A Kidnapping in Haiti


Fabby Kidnapped

In December 2006, Francky received two anonymous phone calls a week apart. Both followed the same script. Francky answered. The man on the other end said, “The chief of kidnapping wants to talk to you.” “Okay,” Francky said. “Let me speak to him.” Francky waited to speak with the chief of kidnapping, but no one came to the phone. Francky ended the call. Twice this happened.

Francky told his friends about the calls. They said, “Be cautious. Don’t come home late.” He began to change his daily patterns. If he shopped on Monday one week, he shopped on Wednesday the next. He tried to take different routes each time he visited the city. He started coming home early every day, well before dark.

On January 19, 2007, he went to bed, but he remembered that he had not closed one of the house doors. The interior door was closed but not the exterior door. He got up, closed the door, and went to bed. He looked at the clock. It was 12:30 AM.

A few minutes later, Francky got up to use the bathroom. Tania’s sister Claudette and her friend Nadia were awake in the bedroom they shared. They said they heard somebody in the yard. They thought it might be Francky’s friend Serge, who had been sleeping in the storage room downstairs most nights; when they checked to see if it was him, they found him downstairs and not in the yard. Through the window, they saw flashlights.

Francky heard footsteps on the front porch. There were three knocks at the house door. By now everyone in the house was awake. Francky told Serge to check the window again. Serge said there were a bunch of men in the yard and more by the gate. He asked if the men who were working on the cistern had come early. Tania said, “It’s 12:30 AM. If there are men outside, they are thieves. Whatever you do, don’t let them in.”

Francky picked up the phone in one hand and his pistol in the other. He shot through the front door. Outside he heard one of the men yell to the others, “Go to the other doors, the other windows. They have guns in the house.”

The men began to beat on the doors. They shot through the front door. Francky shot through the front door. They yelled that they had bigger guns. Some of them began to work at the front door with crowbars.

Francky told the women to hide themselves and the children. Nadia hid herself under her bed and began to pray that if they got in, they wouldn’t hurt anyone. Tania gathered the children into her bedroom and put them in the back of the room for fear they would be hit by a ricocheting bullet. She put 5-year-old Talor on the mattress. Fabby, her 2-year-old daughter stood next to her. She held 11-month-old Jodams in her arms.

Francky dialed the number of a policeman he had consulted about the callers earlier in the day. Tania said, “What are you doing? Hang up. Maybe the policeman is in on it. Maybe those are his friends outside. Get off the phone.”

They heard the exterior door give. The men pried it off its hinges. They started working on the interior door. Tania said, “Get in the bedroom and shut the bedroom door.” The door was made of iron. There was some chance it would hold for awhile.

Francky hid his gun. He had heard that kidnappers liked to kill the man of the house with his own gun. He said, “I think we’re going to die.” Tania said, “Get away from the door.

Outside, they could hear the men rummaging through the house, yelling, “Where are you?” and firing their guns into the ceiling. A voice yelled, “If you don’t come out, we will burn this house down.”

They could track the progress of the men’s feet, through the living room, through the kitchen, toward the bedroom Nadia shared with Clonette. They broke down the door to that bedroom. Clonette was in the bed under the covers. Nadia was underneath it. They ripped the sheet from Clonette’s body. They yelled, “Where is Francky? Go get Francky.”

Clonette knocked at Francky and Tania’s bedroom door. She said, “Please open the door.” Francky had no choice. He was sure they would rape and kill Clonette and Nadia if he didn’t.

He opened the door. One of the men slapped Francky twice on each side of his face. He turned Francky around, tied his hands behind his back, made him lie on the floor, and disconnected the power inverter. The room went dark except for the flashlights the men carried.

A big man came into the room with a shotgun slung across his back and a gun in each hand. He said, “Don’t hit Francky anymore. Leave him alone.”

The big man leaned down and put his face close to Francky’s. “Where is your gun?” he said. Francky didn’t answer.

The big man took Jodams from Tania, held him in the air by one of his hands, and said, “If you don’t tell me where the gun is, I will fill him with bullets.”

Tania told Serge to get the gun. The big man hit Serge on the shoulder with the butt of his gun and said, “Go get the gun.” Tania said, “Quit hitting him. He’ll get it for you.” The big man told Tania to shut up. Jodams began to cry. The big man shot into the ceiling. Tania feared the ricochet hit Talor or Fabby. She checked. The bullet missed them.

Serge brought the gun. The big man threw Jodams to the ground. The big man said to Francky, “I thought you were a pastor.” Francky said he would like to study to be a pastor. The big man said, “I see you have three trucks in the road.”

“What do you want?” Francky said.

“You know exactly what I want,” the big man said.

“No,” Francky said. “I don’t know.”

“How much money do you have in the house?”

“You can believe me if you want,” Francky said. “I don’t have any money in the house. Outside in the truck I have my wallet. It has 50 dollars Haitian, $20 American.”

