Imaginary Friends – Chapter 8
Ten-year-old Paige Holley has made a new imaginary friend. A talking cricket named Chuck.
Chapter Eight – Hostage
Det. Ricky Faulk is in the Holleys’ kitchen with the parents of missing ten-year-old Paige Holley, as they all stare at the phone.
“Thanks for coming on such short notice, Detective.”
Det. Faulk jots in his notepad. “So Paige claims this Chuck, the talking cricket, has kidnapped her and is holding her in a basement somewhere.”
“We realize the preposterousness of the situation, Detective,” Mrs. Holley insists. “But we’re still concerned.”
“Is it possible she’s suffered some sort of psychotic break?” Faulk asks.
Mrs. Holley glances at her husband. “She’s been on medication. We haven’t been able to get in touch with her psychologist, Dr. Petty.”
Det. Faulk looks up and back down at his notepad. “Would that be a…Dr. Norma Petty?”
“Mrs. Holley, I’m sorry you had to find out like this; but I just came from her office building. The whole place is burned to the ground. She didn’t make it.”
Mrs. Holley claps a hand to her mouth, “Oh my god.”
“That’s three deaths now,” Mr. Holley chokes out. “Paige’s friend’s mom, her teacher and now her psychologist. You don’t think…she could have…”
“Are you seriously calling your own daughter a murderer?!” Mrs. Holley practically shouts.
Mr. Holley grits his teeth. “Well it certainly isn’t an imaginary talking cricket behind all this.”
Det. Faulk holds his hands up. “Let’s all…just slow down a bit here. Now explain this logic problem to me again.”
“He said–” Mr. Holley corrects himself. “She said if we can guess correctly whether or not “Chuck” will return her, he’ll return her.”
“Hmm, that’s a noodle-scratcher. If you say you think he’s gonna give her back, he can say he wasn’t and keep her. If you say you don’t think he’s gonna give her back and he wasn’t gonna give her back, you’re right and he has to give her back. But if you say you don’–“
The detective is interrupted by the phone ringing and everyone just stares.
Meanwhile two towns over, a gravedigger has led Det. Harry Schette, after some fiduciary convincing, to the headstone of one Charles “Chuck” Smith. A younger woman is standing at the grave holding a flower and Det. Schette approaches.
“Excuse me ma’am, did you know Mr. Smith?”
The woman turns and smiles. “Nobody really knew Chuck. He would come into the diner I work at. He was always nice to me. I come here sometimes just to say hi. Such a shame how he died.”
“Yeah, about that…”
After an agonizing few minutes of ringing, Mrs. Holley finally picks up the phone.
“Paige, where are you?”
“Mom, Chuck needs you to guess.”
“Paige, that’s enough. You–“
Det. Faulk holds up a finger, hearing an echo from beneath his feet. “When she said she was being held in a basement, did you bother to check your own?”
Mr. Holley frowns, walks over to the basement door and turns on the light, before turning back to his wife and the police detective. “Well now I feel like an asshole.”
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