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from the December 2016 issue

Number Six

José Ignacio Valenzuela’s distrustful woman debates whether she ought to allow a stranger into her home.    


NEWSCASTER (voiceover)

A living room with a small sofa, a television set switched on, and a door. There’s an old- fashioned phone beside the TV. We hear the sound of rainstorm: thunder and lightning. A woman is sitting on the sofa watching the TV.

VOICEOVER OF THE NEWSCASTER  The police have issued no statements regarding the murder of five people this past week. Police have confirmed they were stabbed with what is presumed to be a hunting knife on a public street around midnight.

The woman covers her mouth with one hand, gasping.

WOMAN (Agitated) Useless. They haven’t a clue who’s behind it. Not one clue!

Still dismayed, the woman takes the remote control and presses “mute.” She stands up. She seems nervous and troubled by what she just heard. Suddenly, the phone rings, startling her. She goes to the phone and picks it up.

WOMAN (On the phone) Hello?

She stays still for a moment.

WOMAN (On the phone, serious) Hello? Who is it?

No one seems to answer. Thunderclap.

WOMAN (On the phone) I can’t hear anything.

The woman keeps the phone to her ear a bit longer. She gestures annoyed and hangs up the phone. She rubs her face. A police siren is heard in the background, passing by the house. The woman is about to go to the door, but the phone rings again. She waits for a moment, and then answers it. The police siren stops.

WOMAN (Coldly, on the phone) Who is this? Maybe the phone lines aren’t working or maybe for some reason you just don’t want to talk, but if you think you’re scaring me, I warn you, it’s not gonna work! You pranksters don’t scare me, because—

Another police siren. The woman flinches. She hangs up the phone and runs to the door. She’s about to open it but stops. She presses her ear to the door instead. The police siren continues and then stops. Dismayed, the woman fastens the door chain.

She’s about to go back to the sofa when someone knocks on the door. The woman is startled. There’s a louder knock on the door.

WOMAN (Serious) Who is it? (Louder) I said who is it?

MAN        (Off) Please let me in! I need help! (Pause) Is anybody there?

WOMAN Yes. What do you want?

MAN        (Off) Please let me in. My car broke down, my cell phone is dead, and I need to get a tow truck immediately. Please! It’s pouring out here!

The woman is apprehensive and hesitant.

MAN        (Off) Ma’am? May I come in or not?

WOMAN Some police cars just passed by. Ask them for help.

MAN        (Off) They’ve already gone! I couldn’t catch them in time.

WOMAN There’s a pay phone around the corner.

MAN        (Off) I don’t have any change. Don’t you trust me? I won’t hurt you!

WOMAN I’ll slide some coins underneath the door.

MAN        (Off, agitated) I just need to make a phone call, that’s all! It will only be a minute!

WOMAN (Agitated) I’m going to get some change!

The woman walks over to the sofa, where there’s a backpack. She opens it, puts a hand inside, and takes out a coin purse. She returns to the door with the coin purse in her hand.

WOMAN (Anxious) All right, here’s the change. (Pause) Hey! Are you still there?

Nobody answers. The woman steps closer to the door, pressing her ear up against it. She grabs the doorknob and tightens her grip, as if she’s going to open the door. A nail-biting period of suspense. Suddenly:

MAN        (Off) It doesn’t work!

The woman draws back from the door, startled.

MAN        (Off) The pay phone doesn’t work! Let me in, please! It’s really pouring out here and it’s dark! Haven't you heard about the murders? The people that were killed in this area? I don’t want to stay out here any longer than I have to.

WOMAN Of course I heard about the murders.

MAN        (Off) Why won’t you let me in, then? Are you alone?

WOMAN (Anxious) N-no.

MAN        (Off) What is it, then? What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me?

WOMAN I’m not afraid.

MAN        (Off) Really?

The woman doesn’t respond. She toys around with the chain lock, staring intently at it.

MAN        (Off) Let me in, then. I just want to make a phone call. Nothing more, I swear. I just want to get a tow truck and get out of here!

WOMAN I can call it for you.


WOMAN (Insisting) I said I can call a tow truck for you, did you hear me?

MAN        (Off) All right. If that makes you feel better . . .

WOMAN Give me the number.

MAN        (Off) I don’t know the number! I told you my cell phone is dead. You’ll have to look it up for me . . . unless you want to let me in and look for it.

WOMAN No. I can do it.

MAN        (Off, nervous) Don’t take too long, please!

The woman goes back to the sofa. She takes out a cell phone from her backpack. She stares at it with a stern expression. Then she puts it back in the backpack, takes a deep breath, and walks back to the door.

WOMAN Done. It’s on its way.

MAN        (Off, surprised) What? Already?

WOMAN (Anxious) Yes. I called them, gave them the address, asked for an emergency towing service, and hung up. Thirty seconds. They said they’ll be here in half an hour. The best you can do now is get back in your car and wait for them.

MAN        (Off) I’ll leave you alone, then. Thanks.

WOMAN Don’t mention it.

There’s a deep silence. The woman leans against the door, trying to hear something. She has the urge to open it, but she controls herself. She goes back to the sofa, sits down, and turns on the TV with the remote control.

VOICEOVER OF THE NEWSCASTER  The police department is still searching for the killer who has terrified the community for weeks. A dedicated task force has been working day and night—

The woman turns off the TV. She takes the backpack and is about to take something out of it. Suddenly:

MAN        (Off) You lied!

The woman gets to the door quickly, very anxious.

MAN        (Off) You didn’t call them at all! You can’t manage to look the number up and talk to them in just thirty seconds! You lied to me! Let me in so I can make that goddamn phone call!

