Lori has been writing fiction since she first caught the writing bug at age nine.
I am enjoying writing this story, however difficult. The research though is fascinating. This chapter will take us back to America 1969 to the big mess Mrs. Hargrove is creating. Hang onto your seats for a wild ride.
From Part 13
Sasha begins his investigation by traveling to Gdynia to search the manifest of the SS Pulaski voyage where the passage receipt was to. He finds the ticket was for an American, Robert Barron.
Gita and Ula remember him. Ula finds more evidence in a secret compartment in Borys's book case.
Are We Clear?
Mrs. Hargrove's reverie was disrupted by the ring of the telephone while she sat behind the counter concocting another plan to gain access to Anna Wronski. Annoyed at the intrusion, she grabbed her teeth, shoved them haphazardly into her mouth and answered the phone.
"Yes, what is it?" she snapped.
"Mrs. Hargrove, please," said a male voice.
"She. What do you want? I'm very busy."
"This is Truman Haas, head of security at University Hospital. We've been informed that you called in the last half hour seeking information about Mrs. Wronski under the guise of being her sister. You tried this tactic once before. Mrs. Hargrove. I must remind you that you have been banned from this hospital and from seeing Mrs. Wronski. The security staff is on alert and the information desk is as well. There is a guard at Mrs. Wronski's door for protection. If you come again you could be arrested. Are we clear Mrs. Hargrove?"
"I'll tell you what, Mr. Haas, I wouldn't darken the door to that hell hole you call a hospital for any reason. You can put an army at Mrs. Wronski's door if you want, but I have no intention of disturbing that old bat. Are we clear, Mr. Haas?" She slammed the receiver down as hard she could and spewed a long stream of curses on the hospital, doctors, and Anna Wronski. She rested her dentures back on the counter and began pacing with rage down the aisle of her store.
Mrs. Hargrove was so disturbed she failed to hear the door bells jingling. It was Beatrice Neville, wife of Principal Elvin Neville.
Mrs. Neville watched Mrs. Hargrove quietly, observing the old woman talking to herself, in her own little world it seemed. She tried to hear what she was saying.
"They're all out to get me," Mrs. Hargrove muttered. "It's a conspiracy. The gods are against me, the world is against me, they seek to humiliate me, make me a laughing stock. Anna Wronski is a devil. I'll show them."
Mrs. Neville noticed the dentures on the counter. Very unlike Mrs. Hargrove to leave them out. 'She always tries to put them in before people see her,' she observed. She cleared her throat loudly. Mrs. Hargrove seemed not to hear and continued her mumbling and pacing.
"Hello Edna," she said. "Are you all right? Can I help you?"
Mrs. Hargrove stopped and turned her attention to Mrs. Neville. "Help me? Why on earth would I need help? State your business."
"I'm sorry to have offended you Edna. It's just that you looked upset. I was just concerned."
"Fine. What is it I can do for you, Missus?"
"It's me, Beatrice Neville. Don't you recognize me?"
"Neville? You're married to that scoundrel Principal Neville. Come to spy on me have you? Everyone is spying on me these days. Well you can turn right around and take your leave."
"Oh Edna, I didn't come to spy on you. I've been coming here for years. We've had many lovely chats. I simply came for some ground beef and vegetables. May I?" she kept her voice kind.
"I don't trust Neville's but go ahead and get what you need and be on your way, and don't be questioning me or telling me I'm a criminal."
"Certainly not. I'll just get what I need, thank you." Mrs. Neville went to the back of the store and found the ground beef in the refrigerator case, then went to the vegetable counter and searched for what she needed. While she was looking over the potatoes she could hear Mrs. Hargrove mumbling again, but couldn't make out what she was saying. She found what she needed and went to the counter to pay. Mrs. Hargrove was rough with the scale as she weighed the vegetables. She beat on the register keys with her aged, bony fingers. Mrs. Neville attempted conversation once again.
"Edna dear, your hair looks so lovely today. Did you get a perm?"
"I've never had a perm in my life," she said, bagging the groceries. Five dollars and fifteen cents."
