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The Truth Be Told
By H. P. Oliver
(Excerpt from Chapter Five)
2011 HPO Productions
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I looked at my watch and wasn't surprised to find that only a few minutes officially remained of what had become a very long day. Since I was coming up blank in the area of solutions to Wendy's problems, I locked up and headed for the bathroom to brush my teeth. On the way, my office phone chirped. I answered on the second ring, and then I stood there with my mouth hanging open as an angry female voice responded with, "This is Peg, and I want you to stop interfering in my life! You have no right to do that. I have proof, and if you do not stop right now, I will make a lot of trouble for you!"
Peg, whoever she was, spoke in a quick, breathless way-as though she had to get the words out fast or she'd lose her nerve and not be able to say them at all. The conversation ended with a click and, after a moment, a dial tone. I stood there with the phone to my ear waiting for the rest of the story, but that was it.
Since I didn't know any Pegs well enough to have one that mad at me, it was safe to assume the woman had misdialed. That was a shame. It seemed important that whoever Peg thought she was talking to should get the message.
The call was still on my mind as I squeezed the toothpaste tube. There was something unnerving about the woman's anger and fear. But it wasn't my problem. Peg obviously had the wrong number.
Then a realization finally fought its way to the surface of my thoughts. In addition to having the wrong number, Peg also had Wendy's voice! We've spent too much time on the phone together for me to be mistaken. The anger in her words and the formal cadence of her speech had thrown me at first, but now I had no doubt.
So Wendy had just called me in the middle of the night to say her name was Peg and that I'd better stop interfering in her life or she would make trouble for me. I stared at the guy in the bathroom mirror. He looked every bit as confused as I felt.
I dialed Wendy's number and got the familiar busy signal. I tried again a few minutes later-still busy. Then a vivid image of Wendy's kitchen phone dangling at the end of its cord popped into my brain.
I don't know how many off ramps there are on the three freeways connecting Santa Monica to Hollywood, but every time one went by, I kicked myself for not taking it and turning around. The call couldn't have been from Wendy. The woman just sounded like her, and I thought it was Wendy because she was on my mind. That had to be it. She certainly didn't need me waking her up after she'd finally gotten to sleep. Okay, if Wendy's lights were off when I got there, I'd turn around and go home.
The lights at 2428 Beachwood Drive shone brightly through the window on the living room side of the front door. I knocked and she went through the now familiar ritual of peeking through the door and removing the chain lock. I made myself a note to get her one of those peephole gizmos for the door.
Wendy, in the same beige terry cloth robe she'd been wearing on my first visit to the house, was surprised to see me-surprised, but not unhappy. Inside she said, "Two visits in one night! I'm honored. What's up?"
Her voice was cheerful with virtually no trace of the weariness and fear I'd witnessed a few hours earlier. In fact, everything seemed just dandy. So what the hell was I doing there? That was a very good question.
I hesitated, trying to think of a diplomatic way to bring up the weird phone call, but my earlier conviction that Wendy had been the caller was dissolving rapidly. My strongest inclination was to apologize for the interruption and get the hell out of there before I made a complete ass of myself. But I could still hear that frightened voice on the phone, and it was Wendy's.
My hesitation was puzzling her. "What's the matter, Mike?"
Feeling sillier by the moment, I blurted out, "Wendy, did you call me about an hour ago?"
She looked even more puzzled. "No. I went to bed after you left. Then I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. I've been reading for the past hour. Why?"
"Well, this time you're the one who has to promise not to laugh."
Wendy's puzzled expression changed to a frown of concern. She said solemnly, "I promise. What's happened?"
"About an hour ago I got a very strange phone call from a woman who sounded like you. She was very angry and upset, and . . ."
We'd been standing a few feet apart in her living room, but now she was backing away from me, her hands absently groping for the wall behind her. Her green eyes definitely knew something about weird phone calls-they were terribly afraid of them. She swallowed and asked slowly, "What . . . what did I say, Mike?"
"I'm not absolutely sure it was really you. It just sounded a lot like you."
"Please, Mike. What did I say?" "Well, whoever it was said her name was Peg and she was going to make a lot of trouble . . ."
Wendy's reaction stopped me in mid-sentence. The emotion in her eyes changed from fear to outright terror. Her back was against the living room wall now, and both hands came up to cover her face. In a sobbing whisper she said, "Oh God! It's real. It really happened!"
I watched, astonished, as Wendy's knees gave way and she slid slowly down the wall to the floor. She was sobbing uncontrollably by the time my amazement at her reaction diminished enough to get me moving in her direction. I helped her over to the couch and Wendy clung to me as if I were her last contact with reality. Maybe I was.