The Phone Call
by Rosie Gonce
“Hello, is this Samantha Harvey?”
Sam sighed and reluctantly said “Yes, it is.” emphasizing the annoyance in her tone. No one ever called her Samantha. It was an immediate sign that it was someone she did not want to talk to.
Telemarketer or bill collector? she wondered, trying to remember if there was a bill she had forgotten about.
Why are they calling so early?! The clock on her wall read 6:10 am.
“It says here that you are the ‘In case of emergency’ contact person for Nathaniel McDouglas.”
Sam’s heart sank. It sank the way it always did when someone mentioned Nathaniel.
“Well…Um…” Sam gulped.
This was awkward, she thought.
“That should have been updated. I was his girlfriend but we broke up two months ago.”
“Oh. I see.” The woman on the other end said quietly. Sam could hear some papers being shuffled around.
“What happened?” Sam asked, annoyed to be talking about Nathaniel, whom she swore to herself to never talk about again. But also wondering what stupid, drunken shenanigans he had gotten in to this time. Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, after all.
The woman on the other end cleared her throat, the way someone who doesn’t really have to clear their throat does. Sam could hear her draw in a deep breath.
“He hasn’t returned… I’m not sure I should be telling you this….considering… oh here it is…I see I have a secondary emergency contact. I’m sorry to bother you.”
Sam frowned into the phone, confused and curious, wanting more information but also wanting to throw the phone at the wall. She hated Nathaniel. She thought about how many times she had actually prayed that he die. She wished for his death, on more than one occasion. It had to be a painful one, too.
Before Sam could ask the woman for any more information, the woman hung up. Sam looked down at her cell phone to see the number the woman called from. It was a number Sam didn’t recognize, so she called it back.
It rang several times, and then went to an answering machine.
“Hello, you have reached The Sunnyside Adult Rehabilitation Center. We are currently assisting other clients or have stepped out of the office but if you leave your name and phone number…”
Sam hung up.
Rehab? She thought. Nathaniel was in rehab? And there was an accident?
She was surprised by how her hands were shaking. She needed more information. They lived in a small town and there was only one hospital. She knew it was a crazy thing to do but she quickly grabbed her keys, got in her beat-up Volkswagen bug and headed to the hospital.
She licked her lips as she drove, a habit she did when she was nervous. Her mind raced thinking about how many times Nathaniel had gotten drunk and scared her. He only hit her once. Most of the time, she was scared about what he would do to himself. He would wander into traffic when he was wasted, or jump behind the bar and start serving drinks, which always ended up in fights with the bartender. Halfway through their seven-year relationship, she began wishing he would wander into traffic, even encouraged it at times.
What am I doing? Sam asked herself. She stopped licking her lips and wiped her mouth with her sleeve. She squinted as she drove, trying to maneuver between lanes and pass all the slower cars. She realized that her face was so tense it was giving her a headache. She rubbed her eyes and then coughed her usual smoker’s cough, into her elbow.
Why am I so tired? Her mind drifted as if often did.
I had those dreams again, where it feels so real I wake up tired like I’ve really lived through them. The dreams started after her and Nathaniel broke up. She tried to remember what she dreamt about last night, as she pulled into the hospital parking lot.
I need water, Sam thought, but ignored her thirst, not sure if she was motivated by concern or curiosity for her asshole ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel.
Sam approached the nurse’s station at the emergency room quickly, and nearly yelled, “I’m here to see Nathaniel McDouglas!”
The nurse looked up slowly from her computer, peeking at Sam from the tops of her reading glasses and raising her eyebrows. Before the nurse could respond, Sam noticed Nathaniel’s parents at the end of the hallway. They looked like they had gone from being in bed, straight to the hospital, slippers and all. Nathaniel’s mother was slumped into Nathaniel’s father’s arms and was sobbing, her body moving with each silent cry.
Their relationship with Sam was always cordial, although Sam wasn’t sure what Nathaniel had told them since they had broken up, so her heartbeat quickened as she approached the middle-aged couple.
His dad saw her first. Sam was surprised that when their eyes met, he frowned.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he said so quietly, it was just a little more than a whisper. He looked straight at Sam and clutched his wife closer. Nathaniel’s mom peeked at Sam from behind his arms.
“Huh? I-I heard there was an accident…. I was worried…” Sam managed to say.
