Thursday, July 12, 2012
So Far From Home
So Far From Home
“You don't have to be afraid of Miss Nettie, Leah, she likes little girls. She likes little boys too.” Cassandra said. “I wish you would talk more because I like the way you say things. Mama said you come from across the big ocean. I remember when Mama and I lived in New York we used to go to the docks where we could watch the water. Did you ride in a boat to get here? We use to see boats in the ocean too. I wanted to go on one. Mama says maybe someday we will.”
“We have big boats in the lake right here Cassandra.” said Iris.
“Not as big as the boats in the ocean. People have bedrooms on those boats and there are a lot of people. Maybe you can come with us when we go for a ride.”
“I don't like to ride on boats” came a little voice belonging to Alfie. “They are hot and smell funny.”
“We aren't suppose to talk about that Alfie. The bad man said we shouldn't.”
“You can tell us, Leah, we won't tell the bad man.”
“The bad man went into the water.”
“Hello, children. Are you having fun?” Nettie had entered the room.
“Leah, there is a nice man with Mr. Oscar. He would like to ask you and Alfie some questions. Do you think you could answer them for him?” asked Nettie.
“Miss Nettie, the bad man told Leah and Alfie they shouldn't talk about their secret,” said Cassandra.
“What shouldn't you talk about Leah? There aren't any bad men here. Only Mr. Bell. He is very nice. He has two little grandchildren about your age and he wants to help you find your mama and papa.”
Alfie began to cry. “He will hurt Mama if we tell anybody. I don't want my mama to be hurt like Miss Bridget.”
“How did he hurt Miss Bridget, Alfie.”
“He hit her on the head and she fell down.”
“Alfie may I ask Mr. Bell to come in and talk to you? You can tell him what you told me. It isn't a secret anymore.”
Lester Bell was a kind, middle aged man. He didn't look anything like one would think a private investigator would look like. He reached in his pocket and brought out a lolly pop for each one of the children in the room.
“You look like our grandpa. I miss him, don't you Leah?
“I'm sure your grandpa misses you too. I would miss my grandchildren if they left me.”
“Oh we didn't want to leave. Miss Bridget said we had to or the bad man would hurt our mama.”
Leah stood up. “We aren't suppose to tell anybody what happened to us but I think we are going to tell you because we miss the castle.” Leah looked at Nettie and Oscar. “We love you Miss Nettie and Mr. Oscar but we miss our mama and papa.”
“I know you love us Leah. We love you too but we do need to find your mama and papa. They must be very worried about you both. Now go ahead and tell Mr. Bell what happened to you.”
“Miss Bridget was our nanny but she went away to get married. We loved her but Mama said she was going to have her own family. Miss Juliet came to take care of us. She is nice too.
“One day we were playing outside by the fence. Miss Bridget came up to say hello to us. We were surprised and happy to see her.” Leah closed her eyes. She was trying to remember every detail.
“Miss Bridget. Come here Alfie, Miss Bridget came to see us.”
“You'll have to be very quiet. We don't want your new nanny to know I'm here. It might hurt her feelings and we don't want to do that do we?”
“No Miss Bridget, we don't want to hurt her feelings at all.”
“I want you to unlock the gate and come with me. We will walk on the grounds so we don't disturb her.”
“We are not suppose to go out of the gate, but if you are with us it will be alright.”
“Your mama said you could go to my new house to visit me. We will have a tea party. Alfie, you don't have to have tea but I have some biscuits that you will like.”
“Shall we tell Miss Juliet we are going with you?”
“She already knows. Now let's hurry.”
Alfie spoke up, “Miss Bridget was nice to us but the bad man told us we better not cry or he'd hurt our mama. I didn't like him. Miss Nettie, do you think our mama is hurt? We haven't seen her in ever so long.”
“Alfie darlin', I hope and pray your mama and papa are safe. That is why it is so important for you to tell Mr. Bell everything you know about where you live and who your mama and papa are.” Nettie was relieved the children were beginning to open up after all this time. She felt sure they would be able to locate their parents very soon.
“Leah, I want to tell Mr. Bell where we live. I want to see Mama and Papa again. Please tell them Leah.”
Leah walked to the other side of the room. Iris and Cassandra followed her. “Leah, my mama said it's always better to tell the truth even if someone tells you not to. Mr. Bell really wants to find your mama and papa,” Cassandra said and Iris agreed.
Tears were running down Leah's cheeks. “Mama and Papa are at our home in London.” She told Mr. Bell exactly where the castle was. He thanked Leah for being such a big help and told Oscar he would get to work on it immediately.
Detective Hiram Rowntree knocked on the door of the castle outside of London. This time Philip Clarke opened the door himself without waiting for the butler to do so.
