Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Her Sister's Children
Her Sister's Children
Evelyn Keys was looking out the window of the Warren's Hill Villa. This is such a lovely time of year with the trees all showing their beautiful colors. She watched as the children were finding the prettiest fallen leaves.
Alberta and Maureen were pushing their little twin sisters in their prams. The babies were old enough to sit and enjoy watching the other children. They all seemed to be adjusting well. Alberta, the oldest girl of the family told Evelyn her mother died when she fell down the stairs. She seemed to hesitate when she said the word fell and Evelyn had a bad feeling about the circumstances of her death. None of the children mentioned their father. It was a complete mystery how the children ended up at the villa as it was with most of the children who were here.
Evelyn looked toward the apple orchard and the girl who she'd seen looking toward the villa was there again. Lloyd Hanson, the groundskeeper tried to approach her several times but she always ran away before he could speak to her.
Evelyn saw Cliff Newman, one of the university students who tutored the older children walking down the curving driveway. He came up behind the girl. She tried to bolt but he held onto her arm. Evelyn could see the girl was crying. She put on her sweater and walked out to where the two were standing.
“Hello Miss Evelyn. I seem to have upset our friend here. I just asked if I could help her and she started to run off. When I tried to stop her she began crying. I didn't mean to trouble her.”
“I understand Cliff. You did the right thing.
“My dear, we would like to help you if we are able. Why don't you tell us your name and why you are out here in the apple orchard.”
“I can't tell you who I am. He must never know I brought the children here. He will hurt them like he did my sister.”
“Why don't you come with us. You can tell me what has happened that has made you so frightened.”
“I can't let the children see me. I heard this was a safe place and I had to leave them here for their safety. If he finds out I was here he will take the children back.”
“The children will be going back in shortly. It is almost time for their lunch.”
Just then the dinner bell chimed. Sure enough, the children all disappeared into the villa.
“Now young lady, why don't you start from the beginning.”
“My name is Peggy. My sister, Norma had to leave the family when she turned 16. Papa said she was old enough to find a husband and let him take care of her. There are twelve children in our family and Papa said there were too many mouths to feed. Mama didn't want Norma to leave but Papa said she had to. Norma met a man named Roger Blake. He was older than she was but promised to take care of her. Norma had five babies. After the second baby was born, Roger began drinking whiskey and when he did he would hurt Norma. Papa sent me away two years ago. I found a job in the general store. It doesn't pay much but they had a room in the back where they let me sleep. I finally had enough money saved to get Norma away from Roger. We planned to rent an apartment near the store. They even accepted the fact that there would be five children living with us. Norma was packing the children's clothes when Roger arrived home unexpectedly. He didn't know I was in the other room with the children. He hit her and when she tried to get him to leave, he stood at the doorway and pushed her down the stairs. He ran out, probably to the nearest bar. I called for help and the doctor who lived upstairs said she was dead. I knew I had to get the children out of there. I gathered them up and took them out the fire escape and onto the street. I didn't want them to see their mother like that. I had heard about the villa and all I could think of was getting the children to a safe place. A nice man picked us up and dropped us off about a block away. The children went to the door and rang the bell. I was watching them from the apple orchard. It broke my heart to leave them but I am so afraid Roger will harm them if he finds them.”
“Are you still living in the back room of the store, child?”
“No, I had to leave. I was afraid Roger would come after me after he found out the children were gone. Mama said he was by their place asking where I was. I saw the doctor who said Norma was dead and he told me she was in a convalescent hospital just outside the city. She didn't die after all. She has a head injury and has no memory of me or the children. The doctor's thinks her brain will heal in time and everything will come back to her. I was able to get a job in the hospital laundry. I share a room with one of the nurses. I can't let Roger know where Norma is.”
“Oh my dear, you have been through such an ordeal. Do you think Alberta saw her mother's fall? She told me her mother was dead after falling down the stairs.”
“I was afraid she might have seen something. She was petrified when we were headed here. I would love to assure her that her mother is going to be alright. I'm so sorry I was hiding, I just had get a glimpse of the children whenever I could. I miss them so much.”
“Tell me Peggy, have you reported your sister's fall to the police?”
“No, I didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure they would believe me and then Roger would be able to get to the children.”
