Title: A Molly Mystery – The Light In The Cellar, a.k.a. “Molly and the Mystery of the Horrible Hoarders”
Author: Sarah Masters Buckley
Cover Artist: Jean-Paul Tibbles
Summary: Molly wishes she and her friend Emily had an exciting volunteer job that really helped in the fight to win World War Two. Instead, they’re magazine delivery girls at Oak Knoll Hospital. Soon, however, Molly and Emily start to suspect something very un-patriotic is going on at Oak Knoll – and their snooping leads them deep into trouble!
I’ve really let myself slip with these reviews and I’ve no one to blame but myself. I apologize again for holding up the schedule and I promise I’ll work harder next year to bring consistent reviews and articles.
It’s incredible good luck I was able to review this book for the website. I found it at the freebie rack at my local library, but I pulled it before I planned to do reviews for the website. This is a change of pace for the other Molly books, being significantly longer (at least three times as long) and has no illustrations. It focuses more on Molly’s friendship with Emily Bennett and sheds some more harsh truths about the effects WWII had on people back then.
It was a spring afternoon, and Molly McIntire was in Lincoln Park with her friends Susan, Linda, and Emily, the British girl staying with Molly’s family. The girls were out with Molly and Emily’s new puppies, Bennett and Yank, and had their bikes with them. Well, Molly had borrowed her brother, Ricky’s, old bike for Emily to use. And unfortunately for Emily, Ricky was nearby playing baseball with his friends.
See, Emily needed to re-learn how to ride a bike. With the state England was put in due to the war, she hasn’t ridden one in a long time. Emily volunteered to deliver magazines to Oak Knoll Hospital, the convalescent hospital her Aunt Primrose was staying at, so she needed the practice. But she didn’t want Ricky to tease her over forgetting, since he teased her as much as he teased Molly.
Which officially meant Emily was considered part of the McIntire family.
Thankfully, when Ricky and his friends DID spot the girls, he only warned them not to mess up his old bike. He didn’t think to ask why the girls were walking with it instead of riding it. The group continues onward to Overlook Hill Road, passing by some of the nicer houses in Jefferson. The kind of houses that had names, like Pine Forest and Ridgeley Park. Emily was sure she’d have an easier time re-learning what to do if she rode downhill. Unfortunately, Emily does NOT have an easier time even though she’s determined.
Secretly, Molly wishes she signed up for the JFA (Junior First Aid) Program like Linda and Susan did. All their classmates were expected to sign up for volunteer work to help with the war. In the JFA kids could learn how to wrap bandages and were taught first-aid skills. They were even given special whistles to use for emergencies. Molly thought learning such skills would impress her doctor father, but she felt bad Emily was the only kid who picked delivering magazines. So because she didn’t want Emily going to Oak Knoll by herself, Molly volunteered alongside her.
Seeing Emily crash so much, Molly was having second thoughts.
Still, you had to hand it to Emily. She wasn’t stopping until she was riding a bike with no problem, and suggested moving further up the hill. Linda and Susan become nervous, since the girls and the puppies are getting closer to THAT house. You know, the house all the kids in Jefferson believe is haunted. Greystone Manor. Molly doesn’t believe those stories, and Emily’s not leaving because they start working at Oak Knoll tomorrow. She HAS to get it right now.
Linda realizes Emily gets too scared and stops before balancing herself. Emily then scrapes her leg pretty badly, but she’s happy because she managed to pedal AND steer. Of course now she has to learn how to brake.
Linda takes out a handkerchief and starts to clean the blood from Emily’s leg while Susan asks if she should use her whistle to call for help. Emily insists she’s fine and feels confident enough to bike back to Molly’s house, but oh no! Yank and Bennett have gotten loose!
Emily thinks she hears Yank’s barking come from Greystone Manor, but Linda and Susan don’t want to go anywhere near the accursed manor. No one goes there, not even on double dares! Molly and Emily continue to search for the dogs near the manor, regardless of Linda and Susan. Linda chides Molly for yelling too Bennett’s name too loudly, even though she said no one lives in the manor anymore. But wait, if the manor is empty, why is there a light in one of the cellar windows?
Molly hits on the idea to use Susan’s whistle to call the puppies, and it works. Reunited with Yank and Bennett, the girls are relieved and ready to beat it. Heading down the driveway, Molly looks back and sees the cellar is now dark. Linda thinks the light was the reflection of the sun, but Molly’s convinced it was coming from inside the cellar.
So who turned it off?
As Molly and Emily arrive at the local Red Cross HQ to pick up the magazines for Oak Knoll they run into Mrs. McIntire. The girls help Molly’s mom bring in baking ingredients for the Glennings Canteen. Molly explains to Emily how they get thousand of soldiers traveling through the neighboring town of Glennings. The Red Cross set up a canteen for the soldiers to receive free snacks like coffee, doughnuts, and cookies. Jefferson’s always supplied the cookies, and it’s become an important tradition because the cookie are always amazing. It’s the best they can do to thank the soldiers for their sacrifices.
