The Phone Call

By MELISSA BURGER | Published: April 24, 2010

The Phone Call

By Melissa Burger

The shrill ringing of the phone woke me from the best sleep I’d had in weeks. My heart thumping from the sudden noise, I squinted at the clock as I picked up the receiver. 2:03 am. Someone had better be dead.

“Mmfelo?” My body still half asleep, I found it hard to form the word.

Silence. I sat up and pushed my hair out of my eyes and repeated myself. “Hello?” What genius made prank phone calls at 2 am? Just as I decided to hang up, I thought I could hear someone talking. “Is there someone there?” I asked, my voice rising, as if my talking louder would make them speak louder. Straining my ears, I thought the voice might be my sisters. “Debbie? Debbie if that’s you, I can’t hear you, you’ve got a bad signal!”

Her voice was so faint, as if she were standing 5 feet from the receiver and whispering.

“You have to …. Now!”

“Debbie, you’re breaking up! Do you need me to come get you?”

I thought I could hear cars or wind, a whooshing sound that faded in and out and what sounded like crying. I was standing next to the bed by now, my heart as well as my mind racing. Did she tell me where she was going when we talked this morning? I couldn’t remember.

“Debbie, move around, I can barely hear you! Where are you?” I clutched the phone in a death grip, as if by shear force of will I could improve her signal.

“Molly! You have to get….. RIGHT NOW!”

“Get what right now? Debbie I can’t hear you!”

“Out of the HOUSE. Get OUT……MOLLY!” Suddenly the phone was silent. I hung on until the phone defaulted to a fast busy signal, telling me the connection was lost.

I grabbed my glasses and turned on the bedside light. Checking the caller ID showed my last call received was at 8:10pm, yesterday. I straightened and looked around my room, my arms folded around my body. I was suddenly cold, and wanted desperately to do as Debbie had said. I quickly slid my feet into my tennis shoes and grabbed an oversized shirt from the closet. I snatched up my keys and purse and headed straight for the door. I didn’t know why she wanted me out of the house, but she sounded so scared and so sure, I was compelled to do as she asked.

I was driving away from the house before I stopped to think. Where would I go? By now it was 2:30 in the morning. I had no luggage. I wasn’t even sure I had cash in my purse. Debbie lived 4 hours away. My brain was still foggy; I didn’t think I could drive that far.

Spotting my favorite all night diner, I pulled in, thinking coffee was what I needed right now. I was out of the house anyway. I pulled out my wallet and saw I had a $20. Coffee and a donut. I would try and call Debbie from the payphone inside.

The jingle of the bell over the door announced my arrival. A sleepy eyed waitress raised her head from the book she was reading. Giving a half hearted smile, she told me to take a seat anywhere, but the look on her face suggested any place but the counter would guarantee slower service, only customer in the place or not. I obligingly slid onto a stool and asked for a coffee and change for a dollar.

Palming the four quarters, I walked over to the pay phone and clunked in the change. I had to hang up twice before I entered the number correctly. The line went straight to voice mail. I hung up and tried again, just in case. Same result. I stuck my finger in the change return and grabbed my quarters.

“No one home, honey?” asked the tired waitress as she set my coffee down and leaned against the counter.

I shook my head and slid back on my stool. Her name tag announced that her name was Jean and she’d be happy to serve me.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you alright?”

“I’m not sure.” I said, taking a cautious sip and then telling her of the late night phone call. “So I just tried her cell phone, but she must have it off, because it went straight to voice mail.”

“Where does your sister live?”

“San Angelo,” I replied.

“Quite a hike at 3 a.m.,” stating the obvious. “So what are you going to do?” I must have been the most exciting thing that had happened in the middle of the night in a long time. Even the cook was taking an interest, peering through the pass through, spatula in hand.

I looked around as I started to shake. “I don’t know.”

