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    Carlos Hazday
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 36. CDMX • XXXVI

Into the ninth month of CJ’s posting to the American embassy in Mexico City, he and Owen felt comfortable navigating life in their temporary home. Tuesday nights, CJ sparred at the Embassy with marines, Owen practiced on Thursdays and played rugby most Sundays, and Liebe flourished while spending large amounts of time with both her fathers. It was a comfortable routine.

They tried to expose their daughter to as much of the city as they could, including visits to historical structures and natural wonders. One weekend it might be a game at Estadio Azteca surrounded by nearly ninety thousand rabid fútbol fans; another one might involve a visit to the Basilica de Guadalupe to explore the saucer-shaped church and chat with some of the ten thousand devout individuals it could hold. It was one of CJ’s attempts to connect with average Mexicans and learn more about the country, its people, and their culture.

Due to Chipper’s concert, they had canceled the planned scuba trip to Belize, intended to celebrate Owen’s thirtieth birthday. Because they would be flying to the United States to attend a couple of weddings over the summer, they decided to postpone traveling to the neighboring Central American country until later in the year.

Felicia Barrosa had asked Chipper a couple of questions about his friendship with Owen and CJ during their sit-down. It was not surprising she included them in the final cut aired on TV. Their most recent appearance in the media reinforced their status as celebrities; invitations to events flooded their social calendar. Some were cultural; a few were national celebrations at different embassies. CJ consulted with the ambassador’s staff on the latter. It was impossible to attend everything, but they wound up going somewhere at least once a week.

“It’s good training in case I do become a political officer.” CJ tried to justify attending an Independence Day celebration at the Jordanian embassy. “The fact a Muslim country invited a gay couple’s significant, Oz.” It had come about because they had befriended an attaché who played rugby in the same league Owen did.

On the last Monday in May, the embassy hosted a Memorial Day barbecue for staff and their families. Liebe, the youngest in attendance, was also the most popular. The marines CJ trained with fussed over her the most. “Bloody hell, look at the little imp flirt.” Owen’s comment was a result of her running away from some of the military men playing with her and circling back for more attention while giggling. “She keeps this up when she gets older, I may be all for you brandishing a shotgun when boys come over to the house.”

 

CJ was bored listening to Northman drone on about the number of visa applications cleared, American citizens assisted, and whatever else he had on his list that morning. The monthly status staff meetings were always the same. He was further distracted when his watch vibrated.

Surreptitiously, he lowered his hand to his lap and turned his wrist to read the incoming message. Elpidio kidnapped Liebe.

“FUCK!” In his rush to stand, CJ painfully smashed his knee against the conference table’s edge.

“Sit down, Mr. Abelló. We’re not finished.” Northman’s somewhat nasal tone grated more than usual. “And please refrain from using profanity.”

“Sorry. Gotta go. Family emergency.”

“I’ll say it again, Mr. Abelló. SIT DOWN!” Northman was aggravated and his raised tone was proof. “You have a job to do here.”

CJ exploded. Finally untangled from the chair, he paused to stare at his supervisor. “Fuck you! I quit.” Rushing out of the room, his phone was already in his hand. “Okay, Google, call Owen.” He was uncertain if he heard it ring before it was answered.

“Oh thank god you called. I’m losing it here. She’s gone, CJ. The fucker tied Infanta up and took Liebe with him.”

Realizing Owen was close to hysterics, CJ tried to tamp down his fears and anxiety. They both needed to be coherent to face the challenge. “We’ll get her back, Oz. I promise. But we both need to keep our cool.” CJ was unsure he could practice what he preached; he was barely keeping it together. “I’m headed to Lincoln’s office right now. Did he leave a note?” The thought of approaching the Diplomatic Security Service crossed CJ’s mind but, maybe because kidnappings in the U.S. were investigated by the FBI, Lincoln was his first choice. The fact the man was a close friend tilted the scales in his favor further.