Unfortunately, there’s a problem in the storeroom. When Molly is asked to place the oatmeal near the sugar, she can’t find any. Mrs. McIntire is stumped because they should have 8 ten-pound sugar sacks and now there’s only 1. And the staff always keeps the sugar in the same place. Molly’s mom has no idea who could’ve used THAT much sugar in the past week, and they need that sugar for the cookies. Hopefully the sugar’s been misplaced somewhere. Yeah…
On their way to pick up the magazines, Molly discusses with Emily how the disappearance of the sugar is funny, but not “Ha ha” funny. Molly wonders if someone stole the sugar and Emily recalls hearing about people selling rationed goods on the black market. Emily adds her teacher said committing such a crime during wartime was like helping Hitler. The first time Molly heard “Black market,” she thought it meant a market painted black. But that kind of thing happens in big cities, not in small towns like Jefferson. Right?
Molly doesn’t want to believe anyone in her town would steal and sell rationed goods. That really WOULD be like helping Hitler!
Their thoughts on stolen goods are interrupted when Molly and Emily bump into Molly’s sister Jill and her friend Dolores. Because the two were older, Jill and Dolores volunteered to help wounded soldiers at the veteran’s hospital. The two candy stripers think it’s SO cute that Molly and Emily are delivering magazines. The condescension reaffirms Molly’s desire to switch volunteer jobs, but she stays silent.
The girls are given two stacks of magazines from organizer Mrs. Fitzgerald. She explains they have to check in with hospital director Mr. Pritchard at Oak Knoll, and they need to bring back any leftover magazines (for the paper drive). While riding their bikes through Jefferson, Molly and Emily pass by numerous American propaganda posters. Molly’s especially unnerved by a poster of Frenchmen captured by Nazis. It reads:
We French workers warn you: defeat means slavery, starvation, death.
While checking out a poster about rationing for the war front, Molly again wonders who’d stoop so low to sell rationed goods when the soldiers need them more. She mentally swears if someone really is stealing from the Red Cross, she’ll put a stop to it.
Oak Knoll turns out to be a pretty immaculate looking hospital, and Molly’s struck by the prominent scent of bleach in the hallways. Sadly, the girls’ first meeting with Mr. Pritchard doesn’t go very well. The man practically spits the word “Magazines” when he meets Molly and Emily before chiding them about putting their bikes behind the building and wiping their feet. Pritchard explains to the girls that the magazine program is currently on a trial basis, and gives them these simple rules:
- No loud talking
- Don’t disturb sleeping patients
- Do NOT interfere with the staff
This is a place for patients to recover, not a frat house during rush week.
Molly has a hard time not feeling self conscious, like Pritchard wants to kick her and Emily out now if he could. Emily asks if she can see her aunt while handing out magazines, so Pritchard assigns her the third floor where her aunt is staying while Molly gets the second floor. Molly’s not thrilled she has to work by herself while Emily does her thing.
On her journey through the second floor rooms, Molly meets the following people:
- The lady in Room 201 is asleep
- A couple of older ladies eager for new reading material in Room 202
- Mr. Emory, an elderly man who shows Molly pictures of his three adult children (a captain, lieutenant, and nurse in the navy)
- A boy slightly older than her younger brother Brad, stuck in a full body cast
The boy in the body cast points out he can’t read a magazine in the state he’s in, but asks if Molly could leave something anyway. His mom can read it to him when she visits, though he asks Molly to bring a “National Geographic” next time. Just between him and Molly, the boy’s studying to be a spy and needs to learn all he can about geography.
With that done, Molly sits and reads the last magazine while waiting for Emily to finish. In the hallway, Molly overhears one of the nurses chatting with a laundryman. The guy tells the nurse about his brother serving in the army. He wishes he could’ve enlisted too, but the army said his hearing wasn’t good enough. At the very least he’s throwing a War Bond party and invites the nurse, when Pritchard appears and gets angry at her for gossiping and lazing about.
Molly can’t believe what a grump Pritchard is when the elderly lady in Room 201 tries to get her attention. The woman declines the magazine, but asks if Molly could possibly get her some tea from the kitchen. Molly fears getting on Pritchard’s bad side, but realizes he never said she can’t help the patients so…
Heading downstairs to the first floor, Molly relays the lady’s request to Nurse Schroeder. Schroeder’s slightly annoyed, because Mrs. Currier always asks for tea despite knowing the nurses have other patients to worry about. The nurse informs Molly she can get the tea herself from the basement kitchen, adding she needs to ask someone named Marta for help.
Teacup in hand, Molly heads to the kitchen and is comforted by the scent of freshly baked bread. She finds Marta the aide kneading dough, while a young girl (most likely Marta’s daughter) is reading a book in the corner. Molly asks Marta for Mrs. Currier’s tea, but the moment Marta tries to add sugar the head chef goes semi-ballistic. The chef starts reminding Marta how too much sugar’s been disappearing, and vetoes any extra helpings without his say so in the near future.
