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?

HELEN ZAPATA: Mmm hmm.

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!

TODD HOPSON: Open it.

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

TODD HOPSON: He said no?

HELEN ZAPATA: Mmm-hmm.

TODD HOPSON: Did he see me?

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

TODD HOPSON: Did Chino see me?

HELEN ZAPATA: Yes.

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?

HELEN ZAPATA: Yeah.

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?

HELEN ZAPATA: Here.

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

HELEN ZAPATA: Come on!

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.

ANDRES:  Oh.

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

ANDRES:  Hi.

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.

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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