News of a Kidnapping 3 d33c1810
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    News of a Kidnapping

    Episode 31

    The four guards who had been with them since the first day were replaced by another four early in December. One was distinctive and strange and looked like a character in a horror movie. They called him Gorilla, and in fact he resembled one: enormous and strong as a gladiator, with dark black skin covered in thick, curly hair. His voice was so loud he had difficulty whispering, and no one dared to ask him to lower his voice. The sense of inferiority felt by the other guards was obvious. Instead of the cut-offs worn by everyone else, he wore gymnast’s shorts, a ski mask, and a tight undershirt that displayed his perfect torso. He had a Holy Infant medal around his neck, handsome arms, and a Brazilian wristband that he wore for good luck. His hands were enormous, and the fate lines seemed etched into his pale palms. He barely fit into the room, and every time he moved he left chaos in his wake. For the hostages, who had learned how to deal with the previous guards, this was a disturbing turn of events—above all for Beatriz, whom he hated on sight.

    The condition shared by both guards and hostages was absolute boredom. As a prelude to their celebration of Christmas, the owners of the house held a novena with a priest of their acquaintance, perhaps innocent, perhaps not. They prayed, sang carols, gave candy to the children, and toasted one another with the apple wine that was the family’s official drink. At the end the house was exorcised with sprinklings of holy water. They needed so much that it was brought in gallon oil cans. When the priest left, Damaris came into the room and sprinkled the television, the mattresses, and the walls. The three captives, taken by surprise, did not know what to do. “It is holy water,” she said as she sprinkled everything with her hand. “It’ll help to make sure nothing happens to us.” The guards crossed themselves, fell to their knees, and received the purifying shower with angelic devotion.

    That love of parties and prayer, so typical of Antioquians, did not let up for a moment during the month of December. Maruja, in fact, had been careful not to let her captors know that December 9 was her fifty-third birthday. Beatriz agreed to keep the secret, but the guards found out while they were watching a special television program that Maruja’s children dedicated to her on the evening of December 8.

    The guards could not hide their emotion at feeling themselves somehow involved in the intimacy of the program. “Doña Maruja,” said one, “how young Dr. Villamizar looks, how nice he looks, how he loves you.” They hoped Maruja would introduce them to her daughters so they could take them out. In any case, watching that program in captivity was like being dead and watching life from the next world without taking part, and without the living knowing you were there. At eleven the next morning, the major-domo and his wife burst into the room with a bottle of local champagne, enough glasses for everyone, and a cake that looked as if it were covered in toothpaste. They congratulated

    Maruja with great displays of affection, and they and the guards sang “Happy Birthday.”

    They all ate and drank, and left Maruja struggling with contrary emotions.

    JUAN VITTA WOKE on November 26 to learn that he was being released because of ill health. He froze in terror, for in recent days he had been feeling better than ever, and he thought the announcement was simply a subterfuge that would give the public its first corpse. As a consequence, when the guard told him a few hours later to get ready for his release, he had an attack of panic. “I would have preferred to die on my own,” he has said, “but if this was my fate, I had to accept it.” He was told to shave and put on clean clothes, and he did, certain he was dressing for his own funeral. He was given instructions on what he must do once he was free, and above all, on what he must say during press interviews to avoid giving clues the police might use in a rescue operation.

    A little after twelve, they drove him through some labyrinthine districts in Medellín and then, without ceremony, dropped him off on a street corner.

    After Vitta’s release they moved Hero Buss again, this time to a good neighborhood, across the street from an aerobics school for women. The owner of the house was a free-spending, high-living mulatto. His wife, about thirty-five years old and in her seventh month of pregnancy, spent the day from breakfast on covering herself in expensive jewelry that was far too noticeable. They had a young son who was staying in another house with his grandmother, and it was his room, filled with every kind of mechanical toy, that was occupied by Hero Buss. And he, considering how they made him part of the family, prepared himself for a long captivity.

    The owners must have enjoyed this German like the ones in Marlene Dietrich’s movies: more than six feet tall and a yard wide, a fifty-year-old adolescent with a sense of humor that protected him from creditors, and who spoke a Spanish spiced with the Caribbean slang of his wife, Carmen Santiago. He had faced real dangers as a correspondent for German newspapers and radio in Latin America, including the night he had spent, under the military regime in Chile, expecting to be shot at dawn. So he already had a tough hide, and could enjoy the folkloric aspects of his captivity.

