On the day my daughter was kidnapped by outlaws in Somalia, my life split into two parts: Before and After. This is the story of both parts, and of how I fought to bring my daughter home.
On August 23, 2008, Amanda Lindhout, Lorinda Stewart’s daughter, is kidnapped outside of Mogadishu in Somalia. The kidnappers’ demand is simple: pay $2.5 million or Amanda will be killed. For the next 460 days, Lorinda does everything in her power—and beyond—to get her daughter back alive.
This brave, small-town mother with no experience in hostage negotiations is called upon by the RCMP to be the lead communicator with Adam, the Somali who identifies himself as the English-speaking negotiator for Amanda's kidnappers. In a secret “war room” in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Lorinda joins forces with federal officers and begins to answer calls from Adam, establishing a fragile rapport of trust with the man who holds her daughter’s fate in his hands. She learns how to demand POLs—proofs of life—from Amanda’s hostage takers and even how to react to “bad calls”—when she is forced to listen to her daughter’s desperate cries for help, fearing she is being abused and tortured.
What’s supposed to be a short negotiation stretches on, and weeks become months. Lorinda finds herself increasingly on her own as negotiations break down. But she never gives up hope, even as the conversations become more traumatic. Faced with the terrible possibility of her daughter’s death, she decides to take control, bringing in private hostage negotiators and fundraising ransom money from donors. But will it be enough?
This is the true story of one woman’s heroic perseverance in the face of despair, and of the hope and healing to be found beyond trauma. It is also, in the end, a tribute to the extraordinary power of a mother’s love.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)|
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One Day Closer
BEFORE AND AFTER
On the day my daughter Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped by outlaws in Somalia—August 23, 2008—my life split into two parts: Before and After. That was Day 1, the day that catapulted me into a nightmare few parents can begin to imagine. Amanda, at age twenty-seven, was captured in the African country the United Nations has called the most lawless in the world.
In the seven years preceding the day that changed everything, Amanda was an intrepid, brave, spirited world traveler. She loved the intoxicating highs and freedoms of offbeat travel. Not for my daughter the paved roads and postcard sites beloved of tourists. Before going to Somalia, she had already traveled to more than fifty countries.
Amanda’s first traveling adventure to Venezuela at the age of nineteen with her boyfriend, Jamie, ignited a seemingly insatiable desire to keep exploring, to see and experience as many countries and cultures as possible. On their next trip, Amanda and Jamie traveled to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Amanda has always been a gifted storyteller, and as she related her travels to me upon returning, I could almost see, feel, and taste my way along with her. I roared with laughter and felt her frustration at the misunderstandings caused by language barriers and cultural differences. I recalled the stack of worn and dog-eared National Geographic magazines that she had kept beside her bed when she was young. It made me happy to watch her realizing her dreams of travel.
Shortly after she and Jamie returned from Asia, they broke up. Amanda and I had conversations about how that would change her travels in the future. She was adjusting to living as a single person and sometimes expressed fears of being alone and traveling on her own. This opened a new possibility to both of us. I had more freedom to travel now that my children were all grown, so Amanda and I went on an incredible trip together to Thailand and Malaysia, after which Amanda continued solo into Myanmar and India.
She was scared of the solo part, and I was scared for her, too. After all, I am a mother. Any mother will understand that I worried for Amanda, even as I respected and admired her incredible wanderlust. And I couldn’t help but be proud of her tenacity. I didn’t know then that Amanda would come to love traveling on her own or that this same tenacity would lead her into dangerous countries and war zones.
After that trip, Amanda’s desire for exploration deepened, and she veered into unstable countries dominated by darker realities. Most often she traveled solo, and she sought assignments as a journalist covering war, poverty, and corruption, as she attempted to tell the stories of victims who had no voice. She willingly risked her life to capture the frontline stories she felt our complacent world needed to know about. I admired her for that then, just as I do now.
