More Unexpected Events Unfold



        Three hours following the culmination of the news telecast about Nathan Hammonds's death, Victoria was downstairs watching Jeopardy with the boys while Walter was sitting up in bed reading Financial Post magazine.  The table lamp beside the bed dimly lit the master bedroom.  Either THEY caught his eyes, or a sixth sense compelled him to glance up from the economic statistics he was studying.  THEY were surely NOT his wife and children!!!  THEY were... who knows what?!  Standing, or perhaps floating, at the foot of the bed's frame were three hazy human forms, each illuminated and outlined by a glowing, golden aura.  Their shapes were too indistinct, and their features too ill-defined, to determine genders or perceive appearances, as one would discern corporeal beings.  However, these otherworldly entities all shared a noteworthy and outstanding characteristic: An aperture of projecting luminous, white light emanated forth from their head chakras.  Whether it was reflections of their souls or the proverbial "third eye," it bore great significance!  And it scared the hell out of the spectator!  For seven grueling seconds he beheld the apparitions before they gradually faded away in unison.  The combined facts that they were aligned adjacent to one another and disappeared together indicated a shared purpose, as well as strong solidarity, which was all the more frightening!


         Roles were reversed as Walter Krouse was the one anxiously waiting inside the office at the Executive Business Center for his comrade, business partner, and 'partner-in-crime.'  Allen arrived at 8:04am for another day of "work" and beheld Walter sitting on the edge of the couch smoking a cigarette and exhibiting an unusually apprehensive disposition.

        "Good morning, Walter."

        "Morning," Walter returned in a dejected, drawn-out, drone tone, which, coupled with his nervous appearance, prompted Allen to inquire, "Are you okay?"

        "No, I'm not okay," was Walter's frank reply.

        "Elaborate, please," Allen adjured.

        Walter turned to look at him and said, "I assume The Caller hasn't bothered you again."

        Allen's countenance took on a perplexed, perturbed expression, and he responded, "No.  Why?  Did he mess with you again?"

        "I wish I could say 'No.'  But the fact of the matter is that he called me the other night."

        "Damn," Allen cried out like a bottle-deprived baby, and placed his hands on top of his head, while tossing it back as if the world was coming to an end.  Walter was annoyed, but not surprised, by his over-emotional histronics.

        "What did he say," asked Allen.

        "He just blamed [ME] for that pea brained, trigger happy cop's screw up, and then he claimed that he's watching my every move.  The worst thing about it was that he called while I was eating dinner with the wife and kids.  I wasn't able to keep my composure, and I made a big scene in front of them."



        "I thought you always have your phone turned off while you're eating with your family."

        "I do.  My airhead wife forgot to turn it off.  What a day to forget, huh?!"  Walter shook his head in disgust-mixed-with-frustration before he raised his cigarette up to his lips and inhaled deeply.  Then, he resumed talking; shifting his dialogue from the nearly fully covered report of the latest telephone strike to two revenge schemes which he knew, from personal experience, were achievable.

        "Let me tell you something; I'm going to torture that son of a bitch until he dies a slow, painful death.  When I find out who he is, I'm going to hire thugs to abduct him, and I'll torture him while he's tied to a chair.  Either that, or I'll make sure that he's prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and then I'll pay those prison guard brutes big money to torture him while I watch from outside the cell.  I've got connections, you know!"

        "Oh, I know!  I definitely know that's true!"

        Allen had been on his feet for too long, so he walked over to the far corner of the room and took a seat on the black leather swivel chair by the desk.  The forefinger and thumb on his right hand massaged his miniscule chin; his burrow furrowed; his brown eyeballs rolled up; his cold-sore afflicted lips puckered, as if they were preparing for a kiss; and his head slightly tilted upward.  Maintaining this comical imitation of a "deep thinker engaged in contemplation" for the twelve seconds it took him to ponder the news brief, he finally relinquished his ridiculous facial pose, or contortion, in preparation to state his "profound" conclusion, which was...

