Authors: Jonas Saul
Tags: #short story, #thriller, #jonas saul
Copyright © 2012 by Jonas Saul
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Jonas Saul Titles
The Sarah Roberts Series
1. Dark Visions
2. The Warning
3. The Crypt
4. The Hostage
The Kill Series
1. The Kill
2. The Blade (Summer 2012)
Visitations - A Book of Short Stories
The Numbers Game
The Witching Hour
What’s life, but a river of tears? The chase for the almighty dollar. There are more billionaires in the world today than there has ever been in the history of man. I used to be like those people: money hungry. I didn’t care who was in my way. If I could make a buck, I’d do it. Until I learned a lesson only life and death could teach. And now I do the right thing.
Be a stand-up guy? Or fall down?
But first, let me tell you how I got here.
My life changed forever with one text message.
I was a real estate agent. I played on the stock market. I watched the penny stocks, waiting for one to strike gold and be worth hundreds, or even thousands, overnight. I was the guy that handled the million-dollar homes in our little community on the Bay. The commissions were huge. I lived well, even if I only sold one house every three months.
Then I got a text message, reading simply: “
At the time, that name meant nothing to me. I checked to see who’d sent it. The first red flag was planted: no return number. I’d never seen that before. There’s always a number to reply to.
I’m usually a pretty organized guy. I use a day timer, a calendar, a notebook, an appointment book, and two computers at home to track everything about my clients. My cell phone is a mini computer, detailing my day’s routine, activities, and meetings. Each morning I’d sync it with my computer, and off I went to do its bidding.
I’d never heard of a John Turnbull, though.
Two hours after I received the text, I was sitting at my desk in my little office. Jessica, my company secretary, buzzed me to say I had a call waiting on line two. She said the caller wouldn’t identify himself. That’s Jessica, always fucking around. She’s got issues, man. I mean, serious parent issues. They’re dead, she’s not. That’s the issue.
I picked up line two to discover that I was talking to John Turnbull.
Now, of course, I asked him if he’d sent the text, and he denied it. Apparently, he doesn’t even own a cell. John and his wife are in their late seventies. They’d won the lottery six months ago. After they’d won millions of dollars, everyone started visiting and calling, looking for money. It drove them crazy. John said he wanted to buy a house on the lake, but he wanted to do it discreetly. That’s why he didn’t own a cell anymore, and he refused to say his name when he called the office.
A week later, I sold an expensive house to Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull. They probably didn’t need one that pricey, but a little charm, and smooth salesman talk, will do it every time. They overspent, but what did I care? The commission was worth it. Fuck ‘em.
The mysterious text stayed unsolved though. It started to piss me off. I wish I knew who warned me about the Turnbulls. But in the end, was it a warning? At the time, I didn’t think so. I soon forgot about the stupid text. It was as if it hadn’t happened.
Two months later, I received another text. A name again. This one I knew: my sister’s name. I hadn’t seen my sister in over ten years. After our parents died, their will was
divided evenly. She got everything. I hated her for it. I still do. I refused to speak to her. Then she moved away.
I wondered if the text was another prophecy. I decided to block all my calls. I still didn’t want to talk to her. I also realized at that moment that I was giving more credence to those ridiculous texts than I wanted to.
I decided that I could completely avoid incoming calls by leaving the office. I told Jessica I felt ill. She smiled at me in her usual, stupid way. Like she knew what I was up to. At twenty-three, she thought she had the world figured out. She couldn’t even figure out her own fucked-up head, let alone the world.
She was driving the car the night her parents died in the accident. To this day, she still thinks she was to blame. After three suicide attempts and two years of therapy, I took her on to be my secretary out of pity. She makes mistakes, and screws up sometimes, but - at half the price of any other
- I get by.
On my way out the door, I asked her to take messages, and then wait until tomorrow to give them to me because I was turning my cell phone off.
There, problem solved. No more texts and no calls. The prophecy couldn’t come true. I would not see, or hear from, my bitch of a sister.
On the way home, I decided I’d barbecue for dinner as I did on most Fridays. I pulled in and stopped at my favorite butcher shop. While selecting a T-bone, a woman walked up and stood beside me. I figured she was waiting to grab something from my side of the meat bin.
I was wrong.
I turned and looked into the eyes of my sister. I stumbled a little. Then I tried to not act surprised.
She’d lost weight. She was very thin. Sickly thin. She wanted to talk, I didn’t. I’d gone to great lengths to avoid her, and yet, here she was, in living color. She was so thin, I assumed it was cancer eating her away from the inside.
