Silent Caller – S. Miller

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“Where are you?” he asked the mysterious caller. The line was silent, apart from the sound of slow, deep breathing. “Do you require medical assistance?” he asked. The caller coughed but still didn’t reply. “I’ve found the address you’re calling from. Shall I send help?” The caller began talking in a slurred voice, but the language was foreign. “I’m sending help, ok? They’ll be there shortly. Stay on the line,” But before he finished his sentence, the line went dead. He took his headset off and looked over at his boss on the other side of the office.

“Problem?” his boss asked.

“It was the same drunk guy again, but I think he might be in real trouble this time.”

His boss seemed unimpressed. “Yeah, the only trouble he’s in is for wasting our damn time; lousy drunk!”

He seemed unconvinced by his boss’s dismissal of his concerns. After his boss had left his side, he noted down the caller’s address on a scrap of paper. It was along his route home, so he decided to check on the caller at the end of his shift.

After driving slowly past a few houses as he carefully looked for the caller’s address, he noticed a curtain move in somebody’s house. It was the only house on the street which had a light switched on, so he stopped and knocked on the door. “Excuse me, I’m looking for this address. Can you help me?” he asked as he passed a scrap of paper to the old woman.

“Across the street, over there. Old Ted’s house,” she said gently before closing the door.

He walked across the street to a dilapidated old house with no vehicle parked on the drive. “Hello? Is anybody in there?” he asked as he rapped on the door. A light came on in the hallway before the door opened. “Are you OK? You called for help earlier,” he asked the figure standing in the doorway. The reply was yet more slurred speech and coughing.

He was about to step away from the door when the stranger stood aside and invited him in. Hesitantly, he walked into the hallway. It was lined with hundreds of small framed photographs of people. The stranger closed the door before he started coughing again while gazing around at all of the photographs. A tear began to form in the corner of his eye. The stranger focused on one old black and white photograph in the middle of the wall. It showed a father and his young son side by side together.

“Is that your son?” he asked. The stranger began to sob. The sobbing became an uncontrollable flood of tears. “What happened? Is there anything I can do?” he asked the stranger as he tried to comfort him. After he had stopped crying, the stranger passed him an old piece of paper with a foreign name written in pencil.

“He killed my son. You find him,” the stranger said in a slurred foreign tongue.

He returned to the office the following day and passed the name on the piece of paper to his boss, along with the story. “Another  victim? Alright, I’ll make a report. Just as well. The son-of-a-bitch who did this has been dead for 30-odd years.”

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