“Yeah, he wants ten thousand dollars by tonight. He gave a time and place for the exchange. We have that in the safe here. Should I call him and tell him to come over?”

“No! Not yet, Oz. Let me talk to Linc first. I don’t want to put you at risk too.”

“Screw that! I don’t care about myself. We have to get Liebe back.”

“We will. I promise. How’s Infanta?” Sidestepping people in the crowded corridors, and trying not to crash into anything, CJ needed to keep his husband talking until he reached the FBI agent’s office. He did not want to risk Owen calling the kidnapper and saying something that would further endanger their daughter.

“She hasn’t stopped crying since I found her. She did say the front desk called to let her know Elpidio was on the way. When she opened the door, he pointed a gun at her. The man’s crazy, Ceej. If he hurts Liebe, I’ll strangle him myself.”

Later, CJ would recall the comment and smile. Owen was a borderline pacifist, but this showed how fiercely protective he was. Elpidio had poked a sleeping bear and was in danger of being mauled.

The door to Lincoln’s office was closed but that did not stop CJ. Without knocking he opened it and barged inside. “I need help.”

“Good morning to you too.” Lincoln leaned back in his chair and smiled. “What can I do for you?”

“Our bartender kidnapped Liebe and wants ten grand for her.”

The metamorphosis of Lincoln’s appearance was instantaneous; his placid expression was replaced with concern. However, he remained composed. “When did this happen?”

“This morning. I have Ozzie on the phone.” At that moment, CJ remembered to turn on the speakerphone. “Sorry, Oz. I’m in with Linc.”

“Ozzie, tell me what happened.” Lincoln had turned his attention to his computer screen while furiously typing away. “I just messaged DSS and Jimmy Chen. We’ll get her back.”

“I’m not exactly sure what happened.” Owen’s tone bordered on wailing; his distress clear.

“Breathe, Oz. We need clear heads so can find her.”

“I know that, CJ! Don’t be an asshole. What the fuck you think I’m trying to do.” For Owen to snap that way, he had to be in agony. “And yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ve never been this freaked out before. Linc, I left for a meeting after CJ headed to the embassy. Once I got to the office, my idiot coworkers had canceled it and not bothered to tell me. “I came back home and found Infanta duct-taped and gagged. As soon as I freed her, she started screaming and crying. Finally figured out what was happening when I saw the note. He wants the money by tonight.”

“Ozzie, take a picture of it and send it over.”

The door to Lincoln’s office slammed open when Jimmy Chen crashed through it. It banged against the wall, and for some unknown reason all CJ could think of was it might have broken. Moments later, the head of the embassy’s DSS contingent joined them.

CJ’s phone pinged before anyone could say anything. “It’s Ozzie’s text.” He placed the phone on Lincoln’s desk and the four men clustered together to read the ransom note. The photograph was clear and CJ translated it as he read. Elpidio warned them not to contact the police and to meet him that night at sunset in the park across the street from the apartment building.

“We live next to Bosque de Chapultepec.” The explanation was for the benefit of the DSS officer CJ had not interacted with much since arriving in Mexico.

“I wanted to call him and ask him to bring Liebe back now, but CJ said not yet.” Owen sounded miserable.

“Probably a smart decision, Ozzie.” Lincoln reclaimed his seat and stared at the men surrounding him. “I’ve met this guy a few times, and he never struck me as the violent type. Any idea what’s going on?”

Owen was able to shed light on the matter. “Infanta told me he kept apologizing and saying he needed the money for his sick mother. I’m not sure what’s wrong, but we know he looks after her.”

“Who the fuck cares! He took our daughter, and I’m going to kill the motherfucker.” CJ did not care about repercussions, his only goal was Liebe’s recovery.

“Down, CJ. Do we know where he lives?” Chen had his phone out and was typing on it.

“Yeah, I have his address. You think he’d take her home?” CJ scrolled through his contacts until he found it. “Texting it to you now.”

