EASTER DARKNESS

Craig ‘Spider’ Ward sat on his Cabo villa balcony watching the lighthouse beacon atop the hill where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. He could hear the roar of giant waves crashing against the rocky shoreline some 400’ below. The lights of a southbound cruise ship interrupted the stark ocean darkness. He smiled as he sipped coffee, remembering his wife Savannah’s note beside the coffee pot:  “Wake me at 8:30…love you”. This ritual started after he retired from the Air Force and transitioned from fighter pilot to airline pilot. Waking her with a little ‘coffee in her cream’ was a small act of service for a beautiful lady. She had raised three wonderful kids and, after 37 years of marriage, was even more stunning than the day they married. Life was good.


As the first rays of sunlight awakened the morning sky, the beacon faded into the dawning day. Today was Easter, and Spider recalled how an empty grave nearly 2000 years ago meant a guiding Light for a darkened world…much like the lighthouse beacon. He took a moment to silently reflect, then decided to take his morning run on the golf course that leads to the lighthouse.
 

The run proved exhilarating. Tough in places, but for a guy with the nickname ‘Spider’, it was child’s play.  As Craig started his descent toward the ocean, a van exited a side road on his left. As it pulled alongside, he read ‘Gourmet Catering’ in red. An accented voice said, “Amigo, the course will not open for another week.  You cannot be here. Get in. We will take you off the hill.”

Spider slowed his jog, turned and saw a large Hispanic driver and a pretty female passenger. “Oh, I didn’t know. Thanks for the offer, but I will get off the course ASAP.”  

“Ok, would you like a bottle of water?”  

“Thank you, yes.” Spider stopped as the van pulled over. The driver opened his door and handed Spider a bottle with his left hand. As Spider took the water, the driver’s right hand flashed toward him and the barrel of a 40-caliber Glock rested against Spider’s left temple.  


“Raise your hands very slowly, Señor Ward.”  

Spider was taken aback. He knows my name. Every survival instinct was now engaged. He dropped the water bottle and slowly raised his hands, staring intently at his attacker. In a flash, Spider’s left hand grabbed the Glock and yanked it violently in a clockwise circle. Spider’s right hand formed a claw, and he raked his fingernails from the top of the attacker’s head through his eyes.As his attacker screamed, Spider rammed the base of his open palm into his attacker’s throat. The attacker fell heavily to the ground. Spider heard a popping sound, felt a sting below his left ribcage, and 20,000 volts of electricity ravaged his body. The light of day faded, and there was only darkness.


Savannah woke to sunlight streaming from around the blackout curtains. She slept well after a fabulous evening with Craig at Sunset De Mona Lisa. She did not hear him leave this morning, but she rarely does. Most days his light kiss and the smell of hot coffee start her day—a time she relishes. Speaking of coffee, she checked the clock: 9:15. Grabbing her robe, she ruffled her curly hair, and walked to the kitchen. No sign of Craig, but he had made coffee. Pouring a cup, she walked onto the balcony, looked down
at the beautiful surf, and scanned up to the lighthouse. She opened her iPad, clicked on Facebook, and started to catch up.  Ding. A message appeared from Craig’s phone. She opened the message. Her chest tightened till she could hardly breathe. Tears filled her
eyes as the coffee cup dropped from her hand and crashed onto the floor. Be strong, Craig needs me strong.

She read the message again slowly: “Good morning, Savannah. My name is Frank. I am messaging you for Mr. Ward. He is in our care. For $450,000, you can have him back. DO NOT CALL THE POLICE. You want to share more years with him, right? We are not patient people.  I will call your cell phone at noon with arrangements. We are watching you…Happy Easter.”

“William!” Savannah screamed into the phone. “Craig’s been kidnapped. I didn’t know who to call.”

“OK, Savannah, I’m here.” William had been a personal friend and the Ward family financial guy for a decade. “Tell me what you know.”  