“I'll tell you what. What would you think of living here on the premises? You could help with the children. The convalescent hospital isn't too far from here. Lloyd would be glad to drive you over there so you could keep your job and see your sister. While you are here you could be with your nieces and nephews. In the meantime, we will try to solve the Roger problem. I know of a few people who would be more than willing to put the brute behind bars where he belongs.”
“You would do that for me? Miss Evelyn, I don't know how to thank you.”
“No need. You stay right here. I'm going to gather your nieces and nephews. I know they will be happy to see their Aunt Peggy.”
Evelyn was right. The faces of the children lit up the moment she opened the door to her office and they saw Peggy sitting there.
“Where's Mama, Aunt Peggy?” said Maureen.
“Your mama is in the hospital. She will be alright but for now she has to stay there.”
“I thought Mama was dead. I saw Papa push her down the stairs.” said a tearful Alberta.
“I don't ever want to see Papa again” cried Casey. “I hate him”
“So do I. He is mean to our mama.” Eli said.
The twins were giggling as they fought for space on Peggy's lap.
Evelyn had the feeling it wouldn't be too long before she would have openings for more children in need. However, her first priority was saving this family from the likes of Roger Blake. She picked up the telephone.
“Operator, please put me through to Mr. Neville Merryweather in Camden Corners.”
“Hello, Neville Merryweather here.”
“Neville, this is Evelyn Keys. Tell me, are you still in the sleuthing business?”
“Any chance I get Evelyn. What do you have for me?” He heard her story and couldn't wait to get started. This sounded like the kind of caper Oscar and Harvey would like to be involved in. He called them right away to develop a plan to put Roger Blake in the slammer where he belonged.
“You don't think we are going to let you fellows have all the fun do you?” Nettie said when she heard the men talking about bullying a bully. “I'm sure Helene and Margaret would be happy to be in on the adventure. We ladies can stay behind and play with the children in the villa if we will get in your way.”
They arrived in Greensboro where Nettie took Helene and Margaret to all the best shops in town before they went to the villa.
“Nettie, I wish we could give each and every one of them a home,” said Helene. “Neville and I have been talking about the possibility of adopting some of them. Margaret and Harvey's lives are so full with their brood.”
“Oscar was afraid we may be too old but Evelyn told me having older parents is better than having no parents at all. Our house has been so empty since Polly and Faith moved out. We see the children and grandchildren often but it isn't the same as having young people around all the time. I think it keeps us younger too.”
Helene brought along several books she had purchased at the Greensboro Book Store. Several of the children were circled around her when seven year old Marissa stood up and walked over to her standing right by her side. After the third story she said “I love you Miss Helene.” Helene's heart melted. How could she not love this little girl with the name of Marissa. After all she and Neville already had two daughters named Melinda and Melissa. It sounded like a match.
“Come on Marissa. It's time for lunch.” came a surly voice.
“But I want to stay here with Miss Helene and listen to more stories.”
“We'll read more after lunch. Why don't you go with this young lady and I'll see you in a little while?”
“That's not a young lady, that's my sister Marvella. She is always an old sourpuss.”
“Hello Marvella, it's very nice to meet you.”
“Marvella,” came a stern voice, “that is no way to speak to Miss Helene. Please say hello properly.”
“Hello Miss Helene. I am honored to make your acquaintance” Marvella said with a mocking voice.
Evelyn shook her head. “Most of these children are so easy to love. Occasionally you get one like Marvella. She is only 13 and I'm afraid she is the most difficult child in the villa.”
“Is Marissa really her sister? She is so sweet.”
“Yes, she is. Marissa can't help herself. She sees the good in everything and everyone. She has a special way about her. Their mother was found on the street in a stupor. She was taken to the hospital but never revived. Their fathers are unknown. Marvella took care of her mother from the time she was five years old. After her death, the girls were shuffled from one family member to another. Their only source of love came from each other. Someone, I believe it was an uncle brought them here. He told me they were too much for his mother to take care of and left without a look back. Marvella doesn't trust anyone. Her attitude covers up her need to be loved, I'm afraid.”
“I've always heard the children who are the hardest to love need it the most. I'd like to talk with Marvella again if I may, she may like to help me read to the children this afternoon.”
“You can try, I'm not sure she reads that well. I have the idea neither of the girls have gone to school on a regular basis.”
Helene knew what she was going to do. Neville would be easy to convince but Marvella might be another story. Helene was good at stories though, she knew just how to read them so they always had a happy ending.
