Rushing out of the seminar, Ruth got into her Mini and drove off. The car park at the University of Tel Aviv was as packed as a mall, just perhaps a couple fewer security guards in sight. That feeling of being watched over was strangely unsettling and reassuring at the same time. At least she could feel relatively safe on her daily rush home-college-work-home. Once she filtered into the heavy traffic on Einstein Avenue she got that sense of at-homeness again. She and her husband Roni were not the kind of people who’d go out much; in fact they’d spend most of their free time watching TV together, or cooking dinner for friends, almost invariably other happily married couples.
As she turned at Eben Ezra Ave she heard her mobile bleep. She tried to read the incoming SMS, but it was impossible since all that appeared on the screen was assorted symbols and numbers. She’d have to phone Celcom again –for the second time this month; there’d appear unreadable symbols at times, or the screen would go fuzzy with a myriad undecipherable tiny icons, then nothing. Fortunately she had her corporate mobile working all right. There was another sound now, a chirpy beep, but she disregarded it.
She parked outside I-Tech, and walked the few steps along the cobbled pavement up to the main entrance. She was lucky to work on the third floor, above the treetops and facing straight into Yarkon Square, an unusual privilege in the pale stone-lined city.
As she was reaching her office she heard the phone ringing, so she quickened her pace, swished in through the half-opened door and grabbed the receiver. “Hallo?” Silence. “Ruth Shamir, hallo?” Nothing. She pulled a face and put down the receiver. She hanged her coat and her bag, sat down and looked at the phone. It rang again, which startled her a little. “Hallo?” At last, a voice at the other end could be heard “Ruth? How ya doin’, pretty? You do look breathtaking this morning.” “Who is it?” “As well as most mornings, afternoons and evenings ever since I found you.” She dubiously asked “Do I know you?” “Argh! Of course not. But you will… in due time.” She hung up violently.
Her mobile rang this time, as though coming out of lethargy. The caller ID read “withheld”. She anxiously answered “What do you want from me?” “Good girl, good girl. You’re beginning to understand.” The voice actually sounded distorted, as if through a vocoder. “I wish you were here with me, to have a good close look at you in the grass.” She thought the caller must be out of town, though as she strained her mind to think up any possible clues to the identity she realised she was looking out the window without actually seeing the square right in front of her. “Are you… nearby?” she asked timidly, pretending to agree to the game. “Very much so, having you close at hand; just to feel your skin, the softness of your mauve cotton underwear today.”
She hung up desperately, nauseated. She felt an urge to vomit; she felt filthy. She walked one or two steps back, and then leaned to pick up the receiver and call the police. At that, a ring made her recoil, and as she did so she stepped on a cracked floor socket. Her stiletto heel slipped along the crack, and she lost balance. A second ring. She jerked her body forward, trying to stand upright, but she failed to do so and collapsed backwards onto the glass front of her office. The large pane smashed noisily, and a shower of slivers and Ruth fell abruptly to the pavement.
And the phone kept ringing.