The cotton fabric slides between his fingertips — so soft. Little pink and red hearts thereon stand out in the half-light. His fingers play along the simple white lace that tops the garment. There is a sound… a tapping, interrupts his reverie. He clutches the garment…protectively… guiltily? Perhaps both.

Taking a basic laborers’ wage, he’d moved here 3 years ago. The outskirts of “a quiet little town” indeed. Some of his new neighbors may be aware of his “status” but none acquainted with his history. He thinks perhaps it’s time to revisit it himself.

The wind… house settling… nothing. Still precautious, he carefully folds and returns the item to its sealed zip-lock bag. Then to its place atop a similar dinosaur-printed item and beside the one with the rocket ships, and the drawer is pushed closed.

He fondly surveys the room’s contents. On the wall a yellow taffeta dress hangs, next to blue footy pajamas in a frame adorned with colorful tassels from a trike’s handlebars. The sleepy pink teddy bear… what a sweet day. And of course, videotapes and albums. Packed with crisp polaroids of… again… tapping… a soft knocking at the front door.

He slips out, carefully securing the bookcase/door concealing the entrance of his “trophy” room. The hall clock registers 9:46pm, a little late for regular visitors. So, retractable baton is in hand, when opening the door to find… a small boy dressed in a dirty suit. The kid looks thin, pale, somehow… familiar, but he can’t believe his luck. With a wicked grin he steps back and with a sweep of his arm invites the boy in. At this the child’s smile matches his, which fades when he realizes — the boy is not alone.

To say it’s been a slow night at the Texaco on Mayfield’s Route 7 is an understatement. At 10:17 Stewart Jacobs hasn’t seen car or customer come through for the past hour. He’s been pulling double shifts since the “incident” 2 weeks ago (note: see last week’s article), and on the verge of unconscious boredom. Until Jeffery Owensby comes running across the parking lot like hell’s on his heels.

Casting backwards glances, Jeff stumbles, falls, sprawls on the tarmac. Then he’s back up, racing for the station’s entrance. Bursting into the store, he turns and locks the doors.

“Hey man, you can’t…” Stewart protests but Jeff interjects “You’ve got to help me!” Stewart takes in the man’s disheveled appearance. Sweaty, clothes torn and filthy, with bruises and small bloody claw marks on all visible skin.

Stewart steps from behind the counter with placating hands and confronts Jeff, who’s nervously backed down the middle aisle. “Okay, just calm down Mr. Owensby.” Stewart says in a reassuring tone, “who’s after you?” Looking wide-eyed Jeff points past him — “Them!”

Turning, Stewart starts a little at what he sees. Dirty hands and faces of dozens of small well-dressed children pressed against the glass storefront. “What the f***? Mr. Owensby who are those kids… why are they after you?”- Stewart queries. “They’re hell-spawn!” Jeff cries, “I don’t know why they’re after me. They can’t come in unless you let them.”

Stewart reflects on the situation. He’s aware of Jeff’s readily-available online “status” and has wondered if there weren’t more to it. Pondering the circumstances of the situation’s supernaturality, he comes to a conclusive, confrontational decision. “Who are they really Jeff?” he asks coldly. “I… I don’t…” Jeff stammers. Stewart grabs him and rages — “Who the f*** are they Jeff?” Through helpless sobs Jeff quietly responds- “They’re my… spirits of my…”

Stewart turns and advances to the door. Amidst Jeff’s pleading protests he unlocks and opens them wide. The children gather at the entrance. “Come in,” Stewart says with a welcoming smile, “help yourselves to whatever you like… on the house!” And the children do.

Later, as the screams of terror subside into the night, one small girl, clutching a pink bear, remains. She hugs Stewart’s leg tightly. Then, with a soft “thank you,” skips off into the night.

Following a week of no-call no-show, police searched the residence of Jeffery Morrice Owensby at the behest of his employer. A thorough search of the property turned into pending investigation. Mr. Owensby will not be listed as a “Missing Persons” but rather one of the FBI’s most wanted.

I welcome almost all questions, comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected].

Hope to hear from ya until then try and stay focused! See ya.