I recently wrote a novel called How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers. Some people have used it as a guide, others have used it to balance wobbly dinner tables. It’s about a writer who one day impulsively kidnaps a book reviewer outside of a coffee shop, in front of dozens of witnesses. This is obviously not how one would successfully go about kidnapping a stranger. My novel is more of an anti-guide. Do the opposite of what my characters do, and you might actually have a successful abduction.
But now that I’ve gotten a few kidnappings under my belt, I’ve decided to hold some auditions for those who might be interested in being my partner. Today’s audition features Brandon Barrows. We will be discussing the possibility of kidnapping the protagonist from his new collection, The Castle-Town Tragedy and Other Stories.
MB: All right, Brandon, before I agree to be your partner, you’re gonna have to answer a few questions. I don’t kidnap strangers with just anybody. Well, not usually. I have a long list of potential partners awaiting my consideration, so let’s make this fast. Who the hell are you, and why should I trust you?
BB: I’m a bad mamma-jamma. I’m the Ace of Bass. I’m the meanest man on the west side (of Colchester, Vermont) and you can trust me because I told you to and bad things happen to people who don’t do what I tell them.
MB: Provide examples of your criminal past. Any jail time served? Ever jaywalk or swallow your gum even though you knew it would stay in your stomach for years until eventually hatching into a horrifying monster? I need to know this kind of stuff ahead of time.
BB: One time, I got so drunk I tried to walk the wrong way up the middle of a one-way street and collapsed, vomiting all over myself (presumably repeatedly). At least, that’s what the police told me when I woke up. I gave them the old spiral eyes whammy, though, and got off with a bench appearance. Boo-ya, turkeys!
MB: Do you have any special talents? What can you bring to the table?
BB: I can rattle off the backstories of thousands of fictional characters without taking a breath. I can consistently get up to ninesies in jacks. My jeans don’t get dirty cuz dirt knows better than that. And I always bring the finest imported china to the table, because I like to make my dinner guests feel like an evening together is something special.
MB: All right, so if you’re wanting to work with me, you must already have a target in mind. Who are we kidnapping?
BB: Mister Thomas Carnacki of London.
MB: What’s so special about him?
BB: Well, he’s Edwardian England’s foremost occultist as well as a self-taught scientist of some renown who spends his days battling both supernatural and human evil across the British Isles. That and he has access to some damned fine liquor.
MB: What kind of ransom are we looking at? What’s in it for me?
BB: Oh, I don’t want money, I just want to see about maybe becoming his apprentice or something. Writing weird fiction is fine and all, but living the weird/supernatural life seems like it’d be a lot more fulfilling.
What’s in it for you? Did I mention Carnacki’s collection of fine liquors?
MB: Be honest. How dangerous is this person?
BB: Well, he can and has held his own against ghosts, demons and cosmic deities from beyond the Outer Circle, plus he carries a gun, so… sort of dangerous, I guess. I mean, I once saw him break the arm of a thug, a member of a gang pretending to haunt an abandoned mansion to keep local villagers out of their way, just by giving him a knowing look. So, watch out for that and maybe wear some mirrored sunglasses and maybe those houdou looks’ll get reflected back.
Also a big, cartoon-style net to capture him in. It’s so simple, so low-tech, so mundane, he’ll never see it coming. I hope.
MB: What location were you thinking? Is there somewhere we can get him alone?
BB: Well, he’s usually alone on his occult investigations and he does go to some awfully far-out places for those sometimes so there should be plenty of opportunity. As for getting to one of those, we’ll have to stake out his place, maybe go through his mail even, to figure out exactly when and where. He lives alone, too, actually but he’s got these friends who are always over drinking his liquor and smoking his tobacco in exchange for letting Carnacki brag about his exploits, so that’s no good. They aren’t there ALL the time, of course, but if he disappeared from his own home, I’ve got a feeling they’d know something was up pretty quickly.
MB: Okay, we have a target and a location. Now we need to discuss method. There’s many ways to kidnap a person. We could sneak up on him and throw a potato sack over his head. We could shoot him with a tranquilizer. We could order him a pizza and lace it with sleeping pills. The possibilities are endless. You know this person better than anybody. How do you recommend going about this?
BB: Since most of these investigations are spent in dark, out of the place, supposedly-haunted places, as I mentioned, I think we can just make sure he’s alone, stuff him in a sack and then be off on our way. People bring Carnacki in cuz they’re scared and at their wits’ end already, so it’d likely just enhance the place’s reputation and keep away any possible investigators – at least for a while. It’s kind of perfect, actually.
MB: Now that we have him, how long until someone notices he gone? Who’s going to be coming after him? Should I be worried?
BB: Hmm, he has a tendency to disappear on cases for anywhere from days to a couple months at a time, so I’d say we’d probably have at least a month or two before anyone really got suspicious. As for who’d come after him… well, who can say? His friends probably wouldn’t themselves, but they might contact some of Carnacki’s occult associates. As for who those would be, I frankly don’t have a clue at the moment. But, hey, why worry ‘til it happens?
MB: How could we convince them we mean business?
BB: This is an easy one. I read on the bathroom wall in a haunted public library that Carnacki is ticklish as all get out. Tie him up, grab a feather and go to town on those tootsies. Bam, results.
MB: How do you predict this hypothetical kidnapping ending? Will it all be smooth sailing, or is there a massive gunfight in our future? I don’t mind spilling a little blood here and there, I just need to be prepared.
BB: Well, I’m hoping he’ll see it for what it is: an attempt to obtain his approval and mentorship and instantly accept me as his apprentice. I mean, this is how you build long-lasting relationships as far as I know. Yeah, the more I think about this, the more right it feels. I think as soon as we have Carnacki in that over-sized net, everything’ll be just fine. I’ve got a good feeling about this.
MB: Me too. Let’s do this.