Display a printable version
Caller ID: Unknown
A "Kendrick" Story
The ringing phone pulled Karen out of the zone and back into reality. She had been sketching for a new project and had been fully into the creative space that is like being at the bottom of a well. Wondering how long the phone had rung while she pulled herself back into awareness she blinked a couple times as the Caller ID displayed: UNKNOWN
She wondered if she was still partly in the zone because the sketch she had been working on was titled, "The Unknown." Then, she wondered what "UNKNOWN" on Caller ID meant. As far as she knew, either the calling number was displayed or, if the caller had blocked their number, "Restricted" would show or, if the number was stored in the phone already the name of the person calling would appear. All these thoughts collided as she answered the phone, "Hello?"
"Hello Karen. I need your help."
She looked at the Caller ID window again. It still displayed 'UNKNOWN' and she did not recognize the man's voice. "Pardon me? Who is this?"
"I need your help. A friend of mine is in danger and will be hurt if you don't help me."
"Sir, perhaps you should call the police. If you know of someone in danger, you should report it."
"I am reporting it. You are a 911 operator, are you not?"
Karen was becoming concerned. Someone she did not recognize called her on her unlisted line and knew what she did for a living. "Who is this? This isn't funny."
There was a pause. "You can call me Reginald. Please, Karen, I'm not trying to be funny. If you don't help, I'm afraid that someone very important to me, to the city, is going to be murdered. You have to go to Bacchanalia and talk to Lamiel before eight o'clock tonight. She's going to be called by the Order to meet and talk. It's a trick. They are sending an assassin. You have to tell her not to go."
"Talk to Lamiel at Bacchanalia before 8pm?" It was like suddenly being thrust into the middle of a game of Clue.
"Yes. It's very important. Also, tell her that no one is to perform any rituals in the park and it should not be fought over. The park will defend itself."
"What? Look, Sir. I don't know who you are or why you called me, but..."
"You're a 911 operator. You're supposed to help people. That's what 911 operators do."
"Yes, but people call the 911 system. Not my personal cell phone."
"Please, Karen. Lamiel will die tonight if you don't help her."
"Sir, I really think you should call the police." She kept her most reasonable voice on. The one she used for the crazies who called the system while imaginary bugs crawled under their skin. Encouraged by the silence, she continued to try to persuade her caller. "They will be able to help you. I promise. They're trained for this sort of emergency. I'm not." When he did not answer, she looked at her phone display window and found that the line had disconnected.
She made a mental note to look into the Caller ID: Unknown thing and went back to her sketching. She had promised Dave she would get a number of these concept sketches done in time for his comic book proposal. It was good work to have and stretched her artistic ability. However, after that strange phone call, Karen found that she could not regain her groove. She tried for an hour before giving it up for the night. She would try again tomorrow after work and some sleep.
Replaying the conversation in her mind, she went to her computer to do a bit of research. Finding Bacchanalia and Lamiel in Kendrick proved far easier than she expected. Bacchanalia, located in the City Center district, was a private dance club that catered exclusively to the gothic crowd. You had to be a member to enter or have a member vouch for you for the night.
While Karen liked the gothic scene, she considered herself far too normal to fit in with such an eclectic crowd. The Bacchanalia website was extensive and sucked her in. She discovered that the club was a non-profit venture run exclusively by volunteers who worked for tips only. In fact, Lamiel was a bartender there by night and a gothic fashion designer by day.
It appeared that Lamiel was very popular in the local scene and well known in the gothic community over all. Bacchanalia had dedicated a full page to just her. This page led to Lamiel's personal fashion website, complete with active forums based around Lamiel, her designs and the gothic scene in general. Karen studied the woman's picture. Despite the gothic Victorian garb she wore, the woman seemed very young. Then, flipping through the gallery pages of Lamiel's designs, she was amazed at the woman's artistic talent.
She glanced at the clock. It was a quarter to eight. If she hurried, she could maybe to make it to the City Center in that time. Maybe not at eight but close to it. It was an impulse. Maybe Lamiel would think she was crazy. Maybe this was a set up by a crazed fan. Maybe. But, maybe, Reginald, if that was his real name, knew something. She paused at the door to her apartment, wondering why she was doing this then shrugged. She had made a fool of herself before. If she did it again, it would not be for the last time.
