The street is like the scene from an American crime show, but we’re far from home. This is Poland and we’re on a special mission. It is here where I will pick up the final pieces of a terrifying puzzle.
Dust makes the red bricks of the apartment building across the street look gray. The bottom row of windows is covered with wood, as are some of the other windows on the three story tall building that we’ve crossed the ocean to see.
“Is this it Grandpa?” A detective isn’t supposed to be afraid, not even an eleven year old one, but I feel icy shivers just looking at this place. I know the story of its horrific past.
“It does not look like much,” Grandpa says in his thick accent, still not getting out of the car. He is wearing a wooly black coat that reaches down to his knees, with a brown scarf and a gray hat with its brim pulled down over his forehead. There is a sad expression on his face as he studies the building for which he has fought for almost ten years.
The stranger who drove us here is Mr. Moroski, the Polish lawyer. He handled our court case to win back Grandpa’s house. He is wearing a thin black coat, black suit with white stripes that look faded, a narrow tie, and brown shoes which need polishing. With his slicked-back black hair and wire-thin moustache, he looks like a gangster. When Moroski reaches down to try to help Grandpa get out of the car, Grandpa refuses his hand. “I do not need your help,” he says.
Moroski shrugs, then pulls his brown, leather briefcase from the back seat. It is large enough to hide a gun. I don’t trust him. I don’t trust any of these people. Not after all I learned about them.
“I called the police,” Moroski says in his broken English, looking at his watch.
“Why do we need police,” Dad asks. Dressed in tan pants and a light, tan windbreaker, he looks like the ice cream man and not someone ready to face danger.
“The people here might do you harm,” The lawyer replies without emotion.
Haven’t they done us enough harm, I think to myself.
Grandpa is leaning on his cane. “Sometimes I wish I had not started this,” he says with a sigh.
“I warned you,” Dad jumps on his case. “You just wouldn’t listen to me!”
“I said, sometimes, but I take it back. I am not sorry at all. Right is right!” Grandpa turns to talk to the lawyer in Polish.
“It looks haunted,” I mutter to Dad who has a disgusted look on his face. “I didn’t expect it to look so bad?” It does look haunted, a perfect hiding place for ghosts, an old rotten building, garbage piled in the alley and graffiti on the walls. I ask Dad, “What do you think that junk on the wall says?”
“Who cares? We own this, lock, stock and cockroaches!”
“It wasn’t like this when I was your age,” Grandpa says angrily. “Mama and Papa was so proud of it.”
Proud of this? I’d burn it to the ground if Grandpa didn’t want it so bad. I zip my blue Yankee jacket, suddenly feeling a chill that has nothing to do with the weather.
Grandpa frowns. “Moroski says inside is even worse.” He spits on the ground and says,
“They’re all a bunch of thieves and murderers! I could kill them all.”
He scares me when he talks like this. I don’t like how angry his face looks. It’s like he’s a different person.
The lawyer looks at his watch again. “We go in. The police catch up, if they get here at all?”
No police? We’re going in there? Moroski said they might do us harm. All my detective instincts are telling me this could be a trap? I know what these monsters have done and they could do it again.