Over the course of seven years, Amanda established a pattern: she would work two jobs in Calgary as a bar server or waitress, living penuriously, with little social life, until she saved enough for her next trip. She would travel for months until her money ran out, then return to Calgary to repeat the cycle. She had made an art of living frugally, and she could stretch a dime as far as humanly possible, allowing her to travel for longer periods of time.
I often found myself defending her choices when confronted by people who thought she was crazy for risking her life for people half a world away, people she didn’t even know. I had come to realize long before that my daughter did not belong to me. She belonged to the world, and God knows the world needs more people like her. I was determined to support the shining light I saw in her.
For my part, during those years, I learned how to remain sane and not become crazed with fear at the “what-ifs.” To do so, I had to stand vigilant over my imagination. I tried very hard not think of the risks involved when Amanda was abroad. That was not an easy task, especially when phone calls with her were punctuated by gunfire in the background and laced with her commentary on bombs and mortars exploding nearby or in neighborhoods she had recently visited. I remember her dangerous time in Afghanistan—land of roadside bombs, suicidal terrorists, and the Taliban’s contempt for women, expressed in harsh sharia law. After that came Ethiopia and Egypt, then a second stint in Afghanistan, where a Global News team, shocked that as a freelancer she had no defense gear, kindly outfitted her with a flak jacket and helmet while she worked on stories for Afghan Scene and Combat and Survival. All this time, I forced a running narrative in my head: I would worry only if I knew something bad was actually happening to her—that was nearly impossible for a mother, but I really tried.
Amanda and I had had complicated struggles and many arguments during her teenage years. But when she began traveling, we made a concerted effort to communicate and mend past hurts. Every time she returned from a trip, she would rent a place in Calgary for a while and work to make more money to travel. There were several times that she came home and stayed with me in Canmore. I treasured those visits because when she wasn’t working we would spend time together chatting about her last trip or her next one, shopping, cooking, hiking, laughing, drinking wine, and having our own private dance parties. Amanda has always loved to dance. She loves the freedom of it—the movement a way to celebrate life. It was a great comfort to me then that we had become so close. While she was away, phone calls and emails became a lifeline between us, and we made those happen almost daily, depending on the cell and Wi-Fi service in the area she was in.
We kicked off New Year’s Eve 2008 by celebrating together in my small basement suite, chanting “2008 is going to be great!” Amanda had just been hired by Press TV for live reporting from within the war zone in Iraq. We were both excited but afraid of what that could mean. In reality, my mind was in panic mode, but I had learned not to share my fears with Amanda. It annoyed her when I worried, and there was no good outcome from it. In the last few hours of 2007, we feasted on our favorite food—cheese fondue, crab legs, and artichokes dripping in garlic butter—and we drank copious amounts of red wine. We watched movies. We laughed. And of course, we danced, feeling optimistic for the future.
Little did I know that only a few months later, my optimism would be crushed. In August 2008, I was living in Balfour in southeastern British Columbia, when events in Somalia, half a world away, became the fixed focus of my life. I had moved to BC to be closer to my sons, Mark, thirty-two, and Nathaniel, twenty-five. I rented a room nearby and worked in a bakery.
A week earlier, Amanda had called me from Kenya. “Mom, I’m going to Nairobi. Nigel is flying to meet me there. Then we’re off to Somalia. We’re going to collaborate on the story that I’ve been wanting do for a long time on the war there. He’ll be the photographer, and I’ll be the writer.”
This was interesting news. Amanda had been a late starter as a journalist and was just now beginning to earn credits and commissioned assignments. Amanda had met Nigel Brennan, an Australian photographer, in the winter of 2006. They’d become involved but were no longer together in that way.
“It’s a relief to know that you won’t be going into Somalia alone,” I said. “But won’t it be awkward between you and Nigel, given your past history?”
“Oh, Mom,” she said. “We’ve both moved on. In fact, Nigel has a girlfriend. We’re just friends now, and this is an important story we need to cover.”
“Does his family in Australia know he’s doing this story with you?” I asked.
