As I began weed-eating around the abandoned house, run down, caving in, having seen better days. I kept getting this odd sort of feeling now and then, that I was being watched from the basement window. Old houses give me that creepy feeling, and more then once that day, I jumped, from an imaginary touch. The sun was high and hot it was, when I stopped mowing the tall grass, and took a break.
I sat in the only shade found, near the stairway leading to the basement. The door was missing and I could see the cluttered room. What once were belongings, now, were just decaying memories. It was then that I could have sworn that out from the darkness that I saw a man staring back at me. Angry eyes, colder then ice, the sorta look that gave me goose bumps on the back of my neck. I looked again, and saw nothing, and I laughed at my foolishness. Why would someone be hiding in the basement, looking at me?
It was then, that I heard the sounds of a little girl, crying. The sound was coming from the basement. "Let go of me, you're hurting me; give it back to me, give me Emily"; and I heard her crying louder. I dropped my sandwich and ran to the basement steps and made my way down the moss covered steps to the doorway. As I stood in the doorway and my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could seeboth of them clearly.
A tall thin man, wearing a tattered red shirt, and blue jeans, hunched over slightly. And she? She was a small red haired girl, no more then 8 years old perhaps, in a faded yellow dress. High into the air, he held a red raggedy ann doll, just out of reach of her hand, as she begged for her doll. His eyes flashed with anger, a satisfaction from inflicting pain, as he effortlessly twisted her wrist. In that split second, I yelled, "let go of the girl's wrist"; and both of them looked startled, as they reacted to my voice, and looked in my direction. Suddenly, I saw them both vanish!
I just stood there, in the doorway, speechless, in shock! Had I really heard and seen then, or had I just imagined it all? This was too spooky to be real. I must have been asleep and imagined I saw them. At that instant, I felt a warm breeze pass right through me, and I had images of the little girl that I had seen just a moment ago. I smiled at the sensation and at the voice I heard. A faint, soft whispering voice that said... "thank you for helping me to run from him".
My smile was cut short, as a wooden crate flew across the basement and smashed to the left of the doorway! Suddenly, I felt an ice cold presence pass through me. A feeling of anger, resentment, so festered, so enraged, I trembled. I shook with fear, for I knew what I felt was evil, a demon! Who knows how long he had been tormenting the little girl, before I came along? Then, I was overcome with a deep depression. I felt so alone, lost, as I fell to my knees, as my hand caught part of the door frame.
I was frantic, clawing at the darkness, desperate to escape, but I didn't know where I was! I felt like I was falling into a bottomless pit. I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts, as I tried to stand. My legs felt like they were both asleep, like rubber, as I struggled to pull myself up. I looked around, and saw a nearby cedar log, and slowly made my way to it. As I lay down, with my back against it, I stared at the old house. I recalled the two ghosts that I had seen, and a thousand questions came to mind.
Who were they? Why were they here? Why was he hurting the child? Was he her dad, or an abductor? Why was he so angry? Who would believe me, if I told them what I had just seen? It was then, that I heard the little girl's voice, to my right. I turned my head and I saw her, peeking out from behind a large boulder. She looked so real, I mean, so alive, as she waved her little hand "hi" to me! "over here, please come over here"; she whispered!
I stood up and held onto the log, got my balance and walked over to where she was. When I got close enough, she put up her hand, and said... "You mustn't come any closer". I stopped and nodded. Then, her eyes sparkled, and she smiled an impish smile and said, "My name is Becky, I'm nine years old, and that was where I used to live". Then I saw the sparkle in her eyes begin to fade, and she looked down at the ground.
I told her, my name was Raymond, and that I was hired to fix the place up, so the realty agent could sell it. She nodded, and said; "I know! I've been watching you from the window"! She looked around nervously, and whispered in a low voice; "He has seen you too, and he's very very angry. He hurts me all the time, and I have to run and hide. Her eyes began to fill with tears, as I heard her speak again. "He always finds me, always, and once he finds me".... but she never finished the sentence.
