“I have to return this phone, I’m afraid. There’s something wrong with it.”
The shop assistant looked at the handset the man had slapped on the counter. His young face contorted into a grimace.
“Not one of ours, mate. Sorry.”
The customer was incensed. “But I bought it from this very shop only last week.”
“Got the receipt?”
“Ah, no, well, you see, there was a problem with your till or something. I wasn’t given one.”
“Who served you?”
“A young girl. The one with the hair.” The man mimed long, flowing locks with his hand.
The assistant picked up the phone and examined it from all angles. He had never set eyes on this model before. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I keep getting calls on it.”
The assistant chuckled. “That’s kind of what they do, mate.”
“You don’t understand. I keep getting calls. When it’s switched off. When it’s in its box, blanketed in bubble-wrap. When there’s no life in the battery. When I’ve taken out the bloody sim card. I keep getting calls.”
The assistant frowned. “Who from?”
“I don’t bloody know. I don’t answer them. Could be anybody. It happened when I was driving; I nearly went off the road. An eerie sound it is. Almost hypnotic. Even after I changed the ring tone to the theme from Match of the Day, it reset itself. It went off while I was cooking some toast; I went to see to the damned thing and damned near burned the house down. I swear the bloody thing is trying to kill me.”
“And no number comes up on the screen, like?”
“I told you: the bloody thing’s switched off. Something fishy is going on.”
The assistant scratched at his wispy chin. “Best I can do is a credit voucher. You can spend it here or on our website.”
“That will have to do.” The man huffed and puffed while the assistant printed out a voucher, then he snatched it from the young man’s hand and strode from the shop, muttering about bloody nuisances and consumer rights.
The store manager emerged from the backroom, picking bits of lunch from between his teeth.
Joe the assistant showed him the handset. “Lorelai’s been at it again.”
“The Siren Three Thousand,” the manager clicked his tongue. “We’ll have no customers left if this keeps up – she’ll have killed the bloody lot.” He smiled the bitter smile of someone who has been proved right about something wrong. “I knew it was a mistake going into business with a mermaid.”