Mrs. Neville paid the exact amount. Before she turned to go she gave Mrs. Hargrove a kind parting. "It's been delightful to see you today, Edna. Thank you for your help."
Mrs. Hargrove eyed her suspiciously. "Good day. Tell that husband of yours I won't be treated like a naughty child or a criminal. And I won't tolerate him sending spies."
Beatrice Neville thought it best to ignore the statement and leave quietly. That evening she told Elvin what happened. "Honey, I stopped by Mrs. Hargrove's store today to pick up some things and Mrs. Hargrove was acting really strange."
"Bea, what were you doing there? With all the problems we've been having with her it's not a good idea to go there. She knows I'm close with Anna. I don't want you going there anymore for awhile, okay?"
"I see your point and I won't. But she was really acting weird, and I'm concerned, even if she has been behaving badly."
"She is weird. But more than usual I take it. What happened?"
"She was pacing up and down the aisle, completely unaware of my presence. She was mumbling to herself about spies and a conspiracy against her. She was in her own little world. When I finally got her attention she didn't recognize me at first. When I reminded her of who I was, she let me shop but was sure I was there to spy on her and of course she railed against you. She seems almost psychotic."
"Hmm. That doesn't sound good. I know her son, Raymond. He's a police officer and a very good man. He's been worried about his mother. My main concern now is Anna, but I'll give him a call and let him know. It could be there is something going on with her that a doctor can look into."
"That's a really good idea, Elvin. I think you should do it right away."
That evening Mr. Neville did call Raymond. He told him about what his wife observed and that she was very concerned.
"Thanks for telling me Mr. Neville. I know my mother has behaved badly toward Mrs. Wronski and you, so it's very kind of you to call me. I've been concerned for a long time about her behavior but this is something new and even more disturbing. I'm wondering if the injuries to her head when she fell caused more problems. I'll look into it. Thanks again Mr. Neville. You're a good man."
"You're welcome Raymond. I hope things get better for your mother. Goodnight."
Raymond would call the doctor as soon as he got of his shift tomorrow afternoon.
A New Decision
The following day Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Ptak conferred and decided Mrs. Wronski was well enough to go home. The concern was her being safe from Mrs. Hargrove who knew where she lived. And Anna exclusively shopped at Hargrove's Grocery. Beatrice and Elvin Neville volunteered to have Anna stay with them for awhile until the matter could be resolved. Dr. Reynold's and the Neville's visited with Anna to give her the news.
"Mrs. Wronski, Dr. Ptak and I feel you are ready to go home. But you still need some recuperation time and some follow up care."
Beatrice patted Anna's hand reassuringly. "Anna, Mr. Neville and I would like you to stay with us for awhile and let us care for you. We have a room all set up for you. How would you feel about that?"
"That is nice of you, thank you, but my Gita, my pictures."
"Not to worry, dear, we can go to your house and you can gather everything you want to have with you."
They could all see that Anna was struggling. On the one hand she was grateful she could be in a safe place with the Neville's, but anxious about not being in her own home with all her own things. But she realized staying with the Neviille's was the best option and agreed. And they lived near the school. The nurse came in with discharge papers and instructions for care at home. They piled into the Neville's car and set out for Anna's house to pick up her belongings.
Fifteen minutes later they passed by the school. The children were all in class. Anna was overcome with a compulsion to look for Gita. "Stop, please. I must search for my Gita."
"Anna, darling," said Beatrice, "it's about to rain and you don't have the proper clothes. Besides, we are going to your house to get all your things."
Anna became agitated. It had been so long since she'd searched for Gita. "Please. I must search for Gita. What if I missed her while in the hospital?"
Mr. Neville tried to reassure her. "Anna, I don't want you to worry. The staff and I all kept an eye out for Gita while you were laid up. We did not see her."
Just then they pulled up to Anna's house. It felt strange to be at her own home again. It looked abandoned, cold, and lifeless. She couldn't wait to get in, turn on the heat, set a pot of tea, and make some soup. Mr. Neville had the key and opened the door. They noticed the spring to Anna's step at being at her own house again.
