Detective Jan Hanson stepped into the old house and flipped on the lights. The bulbs in the chandelier flickered then there were several loud pops as they exploded from old age. The foyer fell dark. “Crap!” she said then fumbled for the flashlight in her jacket pocket.
She turned it on and light flooded the small room. There was a coat rack next to the door with a small table and mirror above it. Jan glanced into the mirror. The image of a woman appeared over her shoulder for a second then was gone. When Jan turned around there was nothing to see.
“Who … who’s there?” she called out. There was no reply. Suddenly a door slammed shut upstairs.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
There was still no reply. Jan suddenly wished she hadn’t decided to go exploring the old house on her own. She didn’t believe in ghosts and was sure there was a perfectly good explanation as she climbed the stairs.
With each step she climbed there was an echo of her footsteps. Jan paused halfway up and turned around quickly, nothing was there. “You watched too much Scooby Doo as a kid, there’s nothing there,” she told herself and continued up the stairs, ignoring the echo.
Jan looked down the hall to the left, all the doors were open. She looked down the hall to the right, and the second door on the left was closed. The floorboards behind her creaked and she turned but nothing was there. She took several deep breaths then walked towards the door.
As Jan neared it she could hear the soft refrain of Braham’s Lullaby being sung from within the closed room. She paused outside the door, her hand reaching out to the door but not quite touching it. Suddenly it turned and swung open.
She screamed and fell back against the opposite doorway then looked into the room to see the cradle was slowly rocking back and forth.
“Who … who’s in there?” she called out.
“Shhh! You’ll wake the baby!” a woman’s voice scolded then the song resumed.
Jan stood up and quietly stepped into the room. As she neared the cradle she could see a young baby wrapped up in sheets. It matched the description of the baby that had been snatched just before dusk from a nearby park. The police department had gotten several calls about a baby crying in the house and she had been sent to investigate..
“Isn’t he lovely?” a voice asked. The woman Jan had seen in the mirror earlier appeared next to the cradle. “He’s just like my James.”
“He’s not yours,” Jan replied.
“Yes he is,” the woman said frantically. The baby started crying again. “See what you’ve done?”
“Please let me take the baby back to his mother and father,” Jan said as she watched the baby seemingly levitate as the spirit picked it up.
“No, he’s mine!”
“What happened to James?” Jan asked as her negotiating skills kicked in.
“They … they took him away. Said I was unfit to care for him. They said I killed him. But I didn’t. I’m a good mother. See?” the spirit said in a desperate voice as she clung to the baby.
“How did you die?”
“After they took the baby … my baby … my husband beat me then tied me to the cradle to punish me for James and tarnishing his career,” she answered. She was sobbing and squeezing the baby who was crying in protest. “He left me here to die.”
“You’re hurting the baby,” Jan said reaching out towards the child. “Please, loosen your hold on the baby.”
The ghost woman stared at Jan then eased her hold. The baby’s crying stopped and the spirit looked at Jan.
“If you give me the baby, I will bring you back a baby you can keep,” Jan bargained.
“You’ll bring back James?” the ghost asked hopefully.
“I promise,” Jan answered and held out her hands towards the baby. The woman hesitated then allowed the Jan to take the baby. “Thank you. I have to take the baby home now. I will return tomorrow with your baby.”
The spirit was gone. Jan smiled at the baby then headed out of the house to return him to his rightful parents.
The next day, she went downtown to the doll boutique. She bought a boy doll with a voice box. It could be programmed to cry at certain intervals and even could say ‘momma’ and ‘I love you.’ Jan returned to the house and went back to the room with the cradle.
She switched the doll on and it started to cry. The ghost woman appeared and looked down at the life-like doll. “He’s beautiful,” she said.
“No more taking babies from the park, ya hear?”
“I promise,” the ghost replied.
Jan smiled and turned to leave the room as the ghost started to rock the cradle and sing to her baby. When she got to the door, the woman paused her singing and whispered, “Thank you.”
After that day, the baby kidnappings from the park stopped. The ghost, who had gotten what she needed to pass over, was gone and the old house fell silent.
Several weeks later, Jan, who had finally found the woman’s identity, stopped by her grave. She placed a bouquet of baby’s breath and blue cornflowers next to the grave marker.
“Rest in peace,” she said then got in her police car and headed to the next call.