Herpezoids have my mom. I repeat, Herpezoids have my mom. The vermin of cosmos abducted the woman who brought me into this world and have her in their clutches. The vilest shit stains of the known galaxies and universes kidnapped the best person I have ever known. The woman who has given me a 50-pack of green Kwench-Aid every Christmas since I was in first grade has been taken by a 100-pack of asshole and I won't stand for it. They will pay a price far steeper than they can imagine. My pulse pounds and I am aware of the muffled sounds of voices talking about me as if I'm not in the room with them.
"Has he breathed in the last minute and a half?"
"Does his eye normally twitch like that?"
"I haven't seen him like this since one of his Styx cassettes got eaten by a tape player."
"He listens to cassettes?"
"He's a weird dude."
Someone is patting my cheek and looking to my eyes for signs of consciousness. I can see them. It's Tony. He is trying to reach me, but I am having some rage-induced out of body experience that is much like the one I experienced when the cassette player ate my Styx tape. Tony's voice is bringing back to this realm. He sounds closer, clearer.
"Jeff? Buddy? Are you with me?"
I'm back. The fury is still there, but it's less of an out-of-control wildfire and more of an intense concentrated blaze.
"Where is she?" I ask Randi. "Where do they have her?"
"We don't know." She turns to Mom's desk and picks up a greeting card laying next to her laptop. "They left this, though."
The front of the card is solid red with a message written in gold calligraphy: Wishing you the best this holiday season.
"It's one of those Christmas cards that allows you to leave a recorded message," Dean Larson says. "Go ahead. Open it."
I open the card and the message inside is also in gold calligraphy: Sucker! Accompanying this holiday psych-out is the recording of maniacal laughter followed by a male voice.
"We have your mother, Kilroy, and we have demands. First, we want five large pizzas from Caligula's Pizza, but it must be from the downtown location. Not the carryout only store on the north end of town. We want one pepperoni, one sausage, one with El Supremo, one Meat Explosion, and one Veggie Explosion. The El Supremo is to be without black olives but please add jalapenos. The Meat Explosion must also include pineapple. Extra cheese on all five. In addition, we want you to bring us Kelly Clarkson. The pizzas and the pop queen in exchange for Sandra Harper. You have until 5 p.m. tomorrow. Merry Christmas."
"Sons of bitches," I growl. "They have my mom and they like pineapple on pizza. Monsters."
"Actually, I don't mind pineapple on pizza," Tony says, thus confirming that he, too, is secretly a monster.
"Where's Kelly Clarkson?" I ask.
"Are we really going to give her over to aliens?" Tony asks.
Randi and Dean look at one another in that way people do when they know something they haven't told yet and it's quite likely they've known this for a while have been sworn to super secrecy. The cross-your-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-your-eye kind of secrecy. Well, I'm ready to pull out some needles. Randi swipes and taps on her tablet.
"We have her secured away offsite. We have yet to inform anyone of her presence."
"She is due to land at the airport tomorrow around noon," Dean says. "We arranged for the Corporate private jet to fly her in."
"Great." I throw my arms up. "We can't do anything until tomorrow."
"Of course can do something," Randi says. "We can plan."