        "This joker is hell-bent on bringing us down, Walter!"

        Not overly impressed with the remark, Walter replied, "Tell me something I DON'T know!"  He went on to say, "I'm going to meet with Arnold Fetz tomorrow -- the PI I told you about.  I just thought I'd fill you in on my plans."

        "I wonder why The Caller didn't call me too, like he did the first time," Allen pondered.

        "I don't know.  Maybe he hates me more," Walter theorized.

        "I hope so," joked Allen, subconsciously trying to lighten the mood in order to relieve both their tensions.  Then he stood up and started pacing.

        "Well, Walter, what else can happen," Allen sighed.  The question was posed in a rhetorical manner; he didn't expect to receive an answer.  However, he GOT ONE!

        "I'll tell you what else can happen," Walter began.  "Last night I saw three ghosts in my bedroom.  I know you don't believe in ghosts, and until this happened, I didn't either... but I'd swear on my grandmother's grave that I saw several ghosts standing at the end of my bed, facing me, staring at me, I guess.  It was strange as hell.  Scared the bejeebers out of me!"

        "Holy shit," shouted Allen.  "I saw three ghosts in my bedroom last night, as well!!!" he informed.  Walter's jaw dropped and his eyes bulged.

        "I wasn't going to tell you because I didn't think you'd believe me," continued Allen.  "I thought I might have been hallucinating under the stress The Caller has put me through.  Let me ask you this, Walter.  What time did you see them??"

        "At about 7:15."

        "Shit!  That was around the time I saw them in my room, too.  What did they look like, Walter??"

        "Kind of like shadows formed into human silhouettes, surrounded by a shinning energy field of golden radiance.  And for each one, I noticed an intense white light beaming out of the area where their head-shapes were located.  That's the best  way I can describe them."

        "Sheesh!!!  That's incredible!  I saw exactly the same thing!  Did they all disappear in unison?"

        "Yeah, they sure did!  They appeared in unity and disappeared in unity."

        "Whoa!  This blows my mind!  First The Caller and then ghosts!  I've got to sit down, man.  This shit is too much for me to take standing up."

        Allen plopped down on the couch's cushion, while an equally staggered Walter sat in his black leather swivel chair beside it.  Fittingly, once again, although more so, they'd just unwittingly assumed the complementary roles of head-doctor and head-case.  Allen appeared shell-shocked, and Walter felt just as bombarded by their corresponding news accounts.  They were both shaking their heads in near disbelief, attempting to somehow rationalize their duplicate paranormal experiences.  But they soon accepted the undeniable fact that there was no other explanation aside from actual encounters with ghosts.



        At least thinking about the ghosts turned the shrink's minds off The Caller.  They were as mentally at ease as they'd been in a long time.  Just then, Allen's cell phone rang.  He stood up, reached into his pant pocket, pulled it out, unfolded the cover, pressed the "send" button, lifted it to the side of his head, and said, "Hello."  A prolonged stretch of silence ensued, causing the unnerved smoker sitting in the chair to take notice and turn his head in the direction of the uncommunicative cell phone listener.  Gazing across from the room, Walter detected a heavy expression in Allen's eyes.  He was obviously in a state of deep concentration.  Walter was sure that it was an all-important call.  Then there came the auditory manifestation of a distressed mind -- which well exceeded mere concern.  For he surely accentuated the following three words: "Is she okay" in a coat of grave and urgent tonality.  Walter surmised that it was unmistakably pressing news of a crisis situation.  Those four simple words: "Hello" and "Is she okay" comprised the entirety of Allen's verbal transmission.  He swiftly returned the little phone inside his pocket and rushed toward the door.

        "Wait!!"  Walter had raised his voice out of emotion, and also as a means of impeding Allen's momentum in order to get the inside scoop before he was gone.  "What's going on, Allen??" he followed.

