Doyle swiveled in his chair, picked up the telephone and raised it to his ear. “Hello?” His voice was cautious and firm, suspicious of who could be on the other side.
The return of his father’s voice allowed him to relax slightly. Doyle’s eyes were fighting to stay open. His father was meant to take over three hours ago, on the strike of midnight but Doyle’s father was unpredictable. He enjoyed the nightlife scene. A road trip thrilled him. For all Doyle knew, he could be across the Atlantic by now. His father couldn’t stay in one place too long; the more roots he set down, the more people were out for his blood.
That being said, it wasn’t uncommon for Doyle to be here longer than expected but tonight was pushing his limits.
It hadn’t been easy as a child–in fact, it was hell. They were never in one place for more than a year. His father conveniently forgot to pay for utilities during the winter months when they couldn’t be shut off. And Doyle never made any real friends. Even now, he was trying to make ends meet after dropping out of high school by working for his father’s newest business. A technology company.
No. Let’s be honest with ourselves, it was not a moral technology company. It was a complete invasion of privacy–camera hacking. That was Doyle’s job. He was smart and quick witted, especially with technology and so, when he was laid off from his third job in eight months, his father had hired him.
Doyle would hack into the system, then transfer the latest information to his father’s office. It made Doyle feel less immoral when he didn’t have to look into the cameras. But when his father was late, he was required to watch. Somedays, it was all right but other times, he would begin to twitch in disturbance. He couldn’t force himself to look. He would take the opportunity to grab a glass of water, although his water bottle was full or snag a snack from the dingy break room.
Everyday that Doyle entered the office and threw himself down in the raggedy-old office chair with two broken screws, he hated himself. He avoided mirrors because all he saw in them was the putrid glare of a homewrecker. The face of a man, who really didn’t even deserve to be called a man, that was ripping away the comfort and security that everyone deserved. But let’s face it, Doyle had no options left. His father had burned all his bridges before they were even built. Doyle needed money and a future, and his father was offering to provide him both.
Nothing could throw a reputation away quicker than working for Doyle’s father.
“Yeah, Doyle, that you?” His father’s voice on the other end of the call was hardly audible over the deafening music and other mysterious voices around him.
“Yeah. It’s me.” He lightly tapped his fingers against the receiver, knowing the answer to his next question but daring to ask it, anyways. “When are you coming in?”
“Actually, that’s what I was calling for–one moment.” He shifted his attention, “I’m on the phone with my son. No, my son. Yes. I’ll be there in a moment, sweetheart.”
Doyle raised his shoulders and let out an exasperated sigh.
“It’s different this time Doyley, I promise. She’s–she’s-”
“Dad-” Doyle cut him off. He couldn’t stand to hear about the next hookup and their newfound ‘romance.’ “It’s fine. I’ll cover for you.”
“You’re the best! I owe you, bud.” The line went dead.
“Yeah, no problem.” Doyle whimpered, long after his father had broken the call. He bit the inside of his lip and threw down the receiver, wishing for once, that he meant more to his father than the random girls he hooked up with.
He allowed his forehead to lightly fall onto the desktop. The cool glass made him shiver. His eyes drooped, the welling tears overpowering his sleepiness. For once he missed high school and the opportunities. He hated this crappy job. This run-down office. This broken desk chair. The people he was watching. He hated his father for ruining the life he could’ve had. For running away from his problems and roping Doyle into this degrading business.
He hated it. All of it. But most of all, he hated himself for getting wrapped up in this mess.
As his head was resting against the desktop, Doyle heard his computer ding. The noise was ever so slight but he had been programmed to snap upward, through his agony and respond.
One of his computers was on.
He lifted his groggy head, trying to force his own thoughts out of his mind. He stared into the monitor and at the grainy image a young girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old. For the most part, her features were blurred but her shoulder length, brunette hair made her look as though she had been electrocuted as every strand chose a different direction to turn.
She was frantic. Her fingers were beating at the keyboard. Her eyes continuously moving from the screen to the door behind her. Her body vibrated as her leg bounced rapidly. The right side of her nose twitched ever so slightly. Her eyes were blinking quickly, as though she was busy and losing sight of her balance.