“Miss Evelyn said you wanted to see me. If you want to adopt my sister you can forget it. She doesn't go anywhere without me.”
“Let's not get ahead of ourselves. In the first place, if my husband and I were to adopt your sister, we would adopt you also. You will not be separated so rest assured of that. I thought you might like to help me read to the children. Marissa seems to enjoy hearing the stories so much.”
“I don't like to read so forget it.”
“Maybe you would just like to listen to the stories. I know when Miss Isabelle reads to the children in Camden Corners their mothers and older sisters enjoy listening too.”
“Look lady, I don't know what you want from me. I don't need you or anybody else.”
“I would like to be your friend, that's all. If you don't want to stay here you are welcome to leave.”
Marissa and the other children came in the library and took their places in front of Miss Helene. Marvella got up to leave but changed her mind and sat down in one of the chairs near the back of the room. In spite of herself she was enjoying the story Miss Helene was reading. She could tell Marissa was enjoying it too. Maybe she'd stick around for just a little while longer.
In the meantime, Neville discovered Mr. Roger Blake was not only a bully, he was a thief too. It was almost impossible to prove but the sheriff was watching him closely. Maybe it's time Mr. Blake had a taste of his own medicine. Neville and Oscar met in a little hole in the wall bar called Grizzlies. They spoke loud enough for anyone to hear. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to them except one Roger Blake. He took in every word about how they had a poker game set up with Harvey Wilson, the richest man in Greensboro.
“Hello fellas, what's this about a poker game? I want in.” He held a pistol very close to Oscar's head.
Neville almost choked on his beer when he saw the gun. He only planned to set Roger up to face a jail sentence because it was illegal to gamble in Greensboro. Oscar looked a bit concerned himself.
“Look mister. We don't want any trouble. Let me buy you a drink and we'll be out of here.”
“I want in too said another unsavory looking character. You blokes better get this rich guy in here before Blake's trigger finger starts acting up.”
“We were meeting him in a room at the Greensboro Hotel. He should be there in a few minutes. You fellas want to come along?” Oscar said while he was trying to figure a way out of this mess. The plan was that the sheriff would be waiting in the adjoining room, break in on the game and arrest them all and setting everyone except Roger Blake free.
“Harvey, I see them walking toward the front door,” the sheriff said as he looked out the window. “We may have some trouble here. There is another fellow with him and if it's who I think it is, he is even meaner than Roger Blake.”
“We'll just stick with the plan Sheriff. Hopefully, we will all be alive to tell about it, I think I see a gun in one of their hands.”
They approached the door to the hotel room. Neville decided to add to the suspense and knocked three times and then two.
“That some kind of a signal?” said the surly one.
“Yes, you know what we are doing is illegal in this town. We can't take any chances that the authorities are in the room. If he opens the door we are fine. If he signals back we'll make a run for it.”
Harvey opened the door. “Just how many are going to be joining our game this afternoon. I don't want to break all of you. I'm sure feeling lucky today.”
“Just shut up Pops and deal the cards.”
After playing for thirty minutes or so, Neville started raising the bids. He and his cronies were losing quite a bit of money and the stakes were getting higher and higher. Neville, Oscar and Harvey all folded leaving only Roger and the other fellow left in the game. Roger was helping himself to the liquor on the back cabinet all afternoon. He thought he was being clever when he slid an Ace into his sleeve. His sleazy friend saw it too and before anyone could move, he pulled out his own gun and shot Roger through the heart.
“You killed the man,” shouted Neville.
“And you're next,” he said as he pointed the gun directly at Neville's head. Harvey pushed the table on its end knocking the gun out of his hand while Oscar slammed a chair over his head. The sheriff burst through the door his deputies following behind.
They left the room with Roger Blake in a body bag.
“I think I'll take a little of that whiskey now, Oscar.”
“Not that rotgut,” said Oscar. “I wasn't going to waste any of my good stuff on those weasels.” He reached into his bag and brought out a fine bottle of scotch.
“I think maybe I'd better leave the private eye stuff to the professionals from now on. From what I heard about Roger Blake I don't think the world will suffer without him in it but still, I feel responsible for a man's death.”
“That wasn't in the plan, Neville. You can't blame yourself for what happened here today and I say it's better him than us. Those children will have a decent chance in life now. We can hope their mother continues to recover. Their Aunt Peggy won't have to sneak around anymore. I think it was a very good day. Shall we see what our wives have been up to?”