This week’s blog post challenge: Write a story that evolves from the discovery of a ransom note. Spur of the moment prompts are always fun to play with, the circumstances and the outcomes always unpredictable.
Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.
My head was hammering when I awoke. Rising from the pillow only made matters worse. Apparently, I’d really enjoyed the shindig last night—or had the shindig really enjoyed me? I’d always wanted to be the life of the party, perhaps I’d succeeded. Trouble was, right now I couldn’t remember anything past showing up and downing my first drink—or how I’d gotten back to the university dormitory.
I attempted to stand and stumble toward the bathroom, but quickly sat down. That’s when an envelope on the floor harnessed my squinty vision. After closing my eyelids, I slowly inhaled and exhaled several times, then eased my eyes open once more. The envelope was still there. I glanced at the door then back to the linoleum tiles at my feet. Though I knew it would probably hurt, I bent over and grasped the white rectangle. I was right. The pounding inside my skull amplified to kettle drum crescendo.
A few more steady breaths failed to stop the pounding or sidetrack my curiosity. The hastily written note inside the envelope read: BRING $5000 TO THE QUADRANGLE BY NOON OR THE PINTO GETS IT!
Because I didn’t own a horse, or one of the exploding coffins Ford once branded as a subcompact car, I had no idea what the note had to do with me, or who might have slid it underneath my door. Then again, what if the threat wasn’t intended for me?
I glanced left toward my roommate’s bed. His top sheet and comforter were pulled snug and flat, his pillow fluffed at the head of the mattress as if he’d either gotten up much earlier––and in much better shape than me––or he’d never returned to the dorm last night. Regardless, Jake was cool. We looked out for one another. He would have texted if he’d made other sleeping arrangements. My throbbing noggin reminded me that even if I received them, I’d have likely ignored all text messages. I scanned the room for my phone.
My jacket hung from the desk chair next to my bed. My cell nestled inside the inner pocket. A half-dozen texts remained unopened. Jake hadn’t sent any of them. The first message I selected was from an unfamiliar number and contained several photographs. I was already a mess in the first pic. No wonder my head hurt. Hell, my whole body ached. Jake was in the first photo, too, but not in the rest. None of the texts mentioned anything about a pinto. I sighed and groaned to standing position.
In the bathroom down the hall, cold water splashed over my face pierced my numbness like tiny daggers. After running wet fingers through my hair and massaging my scalp, I toweled dry. My eyeballs resembled roadmaps with each highway highlighted in red. I still looked rough, but it was the best I could muster for now. Then it hit me. Jake’s mother was Jamaican, his father was from Vermont. I jerked my phone from my pants pocket and flipped through the text photos again. There he was—the asshole who’d ridiculed Jake for being mixed race. The same prick who’d called my roommate a pinto. Jesus! What did he do to Jake? How am I gonna come up with five-thousand bucks by noon? I glanced at my phone again: 11:25 a.m.
A cup of coffee from the dorm’s rec room and I was on my way. Minus the five-thousand bucks, I’d have to fake it when I arrived. If it was just the one asshole, maybe Jake and I could overpower him. But what if the guy had backup? What if Jake wasn’t there? What kind of BS could I come up with to keep both of us from being killed?
At 11:48, I approached the fountain in the center of the quadrangle and scanned the surroundings. Jake was nowhere in sight. I checked for new texts. Nothing. After opening the text photo with the A-hole who’d surely kidnapped my roomie, I began comparing faces. A voice from behind me interrupted my surveillance.
“Hey, homem branco bêdado. At least you are prompt.”
I spun around to face the abductor, minus my roommate. “You the one who sent me the note?”
I frowned––and it hurt. What was his dialect? “Where’s Jake?”
He laughed. “You mean pinto? He is fine. You got the money?”
“Oh, cara, I do not like the look on your face. You bring the money or not?”
“I need to see Jake first.”
He shook his head and grinned. “Pinto said you would be stubborn.”
I reached for my pants pocket.
“Hold it,” he said and shoved his hand forward inside his jacket pocket.
Was the nub stretching the poplin a gun barrel or just his finger? I wasn’t taking any chances and held up my hands. “Take it easy. I’m just going to get my car keys, okay?”
The A-hole with an accent nodded.
“Here,” I said. “The car’s worth twelve-grand. You can hold it for collateral until I can get you the cash.”
“Or call polícia.”
“No, I swear. You can keep the damned car.”
“You think me estúpido?”
“No. Please, I––”
Laughter to my left cut me short. “Dude. You’d really give up your car for me?”
“Jake? What the…”
“Dude, that’s sweet,” Jake said and started to give me a hug.
I shoved him back. “What the hell’s going on? Who is this guy, and why the friggin’ ransom note?”
“Dude, you drink too much. Thought the prank might teach you a lesson.”
I frowned again. It still hurt. “Who’s he?”
Jake turned to the guy with the accent. “Alberto, from Portugal. We’re in the same art classes. After meeting you last night, he agreed to help.”
“What’s with the pinto tag?”
“A nickname Berto gave me after I called him Almost Spanish. It’s Portuguese slang for little dick.”
“And you’re okay with that.” I sighed. “Well, tell ya what. To me you’ll always be a big prick…you asshole. Let’s get back to the dorm.”