Carol sat up in her bed; her ears perked. It was the middle of the night and she strained her hearing. There was the distant sound of a voice talking a mile a minute. Her beside clock told her it was three o’clock in the morning. She got out of bed and made her way down the hall to the room where the voice came from. There was a faint glow of a nightlight from underneath the door. Carol did not have to press her ear against the door to know that her daughter, Lucy, was awake.
Carol entered the room. She saw her six-year-old daughter at her vanity mirror. Lucy had switched on her lamp, which only lit her surrounding area, making her look like an old-time movie star about to go on stage. Her play-cosmetics case was opened, and she was drawing all over the mirror with the little lipsticks. There were red and pink stick-figures drawn all over the glass surface. They looked like little children floating in a giant bubble.
“Lucy, what are you doing?” The little girl child turned around in her chair, not in the least bit concerned that her mother was there. She even looked happy to be caught awake.
“Playing, " said the child, matter-of-factly. As if it were a perfectly normal thing to do.
Her mother crossed her arms. “Do you know what time it is? It’s three in the morning. You should be in bed.”
“I’m not tired.”
“You need to get in bed and go to sleep. Right now.”
“And tomorrow you’re going to clean up that mess you have made on your vanity mirror.”
Lucy pouted. “But we couldn’t find paper!”
Carol was taken aback. “We? Who’s we?”
“Me and my friend.”
“Who is your friend?”
Lucy pointed to the mirror. Carol thought she was pointing at one of the stick-figure children she had drawn although she couldn’t tell which one.
“You need to go to sleep, darling. It’s late. You can play tomorrow.”
“Okay, Mommy.” The child jumped into her unmade bed, and Carol left. On her way back to her own room, Carol heard the murmurs of the little voice again but just shook her head and went back to bed.
Carol worked her shift the next day as a Special Needs Officer for Peterhead Council, while her husband served as a County Court Sherriff Officer in Fraserburgh.
Their old-lady baby-sitter informed them that Lucy had been playing quietly by herself after she brought her back from day-school at 3pm. It was now around 6pm.
“I have barely heard a peep out of her,” she said.
Carol and Richard McGowan came across Lucy in the family living-room. She was standing in front of the long mirror that stretched horizontally by the table. Her face was so close to the glass it was almost touching.
“Yeah,” Lucy says to the mirror, “I think that too sometimes.”
The child turns around and looks at her parents, while they both look at the mirror. The only thing they see is the reflection of their daughter. She has neatly-trimmed, sandy-coloured, hair that reaches her ears - a haircut that Carol thought made her daughter look more like a boy than the baby doll she would prefer her to be.
“What are you doing?” asks her father.
“Talking to my friend.”
Her parents look at each other.
“And who is your friend?” Richard asks.
“His name is Colin and he lives in the mirror.”
“Is that your friend, the one you were playing with last night?” Carol asks.
“Oh, I see,” says Richard.
“Can you see him?” says the child to her parents
Carol and Richard shake their heads. This only serves to delight the child.
“He must be your invisible friend,” Carol says.
Lucy spins around to the mirror. She looks at it for a moment, and then nods her head.
“You’re right.” Lucy looks at her parents. “Colin says that I’m special because only I can see him.”
“Ok, honey, you…play, and we’ll call you when your tea is ready.”
Lucy already has her back turned and is having an animated conversation with the mirror. Every once in a while she turns around to see if her parents are there, or if they are listening.
Later, at the table, Lucy eats just a little, as any finicky child would at times. maybe. Her parents talk about their work-lives and the criminal justice system. They then notice that Lucy is turned completely around in her seat and is staring at the mirror in the hall.
“Lucy, finish your tea.”
“Mum, can I go and play? Colin is waving to me, and he wants to talk.”
“No, not until you’ve finished eating.”
The child eats a little more before she is excused from the table. Lucy scampers off from her chair while her parents continue with their dinner and conversation. At one point they stop because they hear Lucy talking in the hallway.
“No,” they hear her say. “But sometimes they do. Sometimes they let me do whatever I want.”
Carol and Richard are asleep by midnight. Their daughter is not. Their door creaks open and the little girl steps in. Her nightshirt is an old T-shirt of her father’s, and it drags on the floor as she walks, nearly tripping her.
