The Kidnaping of Red Chief


This is a story with a delightful blend of humor and irony, with an unexpected twist. An adaptation of The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry. Be warned, you might find it difficult to contain your laughter.

We thought we had a great plan, but let me tell you what happened. Bill Driscoll and I were in Alabama when we came up with the idea to kidnap someone. Bill later said we had a crazy moment, but we didn’t realize it until later. There was this really flat town named Summit.

The people there were pretty simple and content. Bill and I had about six hundred dollars together, but we needed two thousand more for a scheme we had in Illinois. We discussed it outside the hotel.

We figured that people in small towns really care about their kids, so a kidnapping might work better there than in a big city where the news would make a big deal about it.

We weren’t worried about getting caught by the local police or their lazy dogs, and we didn’t think the town’s newspaper would be much trouble. So, the plan seemed good to us.

We decided to kidnap the only child of a well-known man in town, Ebenezer Dorset. The father was a serious guy, known for dealing with money matters and being strict in church. The kid was a ten-year-old boy with lots of freckles and hair the color of a cheap magazine.

Bill and I were sure that Ebenezer would pay $20,000 to get his son back. But let me tell you what happened. About two miles from Summit, there was a small mountain with a lot of cedar trees.

Behind the mountain was a cave where we stored our supplies. One evening, we drove past Dorset’s house and saw the kid outside, throwing rocks at a cat. Bill offered him candy and a ride.

The kid responded by hitting Bill in the eye with a brick. ‘That’s going to cost his dad an extra $10.000,’ said Bill, getting into the buggy. The boy fought hard, but we finally managed to get him into the buggy and drove off. We took him to the cave, and I hid the horse in the trees.

Later, I returned the buggy to the village where we rented it and walked back to the mountain. Bill was busy covering his scratches and bruises with band-aids.

Behind a large rock at the cave entrance, there was a fire burning, and the boy was watching a pot of coffee boil. He had two feathers in his red hair and pointed a stick at me, saying, ‘Ha! Cursed paleface, dare you enter Red Chief’s camp, the terror of the plains?’ Bill, checking his bruised legs, said, ‘He’s fine. We’re playing Indians. We make Buffalo Bill’s show look boring. I’m Old Hank, the Trapper, Red Chief’s prisoner, and he’s going to scalp me at dawn. Boy, he kicks hard.’

The boy was having a blast, forgetting he was kidnapped. He called me Snake-eye, the Spy, and said I’d be cooked at sunrise. Then we had dinner. He stuffed his mouth with bacon, bread, and gravy, and started talking non-stop. He said, ‘I love this. It’s my first time camping.

I had a possum and turned nine recently. School’s boring. Rats ate Jimmy’s aunt’s eggs. Are there real Indians around? I want more gravy. Do trees make wind? We had puppies. Why is your nose red, Hank? My dad’s rich. Are stars hot? I beat Ed Walker twice. Girls are yucky.

You can only catch toads with a string. Do oxen make noise? Why are oranges round? Do you have beds in here? Amos Murray has six toes. Parrots talk, but monkeys and fish can’t.

Every so often, he would remember he was playing an Indian, grab his stick that he used as a rifle, and sneak to the cave entrance to look for enemies. Sometimes he’d yell so loud that it made Old Hank the Trapper (that’s Bill) jump.

The kid really had Bill scared from the start. I asked the boy, ‘Red Chief, do you want to go home?’ He replied, ‘Why? I don’t have fun at home. I hate school. I love camping. You won’t make me go back, will you, Snake-eye?’ I told him we wouldn’t go back right away. He was thrilled and said he’d never had so much fun.

We went to sleep around eleven. We made beds with blankets and quilts and put Red Chief in the middle. We weren’t worried about him running away. But he kept us up for three hours, constantly grabbing his stick rifle and yelling ‘Listen!’ every time he thought he heard something.

It was his imagination, thinking outlaws were sneaking up on us. Finally, I managed to fall asleep but had a nightmare that I was kidnapped by a fierce pirate with red hair. I woke up at dawn to Bill’s terrified screams.

The noises coming from Bill weren’t normal screams. They were the kind of high-pitched, panicked yells you’d expect from someone really scared, like how some people scream at bugs.

It’s really something to hear a big, tough guy scream like that in a cave early in the morning. I got up to see what was happening.

Red Chief was sitting on Bill, one hand in his hair and the other holding our bacon-slicing knife, pretending to scalp him just like he said he would the night before.

I quickly took the knife from the kid and made him lie back down. But after that, Bill was totally freaked out. He lay there, but he couldn’t sleep at all while the kid was with us.

I fell asleep for a bit, but woke up again before sunrise, remembering the kid’s plan to ‘burn me at the stake.’ I wasn’t really scared, but I sat up. Bill asked why I was up so early. I just told him my shoulder hurt.

I just thought sitting up might help my shoulder,” I said. “You’re lying!” Bill replied. “You’re scared because the kid said he’d burn you at sunrise. He would’ve done it too, if he had a match. Isn’t it terrible, Sam? Do you really think someone would pay to get a troublemaker like him back?”

“Of course,” I answered. “Parents love their wild kids. Now, you and the Chief make breakfast while I check out the area.”