Jean sighed and looked at the cook. He must have indicated assent because she turned to me and said, “Well, I could get in trouble for this, but you’re welcome to curl up in a back booth, at least until 6. That’s when the next shift arrives.” She nodded at the cook, “Henry here won’t say anything.” He smiled in what I am sure was meant to be a reassuring way. Diner cooks always gave me the creeps. To many horror movies I guess. Since I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I agreed.

By the time 6 am arrived, I had tried Debbie’s cell phone 12 times, all with the same result. I had left 6 messages. What was the point of leaving more? I left the bathroom in time to see Jean shrugging her coat on and heading out the door.

She put her hand on my shoulder and wished me luck.

I headed back home, not knowing what I’d find there or if this was all just a mind game I had played on myself. Insomnia can do that to you. When I reached my street I slowed down, delaying the appearance of my house. Would it be burned to the ground? Vandalized? Completely normal and I was simply losing my mind? Shaking my head I told myself to get a grip, and sped up a little. There it was. Everything looked normal. I pulled in the driveway, looking over the front door and windows. Putting the car in park, I took the sidewalk to the side door. It was standing wide open. A light dusting of snow had fallen; the only tracks I could see were my own. I was pretty sure I’d closed it last night, but couldn’t remember if I had locked it. I had left my cell phone in the house in my panic to leave last night. I’d have to go to the neighbors and have them call the police. I knew enough not to enter the house if it appeared there was a break in.

Just as I turned to trudge next door, a police car pulled up. Well, that was quick, I thought, snorting a laugh to myself. I headed over to it just as the officer exited the car and made eye contact with me.

“Excuse me ma’am, I’m looking for the woman who lives here, Molly Bannon?”

“That would be me. One of my neighbors must have called you, I just got home and noticed that my door was open.”

“I’m Officer Johnson, ma’am, I don’t know anything about a call, we’ve been trying to reach you all night. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

My heart sank. It could only be Debbie. There wasn’t anyone else. “What is it, what happened?” I asked, my eyes ready to spill tears.

Another office pulled up. Officer Johnson asked me to wait while he had the other one check out my house. “This is Officer Samuels, ma’am.” To Samuels he said “Says she just got home and the door was open.”

“Ok, I’ll take a look.” The second officer nodded at me, his face appropriate in the “sorry we have to tell you this” expression.

I turned to Officer Johnson, “Will you tell me what happened, please?”

“Ma’am I think it would be better to”

I interrupted him, “Just tell me!”

“Well ma’am, we found a car that seemed to be abandoned on the side of the road just outside of San Angelo. When the officer approached the car he saw a young woman in the back seat, badly beaten. He found her identification, and an emergency contact card. We’ve been trying to reach you ever since.”

“Well is she alright? Where is she, what hospital did you take her to?”

He sighed and said, “She wasn’t alive when the officer found her ma’am. I’m sorry.”

I seemed to just fold up into myself. One minute I was standing and the next the officer was trying to grab me before I hit the ground. He got on his radio and called the other officer out.

“Did you find anything,” he asked, as he squatted beside me and tried to offer comfort.

Office Samuels looked spooked. “Yeah. I’m sorry, ma’am, but I need to ask you some questions.” I looked up at him and nodded. “ Someone was in your house last night. Of course I can’t tell, it looks like they didn’t take anything, but they did do some damage. Mostly in the bedroom. You said you just got home before we got here?” I nodded. “What time did you leave?”

“It a, it was about 2 am. I’d gotten a call from Deb.. from my sister.”

They looked at each other and then back at me. “Are you sure it was her?” Officer Johnson asked.

“Yes, I’m positive. It was a bad connection, but I know my sisters voice. Why?”

They looked at each other again. Finally Officer Samuels said, “We won’t know for sure until the official report is made, but the coroner said that your sister died between 10 o’clock and Midnight.”

Any Comments?



Not Enough Time

Published: December 14, 2012

Peace comes after.

A Hell of A Day, J.

Published: January 27, 2010

A memoir of the worst kind of heartbreak...