“Lincoln’s probably had more training with abductions than I’ve had, but I doubt he would take her to his place. Too easy for us to find her. However, even if Linc’s right about the guy not being violent by nature, I wouldn’t trust him to make rational decisions. It sounds like he may have reached the end of his rope. We should send someone over to check his place out anyway.”

The room felt stuffy. The men were tense, and Owen continued to demand action over the phone.

“Hang on one second, guys. I know he said no police, but since CJ’s first reaction was to come to a cop, I think you’re not interested in following his instructions.” Lincoln had everyone’s attention.

“Wrong, Linc. I came to you because I know you, but I don’t want Mexican cops involved. Who knows what would happen if they confront him with guns drawn.”

“Indulge me. I’ve worked closely with one guy I trust. Let me call him and bring him in.” In an obvious attempt to break CJ’s reluctance, Lincoln did not allow him to object. “No matter how we play this, we’re gonna be out in public when we pay him off and recover Liebe. We’re gonna need cops to help us after the exchange.”

“What’s this we shit?”

“You think I’m gonna let you meet this asshole on your own? He knows me, you can claim I’m your security, and once Liebe’s safe, we fuck him up.”

CJ smirked. “How can I resist? Who’s your cop?”

“Diego Sol. Smart and can keep his mouth shut. I’ve worked with him before.”

“Fine. Call him. I think I need to go home. Oz, how you holding up?”

“His note says not to tell the police or anyone else. Are we sure it won’t get out we’re working with the FBI and the Federales?”

“And DSS and the CIA. Owen, this is Jimmy. I messaged Langley as soon as I heard. Jake replied. We’re ready to help any way we can. We’d offer satellite coverage, but that’s probably overkill. We should be able to find this guy without it.”

CJ’s mind raced ahead of whatever everyone said; he tried to see angles and opportunities. Jake’s name coming up gave him an idea. “I’ll let Linc figure out the satellite shit, but tell Spike there’s something you all can do for us. I’ll pay whatever it costs. I need two private jets as soon as possible. One here in Mexico and one back in Washington.”

Lincoln stopped what he was doing on the computer and stared at CJ. “Evac and support. Your fathers.” He did not ask a question, having obviously deciphered CJ’s intentions. “Where to?”

“Both to Miami. When the media gets hold of this, my grandparents are gonna shit.”

“Smart move. Aba won’t relax until she sees Liebe’s well no matter what we tell her.” Lincoln had spent enough time around her to know how the woman would react. “Jimmy, why don’t you take CJ home? You guys can work on the planes with Jake, while I deal with the local angle. We have to bring the ambassador in. And public affairs. Rumors are going to start at some point, and they need to keep a lid on it until Liebe’s safe. CJ, tell your reporter friend. She can help you with media management.”

“Good idea. We’ll give her an interview in exchange. Oz. I’m coming home. Call the dads and let them know what’s going on. Tell them someone will reach out to them with info on a plane as soon as I can arrange for it.” He did not feel the need to have Owen tell the fathers to keep the whole thing quiet. CJ trusted them to do what was proper.

 

Nerves made him impatiently tap a foot once inside the car. Jimmy had borrowed a sedan from the embassy’s pool, sparking another idea in CJ’s mind. “Hey! Is that guy who took us to the ballet in December still around?”

“Sam?” Samuel Burgess, a former SAS agent, had driven CJ and Owen to the Bolshoi’s performance and the subsequent reception. “He might be. I can check. Why?”

“We’re gonna need someone to drive us to the airport once we have Liebe with us.”

“One of us can do it, CJ. If not, I’ll find someone else. Go ahead and call Jake now.”

 

“CJ! How you holding up, bud?” Jake must have been waiting for the call; he answered on the first ring.

“Not sure, Spike. I’m so hyped right now it feels like my heart wants to beat itself out of my chest. Can you help us?”