The drive into the City Center could have gone better but it could have been much worse. To her amazement, she found parking place out front of the address. It took her a bit to find the door to Bacchanalia though. The entrance was half way down the alley and the only indication that it was the club was the symbol of a snake wrapped around a cluster of grapes on the door. When she recognized the symbol from the website, she opened the door and found herself in a small antechamber with a front desk. There were two people there. Both looked very surprised to see her.
"Can I help you?" The guy behind the desk had multicolored dreadlocks, dramatic makeup and several face piercings. He seemed genuinely curious.
"Uh... I need to see Lamiel."
"Are you a member here?" The questioning tone in his voice seemed to think not and he was right.
She shook her head. "No. I just need to talk to her. Please. It's important."
"I'm sorry, Miss. Bacchanalia is a members only club and we have a dress code." He looked pointedly at her jeans, slouchy sweatshirt and jacket.
"Oh." She looked down at herself, realizing how she must seem. She pulled a $5 out of her wallet and put it in the tip jar. "Could you at least let her know that there's someone here to talk to her? Please? I wouldn't normally bother you but..."
"It's important. You said." The guy behind the counter gave her a hard look as if to assess her threat level then nodded to his companion, a man in leather pants and a poet's shirt. "Alright. We'll see if she's available."
"Thank you." A moment after the guy left, she smiled. "I'm Karen, by the way."
"Nice to meet you Karen By-the-Way. I'm Aaron."
They both smiled at his little joke then the two of them stood in silence while she looked around the antechamber at the artwork on the walls. It was very interesting stuff. It reminded her of the kind of artwork she normally drew: misty landscapes, castles in ruins and graveyards. She had expected something a bit more modern at a place like this. Then, she noticed a series of symbols painted around the doorway on the doorframe and wall. Not recognizing them, she turned to ask Aaron about them when the second guy returned. "She's not here."
"Huh? I thought she was working tonight."
"She was. She got a call about twenty minutes ago. Kurosawa said she had a sudden meeting with someone."
"Did she say where?" Karen interrupted.
"The 16th Street Bridge."
"Shit." Her stomach lurched. What if the caller had been right and Lamiel was about to be murdered? She could have stopped it.
"Is something wrong?" Aaron asked.
"I don't know. Maybe. I gotta go." Karen took off running for her car and sped in the direction of the 16th Street Bridge. It was on the far north end of town near the Camden area. Her intimate knowledge of the city of Kendrick and its streets came in handy and luck was on her side. Every light was green for her and there were no cops in sight.
By the time she stopped on 35th Street, below the 16th Street Bridge, she saw two people walking towards each other on the bridge from opposite ends. She recognized one as Lamiel. The woman was unmistakable with her long flowing clothes and hair. There was no way for her to get to Lamiel before she met the person, a man Karen thought, under the lamppost.
Karen got out of her car as they met and began to speak. Not knowing what else to do, she shouted, "Lamiel!!" Both figures turned towards her. "It's a trap! Run!" Karen was running towards the bridge as the unspeakable unfolded before her.
Lamiel looked from Karen back at the man, threw something at him then turned to run. The man lunged at Lamiel, grabbing her about the waist. There was a brief struggle as the man stabbed her in the neck with something then picked her up and threw her from the bridge. Karen gasped in horror as she saw and heard Lamiel land on the pavement with a sickening thud in front of her. She ran to the fallen woman's side, looking up at the bridge. The man stood there for a moment, pointed at her, then left.
Feeling for Lamiel's pulse, she found it slow and irregular. She was still alive. Karen flipped open her phone to call 911 but found Reginald's voice on the other end. "You've got to pull the needle out of her neck! That is what's killing her. Do it! Do it quickly!"
Her hand felt for the needle, found it and pulled it out as she shouted, "I don't have time to talk to you! I have to call 911!"
"This is the 911 operator." A female voice said. "What is the nature of your emergency?"
