Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This week it was my turn to host F3 and I thought I'd focus on one of film's great thrillers, Sorry, Wrong Number.  This was about a woman alone, overhearing a very disturbing telephone conversation, and it took off from there.

I set up a loose scenario about someone needing a bit of R&R and borrowing a friend's cabin for the weekend.  He/she overhears a telephone conversation too, but how does it turn out for that individual?  Well, that's where everyone's imagination comes in.  What follows is the bend in the road my imagination chose...  Please enjoy.


Finally.  Here.  In my entire life, I don’t ever remember driving so far.  Being fortunate enough to land a top-notch spot with an ad agency and being able to work from my home computer made rush hour traffic a nightmare I only heard about from friends.  I’ve always chosen to reside close to personal necessities like doctors, dentists and the like.  I grocery shop online and have prescriptions delivered to my door.  I am most definitely not a fan of the open road.  But the opportunity to really get away from everyone and everything for even a weekend was just too good to pass up, even if I had to drive for hours upon hours and end up on a road that leads to the ass-end of nowhere.

Tomorrow is Saturday and it’s a very special Saturday because it’s my 30th birthday.  That’s one of the big ones, you know--like a milestone or some such thing.  I had originally planned to spend this entire weekend with my main man, Robert, in a $2,500.00 a night suite at one of the luxury hotels downtown, being fed caviar with champagne to wash it down, and basically being treated as if the entire universe revolved solely around me.  That was also Robert’s plan; that is, until our boss, a.k.a. the spawn of Satan, decided to send my better half to some one-horse town in a country whose name contains no vowels, to sign some cold cream magnate.  Yep.  You heard me correctly.  Cold cream.  If we get the account, I’ll be writing copy to sell crap that went out of style before I was even born.  Don’t you just love big business?

My inside contact, Darby, who has brought work to my home in the dead of night when my PC’s gone down, along with a hundred other heroic deeds, has been offering to let me use this cabin her Pop left her.  She told me there’s only one road for going in and going out and if it rains, forget it.  The sucker floods and mud will bury your car up to the door handles.  It backs up to some woods, and there are trails leading to a small village that remain fairly passable if supplies or assistance might be needed.  She knows the pressure that suffocates me daily and makes the offer at least three times a week.  As soon as my shine-the-spotlight-on-me weekend with my honey evaporated, I asked her for the keys, and here I am at last.  And, it’s raining.

Damn stuff caught me by surprise.  Blue sky, a few puffy white clouds one minute--black sky, even blacker clouds, and a downpour like a fire hose in my face the next.  Just a few feet up the small walkway to the front door and I’m already soaked.  Good thing this place is stocked with the good stuff.  Darby knows me all too well and she promised me I’d never go thirsty.  Mind you, I’m no lush, but a nice warm brandy, or three, before and probably after dinner for a couple of days is going to be just the kind of R&R I need.  First though, off with the wet and on with the…

What the hell was that?  The phone?  I haven’t heard a ringer like that since visiting the grandparents a century ago.  No choice in the matter here though since there’s no cell service at all.  One obviously cannot be without a telephone, but the only ones that work out here are the old rotary types, and Darby’s is right here on the small table near the dining room.  I feel like I’m in an episode of the original Twilight Zone and I can almost hear the theme song.  This ‘telephone’ is a clunky-looking thing, charcoal black, large print letters and numbers underneath a clear dial, and last, but not least, the ear/mouth thingy shakes, rattles and rolls during its deafening ring.  Thanks, Darb.  You told me you forwarded this mutant thing to where you’d be staying this weekend so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.  I suppose I could just let it ring, but with my luck, I really am in the Twilight Zone and it will never stop.  Oh well.  Here goes.


Nothing but a lot of cracking noises.  These old things were never meant to function during an electrical storm anyway.  What was that?  Voices?

“Hello?  Is anyone there?  Can you hear me?”


Sounded like a woman’s voice.  Maybe.

“What?  Hello?  Hello?”


Now, that sounded like a man.  I don’t believe this.  Somehow this phone got hooked up with another call.  Wild.  I should hang up now.  I will.  Soon.  Really.


The woman.  She sounds angry.


What did he say?

“Hello?  Can either of you hear me because I can hear you both.  What about tonight, and who’s going to die?  I’m calling the police now.  Hello?  Answer me, damn it…”

Dial tone.  Fuck.  They both hung up.  I wonder if I…, yeah, right.  Like I’m going to be able to dial star sixty-nine.  I can dial zero though.  Maybe I can get somebody in the village.

“This is Zelda.  Who did you need to be connected to?”

Oh God.

“Zelda?  This is…”

“You’re a friend to that odd little gal, Darby, right?  I can see you’re calling from her place.  She said she was going to get you to her cabin one way or the other.  What you need, hon?”

Get me up here one way or another?  I can feel a headache creeping in around my eyes.  Why doesn’t this rain let up?

“Yes, Zelda, my name is Suzanne and I’m staying in Darby’s cabin for the weekend.  Thing is, the phone here rang and when I picked it up, I could hear what sounded like a man and a woman having a conversation that really disturbed me, but they couldn’t hear me.  Must be that crazy storm, huh?”

“For sure, Miss Suzanne.  Lines get crossed around here all the time.  Nothing to worry about.  I’m fixing to have my sandwich and coffee in a few, and when I’m at dinner break, I shut down for an hour or so, so do you need me to connect you to somebody?”