“I don’t know. He’s an adult making his own decisions.”
There it was—that annoyance again when I asked too many questions. “Okay, okay,” I said, laying off.
“Just so you know, Mom, once we’re in Mogadishu we’re hiring armed guards and staying in a secure hotel. That means the hotel is surrounded by armed guards 24/7.”
This was a relief to hear, and I thanked her for telling me. “You know I try not to worry, but this news helps. Please,” I said, “call me before you go. I love you, Peanut.”
“Thanks, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ll call. I love you too!”
A few days later, Amanda let me know that she’d arrived safely in Nairobi, Kenya, and would soon leave for Somalia. My motherly instincts felt heightened, and I had a foreboding feeling of apprehension about her trip into Somalia. I emailed her: “I woke up crying and thinking about you. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and went out in my kayak. It was my first solo trip. It was amazing! Are you safe? Safer than in Iraq? I love you so much and I miss you like crazy. I’m so very proud of you, Amanda. You inspire me and countless others every day.”
I felt uneasy as I waited to hear from Amanda. While awaiting her call, I was busy looking for a new job because I’d quit my job at a bakery. By nature, I’m a very sociable person. Working at night alone in an unbearably hot bakery, then sleeping during the day, was not a good fit for me. I wanted to be of service, perhaps at the local women’s shelter. The idea of service is part of who I am. From the earliest age, I always imagined myself in a role helping people and making the world a better, more loving place. I recognized that same compassionate drive in Amanda, and as dangerous as her chosen profession was, I wanted to encourage her. When you have a child committed to pursuing a high-risk lifestyle, danger is an omnipresent part of the package.
On the morning of August 23, my life changed forever. I didn’t know it then, but this was Day 1 of an ordeal that would last 460 days. I received a call from Jon Lindhout, Amanda’s father and my ex-husband. Jon was irritated because Amanda had spoken to him the night before from Somalia, where she’d been for two days. She had called her father to ask him to send her money through Dahabshiil, an international East African money transfer agency with branches in Canada. When Jon had tried to call her back in the morning for clarification, she had not answered.
“Have you talked to Amanda today?” he asked. “I don’t know what she expects me to do when I can’t even reach her!”
“No,” I said. “I haven’t heard from her. In fact, I haven’t talked to her since before she went to Mogadishu. You know how she is sometimes. Maybe she’s out of service area. Who knows? If she needs money she’ll get back to you.”
It was a short conversation but enough to niggle at my mind. Amanda had been in Somalia for two days, and she hadn’t called me yet? It seemed odd. I felt a little hurt that she had spoken to her father several times but not to me. I couldn’t figure it out.
I remembered one instance years earlier when she had been going into Pakistan for the first time and she had called both Jon and me to say that if she died we should know that she was doing exactly what she wanted to do with her life. I expressed my fears and told her that she wasn’t being fair to her family. I begged her not to go. She became so angry with me that she cut off all communication for about two weeks. When she finally restored communication, it was with a defiantly triumphant email that declared, “I LOVE PAKISTAN!!!” She told me it was her favorite place to date and the people were among the kindest she had ever met.
But that was then. Now I had no reason to think that she was angry with me.
I wondered what was going on in Mogadishu, and I hoped she was okay. It had been seven months since I had driven Amanda to the airport for this journey. She had gone first to Iraq for her job as a journalist for Press TV, an English-language station financed by the Iranian government. We discussed how biased reports were coming from both sides of the war. Amanda’s reports for Press TV were edited for Iranian biases, but articles she sent to the Red Deer Advocate in Alberta more clearly reflected her dismay at the United States and its “Green Zone” in Baghdad. A person in the Green Zone could go to Burger King or Starbucks, while those just outside the gates were starving. She was shocked by the reality of the average citizens and what they had suffered and lost. She referred to the 4.5 million orphans as the forgotten victims of war, many of whom were begging on the streets for food. Iraqis were now questioning their newfound “freedom” and they were bitter at the United States for throwing them into a deeper hell than what Saddam Hussein had inflicted upon them. The devastation of the war on Iraqi families was hard for her to swallow.
