The sun peaked in through the blinds and woke Ryan up. He works the swing shift, so when most people are grabbing a late lunch, Ryan is reaching for the snooze button. Despite the urge to sleep all day, Ryan finally managed to get himself up to face the world and feed his dog, Sawyer.
"Mornin' Ryan." said Sawyer.
"How's it goin." Ryan replied.
Sawyer wasn't like any other dog. At least not to Ryan. Somehow, Ryan was able to hear his pet talk and Sawyer could also understand Ryan. No one else could hear Sawyer and in order to stay out of a straight jacket, Ryan never mentioned that he could to anyone. The two sat in the kitchen enjoying their breakfast when the house suddenly felt empty.
"Where's Annie?" asked Ryan.
Annie was Ryan's wife and she worked from home so she was usually around when he got up. Her car was outside, but there was no sign of her. Then Ryan found the note.
If you ever want to see Annie again, you'll have to come up with $500,000, a plane ticket to Romoskovia and... we want the stick. Don't call the cops. We'll be in touch.
Ryan was stunned. Where was he going to get the money? And his stick... He quickly tried to think out loud.
"Romoskovia. Annie is a Romoskoviac and so is her family. All of her brothers and sisters..." said Ryan
"It could be the work of one of her cousins." suggested Sawyer
"No, none of her cousins are smart enough to pull off a kidnapping." said Ryan
"And her brothers and sisters are?" he challenged
"True." said Ryan "They must have gotten the help of an American."
"Yes, that would explain the proper grammar in the note..." said Sawyer
Just then the phone rang. Ryan picked it up.
"Hello?" No response.
"Hello?" he said again, with a little irritation in his voice.
"Hello there!" said a loud and cheerful voice "I'm calling on behalf of Big State Car Insurance! Are you happy with your current policy?"
"Ma'am, this is really not a good time..." said Ryan
"But sir, it's always a good time to save BIG at Big State Car Insurance! May I ask what your current deductible is?" the telemarketer asked.
"Really ma'am, I don't have time to... really? Wow, that is cheap... Well that seems reasonable..."
Sawyer growled and Ryan snapped back to reality.
"Uh, sorry I gotta go, bye." Sawyer glared at Ryan as he hung up the phone.
"What? She had a great offer!" said Ryan "When you start earning money instead of just eating it, we'll see how many deals you hang up on."
The phone rang again.
"Hello?" said Ryan
In a raspy, altered voice someone replied:
"Yes, we have Annie. She's fine... for now. Do you have the items I requested?" asked the caller
"No, of course not!" said Ryan "$500,000? If I had half a million bucks just sitting around do you think I'd be answering my own phone calls?"
Silence for a second, then:
"Well, whatever. Just get the money, the ticket and the stick." said the caller
"Why the stick!?" Ryan shot back.
"You have until midnight tonight. We will see you in the park. Goodbye." said the caller
"Why the stick!!?" Ryan demanded again
And the call ended.
Ryan didn't have to ask why they wanted the stick. He knew. He had played hockey for most of his life, but whenever he joined a league, he struggled. Year after year, he failed to impress anyone, even his parents. Until one Christmas when Ryan got a brand new Cooper hockey stick. It was black with white lettering. The blade was replaceable, so Ryan added a right-handed Christian blade with a 'Stevens' curve. He used white tape and the magic started to happen. That year, Ryan scored an average of two goals a game. He was unstoppable. With that stick, perhaps he could have gone on to the NHL, became the next Great One, but he chose to retire it. However, the power that stick had was still so great, that it could make any nonathletic person, even a Romoskoviac, into a goal scoring machine. Whoever had Annie wanted enough money to start a team in Romoskovia, produce more of the magic sticks and take over hockey. They would win Gold Medals, World Championships and worst of all, the Stanley Cup would be littered with Romoskovian names. The thought was too much to bear. Ryan and Sawyer had to think. And fast...
* * * * *
It was five minutes to midnight when Ryan and Sawyer pulled up to the park.
"Ok, you know what to do, right?" Ryan asked Sawyer.
"Yup, we got this." Replied Sawyer as he put on a ski mask.
"Why are you wearing a ski mask? You're a BLACK Lab. And where did you even find a ski mask that fits a dog?" Ryan inquired.
"Mind your own business! I have to play the part." Sawyer answered.
Ryan got out of his truck and grabbed a small duffel bag and the stick. Sawyer slid out of the truck before Ryan shut the door and stuck to the shadows. Ryan headed towards a statue in the middle of the park where he assumed they would make the exchange. Sawyer stayed out of sight as he too made his way to the statue. Ryan got to the statue and waited. At exactly midnight, two people emerged from the darkness. Annie and... her evil brother-in-law, Pat.
"I had a feeling it was you." said Ryan.
"I will hand your wife over to you once I have the money, the ticket and I have the stick in my possession." Pat replied, ignoring any small talk.
Ryan reached for the duffel, undoing a couple buttons on his warm-up pants he was wearing, and tossed it between them.
"The ticket is inside with the money." said Ryan.
"And the stick. I will have the stick now." said Pat with his heavy Romoskovian accent.
Ryan dropped the stick next to the duffel and stepped back. Pat pulled out a small pistol and moved towards the loot. Just as he bent over to pick it up, he heard a terrible growl behind him. He glanced back, but saw nothing in the darkness, so he continued towards the duffel and stick. Suddenly, he heard another growl as he spun in horror just in time to see a big black dog in a ski mask charging him! Annie used the chance to push him down and run, just as Ryan ripped off his warm-ups (yes, he had shorts on underneath) and pulled out his 12 gauge Beretta shotgun. Sawyer grabbed Pat's arm and hauled him down, just before he could fire a shot. Ryan stepped on his other arm and pointed his shotgun at Pat's face.
"There's something humbling about staring down the barrel of a shotgun, eh?" Ryan mocked.
Pat wet himself.
* * * * *
The police arrived a short time later and took Pat away. They also took the duffel bag full of Monopoly money to be used as evidence. Ryan had already hidden the stick in his truck before the police arrived.
"I'm glad you're alright, honey." Ryan said to Annie
"Me too. Can we get me some Starbucks?" she asked.
Sawyer, who had removed his ski mask by now, asked Ryan, "So who do you think his American accomplice was?"
"I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that's a story for another day."