(To read part 1, click here.)
Tonight is the night; I am finally going to sleep. Tomorrow is Friday. I have one meeting after lunch and then home for an early day. If I get two nights sleep in a row, I may go to baseball game on Saturday. I lay down on the pillow, but am too tired sleep. Anxious, nervous anticipation erupts dinner back up into my throat. I reach over to the nightstand and get a fruit flavored anti-acid out of the drawer. I sit up in bed and take deep breaths between swallows. I clear my mind and turn on a plastic electric fan next to the nightstand on the floor. It’s not hot, but the sound, constant background noise, occupies my senses. The cooler in the room, the deeper I will sleep. I’ve found that if I am chilled, the cool occupies my body.I concentrate on the fan. The banana-strawberry anti-acid smoothy coats and cools my throat, as I listen to the fan. The constant hum clears my mind. Don’t think about anything else, just focus on the fan and take deep breaths through my nose.
“YES-Sir, now we’re fishing,” Captain Bucky exclaims as the the tarpon jumps out of the bay. Instinct directs it to throw out hook or break the line, and flee to survive. Her brother hands him a thick leather belt, and he wraps it around my waist. It is stiff and frayed along the edge. “That’s right,when it slacks, and if it runs, let it.” The belts is 12 inches wide in the front, 6 inches in the back, with a half open nipple up front to hold the end of the fishing pole. The captain pulls hard on the tongue and cinches it up. The tarpon jumps again, half as far from the boat.
“WOW,” my girlfriend’s brother yells. “It’s got to be 6-foot.”
“Let him run,” the captain barks friendly. “If you can’t wind, let him run. It’ll tire him out.”
“Aye aye.” I answer. The tarpon pulls hard and yanks the reel handle out of my hand. The belt holds the end and I recapture the reel. The captain leans over the boat with a beat-up metal sauce pan, fills it with water, and soaks the reel.
“Don’t worry, we just need to keep the reel cool.” He reassures the astonishment and shock in my eyes.
“No problem. I’m glad I wore a bathing suit.” The line goes slack; I pull back on the rod and start winding. I pull again and the tarpon jumps. I hear a click, click, and click. Everyone else has their camera out. “How long do you think it will take?” I ask
The captain turns around to make sure everyone else’s line is secure, and when he turns back, he says, “oh it can vary. If the silver is tired probably about 30 minutes, if it’s a youngster, it could take as long as an hour and half.”
“Ok,” I swallow hard. My arms are already burning. I dip the pole forward, pull back, and wind; all in one motion.
“That’s good. Just let him go if he wants to run.”
Sweat burns my eyes, as I dip the pole and wind, over and over. I am breathing hard, my back aches, and my arms tingle. I hope I don’t drop the pole now. 45 minutes pass in a single breath and no matter how hard I try, I can not visualize what has just happened?
“We’ve almost got him,” the captain says. “Don’t stop now.”
The other fisherman on the boat are crowding around me to get a glimpse of the magnificent silver fish. “Are you OK?” My girlfriend asks.
I nod my head and take one hand off the pole to wipe my brow and eyes on my short sleeve. I can at least push the salt out of my eyes. My free arm arm trembles like spaghetti on the end of a fork. She smiles at me.
“Steady, steady,” the captain watches the line for the steel leader. He has a pair of pliers in his hands. “We don’t usually take these fish. They are no good as food.”
“Hum?” Everyone listens to him.
“We can, but we would rather get a plastic one built for around a grand, if you really must have one.” He continues. “We conserve them for all fisherman. Just a minute.” He reaches over and grabs the leader, and pulls it towards the boat. I wondered why he was wearing heavy leather tip-less gloves. “We usually just pull out a scale for size.” He finishes. “You can have the fish if you really have to, but a lot of sportsmen around here frown on it, and they’re known to own a lot of guns.”
“Ok,” I catch my breath, What the hell would I do with the trophy of a giant fish? My apartment is only 400 square feet. “The scale will be perfect.” Breathless, I say between gasps.