She shuts the lines down while she eats.  Un-fucking-believable.

“Not really, Zelda, but if you could do something for me, I’d appreciate it.  The call that came through on this line a few minutes ago, would you happen to know where it came from?  Or, would you happen to know at least one of the numbers that was on the line?”

The silence was less than encouraging.

“No offense, Miss Suzanne from the big city, but up here, we don’t have fancy buttons and switches to find out where calls come from.  This ain’t no CSI Miami.  If you don’t like what you hear, hang up.  Problem solved.  I’m going to have my dinner now.”

She hung up.  Unreal.  Something terrible is going to happen at midnight tonight.  My God.  Somebody’s going to die, and she‘s gone to eat her sandwich.  Wait a minute.  Something about ‘she’, ‘alone’, ‘bear’…  I’m a she and I’m alone and this cabin is at the end of Big Bear Road…

I need a drink.  Lord, do I watch too many old movies, or what.  But still…  Why would Darby tell Zelda she had to get me up here, and why did Zelda call her odd?  She is kind of--always wanting to know my schedule, delivering and picking up my work, and so willing to drive out to my house, but why?  Why has she been systematically inserting herself into my life?  She’s always asking about Robert too, like, just how close are he and I, and…  I knew it!  That psycho bitch, wanting to share her cabin with me.  That was her on the phone--I know it--talking to some guy she’s sending here at midnight to kill me!

I need another drink.  Stress can do strange things to a person‘s mind.  Why would drab, and odd, little Darby want me dead anyway?  I know.  So she can get Robert, that’s why!  But she can’t think she has a chance with him.  He told me that she asked him if he’d like to join her for a drink after a long meeting, and he said he made it very clear to her that he wasn’t interested in her that way.  He told her it was probably just a crush, and she’d get over it.  Apparently, she didn’t, and believes with me out of the way, she can change his mind.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.  I’ll bet Zelda is in on it too.  The lines will be off so I can’t call for help.  Let me tell you something, missy, if you think I’m going to sit around and wait to be murdered, you’ve got another thing coming.  You weren’t counting on that call coming through here, were you?

It’s almost midnight and there’s a lovely carving set in the kitchen.  No one can come up the road, and one of them said something about ‘back’, which I’m certain means the back door.  He’ll come up one of the trails and come in that way.  I’m going to be ready for you when you do, whoever you are, you son-of-a-bitch.  Oh yes.  I’m ready.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

It’s not my fault.  It truly isn’t.  I didn’t know.  How could I have?  He was supposed to be half a world away until Monday.  He wasn’t supposed to be wearing waders, a hooded raincoat, and carrying a plastic covered briefcase filled with caviar, champagne and a diamond necklace.  And, he most certainly wasn’t supposed to have obtained an extra key to this cabin from Darby so he could come up the back way on the trails to surprise me for my birthday.

Robert.  My dear Robert.  When the door opened and you walked in the darkened kitchen, I couldn’t help myself.  You understand why I had to keep stabbing and stabbing and…  You do, don’t you?  You looked so confused as you fell.

“I’m so sorry, Robert.  I didn’t know what I…  The phone call…  I thought…”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Just outside the still open back door, a killer watches and listens.

Should be able to make this appear as a murder-suicide, he thinks.  Happens all the time.  My client will be very pleased.  Two for the price of one…


  1. Extremely well done! This could easily be turned into a movie script. The suspense and nervous tension were perfect and I truly felt the fear of the main character.

  2. “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you”
    ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

    I liked the way the mood changed in this. Initially we have Suzanne, tired, glad to be up there, just relaxing. Then a call, maybe an over active imagination, her fear builds and mine with it.
    The line 'he was supposed to be half a world away until Monday' gave me one of those 'of shit' thoughts. I knew then what she had done.
    Great twist at the end too. I was wondering though if it would finish better without the last paragraph

  3. I'm with Beach Bum and Ravens - great ending with the double twist!

  4. I must admit I was a little bored until that break. Then there was the great twist. And then ANOTHER twist! Leaves more questions than it answers but sometimes that's a good thing right?

  5. I enjoyed this from start to finish, and I didn't see that twist coming! I got an odd chuckle out of "You looked so confused as you fell." :)


  6. Oh, very Hitchcock-esque! Bravo, Joyce! I loved this - absolutely had me spellbound and a great twist at the end!

    I could hear the rain over the sinister soundtrack running in my head and of course I imagined the scenes in monochrome.....

    In fact, I'm off to enjoy it all over again - and that's something I don't often do!

  7. Brilliantly done, Joyce! I love how the mood changes and you keep the suspense building. Like Sue, I've got this really dark and sinister soundtrack looping in my head.

    When I got to that second twist, I had to go back and read the story again... did I miss something? Nope! I never saw that coming... truly an inspired piece here.

    I love how it starts out upbeat... we're just going along... gonna enjoy a nice lazy few days at the cabin with Suzanne; we can all relate to that. And then, it all starts with the phone ringing... and the tension starts to build.

    I loved Zelda... she's got a bit of an attitude going there. I think we've all had to deal with a 'Zelda' before.

    This is a very powerful... and well written... story with only a couple of characters carrying everything. I love how you bring the reader into the story, identifying with so much in it.

    A thoroughly enjoyable story on so many levels!