The Note

Michael Barbour stirred from his sleep. “What was that?” he asked, though he knew full well that he was alone. Or at least, hoped he was. Groggy, he raised himself out of bed and looked around his room. Everything appeared to be in perfect order, so he shuffled into the hallway.
   Bam! Bam! Bam! “There it is again!” He exhaled, trying to not alert the burglar, should there be one. “It sounds like it is coming from the front door.”
   Michael padded to the front door as quickly as he could. He peered out the small window in the door and saw three dark shadowy figures running off the porch. Yanking open the door, Michael ran onto the porch in his boxers and T-shirt.
   “Hey, get back here, you shadowy figures!” he yelled as loud as he could.
   Michael tried to give chase, but the shadowy figures had had too much of a head start and disappeared. Michael looked around to see if any of the early-rising neighbors were outside getting their papers or walking their dogs. Of course, there were none. Really, are there ever witnesses in these kinds of stories?
   “Dammit!” he grumbled as he turned around and walked back onto the porch.
   He walked toward the door, where he was greeted with a note attached by a single nail. He grabbed the note and looked at it.
   “Hmm...” he said, before crumpling the note.
   Michael walked inside the house and shut the door.

After showering and dressing in his black suit, Michael decided to give his girlfriend a quick call. “Yeah, it said they want two-fifty!” Michael said into the telephone.
   “Why would they want that much?” his girlfriend responded. Michael frowned and shook his head, not knowing how to answer.
   “Not a clue,” Michael responded. “All I know is I don’t have that much.”
   “Oh, honey, you’ve got plenty,” Jennifer said.
   “I meant money,” Michael responded.
   His girlfriend laughed at that comment. “Oh, what about your Porsch’? Or has the bank finally repo’d it?” She giggled even before finishing the sentence.
   “Very funny, Jens.” Michael chuckled. “I’ll see you after work?”
   “As always, Mike!”
   Michael hung the phone up and grabbed his briefcase as he headed for the garage. He climbed into his blue Porsche 911 Turbo, opened the garage door and sped off to work.

Jennifer Williams, Michael’s girlfriend, began to wonder about the note Michael told her about. She decided to log onto her computer. As a computer technician she worked from home. Jennifer knew she had a light load for the day; she figured she could do a spot of research before beginning work.
   Jennifer’s “spot of research” became three hours’ worth of work as she read recent news articles regarding what the note could be about. She jotted notes of everything she saw to show Michael.
   “Wow,” she sighed, closing her laptop, “has Michael ever stepped in it this time.”

Michael finished in court at 2:45. Before heading to Jennifer’s house, he decided to return to the office. A junior partner for the most prestigious law firm in Greenwich, possibly all of Connecticut, he knew he needed some face time at the office.
   He drove his Porsche around looking for the best parking spot. When he found a suitable spot, Michael climbed out and beeped the Porsche locked. Although pre-occupied with thoughts of the court case, his attention was directed to a shadowy figure near the office entrance.
   “That’s strange,” he thought. “It’s a sunny day, how could there be a shadowy figure at this time? And, seeing two shadowy figures in one day, how does that happen?”
   Michael spotted a co-worker strolling toward him. “Hi, Jimmy! How’s it goin’?” Michael called.
   “Good, Mike,” responded Jimmy. He started toward his car then stopped, facing Michael. “Hey, Michael, you look confused. What gives?”
   “I hope it’s nothing, but I’m not too sure,” started Michael. “This morning, I saw some shadowy figures ‘round my house. And I’d’ve sworn I just saw another here.”
   “Oh yeah, shadowy figures are a staple of this genre,” Jimmy said. “You can always expect to find one or two lurking about.”
   “Yeah. They woke me up hammering. I ran out of the house trying to catch them. When I walked back into the house, I saw a note.”
   “A note? What is it?”
   “It’s a piece of paper with words, but that’s not important right now. Oops, sorry — guess I’ve been watching Airplane too many times. It’s about my father.”
   “That pathetic piece of shit? Oh, sorry, Mike.”
   “Hell, you’re not the first; I’ve called him worse. Don’t apologize.”
   “What’re ya’ gonna do?”
   “I dunno, maybe nothing or maybe something.”
   Jimmy looked at his watch, “Shit.” He started walking away. “Hate to run, but I got a case at 3,” he said. “A case of Bud Light!”
   “Here we go!” exclaimed Michael.

