Early morning–5:22AM (according to the timestamp on my file)–October 29, 2015, while drinking my coffee I came across a public domain picture that begged to have a scene for Halloween written about it. I wrote the first piece in about 15 minutes and used that image as a cover. Almost a year later, on October 20, 2016, I revisited it–again with my morning coffee–and wrote the second part. This year–2017–I’ve added a bit more to the story.
Strange things had been going on since Timmy had come home from the hospital after his accident. The first day he was quiet, sat and just stared at me. When I put him to bed, no “Goodnight, Mommy,” came from him. Then Princess, our cat, went missing in the night. She’d been asleep at the foot of his bed and was gone the next morning.
All that day Timmy stayed in his room, sitting in the middle of his bed, staring at the closet door. At bedtime, again, no hug or kiss. Wearing the robe from the hospital, he lay on his back with his head turned so he could watch the closet that the contractor had unsealed in the renovation when we moved in. “It’s okay, Timmy” I reassured him. “There’s nothing in there,” I opened its door “see… nothing to hurt you.” Silence… just that gaze locked on the closet. I smoothed the bandage on the back of his head, turned out the light and shut the bedroom door behind me. The doctors said it would take time, but I still worried.
* * *
The red numbers projected on the ceiling told me it was 2:06 AM. I had been sleeping only an hour—it took longer and longer for me to finally fall asleep—when I woke to the sound of my bedroom door opening.
He stood in the doorway, the hall light shining behind him. His eyes were empty sockets but with an eerie glow and I heard a soft mewling sound come from him. Princess’s body dangled from one hand. I came wide awake and knew that wasn’t my Timmy anymore!
“I’m done.” Elaine leaned the ‘For Sale’ signs against the wall behind her desk. She looked at her partner. “The estate will have to find another Realtor.”
“We need this listing and those old houses, especially if they’re already reno’d, sell.” Carmen had never seen Elaine rattled like this. Even with the ugliest property or most extreme asshole buyer or seller. “It happened again?”
“Yes.” Elaine rubbed her face with the palms of her hands then leaned back in her chair. “They kept hearing it as I took them through the house.” She looked at Carmen. “Finally, one woman literally ran out the door.”
“Like before, you still didn’t hear anything?” Carmen put two folders in her briefcase and rose. She walked over and sat on the corner of Elaine’s desk. Her friend’s face still had that pale, makeup-less look. “Hey, are you okay?”
Elaine looked up. “No. I didn’t hear it when they did. But—” she stopped and rubbed her face again. Shaking her head, she reached for her purse and stood. “I’m going home.” She walked toward the door.
Following, Carmen touched her on the shoulder. “But what?”
“I went through the house to make sure it was locked up. Windows down and latched… you know the drill.” Elaine paused to take a deep breath, the kind when you are trying to quell some strong emotion or when you are about to say or do something you’re not sure of. “When I went down the stairs, at the foot was a small boy.” They had both stepped through the office door and Elaine watched as Carmen locked it and set the security alarm. “He stared up at me and asked, ‘Are you going to spend the night?’” Elaine paused wondering if she should keep going, then continued. “I looked down right into his eyes, and…” she shuddered. “Then I noticed he was holding a cat, large yellow eyes in its black face.” She hesitated again. “The cat was looking at me, Carmen. I mean staring. Something… they… seemed wrong. The boy didn’t move as I stepped off the stairs, so I pushed past him through the entryway to open the door and step outside. When I turned to have him leave so I could lock the door behind me, he was gone. I didn’t want to but went back inside to see if I could find him, but couldn’t. I left again wondering why he was out on the street, wearing a bathrobe, and wandering into houses. And as I locked the door…” she turned to go down the steps to the sidewalk.
Carmen hurried after her, heels clicking on concrete, “What happened? Elaine, what–”
“Then I heard the cat’s scream.” Left hand on her car door she turned to Carmen. “And a child laughing.”
* * *
“Hey, did that old listing on Fairmount finally sell while I was on vacation?”
Carmen looked up at Ernie who had just set on the table his grease soaked paper bag with two sausage and egg biscuits and hash browns from Martha’s Diner down the block. How can someone eat those every single-frickin’ day? She wondered if he ate them each morning while on vacation. She sure missed Elaine. After her breakdown–she kept seeing, so she claimed, that boy–she had read the history of the house. Terrible how that woman–the owner–had died… and her son, she shook her head. But she had heard Elaine was still resting well at that facility in the Adirondacks. “Not that I know of… why do you ask?” she answered him pulling her papers away from the seeping bag.
“Kinda funny, then.” He was already chomping through the first breakfast sandwich. “I drove right by it last night on my way home from the airport and saw a light on.” He brought out a handful of napkins, peeled one off and wiped his chin.
She shrugged, “It’s been awhile since it’s been shown—at least as far as I know, now that it’s an open listing with the bank. But I think they kept power on for it, maybe someone showed the property and left a switch on.”
“Yeah,” with another wipe of his chin Ernie stood and pulled his phone out. “That’s what I thought but… I pulled over and took this.” He tapped the screen and flicked to find what he wanted her to see. “That’s the second-floor bedroom window that looks over the street.” He slid the phone over to her.
Carmen had started to pivot it to face her and stopped, jerking her hand away. “Shit!”