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“911. What’s your emergency?” I said as I answered the phone.
“There’s a bat in my house.” A loud scream came over the speaker. “Send someone to come and get it.”
“Alright ma’am, I will send animal control over as soon as possible.” The caller thanked me and said she will be outside waiting. I pressed the button to dispatch the nearest unit.
I sat in my cubicle, doodling with my ballpoint pen on a piece of blank white paper. Being a dispatcher isn’t always easy. Especially in the middle of nowhere Montana with a population of 500. We get random calls about bobcats, bison, and bears coming in the front yards, teenagers prank calling because they are bored, and of course, the regular hunting emergencies. But all of this is few and far between, sometimes we can go hours without getting a call. Which makes it hard when you work the night shift alone.
“Kara?” I heard my straight-laced boss say as he came down the hallway.
“I’m here!” I yelled back, still doodling on the white paper. I could hear his staggered footsteps coming my direction.
“Oh, hey,” he said, popping his head around the corner. “I’m leaving. Do you need anything before I go?”
“I think I’m good.” I held up my now cold coffee.
“I’ll turn off the rest of the lights then. Have a great night.”
I heard the sound of the lights turning off down the hallway. It’s those florescent lights that make a buzzing sound whenever you’re under them. I hate when they get turned off, everything gets so silent. Being in this building at night all by yourself, the imagination can get the best of you.
I sat at my desk looking at the seven computer screens. On one screen, I could see exactly where the emergency responders are located at any given moment. I started memorizing the street names that in our designated area. At this time nothing was going on. It had been a very quiet night.
Taking a sip of my cold coffee, I started jotting down my grocery list for the next day. At this point the coffee was only doing so much to keep me awake at 1am. “What do I need,” I asked out loud. I wrote down that I needed chicken, vegetables, toilet paper, wine… multiple bottles of wine. I finished making my list, folding it into my jeans’ pocket.
A beeping sound started coming through my headphones meaning someone was calling in. I looked up as a name and number flashed on the screen in front of me.
“911, what’s your emergency?” I said clearly to the person on the other line.
“I need help,” a child’s voice said.
“What’s your name? What can I help you with?” I said back to the frightened young girl.
“I need help,” she said again.
I replied, “I can’t help you unless you tell me what’s wrong,” and then the phone line went dead.
Immediately dialing the number back, I waited for it to ring. But there was no dial tone and it wouldn’t reconnect. I decided to call one of the responding officers to check it out.
“Jenkins, I need you to respond to 5689 Hickory Valley Road. There could be a possible VIC. I tried calling her back but I got no answer,” I said into my headphones.
“Thanks, Kara. Hope you are having a good night all by your lonesome.” He started laughing. “What are you going to do all by yourself in that little cubicle of yours?”
“You’re an asshole. As a matter of fact, I am having a great night by myself. Keep me updated,” I said back.
I sat back in my chair looking at the right hand screen. A red dot started moving slowly towards the area where the young girl called from. Watching as it got closer and closer, I wondered if she was okay. Then the dot just stopped. This usually means the responding officer got to the location or close to it. Our map shows streets, but it doesn’t pin point the exact spot.
Waiting for Jenkins to call me back, I took another sip of coffee. I watched the clock as it slowly passed- second by second, minute by minute. I was about to ring him back when the computers lit up.
“911 dispatch, what’s the exact location of your emergency?” I looked up as the name and phone number flashed on the screen. This time I said the name out loud: Olivia Taylor.
“I tried calling you back but we couldn’t get an answer. A responding officer should be there shortly,” I said hurriedly, but in a stern manner.
“Why won’t you help me?” she whimpered. I heard her crying on the other line.
“We are trying to help you, Olivia. Someone should be there any second, I promise you. Can you stay on the line with me?” I asked while trying to get my shit together.
“Closet,” she replied. “You can find us in the closet.” I could hear another distant whimpering that wasn’t coming from the VIC on the line.
“Olivia, is there someone else there with you?” My heart felt like it was going to fall out of my chest.
“I have to go! He’ll hear me!” she cried out.
“Who will hear you, Olivia?” I managed to ask, a moment before the phone went dead again.
I looked on the map and noticed Jenkins’ spot had not moved. Growing concerned, I called him back. The phone rang and rang. Finally he answered.
“Jenkins,” he said with authority.
“Oh, thank God!” I took a second to catch my breath. My heart was pounding a mile per minute.
“What, Kara, you can’t handle being in that place by yourself? You have to call me all the time?” He tried to make a joke, but soon realized I wasn’t playing around. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“I got another call from the VIC. What is your ETA?” I closed my eyes and tried to stay calm. This is part of the job requirement.
“Waiting for backup. This place is out in the middle of nowhere. The only entrance is a path through the woods too narrow for the cruiser to fit through. We have to go on foot. Should only be another couple of minutes.”
I took a look at my screen. I could see two dots moving closer to Jenkins. “Call me once you get to the property. She is hiding in the closet. I believe there is someone else with her,” I informed him.
“Thanks for the update. I’ll call you once I reach the site.” And he hung up.
I had to take a moment to decompress. I walked down the long hallway to the bathroom. As I turned on the light, it flickered to the sound of my heart beat. The familiar buzzing sound calmed me as I splashed cold water on my face. Looking in the mirror, I could tell that my color changed. The normal tan hue was now pale white and my pupils were dilated. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay, I reassured my reflection.
As I walked out of the restroom, I could hear a beeping sound coming from my headphones again. I ran to my cubicle thinking it was Jenkins giving me an update. But as I saw the name on the screen, my stomach immediately dropped.
“Olivia, I know this is you. Are you okay?” I looked at the screen with the map. “The officers are on their way. They should be there in less than a minute.” There was no response. “Are you there? Can you hear me, Olivia?”
A whimper came over the other line. “It’s too late,” she finally said. “He’s in the room. He heard me.”
“Who is in the room with you?” I asked. “Please tell me so I can let the officers know.” I took a deep breath, determined to stay calm.
“He has a gun.” I heard a door open as a loud scream came over the line. I could hear two loud rounds of popping. Then silence.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I screamed out loud, tears started rolling down my face. I knew what this meant. Just then the screen started lighting up again. This time, the name said Carlos Jenkins. I took a deep breath as I answered it.
“The VIC just called again,” I yelled into the phone. “Could have a DOA, Jenkins. You took too much fucking time.”
“How has anyone been calling you, Kara?” he asked, confused.
“Don’t play this game with me right now. Have you reached the destination or not?” I Looked at the screen in front of me.
“We reached the cabin. About a mile off the main road. I hate to tell you this, but everyone is gone.” There was silence on his end.
“Shit,” I responded, rubbing my face. The skin began to get hot from anger.
“But I don’t understand how anybody could have called you tonight,” Jenkins said. I looked up from my desk confused.”
“What do you mean?”
“We found three sets of skeletal remains. One was a male adult, presumed to be the father, and two young girls. The remains have to be at least twelve months old.” My chest grew tight and the room started spinning. I was about to pass out.
“The weird thing is,” Jenkins continued, “we found the two female skeletons in the closet. But one had a cordless phone in their hand. Trying to get help, I guess.”