Saturday afternoon, my sister-in-law, Carolina, called from Bogotá. She asked me how we were doing—repeatedly, the way her mother does—then she asked to speak to my wife. My wife wasn’t home, so Carolina asked me to have her call, since “we have a little problem.”
Carolina sounded fine, so I didn’t understand why my wife looked worried when I gave her the message. “You don’t know Carolina. She’s always relaxed. If she says there’s a little problem, it’s serious.”
My wife didn’t reach Carolina until after church on Sunday. I was in and out of the room while she talked, so I didn’t realize something was wrong. I saw her shake her hand, fingers together and palm down, but even that is ambiguous: She does it when she says she’s embarrassed, too. I stopped what I was doing when I saw tears in her eyes.
My wife’s older brother Oscar was supposed to go to my mother-in-law’s house Tuesday night, but he hadn’t shown up. The family could not locate him or his fiancée, that night or the next day. On Wednesday, my mother-in-law got an anonymous call: Oscar had been kidnapped. The family would receive instructions about a ransom, and, if they ever wanted to see him again, they would follow the instructions exactly. Over the next two...