“Timmy!” his mother called from the hall. “There’s a parcel for you. I think it’s from your father. Come and see.”
“Looks like it might be the young man’s birthday then,” said the postman.
“Yes, Halloween and birthday rolled into one. He’s ten today.”
“Wheeee!” Timmy squealed as he left his breakfast. “Where…where?”
“Happy birthday Timmy,” said the postman handing him the parcel.
Louise shut the front door while Timmy tore at the brown wrapping paper as fast as his small hands were capable. Soon, there was a pile of ripped shreds on the floor, and he was able to lift the lid of the box. Two envelopes lay on top, one addressed ‘To Timmy’ and the other marked ‘Louise.’
“I think this one’s for you mum.” He handed it to her, and then dropped his own unopened on the floor. Ripping white tissue paper away, he lifted out a red and black cape.
“A Halloween costume! Count Dracula! Wow!” His shining blue eyes were agog. He pulled out another package. “And a vampire mask! Look mum.”
Louise looked up from the letter she was unfolding. “Yes dear, that’s very nice.”
“Can I go try them on?”
“All right, but only for a minute. You still have breakfast to finish before school.” She focused on the open sheet of paper and read, Dear Louise, You now have your wish for the divorce; however, I will not let you take my son away. I will fight you for legal custody of Timmy any way I can. Your ex-husband, Bruce.
Louise screwed up the letter, picked up the discarded wrapping paper and walked back to the kitchen before dropping them into the waste bin. It was not the first time Bruce had made such threats, but as the case had already gone through the courts, there was nothing he could do.
Startled, Louise jumped. She spun round clutching at the edge of the table. “God Timmy! You scared the hell out of me. That must be the most horrifying Halloween costume ever, Come on, take that mask off now and finish your breakfast.”
Timmy peeled the latex film over his head, dropped it on the table and picked up the spoon to attack the boiled egg. “Mum! Can I wear the mask to school?”
“No, the other kids will damage it, then you’ll have nothing to wear tonight when Michelle takes you trick-or-treating.” She picked up the pasty-white face with dark shadowed eye sockets, holding it to the daylight. A red-tinted film covered the eye holes through which the wearer could see. two sharp fangs stained with red paint hung behind blood-red lips. She stroked the long strands of white hair. “How do they make them so realistic? Trust your father to find something like this.” She placed it back on the table. “Have you finished? Get your books and let’s get you off to school.”
The doorbell rang at two minutes to six. “Hello Mrs Taylor,” said the witch as Louise opened the door.
“Michelle. I’d never have recognised you in that costume. Come in. Timmy’s almost ready.” She led the way into the lounge. “Now remember, Timmy must be back here and in bed by nine thirty. I should be back by eleven. Any emergency, my cell-phone number is programmed into the main phone.”
“Yes Mrs Taylor. You enjoy your date and don’t worry about us.”
Louise watched from the door as they joined other children dressed in macabre outfits. Timmy turned to wave. The yellow glow of street lighting shone on the long grey hair blowing around his shoulders. Closing the door, she returned to preparations for her dinner date with work colleague, Derek. She wanted to make a special effort, this being her first real date since the divorce.
Derek arrived at eight, punctual as he always was at his desk. Louise was nervous, but the food was good, and after a second glass of wine, she began to relax. She had almost finished the second course when her phone rang. Furrows of concern showed on her forehead when she saw the caller’s number displayed was her home number.
“Mrs Taylor? You’d better come home quick.” The female voice sounded distraught. “It’s Timmy, I can’t get his mask off.”
“All right Michelle, let me talk to Timmy. He’s only being difficult.”
“No, you don’t understand. He’s not… Timmy? Timmy, what are you doing?” There was a short pause. “No Timmy! No!” The sudden scream from the earpiece almost caused Louise to drop the phone.
“Michelle? Michelle! Are you okay?” There was a clatter as if the phone had fallen then a loud thump. “Michelle!”
Derek looked up from his food, eyes wide. “Is everything all right?”
“Can you take me home now? Sounds like something awful happened.”
“I’m sure it’ll be okay. Finish your meal first. They’re only playing games.”
“No Derek! This is serious!” Louise jumped up from the table.
“Okay. I’ll just settle the bill.” He stood beckoning the waiter as Louise ran for the door.
The car screeched to a halt outside the house. Louise had her door open before the vehicle stopped moving. She ran up the steps to the front door, which swung inwards at her push. She searched inside for the light switch. The sudden illumination showed a scene of chaos. The hall table on which the telephone normally rested was knocked over, the phone and stand thrown against the wall. A dark trail of blood led into the lounge.
Louise gasped, raising her hand to her mouth. “What’s happened? Derek asked joining her in the doorway. “Oh my God!”
The door to the lounge was open, red hand prints smeared over the white paint. Light from the hall showed Michelle lying in a heap, face down on the floor. Derek ran to kneel at her side. He picked up one hand, searching for a pulse without success. Rolling her over, blood still oozed from puncture holes in the side her neck. The bulging lifeless eyes showed terror.
Louise watched from the doorway. “Where’s Timmy?”
“I’m here mum.” The voice of the boy standing behind her was calm.
She turned. “Oh Timmy.” He stood in the passage, hands behind his back.
She ran to him, “Thank God you’re all right. Come on, take this mask off.” She slipped her fingers under the long black hair searching for the edge of the vampire mask. There was none. “Timmy?” A memory from breakfast flashed through her mind. Had the hair not been white?
A sudden stabbing pain in her stomach caused her to flinch. She stepped back and looked down in horror at the wooden handle of a kitchen knife. A stream of yellow bile ran over the handle as she fell forward, embedding the blade into her gut as she hit the floor.
“And you must be the new man in her life.”
Derek looked up. Still on his knees, he never saw the meat cleaver sweeping down to embed itself in his skull.
© 2011 Robert A. Read