Lucy makes her way to her parents’ bed, to her mother’s side.
Carol makes a small noise. Lucy shakes her on the bed and speaks louder, with more alarm in her voice.
Carol sits up, and so does Richard. He turns the bedside lamp on.
“What’s wrong, baby?” asks Carol, brushing her hair out of her eyes. Although the sudden light from the lamp hurts the parents’ eyes, it does not hurt Lucy’s as she has been awake for some time. Lucy climbs into their bed and snuggles up to them under in the covers.
“What’s wrong?” Carol asks, again.
“Mummy, I don’t want you or Daddy to go to work tomorrow.”
“Because somebody stabbed a prison officer at Peterhead Prison.”
Carol and Richard look at each other in shock.
“What are you talking about? Where did you hear that from?”
“Colin told me.”
Her parents just stared at her.
“He told me that you’re gonna get stabbed too because you’re a mean bastard.”
Carol hugged her daughter close.
Richard was actually an experienced Sheriff Court Judge and Carol was a Corrections Officer at HMP Grampian, which holds male and female prisoners, and also young offenders. But Lucy did not understand this and had never been given that sort of detail.
Carol and Richard looked at each other, both hoping the other would say something. They realised that their daughter was genuinely afraid because of the way she held her hands close to her chest in a protective instinct. And it did not matter if she was making it all up in her head, she still believed it would happen.
“Honey, you have nothing to worry about. I do have a dangerous job, but I am safe. It is my job to keep other people safe. Okay?”
Lucy nodded hesitantly, not entirely convinced. She pushed her little face into her mother’s chest and refused to let her grip go, even after Carol gently rubbed her back and promised her that she would be okay.
“They can kill you,” Carol could hear the muffled voice of her daughter. “They do it all the time.”
“Sweetie, the bad guys are locked up and they are watched by police.”
“No.” Lucy shot her head up and looked at both of her parents.
“They can kill anyone,” Lucy said, with such seriousness, and such truth, that Carol wanted to curl her own hands to her chest.
“It’s okay, Lucy, it’s okay.” Richard hugged both his wife and daughter close, instantly thinking that he needed to monitor everything Lucy ever watched on TV.
After a lot more reassuring, Lucy, eventually, headed back to her room. On her way out, she looked back at her parents one more time before leaving them.
Carol and Richard look at each other once Lucy is gone.
“Why would she say something like that?” Carol blurts out.
“Because she’s a kid, and kids invent stories all the time,” Richard reassures, although it has clearly jolted him as well.
“Where would she get that type of idea from?”
“The news? Kids see stuff on TV all the time; it probably scared her.”
“But why is she using this imaginary friend as an excuse to tell us that?” Carol asks him.
The next day both Carol and Richard come home in a rush to see each other.
“Another prison officer, Gordon Hallet, was wounded last night. A stabbing by an inmate," Carol tells him, "Just like Lucy said. How would she know that?” Richard shakes his head.
“Don’t think of it that way. It’s a coincidence. Just a coincidence. It has to be. There is no way she would know. It happens all the time and she probably gets scared and thinks about the possibilities.” Carol nods, not wanting to think about it anymore. The first place she wants to go is her daughter’s room.
Lucy is sitting at her little plastic table with a jumbo box of crayons and a pad of paper. She has already drawn a few pictures, and they are all the same subject. Carol circles around the table to get a good look at the scratchy stick-figures in imaginary landscapes made of fluffy clouds: at the park, at the beach, and in front of the house, eating candy-floss and ice cream.
There is a smaller figure which, no doubt is a self portrait of Lucy; the messy yellow scribble shows the red jacket she wears. The other figure is only a tad taller than Lucy, and it appears to be male. The man-figure has thicker legs and wears all black clothes. He has short red hair and a long nose, similar to Pinocchio.
“Is this what he looks like?” Carol asks, casually.
Lucy nods. “Yeah and he’s got a freckle face and a pointy nose.” Lucy turns around to her vanity-mirror. “You do too.” She considers the mirror for a minute, looks at her mom, and then laughs. “No she doesn’t.”
“What did he say?” asks Carol, not a little bit amused.
“Nothing!” the child proclaims.