It was after a few months of being in the thick of the Iraqi war when Amanda called me and told me that she was ready for a change. Her plans would take her to Kenya and then to Somalia. She had talked for months about Somalia, and it bothered her that there was very little news being reported on the war there. I knew very little about Somalia except that the United Nations had deemed it one of the most dangerous countries in the world, though I couldn’t imagine that it could possibly be more dangerous than being in the middle of the war raging in Iraq.
Somalia is a sickle-shaped country in the Horn of Africa that stretches along the Arabian Sea. It remains a place where few reporters dare venture. At the time Amanda was there, international humanitarian organizations had withdrawn their aid workers after too many had been killed or kidnapped for ransom. Piracy and kidnapping had become two of the country’s main industries. Somalia was one of the poorest countries in the world, in a state of anarchy run by warlords and Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group closely linked to Al-Qaida. That’s where my Amanda was.
Jon called me again an hour after we had spoken the first time. Now panic replaced irritation. His brother, Jack, had been contacted by a Vancouver radio announcer who had just seen a news stream from Reuters Africa. The news stream claimed that a Canadian journalist and an Australian photographer—Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan—had “gone missing” in Somalia.
“Turn on the TV!” Jon screamed. “It’s all over the news. Amanda and Nigel have gone missing. Oh my God, I don’t know what to do!”
Although I felt a rush of adrenaline and weakness in my legs, my first instinct was to try to calm Jon.
“Jon, let’s try to remember we don’t know for sure what is happening,” I said. “?‘Missing’ can mean many things.”
I hung up and turned on the TV. I saw Amanda’s face passing across the screen. The reports quickly changed from “missing” to “kidnapped at gunpoint.” I sat down, got up, paced. Then I started to cry. Suddenly everything felt as though it were occurring in slow motion. I was having a hard time breathing. I was at my friend Glen’s house, and I stared at the TV, stunned. Was this really happening? Old photos of Amanda, dug up by various news agencies, streamed past. I checked online. The internet carried the same story: Amanda and Nigel, kidnapped at gunpoint in Somalia, along with their translator, Abdifatah Mohamed Elmi, and two Somali colleagues.
Despite the endless repetition of the news, the reality was slow to sink in: It’s a mistake. This can’t be happening. But what if it is true? It can’t be. Not Amanda. Noooooo.
Glen was obviously uncomfortable and did not know what to do for me. I had to get out of there. I had to get back home, so I phoned Debbie Till, who rented space in the same house as I did.
“Debbie! Debbie!” I was wailing now.
“What’s going on, Lorinda? Are you okay?”
“I’m at Glen’s. Amanda’s been kidnapped!”
“Holy fuck! Stay right there and I’ll come to get you.”
“It’s okay, I can drive. Oh my God, Debbie. This can’t be happening.”
“I have my cell with me, so call me if you need help,” Debbie said.
I felt numb as I got into my car. I had driven these roads countless times, but I found myself lost and confused in what became an unfamiliar maze of left and right turns. Glen probably realized that I had gone into a state of shock, because he followed me on his motorbike. When I pulled over to figure out which way to turn, he drove up beside me. “Follow me,” he said, and I did.
When we arrived, Debbie was standing at the top of the driveway, waving her arms. I wasn’t even out of the car before she had her arms around me. The two of us stood on the back deck, overlooking beautiful Kootenay Lake, while I cried and Debbie smoked. I asked her for a cigarette even though I hadn’t smoked in years. I lit it, took one drag, and realized that I couldn’t smoke it.
She tried to reassure me that Amanda would be fine. Hadn’t I told Debbie story after story about my girl’s resourcefulness?
“Amanda will get out of this, too.”
