Monday, 14 January 2008


It was only a phone call, regular as clockwork. Every Sunday evening at 5pm my time. He was of course 4 hours behind. And so it was in his lunch hour I supposed, although I didn’t ask and he didn’t say.
For two years he had been calling me from prison.
It made me wince thinking he is languishing in prison, and that call reminded me of why he was there and I wasn’t. It all seems so complicated on Sunday. Every other day of the week I could forget, or at least try to forget. I’d go about my daily business, but when Sunday came around a pall descended over my place and I dreaded it.
Once I tried to be somewhere else, so I didn’t have to take the call. But all I did was worry and fret and so I made the decision then to always be there.
I’m not sure if I was a comfort to him or what he thought of our chats. He seemed bright enough and told me what he had been doing, and who is doing what to whom.
If I were asked to try and analyse why he calls I would have to say it would be a link to the outside world, but I don’t think that is all the answer.
I know he had a television and radio so he gets all the outside news, all the latest.
No, I think if someone asked me why he calls me I would have to say, (and I have thought about this on and off for the last three and a half years) I would say that he was rubbing it in.
Before the incident I would have told anybody who cared to listen that Mike was the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful bloke you could meet. Not a bad bone in his body. But now, as I think on it, he was vindictive, and trying to play on my conscience.
But I’m not the one who should feel guilty.
He has a way of saying things that got under my skin and stayed there. He found subtle phrases that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Things like
"Now don’t you worry about me Donna, we all have our cross to bear"
"Just remember Donna, if it wasn’t for that one moment, things might have been different"
I wanted to believe that he is still that sweet guy I knew, but somehow when he said those things I felt that he was plotting revenge.
He wasn’t in prison three months when he said he’d make sure I was "taken care of."
I know you could take it two ways but the way he said it "taken care of" well I started to dead lock the doors and pull the blinds down in the day. You hear stories about these prison guys telling their mates all the ins and outs and they come after you.
I decided to get a dog for company not long after his six months. I know I was busy and I didn’t really have the time to look after a dog, but I felt I had to be proactive and well, I felt a dog would be good company.
Then don’t ask me how he found out or anything like that, but he asked how my dog was coming along.
I started to tell him about Bully my Doberman, when I suddenly realised, I hadn’t mentioned I had a dog.
I’m not that good at being cagey and so I excused myself and said I had something on the stove and had to go.
I couldn’t be sure but I think I heard him laughing as I hung up.
I decided to go electronic after that and poor Bully would have gone to the pound if he hadn’t got run over by a car the very next day. I thought I had latched the back gate but he got out and with little or no road sense he was an accident waiting to happen. No-one saw anything of course, and it was a hit and run. The vet said he would have died quite quickly, which was a small comfort for me.
The electronic surveillance man said I would need all the latest gear, having such an old rambling house, so I coughed up nearly $1500.
So the next time he rang, I switched on the voice machine, the timer for the outside lights, the gate alarm and the in house sensor switches and felt I had the upper hand.
He was back to his usual chatter, telling me about some boof head who got beat up and how he had quit smoking. He said he wanted to be fit. Something about 100 pushups in the morning and a session in the gym in the arvo.
I couldn’t imagine him being a fitness freak. He was so I.T. He used to wear loafers, chino pants and polo shirts for heavens sake. The smoking I could well understand. He had told me many times in graphic detail about the men who had been assaulted for a ciggie. Why he went into detail for my benefit I don’t know, but he would recount it all blow by blow, if you know what I mean. I’d listen impassively, and tried to make my voice expressionless, but it wasn’t easy.
I had drifted away from all my friends after the investigation, so I didn’t have a sounding board to find out if this was usual behaviour for a prison inmate. My new job entailed being in an office on my own. I’d get things sent to me via email or fax so I didn’t get much chance to socialise. Not that I minded really. I’ve never been one for the group activities. More of a go it alone independent type. That’s probably why he singled me out. He knew I was a loner and not likely to say anything about his dealings.
And I didn’t.
About one year into his sentence he sent me a letter. I did wonder how he knew where I lived but I was in the phone book, so it was an easy assumption.
It was quite a lengthy letter. He started off all chatty and friendly then around page 2 the mood changed. He went straight from watching the Simpson’s to cryptic phrases. We all know what goes on, you only have to watch and listen he wrote. And it’s not what you know but who you know. His sarcasm wasn’t funny.
I kept the letter in my handbag. It bothered me and I must have read it a hundred times.