She was startled, but for only a moment. "A woman was just thrown from the 16th Street Bridge. I saw it. We are on 35th Street with 12th Street as the nearest crossroad. I need an ambulance."
"Who am I speaking to?"
There was a pause as the operator recognized the name. "What is the condition of the woman? Is she bleeding?"
Karen touched Lamiel's neck again. Her pulse was steady and strong now. Her breathing was regular. She looked around to see if Lamiel was bleeding out anywhere and saw no sign of it. "She's got cuts and bruises from landing. Breathing strong. Heart strong. But, she's lying a little funny. I'm afraid to move her."
"An ambulance is on the way, Karen. Do not move the woman. Stay with her and monitor her. I am right here. Let me know if there is any change."
She felt her panic recede in the familiar routine of training as she listened to the operator's calm voice. Everything was going to be alright. She looked down at the needle in her hand. It looked like a very short hat pin. The needle part was about an inch long. Its base was a teardrop shaped pearl. She could see symbols carved into it. Not wanting to explain it or the weirdness of the night, she slipped it into her pocket as she heard the sounds of sirens. "I hear sirens."
"Ok, Karen, I'll stay with you until they arrive."
"Thank you." She checked on Lamiel who seemed to be doing much better. If it were not for the angle she was laying at, she could be sleeping.
Karen thanked the operator again once the ambulance and police arrived. As they took Lamiel away, she gave her statement to police officer on the scene. At first, she was going to lie about how she got here then she decided against it and told Officer Hauberk the truth about the strange phone call, going to Bacchanalia then coming here. The only thing she did not tell him about was the needle she pulled from Lamiel's neck or Reginald on her phone right after Lamiel's fall.
Officer Hauberk looked skeptical until she showed him her incoming phone list. UNKNOWN was at the top of the list. When he tried to call it back, there was no number to dial. "This is really strange, Miss Wilson. I may have to call you into the station to answer more questions."
"That's fine. I'm as much at a loss as you are. I'm thinking about getting a new phone."
"Please don't do anything until we follow up with you. In the future, when this Reginald calls, please inform the police immediately." He gave her his business card. "You did both a very brave and stupid thing, Miss Wilson. You could have been hurt as well. Call the police in the future."
"I know. I'm sorry."
He smiled at her. "It's ok. We'll talk more later. You're free to go."
Normally, Karen would have worked her normal midnight to 8am shift at the call center. However, as soon as Griff, her supervisor, found out about what had happened, he sent her home for two days to rest. "You may have a delayed stress reaction to what you saw. I need you to relax and not be on the phones tonight or tomorrow."
"I'm fine, Griff. Really." She protested the once but did not protest the second time as her friend and mentor stood firm on his decision. In truth, after the adrenaline left her system, she was beat. All she wanted to do was sleep for a week. Instead, she went home, puttered about then sat down and started to draw. She sketched was she remembered of that night until it was her usual bedtime at about 9am in the morning. It was only then that she slept. She did not want to throw her sleep schedule off even if she did suddenly have a couple unexpected days of vacation.
Still, she did no sleep well. She was up by 3pm, pacing around the apartment, thinking about Lamiel. She was in her car and driving towards the hospital before she realized where she was going and how much she needed to see Lamiel. Karen needed to see her awake, alive and hopefully well.
She felt a little odd asking for "Lamiel" at the information desk but, apparently, enough people had come to see her that the nurse did no even blink. "Miss Bell is in room 597 on the fourth floor. Visiting hours are over at six o'clock." She thanked the nurse and went up to the room. It was a private room with the door open. There was a guy with shocking blue hair sitting next to the bed. She knocked on the doorframe. "Uh. Hello. I'm Karen Wilson."
Lamiel, who looked very different and even younger without her makeup, smiled a little. "Hello. Come on in." The two women looked at each other for a moment.
"I'm gonna go get some coffee. I'll be back in a bit." The blue haired guy got up, kissed Lamiel on the cheek and left.
Lamiel looked her over. "So, you're the girl who tried to save me from the ambush."
