The Family Business

By Lindsay Redifer

Nana doesn’t like it here. She hates the apartment, the toys I bought her, the decorations, the DVDs. I’ve tried to talk to her, to coax her out of her corner, but she just screams and kicks. Those shiny black shoes I bought her can do some real damage.

I really thought this would be a special time for her. My own kidnapping started just like hers, but it went so smoothly. How did Big John do it?

I leave her alone with some crayons and paper near her corner and I wander through the penthouse. It’s not mine, it’s my dad’s. The security system installed in each room is my own design, right down to the logo. It blinks and beeps at me now with little red eyes.

Maybe I should call big John. Not that he’d answer his phone. He’s too busy running his empire. He has over one thousand employees now, each specially trained to make a person disappear, to negotiate for a huge ransom and then carefully disperse the small fortune. He has no time for self-trained amateurs.

Dad will be leaving his office now. He’s sliding into his old, beat up van behind his shield of body guards dressed to look like friends and business associates. His driver, also his body-double, will take a different route today than he did yesterday, will make random stops and call lots of people on the way. Dad will be safe. He’s always one step ahead of the kidnappers.

I can hear crying. I walk quickly back to my prize and find her sitting and sobbing.

“What is it?”

Nana drags an arm across her eyes, wiping tears and snot in one swipe. “Who are you? I’ve never heard of you. No one’s going to care that you took me, they won’t pay. You’re a nobody and now I’m stuck with you.”

I sit down next to her. I’d prepared for this.

“You don’t recognize me?”

She starts a bit, and then narrows her eyes. “No… I don’t think so.”

“I was the first. I was the child that helped start the kidnapping business.”


I slide just a bit closer and smile at her. “There weren’t always abductions all over China. Just like there weren’t always McDonalds everywhere or shopping malls. First, there was just one, then a few, than lots. I was Big John’s first. I helped him start his business.”

Silence. She looks at me and then at the floor. “But,” she says, still lost, “I never, I mean, I don’t know…”

“It was a long time ago. I was 8, even smaller than you are now. Big John took me and kept me with him for 2 weeks while he negotiated with my family. He got all their money, every mao. He was very clever.”

Suddenly, she grabs my hands. “What’s he like?”

I stand up and pull her up with me. “Let’s eat some food and I’ll tell you about him. You must be starving. Do you like cold noodles?”

She nods and we walk, friends at last, into my father’s kitchen.

Nana can’t take her eyes off of me while we eat. “What does he look like,” she asks, noodles hanging out of her mouth.

“Big John? Well, he looks just like all of his photos. His face has never been a secret.”

I check my watch again. Father should be home any minute. I check the security cameras in the room. They’re working.

“Do you love him?”

The question surprises me so much I laugh. Love? I’d never considered it.

“You know, he’s much older than me. And I’ve always thought of him like family. I wrote him, I kept him in my life, but I did it the way you would a cousin or a family friend.”

She nods and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. “I drove past his building once. I saw him getting out of a car with lots of people around, taking his picture. Mama told me not to stare, or I would be next.”

“Is your mother scared of you being taken?”

“Yes, she doesn’t want to pay all of her money to Big John. We had a big fight about it. That’s why you found me alone in the street. I was mad.”

“Oh.” We’re quiet for a moment.

Nana looks down at her hands and then out the kitchen window. “Have you asked her for any money yet?”

I pat her hand. “Soon. Soon, don’t worry. It’s a bit early at this stage. Besides, I want you to meet my father.”

She looks up at me, curious. “Your father?”

“Yes. He’s going to be very surprised to see you.”

I get Nana cleaned up and she starts to nod off in her new pajamas. I put her into the room I’ve made up for her and go and make tea for myself. Father is never home this late. Does he know?

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll never have to ask Nana’s parents for anything and I’ll still be the most famous kidnapper in Shanghai. If everything works out the way I think it will, I’ll throw money from planes and everyone will run to see it flutter down, screaming their thanks.

I hear crying again and walk back to Nana’s room. She’s not awake, but crying in her sleep. “Mama. Mama, no,” she mumbles. She’s sweaty. I check her for a fever, but she’s alright. She must be having a terrible nightmare.

Just then, the door clicks open and fathers’ shoes click through the entry way. I tuck a little stuffed tiger in bed with Nana and go out to meet him.

“Hello Father,” I say, getting a beer out of the fridge for him. He grunts at me, rifles through the mail.

“Father,” I say, “I have something to-“

“Not now, darling. I have a lot on my mind.”

I take a deep breath and start again. “Father, I really must tell you-“

“Please! My head is pounding. Someone has taken my boss’ daughter. I’m sure it was Big John himself. It’s his style. So, you can imagine, I’ve had a terrible day.”

I stop. The two of us sit, not looking at one another. From down the hall Nana cries out, louder this time, and Father freezes. “Who was that?”

I swallow my tea and speak slowly. “Come into the next room and I’ll show you.” We walk down the hallway, Father taking small steps. I start to open the door and he grabs my wrist. “No.”

I ignore him and open the door. There’s Nana, one arm flung over her eyes and wet hair splayed all over the pillow. She jerks and twists slightly in her disturbed state. Father just stares. His eyes slide up to the cameras watching us and then back to the floor. He’s shaking.

“I want everything,” I tell him. “All your money, your properties and all your shares of the business. I’ll find you a modest place to live and make sure you’re taken care of.”

“And if I refuse?”

I almost laugh. Is he actually considering it? “Well, I’ll go directly to the press with photos and videos of your famous daughter stealing your superior’s child from under your nose. I’ll ruin you.”

Dad’s head snaps up and he glares at me. “You’re doing this for him, aren’t you? For that criminal you love so much! Is that what this is?”

“Big John may or may not hire me after this. It doesn’t matter. All I know is, I’m not on your side. I never was.” I cross my arms and set me jaw. “I’ll be taking your wallet, your keys and your passport. If we keep this civil, Nana will be returned without any fanfare.”

Father runs his small hand through his hair, chews his lip. Slowly, he extends his things to me and I take them, checking the wallet for all the right cards and cash. Everything’s there. I pick Nana up, bundled in blankets and still whimpering, and walk out of the room. Father stands in the center of the room, silent and alone.