Bringing Mrs. Currier her tea, Molly notices the woman has a framed photo of what appears to be Greystone Manor. The woman explains the couple inside the photo is her and her late husband, and she OWNS Greystone Manor. Mrs. Currier asks if Molly lives nearby, and Molly’s surprised to learn she knows her parents. Turns out Mrs. Currier and Mrs. McIntire have served on library committee meetings and she’s even been to Molly’s house once or twice. Mrs. Currier knows Mr. McIntire is an upstanding physician and is sure Molly’s proud of him. Molly adds her dad is serving overseas as an army doctor, to which Mrs. Currier mentions her nephew is in the army as well. Sadly, all of the older woman’s relatives are far away as well and Molly feels a sense of melancholy.
What would it be like, she wondered, to be old and sick and all alone?
Mrs. Currier asks if Molly could do her one other favor involving Greystone Manor. The older lady explains she hasn’t been back to her house in a long time, but needs her back-up reading glasses. It would only take a couple of minutes to get them, and she’d really enjoy reading again since she doesn’t have much else to do at Oak Knoll. Internally, Molly really does not want to go back to the manor, but she’ll ask her mom for permission and see what happens before her next trip to Oak Knoll.
On the trip back home with Emily, Molly tells her about Mrs. Currier in the hopes Emily will offer to go with her. But Emily looks as worried at the thought of going to Greystone Manor as Molly does.
Dinnertime is rather heavy in the McIntire household with it just the kids enjoying Mrs. Gilford’s soybean casserole. Molly’s wondering what she was thinking offering to go back to that haunted house, but Jill’s not in the best mood either. Jill shuts off the radio announcements about the latest battle in Europe, annoying Ricky as he brags about the upcoming plane-spotter test. Ricky and Brad get too into the discussion about fighter plans while Brad makes explosion noises. Emily gets upset since she lived through that shit.
Once Mrs. McIntire gets home, Ricky boasts about all he’s learned on identifying planes. She’s proud of him for taking it seriously. But this gets on Jill’s last nerve, chiding Ricky and Brad as Ricky exclaims it’d be fun to see a real German plane over Jefferson. She reminds them people are dying every day because of the war, it’s not a game!
“I was at the hospital today, and they assigned us to serve coffee to some wounded soldiers. One boy was only eighteen, and he’d lost his right arm. And there was another whose eyes were so badly burned that he may never see again.” Jill shook her head as if she were trying to shake away the memory. “I-I felt so sorry for them, and all I could do was offer a cup of coffee and…”
Tears started rolling down Jill’s cheeks. She jumped up from the table and ran out of the room. Mrs. McIntire followed her.
When dinner is over, Molly helps her mom clean the dishes. First Molly asks about Jill, and then about the missing sugar. Jill’s calmed down, but Mrs. McIntire adds they haven’t found all the sugar yet. While it turns out three of the bags were recently used, that means there are still four sacks of sugar unaccounted for. Not only that, the HQ is missing coffee, cooking oil, and a couple of other things. Molly recalls the chef at Oak Knoll mentioned they were missing sugar too. Mrs. McIntire wants to believe the sugar’s simply misplaced, but Molly doesn’t think anyone would be so careless with over forty pounds of sugar.
Molly asks her mom if it’s possible someone stole the sugar for the black market. Mrs. McIntire advises Molly not to let her imagination get the best of her, reasoning why the thief would steal four and leave one? And she doesn’t want to think poorly of such trustworthy people. Now all they have to worry about is how they’ll have enough cookies ready for Sunday.
Molly recalls the Red Cross HQ was super busy, and the storeroom door wasn’t locked. Anyone could’ve taken that sugar, and probably left the one sack behind because they couldn’t take it all at once.
Mrs. McIntire asks how Molly’s first day as a magazine girl went, to which Molly confides she feels like she’s not doing as much as Jill and Ricky have done. Molly’s mom assures her what she’s doing is important because she’s helping people who need it.
“I understand how you feel,” Mrs. McIntire said as she rinsed the last dishes. “But everything we do to help other people is important. I’d bet some of the patients you visited today have family members in the military, don’t they?”
“Well,” continued her mother, “by helping those patients, you’re also helping everyone in their families, including the men fighting overseas.”
Mrs. McIntire also gets Molly to see things from Emily’s point of view, asking how she’d feel if she had to stay with a strange family while her own aunt was nearby. Wouldn’t Molly want to visit her as well? Molly worries if Emily doesn’t want to live with them because they’re strange to her. Mrs. McIntire clarifies she meant “Strange” as in “Different,” not “Bad.” She simply feels Emily misses her home and family. Anyone would. But Molly can’t help but now worry that Emily’s only being nice to her because she has to live with the McIntires. She fears Emily doesn’t really want to be friends with her.
Before she goes to bed, Molly remembers to ask her mom about getting Mrs. Currier’s glasses. Mrs. McIntire is surprised to hear Mrs. Currier’s at Oak Knoll, and describes her as someone who stayed busy volunteering and helping people. Molly’s mom thinks she’s old enough to handle such an errand by herself, unless she doesn’t want to. Of course Molly still has reservations but claims she doesn’t mind doing it. Her mom decides she can get the glasses after school the next day, but only asks she be home in time for dinner.
Yay for Molly.
On her way to her room, Molly thinks about all the wonderful surprises that may be in store for her at the creepy manor. Spiders, rats, ghosts. It’s then she remembers the light in the cellar and wonders again what turned it off. Was it a ghost? Or something else?
