Veronica paced nervously, glancing often at the clock on the wall. She stopped and stood frozen as he second hand hit the twelve. "It's three, thank God, it's three," she gasped as a smile crept across her well-glossed lips. "Right now," she thought, "it's happening right this minute." If it weren't for her co-workers' presence she was certain that she would leap into the air and click her heals, but, decorum being what it was, heal clicking was not an option.
"She's gone, finally, she's out of my life . . . no, our lives," she muttered far enough from the ears of those she despised second of all, her co-workers. The one she despised most was now gone.
Veronica found out about "her" on their second anniversary. How could Ken have actually believe that "she" would add to their lives? Instead of a diamond bracelet or that cute fox stole she saw at Macy's, Ken walked in with "her" draped across his arm. "Happy Anniversary Darling! Look what I have gotten you," he said joyfully. From that moment on Veronica's life became a living hell.
Every morning "she" was in their bed purring contently beside Ken as he slept, and every evening when they opened the door "she" would leap playfully into his arms. But not today, no, not today. There would no longer be any leaping, purring or any of the other millions of agonizingly painful tricks that bitch would pull to endear herself to Ken, because, after all, Ken was Veronica's and not Nautica's
Veronica hummed and grinned to herself for the next two hours, barely able to contain her joy. She simply could not wait to get home and see "her" gone. When 5 o'clock arrived, Veronica ran excitedly for the elevator and furiously flagged down a taxi. She was anxious to get home, a feeling that she had not had since that fateful day when he bought home that blonde bitch.
Everything was as she had expected, the door was ajar, the note was in place and she, having rehearsed a thousand times in her mind, performed the obligatory shrieking and shaking called for by the presence of THE NOTE:
Listen, this is a kidnapping. I want $10,000 in $20s so you better go to the bank because when I call you are going to have to deliver them. If you call the police the cat is going to die. Sincerely, the Bad Guy.
Veronica read the note, re-reading the part where "the cat is going to die," which caused her to shudder. The pure, unadulterated joy was impossible to contain. Then, a giggle surfaced from her throat as she read, "the Bad Guy." "What an idiot!" she thought. "Surely for 10 grand this moron could have been just a little more threatening. The Bad Guy! You would think I was dealing with children."
As the screaming and shaking part of the performance was complete, she pondered more the simplicity of the note. "What if that idiot did get a kid to take that bitch?" After looking around nervously for any forgotten clues, Veronica lifted the receiver and dialed the number with trembling hands. She had memorized the number and burned the paper which contained it. Simplicity being the key, it made no sense for her to keep information laying around for Ken to come across, she reasoned. After two rings, an angry voice grunted, "What!"
Despite herself, Veronica felt fear rise in her throat as she stuttered into the phone at the unknown woman on the other end. "Echo? Sharp told me if I had any questions I should call. This is Veronica."
"I know who you are. What the hell do you want? Listen, you ain't supposed to call until tomorrow, so this better be good because this damn cat of yours is giving me one hell of a headache."
"I was just wondering, well . . . did everything go smoothly? You have the cat? I mean, well, I read your note, and I was wondering about 'the bad guy.' Why did you sign it 'the bad guy'?"
"I didnt sign shit! Sharp took care of the note. Listen, you got a complaint file it under Sharp okay? Now, is there anything else you want your highness?"
"No, nothing, but are you going to call tonight or is Sharp, because I don't know if Ken will take Sharp too seriously with that squeaky little voice of his."
"What'ya trying to say? I sound like a guy or something? Listen lady, you 5th Avenue types get way under my skin and this whole thing with the cat is idiotic beyond words. If you plan to call me and add to the 'stupid bank' be prepared to pay the fine, got it? From now on, it's a hundred for every stupid question or remark made by your dumb ass."
"Listen, you uneducated gutter snipe! I am never spoken to like this and refuse to be spoken to like this by the hired help. Do you understand me?"
Echo just laughed a knowing laugh and without much ado said, "That'll be a hundred dollars lady." With that, she hung up the phone.
Veronica was beside herself with anger as tears of rage smeared her Estee Lauder's Lady's Finest No. 5 all down her cheeks. Fortunately for her, tears were just the ticket as Ken sauntered into their apartment.
"Veronica, Veronica! What's wrong? Sweetums, you're a mess."
He comforted her the best he could saying all the standard "Veronica's crying" lines. "Please darling let me fix it for your. What does my Angelbaby want? C'mon, darling, it can't be that bad. Surely I can do something to make my little Cutesypooh smile." Which, of course, was equivalent to the cha-ching made when any cash register opened to display its finery.
"They took her Kenny. They took our little Nautica. Oh God! She's all alone." With that her sobs deepened as she buried her raccoon eyes into Ken's Pierre Cardin.
Ken roared, "huh?"
"Yes Ken, they took Nautica away, they said they would kill her. Can you imagine our little Nautica dead?" She said as she hid the grin washing across her face by once again pressing her made up face into Ken's well soiled shirt.
Ken raged, "Maybe we can call the police, what do you think, huh honey pooh?"
"No! No we can't. Theyll kill her for sure. No, we must be patient and wait. We have money in the safe, done we? You know, for emergencies. I think there's at least fifteen thousand dollars in there, remember? We put it in last week."
