30 September 2010

The Last Caller

“And with that, we come to our last caller for the night,” said Tony. Adjusting his headset, he added, “Thank God.”

It had been a horrible show. None of the callers had been remotely interesting, and Tony would’ve been worried about the ratings, if he didn’t have more pressing matters on his mind.

“Alright guys,” Tony continued, checking the switch board for any more callers. Just one. Pathetic. “Let’s see who our next caller is, shall we?”Just as he was about to connect the call, Matt Gruer got up and left the recording booth.

Tony had never liked his co-host. The man was too annoying. The fact that he’d turned up at the station half an hour earlier than asked, still pricked Tony. He had to stop whatever work he had, just to listen to the fellow’s half baked jokes.

“Hello caller, you’re on air. Could you tell us your name please?”

It had all started out with abundant enthusiasm. Tony Liston was an upcoming RJ, freshly taking up the 7 P.M. prime time slot at Radio 4. Two years later, he was being bumped down to the 11 P.M. slot. Where the only calls were from snooty kids or drunk slobs.

The job hardly gave him any satisfaction, but Tony stuck to it, five days a week, for the whole year. And with a co-host like Matt, life couldn’t get any worse.

“Hello? Hello, can you hear me?” a female voice asked hesitantly.

“Yes, we can hear you, young lady. What’s your name?”

“You have to help me. Please. I’m – I’m in a lot of trouble. I think I’m going to die.”

Tony paused for a moment, more out of reluctance than alarm. He’d had his fair share of prank calls. And sometimes the drunks could really sound work up a scene. But the girl didn’t sound drunk.

“Excuse me, lady. But could you tell me what’s the problem?” Tony asked, as though enquiring about her grocery list.

The voice that echoed from the speakers around the room was tense, wavering. “I don’t know – I can’t know. It’s all so mixed – please help me – I – I don’t know what’s happening.”

Leaning forward, Tony rested his head against the cold metallic table. He remembered how just seven months ago he’d fallen for a fake call. Some drunkard claimed to be about to attempt a suicide. Working himself into a frenzy, Tony tried his best to coax the man out of it. For four weeks, his compassionate monologues were played at the Radio station. Ratings had slightly bumped up for a while.

Just as he was about to reply, Tony noticed the empty chair next to him. It seemed like Matt was taking an awful long time at the rest room.

Figuring out what was happening, he smiled softly and pressed the talk button.

“Yes, I can understand. But please, let us take it slow. I’m sure we can solve your problem. Tell us, what’s the matter?”

There was silence for a moment. Sharp breathing filled the speakers; the lady was trying to calm herself forceful. It was masterful acting.

For a moment, Tony contemplated the possibility that maybe it wasn’t a prank. What if the girl actually did have a problem? More to satisfy his conscience than anything else, he seized his phone from the table and called Matt.

Calling waiting. The user is in another call.

Just wait, Matt. You’re gonna get your hands burned for this.

“All I can remember is that – that I was kidnapped. It happened so quick, I cant even remember it. But someone just kidnapped me after work. Oh god, it’s so horrible. I – I don’t know what to do. My head pains. I cant see anything right now. Please, please you have to help me.”

“You say you’ve been kidnapped. Really? And what, the friendly chap just let you make a call and get your favourite dedication on air?”

Tony sniggered at his own joke. God, how he wished he was back on Prime Time.

“Sir, sir, please, you don’t understand. I – I cant explain -- ”

“But please, do go on. We still have five minutes to wrap up the show. I’m sure your callers would love to hear why you’ve called us.”

That’s it. Corner her. Turn the tables around. God, this will be epic. Matt is going to –

The door opened, and Matt walked in with a cup of coffee and his mobile in the other hand.

“Sorry,” he mouthed as he quietly sat down. “Girl friend,” he continued, pointing towards his mobile with an annoyed expression.

He couldn’t understand why Tony looked so shocked. The RJ stared at him for a moment, and then looked at the panel board in front of him. The call was still blinking.

“Sir, you have to help me,” the voice resumed, this time again sounding hallowed. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I don’t know where I am. I don’t know anything. My mobile is partly damaged and the keys don’t work. Sir, I don’t – I don’t have any balance to call my parents. Please –“

The girl broke down into tears. Tony could see the expression on Matt’s face slowly change from indifference to alarm.

“Is this real?” he mouthed. Tony shrugged his shoulder. But he was almost sure of the answer. He just needed to be certain.

“And – and why did you call us?” he asked, sounding pale for the first time. He just wanted to make sure he wasn’t being pranked. Please, not again.

“I – I didn’t know what to do. Your station number is the only toll free number I have. I tried calling the police, but the keys don’t work. Oh sir, the keys – the police – I don’t know what’s happening!”

His face almost contorted with fright, Tony stood up, and looked at Matt. “Call the police,” he mouthed.

“Ma’am, just stay calm. We’ll try to help you.”

Just as Matt left the booth, the transmission ended. Looking at his watch, Tony realised it was 12. Broadcasts ended at 12. The call was lost.

Matt called the police and informed them of the call. They agreed to look into it, and open a case if possible. After bidding him goodbye, Tony closed the door and walked into his office.

He unlocked the closest door and put on a mask.

Walking in, he snatched the young lady’s until then concealed mobile and snarled.

“You bloody bitch! You almost got me caught tonight!”

Note: This is a story that I'm slightly proud of. If it's entertained you, especially with the twist, do let me know. It helps. Thanks!

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  1. its awesome til this...bt i feel its incomplete...would have been awesome if u wrote some more and completed it

  2. hmmm... Could have been a bit more polished at the end. But still a good one.

  3. honestly speakin... i cudn't get the end!!!

    why would a RJ kidnap a girl at all??? the "twist" (as you call it) went unexplained... the story ended abruptly... and i was left only wondering.

    u create an excellent build up and then it falls... remember that after the climax, there has to be an endin as well. without it the story falls flat... baseless!

    i appreciate the effort u put though

  4. This is a well written story... But the climax is a let down..

    Also, my two cents - While you construct such a story... It would have been better not to let the reader in on Tony's thoughts... coz later, seeing Tony turn out as the antagonist doesn't go well with what one has read about him...

    Either you could have shown the thoughts of the caller or Matt.. not Tony..

    Saying that Tony was surprised to see Matt (he thought Matt was the crank caller).. doesn't do justice to the climax where we come to know that Tony was the mastermind behind it..

  5. Err.. I hope I have been clear here.. in the narrative you could have shown signs of Tony's surprise and horror.. that, could have been explained as good acting on part of Tony.. But showing what tony "thought" didn't make sense...

  6. @All Talk And No Action: Actually, I meant for Tony to be surprised to see Matt. Because in the beginning he assumes its a prank call from someone. He didnt imagine that the very same girl who he locked up managed to end up calling that station. So whatever he felt was real. Hope that makes sense :S

  7. ohh.. then I completely misunderstood the story :D

    I thought Tony planted the caller in order to increase his ratings :)