Things in Raven Creek are not at all what they appear to be.
For starters, I am about ninety-nine percent sure that my housemate, Lloyd, is a vampire. Which is impossible, because vampires don’t exist, right? But the other night, I accidentally wandered into Lloyd’s bedroom while fumbling around in the dark, searching for the bathroom. Lloyd was fast asleep. But get this – he was sleeping on a hard slab of stone, which looked an awful lot like a coffin.
Now, maybe that wasn’t so unusual. Plenty of people have unusual fixations. Maybe Lloyd is just really fond of the macabre, or maybe the hard granite is good for his bad back. Who knows? But the very next day, I stepped inside the house just in time to see him hypnotize a visitor. I stood there blinking for a moment, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. But the visitor’s eyes went glassy, and his body went kind of slack. Next thing I knew, Lloyd was having a snack from the visitor’s jugular – vampire style. Then, as I stood there in horror, he managed to convince the visitor that nothing unusual had just happened.
I backed away, still having gone unnoticed by Lloyd, and pretended to have just come through the front door.
After that incident, I have kept my distance from my roommate. I don’t want to be the only one in the room when he gets a sudden snack attack! On the other hand, maybe he already has snacked on my blood, but has made me forget all about it. The idea makes my insides curl.
I try to shove my roommate’s secret identity out of my mind, though, because I have other work to do. Now that Chloe and I have discovered the little bedroom hidden in Scotty’s Toys, I know that I must investigate Poindexter Scott again. He had seemed so innocent, and genuinely concerned for the missing child when I questioned him in his shop. But it would have been so simple for him to hide Philippa in the little bedroom, locked away from shoppers. Only one question remains – if he had been keeping Philippa in the hidden bedroom, then where is she now?
I wait until nightfall to approach the toy seller’s house; a small cottage that reminds me of the gingerbread house in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Just right for luring children, I think, shuddering.
I creep around the grounds, looking for anything unusual, and rummage through his trash bins, looking for discarded Goldfish crackers, juice boxes, anything that might indicate that a child may be within these walls. But I find nothing.
And then, the porch light snaps on. Scotty himself is standing there, peering down at me. “Can I help you, Detective Hughes?” he asks.
I step away from the trash can. “Yes. I have a few more questions regarding the disappearance of Philippa Jordan.”
Scotty holds open his front door. “Then please, come in. I dare say that will be more productive than searching through my rubbish.”
“Do you mind if I look around?” I ask as I follow him inside.
“By all means.”
I search the house, finding nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until I descend into Scotty’s basement. It is used as a workshop, it seems, and toys are scattered throughout. Many of the toys are unfinished, or covered in a layer of dust – most likely not touched by a child or anyone for a very long time. I turn to leave, and then I spot it. A single, gold-colored stuffed unicorn sits on a high shelf against a wall. Goldie. Tucking the unicorn under one arm, I head upstairs to confront Scotty.
“You told me that Philippa’s toy unicorn was the only golden unicorn,” I say. “So how do you explain this?”
Scotty shakes his head. “You misunderstood me. Philippa’s toy is the only golden unicorn I sold. However, there were two in all. This, the second golden unicorn, is my own personal property.”
I thank Scotty for his cooperation, then leave, gritting my teeth in frustration. I had been so sure that the seemingly innocent toy seller was a twisted kidnapper in disguise. But I have no evidence of that. I had been sure that my housemate was a semi-normal human being until I discovered he was a vampire. Is there anything or anyone in this town that I can be sure of?
Not Chloe, says a small voice in the back of my mind. Chloe cannot be trusted, either.