Suddenly, I heard her scream, and point her finger behind me... as she shouted, "RUN"!!!!! As I turned around, I saw the spirit of the man in the basement, limping toward us, his eyes so angry... I felt it clear to my soul. Becky was already running up the road, when she stopped and called out to me, to "hurry, I know a place"! In a few seconds, I had caught up to Becky, and she pointed up ahead. I could see a small fenced grave, beside a tall oak tree. "We're almost there, hurry, he won't follow us in".
I looked behind me, and saw him closing the distance between us, even with his limp. My God! His eyes were bright red. They looked like the eyes of satan himself, and I felt myself shiver, as Becky opened the gate, and we both went inside. I closed the gate behind me, and followed Becky to the pale, gray headstone. All I could do now was wait, and see what was going to happen! When the demon reached the gate, he stopped and stared. He scowled at us. Then he slowly walked all the way around the fenced plot, mumbling something in a low voice, I couldn't make out.
Then, he just disappeared! When I turned to look at Becky, she had knealed down beside the headstone. There was a cross carved into the stone, with three simple words written below the cross. "My Beloved Emily". It was then, that Becky looked up at me and told me... "Momma sleeps here"! There was such an anguished look of loneliness in Becky's eyes when she said that. I could see tears forming in her eyes, and wished that I could hug her.
I sat down on the grass near her, and said; "theres's so many things I need to ask you, Becky. I would like to help you if I can". Becky nodded her head, and told me she wanted me to help her. Becky looked away from me, as I asked my first question. "Becky, who is the man who chased us, the man who hurts you"? "His name is John, and he used to work for my daddy. He stole alot of money and he went to prison. But he broke out, and he fought with my dad. He shot and killed my daddy, and she broke down into tears".
"When I heard the gun shot, I ran from my room, down the hall, and to the stairs, and I"....; but she couldn't finish, what I was sure had happened. "You fell down the stairs, didn't you Becky"? She didn't answer me, she just shook her head yes. "Becky, why didn't you go to heaven? Why are you still here"? Is there something that you feel you want to do", I asked? Becky's eyes were filled with tears, and her eyes pleaded with me for my help. "Please Raymond, help me get my doll Emily back...Pleaseeee"?
"I thought Emily was your momma's name Becky"?, and she nodded. "Momma died when I was born, and I named my doll after momma, she's all I have left"! "If John has your doll", I asked; "how can I get her back for you"? It would be easy", becky replied. "You and I could trick him! My doll is always with him, except when he is chasing me. I'm sure he leaves it in the basement. If he were to chase me, and not see you, I know you could find it for me"!
"Becky"; I asked... Why doesn't John want you to have your doll"? "Why does he want to hurt you"? She brushed her faded yellow dress a moment, then answered me. "John want the key, and I won't tell him where it is"! My dad hid the key while he was in prison, and I keep telling him, I don't know where it is"! "Do you know where the key is, Becky"? Becky gave me the cutest Shirley Temple impish smile and nodded yes!
Slowly, I watched Becky disappear. I sat there, with a hundred things running through my mind, as the sun was going down. In just a short time, I had seen the unbelievable. I had been sitting next to a ghost, a ghost of a child, telling a tale of deception, theft, and murder. A tale of a demon, a key, and a doll. What did the key go to? Why did John want it so badly, even after death? Was it to a door? And the basement? What would I find there tomorrow?
Would John be waiting for me? Would I find the doll for Becky? Was I putting myself in danger? Then, as suddenly as Becky had disappeared, she was near me once again, but standing, brushing her mother's headstone. Just as if she were touching her momma's face or brushing her hair. I could almost imagine her Emily's kind smile. I knew Becky had never known her mother, never heard the soft lullaby's that mother's sing to their little one's.
I felt so sad for her, trapped here, unable to go to heaven. And she looked to me, to be the one to set her free. When I spoke to her, it was with a voice of reassurance. "Becky, I need to go now, but I will come back in the morning". There was no smile in Becky's voice as she began to speak. I know you have to go, but when you return, bring a cross. A cross like this one"; and she pointed to the cross on her mother's headstone. John can't hurt me here, Raymond, and I think it is because of momma's cross".