    And it was just as well in a house where a courier made regular visits bringing bags full of money for expenses, and still there was never enough. The owners would spend it as soon as they could on parties and trinkets, and in a few days they had nothing left for food. On weekends they gave parties and huge dinners for their brothers and sisters, cousins and close friends. Children took over the house. On the first day they were overwhelmed with emotion when they recognized the German giant, whom they treated as if he were a soap opera star because they had seen him so often on television. No fewer than thirty people who had nothing to do with the abduction asked to take his picture, requested autographs, ate with him, and even danced with him, all without masks in that madhouse where he lived until his captivity ended.

    Their accumulated debts drove the owners to distraction, and they had to pawn the television, the VCR, the stereo, whatever, to feed the hostage. The wife’s jewelry began to disappear from her throat, wrists, and ears, until there was nothing left. Once, in the middle of the night, the owner woke Hero Buss to ask for a loan because his wife had gone into labor and he did not have a penny to pay the hospital. Hero Buss lent him his last fifty thousand pesos.

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    Journal d’un Enlèvement

    Désolé! Actuellement, ce projet n’a pas de version française.

    De plus amples informations en français sont disponibles sur la page portail de ce projet, sous l’onglet Français.

  • ES
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    Noticia de un Secuestro

    Episodio 31

    Los cuatro guardianes que habían estado con ellas desde el primer día fueron reemplazados por otros cuatro a principios de diciembre. Entre ellos, uno distinto y extraño, que parecía sacado de una película truculenta. Lo llamaban el Gorila, y en verdad lo parecía: enorme, de una fortaleza de gladiador y con la piel negra retinta, cubierta de vellos rizados. Su voz era tan estentórea que no lograba dominarla para susurrar, y nadie se atrevió a exigírselo.

    Era patente el sentimiento de inferioridad de los otros frentes a él. En vez de los pantalones cortos de todos usaba una trusa de gimnasta. Tenía el pasamontañas y una camiseta apretada que mostraba el torso perfecto con la medalla del Divino Niño en el cuello, unos brazos hermosos con un cintillo brasileño en el pulso para la buena suerte y las manos enormes con las líneas del destino como grabadas a fuego vivo en las palmas descoloridas.

    Apenas si cabía en el cuarto, y cada vez que se movía dejaba a su paso un rastro de desorden. Para los rehenes, que habían aprendido a manejar los anteriores, fue una mala visita. Sobre todo para Beatriz, que se ganó su odio de inmediato.

    El signo común de los guardianes, como el de las rehenes, por aquellos días era el aburrimiento. Como preludio de los jolgorios de Navidad, los dueños de casa hicieron una novena con algún párroco amigo, inocente o cómplice. Rezaron, cantaron villancicos a coro, repartieron dulces a los niños y brindaron con el vino de manzana que era la bebida oficial de la familia. Al final exorcizaron la casa con aspersiones de agua bendita.

    Necesitaron tanta, que la llevaron en galones de petróleo. Cuando el sacerdote se fue, la mujer entró en el cuarto y roció el televisor, los colchones, las paredes. Los tres rehenes, tomadas de sorpresa, no supieron qué hacer. «Es agua bendita -decía la mujer mientras rociaba con la mano-. Ayuda a que no nos pase nada.» Los guardianes se persignaron, cayeron de rodillas y recibieron el chaparrón purificador con una unción angelical.

    Ese ánimo de rezo y parranda, tan propio de los antioqueños, no decayó en ningún momento de diciembre. Tanto, que Maruja había tomado precauciones para que los secuestradores no supieran que el 9 era el día de su cumpleaños: cincuenta y tres del alma.

    Beatriz se había comprometido a guardar el secreto, pero los carceleros se enteraron por un programa especial de televisión que los hijos de Maruja le dedicaron la víspera.

