THE KIDNAPPING OF CECILIA SIMON
The door to the Simon and Simon office was thrown open, and banged viciously against the wall behind it. The startled A.J. jumped from his chair. A box of staples flew from his hand, causing the tiny silver objects to shower down on the carpet like raindrops.
"Rick!" The irate detective yelled. "How many times have I told you not to bang the door like that? I thought you'd learned your lesson after the last pane of broken glass it cost us three hundred dollars to replace!"
Rick ignored his brother's tirade. He made it across the room in two bounds, thrusting a piece of paper under A.J.'s nose.
"Shut up and read this."
A.J. looked at the lavender stationary.
"What is it?"
"Mom's been kidnapped, A.J.!"
"What? By whom?"
"I don't know by whom! The guy didn't sign it! Kidnappers don't usually leave their names and addresses, you know. Geez, you've been in this business long enough to have figured that out by now. Just read it!"
A.J. quickly read the letter. He then read through it at a slower pace a second time, studying it closely as he did so.
The impatient Rick paced back and forth.
"Come on. Come on. What's takin' ya' so long?"
Smirking, A.J. looked up at his brother.
"Rick, Mom hasn't been kidnapped."
The upset detective came to a halt in front of his sibling. His arms flapped like the wings of a bird.
"What do you mean, Mom hasn't been kidnapped? It says so right there, doesn't it? It says she won't return until demands are met! I was just at her house. She's not there, A.J., and her car is gone, too! I found that note layin' on the dining room table!"
"Rick, just how closely did you look at this note?"
Rick's impatience turned to anger.
"Close enough to know that some crazy person has our mother! Come on, we've gotta go through the files! I bet someone's tryin' to get back at us for something. If that S.O.B. so much as harms a hair on her head, I swear I'll rip him into little pieces with my bare hands, and feed him to the sharks!"
Rick began to frantically pull apart A.J.'s orderly files.
"Rick! Rick! Rick, don't dump all those files on the floor! No one has kidnapped Mom."
Rick looked up from the file cabinet, his brows furrowing. "What do you mea--"
"Rick, this letter is in Mom's own handwriting."
Rick stepped over the pile of folders scattered on the floor. "What?" He reached a hand out for the note. "Let me see that."
Rick reread the letter. Now that he was somewhat calm, he immediately recognized the distinct curls to the loops in his mother's g's, j's and y's.
“I don’t get it.” Rick looked up at A.J. "Why would she do such a thing? Damn, she scared the shit outta me."
A.J. took the letter from his brother and read it over one more time.
"It says here that she's tired of playing second banana. It says she wants equal billing with us."
"She's really not second banana," Rick mused. "Town is."
"I wouldn't tell her that," A.J. advised. "I told you it was a stupid idea to agree to star in our own TV show. Who wants to watch a program about two struggling P.I. brothers who argue all the time, anyway?"
"Plenty of people do! Look at all the fan mail we get. And last week we came in number two in the ratings. Besides, it was you who insisted that Mom have a part in the show."
"How could I not insist? I couldn't very well tell Mom that Marlowe was going to have a part in it, but she wasn't!"
"Yeah, yeah. Okay. I see your point. But what are we gonna do now? We've got to get her back before we start filming next week's show. She's supposed to bring lunch to the office for us when we're tied up on that big case, and dispense some heartfelt, maternal advice while she's here."
"You wouldn't know heartfelt, maternal advice if it bit you in the ass," A.J. scoffed.
"I know. But that's what the script says. So I repeat, what are we gonna do?"
A.J. picked up the phone's receiver and held it toward his brother. "I guess we'd better call her. She left a phone number on the note."
Rick took a step backwards. "I'm not gonna call her. You call her."
Rick shook his head. "No way. You call her," he insisted once again.
A.J.'s shoulders slumped in defeat. "Why do I always have to be the one to call her?"
" 'Cause you're her favorite," Rick declared. "She'll negotiate more willingly with you."
"Oh, for heaven's sake," A.J. grumbled as he gave in and dialed the phone.
While the brothers waited for the call to go through, Rick muttered, "I don't know what more she wants, anyway. Don't we always see to it that at least once every season she gets almost an entire episode to herself? She wanted to go to Paris and see Henri, so we did that for her. Then she wanted a reunion with that Phil guy, so we did that for her. When she wanted Bud and Edie to be in an episode, we worked that out for her, even though they about drove the director crazy."
"Shhh," A.J. hushed. "Yes. Hello. I'd like to speak with Cecilia Simon please."
"Where is she?" Rick asked.
"At some ski resort in Colorado," A.J. answered with an ear to the phone yet. "Uh...hi, Mom. It's A.J. Uh...Mom...we really want you to come back. We miss you, Mom. And we...uh...we need you for next week's show."
A.J.'s end of the conversation stopped there as he listened to his mother's reply.
"What's she saying?" Rick asked.
A.J. put his hand over the mouthpiece.
"She says we don't need her all that bad. Her scene in next week's show isn't even a minute long. She says she's sick of breezing in our office, and breezing out again, in less than thirty seconds time. She wants something a bit more substantial."
Rick decided that was a fairly easy request to comply with.
"Tell her okay."