As I stood, and turned to Becky, I told her good-bye; and she waved a small wave and she vanished. I made my way back to where my truck was parked. I gathered up my tools and placed them in the back of my truck. I sat in my seat and put the key in the ignition and turned the key! Nothing! I wasn't surprised! I could only imagine what I would find, once I lifted up the hood. But before I could open the door, all hell broke loose! The truck began to shake, like I was in an earthquake! No, worse then an earthquake. I was bouncing all over the place. My head hitting the roof again and again!
I was dizzy, everything was a blur, and then, it just stopped. As I came back to my senses with a splitting headache, I was startled, as I looked to my left, and there John stood. But he wasn't glaring at me. I saw no anger in his eyes. For the first time, he spoke, and I listened. What he had to say to me, would be very shocking to me! John's eyes were a soft brown, caught in the last rays of sunshine. When he began to speak, my heart beat stopped racing.
"Please listen to me, you must, you're my only hope. I have been waiting for three years in this place, waiting for someone to help me. I have been so angry. I worked for Becky's dad as a bookkeeper, that was until he accused me of stealing thousand's of dollar's! He framed me, called the police, he planted evidence. I went to prison for four years, for something I didn't do! Then one day, I broke out. I came back to this house and confronted him...and we fought. He pulled out a gun from his desk drawer, and we struggled, and he was shot by accident.
I heard Becky running down the hall...to the stairs. Then I heard her scream, and tumble down the stairs. When I reached her, she was dead. I turned the room inside and out and couldn't find the key to the money box. On my way down the stairs, the poilce burst in, saw Becky's body, then me. The gun was still in my hand, and before I could speak, I was shot and killed. I have been here ever since! There is a box, buried on this land! It contains the ledgers that proove I was innocent, and the money is in the box too. I need to get the key, so you can give it to the police...to prove I was framed. Becky I am sure knows where the key is, will you help me? You are my only chance at being set free"!
I sat there in the truck, even more confused then I had been before. My mind just couldn't take in all the twists and turns. Could John be telling the truth? Had he really been framed? Was Becky's dad really the bad guy? Where was the key, that becky said she had? John and Becky's ghosts were here, but where was Becky's dad's ghost? I am sure he was not a happy ghost either. Especially if he were to see me trying to take the box to town. As I looked back at John, he had already disappeared. I guess he went back to the basement, or where ever ghosts go.
Well, one thing I did know for sure, I was dog tired. As I turned the key in the ignition, the engine started and I turned the head lights on. I backed up, and headed towards the main road, and back to town.
When I reached home, my eye lids were heavy. The tools could stay in the back of the truck until morning. I'd call in sick in the morning, and return to the old house. No time to work out a plan, I told myself, as I opened up a beer. As I recalled all the events that had occurred today, I couldn't help but wonder, why ghosts linger behind? Why they don't go to heaven...or the other place, once a person passes away? I wondered why it had to be that children had to die?
I used to believe for the longest time, that when we pass away, we walk towards the light, like in the movie Ghost! Yet, I also believe that if a person died suddenly, or had someone unfinished, that was very important to them, that they might not want to walk towards the light. In Becky's case, Emily's doll meant everything to her. It reminded her of her momma, and she didn't want to leave her doll behind. In John's case, it was the need to clear his name of a crime he didn't commit!
But, what about Becky's mom and dad? I hadn't seen either of them. Were they near by? I was sitting in my rocking chair, when the clock chimed 2 A.M. ! My hand let go of the half empty beer and it fell to the floor, as I drifted off to sleep. It wasn't until after 10 that morning, that I was awakened by the ringing of the phone. Sleepily, I looked at the caller I-D, and saw it was my boss, Bill. But I didn't answer the phone. Today, I was on a mission of mercy, to help two spirits. I didn't know what the day would hold for me. For once, I set my own needs aside and thought of someone else.
I quickly made two sandwiches and a 2 liter bottle of Coke and headed out the door. My mind was racing, thoughts going in every direction, as I got in my truck and headed for town. I was so pre-occupied with wondering what I was getting myself into, I forgot to stop at the jewelry shop and pick up the cross neclkace, Becky had spoken of. Then... it suddenly occured to me as I passed the old oak trees and saw the old house! If John wasn't in the basement, and neither was the doll, I was back to square one! I parked and looked aound, before getting out.
