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the cold call

The curry is ready, rice on the bubble, side dishes prepared and properly arrayed, table set, guests seated, drinks poured, music on ambient and the dining-room doors of the apartment open to the late night glitter of a city laid out one thousand feet below.

The phone rings in another room and of course it must be answered. The hostess is in the kitchen, busy, so the host folds his serviette, apologises to his guests and leaves the table. A moment to consider taking his drink with him.


Walks from the dining room to his study across the hall. Turns on the light. Closes the door.

The phone is on its third ring, all console lights awink with urgency. His private number.

Somebody has died, there is a fire on a lower floor, an earthquake is toppling all the high-rises in Hong Kong.

North Korea has miscalculated a missile’s flight path. America is about to retaliate.


‘Hello, is this Peter?’

Female, not a natural English speaker.

A cold call.

The enemy.

‘Who are you, who knows my name?’

.. said quietly with deep, hidden menace.


‘I beg your pardon.’

‘How do you know my name?’

‘Sir, I am a representative ….’



‘I asked, who are you, and how do you know my name?’


‘My name is Nina and I am a representative of Nutritional International …’

‘How do you know my name?’

‘Are you hard of hearing, sir?  I said I was a repres ….’

Chicken Madras has a fragrance that entices a man to his table as urgently as does blood when a shark senses its essence in water.

‘In three minutes I will be outside your door, Nina, and will ask the same question to your face.’

Five wordless seconds.

Then she hung up.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Shane Fisher #

    Come on, give them a break, I was trying for jobs like that, but I was repulsed. Not a worry, I am on good thing tomorrow, have an interview for delivering government stuff in Brisbane. But, I also have today my Australian Wine delivery and a little bit of stress.

    35 bucks an hour for delivering shit in Brisbane city (and driving). I think they are felling sorry for me, I have applied to them before.

    May 17, 2017
    • I got totalking to a bloke in India one night, after he stopped all the sales routine, reckoned his mum was a good cook, butter chicken her special. I asked him for her phone number and he busted into laughter.

      May 18, 2017

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