The tarpon is resting at the starboard side. it’s breaths are more labored than mine. The captain reaches down and plucks a scale from its side. “You can touch him if you want?” He says. We take turns moving around the fish and touching its reflective silvery skin. “Ok. I’ve got to let him go.”
We move back and watch as the captain takes pliers out of his vest and reaches down to the front of the fish. He can’t find the leader. He rolls the tarpon over and and reaches down into its mouth, a large aerodynamic snout, and he stumbles forward. “Whoa, hold onto my belt.” The captain squawks at me. I reach over and grab the belt on his pants.
Captain Bucky reaches down again and stretches his arm out as far as he can to grab the steel leader, and snip it. The giant docile fish blinks, turns his head back, and pulls away quickly. “Whoa,” the captain exclaims, and the tarpon jumps up out of the water. “I’ve never seen this, SHIT.”
The giant fish jumps up above out heads from it’s catatonic state. I let go of the captain’s belt, and the tarpon lands hard, tail and magnificent body writhing fiercely, on the open stern deck. The captain falls backward toward the conning cabin and everyone else scrambles to the bow. The fishing pole pulls out of my hands and belt, smashing on the rail. I see the steel leader gleaming in the sun. I reach for it.
“Rrring, rrring, rring, rring, ring.”
“What the fuck,” I reach for the phone and answer it. “Hello, HELLO, WHO IS THIS?” I hear a muffled gurgling, like large bubbles breaching the surface. “Damn it,” I say to myself and parse to the recent call list. It is 555-731-4957 again. “So much for Vital Frontier’s blocking service.”
I am going to get to the bottom of this and find out who belongs to this fucking number. I retrieve my laptop from the living room and sit up in bed with it on my lap. First, I use a reverse phone number look up. Initial information is usually free, but an address may require a small fee.
No address, so I click to an information collection service. For $1.99, I can find a name and address; for $4.99, I can get job, salary, and demographic. I choose the more expensive report; if I am going to spend the cash, I might as well get all the information I can find on this dick.
After entering my address and credit card data, a record reveals itself on the screen.
“What the hell,” I say out loud to myself. This person sounds a lot like me. We went to the same school, we have the same kind of job, we are single renters, and we make the same salary. The probability is astronomical. “OH SHIT,” someone has stolen my identity. I pick put the phone and call VFC., but what does “c/o Neville Buckles” mean? As soon as the VOX answers, I punch zero on my handset.
“Hello, Vital Frontier Communication is happy to have you as a customer, someone will be right with you in 2 minutes.”
I am sweating, and blood vessels in my temple dance a syncopated tango on the front of my skull. “Hurry. hurry up.” I say out loud to myself.
“Hello Mr. Sterling, this is Venus speaking can I have your access password please.” How can it be the same representative three times in a row? Another probability anomaly? Venus must be their generic pseudonym.
“a-r-i-b-e-27,” I say into the mouthpiece.
“Ok, thank you. For security, can I have the answer to your security question.” Venus asks.
“Uh, I am not sure? Do you really need that?” Panic will not let me focus.
“Yes sir. We have been having some problems with your account and we want to protect our customers the best way we can. I can give you a hint.” She says, “pet’s name?”
“Oh yes, I remember, Bruno.” The picture of an brown and black terrier pops into my head.
“How can I help you tonight?” She asks.
“Are you the same Venus I spoke with last night?”
“We speak with lots of clients, Mr. Sterling. I am…”
“I am the guy who had a number blocked. Someone keeps calling me in the middle of the night. Ring a bell?”
“One moment please. Yes, we’ve spoken several nights in a row. We have to quit meeting like this,” she chuckles. “Are you still getting prank phone calls?”
“Yes, I think someone may have stolen my ID too. I payed for a data retrieval on the phone number, and it reported a man who sounds a lot like me.” I quickly spit out.
“Really? Oh no.”
“Can you check to see if I have a phone in Fort Myers, or Sanibel, Florida at 1589 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers?”
“Uh.” Venus hesitates.