        With his hand already clasped around the doorknob, he offered a quick synopsis of the call: "My wife was in a car crash on her way to work!  She's seriously injured.  I've got to go to the hospital and see her."  Then he flung the door open and hurried out.

        "What else can happen," Walter muttered to himself, now alone in the office.  "What else can happen?!" he repeated while looking downward and shaking his head.

        Dr. Krouse certainly wasn't one to dwell on another's plight!  Less than a minute following his distressed colleague's emergency exit, he turned his attention to the day's business agenda.  The little black organizer notebook in his desk drawer indicated that his last scheduled patient of the day was none other than Mrs. Paulina Price.  Walter thought that the morning tension induced by The Caller's ongoing antics needed abatement.  That's where Paulina came in.  And she literally "came in" six minutes before her appointed time of 4:00 p.m.  Little did she know that the therapist whom she wholeheartedly trusted had devised a reprehensible scheme to use and abuse her fragile mind for the sole purpose  of comic relief.

        The ingenuous young lady sat in the middle section of the fluffy grey couch after the typical formalities of "Good morning" and such were out of the way.  First off, they made small talk about the weather and Dollbern Avenue traffic.  Then, Dr. Krouse got down to business with what his patient naively thought would be a productive counseling session:

        "So, how have you been doing," he began.

        "Terrible," was her frank reply.

        "Oh my, I hate to hear that!"  [An honest remark would've been, "Hurrah!  That's exactly what I wanted to hear!"]  "Tell me about it," he probed in a feigned sympathetic voice, knowing that his deceived patient always fell for his compassionately interested act.  It was a routine that he had perfected on ALL of his patients.

        "Well, umm... this is embarrassing," she timorously said while looking down and avoiding eye contact.  "Umm, I had bumps and redness, umm... down there, below the belt.  I thought it was just a rash, but my doctor told me it was genital warts.  I was shocked and devastated!  I'm almost one-hundred percent sure that my new husband transmitted it to me."  Her anger arose, overtaking the shame as she uplifited her head and looked straight into her psychiatrist's eyes.  "He admits he has the disgusting disease.  But... get this... he's actually accusing ME of infecting HIM!  What a liar and a sleaze!  There's NO WAY I could've given it to him!  I've NEVER slept around, and the only other sexual partner besides Ray that I've ever had was my ex.  And the last time I had intercourse with [him] was nearly three years ago -- before our divorce; so, if he had of given me genital warts, I think I would've had an outbreak before now!"


        "Now, Paulina, what exactly do you remember about what went on during last week's counseling session," Dr. Krouse artfully inquired.

        "Well, let me think... It seems sort of vague for some reason.  I remember walking in here and Dr. Thorne telling me that you had back pain.  He said that he was there to help me while you were gone.  Then there's a time gap.  The next thing I recall is lying on the couch and Dr. Thorne telling me that we were done for the day.  It's strange that I don't remember anything in-between the beginning and end of last week's session.  Am I losing my memory?"

        "No, Paulina, you're not losing your memory," Dr. Krouse assured her in a manufactured tone of caring, accompanied with a warm-looking smile.  The manipulative doctor was adroit at conjuring people's perceptions of him as a kind and wise man.  His most dangerous strength, coupled with his considerable intellect, was his natural ability to invariably turn on the charm.  The compound mixture of evil genius and charisma also characterizes serial killers and genocidal tyrants!

        "The reason you have no recollection of last week's counseling session is because Dr. Thorne put you under hypnosis," informed Krouse.  This was to be the first and last truthhood he told her about the incident.

        "He did WHAT??!!" Paulina shrieked, as her eyes bulged.  She was terrified of the notion because she knew that hypnotism rendered one's mind and body at the mercy of another.

        "Wait a minute, you consented to it," lied Krouse.  He said this in order to quell her outrage.  His lies continued: "It was a completely necessary means of tapping into your subconscious mind in order to discover the root of your psychological problems.  That's exactly what Dr. Thorne was able to accomplish.  However, that progress is bittersweet."

