Kidnap Cafe — a short story for English reading, speaking & vocabulary

A man goes into a cafe to enjoy some breakfast.

But then he finds a note. And then another.

And another.

Something is amiss but he is not sure. But then he finds it is too late.

Check out my complete lesson plan with a thrilling short story, Kidnap Cafe.

The lesson plan comes complete with:

  • introductory questions
  • the short story
  • a huge list of reading comprehension questions
  • a table of essential vocabulary
  • another huge list of discussion questions
  • and a writing exercise


No need to prepare anything!

Just download the lesson, print and you are ready for class!


What does the word ‘kidnapped’ mean?

What about the word ‘abducted’?

What is the difference between these two things?

Do you know any stories about being kidnapped?

Why do people kidnap another person?

Kidnap Cafe

Help me.”

The two words scrawled on a piece of paper. It fell out as I picked up the ketchup bottle from the table.

In front of me, the all-day breakfast that the cafe advertised outside.

We serve all-day breakfast all day every day!

The note had been stuffed between the ketchup bottle and the mustard. Dried bits of red and yellow on each of the containers.

I stared at the note and wondered how it got there. Must have been put there by a customer. Someone bored and needing to do something to entertain themselves.

I reached for the big mug of tea and took a big gulp of it.

I really needed this breakfast. As I picked up the cutlery, another note fell from the napkin.

Behind the counter, the waitress busied herself making a coffee for a customer. A man sitting at the counter. In his thirties, a phone pressed against the side of his face as he carried out a loud conversation.

The waitress had her back to me.

I opened the second note and read: “They have kidnapped me.”

Whoever did this was playing a very good trick. To go to the effort of putting a note on the inside of a napkin wrapped around a knife and fork.

How did they do it?

They must have written it, then gone to the counter where all the cutlery was stashed next to the till. Then opened one of the napkins and placed it inside.

Who would go to that much effort?

I squeezed some ketchup on the side of my plate, between the bacon and the scrambled eggs. I cut into the bacon, pushed some egg on top of it and put it in my mouth.

On the far side of the cafe, a middle-aged couple sat at a table. The man read a newspaper while his wife stared out the window at the passing traffic. She turned her head and caught me looking and gave me a smile. One of those awkward smiles when people don’t know the other person.

I nodded and smiled back, and she beamed a bigger smile.

I picked up the steaming mug of tea beside my plate and took another gulp. As I put the cup down, I saw something protruding from the bottom.

It fell. Another folded-up piece of paper.

“Call the police.”

I scrunched the paper up inside my hand and pulled it down under the table.

This was no trick. This was no joke.

I glanced around the cafe. The middle-aged couple on the far side. The guy busy on his phone at the counter. Another man directly behind me.

I remember seeing him on the way in. He looked like a truck driver or something. A man going through his working day.

I had to look at him. Had to see what he was doing.

I did one of those pretend movements and turned over my shoulder like I was looking for something. I caught a quick glance at him.

His finished plate pushed forward. He slurped at his tea and read a page from his folded-up newspaper.

Three notes.

This was no game.

So what was it?

And if someone was being held here against their will, how did they leave the notes beside the ketchup? Or in the napkin and under my cup?

The waitress.

It had to be her.

Without thinking, I looked over at her.

She brushed a lock of hair behind her ear and put a fresh mug of coffee in front of phone man. She said something quietly to him and he looked at her impatiently.

He carried on barking into his phone and pulled out some money from his pocket, practically throwing it on the counter.

As she picked it up, she made eye contact with me. I stared back at her, looking for a clue, for any sign. A gesture or a flicker in her eye.

But she just nodded and rang the money up in the till.

Was it her? Was she the person who wrote these three notes?

Maybe someone out the back. Someone forced to work in the kitchen. Or someone downstairs.

All the buildings on this street were old. They all had basements. Stairs went down to them.

One of them was a taxi office. Another a suntanning salon.

But underneath the cafe? I couldn’t remember. Maybe just an empty space. A large empty room. With someone held captive down there.

Held against their will in a cold, dark cell.

The food in front of me no longer seemed appetizing. I didn’t want to eat it, but I didn’t want to appear as doing anything unusual.

Who comes into a cafe and orders food only to leave it uneaten?

I shovelled another forkful of eggs into my mouth. They tasted dry. I had just enough saliva in my mouth to swallow them down.

The tea would help. I took another gulp from it. It had a metallic taste to it.

My shirt stuck to my skin. Sweat poured out of every pore.

But there was no need for me to feel this way. I could get up and leave. Walk out and find a policeman. Show the notes and let them handle it.

I was startled by a noise. The middle-aged man was now by the door, locking it. He nodded towards the counter.

I turned. The waitress took off her apron and spoke quietly to phone man. He glanced over at the man behind me. I heard his chair legs scrape against the floor as he got to his feet.

