Cheryl Treadway was a regular customer at a Pizza Hut in Avon Park in central Florida, which took seriously her plea in the comments section of an online order.
"The order comes through and she had edited her ticket," explained Pizza Hut Manager Candy Hamilton. "So on the bottom, it said 'hostage help' and on the top it said 'get 9-1-1. Help."
The note led to the arrest of Ethan Nickerson, who used a large knife to hold his girlfriend and their three children hostage, according to Highlands County Sheriff's spokeswoman Nell Hays.
After deputies arrived at the house, Nickerson surrendered peacefully. Treadway and the couple's three children, ages 1, 5 and 6, did not appear seriously harmed. Treadway told deputies she and Nickerson had been arguing all day while he held a knife and took away her cell phone. Nickerson rode along with her to pick up the children at school, and later gave her back her cell phone only long enough to order pizza, the sheriff's office said.
Using the restaurant cell phone app, the victim ordered a small hand-tossed classic pizza with pepperoni, with two secret messages added.
When deputies arrived, Nickerson's girlfriend ran to them with a baby in her arms. Nickerson initially wouldn't come out, but after some negotiations, he did.
Police say they've never seen a hostage ask for help in this way.
"I don't know if I ever would have thought of it," said Lieutenant Curtis Ludden of the Highlands County Sheriff's Department. "It's just something that she did so naturally. The boyfriend never knew about it until he saw us coming around the corner."
Nickerson has been charged with kidnapping, battery causing bodily harm, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction of justice.