An hour later, Michael’s Porsche roared as he pulled into Jennifer’s driveway. She had heard him speed down the street and was already on the front porch when he pulled in. Michael stumbled out of the car.
   “’ello, beautiful,” he slurred.
   Jennifer stood, hands on hips, glaring at Michael. “Are you talkin’ to me?” she asked in her best De Niro voice.
   Michael let out a laugh. He opened the passenger door and pulled out a bouquet of yellow roses, Jennifer’s favorite flowers. He slammed the door catching the flowers in it.
   “Oops,” he said, yanking the flowers from the closed door. “Bouquet of stems, dear?”
   “Michael, are you drunk?” she asked.
   “Hell, yes! Jimmy had a case and we split it!”
   “Why didn’t you bring that instead of stems?”
   Michael laughed holding the door for Jennifer. She scurried in and Michael followed. Once inside, Michael sniffed the air.
   “You cookin’?” He asked.
   “Of course! If you’re hot, I’m ready!”
   “No, I mean food!”
   “I’m making a batch of cookies, I had some time to kill. We have a great little relationship.” Jennifer sighed.
   “Dinna anybody tell ya yer sa’posed to have dinner before dessert?”
   “This from Mr. Buzz wiser. Did you just come here to mock my free time activities? Or do you really want something?”
   “I wanna ask ya to help me with this whole ransom note thing. Well, that and I love ya’.”
   “Right, about the ransom note. I did a little re—” Jennifer began, getting interrupted by the cookie timer. After taking the cookies out of the oven and putting them on the counter to cool, Jennifer ran and got her laptop. Then she resumed her thought.
   “I did a little research about that. I found that your father’s bank has had some problems with missing funds.”
   “Oh yeah?” Questioned Michael. “How much, ballpark?”
   “Oh, about Yankee Stadium — or really, about 2.4 million,” Jenny explained. Michael’s eyes widened.
   “Shit.” Michael rested his forehead on his hands, sobering up quickly. “Let me guess, this is all Dick.” Michael ran his hands through his hair.
   “Well, I dunno, yet. But, I did find that because of the missing funds, several people have lost their life savings.” Jenny paused, and removed a cookie from the pan, placing it in a container. “If that were me, I would be really mad.”
   “Yeah, I’d be pissed.” Michael reached for a cookie, and Jennifer smacked his hand away. “But, would I really want to kidnap somebody?”
   “Who knows? We could say lots of things that wouldn’t be true when we were faced with such a situation.” Jenny placed the penultimate cookie in the container, taking the last for herself.
   Michael watched her eat the cookie, and smiled. Jennifer saw him smile, and looked toward him. “What are you smiling about? They’re my cookies, not yours,” she said with a sarcastic smile.

With the cookie incident behind them, the couple decided to eat dinner, even though it was only 4:30 PM. Because they had a lot to go over, thanks to Jennifer’s three-hour research binge, she suggested that they just order a pizza. While they waited on the pizza to be delivered, Jennifer briefed Michael on what she had learned.
   “What is going on here, is that somebody is embezzling money from the bank,” Jennifer prefaced her spiel. “Just in the last three months, there have been reports of more than 2.4 million dollars stolen.”
   “Right, I got that part,” Michael said. “You mentioned it in the last section.”
   “OK, but, did you know your father has been seen with several different girls on the same night.”
   “Oh, that’s just great! Add that to the list of things that Dick has done.”
   Jennifer paused for a moment. She stared at her laptop and her eyes lit up. “That’s it!” she exclaimed. “You actually made sense for once!”
   “What’s it?” Michael was puzzled. “Hey!”
   “We’ll make a list of all of Richard’s unscrupulous dealings,” Jennifer explained. “Then we can try to figure out why people would want to kidnap him.”
   “How much paper you got?” Michael laughed.
   “I’ve got my computer, duh!” Jennifer smiled, realizing that Michael was only joking. “I’ll open iWork and we can start making this list.”

