Canto 11 – The Safe House
“Where do you expect me to go in this world that isn’t even in my… time?”
Molly looked at her with those creepily lifelike glass eyes. “There was a place I could safely go when I was alive. Let’s go there.”
Brittany was in a fog as the doll guided her down one street and then onto another. They kept going past all those clunky-looking old-time cars with lumpy and rounded body parts, like out of a black-and-white gangster movie. The ladies all wore dresses with big shoulders and puffy sleeves. The men were mostly older and mostly all wearing those old-time hats like Indiana Jones or something… “fedora” was the word stuck in Brittany’s mind.
“This house! This is Dora McMaster’s house.” The doll pointed at an old Victorian-style house with a rounded, tower-like structure on the left side of the front of the house. The whole thing was painted slate gray with black trim.
Brittany knocked at the door, rapping half-heartedly with her knuckles.
The door opened, and a woman with a bee-hive hairdo and reading glasses answered the door.
“Oh, hello. How can I…?” The woman swallowed audibly as she saw the doll.
“Is something wrong?” Brittany asked.
The woman held her right hand in front of her mouth. “That’s Molly’s doll… But it can’t be. I haven’t even finished painting the face of it yet.”
“You… you made this doll?”
“No! That isn’t possible. Come in… I’ll show you why.”
Brittany followed the woman into her home. Through the entryway and into a sitting room where there were hundreds of porcelain dolls, only half of them finished. In the center of the room on a worktable stood the hairless head and upper torso of the very doll that Brittany held in her arms.
“This is the doll I was making for poor little Molly. It is a portrait of her. I made it myself, and shared the design with no one, although I do have the mold for the head in the basement next to my porcelain kiln.”
“You’re a doll-maker?”
“Yes, and if you have stolen one of my designs, I am not happy about it.”
“You have to tell her lies to make sense of it,” said the doll. “She will never understand otherwise.”
“I can’t lie…” said Brittany aloud.
“I should hope not.”
“You obviously made this doll. It looks like my own daughter Hannah, which is why I bought it. She somehow must look exactly like your Molly.”
“Well, if that’s the truth, then that doll must have my mark on it. Show me the back of her neck.”
Brittany handed her the doll.
Mrs. McMaster’s eyes bulged as she spotted her own signature in blue porcelain glaze at the base of the doll’s neck where the ball joint fit neatly into the neck socket.
“I apparently did make this doll. Did you come here to buy new clothes for it?”
“I don’t want any new clothes,” said the doll to Brittany. “I prefer to be nude since the fire.”
“I don’t really have any money right now.” That, at least, was not a lie. “But I would like to learn more about this Molly who looks like my Hannah.”
“Oh, of course. But, may I ask…? Where did you get this doll? I don’t remember making it or selling it to you.”
“Um, Aunt Phillia’s?”
“Oh, that explains a lot. That old devil’s toy store never sells anything that I didn’t give them for free. I still don’t remember making one for anyone whose daughter looks so much like poor Molly Beeman.”
“Tell me more about Molly…”
“Ah, the poor little thing… She would come around here looking so lost and forlorn after her daddy died in the North Africa campaign. The Germans killed him with artillery. He was in Tunisia with the 1st Armored Division. Molly’s mother took it too hard and went off the deep end…” Dora’s eyes filled with tears. She suddenly seemed to have lost the ability to talk.
“Something terrible happened? A fire perhaps?”
“I could have saved Molly if I had known… Oh, she could’ve lived here with me… Such a precious little thing.”
Dora was openly weeping now. Brittany put a hand on her shoulder.
“Molly died in a fire?”
“Yes. Her mother burned their house down with Molly in it… on purpose.” Brittany hugged Dora as the doll maker wept.
“Did the mother die too?”
“Not in the fire. They called it murder. She was hanged before the month was out.” Brittany’s stomach felt cold as the truth sunk in. The porcelain doll seemed to be cuddling against Mrs. McMaster’s shoulder as the poor woman wept. Was this thing of porcelain also a thing of evil? What did it want? And what was it doing to them? Brittany intended to learn.