Bertha’s Call – Excerpt from Chapter 6

“Ms. Blackhour, please. It’s likely just a fluke in the satellite signal. I can give you her cell phone number-”
Now he sounded desperate to appease her. Bertha would hardly have it. This conversation was getting very dangerous for Birkwood, and his demeanor betrayed any wall of courage he might have fronted.
“YOU GAVE HER A CELL PHONE?” Bertha roared, appalled. Great, now Sarah was going to turn her in!
“May I remind you that we do have guardianship-” Birkwood wheedled.
Admitting any level of defeat was challenging for Bertha. But she hadn’t exhausted all of her options for getting at Sarah.
“FINE. What is it?”
Birkwood droned on to give her the number somewhat hesitantly.
“Don’t expect to get an immediate response, if you even get one at all.”
Bertha considered her lack of response as she swiftly hung up on him. Too mean? A wide smile stretched on her face. Nope. Not for Bertha.
The next morning, she picked the phone up again and dialed the number impatiently with round fingers that threatened to push two buttons at once if she wasn’t careful. She put it to her ear and was surprised to hear ringing on the other end. One ring. Two rings.
Anticipation choked her breathing. She had to be out there!
After the third ring, Bertha began to prepare a nasty little message in her head. She was yanked from her devilish scheme when a croaking voice suddenly picked up the other end.
“Hello? Hello? Dr. Birkwood?” gasped the voice, sounding drowsy and hassled.
Bertha began in an unruffled tone.
“Sarah? This is Bertha.”
Sarah cleared her throat, sounding startled and very confused.
“Oh … Hi.”
“Where in God’s name are you?” Bertha demanded.
Sarah’s speech was slow and moaning. She sounded like she’d been crying.
“I … um, well I don’t really know. None of us do. Some IsLand somewhere, I guess.”
“You GUESS? Stop lying and tell me where you are, Sarah, or so help me-”
“Listen, Bertha, I don’t know,” Sarah interrupted her, sounding frustrated. Well, that was a first. Bertha had never been interrupted by Sarah before. She made a mental note to punish her for her insolence when she returned.
“Well what about the treasure? Did you find it?”
“No. The sub crashed and I-”
“Alright, listen,” Bertha growled, “I don’t want to hear your pathetic sob story. When Birkwood finds you, you’re coming straight home. Got it?”
“Um, okay,” Sarah whispered finally, somehow sounding doubtful. “But I thought you-”
Bertha failed to hear the rest of Sarah’s sentence, because in the background, a male voice began to shriek,
“Ohhh, snap! Boss Man, Broiler Breath on Sarah’s six!”
Then Bertha heard a strange flapping noise. She didn’t care. She had to get her jabs in on Sarah so that she’d know just how much trouble she was in when she returned. She ignored Sarah’s muffled scream and the angry snuffling.
“Now you listen to me, Sarah Jane Summerfield! I ain’t gonna let your little diary trick fly! You knew better than to pull that over, and you’re gonna pay for it dearly when you get back! After you do all the housework, you’re going to clean out the garage and the basement, you hear? No computer, no TV, no nothing! I’ll teach you to pull a sneaky under my nose like that! I’ll – Sarah? Do you hear me? You’re GROUNDED!”
There was no reply. Bertha listened, horrorstruck, to a strange gulping sound, and then a building crackle like the onset of a large fire, and, after several moments more of Bertha screaming at the unresponsive end, a deafening BANG. The phone went dead after that.


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