I phoned Jon, hoping for more news, hoping that it had all been a mistake and she was fine. The Vancouver radio announcer who had first contacted our family had given Jon the phone number of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in Ottawa. At first, the staffers didn’t believe he was Amanda’s father. They thought he was a reporter looking for a scoop. When he was finally able to verify who he was, he was told only what we already knew: that Amanda and Nigel had “been reported as having been kidnapped at gunpoint.” Foreign Affairs then asked Jon to call if he heard anything more.
Jon was in a state of high anxiety. “Lorinda,” he said, “you can’t believe what’s happening here. The media has been calling nonstop, asking for a comment or interview. There’s even news vans parked outside my house. This is insane. I can’t even go out my front door!”
“Jon, I’ll head out first thing in the morning. We need to be together for this. Let’s not forget that Amanda’s been in many sticky situations before, and she’s gotten herself out of them, right? This will all be over soon.” I was reminding myself as much as I was reminding him. “Boy, she’s in trouble when she gets home.” I said. “I think we may have to take away her passport after this.”
Once I got off the phone with Jon, I called Amanda’s best friend, Kelly Barker. She, too, had been inundated by calls from the media and had even given a short interview. Strangely, no one had attempted to contact me, not then and only rarely afterward. That actually worked out for the best later on, when I needed to work under the media’s radar.
Next, I called Foreign Affairs myself, hoping for an update, but was told they could not give me any information. Maybe the people there thought I was a reporter, too. I needed to get to Sylvan Lake, where Jon lived, so we could get updates at the same time.
I tried to call Amanda’s brothers, Mark and Nathaniel, up in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, where they were working, but my call didn’t connect and I assumed they were out of cell phone range, as they often were. I texted them instead: “I’ve been trying to call you with some news and I need you to call me asap! Amanda has been kidnapped! It’s all over the news!”
They didn’t check their phones until their first coffee break the next day. They called and put me on speakerphone so both could hear me and ask questions at the same time. By the way their voices were quivering, I knew they were trying not to cry, and my heart went out to them.
They had basically the same questions that Jon and I had: “Are they sure that it was Amanda?” “What’s being done?” “What can we do?” I had few answers for them. They wanted to know if Jon and I were okay.
“Should we come down there now, Mom? Do you need us?” they asked. I encouraged them to stay put, to try to stay calm.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll call you if we get any updates.”
Next I called my mom. I hated to burden her with this news, as she was still mourning the loss of my father the previous year. She was momentarily silent, absorbing the surreality of what I was telling her.
“I don’t even know what to say, Lorinda. Are you okay? What can I do?”
“Can you please put Amanda and Nigel on every prayer line you know of?”
My mom was a regular churchgoer and was herself a prayer warrior. “Of course. I’ll do that right now,” she said. Although we saw religion differently, I appreciated all the positive energy that would be focused on Amanda and Nigel.
“Thanks, Mom. Please pray for Jon and me, too. Love you, Mom!”
“I will. I love you, too,” she said as her voice broke.
Once at home, I sat on Debbie’s couch and stared at the TV screen. A friend had prepared a spaghetti supper, but my stomach was in knots and I couldn’t think about food. Debbie generously offered to drive me to Sylvan Lake. “We’ll take your car. I’ll fly back. That way you’ll have your car while you’re there.”
I didn’t sleep much that night. I mostly sat in front of the TV or paced around, trying to figure out what I could or should be doing. I could hear the snoring and breathing of everyone else in the house and was grateful for some quiet time to think.
The next morning, Debbie and I caught the 8 a.m. ferry. From the other side of the lake, it was another eight-hour drive to Sylvan Lake. It’s a gorgeous, pine-scented journey through the mountains, but I saw none of it. Debbie, who is quite a funny character at the best of times, tried to keep the conversation light. She reminded me of the first time we had met and she had given me shit for being too noisy. She compared herself to Danny DeVito’s mother in the movie Throw Momma from the Train, and it made us laugh as it had even then. Laughter was a helpful distraction. Debbie can seem tough at first meeting, but she has a heart of gold and was a loyal friend when I needed her most.