The two began listing many of the things that Richard had done since taking his post as bank officer. They worked while eating pizza. When they finished, they had a list several pages long.
   “It’s amazing that he has never been fired,” Jennifer stated.
   “Somehow, Dick always keeps himself from being blamed,” Michael retorted.
   “If we had to order these, what would you say are the most awful things that Richard has done?” Jennifer felt the two were making real progress.
   “Well, just because of how it has affected Mom and me,” Michael began, “I would say the biggest is that fact that he’ll bang any girl who looks at him. Next biggest would be that he is a total thief — especially when he takes the money. A person does that in this kind of story.”
   “I bet that would be a tough childhood.”
   “Well, when Mom and Dick got divorced, I was only six. I didn’t really know what was going on. But, the worst part was when he bought me a Mercedes SLK 230 — my dream car then — for my sixteenth birthday.” Michael paused; Jennifer stopped typing on her computer. “Only two weeks later,” Michael continued, “I found out that he had stolen bank money to get me the car. I told him to sell it back, but after I burned the tires off, and to admit his fault. I don’t know if he ever did. Mom tried to prosecute him, but it never came to anything.”
   “Wow, I cannot imagine.” Jennifer said, trying to say something, but not knowing what.
   The couple worked a little more on organizing the list. Finally, after having worked for five straight hours, Michael decided to return home.
   “Since it is eleven, I guess I should go home.” Michael stated. “I have an early case in the morning. Tomorrow, I will give Mom a call and see what she might know. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
   “Of course, my darling,” Jennifer responded. She tried to be as seductive as possible, hoping that Michael might stay the night, but she was also tired. She knew that she would have a lot to do the next day. “I will see if I can get any more information while you’re at work.”
   “Good,” Michael said.
   He gave Jennifer a kiss on the cheek, before turning around and going out the door. Jennifer followed him and saw him hop off the porch without using the steps. It was easy, though, there was only one step. He trotted over to his Porsche, and sprained his ankle before climbing in. He flashed the lights and gave Jennifer a honk before roaring down the road. Jennifer smiled and waved, missing him already.

As soon as Michael got home, he pulled his shoes off, checked his ankle, and checked his telephone messages. He decided not to wait to call his Mom. Michael dialled her number and waited. She didn’t answer; the answering machine answered instead. Wow that’s a lot of answering...
   “Hi Mom,” Michael said into the handset, “It’s Michael. Let me know when you get this, I have some concerning news.”
   Michael hung up the phone. He hobbled into his bedroom and sighed. “It’s been a long day,” he muttered, as he sat down on his bed. “I should have stayed with Jennifer.”

The ringing telephone awoke Michael. “I hope this is important,” Michael griped as he rolled out of bed. He ran into his office to pick up the phone.
   “Hi Michael, it’s your Mom,” the voice on the other end said, “You called late last night. Said you wanted to speak with me?”
   “Oh, yeah,” Michael responded, “I had an interesting day yesterday.”
   “That’s no reason to call your Mom in the middle of the night.”
   “It was only 11:30, Mom. Anyway, it’s more’n that. I was awoken yesterday morning by the sound of hammering.”
   “Hammering?” His Mom interrupted.
   “Yeah, hammering. Some shadowy figures were hammering a ransom note on the door. They claimed they’ve got Dick and want us to pay $250,000.”
   “Mon Dieu!” Michael’s mother exclaimed, “I thought it would be more. What’re you going to do?”
   “Well, Jenny and I are working on it. But if you’ve got any information, I’m sure it’ll help.”
   “Your father’s embezzling! I am sure that’s why they’ve — how you say, personnapped? — him.”
   “It’s actually kidnapped, Mom, even with adults.” Michael paused. “Hmmm... that makes sense. Hey! What’re you doing today, I’ll bet you and Jenny could get some good leads.”
   “OK, I’ll call her and see what she says; quit pestering me! Either way, I’ll talk to you later. Good luck on your case.”
   “Case? What case? Oh, I almost forgot. Thanks Mom!” Michael nearly hung up the phone. “Oh yeah, I’ll talk to you later. Bye!”
   “Bye, Michael,” she said with a chuckle.
   Michael hung up the phone, and rushed to take a quick shower and get ready. An hour later, he sped off to the courthouse in his Porsche.