When Nathaniel’s mother she realized that it was Sam, her eyes grew large and her mouth began to gape open. She began walking towards Sam, tears still streaming down her face, her eyes puffy from crying.
“You!” she screamed, so loudly that everyone nearby began to stare. People started coming out of nearby rooms to see what was going on.
“You did this!! Murderer!” Now she was marching towards Sam, pointing at her, eyes round with tears still streaming down her cheeks. When she got to Sam, she grabbed her by the shoulders and inches from her face began yelling “How could you do this?! You fucking bitch! I’m gonna kill you!!”
Now Nathaniel’s father was prying her off of Sam but at the same time was yelling at someone behind him.
“This is her! This is the one we were telling you about! Officers!!”
Sam now saw that behind where she had first spotted Nathaniel’s parents, was the doorway to a room, where now half a dozen police officers emerged.
Sam was so shocked she couldn’t push off Nathaniel’s mother, she couldn’t move. When an officer asked her if she was Samantha Harvey she could barely nod. When she was asked to come down to the police station to answer questions, she didn’t even recognize her own voice as she squeaked, “Ok.”
This can’t be happening, Sam thought to herself as she sat in what she knew only from crime TV shows was called an “interrogation room.” She expected two men in suits to come in and start smoking and ask her questions. But that’s not what happened.
A woman in a gray pants suit, with matching gray hair pulled back in a tight bun, came in smiling and calmly sat across from Sam. She slowly and deliberately, set down the bag that had been hanging on her shoulder and took out a bottle of water.
“Hello, I’m Charlene. I’m a homicide detective here in Sunnyside. I brought you a bottle of water. Here you go.” She smiled warmly and handed Sam the small bottle of water. Sam smiled stiffly, took the water and drank a small sip. She wanted to drink the whole thing. She felt so parched.
“You must be wondering what the heck is going on.” Her tone sounded like she was speaking to a child.
Sam’s eyes filled with tears and she nodded.
“Well,” Charlene crossed her legs, folded her hands in her lap, looked at Sam and smiled again. “It appears that your ex-boyfriend Nathaniel McDougal has been murdered.”
Sam’s stomach did a flip and she drew in a sharp breath. Her mouth hung open and Charlene continued, “He was found next to a dumpster downtown with seven stab wounds to the chest.”
This can’t be happening, Sam thought again. She began shaking her head and looked down at her hands which glistened with sweat and shook slightly.
“It’s my understanding that you and Nathaniel had broken up approximately two months ago. During that time, as you may or may not know, Nathaniel had checked into Sunnyside Adult Rehab for alcohol abuse, where he had been currently living. He was murdered around midnight last night, in an alley behind the bar Kiltz, where his body was left until found this morning around 5:15 am by some very terrified garbage men.” Charlene stopped, letting the information sink in.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Sam said finally, looking Charlene in the eye.
Charlene’s friendly smile slowly melted into a grimace and she continued, “His phone records indicate a call received from a payphone across from Kiltz at 11:16 pm. He used his credit card at Kiltz opening a tab at 11:40 pm, buying three whiskey sours and three cosmopolitans.”
Whiskey sours were his favorite, Sam thought back to the numerous nights of buying whiskey at the corner store. Making whiskey sours in their small studio apartment, Sam choking them down even though she didn’t really like the taste.
“So Sam I need to ask you. If it isn’t obvious by now,” Charlene leaned in across the table, toward Sam, and spoke slowly, “Where were you between the hours of 11 pm and midnight last night?” Charlene’s smile and warmth were completely gone now, she tightened her lips and squinted her eyes at Sam, waiting for her answer.
“I…I…” Sam began, her voice shaking. “I was home. I was sleeping.”
“Hmm… I see.” Charlene shifted in her seat and then met Sam’s eyes confidently, “We’ve already questioned the employees at Kiltz.” Charlene paused. “It appears that these employees at Kiltz claimed to have seen both you and Nathaniel at the bar on numerous occasions. You two were even caught, ‘getting busy’ in the alleyway behind the facility, several months ago.”
Sam began blushing, remembering when they got wasted at Kiltz and he had dared her to have sex with him behind the dumpster in the back.
“Come on, you’re wearing a skirt, it’ll be easy. And remember how the alarm doesn’t even go off! That sign on the door is bullshit! Come on!”
