Mr. Mercedes is a troll.
I know, because he sent me a phone and is using it to stalk me.
When I got this Samsung Android phone in the mail, my first inclination was to kill it. Bury it. Burn it. And then salt the earth.
You see, Mr. Mercedes is a fictional serial killer on a fictional TV show of the same name adapted from a fictional book by one very real Stephen King. Mr. Mercedes is fake. But the phone is real. Too real.
When I turned that monstrosity on, the first thing that met me was a video of a crazed emoji with a mechanized voice that told me to enjoy 60 days of service. First thought? Well, thanks, AT&T. Second thought: Waitaminute. You're gonna reach out and touch me for every one of those 60 days, aren't you?
And so it began.
The first message was innocuous enough, as far as promotions go: It was from King. (Big fan, by the way.) "It's Stephen King here and I am, in fact, texting you," he wrote. And, of course, I tried responding to him.
But then, it descended into the stuff of true-crime television.
My mind went into self-defense mode: What if something happened to me and this new phone was the only one in my possession — a phone that included threatening text messages such as "saw you had some company last night. I'm so happy for you I could just puke"? Surely, the detective on my case wouldn't know about some new TV show called Mr. Mercedes and would be off trying to find some fictional character instead of a real one.
The phone and its service are legit. I can receive calls. There is one legit phone number listed in the contacts; it's for Janey Patterson (Mary Louise Parker), the sister of a dead woman.
Real text from Janey: "Bill. I need you. Call me." So, because I've been trained, there is no call me, maybe. I followed directions. FWIW, the phone has a New York area code.
And ... it's busy. Why are they messing with me?!
So ... the phone functions just as a Samsung Galaxy should. Except when Mr. Mercedes, the TV-show killer played by Harry Treadaway, taunts.
"Greetings, detective," a voice speaks aloud whenever I get a text from Mr. Mercedes. Each time, it's as if it's the first time. Every. Single. Time. I hesitate every time, too, knowing there will a shady text message waiting.
Gingerly holding this phone, I'm now firmly in the role of the detective under siege.
Detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) retired with one left in the chamber, a big-time "perk" who got away with driving a Mercedes the wrong way, thus his name. Mr. Mercedes taunts the retired detective (me!!!) via text, email and other means until Detective Hodges decides that he's got to solve this one last case, especially since he knows the killer is planning to strike again. So, that means he's probably got to break some laws to catch a lawbreaker.
Yeah, exactly. Those are the shoes I want to be in. ... Yeah , no.
Sometimes, the messages are a little too, well, personal. Around lunchtime, I got one asking if I had eaten.
I can't even escape on a holiday: "Happy 4th of July, Detective! Are you enjoying your 'independence'? sitting there asleep in your easy chair? Everyone's out there celebrating the red, white, and blue. Are you seeing red, Detective? Did you take a wrong turn somewhere in your life, Detective?"
Sometimes, he attempts to be helpful: "I hope you recharged your phone. I wouldn't want your battery to die a horrible death."
It isn't all murder and mayhem. In between texts like "Another day. Another holler," flirty neighbor Ida Silver (Holland Taylor) and techie Jerome Robinson (Jharrel Jerome) chime in.
If this promotion has taught me anything, it's that a, someone has too much money to spend, b, someone has too much free time and c, Mr. Mercedes is a creep.
Mr. Mercedes sufficiently scared me long before I watched a sneak-peek screener of the show. Which was also sent to me but took me awhile to find because, well, creepiness. By the fifth text, I didn't even want to watch it. Creep. But then I did. Creep. And it lived up to the stupid phone. Creep.
Well-played, Audience Network. Well-played.
Mr. Mercedes will premiere Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. on the AT&T Audience Network, DirecTV Ch. 239 and the DirecTV NOW app.