The next day after school, Emily assures Molly she always planned to go with her to Greystone Manor. Molly signed up with her to volunteer at Oak Knoll, so it’s the least Emily can do. First the girls take their puppies out for a walk before heading to the old manor. On their way to Mrs. Currier’s home, Molly tries to look at it like when she feeds her neighbor’s cats. If only Greystone Manor didn’t look so old and alone, surrounded by nothing but trees. Molly can’t help but shiver in fear, lying to Emily that she’s only cold.
The girls retrieve the spare house key from the garage, exactly where Mrs. Currier said it would be. Molly’s shocked by how much the garage reeks of gasoline, which is odd because there’s just a single car inside. And said car looks like it hasn’t been used in years.
Once inside Greystone Manor, the girls talk quietly and muse how musty the manor has become. Molly directs Emily to Mrs. Currier’s bedroom on the second floor so they can find her glasses. Unfortunately, the girls aren’t sure which room is the bedroom so they inspect them all. The last room turns out to be Mrs. Currier’s, but just as Molly snags the glasses case the girls hear a strange noise. Outside the window Molly and Emily see a truck approaching Greystone Manor. Someone’s coming into the house!
The girls panic and try to hide before the intruders catch them. After a few agonizing minutes pass, Molly takes a peek out the window and sees the tuck is gone. Cautiously, Molly and Emily leave the bedroom and inspect the hallway to make sure they’re safe. Careful not to make a sound on the stairs, the girls make it to the first floor when they hear a crash in the basement. Molly hears a man’s voice, and then the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs!
Molly grabs Emily and they dive into the musty living room to hide. They hear a voice saying they’ll be done on Saturday. A few minutes later the girls listen to the truck starting up, and from the window see it driving away. The girls take that as their cue to get the fuck out of their, and pedal furiously back to the park.
In the safety of Lincoln Park, Molly and Emily are approached by Ricky and his friends. The girls tell him what happened at Greystone Manor, but he thinks they’re overreacting. Ricky figures that black truck probably belonged to a repairman working on the furnace or something. Leave it to a couple of girls to get spooked over nothing!
Once Ricky and his guy pals depart, Molly and Emily agree they don’t buy her brother’s theory. For starters:
- They didn’t see the truck in the driveway, so they thought it was gone until they heard the men in the basement and saw the truck driving away
- If the truck wasn’t in the driveway, the men must’ve parked in the garage
- Usually, deliverymen and repairmen park their vehicles in the driveway or on the street near the house, never in the garage
- Why would someone park in the garage unless they were trying to hide the truck?
- It look like someone’s certainly been using that garage a lot since it reeks of gas
- Those men couldn’t be cleaners, because the manor is loaded with dust
- They couldn’t be friends of Mrs. Currier, because why then would she ask Molly to get her glasses for her?
At that moment, Molly realizes in their haste to get away from Greystone Manor she forgot to put the house key back in the garage! Which means they’re gonna have to go back…
The girls figure they’ll bring the key back on Friday, since it’s getting too dark out and they’ve got another magazine run tomorrow afternoon. Molly’s certain something strange is going on, and she intends to find out what.
After school the next day, Molly and Emily hurry to Oak Knoll and Molly runs straight into Mr. Pritchard.
“Watch where you’re going, young lady!” Mr. Pritchard reprimanded her.
“I was watching, sir,” Molly tried to explain as she pushed her glasses back into place. Her face felt hot with embarrassment. “I just wasn’t watching where you were going.”
MEET MOLLY, AN AMERICAN SHIT
Pritchard chides Molly for being a Sassy McSassyington, and warns her they can easily discontinue the magazine program if the girls cause problems. Emily reminds Molly the Oak Knoll patients do seem to appreciate the magazines. Pritchard caps off by reminding them this isn’t a sock hop, and chides them again about wiping their feet.
Molly is still unable to figure out how anyone deals with Pritchard on a regular basis while Emily jokes her aunt says he acts like a drill sergeant. She does a good impression of Pritchard’s scowl and gets a laugh out of Molly, but Emily adds he also works very hard to keep the hospital neat and tidy for the patients.
While delivering her magazines on the second floor, Molly catches up with some of the patients from last time.
Mr. Emory is glad she came back and shows her a letter he received from his oldest son.
The boy in the body cast gets snippy because the “National Geographic” Molly brought is an issue he already read. He resigns himself to another edition of “Time,” but asks if Molly could read him any articles about the army. The two chat for a bit and Molly learns the boy’s name is Phillip Townsend. Phillip claims he wants to sneak behind enemy lines and learn everything he can. In fact, he knows about someone in this very hospital who’s doing something they shouldn’t be doing at all…
Mrs. Currier is genuinely grateful to have her back-up glasses so she can read again after so long. Molly informs her she forgot to put the house key back and only has time to do it the next day. The older woman’s a little uneasy about the response, but trusts Molly will take care of it. Mrs. Currier then asks how the manor looks since she’s been away for so long. Molly asks if anyone else lives in Greystone Manor, to which Mrs. Currier says no. She used to have a chauffeur and housekeeper who lived in the garage apartment, but they moved to California. Mrs. Currier admits she’d like to find someone to watch the manor while she’s recovering. And she’ll worry about any repairs when she leaves Oak Knoll.
