This exercise proved a little long for writing out in the book. I will probably print it and paste it in. But in the meantime…

“We have Gracie. If you want her back: catch the #3 bus that will pass Bedford and Charlotte at exactly 10:27 tomorrow morning. In the last seat on the left leave a backpack with $10,000 in it. Get off the bus at Chebucto and Maynard at 10:50. No cops. If you do not comply you will never see her again.”

My hands were shaking as I read the note over again. I ran through the house calling her name. Nothing. I sat down on the kitchen floor, rocking, as the tears began to flow. How could I let this happen? My cat, my baby…taken by desperate people.

Four months ago I won $450,000 in a lottery win. After my picture, name and address were published I was haunted by requests for money. Letters. Emails. Phone calls. I remember thinking – it’s not like I’ve won millions! I paid my mortgage off and bought a car. I had about $75,000 left. I had outlived all my siblings so I had no family to spoil. I treated my friends to a $10,000 shopping spree but the money seemed to come between us. They changed overnight. Or maybe I was the one who changed. I was no longer sure. And through it all, the constant requests for money. I had turned them all down; I was trying to carefully plan how any donation I made could do the most good.

They must have been watching the house, watching me with Gracie. How long have they been planning this? Where is she? What about her medicine? I rushed to the cupboard and let out a small cry as I saw her insulin on the shelf. I couldn’t stand it; I left the house and started driving.

About an hour later I realized I would have to try. I drove to the bank and withdrew the cash. Tomorrow morning I would be on that bus.

I let 3 buses go by before I realized the 10:27 would arrive next. The backpack was heavy. I got on the bus and looked at the handful of passengers. I sat at the very back, on the left, as instructed. I wanted to scream, Where is she? Who took her? But I didn’t. I sat there, watching my phone as the minutes clicked by. At 10:50 I got off, desperate to see who was getting on, who was moving with purpose to the last seat on the left. But no one did. Another bus driver got on at Chebucto and Maynard, and stayed at the front, chatting, waiting for his shift to start. I watched the bus drive away, the backpack unnoticed, at least to my searching gaze. I walked slowly home, anxiety building, tears flowing freely.

I opened the door and a small cry greeted me. Gracie! She was lying in her bed, meowing fiercely and shaking. I picked her up and quickly got a needle ready. She seemed ok but I could tell she was reacting to the missed medicine. The shaking stopped almost instantly once the insulin was flowing under her skin. My beautiful girl, back where you belong. I started crying again, but for a very different reason.

I never found out who took Gracie. I upgraded my alarm system. I try to never leave her alone. I search for signs but she doesn’t seem to be permanently affected by the episode. I still get the occasional letter but nothing like before. The phone calls and emails have all but stopped. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’m not taking any chances. And I’m not buying any more lottery tickets. Ever.

Next topic: Something you had that was stolen. Look for it on Mar 21.