Mary, dressed in her school clothes, was escorted into the bedroom by the trenchcoated detective. Her parents, following, stepping gingerly over the piles of debris that littered the floor. Of course, the everpresent Mr. Smiles was trailing behind. No one’s eyes flickered with the surprising scene, they’ve been to too many of these places to remember. Mr. Smiles, sensing the depressing atmosphere, made a funny face behind Mr. and Mrs. Bauldeur’s backs, causing Mary to stifle a giggle.
Maneuvering a 6-year-old into one of the cleaner parts of the room is not an easy task, but Mr. Quinn managed it with a practiced hand. Gently taking one knee, reaching eye level with the girl as a result, he put one gloved hand on her shoulder and snapped his fingers at the tip of his nose. With a bizarre and forced excitement filling his voice, much like a father talking to his son the kid’s trading cards, he explained the game that they were going to play.
“Okay, Mary, are you ready to play a game? Yes? Excellent. Today we’re playing ‘Hide-and-Go-Seek’. You see, there was a very big boy that lived here and he has run away. His parents love him very much, and they want to make sure that he comes home. So, we are going to help them find where he ran off to. The rules are the same as last time, you have to ask an adult before touching anything in the room, and you are allowed to look outside for clues only after you’ve finished with the room. Are you ready?” the detective asked, slapping his knees on the last word.
A beaming smile and an excited dance met his question. “Yeah, Mr. Quinn! Mr. Smiles, are you ready too”?
Mr. Smiles’ grin widened further and he raised his hands in two enthusiastic thumbs-up, his tall shadow drawing across her back as he moved to assist. They were a strange pair, one young and casually dressed, the other extremely tall and draped in formal wear that wouldn’t be out of place in the Revolutionary war. A long, fitted coat accentuated Mr. Smile’s rail-thin figure, and a thick, red ascot covered his chest. One cannot deny their effectiveness, as odd as they were; Mary was a savant when it came to Hide-and-Go-Seek. There’s something about how she sees the world that tears through the deception of any hider that dare challenge her.
Planting her feet on the ground, she began to survey the scene. It wasn’t long until her eyes fell onto the bedside nightstand. Motioning the detective over, she asked for the contents to be revealed to her.
“We’ve actually already gone through there, sweetie. All that was in there was a journal, which said tha-”
A shriek drowned out the rest of his response. “You read his diary? That’s like, sacred!” Mary flustered. “You should never go through things like that”! Even Mr. Smile’s grin diminished a bit at the news, but only a bit. The outburst didn’t deter her from asking for more details, of course.
“As I was saying, the boy,” the Mr. Quinn continued, picking each word carefully, “wrote that he was afraid that a bully at school was going to beat him up. That may have been why he ran away”.
Mary shrugged and moved over to the bed; the sheets were piles in a tangled mess. “It’s more likely that he was afraid that he’d get in trouble.” she announced proudly, as if solving the mystery right there, “Look at this room! It’s a mess, and he even spilled juice everywhere. What a slob! If my room was this messy at home then I’d probably get grounded on the spot”!
The Bauldeurs remained silent.
Disdain flooding her tiny frame, the junior sleuth moved over to the window, Mr. Smiles trailing close behind. Suddenly, she froze in mid-stride.
“What is it, honey? Did you find something”? The detective asked, excited.
Remaining quiet, she slid over to the windowsill, moving carefully to avoid touching anything. It was the rule of the game, after all, and she hated to lose games. After all, her parents would buy her all kinds of things and let her eat lots of candy every time that she won on of Mr. Quinn’s games. Plus, they were always really easy.
Peeking out of the open window, she let out an excited squeal. “Right here! There’s a bunch of dirt on the edge here. The boy must have jumped to the ladder out there,” she exclaimed, gesturing to the fire escape opposite the window, “then rode it down to the ground. Just like in the movies! Look, he even threw the rest of his juice out the window so that he could hide the evidence”.
Her hand shot out to touch the dirt, but Mr. Smiles grabbed her wrist just in time. “Don’t touch, my dear! You don’t want to lose the game, do you?” he whispered in his raspy, high-pitched voice.
“Of course not, Mr. Smiles. You’re right”.
Mr. Quinn was clearly expecting this development, but he took a few pictures anyway for filing reasons. “Yes, that’s true as far as we can tell. The boy leaped from his window and rode to the bottom. Are you ready to go outside”?
