“We have your cashmere purple sweater. If you ever want to see it again, you will do exactly as we tell you.”
Judy stared at the typed note sitting on top of her dresser. She read it out loud again.
“That’s all it says?” her husband John demanded from behind her.
She nodded. It was all it said.
The purple cashmere sweater was indeed missing. Judy took a deep breath. She had held back the tears so far; she wasn’t going to let them go now. This was no time for mourning; this was time for action. She was going to recover her sweater. She steeled herself and calmly read the note again.
The phone rang.
John and Judy looked at each other. They remained staring at one another as John reached down and lifted the receiver. He pressed the speaker button. A computerized voice spoke.
“If ever you wish to see your sweater, you will do as I say,” the voice stated.
Judy said, “Who are you?”
The voice replied, “That’s not important.”
John yelled at the speaker, “You tell us who you are and why you did this.”
There was a moment of silence. Judy’s hand fell on John’s arm, in an attempt to steady him; she knew his tendencies. She said, “Just tell us what you want.”
The voice said slowly, “All you have to do is remain calm and listen to our instructions.”
John blurted, “You already said that!,” his exasperation getting the best of him.
“If ever you wish to see your sweater, you will not talk back to us.”
John looked guiltily at Judy and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” She nodded and patted his hand, her pretty grey eyes pleading for his obedience.
John spoke while still looking into those eyes, “We will listen and not talk back and we will do as you say.”
“Very good,” the computer went on. “We have a few conditions before we really get started.”
Judy’s head fell in exasperation, her hair falling over her face. Her hands over her face muffled her voice slightly, as she said, “Anything. Anything you want.” John clenched his jaw, in an effort not to speak.
“It’s very simple: you want to get your sweater; we want you to listen to what we say.” John’s jaw clenched harder. The vein in the middle of his forehead started to swell.
Judy looked over at John and then up at the ceiling in desperation and pleaded, “I want my purple cashmere sweater back. I’ll do anything.”
The computer voice said, “You will follow our instructions.”
John’s right eye trembled slightly as he said, “Tell us what you want. And who you are.”
Judy looked over at John, her greys eyes widening. She knew where this was going. A soft whisper barely escaped her lips, “My sweater…”
John’s face was deep red and his left cheek started to quiver. The computer voice started again, “If you…”
John’s voice boomed through the room, “WE GET IT. WE ARE LISTENING, DAMMIT!”
The room was heavy with silence. After a brief moment passed, there was a loud pfffffft sound and bits of purple cashmere blowing through the wall vents. John looked up, as it billowed and twirled all over the room.
There was a click, as the door shut behind Judy. It would be the last time she would walk out.