It was late, perhaps ten o’clock, and John had just finished a dinner of barbequed chicken and coleslaw. He and his wife had purchased the meat at the local deli, not having the time to do much cooking themselves. They both worked sales jobs at their respective companies, and the hours and responsibilities kept them extremely busy. Now, with the days toil behind them, John was just beginning to enjoy the mindless lethargy of the television when the phone rang.
Telemarketers had been calling John for as long as he had lived in this neighborhood. When the national no-call list had been started, John had become so inured to the continual marketing calls that he simply hadn’t bothered to register. This, of course, made him one of the few targets left to the telemarketers in his area, and he received a barrage of calls on a daily basis.
John rather enjoyed the phone calls. Being in sales himself, he fully understood how the telemarketers operated by commission and what techniques they used when cold-calling customers. He often let them make their pitch and ran them in circles, refusing to give them the “in” they were looking for, or any of the other often personal information they needed to go further with their sale. Unknown to John, however, a specific telemarketing company had been tracking its cold-call sales and had escalated John up the hierarchy of its operatives.
Level one was just a baby step, and the people there were rather polite and let you off the hook if you didn’t want to refinance. Level two was a bit more aggressive and pushed very hard for personal information. Level three was very aggressive, and wouldn’t hang up until they either made a sale or you hung up on them. And then there was level four: “The Don.” When nothing else worked, the refinance company resorted to the Don.
Now, the Don was fairly new to telemarketing. He’d retired from his previous profession, which he always refused to disclose, and though the federal government had done its best to impress upon The Don the need to keep a low profile, the old overweight man seemed to have a mind of his own. Thus when the telemarketing company hired him as a troubleshooter for their hard-call sales division, The Don reverted back to techniques that had always served him well in the past.
“Hello,” stated John as he put the receiver to his mouth.
“Hellos there,” came the whispery voice of The Don. “I represents a certain company interested in given youse the opportunity to obtain great wealth. But for youse to get a shot at this opportunity, youse must do for me before I do for you, capiche?”
John was a little surprised at the accent, and chuckled when he heard it. It sounded like it must be someone from GodFather’s with a pizza deal. Although the pizza delivery places had never taken to calling him before he called them. Still, the marketing idea was sound, and John even found it appealing. “What exactly is this opportunity?” he asked. “Two for one family size with three toppings?”
“No,” answered The Don, “This opportunity does not involve edible materials per-se. Rather, I am offerin youse the chance to refinance your home. In return for this, you will have lesser payments than youse are currently makin. This is an offer of the highest quality, and refusin it would be a stupid thing to do.”
John grew a little irritated. He wasn’t accustomed to telemarketers threatening him with an accusations of stupidity. The begging and pleading and whining, that was what he was expecting. But this fellow seemed to be coming at the pitch from a different angle, and John wasn’t too sure he cared for it. “I have no need to refinance my home,” he stated.
“And why is that?” asked The Don. “I see from this computer screen that the last time youse refinanced was six years ago. In case you ain’t been payin attention, the interest rates have gone down since then. I can save you over seventy bucks a month, and youse could definitely use that money for the extra insurance premiums youse gotta pay now that you had automobile accident last year.”
“My… How did you get that information?” demanded John.
“We gots our ways Mr. Naptin,” whispered The Don. “We gots lotsa ways. Now I suggest youse get your mortgage papers in order. My boys’ll be stopin by shortly to get your signature and I want youse to have everything ready so’s they don’t need to waste a lot of time.”
The receiver went dead, and John looked at the phone as if he were holding a snake. That was the most bizarre cold-call. Was the man serious? But no, thought John. This was merely a prank. He ought to star 69 the jerk and give him a lungful of attitude, but Jeopardy was on, so he simply turned off the phone and sat back down on the couch. In moments he forgot all about the call.
About twenty minutes went by before a knock at the door interrupted him again. “Honey, would you get that?” he yelled.
“I’m washing my hair,” came the shouted response from upstairs.
John sighed and got up. He really needed to get one of those Tivo things so he wouldn’t miss his shows. He turned to the television and loudly declared his answer to the geography question before he went to the door. Missing the reply was irritating, but it did allow him the opportunity to assume he was correct.
Looking through the glass surrounding his door, he peered out at the two people on his front porch and asked them who they were. They were dressed in black pinstriped suits and wearing hats. John thought it strange they were so large, and then he remembered the phone call. “Um…” he asked through the door rather nervously. “Who’s there?”
“Representatives of the Arbor-Hall 450 mortgage company, Sir. We’ve arrived to sign the papers you requested to initiate your refinance and your new loan.”
New loan? thought John. What were they talking about. And he didn’t want to refinance his house. Apparently that idiot on the phone had been serious. This was intolerable. “I’m not interested!” he yelled through the door. “I told your man on the phone that. I don’t want to refinance my house, and I’m not interested in a loan.”
“Open the door,” came the reply. “We can’t hear you out here.”
John hesitated only for a moment. “Go away!” he shouted. There was no way in Hell he was opening his door to these people.
“I said GO AWAY.” he bellowed.
