é─˙Well, Erin, let me see this cell phone of yours,é─¨ I said. She reached into her purse (purse? Did she have a purse when she walked in? How could she have kept that hidden?) and pulled out your typical-style phone. High-end, no doubt, but just the same as any other: Black, smaller than a deck of cards, and vaguely sinister-looking. She laid it on the desk, and glanced up at me.
é─˙I know it sounds stupid, but Ié─˘m almost afraid to touch it,é─¨ she said. Looking quickly at the phone, not wanting to get lost in her eyes a second time, I noticed it had a few deep scratches in the back, where the battery gets recharged.
é─˙Well, after about a week of these strange calls, I lost my nerve, and sort ofé─Â snapped. I threw the phone at the wall. It didné─˘t stop the calls, though.é─¨
I picked up the phone, opened it, & began dialing a string of digits. é─˙Well, leté─˘s see if we can figure out where these calls are coming from.é─¨
é─˙I tried é─˛Star 69é─˘, but it didné─˘t seem to work.é─¨
Letting another innuendo slip by, I said, é─˙Well, thaté─˘s because you use the Government, Inc.é─˘s services. You know as well as I do that ever since the National This-Is-For-Your-Own-Good-Just-Trust-Us Act of 2006 passed, no information request will ever provide accurate information, just add your name to the ever-growing list of people who want to Know Too Much.é─¨
Looking around nervously, she said, é─˙I had to take a chance.é─¨
é─˙Doné─˘t worry about it. These days, the list includes about 98% of the population. Government, Inc. uses Quantum Information Storage, but they havené─˘t gotten around to figuring out how to make a Quantum Processor yet. So ité─˘s like finding a speck of dust in the middle of the galaxy.é─¨
A small smile flickered at the corner of her mouth. I noticed that her lips, full and red like the promise of a pomegranate just before the bitterness sets in, had a small, almost miniscule scar running from the top edge of the left cupids bow diagonally to the bottom lip, like she was delicately brutalized at some great distance in her past, or had fallen out of a willow tree as a child. It was the smallest and most perfect of flaws on a flawless face, the unnatural error of symmetry calling attention to her impeccable beauty. é─˙So how is it, Mr. LMNO, that you plan to get around Government Inc.é─˘s little plan?é─¨
é─˙Ah, it all depends on your connections, dollface. I know a couple of Scrids down at MegaTeleComTech, and they owe m a favor.é─¨
é─˙They use Scrids?é─¨ Her forehead folded upon itself slightly, and I realized that was the look of someone whoé─˘s not used to being puzzled, when the muscles have all but forgotten the feeling of a frown.
é─˙Well, with the millions of signals coming down the wires & flying through the air every second, who else but genetically-modified, hyper-intelligent Giant Land Squids are they going to use?é─¨ The phone on the other end of the line was ringing, so I held up one finger, not wanting to be any ruder than I had to be to Erin. After all, if she was going to be paying me, she was my employer. The line picked up.
é─˙Hey, Randy? ...Yeah, ité─˘s LMNOé─Â I know, I know, not since Septemberé─Â Mmm Hmmmé─Â Howé─˘ the brood? é─ÂGreat, greaté─Â Look, Randy, I have to call in that favoré─Â No, that didné─˘t count, because I wasné─˘t the one who got the wires crossedé─Â Yeah, well, tell it to the wallé─Â Ok, fine. 25%, and a sack of mollusks. Listen, Randy, what I need from you is to keep a tracer on this phone, number 333-2342, and to track all incoming callsé─Â. Yeah? Great. If you can do this for me, weé─˘re evené─Â. Righté─Â Ok. Ié─˘ll call you again when I need the number.é─¨
I hung up, and looked at Erin, still struggling with the glass of scotch. Pouring another for myself, I said, é─˙Well, thaté─˘s that. All we have to do now is wait for another call.é─¨
Suddenly the phone rang. I snatched it up, and a sickly whine burst from the receiver.
é─˙KkkkkkkkkssssssssBellandBookandFlamesssssssskkk kkkkFeartheComingOfAeaiiiinSooooffffhhhUsurperoft heClowntroddengggggggggggggggggggé─Âé─¨ The line went dead.
é─˙That was pretty freaky,é─¨ I said. I turned to look at Erin. She had contracted somehow, drawing herself into herself, her eyes wide with fear. She grabbed my glass, and drained it, her face never changing expression.
é─˙Ité─˘s ok. Ié─˘m calling Randy now.é─¨ I dialed up the Scrid, and waited as the connection was made. é─˙Randy? Yeah, ité─˘s me again. I need to knowé─ţWHAT? How is that possible? é─ÂNo, I doné─˘t think youé─˘re lying, thaté─˘s genetically impossible, thaté─˘s why ité─˘s so much fun playing poker with youé─Â Could you triple-check that? é─ÂI see.é─¨ I hung up.
é─˙What? What?é─¨ Erin was literally on the edge of her seat, chest heaving with anticipation, temporarily driving all other thoughts out of my head. Coming back to myself, I put the phone carefully on my desk, and drew my gun.
é─˙He said the call was coming from inside the phone itself.é─¨