“Please, I am desperate. I am just checking to see if someone has started an account in my name. You know, your company will be responsible for any unpaid fees.” I hear nothing but silence from the handset. “Please! I am just trying to get to the bottom of it.” I plead with Venus.
“Ok, it could just be coincidence, but let me check with my supervisor, please hold.” She answers.
Several minutes pass as Fly Like and Eagle from a marching band plays in repeat. “Mr. Sterling”
“I can’t give you any specifics; it’s a matter of privacy. No. No one with your name has opened an account in Florida.” She answers.
“Phew,” I sigh, “thank you Venus. At least I know they are not running up a account with your company. I damp my brow with the edge of the blue sheet on my bed.
“Can I help you with anything else?” She asks.
“No, but thanks.”
“You are welcome. Goodnight and thanks for using Vital Frontier Communications,” She finishes.
“Good night.” I am relieved. It’s 4 A.M. and I drop off into a restless sleep.
Friday, 3:00 P.M., it’s been a long day, and I can barely keep my eyes open for the bus ride home. I’ve still not made it to the Vital Frontier store on Van Ness. I hope they figured out the call block. How many days has in been since I sleep well through the night, six, seven? I can’t remember. Home at four, I walk into the bedroom, sit, then lay back on the bed. I am fast asleep, before I can take my shoes off.
I grab the steel fishing line leader with my bare hands. The tarpon thrashes on the deck of the boat, cutting my palm.
“NO!” the captain yells as the giant fish thrashes up and down several times, and then lurches over the side.
I release the leader, turn my palm up, and step toward the captain. The line wraps around my leg, as I watch the fishes eye blink as it fans it tail and lunches itself into the sky. My arm is now entangled as well, and the tarpon falls back into the bay. The captain scrambles for the line, and pulls a long diving knife of of his belt. He reaches for the line. I turn to look at him, happy shock on my face, and Bucky manages to cut it. The tarpon leaps one more time close to the boat, attempting to throw out the hook, and dives below the surface. The captain reaches for my arm, as he realizes he has cut the line before my entanglement. The tarpon pulls me off the boat into the water, and tows my feet under before I can take a breath. I look up and swim franticly for the surface.
My eyes are wide open and I yell, “HE..HELP,” as I sputter water out of my mouth. I hold the tarpon for a moment and it pulls me down.
“Ring, ring, ring.”
I pop up straight out of bed, shouting and I look around. My eyes are wide open. I take a quick deep breath. I am covered in sweat. It is 8:00 P.M. I take the phone out of my coat pocket. “He, hello.”
“Hello Mr. Sterling, this is Venus with Vital Frontier Communication. I am sorry to call you in the evening, but I am calling to follow up on the number we blocked for you.” The same mid-western accent speaks through my handset.
“Yes, yes, what of that?” Still a little groggy, I ask.
“We are still working on that. Our technical department is really stumped. It’s one for the record books, but we are waiting to examine your phone.” Venus explains.
“Oh yes, I remember. I was too tired today, but I’ll be in tomorrow.” I say.
“Very good Mr. Sterling, thank you for choosing Vital Frontier Communication. If I can be off any further help, please call my extension 571. Goodnight.”
“”Ok. Thank you, thank you for your help.” I sigh, “goodnight.”
Hum, the techs are stumped. I’ve never heard a company admit that; I must be a test case now, a training aid, and I actually got the extension number of a live person. I wonder who the hell this prank caller is? If I could find him, her, it, what ever, I think I could shorten their lifespan, maybe cut their fucking head off. I can’t think of a case that I’ve cast probabilities for beheading. Or better, keep them up until they pass-out permanently. Is that possible? I think I’ll plug this address into gogmaps.org and see what turns up. If I can find them on satellite, maybe I’ll hire some one to beat the shit out of them. Who do I know if Florida?
I enter1589 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers into the map search, and a street map pops up. I click on the satellite icon and a photo of the address loads on the lcd. Hum residential; I click to left of center and the image rotates to a the view of a road. I click again and I am facing a wide open wrought iron gate. It has a fresh coat of paint, and a sandy path of a road leads past a thicket of tall palm trees. Iron forms a name at the apex of the arch which is surrounded on either side with fat cherubs, The Eternal Palms Preserve.
