Flash Friday 09/05/2014: Cold Caller
“If you hang up the phone, I will break into your house and murder you. Do you understand?”
Cold beads of sweat were trickling down Mary’s forehead, the phone receiver shaking like a leaf in the wind in her hand. The deafening sound of heavy rain and thunder blanked out all sound like a fog. All she could concentrate on was the dark, gritty voice coming through the receiver.
“Well? Do you?”
“I do.” Mary swallowed. “Yes, I do.”
“Good. And just in case you think about running, look out your patio door.”
Mary looked with her eyes, not her head. To the left of her peripheral vision, she could make out the silhouette of a large, well-built man, standing by the door, presumably looking in. He had a phone to his ear.
Mary turned her eyes away. “I see you.”
“Good. You do not want to cross me, do you understand?”
“Because you know what will happen if you cross me.”
“Good. Now, tell me your name.”
Mary swallowed. “Sorry?”
“Your name, please.”
“Mary. Mary Parker.”
“Mary Parker?” The man’s tone sounded as if he was savouring the name like a well-cooked steak. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mary Parker. How are you feeling today?”
“Other than that.”
Mary rubbed her forehead from the sweat. She had to play along with whatever game this man was enjoying. “Good. It’s been a good day.”
“Shame about the weather, eh? Me locked out here with rain falling on my head. It’d be awful nice if I could come inside for a moment.”
Mary gasped. “Please don’t.”
“Tch. Fine. But only if you follow my instructions, you understand?”
“I don’t think you do. I need you to follow them, to the T. Every single one. The best of your abilities. Do you understand me?”
“Yes.” Mary nodded to herself, taking deep breaths. “Yes, I definitely do.”
Mary couldn’t tell if the heavy breathing was coming from herself or the man. The silence wasn’t doing her nerves any favours. She checked if the man was still standing there. He was.
“Here’s your first question, Mary. I want this answered immediately.”
A deep breath from the receiver, and then: “Are you currently happy with your phone service?”
The nerves within Mary flooded out of her. “Sorry?”
“I said, are you happy with your phone service?”
Mary scratched her head. “Why do you want to know that?”
“W-Well.” The voice began to shake. “You know, if you’re not, then I can definitely advise you with a telecommunications company who is, uh, opening up in your area. They’re really great guys. HomePhone Ltd. Look them up maybe. Or else.“
Mary frowned harder. “Are you a phone salesman?”
“N-No.” The gruff, gristly voice suffered a nasty case of worried-sounding businessman. “I’m a murderer. Who’s at your patio door. And has your best interests at heart when it comes to saving up to fifty percent on your monthly bills.”
Mary looked over at the silhouette. “You did say you wanted to be let in, right? So, you wouldn’t object if I walked over and opened it, right?”
“Ah, uh, well, um. Actually, I’m very shy of people.”
Mary began to walk.
“Very shy. Murderously so. If you come any closer, I might draw a knife. Or a gun. Or a plan to help you cut down on your bills. Did you know you can register up to three friends for free calls on weekdays? Magical.”
Mary kept walking. The silhouette was still holding his phone.
“Don’t you dare! I get really mean when people don’t do what I say!”
Mary opened the patio door. The rain-soggen cardboard prop landed with a wet splat on Mary’s floor.
She didn’t have to look far. A gaze across her freshly-cut lawn revealed a man hiding up to his neck in bush. He adjusted the round glasses on his soggy face.
“I guess the gig is up, huh?” he said.
The man slowly removed the phone from his ear, and pressed the ‘hang up’ button. “Are there any questions about our service that I can answer for you?”
Mary took a deep breath. “You can start with ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’. That seems like a big one.”
“I gotta do this, lady!” The man’s frail physique balled itself with frustration. “You have no idea how many times I get fobbed off just because I work in telecoms. Do you know how many people you can see have so obviously not ‘just come out of the bath to answer this call’? Thousands! Literally thousands! I mean, how’s a guy gotta do his job when he can’t even get his foot in the door?”
“Acting like an axe murderer trying to literally do just that is probably not the best bet.”
“I know, I know. It was a brave move on my part. Brave and stupid. But mostly brave. I think. Anyway, the point is…I have your attention now, don’t I? You gotta say it worked.”
“Only because you’re neck-deep in rhododendron.”
“Look, can you just help a man out? Please?”
Mary looked down at her handset. “You know, I do have a problem with my current phone.”
The man’s eyes lit up from behind his glasses. “Really? What’s that?”
A loud, plastic thwak echoed in the night sky as a phone receiver hit the man across the head.
“It’s not made of metal,” Mary said, closing the patio door. Thankfully, her current phone plan came with a mobile phone as well. She wouldn’t be so unwise as to throw the only method of phoning the police at the bastard.