Carol stares at the face created out of Lucy’s mind and Lucy’s crayons. The smeared black and red and peach make a crude face. The more Carol stares at it, the more she realises she does not like this face. She does not like this face at all.
Carol looks towards the mirror and imagines that face peering out from it, and it makes her stand up and leave. And she cannot help but shudder a little as she walks out of her daughter’s room.
Carol is home before Lucy scampers off the school bus. Lucy comes through the door, instantly drops her backpack, and heads straight to her room. Carol thinks nothing of it and resumes reading, on the couch.
Soon Richard joins them at home as well, and everyone seems quite settled this afternoon. After grabbing a glass of water in the kitchen, Richard goes upstairs to change his clothes. Carol joins him. He retreats into the bathroom while she heads for her dresser.
At almost the same time, they both jump back and scream. They are staring at the face in the mirror. Richard sees the one in the bathroom, and Carol sees the one above her dresser, and they look eerily similar, if not exactly the same.
The face is the one Carol saw in Lucy’s drawings: the dishevelled face, with the messy hair, pointed nose, and crudely-drawn eyes - nothing short of evil. The face was smeared with red, and Carol and Richard both figured out that it was done with lipstick: Carol’s brand of bright cranberry that perfectly matched a pair of shoes she owned.
Richard and Carol meet halfway, and only stop because they both hear the muffled sounds of giggles outside their door. They catch Lucy before she runs back to her room.
“Lucy!” The child tries to hide her smile. “Why did you draw on the mirrors with Mommy’s lipstick? You know better than that! You ruined both the mirrors and the lipstick!”
“Colin can see you,” Lucy says. This stops both parents short. Goosebumps run up their arms.
“Colin wanted to play peek-a-boo. He said it would be funny to scare you.”
“Give me my lipstick,” Carol snaps. Lucy reaches in her pocket and pulls out her graffiti tool. The perfect, pointed lip-shape Carol mastered with each use was now down to an ugly, flattened stub. Some lipstick still remained but it would take a lot of work to get it back into usable form.
“You are going to clean up your mess and go to your room,” Carol says, sternly.
“But, Mummy, it was just for fun! And it’s not a mess ‘cause Colin wants you to know what he looks like!”
“Listen to your mother!” Richard says.
They monitor Lucy’s cleaning-up while she pouts and frowns. They stand behind her, subconsciously maintaining a distance from the mirror. The lipstick marks smear down the glass with every spray and wipe, but no matter what, as Lucy works away, the parents see that spending any time in front of the mirror is not a punishment for Lucy. When she thinks they are not looking, Lucy smiles widely at those smears. She even hides a giggle or two.
Lucy is smiling away as she cleans up the mirror. She even lets out a giggle or two when she thinks they’re not looking.
At dinner, the family eat mostly in silence, without mentioning the mirrors, or anything else for that matter. When they are nearly finished, Richard looks over to Carol, and Carol over to Richard. Then they both look at Lucy.
“Sweetie, we want to talk to you about this Colin problem,” Richard begins. The child plays with her spoon. “It’s all right to play-pretend and make-believe, but you need to understand the difference between made-up stuff and reality.”
“Colin is real,” Lucy states.
“He may seem real to you, because he is your friend, but he is only in your imagination.”
“No, he is real!” Lucy insists.
“Lucy, anytime you want to do something that is bad, don’t think that saying your imaginary friend told you to do it will make it ok. That’s baby stuff, and you’re not a baby anymore. Lucy just folds her arms.
“He is real!”
“Go to your room,” Richard says.
Lucy leaps out of the chair and thunders up the stairs. She slams her bedroom door as hard as she can and immediately sits down at her vanity-mirror. The tears fall and her eyes turn to angry slits. She is not looking at her own reflection. She is listening.
In the dead hours of the night, both Carol and Richard are awakened by the sound of squealing. They both get up and rush out of their bedroom door. Carol barges into her daughter’s room first.
Lucy has a big knife and she is stabbing her dolls.
“Lucy, what are you doing?”
“I…was…trying to…practice getting bad guys with Colin.”