His breath smelled of whiskey and never brushing, but still, Sam had agreed and hated to admit that she actually enjoyed the excitement of it all. They had thought nobody had noticed. It seemed petty to be embarrassed about it when Nathaniel was now dead, but still Sam turned red and avoided Charlene’s glare.
“So Samantha, it’s not looking good for you. Is there anyone that can confirm that you were at home between those hours? Because we have several people who said they saw you at Kiltz between those hours. And apparently, you and Nathaniel weren’t exactly being inconspicuous as well. They claimed you were making out on the dance floor and singing loudly at the bar. The bartender claimed that Nathaniel was being quite confrontational and rude. And-” Charlene cleared her throat and went on, “that you kept exposing your breasts inappropriately.” She looked disgustedly at Sam, who was turning red in the face and looking down at her own clenched fists.
“He had wanted to kick you two out but was told that you were regulars. It seems that they hadn’t seen you there for a couple months until that night, so they wanted to let it slide. Then around midnight, you two left, without closing out.”
Charlene waited for Sam to respond. Sam sat motionless and expressionless, still looking down at her hands.
“The weapon used to kill Nathaniel was a pocket knife.” Charlene’s tone was a bit more frustrated now. “It was tossed into the dumpster after the murder. By the way, I appreciate your agreeing to get those fingerprints done when you arrived. We’re seeing if they match now.” Charlene pursed her lips again, but this time with the hint of a smile at the edges.
How is this possible? Sam’s mind raced with the possibilities. Nathaniel’s dead? Murdered? Murdered…painfully?
Sam clasped her hands together and took a deep breath, trying to gather her thoughts. She thought about their favorite bar, Kiltz and how Nathaniel was often rude to bartenders there, even the bartenders they had become friends with.
God how I hated it when he pulled that crap, she reflected, he would always be so confrontational when he was drunk and so insulting. He thought he was better than everyone. Sam rolled her eyes as she thought about what an asshole he was. Her mind raced again to feeling embarrassed about flashing her breasts when she was drunk.
I do have a bad habit of doing that when I get wasted, she thought. I’m surprised I haven’t ended up on one of those ‘Girls Gone Wild’ videos by now.
She rolled her eyes again, this time the annoyance was with herself.
I’m such a slut, she thought giddily, and shook her head, trying to hold back a grin.
Charlene was now frowning at Sam and tilted her head slightly as if trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. She looked at Sam and said softly, “Ok, Samantha, tell me what happened.”
Sam gazed through Charlene and thought back to last night. She had thought she was dreaming. She thought she had dreamt murdering Nathaniel last night. She had dreamt about it so many times before.
I guess it’s good if you can’t tell your real life from your dreams, she thought mechanically as if suddenly struck by the truth, yet not surprised by it.
“He actually really loved me.” Sam looked up at Charlene and smiled. Charlene waited.
Sam’s smile faded and she licked her lips. “And I loved him too. At first.”
“He tried to make these amends to me or something and I reminded him about all the horrible things that he had done to me over the years. I told him how he had turned me into a monster. He had made me crazy because he hurt me so much, it turned me into a monster. That’s how all monsters are created anyway.” Sam spoke matter-of-factly.
Sam was overcome by an intense feeling of déjà vu and kept talking towards Charlene, yet not really to her, her eyes looking in Charlene’s direction but not at her.
“He finally saw what he had done. He admitted it. I told him to make it up to me by buying me some cosmos at Kiltz. I decided that we’d have one last night of fun,” Sam flashed a smile, “but that in the end, I would have to kill him to get back at him for all the abuse he put me through. He thought I was joking. He told me he loved me. So I told him that being killed by someone you love is like combining all the moments of abuse he put me through into one moment. In my case, I stabbed him once for every year we were together, each year that I endured abuse. So now it’s even.”
Charlene looked sad now, almost like it had been too easy. She had been ready for more of a fight. Her shoulders slumped slightly.
“You realize that you’re going to get the death penalty, right?” Charlene said calmly, almost sympathetically.
“Yes, of course.” Sam said sitting up straighter than before, “But it’s even now. He caused me pain, and now he’s gone. So then I caused him pain and I’ll be gone. It’s better to have two monsters be gone than have two monsters in love.”
Then Sam made a sound that was meant to be a laugh but would haunt Charlene for years. It was a forced giggle from the depths of Sam’s stomach, and Charlene thought, from the depths of Hell.