by Mary Vettel
Linda Calder referred to a small notebook as she stood in the sunny kitchen with her husband. “I’ve made a list.”
“Listening,” Michael said as he sniffed at left-over tacos. He scrunched his nose and dumped the container in the trash. He got a beer from the fridge and downed half.
“OK. First: grocery shopping.”
Her husband nodded. “Count Chocula,” he said and wiggled a finger at the spiral notebook. “Kids love that.”
“Kids?” She raised an eyebrow at him.
“OK, I like it.”
Linda jotted it down. “Next: duct tape, rope, and baby monitor.”
“Why do I have a question mark after Ransom? Didn’t we agree on that?”
“We said a hundred grand.” Michael blew into the empty bottle.
“Of course.” She rolled her eyes at herself for having forgotten. “Sorry, I’ve got so much going on.”
“You need to focus, babe.”
Linda nodded her agreement.
“We have to time the drive back here from the middle school. I don’t want to get struck at that railroad crossing with the kid kicking and screaming and attracting attention.”
“Honey, the duct tape and rope, remember?”
“Oh, right.” Michael shook his head and smiled.
“Then we’ve got to scout the old quarry to dump the body if things go wrong.”
“Don’t worry.” He kissed her. “Nothing’s gonna go wrong. Hey, maybe we should do the grocery shopping last, so the ice cream doesn’t melt while we’re doing all that other stuff.”
“And leave her in the trunk the whole time?”
He shrugged. “What could go wrong?”
“Then we’ve got to visit the airport and get some information on helicopters.”
“And we’ve got to talk to the police about certain procedures. You know, ransom/victim exchange and the FBI. As you know, things are changing so rapidly, there’s probably lots of electronic gadgets, microchipped data retrieving equipment, etc., that the authorities have at their fingertips that we don’t even know about. I want this to seem realistic, Michael.”
“Me too.” He led the way to their respective dens. They simultaneously slid open the pocket doors that separated the two rooms.
“Oh, I adore what you’ve done with the place,” Michael gushed. “Is this where you actually sit and create those delightful Aunt Holly stories?” He laid a hand over his heart, the other palm rested against his cheek.
“How are we going to work this?” Linda asked, ignoring his jokes. “I like to listen to Vivaldi and you like to listen to Abbott and Costello.”
“Through the magic of modern technology, we can continue to operate in our usual working style. You can wear earphones. I enjoy my comedy classics backed by classical music.”
“OK.” Linda sat, booted her computer and opened to her spreadsheet of bills that needed to be paid.
“Uh-oh,” Michael said. “If you’re paying bills, this must mean I have to do the laundry.”
“Pavlov was right.” Linda smiled.
Michael headed for the kitchen. “Did Hemingway do his own laundry?” he called over his shoulder. “Did Fitzgerald? Faulkner?”
“Madeleine L’Engle?” Linda called out to him. “Margaret Wise Brown? Don’t forget to strip the bed, too, please.”
Michael trotted up the loft stairs, gathered up the linens, towels and clothes hamper and carried them to the laundry room to start a load.
Within minutes Linda had paid all the bills online and went to the kitchen to put on the tea kettle. “What’s the matter?” she asked when she saw the look on Michael’s face.
He exhaled and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
“Sure it is,” Linda said encouragingly and rubbed his shoulders. “Neither one of us has heard of it being done before.”
“No. I don’t mean the idea for the book, I mean that we should write it at all.”
“Well, you got started on another Aunt Holly book and … I’ve been playing around with an idea for something myself.”
“Really? Tell me.”
“Well, it’s not quite out of the embryonic stage yet.”
“Can’t it keep?” I’ve sent Aunt Holly to the Betty Ford Clinic like you suggested.” She squeezed his arm plaintively. “Come on, Mick. I was really geared up for this.”
“Aw, babe, I just don’t want us to screw up a good thing, ya know.”
Linda nodded. “You’ve got your ways and I’ve got mine but I think with patience and understanding we’ll be able to dovetail them quite nicely as we manage to dovetail other things.” She gave his butt a gentle squeeze.
“You’re so sweet,” she whispered and nibbled at his collarbone.
“Don’t do that and expect me to be able to fold sheets later.”
Linda laughed. “I’ll help you fold.” She slid her hand up under his shirt and tugged playfully on his chest hairs.
“I yanked a white one the other day,” Michael confessed softly.
“Aw,” Linda cooed and kissed the center of his chest.
“What’s gotten into you?” Michael held his arms up for her to pull his sweatshirt over his head.
“I’m finding you incredibly sexy lately,” she whispered.
Michael leaned down to see his reflection in the toaster. He shrugged and allowed himself to be pulled down onto the kitchen floor. “Hmm, we haven’t done this in a while.”
Linda giggled and covered his lips with hers. “What’s wrong?” she whispered and pulled back to look at his face. “Not in the mood?”
“Oh, it’s this whole kidnapping thing.” He rolled onto his back and stared at the exposed beams in the ceiling. “Too many kids are going missing. It would really weigh heavy on my conscience.”
“Aw…my sensitive guy.” Linda ruffled his hair. “So, what do you want to do, scrap the whole idea?”
“No. I think we should go for someone older.”