Web Site: Carl Alves author site
When Mel Tesauro finds a house intercom at a store, he thinks it will be the perfect present for his wife. Little does he know that it is about to poison his mind and destroy his life
By Carl Alves
Mel Tesauro came to an abrupt stop when he saw it. There it was on the shelf of the electronics store, beckoning him to pick it up. Tania would love this, he thought. Perhaps he could give it to her as an extra birthday gift. He had already spent more money than he had planned on the pearl necklace that he bought her, but what the hell, a home intercom system would be cool. He brought it to the counter, convinced this was a terrific purchase.
Mel sat at his desk in his den at home, brooding over the report. Earlier that afternoon at work, his boss Sam Woodson, told him to review the report written by one of his colleagues. He couldn’t believe it. It was all his work. His colleague, Larry Davis, had stolen it from him. He slammed his fist on his desk. He contemplated saying something to Woodson about it, but knew it would be futile. It would be Mel’s word against Davis’ word. Woodson didn’t like him much anway, so he would probably believe Davis.
Mel sighed in frustration. The chime of the intercom startled him.
“Hey Mel, can you bring me up the laundry basket?” Tania asked.
He put the report down and grinned. “Sure thing, honey.” He knew Tania would like the pearl necklace, but he was surprised how much she enjoyed the intercom system.”
Before he exited, he turned around when he heard a hiss coming from the box. Then he heard his name. He clicked the speaker button on the intercom. “Tania?” There was no response. He shook his head and went to get the laundry basket. He frowned. That wasn’t Tania’s voice. It was a man’s voice. He was sure of it.
Mel checked underneath his bed for his checkbook when he heard a crackling hiss from across the room. His head jerked up. He looked around the room, but could not tell where the sound came from.
Mel continued looking for his checkbook, and then heard a voice. He frantically looked around the room. He opened up the door to the closet, but there was nothing inside except for clothes. “Tania,” he called out, even though he knew he was alone in the house.
He shook his head and walked down the stairs, his hands shaking. That was unlike him to get so freaked out. He forced his hands to remain steady.
Back in his bedroom, he found the elusive checkbook. And then he heard the voice again calling his name. “Who’s there?” Mel called out tentatively. “Whoever this is, stop playing around.”
“Come here, Mel,” the voice said in a level yet commanding tone.
He moved towards the voice, mystified. “Who is this?” His voice was barely above a whisper. If a phantom or some other apparition appeared, he would have a heart attack.
“Come closer, Mel.”
He inched toward the sound of the voice, and then jumped back when he heard the ringing of the intercom. Instead of answering, he ran downstairs where the second intercom was located. There was nobody there. The downstairs box rang. Involuntarily, he touched the talk button. “He-hello.”
“It is about time that you answered, Mel,” said the hollow voice on the other end.
“Who are you?”
“I am your new friend, Mel. You didn’t buy a gift for your wife when you bought me. You found your salvation.”
“Wh-what are you talking about? Is this a joke?”
A rumbling laughter came from the box. “This is no joke. You went to five jewelry stores before you bought the necklace. You were going back to your car with no intention of buying another gift, already having spent more on the necklace than you wanted to. But you were drawn to the store. You were drawn to me. Because I chose you. Do you remember?”
Mel nodded. “I remember.”
“I sought you out and you found me.”
He looked at the receiver with stunned disbelief and shook his head. He wondered if he was losing his sanity.
“You are not crazy, Mel. You truly are talking to me.”
“That is not important.”
“Well, what do you want?”
“I want to help you, Mel. I am going to make you better.”
“Remember this. From now on, I am the most important factor in your life. Not your wife, not your parents, not your boss. That is all for now. We will talk again later.”
Breathing heavy, Mel backed out of the room. This was impossible. He considered the possibility that he picked up some miscellaneous person who was on the same frequency as his intercom. But that couldn’t be the case, because the person on the other end knew who he was, called out to him in fact. But how? Spooked, Mel ran out of the house and waited on the porch until Tania arrived.
Nearly a week passed by since Mel’s conversation with the intercom. He did not tell Tania about it. She would think he was crazy. But it was all that he could think about. He barely ate and slept. Tania repeatedly asked if there was something wrong. But he insisted he was fine.