I wonder how far I can venture into the cemetery? Agog maps is a great tool, but I doubt if they map many views; it would be disrespectful. I click through the gate, and a new image loads on the LCD, a ground level view. I click right to look right and I see a lot of older headstones and a mausoleum in the distance. I click back to the road and to the left, more tombstones and some statuary. I click forward again, and click to the grouping of pine trees. I look around and am standing in the trees which are separated with statuary and a fountain. I can’t believe the provide this much detail.
“RRRING, rrring, rring, rring, ring.” I almost jump out of my skin and the laptop falls off of my lap on to the bed. It can’t be the same again? This isn’t the pattern.
I pick up my phone and answer, before looking at the number. I should have looked, because i hear the same as before, only I can make it out a little better. I hear a loud, “whoa,” and then a splash.
“Help, he..,” then gurgling and the sound of large bubbles rising from underwater.
“WHO THE HELL IS THIS?” I scream into the phone. “I know what you are up to and your not going to get away with it.” I hear more bubbles and another splash. “Phone harassment is a federal offense. I am calling the Feds.”I don’t know if that is true, but I continue to listen and the line goes silent. It is still connected. “STOP CALLING ME.” I disconnect the phone and throw it down on the bed. It bounces once and falls on to the floor.
I pick up my laptop. I imagine I can see my red face in reflection on the dark screen. I can certainly feel the heat on my cheeks. I wipe my brow again and wake the laptop. I click through the palms on the sandy path and come to a fork in the road. A new large alabaster stone stands in front of me, and the soil is freshly turned. No flowers adorn the fresh grave. The stone is too far away in the photo to make out the name. I doubt this map will go any further, but I hover over and accidentally click on the tombstone. The image begins to zoom.
“RING, RING, RING, RING, RING.”
“Fuck, again?” I say out loud. I look at the caller id, and it is not the same number. It says unidentified caller. Who the hell can this be? I answer, “hello.”
“MR. Sterling, Mr Sterling?” An upset female voice yells into the receiver between quick shallow breaths.
“Yes?” The voice is familiar.
“Mr. Sterling this is Venus with Vital Frontier.” She says more calmly. “Are you at Eternal Palms on your computer?”
“What?” I can’t believe what I am hearing. “What? Why?”
“Did you search on the address you gave me earlier?” She forcefully asks.
“How can you know that? I have it on my laptop right now.” I reply.
“Do not look at the headstones.” She orders me.
“What? What the hell are you talking about?” I am confused. How can she know that I am searching on the address and that I am virtually standing in front of a new headstone. I believe in random synchronicity as much as the next guy, but are they watching me.
“DONOVAN, DO NOT LOOK AT THE HEADSTONES.” Venus shouts with the force of command.
“How do you know that? Is your company watching me?” I am incredulous, worried, and angry at the same time. “HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?” I shout back.
“Please Mr. Sterling, I was just speculating and searched on the address as well.” She explains, Vital Frontier Communication does not spy on its clients. We would have not interest in doing so.”
“Like you would admit it if you did? I am going to have to call my lawyer.” I try to intimidate an honest answer. How else would they know exactly what I am doing in my bedroom at this time of night?
“Please Mr. Sterling, please do not look at the tombstone in front of you.” She repeats.
“Can I speak with your supervisor?” I have had enough of this, and I am not going to take it from you or your company. VFC is suppose to provide a minimal level of privacy to a private client.
“Yes, yes, I will…” and the phone line drops.
“Well that’s convenient.” i say to the silent handset. I’m going to have words with a VFC manager tomorrow, “strong words.”
I pick up the laptop again and wake if from it’s sleep. The tall grey marble headstone towers above the soft, bright sand. Strange, the stone is not carved on the facing side. I click through it and find a view on its opposite side. I click to turn around, and finally click on the headstone.