BY SHEILA HORNE
Copyright is held by the author.
THE SHRILL of the telephone pierced the silence. I turned on my light and grabbed the phone before it woke everyone. The cat and dog raised their heads from their spots at the bottom of our bed. They looked at me and my husband Mark with annoyance, and went back to sleep. I’d heard our teenage sons arrive home around midnight so I knew the phone call had nothing to do with them.
“Hello,” I said, not sure what to expect. But at four in the morning it could only be bad news.
“Is Mawk there?” a man’s voice at the other end asked.
“It’s for you,” I said, checking the clock and handing the phone to him.
He took it from me and said, “Who’s calling me this early in the morning?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But he has a very strong Russian accent.”
Mark said hello and hung up after a few seconds.
“What?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Someone told me the delivery will be late and they hung up.” He reached for the lamp on his bedside table and turned it on.
“What delivery?” I asked. “Something to do with work?”
“Not at this hour. Not on a Saturday and not to our house.”
We sat in bed trying to decide if it was a prank call. But if it were, the person wouldn’t know Mark’s name and ask to speak to him.
“He sounded like the viper,” I said.
“What viper?” Mark asked.
“The one from that stupid joke everyone told in high school.”
We looked at each other, scrambled out of bed and dressed as fast as we could. If we were going to be killed on a cold February night, it wasn’t going to be in our pajamas. We headed downstairs and looked out the window. Nothing moved in the dark. The only light came from the street lamp in front of the house. I went into the kitchen and plugged in the coffee pot. Not only would we be dressed when we were murdered, we would be wide-awake. Mark went down to the basement. He came back up swinging a crow bar as if practicing his best baseball slam. He dialed his sister’s cell phone. She was leaving her marriage and taking the children later that morning. We were concerned about the repercussions from her unstable husband. So we had planned to be there when the movers arrived. She didn’t answer.
“This definitely reminds me of the viper,” I said, “he vas on his vay, remember?”
“I hope it’s not a body being delivered,” Mark said and poured another cup of coffee. He dialed his sister’s number again. She didn’t pick up.
“Maybe it’s nothing,” I said. “No one delivers at this hour even if they’re running late.”
After two cups of coffee, we were about to go back upstairs to bed when car tires crunched on the icy road, breaking the stillness. The wheels rolled down the street towards our house.
I closed my eyes. “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”
The car stopped. Mark picked up the crow bar. I held onto the back of his sweatshirt as I followed him to the front door. We peeked out the window. Car lights shone on the icy snow banks at the side of the road.
“It looks like a black limousine with tinted windows,” he said.
“Very Mafioso.” I stepped back and closed the blinds.
The car door slammed and footsteps scrunched slowly up the snow-covered driveway. It was happening. Someone was coming to our door. He knew our names and where we lived. I quickly went through the recesses of my mind looking for something we may have done or anyone we knew who might hold a grudge. No one. Sure we played our music loud, but the neighbours had never complained. And you don’t have people knocked off for loud music. Or do you? I thought about our sons asleep upstairs. They would wake up in the afternoon, like all teenagers do, and find our bloody bodies. I hoped the killers would see that they were kids and let them go. And where was our dog? Instead of protecting us like he was supposed to do, he was under the covers in our bed.
“Do you think it’s too late to call the police?” I said.
Then came a violent bang against the screen door. Someone ran back down the driveway. The car door slammed and wheels spun as the car accelerated. We both took a deep breath and held it as Mark opened the door. We didn’t know what we would find. A head. A body — maybe even a bomb. We looked down. There it was. The Toronto Star neatly rolled in a plastic bag.