This story has been mostly finished for a while. I thought of entering it in CAW #17, since the theme is “you gotta love a man in uniform”. There is love of a sort, and there are lots of uniforms, but this is too scary a tale for a non-Halloween-themed Challenge. There's no sex in this story, and it's more than a bit dark, but it's here anyway. I hope you enjoy.
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The number on my caller ID wasn't in my contacts. I didn't owe anyone money, so I answered. “Hello?”
“Is Jenny there? I have to talk to her,” a woman whispered.
“There's no one here but me. I can barely hear you. Who is this?”
“Oh my God, he's coming!” she hissed. “Please, I don't know what to do! I'm afraid he'll....”
There was a loud crash, like a door being kicked in, and then a man's voice yelling, “You fuckin' whore! You worthless cunt! Who the hell are you talkin' to?”
“No one, baby. Wrong number. Please, don't....”
Even over the phone, the sound could only be that of a hand slapping a face. Hard. There was a clattering sound, like the phone being dropped, and then a man's voice roared, “Who the fuck is this?”
He sounded like a drunk spoiling for a fight. “Who the fuck are you?” I responded. The woman sobbed loudly in the background. “Did you just hit her?”
“What's it to you, asswipe? Are you the piece of shit she's cheatin' on me with? I knew that low-life cunt was whorin' around with someone. You're dead, motherfucker! I'll find you and I'll kill you, nice and slow. Maybe I'll even keep the little bitch alive long enough so she can watch.”
“What the hell? You can't talk to me like that! That's a threat, bozo, and it sounds like you're involved in some kind of assault or domestic abuse. I'm calling the police.”
“Knock yourself out, asshole,” he cackled.
“They'll trace your number. I bet they'll love listening to the recording I'm making of this call.” I was bluffing, of course, proud of myself for thinking fast enough to say something intimidating.
“I am the damn police, shit-for-brains! Go ahead and play it. They'll recognize my voice, maybe ask me if the bitch is treatin' me right, but that's it. I'll read the damn report. I'll know where you live and where you work. I can find your car. You won't know when it's gonna happen. I am now your worst fuckin' nightmare.” There was the sound of another hard slap, and then the phone went dead.
Holy shit! Is this guy serious? I didn't know how he could find me, so I wasn't all that worried, but what about the woman? Who are these people? If he's a rogue cop, he could be dangerous when he sobers up, especially if he still thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him with me. Would he try to look for me, and will going to the cops make that easier?
Anger outshouted fear. Fuck him. I almost wanted to confront this douchebag. Let him start something. Besides, if the whole thing actually was what it sounded like, someone was getting hurt. Even if I wasn't, someone was. I had no idea what to do. The part of me that didn't want to get involved fought my conscience.
My phone rang again. Same number. Great. I pressed the talk button.
“Please! He's crazy this time!
“Who are you? What's your name?
“Marcy. Please, I'm afraid he's going to kill me.”
“Call the cops!”
“I can't! He's dirty. He has criminals for friends. They can help him get away with anything.”
“Where are you?”
“My house. I'm at....”
There was a roar of rage, a scream, and then that sound that lets you know you're the only one there.
Shit. This was crazy, and I knew it, but there was no way I could just forget about it. I tried re-dialing the number. The call went straight to voicemail, a generic announcement telling me to talk after the beep. No point in that.
The number was in my area code, which didn't help much. My area code must cover hundreds of square miles. Besides, with her probably talking on a cell-phone, she could be almost anywhere.
I sat at my desk, wondering how to figure out who she was, where she was, and what kind of trouble she was in.
The phone rang again. “Hey, asshole! What I'm gonna do to her fuckin' dog right now is what I'm gonna do to you. Hang on.”
There was a sound like a screen door banging shut, followed by the angry barking of a small dog, which stopped suddenly. “Whatcha gonna do now, furball?” the man's voice hollered. After that were a variety of incomprehensible sounds and then a woman screaming. “No! No! You can't do that to Fluffy!” The animal yelped as Marcy pleaded. Then the man picked up the phone again.
“There, all trussed up, just like she is. Hmmm. Should I stomp on him or take him outside and put him on the grill? Maybe I'll cut his little cock off and ram it down his throat. Yeah, I kinda like that idea. What do you think, asshole? How do you wanna die while the fuckin' whore watches, huh?”
“Hey! No! Wait. No need for that. What do you want?”
“What do I want? I want your ass on a stick. I want you dead. Nobody fucks my girlfriend and gets away with it. No bitch cheats on me and gets away with it either. So what I want is both of you dead. Painfully, slowly, hideously dead. I always get what I want.” He disconnected the call.