I went to stand up. But my legs would not move. They felt like jelly.

I grabbed the side of the table and tried to pull myself up, but it was like I was submerged underwater.

The room span around.

Blood rushed to my head, and my hands grasped at the air in front of me.

The last thing I saw was the people in the cafe coming towards me.

Reading Comprehension Questions

Where does the story take place?

What is the narrator about to eat?

Where does the narrator find the first note?

What does the first note say?

How does he assume the note got there?

Where does he find the second note?

How did the narrator feel about the second note that fell from the napkin?

What does the second note say?

How did the narrator analyse how the note was placed in the napkin?

Who else is in the cafe?

Describe the appearance of the man sitting at the counter and his actions.

How does the narrator refer to this man for the rest of the story?

Who does the narrator see on the other side of the cafe? How does he interact with them?

Who was the waitress busy making coffee for?

Where does he find the third note?

What does this note say?

What does the narrator do with this note?

How does his mood change?

What is the man behind the narrator doing?

What does the narrator do to look at him discreetly?

Why did the narrator suspect the waitress might be involved in the situation?

What does the narrator suspect about the notes? Who does he think wrote them?

Is the cafe in a new or old building?

What is underneath the cafe? What makes the narrator believe this?

How did the narrator feel about the food in front of them as the story progressed?

What physical sensations did the narrator experience as tension built up?

What does the narrator consider doing?

What stops him from doing this?

What sound does he hear behind him?

Why did the middle-aged man lock the cafe’s door?

What did the waitress do after taking off her apron and speaking to the man at the counter?

How did the narrator attempt to stand up when they realized something was wrong?

How does he feel at the end of the story?

How did the story end, according to the narrator’s perspective?

What emotions or feelings do you think the narrator experienced during the story?

Essential Vocabulary
























Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:


ScrawledTo write or draw hastily or carelessly with irregular, awkward strokes, resulting in an untidy or difficult-to-read appearance.


AdvertisedPast tense of “advertise.” To make public or promote a product, service, event, or idea through various forms of communication, such as media, announcements, or displays, in order to attract attention and generate interest.


Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.


She scrawled a quick note on a scrap of paper before dashing out the door, hoping her roommate would see it.


The event was advertised on social media to attract a larger crowd.


Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Discussion Questions

How would you describe the atmosphere at the cafe when the story begins? Did it change as the story progressed? If so, how?

What are your thoughts on the notes that the narrator found? Do you believe they were a prank or something more serious?

Why do you think the narrator initially dismissed the notes as a trick or a joke?

How did the narrator’s perception of the situation change after finding the third note? What clues led them to take the situation more seriously?

What emotions do you think the narrator experienced when they realized the gravity of the situation?

Discuss the possible motives of the different characters in the cafe, including the waitress, the man on the phone, and the man behind the narrator.

Would any of these people have a reason to kidnap customers that come into the cafe?

If so, why? What are their reasons?

What do you think happened to the narrator in the story?

Who is doing this to them?

Why are they doing it to them?

Do you think the narrator’s decision to stay and continue eating their breakfast was reasonable? Why or why not?

If you were in the narrator’s shoes, how would you have reacted when discovering the notes? What actions would you have taken?

Why do you think the middle-aged man locked the cafe’s door? What might his intentions have been?

What do you think the ending of the story implies? What do you think happened to the narrator?

If you were to continue the story, what do you think might happen next? How would you resolve the situation? Or — how would you escape?

Could this kind of thing happen in broad daylight? How is it possible to commit such a crime in the middle of the day?

Why does the man feel strange at the end of the story? What do you think has happened to him?

Why do people kidnap other people? Try to think of three reasons.

Do you know of any true kidnap stories in your country? What happened?

If you were the person in the story, what would you do?

What would you think when you found the first note? How about the second note or the third?

Is kidnapping a serious crime in your country?

What is the penalty for this crime?

Do you think there is much planning to kidnap someone?

If you were kidnapped, what would you do? Would you remain calm or panic?

How could you plan to escape? Do you think it would be possible?


This is a creative writing exercise.


You are going to write a short story.

Take a look at the following story prompts. You can one, two or as many of the prompts as you like to write your story.


The narrator regains control of their body just in time and manages to escape the cafe.


The waitress discreetly slips another note to the narrator with more information.


The man behind the narrator turns out to be an undercover police officer and takes charge of the situation.


The protagonist tries to signal for help from people passing by outside.


Another customer enters the cafe, and the narrator calls for help.


The narrator passes out and wakes up in the basement.


In the basement, the narrator sees another door. Where does it lead to?


The notes were actually intended for another customer, leading to a case of mistaken identity and a twist in the story.



Write your story.

Also, think of a suitable title for your story.


When you have finished writing your story, read it out loud in front of the class.

Or you can ask your teacher for feedback.

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

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