“This is dangerous, Lucy. This is a real knife. A real weapon that hurts people and it is not for children!” exclaims Richard. He carefully takes the kitchen-knife away from Lucy,
“Come on,” Carol says, picking her daughter up. “You are going back to bed right away, and you will be punished for this.”
Lucy stands at the spot in the hall. Tears are running down her red cheeks. She is unsure of what to do next. She stares at the shadow on the wall where the mirror used to be, the outline of the frame is a perfect rectangle. She learned about shapes in school today. Her favourite shape was the rectangles.
She runs from through the hallway and into the downstairs bathroom, and once again she is met with a shadow on the wall. The shape is an oval this time, like an Easter egg. She learned that in school too. Colin was going to tell her where the Easter bunny hid eggs in April. She knew he would. She knew they would have a lot of plans together. He’d told her so.
Lucy runs through the house and discovers that they are all gone. All of the mirrors. There are only shapes on the walls where the mirrors used to be. The paint in these shapes is a shade lighter, as the mirror had protected it from dust.
Lucy runs upstairs, with her little heart thundering in her chest. She lets out little whimpers. Her vanity mirror is gone too -- torn out so that there is just a giant blank space where she sat to put on play-makeup and brush her hair.
Lucy whimpers, and then this escalates into full-out screams. She collapses to her bedroom floor and punches and kicks. The last time she had a temper tantrum was when she was two and wanted the dollhouse from the toy-shop. Throwing a temper-tantrum was only for babies, but Lucy didn’t care at the moment because she felt as helpless as one. She cried and cried, believing she was all alone.
Carol and Richard carefully place the last wall-mirror into their bedroom cupboard. They cover them up with bed-sheets and position them safely behind the shoe-racks.
“That’s the last of them?” Richard asks, putting a shoe-rack back into place.
“I think so,” Carol says, ticking them off on her fingers. “I really hope this doesn’t last long.”
Lucy sits on her bed with her legs pulled up to her chest, and her head resting on her knees. Her emotional-well is dried out, and now all she can do is think by herself. All she can do is sit and listen to hear if her mean parents are going to come in to her room and tell her she could have Colin back if she promises to be good. She would promise to be good. She would have to be sure to tell Colin he had to be good too. Of course Colin would be good, because he wasn’t bad. He was just naughty and wanted to play.
Lucy raises her head because she does hear something, and it isn’t her parents. She hears a quiet voice coming from a corner in her cupboard. She leaps off her bed and starts to rummage through her play-things, tossing aside dolls, Legos, dress-up clothes, books, and games, until she comes across a little bag. She opens it to find nail-polish, nail-stickers, and a little pink plastic compact with a jewel on it. Lucy strokes the item as if it is a small pet, because she hears her name again. She opens up the powder-puff kid’s compact. What she sees inside makes her face light up. “I knew it!” she says to the little mirror. “I knew you weren’t gone!”
Downstairs, Carol and Richard hang their heads over their glasses of wine. They take sips each time they want to talk, like it is making the conversation easier for them.
“Are you sure about this?” Richard says.
“Well, what other options do we have? It’s become a serious problem, and most people I’ve talked to about it agree with me,” answers Carol.
“What if we don’t like what this doctor has to say?”
Carol smiles weakly. “Then we look elsewhere.”
Richard takes a gulp. “Fine.”
“If we don’t do something now, she could get herself, or someone, hurt and keep blaming this imaginary friend, possibly developing some major mental health issues. I’ve seen it. I don’t know how we can just make this go away.”
“It’s got to go away,” Richard says. “It’s got to be just a phase; it probably is something that is common with an only-child. Once Lucy gets used to being in the big school, she’ll make real friends and then forget about all this nonsense.”
They make an appointment, wait for Lucy to get home from her junior-school class, and then break the news gently.
“Lucy, honey, we’re going to visit someone today.”
“Who?” she asks innocently, dropping her backpack to the floor.
“Someone who is an expert on imaginary friends,” Richard says carefully. “He wants to talk to you about Colin”
“Because he wants to learn more about him,” Carol answers.
“Oh. Okay. Be right back.”
Lucy disappears, and a moment later, comes back downstairs with her plastic cosmetics mirror snug in her pocket. Her parents don’t notice.