This had gone far enough. I needed to do something, but all I had was a phone number. Maybe the internet? I searched “reverse number look-up.” There were a lot of sites that required a subscription or payment to do anything. Finally, I clicked on a link that shocked me – it didn't ask for my credit card info before letting me look around. There was a field for a phone number, so I keyed in hers and hit enter.
Phone registered to: Marcy Conrad, age twenty-six.
Family: Ronald and Marianne Conrad, both deceased.
Current residence: a town about twenty miles away, no street address.
I looked up the directory of land-line numbers there and found a listing for an M. L. Conrad. Could be. Many women allow only their initials in phone directories, probably to make it harder for guys to find them. Dammit. That wasn't going to stop me.
I went to a map site, keyed in the street address, and found the “street view” option for M. L. Conrad's house, an unremarkable older two-story on a decent chunk of land. With doors and windows closed, neighbors probably wouldn't hear a woman scream. The picture showed a car in the driveway, a care-worn, inexpensive sporty coupe, the kind guys call “secretaries' cars.”
On a social networking site, I found MarcyLeigh. That seemed to be the cute thing for young women to do there – combine their first and middle names as a user identity. Her page was public, not requiring a “friendship” for me to look around. There was an album of pictures of her, an attractive, dark-haired young woman with a big smile and a small dog, sometimes posed with the same house and the same car. The most recent shots showed her with a grim-looking hulk of a man, older than her, dressed in a police uniform. They were uploaded over a year earlier, around the last time she seemed to do anything with the account.
Now I knew who she was. I knew where she lived, and possibly where she still might be. It would be easy enough to send the police to her house, but based on what? A series of brief phone calls between strangers? If what these people on the phone said was true, the guy's buddies might even help him hide evidence if he did something to her.
The other thing that suddenly struck me was this: If I could find her that easily, how hard would it be for him to find me?
Three deep breaths later, I felt a little better. Some drunk was being an asshole. He wouldn't really do anything to her, the dog, or me. Assuming this wasn't some prank by kids, the worst that happened was some domestic abuse. Horrible, yes, but unfortunately, common enough. I could call the non-emergency number to talk to the cops about it.
The phone rang when I reached for it. Marcy sobbed in the background.
“Hey, lover boy? It's me. You wanna come here for the party, or should I bring it to you? Nah, you know what? Fuck that. I can't drive impaired. I'd have to arrest myself. Marcy's been crying all evening, so she's in no shape to drive either. We really shouldn't have guests tonight. The place is kinda messy. Sorry to bother you. I'll see you in the morning, okay?” He hung up.
Now, what the fuck? Was he was coming for me? It was time for a decision. I could call the cops. If the whole thing was a hoax, they'd deal with it. If some drunk cop really was beating up his girlfriend, they'd deal with that too, quietly dry him out, do a ton of paperwork, and get everyone counseling. But what if he was serious? Marcy said he was dirty. Should I run? Or should I go to her house to help her?
That was a ridiculous idea. I was as recovered as I was going to get from my last heart attack, and I was no ninja commando type before. Running didn't make sense either. If this clown really was a dirty cop, he could probably track me down on the taxpayer's dollar. How hard can it be to come up with a reason to investigate someone?
I held the phone in my hand for over an hour. Then I went to bed.
The sun was still low in the sky when my phone rang, the same number again. “Wake up. I won't come see you this morning, but some boys from your local police department will. Have a nice day.”
I was tying my shoes when the doorbell rang twice. Halfway down the stairs, I heard three sharp knocks. A cop car sat in the driveway. I opened the door.
The short one said, “Mr. George Whitaker?”
“We received a complaint of some, uh, debris in your back yard.”
“What do you know about that?” the big ugly one said.
“What do I know about what? What debris?”
“Mr. Whitaker, we should advise you of your rights,” Shorty said.
“My rights? What are you talking about? What's in my back yard?”
“Let's go look,” Big Ugly smirked, bowing slightly and extending his arm like a fucking butler.
I saw the stains on the concrete walkway before I saw where they came from. Bits of bloody white fur lay in a heap under my favorite shade tree. “Oh my God. He really did it.”
“Who really did what, sir?” Shorty asked.
I turned my back on the mess. Even Big Ugly looked a little ill. “Officers, can we go inside or sit in your car? I don't want a lawyer, but I do need to tell you about some phone calls.”