        "Why is that, Dr. Krouse," Paulina, a bit confused, inquired with wide eyes and a faithful heart.

        "Well, the good news is that he dug up a repressed memory that was buried deep within your subconscious mind.  It was a real breakthrough because it shed a lot of light on the cause of your inner turmoil."

        "That sounds great," Paulina rejoiced.

        "Yes, but there's also some bad news," he counterbalanced.

        "What's that, Dr. Krouse," asked Paulina, with a hint of trepidation reflected in her soft voice. 

        Before addressing her questions, Dr. Krouse paused for five seconds in order to appear scrupulous with his word selection.  "Well, I don't know if I should tell you because you might not be able to cope with the knowledge of what you did when you were younger."  He wanted to come across as being irresolute due to concern for her emotional welfare.  And he succeeded immensely!  She was buying the whole thing, hook, line and sinker!

        "Oh, Dr. Krouse, you worry about me too much.  I'm stronger than you think.  Come on!  You can tell me!  I'm sure I'll be able to handle it!  Please tell me what I did," she implored. 

        Dr. Krouse rubbed the back of his neck and grimmaced, masterfully pretending he was uncomfortable with the direction in which the conversation was headed.  This gesticulation cleverly served to further ingrain her false belief in his concern for her psychological wellbeing, while simultaneously stimulating her apprehension and curiosity as to the substance of the concealed personal secret.  Paradoxically, she was fearful of the burgeoning revelation, yet hungering to taste the apple of knowledge.  Conversely, the wicked man in the chair eight feet in front of her considered the upcoming psychologically-devastating bombshell of a lie to be his diabolical work of art.  Currently, however, he was delighting in teashing his pure-hearted patient before ultimately dropping the verbal bomb on her delicate psyche and witnessing the emotionally explosive climax.

        "Nevermind!  I don't think I should have even brought it up in the first place.  I'm afraid that telling you would be a huge mistake.  You wouldn't want to know.  It's probably better to just forget I said anything about this issue."

        "No, I want to know," Paulina protested adamantly.  "Did I smoke marijuana," she guessed.



        "No, Paulina.  It's far worse than that!  Although it DID come out that you smoked pot, as well."

        "Oh no!  I can't believe I did that!  That's terrible," she reacted.

        "Since I've gone this far, I guess I'll just tell you, and take the chance that you'll be able to cope with it.  Just always remember that YOU urged me to tell you.  It was never my idea at all to tell you, and I'm not sure that it's in your best interest to know.  This is your last chance to turn back and leave Pandora's Box unopened."

        "I can't turn back now!  You've got me so curious!  I feel as if I HAVE TO know!  You really need to quit trying to protect me as if I were a child!  You're so overprotective of me!"

        "Okay, Paulina, I'll tell you."  The liar took a deep breath for theatrics and proceeded with the lie: "Sheesh, I hope you can live with this!  Here it goes: When you moved to New York City after you graduated from high school to pursue your failed dream of becoming an actress, you began dating your agent."

        "Oh, I remember him," Paulina inadvertently interrupted, presuming that she'd already received the "Big Secret."  "I can't believe I did that," she said, while shaking her head.  "'Thomas Frump' -- he was DEFINITELY NOT my type!  But I can live with that.  I guess I just wanted to get ahead in the business.  Oh, my, I just had a thought: what if I kissed him!  That would be SO gross," she emphatically stated, and then pressed the back of her hand against her lips to wipe away a speculated thirteen year-old kiss that never was.

        "Paulina, dear... I wasn't finished," Dr. Krouse said, slightly annoyed.  "He was not only your agent and boyfriend... he was also your pimp."