The man behind the desk has no hair on his head but plenty on his face, covering so much of his nose and mouth Lucy wonders if he even has one. Lucy sneaks a peek at the little compact in her pocket while he is talking and she giggles one too many times.
Lucy looks up. “Sorry. Colin was telling me a joke.”
“How about you tell Colin you’ll talk to him later and talk to me some more?”
The girl whispers into her pocket and snaps the little mirror shut. She looks at the man who is looking at her curiously.
“So what kinds of things do you and Colin do together?”
Lucy’s legs swing lightly on the chair. “We colour, we play tag, we tell jokes, and we play-pretend.”
“Is Colin a good friend?”
“Yeah, we have lots of fun.”
“Do you think that anything you do seems like fun and is actually dangerous and gets you in trouble?”
She licks her lips. “Sometimes.”
“And is that usually Colin’s fault?”
She looks down at her pocket. “Sometimes.”
The man leans forward. “When did you first meet Colin?”
"Where did you first meet Colin?"
“In the mirror in my room. He was in it one day when I was bored and lonely. He said he lived in the mirror and that he was bored and lonely too. He said he needed someone.”
“So then you started to play together?”
“Yep, and Mommy and Daddy don’t like it so much. Colin thinks they’re mean.”
“What kinds of things does he tell you?”
Lucy thinks for a minute. “He tells me stuff that he sees from other mirrors. He can spy on different people from different places, but he can’t leave the mirror.”
Lucy shrugs. “He’s stuck in there. He’s stuck in there until he can find a way out.”
“Do you think you can help him?”
Lucy looks down at her pocket. “I think so. We just have to believe in him.”
“Do you believe in him?”
“But nobody else does, right?”
“No. But Colin is real. He really is.”
The doctor speaks to the parents.
“Well,” he says, shuffling papers at his desk. “Lucy doesn’t just think of this Colin as an imaginary plaything; she considers him to be a real human being. He just happens to be her source of knowledge for everything. She has told me that he lives in the mirror and he can spy on other people via mirrors.”
“Is that what she says about knowing things?” Carol asks. “We can’t figure out just how Lucy would know certain things. Like the prison stabbing and how she got the keys to the knife-drawer.”
“Look, Mr. and Mrs. McGowan, it is obvious that Lucy is using Colin as an excuse to get away with things, but he might be coming from somewhere else other than her mind. She acts like he is real and he might be based off a real person, someone close to the family perhaps. What we need to do is try to get to the core of the matter and figure out where Colin came from and why. What exactly does he represent?”
Lucy is subdued for the rest of the evening. She doesn’t say a whole lot during dinner. When her parents try to get her to open up about her session, she mostly just shrugs.
“I told him, me and Colin play together and do fun things,” is all she says.
Richard and Carol are not sure what to make of the situation themselves, and Lucy leaves to go play in her room. Tip-toeing past her room, on their way to their own, Richard and Carol can see her through the small opening of her door. Lucy is sitting on the floor, next to her bed, clutching her compact mirror.
“Yes,” she whispers, “I can.”
The rest of her whispers are inaudible, but her head is bent down in a very involved conversation. Her parents leave her doorway without saying a word.
Lucy has sheets of paper spread across her table, but instead of using multiple colours for her drawings, this time, she only uses one: black. She has to draw the same thing, over and over again, until she gets it right. She stops, and positions her mirror towards it, and then has to listen to direction. She holds up a finished drawing of a skeleton figure with drawn-on bones, a mask with big hollow eyes, and only a few teeth. The mask looks dreary and haunting, like it is a reflection of the face behind it.
“It is very scary,” Lucy agrees, letting the black crayon roll off the table. She cradles the mirror and gives it more of her attention. “I love Halloween!
“It’s my favourite holiday too!” says the mirror.
Lucy pauses for a minute, staring at the mirror with her full attention. Her eyes are wide.
“Do you think that’s when I can do it? It is?” She perks up. “Yeah! We can go! You can come with me and nobody will know.” Lucy squeezes the mirror a little, out of nervousness or excitement, or both.
“I can’t wait, either,” says the mirror.
Carol comes home from work, before Richard, and heads straight to the fridge for a glass of water. She stops in her tracks when she sees the face attached, by tape, to the fridge door. She is mesmerized by its large hollowed-out eyes and gaping grin. She sighs and rolls her eyes, mostly at herself.
