The mail contained an offer for a platinum card from a credit card company, a wholesale pond care supply catalog (a nice touch, I thought), and one of those gaudy, busily-printed sweepstakes envelopes. I glanced through to make sure I hadn’t missed anything; I hadn’t. Then the sweepstakes envelope caught my eye.
“Don’t throw this envelope away, Andrew Millik!” the envelope shouted in cheerfully urgent orange letters. My name was printed in a white oval in a more businesslike font. Below the big orange letters, in a slightly smaller black font, it said, “Follow the enclosed instructions if you ever want to see Gail Millik and your house again!” The words “Gail Millik and your house” were printed in a similar white oval in the same font as my name. Gail Millik is my wife’s mundane name.
I took the mail over to the bench and sat down. Setting the catalog and credit card offer aside, I focused on the sweepstakes envelope. Aside from the text already quoted, there were no other markings on the envelope. There wasn’t even an address, stamp, or post marking. This was not entirely surprising, however. I stuck a finger under the flap and ripped it open.
Inside, I found a single typed sheet (presumably the aforementioned instructions), and a photograph that hit me like a blow to the stomach. It showed Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude tied to a chair, blindfolded and gagged. There was some writing on the photo; it said, “Do not fuck with us.”
I did my best not to let the cheap shot photo rattle me, but I was only partially successful. I turned my attention to the typed sheet of paper.
I shan’t bore you with the details. The gist of it was that I was to appear in a certain abandoned warehouse down in the docks area of the city at midnight that night. Whoever these people were, they were not long on originality.
I will admit, however, that the P.S. was a bit troubling. “Wear gloves, or the woman dies,” it said.
So I was to be without the use of my right pinky finger. That didn’t make me feel very cozy at all. But of course, I had to follow the instructions. They held all the cards, and they weren’t sharing them.
If nothing else, it was going to be an interesting evening. I took advantage of the intervening time to purchase a pair of gloves, and some shoes that didn’t flap.