Monday, July 9, 2012
Leah and Alfie
Leah and Alfie
Oscar and Nettie Crowley were having a wonderful time in Greensboro. Nettie grew up there and knew just about everyone in town.
They had dinner with the Cooper children at Gladys and Arthur Preston's home. The Prestons had taken the Cooper children in when their father died and their mother's mental state had deteriorated so much she had to be confined to a home. The home was unlike an insane asylum and gave Alice Cooper a chance for a normal life in the future.
The Cooper children were thriving under the care of Gladys and Arthur. They had stability and order in their lives for the first time in many years. Marlin Cooper had been a mean father and a miserable human being. There was speculation that because of a brain tumor, his behavior had become erratic and unreasonable. Alice's fear of him drove her over the edge.
Polly Cooper was banished from the home when she had been victimized into believing she was the bride of James Philpot. James had arranged a wedding ceremony with his cousin posing as a minister. Polly found herself in the family way. James discovered the Cooper's weren't as rich as he thought and her father wasn't about to give him a dime. He told her to get rid of the baby and he left town.
Polly gave birth to a baby girl she named Faith. She left Greensboro seeking the help of her old school teacher, Nettie Dawson. Nettie took her into her home and her heart. Nettie married Oscar Crowley and the four of them were a family. Eventually, Polly married Randy Burke and left the Crowley home leaving it a little too quiet for the young at heart couple.
“We came to Greensboro with the Merryweathers and Wilsons. We thought there might be a child or two that wouldn't mind living with us old folks. We will be returning there tomorrow morning. We would like to be able to give a child a home and also free up some space for other needy children,” said Nettie.
“Oh Nettie, that is a wonderful idea,” said Gladys. “Arthur and I haven't been this happy since our own children left the nest. I think it has brought out the best in both of us. We love these children so very much I can't imagine them not being in our lives.”
“Nettie, did you mention Thanksgiving?” said Oscar.
“No, I haven't. It seems the year just started and already we are talking about Thanksgiving. Oscar and I would like you and the children, and your grown children also, to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. We will have a houseful with the boys and their families and Polly and her family.”
“Nettie, that's way too many people for you to serve at one time.”
“No, we have plenty of room. Oscar had an addition put on this summer. He is sure the boys and Faith are going to be filling the house with grandchildren and he wants to be ready when that happens. Besides, Trudy is already planning the menu. She is tired of just serving the two of us all the time. Of course she will have plenty of help in the kitchen that day. When she and Polly get together they cook up a storm. It takes us three days of recuperating after one of their meals.”
“It would be so nice to be together. I'm sure the children will love being with Polly and Faith for a few days.”
Oscar and Nettie said goodbye to their friends. Oscar was beginning to miss his own bed in his own house. “Let's get back to Camden Corners before suppertime tomorrow. All that talk about Miss Trudy's cooking has made me homesick.”
“I'd like that too Oscar. Evelyn said she had two children she would like us to meet this morning. We have been so busy visiting old friends and you boys capturing criminals that we haven't had as much time at the villa as I would have liked.”
Bright and early the next morning, Oscar and Nettie were in Evelyn's office.
“The two children I mentioned came to us about a week ago. They have not adjusted well to the environment. Neither one of the children have opened up to any of us. They are frightened and I fear they may have been kidnapped from their parents and threatened in such a way that they are afraid to speak. One of the young men in town has a cousin who is a policeman and lives in New York City. He found these children wandering in the streets. The normal procedure would have been to scoop them up and take them to the nearest foundling home. The fellow had heard of our facility here through his cousin and put them on a train to Greensboro. The cousin brought them directly here from the train station.
From what little they have said, it is obvious they have a British accent. We have alerted the London authorities of their whereabouts but they have not received any reports of missing children. The clothes they arrived in were tattered but of very good quality. That is about all I can tell you about them. They are sweet children but very troubled. Do you think you would be interested?”
Tears were running down Nettie's cheeks and Oscar knew, sight unseen, these were the children for them.
Evelyn called the children into the room. “Alfred and Leah, these nice people are Mr. & Mrs. Crowley. They would like to take you to their home to stay with them for a while. Do you think you would like that?”
They both shrugged and looked at the floor.
“Alfred, Leah, I am very happy to meet you. You may call me Miss Nettie if you would like to and this is Mr. Oscar. We would very much like you to come with us to Camden Corners. I think you would like it there. Do you think you would like to ride on the train again?”
“He likes to be called Alfie.” Leah said without raising her eyes from the floor.
“Alfie, do you like to fish? We have a big lake that has hundreds of fish in it. Do you like playing ball? There are many things we can do in Camden Corners.” Oscar said without getting more than a nod from Alfie.
Peggy came to gather the children. “Come with me children. We will collect your things and you may go with Miss Nettie and Mr. Oscar to their home.” The two children marched out of the room like little soldiers.
“I hope we can bring them out of their shells. The poor little things, they are scared to death. Oscar, we must hire a private investigator to track down their family.”
“I've already thought of that my dear. I will contact one in New York City that I have dealt with before. I wish we had more information about them. We'll have the Marino boy take a photo of each of them. That will help in the search.”