All of Lucy’s other drawings are gone to allow this one to be at the front and centre of attention. It is definitely not like her other drawings. Those are colourful and carefree and happy, much like any child’s Crayola scribbles would be. This one is anything but. It lacks colour, for one, and this does not make it happy at all.
Carol can’t help but stare at this figure, even although she feels it is disturbing. It is a skeleton-figure with hard black strokes outlining the bones that make up the arms and legs. The arms and legs are spread-eagle across the page, making this skeleton look like it might leap out from the paper at any moment.
The face, with its empty eyes, holds her stare. Carol does not want to give it any more attention and she tries not to let it unnerve her. It is, after all, Halloween time and some spooky things will be showing up. She gets her water while avoiding eye-contact with the skeleton-drawing. It is foolish, really, but she feels like the drawing is looking right at her.
Lucy prances into the living-room where her mother is reading a paperback. Carol glances up, after sliding her finger under the page.
“Can we go to the park today?”
Lucy seems more bouncy in these past couple of days and wants to go to the park more and more, which doesn’t bother Carol one bit. In fact, it makes her euphoric ever since the disappearance of the mirrors. She smiles at her daughter when she sees that her shoe-laces are barely tied the right way. She puts the book down, spread open on the chair.
She ties the girl’s laces and then stands up, taking the book with her.
“Sure, let’s go.”
Lucy skips to the door, and Carol has to rush to keep up the pace. The park is a short walk from their house and a quick run for the child.
At the park, Lucy runs to the swings and slides, while Carol sits down. Lucy takes herself across the monkey bars with ease. Carol immerses herself in her book.
Once in a while, Carol looks up to make sure Lucy is safe. The next time she does this, she sees that Lucy is in chase and laughing. Lucy keeps looking behind her and giggling, but when Carol looks to the direction, expecting to see a child playmate, she sees nothing.
Lucy looks back again and darts up the steps to go down a slide. When she reaches the bottom, she points and laughs and declares, “Beat you!”
Although there are other children running around, it is hard to see who Lucy is playing with, and Carol cannot connect her with any of them for some reason. While Carol reads, Lucy goes past the swing to where a multitude of leaves sit in big heaps.
Lucy jumps in a heap and rolls around, allowing the excess leaves to sneak into her jacket and hair. She giggles and keeps saying things such as, “This is fun!” and, “I love jumping in leaves too.” At one point she sits up in her leaf pile; she turns directly to the pile next to her. “I know,” she says softly. “I think so too.”
Lucy then runs over to, and soars across, the monkey bars, and when she lands she stops and proceeds to have a conversation. Carol looks up and watches Lucy play with the drawstrings on her hoodie.
“Yeah,” Lucy says. She nods and says some more things that Carol cannot hear. The more Carol watches her, the more the knot in her stomach begins to grow in anxiety. Carol gets off the bench to view the scene at the monkey bars.
Carol tries not to let her voice quaver. “Who are you talking to?”
Lucy smiles; a devilish and boastful smile.
“I thought he lived only in mirrors?”
Lucy’s boastful little smile grows wider. Carol’s stomach tightens to the core.
“He doesn’t anymore. I let him out.”
"He doesn’t live in the mirrors anymore. I let him out," Lucy tells her mother.
Carol acted naturally for the rest of the day. Richard came home to see his wife sitting on the couch with a perplexed look on her face.
“What?” he asks her.
“Well, your daughter and I went to the park today, and guess who she spent all day playing with?”
Richard rolls his eyes.
“Are you serious?”
“She told me she let him out of the mirror.”
Her husband stands at the doorway to the living room.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“That she has a one-up on us now. She has decided her imaginary friend doesn’t live in the mirrors anymore. Now he is out and about, and Lucy is going to cause more trouble because of it. We’ve got to have another talk with her, as soon as possible.”
“I wonder what Dr. Whats-his-face would have to say.”
“We need to see what we can find out for ourselves first,” says Carol.
“The so-called experts don’t really have much to say about kid imaginary friends, do they?” Richard mutters.
