Chapter 5

“Dearest Katherine,

You and your family are cordially invited to a life-changing event. A towncar and driver will be waiting in front of your house on the morning of Friday, February 17. You’ll be back in time for supper Sunday night.

Your favorite brother,

Chris”

Katherine turned the invitation over and gave it a second look. The envelope was textured with a curly calligraphied address, but curiously, it had no stamp and bore no sign of having passed through a United States Postal Service processing center. No stamp and no postmark, even though she had pulled it out of her mailbox along with the Visa bill and a flier for a snow removal service. Chris certainly hadn’t hand-delivered it; six hours would be a long time to drive for a practical joke.

Katherine picked up her phone and scrolled though her contact list until she found “Chris (brother).” She hit Select and held the flip phone to her ear. To her surprise, the call was picked up immediately. To her even greater surprise, a recorded message started playing.

“Hello there. You probably have some questions about the invitation you got today. All I can say is that I highly recommend that you come. If you decide to pass, just go let the driver know when he gets to your house next Friday morning so that he doesn’t wait around all day. Bye!”

So weird.

Around the corner from Katherine’s house, Chris turned to Christina in the front seat of their car and grinned, showing her the Google Voice record of Katherine’s call on his laptop’s screen. (He was glad he hadn’t gone through the trouble of prerecording her message and setting up the auto-forward for her number for nothing.) “If we don’t make any stops, we can get to Henry’s house to drop off his invitation before he gets home from work.”

Christina smiled and gave the go-ahead with two thumbs up. “Why don’t any of your brothers and sisters live somewhere warm? We won the lottery, and instead of laying on a beach in the Caribbean, we’re driving around the Midwest in February.”

“Correction: I won the lottery.” For that, he received a weak punch in the arm. “Hey, you better be nice to me, or I might not share my dollars with you… J/K, you know I love you. And what about your brother and sister? South Dakota and Iowa aren’t exactly tropical.”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s go.”

Over the next four days, eight more unstamped envelopes were delivered, and eight more calls were forwarded straight to the automatic recording. Chris’s youngest brother, however, was given a different sort of invitation.

Jake, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, walked out of his last class on February 17th to see a sign with his name on it in the hands of a man standing in front of a black limousine. Jake stopped, shrugged, and threw his backpack into the door now held open by the chauffeur. “So, who are you, and where are we going?”

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