Karen nodded and came over to her. "Yeah."
"Who do you work for?"
"I'm a 911 operator for the city."
"No. I mean, what group do you work for?"
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean."
She looked at Karen with an intense look that made her feel uncomfortable. "No. I guess you don't. Why don't you tell me how you knew it was an ambush."
"It's a very strange story. I'm not sure you'll believe me."
"You'd be surprised at what I would believe these days."
"I got a phone call from someone named Reginald. He told me that if I didn't warn you not to go to the meeting with the person from the Order, you would be murdered. I thought he was joking."
Lamiel frowned. "Reginald... Reginald." Then, a look of surprise came over her face. "Oh! Ok. Go on."
"I didn't believe him. But, then, I looked up Bacchanalia, found out you were a real person and thought what the hell. The worst you could do was laugh at me."
"Did he say anything else?"
She nodded. "Yeah, but it's crazy talk."
"He said that no one was to perform any rituals in the park, not to fight over it and that the park would defend itself. Do you know what he meant? What is the Order? Which park? What rituals? Why did that person try to kill you?"
"You really don't know any of this?" She shook her head and took a drink of water. "It doesn't make sense. The man who attacked me, he stabbed me with something. No one found it. Do you have it?"
Karen suddenly felt guilty. She had not thought of the needle at all since she slipped it into her coat pocket. She put her hand in her pocket and found it. Pulling it out, she saw it still had Lamiel's blood on it. "Yeah, I do."
"May I have it?"
She handed it over. "It's got symbols engraved on it. Reginald said it would have killed you." She wanted to ask why or if it was poisoned but she kept her silence. She knew neither were the answer but she was not sure she wanted to know the real answer. Not yet. All of this was getting much too much like a trip through the looking glass.
"A aguillette." Lamiel murmured before slipping it into her purse. "I'm not going to answer any of your questions right now, Karen. I need to know more and I won't know that until I get out of here. But, if Reginald calls back or you find yourself in trouble and need a safe haven, go to Bacchanalia. They'll take care of you. They know what you did for me. We may look like freaks but we take care of our own and those who help us. OK?"
"Um. OK. But, I don't think he's going to call back. Besides, the police want to know if he does."
"You shouldn't tell the police. They won't be able to help. They probably don't really want to know anyway."
"No police. Trust me on this."
"I'll think about it." Karen conceded. "Are you going to be OK?"
The other woman looked out the window. "I don't know. The fall damaged my spine. I can't feel my legs."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I -"
"It wasn't your fault. If you didn't try to stop the meeting, I would be dead now and you would still be blissfully unaware of things."
"I don't know what to say."
She turned back to look at Karen. "It's alright. Thank you for what you've done. I will repay you someday. I pay my debts. I'm sorry but I'm tired now."
"Ok. I hope you feel better soon." As she left, she saw the blue haired man standing outside the room door like a sentry, drinking his coffee. She ducked her head at him a little and hurried off, feeling confused and worried.
Several people stood or sat in a well appointed den. Books lined the walls of the room and heavy leather chairs sat in semi circle facing the fireplace. All of their attention was focused on the man halfheartedly trying to keep the dying fire lit. "I did as you instructed."
"Lamiel is still alive. Our message was diluted, ineffective. Now, there will be more trouble."
He abandoned the fire and replaced the poker to its rightful place. "Not my fault. I did as you instructed. I stabbed her with the aglethema. She should have died immediately according to you. She died and then was saved by another woman."
"Who? A passerby?"
"No. I don't know her but I marked her. I'll know her if I see her again. This woman yelled a warning. She found the aglethema and removed it. It's as if she knew who I was, what I was doing and how. No one outside of this room should have known that."
No one answered the implied accusation. "That's your next task. Find her. Find out who she is. Find out who she works for and which faction she belongs to."
"Yes, sir." He brushed his hands of on his pants, staring at the speaker.
At the command, the assassin walked from the room without looking back. Behind him, the people in the room began to murmur about the new player in the Game and the trouble that seemed to be headed their way.
Photo by Rory Clark, Copyright 2005, Stopped Motion Photography