On January 25, 2012, Child Eater was released. In celebration of the 10th-anniversary of this amazing event, I am releasing a special 10th-anniversary edition on January 25, 2022. I am posting a chapter every Saturday and Tuesday until then. Read chapters one, two, and three, or find chapter four below.
Midmorning on a Tuesday is always a great time to travel the expressway. There are very few cars on the road, and those that are on the road are generally only making short trips to shopping centers or doctors’ offices along the way. She arrived at the hotel in record time, forty-five minutes. She went immediately to the desk and requested a room. It was a fairly small hotel, so any room she got would be near the room that Alice had disappeared from.
After dropping her bags off in her room, Tabitha headed to the local diner. She wasn’t really hungry, but when looking for information, small town diners were a great place to start. The old timers generally sat around gabbing about all the local happenings. Alice would be fodder for the gossips for sure.
She found a central location to set up “shop.” She set up her laptop and ordered herself a cup of coffee. She’d take notes on everything she heard regarding Alice, and most people would assume she was either a writer or a student. She’d been doing this for so long, she played either part well on the rare occasion that someone stopped to ask questions.
She started by making notes of what she already knew. Alice was 5 years old. She was tall for her age. She had shoulder length brown hair and almond shaped brown eyes. Her parents had put her to bed around eight o’clock. After waiting for her to fall asleep, they had gone to the coffee shop, located next door to the hotel, for coffee. They took their drinks to go and headed immediately back to the hotel. They swear that they weren’t gone any longer than thirty minutes. When they arrived back at the hotel, the room was in shambles. Clothing, bedding, and all the furniture that wasn’t nailed down was strewn across the room. The police report said that it looked like a tornado had gone through the room.
Alice was an only child, and from all accounts, the light of her parents’ life. They were in town to visit with Alice’s grandmother. They always stayed in the same hotel. Generally, they reserved the same room, but this time the room they wanted had been booked already when they made their reservations. The grandmother had a small apartment in the local assisted living community, located just inside the town borders.
Tabitha didn’t have to wait long before the lunch crowd came rolling in. She appeared to be lost in thought, while she listened to the conversations going on around her. No one gave her so much as a second glance before they began chatting about poor Alice.
Just as she had expected, the gossip crowd was quick to assert their own opinions, some rather loudly, into the conversation. There was a local legend about a child eater that lived in the woods. This, of course, was the favorite amongst the old timers. There was speculation that someone had slipped in through the window, taken Alice and quickly headed for the state line. Some even swore that the parents weren’t as innocent as they appeared to be.
There was also one woman who swore that she had seen Alice wandering the streets the day after she disappeared, looking dazed and confused. Everyone seemed to ignore this woman. She kept trying to say Alice had escaped the child eater. Tabitha made a note to speak to her when she was separated from the crowd.
Mostly, the consensus was that the parents had done it. What better way to make your child disappear than to do it while on vacation, away from home, where less people would be able to report on your activities over the last few days?
As the woman got up to pay her bill, Tabitha packed up her laptop and threw a five on the table. That would cover the cost of the coffee and a tip for the waitress, who never let her coffee drop below a half a cup. She followed the woman out into the street.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” she called to the woman’s retreating back.
She turned around, a quizzical expression on her face. Tabitha introduced herself, first name only, and said simply that she was looking into the disappearance of little Alice White.
The woman shook her extended hand, introduced herself as Karen Peters and eagerly invited her over for a cup of coffee. She was a plump woman, with bright blue eyes that were crinkled at the corners, showing years of happiness. Her hair was white. Tabitha guessed it was probably very long, but she kept it twisted into a knot at the top of her head. She wore silver, wire-rimmed glasses that made Tabitha think of all the pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Clause. That’s who Mrs. Peters reminded her of, Mrs. Clause.
Tabitha followed Mrs. Peters back to her house, chatting amicably along the way. Tabitha vaguely thought how strange it was that Mrs. Peters didn’t appear to want to speak out in the street when she had been openly trying to get everyone in the diner to listen to her. She hoped this wouldn’t prove to be a waste of time.
Want to know what happens next? You can preorder Child Eater: 10th Anniversary for Kindle, now.
Give me a follow to be alerted when you can read the next chapter of Child Eater; coming January 22nd.