I stared at him for a long moment, sure I misunderstood. “Jack, surely you can'tÂ .Â .Â .” I was interrupted by my phone ringing. Jack stared at it, noticing the number without a name, then met my gaze. “Did you change your ring tone? I was kind of getting used to
I shook my head as I hit the red button to end the call. “No. I have no idea where this ring tone came from. Or who's calling. They've called a bunch of times, but I don't recognize the number and they never leave a messageâwell, only once. They didn't say anythingâjust a bunch of odd noises.” I gave an involuntary shudder, remembering the sound of prying wood and a tinny note vibrating in the empty air.
“Have you looked up the phone number?”
It was my turn to look confused. “Can you do that?”
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He gave me a look that said he thought I might be joking, but he reached over and picked up my phone. “You can do a reverse lookupâjust type in the number andÂ .Â .Â .” He was silent for a moment as he punched numbers into the phone, then paused. “Oh.”
The waitress waited until that moment to deliver our food, and for the first time in a long while, I was less hungry and more interested in what Jack had to say. When she finally walked away, I said, “What is it?”
“Do you know a Caroline B. Pinckney?”
I thought hard for a moment, the smell of the food battling with my memory. I began chasing a grape across my plate, hoping that having food in my stomach might jog something loose.
Jack continued. “Do you happen to know Button Pinckney's real name? Assuming Button was a nickname, of course. In Charleston, there's no guarantee that an odd name isn't the name appearing on the birth certificate.Â .Â .Â .”
I dropped the fork with which I'd been trying to stab a grape and
met his eyes. “It was definitely Caroline,” I shouted. My voice sounded parched even though I'd just had half a glass of water. “Jayne said her name was Caroline.” I swallowed. “Why?”
“Because that phone number is registered to a Caroline B. Pinckney on South Battery Street.”
We continued to stare at each other for a long time, neither of us questioning the impossibility of a phone call from a dead person.