The first thing Anna did was check on the photographs of Gita. She kissed the largest one on the mantle and cradled it in her arms. "Hello, my Gita. Mama has missed looking at your sweet face."
Beatrice tried to herd Anna into the bedroom to pack some clothes and other things she would need. "Anna, dear, let's go into the bedroom and pack you a bag. Mr. Neville can pack up all your photos."
Anna was in another world, lost in the past. "Mama," she heard. It was Gita's voice. "Mama, where are you?"
"Gita, here I am. It's Mama. Where are you?" As on many other occasions she began searching the house for her little pearl.
"Here Mama, over here in the pantry."
Mrs. Neville tried to redirect her as she headed for the pantry. "Anna, Gita is not here. Come, lets gather your things so we can get you settled at our home."
Anna pulled away from Mrs. Neville, surprising her at how strong she was. She made it to the pantry. There was no Gita, but she could hear her daughters voice fade away. "Goodbye Mama. I'm going back to school." Anna became frantic. "School, Gita went to school. I must go search for her at the school." She turned to go to the front door but Mr. Neville caught up to her before she made it.
"Anna," he said, making sure she looked into his face. "It's me, Mr. Neville. Let's come sit down and we'll have a talk." He led her to the worn old sofa and they sat. Awareness returned to her eyes and she listened to her dear friend. "Anna, remember you are going to stay with me and Beatrice for awhile. Do you understand?"
She nodded in the affirmative. Beatrice is going to pack you a bag and you and I can gather all the photos you'd like to have with you. Are you ready?"
He had brought a box in from the car and Anna began collecting all her photos. Some she kissed, some she cradled, some she chuckled at, some she talked to. Mr. Neville and his wife choked up as they watched their vulnerable, sweet, lost friend going in and out of reality. Finally they got her back into the car and drove to their house, avoiding the school by taking another street. As they pulled into the driveway and helped Anna out she looked confused. "Is this where my Gita is?"
After Anna was safely asleep that night Mr. Neville and his wife sat at the kitchen table. "Bea," he said, "poor Anna has been tormented for years searching for her daughter. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to find a way to try to find her.
Another Busybody Comes Calling
Mrs. Hargrove had just reopened after her lunch. Mrs. Lydia Harrington from down the block entered the store all worked up with excitement. She had something to tell that would surely get Mrs. Hargrove excited too. Mrs. Harrington was an even worse busybody than Mrs. Hargrove.
"Edna dear," she said. "You'll never guess what I just heard"
"Do tell, Lydia."
"Well, I hear that Mrs. Anna Wronski is out of the hospital and staying with the Mr. and Mrs. Neville. Can you believe it?"
"Really. That figures. Trying to keep her from me," said Mrs. Hargrove. "You don't happen to know where they live do you Lydia?"
"Well I sure do. They live on Tremont, that cute brick bungalow next to Fairhope's Boarding House. I'm surprised that three story, prehistoric monstrosity is still standing. Mrs. Fairhope hasn't kept it up at all since she had that bad fall last..."
"Never mind that Lydia. Is the boarding house doing well? Is it pretty full of customers most of the time?"
"I should say not. The whole third floor is full of cobwebs, according to Sadie Mae Hewitt, who heard it from a very reliable source."
"You don't say," said Mrs. Hargrove.
"I do say. You have that look in your eye, Edna Hargrove. What are plotting now? Can I help?"
"I need to think on this first. I'll call you if I need your help. But I'll tell you one thing, Lydia, I have a lot of spies keeping an eye on me and I'm not going to put up with it anymore."
"Spies? Whatever do you mean?"
"Never mind for now. But if anyone comes to you asking questions about me tell them you know nothing. I'm counting on you to keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open."
"Mouth closed. Is that better?"
"Much. I'd sure like to know what you're up to. You know my number."
"And you've got mine. Let me know if anyone comes snooping around."
Mrs. Harrington left the store wondering what on earth was going on with her friend. "I do believe she's losing her mind."
© 2018 Lori Colbo