Phone Tag
William M. O'Brien, Jr.

Early one morning, Lester Peterson awoke to the shrill jangling of the phone next to his bed.

He thought about not answering it, since it was his land line on which he got few wanted calls. But the fact that there might be someone from work, or his family, on the other end, induced him to answer it.

After rolling over, he reached a sleepy hand for the receiver.

“…there is a discrepancy in your current credit report…” a sharp feminine voice stated on the line.

“Shit!” Lester slammed the receiver down. He had planned to sleep in on this his day off, but now he couldn’t. Once he had awakened he could not go back to sleep.

He lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking how wonderful it would be if he could kill that person who had just called him.

Now he thought about what he could be doing this early in the morning. He rose to head to the kitchen for breakfast, but the ringing phone stopped him.

“Hi, what are you doing up this early?” a cheery voice sang into the phone.

“Hello, Meg. You caught me on my way to eat.”

Meg Wood was Lester’s on and off again girlfriend. Now she was calling from work, at his office.

“Old man Gafford isn’t here today,” she chirped. “You picked the wrong day to take off.”

“Well, when the cat’s away, the mice will play, and all that jazz.” Lester changed the phone to his other ear. “I’m going to grab a bit of breakfast and try to catch that sale at the Indoor/Outdoor place.”

“That sounds exciting.” Meg laughed.

“Yeah. Hey, I’m going to crack open that bottle of Canadian this afternoon and maybe catch a flick on TV. Why don’t you join me after work. You can fill me in about what happens when the boss wasn’t there for a change.”

There was a pause, as Lester heard Meg talking to someone there with her.

“Okay, Meg,” Lester replied into the phone. “I’ll talk to you later.”

The heavy living room clock struck ten as Lester headed for his kitchen.

The phone’s ringing stopped him in the middle of preparing breakfast.

Wondering who it might be this time, he turned toward the phone in the hall.

Silently cursing, he picked up the phone. “Hello!” he barked.

“Hello, Lester,” a soft woman’s voice replied. “I’m glad I finally found you,” the voice continued.

“Forget it, Meg,” Lester’s voice still raised. “Now, I’m kinda late getting out of here. Damn it. Thanks to you.”

He stopped for a reply.

There was none; just a click on the line

Immediately he thought about what had just occurred. There was no sarcastic reply to his comeback. Meg was infamous for this activity. She surely would have said something.

But who was the voice on the phone.

After fixing coffee and dishing up a couple of pastries, he sat down at his kitchen table.

Bonzo, a large, heavy, tabby tom cat jumped up on the table in front of his master’s breakfast.

“Hello, monster.” Lester reached out and petted the animal who was sniffing the hot coffee cup in front of him. “You didn’t sleep with me last night. Where were you.”

Les knew the large cat loved to spend the night either in bed with him or on the comfortable couch in the living room.

Bonzo had been a haggard feral who wound up on Lester’s back porch one night during a thunderstorm. After an invite in, a can of tuna and a warm place in front of a blazing fireplace, he decided to stay

And after a conference with Janice Tell, a cat person at work, produced a litter box, an animal bed and a few discarded ragged blankets, Lester decided to keep him.

Now the two were inseparable.

The phone rang again.

He walked to the hall and took the phone off the wall.

“Not now, Meg. I’m in the middle of breakfast. I’m…”
“Hello Lester.” The soft voice was barely audible. “I’m going to come to see you.”

“Who the hell is this? What are…”

There was an audible click on the other end of the line.

That’s got to be Meg, Lester thought. “Hiding her voice.”

Now irritated, he finished his breakfast and then headed for the hall for his cell phone and his coat. When he opened the door to leave, the phone rang again. Ignoring the phone he boarded his truck and headed for a huge outdoor-indoor sports and outside equipment store on the edge of town.

He had just arrived at the large store entranceway when his cell phone rang. He ducked into a far corner of the entranceway to answer it.

“Hey Les,” a voice chirped. “Guess whose lap I’m sitting on, now.” She laughed along with a chuckling in the background.

“Meg, what the hell are…”

“Hey, I just remembered. You’re supposed to be home sick, aren’t you.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Lester looked around at the customers filing through the doors. “I’m here at Outfitters for the big sale. I’ve waited a long time for this.”

There was a pause for a minute.

“Hello Sport. You’re going to miss out.”

“Hello Hal. How are you doing?”

“We’re bringing in some beer and eats about three thirty. Old man Gafford is still in Topeka.”

“Well, like I said, when the cat’s away. Hey, put Meg back on the phone, will you.”