Doyle moved in closer.
What in the world could have her so panicked?
The sight made Doyle forget he was watching a real live human and not a reality TV show. The suspense was killing him. Or was it killing her? He had no idea. Who was on the other side of that door that she was so terrified of? What was on her monitor? What was she typing?
She took a split second to collect herself. Her shoulders bounced up to her ears and fell, again in a long, dramatic sigh. Her hooded brown-eyes disappeared for a moment before she opened them and brought them back to life, again. She managed to stop her crazed twitching nose from twitching. Whatever had been behind the door didn’t matter to her, now. She looked at peace.
The longer she sat there in harmony, the more bored Doyle grew. Clearly, she had found what she needed and not been generous enough to share the information with Doyle. But he was growing frustrated, too. How could her life go from unnerving chaos and fire to complete stillness? What about his life? How could a few sighs and deep breaths bring her such peace?
Doyle tried it.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out, just as his high school choir teacher had taught him. He tried it, again. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. He closed his eyes for a long moment, then opened them. Close. Open. Close. Open. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
He only felt more tired now that he had seen the darkness behind his eyelids and he couldn’t help imagining the comfort of his bed.
Still frustrated, Doyle slapped his hands onto the desk and stood up, whipping the chair behind him. It fell onto its back, the wheels spinning in the air. He lowered his chin into his chest and huffed.
The girl still looked at peace. She had now set her head against her right shoulder. Doyle pretended that she had reached solidarity with him, although he knew it was impossible. Even though he knew that she was unaware of his presence, despite the noise he had made by sending the chair flying into the floor.
In disbelief, he shook his head and marched into the break room. He groped the wall until he found the light switch and angrily, he turned it on.
Sitting under the flickering light was an open pizza box with three slices remaining his father hadn’t bothered to clean up after himself. Flies were swarming the box, hungrily devouring the treat. He shooed them away, packed up the box and tossed it in the trash, realizing that he hadn’t prepared a late night snack for the extra shift he had been asked to cover.
He groaned. Seriously, could this night get any worse?
Doyle threw his head back, questioning how he was going to make it through the eternity of this night without falling asleep or starving to death.
An ear piercing, high pitched cry cut through his subconscious self-pity filled thoughts. He raced back to his desk, not even taking the time to turn off the light, or worry about the electricity bill that his father would chew him out for.
It took a moment to register that it was the girl on his computer monitor who had let out the gut wrenching cry. Her cheeks had been bloated by tears. She had reverted back to shaking and twitching.
He hadn’t been gone that long, had he?
He pressed his hips up against the desk and leaned into the monitor. What was happening? He craned his neck, hoping he could look further into her screen but it was pointless. Her surroundings hadn’t changed, nor had her position. Just her body language.
She was tense and overwhelmed. Her eyes were dashing, her ears on high alert. It wasn’t possible that she had heard him, was it? No, that couldn’t be. He hadn’t been in the room when she cried out.
Mass confusion cluttered Doyle’s brain as he stood watchfully, hoping to see answers unfold in front of him. The longer he watched her fall apart, the faster his heart raced. His hands were twitching like a frightened rabbit. All too quickly, he was absorbed back into the horrifying real world of this reality TV show.
For a moment, the girl disappeared under the desk. Doyle held his breath. When she returned he clenched up in horror.
Loosely dangling from her fingers was a rope.
But not any old rope. A perfectly tied noose was swaying back and forth in her grasp.
Doyle brought his shaking hand to his lips. Audibly, he gasped. His stomach dropped the three floors of the office building and smacked hard against the concrete at ground level. He fell into the desk and clutched on tight, daring to look at the screen.
Doyle shook his head in disbelief. Cursing repeatedly under his breath, he reached for the
receiver. Gladly, he tore his eyes from the screen and watched his trembling fingers attempting to find the numbers on the telephone. The same phone that he had heard his father’s voice on not so long ago.
9, he dialed, 1, and then his finger hovered over the final one. A daunting realization fell over him. Her computer was a new hookup. He hadn’t downloaded any information from her PC to his monitor. All he was logged into was the camera.