Michael’s mother decided to take his advice and called Jennifer. Jennifer, incredibly busy with computers needing repairs, just let the phone go to voicemail.
   “Hi, Jennifer, it’s Isabelle, Michael’s mother, pick up the damn phone!” Isabelle began. “Michael had a great idea that you and I work together to figure this situation out, so we can start wrapping up this story. If you think it’s a good idea, let me know. I think you’ve got my number, but it’s 555-0122.”
   Jennifer finished up the computer on which she had been working, and called Isabelle. She stated that it would be a good idea, but she was busy and would like to meet around 3 if that worked for Isabelle. They made plans to meet at Michael’s house at 3:30. Jennifer called Michael and told him the plans.

Michael arrived at his house at 4:15 after having a long day in court. He saw that Isabelle and Jennifer were already there and pulled his Porsche into the garage. He climbed out and walked into the dining room. There, Jennifer and Isabelle huddled around Jennifer’s computer.
   “Right, here is a list of all the money that has gone missing at the bank, and here is the amount of money that Richard has stolen,” Jennifer pointed to two open windows and some text on her computer screen.
   “Wow, he’s not stolen as much as I expected him to,” Isabelle said with a laugh. “For an embezzler, he’s not very good.”
   “Hey, guys, what’s up?” Michael asked. “You both sound quite chipper! Is there a breakthrough?”
   “On a great tip from Isabelle,” began Jennifer, “I hacked into the bank’s server and found a list of all the money stolen. I also found some transaction records of Richard’s recent activity.”
   “Wow, that was faster than those crime shows!” Michael exclaimed.
   “Those unrealistic things? Anyway, like I was telling Isabelle,” Jennifer again pointed to the two windows and text, “here are the recent transactions and the total amount stolen.”
   “Oh wow,” enthused Michael. “Ha! Dick didn’t take as much as I thought he would!”
   “That’s what we both said!” Isabelle chimed in.
   “But, do we think that’s why the guys kidnapped Dick?” Michael tried to act as the voice of reason.
   “Well, it’s a start,” Isabelle reasoned. “These guys are asking for $250,000. My best guess is that they have lost their life-savings because of Richard. Or they don’t think he’s worth that much.”
   “And, I think it makes sense, really,” Jennifer stated.
   “OK, well, then I think it’s good,” said Michael. “But how can we tell who these people are?”
   “Oh, ye of little faith,” Jennifer said with a giggle. “Give me twenty minutes.”
   “OK, I’ll cook something,” Isabelle offered.
   “No, Mom, don’t worry,” Michael demanded, “I’ll run down to the little Italian cafe four blocks over and get us a bite. Be right back!”
   With that, the roar of the 911 could be heard as Michael peeled off down the street, then driving back by because he went the wrong way.
   “He’s a crazy person,” Isabelle said, with a laugh.
   “He sure is,” said Jennifer. “That’s one of the things I love about him; that and he’s good in bed.”
   “He’s always been crazy,” Isabelle commented. “OK, didn’t need to hear that last part.”

