This is starting to get really creepy.
I am referring to the mysterious brown envelopes that have been secretly deposited in my mailbox in each of the last 10 months.
Inside each is an alarming photograph of a member of our family who was kidnapped in January, along with a menacing note detailing what cruel activities the "hostage" has been forced to take part in.
Before you call 911, let me give you a little background. Last January, I wrote a heartbreaking column in which I revealed "Creepy Santa," a three-foot-tall stuffed Santa doll I've immortalized in recent years, had been stolen from our front porch.
Regular readers will recall he was nicknamed Creepy Santa by my daughter because his pale, plastic face has a malevolent, open-mouthed glare. He looks like former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, only more lifelike.
I can't imagine what Christmas at our place would be like without Creepy Santa. It would probably be wonderful. Our only real Christmas tradition involves my wife and kids hiding this scowling plush gnome in random locations, then waiting for their victim to stumble on him and scream in holiday horror.
Blood is still leaking out of my ears from the shrieks my son emitted a few Christmases back when he staggered out of bed, climbed into the shower, turned on the water ... and found Creepy Santa staring back at him from a dark, damp corner.
But the point is, he's gone. Shortly after last Christmas, Creepy Santa was pinched from the porch, where he normally sits to scare away neighbourhood children who want to shovel our driveway.
A typical Canadian family, we didn't even realize he was gone until days later when the first brown envelope arrived and inside was a photo of the creepy little dude sporting a tiny Jets T-shirt. There was also a slip of paper bearing this grisly post-holiday message: "GO JETS GO!"
Since then, every month, usually on the day of some special occasion, another mysterious brown envelope arrives from the heartless kidnappers. For instance, several months ago, along with the envelope, we discovered our porch and every tree in the front yard had been festooned with full-colour photos of Creepy Santa wishing my wife a Happy Birthday.
In the middle of the Summer Olympic Games in London, the envelope contained a photo of the tiny terror clutching a Canadian flag and marching proudly at the front of the Canadian team into the opening ceremony. "Go Canada go!!!" the accompanying note shrieked. "So glad I made the trip over the pond. Had a jolly good time at the Opening Ceremonies."
In the middle of our heat wave, his ninja-like captors taunted us by sending a photo of the rosy-cheeked rascal lounging on a floating chair in the middle of the giant inflatable pool in our very own backyard. Yes, the cruelty is unimaginable.
What's more, readers have become fascinated by the ongoing saga of Creepy Santa's abduction. Routinely, as I stand in line at the grocery or liquor store, a stranger will eyeball me and ask: "So, have you tracked down the kidnappers yet?"
One reader sent me a small gift-wrapped box, inside of which I found (prepare to be a little bit creeped out) a severed plastic Santa's head. Ha ha ha. Nothing creepy about that! Did I mention I sleep with a loaded shotgun under my pillow?
Anyway, none of the envelopes has contained what you would call a ransom note, and we really don't have a clue who took him or why. On Thanksgiving, we sat at a table surrounded by family and friends, all of whom we accused of being the kidnappers. As we checked their faces for signs of guilt, each, in turn, denied any knowledge of the crime. "Ha ha ha," is what they said, averting their eyes.
Then, a couple of days ago, the latest envelope appeared. It contained a photo of Creepy Santa in a Halloween-style pirate's cap with a skull and crossbones, an eyepatch, a gold earring, a striped scurvy dog's T-shirt and a swarthy pirate sword.
"Shiver me timbers!" the note chortled. "Talkin' like a pirate be more fun than deliverin' toys!"
So I fear the worst is about to happen. It appears Creepy Santa is slowly working his way home for the holidays. If that comes true, expect to hear a joyful noise in the air over my home.
It will be the sound of my wife and kids screaming.