Mary nodded and the party moved out of the bedroom, walking slowly so that the little one could keep up. They passed by many dirty stairs and other apartments as they made their way down from the fourth floor. Exiting through the scarred front door, the group made their way towards the alley below the room. That was not to be, however, as Mary continued walking through the liquid and further down the passage when the rest of them stopped at the spill. Calling after her did no good; it was a rare occasion when she could be roused from her trance when following a trail.
“There’s a bit of juice in a trail here. Let’s follow it!” she shouted back.
Everyone else was thoroughly confused. Many techs had combed through the scene in an attempt to find a trail, but the alley was clean except for the one spot below the window. Relatively clean, that is.
Impatiently, Mary stamped her feet and pointed at the ground. Mr. Quinn drew up behind her, causing Mr. Smiles to jump off to the side to avoid a collision, and peered closely. Yes, there was a bit of liquid here, a nearly microscopic sample disguised by the trash on the ground. He would have asked how she saw such a tiny detail, but asking such questions is a habit that he was thoroughly trained out of.
The train of people continued until they were almost at the other end of the passageway, which weaved its way though the large block. Suddenly, Mary stopped and placed her hand on a nearby door. All the movement was taking a toll on her. Intimidated by the darkening alley, she softly announced that the boy is probably hiding in the shop that the door leads to. The police hadn’t thought to look in here, it was so far away from the scene. Mr. Quinn took a hankerchief from his pocket and tried the door, finding it locked. A few hits with his shoulder later, the lock broke and the door gave way, causing Mr. Quinn to go sprawling into the masonry shop.
The place was incredibly dirty, as a thick layer of dust covered everything in the room with only one exception. A fairly clean path was made through the dirt, leading to a cement mixer. They mystery was solved at that point, but Mary was never one for a quiet finish. The magical duo raced over to the cement mixer and pointed to Mr. Quinn, ordering him to open the mixer up. Using the hankerchief again, he grasped the handle and pulled hard, revealing a boywrapped a sheet. A casual observer would have deemed him asleep.
Hollow congratulations were heaped upon Mary, who beamed at Mr. Smiles in return. The affection was reciprocated by the odd man ten-fold. Ms. Bauldeur grabbed her daughter’s hand and escorted her to the car, with Mr. Smiles tailing right behind.
Detective Quinn rubbed the bridge of his nose and began to take pictures, narrating the investigation into a handheld recorder. “The subject in question’s name is Matthew Drew, born June 14th, 2001. Evidence now proves that the boy was stabbed in his bed then thrown from the window. The body was then wrapped in a sheet to minimize blood splattering and taken to an abandoned masonry shop down the street, where he was left in a cement mixing device. Miss Mary Bauldeur advised on the case, send compensation to the family”.
Quinn turned to face Mr. Mauldeur, who looked like he hadn’t slept for weeks. “Thanks for your assistance, Mr. Mauldeur. We had to find the body today, or the murderer would have gotten away scot free. Imagine, a father killing his own son. Yes, he was mentally sick, but that’s just doesn’t excu-“.
“We can’t keep doing this, Ryan. Mary’s slowly getting worse, losing touch with reality. It’s hurting her and she doesn’t even know it. We just can’t take it anymore. My wife is getting the worst of it, she’s about half a tick away from losing it completely. Did you know that I caught her buying a huge bottle of sleeping pills a couple of days ago? I had to flush them when she was away at the salon. What she could have…” he broke down into tears.
Quinn patted him on the back reassuringly. “Your kid’s a genius, a real savant. She’ll be fine, trust me”.
Bauldeur glared at him, menacingly. “She’d better be, I’ll tell you that.” he spat, “I’ll be expecting a very generous check very soon. And don’t expect me to answer your calls for a while. I don’t care how desperate you are. She’s still sick, and this shit isn’t helping”. Clenching his fist, Bauldeur moved towards the door.
“Before you go, a quick question, if you would.” Quinn called after him. “Who is Mr. Smiles? I keep hearing Mary talk about him”.
The tired father threw up his hands in frustration. “I have no idea. She keeps saying his name and talking to him as if he’s in the room with her. I guess it’s her way of shielding her from the stressful situations that you bastards put her in. That’s the only thing that I can think of”.
The door creaked as he slammed the door behind him.