        Paulina gasped at the last word of his sentence, which landed harder than Mike Tyson's uppercut knockout punch on Michael Spinks's chin.  "Oh, my God!!!  What did you say??!!  He was my 'pimp'???  I was a pros... prostitute??!!??  [It was hard for her to get the word out of her mouth.]  "Yes, you were, I'm sorry to say.  That has a lot to do with your low self esteem and manic depression.  And, of course, your past lifestyle probably accounts for your crabs.  I guess it has been dormant all these years and just cropped up recently."  Upon seeing Paulina cover her face with her hands and begin to weep, Dr. Krouse barely constrained his urge to burst out laughing.  "But most of your mental problems," he continued after regaining his composure, "are resultant of guilt induced by two abortions and also your involvement in witchcraft."

        "ABORTIONS, WITCHCRAFT," Paulina bellowed in shock.  "Oh, my God!!!"  She began sobbing and wailing uncontrollably.  Meanwhile, Dr. Krouse had to place his hand over his mouth to conceal his irrepressible crack-up smile, while he converted his laugh into an artifical cough.

        "I hate telling you all this terrible stuff about your past, Paulina!  I really do!  But you practically begged me to tell you.  Now I wish I had never told you!  It looks like you won't be able to deal with it.  I feared this would happen -- that you'd react in this manner."

        "We got forget me," she seemed to slur through perpetually loud cries and moans.

        "What did you say," Walter asked, failing to make out her unclear words.

        "Will God forgive me," she repeated.  It was more intelligible this time.  However, it took straining ears to even make that out.  He relished the question because it provided him the opportunity to torment her even further.

        "I don't know, Paulina.  I'm not a minister; I'm a psychiatrist.  But I think he'd forgive you for being a whore.  Excuse me!!!  I can't believe I just said that!  I mean, a 'lady of the night'."

        "No, it's true!  I AM a whore!"

        "Well, if you want to put it THAT way!  Now, as for your more serious sins... I can't lie to you.  See, abortion amounts to killing innocent babies, and witchcraft is the equivalent of worshiping Satan.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you can be forgiven for those abominable actions."

        Mrs. Price's frantic bawling and howling increased in volume.  The pitiful, pure-hearted young lady was suffering a nervous breakdown, and her vicious victimizer loved every second of it.



        Dr. Krouse glanced down at his gold rolex watch: "5:04".  Suddenly it dawned on him that poor Paulina would undoubtedly be exposed to an exceptionally high degree of danger if she were to be driving down Dollbern Avenue at the present time -- amidst the afternoon post-work traffic, which is aptly dubbed "rush hour."  Driving in such heavy traffic while in a disjointed mental state during the apex of her emotional collapse would be akin to driving half asleep and blindfolded.  This, Walter knew well!  Therefore, disallowing her any time to reclaim her senses, he abruptly adjourned the "counseling" session on the pretext that she needed to "go home and sleep it off."  Frustrated he was when his request went unacknowledged.  Unsure whether or not she was even aware of his duplicit advice, he got out of his swivel chair and stomped toward her angrily.  She was slumped downward with her head hung low and face in her hands, while crying hysterically.  Therefore, she was unperceptive of his approach.  The intolerant megalomaniac felt like administering a hard backhand smack right across her face for ignoring him, even if unintentionally so.  But that, he knew, would be too extreme and land him in hot water with her husband and/or the law.  Instead, he grabbed a firm hold of her thin wrists, completely enveloping his hands around their circumferences, and yanked her shaking hands away from her tear-drenched cheeks.  Then he pulled her arms with all of his might and heaved-up what he considered little more than a 145 pound fllesh bag of bones, muscles and organs. (The consumate nihilist, on top of being a misanthrope, people were just pieces of meat in his eyes.)  So as to circumvent her newly upright body from descending backward and returning to the cushion, he swiftly stepped in-between her back and the front of the couch.  Playing the 'father-figure' role adeptly, he rubbed her shoulder slowly, and soothingly reiterated that it was time to go home.  Into her pocketbook went his fishing hand and out came her ring of eight keys, as if he had caught the fish he was after.  He took a quick glance at it and the blue and white sign-of-the-fish keychain caught his eyes.  He shook his head in disapproval, for he was an avowed athiest and totally intolerant of anyone's display of religious conviction.  The transfer was made, the keyset being practically forced into her trembling right hand, as she was too "out of it" to willingly take it on her own accord.  That's how distraught she was.  Then, he escorted the incoherent, sobbing basket case to the door, knowing he'd have to open it for her because she wouldn't be able to do it herself in her state of mind.  But once she was outside she wouldn't just stand there idly forever.  Eventually, her legs would have to start moving.  He just hoped that after she plodded wearily to her car she could manage to start it and drive off.  Drive off into certain and immediate peril.  THAT was his aim!  And serious injury or death was his ultimate goal.  While they were walking to the door, he had the front of his opened hand pressed against her mid-back section; he was prepared to shove it if her baby steps halted.  Noticing that her entire disposition was reminiscent of an 80 year-old woman engendered a chuckle.  He was quite proud of himself for managing to deteriorate a 31 year-old woman into the mental and physical equivalent of an octogenarian within mere minutes.  He marveled at his insidious artifice; at the sheer magnitude of the psychological devastation he had wrought.