The cops sat with me at my kitchen table and listened patiently. When I finished, I asked, “Now, do you believe me?”
“Maybe,” Big Ugly said. He had this odd way of wrinkling his nose. Not a poker player.
“Who called in the complaint?”
“We shouldn't tell you that,” Shorty said.
I pulled out my phone. “Was it this number?” I pushed it across the table to them and grabbed my laptop. “It belongs to her, Marcy Leigh Conrad.” I went through the previous night's browser history for them.
“You're saying that guy,” Big Ugly pointed at the computer screen, “beat up that girl and told you he was going to kill that dog.” He gestured over his shoulder toward the back yard.
“I think I recognize him,” Shorty said.
Big Ugly frowned. “I don't, but I know his chief. He's the reason I left there and got a job here.”
I sat back in my chair. “So now what? Am I under arrest? Getting a fine? What?”
“You're not in trouble, Mr. Whitaker,” Shorty said as he stood. “We apologize for disturbing you. We'll get to the bottom of this. He won't bother you again. We'll get those remains cleaned up.”
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I didn't look out back until it started to rain while I was making dinner. There was no sign of the morning's horror.
At 1:30 am, my phone woke me. “I apologize for calling so late, but I just wanted to let you know you're an idiot if you think I'm done with you.”
A car horn tooted once in front of my house, and then an engine started.
“Hear that?” the caller said. “That's me, dead man.”
By the time I got to the window, the street was empty.
“You won't be hearing from me again on this phone,” he continued. “After all, it belongs to Marcy.”
“Where is she?” I asked.
“Ha! I knew it! I was drunk when I accused you before, but you just confirmed it. How long have you been fucking my girlfriend?”
“I don't know your girlfriend!”
“Right. Whatever you say, George. You're probably too old to get it up anyway. Doesn't matter. You're still dead. If they find this phone it won't matter. It won't be anywhere near her or me.” He disconnected.
Fuck. I dialed 911.
“911 emergency. Do you need fire, police, or ambulance assistance?” the voice answered.
There was a click, and then another female voice asked, “What is the nature of your emergency sir?”
As clearly as I could, I told her about the call.
“Sir, you're saying you got a crank call from someone who may have been in a car that was in front of your house.”
“Is there a prowler in the area now?”
“No, he left, but that's not the point.”
“Let me give you the number for non-emergency calls to your local police department, sir, and allow me to remind you that abuse of this emergency number is a criminal offense.”
“Are you kidding me? Thanks for your help.” I hung up in disgust.
My pillow was just right, and I was finally drifting off when I heard an engine gently rumble into the driveway, and then two quiet car doors. One flashlight approached the front door, and the other went toward the back of the house. I turned on my bedroom light, grabbed a robe, and rushed downstairs, flipping on lights as I went to let the officers know I was coming.
I opened the door before she knocked.
“Sir, did you place a call to 911?”
“We responded when we saw there was an incident at this address yesterday. What is going on, sir?”
“I'll tell you what's going on. I'm pissed off, I'm worried about a woman I never met, and frankly, I'm terrified of,... him, whoever the hell he is, and I want you to do something about it.”
“Nothing back here,” Patrolwoman P. Thomas' radio crackled.
“Come to the front door,” she answered. “Sir,” she said addressing me again, “Tell my partner and me the entire story from the very beginning.”
Ten minutes later her partner, young Patrolman T. Greene said, “My partner read all the reports to me on the way here. Everything you said coincides with the info we have, but there's a problem.”
“You mentioned to the officers who were here before that you knew the photos you showed them were over a year old,” Thomas said.
“Yes, her account had no new posts for over a year, and the ones with that cop were the most recent ones.”
“Did you wonder why?” Greene asked.
“With the way he acted on the phone, I assumed he told her she couldn't go online, and she listened.
Thomas turned in her chair to look straight at me. “Do you read the newspaper sir?”
“No. When I moved here a couple months ago, I decided to read what I wanted online.”
“Mr. Whitaker, Marcy Leigh Conrad hung herself in her cell six months ago, awaiting trial on charges connected with the death of her boyfriend.”
“She was accused of the homicide of her boyfriend, Officer Paul Matthews.”
“What are you saying?”
“Matthews was arrested on charges of domestic abuse and aggravated assault after he broke one of Miss Conrad's ribs during an altercation at her house. He was suspended without pay from his local police department and was under investigation for several matters. She got a restraining order against him. When he made bail, he told the judge he would comply,” Thomas said. “Obviously he didn't.”