So now Molly’s wondering who was in the cellar if no one else is living at Greystone Manor?
Nurse Schroeder arrives to give Mrs. Currier her medicine, so she asks if she could get a cup of tea to wash it down. The nurse gives Molly the O.K. to get the tea from the kitchen. Oh and maybe a small piece of cake would be great too.
Molly arrives in the kitchen to see Marta slicing up freshly made cornbread, while her daughter helps by placing spoonfuls of jam next to each piece. Marta easily gets the tea ready for Ms. Currier, but Molly forgot to ask for cake. Figuring a piece of that cornbread might do, Molly’s about to head back into the kitchen when she hears someone threatening Marta!
“You and your kid shouldn’t even be here,” a man was saying. “And if you cause any trouble, I’ll tell the cops about you!”
Molly gets really startled and wonders why the police would be after Marta when a man bursts out of the kitchen. It’s the laundryman Molly saw the last time she was at Oak Knoll. He’s got a name tag that reads “Mr. Laurence” and he realizes Molly overheard him. He tells her they have to be careful during wartime.
“Some people, especially foreigners, can’t always be trusted. That’s all I’ll say for now. But,” he added with a glance back at the kitchen, “be on the lookout for anything suspicious, you understand?”
Molly’s wondering if Marta’s a criminal as she brings Mrs. Currier her tea. The older lady assures Molly she didn’t expect the cake anyway, since she overheard a nurse mention the kitchen’s been running low on sugar…
At dinner in the McIntire house the hot topic is the missing Red Cross sugar. Molly’s mom reports they have enough for coffee and cocoa, but not enough for the cookies. Jill pleads with their mom the Red Cross HAS to make those cookies because they’re so important.
“I’ve heard patients talk about the cookies,” continued Jill, her face flushed with emotion.
“One soldier said his train at Glennings a year ago, just as he was about to go overseas. He still remembers how nice the volunteers were and how they welcomed him and his buddies with coffee and fresh-baked cookies. He said it was like a taste of home.”
Jill looked around the table. “Don’t you see?” she asked. “The cookies make a difference.”
Mrs. McIntire assures Jill they’re still keeping up the tradition, and she’s doing what she can to make those cookies happen. The McIntire matriarch reveals she’s asking around to see if any neighbors can bake cookies for Sunday, including Mrs. Gilford. This will mean the McIntires have to use their sugar rations as well. Molly doesn’t mind giving up the bit of sugar she likes in her morning cereal if it’s to help the war effort. Molly’s mom is proud and feels Mr. McIntire would be as well, but Molly thinks to herself how proud her parents would really be if she caught the thief.
While out walking Yank and Bennett, Molly analyzes her info about Marta with Emily. Emily adds what her Aunt Prim’s told her about Marta, that she works hard to take care of her daughter Ruth. Molly notes it’d be easy for Marta to steal supplies since she’s in the kitchen so much. However, despite what Mr. Laurence told her, Molly doesn’t want to get Marta into trouble unless they know for certain she’s the thief.
Molly asks if Emily can get more info from her aunt, so Emily offers to try when she visits Prim the next day. Of course Molly can’t go with her because she has to return the key to Greystone Manor. Molly really doesn’t want to go by herself, so she decides to ask Linda and Susan.
Come Friday, Linda and Susan agree to accompany Molly back to Greystone Manor but will ONLY go as far as the top of the driveway with her. They’re still convinced that manor is bad juju. At this point Molly will take what she can get.
Upon arriving to the old house, Molly tries again to ask if her friends will come with her. She points out she’s not going IN the manor and is planning to inspect the cellar windows to find where that light came from. Linda and Susan ain’t prepared to deal with ghosts, but Susan gives Molly her JFA whistle in case of an emergency. Molly manages to lock the front door no problem and then returns the key to the garage, noting the gas stench is stronger than it was before.
Outside the garage, Molly’s pleasantly surprised to learn Linda and Susan decided to help after all.
“Yeah,” said Linda, smiling sheepishly. “We figured that if there was a ghost, it probably would’ve gotten you by now.”
The girls check out the cellar windows, but they’re pretty grimy even after Molly wipes them down with her handkerchief. Linda finds the cellar door is chained and padlocked so that’s a no good. Molly searches for the window she saw lit up the other day, wherein she sees stacks of boxes and bags piled to the ceiling. The girls realize they’re looking at flour and sugar sacks, but no one would be able to save enough ration stamps for all this shit.
The only way someone could acquire that much sugar would be if they stole it.
Molly rushes home to confer with Emily on this new discovery, that the thieves are using Mrs. Currier’s basement to hide the stolen goods. Emily figures those bags and boxes probably belong to the old woman and she’s using her basement for storage. Oh, and it turns out Emily couldn’t visit her aunt after all. Mr. Pritchard told her that unless she was at Oak Knoll as a volunteer, she could only see her aunt during the appointed visiting hours.
