For a couple of days, the incident was always at the back of my mind, but slowly I began to forget it. It must have been about a week later, when they called me at work. I had just put down the receiver after making a sale, when the phone rang.
‘Hello, David? Or Sahil, should I say? I thought that you’d forgotten me.’
‘Who is this?’
‘Don’t you know? Can’t you remember? You called me last week. My name is Williams.’
‘I thought that I would call you to let you know that my computer is running absolutely fine.’
‘I really appreciate your concern, though, but it was unnecessary. So I’ve saved myself some money, haven’t I?’
We are taught that if we have a difficult telephone conversation, then we should try to take control, and so I tried that now, as if the caller was just another difficult customer.
‘Mr Williams,’ I attempted to sound far more confident than I actually felt, ‘might I ask where it is that you are calling from?’
‘Can you not remember? Oh, I suppose that you have so many numbers to call. Mine is a Delhi number, Sahil. Do you remember it now?’
‘There is really no reason why I should, Mr Williams…’
‘As I have just told you, I really do appreciate your concern, and I am pleased to find that you are so obviously such a kind and conscientious fellow. I am sure that, in turn, you will be pleased to learn that because of that I am going to be taking a keen interest in your career, so I will be keeping a close eye on you from now on.’
The line went dead.
Like every other line in the building, my telephone was simply an extension number, so there would not really be any point in my getting it changed. The caller might have asked for my extension, or they might have requested me by name. There was no way to find out which it was. For a moment, I thought of telling my supervisor what had happened, but decided it would sound foolish and he would probably not believe me, anyway. I’m not sure I believed what was happening at that point, either, but I did feel a little scared.
Two days later Mr Williams called me again. This time, his tone was rather different.
‘Hello, Sahil. This is Mr Williams here. Have you made many sales since we last spoke?’
‘Look,’ I tried, ‘where did you get hold of my number?’
‘You are not answering my question, Sahil.’ His voice was soft but unpleasant. ‘Have you made many sales since we last spoke?’
‘I don’t think that is any…’
‘Do you know, Sahil,’ he interrupted me, ‘that many people do not like aggressive salespersons calling them up and trying to coerce them into making purchases? Trying to get them to part with their money for no good reason? I have been thinking about that, and I have decided that a nice fellow like you really should not be in this line of work.’
‘I am not going to be lectured at by you!’ I said hotly. ‘I demand that you tell me…’ I realised that the line that I was talking to was dead.
That evening he called me at home, on my mobile. Often, if the caller display indicates a number withheld, then I don’t answer. This time, though, I did.
‘Sahil,’ said the familiar voice, ‘I hope you are thinking about what I have said to you.’ Desperately, I stabbed the button to end the call, and then stood in the middle of the room, staring down at the phone. I couldn’t think clearly; I just felt an awful panic. ‘This is stalking!’ I thought to myself. ‘And no one would believe me if I told them!’ It was no good my thinking it was impossible for him to have my mobile number, for he clearly had.
My phone rang again maybe another dozen times that evening before I switched it off completely. Then, in the morning, I noticed that I had one voicemail message. Although I knew who it would be from, I still listened to it. It was very brief.
‘I wouldn’t want you to get hurt, Sahil.’
I tried my best to act as though there was nothing wrong at work, but I found it very difficult to focus. All went as normal, however, until the afternoon. I had been back at my desk for no more than five minutes, and just put down the phone when it rang again. I hesitated and then, as it might well be a supervisor calling, I knew I had to answer it.
‘Hello, Sahil. Do you think that you can hide from us for ever, then?’
Us! I shivered, and my mouth became very dry. I looked around desperately, noticed that a supervisor was nearby, and silently I beckoned him over. I thought that if I could keep the caller talking, and hand the phone to my supervisor, then ‘Mr Williams’ would at the very least say something incriminating. Unfortunately, though, just as the supervisor reached me, the phone line went dead.