“What do you think? I did tell you you’d made a few admirers around here, but this would happen even if they didn’t exist. I’ll call your fathers when you and I get done, and I’ll make sure the company we’re using knows you guys are good for whatever the cost is. Jimmy said you want them flying to Miami?”

“Yeah… they need to be with my grandparents so the old people don’t freak out too much. That’s where I want the jet flying from Mexico too.”

“How soon do you need the one down there?”

“ASAP. When we get Liebe back, I want her in the air right away.”

“When’s the meeting with the kidnapper?”

“Tonight. Around sunset.”

“Plenty of time then. I’d prefer to send a plane down from here instead of finding someone in Mexico. It wouldn’t be hard, but I’d like to use a pilot we know well.”

“Whatever you think’s best. You have to realize I’m having to lean on you, Jimmy, Linc, and a couple others. I’m out of my depth here.”

“You’re doing great, bro. You may be scared, but you haven’t been petrified into inaction, and sounds like you’re thinking clearly. We’ll get through this together. Hang in there.”

“Thanks, Spike.”

“Okay, got a number for your dads. Let me get in touch with them. Once I have details on your pickup, I’ll text you and Jimmy.”

Moments after ending the conversation, CJ’s phone rang. It was Sergeant Austin MacKenzie. “What’s up, Austin? I’m in the middle of something here.”

“I know. It’s why I’m calling. We were just put on heightened alert, and privately Linc explained why to me. Whatever you need, we got your back. All of us do.”

“Oh, shit. Dude, you have to make sure the other guys don’t talk. Okay? The ransom note specified no contacting the authorities.”

“I don’t think you have to worry about that, CJ. I’m the only one who knows why right now, and that’s because of Lincoln. You know how all of us feel about you, and Liebe’s a favorite with the guys.”

“Thanks…” CJ realized how hard it would be to contain the news from breaking out, but he had to try. “If he hears about our reaction on the radio or TV, I’m afraid of what he’d do. We have to keep this quiet until we have Liebe back. No gossiping!”

“Not gonna happen. At least not from any of us talking. As far as anyone at the embassy’s concerned, we’re training.” Austin paused for a moment before making an offer. “A couple of our guys are snipers. If I tell them the real reason for our training, you’ll have them volunteering to blow the scumbag’s head off. We could set something

As much as CJ would have loved to see the kidnapper’s brains splattered on the ground, he was scared of what something like that could do to Liebe. Physical danger was the primary fear, but the possibility of ensuing trauma crossed his mind. “No, no, no. We can’t risk it. A million things could go wrong, and Liebe could get hurt. Plus that’s probably illegal.”

“Fuck illegal. We can deal with that after the asshole’s dead, and Liebe’s safe. She’s one of ours, so she’s our priority.”

“Thanks, Austin. I appreciate the offer, but I think we better skip the snipers. Gotta go, bud. We’re pulling into our building. I’ll be in touch once we have Liebe back.”

 

“OZ!” Slamming doors was apparently the theme of the day. The apartment’s flew open when CJ was finally able to get the key in the lock. He had asked Owen to ensure it was bolted.

“In the kitchen.” Owen stood watching a kettle on the stove, while Infanta sat on one of the stools sobbing.

CJ did not want to let go once he had the blond in his arms but realized he had to speak with Infanta. “Tea?”

Owen nodded. “It’s what Aussies do when stressed. This is the second pot already.”

“How are you Infanta? Are you hurt anywhere?”

Shaking her head, the woman managed to squeak out a no between sobs. “I’m sorry. I opened the door because it was him, but I couldn’t stop him. Liebe was in her room when he came in. and he said he would shoot her if I didn’t do what he said. I’m sorry.” Burying her head in her hands did not muffle the crying.

CJ leaned in and hugged her. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You did the right thing by not upsetting him. We’ll get Liebe back.”

“She has to be okay. I couldn’t live with myself if something bad happened.”

