4 minutes later . . .
Ms. Josephine has become our de facto phone voice. Billtruck said that we could get Hal to do it, but Ricky and I figured that might lead to inordinately large phone bills. We opted to wait for Hal to become more acclimated to human speech patterns, and social norms.
While she’s nodding and scribbling things down on a large clean pad that sits by the red phone, I am watching things stream by on the wall screens. There’s so much information scrolling by that you can’t possibly take it all in. It’s overload for all but Hal.
I sit down at one of the workstations, again. I fold my hands in front of me and consider my question.
“Yes, Jack . . . ”
I would like you to search for information that deals with strange deaths that have occurred across the world in the last several weeks.
“Among what species or organism are you inquiring about for this data?”
Humans, Hal. Humans.
“Are there any keywords you might expect to be related to your query?” Hal asked flatly.
I say, Evil,
. . . and . . . captivating.
“The progress of this search will be cataloged as ‘Project: Human’ for future access.”
Thank you, Hal.
“Enjoy your pizza, Jack.”
And I’m not sure, but it sounded like he was being sarcastic. Ricky is standing near Ms. Josephine, trying to read her chicken-scratch.
Ms. Josephine holds the phone to her chest, looking down at her notes. “Dere’s a ’ouse in Farmer’s Branch dat needs our services. It’s a two-story, tirty-five ‘undred square-foot colonial, wit red and white bricks, a two-car garage, and a screamin’ blue child dat floats by at tree in da mornin’.”
Ricky looks up, closing his eyes, “Tell them we’ll take a look Monday, we’re all booked up until then.”
“Would Monday be an appropriate time for us to come take a look?” Ms. Josephine asks politely. She nods, and then looks at Ricky, “Monday dey take da kids to soccer camp.”
“Tuesday?” Ricky asks as he pulls out his Palm Pilot and starts touching the screen with the little plastic pen.
“Tuesday will be fine,” Ms. Josephine says. “We’ll call you before we come. Tank you for contacting da After Life Group.” And she hangs up.
I bet that one’s fake, I say. Swamp gas and bad plumbing, for sure.
Ricky agrees with me, “Yeah. That’s bullcorn. If you have a glowing apparition floating by, screaming, at three in the morning, you get it sorted out. You don’t worry about band camp.”
Soccer camp, I correct.
“Whatever. You solve your poltergeist problem first. Soccer camp, second.”
“I’ll go out on Tuesday and ’ave a look around. If it’s serious, I’ll call in da big guns,” Ms. Josephine tells us. And I’m not certain, but I think she’s being sarcastic, too.
I stand and walk across the office, all the way to our magical, liquid crystal window, looking down at the indoor courtyard where several pine trees and big-leafed plants add color and ambiance to a bunch of tables and uncomfortable looking chairs.
Behind me, Hal is mining, Billtruck is observing, Ricky is pondering, Ms. Josephine is laughing. We’re searching for the footprints of Evil. The echoes of death.