A/N: Hi, it's been way too long since I've written anything, but here's a story for you. I loved this movie, but I can't cope with the idea of Danny dying. He's too tough for that, so here's my take on what happened post-phone call.
TO FIND A GOOD MAN
Two years, eleven months, thirty days and a handful of hours, minutes and seconds.
That's how long it has been since she had last spoken to him, and she can't help but keep track of time. No matter how often she refuses to let herself cry over him, no matter how often the thought of him being better off dead enters her brain, it never consoles her. She refuses to let go of him. Even though the facts are as they are, Maddy cannot bring herself to just let him go.
New York is alive beneath her, and she has a hard time allowing herself to be a part of it. She stands silently behind the large window of her office, blankly staring at the people below, but not really paying attention to them. They are a minor distraction, at best. In her hands, she holds her cell phone. The same one he had called her on two years prior. The same one with which she had begged him to tell her where he was. She knows it's hopeless, but she still wants and hopes so desperately to get another call from him that this is almost tradition, now.
"You gonna call me?"
"Soon as I'm near a phone, ja."
Maddy hadn't been expecting that call to begin with. The memory of the sensation of her heart leaping up in her throat at the sound of his voice prods at her relentlessly, and she can't help but replay the rest of that conversation over and over in her head. That feeling of elation was fleeting, and it quickly turned to panic, then into denial. Grief inevitably followed. Grief was something she hadn't been able to cope with since then. She slowly turns the phone over in her hands, staring intently at the small screen, watching and waiting for it to light up. Praying that it will ring.
Praying that Archer will be on the other line.
No phone call.
Just another year gone by.
When six o'clock finally rolls around, Maddy pockets the phone once more as she gathers her things from her desk, and wordlessly makes her way out the door. She doesn't bother to say good night to anyone. She doesn't bother to stifle her emotions. Everyone in the office building and their mother knows full well why today is her day not to be disturbed, questioned or harangued. Nobody would dare challenge it. As the elevator doors shuts behind her, she finds herself exceedingly thankful that no one else had decided to join her on the ride down. As the floors descend in number, she worries her lip with her bottom teeth, turning the phone in her palm, finally drawing it out again and tapping the 'on' key.
In the received calls roster, only one number remains. It isn't because she hasn't received any other calls, but rather because the only number she ever wants to see is his.
The name Daniel Archer stares back up at her in bold, black text.
18 October 1999 3:24 PM - 3:36 minutes.
His voice echoes in her head insistently. It was almost as if his ghost was haunting her, and she wishes that for just one moment, the voice was real. She wishes he were here.
I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
When the elevator doors opens, she steps out, makes her way through the lobby without giving any regard to the door man, and moves into the chill, damp autumn evening.
The subway ride is uneventful, and somehow it seems so quiet. Maybe she has been too lost in her own thought to notice anything, but from the moment she gets on the train to the moment she gets off, makes her way to her apartment, goes up to the 4th floor and shuts her apartment door behind her seems like only an instant. She keeps turning the phone over in her palm. She keeps hearing his voice. It wouldn't have been that hard to get to Kono. She could have chartered a plane and been there in an hour or less, and if he'd just had the sense to sacrifice his pride and let her know where the hell he was, maybe she would still be in Guinea. Maybe they would be together. Maybe they wouldn't; she couldn't say for sure. The one thing she is sure of was that he would have still been alive.
When the heavy door shuts behind her, she drops her keys into the small wooden dish on the table in the foyer. Maddy slumps against the door and brings a hand to her forehead, trying to coax away an oncoming headache. The stress of the day combined with the painful memories she has forced herself to relive makes the dull ache quickly turn into a rather painful throb, and for just a moment she manages to turn her attention away from Archer and to the Excedrin in the kitchen.
She drags her feet with every step. Thank god this day is almost over. Not that tomorrow would be much different, but at least the sting of the memory won't be as strong, then. At least tomorrow, she'd have some control over how much she could suppress it. After she had written and published the article on Van De Kaap and after Solomon and his family had been reunited, that front of strength that she'd forced herself to put on just kept on tumbling down in chunks. There was nothing she could do to stop it, and frankly, she didn't care to. It just took too much effort to not be sad.
As Maddy made her way into the kitchen, she passes her answering machine, and gives it a quick, irritated glare, noticing the flashing red light and the 01 next to it. A voicemail. She can only give a short, dry laugh and pass it by without a second thought. Of all days, today is the one day someone would choose to leave her a voicemail on her home phone. It seems almost like an insult. Like rubbing salt in her wounds.
After dry-swallowing two Excedrin, she manages to scrounge up something relatively edible from her fridge, and sits solemnly at the small island in the middle of the kitchen perusing the day's mail and picking at a piece of cantaloupe. Bills and advertisements, mostly. Even with the distraction of domestic life, he still lingers in her mind. He still pulls at her heartstrings, and that ragged, heavy voice of his won't leave her alone.
"God damn it."
Maddy slumps forward like a rag doll, headfirst into a pile of envelopes. He is exhausting. Even in death, the man is absolutely incorrigible. Even in death, he will not let her be. He is all she can think about today. In fact, he is all she can think about most days, but today is particularly difficult.
"God damn it, Archer." She mumbles to herself in the crook of her arm, punctuating her displeasure with a dramatic sigh.
Minutes tick by and Maddy refuses to move. She is thoroughly spent. Mind, body and soul, just spent. If ever there was a part of her life that she desperately wanted to hang on to and erase all at once, Archer was that part. It is times like these that his memory is almost too much to bear. His stony, serious eyes; that ridiculously catty grin, that sandy hair – She misses him wholly, and there is nothing that can console her.
