THE OLD TOYS (Part 2)
. . .Scrawled across my new flowered wallpaper was, “Give me back my toys!” in red crayon.
“How did that get there?” Chris exclaimed and walked across the room for a closer look.
We phoned the sheriff’s office to report our find. A quick inventory of the house showed nothing was missing or out of place—just the message. The sheriff came and went without offering a clue.
Why the message? Who knew about the toys? And, how did they know they were missing?
Sleep came slowly. Our privacy had been violated. It was hard to feel comfortable and secure. Startled from dozing off, I listened intently, my eyes searching the room for what had woken me. From somewhere in the house, I could hear soft sobbing. I shook Chris.
“Do you hear it?” I asked
“Yeah, but where’s it coming from?”
We crept around the second floor and decided the noise was from the attic. The door was stuck too hard to pull open quietly. We put our ears to the door. It was definitely a child’s cry. Between the sobs, I could hear, “I want my toys. Please, give me my toys.”
I looked at Chris in disbelief.
“Could we have a ghost?” Chris frowned.
We struggled with the door. When it finally came open, we hurried up to the attic only to find everything just as we had left it after finishing our work there.
“Let’s go back to bed. We can look into this in the morning. It must be some new noise this old house is creating,” Chris said in a tone that told me he was unconvinced of his own theory.
I lay awake until dawn. I knew what I had heard and it was not some new noise from the old house. I refused to accept a ghost as a viable explanation and I was pretty sure the mice hadn’t learned to talk.
Chris was still in the attic checking out the beams when I left to get some milk and bread from the old general store up the road.
“You’re the new people in the old Farley house, aren’t you?” the white haired gentleman at the cash register asked.
“No,” I replied. “We bought the Brookstone house.”
“Yes, but it was Farleys who built it. Strange folks. Hear tell they use ta put the little fellow up in the attic for days until the schoolteacher would get after them for keeping him home.” I could feel my face pale. Where was this leading?
“Had a hard time with him in school though…always stealing everything he could get his hands on. Never did find a lot of the stuff he took. Old widow Holmes tried to be a friend to the little feller once. He stole from her too. She finally decided it was useless. She couldn’t afford to lose all her jewelry.” His fingers brushed the stubble on his face. “Don’t know what ever became of them Farleys. Well, no mind. Enjoy yer new home.” He handed me my receipt and bag of groceries.
We spent another night listening to a child crying. After the Farley story, Chris and I had doubts about the old house causing the noise. I shivered as I thought about the Farleys. Ridiculous. I don’t believe in ghosts, I told myself as I dug deeper into the bedcovers.
I went to Mother’s and retrieved the old toys. They had not proven to be as valuable as she thought, but what the little elephant contained was. Another dealer had examined the toys a little more carefully. The elephant separated to reveal a hollow space that held a diamond brooch and a large emerald ring.
Perhaps, I thought, our “ghost” was a little more interested in these than the toys.
It was not the most comfortable position to spend the night, but we crouched behind the pile of lumber and insulation still in the attic. If our ghost made another visit, we were ready for him.
The branches of the large cherry tree next to the house scratched against the roof. Suddenly the sound became more rhythmic. We recognized the pattern of footsteps on the roof over the porch.
From his vantage point behind some boxes, the sheriff motioned us to stay still. A black silhouette filled the attic window. Slowly the bottom half raised up and the chilly night air spilled in. I drew my sweater tightly across my chest.
The dark figure crawled through the window, turned and shut it behind him. A small beam of light from his hand fell across the toys we had set on the floor.
“Aw right!” we heard him exclaim in a hushed voice. He crouched over the toys and began fumbling with the elephant, trying to get it apart. Just as the elephant popped open, the sheriff switched on the newly installed light.
Our ghost was a young boy of about sixteen who looked more frightened than we had been.
“What’s your name son?” the sheriff asked.
“Farley,” the boy swallowed hard. “Jacob Farley.”
Jacob was the grandson of the little boy who had been locked in the attic so many times. His grandfather had hidden the toys in the eaves to play with while he was locked away and, later, had found them to be a good hiding place for the items he stole. When they moved, some of the toys had been left behind. Jacob’s grandfather had rambled on for years about his escapades and the attic with the secret toys.
Unfortunately, Jacob didn’t want the toys for the memories they held. He needed money. He overheard us talking about the toys when he searched the attic one night. He decided to play the ghost and scare us into returning the old toys to their hiding place.
I watched the sheriff put the young boy into his car. I felt sorry for him but hopeful. Maybe now he would get the help he needed to get off the drugs he would have purchased with the money from the brooch and ring.
“Guess what?” Chris said with a smile, returning from work a few nights later. “No one knows anything about the jewelry. The widow’s estate doesn’t list any of it. If no one else can prove it’s theirs, in a few months, it will become ours.” The gleam was back in his eye. “Now that jewelry is worth some money, I’m sure.”
“There you go again,” I said punching him in the arm. “But this time I agree with your monetary outlook. I can think of some ways to spend the jewelry money.”
I put my arms around him and lay my head on his chest. “A nursery wouldn’t be a bad project. After all, my aunt always said, ‘new house—new baby’.”
“But this is an old house,” Chris protested.
“Yeah, but it’s an old house with potential.”