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DISPATCH /Jonathan Kranz WHEN THE CALL CAME Jeff had been in the last hours of his shift, damning the thick, recycled air in the control booth. He wiped his face with a napkin that smeUed faintly of pickle and popped a breath mint into his mouth. The senior dispatcher, Marko, rested with his feet on the console, his face buried in the sports pages. At his side a small black radio, in violation of station rules, whispered country and western songs. The sweetness in the music seemed to add to the density in the air. When Marko had trained Jeff he said that the booth air was something you got used to, Uke the lack of sunUght—"and after a whUe, fresh air will taste funny to you." Jeff, who was twenty-three, hoped he would be in the poUce academy before he reached that point. He offered Marko a mint. "None for me, thanks," Marko said. There was pickle on his breath. Jeff turned to the clock. He had another hour and a half to go. A red Ught flashed on the board, signaüng an incoming caU. "You got that, kid?" Marko asked. As Marko had taught him, Jeff said, "You've reached the Brenton PoUce Department. Dispatcher Jeff Corbin speaking. This caU is being recorded." "I'm bleeding," the caUer said. "I've been stabbed." "Where are you?" he asked. There was no answer. Jeff adjusted his headset and repeated the question. His mouth turned sticky, as if he hadn't spoken in a long time. He Ucked his Ups, stinging them with mint. Static, or some kind of background noise, crackled the Une. He concentrated his Ustening, as if by focusing on his ears he could enter the caUer's room and see everything clearly before him. "At home." "Where is 'home'?" "Tm bleeding. Please hurry." The voice was difficult to place—its pitch could have been that of a boy or a grown woman. In either case it seemed far too calm, too assured, for an emergency. Jeff knew what to do with panic; he had been trained for it. He almost hoped for an outright scream or a burst of laughter. "Where is home?" he asked. "I The Missouri Review · 135 have to know where you are." He reached across the console to shut off the radio. Marko dropped his paper. "Trouble?" he asked. "No," Jeff said, "I don't know yet." He waited for an address or a loss of nerve. "You want stand-by?" Jeff pressed the headset into his ear. He tried to sink into the sounds, more as a way to distract himself from Marko's attention than from an expectation of hearing anything. He anticipated two kinds of trouble: an upbraiding for any fault in procedure, or ridicule if he should proceed with a hoax. "This may not be real," Jeff said. "What?" Jeff waved him off. "Not real. A fake." He spoke into the set. "HeUo, are you stall there?" "Curry," the voice said. "What?" Jeff asked. "HeUo?" In the sUence he tried to think of any street, any place named "Curry." He could think of none. There wasn't a place to send a car to even if it were real. He cut off the call. "What'd they say?" Marko asked. "Nothing," Jeff said. "I think it was just some kid playing with us." Jeff's pulse surprised himself. He drew a deep breath in through his nose and exhaled slowly. He wondered if he looked siUy. Marko turned the radio on again. "A Uttle spooked?" he asked. "Tm a Uttle shook up," Jeff admitted. "You never know." "You never do," said Marko. Jeff's shut ended at eight in the morning. Around eleven o'clock his phone rang at home. The desk sergeant told him he had to complete some routine paperwork that needed to be filed— immediately. He returned to the station tired and annoyed. He left it a second time with an alertness he had known only once before, when he was a kid and the doctor had called him in to remove a cast, only to re-break the bone. They weren...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 135-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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