Mrs. McIntire overhears the girls discussing how mean Mr. Pritchard is while offering a tray of cookie samples. She knows of the man since he’s a Red Cross volunteer as well. As Molly’s mother puts it, Pritchard is only grumpy because he worries so much about making things perfect for his patients. It’s his job to make sure they get better, after all. The girls don’t buy it, however. At the very least, Mrs. McIntire is planning on driving across town to pick up some cookies from a friend and offers to drop Emily off at Oak Knoll during the official visiting period. Molly asks to come along, and remembers to ask her mom if they have any old copies of “National Geographic.”
The girls arrive at Oak Knoll after dinner, and they hope they won’t run into Mr. Pritchard again. Molly is pleasantly surprised to learn Aunt Prim is nowhere near as stuffy as her name implies. Prim is delighted to meet Molly after hearing so much about her from Emily, and thanks her being so kind to Emily. She insists that Molly and Bennett visit when she’s out of Oak Knoll. They’ll even have a proper English tea to celebrate!
Emily reads some of the letters she’s received from her parents in England, and Molly is taken aback by Emily’s change in demeanor. She even laughs so hard she turns pink when her aunt tells a joke. Molly can’t help but feel jealous that Emily never acts that way at home.
When the nurse comes in to give Prim her medicine, Emily’s aunt inquires about the nurse’s baby and if he’s feeling better. Realizing Emily’s aunt does know a lot about the people at Oak Knoll, Molly asks her about Marta. Prim does know Marta and Ruth (who’s in kindergarten), but their story’s pretty sad.
Marta and Ruth are Polish refugees, having fled the country because of the Nazis. Not only that, but they’re Jewish too. Marta and her husband worked against the Nazi invaders before they left Poland. Sadly, Marta’s husband was captured and killed while trying to escape with them.
Molly and Emily don’t know what to say for a moment before finally asking if Marta’s in trouble with the police. Prim is shocked and asks why the girls would think such a thing. Molly brings up what Mr. Laurence told her and Prim gets outraged.
“Well he should be ashamed of himself! He’s probably afraid of anyone foreign, and he’s taking out his fear on poor Martha,” said spiritedly.
But there IS something Marta’s been keeping to herself. She’d originally been staying with her cousin in Jefferson before said cousin married an army man. When the cousin moved away, Marta couldn’t pay for the apartment by herself and had to find another place to live. Now she’s renting a small place in another town, but she wants Ruth to stay in the Jefferson public school. If the school finds out they don’t live in Jefferson anymore, Ruth will be kicked out. So Marta’s been trying to find another place to live in Jefferson.
After being told visiting hours are up, Molly and Emily decide Marta’s not likely to be the thief. They believe no one who’d risk their life to fight the Nazis would steal rationed goods.
Before leaving, Molly wants to drop off that “National Geographic” in Phillip’s room. As she does, Molly runs into Phillip’s mom, who thanks Molly for spending time with him. Mrs. Townsend explains she’s been having trouble getting time off from work to visit her son, especially today. Seems the police questioned everyone at her factory about a pair of tires that went missing. Tires were also in short supply since rubber’s being rationed as well.
When Phillip’s mom leaves to talk with a nurse, Molly asks what he meant about someone in Oak Knoll doing something they shouldn’t. He confides he’s seen Nurse Schroeder smoking cigarettes in the parking lot when she’s on the clock. Mr. Pritchard almost caught her one evening as he was driving up in his truck.
Apparently, Phillip can see a lot from his window and has watched lots of people coming and going at all hours. It’s not like he has anything else to do while stuck in that cast. He even recalls seeing Marta leaving late at night on her bicycle. When Phillip asks why Molly and Emily are so curious about Marta, the girls say they were simply testing him on his spying abilities. And he passed with flying colors.
While waiting for Mrs. McIntire, Molly and Emily wonder about Marta when they see Mr. Pritchard heading for the kitchen. Recalling Phillip said Pritchard drives a truck, and Emily mentioned seeing him drive one as well, Molly wonders if he’s the thief. Emily explains the truck was black, but Mr. Laurence and the man from the grocery store had black trucks in the parking lot as well. Molly reasons a grocery man wouldn’t have to steal food and Mr. Laurence warned her about Marta, so maybe…
Molly wants to see what Pritchard is doing in the kitchen even as Emily warns her not to. Emily doesn’t follow Molly downstairs, but Molly argues if Pritchard IS the thief than she has to do what she can to stop him. Inside the kitchen, Molly doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But then she hears someone coming down the hallway. Molly panics and hides in the pantry so she doesn’t get caught snooping. Inside the pantry, Molly hears what sounds like a man entering the kitchen and wonders if it’s Pritchard, when she hears the man lock the pantry door. She’s trapped!
Stuck inside the pantry, Molly’s not sure how she’ll get out when she hears Emily’s voice. Molly asks her to search for a key when she remembers the head chef locking the pantry the other day. She directs Emily to the coat rack by the back door, hoping the chef left the key in his jacket. Luck’s on Molly’s side when Emily finds an entire key ring and manages to free her. Before they leave, Emily’s savvy enough to re-lock the pantry and put the keys back so no one notices anything amiss.