“Not really,” Carol answers. “They all just say that kids sometimes invent imaginary friends because they have social issues and a hard time fitting in, and we both know that’s not Lucy. Sometimes kids are just kids and like to pretend.”
“This is beyond pretending,” he says. “We should make an appointment after this weekend.”
“Yeah,” Carol agrees. “Let her have a fun Halloween first.”
Lucy comes into the living room, clad in her purple and orange skeleton costume and mask.
“Isn’t it cool?” she asks her dad.
“It is cool,” Richard agrees, flashing Carol an amused smile. Carol still has the tags in her hand from when she cut them off.
“It was the one she insisted she wanted,” Carol says.
Lucy spins around so that everyone can see the cool purple and orange bones. She can’t wait to be out when it gets dark because everything glows in the dark. She thinks it is the coolest costume ever.
“Colin has one too!” Lucy boasts proudly.
“Is that why you wanted to be a skeleton this year?” her father asks.
The child nods, and her mother smiles. “She’s going trick-or-treating with Molly Anderson and her family.”
“And Colin,” Lucy states. “It’s his favourite holiday.”
“And Colin,” both Richard and Carol’s eyebrows raise.
Lucy announces she is going to her room to find her favourite trick-or-treat bag, the pumpkin-shaped one she had last year. She searches through her cupboard and the baskets by her bed.
“Don’t worry. As soon as I find it, we can go,” she says. Lucy looks under her bed. “Oh, we’ll be ready really soon. I promise!” Lucy stands up and looks to her right. “Of course,” she says, nodding. Lucy looks in her cupboard again and finds her trick-or-treat bag on one of the shelves. She pulls it down and proudly holds it out in front of her. “Look, Colin! I got it!” She smiles in no general direction. “Yeah, I am ready!” She finds her bag, then puts her skeleton mask on to finish the deal.
Lucy adjusts her costume a little bit. She suddenly feels a little light-headed. She moves her legs like she does not know they are her own, like she is walking for the first time. She feels strange but is comforted at hearing her friend Colin’s voice again. He is very close. She can hear him more clearly than she ever could, more than when he was trapped in mirrors.
On her way downstairs, something changes in Lucy’s manner. She loses her carefree child-like spark and instead marches down the steps with a great sense of purpose. She ends up not going back to the living room. Instead, she goes straight to the kitchen and pulls out a butcher knife from an unlocked drawer. She carefully runs her fingers across the blade and takes note of its sharpness. She nods to herself, like she is satisfied.
Her parents announce that the neighbour friends are there, the adults are in jackets and a few kids are scampering around, dressed as robots and superheroes. Lucy carefully slides the knife into her trick-or-treat bag and quickly runs off, enthusiastically. She is smiling behind the mask, but no one can tell.
With not much else to do, Carol and Richard make their way downstairs to their home-office. There is a lot of paperwork, in different coloured folders, lying scattered all over the big desk. They have accumulated so much during the past few weeks that is covers the whole surface of desk.
The sheets all contain the same information: brochures and various printed articles on child psychology the doctor has given them. There are also files of criminal justice cases. Some files contain old newspaper articles about the people who had come and gone through the system.
While sifting through the paperwork and files, Richard comes across a newspaper article that is nearly a year old. His brow furrows when he looks at the man’s picture and he feels compelled to re-read the article:
Trick or Treat Killer meets his end in prison
Renowned killer Colin Henry Teasdale was stabbed to death by fellow inmates last Thursday. Teasdale was often the target of abuse and ridicule by other inmates because of his small size. Teasdale is the man responsible for the deaths of two adults and three children. On Halloween night he dressed as a trick-or-treater and went door to door and brutally stabbed whoever answered the door. Teasdale masqueraded in a black costume and a skull mask, and so blended right in with other children. He was caught and sentenced to prison by Judge Richard McGowan.
“Carol,” Richard says.
Richard shows her the article and waits to see her reaction. She looks at the picture of the inmate staring back at her: the long pointed nose, messy hair, and hollow eyes. The newspaper image is rather blurry, and it looks almost identical to the picture Lucy had sketched.
“I remember this guy,” Carol says. “He was in my wing. He’s the one who did those Halloween-night murders.”
Their thoughts turned to Lucy, out there, trick-or-treating in her skeleton costume.