THE WAY IT WENT DOWN: WHAT SHE SAID
Instructions: Open mike in a sound proofed room. Studio. Nothing chintzy. If you're feeling paranoid, kill the line with a diode. Close it off. Hit record. At night. Ask questions. Talk. Talk to the air. Then, listen to that tape. Turn the gain all the way up. Headphones on. Listen.
The first time, I did it to kill the time. To test the wiring on the new board. Ten minutes maybe. "Test one two, one two, who are you..."
Two months later I found it. The tape. Dug it out and ran it and wondered what was on it (I never labeled it). Put it on and pushed the system. "TEST ONE TWO, ONE TWO, WHO ARE YOU..." boomed my voice from the speakers, followed by a hiss, and then, just as my finger found the STOP, the voice, there, in the back, stealthy. Quiet.
A child's voice. A whisper. Like someone in the corner of the empty studio, far from the mike. It was a voice with a sly smile in it. Far, far, away.
I left then, walked that fucker off. Smoked a smoke. Said hey to the night guy. Came back with a coffee and ran it again. Same thing.
This time, I let it run, all 10. The voice was there again, after mine, then the hiss of air banging together like billiards. Then, at 9:53:09, again, the voice, closer now.
"They're coming," CLICK.
I ran it again.
The next week I was leaving work at 6:50 AM when a woman came out from behind the cement pylon and produced a badge. DEA, it read, Agent Grant. Was I Malcolm Steyr? Did I once work with a man named Reily at the Chicago PD to examine the answering machine tape of a murder victim. Sure, I said, how was Reily?
Dead, she said.
"Don't trust them," the little girl told me, later, when I asked her what it meant.
"Grant is not her name," she told me.
The tape ran and ran.
Now, we're in a car, driving in the black towards something I don't fully understand, but she's told me enough. The two in the front keep their eyes on the road ahead, on the dirt track taking us out into scrub country. My headphones in, I listen to the track, as the voice narrates what we're doing, what is coming before it's here.
The gun is a lump of warm metal, hidden in my lap like a promise.