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 another and another.

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


You can use this short story lesson plan in your class today. Download the complete lesson plan in easy to use PDF format.





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 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 slurp 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 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. A guy 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 of 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 to her.

She brushed a lock of hair behind her ear and put the coffee for phone-man in front of him. 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 threw 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. There were stairs going 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 nodded to 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 round.

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.


Join my mailing list and I will send you this complete lesson plan and others for free – ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here – Kidnap Café/gumroad


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?

Who else is in the cafe?

What does the second note say?

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

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 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?

What does the narrator consider doing?

What stops him from doing this?

What sound does he hear behind him?

How does he feel to the end of the story?



Essential Vocabulary


There may be a lot of new or unfamiliar vocabulary to you in the story. This is the perfect time to get to know these new and strange words and phrases.

Write down all the new words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look up the meaning of the new vocabulary in a dictionary or online and write down the meaning next to the word or phrase.

It should look something like this:

Scrawled/To Scrawlto write something in a hurried, careless way.

Ketchupa thick sauce made from tomatoes.

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

John crawled a quick note for his colleague and left it on his desk.

I love to put ketchup on my french fries.

If you do this in the correct way, it will help you learn many new words and phrases. This will build your English vocabulary and writing down all the words and phrases, making sentences of your own, will all help you to remember all of this new vocabulary.



Discussion Questions


What do you think has happened to the man in the story?

Who is doing this to him?

Why are they doing it to him?

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?



Role Play


There are two people in this role play.


You have been kidnapped. You are taken to a house in the middle of nowhere and held there against your will.

You are being given food and you are allowed to sleep, but you cannot leave.

The kidnappers tell you nothing.

A Member of the Gang

You are a member of the kidnapping gang. You have abducted a person and held them captive.

This person is the son/daughter of a rich person and you are demanding money from their parents.

You have been left alone with the kidnapped person, but now you feel very sorry for them. You also feel sorry for what you have done.

The Situation

The kidnap victim and the member of the gang have been left alone in the room. The gang member should take care of the victim and not engage in any conversation.

But gradually they begin to have a conversation.

What do they talk about?

What do they both want?

What happens at the end of your role play?

Take some time to prepare your role play.

Then show the class or to your friends.





You have been kidnapped!

In the house where you are being kept captive, there is someone who said they will deliver a letter to your family or loved ones.

In this letter, you can write anything you want.

Write a letter expressing exactly how you feel.

Maybe you are terrified and you ask your family for help.

Or maybe you don’t want your family to be so worried so you try to assure them that you are fine.

You can write whatever you want, it is your letter.

Write your letter and then read out in front of the class.

Or show your teacher and get some feedback.


Join my mailing list and I will send you this complete lesson plan and others for free – ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here – Kidnap Café/gumroad

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