Ken nodded and obediently turned and walked toward the bedroom. He returned carrying a stack of $20s that Veronica so intuitively knew would someday come in handy. Who would have thought that day would come so soon? As Veronica and Ken waited for contact from the kidnappers they reminisced on the special moments that the three of them had shared. "Oh Ken, look here, see this is the scar that she left when she attack . . . I mean leapt down from the top of the refrigerator on Christmas. And look at those cute little claw marks at the bottom of the couch. She simply loves Corinthian leather doesn't she, the little darling! I still remember when she made a no no on my new Coach jacket, oh and that time she killed that bird that flew in here and hit it in my leather pumps. I never realized how cold and hard a bird could get in such a short time. Oh God! Im so going to miss her." With that, Veronica buried her face in her hands as her entire body convulsed. She remained that way until the laughing fit had passed. When she looked up, tears in her eyes, there was Ken looking at her tenderly. It was a special moment for both of them.
At 7 p.m. sharp the ring of the phone shattered their quite reflections and brought them back into the cool, clear light of reality. After her earlier experience Veronica was dreading the next phase of the plan; however, like any other brilliant performer she rose to the occasion.
"Hello? The St. John residence. May I help you?"
"That, lady, is gonna cost you a hundred. Now, wanna try for $10,300 or wanna start acting like a person?"
"Give me back my baby," whined Veronica, "you monster."
"Okay, let's see, 'give me back my baby' will cost a hundred unless you're a cat too. And 'you monster' just rose the rate to $150. Yup, lady, that gives us a grand total of $10,550. Now shhhhhhh! Do yourself a favor and be quiet now and maybe you can keep a little money to buy food or something, okay? I want my 10,550 in a brown paper bag dropped off in the garbage can on East 16th Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn. Now, it should probably be you since this was all your brilliant idea. And besides, I kinda like the idea of my homies seeing you serve me my money."
Veronica stood frozen as Echo continued amusing herself. "Also, no cars, nope. Want you to bring it on the train just like real people have to travel . . . Got it? If I see you get out of a car, well, you don't want to know how far I would go, okay? Once the money is in my hand and you are well on your way, Ill gladly kill this clawing, whiney ass thing of yours. But until then . . . she lives. Got it? Now, if you leave now you should be able to get here in an hour but I'll be nice and give you an hour and a half, so you might wanna get your ass in gear there missy."
"Okay, okay you win. I'll bring it just please don't hurt my kitty." You are a monster! With that, Veronica hung up the phone and turned to her husband. "They want $10,500 now or they're gonna kill Nauty. I have to go alone. I'll take a cab and change for the train right before I get there. Those idiots will never know."
Ken, deathly worried about the welfare of his wife, shrugged and handed the money over to Veronica. "Be careful darling," he said. "Don't worry, once Nautica is safely home we will help her forget all of this trauma. Maybe we can take a nice family vacation or something and . . . with enough time and attention . . . she'll be her same, old, lovable self."
Veronica added each syllable out Ken's mouth to the myriad of reasons she had used to justify the death of one so beloved beloved by Ken that was. She raced outside, cash in hand, to wave down a taxi. Once she arrived she quickly raced to the appointed garbage can and dropped the bag. "Done," she said to herself, "now I just have to go home and wait for the bad news."
When she returned home she found her dearest safely tucked away, pajamas on, light out, traditional cup of water beside the bed as the faint murmur of words escaping his dreaming mind wafted toward her eager ears. "Nautica, Nautica, itll be all right." Veronica looked down on him and thought, "with any luck you two will be together someday soon."
The next morning she awoke to Ken pouring cat food into the dish. "No" thought Veronica, "this can't be. I paid them. She's dead. They promised."
Quickly she went into the kitchen to see "her" there in her usual position beside Ken's foot waiting, just waiting, for the silver bowl to touch down before her. Ken looked up smiling a smile that can only be produced by a complete idiot. Veronica searched his eyes for an explanation only to find that which she always finds, nothing.
"Look Veronica, our little cutesy wootsey is back all safe and snuggly warm. Why Veronica, you look so happy! I believe I even see a tear. I must confess, although I know it's not very manly, I wept like a baby when I opened the door and saw her there. I've been so busy with her that I haven't even had a chance to read the note."
"Note? There was a note? Quick, where is it?"
"Easy now, it's on the mantle in the living room," said Ken as he bent to his knees to adore "her" as she ate her Fancy Feast.
Veronica trembled once again, but this time from an odd combination of fear and rage. She looked at the note and began to weep.
Hey, glad you were able to bring our money so fast. That cabbie was pretty fast. Well, after counting our $10,000 exactly we just knew what we should do. We wouldn't want to prove ourselves idiots now would we? Sincerely, the Monster.
Veronica was defeated, beaten by some faceless bitch. Everything was ruined. Sadly she made her way back to the kitchen where "they" were the happy couple.
"Darling," said Ken, "did I ever tell you what made me choose Nautica above all other things for your gift?"
"No," said Veronica flatly.
"It's quite simple really. After two full years of living with you I felt I knew you well enough; therefore, I bought you something that was exactly like you. Sometimes I can be pretty Sharp you know? But, the difference is, she is exactly what she seems. Sure, she can be a little bitch, but she's a cat and doesn't pretend to be a dog. That's refreshing around here, wouldn't you say? Now, I don't expect anything to happen to her again because I would hate to think what terrible things that Echo and Sharp would do to the poor bitch, wouldn't you?" With that he looked up with a wry smile and something she had never seen before in his eyes, life. There was life behind those eyes after all.