Tom looked at his friend, considering whether Liam would be able to handle his revelation. He decided, ready or not, he had to tell his friend what had been going on.
“Liam,” he started, “I have to tell you something. It’s pretty strange, so bear with me, please.”
“Sure, Tom,” the raven-headed man replied. “I’m all ears.”
“Alright. Well, it started out just like any other night; me and the wife went to bed, the kids were already asleep and it was quiet. Nobody had said anything cross, no one was stressed, it was all pretty normal and peaceful.”
Liam nodded, jotting down a few notes. He motioned for Tom to continue his story.
“Melli had just fallen asleep when I heard it. It sounded like giggles. Like a little girl’s, you know?”
Tom exhaled harshly. “It almost sounded like Lily, but I went to check on her and she was sound asleep. I watched her for a minute or two, but she didn’t make any sounds or movements. So I checked on the twins, and they were both sleeping, too.”
Liam interrupted, “How old are the twins, Tom? Both boys, right?”
Tom, his mind visibly wrenched from his story, started then nodded. “Yeah, both boys. They’re nine.”
He answered Liam’s next question before it was asked, “Lily’s two. Well, almost three, now, I guess.”
Tom watched Liam write his answers on his notepad before continuing his story, “So I went back to bed. The giggling kept going, off and on, all night. I asked Melli about it in the morning, but she didn’t hear it. Told me I was just imagining things.”
Tom’s voice grew raspy. He reached for the paper cup of water next to his clasped hands. “I told her I wasn’t. But she just laughed and went to work. I dropped the twins off at school and Lily at the sitter’s. Then I went to work. I kept thinking about those giggles all day.”
Liam waited, letting the silence stretch for almost a minute. Then, “What day was that, Tom? Was it Tuesday or Wednesday?”
“Oh, I think it was Tuesday. No. No, Tuesday night is when the giggling started. So, at work on Wednesday.”
“Alright,” Liam said, again making notes on his notepad. “Go on.”
“Wednesday night, after work, it was fine, until the giggling started. That was about dinner time. Melli and the boys ignored it. I thought they were playing a joke on me. But Melli got mad when I said so, and I went for a beer. Didn’t get home til after one sometime.”
Liam interruped, “And the giggling? Were you still hearing it when you went out? Or did it stop?”
“Oh, it stopped when I left the house. It started back up again as soon as I got in the door. I laid down with Melli, but she was sound asleep so she wasn’t making any giggling sound. I didn’t even bother checking on Lily. Didn’t want to wake the tyke.”
“So, now it’s Thursday, right? What happened then, Tom,” Liam asked, pen poised above the notebook.
“I didn’t work on Thursday. Melli let me sleep in. She took the boys to school and Lily to the sitter. The giggling woke me up, of course. I searched the house. I didn’t find what it was. I tore the house apart. Went through every room.” The distraught man held back sobs. “Melli and the kids didn’t come home. I don’t know where they are. Or where they went.”
Tom looked at his hands, examining the blood on them. “I…I think I cut myself on something. See?”
Liam looked at Tom’s hands, noting the blood and the cuts and scratches on his fingers and palms. “I see, Tom, I see.”
Liam read over his notes. Then he walked to the door of the small, windowless space. He spoke into a little box mounted at shoulder height on the wall, “Joyce, did you find out who he is and where he came from?”
A woman’s voice responded, “No, Liam, I haven’t. But the lab says the blood isn’t his.”