“Yes, Dear,” Meg’s voice was fill with laughter. “Hal’s poking me in the ass with his cane.”

“Meg, did you call me again this morning after you hung up?”

“No, I didn’t. Not until just now.”

“Someone, a woman, called me just after you hung up.”

“That must have been your other girl friend, Les.” She laughed into the phone.

“I don’t have anyone who would call me except you, especially at this time of the day.”

“Dear Heart. I haven’t the slightest idea.” There was a pause, then the sound of a chair moved across the floor. “I better ring off. Hal’s going to be sticking his cane up my ass any minute.”

Les punched his phone and put it in his pocket, all the while thinking about the call he had gotten just after Meg’s. Who was the mysterious voice. It couldn’t have been a wrong number because it called him by name.

Les’ visit to the giant sale ended with his purchasing a new salt water fishing rod and a packet of shallow salt water lures. The store was becoming crowded so he was glad to be leaving.

In the parking lot his phone rang again. Expecting Meg, he punched his phone alive but did not answer it.

There was silence for a minute so he put the phone to his ear.

“Lester, I’m coming to you soon,” a soft voice finally said.”

“Who is this?” Les shouted into the phone.

There was a long enough pause to make him think the woman had gotten off the line.

“I’m someone who you are waiting for, Lester. Someone you want to see.” Her voice was even, soft and calm.

“I don’t know you,” Lester said.

There was a click on the line that again told him his caller had hung up.

“Who in the name of God was this?” he asked himself.

At his truck, he looked at his list of callers. Only one name was there, Megan Wood.

“This is damned weird,” he muttered. He examined his full list and only two items were there besides Meg. His dentist and a real estate lady he had called. There was no identity for the mysterious female caller.

That evening, drinking a beer in front of a movie, Lester was still thinking about the woman who had called him a number of times. Now he was wondering if his caller I.D. would pick up a wrong number. But it would, and the woman had called him by name in both calls.

Late that night with Lester, sound asleep, his home phone rang.

He had gotten telemarketer and crank calls all the time and this is what Lester thought he had at twelve thirty-five.

“Lester,” a soft voice said. “I’m very close to you. Soon I’ll be there with you.” Another click on the line before he could hang up.

“Wh…What the hell…” a sleepy Lester rose and made his way to the restroom.

Bonzo, formally in deep sleep on the bed, perked up as his master entered the room.

He sat on the bed and petted the large feline. “Do you know some crazy bitch that has been calling me, now at all hours?”

Since this was the beginning of Saturday morning, Lester could sleep in, but he didn’t go back to sleep until six o’clock that morning.

At nine o’clock his house phone rang.

Although wide awake from the phone ringing, he just lay in bed and let the phone ring.

“It’s either that crazy woman or a crap call, nothing else,” he said aloud. “No way I’m going to let it ruin my Saturday.”

After that call Les’s phone stayed silent that entire Saturday. He was still wary about the strange phone calls from the day before. He thought about calling Meg but the next day, Sunday, Meg called him.

“Hey, Dumbo, I felt like a few drinks last night and where were you?” she chided into the phone.

“I’m sorry, Meg,” he answered in a penitent voice. “I’ve been so shook up about the weird phone calls I’ve had the last few days.”

“What kind of calls. Screwball crank calls?”

“I wish to God they were.” Les reached over and stroked the big feline nearby on the bed. “These things were different. Very, very strange. This was a woman who says she’s coming to me.”

“I think you got a heckler, Champ.”

“Like I said earlier, I hope that’s what it is.”

“You need to get out of there,” Meg paused a minute. “Let’s go up to the lake.”

Les agreed to go. He thought about leaving his cell phone at home. After all the usual callers on his cell were harmless except for the mystery woman.

Then he thought about taking it and if his mystery caller called, he would let Meg listen in on it. He decided on this alternative.

On the way to the lake, Les’ phone rang and, with Meg driving, Les answered it. The call was a wrong number but Les wondered if this call had anything to do with the mysterious calls he had been receiving.

“Was that your mysterious lover?” Meg asked, laughing.

“Wrong number. Thank God.” Les shifted his position in the front seat. “I’m wondering if this so-called wrong number has anything to do with the mystery calls.”

“Nah. Just someone who screwed up his dial.” With one hand Meg unwrapped a piece of gum and put it into her mouth. “I get wrong dials all the time. And all other crappy calls, too. I finally had to get rid of my land line and just use my cell.”

“I need to do that, too.”

When they reached the lake, they ate a late lunch at a lakeside restaurant, but as they rose to leave, Les’ cell phone rang.

