The phone rang and rang and rang.
Why wasn't she answering? Ralph wondered as lie nervously drummed
on the phone with the fingers of his free hand. He stretched his arm
out and glanced at his watch. Five past seven.
Just as he was about to put the phone down, he heard a voice at the
other end. Good job I'm a patient man, he thought. If I hadn't waited
for that extra second, I'd have been wondering where she was for the
rest of the day.
"Is that you, son?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"Is Mum there? I want to tell her I'll be back early."
"Um, yes. She's here. But..."
"Well can you get her, then. Is she busy?" Ralph was becoming
"Well, she's ~ er, giggling a lot. And I think there's somebody
in there with her now A man. They're in the bedroom" There was
a long silence.
"I-er, are you sure?" Ralph tried to hide the panic in his
The blood at Ralph's temples was thumping hard; his mind was working
fast. Very fast.
"Listen to me, son. You've got to be absolutely sure. It could
be the TV."
"No, Dad. I'm sure."
"Right. You know where my shotgun is. It's in the garage. I want
you to go and get it - I'm pretty sure it's loaded - and give them
both barrels. You hear me, son?"
"Yes, but -"
"No, son. No buts. You've got to be brave. You remember you always
want to have a go on it. Well here's your chance. OK?" "OK."
his son's voice was understandably hesitant.
Are you sure of what you're doing? A voice came from inside of him.
Are you sure? it repeated.
Doubts entered Ralph's mind like bright flashes. Lightning. Instead
of thunder, silence. Long, impending silence. He was soaking wet with
Two, three pounding blasts awoke him from his reverie. Another short
wait. His son's steps, and then his faltering voice. "D-Dad?"
How different his son sounded over the phone. "I've done it."
"Good boy. Now, I know you must be stressed, but you've got
to go and put the bodies in the cellar. I'll deal with them when I
get back. Hey, you did well."
"Dad, we don't have a cellar. And why did you say the gun was
in the garage. We don't have one. Dad, what's happened to you?"
Ralph glanced at the display screen on the phone. It indicated the
number he'd just rung.
It wasn't his home number.
But he was sure he'd -
Wrong number, that same voice came from inside of him.