“What’s all this shouting about?” asked his wife as she came down the stairs to stand by the door next to him.
“It’s these sales people,” he told her. “They’re here to refinance the house. I told them we weren’t interested, but they claim they can’t hear me.”
“Well open the door!” stated his wife, wondering why he hadn’t done so in the first place. And then she reached past him and opened it herself. John would have stopped her, but he wasn’t quick enough. All he could do was stand back so the door didn’t hit him in the head.
“Thank you Ma’am,” stated the man in front. He was holding a briefcase in his right hand. Behind him, the other figure held a much larger case with an odd bulge in it. His face was scarred from the upper left eye and down the cheek. They both smiled and stepped into John’s home without preamble. “This will only take a minute or two of your time,” the first man stated. Then he held out his hand. “My name’s Deak, and I’ll be helping you to get all of your papers in order.” Then he indicated the man behind him. “This is Andrew. He’s new and he’s just… here to assist me.”
John’s wife smiled and shook their hands. “That’s fine and all,” she told them, “But we’re not interested in refinancing our home. Didn’t my husband tell you that.”
“Yes youse is,” Andrew said flatly. His voice was framed in a tone that would obviously not accept “no” for an answer. “The Don sent us here to gets these papers signed, and The Don ain’t never wrong.”
Deak gave Andrew a scowl. “I’ll take care of this thank you.” And then he turned back to Mr and Ms. Naptin. “There seems to be a bit of confusion here. I’m sure we can straighten it out if I can show you the papers. Why don’t we have a seat in your kitchen.”
Without waiting for a reply, Deak moved smoothly past them and entered the kitchen area where he set down his briefcase on the table and began pulling out papers. John was starting to turn a little red at this point, growing angrier by the second. Who were these people to enter his house uninvited?
“All I really need are your signatures on these five forms,” said Deak. “Tony… I mean Andrew, give me a pen.”
The scarred man grimaced and set down his large case before digging through the breast pocked of his suit. The case thumped loudly on the wooden floor. It was obviously quite heavy. After a second of digging through his pocket, he pulled out a pen. But as he removed it another object fell to the floor and with a loud “snikt” the stiletto popped open to reveal its blade. “Oops,” muttered Andrew. “Sorry about that. Heh. Least it didn’t stick in the floor. I’d hate for the blade teh get dull.” He quickly picked it up and, “snikt,” shut it and put it back into his pocket.
The red color on John’s face seemed to vanish, and he suddenly seemed to grow quite pale. His wife, on the other hand, raised an eyebrow. “Yes,” she replied. “And I’d certainly appreciate it if you’d keep that out of sight. I don’t like knives.”
“Yes, of course,” Deak answered for his colleague. “Andrew only carries that for… grooming. You know – in case he needs to trim his fingernails or something before we meet with a client.”
Andrew sniggered at that – a dark secretive chuckle that sent chills up John’s spine. It didn’t help when the scarred man turned and winked at him.
“Just sign here, and here, and in these three spots,” said Deak as he indicated the appropriate forms. “We can take care of everything else for you. And the automatic withdrawl from your account will ensure that you never need to worry about sending us a check or handing over cash to one of our collectors. Of course, it’s understood that at the beginning of every month you’ll need to have the appropriate amount in your account for the withdrawl to take place. If you don’t, then you’ll be in overdraft.”
“I’m not signing these,” stated John as he looked at the documents. “I told you, I’m not interested in a loan or in refinancing.”
“Youse would be a fool,” whispered Andrew, “not teh take a deal like this. And I means a real fool…” Then he suddenly paused as he noticed something. “Al Capone!” he declared in answer to the Jeopardy question. Then he stopped. “I mean, who is Al Capone.” he rephrased.
They all turned to the television and watched as the answer was determined correct. “I always forgets teh phrase in the form of a question.” muttered Andrew.
John swallowed hard and considered his options. He didn’t like this situation at all, but the only way out of this he could see was to sign the papers and get these two thugs out of his house. Then he could call his lawyer and get the mortgage declared invalid. “Alright, alright,” he said, taking Andrew’s pen. And both he and his wife signed the forms on the table. “There.” he stated with relief. “You’ve got your signatures. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to… return to my show.”
Deak smiled and gathered up the documents. “Of course Sir. I’d just like to congratulate you on a very wise decision. There is one other thing I’d like to mention though. We’ll be “in the neighborhood” from time to time. We like to check up on our accounts and make sure everything’s going um… well. And it is also possible that The Don himself may even stop by for dinner with you. If so, he prefers pasta. The Don is a very busy man with a large variety of business interests. I’d advise against any legal hassles. That tends to make him cranky, and you wouldn’t like that. We’ll be in touch.”
As they left the house, Andrew turned to John and winked again. “Youse all have a good night. And drive safe when youse go places.” He turned to the Lexus in the driveway. “I hear these things got a brake line issue. You might wanna be aware of that.”
After the two of them got in their black Lincoln and drove off, John turned to his wife and let out a sigh of relief. “Thank God,” he muttered.
She nodded in agreement. “I’m going to see if I have any Ragu. We might need to pick some up at the store.”