A.J. returned his attention to the phone. "Okay, Mom. We'll see to it.
“Yes, I understand.
“Yes, Mom, I know. You put in a lot of work for the show.
“Yes, Mom, I understand that you’ve grown weary of scenes where all you do is bring us food and offer us stale advice.
“What, was that, Mom?"
"What's she saying?"
Again A.J. covered the mouthpiece.
"She says she doesn't want any more scenes shot early in the morning with her in her nightgown and bathrobe."
Rick nodded his agreement to that simple demand.
"Tell her okay."
"Hey! If she doesn't have to do any more scenes in her bathrobe, then I don't want to do any more in mine!"
"A.J., come on. Be reasonable here. Every time we shoot a scene with you in that old blue bathrobe of yours, our ratings skyrocket. The ladies love it. You know perfectly well the producers will never agree to that."
"Oh, all right," A.J. pouted. He spoke into the phone once more. "Okay, Mom. No more nightgown and bathrobe scenes.
“What? Mom, I don't think—
“Well. . .okay."
Again Rick asked, "What?"
A.J. looked at his brother.
"She says no more scenes with Marlowe. She says she's
tired of redundant scenes where we drop Marlowe off for her to baby-sit, then merrily go about our adventures and forget all about her."
"Man, no more scenes with Marlowe?" Rick echoed. "Geez, his feelings are really gonna be hurt. But, okay. If that's what it takes to get her back, I guess I can agree to that."
A.J. returned his attention to the phone.
"Okay, Mom. No more scenes with Marlowe.
“What! Mom, no! No way!
"What'd she say now?"
"She wants to have scenes with more excitement to them. She wants to prove to the American public that senior citizens like to be daring and have fun, too. She wants to roll down a few hills in her Mercedes, and get shot at once in a while."
"Tell her absolutely not!" Rick protested. "There's no way I'm gonna let our mother put herself in that kinda danger."
"Mom, neither Rick nor I can agree to that.
“Mom," A.J. pleaded.
“All right, all right. More adventure scenes. But very carefully orchestrated adventures scenes."
"And very limited ones," Rick added.
Once again A.J. listened attentively to his mother's demands. His eyes grew round with shock and he began to frantically shake his head.
“Mother! No way! Absolutely not."
"What?" Rick impatiently interrupted.
A.J. focused on his brother. "She wants a series of love scenes with Harrison Ford."
"What!" Rick exclaimed. "First of all, tell her we don't even know Harrison Ford. Second of all, he's a movie actor, not a television actor. And last, but certainly not least, he's young enough to be her son!"
A.J. relayed all this information to his mother. He put his hand back over the mouthpiece in order to inform Rick, "She says if we really care about her, we'll prove it by getting Harrison Ford cast as her love interest."
Rick reached a hand out. "Give me that phone."
A.J. was more than happy to relinquish the instrument to his sibling.
Sternly Rick said, "Now look here, Mom. There's no way I'm gonna get Harrison Ford, or any man for that matter, to play love scenes with you on national television. I might be able to swing a one-time guest shot for Andy Griffith, but other than that no—
“Mom, come on, work with me here. We need you for next week's show.
“No, we can't recast your part with Barbara Billingsley. We don't want Wally and Beaver's mother. Me and A.J. want our mother."
There was a long pause before Rick finally conceded defeat.
"Oh, all right. I'll work on the Harrison Ford thing. But I'm gonna be on the set when those scenes are shot. If anything indecent happens, and I do mean anything, that guy will never have the looks to play Indiana Jones again."
Rick thrust the receiver back at his brother, growling, "Wipe that smirk off your face."
"I knew Mom would get the best of you," A.J. gloated with a smile. He spoke into the phone one last time.
"Is everything okay now, Mom? Are you going to come home?
“Yes, I'm glad.
“No, we understand.
“No, Mom, we're not mad.
“Yes, I know you had to protect your own interests.
“I love you, too.
Yes, Rick still loves you. He’s find with all this.
“Okay. We'll see you in a few days then. Goodbye."
A.J. hung up the phone and plopped bonelessly into his chair, weary from the negotiations. "She'll be home in time for next week's filming."
"Good." Rick flopped into the chair across from A.J.'s desk. "You know, A.J., I never thought I'd see the day when we'd be involved in contract negotiations with our own mother. This television stuff's a dog-eat-dog world, let me tell you."
A.J. sized his brother up from across his desk.
"Speaking of negotiations. I really am sick of having to film scenes in my bathrobe. And you know, just once I'd like to be able to come to work dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Why is it always me who has to wear the suit and tie? I'm tired of the fans referring to me as stuffy. And about this Liz thing--"
Rick sat up straight. "A.J., don't start with me."
A.J. ignored his brother.
“I'm sick of having a girlfriend no one ever sees. Hell, I don't even get to see her. And besides, she sounds way too bitchy in my opinion. Now personally, I think we should put Janet back on the show. And speaking of love scenes, I'd like to do several with her. As well as with a few other ladies whose names I'll provide you with. And I'd like--"
"Aaaaaay Jaaaaay!" Came Rick's cry of frustration.
A cry that hollowly echoed throughout the large, empty sound stage.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~