Emily tells Molly she saw Pritchard heading for his office and got scared when Molly didn’t return, when the two bump into the man in question. Pritchard gets angry asking why the girls are here, so Molly covers saying they were visiting Emily’s aunt and were looking for the bathroom. When Pritchard looks down to see if they’ve scuffed the clean floor, Molly notices white powder on his black shoes. Before Pritchard can lecture them some more, Mrs. McIntire shows up asking if the girls are ready to leave. Saved by the mom.
Inside the car, Molly’s amazed by all the cookie boxes her mother collected. Mrs. McIntire explains her friend got a lot of her neighbors to pitch in, plus a number of other donations for the Red Cross added to the mix. But it might not be enough for the canteen.
Once they return to Molly’s room, the girls discuss the white powder on Pritchard’s shoes when Emily notices Molly has some on her back. It seems the white stuff is flour from the pantry, which means Pritchard might’ve been in the kitchen after all. He seems more likely to be the thief than Marta is, since Marta rides a bike and Pritchard drives a truck. It would be easier for him to smuggle stuff out of the hospital to Greystone Manor. At the very least, the girls don’t believe he deliberately locked Molly in the pantry, so he’s not aware of their investigation.
Molly lists the following details:
- Pritchard is in charge of Oak Knoll AND he volunteers at the Red Cross
- He has access to the hospital’s supplies and can easily enter Red Cross HQ
- Having a truck means he can sneak stuff around without anyone noticing
Emily reminds Molly there are tires missing from the factory Mrs. Townsend works in, so did he steal those too? IF he’s the thief, of course. Molly’s not ready to connect the missing tires to the sugar because they don’t know enough about the factory situation. But they DO know someone with a black truck has been to Greystone Manor, and the manor cellar is loaded with bags and boxes that look like sugar and flour. The thief would have to know Mrs. Currier is living at Oak Knoll for the time being, and everyone at the hospital knows it.
Molly vetoes calling the police and telling them Mrs. Currier’s house is being used to hide stolen goods, since they don’t have enough tangible proof. That and she doesn’t want Ricky on her case for making such a boneheaded move. But the girls have to do something, because letting someone get away with stealing rationed goods is like committing treason.
Molly decides they have to go back to Greystone Manor to check out what’s in those bags. Since tomorrow’s Saturday, they’ll have more free time to explore. Emily only agrees to it as long they call the police afterwards. Molly’s already imagining the headlines:
“Molly McIntire Solves Mystery of Missing Supplies.”
Her dad will be SO proud.
The next morning, the girls encounter an immediate hitch in their plans. Mrs. McIntire has more work to do for the canteen, and she needs Molly and Emily to watch Brad while Mrs. Gilford does her housekeeping. Jill’s working at the hospital and Ricky’s got his plane-spotter training, so the girls are stuck until 5 PM. Oh, and people will be dropping off cookie donations so they need to listen for any visitors.
Damn, damn, DAMN!
Mrs. McIntire’s cool enough to leave a dollar so the girls can take Brad to the movies. And keep in mind this was back when a dollar was like 20 bucks. Molly’s stewing that everyone ELSE gets to help with the war while she’s stuck watching the little plot device-I MEAN, bundle of joy.
Molly does feel some comfort when she sees how many people are arriving with cookies for the canteen. It’s the equivalent of the ending to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The official one, not the SNL skit where everyone beats the shit out of Mr. Potter. Mrs. Fitzgerald from the Red Cross arrives to pick up the cookies, and believes this is more than enough for the canteen.
The girls take Brad to see “Stagecoach” at the movie theater, alongside a couple of newsreels about the war. Brad gets scared watching the soldiers fight on the screen, but Molly assures him they’ll win the war.
They HAVE to.
While getting popcorn during the intermission, Emily asks Molly if they still have time to visit Greystone Manor. While it’ll be cutting it close, Molly figures they’ll do so after Jill gets home. Susan and Linda are in the same line and ask what Molly’s talking about. Molly gives them the deets on the plan, and surprisingly the girls decide to join her and Emily.
After Jill arrives home from the hospital, the girls get their bikes and venture to Greystone Manor. From a distance, it doesn’t seem like anyone else is at the manor when Ricky and his friend David scare them. Ricky gets up in their business wanting to know why the girls are snooping when Linda makes a shocking discovery.
The basement’s empty!
It’s at that moment Emily remembers the man who was in the manor said “They’d be done by Saturday.” Ricky still thinks they overheard a repairman, but Molly argues he’s wrong. She explains Mrs. Currier hasn’t hired anyone to do repairs, and no one’s been cleaning the manor either. Ricky adds they don’t know for sure if the stuff in the cellar was stolen, but Molly counters they do know stuff’s missing all over town. And now most of the stuff in the basement is gone.
Emily fears the black truck will return to retrieve the rest of the boxes, so the kids bolt. Down in the park, Ricky and David devise a plan to spot for any black trucks going in or coming from the direction of Greystone Manor. The boys will follow the truck and if anyone is taking stuff from the manor, they’ll call the police.