She's gone right off being hungry, and the cantaloupe will have to be saved for another day. She puts the nibbled piece of melon back into the fridge, and goes pacing slowly around her apartment, thinking about everything and nothing all at once. Maddy wants a distraction so badly that she'd even consider buying it at this point. She supposed this was karma kicking her ass for not demanding that he get on that plane with her. This was her punishment for not insisting that she go with him; for not letting him insist back.
Back and forth across the floor. Over to the window. Maybe the television? No. Not tonight.
Maddy thrusts her hand deep into her pocket to palm the cell phone once again. She is still holding out for that call just as she'd done for the past two years, and even though she knows damn well that there would be no call, she still hopes for it. There is nothing to distract her from it except the possibility of sleep, and even then she knows that getting to sleep would be a chore in itself. Crossly, Maddy checks the time on the wall clock. Only 8:22.
She gives the phone a final squeeze before letting go of it and rolling her head back to release an exhausted sigh. Might as well go to bed. At least tomorrow is Saturday.
She hadn't expected to wake up to rain, but rain is what wakes her up. A loud crack of thunder sounds ominously in the distance, followed by a weak flash of lighting a few seconds after.
Groggy and both eyes still filled with sleep, she pulls the down comforter closer to her and nestles herself deeper within its warmth. Thank God I don't have to go in today, she thinks to herself. She isn't sure if she could deal with braving this weather, anyway. Not today at least. She definitely doesn't have the energy to, that much is certain. Maddy gives a soft moan and turns her face into the pillow, waiting for the next thunderclap to come. She thinks quite seriously about spending the day in bed. A little recuperation doesn't sound like that bad of an idea. No human interaction for a day would be nice.
Just as she settles for another few hours of sleep, she suddenly becomes acutely aware of the fact that the phone is clattering away on the night table next to her. When she manages to finally pull herself up into a position that is reminiscent of sitting, she cranes her neck just enough to get a view of the caller ID. She stares at it for a moment, eyebrows knit.
(000) 0000 0000 is the number listed.
She considered it for a moment. Not a US format. African? Possibly, but the numbers were all zero. If it is anyone she knows, they will leave a message, probably. If it isn't important, they will leave her be. It isn't her problem today, she reminds herself.
Once Maddy wraps herself back up in her warm cocoon of blankets, the phone continues to ring but she does her best to ignore it and get back to sleep. It doesn't matter that it is nearly 11 in the morning, today is a mental health day and she's allowed to sleep in. If anonymous caller has a problem with it, then so be it.
Hi, you've reached Maddy. I'm either at work, on the computer or overseas. Leave me a message if you want to. I can't promise I'll call back, though! Thanks!
The tape begins rolling. There is background chatter. She can make out some of the muffled words, some French and some English. The person on the line clears their throat, and then there is a moment of silence before a voice is heard.
"Ah, I was hoping you'd pick up or I hadn't missed you. Can't call your cell phone, you know."
The voice on the other line causes her to sit bolt upright in bed.
"I'm guessing you either didn't get my voicemail or aren't home, huh? Either that or I've scared you shitless and you don't want to talk to me."
A knot in her throat the size of a softball begins to rise. She tries in vain to swallow it back down, but it's definitely not going anywhere. Eyes as wide as saucers and heart beating a mile a minute, she reaches desperately for the handset on the side of the bed, and grapples it with shaking hands. She jams her finger against the TALK button and answers the voice.
"Who is this?" She is stern. Her voice is shaking, but she is deadly serious.
"Oh so there you are. Here you ask if I'm going to call and then you don't bother to answer, huh?" His tone is as nonchalant as ever.
"Who the fuck is this? I'm not going to ask you again."
There is a short moment of silence. The sound of a throat being cleared again. Shuffling.
"I can't tell you anything right now, Maddy. I can't say a word because there might be someone trying to find me, huh? I can't tell you, but you know who this is." His voice had gone a bit hushed. "I know you don't believe it, I can't blame you. But please, listen to me."
It can't be him. He's dead. It becomes a mantra in her head as she listens to the voice on the other line.
"I've still got some friends, ja? Some connections. I've got a man setting something up for me. I might be taking a trip soon, huh? You keep your phone lines open. I'll need to contact you. Not your cell though, I don't trust cell phones."
"No, I can't right now. I can't answer anything, but I'm okay, ja? I'm okay. I'm not as dead as you or some others would think."
There was a moment of silence. Maddy's eyes had filled with tears, and they were threatening to spill over, just like the rain coming down outside. She chokes back a sob and brings her hand to her mouth, trying to stifle herself. This is a dream, isn't it? It has to be a dream. He was dead.
"I'm gonna call you again in a day or so. I've got some information I can't trust with anyone else. I don't know anyone else. You've got to promise me. You need to be there when I call. And I will call, huh? You can bet on that."
"I – I don't… How do I know it's you?"
He sighs heavily, and she can almost hear the cogs in his head turning. She has a point; it could be anyone with the ability to reproduce a very convincing South African accent and his trademark vitriol.
"You're gonna have to take my word on this one. Please, Maddy."
Another moment of silence. Her heart thunders away in her chest, almost as loud as the storm outside. If she didn't know better, she guessed he could have heard it beating away. Again, she swallows thickly and her grip on the phone tightens. This has to be a dream.
"Where –" Her voice cracks. "Where are you?"
"I can't tell you that right now. Really, I shouldn't even be talking to you."
She doesn't respond. There's nothing she can do to make herself say anything, although her mind is overflowing with question after question and then some. It's becoming difficult to even make sense of this situation at all. How is he alive? Where has he been? What does he mean by 'taking a trip soon', and to where?
"I'll call you again, huh? I'll call you. I swear."
And the line goes dead.