What, all the money from mom and dad’s estate run out? Can’t afford all the drugs and chemo for the cancer treatment? Don’t come crawling to me.
It wasn’t my life anymore. These people I’d called “family” had ostracized
. It’s only DNA that connects us. I could be standing beside any other customer for all I cared.
I bought my T-bone and left the butcher shop. On the way out, she said she had something to tell me. Something important. I shouted over my shoulder that she could tell me in two weeks. Book an appointment with my secretary. Before getting into my car, her voice weak with whatever cancer does to people, I heard her call out, saying she’d be dead by then.
Deep down inside, I’m not a callous man. I think somewhere along the way I placed wealth at my core. People like me are money-centered, and I’m okay with that. You will lose people you care about in the process. Maybe that was why I was single in those days. I didn’t care about people that much, so why would they care about me?
I looked at my phone a little differently after that. It seems my phone, or whoever sends those texts, knew something about my future. When a legitimate text came through, I always jumped. It was six months before I received my third prophecy. This one wasn’t a name. It was a message.
To save a human life, be at the butcher shop at 3:00pm. Your last chance.
That wasn’t going to be possible. I had a house showing at 3:00pm, one of the huge mansions on Garrison Hill. This house was shaping up to be the biggest sale our little town had ever heard of. My client had toured other houses with me for over three months, with only a few he liked. It was just last week that this house went on the market. We drove by it four days ago. The owner’s gardener was on the lawn, watering plants. My client, and his wife, toured the back yard, and peeked in windows. They said it looked perfect. The full walk-thru was for today, at the same time as the prophecy.
I couldn’t miss the appointment with my client. But how would I feel if someone actually died today and I could’ve stopped it?
Then I did something completely uncharacteristic. I lifted my home phone and called the office. Before I changed my mind, I told Jessica, who was giggling for some reason, that I couldn’t make my three o’clock. Get someone else to show my client the house and if it sells we’ll divvy up the commissions accordingly. I told her to hold all calls and wait until the next day to give me my messages.
I couldn’t believe it. What was I doing?
Everything was set. I had two shots of scotch whiskey, looked at my watch, and started getting ready for my date with destiny.
I pulled into the parking lot of the butcher shop ten minutes early. Everything appeared normal. I’d thought of all kinds of scenarios. If there was a gun involved, I was toast. I didn’t know CPR, so I hoped the intended victim didn’t have a heart attack or something. I went through as many scenarios as I could come up with on how I would save someone’s life. I also thought about my client. I wondered who Jessica had gotten to show the house.
At 3:00pm exactly I was standing in front of the butcher shop. Nothing happened at first. All my senses were on full alert. I watched anybody and everybody. I watched where they were walking in case a car was coming too fast. I especially watched older people. The area quieted down a little. I looked at my watch.
Nothing happened. I started getting angry. What if the text sender was a real estate agent and at that moment they were showing the Garrison house to my client? I decided to believe in the validity of the text. I had nothing else to go on, and they had come true twice. No one could’ve known my sister would show up at the butcher shop at the same time as me. I remembered it clearly. So the texts had to hold something greater than my ability to understand.
I decided to stand there, and wait. At 3:30pm, my cell phone rang. Call display said it was the office.
Maybe my client wants to put an offer in
, I remembered thinking.
“Hi.” It was Jessica. She was broken up. It sounded like she was trying to catch her breath. “How did you know?”
“Know what?” I asked.
“The house.” She could barely get it out. “The house is gone.”
“Gone? He bought it?” I asked, hoping that was the case.
“No, gone. As in destroyed.”
What is she talking about
? “Destroyed? What’s going on Jessica?”
“They think it was a natural gas explosion. The house you were supposed to show at 3:00pm has been leveled. It blew up like a bomb hit it.”
I remember dropping to my knees so hard that little pebbles on the sidewalk left bruises. “Is anyone hurt? Who showed the house in my place?”
“When I called your client, he said they would view it when you were ready. They only wanted to deal with you. The owner of the house and his workers weren’t there because they had expected the showing. I didn’t call them because I was trying to get another agent in. At any other time, several people would have been there. Because you booked it for 3:00pm, and then didn’t go yourself, you saved a lot of lives today. You saved yourself.” I heard her stop, catch her breath, blow her nose, and then clear her throat. “But
killed someone. I’m so sorry.”