Molly doesn’t appreciate Ricky is trying to exclude the girls from helping since THEY did most of the investigating. The little misogynist claims “Girls can’t be detectives.” Molly’s ready to point out women have been doing lots of jobs since the war began, but doesn’t get much support from the girls. Thinking he’s won, Ricky figures they should head home for dinner first.
Once dinner at the McIntire abode is over, Ricky tries to sneak off to stage the trap…
And then immediately blows it with Jill and asks Molly to prove he’s telling the truth. Nice job Ricky, you blew it in an hour while Molly and Emily kept this a secret for over a week. Ricky and Jill begin to argue about who gets to catch the thieves, when Molly proposes there’s a way everybody can help.
Molly and Emily station themselves near Greystone Manor, armed with Susan’s JFA whistle. Linda and Susan are ready in the park, while Ricky and David are halfway to the McIntire house ready to signal Jill to call the cops.
Waiting underneath a pine tree, the girls discuss how “Tic-tac-toe” is called “Noughts and crosses” in England. Suddenly, they see the black truck heading for Greystone Manor and rush to signal Linda and Susan. Molly and Emily reconvene with the girls, and Molly hopes the police will arrive in time when the truck drives past her…
At which point she sees, from the glow of the headlights, the side of the truck reads “Laurence Laundry.”
Molly’s beyond pissed; Laurence lied to her and tried to set up Marta as a scapegoat!
The girls hurry as they see a police car force the truck to pull over. Unfortunately, one of the cops is friends with Mr. Laurence and doesn’t stop to assume the suspicious truck someone reported is his. Laurence claims he’s got a load of uniforms that need washing for a hoity toity party.
Before the cops leave to see if there are any other trucks on Overlook Hill, Molly screams “NO!” and the kids convene on the adults. They plead with the officer to check Laurence’s truck, insisting he’s smuggling stolen goods. Thankfully, the officers are willing to believe the group when they insist they should at least inspect the truck. Laurence tries to protest when one of the cops ask when they started packing uniforms in sugar bags…
At which point Mr. Laurence tries to get his ass out of there.
The kids all cheer when the cops tackle and arrest Mr. Laurence, before the cops tell them to go home. At the McIntire residence, Molly and the kids eagerly tell Mrs. McIntire about how the police arrested Mr. Laurence.
While Molly and Emily deliver more magazines to Oak Knoll the following Tuesday, Molly’s surprised to find her mom chatting with Mrs. Currier. Mrs. Currier’s amazed to hear Mr. Laurence and his brother were keeping stolen goods in her basement, of all places! Molly’s mom then mentions she proposed letting Marta watch Greystone Manor while Mrs. Currier’s still at Oak Knoll. Mrs. Currier is all for the idea since Marta’s always so helpful.
Molly heads to the kitchen with Mrs. Currier’s teacup to let Marta know about the job offer. She explains all Marta has to do is watch the manor, after Mr. Laurence was using it for his stolen items. Marta reveals she caught him in the hospital pantry when he had no right being there, which is when he threatened her.
Molly goes looking for Emily while Marta brings Mrs. Currier the tea, so she can tell Emily the good news. Emily has some news of her own to share, good and bad.
- The Good: Mr. Pritchard wants to give each girl their own JFA whistle, indebted to how they helped stop Mr. Laurence and proud to have them working at Oak Knoll.
- The Bad: Aunt Prim will be leaving Oak Knoll soon, which means Emily doesn’t have to deliver magazines and she doesn’t have to live with the McIntires anymore!
Emily knows Molly didn’t want this job, so she doesn’t have to keep it up if she doesn’t want to. But Molly finds such an idea appalling. She likes helping Mrs. Currier and talking with Mr. Emory and Phillip.
Molly fears for a moment Emily doesn’t care about saying goodbye, before she sees Emily’s crying. Emily’s glad her aunt is better, but she liked living with Molly. She felt like she really was part of Molly’s family after all they did for her.
Emily’s quitting her job because Prim’ll need help around the house until she’s 100% recovered. Molly proposes Emily doesn’t HAVE to quit after all. They can deliver the magazines on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then Molly can help Emily with her cooking and cleaning.
Emily’s floored by Molly’s kindness, especially when she says she can keep the bike. That way they can always visit each other and spend time with Bennett and Yank.
Emily couldn’t be any happier, and challenges Molly to a race home.
Aww yeah, gals being pals for AMERICA!
This book was indeed a refreshing change of pace since it was given more space to do a substantial story with Molly and her friends. I appreciate this series continues not to hold back on clarifying war was hell instead of glamorizing it for the readers.
Mrs. McIntire continues to impress me as such an amazing, perceptive mother, and I can genuinely say I empathized with both Molly AND Jill. Their struggles believing they weren’t doing enough to help with the war effort resonated with me as someone who’s struggled fearing I didn’t do as much as I could to help some of my friends before they passed away. But I do appreciate Molly’s desire to succeed and foil the thieves is coming from a well-intentioned place. That is, doing her part for the war and to make her parents proud of her.
Linda and Susan weren’t as insufferable as they were in the last recap, but Ricky continues to piss me off by being such a condescending snot.