He smashed his head against the desk. How would he explain himself anyway? Or the situation? How would he tell the police where to go and what to look for when he didn’t even know himself?
He didn’t have so much as a name, let alone an address.
The receiver slipped from his hand and dangled in front of his kneecap. It continued to call out to him but he had no answer.
Lost and unsure of what to do, he tore his vision from the swaying receiver and glanced back up at the monitor.
The girl had found her place on a low stool that allowed her to access the light fixture in the room. Welled with tears, her eyes transferred from the rope to the light. Her nose twitched. Her hand wiped a tear from her cheek. Her fingers trembled.
Her delicate hands were looping through the rope, attempting to understand how it worked. She pulled, then loosed. Pull. Loosen. Pull. Loosen. She looked up at her screen–at him and blinked slowly. What was she thinking about? What had brought her to this point?
He couldn’t bear to watch.
As he turned away, an imagined story flourished in his mind. Parents divorce? Abuse? Bullying? There were so many possibilities but he couldn’t comprehend how any of them had brought her to this solution.
Doyle felt completely helpless. He wanted to reach through the screen and pull the rope from her hands but she was unaware of his existence or that he was watching her in this vulnerable moment.
It suddenly crossed his mind how deep of an invasion of privacy he had reached. He had crossed boundaries before, morally and definitely legally, but this was raw. Real. It wasn’t a reality TV show, anymore.
He felt his head involuntarily shake. These people were 2-D. Not real. She’d wake up tomorrow morning and be okay. A TV show.
He beat his dry tongue against the roof of his mouth as the realization hit him like a ton of bricks. This was happening. For real.
“No!” He huffed. “Stop, please!” Now it was his turn to beat frantically at the keyboard. Quickly, he tried to download any information at all but the file was blank. All he had was her helpless face and absolutely no way to help her.
Doyle lifted up the receiver and took in a deep breath. 9, he dialed. 1. 1.
It rang. Once. Twice.
A voice. “911 what’s your emergency?”
“Hello. I’m watching a young girl take her own life.”
“Excuse me?” The dispatcher asked, clearly startled.
“She’s preparing to commit suicide.”
“What’s the address?”
Doyle gave them the address to his father’s business, then mumbled a harsh curse word.
“We will send someone right over.”
He drew in a sharp breath. “She isn’t here.”
“Excuse me?” The dispatcher repeated.
“She’s not here. Um,” he paused, unsure of how to word the situation. “She is online.”
An electronic buzz weighed down the air between them. Realistically, it only lasted a second or two but Doyle could’ve sworn that minutes had passed.
“Of course,” she mumbled, fumbling with something on the other end. “Okay. Thank you. We’ll see what we can do.”
The line went dead.
“Thanks,” Doyle whimpered long after the call had ended. Still pressing the phone intensely to his ear, he looked up at the young girl’s face. He tried to memorize every crease that her crying face made. He tried to photocopy the image into his brain, no matter how badly he wanted to look away.
She swung the noose around the light fixture and tugged. Sturdy. With her right foot, she practiced how she would kick the stool from beneath her when she was ready. Just like before, she took a deep breath in and exhaled. In. Out. In. Out. In.
The screen went black.
“No!” Doyle cried out. He dropped the phone and clenched his hands around the monitor. With all his might, he shook the screen, hoping it would come back to life.
But it never did. She was gone and he wasn’t even sure if she was really gone.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Doyle’s mind returned to reality. Someone was knocking on the door. They were angry.
He dropped to the floor, his dizzy mind in a frenzy around him. He couldn’t see properly. He was trying to keep his eyes locked on the monitor but he couldn’t hold his head up. It was so easy for his eyes to close.
He could picture her. Those tearful eyes. The wrinkles her crying face had birthed. The twitching nose and tense posture.
All of the sudden, an officer was lifting his limp body off the ground, raining words on him. So many words. Doyle’s mind failed to process them.
“Did you save her?” His screeching was drowned out by the obnoxious sound of the handcuffs clicking around his wrists. “Did you save her?” There was no answer, only a flashing of red and blue lights that blinded his vision.