He gave the cord a little tug, then a series of slightly harder ones. Solid.
Thin sure fingers explored the smooth surface of the jack. No cracks, firmly affixed, clean. He raised his hand and delicately tongued the tips of his fingers. Gently, he rocked the connection, tweaking it left and right, up and down. The give was perfect. He pressed on the jutting tab with his right middle finger, holding the wire firmly with the other fingers. It popped out of the wall willingly. He’d already tested those connections; an easy push, and the jack clicked palpably back into place. He removed it again.
The body then.
It was a cream-colored Sayatya 220 touch-tone, redial and twenty memory buttons. Four of those were used, the spaces beside the button neatly labelled EMERGENCY, POLICE (NE), FIRE (NE), and HOSPITAL (NE). The plastic casing was slightly deformed at one corner. That seemed the obvious culprit but he’d been down that road before; it didn’t pay in the long run to go in Easter egging, too easy to miss something.
Accordingly, he let it lie there a moment without touching it, centering himself. Taking a moment to stretch, winging back those shoulders.Vertebrae popped like line breakers after a lightning strike. The only other sounds were from outside: swish of traffic, white-noise burr of engines, the occasional horn beep. Rush hour, day’s end, the homing masses.
He was ready. Hitching up his tool belt he flipped out the wide flathead screwdriver he knew was the perfect pry for this case. He laid it on the little table and with both hands lifted the phone to eye level. The casing was clean, the cable disappeared smoothly into it – a hardwired connection, which he preferred. The fewer breaks in the copper the better the circuit. He cradled the phone in one hand, picked up the flathead with the other, slotted it into the the widest part of the crack. One easy twist, a slide down the groove, another twist, and the gleaming innards lay exposed.
Replacing the pry in his belt he pulled a compact multimeter from his shirt pocket. His eyes twitched toward that one corner but he remained methodical, checking each stiff connecting wire from the jack contacts to the slick green PCB, then tracing each etched snake from point to silver-soldered point. All gooood, sang the continuity buzzer’s whine, all gooood. Through every switch, across every button bridge as he pressed them: gooood, falling silent as he released the pressure.
Even that suspicious corner was unaffected; the damage was purely superficial, just a ding to the plastic casing, not affecting functionality. Frowning, he double, then triple checked everything, meticulously. All gooood, all gooood, all good. Nothing.
He snapped it back together. For the first time there was a hint of jerkiness in the motion of his hands. He took a deep breath, held it a moment, exhaled slowly and deliberately. Plugged the phone back into the wall jack.
The handset came to his palm with the easy sureness of good ergonomic styling. Like the hilt of a dagger, he thought. Good clear dial tone, just the right amount of echo from his breath’s hiss in the mouthpiece. He dialed 711 and replaced the handset. Nothing! His heart hesitated a beat, then he grunted, remembering the change in protocol. Lifting the handset again he dialed the number of the phone itself. The tones were clear and distinct, pure digital tones, no static or wavering. He listened for the ring signal, then rehooked. The ‘bell’ warbled its electronic song, confirming its satisfactory condition.
He hung up again. Light glancing off the handset revealed a light patina of sweat. He wiped it dry with the clean rag from his jeans’ back left pocket, then his face and hands.
It was getting dark now, and the traffic sounds outside were diminishing, replaced by the indistinct shouts of children, distant barkings of dogs. He switched on the lamp. He looked at the phone, the perfect phone, and he waited, sitting still as a paralytic on his couch he waited, waited, waited.
It didn’t ring.
Squeezing his suddenly burning eyes shut, he drew in a deep breath. Another. Then looked at the phone again.
He reached out and gave the cord a little tug.