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Sounds like Roald Dahl or Edgar Allan Poe, but I could be wrong. It's NOT Lamb to the Slaughter.

The woman in the story is in danger somehow by a man in her house, and she manages to call for help using the phone in a certain way; so that when she is ordering meat, the help at the other end of the receiver does not hear it, but only hears her words that call him to rush to her house.

I was reminded of this story by the recent (?) one in the news that a woman in a domestic violence situation called 911 and "ordered a pizza".

  • Thanks, you're right, I realised it right afterwards. It's more Dahl-like. – Mary P Nov 23 at 22:48
  • It was more than 10 years ago, and almost definitely part of a series of mystery stories, the Roald Dahl kind. Sigh. – Mary P Nov 29 at 10:40
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Found it! It's "Philomel Cottage" by Agatha Christie!! I just dug it up at my parents' house, it was a story in a Longman simplified edition called "Stories of Detection and Mystery". Had apparently confused it with Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination!

"I'm just going to telephone to the butcher," she announced nonchalantly. "Don't you bother to move." [...]

And then, as she nervously depressed and released the little key in the receiver she was holding, which permits the voice to be heard or not heard at the other end, another plan flashed into her head.

"It will be difficult," she thought. "It means keeping my head, and thinking of the right words, and not faltering for a moment, but I believe I could do it. I must do it." [...]

Alix drew a deep breath. Then she depressed the key firmly and spoke. "Mrs. Martin speaking - from Philomel Cottage. Please come (she released the key) tomorrow morning with six nice veal cutlets (she released the key again) It's very important (she released the key) Thank you so much, Mr. Hexworthy: you don't mind my ringing you up so late, I hope, but those veal cutlets are really a matter of (she depressed the key again) life or death (she released it) Very well - tomorrow morning - (she depressed it) as soon as possible."

  • Great, glad you found it! I've taken the liberty of editing in a quote from the story to confirm that it matches your description in the question. Without mentioning who she's speaking to, so as to avoid spoilers ;-) Nice story, btw. – Rand al'Thor Nov 30 at 20:27

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