Mel stood staring at the intercom system as he frequently did these days.
“Is their something wrong with it?” Tania asked.
Mel shook his head. “Wrong? There’s nothing wrong with it. Why would you say that?”
“Take it easy, Mel. Why do you keep staring at it.”
Mel’s eyes narrowed as his anger rose. “There’s nothing wrong with it, so leave me alone.”
Tania stepped back as if she had been slapped. “Mel, what’s wrong with you. I was just asking a simple question.”
He stepped toward her, his fists balled. “You should leave. Now!”
Tears streamed down Tania’s face as Mel continued to glare at her. She left the room, and Mel buried his face in his hands. Why did he do that? He never lost his temper with Tania. She was the emotional one. He was the level headed one. Lost in thought, he continued to stare at the intercom receiver on the wall.
After nearly a week passed and he had not heard from it again, Mel started to wonder if he imagined the whole thing. But it seemed so real.
Mel jumped back when he heard the intercom’s mesmerizing voice. “It really did happen. You did not imagine it, Mel. I have not spoken to you since then because I wanted you to think about our initial contact. I am pleased that you have.”
“Of course I have. I can’t think about anything else.”
“Good. We have much to speak about, Mel. I want you to do better. Face it. You’re an underachiever. When you were in high school you could have gotten better grades, and then been accepted into a better college. And if you did better in college, you could have gotten into a good graduate school. And then maybe you could have landed a better job. If you were more aggressive, then you would not still be at your entry-level job. And let’s face it, Mel, you could have done better than Tania.”
“Yes. She is a rather mediocre wife.”
Mel tilted his face. “There’s nothing wrong with her.”
“There is,” the intercom said. “And over time you will realize this. Think about it until we next speak.”
Over the next few days, they spoke briefly. Somehow, it knew everything about him. Mel made sure he was alone in the house. He could only imagine what Tania would think if she saw him speaking to a box. But more than that, he wanted it all to himself. He did not want to share this wondrous find with his wife.
One morning before work, the intercom said, “It is about time that you start moving up the corporate ladder.”
Mel sighed. “They always overlook me for promotions.”
“You have to create your own opportunities. Mr. Woodson, has a growing heroin addiction. On Wednesday afternoon he meets his supplier on an alleyway behind Parkington Avenue, usually between five and six in the evening. Go there today and bring a camera. Take photos of the drug deal and submit them to Mr. Virgil.” Fred Virgil was the senior accounting director at Mel’s company. “You should be in a good position to take Woodson’s job.”
Mel nodded. “All right. I’ll do it.”
That afternoon, he followed Woodson as he drove to Parkington Avenue, exited his car and waited. When the dealer arrived, Mel snapped off a few shots. He smiled. He was not sure how, but the intercom knew everything. It was his ticket out of mediocrity.
The following day, he submitted the pictures to Fred Virgil anonymously. The day after he submitted the photos, two security guards escorted Woodson out of the office building. He haHHzHhhhhhhh
He had been terminated.
But the promotion that Mel had been expecting had not come. Instead it went to his co-worker, Larry Davis.
Later that day while speaking to the intercom, Mel showed his frustration. “I thought that I would get Woodson’s job.”
“The problem is that you were not aggressive in pushing for the job,” the voice said. “Must I spell everything out for you.”
Mel folded his arms. “What should I do now?”
“Go to Beckwood Pharmacy and see Jeremy, the pharmacist. Bring large quantities of cash. Ask him for the Friday Night Special. Take the contents of the packet he gives you and insert it into Davis’ morning coffee. He will become ill. This time pitch yourself for the position.”
Mel did as instructed. The day after he inserted the powder into the coffee, Davis did not come into work. When it became apparent to Mel’s employers that Davis was not going to return to work, Mel lobied for the job and got it.
Mel smiled widely when he spoke to the intercom after receiving his new promotion. “I owe you so much for what you have done for me.”
“I am here to help you, Mel. You must trust me unconditionally. Do you understand?”
