“Everything okay?” Don asked. His date hung up the phone with a heavy sigh. Her creamy tan skin seemed several shades paler than before she answered. Tears gathered in her eyes before streaming down her face but she remained calm. Don guessed she was about to abandon their first date. Despite her tears, he didn’t dismiss the possibility she was acting. It was possible something about him didn’t measure up and she signaled someone to help her fake a call.
“Well…,” she stared at the wooden tabletop in silence for several seconds, then she looked up at him and forced a smile. “I guess lunch is on me today,” she said. Don was glad she wasn’t about to ditch him, but she was definitely bothered about something.
“Not if you’re going to cry about it,” Don laughed, hoping it was clear he was joking. He was rewarded with a faint smile. “Seriously though…, what’s wrong? Do you need to leave?” he asked. Don considered it possible that she did have to leave, but didn’t want him to think she was ditching him. Tina shook her head.
“Thanks, but it wouldn’t help…,” she sighed again. “I’m dead in a year anyway.” She gave a half-shrug, then added, “more or less.”
“Was that your doctor?” Don asked. Tina shook her head.
“Gentleman Caller,” she said.
“NO WAY!” A short waitress holding a large pepperoni pizza appeared next to their table. She gasped at Tina’s revelation.
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” the waitress apologized sympathetically. “Your check’s on the house,” she said. “Let me know if you need anything else.” The waitress glanced at their full drink glasses than walked away.
“Gentleman Caller?” Don asked as Tina grabbed a slice. Before the call, she would have waited until he grabbed one. But she was going to die soon anyway; she wasn’t going to wait for pizza longer than she had to.
“Yeah,” Tina nodded again then blew on the hot pizza. “It sucks,” she said between puffs.
“Who’s the Gentleman Caller?” Don asked as Tina was about to attempt her first bite to test the temperature. She stopped with her mouth open then set the pizza down.
“You don’t know?” she asked. “Really?” Don nodded.
“He calls up strangers. Mostly women; that’s how he got his name. He calls them up, gives him 100 million dollars, then hunts them one year later. He hunts for 10 years, no one’s ever survived more than 3.”
“No one?” Don asked. “How many victims have there been to use a term like, ‘no one‘. Why aren’t the police doing anything?” Tina narrowed her eyes at Don.
“You really don’t know,” she said. “How do you not know?”
“More importantly, police?” Don changed the subject, Tina shrugged.
“It’s been going on for hundreds of years, it’s not one guy. Police are either corrupt or incompetent. Same for the FBI; they can’t seem to find any leads or even track the money. Conspiracy theories say it’s just legalized murder for rich people. You saw the waitress,” Tina tilted her head toward the kitchen. “People accept it as the way things are.”
“No…,” Don looked into Tina’s eyes and smiled. “It’s time for things to change,” he said. He tilted his body and stretched out a long leg to reach into his jeans, then he pulled out a small glass card. It took Tina several moments to realize it was a phone; Don gave it away when he put it up to his ear.
“Donald Hinojosa, S.E.N. Dustbunny558026Delta,” he waited a moment, then started speaking again. “Service Request,” he paused.
Tina was about to ask what he was doing, but he started again.
“Century. No, it’s not a server,” he said, then listened. “Yeah, that’s the one. Is there anything about a Gentleman Caller? That’s right. Shut it down, make sure the victims know they’re safe. Thanks. Alright, see you Monday. Bye.”
“What was all that about?” Tina asked the moment he put the glass card down. Don smiled.
“I haven’t told you about the company I work for yet, have I?” he asked. Tina shook her head.
“You said I.T., but we hadn’t gotten that far yet.” Tina’s eyes dipped to the complete slice of pizza on her plate. “We haven’t gotten very far at all, I guess.”
“It’s a company that you probably haven’t heard of yet,” Don said. As he spoke Tina’s phone vibrated with a text message. The phone won her attention as Don finished his thought. “It’s called Sharp Development.”
“OH MY GOD!” she shouted. To her credit, the waitress was at the tableside in the blink of an eye.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“YESS!!” Tina cheered and handed her phone to the waitress. She read the text aloud.
“The organization known as the Gentleman Caller is disbanding. If you are receiving this message, you are no longer scheduled for a hunt. Please keep the money already deposited in your account, you will never hear from us again. Thank you.”
“No way….” The waitress whispered to herself in awe. “You stopped the Gentleman Caller!??” she asked Tina as she handed the phone back. Tina shook her head and pointed at Don.
“I don’t know how, but it was him.” The waitress turned her attention to Don.
“How’d you do it!?” she asked. Don smiled.
“When you work for Sharp Development, there’s not much you can’t do.”