I’ll Call You

fiction by Glynis Scrivens

“I’ve worked out the perfect way to kill someone and get away with it.”

Carl looked pleased with himself as he took a long sip of chilled cider. They were sitting in a corner table at the back of a pub. It was hard to hear. His words barely carried to her.

Sophie regarded her ex curiously. She was grateful no one could overhear them. “Theoretically speaking, you mean?” She didn’t like the expression in his eyes. It made the back of her knees feel weak.

“Of course,” he said. “But there’s only one real way to prove I’m right. Kind of frustrating, wouldn’t you agree?”

Sophie put her beer down. “If that’s all you’ve got to say then I’m off. Don’t bother asking me to meet you again.”

She slung her handbag over her shoulder and stood up. As she walked away he said the word “insurance.” Knowing she’d hear and realize he was serious. And that she was the intended victim.

Damn, she thought, without stopping or looking back. She’d forgotten to change her policy. Carl was the very last person she wanted to get the million-dollar payout if anything happened to her.

But how did he know?

Maybe he’d hacked the insurance company’s computer? Or hers?

She stopped in the busy street. A tall man bumped into her. “Aren’t you curious?” he said. Her mind raced. Carl had followed her.

“No,” she snapped. “Leave me alone.”

She took out her phone and checked the number for her insurance agency. Carl watched, standing far too close.

She turned her shoulder to him.

“Your call is important to us,” droned the computerized voice. Not important enough for someone to actually talk to her, it seemed.

Maybe it’d be quicker to walk there? The insurance company had an office in the city. But how could she shake Carl? It was unnerving having him hovering around her like this.

Without warning he plucked the phone out of her hand. “These little gadgets come in handy when you need an alibi,” he said.

She was curious in spite of herself. “What are you talking about?”

“Alibis. We all need them now and again.”

“Maybe you do,” she said. “Normal people don’t.”

“Watch this and learn.”

He stopped to pat a Yorkshire terrier, chatting amiably to the owner. The dog wore a smart red tartan jacket as it was a chilly day. It matched the skirt his owner was wearing. Sophie idly wondered how many other matching outfits the two went walking in. Some dog owners were just a bit odd, she thought, as the woman continued walking.

Why not make a run for it while he was preoccupied, said one part of her brain? While another part was too curious. Besides, he had her phone. She needed to get it back. Then she wanted to stay as far away from him as possible. Carl was dangerous. More than she’d ever realized before.

Carl looked at her expectantly. “Impressed?”

“By what?”

He shook his head. “Didn’t you notice?” he said.

“Stop talking in riddles. Give me my phone and go. I’ve got nothing to talk to you about.”

“I’d love to give you back your phone but I don’t have it.” And he looked meaningfully at the woman and her dog who were crossing the street to the park.

It took a moment for Sophie to catch his meaning.

She didn’t bother answering. Sprinting down the footpath she just missed the traffic lights. Standing helplessly by the curb, she saw the woman entering the park.

Cars went past. Bored motorists surreptitiously speaking on their phones. One man was eating a hamburger as he drove. Nobody was paying any attention.

No wonder Carl could take her phone and hide it. The world simply didn’t notice what happened to one individual, did it? It reminded her of a painting she’d once seen in a book. Brueghel’s Icarus falling down to earth with melted wings, while everyone else went about their business, oblivious to his plight.

The lights changed. She crossed the street and entered the park. The woman was sitting on a bench, the dog obediently lying on the grass by her side.

“Lovely dog,” Sophie said. And bending down, she patted him with one hand while her other hand explored the jacket. Sure enough, the phone had been hidden underneath the snug-fitting jacket.

No doubt emitting some kind of signal that would establish her whereabouts. She’d seen a detective series where experts tracked a criminal through their smart phone. Carl was probably right. This was a clever way to establish an alibi. Trust him to think of something like this.

“Have you walked far?” she asked the woman, who seemed tired.

“No, we just live over there.” She pointed to a cottage situated near the opposite end of the park. “I like to rest here on my way home. Make the most of the sunshine.”

“Yes, it’s a lovely day,” Sophie agreed. She’d meant to retrieve her phone but the woman’s words and the Brueghel painting had given her another idea.

She rose to her feet again, and walked back in the direction she’d come. One block. Another. She was beginning to feel it was a waste of time when she noticed Carl up ahead. Luckily he stood out in the crowd, being so tall.

It was one o’clock. Lunchtime. All the city workers seemed to be buying food or takeaway coffees from the myriad cafes and bistros.

The sidewalk was full of people and when she got to the next street corner, the lights changed again. Cars roared into life, zooming past.

Hurrying along, her head down, she followed him. It was at the third set of lights that she was finally standing right behind him.

It seemed to take forever for the lights to change from red to green. The traffic surged forward, leaving them squashed together in a crowd of pedestrians on the corner.

And as a van sped along towards them, Sophie shoved hard against Carl’s back. He lost balance, falling into its path. There was a sickening thud. Hushed gasps. Followed by shouts and confusion.

Death was instantaneous, she soon heard a paramedic telling a police officer who’d rushed to the scene.

Slowly, so as not to draw any attention to herself, Sophie walked back to the park. The bench was empty now but she could see the woman and her terrier up ahead. She kept walking until she came to the cottage. The woman and her dog were at the gate, just entering.

“What’s his name?” she asked, bending down to pat the terrier once more while the woman opened her gate.

As the gate clicked, her hand grasped the phone. She quickly slipped it into her pocket.

“He’s called Bruno,” said the woman. “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”

“No, I’ve arranged to meet my ex in a pub,” Sophie said sweetly. “I’m running late.”

She told the same thing to the policeman who knocked on her door that afternoon.

“He wasn’t there,” she said, in as sorrowful a voice as she could muster. “I had no idea why he didn’t come.”

“So you were still close?” he asked.

“Yes. He’s listed on my insurance policy as my next of kin,” she said.

He jotted this down in his notebook before looking up again. “It’s just a formality,” the officer said. “But can you tell me your whereabouts at one o’clock today. A woman matching your description was seen standing near him at the time of the accident.”

“I was talking to a woman and her Yorkshire terrier,” she said softly.

She wouldn’t mention her phone just now but if there were any further questions, it was nice to know she had a waterproof alibi.

All thanks to Carl. He’d told her he’d found the perfect way to kill someone and get away with it. For once he was right.

Glynis Scrivens writes short stories and has been published in Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa, U.S., India, and Scandinavia. Her book Edit is a Four-Letter Word includes what she has learned in the process (see www.glynisscrivens.com/wp).

This article originally appeared in the July 28, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.