Chapter 4: Fair Warning
Abby is rushing around the kitchen gathering up the basic essentials when she sees her energetic three-year-old bouncing down the stairs. How can you have so much energy, child? she wonders, watching her dart through the hallway.
“Are you ready to go, Lilly?”
“Where are we going?”
“We need to pick up a few groceries for supper tonight.”
“Can I get a toy?” she asks, hopefully.
“Only if you’re a good girl.”
“I will be Mommy, I promise,” she excitedly replies.
“Ok, I think I have everything,” Abby says, trudging towards the door. It was difficult to move fast with the baby carrier, diaper bag, and purse weighing her down. I feel like I’m moving out, she thinks, trudging across the floral tile.
“You forgot these,” Grabbing the keys off the kitchen table, Lilly hands them to her.
“I can’t get very far without them,” she laughs, taking the set from the child’s hand.
“I think we’re ready, now,” she says, going through her list one more time as she opens the door. Abby sees a short, pudgy character standing on the top step when she turns around. Screaming, she slams the wooden barrier shut. Realizing what she’d just done, she shamefully pulls it back open. She sees the gentleman is still standing on the steps.
“I’m sorry if I frightened you, Mrs. Jenkins,” he chuckles.
“It’s alright,” she says, trying to regain her composure.
“My name is Randy. I’m Mr. Jones’s handyman. He wants me to do a little yard work for you today if that’s alright?”
“That’ll be fine, Randy.”
“I won’t be disturbing you, will I?” he replies in a slow, southern drawl.
“No, no, we’ll probably be in town most of the day so do what you need to do.”
“Well, you have fun, drive safe,” he smiles, walking back down the steps. Shivering, Abby grabs Lilly’s hand and leads her towards the van.
“What’s wrong mommy?” the child asks, letting go of her mom’s trembling hand.
“I just got a little spooked,” she says, buckling Adam in his car seat. Looking around, Abby sees Randy pulling a lawnmower out of his pick-up. There’s something about him, I just don’t like, she thinks, watching him lower the equipment to the ground.
“Can we go now, Mommy,” Lilly asks. Startled Abby jumps backward.
“Yes, let go,” she says, watching the suspicious looking character as she closes the van door. Lilly looks over to where she’s starring.
“He seems nice, Mommy.”
“Yeah, well I don’t want you around him.”
“I just don’t, alright.” Eyeing him one last time she pulls out of the drive.
Greg is walking down the hallway whistling a merry tune. He’s happy that things are going so well.
“Cushy job, nice office with my own personal secretary what can be better than that. The people I work with are so nice, so eager to help. Something you don’t find in a big city. I think I’ve made the right choice after all, he concludes, stepping through the office door.
“Is everything alright at the house,” Mary asks, as he walks through the entryway.
“Everything is fine,” he replies.
“You know a lot of people have been asking me that today,” he says, walking towards his desk.
“We just want to make sure you’re settling in alright,” she stampers.
“There’s more to it than that. Seeing her nervously straightening her desk, he decides to push a little further.
“I want to know what’s going on and I want to know right now,” he demands, slamming his fist on the desk. Startled, Mary jumps back.
“I... I... I told you about the last renters seeing demons.”
“Yeah, and you also said no one believes them.”
“We didn’t, but other people claim they hear strange noises when they visit the house, and we want to make sure it’s not happening to you too.”
“Is that it? You guys think the house is haunted or something,” he chuckles.
“Something like that. If something does happen or you decide to move out for other reasons I have a realtor friend who’d be glad to help you find a place.”
“I am a little concerned about the heating costs since it is such a big house.”
“I’m sure my friend can find you something a little smaller. Maybe something closer to town,” she suggests.
“Let me talk to my wife, see what she thinks.”
“You know I saw an adorable little three bedroom brick home for rent on my way to work this morning.”
“I’ll let you know what we decide.”
“You better make it quick, because I doubt this cute little house will be empty for long.”
“I’ll ask her tonight.”
“It may be too late by then. So why don’t you ask her right now,” she says, handing him the receiver.
“You want me to rent this house awful bad, don’t you?”
“I just want you and your family to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”
“No, I guess not. Ok, I’ll call her.”
“You won’t be sorry.”
“We’re here,” Abby announces pulling into a parking space. Unbuckling her car seat, Lilly hops out of the van.
“This is a funny looking grocery store, Mommy,” Lilly says, staring at the red brick building in front of her.