“Lester, when you return from the lake, I’ll be waiting for you,” a soft voice said as soon as Les had put the phone to his ear.

“What tha…” Les, taking by surprise, didn’t know how to answer. “Here, Meg, take this. This is my weird caller.” He handed the phone to a surprised Meg.

She put the phone to her ear, but there was nothing. Whoever had been there had hung up.

“Your little friend does not like me,” she said, laughing. “She’s not there.”

“She knows I’m at the lake,” Les replied. “She says she’ll be waiting for me when we get back to town.

The return from the lake was an anxious one, a frightened Les, leaning against the door, while Meg drove.

“Well, Sport,” Meg exclaimed, passing the city limits sign. “I’ll be with you when you meet your secret lover. In fact, I’m dying to meet her.”

“Meg, damn it.” Les straightened up in his seat. “I’m scared shitless by this thing. And that’s what it is, damn it. A thing.”

After thirty minutes, they pulled up in front of Les’ house.

Very cautiously, Les opened his front door and led Meg into his entrance hall. Inside, he looked around for his cat, Bonzo, who was always nearby to greet him when he entered the house, but the animal was nowhere to be seen. Alarmed, he began to search room to room.

“Where’s my cat, damn it!” he hollered at Meg, who had collapsed into the nearest easy chair in the living room.

In the kitchen, he finally located Bonzo, who was ensconced between two items atop the refrigerator. His hair on ends and tail puffed out, his eyes wide with fear, he moved back toward the back of his hiding place when confronted by his master.

“What’s the matter, little buddy?” he asked, reaching out his hand to his pet. “Meg, this cat is scared shitless.”

Les began running from room to room.

“Somebody has been here,” he hollered from the laundry room at the back of the house.

Meg checked the front door, then hurried to the back. “I don’t know about that, Les,” she said, still looking around the backdoor. “ I don’t know how they got in; I don’t see how anybody could have got in.”

A sudden crash from the living room summoned both Les and Meg to the large entranceway from the dining room.

Moving slowly across the living room from an overturned end table and a smashed lamp was a sight which neither could believe much less be ready for.

A naked female form, its height almost touching Les’ nine foot living room ceiling, slowly approached the two. Its body, skin almost completely white, was topped with a head of flowing black hair, which slowly moved back and forth, eyes two white orbs that shown like pearls.

“What the hell…” Meg stepped toward the fantastic figure. “What is…”

The figure advanced toward the woman and revealed two large, long claws outstretched.

Les, frozen in fear, suddenly yelled at his girl friend. “Meg, for God’s sake, no…”

But instantly the figure was on Meg, crushing her to its chest. It lifted the woman two feet in the air and crushed her with its claws, the sound of breaking bones hideously audible to Les.

It dropped the woman to the floor and advanced toward Les.

“Lester, I told you I would come to you.” The thing moved slowly, its claws out in front of it. “Lester, I want you, I want…” It spoke, but its mouth didn’t move.

But Les didn’t listen. Instantly he did what he could only do and turned and ran to the front door, flung it open, and ran as fast as he could across his lawn and that of his neighbor. He fell over a garbage can at the curb and lay there, looking behind him.

A terrified Bonzo, tail puffed out and wide eyed, passed Les and headed, at top speed, up the street, disappearing around the corner before Les could yell at him.

Not knowing what else to do, he just began yelling and crying as loud as he could.

Soon a police cruiser pulled up, called by a horrified neighbor who now stood in her front year, watching Les.

They took Les to a local police station and called in a doctor to administer to his apparently instant insanity. He only cooled down after he was given two sedatives. Only the next day was he able to speak. By then the police had found Meg and testified that she looked like a truck had run over her. They were at a loss as to what happened to the woman and questioned Les repeatedly. He could only repeat the truth over and over again.

After this Les broke out crying. He couldn’t explain what had happened to the woman. Who could. And who would believe him?

After a full interrogation, he was allowed to return home, a local district attorney telling him to stay in town.

When he pulled up to his house, Bonzo, obviously choosing a bed at night and regular feedings over returning to the feral state, lay on the porch.

Les let the animal in and immediately walked to the living room, which contained a huge blood stain. He couldn’t face this.

He had his living room professionally cleaned two days later but ultimately moved to another house believing that a complete change of scenery would help him forget.

But he could not forget the monstrous figure in his living room. From time to time it haunted his dreams even after he had fully dismissed it from his waking hours, and he knew that the dreams would always continue. He had met what the majority of people only laughed off; would scoff at; would call him crazy. But he knew he had met a demon and had lived to tell about it.





















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