I changed to a PO box after that. I figured I was just over the road from the post office at work so it made sense. And if I received a letter from him well I could just decide about it there and then and pop it in the bin, if I wanted to.
Just to be on the safe side I would vary my day. Sometimes I took the bus, other days the train to work. I walked different routes, and left at different times.
I saw a movie about a guy who went through the rubbish of his victims and so I wouldn’t throw mine away. I would double bag it and I made a big hole in the back yard and buried it.
I began to vary my appearance too.
I would wear twin set one day and grunge the next. The people at work thought I was a bit weird but I didn’t talk to them much, and ate my lunch in my office, so they just left me alone.
Then it all changed on that fateful Sunday. He asked me why I had gone a red head.
I had coloured my hair on the Saturday, and I hadn’t even gone to the shops or anything. It spooked me. I was frantic. I rushed around the house looking for something, anything that would give me a clue, but I couldn’t see anything. I turned off all the lights and then turned them on again. I activated all my security and that’s when it hit me.
The security guy was more than helpful. He was here all day. I even gave him coffee and cake. He must have installed a camera, or several cameras.
I began to cry thinking that I could have been broadcast on the net for months. My every action for the public domain. I grabbed my mohair throw from the settee and covered my head and crawled into the bedroom. I had the security man install one of those sensors in the corner, but it could be a camera for all I knew.
So I grabbed a cardigan from my easy chair and threw it at the sensor. My first shot wasn’t too good, so I just decided to lunge at it with deodorant. I sprayed and sprayed till the can was empty. The sensor was covered in white, dripping like stalagitites onto the carpet. I gathered all my spay cans, from fly spray to air freshener and went around systematically spraying all the electronic devices I could find.
As I sat on the kitchen floor feeling drained, the phone rang and I screamed.
I wasn’t expecting a call and so I was reluctant to pick up.
What I heard sent a chill down my spine.
A cold calculating laugh. Nothing more.
I didn’t just slam the phone down I pulled it out of the wall.
It careered past my photos and knocked the picture of Bully onto the floor breaking the glass.
As I looked at the mess I suddenly realised he knew about Bully before I had the security installed.
That meant he had been watching me for months.
I was shaking as I thought about all the things I had done. How much did he know, had he seen? No wonder he was so chatty and nice. He had all the cards.
I pulled the tablecloth off the table and huddled under it. I heard that laugh. His laugh. All the while he was playing me. Making me a nervous wreck. How many hours had I lay in bed thinking of him? How many times had I opened that letter and read it? Huddled there under the cloth I began to see his plan. He wanted to break me.
He was breaking me as sure as the prison system was trying to break him.
Well two can play that game I thought. I crouched under the cloth and began to plan.
What did I know about him?
What could I comfortably assume about him?
How could I exact revenge?
Every day I plotted and planned. I made lists and files and secrets. It was so ‘all consuming’ I lost my job. I didn’t have time to do two things.
Then because I couldn’t pay the bills my electricity was cut. But I went on the dole and bought candles.
I guess I wasn’t eating very well, because my clothes hung off my bones and my hair started to fall out.
I remembered he had said the same thing to me when he first went to prison. He worried and fretted and lost a lot of weight.
I dipped into my savings and reconnected the phone. It wasn’t long until Sunday .
He didn’t ring. I sat by the phone for hours waiting, but he didn’t ring.
I wasn’t going to miss his call no matter when it came and so I camped by the phone on the floor.
After a weeks wait, the phone rang.
Snatching it off the wall I said,
He told me he had some exciting news. He was getting out sooner than expected, and named the day, the very hour.
He ended with,
"See you soon".
It was a warm sunny day, that Friday. The weatherman had said we could look forward to a good weekend. I watched as the security gate opened and he walked through. He hadn’t changed much, still recognisable after three and half years. He stood about five paces from the gate and surveyed his surroundings. His shadow was long at this early hour and it stretched across the path in my direction. He didn’t move as I watched him, then
I saw him reel back from the shot. He clutched his chest and looked me straight in the eye. For that fleeting moment as our eyes met he knew I had the upper hand. Then he fell forward, staggering in my direction. He sprawled out on the footpath, his coat and plastic shopping bag sliding, making a grating noise along the gravel. A crow laughed in the distance, mocking his situation.
The electronic gate clanked open, a guard started running towards him as he lay still, his head skewed on one side, a slight breeze playing with his thinning hair.
We get one call a week. He didn’t answer at first, but now we chat, every Sunday.

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