I stayed in Mandy’s room that night. I had no idea at this point, what had happened to the school children, which is precisely why I couldn’t leave Mandy alone for a minute. The next morning we had breakfast together, and Mandy was unusually quiet. It was Sunday, and she wouldn’t be meeting with her teacher, so my plan was to leave her with the maid in the morning, while I tried once again to see Uncle Charles.
Back up the circular stairs I went, and once again out came the eyeball when I knocked on the door. This time, the nurse let me in without the “Who goes there?” routine. “Is my Uncle up for a visitor this morning?” I asked.
“As I said before,” she answered, “He does better in the mornings and it is morning. I’ll take you to him.”
“I’d like to talk with you a bit, Nurse Jones, before I meet with my uncle.”
“Of course.” She reluctantly sat down, and I had to smile. Her chin and nose were pointed toward the ceiling.
“How long have you been caring for my uncle,” Nurse Jones? I asked.
“He has been under my care for close to two years,” she said proudly.
“So you weren’t here when the children disappeared.” It wasn’t a question, but she had the look of someone who was being interrogated.
“No, she said, “Charles didn’t need a full time nurse until after the children were abducted. He was so devastated over his loss, that he became totally irrational, and couldn’t be trusted to take his medication as the doctor directed.
I could see that the good nurse was being careful not to divulge too much.
“It’s rather curious don’t you think, that he lost his wife and daughter under similar circumstances? People don’t usually just disappear on their own.” I watched for a reaction before I coninued. There was no change in her facial expression, and she didn’t offer a comment. “My Aunt seems to think that Uncle Charles isn’t taking his medication as directed. She also says he is leaving the tower, which seems to concern her a great deal. What do you think?” I asked.
“I can assure you that Mr. Sander’s is taking his medication just as the doctor directed; after all, I administer it.” She looked offended.” And to think that he leaves the tower is absurd. Might I suggest that you see for yourself the state of your Uncle’s condition?” She stood up signaling that she was ending the conversation.
I followed her to the suite occupied by Uncle Charles. As we entered his room, I had no idea what to expect. Like the rest of the tower, it was dark and dreary. There was a cabinet, nightstand, and a hospital bed. That was it in the way of furnishings. The patient looked old and withered. He was in deep slumber. He most definitely did not look like a man that would be capable of going anywhere.
“I thought he would be awake,” I said. “Did I come too late?” The sound of our voices must have pentrated through the fog a little. His eyes opened and he was moving around some. Nurse Jones went to his bedside and raised the head of the bed. Uncle Charles looked my way, and I moved closer to him so he could see me and hear me better. “Good morning,” I said. “I’m Andrea, your sister Audrey’s daughter, I’m so happy to finally meet you.”
“You shouldn’t have come here,” He said, “They’ll come and take you away too.” He was already getting agitated. “No,” he thought again, “They just take children don’t they?”
“Uncle Charles,” I took his hand and he looked into my eyes. “What do you think happened to the children?”
I could tell he had more to say, but he also appeared confused.His eyes started darting around the room as if he was looking for something.
“You must calm down Charles.” Nurse Jones decided it was time to check his pulse. When she finished, she said she was going into the adjacent room to prepare his medication. “Don’t try to talk Charles,” she said. “I’ll only be a minute.”
He looked in her direction then turned to look at me. “I know where the children are,” he whispered. “All of them but, Amanda…I don’t know where my granddaughter is.” He turned to look at the framed picture sitting on his nightstand. So that’s Amanda, I thought.
Nurse Jones returned and gave my poor, confused Uncle an injection of something. She looked at her watch, then gave me a smug look. “See? Right on time,” she said.
– —- ——————————————————————-
The good nurse was happy to show me out, but before I left the tower, I wanted to see if the door to the other room was open. The last time I had been in the tower, there had been various doll parts scattered on a table, and a shadow outline of someone in a wheelchair. At the time, I assumed the doll maker was Uncle Charles.
Once again, the door was ajar, but this time, there was no one in the room. I ventured further in to have a look around. The only light came from two windows. There were tables, chairs, and two wooden cabinets. The tables and cabinets were filled with everything from doll hair to beautiful doll clothes in every design and color.
I walked over to the table where the doll maker had been intently working. There on the table were two photos of little girls, and two dolls made in their likeness. One I recognized from the photo of Amanda I had seen in a frame on Uncle Charles’s nightstand. I picked up the photo of the second little girl, then I picked up the doll. I don’t remember ever being this confused and afraid. The other little girl… was my precious daughter Mandy.