“It would appear not,” Greene agreed. “Her boss called the police when she didn't show up for work the second day, and he couldn't reach on the phone. Responding officers found her sitting on the sofa with two more broken ribs, covered in Matthews' blood. His body was in the kitchen. Thirty-seven wounds with a carving knife, the blade broken off in him.”
“I don't understand.”
“Her statement coincided with the evidence,” Thomas said. “Her injuries were consistent with domestic abuse, just like before. She said he tied her up, but she got loose and attacked him in the kitchen. She said she was sure she stabbed him at least three times, but doesn't remember the rest.”
“They're both dead?” I asked. “There must be some mistake.”
“Mr. Whitaker,” she said, “I'll give you links to the news reports and everything else that's in the public domain. The people you say you talked to are dead.”
“That was her phone number.”
“Yes, it was,” Greene said, “but the service was canceled soon after she was arrested. The number hasn't been re-assigned. It's not a working number.”
“That makes no sense. I showed the other cops the call record on my phone.”
“You also signed a release when they were here,” Thomas said, “so they pulled your phone records. They show incoming and outgoing calls with that number. It appears someone called you several times, with call durations ranging from a few seconds to a couple minutes.”
“Right. So, I don't get it.”
“We don't either,” Greene agreed. “According to the phone company, it's theoretically possible for someone to clone a disconnected phone and make it work, but their internal records show no activity for that number.”
“But he just,... well, that's why I called 911. Someone just called me from that phone.”
“We can't explain that,” Thomas said.
“This doesn't make any sense. If they're dead, who is calling me? And who put that,... mess in my back yard?”
“We don't know.”
“Whose dog was that? Do you have any reports of missing dogs?”
“Not matching that description, no, sir.”
“Well, that was a dog, wasn't it? Where did it come from? And what happened to Marcy's dog anyway?”
“The remains were found in plastic bags in her freezer,” Thomas answered. “Conrad denied any knowledge of how they got there. She claimed the last time she saw the dog was when Matthews killed it in front of her in the living room.”
“Was that what was in my back yard?”
“The remains of Conrad's dog were destroyed after her suicide,” Greene read from his notes. “That ended the murder investigation, and there was no one left to charge with animal cruelty, so the case was closed.”
“That's impossible. Can you test the dog he put in my back yard? DNA or something?”
“DNA testing on an animal wouldn't tell us much. After all, there's nothing to compare it to – no lineage records on a mixed-breed dog, which Conrad's appeared to be. The remains found here didn't appear to be of a purebred dog either, so,...” Thomas said.
“So you're telling me I'm crazy. None of this happened.”
Thomas stood. “Mr. Whitaker, we believe you got some phone calls. Obviously, someone put those remains in your yard. But it couldn't have been Paul Matthews or Marcy Conrad, since they're dead, it couldn't have been her phone, since it's disconnected, and it couldn't have been her dog.”
“Then what was it? Who was it? What if he does it again?”
“We suggest you change your phone number, sir. If your phone company says they must charge you a fee, refer them to us and this investigation number.” Greene handed me a slip of paper. “They'll waive any fees if they know it's a harassment case.”
“Harassment? This guy made death threats! He's been to my house twice! He put a dead dog in my backyard! I feel more than harassed!”
“We share your concern, Mr. Whitaker,” Thomas said. “We'll continue to look into this, and we'll make sure to have units patrol the area heavily over the next few weeks. We're sorry for your trouble, sir.”
“So that's it. You do paperwork and your buddies drive by every once in a while. Thank you. I feel so fucking safe.”
“You are perfectly safe, sir. We can't just stay here with you without some real evidence of a serious threat on your life. Do you have relatives you could visit for a couple days?” Greene asked.
“No. Should I buy a gun?”
Thomas quickly responded, “If you decide to do that, we must strongly advise you to follow all laws regarding it's purchase, handling, storage, and use. Take a firearms safety course. Any reputable gun shop can provide you with all the information. Having a registered firearm for home security is legal, but it's a huge responsibility.”
“Do you have a better idea?”
The officers looked at each other on my porch for a moment. Then Greene said, “If I were you, I'd change my number and try to put all this behind me. Most likely this was some kind of sick prank. If the perpetrator figures out you've had the police here twice, he'll be scared off. I'm sure you're fine. Try to have a good night, sir.” They got in their car and left.
I was almost asleep again when the phone rang. The display showed the number was “restricted”.
“Hey asshole,” the caller said, “I told you I wasn't done with you yet. You won't know when it's going to happen, but it will. Remember? I'm your worst fuckin' nightmare.”