I SWORE I WOULD NEVER BE LIKE MY FATHER. I SWORE I WOULD NEVER BETRAY THOSE WHO TRUST ME. I LIED.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Fear by Francine Pascal
THE PHONE RANG A FOURTH TIME. Fifth. Gaia thumped her hand against the metal pay phone and listened as a sixth ring came from the other end. She could picture the old wall phone ringing in the kitchen of the brownstone, the sound echoing off all the expensive -- and unused -- cookware. She could see the curving staircase. Was the house completely empty, or was old George Niven stumbling down those stairs toward the phone George had been there just last night -- Gaia and Tatiana had seen him. Maybe George was just about to answer. Gaia let the phone ring one more time.
Come on, Georgie. Pick up.
The phone rang twice more. Gaia sighed and was about to hang up when the receiver made a sudden click.
"Hello, there," said a woman's voice. The tone was cool, self-possessed. "I'm afraid that we can't take your call at the moment. Please leave..."
Gaia hung up the pay phone before the message could end. It was Ella. The voice in the message was George's wife, Ella. Only Ella Niven had been dead for months. A little tingly feeling went up the back of Gaia's neck, once again demonstrating that just because you didn't feel fear didn't mean you couldn't be solidly creeped out. Wasn't George ever going to get around to changing the message It was kind of sweet that he had left his wife's voice on the phone. It was also pretty sick.
For a few seconds Gaia stood and looked at the pay phone. She thought about calling again, but she didn't want to take the chance of hearing Ella's voice a second time. Hearing Ella had never been a blast when she was alive. Hearing her dead... that was a thrill Gaia would just as soon skip, thank you.
She flipped up the hood on her sweatshirt, hunched her shoulders, and walked away from the phone booth. A businesswoman went past on her left, followed by a college-age guy in some ridiculous parka thing that looked like something you would wear on top of the Matterhorn instead of in lower Manhattan. Gaia gave them both a quick exam as they passed. Were they part of Loki's organization Was one of them following Gaia, making notes about her, reporting on her every move Somebody was. Gaia knew that much.