Written by Jean Lee, translated into English by Veronica Liu

My cell phone rang and I picked it up.  The caller on the other end of the line sounded like my daughter, soft spoken but unintelligible.  I can also hear some faint dog barking sounds in the background.  Then the line went silent.  

“Lynn” I asked, “Is your phone battery dying?”.  The above played once more and the line went quiet once again.   

“Lynn, you ok?”

A man’s voice came on loudly: “Listen up, I know who you are.  You can do this.”  He spoke for a couple of minutes, rapidly and not very clear.  My intuition was that my daughter had gotten him upset and he was going to take some action.

“I want $5,000.  Money easy come, easy go.  It’s nothing to you,” he said.

“I don’t have $5,000 on hand”, I replied.

“Listen! How much do you have in your cash box?”  

“May be around $100-$200.”  At this point, I know this was real trouble.  I took my phone, walked to the other end of the store where there’s pen and paper.  I wrote “Please call the police”.  I gave the note to Jesse, one of the two ladies that work in the store.  I also raised my voice a little more so the two women in the shop could hear my conversation with the person on the phone.  

“Where is my daughter?” I asked.  

“She is not with me, but in another car with two women.”  

“Are those two women her friends?”  I thought of her friends Beatrice and Diana. If they were with her, then the three of them may be able to run away from this fellow.  

He said, “No, they are my people!”

These are kidnappers, a group of them.  I need to stay calm, I told myself.

“What city is she at?”  At that moment I saw two policemen walking towards the shop, so I walked outside to meet the police.  

“Lynn is in Oakland.  Listen up!  Bring all your cash.  When I have the money, you will get her back, or else I will kill her.”  He continued using a lot of foul language, and really gave me a big scare.

The police signaled that I should try to get the person to stay on the phone.

“Ok, I’m going to go to the bank now to get cash,” I replied – a calmer voice now.

“10 minutes!”

The policemen wrote me something on a piece of paper and I read it to the caller.  The police shook his head and signed, as if I shouldn’t have read it out loud.  Then he told me to turn off the phone.  I said softly, “He will kill my daughter if I turn off the phone.”

How much do you have in the cash box?  Subconsciously, I think this guy is on drugs.  Should take the risk and listen to the police?

“If he calls again, just tell him that your phone is running low on battery. Ask him to call back after 10 minutes,”  the policeman advised me.

The kidnapper called immediately, “What’s going on?”  

“My phone is running out of battery.  Can you call me again in 10 minutes?”  

“No! I know you are just trying to play me.  You go to the bank right now!”

“No!  Go get the money right now!”

I asked, “Where should I meet you when I have the money?”

He said, “You get the money, then we talk.  Do you want your daughter back? Go to the bank this minute, or else you will never see her again.”

“Of course my daughter is more important than money.  What is your phone number?  When I get the cash I will call you.”

“Don’t hang up, just bring the phone to the bank.”

“Sure.  I am going right now.  Bank will close soon.”  I look at the clock, it is almost 5 pm.

“No! Bank never closes!” he yelled at me.  He then said in a demanding tone, “What is your bank’s name?”

“Wells Fargo.”

“What street?”

“Delaware.”  

Jesse, the lady who called the police whispered softly to me.  “No, it is on Hearst.”  I didn’t even noticed that she is beside me.  She is very thoughtful and caring.

“Is someone besides you?”

“No, I am by myself.”

“Go to the bank, I will give you 10 minutes.”

“I am on my way to the bank.”  The policeman kept shaking his head, and waving his hand, didn’t want me to go to the bank.  

I whispered softly that if I don’t get the money, I won’t see my daughter again.  

I do not remember what happened next.  

 

***

 

All I remember was that after a while, the police asked me where my daughter lives.  I told him she lives in Albany.  

He asked, “Where is she now?”

“I don’t know.”

“Call her.”

I thought if she is being held hostage, he might kill her if she answered the phone call.  Anyways, I picked up the store phone and called her.

“How are you, mama?” My daughter sounded happy and carefree.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?”

“Yes, I am at home, everything is fine.”

I sat down on the floor.  “I got really scared.  Let me have the police talk to you.”

Is this real or not real? I was so confused.

The police informed me that lately there are lots of incidents like this.  It seemed like a long time before my daughter came with a friend, and my husband arrived too.  

I sat on the floor, had no energy to get up.  I barely heard someone asking me if I was cold and why I was trembling.  I didn’t even know who was talking to me, but my husband put his jacket around me.  I needed his  caring and love at that moment.

“You should get a new cell phone and a new number,”  the police told me nicely.

I did not even notice that the policeman still had my cell phone!! Maybe he took it away from me when I was insisting on getting to the bank? Then, what happened?  I had no idea! He then said I should go to my old cell phone company and check to see who had called and they will get private detectives out there to look for this person.  He gave me his business card and said loudly, “remember it is 4:30 pm.”  

“Sweetheart, why don’t you take this week off and come stay with us?”

“No, mama.  Everything will be ok,” my daughter replied.  

She continued: “my roommate’s boyfriend is coming tonight and he will keep us company.”

I told my daughter to tell the security guard where she works, what happened today and ask him to keep an eye on her, but she refused.

I went home still feeling jumpy and nervous, almost to the point of getting sick.  I went for a massage, hoping that I could have a good night’s rest.  

The next day, I was still not myself.  When I saw Jesse, who made the phone call to the policeman, I thanked her and asked, “Were you able to sleep last night?”  

“No, I cried,”  she said.  “ I called my mom and she said this happens very often in the East Coast.”

**Dear Readers and friends: what actions will you take if this happens to you?  Please remember: Safety is priority.**   With love, Jean Lee.