The twenty minutes passed quickly. But, in only ten minutes, Jennifer had already found out names and addresses of all the people from whom Richard had stolen money; plus, the names of his high school teachers, his college professors, and his tax return information.
   “Isabelle, come here!” Jennifer stood proudly beside her computer.
   “Did you find something?” Isabelle asked as she hurried from the living room.
   “No, I’ve been staring at the computer for the fun of it. But seriously, I’ve got names, addresses, and monetary amounts of all the people Richard’s stolen from; plus, his teachers’ names, and even contacted past acquaintances via e-Mail to get their opinions of him. I also got his tax records for the past 60 years and prior work experience. Oh well, you get the picture.” Jennifer showed Isabelle the computer.
   “You’re good,” said Isabelle. “Next time I can’t get my e-Mail, I’ll call you.” Both ladies laughed, as the 911 roared to a stop in the garage.
   “Yo! I’m home!” Michael shouted, carrying two big bags filled with food.
   Jennifer helped Michael carry the food to the table, while Isabelle got out some dishes. They laid out the food and began filling their plates.
   “Did’ya find anything?” Michael asked, as he tossed a cherry tomato into his mouth.
   “No, we’ve just been sitting here playing cards and doing each other’s hair,” Jennifer retorted. “Of course, I found something.”
   “Oh nothing much—“ Jennifer began.
   “She found the addresses and names of everybody Richard stole from, plus everything listed on the previous page!” Isabelle interrupted.
   Michael choked on his Cherry Coke while looking at the page before this one. After he recovered, he looked toward Jennifer. “Really? You found this, in twenty minutes?”
   “Well, no,” Jennifer said slyly. “If you had read the previous page, you’ll see it was only ten minutes. I played solitaire until my next line.”
   “Yeah, she had it done before I even had read the first comic on the ‘Puner vs. Snow’ website!” (shameless plug number one) Isabelle added.
   “Jeez, I dunno why I ever doubted you,” Michael said.
   “Well, I’m not perfect.” Jennifer said. “But darn close to it!”
   “You’re close enough for my blessing!” Isabelle hoped the hint would get into Michael’s thick head.
   Jennifer laughed coolly, but slightly uncomfortably. The remainder of the dinner was spent talking about each person’s day, hobbies, and thoughts on computers. But, Isabelle tried selling Michael and Jennifer on the “Puner vs. Snow” website (shameless plug number two).

