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Hostage Crisis 

Grandma escapes kidnappers by buying Ford Explorer.

Don't let Grandma go car shopping at Ganley East. She may never come home again.

When 65-year-old Gloria Morman's 1988 BMW finally died, she called a salesman at the Wickliffe dealer. "He seemed like a very nice young man," says the retired librarian.

Two weeks later, her phone rang. It was the Ganley salesman. He was standing outside Morman's Cleveland Heights apartment, brushing snow off her BMW to check it out. When Morman came outside, the salesman suggested that he drive her to the dealership. Morman agreed. "I kept saying I wasn't going to buy anything that day," she says. "I just wanted to look."

They arrived at 2:30. First the salesman showed her a Ford van. "I said to him, 'Oh, no, that's too big,'" Morman says. "'That's almost like a bus.'" The salesman talked her into a test drive anyway.

Next the salesman urged her into test-driving a Ford Explorer. She didn't like that either. But when they returned to the dealership, the salesman told Morman to sit in the lobby as he tried to work out a deal.

Hours passed. "It got to be eight o'clock, and I asked, 'When are you going to take me home?'" Morman says. "He said, 'I'm not taking you home.'" Morman found herself stranded 10 miles from her apartment.

Over Morman's repeated objections, the salesman drew up a contract on the Explorer. He slapped temporary license plates on the truck and got Morman's car insurance information. He even took an $850 down payment. "He told me, 'It's no real commitment," Morman says. "You don't have to buy it. Just take it and test-drive it."

(General manager Chris Shearer did not return repeated calls for comment.)

At 10 p.m., Morman finally drove off the lot, the new owner of a 2001 Explorer. She had wanted something in the $8,000 range, but the Explorer was $11,900, with a whopping 19 percent interest rate. "I didn't want it, but I had to get home, and they told me they wouldn't drive me back," Morman says.

Morman knew she couldn't afford the payments, so she parked the truck at home and never drove it. Then she spent the next month trying to get Ganley to take it back. Last week, the dealer finally did. "They just came in the middle of the night and took it away," Morman says. "I was sitting right here the entire time and never knew."

Ganley East eventually refunded Morman's down payment.

Stonewall Jackson
Mayor Jane Campbell and Council President Frank Jackson are courting interest groups for their respective mayoral campaigns. But there's one group that won't be aligning itself with Jackson: people with HIV.

AIDS activists last week rekindled their outrage over a measure Jackson proposed in 1992 when he was head of City Council's public health committee. His proposal, targeted at people who knowingly spread HIV, called for quarantining violators until they are no longer contagious. Considering that HIV is chronic, that means indefinitely.

Activists marched on City Hall, wearing black ski masks and carrying a chickenwire cage. The proposal never passed, and Jackson stepped down from leading the committee shortly thereafter.

"When somebody starts talking about quarantining people, you take that seriously when you have AIDS," says activist Gil Kudrin, who participated in the demonstration. "I hope he's changed his tune. I hope he realizes what a horrific problem it is."

The ties that bind
As part of Case Western Reserve's never-ending quest to remake itself into a cooler, less dorky version of itself, the school recently sponsored a contest to redesign the walkway that leads to the center of the campus quad.

Fittingly, the winning entry was titled "Binary Code," based on an elaborate math principle involving a series of interlocking zeroes and ones that was created by an accounting professor. To those less schooled in higher mathematics, it is known as a checkerboard.

When asked about this blatant lack of creativity, Case officials responded, "01000110 01110101."

Mirth sinks to all-time low
An internal investigation of Punch has revealed what top analysts have feared for years: Since 2002, half-assed assertions have increased by an annual rate of 36 percent, while wacky puns and metaphors have fallen sharply in that same span. To combat this slide, we bring you the following list of so-bad-it's-good prose, generated by our Bratenahl bureau chief, who got it in an e-mail. Enjoy this dose of secondhand wit:

" She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

· The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge- free ATM.

· McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

· From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy! comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

· John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

· Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

· The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Meet the governor
A man in Seven Hills is running for governor. He doesn't stand a chance.

His name is Pete Draganic, and he recently announced he would run for governor in 2006. He's a friendly guy, a 35-year-old contractor with a stay-at-home wife and three children. He's also a Republican, which one might assume would be helpful. But Draganic unfortunately has a walk-in closet full of skeletons. For starters, he has no criminal record. Nor is he willing to skim taxpayer money for his own use.

Troll suburban streets for teenage boys?

"Absolutely not," he says. Draganic further claims he's tired of the state's wasteful spending and lip-service politics -- or in other words, all the things that make Ohio Ohio.

Which has Vegas putting his chances at 12,456 to 1 -- or just a hair above those of the Democratic nominee.

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