        Prior to Paulina's arrival, five other heavily "medicated" [Err... drugged] couch sitters had come and gone.  Her forced exit wound up another easy and profitable day of "work" for the pseudo doctor.  The pharmaceutical drug industry also made their daily profit, albeit to the detriment of millions of minds.  The "drug pusher in a suit" now sat on the couch usually reserved for his vulnerable patients.  A laptop computer was in his lap.  He began typing an e-mail message to his wife:

        "Honey, Allen Thorne's wife was seriously injured in a car accident this morning.  A cop, or hospital staff member, or whoever, called to notify him.  I overheard the conversation; it sounded bad.  He left first thing this morning to see her at the hospital.  I haven't heard from him since then.  I'm going to drive to his house after work to check on him and if he's not home, I'll take care of his kids until he gets things in order.  So I might not be home in time for dinner.  If I'm not, be sure to save me a plate, and I'll put it in the microwave when I do arrive home.  Thanks."



        He double-clicked on the envelope icon to send the electronic message, and then eye-scanned the column of unopened NEW messages sent to him.  One title was particularly appealing.  It said:

"Hey Dad, I got an A on a Test."

        Knowing that Reig had barely even touched a computer keyboard at the tender age of eight, he naturally assumed that the good news was sent by Colon.  It was probably in reference to an aced math test, he figured, because mathematics was his favorite, and best, subject.  A proud fatherly smile swept across his face, and he moved the cursor arrow to read more of his precocious son's boast.  However, just as he was about to click on the electronic envelope to open it, his cell phone rang.

        "Hello," he answered.

        "Walter, this is Allen."  His vocal tone sounded quite serious, yet surprisingly calm, considering the trying time of being in the midst of a family crisis.

        "Oh, Allen," he said ardently.  "How is your wife??"

        "Walter, she..."  Allen went silent for five seconds before resuming his broken sentence.  Walter construed this pause, coupled with his emotionally ambiguous greeting of solemnity laced with composure, as an indicator that his colleague was struggling to apprise him of her fatality.  "... She wasn't involved in an accident."

        "What the hell are you talking about," Walter said loudly and incredulously.  His question vibrantly expressed his astonishment and utter confusion.  "The hospital called you a few hours ago and said she was seriously injured in a car accident," he proclaimed just as emotionally and forcefully.  "I heard you talking on the phone with..."

        Allen cut in on his sentence to explain.  "Walter, listen.  That call was a hoax."

        "A hoax???!!!" Walter thunderously echoed in a state of extreme incredulousness bordering on shock.

        Allen continued, "When I got to the hospital, the receptionist looked at me with a blank face and said that nobody named 'Linda Thorne' was registered there as a patient.  So I thought that the ambulance carried her to the other hospital on Creedcrest Road.  I called them, but, once again, I got the same statement; she wasn't at THAT hospital either.  Then I tried her work number, and I talked to her on the phone.  She was doing fine and didn't know what in the world I was talking about when I asked her if she was in a car wreck."

