Gordon’s neck cramped holding the now sweaty phone between his ear and a cocked shoulder. He watched his fingers fumble over one another as they made a haphazard seal of the cream envelope.
“Aren’t you going to lick it first?”
The voice on the other end still made him tremble, even after hearing it for the first time a week ago. It wasn’t human, it couldn’t have been. But it wasn’t robotic either. It was just human enough, just quiet enough, to give him the chills. He sniffled quickly and wiped the underside of the envelope’s flap over an outstretched tongue.
“And keep it away from your mustache, funny man. I don’t want your whiskers on this shit. You just keep cool, and everything will turn out like some sick perfect rainbow over a green Irish countryside; you may even get all the way to the pot of gold, Gordo.”
“Okay, okay. The letter’s done.” Gordon said it rather abruptly. He may have even cut the guy off. ‘The guy.’ Jesus Christ, he still didn’t even know this joker’s name. He never should have picked up the phone in the first place.
If you don’t know the number, don’t answer it. Marjorie had told him how many thousands of times. The things the satellites know about us these days, honey. I just don’t want us to be… And whatever the hell else she said.
“I guess it is, isn’t it?”
The voice came back and it didn’t sound angry. But Gordon didn’t know what angry was for this guy.
“Go into the living room, Gordon. Again, nice as easy like. I know we’ve talked about this, but seriously, if you start playing superhero on me, you’re going to find yourself superfucked super quick, right?”
Gordon didn’t answer. He grabbed the phone and held it to his ear as he rose from the leather swivel chair in the office and proceeded to the living room.
“I need to you to answer me when I ask a question, Gordy. Now, you’re going to be a nice docile easily-coerced employee, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Gordon said. His voice was without emotion – no vigor, no pain, just there.
The other side gave a chuckle, a smoker’s wheeze almost drifting on the back end. But doubts of the robotic attributes of it clouded the truth. Gordon turned the television on and the screen glimmered and faded into the present – FOX News: Fair and Balanced.
“You’re doing so well; such a rule-follower, you are. Turn it to channel 23.”
Gordon walked to the couch and found the remote control. A red light flickered on the front end and the television screen shot immediately to Nickelodeon. Some show with talking dolphins walking through some university library was on. Gordon wondered just for a sliver of a moment how kids learned anything from this shit. Even more macabre of a thought came next – if he did end up dying from this sicko on the other line, he hoped that at least he wasn’t paying for this.
“Fuckin’ dolphins,” the voice said. “You pay for this shit, Gordo? Ah well,” the voice released a robotic static sigh. “Could be worse, I guess. Could be penguins. Can’t stand those little back n’ white fuckers. Stop stalling me, Gordo. You’re gettin’ me off track. I’m going to feed something to your screen. You see this?”
Seconds passed and the dolphins disappeared. The screen now showed a generic bedroom, one found in any mediocre hotel. On the bed was a slender full-haired redhead with a black garter belt outlining the pale skin of her body. Four strained ropes of twine yanked on her limbs Gagged with a red handkerchief, she struggled as she swallowed her own muffled shouts. At the foot of the bed, Gordon watched himself undo his khaki business pants, one hand gripping a long thick-bladed kitchen knife.
“Now,” said the voice.
“Oh god, please don’t,” Gordon’s voice had gone from somewhat controlled to shaky.
“Shhh…” The command was a quiet robotic hiss. “There’s nothing for you to worry about now, criminal. It’s almost over. Just a few more steps, buddy. A few more steps.”
Gordon’s pleas faded with hesitance.
“Now, I’m going to set the next 25 or 30 seconds on replay – a nice visual loop. And I’d like you to watch, Gordo, m’kay?”
Gordon’s voice shook again, leaking a weak string of sounds as a child on the verge of tears.
“I’m not hearing an answer, Gordon. You’re gonna watch this looped segment, aren’t you?”
Gordon nodded and whined. “Y-yesss.”
“That’s good. That’s such a good idea,” the voice said.
Gordon watched his filmed self step out of his dropped pants and begin to kiss the bound girl. He kissed for a few seconds before carving. And when he carved, he did so as if preparing the world to see his work. Tears bled from the woman’s eyes as the blood from her scalped mane washed over her face and the overwashed white of the hotel pillow. Just as he shoved the blade down the back curve of the woman’s cranium, the loop kicked in, and the clip restarted.
“I must admit, Gordon. You’re a man whose proud of his work.” The voice was more human than it had ever been. “Now, back to the office we go. We want to give Marjorie a fine welcome home from the day, don’t we?”
Gordon walked back to the office.
“DON’T WE GODDAMMIT?! ANSWER ME, GORDON, YOU SICK FUCK!”
“Yes!” Gordon sobbed. “Yes!” Watery streams had poured over his mouth by the time he sat back down in the leather seat in front of his desk.
“Now, address the envelope,” the voice returned, as calmly robotic as it had begun earlier in the week. “That’s right, just as though it were her birthday.”
Gordon addressed the envelope with a blue BIC just under the computer screen.
“And now we open the second drawer down.”
A silver revolver glimmered in under the artificial light of his office.
“Take it out and hold, Gordon. It’s almost time.”
Gordon reached in the drawer and grasped the black handle; the weight of the shaft gave way to gravity.
“Hold it tight, big guy. Today’s your day. Here are rules, rule boy.”
Gordon listened weakly, unable to open his mouth and swallow what he desperately needed to swallow. He listened in tears, the gun’s barrel falling back and leaning on the drawer’s inside.
“There are two bullets within, and your two beautiful girls get nothing if you finish yourself. But if you take Marjorie first, they’ll get $10,000 each.”
“But wait, Gordo, there’s more. If you give both bullets to your dear wife, I’ll make sure your girls, your beautiful baby girls, get $100,000 apiece.”
He stood, confused, one hand over his mouth, his face soggy with the falls of his tears. From the living room, the looped muffled screams came from the television.
And then, the front door opened.
“Gordon? Honey, I’m home.”
And the wheeze of two robotic chuckles. “The thing is, Gordon. There’s no time to really think about it.”