“You’re a dead man.”
Archibald blanched. In a quivering voice, he said into the telephone, “Who are you?”
Silence. No answer came from the other end. Then, there arose a bubbling sound, faint at first, then sounding louder, as though rising from the bottom of a deep well. The frothy sound soon turned into a torrent of sonorous, rhythmic, asthmatic breathing.
Archibald’s heart was now beating less furiously than it was earlier. However, it hadn’t returned to its normal, relaxed rhythm. Nevertheless, he felt much calmer now than previously. Still, no answer came from the other end. The only sound he could hear was the beat of the guttural, phlegmatic breathing. Anger now replaced his earlier fear. He shouted into the telephone, “Who the hell are you?”
Still, no answer came. Only the thick gulping noise filled the void. Then, all of a sudden, this laboured breathing stopped. Complete silence reigned. Archibald didn’t know what to make of it. Before he could decide what to do, he heard a click and the telephone went dead. Slowly, he put down the receiver.
Whose voice was that? It didn’t sound familiar. Not anyone I know. Whoever he is, why does he want to kill me? As far as I know, I have no enemies and I haven’t made any recently; haven’t made any in all my fifty years of life—people who hate me so much they want to kill me. I’d better ring the police.
Then, just as he was about to pick up the receiver to telephone the police, the doorbell rang.
Who is it? He wasn’t expecting any visitors. A neighbour? He didn’t think it would be a neighbour; they weren’t in the habit of knocking on his door. The postman? On a Saturday? Highly unlikely. A delivery man? He wasn’t expecting any deliveries; he hadn’t ordered anything by phone or online. The doorbell rang again, sounding more insistent this time than the last. I better find out who it is before I open the door.
Archibald tiptoed to the window. Gently, he drew aside a little bit of the curtain. Through the gash of space he’d created, he peeped into the outside. He could just peer into the porch. Two youngish men, hair cropped short, one taller than the other, dressed in white overalls, stood on the porch. They look like they’re dressed in some sort of uniform. Archibald turned his gaze onto the road. A white van stood at the side of the road, not far from his driveway.
Must be their van. I don’t see any markings on it. It’s not a delivery van. They’re not here to deliver anything. They’re not carrying any parcels. They’re not even carrying anything at all. Who are they? What do they want? Is one of them the Voice that rang up just now? If it is, that’s pretty quick—to put down the phone and be here in the next instant. Probably the Voice sent them here—to kill me.
Then the taller of the pair rang the doorbell again. Archibald dropped the bit of curtain he’d been clutching. That’s it. I’m certain of it. They’ve come to kill me. If they think I’m fool enough to open the door to them, they’ve got another think coming.