“I’m almost done my homework,” Billy Allen called down the stairs, to answer his mother’s question.
The statement was a lie. Billy had not even opened his schoolbag since arriving home on Friday. Billy hoped he had sounded credible enough that his mother would not feel the need to confirm his claim, as he was harboring a larger, much more dangerous secret.
“Keep it down,” he hissed at the rattling shoebox on his desk. “If she finds out, I’ll have to get rid of you. And you don’t want to go back outside, right? It’s cold outside.”
The noise from the box increased. It sounded like chewing.
“Are you hungry?” asked Billy. “You’ve already had most of my dinner. Mom will be suspicious if I come downstairs now. She might want to see my math. Can you wait until morning, at least?”
The box was quiet.
Billy considered opening the lid just a crack, but then he looked down at his bandaged arm. No, he did not want to open the lid. Not after Saturday morning.
The activity within the box began once again. Scratching this time, perhaps? Billy shuddered. He checked his school timetable one more time, just to be one hundred percent sure. His path would not cross Andrew Baxter’s until Tuesday, third block.
He would have to keep a careful eye on his guest until then.
“Just checking my answers,” he yelled to his mother. “I’ll be done soon, and then I’m going to go right to sleep.”
“When the time comes,” he whispered to the box, “go for the eyes.”