“Detective Rowntree. It's so good of you to come. My wife and I haven't been completely honest with you. Our children are missing. It happened the morning of the fifteenth of September. They were on the grounds playing. Miss Juliet, their nanny was watching them when someone came up behind her, covered her mouth and dragged her behind the bushes. She came running into the house some time after that with a large gash on the back of her head and the children had vanished. This note was left on the gate.”
He handed Detective Rowntree the note that read: Don't call the authorities or your children will die. You will be told where to leave the ransom.
“We never heard from them again. I know we waited too long to contact you but we were afraid they would harm our children. It has been so long now, we just hope it isn't too late to save them.”
The detective knew the chance of finding the children alive after almost two months was minimal at best. “I understand your fear, sir. I will need to ask you and your wife to remember even the slightest detail of that day and the days surrounding the abduction. I'll also need the full name and address of the nanny named Juliet. I assure you, Your Grace, I will do everything in my power to find your children.”
Hiram Rowntree was exasperated that these people would allow two months to go by before reporting their children missing. He reasoned that they lived almost like recluses in that big castle. The children had almost no contact with the outside world. Their grandparents were quite helpful to him. They told him it was not unusual for their daughter and the duke to stay close to home and they didn't think much about it when they hadn't seen their grandchildren in a couple of months. Their daughter had married the duke against their wishes. He was an odd young man. His parents died when he was a young boy and he had been raised by servants. His nanny didn't allow him to associate with any of the youngsters in the nearby village. She kept him secluded in the castle. He had always been a rather quiet fellow and was content to spend his time reading. It was decided he should take a wife. Minerva was chosen out of a dozen of the nearby village young women. Her parents felt the two loved each other and their children. They lived a quiet, secluded life behind the gates of the castle.
“Sir, this wire just came through and I thought you might be interested in seeing it. I know you are looking for a couple of youngsters,” one of the officers said as he handed the detective a paper with a picture of the two children on it.
“This says they are in the United States.” He read further only to discover the children had British accents and their home was in a castle outside of London. “Their names are Leah and Alfie and they are very much alive.”
Detective Rowntree couldn't wait to get to the castle. He had the two photos of Leah and Alfie in his hand. Philip opened the door to him with a very worried look on his face. “Have you found them?”
“Are these your children sir?” He handed the photographs to Philip.
“Yes, where are they? Are they still alive? Tell me where they are.”
“They are alive and well. They are in a township called Camden Corners in the United States.”
“Minerva come quickly. The children are safe. Thank you detective, how can we ever thank you? What has happened to them and how on earth did they get to the United States?”
Minerva looked at the pictures. “My babies, I must go to them. Are they really in the United States? Are they safe? We must leave immediately.”
“We will my dear, as soon as the detective tells us what he knows.”
“I have been in contact with a private investigator hired by a chap named Oscar Crowley. Mr. Crowley and his wife have been looking after the children. We can't be sure exactly what happened but it seems Miss Bridget Davies was either forced or willingly participated in their kidnapping. It would seem she and her beau, Stewart Hollander, planned to ask for ransom for the children but Miss Davies got cold feet. The children heard Miss Davies and Mr. Hollander arguing and then heard Miss Davies scream. They were locked in the bedroom in Miss Davies' flat. Mr. Hollander disposed of the body. He was afraid that someone might have seen him and changed his plan. He took the children with him as hostages in case he needed them and stowed away on a ship that was traveling to the United States. The children tell us Mr. Hollander was playing cards with some of the other stowaways. He must have been losing because Alfie heard him call one of the men a cheat. A fight broke out. The children watched from their hiding place as Stewart Hollander was thrown overboard. He had warned the children if they told anybody who they were or what they had seen, there mother and father would be murdered just like Miss Bridget had been.”
“Oh my poor babies. What an awful ordeal they have been through.”
“Ma'am, the investigator said they are in good hands. When they first arrived at the Crowley home they barely spoke. With the loving care they have received they felt comfortable enough to tell Mr. Bell where they came from. The Crowley's wanted me to tell you that you are welcome to stay in their home when you arrive to claim the children.”
“How can we ever thank you Detective Rowntree?”
“The look on your faces is all the thanks I need.”
The detective left the castle with a smile on his face. His investigations normally didn't turn out this well.
“Children, we have some wonderful news for you. Your mama and papa are on their way to the United States. They are safe and happy to know they will see you again.”
The children giggled and hugged Oscar and Nettie. “I knew you would find our mama and papa. Do you think we could all live with you. We don't want to leave you and Mr. Oscar.”
“Your home is in England and our home is here in Camden Corners. When your mama and papa arrive they will stay right here in the room next to yours. We won't talk about your leaving just yet.”
The children went along happily to play.
“Oscar, I just thought of something. We will have a house full of guests for Thanksgiving dinner when the Clarkes arrive. I wonder if they will be terribly offended by our celebration of an American holiday.”
“We can just hope they like turkey.”