“How old are the children Evelyn, do you have any idea?”
“At first I thought they were twins but I'm thinking they are probably just close in age. I think Leah is around 7 and Alfie might be 6. I think Alfie is tall for his age. I believe they may have lived a rather cloistered life. They are not comfortable being so close to so many children. Even with the problems most of our residents have, they do seek out children their own age. Leah and Alfie just cling to each other. Are you two sure about this? I hope I haven't burdened you too much.”
“We will do our best. We will work on finding their family and in the meantime we will try to make them as comfortable as we can. I have worked with many disturbed children over the years, I know it won't be easy but hopefully we can help them get through their current situation.”
“I was hoping we could get together this evening with Polly and the boys but it might be best if we just have a quiet time together. I'll gather some of the books we have left from when Faith was here. Maybe reading to the children will be the best thing we can do for them tonight.” said Nettie.
“That's a good idea dear. I haven't been able to get more than a grunt out of Alfie during the entire train ride. I thought an ice cream sundae would help but he still said nothing.”
“He did enjoy that ice cream though. So you did communicate through your stomachs.” Nettie laughed.
Trudy served them a nice supper. “I've never known children to be so quiet. Are you sure you two have tongues?” she teased as she placed a roll on each one of their plates.
Alfie stuck his tongue out and giggled just a little. Leah grabbed his arm as though trying to stop him from saying anything. It didn't go unnoticed by any of the adults.
“Oscar we must find out why these children are so terrified. I wonder if we should call Doc McMillan to examine them?”
“That's not a bad idea. I've asked Tony Marino to come over to take a picture of them. He will develop it and I'll have it sent special delivery to the investigator in New York.
Nettie sat on the sofa and spread the books out on the table in front of her. “Would you like to choose a book to read Leah?”
Leah shook her head no and sat in a chair by the window staring out.
“How about you Alfie?”
Alfie pointed to one and then looked at his sister. He shook his head no and went to the window sitting on the same chair as Leah.
Nettie picked up one that was a favorite of Faiths and began reading. After several minutes, Alfie stood up and walked over to Nettie. His legs started to get tired and he sat down beside her. Not too long after that, Leah got up and came over to the sofa. She sat on the other side of Nettie.
Oscar walked into the room. What a picture this was. Nettie with a child on each side of her. He thought once again what a wonderful mother she would have made.
Tony Marino stopped by to take photos of the children. They didn't know what he was doing and had seen many strange things in the United States so they just ignored him. If they had known their likenesses were going to be sent to an investigator, they may not have been so cooperative.
Doc arrived and checked them over a bit. He talked to them in his quiet way and they both actually smiled. “I think they have suffered a trauma. You are right to be concerned. I would say they have been threatened in some way about not saying anything. I can't think of any better people for them to be with right now. My advice is just to listen if and when they begin to open up. I think they already feel comfortable being with you. The villa may have been a little too hectic for them. Good luck and I'll check back later this week.”
Nettie tucked the children into their beds. They chose to sleep in the same room and that was fine with her. She and Oscar watched from the doorway a while later as both of these precious children slept.
In a castle outside of London, a young mother was wringing her hands. “Where can they be Phillip, where can my children be?”
“Minerva, I think it's time we call the authorities. Our Leah and Alfie have been gone so long and there has been no word about the ransom in weeks. If they are still alive we need to find them.”
“Phillip, no. I won't allow it. The kidnapper said they would die if we called the authorities. We will be killing our own children.”
The butler knocked on the door. “Begging your pardon, sir. There is a gentleman to see you. He is from Scotland Yard shall I show him in?”
“Yes Briggs, please show him in.”
“How do you do, sir? Hiram Rowntree here,” showing his badge he continued, “I would like to ask you a few questions about a Miss Bridget Davies. I believe she was in your employ as nanny to your two children.”
“Yes sir, she was up until four months ago. I believe she was leaving London to wed a gentleman up north somewhere.”
“I'm sorry to inform you that her body has been discovered in a ditch. She had been bludgeoned to death.”
Minerva cried out at the news.
“That is horrible detective, I wonder if you would excuse my wife. She has been under a doctor's care of late and should not be subjected to this stress.”
“I understand. If we need information from her we can ask her at a later time. Can you tell me all you know about Miss Davies?
“I'm sorry officer, I know very little about her personal life. She was recommended by the agency we go through for all our domestic help. Our children seemed to be very fond of her and were disappointed when she left.”
“I wonder if I may speak with your children.”
Phillip had been forced to lie about the children's whereabouts before and quickly said, “I'm afraid they are visiting their grandparents in Bromley.”
“I don't think it will necessary to disturb you any further sir. I'm sorry to have been the bearer of such unhappy news. I bid you farewell.”
The door shut behind the detective. Those two are hiding something, he thought to himself. They haven't seen the last of me.
“Minerva, we have to do something. I saw the look in that detective's eye. He knew I wasn't being completely honest with him. It is time to report the children as missing. We can't go on like this wondering where they are.”
Minerva agreed. “Wherever they are, I hope they know we are thinking of them.”
At that moment, a smile came across Leah and Alfie's faces as they slept. “Oscar look, they are both smiling. I hope they are having happy dreams.”