10:11 AM January 1, 1931

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He stared at the phone as it rang.

We sat in his office at Miskatonic. I smoked my pipe, and John Hawthorne sat in silence.

The phone rang, sharp and punctual.

Neither he nor I made any move to answer it.

John watched the phone, and two minutes later, it went silent. His hands trembled as he took out his own pipe, packed it, and lit it. His teeth clattered against the stem of the pipe, and the bowl bobbed with the gait of a mad horse.

“What can I do, John?” I asked.

A weak smile appeared. “There’s nothing you can do, Duncan. It’s my own damned fault. I knew what could happen.”

The phone rang again, and John swore.

After three minutes, it stopped.

“I’ll have to answer it soon,” he whispered.

“You’ve answered it once?”

John nodded. “Shortly after I opened the book. The phone rang, and even as I translated the warning on the first page, I was answering the call. It was too late.”

“Where’s the book now?”

He tapped his desk. “Top drawer. Locked, of course. Doesn’t do any good.”

“No,” I sighed. “Usually doesn’t.”

The phone rang, and John jumped in his seat, the springs creaking and the wood groaning beneath the shock of it. Sweat beaded upon his brow, and after four minutes, the phone ceased its ringing.

“Have you bound it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he murmured. “Silver locks. You’ll take it?”

“I will.”

“And keep it safe?”

I smiled. “Yes, John, I’ll keep the book safe. There are others like it.”

He plucked a pocket square from his suit coat and dabbed at the sweat. John returned the square to the pocket, took out a key and unlocked the top drawer. From it, he withdrew a thin volume. The book was locked with silver clasps, each one intricately carved. The binding itself was a wonder to behold, the leather tooled in a fashion I’d not seen before.

And the book stung my fingers as I took it, the leather cold and the silver sharp to the touch.

The phone rang, John set his pipe down and answered it.

“Hello?”

The word left his lips, and he slumped forward, dead.

I stood up, tucked the book beneath my arm, and left the office.

It was time to bring the book home and to keep it safe, just as I’d promised.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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