Chapter 11:// The Voice

DailyVariety.com

San Francisco network affiliate KTLZ signed Hu Linn Chi to a two-year contract as Lifestyles reporter, replacing veteran Anji Anderson. The move is seen as part of the network’s overall strategy to reach a younger, hipper, more ethnically diverse demographic.

Anderson was nearing forty minutes on the stair climber. Her work-out music mix drowned out everything except the pain. The sweat and the rage poured from her body.

How could they replace her? She wasn’t old. Not yet.

She kept driving forward.

The Bay Club was pricey and exclusive, filled with high-powered business types and trophy wives. More than once she thought she saw them whispering and pointing. Her professional demise was in the trades. She burned with humiliation.

Without another network-level job, she couldn’t afford this gym, much less her condo. Her credit card balances kept her driving forward, legs burning.

She had saved nothing. She had been projecting an image of success. The reality of her modest roots was something she’d tried to hide even from herself. Her artificial world was coming down around her ears. They’d call it vanity. No one would understand that it was more than that. It was ambition. It was a willingness to risk everything. Wasn’t that admirable?

Anderson’s cell phone lit up and vibrated on the tray in front of her. She stopped and pulled her earbuds out. She steadied her breathing and considered not answering it. It vibrated again.

It could be Melissa with news of a job. She checked the display. The caller’s number was unknown.

Anderson let it ring one more time, then answered it. “This is Anji.”

“Is this…Anji…Anderson?”It was a strangely clipped and measured voice. A woman. British.

“This is she.”

“Was that a yes?”

The sound was odd. It must be an overseas call. “Yes.I’m Anji Anderson. Who is this?”

There was a pause. “I’m calling to let you know about a news story. A story that’s about to happen.”

“I don’t know how you got this number-“

“You just lost your job. I can give you a big news story. Are you interested?”

Anderson just stood there, trying to decide. What was this, some sort of telemarketing scam? Was it another stalker?

“I didn’t hear you say anything. Do you want the information? Just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”

She tried to imagine what Christiane Amanpour would do. “Okay. I’m listening.”

“‘Okay’ is not ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You must understand before we continue that this is not a person. This is an interactive voice system. It can only understand certain things you say.”

Anderson hung up. Damned telemarketers.

Her phone rang again almost immediately. She let it go to voice mail. Psycho telemarketers.She looked around for someone who might be staring at her. No one seemed to be watching.

Her phone beeped, and the text VOICE MESSAGE appeared on her display. She stared at the text, waiting for the phone to ring again. It did not.

She speed-dialed her voice mail and put the phone to her ear, then pulled it away again and tapped in her voice mail password. Phone to ear once more.

The familiar computer voice said, “You have…one…new message.”

The message played. It was that measured female British voice again. “Anji, watch the news tonight. The biggest news story in the world is about to occur in Thousand Oaks, California. The next time I call, perhaps you’ll listen.”

Anderson saved the message. Should she tell someone? Should she call the police?

What if the voice was telling the truth? She thought about that again: what if it wastelling the truth? She considered it some more, then grabbed her water bottle and hurried toward the locker room.

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