Peter Thorne: “Kosta’s Music Box”

Jayden sidled up to the back door of the factory and jemmied open the door. Inside, he passed a door that was propped open and found himself facing an inner door with the usual intercom keyboard beside it.

Once again raised his trusty tyre lever. At that moment there was a click and the door behind him swung closed. He was trapped between the two doors.

The intercom box was labelled KMB. A voice came from it, it said:

“Your visit is important to us. This call is being recorded for security and training purposes. We already have you on video, please continue to breath heavily so that we can gather your DNA sample from the air.
Please select from the following options:
• To call the police press 1
• to call our armed security guards press 2
• to make a payment press 3
• to hear these options again press 4
meanwhile listen to the music”.

The music was loud and totally gross. Trying not to breath too heavily, Jayden pressed “4”.

The voice said:

• To call the police press 1
• to call our armed security guards press 2
• to make a payment press 3
• to hear these options again press 4

In desperation, Jayden pressed 3. The voice said:

“The charge is $200.00, Press 8 when you are ready to pay. You will need to state your credit card number and expiry date. If you do not have a credit card you may phone a friend and use theirs”.
The music started again. It was unbearable.

Jayden pressed 8 and made the payment. The voice said:

“Please wait while we verify your payment. This may take a few minutes.”

Jayden waited.

After a while the voice said:

“Thank you for your payment. Please call again”

The door behind him opened. Jayden fled.

I first met Kosta in primary school. He was a bit of a nerd, but street-wise. We both caught the computer bug. Following secondary school, I went on to university and Kosta opened a computer and phone shop in the local market. He was always popular and pretty honest – he didn’t sell dodgy software and he helped people with the mysteries of PC software, problems with mobile phones and installed a few home security systems.

Now I sat in his flat sharing a drink or two and listening as he took down Jayden’s details, checked the credit card and recorded the payment.

“That’s the third one tonight – not bad for a cold winter Saturday.”

“How does it work?” I said.

Kosta settled back with a look of satisfaction. “I copied the telephone and utility companies” he said – “Nothing upsets people more than automated response systems. Once they have encountered them they will do anything to avoid them. So, I came up with the idea of Kosta’s Music Boxes. The overheads are low. I fit an extra security door and one of my boxes inside local factories and offices. The boxes look like a normal access intercom and I fit them out with a mobile phone. The door shuts behind them when the intruder steps on the mat. It’s all off-the-shelf stuff from Bunnings or Jaycar or from ebay”

“But what about the DNA testing?” I said.

Kosta grinned. “That’s just a bluff. It stops them going feral – its hard to wreck the place when you are trying to hold your breath.”

“What happens if they press 1 for the police or 2 for the armed guards?” I asked.

“No one ever has.” said Kosta. “If they did, I suppose I could call triple 0 and send the police around there if I had to”.

“What about charges of false imprisonment or blackmail?”

“Nobody has complained. The local cops are happy. Breaking and entering round here has dropped to an all-time low. In fact, I am going to have to change the business plan. It seems that some of the younger lads are swearing off a life of crime altogether after one session in my music box.

“I think the music has a lot to do with it. I tried play them 50s pops, they hated it. Greensleeves was pretty good too: I think there is a race hatred of Greensleeves as a result of all the music on hold. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is much the same, but best of all is classical chamber music. No young lout has held out for more than three minutes since I started using chamber music. My son, who’s at the College of the Arts, says I should try Stockhausen. He reckons that they’ll crack in record time. I did try the Brandenburg Concertos but some of them seemed to cope with it- I think it might be the regular beat and all the variations, so I went off Bach. However, chamber music seems to leave them with a lasting memory that they never want to repeat.”

“How are you going to change the business model?” I said.

“Well” said Kosta, “I have been reading up on marketing and aversion therapy and watching Gruen on ABC TV. I reckon that if I keep badging my boxes with the KMB logo I will develop brand recognition among the target audience. Then I can market a whole range of security devices, all with a KMB box. If I make the logo prominent the lads will run a mile from any property that displays one, even if it’s not connected to anything. A conditioned reflex they call it.

“I think they named it after some Russian ballerina’s pet dog. Pavlova or somebody wasn’t it?”

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