“Oh I understand. Whatever you want, I’ll do it.”
“Do you know Deborah, from your office?”
“Oh yeah, she’s nice.”
“Invite her for dinner and drinks. She will accept the offer, since you are ascending the corporate ladder.”
“But what about Tania?”
“As I told you, Tania is a mediocre wife. You can do better. Deborah comes from a prominent family that has considerable wealth. You will need that for the grand designs I have for you.”
“What grand designs?” Mel asked.
“I will let you know in due time. For now ask her to go out with you?”
“You haven’t steered me wrong, yet, so I’ll do it.”
In the ensuing days and weeks, Mel spoke to the intercom system more frequently. It became a crutch. He could not make any decisions without consulting it. He no longer cared if Tania was around when he spoke to it.
The first time she saw him he speak to it, she said, “Mel?” Her voice cracked. “Mel.” Her voice had a desperate, pleading quality. She put her hand on his shoulder, and gently shook him. When he did not respond, she shook his shoulder more vigorously.
Mel turned around and glared at her. “Leave me the hell alone.” His eyes showed hatred. It was something she thought the gentle man she had married would never do.
Tania backed away, slowly at first, before running.
Downstairs, Tania sobbed softly. Over the last few months she saw her relationship with Mel splintering. He had never yelled at her during their whole marriage.
The way he treated her lately had been hurtful. She cried frequently and withdrew from the rest of the world including her friends and co-workers at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Tania prayed that this was a phase he was going through. But after what had just happened, she could no longer sit back and hope that he would change.
After Tania had shed all her tears, she went to the basement and called her brother Mike.
He answered the phone, “Hello.”
Fresh tears flowed. “Hello, Mike.”
“Tania? What’s wrong?”
“It’s Mel,” she said. She told him about what had been happening, agonizing through every moment. If she could reach out to anyone, it was Mike. A teen mentor at a local community center, he was used to listening.
When she was finished, Mike sighed. “That just doesn’t sound like Mel. He’s always been a good, caring person.”
“That makes this so much harder to take. What’s happening to him? He’s breaking apart. When I saw him talking to the intercom today, I knew something was wrong with him. And the look he gave me, if I didn’t leave I don’t know what he would have done.”
Tania waited patiently for her brother to talk. “Listen Tania, I know this is tough for you, but there are two ways to go here. Either leave him, get a divorce and go on with your life; or try to help him. He needs a psychiatrist. I would try to talk to him, but this is way beyond my understanding. But I know some capable psychiatrists that can help.”
Tania looked at the door at the top of the stairs. For a second she thought Mel was there. “I can’t leave Mel. I love him. Or at least I loved the Mel I used to know. I just… can’t imagine my life without him.”
“I’m worried, Tania. It sounds like he might turn violent.”
Tania shook her head. “Not Mel. Maybe I could help him. Do you think I could?”
“I don’t know, Tania. I’ll stop by the house and talk to him, so I can see for myself.”
“Can you please?”
“Of course. But look, you have to promise me that if he gets violent or you think you might be in danger, you’ll get the hell out of there. You always have a place to stay and someone to talk to at my house. And if Mel comes after you, I’ll take care of him.”
Tania nodded. “I will.”
Tania avoided Mel the rest of the night. She slept on the couch that evening. The following day, she told him he should see a psychiatrist.
“Why would I want to see a psychiatrist?” Mel had a sinister grin on his face. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m doing great at work, better than I ever had. I have never been better in my life. You’re just jealous. He warned me that you would bring me down. Said you’re nothing but a mediocre wife. At first I didn’t think so, but now I believe him. Oh yes I do.”
“Who are you talking about, Mel?”
“That’s none of your business. You’re just trying to bring me down.”
“I’m not trying to bring you down,” Tania said. “I just want to help you. I want you to get better.”
“Oh yeah. That’s funny.”
Tania hung her jacket on the hook next to the front door. She sat down and hung her head back. Today had been another horrible day at work. She couldn’t concentrate. All she could think about was Mel. He had to be losing his mind, having these one-sided conversations with the intercom.
