Disclaimer: I do not own Nancy Drew or any of the characters associated with her. I make no money or profit from this story.
A/N: I've been reading a lot of Agatha Christie lately. Christie was one of my favorite writers in my younger days and it's been fun rereading her stuff. I hadn't read many of her short stories before, so I'm devouring them now. Most are good, but some are real stinkers. The following story was inspired by Agatha Christie's short story entitled "The Dressmaker's Doll." I found it to be a creepy little story. As I read it, an idea came to me for my favorite detective, Nancy Drew. So, here's my take on a spooky little tale.
The package arrived on a Thursday. Bess Marvin noted the return address, her great-Aunt Astrid. Aunt Astrid had died a few weeks ago and Bess had attended the funeral. A sad affair to be sure, but Astrid had enjoyed a long life. Eighty-nine years and relatively good health throughout. Who could ask for more?
Astrid had been one of Bess' favorite aunts. Well, except for one thing. Astrid collected dolls. Dozens and dozens of them. Her small apartment had been filled with them. Shelves lined the walls and dolls of every kind sat, or stood, on the polished wood.
Bess gave a little shiver at the very thought of the dolls. They had always frightened her. Why? She couldn't precisely say. Maybe it was their uncanny appearance. Some were quite lifelike. Remarkably so.
Bess cast her attention back to the package. It sat on her dining room table. Eager to discover what was inside, Bess got a knife from the kitchen and tore open the package. What had dear Aunt Astrid bestowed upon her?
Bess drew back in horror. So great was her fright, she almost dropped the knife.
A doll sat in the box. A soft, rag doll. Sort of a Raggedy Ann doll, but this one was much more lifelike. The face in particular. A sweet, smiling face. Charming really, Bess thought as her heartbeat returned to a normal rhythm.
Bess placed the knife on the table and peered into the box. Someone had packed the doll with great care. She was nestled amid paper and batting. Snug and cozy in her traveling box. She sat there in a beautiful dress just waiting for her new owner to pluck her from the box and find the perfect place to display her.
Bess sagged onto a dining chair. The doll was beautiful, so very beautiful. A velvet dress and silky blonde hair. But still, Bess felt uneasy. Something about the doll gave Bess a small moment of pause. Or was it apprehension?
Or was Bess imagining things? Perhaps remembering her sense of unease every time she visited Aunt Astrid and saw those dolls. Hundreds of dolls, and all of them seemed to stare at Bess, all of them wondering why she was there. Bess had sensed their disapproval.
"Well, what am I going to do with you?" Bess asked the doll.
The doll gave no answer. It sat limp in the box and stared at Bess.
Bess looked around her studio apartment. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were one big room. Well, not big, but adequate. Just enough space was allotted so that each section fulfilled its primary function.
Bess spied the shelves above her computer desk. She could place the doll there, among her knickknacks. Some books, a potted plant, and a figurine.
Yes, that seemed a good spot. Bess could view the doll from any place in the living room, dining room, or kitchen. Not that she necessarily wanted to.
Yes, that's the spot, Bess thought. She quite honestly did not look up there much and might even forget the doll was there.
A small smile lit Bess' face.
# # # #
A week later and Bess' unease had grown to outright hysteria. Things had been fine for two days after the arrival of the doll. No incidents. No strange noises in the night. But then, well then, things began to happen. Things Bess couldn't explain.
What was the first thing that happened she wondered? Oh yes, the books. The books on the shelf beside the doll. The books had been askew. Askew, awry, as though someone, or something, had shoved them.
Bess had found that odd – the books – but she had come to a clever conclusion. The mind always seeks a solution, a way to explain the unexplainable. Bess had decided that someone had banged on the wall. Her next door neighbor of course. He was a young man, younger than Bess. She was thirty, an established fashion consultant. He, however, was barely twenty-two. A kid really. Occasionally, he had friends over and things got loud. Wild even once.
That had to be it. He'd had friends over while she was at work. They'd bumped the wall and caused her books to slide a bit. She tried to ignore the fact that this did not fit the evidence. The books were shoved sideways, away from the doll. If the wall had been bumped, the books would slide forward, toward the edge of the shelf. Or would they?
And of course, she tried to ignore the fact that nothing else on the shelf was disturbed. Not even the doll.
Bess had straightened the books and snuggled the doll up to them, just the way things had been before. Then as Bess walked to the kitchen, she heard it. A soft sigh. A sound of utter disappointment. The sigh had held so much feeling that it astonished Bess, unnerved her. She'd stopped dead in her tracks and the hairs on her neck tingled. The sigh fully said, events had not gone as the person had wished.
Bess had spun and stared at the doll. Nothing was amiss. Nothing out of place. The doll had not moved. As far as Bess could tell. Yet, that sigh. She'd heard it. Felt it. Hadn't she?
After two weeks of mysterious events, Bess decided it was time to call her friend. Nancy Drew was a private eye. She could help. She would get to the bottom of this mysterious doll.
# # # #
Nancy arrived late one Friday afternoon. Bess greeted her with open arms. The two friends hugged and laughed. It had been almost a year since they'd seen each other. They'd kept in touch like most people nowadays, via email and Facebook. Still, for Bess, it was a relief to have Nancy there, with her, in her apartment. Together they would solve this mystery. Bess was sure of it.
"The apartment's small as you can see." Bess waved a hand over her humble abode. "We'll be sharing the double bed in my bedroom."
"Sounds cozy." Nancy smiled and her dark blue eyes twinkled. "It's so nice to see you, Bess. I'm so glad you called. It's been too long." Nancy hugged her friend again and felt Bess relax in her arms. Nancy didn't know how much Bess needed that hug.
Bess prepared a large pot of tea while Nancy observed the doll. It still sat on the shelf next to the books. Now however, there was a small space between the two, as though the doll did not want to lean against the hard edges of the books.
"Tea's ready," Bess said.
She'd taken great care, arranged the teapot and necessary utensils attractively on the dining table. A plate of lemony scones took center stage. Their delicious aroma filled the room.
"She's really quite beautiful," Nancy said as she sat at the table.
Bess poured tea into her cup and Nancy's. "I agree, but wait till tonight."
Nancy added cream to her tea and stirred.
"So very English of you." Bess pointed at Nancy's cup and chuckled. Bess added sugar and lemon to her tea.
"What's going to happen tonight?" Nancy placed a velvety scone on her plate. She couldn't wait to eat it.
Bess sipped her tea. "You'll see." Bess leaned into her friend and whispered, "I pray she performs some of her tricks tonight."
Nancy frowned and appeared doubtful. She didn't want to dismiss her friend's fears without giving them a chance, so she said, "I guess we'll see." Nancy lifted her teacup and said, "To tonight."
Over tea, Bess told Nancy about the doll. How it came into her possession and the strange events that had happened over the last few weeks. Nancy listened intently and made mental notes, a sort of timeline. This was a most unusual case and Nancy had no idea how she would solve it. If in fact, it could be solved.