“That’s because it’s a library, you silly girl.”
“It’s a library?” the child questions.
“Yeah, I want to check out a few books for us to read.”
“Books like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty?”
I want to pick them out. I want to pick them out,” Lilly says, running towards the building.
“Wait for me, Lilly!” Abby yells, dashing across the parking lot after her. Reaching down, she grabs the young girl’s hand.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again, alright?” she scolds. The child starts crying. Squatting down next to her, Abby quickly explains.
“You could’ve been kidnapped or worse,” she says, pointing towards the traffic.
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” the child blubbers through her tears.
“Don’t you ever do that again, alright.”
“I won’t Mommy, I promise.”
“Dry your eyes so we can go inside and remember no more running across the parking lot.”
“Yes, mommy,” she says, wiping off her chubby cheeks.
Stepping into the library, the young child sees rows and rows of books. More than she can possibly read in her entire lifetime.
“Wow!” The child cries in delight, quickly scanning the room.
“What do you think, Lilly?”
“This is cool, Mommy,” she exclaims, as she continues looking around the bright, colorful area.
“Can I help you find something?” The librarian asks as the trio steps through the door.
“I think my daughter found what she’s looking for,” she laughs, watching Lilly quickly skim through a row of books.
“Oh, what an adorable baby you have there.” The librarian gushes.
“How old is he?”
“Adam will be two months tomorrow.”
“Babies are so precious,” The librarian says, watching the infant sleep in his car seat.
“Yes, they are,” Abby agrees, gazing lovingly at her son.
“You know you can help me with something, after all, Janet I’d like to find out about a family who used to live in the house before us.”
“Do you have a name?” The librarian asks, walking towards a computer.
“Yes, it’s Arnold, Jack and Suzanne Arnold.” Hearing the name Janet quickly looks up.
“Why do you want to know about them for?”
“I’d like to know if they have any children. Noticing the inquisitive glance, Abby continues.
“See I’ve found their mother’s diary and a few other personal belongings in the attic and I wanted to give it back to them.”
“No one has seen Suzanne or the three girls in years.”
“What happened to them?”
“Rumor has it she ran off with another man, took the girls with her. I’m surprised she didn’t leave sooner, the way Jack treated her.”
“What happened to Jack Arnold?”
“He hung himself in the barn right after his wife disappeared.”
“Mommy, Mommy I found two princess books,” Lilly yells, running towards her mother. Seeing everyone staring at her, Abby quickly bends down.
“We have to be quiet in the library,” she whispers.
“Ok mommy. Can I take these home,” the child quietly replies.
“I’d like to check out these books, please,” she says, handing them to the librarian.
“Do you have a library card?”
“That’s not a problem.” Reaching under the desk the librarian pulls out a form.
“Let me know when you’re finished.” Walking into her office, Janet closes the door.
“I need to warn them about her,” the librarian thinks. Scooping up the phone she dials a number. Putting it on speaker, she started recording the call. She figures the tapes will keep her out of jail if the situation ever goes sideways.
“Hello, its Janet from the library. Mr. Jones’s new tenants came in a few minutes ago and started asking about the Arnold family.”
“What did you tell her, Janet?” The gentleman questions.
“That she ran away and he committed suicide.”
“Did she believe you?”
“I think so.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“She has Suzanne’s diary and I’m afraid something incriminating might be in it.”
“I’ll take care of it.” he sighs, hanging up the phone.
On the way home, Abby starts thinking about what the librarian had said. Suzanne wouldn’t run off with another man. She’s too afraid of what Jack will do to her if she did. Why did the librarian lie to me? Maybe she didn’t purposely lie. Maybe the police assume she ran away when they didn’t find her or the girls. If so, would they assume Jack hung himself too? Could his death actually be the result of southern justice? That’d explain why everyone’s being so secretive. I bet they are and I bet that’s why the neighbor said I’d be better off not knowing. She’s warning me to leave it alone. Did the last tenants figure it out and that’s why they suddenly disappeared? I think I’ll see what I can find out about the last renters and about Jack’s death, she concludes, pulling up to the house. Getting out of the van she sees the back door standing wide open.
“I bet Mr. Jones went in to check on something,” Looking around she realizes his truck is nowhere in sight. Maybe he forgot to close it when he left. She starts to get the kids out of the van when another thought occurs to her.
“What if we’re being robbed and what if the robber is still inside?”