Bill and Sam are two fugitives who end up in Summit, Alabama with a plan to make some easy money. They need $2000 to finance another illegal scheme they expect to execute in Illinois. The plan: They will kidnap the child from a local wealthy family, demand $2000 as ransom, and head on to Illinois for their next fraudulent move. At first, all goes according to plans. They kidnap the son of a rich citizen and take him to their hideout. But things soon go awry. The boy, who demands to be called Red Chief, turns out to be more than a handful: He is a terror, making his two captors play tiring games, playing tricks on them, and soon turning the two men into the captives. Red Chief enjoys his stay with the two men and does not want to go home. After the two men lower their ransom to $1500, they receive a reply from the father--a money-wise banker--that if THEY PAY HIM $250, the father will take him off their hands. When the two men return Red Chief to his home, the father warns them to hit the road immediately: Red Chief still wants to play!
The O. Henry short story is a great tall tale with the author's signature unexpected twist in the end. It reminds the reader that sure things don't always go as planned, and that easy money is usually a hard thing to come by. It also shows that small town folks are not always taken in by the savvy city slicker.