It was just before I was closing up shop for the
night when the guy walked into my office. My secretary lingered
in the door, throwing me a look that said, "Do I have to stay?"
Not tonight, doll. She knows I mean "not tonight" because I shake
my head and that I called her "doll" because I have a cocky grin
on my face. This fella is definitely the small village type. Big
beard, pretty stocky. Probably hasn't been to the big city too
much. I wonder if he got lost trying to find my office in this
zoo of a town. "I need your help." He says imploringly. I strike
up a match and light my cigarette. "Yeah? With what?" He stares
down at his feet. Almost like the answer to my question is
written on those beat up work boots he's wearing. "My children
are missing." I furrow my brow and frown. I've never had a case
where somebody asks me about kids. It's always about catching a
cheating husband, you see. Always. Or so I thought. I sit there
in silence waiting for him to go on. He finally picks up on this.
"Well, I'm a poor man. I'll say that up front. I don't have much
but what I do I'll use to pay you." I take my feet of the desk
and sit normally. "Go on." And he rushes into it. His wife is an
evil woman who wanted to get rid of the kids. Two less mouths to
feed. Her idea was to drop them in the woods, tell them to get
fire. And then just leave them there. Let the animals get to 'em.
Pretty twisted stuff. Apparently one of these kids, Hansel, is a
pretty smart cookie. The first time mom tried to pull this shit,
he left a trail of pebbles to their place. How about that? The
other one is Gretel. Good kid, apparently. But not as smart as
Hansel. So mom tries again. But this time, knowing this Hansel
kid made a trail with the pebbles, locks the front door so he
can't go get more. Ah ha, but Hansel outsmarts her. Or so he
thinks. He uses the one piece of bread mom and dad give him for
food and crumbles it, using that a trail. Here's what Hansel
seems to forget though. Birds love that bread just as much as
they do. Maybe even more. So when the little pipsqueaks sleep,
these birds see this trail as more of a snack. Trail lost.
And that brings us to this point. It's been almost
four days since the kids were left out in the woods. Dad's
worried. I listen to him, but think the whole time why in the
hell did he go along with the wife's idea in the first place?
I'm not a parent and I'm not sure I want to be, but that one
seems pretty obvious. Still, I take the job. I could use the
money. Even if it's not much.
The animals in this forest always talk. For a
price. I talk to some old friends first though. A few deer, a
bear who's one of my biggest confidants in these parts. They all
point me to the snowy white bird. Like any pretty boy, he's full
of himself. He's not helping at all so I finally ask him his
price. He says maybe he saw two kids. Maybe he led them to a
house. He says that was the last time he saw them. I tell him to
lead me to the same house. He asks for more money. Instead I pull
out the shiny piece I keep tucked inside my jacket. I tell him he
takes me or he doesn't get to sing even more goddamn pretty song
ever again. This works. In my line of work I find you have to
threaten the one people hold on to the most. Some people would
call that dirty. I call it necessary.
The house is like something out of a fat kid's wet
dream. Sugar windows. Chocolate windowsills. Wafer cookie
chimney. I could go on. I light a cigarette and start to set off
to check out the place. I don't get far, though. The shrill sound
of an old woman comes from inside the house. "Go start the damn
fire! It's time for your brother to made into something
delicious!" A little girl of maybe 9 or 10 walks out. Seeing me
she almost screams but I hold my finger up to my lips and she
gets it. I motion for her to keep moving and mouth just act
normal. I stake out a place behind a tree and wait. The girl
walks over to some strange gigantic outdoor oven. It's a little
bit taller than her. I know what this old crazy bitch is planning
to do and it makes me feel sick. Where's the other kid though?
The one who made the trails? Suddenly I hear his voice calling to
his sister and I realize he's in the barn near the stove, but I
can't see him.
"What the hell is taking so long?!" The woman
asks. She's stepped outside. God, she's hideous. I can't even
look at her. The girl doesn't reply, only whimpers like a small
dog. The woman walks towards the oven and shoves her long,
mangled finger into the little girl. "Get in there, make sure the
temperature's right!" The girl merely stands for a minute and
finally says "But…I don't know how." She glances at me at the end
of saying this. And I know what I gotta do. I take back what I
said earlier. This girl is just as smart as her brother. Maybe
even smarter. "Goddammit you little brat, step back, let me show
you how it's done." She takes a step towards the door and I take
my shot. She gets a slug in the middle of the back and lets out
some horrible shriek. In all my years in this job I've never
heard something that horrendous. Green liquid splatters out of
the wound. Green? It doesn't really matter though, she doesn't
bleed to death. Instead she falls straight into the fiery hell
that is the oven. "Close the door!" I yell to the girl. She does
so quickly, probably not wanting to look at that monster anymore.
The kids are shaken but OK. Tough kids, really.
Since none of us know where their place is from here, we walk
until I find Tony the bear, my confidant. He leads us back. Upon
hearing what their mother did to them, he also scares her
straight. Tony's a good guy to have around. Case closed.