I was standing in line at a local bookstore, minding my own business, staring down at my feet and patiently waiting to pay for a cheesy paperback murder mystery when it happened.
The lovely woman standing in front of me turned around suddenly, affected a look of shocked surprise, batted her eyelashes, then pinned me with an intensely inquisitive stare.
"So," she cooed, in a voice as smooth as the syrup you would pour on your morning pancakes if you were the sort of person who lives in cheesy detective novels, "where do you think HE is?"
The question confused me, but, as persons of my gender generally do in emotionally charged situations like this, I attempted to adopt a manly air of casual indifference.
"Where do I think WHO is?" I replied in what I hoped would pass for a seductive whisper.
The mystery woman frowned ever so slightly and rolled her eyes. "Creepy Santa, of course!" she snickered. "Have you been able to track down the kidnappers?"
"No," I grunted, bravely heaving a sigh, "we don't have a clue."
And that's the truth. If that conversation is something of a mystery to you, let me bring you up to date.
In January, I wrote a heartbreaking column in which I revealed "Creepy Santa," a three-foot-tall stuffed Santa doll bequeathed to me by my parents, had been kidnapped from our front porch. For the record, he was nicknamed Creepy Santa by my daughter because he has a creepy, open-mouthed glare that makes him look like one of those icky inflatable dolls you find on the Internet.
I personally think he looks more like Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich or Prime Minister Stephen Harper, only with a more natural hairstyle and better people skills.
During the holidays, my family, by which I mean my wife and kids, bring joy to one another by hiding this scowling plush gnome in random locations, then waiting for their victim to stumble on him and shriek in holiday horror.
But this year, shortly after Christmas, Creepy Santa, who had been parked on the porch to scare away neighbourhood children, vanished into thin air. Days later, a mysterious brown envelope arrived and inside was a photo of the creepy little guy wearing a tiny Jets T-shirt. There was also a slip of paper on which had been printed the following grisly message: "GO JETS GO!"
My initial reaction to the kidnapping was something along the lines of "Ha ha ha!" But then it dawned on me something horrible could happen, namely the kidnappers might decide to give him back.
For the last month-and-a-half, these evil-doers have been taunting us. Shortly after I wrote about the kidnapping, another mystery envelope arrived. Inside was a photo showing Creepy Santa buried to his neck in snow and sporting a headband, a multicoloured scarf and a pair of red mittens.
On the note accompanying the photo was this message: "#@*! it's cold! I think I froze off my 'jingle' bells. By the way, nice article! I thought we had such good times together and now I know how you really feel. Maybe we'd all be better off if I never came back!"
So we still don't have a clue who took him or why, but my wife is determined to find out. She is accusing everyone we know, then monitoring their facial expressions for signs of guilt. "How can I scare the kids next Christmas if we don't get him back?" is how she justifies this witch hunt.
About two weeks ago, a third mystery envelope was dropped in our mailbox. It contained a four-by-six photo of a forlorn Creepy Santa standing alone in a corner wearing a necktie festooned with tiny hearts for Valentine's Day.
But, as long as the photos and plaintive notes keep coming, we can take comfort knowing Creepy Santa is alive, or as alive as a three-foot plush doll ripped from the bosom of his loving family can be.
Who knows, maybe the creepy little guy will find some way to escape on his own. I mean, he may have a creepy plastic face and be stuffed with fluff, but he's no dummy.