Life in the cabin was all about survival. Abby did the best she could over the next two years to take care of the younger children, but she was just a child herself. She decided early on they would not venture too far from their new little home. They had no idea how far they were from other civilization. At least the cabin kept them safe from wild animals, and they weren’t likely to be found by the men who had taken Amanda…or tried to.
They didn’t want to think too far ahead, but they prayed together daily that they would be found and returned to their home. The food in the cupboard was enough for awhile. They learned how to burn wood in the fireplace to stay warm, and there was a fire pit outside with a hook to hang a pot. This is where they cooked their oatmeal and cornmeal mush or thin crackers made from flour and water. They got water to drink and wash with from the little creek behind the cabin.
As the first winter approached and their food supply started to run low, Abby was afraid they would starve to death. There were fish in the creek, but try as they might, they couldn’t figure out how to catch them. Fear and cold weather were setting in, when their savior came in the form of a dog.
The name on the collar said Beau. He was a beautiful dog and he truly saved the frightened little children. He never left them for long, and when he did, he came back with fish from the stream, or a rabbit for their stew. The children gathered wild berries and onions. They found a book in the cabin about edible wild weeds and plants. It also taught them about skunk cabbage that they could eat, plus it could also be used for medicinal purposes.
They survived by working together to meet each challenge they were faced with. Abby’s biggest worry was that Tony was growing and would soon need new protheses. She rubbed his scars where his lower legs had been removed, with an ointment she made from rabbit fat and the skunk cabbage. He was so brave, and never lost his ready smile.
Andy started to talk a little. He learned how to do so many things. He gained confidence, and he trusted this family he knew loved him. Alice had learned to slow down when she spoke. She barely stuttered.
Abby was thinking about all of this that day, as she pulled the crudely built sled, that held the dry wood she was bringing to the cabin.
The dollmaker was almost finished with the last doll. This creation was not in the likness of a child. No, the children were almost taken care of. This doll was in the likeness of an adult.
The children would no longer interfere. Four of them had been lost in the woods two years ago. They most likely starved to death or had some other fateful mishap. The fifth child, Amanda had bolted from the bus and ran. Her father had shown himself too soon. It took them two days to find her but, she was no longer a threat. Her father had taken Amanda abroad and had no intention of bringing her back.
The plan was brilliant. Bringing Mandy and her parents to the estate under the guise of giving them eveything topped it all off. With that thought, the dollmaker got back to the final touches of the current masterpiece. Andrea and Allen were getting too close to finding out the truth. The final phase of the grand scheme had begun. It was all so perfect.
I took the new doctor to see Uncle Charles. Aaron had checked his references and everything appeared to be in order. Thankfully, the new nurse had stayed on.
I know the doctor must have wondered why the poor man was stuck in a dark tower. “Good morning Uncle Charles,” I said. “I want to introduce you to your new doctor. You remember don’t you that Dr. Davis is no longer available to come and see you?” It was afternoon and Uncle Charles was awake, but still appeared to be in a fog of confusion. After the introduction, I left them alone so the doctor could do his examination.
I got to the dinning room in time to meet Aaron and Amanda for dinner. We had just seated ourselves, when we heard Aunt Bea coming. Aaron made sure he was out of the way when she came flying in. She came screeching to a stop, while (as always), holding her hat on her head.
“Oh my, I do love this new ride,” she said.” Then as before, she rang the little bell, and said grace.
“I’m happy you decided to join us,” I said. “It gives me a chance to catch you up on a few things. “Aaron found a new Dr. for Uncle Charles, and before he departed, Dr. Davis had a service send a new nurse over. I don’t think I told you we discovered Dr Davis and the attorney he directed you to, were both imposters.”
Aunt Bea seemed nonplussed by the news. “I rather liked Dr. Davis, but I barely knew the attorney. So you’re saying Dr. Davis, whoever he is, made sure Nurse Jones had a replacement? I assume he will be taking the same medication. It seems to have calmed him since his breakdown.”
“The new nurse seems much more pleasant than Nurse Jones,” I said, as the food was being served. “There is no relationship between and the man posing as Dr. Davis and the new nurse. Someone who said they were Dr Davis called the service to make the request, but they had no prior business business dealings with him, and he gave no special instructions.”
At that bit of news, Aunt Bea seemed physically shaken. She didn’t comment, and after a few bites of food, she excused herself. It was a much more subdued Aunt Bea that got on her “New ride” and left the room.
The following morning, I met with the Dr. shortly after taking Mandy to the library to get started with Ms. James. The Dr. and I spoke in the parlor. “Ms. Allen, I was able to go over the tests I recommended we run on your Uncle. Since the previous nurse seems to have taken the medication with her when she left, I was at a disadvantage as far as making a completely accurate diagnosis. The tests however, did reveal some things you should be aware of.”
“Certainly Doctor,” I replied. Is it bad news?”
“On the contrary, I have reason to believe your Uncle has been over medicated. The strongest of people would be in a stuper if they had been given the high level of sedatives we found in Mr. Sanders blood workup. It’s too early to tell how much he will recover, but I will tell you, if the current treatment had gone on much longer, he might not have survived.” The doctor stood then looked toward the doorway.
“Thank God, we were in time.” I turned to see who was there. It was Mandy’s tutor…
“Ms. James,” I said. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t suppose you do,” she replied. “Then she did something that cleared up one mystery.
The woman standing before me, was the children’s teacher and Mandy’s tutor. “I’m Belle,” she said. “Charles is my father, and Amanda is my daughter. These last two years, I have been searching for Amanda. Her Father is a dangerous man, and I’ve had to be careful. I’ve gotten close to finding them, but he’s always one step ahead of me. I tried to keep track of my father as well,” she said, “I knew he was failing quickly, which is why I came back.”
“Yes,” I said. “Hopefully,he will recover sufficiently to get some enjoyment in his life.”
“May I ask why you were disguised, and posing as Mandy’s tutor?” I questioned.
“Of course,” Bell appologized, “I feared my ex husband, Amanda’s Father, would discover I was here and try to harm me.” Then she shook her head, “I just don’t care anymore. I only want to see my Father.”