For the forty-second day in a row you arrive at work and find that there is an offensive voicemail waiting for you.
“You left without paying and you will soon do so you fucking bitch. Nobody leaves without paying. Understand?”
You replace the handset and feel the sick sensation rising inside you again. Why does this keep happening. You do not recognise the voice, in fact it sounds somehow synthesised or distorted, no doubt to mask who it is. Notwithstanding this, you know where this message came from. All forty-two messages will be from the same source. The messages are always left on your work voicemail, never anywhere else. They are left at different times, always different times but at some point between 9pm and 6am, accordingly you are never at your desk when the message comes in. You would deactivate your voicemail but you need it and of course I know this. That is why the messages are always left there. You have changed your work telephone number three times and you really do not want to ask the infrastructure team to have to do it again. You saw the eye-rolling last time. It is not as if they cannot believe you, you have played the messages to them but you know what they are thinking.
“Deal with it, it is just some crank who will tire of it soon enough.”
Well six weeks have passed and there is no sign of tiring, not a sniff of fatigue. The messages are as savage and as vitriolic as usual. You changed the number but still the messages got through. Someone here is obviously telling me about the changes. Who could it be? Someone in the infrastructure team? Your secretary? Another colleague? So many potential suspects but then you always did wonder why I took such an interest in meeting so many people from where you worked. So many people to choose from, to recruit, to ensure one or more has become a lieutenant and ready to assist me in my work. It could be anybody out of twenty people and you cannot go around accusing them without some concrete evidence. You can imagine the reaction if you did this and also the repercussions with human resources. This is another fact that we know and wish to exploit.
You tried to ignore the messages but after fourteen days of it, with the messages making threats about retribution and revenge you eventually confronted us. We pleaded innocence and told you that we would not do something like that. We looked shocked and concerned but then we would since you took a witness with you. Still we enjoyed the fuel from you turning up at our door. We tried to get you to come in so we could discuss it further but you must have been alerted to the whine of the hoover as you stood firm. There is time yet. There is always time. We know that your defences can be breached. You just showed us this to be the case and therefore we will keep pressing, probing and looking for that opportune moment.
The messages tend to stick to a theme of punishing you and that is what makes you think it is me. You hoped your pleas on the fourteenth day went heeded, that even though we had denied it, you were on to us. The next morning you saw the red light flashing on your ‘phone indicating that you had a voicemail message from overnight. You toyed with getting someone else to listen but then it might be something else so you dialled the code and listened.
“Think you can stop the punishment do you? Never. You have sinned and you must atone.”
You sat down and began to cry as the words, each one spat out in a staccato style had their effect. You begged for a truce. Why would we agree to that when we know the effect that our words will be having on you. We may not be able to see you as you receive each one, every morning, but we know you well enough. We know you will be angered and then shocked and nervous, dreading accessing your voicemail box. We need not see your reaction. It is enough for us to know how you will be reacting and thus we achieve our aim of garnering fuel from you.
By the twenty-third day you had involved infrastructure in trying to trace where the call was coming from but they drew a blank. By the thirty-seventh day you had opted to call in her majesty’s finest to solve the problem. You had saved all the messages and handed over the audio file of this disembodied voice. You somehow managed to persuade the police to visit me and I was of course most co-operative and charming. I let them look through my call list on my mobile phone which had no evidence on it. I even produced evidence that demonstrated that I could not have made those calls even if I had wanted to on several of the nights in question and that convinced them that they were barking up the wrong tree. Of course they were, you do me a dis-service if you think I would get my hands dirty with this particular campaign. I have others to do this for me, to avoid detection and still I get to gather the fuel as I picture your frightened and shocked reaction as I still manage to penetrate your attempts to evade me.
You are wondering when it will end. Surely I will not keep this up forever? Surely I will move on to someone else and be preoccupied with them? I have someone else and they are far better than you but you still deserved to be tormented and tortured for your treachery and your deceit. You deserve to be punished. You think it must end soon. I know it won’t. Not while you continue to give me what I want. In addition, I know I have the ace up my sleeve that I can use the ending of this campaign as a way to bring you back into the fold. If you give you and me another chance, this can all stop can’t it? Make it go away by just accepting my terms and you can bring this campaign to an end. It is not time for that yet however. I feel no need to bring you back as my primary source. I have one in place, no thanks to your sudden treachery. No, there is much mileage in this malign hoovering for some time yet. This will not be ending soon.