Savannah read him the message. “We have people in Cabo. A lady named Sonya Cooper will be at your villa within the hour. Follow her guidance. We will get Craig back safe and sound.” The tears returned as Savannah did the only thing she knew to do…pray.


A housemaid stepped through the villa door. She extended her hand, and in perfect English said, “Mrs. Ward, I’m Sonya, William’s associate.”  

“But William said—”

“I understand that the kidnappers will call at noon. We have 20 minutes to prepare. Did Craig bring his Mac computer with him?”  

“Yes, it’s on the table. But I don’t understand.”

Sonya continued, “Your husband has been a CIA consultant since his test work in the Air Force. With his computer, I can track his cell phone. We have a team in place. We need to make sure he is with his cell phone so, when they contact you, ask them to answer a question only he and you would know. Be emotional, scared, pleading, as a wife should be. Can you do that?” Savannah slowly nodded her head.

The phone rang. Shakily, Savannah answered, “Hello.”  

“Are you ready for your instructions, Mrs. Ward?”

“I want to talk to Craig!”  

“Not today or any day, unless you do as told.” Frank hissed and then continued with the ransom instructions.  

As he finished, Savannah said, “I need to know he’s alive. Last night we talked about a new bucket list cruise…where to…ask him…where to?”  

A short silence then, “Panama Canal. Good trip. Beats finding him in a lonely sand trap on #17.” The line went dead. There was something familiar in Frank’s voice. And the reference to #17’s sand trap. The resort tour guide had mentioned the same—American, he was American. Savannah quickly filled Sonya in.

“Marina District, near Cabo Wabo and the mall,“ Sonya barked into the phone. A short pause followed as she listened to the response.

She lowered her phone and turned to Savannah. “Action has started to recover Craig. We feel your tour guide and his friends are low-level kidnappers. However, we cannot allow Craig to be taken off the peninsula. He is a survivor, well-trained, and committed. He understands his value. “


Spider lay on a small cot, hands cuffed in front of his body; his feet loosely tied to the cot–both mistakes if he was fully functional. But the effects of the taser lingered, and
use of his extremities was limited. Three Hispanic kidnappers occupied the room: ‘Driver’, heavily bandaged with a patch covering one eye; ‘Pretty’, the female passenger; and ‘Shrimp’, small dude with tattoos. Spider closed his eyes.  

“What wrong, Señor? Headache?” Pretty asked.

“No, just praying.”

“My grandmother prays. Taught us. Jesus no help you today.”  

“I wasn’t praying for me. I was praying for you. I will add your grandmother.”  

“What you say?”  

Spider continued, “I pray your grandmother peace when you are taken prisoner or killed. She will need light in that dark moment.”  

Pretty looked at him but said nothing.  


Suddenly, a window above Spider exploded. Shrimp sank to the ground, minus the left side of his head. Another window breaks — tear gas started to fill the large room. Driver ran toward Spider with his gun drawn. Spider rolled to find cover. Shots rang out. Blood splattered across Spider’s forehead as Pretty landed on his chest.  He couldn’t move. More shots rang out. Then all went silent. Four men entered the room, gas masks on. Pretty rolled over, looked at Spider and whispered, “ I take your bullets. Tell my grandmother so she know. Pray for me.”  

Spider leaned close to her, “I will. Lord, bring your Light to this woman. Forgive her of her sins as I have forgiven her…“ Pretty closed her eyes, smiled, and took her final breath as the rescuers lifted her and set Craig free.

——–

“Wow, a private sunset cruise with full gourmet catering…didn’t know my pilot was so important,” Savannah said, lifting her eyebrows as they motored by the famous rock arch.  

“Well, one must have surprises in life to keep it interesting,” Craig deadpanned.  

“Too interesting for me. Tell me that you are fully retiring, please.”  

Craig smiled. “Well, actually, you like to travel, and the agency wants us to travel. They were impressed you connected the dots to our guide. So, I suggested they bring you onboard. We make a great team.”  

Savannah leaned back and kissed Spider softly, “Now there is a surprising thought.”    





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