I climbed to the top of the hill to look around. I expected to see people from Summit searching for us, armed and ready. But all I saw was a calm scene with just one person plowing a field.

No one was searching the creek or sending messengers around. It seemed like they hadn’t even noticed the boy was missing. “The wolves have taken the lamb, and no one knows it yet,” I thought, and went back for breakfast.

When I got back, Bill was backed up against the cave wall, out of breath, and the boy was threatening him with a big rock. “He put a hot potato down my back and stepped on it, and I hit him,” Bill explained. “Do you have a gun, Sam?”

I took the rock from the boy and calmed them down. The kid warned Bill, saying that anyone who hits him will pay.

After breakfast, the kid took a piece of leather with strings from his pocket and went outside. Bill was worried. “He’s not going to run away, is he, Sam?” he asked. “No way,” I said. “He doesn’t seem to miss home. But we need to plan the ransom. Maybe they don’t realize he’s missing. They might think he’s with a neighbor. But he’ll be missed today. Tonight, we’ll send a message to his dad, asking for $20,000 for his return.” Just then, we heard a loud yell from the boy, like a victory cry.

But we need to figure out the ransom plan,” I was saying, just as Red Chief pulled out a sling and started swinging it over his head. I moved out of the way just in time to hear a loud thump and a sigh from Bill, like a relieved horse.

A rock had hit Bill right behind his ear. He collapsed into the fire and over the pan of hot water for the dishes. I pulled him out and cooled his head with water for about thirty minutes.

Eventually, Bill sat up, touched his ear, and asked me, “Sam, do you know who my favorite person in the Bible is?” I told him to relax and he’d feel better soon. “King Herod,” he said. “You’re not going to leave me alone with the kid, are you, Sam?” I went outside, grabbed the boy, and gave him a good shake. “Behave,” I warned, “or I’ll take you home. Are you going to be good?” He grumbled, saying it was just a joke and he didn’t mean to hurt Bill. He promised to behave if he could play ‘Scout’ and not be sent home.

“I don’t know that game,” I told him. “You and Mr. Bill figure it out. I have to go on a business trip. But first, make up with Bill and apologize.” I made them shake hands. Then, I told Bill I was going to Poplar Grove to find out what Summit thought of the kidnapping and to send a strict ransom note to Mr. Dorset.

“Sam,” Bill said, “I’ve been through a lot with you—earthquakes, fires, floods, poker games, police raids, you name it. But this kid is something else. He’s driving me crazy. You won’t leave me with him for too long, will you?” I promised to be back in the afternoon and reminded him to keep the boy entertained and quiet until then.

We need to write that letter to Mr. Dorset,” I said. Bill and I got to work on it while Red Chief, wrapped in a blanket, paced around like a guard. Bill pleaded to lower the ransom to $15.000, saying no one would pay $20,000 for such a wild kid.

To make him feel better, I agreed, and we wrote the letter. It basically said that Mr. Dorset had to pay $15.000 and leave it in a box by midnight, or he’d never see his son again.

After finishing the letter, I was about to leave when the kid reminded me he was supposed to play ‘Scout.’ He explained the game: he was the scout on a horse, warning people about incoming Indians. Bill, reluctantly, had to be the horse. “Keep him busy while I’m gone,” I told Bill, leaving for Poplar Grove.

In Poplar Grove, I heard people talking about the missing Dorset boy. I secretly mailed our ransom letter and returned to the cave. But when I got back, Bill and the boy were gone.

After searching, I finally found them. Bill looked exhausted and said he couldn’t take it anymore. He had played the horse, got fed sand, and answered endless questions. He finally dragged the boy down the mountain and sent him home.

“What happened, Bill?” I asked. “I was the horse for the whole ninety miles,” he said, “and then I had to explain all kinds of things to him.” He said he’d rather lose the ransom than go mad.

Bill was a mess, but relieved. I asked if he had heart disease, hinting for him to look behind. When he turned and saw the boy still there, he just collapsed in shock. I then explained my plan to get the ransom done that night if Mr. Dorset agreed.

Bill tried to cheer up and promised the kid they’d play a game involving a Russian and a Japanese war once he felt better. I had a clever plan to safely collect the ransom.

The tree where the response was to be left was in an open area, perfect for spotting anyone approaching. At half past eight, I was hidden in that tree, waiting. Right on time, a young boy on a bike arrived, left a note, and left.

An hour later, I grabbed the note and headed back to the cave. The note, in a messy handwriting, was from Mr. Dorset. He turned the tables on us, offering to take his son back if we paid him $2500. I was shocked, but Bill looked so desperate that I considered it. “What’s $2500, anyway?” Bill said. “One more night with this kid and I’ll go insane.” So, we decided to take the kid back and pay Dorset.

We tricked the kid into going home by telling him his dad bought him a rifle and moccasins for bear hunting. At midnight, instead of collecting $1,500, we were giving Mr. Dorset $2500.

The kid threw a huge tantrum when he realized we were leaving him. His dad peeled him off Bill, promising to hold him for ten minutes. Bill ran so fast that I barely caught up with him, even in the dark and despite his size.

And that’s the end of our kidnapping adventure with the “Red Chief.”

You may want to read next: The Great Pancake EscapeThe Peru Manuscript

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