious voice, “Which has -- more or less -- rotted, thanks in part to Reality TV.  But then, if you were smart to begin with – you wouldn’t be where you are now.  And that goes double for your pal – who can dish it out, but definitely can’t take it.”  Then, a cell phone ringing sound was heard – as the helmeted figure, who had already removed his brass knuckles from his gloved hands and now put them back in his jumpsuit’s front jacket pockets – and now removed from his jumpsuit’s front right pants pocket a rectangle-shaped touch-screen cell phone.  Within seconds, the helmeted figure answered his cell phone.

Number Two here,” said the helmeted figure, as he spoke on his cell phone, which was already on speaker mode, “What’s up?”

“This is Number Four speaking,” said the voice on the other line, as heard on the helmeted figure’s cell phone via speaker mode, “Number Three and I just got the $100 billion from where the payer dropped it off.  We’re already heading to home base.”

“Well, well – so your pals did follow our ransom demands.”

“Well, it’s not exactly who you’d think, Number Two.  The people responsible for paying us the ransom money are a certain media personality who says he’s one of our two hostages’ biggest supporters –“

“You mean – no politicians --?”

“That’s not all – the other people responsible for paying up the ransom are executives at a certain cable TV news network – and it doesn’t begin with the letter ‘C.’

“Is what we’re now hearing’s correct?” asked the mysterious voice.

“Or are they trying to make jackasses out of us?” said Number Two.

“What I’m telling you is 100% true,” said Number Four on the other line.

“Amazing,” said the first steel-masked man, “Someone out there --!”  Seconds later, Number Two’s right foot – and the boot that he was wearing it on, which was steel-toed – kicked the first steel-masked man’s left knee very hard, while the second steel-masked man could only witness what he just saw in totally muted silence.

Nobody likes you, you pinhead,” said Number Two angrily, “And if you’re smart, you’ll clam up – while you and your pal think about your futures, which isn’t going to be bright, if you get what I’m saying!”

Number Two,” said the mysterious voice, “Head outside at once and wait for your compatriots to arrive.  When they do arrive – you three carefully count and check out our ransom money and make sure it’s all in $1000 bills, and definitely not fake.”

Number Three and I will be arriving in less than ten minutes, boss,” said Number Four on the other line.

“I’ll see you boys then,” said Number Two, who then hung up after ending his cell phone conversation, as he briefly turned his attention to the two steel-masked men, “It won’t be long now.  The $100 billion dollars will soon be in our hands – and you two will depart your present surroundings, double-time.”

“Oh, dandy,” said the first steel-masked man, “I can hardly wait to leave – if only because I’m already planning on screwing --!”

“I’d advise you to think twice about what you’re now saying,” said the mysterious voice, “You might not like what happens to you next.”  Within seconds, Number Two exited the prison cell, closing and locking the door to it behind him, leaving the two steel-masked men alone again – at least for now.

“Don’t worry, friend,” said the first steel-masked man, “We’ll be free soon.  Someone who truly cares has come to our rescue – someone who’s skilled at wheeling and dealing, just like yours truly.  And once we’re free – we’ll make our countries great once again.  We’ll regain our stature as the greatest leaders of our time – and of all time!”  The second steel-masked man, however, said nothing – and with good reason.  He also knew that other people throughout history had made that same claim – with the same final disastrous fate befalling them, through their actions and/or the fears and faults that they tried to hide from the world at large, but ultimately couldn’t.


For the next few minutes, all was silent inside the prison cell – more like the silence that you’d hear in a graveyard.  The first steel-masked man was calm and upbeat – while ignoring the realities which had long brought down those before him, shattering both their egos and over-confidence.

The second steel-masked man, however, was nervous – very nervous.  As the person in question was already staring at his own mortality, he silently asked himself a question – one no doubt asked by others in situations somewhat similar to what he and his fellow prisoner now faced: Had it finally come to this?

“We’ve already got the ransom money,” said the mysterious person, “With all of it 100% real.”

“So my buddy and I are free to go,” said the first steel-masked man, “Right?  And once we go free --!”  Suddenly, the key unlocking the door to the prison cell was heard.  Within seconds, Number Two – and two other tall and muscular figures, both clad in the same clothes and helmets as their colleague, who were named, respectively, Number Three and Number Four – entered the prison cell and directly faced their captives.  Their presence here wasn’t as reassuring as the two steel-masked men might have thought, and with good reason: Numbers Two, Three, and Four were wielding fully-loaded Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns – with the firearms’ barrels directly pointed at the two steel-masked men.

“What’s the hell going on here?” yelled the first steel-masked man furiously, “Is this --?”

“You’ve tried to be above the law many times throughout your lives,” said the mysterious figure angrily, “You two believed that your wealth and prestige would help you avoid both criticism and punishment – and that you’d get away with it scot free.”