We talked about how we would all be on Oprah after Amanda was home. We talked about what we’d wear on her show. We talked about anything and everything but Amanda’s kidnapping.
About three hours into our trip, we stopped at Cranbrook for a bite to eat, but I still couldn’t stomach any food. Cell phone service is sparse in the mountains, so I took advantage of being able to call Jon to let him know where I was and ask if there were any updates. There were none.
We arrived at Jon’s house later in the afternoon, and as we pulled up I couldn’t help but admire his green thumb. His house was surrounded by meticulously manicured flower gardens. It was no wonder that he had won the “Communities in Bloom” contest several years in a row.
When Jon opened the door, his eyes were red, his face distraught. We hugged each other. I could feel him shaking. We were both crying. Jon was unnerved when he realized that Debbie was with me, and I couldn’t understand why he was so agitated. I reminded him why she was there. He asked to speak with me privately, and the reason for his panic soon became clear: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigators were sitting at his dining table. Three of them—Dave and Jason from Edmonton and Barry from Red Deer. I was introduced. They explained that this was a private meeting, so we agreed that Debbie would watch TV downstairs until she left to catch her flight back home.
Having been married to Jon for seven years, I knew that this situation would cause him a lot of stress, and I wondered how this would go for us. It was so gut-wrenching to see his anguish that I momentarily forgot that I was in the same boat. In one clear moment, I realized I needed to get myself together and be strong for all of us.
I joined the investigators at the table. “So,” I said, “what do you need from us? How can we help Amanda?”
I listened carefully as Dave said, “Lorinda, you should know that this morning, while Jon was in the shower, the kidnappers called and left a message on his answering machine.” I looked at the faces around the table—tense, grim. They wanted to put us at ease, but they needed to be direct as well. I looked at Jon. His face was void of color. He looked as if he might throw up. I’m sure I looked the same.
“We’d like to play that message for you now.”
“Okay,” I said.
The officers played the message back for me. A heavily accented male voice announced, “Hello. We have your daughter.” The man identified himself as Adam, then claimed to represent Amanda’s kidnappers. He demanded $1.5 million dollars American for her release. Then he hung up.
Something shifted in that moment as I felt a powerful responsibility set in. I became analytical and found myself focusing on Adam’s tone. I was surprised and relieved that he didn’t sound like a monster. The kidnappers I had seen in the movies sounded much more sinister. I knew that I needed to operate in this clearheaded, rational mode if I were going to be useful to the RCMP and Amanda.
The three men from the RCMP explained that it was against the Canadian government’s policy to pay a ransom to kidnappers; however, our country had had great success in engaging local governments to intervene with kidnappers to secure the release of hostages. Instead of paying ransom money, our government offered aid in the form of food, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and schools for local communities in exchange for hostages’ freedom.
That actually sounded great to me. To imagine that good might come from this horrific situation was something I hadn’t dared to hope. I even thought that Amanda would be pleased by that outcome. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Somalia had a very small and weak transitional government with very little bargaining power. This would prove to be a daunting challenge.
“Do you know where we can get Amanda’s dental records?” Barry asked. “Does she have any distinguishing birthmarks, scars, or tattoos?”
I’d watched enough TV shows to know the sobering reason for these requests, as had Jon.
“You don’t think that we’ll need them, do you?” he asked.
“No, but we have to be prepared for anything.”
Jon knew where to pick up her dental records. I explained that I had an identical tattoo to Amanda’s. I pulled my shirtsleeve down a little to reveal a daisy on my shoulder. “Amanda has one just like mine on her ankle,” I said. Mother-daughter tattoos had been our way of celebrating her fourteenth and my thirty-ninth birthdays—June 12 and June 13, respectively, 1995. When Amanda had announced that she was getting a tattoo, I’d surprised her by suggesting we both get one.
“Really, Mom? We can both get tattoos?”
“Sure,” I said. “Why not? That way, in the future, no matter where we are in the world, we’ll have matching tats.” We agreed on our favorite flower at the time, a daisy. The investigators seemed to think it had been a sweet gesture, or if they didn’t, they did a great job of convincing me they did.
