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Andrew Fisher’s large hand gripped the receiver as he listened to the telephone ring at the other end. Sweat broke on his brow and his skin felt clammy. He was breathing heavily. Outside he could hear magpies warbling and the gully winds caressing the tall gum trees that surrounded his isolated home in Victoria’s Dandenong Mountains an hour’s drive from Melbourne. The sounds of the bush should have been soothing, but his nerves were on edge. As the telephone continued to ring he toyed with hanging up. Yet he was unable to do so. He had thought about this telephone call for six months. It was part of his plan.
No, he thought, it was too late to hang up. That would be cheating himself. It would also be cheating Angela.
The telephone was answered and the pounding in his chest increased.
“Hullo, Ray Swift speaking” came the reply. The voice sounded old but had an enthusiastic sparkle and was a trifle posh.
Fisher took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“Good morning, Mr. Swift. My name’s Peter Davis,” he lied. “I was hoping you could help me. My wife went to school with your daughter, Angela, and I’m trying to organise a surprise birthday party for her with a number of her old school friends. I know she’d like to have Angela along, but unfortunately I don’t know her married name or how to contact her.”
Lies and truths, Fisher thought to himself, as his confidence grew. He was not married but he did know Angela. She had been one of his first girlfriends and he had not seen her since 1987.
“You’re sure you mean Angela,” came the response, this time the enthusiasm was tinged with a note of caution.
“Yes sir, I’m certain. She’s the Angela who used to go to Ridley College, isn’t she? ” Fisher tried to hide his growing excitement and feelings of anticipation. With his free hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a large white handkerchief to wipe his forehead.
“Yes, that’s right. I’m her father,” Mr. Swift replied, and the enthusiasm in his voice returned. “Sounds like a great idea, Mr. Davis. Angela doesn’t seem to mix with the Ridley old scholars. Pity, because we spent thousands on her education. Davis you said your name was? I can’t recall Angela mentioning any Davis. What was your wife’s maiden name when she attended Ridley?
Old bastard, thought Fisher, as he gazed at the dog eared Ridley College magazine published in his last year at the school, picking a likely candidate. His eye came to rest on a tall gangling girl with pimples and short hair. She was smiling and holding a violin. Obviously a member of the Ridley orchestra.
“Wendy Trott,” he replied cautiously, as he read the caption below the photograph.
“Hmmm. That name doesn’t ring a bell, but then my memory’s not what it use to be.” Mr. Swift laughed. “My Angela married a lawyer. Decent chap by the name of Peter Harvey. They live in South Yarra. Lovely suburb. Hang on, here’s the number.”
“Thanks,” said Fisher as he quickly scribbled, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything. It’s a surprise party, and I want it to remain that way. You know how secrets can leak out.”
“Suits me,” said Mr. Swift, who greatly approved of surprises, “you can rely on me to keep quiet. I think Angela will be delighted to receive the invitation. It’s always good to catch up on old friends and this sounds as though it could be a real treat for her. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your invitation.”
Fisher thanked Swift, hung up and walked from the kitchen to the lounge. He lifted the trapdoor, descended the cellar stairs and spoke to Tina, who stared at him with a glazed expression.
“I’ve found a new companion,” he said, his voice quavering with excitement, “and she will be coming here very soon.”
Tina said nothing.
Fisher continued staring at her. “Angela was my first real girlfriend. We were at school together at Ridley College and I’m sure you’ll approve of her because she’s great fun. Anyway, I really liked her when I was in high school and she thought I was pretty special, too.”
His voice became sharp. “You’ll get to meet her soon enough.”
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