A little tale entitled:
"He's not imaginary, he's real!!
"Thomas, there is no one here in this room but you."
Thomas turned away from his mom and buried his face in his pillow. Why didn't she believe him?
Kristin touched her son's head, and try to smooth the out of control cowlick from his dark hair. He needed to stop this, his step-father got so angry when Thomas made stuff up.
"Tomorrow night is Halloween, Thomas. If you want to go Trick or Treating you shouldn't say anything to Rick about Freddie, okay? We don't want him getting upset again."
Thomas fingered the bruises on his wrist and the round circle of the cigarette burn on his arm. No, he wouldn't mention Freddie. He and his mother were both still recovering from the last time Rick got "upset." And besides, Freddie had told him the same thing.
Freddie showed up three days earlier when Thomas was sick and running a high fever and hadn't left when the fever did. He told Thomas he couldn't leave until it was over. Whatever "it" was. Thomas didn't know what he meant by that exactly, but he was more than a little afraid.
Thomas pulled the covers up around his neck, closed his eyes and tried to pretend not to hear Freddie whispering in his ear.
"Mrs. Shine, did you see what happened?"
Detective Garcia wasn't sure the woman was going to be able to answer the question but he had to ask her anyway.
The woman gazed back at him with the all too familiar deer in the headlights look that the Detective saw often enough to realize she wouldn't be much help just yet. He could come back to her later. After she had a little time.
"Officer Reese, can you please sit with Mrs. Shine until I can get a statement? Maybe get her a cup of tea or something?'
He watched Officer Penny Reese whisper to the woman and then gather her up as they both headed towards the kitchen. It would give her something to do for a few minutes, get her mind working and then he could try questioning her again.
The little boy was another matter. He seemed very willing to talk but most of what he said didn't make much sense.
"Now Thomas. Tell me again about Freddie and why you think he did this."
Thomas gazed out the window to the tree in the backyard where until a few minutes ago, Rick had been hanging, the rope from Thomas' tire swing wrapped carefully around his neck.
He thought it was alright to tell the police about his friend. Freddie was gone now anyway and the whispering had stopped.
"Freddie told me he would take care of Rick, that he would never hurt me or my mother again."
Detective Garcia stared down at Thomas searching his face for the tell-tale signs of a lie but saw nothing more than honest innocence.
"What else did Freddie say to you, Thomas?
Thomas smiled slightly, shook his head and whispered, "Nothing."
Thomas turned his gaze back towards the window and away from the detective, somethings were best kept to himself.
There had been more of course, much more. Freddie had plenty to say. But like the vision of the man hanging from the tree, much of the whisperings of Freddie had disappeared into the child's memory and it was already getting difficult for Thomas to remember any of it at all.