“When you’ve got both money and power – you can do anything you damn well please.”

“Including treating everybody like garbage – which makes you two bigger jokes than even you’ll ever admit!”

“When we go free – and we will – “

“You’ll go free soon.  However, you two will never get a chance to get revenge on us – or anyone and anything else standing in your way – both now and forever!

N-N-Non-n-no,” said the second steel-masked man nervously in an accent that definitely wasn’t American – and which only made his anxiety even more, a fact that didn’t impress his fellow prisoner, who was already furious.  And for both men, their situation was about to get far worse.

“You don’t know me that well, do you?” said the first steel-masked man venomously, “If you were working for me --!”

“But our boss does know you,” said Number Two, as he removed his cell phone from his jumpsuit’s front right pants pocket, turned it on, and showed an image on the device’s touch screen directly to the two steel-masked men, “Surprised?”

“Why that --!” screamed the first steel-masked man furiously, “I’ll --!”

Please,” said the second steel-masked man in an upset tone, with that same foreign accent, “Please – show us mercy.”

“You never showed your victims any mercy,” said the mysterious voice angrily, “Not even in your former career.  How does it feel for you and your moronic cellmate to end up – this time, as victims on a one-way trip to you-know-where?”

“You’ll never get away with this,” said the first steel-masked man in a venomous tone, “And even if you do --!”

“You’re not in a position to do anything,” said Number Two angrily, “Except you-know-what!”  The intentions of Numbers Two, Three, and Four – their submachine guns still pointed at their steel-masked targets – were already becoming very clear, as well as lethal.

  No doubt the two steel-masked men were silently deep in thought, as they faced their armed captors.  Perhaps they were remembering another man in another time, determined to hold on to his power and glory at all costs – and which eventually led to his downfall.  The lives of the two steel-masked men wouldn’t end happily – partly because their over-confidence ended up becoming a liability instead of an asset.  And over time, their greatness would fall apart – just like those of others who should’ve known better, but didn’t.


Six months later: Outside, on a warm and sunny summer afternoon -- on the veranda of a villa resting atop a large and high cliff in southern France which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean -- a medium-height, beautiful, and sexy woman in her mid-thirties with long blond hair who wore a multi-colored one-piece woman’s bikini bathing suit was lying on a hammock.  To her right was a small plastic table – atop it was a tall glass of French champagne that she had just poured herself a minute ago.

The young woman was relaxed and without a care in the world – or so she believed.  She was already living a life of ease and luxury – certainly far better than her previous career, which was considered both dubious and controversial in certain social circles.  So much so, that she silently – and frequently – asked herself a single question: What could possibly go wrong with my life now?

The young woman was unaware that a half-mile out on the Atlantic Ocean, a small powerboat was already anchored, directly facing the cliff that her villa rested on.  She was also unaware that the boat’s masked driver was now removing from the vehicle’s glove compartment, located in front of its front passenger seat a gray-colored remote control device with twelve red push buttons – ten of them having on them the numbers 0-9.  Within seconds, one of the masked driver’s fingers on his left hand frantically pushed four of the remote control device’s numbered buttons.

Then – the villa atop the cliff overlooking the ocean exploded, destroying it in an inferno of flames and smoke, and killing its owner in the process.  A minute later, the powerboat and its driver turned around and headed away from the scene of the crime at top speed – and with hardly anyone to identify the culprit.

The local authorities investigating both the villa’s explosion and the death of its owner would never uncover the truth behind this mystery, despite their best efforts.  They would never learn that in the past day or two, the mystery driver had somehow gained access to the murder victim’s villa – and planted there a powerful bomb, which was activated via the remote control device that was removed from the vehicle’s glove compartment; the explosion’s full force destroyed whatever was left of the bomb’s mechanisms to insure that they were beyond examining – which was part of its overall intent.

What the local authorities would also never know – is that a half-year ago, the young woman committed what was considered in the minds of many the perfect crime, though she believed that what she was doing was more of a long-overdue act of retribution, which also included both financially bankrupting and humiliating a major American cable TV news network which leaned more towards the right.  Of the two steel-masked men whom she held hostage six months ago, then ordered their deaths – one of them was a certain billionaire businessman and TV personality-turned-politician who had sex with her in secret a few years ago, and which caught the public’s attention when he reached the ultimate height of his personal greatness.

The young woman got away with murder.  And yet, in an ironic sense, she didn’t -- if only because she sorely underestimated the personality and influence that he radiated in life, part of an overall legacy that had the power to transcend decades and centuries, while teaching the future what to – and what not to do.  And that included the hard lesson that entrusting power to those who end up abusing it – does far more long-term damage than just betraying the public’s trust.  Someday, that trait might become obsolete forever, for which humanity will become far wiser and saner – that is, if it still existed by then.

Submitted: April 01, 2019

© Copyright 2021 John Lavernoich. All rights reserved.

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