After the dinner had finished, and the dishes had been thrown away, the group sat at the kitchen table with espressos in Dixie cups and discussed their most recent discovery.
   “Jenny, about how many people are on the list?” Michael sipped his coffee.
   Jenny counted the rows of names and addresses on the list twice. “Seventeen.”
   “That’s too many to investigate,” Isabelle said.
   Michael rubbed his eyes and tried to think. Jennifer and Isabelle looked at each other. None of the three were able to think of a solution. Jennifer sipped her grande decaf, no foam, mocha cappuccino with extra white chocolate.
   Their thought process was broken by the ringing telephone. Michael hopped out of his chair and answered it.
   “Hello,” began the person on the other line, “here are your instructions.”
   “Instructions? For what?”
   “The drop, duh! You’re the protagonist of a mystery story, after all!”
   “OK, let me get some paper,” Michael said trying to stall. Looking at Jennifer, he accidentally asked, “Can you trace this?” Jennifer looked horrified.
   “Are you trying to trace this call?” the voice asked.
   “No,” responded Michael.
   “Oh, good. I was afraid you would, ‘cause that’s common for this kind of story.”
   Michael fumbled around acting like he was getting paper before seeing Jennifer give him a thumbs-up. He grabbed a pad set conveniently on the table and the pen next to it. “OK,” Michael sighed, “I finally found one.”
   “Took you long enough; you should get better organized, that’s the failing of most victims,” the voice said. “You are to deliver the $250,000 to two places. First deliver $75,000 in small, unmarked bills in a black briefcase to the GEMS station on King Street at 11:00 tomorrow night. Then take the remainder to the Shell station on Putnam Avenue. Leave it by pump number two in the trash can using a sanitized trash bag. Tie it with a blue twist tie. Attach a note: ‘For Kidnappers Only’. Be there by midnight.”
   “Does a brown briefcase work?” Michael interrupted.
   “No! Brown doesn’t work in these stories. Besides, brown clashes with my outfit.”
   “OK, so GEMS on Putnam and Shell on King, correct?” Michael hoped he was stalling enough for Jennifer to get a trace.
   “No, read the top of the page to figure it out. Remember, any mistakes, and the annoying piece of shit gets it.”
   “What’s ‘it’?” Michael asked.
   “I don’t know! That’s just a saying in these stories. I didn’t know I needed an idea!” The voice hung up.
   “OK, then... bye? Stupid pathetic weirdo.” Michael placed the handset back on the base.
   Michael looked at Jennifer, who had a glum look on her face. “I take it you didn’t get the trace.”
   “Ya think?! No shit Sherlock,” she responded. “Do I look like the CIA?”
   Again the three went back to thinking on the problem of seventeen different people. Michael perked up.
   “Hey!” he said, to nobody in particular. “I’ve got it!”
   “What have you got?” Jennifer asked. “Is it contagious?”
   “No! First, the mysterious person asked for $250,000. Then he asked for it to be divided into two separate deliveries.”
   “OK?” Isabelle asked.
   “When they were hammering yesterday, I saw at least two shadowy figures. I also saw one at the firm that afternoon. They do appear everywhere, you know.”
   Isabelle interrupted, “All these shadowy figures you see, have you been checked for glaucoma?”
   Michael glared at her.
   “OK, maybe you’re on to something.” Jennifer began typing on her computer.
   “And then, they wanted the money to be delivered to uh... let me check that quote on the previous page, again,” Michael continued. Michael pulled out a manuscript of the story and read the previous page. “Yes, GEMS on King and Shell on Putnam.”
   “That’s not too far from some houses... Putnam Avenue, I mean,” Isabelle chimed in.
   “Alright, I am narrowing the search down to people whose combined totals equal $250,000,” Jennifer said. “That leaves six people.”
   “Can you narrow it down to less than that?” Michael was on the edge of his seat.
   “Yes, I found two people’s obituaries,” Jennifer stated. “The remainder of the people add up to $250,000 altogether.”
   “The remainder of the people add up to $250,000,” they said all together.
   “Are any of them doctors?” Isabelle asked.
   “No, no doctors,” started Jennifer, “but this guy is a member of GEMS and is stationed at King Street.”
   “Now we’re makin’ progress!” Michael shouted.
   “Hey, this guy lives on Sherman Avenue!” Jennifer joined Michael in his ecstasy, and lit up a cigarette.
   “What’s his name?” Michael asked.
   “Mr. — great — Peabody. We’re reaching a long way back (another Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, seriously?) for these two,” Jennifer begrudgingly responded, under duress of losing her role in the story.
   “I think we may have found our... what is it again, person-napper?” Isabelle tried to rejoice.
   “Kidnapper, Mom,” Michael corrected his mom. “You’re starting to lose it, are you getting Alzheimer’s?”
   Isabelle glared at Michael.
   “What do you say we take a drive to Sherman Avenue and see what we can see?” Michael wanted to get the kidnappers.
   “I’ll join you. I want to meet the people who have the nerve to get Richard,” Isabelle said.
   “I’ll stay here,” Jennifer said. “If I find anything that could be of help, I’ll let you know.”
   “Can I borrow your car, Jenny?” Michael asked.
   “Because if they see us in an everyday car, they will be more willing to work with us,” Isabelle explained.
   “OK,” Jennifer said, “just don’t crash my baby.”
   Michael and Isabelle ran outside and climbed into Jennifer’s Saturn. Jennifer smiled as she heard the peel of the tires and the roar of the engine going up the street. She was amazed that even in a four-cylinder car, Michael could still roar the engine and peel the tires, even if it was in the wrong direction.
   “You can’t make that stuff up!” Jennifer thought as she returned to her MacBook.