“Nothing bad’s going to happen.” CJ may have spoken to the nanny but his comment was as much for Owen’s benefit as his own. He had to believe they would untangle the mess. “Listen, why don’t you go home and rest. We’ll probably have a few more people come over, and we’ll wait until it’s time to meet Elpidio. I’ll call you when she’s home safe.”

“NO! Please don’t send me home. If there’s going to be more of you, you’ll all need to eat. I can fix food for everyone.”

CJ looked at Owen and saw him nodding. “It might be the best for her, Ceej. If she went home, she’d be alone and worried to death.” Owen turned his attention to Infanta. “What about Lupe? Don’t you have to be home for her?”

“She goes to the neighbor’s house every day until I get home. I’ll call my husband and let him know I have to work late. He’ll feed Lupe.”

CJ stood straight. “Okay, call him. I’ll make sure someone drives you home when this is all over.”

 

As hard as it was to think of Liebe in the kidnapper’s hands who knew where, waiting for nighttime drove CJ crazy. By midafternoon, his fathers were in the air and Brett called from the plane. “How you holding up?”

“I don’t know. I’m trying to keep it together, but all I wanna do’s strangle the motherfucker.”

“The fact you thought of flying to Miami so your grandparents wouldn’t freak out too much tells me you’re thinking clearly. Keep at it, CJ. Once we have Liebe with us, I’ll help you kill the bastard.”

CJ could not hold in the chuckle. “Yeah, right. You’ll be in Miami. Maybe Lincoln will hold him for me while I go nuts fucking his shit up.”

“Listen, try not to worry too much about him. Getting Liebe back’s the priority. By the way, César booked the large suite at the Biltmore for a week. We’ll all be together, and we can stay longer if you guys want to.”

“Thanks, Papa. One of us will call you as soon as we have her back.”

Felicia Barrosa had not been home when Owen tried to reach her, he left a message asking her to call about an urgent matter. She showed up at their apartment soon after talking to him. “How could he do this? He works for us or someone in the building a few times a week, making more money than the average person.”

“You know what the worst part is? If he had told us about his mother being so sick, we would have tried to find a way to help.” Owen had barely eaten, claiming he was not hungry, but the tea mug had become a fixture in his hand.

Felicia agreed not to break the news until after the embassy or the State Department issued a press release, so CJ and Owen allowed her to ask a few questions. She filmed using her phone. Combined with past video and whatever else became available post-rescue, she would be able to cobble together a report. She also promised to share her footage with other reporters once it was aired. It would save CJ and Owen from having to answer the same questions repeatedly.

Lincoln had called several times with updates. The ambassador sent her regards, reinforced everyone’s assertion the embassy’s resources were at CJ and Owen’s disposal, and explained not calling herself fearing she would interfere with their preparations. She wholeheartedly approved of Lincoln’s plan.

Diego Sol proved to be a tall, dark-haired man who looked and acted professionally. He and Lincoln had come by in late afternoon. “I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this Mr. Abelló, Mr. Liston. On behalf of my country and my fellow citizens, I apologize. I hope this incident does not damage your opinion of us.” Although he had addressed CJ and Owen by their last names, the man had insisted they use his first one.

“It’s one man, Diego, not the entire country. There’s no need for you to apologize.” Owen’s comment had CJ nod his agreement. “Our goal right now’s to get our girl back. Everything else’s irrelevant.”

“I have a good feeling we will, Mr. Liston. Mr. Suarez does not have a police record, and he sounds like a desperate man. My experience says this type of individual can at times be reasoned with. They may be breaking the law and imperiling an innocent person, but they tend to regret their actions even while engaging in whatever it is they’re doing.”

“I sure as shit hope so. Should I text him to let him know I have the money ready and that Lincoln will be with me when we meet for the exchange? I told Ozzie not to before but now I’m second-guessing myself.”

