Hello. You have three unheard messages.

First unheard message: Sent Tuesday, August 9th, at 5:06 am:

"Hey, It's Brigid. I've been trying your mobile for an hour and a half, now, but you're not answering it, either. That had better be because you have your ass in seat 3E, right now. I told you the last time, if you oversleep and miss a flight again, I'm going to let myself into your loft while you're away, abduct your stupid fucking figurines and replicas to an undisclosed location, and hold them for ransom. Love you."

End of message. To repeat this message, press-

Message deleted.

Next message: Sent Sunday, September 4th, at 11:23 am:

"Wha- it beeped. H-hello? Um. I guess I spaced and missed the outgoing…God, I hate leaving voice messages. I always end up sounding like such an asshole. Okay, sorry! Um. Geez, get it together, Patrick-"

A muffled huff of breath.

"I know it's not really proper post-date protocol to be calling less than 24 hours after…but, I just- last night was really awesome. I'm sure it was obvious how nervous I was, at first. I really didn't expect to be able to talk to you for hours, like that! Normally, guys run screaming long before I even get a chance to invite them back to my…Well, anyway, I'm kicking myself, because I apparently sleep like a corpse and didn't hear you leave, this morning. I know you said you had to get home in time to shower and grab your luggage before you headed to the airport. I had totally planned to get up early and scrounge some breakfast- or at least some coffee -so you wouldn't need to stop to eat on the way. Fuck, I'm babbling. Heh…sorry. I'm probably gonna run out of time and get cut off. I just really wanted to say, um, thanks for a super-neat time. It's been a while for me, and I wasn't really sure the whole internet dating thing would be a good idea, but I…I really like you, and- "

End of message. To repeat this message, press one. To save it, press two. To erase it, press three…

To repeat this message, press -

"Wha- it beeped. H-hello? Um. I guess I spaced and missed the outgoing…God, I hate leaving voice messages. I always end up sounding like such an asshole. Okay, sorry! Um. Geez, get it together, Patrick-"

A muffled huff of breath.

"I know it's not really proper post-date protocol to be calling less than 24 hours after…but, I just- last night was really awesome. I'm sure it was obvious how nervous I was, at first. I really didn't expect to be able to talk to you for hours, like that! Normally, guys run screaming long before I even get a chance to invite them back to my…Well, anyway, I'm kicking myself, because I apparently sleep like a corpse and didn't hear you leave, this morning. I know you said you had to get home in time to shower and grab your luggage before you headed to the airport. I had totally planned to get up early and scrounge some breakfast- or at least some coffee -so you wouldn't need to stop to eat on the way. Fuck, I'm babbling. Heh…sorry. I'm probably gonna run out of time and get cut off. I just really wanted to say, um, thanks for a super-neat time. It's been a while for me, and I wasn't really sure the whole internet dating thing would be a good idea, but I…I really like you, and- "

To repeat this message, press one. To save it, press two. To-

Message saved for fourteen days.

Next unheard message: Sent Wednesday, September 7th, at 5:20 pm:

"Oh! Um. Hi, Dan, it's Patrick. From last Saturday? I guess you just don't have an outgoing message on your machine, huh? Listen, I'm sorry if that message I left the other day was incoherent. My brain doesn't work too good when I first wake up. I know you're probably still out of town, but if you'll be back in time for the weekend, I was hoping we might get together for some dinner, or maybe a couple of drinks. You said you're not really into the bar and club scene, but I know this great hole-in-the-wall, uptown, that has a juke box full of oldies, and a super-extensive import menu that even has about 5 different Belgian trappist ales that are nearly impossible to find in the States. It's very chill, and it's one of the few places in the city that allows customers to smoke cigars at the bar…I was thinking you might enjoy that, since you've been all over Europe…and stuff. So, um, I guess just give me a call when you get back. Or, you know, whenever you're free. Oh! Uh, this is Patrick, by the way. I don't know if I said that, or not. Okay. Bye."

End of message. To rep-

Message saved for fourteen days.

Next unheard message: Sent Yesterday, at 10:15 am:

"Larson, it's Brigid. You're not clever, you know. You think I can't tell that you've been deliberately sending my calls to your mobile straight to voicemail? You can't hide from me forever. I know where you live, you jerk. Look, I know we said that once you got back from the tour, you'd be taking a few months off to decompress, but I just got a call from Rough Trade Comics. They wanted to thank you again for your donation after the flood, and to let us know that they've finished their renovations. The Post is doing a story on the whole thing, and I thought it would be great press for the new book if you showed up for their grand re-opening. Just for an hour, you know? Do a few signings, pose for a couple of pictures with fans, and then I swear, you won't hear another peep from me until Christmas. Don't bother returning my call to say 'no,' I've already told them you'd be there. It's on the 18th at 3pm, so you have almost a whole week to be mad at me, but I'll be coming to pick you up, so you'd better be ready to go on time, and be prepared to stow the bad attitude for at least the duration of the opening. Love you."

End of message. To-

Message deleted.

End of Messages.

Larson clenched his jaw and fought the strong urge to smash his answering machine with the mug of now-moldy tea that was cemented to the sticky top sheet of a notepad entitled "While You Were Out." He'd apparently forgotten it on the kitchen counter before he'd left on his convention-and-signing tour, 5 weeks ago.

In truth, he wouldn't have minded doing this one last appearance- probably would have even volunteered to do so, if he'd been given a say. It was just that Brigid's overbearing, pushy tactics infuriated him. He was a grown man, dammit. He didn't need his own PA treating him like a preschooler who was refusing to eat his peas. Fuck peas.

Larson frowned at the glop at the bottom of the tea mug, and then shuffled across the kitchen to balance it precariously on top of the tower of washing-up already living in the sink. He'd have to remember to tell Brigid to call the cleaning service, and have them send someone to take care of that. In the morning, though. He felt grimy, his back ached, and he had heartburn from eating gross airplane food. All he wanted to do was stand under a spray of hot water for 30 minutes, pour himself into his own bed, and stay there for the next 10 hours, or so.

He hoped he had some Pepto-Bismol around, someplace.

PLPLPLPLPLPL

Brigid was looming overhead and shrieking at him again, but Larson couldn't figure out what she was upset about, this time. She was so angry that she wasn't even forming words, at this point. Just…eyes squeezed tightly shut, mouth gaping, face red. She was going to rupture something, if she didn't calm down. Honestly, what could he have done already? He hadn't even gotten out of bed, yet.

He pushed his head beneath a pillow and tried to wish her away. This only cause the shrilling to go up about three octaves. Why wouldn't she just shut the fuck up and let him sleep?

Larson rolled over and kicked at the blankets, growling and blinking into what was supposed to be ambient lamplight.

"God, woman! Take a fuc-"

The room was empty. There was no Brigid.

"Wha?"

The phone was ringing.

He groaned and ran a hand over the scratchy stubble on his cheek. What time was it? What day was it?

The phone cut out, mid-ring, and Larson could hear a click from the kitchen, and the tinny echo of his answering machine beeping as it began to record.

"Hi! Um…hey. Dan. it's Patrick, again."

Larson was suddenly 50% more alert. It was the guy who had left those awkward, rambling voicemails, last week. He wasn't sure why he'd saved them…

" I can't remember if you told me when you were gonna be coming back from your trip, but I haven't heard from you, and I realized that I don't think I left my phone number in any of the messages I left you, and maybe you might have lost my card, or something?"

Whoever this "Dan" was, it seemed he had pulled a Dine-and-Dash on poor, clueless Patrick. That was just bad manners. One-night stands are fine, so long as everyone involved understands that that's what's happening. Larson scooted to the edge of the bed and reached for the cordless handset charging on the bedside table.

"I really would like to see you again. I remember, when I was telling you about some of the comics in my collection, you mentioned that you like the Spectre movies, but had never read the graphic novels."

Larson's hand froze, mid-grab.

"Well, Larson James- the guy who created the Spectre series- he posted on Twitter, today, that he's going to be doing a signing this Sunday at Rough Tr-"

"Twitter? Jesus, Brigid. I'm only supposed to be staying for an hour. The crowd is gonna be fucking ridiculous!"

"…down on 5th and Hershford Ave. I thought you might like to go pick up a copy of Volume 1 or maybe even his new graphic novel, and get it signed by the man, himself. So, uh…if you're free- oh, and interested, too, I guess - give me a call. My number is 732-0334. Or, you can call me to talk, even if you're not free, this weekend. Um…alright, bye."

Larson sat, contemplating the absurdity of the Universe. Really, what were the odds of someone dialing the wrong number and unknowingly mentioning the name of the person that they had called by mistake? He briefly considered the possibility that this was all an elaborate ruse devised by an obsessed fan, but discarded that notion. His home phone number was unlisted and billed to an alias. Not even the telephone company knew it belonged to him. Brigid was the only one privy to that knowledge…hell, the alias had been her idea.

So, what should he do about this piece of cosmic whimsy?

Patrick's voice wasn't particularly deep, but it had a slight rasp; as though he either talked a little too much, or had gone too long without talking at all. Larson decided that he found it a bit sexy.

He picked up the phone.