The calls with the withheld-number continued, and my migraines grew worse.
The person who was calling me always seemed to know when I was alone. So I took to leaving it switched off. But whenever I switched it on to check whether I had any messages, the mysterious caller inevitably made his presence felt. It was not a missed call that came in when the messages did; it was always in real time.
This was spooking me out. I asked my children and my husband to swap phones with me. And the calls with the withheld-number switched to which ever phone I would be using at the moment.
I couldn’t take it any more, so I went to the Administration Department of my server. They told me I had to file a Police report, since divulging who was calling me would violate the Data Protection Act.
I went to the Hamrun Police Station, and indicated the screen of the mobile phone, which showed no less than 20 “withheld-number” calls within two hours. The Policewomen was sympathetic, but adamantly repeated what the clerk had said. She handed me a form to fill in, but I declined the offer.
As soon as I turned the corner, I smashed the phone against the wall, and then ground it with my heel. I knelt down, scooped up the pieces, and put them in my handbag, meaning to dispose of them bit by bit in each bin I came across.
I caught the bus to Valletta and bought myself a new mobile telephone from a different server. When it came to choosing the number, I asked each of the three clerks for a random pair of digits. The number these made up was fortunately available.
No sooner was the telephone functioning, than a withheld-number call came through. “See how popular you are?” joked the clerk. I nearly fainted. One of the young ladies ran to bring me a strong coffee; another gave me her chair.
I took a deep breath and told them the bare bones of what had been happening. They informed me that with them, the procedure with regard to withheld-number calls was the same as that f the other server..
The only reason I had not done it before was not to give my tormentor the pleasure of knowing he had got at me. But it was now time to change my mind.
A trace was put on all the incoming calls to all the mobile phones belonging to the members of my immediate family, so that I could continue to switch between using them. Abruptly, on Christmas Eve, the calls ceased. But, just in case they began again, I did not report this.
On January 11, I was summoned to the Police Headquarters.
“Well?” I asked, mentally going over a list of people I knew disliked me. “Did you find the culprit?”
The Sergeant smiled wryly. “Do you remember Rom Houben – that man with the locked-in syndrome, misdiagnosed as comatose for 23 years? Do you remember how he said he was aware of what was happening all the time he was said to be vegetative, and how his imagination helped him survive?” “Yes, I do, albeit vaguely,” I replied, “but what does that have to do with the calls I’ve been receiving?”
“Do you remember Marija Refalo?” “Oh, of course I do, we were best friends in Primary School. When her Irish mum died, her dad had moved back to Gozo so his mum could take care of the family, but we lost touch after a couple of years…”
“Marija married a Norwegian. She’d been on holiday here – she was the pregnant woman thrown through of the windscreen in the accident where the bus overturned…”
“She’d lost the baby and was in a coma, wasn’t she?”
“Yes. At first her husband had insisted she be given artificial nutrition and hydration. Then, he met someone else and he suddenly decided that she was suffering, and decided he should pull the plug on her, thinking he would not be found out. He is serving a prison sentence. Incongruously, the calls came from her childhood home landline number… No one lives there now.”
I flinched as if someone had slapped me. “It was Christmas Eve, wasn’t it, when he killed her?”