She trudged upstairs, and frowned when she heard Mel’s voice. He was talking to it again. She had to confront him about it. She opened the door to their bedroom. “Mel, who are you talking to? There’s no one on the other end.”
His face contorted. “What are you talking about? I know that you’re jealous of me, but you don’t have to lie.”
“Lie?” Tania grinded her teeth. “I hear you talk, but I don’t hear anybody else. We’re alone in the house, so that means that there’s nobody on the other end.”
“You’re so stupid. Talk to Tania. Tell her something,” he said into the receiver.
Tania waited a few moments. She shook her head. “I don’t hear anything.”
Mel’s voice rose. “If you’re going to pretend that you don’t hear him speak, then leave. I’m sick of you.”
“Why do you talk to me like that, Mel? Don’t you know how much that hurts?”
“Why don’t you call somebody who cares?”
She went downstairs, called her brother Mike, and asked him to come over. When he arrived, Mel eyed him suspiciously.
“Mel, I wanted to sit down and talk to you,” Mike said.
Mel shook his head. “No. I have to leave. Now.” He bolted out of the house.
Mike sat at the kitchen table while Tania brewed coffee. She put her palm to her forehead and sighed. “I don’t even know what to do anymore. You saw how he was.”
“I know,” Mike said. “He’s a different person. It’s possible for mental disorders to manifest themselves suddenly later in life. I think that may be happening here. But once again, that isn’t my field of expertise. He needs to see someone who can help.”
“He won’t do it,” Tania said. “I told him he should see a psychiatrist and he thought that I was the crazy one. I think it has something to do with that damn intercom. He talks to it and insists that there is someone on the other end, when obviously there isn’t.”
Mike shrugged. “This intercom might be the focal point of his neurosis.”
“I tried to confront him, and he said that I was lying when I could not hear any voices coming from it. What if I get rid of it?”
“I don’t know. He might have an extreme reaction. He should be the one to realize he no longer needs to talk to the damn thing. We need him to see someone who specializes in mental disorders.”
“What if I have him committed?”
Mike shook his head. “That would be difficult. He’s functioning well at work, right?” Tania nodded. “The only place he’s dysfunctional is at home and it would be your word against his. They would never commit him.”
“Then what do I do?” Tania threw up her hands.
“There isn’t much to do if he’s not willing to help himself. Maybe you should leave him. There’s something that doesn’t seem right about him. I don’t like it.”
“I can’t give up on him, Mike. I just can’t.”
“It’s your decision. But be careful.”
Tania thought for a while. “Maybe the best thing would be for me to get rid of that stupid intercom.”
Following the intercom’s suggestion, Mel sabotaged a colleague’s project and was in line for another promotion.
He had been seeing Deborah a few times a week. At first he told Tania that he was working late, but he no longer tried to cover up. Deborah wanted him to leave his wife, but there was part of him that still had a small, emotional attachment to her.
But that part continued to erode. One day the intercom said to him, “You must dispose of your lackluster wife.”
Mel frowned. “You want me to divorce her.”
“No, Mel. You must get rid of her.”
“Yes, you must kill her.”
“But why?” asked Mel, his voice pleading.
“She is dangerous. She is a threat to everything we want to accomplish. It is not enough to tell her that you want a divorce. No, I am afraid that there is only one way out of this. She must die.”
Mel somberly nodded his head.
Each day Tania saw her husband regress. He was not the man she married. She looked at her wedding album and spilled tears onto it. Every day he became more callous.
Tania went to the garage and took a hammer out of the tool chest. There was nothing that would stop her from doing what she needed to do. She went into the basement and looked at the electronic device. She no longer saw it as a simple intercom. It was an object of evil. One that she would have to destroy in order to save her husband.
Before she had her opportunity, she heard footsteps. She looked up the stairs, and saw Mel. His eyes were cold and impassive. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked in a level tone. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” This time he screamed.
“I have to get rid of this thing, Mel. It’s tearing you apart.”
For a moment his anger faded. His shoulders stooped and he relaxed. And then he heard the voice from the receiver.
“Do you see what she means to do, Mel? She is trying to destroy us. She does not want you to become better. Kill her, Mel. Kill her now and end it.”
