1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F). On the stove, melt two tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add four tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Salt and pepper your raw chicken to taste. I use eight whole chicken thighs (skin on), but any part of the bird that you prefer will work. Dredge the chicken in flour, and place as much chicken as will fit comfortably, skin down, to simmer on the pan.
  3. The phone will ring. Listen to the man carefully. He will not repeat himself. They have your son Jasper and are holding him. He will be safely returned to you if you comply with their demands: two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in unmarked bills, left on the steps of the Dittrick Museum of Medical History by midnight tonight.
  4. When browned, flip the chicken to brown the reverse side. Remove from saucepan and repeat with remaining portion of chicken. When all the chicken is browned, pour off half the fat in the pan to discard.
  5. Think clearly. Now is not the time for hysterics or histrionics, but for action. Remove emotion from the equation as much as possible, there is no time left for it.
  6. Slice one medium onion, four bell peppers (I'd recommend two red and two green) and five cloves of garlic. Add them to the remaining fat in the saucepan.
  7. Close the curtains. You're almost certainly being watched. Your phone is tapped. Calling the cops is not an option on the table, so don't even entertain the idea.
  8. Set a pot on to boil, and when ready, add one pound of pasta or egg noodles (I like linguine, but it's fun to try different options!)
  9. If you sacrifice Jasper to these people, that won't be the end of it. You know that, don't you? You did a bad, bad thing. And these motherfuckers are crazy enough to kill your kid.
  10. Add twelve ounces of sliced mushrooms to the veggies, and season to taste with thyme, turmeric, black pepper, and salt (and, if you're like me and enjoy a little kick, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.) Stir in three quarters of a cup of a dry white wine.
  11. There is one way to get the money tonight. If it works, which is a major "if," you might be able to end this all. To go back to before the evil came. To the simple days. To before, when everything seemed right and true.
  12. Pour a twenty-eight ounce can of tomatoes, and mix in. Put the chicken back in, skin side up. Put it in the oven, covered. Remove pasta from the heat, if you like it al dente, or leave on for a few minutes for a softer mouth feel.
  13. You have forty five minutes before the chicken needs to be removed from the oven. Act fast. Grab your coat and your keys. Take the elevator to the parking garage. If you pass anyone strange on your way there, avert your eyes and keep moving. They probably have a tail on you, but they want you alive to get the money, so they won't touch you.
  14. Drive to Karen's house. Your house, once. You still know the route and could drive it with your eyes closed, though it's been almost twenty years since your name was on the deed. God, how life just passes you by.
  15. Park at the community pool, around the corner from the house. Get out and start moving before you have the time to doubt yourself. To doubt the plan. To doubt what has to be done, if you want to stop the menace that lurks in every shadow.
  16. Go back around the house. Under the trellis, with the dead grapevine you once tended to. Avoid the patio, the light is on a motion sensor. You installed that sensor. Karen brought lemonade when you were up the ladder, and wolf whistled at you in your sweaty t-shirt. She was the best thing that ever happened to you. Why couldn't you see that?
  17. Jiggle the padlock on the storm door to the basement. It's rusted out and will break if enough pressure is applied.
  18. Open the storm door. An alarm will sound. Shit. That's new. A light goes on upstairs. You need to go, now. Fucking run.
  19. As you run back to the car, you will hear sirens, and see lights. Ignore them. Get back in the car and head back for the apartment.
  20. Once you've made it home safe, lock the door behind you. Unplug your phone, turn out the lights. If the cops come looking, you're not home. Soon you won't live here anymore.
  21. Remove the pot from the oven, and take the lid off. Increase heat to 375 degrees (F) and put the dish back in for an additional fifteen minutes.
  22. Pack a duffle bag. Essentials only. Leave room for a gun.
  23. Remove the chicken and vegetables, then return the pot to the stone and let the sauce reduce for a few minutes.
  24. It's five minutes to midnight. Jasper will have to be a casualty. Just another soul lost in the wake of your pathetic indiscretions.
  25. Pour the drained noodles into a large serving bowl or (or casserole dish, for mobility!) and add vegetables and chicken pieces. Pour over the sauce on the pot to taste.
  26. Take the food and the duffle. Leave everything else. Drop your apartment keys and IDs in a drain when you can. Get on the highway and head south. You can make it to the border before sunrise. Those sick freaks will probably tail you, and the cops will catch up soon. But just keep going, always keep going, towards the hell you've made on earth.
  27. Serve, sprinkled with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan!