Jessica Hurley is stretched out on the sofa, cradling a glass of red wine. A black-and-white horror movie from the 50s -- The Thing from Somewhere, Attack of the 50-Foot Ants, who knows or cares, because now the Valium is starting to kick in -- is on the television.
Between sips from her 2015 convenience-store vintage, she fishes out and munches on, from a crystal-cut bowl, a handful of M&Ms and other confectionery detritus that have, boo-hoo, failed to have been given to trick-or-treaters on this cold Halloween night. Minus 15 Celcius. For late October, that's pretty scary.
It's 8:15, and all of the kids have gone, if not to bed, then to gorge themselves on sugar and chocolate. Thank god Halloween is on a Saturday this year, she thinks. No teaching tomorrow.
Then the doorbell rings.
"Damn it," she sighs, brushing candy bar wrappers and cellophane wrapping off her chest and the sofa. She mutes the TV, parks her wine glass on the coffee table, and gets up to open the door.
Probably a bunch of teenagers with pillow cases for bags.Instead, she finds a little boy, probably five or six years old. And he's not wearing a costume. He's wearing a light-blue snowsuit with red striping down the sides.
"Trit or treat," he says sullenly, staring at his shoes.
"Are your parents nearby?" Jessica asks. "It's a bit late now for trick-or-treating. If you're lost, I can call someone to get you home."
"Trit-uh-uh treat?" the boy sobs.
"What's your name? Where do you live?"
The boy only cries harder, balling up his fists and pressing them into his eyes.
"Alright, get in here. It's too cold outdoors," Jessica says as she steps onto the porch and scoops up the little man. You'll freeze to death."
Jessica puts the boy on the sofa and -- redundantly, since the kid is already wearing a snowsuit -- wraps him up in a bathroom towel. Just to be sure. Because it's colder than a devil's curse.
A few minutes later, the kid is sound asleep -- snoring, in fact -- and now it's time to find some identification.
Parents are probably junkies.
In one of his pocket she finds a driver's license. The name is James Willmore. The photo on the card shows a man, probably in his late 60s or early 70s, with a weatherworn face and greasy, slicked-back, gray hair. His lip is curled up on the right side, suggesting I know something you don't.
The boy stirs. Jessica jumps.
"Christ, you scared me!"
"Can I have a glass of water?" the boy asks.
"Sure, honey," Jessica says.
She fills a juice glass from the tap in the kitchen and sits back down next to the boy.
The boy sits up, takes the glass and has several sips.
"Where do you keep your candy?" he says.
"Um, there's some stuff left over from tonight, but if you're hungry I can get you something."
"Where do you keep your candy?" This time not in a child's voice, or in a human one.
"I don't know what you mean."
"You don't have to say it. I'll find it anyway. And after I find it, I'll invite my friends over here, and they'll find your candy, too."