Michael and Isabelle pulled up to the house corresponding to the address that Jennifer had shown them. Acting like lost motorists, they climbed out of the car, feigned an argument, and looked around. Michael pointed to the house and said, “Maybe they know.”
   The two walked casually up to the door, all the while looking at other houses’ addresses up and down the street. Michael climbed onto the porch and rang the doorbell. Isabelle tripped and sprained both ankles, but kept going.
   A man answered the door. “Can I help you?” His voice was the one that Michael heard on the phone. He signalled this to Isabelle using a hand gesture they had devised in the car.
   “Yes, I am looking for an address. I am an attorney and a client of mine lives around here,” Michael lied.
   “What’s the address?” The man grew impatient.
   Michael heard a sound from the basement of the house. It sounded like a person being tortured. “What was that?” Michael asked, pretty sure he knew the answer.
   “Um... I didn’t hear any signs of torture,” the man began to shut the door. “Probably my dog yacking on a bone.”
   “Wait!” Michael held out a card. “I might be able to help. I know what Richard has done. He’s hurt my family, my friends, his high school teacher — well, the whole list is in the middle of page thirteen — and I can see he’s hurt you, too. I would really like to help you to get your money back.”
   The man stepped back, growing skeptical. “Why would you do that for me? For us, my friends, my family. He’s your dad, I’m not.”
   “He hurt my mother, he deceived me; he deserves to be put in jail. We have been trying for seventeen years now, my mother and I.”
   Isabelle waved to the man. “What Michael says is true. You are more than welcome to confirm it. All court cases are public record.”
   The man stepped back to the door. “Court case, huh? Why’d it fail?”
   “We didn’t have any witnesses,” Michael explained. “We could get you off these charges, and get Dick put in jail. But, we’d need your help.”
   “What would we get?” The man was clearly interested, as most people are when they hear they might get what they want.
   “With the bank knowing that Dick stole the money, they would auction off his purchases and pay back all the people from whom he had stolen. You would get your life-savings back.”
   “OK,” started the man, “what do we do now?”
   “We’ll have to call the police. You’ll have to confess to the kidnapping.”
   “Wait a minute, I am not admitting to any kidnapping...”
   Isabelle chimed in. “Your, uh... our, defense would be temporary insanity. Which, I am sure, is true. I know every time I had to deal with Richard it left me insane. Besides, everyone in these stories uses temporary insanity.”
   The man laughed, beginning to feel comfortable. “Let me talk it over with the others. They like being rough with Dick.”
   “Go ahead,” Michael said, “tell them what we told you. If you decide to do it, please call me. Here’s my card. Have a nice day.”
   The man read the card. It had “My Card” written on it.
   “Thank you. I know what I want to do, and I will try to convince the others to do the same.”
   Michael and Isabelle turned around and climbed back into the Saturn. Michael carefully drove away, making sure not to alert the neighbors to any suspicious behavior.
   “Damn, that was way too easy!” Michael shouted with the windows rolled down, before turning around because he’d gone the wrong way.
   “Michael, I think you need a GPS,” Isabelle offered.
   “No,” Michael responded, “I’ve got one in my head!”

By the time Michael and Isabelle returned home, Jennifer had already taken two calls.
   “The first call was from Nik Snatchim,” said Jennifer. “He’s one of the four men on the list.”
   “Yes, I know,” said Michael, “we’ve spoken. Mom and I met him at the house on Sherman Avenue.”
   “That’s what he said,” responded Jennifer. “He said he wanted some sort of deal? I hope you know what that means... You call me faster than those crime shows.”
   “Great!” Michael exclaimed before explaining it to Jennifer.
   “The second call was from Val Ium. He’s the GEMS member who was helping Nik,” Jennifer elaborated. “He also wants the deal, and he said the others do too.”
   “I have to go home,” Isabelle said. “I am coming out of retirement.”
   “All right, Isabelle Barbour, Attorney back at Law!” Michael exclaimed.
   “It will be a pleasure to work with you Michael,” Isabelle said.
   “Oh no, the pleasure’s all mine!” Michael said. He smiled toward Jennifer and said, “But, soon, the pleasure will be yours.”
   Michael and Jennifer saw Isabelle out to her car. For Michael and Jennifer, the remainder of the night was spent celebrating the big victory of wrapping this case up in less than twenty-four hours.

The day of the four men’s trial arrived. Michael and Isabelle were acting counsel for the defense, and Jennifer was sitting in the audience. The trial did not last longer than a week; the pleas of temporary insanity not being challenged by the prosecuting attorney. The case was dismissed.
   That allowed the case of Snatchim et. al. v. Barbour to proceed. The jury became so sympathetic with the stories of the four men, and how they lost their life-savings that less than a week was needed for the trial to complete, which is typical for this genre. The jury found Richard “Dick” Barbour guilty of embezzling the four men’s money and the judge awarded them not only their $250,000, but also $110 million in damages, to be paid by the bank and Richard. The four men did not let the additional money change them; instead of keeping it, they all donated it to the American Diabetes Association and bought a bunch of “Puner vs. Snow” merchandise (shameless plug number three).
   Richard Barbour was prosecuted by the State of Connecticut and is now serving a life sentence for embezzlement, grand larceny, and fraud.
   All names have been made up because this story is fiction.

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