“You don’t have any money here?” the big man said. “All the cars outside are yours?”

“No,” Francky said. “The Terios belongs to one of my neighbors. The Daihatsu belongs to another guy. The Mitsubishi L-200, that’s mine.” He gave them the keys.

“Where is your ID?” the big man said.

“It’s all in my wallet,” Francky said.

The men took everything they wanted from the bedroom. They took one of Francky’s cell phones and showed him that they were taking it. Then they went into the living room and bickered. It was dark in the bedroom.

The big man came back into the bedroom. He shined his flashlight on the children. “These your kids?” he said.

“Yes,” Francky said.

He turned his flashlight on Fabby, the 2-year-old girl. “Take her,” he said.

Two of the men grabbed her and hauled her away screaming and crying.

Tania pled with them. “Please. She’s my precious. She’s in pajamas.”

The big man told Francky he would leave his wallet outside for him. “Listen,” the big man said. “You’re indebted for $200,000.”

Outside they could hear the truck starting. Tania told Serge to untie Francky.

“No,” Francky said. “Wait until they’re gone.”

One of the kidnappers came back into the house looking for Tania’s wedding ring and whatever jewelry he could find. Another came and demanded everyone’s tennis shoes. Finally, they left, straight up the hill from the house.

For awhile it was quiet in the house. Then they heard the voices of neighbors outside saying, “Where are you? Where are you?” The neighbors called to one another in the night, and in minutes, the house was full of people who immediately started to clean up where the windows and doors had been torn down. Francky’s mother came into the house crying. Soon everyone was crying.

Tania heard her neighbors and Francky’s family cleaning in the other room and felt that she should help, but she had no strength. She asked her friend Rosemarie, who had grown up with her in the orphanage, to call Lonnie Murphy, the American missionary who helped raise them. When Murphy arrived, Tania said, “What will we do? We don’t have much money saved up.”

Lonnie did not want to stay. If the kidnappers believed the family had American connections, they would be less likely to negotiate and more likely to kill Fabby. And if Tania and Francky were able to meet a large ransom demand, a second kidnapping would become more likely. So Lonnie left the house.

A woman from Francky’s family came into the bedroom and told Tania that the living room was full of people and she must make an appearance and greet everyone who had come to see her. She did not want to go. She was full of dread at the social obligation—these people would have to be entertained, these people would have to be fed—and she was tired, and she was frightened for the life of her daughter. But she summoned the courage. She sat for awhile in the living room. People kept asking, “What happened? What happened?” But she could not answer them. All she could think about what her daughter, Fabby: Where was she, where were they taking her, what were they doing to her there, and why her?

Francky’s mother began to fuss at Tania for being so upset, for crying so openly. “Relax,” she said.

When the sun rose, between 5 and 6 AM, more people arrived, and the house was so full it was hard to move around. Tania’s head throbbed. She wanted to go into the bedroom to lie down. “Eat,” Francky’s mother said. “I’m not going to eat,” Tania said, “until we find Fabby.”

Finally, she went into the bedroom, but the phone began rang. It was Francky’s father who was visiting Francky’s sister in upstate New York. “I don’t have time to talk,” Tania said. Francky’s sister got on the phone. “If you can’t speak to my dad, speak to me,”  she said. “I need something to encourage me.” So Tania tried.

Another of Francky’s sisters came into the bedroom. “Tell me, Tania,” she said. “Why Fabby? Why us? We’ve never done anything to anybody.”

“I don’t know,” Tania said. “It happened. Nobody got killed. Those guys had big guns. They could have killed anyone.”

Francky came into the bedroom and tried to call the cell phone that the kidnappers stole, but there was no connection.

Throughout the morning, people continued to come and go, but the house remained full. For awhile Tania sat with her sister Rosemina, and Tiza, another girl who had been raised in the orphanage. They sat and could not speak. There is a word for this in Haitian Creole, Sézi, a semi-conscious state almost like the immediate aftermath of a heart attack, which comes after bad news.

Francky’s skin grew black, and he began to look smaller. People in the house realized he was in shock. His mother and his sister Emma made remedies in the kitchen. They drained olive oil into a pot, poured salt in the olive oil, and beat the mixture to a froth. They picked leaves from the yard and used them to make a bitter tea. They made a drink of amido mixed with honey. They served these to everyone who was in the house during the kidnapping and promised to keep serving them every day until Fabby  returned safely.

That afternoon the people in the living room began singing hymns from the Creole hymnal and reading Psalms about persecution and holding a prayer service in the front room. Friday evening passed with no contact from the kidnappers. 24 hours and no word about Fabby.

Kyle Minor is the winner of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize for Short Fiction. His second collection of short fiction, Praying Drunk, will be published in 2014 by Sarabande Books. His recent work appears in The Southern Review, Gulf Coast, Best American Mystery Stories, and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. More from this author →