Author/blogger’s note: This is chapter 10 of my little unpublished comic crime caper “Grabmore”
In this, a deed has been done, the crime committed. But the knuckleheads behind it don’t know what to do now.
Tess didn’t drive me all the way back to the office. She dropped me off a couple blocks away so I could casually stroll back as if I had just been gone a few minutes.
First, though, we chatted. I updated her on how smoothly we abducted the CEO and how terrified O’Riley was as he sat trembling in the back of the van.
Tess was nearly as scared as I was. Not to mention O’Riley, of course. None of us had ever been part of what could quite likely be termed a criminal conspiracy. What else could it be called? We had conspired. Quite clearly. We had, I must admit, committed a crime. Technically.
We snatched an American citizen off the streets of a placid little downtown. We bundled him in the back of a van. It probably wouldn’t help to point out the van was American made, a Chevy Suburban.
We rationalized the act. Like nearly every decent human being, we viewed O’Riley as a heartless, soulless, amoral, greedy, lecherous corporate villain.
All true. Certainly. But that wouldn’t make us innocent in the eyes of the law. We were guilty. No doubt.
And now that we had him, what was next?
The van by now was heading south on U.S. 41. Through San Carlos Park and on through Estero and Bonita Springs and on to Naples and points beyond.
Where was he being taken and what were we going to do with our prize captive?
As Tess drove me back downtown in her Honda, she expressed fear. Make that terror. She wasn’t involved in the abduction. But she was clearly an accessory. She and her husband, Cliff, have three children. She was aiding and abetting one of the ringleaders. That would be me.
By time Tess dropped me off and I walked back in the newsroom, back to the puke, tobacco and ketchup-stained carpet, the kidnapping wasn’t news. It was too soon.
Nobody knew O’Riley was missing. Not yet. Maybe he had stopped by Hooters for some wings and beer and leering. That was typically part of his annual winter visit.
I had to, meanwhile, get cracking on my feature on the Red Sox new bullpen catcher.
Even more than usual, I struggled with this story. Not because it was a challenging story. It was a harmless little feature on Pepper Martino, who has knocked around the fringes of pro baseball for years.
I typed up ledes, newspaper jargon for the start of stories.
Everything was straight from the dustbin of the worst ledes in sports writing history:
A funny thing happened to Pepper Martino on his way to the major leagues.
What a difference a year makes for Pepper Martino.
It was a dark and stormy night the day Pepper Martino was injured at high noon in a Gulf Coast League game.
I needed to clear my head and focus. Using any of those ledes would banish me forevermore to typing up Little League scores and high school volleyball agate. Or get me promoted to executive editor.
Still, it was tough focusing on Pepper and his three-year career as a back-up catcher in the low minors and his heart-warming tale of overcoming a childhood in a gated community as the son of two orthodontists who ferried him to youth baseball games all over Florida.
In the car on the way back downtown, I rehashed to Tess how we plucked O’Riley off the street. He came bopping down the dock, his little captain’s cap perched on his head, his $195 Tommy Bahama shirt under his navy jacket looking as loud as a quartet of steel drummers at a third-rate beach resort and his khaki slacks, his white socks and sandals.
He wasn’t accompanied by any of those steroid-addled louts who usually worked his security detail. He had that usual Grabmore vacant stare, the beady-eyed gaze that betrayed no sense of humanity or knowledge or interest in anything besides money and career advancement.
Nigel and the gang were parked nearby. I had walked from the office and the timing was, frankly, implausibly fortuitous. As I strolled down West First Street, there was O’Riley and the van. We all converged. ….
I said hello. I didn’t address him by name. I lied. Said I was a tourist and was looking for the Lanai restaurant.
He looked annoyed. O’Riley wasn’t used to dealing with the peasant classes on the streets of an American town. He usually was ferried from his gated home, the one with the moats on all sides, to his exclusive country club to his corner office at Grabmore Towers. Crossing paths with somebody other than valets and chauffeurs and corporate lackeys made him uncomfortable.
There was no layer of security or brownnosing weasels protecting him. Not this time, not this moment.
I said, “Sir, I just came down from Poughkeepsie and I’m looking for this fancy restaurant called the Back Porch or Balcony or Rear Door or something.”
He tipped his little captain’s cap back on his head, looked left and right and he was startled into silence and stared at me for a moment.
“Ah, sir, maybe you don’t know the place,” I said.
He began mumbling. It’s as if a busboy at the country club had asked for stock tips. His little mind was racing. He was likely thinking why did I want to walk to the Lanai? Now I got this unwashed idiot from Poughkeepsie asking questions.
Finally, evidently figuring the best way out of this encounter was providing a straight answer, he said, “You mean the Lanai.”
I asked for directions. He began pointing and I asked him to step closer to the curb. That’s when we pounced, when my colleagues leapt from the van and tossed him roughly into the back and slammed the door.
It took somewhere between one and two seconds. The door was locked. O’Riley was too scared to say anything. He was ours. We were on our way. But on our way where? And what were we going to do with him? And once we did what we did, whatever it was, how were we going to get out of this mess?
If we killed him, how did we dispose of the body? Were we capable of murder? Oh, yeah. Maybe not me but some of my friends in that Chevy Suburban.
If it was a kidnapping, would we ask for ransom? If so, how much? And ask who? Stockholders? Readers?
Were we going to hold him indefinitely? How long would we hold on to him? And where? How would we feed him? Who would pay for it? How long could we take time away from jobs and family to monitor this corporate criminal?
Could we ship him somewhere? Mali? Somalia? Siberia?
Well, we’d figure that out. If only we were as smart and resourceful as O’Riley’s great-grandfather.