WOMAN Of course I did!

MAN        (Off) You didn’t! Please, let me in!

WOMAN I’m going to bed now. Why don’t you ask someone else for help?

MAN        (Off) The street is deserted. There’s no sign of life in any other house but yours.

WOMAN (Anxious) I have to go.

MAN        (Off) Please, for God’s sake! Call my wife, then! Tell her what’s going on, she must be worried! I was supposed to be home hours ago.

WOMAN Are you sure the pay phone is broken?

MAN        (Off) I’ve checked it three times. I’m soaking wet. Please! I just want to get out of here. Call my wife. Ask her to get a tow truck for me. Give her this address. I’m begging you!

WOMAN All right, I’ll get my phone!

The woman rushes to the sofa, takes the backpack, and presses it against her chest. She seems to have decided something. She takes her cell phone from the backpack and returns to the door.

WOMAN I’m back. Give me the number.

MAN        (Off) Why won’t you let me in? Are you afraid of me? You think I’m going to hurt you? (Pause) You think I’m the one who killed those five people, don’t you?

WOMAN  How do you know there were five?

No answer. The woman gets more agitated.


MAN        (Off) I heard it on TV, OK? Like everyone else. Are you going to make the call or not?

WOMAN (Agitated) Give me the number!

MAN        (Off) Listen, I’m scared shitless, same as you, all right? The only difference is you’re safe inside and I’m out here alone in the dark.

WOMAN (Agitated) If you don’t want me to call her, then I’ll—

MAN        (Off, interrupting her, loudly) 229 . . .

The woman pretends to dial the numbers.

MAN        (Off) 62  . . . 66 . . . You got it?

WOMAN Yes. Just give me a second.

MAN        (Off) My wife’s name is Angelica!

The woman walks to the sofa. She brings the cell phone near her ear

WOMAN (Imitating the tone tune) Ring . . . Ring . . . Ring . . . Hello? Good evening. May I speak with Angelica?

The woman puts the cell phone inside the backpack and keeps pretending that she’s making the phone call.

WOMAN Hello. You don’t know me, but I’m calling because your husband is standing outside my front door. (Lowering her voice) He’s an idiot. He asked me to tell you blahblahblah (Scornful) Blahblahblah . . . and then yaddayaddayadda . . .

The woman stands up, takes another deep breath, and goes back to the door.

WOMAN Done. I did as you asked.

MAN        (Off) Did you speak with my wife?

WOMAN (Nervous) Yes.

MAN        (Off) What number did you dial?

WOMAN (Taken aback) The one . . . the one you gave me.

MAN        (Off) And you say you spoke to my wife?

WOMAN (Agitated) Yes, I told you I spoke to her!

MAN        (Off, furious) LIAR!

WOMAN (Screaming) NO!

MAN        (Off) You’re lying! That number doesn’t exist! I just made it up! I don’t even have a wife!

Even more agitated, the woman walks away from the door.

MAN        (Off) You’re a fucking liar! Every single thing you’ve said is a lie!

There is more banging against the door. It is obvious that the man is trying to break it down.

MAN        (Off) I’m coming in!

The door shudders with every blow, each stronger than the last. This continues on and on, until suddenly, it stops. There is a deep silence. The woman is standing by the sofa, gasping for air. Resolute, she goes to the door and presses an ear to it, trying to hear something. Everything is quiet. We hear the woman’s heavy breathing. She grabs the door latch and unfastens it. Then she unlocks the door chain and grabs the knob. She’s going to open the door. She takes deep, agitated breaths. It seems that she has made up her mind. She turns the knob and opens the door with a quick motion: there’s no one on the other side. The woman sighs, relieved. She closes the door without locking it. She goes to the sofa and turns on the TV again.

VOICEOVER OF THE NEWSCASTER  Sources from the police department have stated that a security camera captured what seems to be the killer’s silhouette. The suspect wore black clothes and carried a backpack presumed to contain the murder weapon.

There is a violent blow at the door. The woman screams.

MAN        (Off) I just wanted to make a phone call!


MAN        (Off, screaming too) I ASKED YOU FOR HELP AND YOU DID NOTHING!

The woman grabs her backpack quickly and pulls it to her chest, as though protecting herself.

MAN        (Off, agitated) What kind of woman are you? Have you no soul?

WOMAN (Defiant) Fine. You want to come in? Go ahead.

There is a silence that shows that the man is taken aback by the woman’s sudden change of attitude.

WOMAN You were right. I was inconsiderate.

The woman holds on tightly to the backpack, preparing for the encounter.

WOMAN I don’t know what came over me. I . . . I think I was scared of being all by myself in here . . . at night. Forgive me. Please forgive me.

The woman hardens her gaze, which is fixed on the door.

WOMAN My phone is all yours! Come and get it!

No answer. Silence.


The door starts to open little by little. The woman opens the backpack and introduces one hand inside.

WOMAN Don’t make me say it twice! I was stupid, I know! I already asked you to forgive me! Please come in.

The door opens completely. There’s a man on the doorstep. He is nervous. His hair is dripping wet. The woman smiles at him.

WOMAN Good evening. We finally meet. Come on in.

Hesitating, the man stares at her. He takes one step inside. The woman quickly takes a big hunting knife out of the backpack. She jumps on the scared man. There is total darkness, followed by a cry of pain from the man. Then there is silence, interrupted by . . .

WOMAN (Off) Welcome, number six.

“Número 6” © José Ignacio Valenzuela. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016 by Aurora Lauzardo, Sofía García Deliz, and Edil Ramos Pagán. All rights reserved.


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