        "Oh, shit!  That must've been The Caller, then," Walter surmised.

        "Yeah, it was the work of The Caller alright!  I'm sure of it," agreed Allen.  "Who else could it have been," he rhetorically asked.

        Walter exclaimed, "Man, this is fucking crazy!  Do you have any idea how he was able to get your cell phone number?"

        "No clue."

        "Have you ever given it out to any of your patients?"

        "No way!  I wouldn't give any of those losers my cell phone number.  They'd pester the hell out of me!"

        "Things just keep getting more and more bizarre," stated Walter while he shook his head.

        "I know," said Allen, in total agreement.  Then, following a moment of contemplation, he asked, "What message do you think he's trying to send us?"

        "I don't know, Allen.  Maybe he's just trying to get in our heads."

        "Well, if he is, it's working!  This shit is really starting to get to me, Walter!  It's getting worse and worse!  I feel like I never know what he's going to do next.  Every time my home phone rings I get nervous and I'm afraid to answer it.  Now the same automatic reaction will apply to my cell phone.  I'm scared to go to work in the morning because I think The Caller might be hiding in the bushes with a knife or gun in his hand, waiting for my car to pull into the parking lot.  I mean, if he'd pull a sick prank like this, then there's really no telling [what] he'd do next!"

        "I agree.  I wouldn't put anything past him!  I think he's dead serious about fucking us up, and hell-bent on bringing us down.  And, I hate to say this, but it looks like his antics are only going to escalate from here.  It doesn't appear as if he's going to stop or even slow down in the least.  He's obviously obsessively fixated on us, and willing to go to extreme measures to express his outrage and make us suffer.  Quite frankly, I just don't see him quitting and leaving us alone after he's gone this far.  We definitely have a gargantuan problem on our hands!"

        "Hey, Walter, I almost forgot to tell you something else he did."

        "What's that," Walter inquired curiously.

        "About five minutes after I called my wife at work, I received a text message on my cell phone with no return address.  It was: 'Ha! Ha! Ha!'"



        "You're kidding!"

        "No, you know I wouldn't joke about something like that!  I'll show it to you on my cell phone."

        "No, that's okay!  I believe you!  I believe you!  Where are you now, Allen?"

        "I'm home."

        "Are all of your doors locked?"

        "Of course!"

        "Listen, I'll be over there in about forty minutes.  I'm finishing up at the office, anyway.  Tonight we're going to the gun range, and I'm going to teach you how to shoot a handgun.  I know how scared you are of guns, but The Caller sounds like he's out of control, and if he tries to hurt one of us, we'll need to be prepared.  I already have a concealed weapons permit, and you're going to need to apply for one after you buy a gun."

        "Okay," Allen acquiesced.  "I'll let you teach me how to shoot, and then I'll buy a gun and carry it around with me wherever I go.  I'm more afraid of The Caller than a gun, anyway," he rationalized.

        "Good!  Hang tight, buddy.  I'll see you in a bit."

        "Be careful walking to your car, Walter," cautioned Allen.

        "I will!" Walter assured him.

        After pressing "end" and "power-off", Walter shook his head in consternation at the alarming report of The Caller's latest shockingly brazen psychological attack.

        Walter was on the computer before the phone rang.  "What was I doing on this thing," he murmered to himself, as he returned his piercing eyes to focus on the bright screen.  The content of Allen's call had completely diverted his attention and awareness away from the subject matter at hand.  "Oh, yeah," he recalled, and clicked open the e-mail entitled: "Hey Dad, I got an A on a Test!"  Big, bold, black letters, all of which were uppercase, seemed to assault his eyes in style, as well as substance.


        The taunting, threatening e-mail, like Allen Thorne's anonymous cell phone text message, was absent a return address from its undetectable transmitter.  Walter's bulging eyes stared blankly at the computer screen.  He was, once again, in a state of shock.