    Los guardianes no ocultaban la emoción de sentirse de algún modo dentro de la intimidad del programa. «Doña Maruja -decía uno-, cómo es de joven el doctor Villamizar, cómo está de bien, cómo la quiere.» Esperaban que Maruja le presentara a alguna de las hijas para salir con ellas. De todos modos, ver aquel programa en el cautiverio era como estar muertos y ver la vida desde el otro mundo sin participar en ella y sin que los vivos lo supieran. El día siguiente, a las once de la mañana y sin ningún anuncio, el mayordomo y su mujer entraron en el cuarto con una botella de champaña criolla, vasos para todos, y una tarta que parecía cubierta de pasta dentífrica. Felicitaron a Maruja con grandes manifestaciones de afecto y le cantaron el “Happy Birthday”, a coro con los guardianes. Todos comieron y bebieron, y dejaron a Maruja con un conflicto de sentimientos cruzados.

    Juan Vitta despertó el 26 de noviembre con la noticia de que saldría libre por su mal estado de salud. Lo paralizó el terror, pues justo en esos días se sentía mejor que nunca, y pensó que el anuncio era una triquiñuela para entregarle el primer cadáver a la opinión pública.

    De modo que cuando el guardián le anunció, horas después, que se preparara para ser libre, sufrió un ataque de pánico. «A mí me hubiera gustado morirme por mi cuenta -ha dicho-pero si mi destino era ése yo tenía que asumirlo.» Le ordenaron afeitarse y ponerse ropa limpia, y él lo hizo con, la certidumbre de que estaba vistiéndose para su funeral. Le dieron las instrucciones de lo que tenía que hacer una vez libre, y sobre todo de la forma en que debía embrollar las entrevistas de prensa de modo que la policía no dedujera pistas para intentar operativos de rescate. Poco después del mediodía le dieron unas vueltas en automóvil por sectores intrincados de Medellín, y lo soltaron sin ceremonias en una esquina.

    Luego de esta liberación, a Hero Buss volvieron a mudarlo solo a un buen barrio, frente a una escuela de aeróbicos para señoritas. El dueño de la casa era un mulato parrandero y gastador. Su mujer, de unos treinta y cinco años y encinta de siete meses, se adornaba desde el desayuno con joyas caras y demasiado visibles. Tenían un hijo de pocos años que vivía con la abuela en otra casa, y su dormitorio lleno de toda clase de juguetes mecánicos fue ocupado por Hero Buss. Éste, por la forma en que lo adoptaron en familia, se preparó para un largo encierro.

    Los dueños de casa debieron pasarlo bien con aquel alemán como los de las películas de Marlene Dietrich, con dos metros de alto y uno de ancho, adolescente a los cincuenta años, con un sentido del humor a prueba de acreedores y un español sofrito en la jerga caribe de Carmen Santiago, su esposa. Había corrido riesgos graves como corresponsal de prensa y radio alemanas en América Latina, inclusive bajo el régimen militar de Chile, donde vivió una noche en vela con la amenaza de ser fusilado al amanecer. De modo que tenía ya el pellejo bien curtido como para disfrutar el lado folclórico de su secuestro.

    No era para menos, en una casa donde cada cierto tiempo llegaba un emisario con las alforjas llenas de billetes para los gastos, y sin embargo estaban siempre en apuros. Pues los dueños se apresuraban a gastarse todo en parrandas y chucherías, y en pocos días no les quedaba ni con qué comer. Los fines de semana hacían fiestas y comilonas de hermanos, primos y amigos íntimos. Los niños se tomaban la casa. El primer día se emocionaron al reconocer al gigante alemán que trataban como a un artista de telenovela, de tanto haberlo visto en la televisión. No menos de treinta personas ajenas al secuestro le pidieron fotos y autógrafos, comieron y hasta bailaron con él a cara descubierta en aquella casa de locos donde vivió hasta el final del cautiverio.

    Las deudas acumuladas terminaban por enloquecer a los dueños, y tenían que empeñar el televisor, el betamax, el tocadiscos, lo que fuera, para alimentar al secuestrado. Las joyas de la mujer iban desapareciendo del cuello, de los brazos y las orejas, hasta que no le quedaba una encima. Una madrugada, el hombre despertó a Hero Buss para que le prestara dinero, porque los dolores de parto de la esposa lo habían sorprendido sin dinero para pagar el hospital. Hero Buss le prestó sus últimos cincuenta mil pesos.

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