Everything looked normal. Just a slight breeze blowing through the tress. As I got out, I saw I hadn't taken the tools out of the back of the truck, last night. Thank goodness I lived in a decent neighborhood, I told myself! Thieves love to steal tools. I walked over to the steps leading down to the basement. I took a deep breath, and made my way down, standing in the doorway, to let my eyes adjust to the darkness. The room was damp, cold, littered with debris and moldy ceiling tiles that had fallen.
Discarded books, cardboard boxes, mice had chewed into, mason jars, and an old whirlpool washer. In the far corner, I could see an old rocker with a newspaper on the seat. On the floor next to the rocker, was a tall stack of newspapers. I walked over to the rocking chair, picked up the newspaper, and walked towards a window for more llight.The front page headline in large letters said: "Murder Suspect Arrested! In smaller letters, it read, John Boyden pleads not guilty! Suddenly, the room darkened and a shadowy figure stood in the doorway. Then I heard John's voice as he began to speak to me.
"When you left last night, I had my doubt's that you would come back, or want to help me". In John's hand, was Becky's doll, Emily, and he tossed it to me, as he said; "here's Becky's doll, please give it back to her". In the darkness, I missed catching the doll, and picked it up off the floor. as I squeezed the doll, I felt something hard inside. As i pressed harder, and felt the shape, I knew what the object was. It was the key, Becky's dad had hidden.
I smiled as I thought about how long John had Becky's doll, never realizing the key he wanted so badly, had been in his hand all the time. I pulled at the seam in the right leg, and it came apart, and the key was in the palm of my hand. I held the key up for John to see, as he walked over to me and said...."here is the key you couldn't find John. It was inside Becky's doll all the time"; and I laughed. By then, John was close enough to me that I could see the look of surprise on his face.
"Follow me, please! I'll show you where the box is buried"! As he turned and headed for the stairs, even with his limp, he was walking fast. I was right behind him, thinking of how happy he would feel to be cleared of a crime he didn't do! I thought of how happy Becky would be to get her doll back! I believed that things would finally work out for both of them. I followed John past the old apple orchard, down towards a small swamp. It might have been a nice fishing pond in better days, but now, brush had taken over.
At the edge of the marsh like pond, John stopped and pointed to a small mound, over grown with grass. He pointed to it, and said..."the box is buried there, and not very deep". I told him I would get a shovel and be right back. In a few moments, I returned with a shovel, and John stood back. The ground was soft, wet and in no time, the blade of the shovel, hit the box. I smiled and turned to look at John; but he was not there. He had left? I was puzzled. Where did he go, and why?
I worked faster to unearth the box, and found it to be a metal footlocker. The kind that scoots under a bed. It was about 2 feet by three feet and had a padlock on it. I tossed my shovel aside, and I took hold of the handle and pulled the box out. As I did, I felt a chilly breeze. I fumbled with the key, and knelt down. It took several tries, before I could work the key and padlock and hear the click. I pulled down, and the padlock opened. I took off the lock and lifted the lid and stared.
I was looking down at 2 ledger type books, and "CASH"!!!!! A whole both of money, thousand's! I opened the first ledger book and saw the figures! records of deposits, all by Becky's father. I wondered why the police had arrested John, when the bank deposits were made by Becky's dad? Then it all fell into place! Becky's dad had a second set of ledger's, that must have been altered, implicating John!
Suddenly, I fell onto the box, as I was struck from behind with my shovel, over and over! As I fell, I turned over and saw that my attacker was another ghost. A Man I had never met, as I felt blood running down my face and neck! Behind him was Becky and she had her doll in her hand. Her eyes were sad. There were tears in her eyes as she slowly walked over to me. She reached down and took my hand, as I cried out.... "Why"? "I'm sorry Raymond, but daddy was right, don't you see? We couldn't let anyone find out it was daddy who stole this money"! As her tears fell onto my hand, things grew dimmer and I died!
2004 Raymond Brown