The Stakeout


by Nadya Labi
The Atlantic, November 2009

"Todd Hopson does not come across as the sort of person who would hire a kidnapper. His idea of excitement is watching Seinfeld reruns. He is quick with a one-liner if conversation flags. He clears his throat repeatedly, a nervous tic that may be related to his fondness for cigars. During most of our time in Costa Rica, he wore the same outfit--a khaki shirt with lots of pockets, jeans, and bright-white sneakers. But while Hopson may seem like a softie, his resolve is strong: he would rather break the laws of Costa Rica than his word to Andres."

HELEN ZAPATA: That's Jason. Maybe he's turning around. You should turn down because I don't want him to come down from that way. You know, because he can come from that way and see you here.

TODD HOPSON: You mean lay down?


TODD HOPSON: Because if somebody walks by, they're going to be...

HELEN ZAPATA: I don't want Jason to be turning around. Because I don't understand why he didn't stop there. Maybe because the bus is in that side here. You know? What should I do, should I turn? Because Jason went all the way there  so I don't know if the bus is on this side.

TODD HOPSON: Beats me, I don't know. Just go ahead and go, sweetie, and we'll see what's going on.

HELEN ZAPATA: Why Jason went through like that so quick?

TODD HOPSON: I don't know. Maybe he's going to work.

HELEN ZAPATA: So where's Andres?

TODD HOPSON: I don't know, baby.

HELEN ZAPATA: That's what I said. So maybe he left him in this street like this right here.

TODD HOPSON: Let's go down there and see.

HELEN ZAPATA: I don't know if we should.

TODD HOPSON: If you want to run into him. You want to make the full circle around again?

HELEN ZAPATA: Oh, here! Ah! With Chino! Get down, get down. Come, Andres! [Rolls down window.] Ven, Andres!


HELEN ZAPATA: No, because el dice--he said no.

TODD HOPSON: He said no?


TODD HOPSON: Did he see me?

HELEN ZAPATA: No, but pull yourself down! No, he said no.

TODD HOPSON: Did Chino see me?


TODD HOPSON: Chino saw me? Why don't you just go get him?

HELEN ZAPATA: He doesn't want me to. He's with Chino.

TODD HOPSON: Go out and get him, Helen. Just go out and get him.

HELEN ZAPATA: But you told told me not to ...

TODD HOPSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fuck, I'll get him. Come on! Go back, go back, go back. I'll get him. Okay?

HELEN ZAPATA: Okay. Because the bus is coming here.

TODD HOPSON: I don't care. Let's go. Is that the bus?


TODD HOPSON: Just go, because we're made. Let's go. I'm going to go get him. Just go. We're done. Let's go. Go! Stop. Where are they at?


TODD HOPSON: [Opens the car door] Andres, come on! Let's go. Come on! Come on buddy!


TODD HOPSON: Come on! Come on, buddy!

HELEN ZAPATA: Come, Andres!

TODD HOPSON: Go. [Slams the car door] You don't have to go fast.


TODD HOPSON: Just go. It's okay. Go, sweetie. Just take it easy. Hi buddy!


TODD HOPSON: How are you sweetie? Who's that?

HELEN ZAPATA: That's not Jason.

TODD HOPSON: Don't worry, Papi, it's going to be okay.

HELEN ZAPATA: Chino's running to the house...

TODD HOPSON: That's okay, sweetie, just, just  ...

HELEN ZAPATA: ... but Chino cannot make it.

TODD HOPSON: That's okay. Fuck him. Hang a right, nice and easy, nice and easy. Go.

HELEN ZAPATA: Papi, why didn't you want to come when I told you so?

TODD HOPSON: You scared? Look, he's scared, sweetie. It's okay. It's okay.

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Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

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