The consensus was to wait another hour before trying to contact Elpidio. When CJ did message him, there was no response. It was what was expected since they had tried tracking his phone but been unable to. Jimmy pointed out he probably had turned it off. Still, CJ and Owen had held hope maybe he would reply, and they could meet sooner.

As the indicated time grew closer, the driver Jimmy had arranged for arrived. Owen had packed a bag for himself and another one for Liebe, and they were taken down to the car. They would be ready to move as soon as the toddler was back with her parents. Until then, all they could do was pace and wait.

 

Owen, accompanied by the Mexican officer and the driver, left before the others. They drove to the park’s far end, and as planned, parked in the shadows. Owen and Diego would enter when notified the others were on the move.

 

“You texted him I’d be with you, right?” Lincoln had told CJ not to rush to the appointed spot; he feared Elpidio would be watching them and flee if he felt threatened.

“I did but the fucker didn’t reply to any of the messages. You have a gun with you?” CJ wished Lola was with him instead of in the safe back in Washington.

Lincoln did not answer the question. “There’s the bench he said to meet him at. Let’s go sit.”

“You nuts? I can’t sit. I’m barely keeping it together.”

“You’re doing great, CJ. In training, we’re forced to deal with people in your situation who crumble. You and Owen may be freaking out, but both of you have kept it together. Just a little more time, and this will be but a memory.”

“Yeah… not a happy one, though.”

Darkness crept between the trees as the sun dipped below the horizon. Amorphous pools of weak brightness formed beneath the widely-scattered light posts, and insect sounds provided an eery soundtrack. It was quiet otherwise. At that particular time of day, people retreated indoors to spend time with family or to ready themselves for an outing. The park was nearly empty.

Pacing in front of the bench, CJ’s tension rose by the moment. Lincoln, in contrast, remained composed. Both constantly scanned the five paths converging in front of them; Elpidio would approach from one of them.

“CEEJ!” Liebe’s call made CJ and Lincoln whip their heads in the direction it came from. In Elpidio’s arms, the girl struggled to get free of him. “Quiero caminar.”

“Hang on, Liebe. Don’t hurt yourself. I’ll come get you.” CJ took a step in their direction and slowly unshouldered his backpack. “The money’s in the bag, Elpidio. Like you asked. Put Liebe down, and I’ll trade you.”

Elpidio was visibly nervous. His head swiveled constantly and a hand never left his windbreaker’s pocket. CJ assumed the gun he had flashed at Infanta was there. He took another step forward, firmly holding the rucksack in front. Elpidio allowed Liebe to slide down his body but kept hold of her hand.

“I can put it on the ground, or I can toss it to you.” CJ bent his knees a smidgen and barely swung the bag. Whichever option the man chose, CJ was ready. “Just let her go and I’ll

A screeching radio jolted them. “Get ready to move in.”

“I SAID NO POLICE!” Elpidio took his hand out of the pocket and revealed the old .38 was in working order; he fired twice in the direction of the noise.

The momentary distraction was apparently what Lincoln was waiting for. He sprang ahead, furiously pumping his legs a couple of times, before diving. He crashed into Liebe who was already running toward her father.

Cocooned between the path and the large FBI agent, Liebe was protected from the shots Elpidio fired in their direction. Lincoln’s body shook each time a bullet struck his back.

“NOOO!” CJ swung the backpack, rifling it at Elpidio’s head, at the same time he threw himself at the kidnapper. He reached for the hand holding the gun, and Elpidio took the opportunity to smash his other fist into CJ’s face. The consequent pain did not make CJ relinquish the hold he had on the firearm.

The two struggled; each trying to gain control of the pistol. Neither was able to, and they rolled around the path, unable to assert dominance. CJ was strong but surprisingly so was Elpidio. The man was desperate enough to kidnap a kid and fought as if his life depended on the outcome. With him atop CJ, their battle came to a stop when the gun discharged. Blood freely flowed onto the asphalt.

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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