A cold glint entered his eyes. “It’s right. I have to kill you.”
“No,” Tania cried. “Please, Mel. I love you.”
“Don’t believe her, Mel,” the intercom said. “She will bring you down. Kill her.”
Mel nodded. His hands raised, he charged after her and grabbed her soft throat. Tania cried out. She swung the hammer, smashing the fleshy part of his thigh. Mel let go and fell to the floor.
“You stupid bitch!”
For a brief moment she considered attacking him with the hammer, but couldn’t bring herself to doing it. Instead, she ran up the stairs and into the kitchen. She grabbed the phone with her trembling fingers and dialed Mike’s number. He answered the phone. “Mike, Mel’s trying to kill me. Please help me. Oh God, please.”
“Get out of the house. I’m coming right over.”
Mel emerged from the basement, his eyes smoldering. She dropped the receiver and backed away. “I’m back. That hurt bad. You know I don’t like that.”
She stepped back. She looked into his eyes and saw that whatever sanity he had was now gone. “Please, Mel. Don’t do this.”
“You’re not getting off that easy.” Mel lunged at her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and Tania scrambled to break free. She raked his eyes. Mel shrieked and let go. She lost the hammer during the struggle and went to retrieve it. Before she could, he punched her on the side of the face, knocking her to the floor.
Tania looked up bleary eyed. Tears streamed down her face. She scrambled to the kitchen table, grabbed a chair and used it to block Mel. Every time he charged at her, she thrust the chair at him.
“Come on, honey. Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be. I need to kill you to get on with my life.”
Tania slowly got to her feet and held onto the chair. When Mel charged, she swung the chair and grazed him on the shoulder. His momentum carried him forward and they both crashed into the kitchen table.
“Shit,” she muttered. She had to find a way out of the house. He wasn’t going to hurt her, he would kill her. Tania climbed onto the table and Mel climbed after her. She jumped and ran around the side. He lunged at her, and grabbed her foot, causing Tania to trip.
Tania cried when he punched her in the back. She tried to breathe. Then Mel jumped on top of her and punched her several times, cracking her jaw and knocking two of her teeth loose.
Tania looked up and saw the room swirl. She forced herself to crawl away, as Mel let out a maniacal laugh.
He slowly stalked her. Tania’s face was swollen and she was racked with pain. Drawing strength she never knew she had, Tania still crawled away. Just as he reached her she grabbed the hammer and swung at his knees. She heard a crack as his tibia fractured.
For a while neither moved. Tania fought through the pain. She pushed the door open. On one leg, Mel hobbled after her. He held a steak knife that he had taken from the kitchen. She stepped outside. Tania screamed as her brother’s car pulled forward. Mike ran out and pulled her away from Mel. When he turned around, he could not prevent Mel from burying the knife into his stomach.
“No!” Tania yelled.
Mike dropped to his knees. Mel took the knife out of Mike’s stomach and raised it. Fighting tears, Tania picked up a loose stone, and smashed her husband in the head.
Mel was dead to her. Whatever he had been was now gone. She took the knife from his hand, and plunged it into his neck.
A siren roared in the background, as Mel choked on his own blood.
Officer Ludlow, who arrived on the scene shortly after Tania’s brother, sat in the office of homicide detective Joe Heckert. Heckert was on the phone with an electrician who had analyzed the intercom system. Ludlow and Heckert had tried it out after listening to Tania’s story the evening that she killed Mel. It did not work.
Mike had dialed 911 on route to the house. Ludlow arrived at the house shortly after him. Mike was still in the hospital. He was upgraded from critical to stable condition. Mel was dead when he arrived.
Detective Heckert hung up the phone. “Mel Tesauro must have been completely crazy. The electrician said that there was a missing wire in the intercom receivers. They couldn’t have ever worked.”
Ludlow scratched the back of his neck. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Tania Tesauro said that they had used the device for a month or so before Mel started going wacko.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Heckert.
Ludlow shook his head as he left the office. The electrician had to be wrong. Inside the house, he had heard it call out his name. He had to get the intercom system from the electrician. It had almost become a compulsion for him during the last couple days.
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