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When someone wealthy is kidnapped, it makes sense to us. The motive is obvious, the ransom money is raised, and we may even think secretly that somehow he deserved it. But when a John Doe is abducted--a...
When someone wealthy is kidnapped, it makes sense to us. The motive is obvious, the ransom money is raised, and we may even think secretly that somehow he deserved it. But when a John Doe is abducted--a mailboy named Aaron Greene, say--we might sit up and take notice, realizing that the missing person could be our son or daughter, our sister or brother--or us.
He is barely a year out of high school, but even his former teachers scarcely remember the shy young man who disappears on his way to work in the mailroom of a powerful downtown bank in Atlanta. The kidnappers demand ten million dollars for his life--with one condition: The money is to come from the bank, not Aaron's parents. But the bank refuses to pay. Suddenly, Aaron is the quiet eye in the center of a hurricane of public outrage that sweeps the nation. On call-in shows and on every street corner, the same questions are being asked: Where is Aaron? Who could possibly be responsible for this? What is being done by the authorities? And the most important question of all: How much is the life of a nonentity like Aaron Greene really worth?
Meanwhile, in an environment he would never expect, guarded by people who care nothing for his ransom money, Aaron waits...
On the morning that he would be kidnapped, Aaron Greene left his umbrella at home.
His mother had warned of rain. It was in the forecast, she Lid said in her small, fretting voice. She had urged him to wear his raincoat and to take his umbrella, but he had forgotten the umbrella in the rush of leaving, and now he thought of the five blocks he would have to walk from the Omni station to the Century National Bank, and of the morning crowd that would push against him in its hurried dash through the fine mist of the ram that had begun during the tram ride from Decatur.
Aaron did not like the morning crowd. The morning crowd was impersonal, sleep-drugged, somber. The morning crowd moved to the pull of job clocks. The morning crowd did not speak.
The morning crowd was there each day at the Decatur tram station, and at each stop on the ride into Atlanta--at East Lake, Candler Park, Inman Park, King Memorial--it invaded the train, pressing into the aisles, hovering over filled seats, their hands curled around ceiling handrails like somnolent birds. In the city, the tram emptied stop by stop and the morning crowd flowed out onto the sidewalks and divided itself into thin streams at crossing lights.
Aaron was part of the train ride and the crush of bodies and the hurrying, and he did not like it. He did not have the bravery for crowds. Had never had it. He had always felt uncomfortable and awkward and embarrassed. His mother had explained that it was not an affliction, but shyness-that shy people were gentle (too gentle, she said) and that someday he would accept the tranquillity of Ids nature. His mother was also shy; she wouldnot leave her home alone.
An older man in an expensive raincoat over an expensive suit sat beside Aaron on the train seat, reading the morning newspaper. The man had an umbrella wedged between his legs and Aaron's legs, and Aaron remembered the morning--it was in November--that a woman's eye had been stabbed by the metal rib of an umbrella opened quickly and carelessly. The man who held the umbrella had stared irritably at the woman and then had turned and walked briskly away from the sound of her screaming.
In the rain, the morning crowd was always more violent.
Aaron stared at the window beside his face. He saw his pale reflection simmering in the wet glass. A string of water, like a clear, bloodless capillary, ran across his mirrored forehead, through his eye, and over the comer of his mouth. From the seat behind him, he heard the voices of two boys. They were talking of the Atlanta Hawks.
"Man, they ain't got Mutombo, they ain't got nothing."
"What about Mookie?"
"He's all right, but Mutombo's the man. Best thing they ever done was get Mutombo."
"He's good. I ain't saying he ain't."
"That's who I play like: Mutombo. You come down the middle on me, I kick ass and do the finger-wave."
Aaron turned his head slightly and looked into the window behind him. In the reflection, he saw the boys. One was black, tall, broad-shouldered, his nose braided with a gold pin. The other was white, a slight build, his hair pulled into a pigtail. They were laughing, bobbing their bodies to an unheard music. Aaron knew the black boy.
His name was Doobie. That was what he was called. Maybe not his real name, but his called name. Doobie. He had played on the high school basketball team and had been in Aaron's algebra class. Once, he had borrowed a pencil from Aaron, but never returned it.
"Yeah, Mutombo," the white boy said. "You Mutombo, all right. You more like Spud Webb."
The two laughed easily. The boy who would be Dikembe Mutombo, the giant, made a motion of dunking a basketball, his long arm flying up and downward in the wavering reflection of the window. "Swissssh," he said.
Aaron turned his face from the window and listened to the laughter behind him crawl over the seat and fall on his shoulders. Though the house that his parents had bought ten years earlier had a basketball goal in the backyard, Aaron had never owned a basketball. He had never taken a shot at a basket. He had only dreamed of being a basketball player. Sometimes when he saw basketball games on television, he imagined that he was a player, leaping with grace through the shout-filled air of a gymnasium, the ball leaving his fingertips in a splendid arc. And in those moments--in the flickering, slow-motion beauty of his dream-Aaron understood the breathless sensation of celebration, the song of joy from people seized by awe.
There goes Aaron Greene.
Aaron Greene can fly. He has wings.
Aaron, Aaron, let me ouch you. Let me touch you.
The people would reach with their fingers of praise as he walked among them and their fingers would slide over him like a warm wind.
In the flickering, slow-motion beauty of his dream, Aaron Greene was a god.
Aaron looked again at himself in the rain-streaked window of the train. The person he saw could not fly. There were no fingers of praise clawing for him. The person he saw was small and afraid.Kidnapping of Aaron Green, The. Copyright © by Terry Kay. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.