Before the investigators left for the night, they cautioned Jon and me to refuse to talk to the media and to keep their presence confidential from everyone. They would be back the next morning to wiretap Jon’s landline, so they could monitor calls from the kidnappers and perhaps trace them. Dave told us that they would be up most of the night developing a plan on how to move forward.
“If the phone rings tonight, you must not answer it. Do you understand?”
“But what if Amanda is trying to call us?” I asked.
“That’s possible but not likely at this point. You must trust us. We need a plan in place before we speak to the kidnappers, and we need that wiretap. They will call back, so don’t worry about that.”
Our investigators had been dropped into a complicated, life-and-death global scenario. I wondered to myself if they had the experience to handle something like this. How many times had they done this before? How many times had they been in similar homes across the country, telling distraught parents how to cope with one of their worst nightmares? As they left for the night, I had a feeling that many phone calls would take place later with the higher-ups as they scrambled to come up with a plan.
I spent the night on the couch in Jon’s living room, listening to the phone ring. Four times. Every time it rang, I jumped up and ran over to the phone, my anxiety level rising with the increasing temptation to answer in the hope that Amanda was on the line. But I couldn’t answer. Instead I just stood there, staring at the phone. I thought how confused Amanda would be that no one answered. I thought the kidnappers would be puzzled, too, and I worried that it would anger them. But ultimately, I knew that I had to trust the experts, the RCMP. So I went back to bed. I lay there and listened, silently whispering “Amanda, I’m here! Please know that we are going to do everything we need to do to bring you home. We love you. I love you more than you possibly know.” The tears started, and soon I was sobbing.
Between fits of agitated sleep, I lifted my spirits by reminding myself of all the times—and there had been many—when Amanda’s ingenuity had gotten her out of trouble or someone had shown up at just the right time on her travels to help her. I was certain that this would be the case yet again. I was buoyed with confidence throughout the night as I replayed specific memories, such as the time she was in Bangladesh and an auto rickshaw driver had tried to take her out to the countryside to “meet his family.” Amanda had become frightened and demanded that he return her to her hotel. When he had kept going, she started punching him. He turned around and took her back to where she was staying.
On the same trip, she hadn’t been able to obtain the exit papers she needed to get out of Bangladesh unless a man vouched for her. When she told me that, I called Interpol, demanding that they help her, but she wasn’t pleased with me and told me straight out, “I can take care of myself!” And she did. She contacted a German businessman she had met on the plane, and he arranged to have his armed car escort her out of the country.
In most countries, she had made contacts whom she could call if she needed aid, and there had been times they had helped her. This wasn’t even the first time she had been detained. While working for Press TV in Iraq, the car she was traveling in was forced by bandits to stop. She and her colleagues were taken into an empty warehouse for questioning. Frightened because many foreigners had been kidnapped or murdered in similar situations, she had covertly used her cell phone to call a government contact who persuaded the men to let all of them go two hours later. There were so many stories like this throughout her seven years of travels.
Eventually I drifted off to sleep, feeling confident that, just like all her previous experiences, this one would be resolved quickly.
Table of Contents
1 Before and After 3
2 "You Are the Mom" 18
3 The Dead Don't Talk 34
4 The War Room 47
5 "Do They Believe … We are Skeleton Eaters?" 60
6 Deadly News from Costco 76
7 The Million-Dollar Misunderstanding 93
8 A Knife to the Throat 105
9 Guard the Secret 118
10 Going Rogue 131
11 Smoke and Rumors 145
12 Starting Over 161
13 Lies and Counterlies 170
14 Divide and Conquer 184
15 Bad Call 194
16 "To One Person, You May Be the World" 202
17 Breaking the Code 210
18 Give the Devil His Due 218
19 The Agreement 228
20 Mission Aborted 235
21 Release 246
22 Healing 261
A Note to Readers 273