My Secret Identity
© by Ryan Bartlett
Robin was a sissy's name, at least that's how he always thought of it. It wasn't his parent's first choice. He'd been given the name as a peace offering to his maternal grandfather. Grandpa Robin hadn't approved of his parent's marriage; he thought they were too young. A stubborn man, he disowned his only daughter but when he held baby Robin in his arms the first time, all was forgiven. At ten years old the boy was happy only his mom called him Robin while his daddy and friends called him Bobby.
It was a typical Friday for young Bobby. He was walking home with his best friend, Spencer McCoy. The boys talked excitedly and kicked up the leaves along the sidewalk as the crisp fall air turned their cheeks pink. It was going to be a big weekend, Spencer was coming over on Saturday and the two friends were looking forward to their first sleepover since school started.
"Did you get it yet?" asked Spencer.
"Yeap, the guy at GameStop said I got the first one," Bobby replied proudly.
"Kenny says Arkham City isn't that great."
"That's because Kenny can't get passed the first level," said Bobby.
"Yeah, he's stupid," Spencer agreed.
The boys walked along, giggling about Kenney's intellect, when Spencer gave Bobby a playful shove with his shoulder.
"Kara likes you," Spencer teased.
"Shut up!" Bobby blushed.
"Bobby and Kara sitting in a tree…" Spencer sang.
"Dork." Bobby laughed and took a playful swing at his friend.
Spencer ducked and ran down the street, "…k-i-s-s-i-n-g!"
Bobby chased his friend to the end of the block. When they got to the corner both boys were panting for breath.
"Well, I gotta go. Have your mom bring you over early tomorrow," said Bobby after he caught his breath.
At the end of Wrenwood Lane there was a path which led through the woods which divided the Woodhaven subdivision. Bobby and his family lived on the north side, Spencer on the south. The dense woods covered ten square miles. There were hiking and bike trails. The developer hoped the woods would help sell custom homes to people who wanted to take advantage of nature in addition to the granite countertops and spa like bathrooms he offered them. It was a great feature. Families enjoyed the woods but some of the neighborhood kids feared them.
There's always a neighborhood boogeyman. For the children living in the Woodhaven development the woods were a great place to play but as the sun went down and it started to get dark they took on a sinister aura. The woods became the home of all the snarks and grumkins that could live in a child's mind. It was where the things hiding in your closet went when they weren't busy trying to eat you and your little brother. It was just after three when Bobby said his goodbye but the sun was already low on the horizon and it would get dark early that day.
"You shouldn't walk through there," said Spencer, pulling his jacket tighter around his body.
"Why not, Spence, chicken?" Bobby teased.
"No! But there's you know…things in there."
"That's just stuff other kids make up to scare you. I walk through there every day and there's nothing in there."
"I don't know. That place gives me the creeps."
"Well, we can talk about it tomorrow," said Bobby. "Tell your mom to pack your nightlight and Pampers in case you get scared, ya pussy."
Spencer giggled. Pussy was a new word in their lexicon and it sounded especially funny coming from Bobby who never cussed.
"Ok, I'll see you tomorrow, if the boogeyman doesn't get you," said Spencer, giving Bobby a fist bump.
Bobby smiled and then turned down the path. Spencer stood there and watched his blond friend until a strange feeling made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
"Bobby!" He shouted.
"Huh?" Bobby shouted back.
Spencer stared at his buddy and almost felt like crying. He was overcome with dread. It was as if he was never going to see his friend again. The feeling passed almost as quickly as it came. He shook it off and felt stupid for even thinking such things.
"Nothin, I was going to say something but I forgot what," Spencer covered.
"Ok, see you tomorrow Spence. I'm going into the scary woods now," Bobby teased.
Spencer rolled his eyes and continued his walk home. Bobby chuckled at his friend and trotted down the earthen path. An only child, Bobby Fixx was a popular, easy going kid. Boys admired and appreciated his athletic ability on the baseball and soccer fields. Teachers said he was a pleasure to have in class and aside from a tendency to be lazy in math; they described him as an excellent student. Girls liked his blond hair and big blue eyes. One of their favorite games at recess was to chase Bobby and see if one of them might get a kiss. It was all innocent fun but Bobby couldn't help blushing as he walked through the woods and thought about the kiss Kara had given him at lunch.
It was strange. He never really thought about girls but he'd enjoyed the kiss. He was still young and didn't realize there was anything different about him. As far as he knew it was perfectly natural for him to like his friend Spencer and to wonder what getting a kiss from him would feel like. As much as he'd enjoyed Kara's lips on his cheek, he somehow sensed Spencer's would be better. Oh well, it wasn't a big deal, thought Bobby as he began to hum to himself. He was halfway through the woods, the sun was blocked by the dense canopy of leaf laden branches and that's when he heard the snap.
It was loud. The snap stopped him in his tracks and he spun around to see where the noise had come from. His head swiveled left then right and he turned around to see if the noise was behind him but there was nothing there. Weird noises in the woods weren't unusual, after all, it was full of animals and he often stumbled upon deer and raccoons on his walk home. There were no deer or raccoons that day.
He shook off the tingling and the hair standing up on the back of his neck, and then continued down the path. A few more steps and he heard another snap. This time he spun around immediately just in case whatever made the noise tried to hide. Then it dawned on him, Spencer.
"Spencer, if you're trying to scare me, it's not going to work!"
Silence. A few more steps and another snap.
"Ok Spence, you can come out now."
Spencer didn't answer. There was another snap and this time it sounded closer.
"W-who's out there?" Bobby's voice quivered. He was starting to get scared.
The only reply was silence. He turned back down the path and walked quickly. It wasn't far to the edge of the woods. He picked up the pace and promised himself from now on he'd take the long way home. There was a loud succession of snaps, three in a row. He kept walking and looked over his shoulder. He saw something move in the bushes. He couldn't make out what it was but it was coming right towards him. Bobby turned back to the path and ran for his life.
Whatever was behind him was getting closer. He could hear heavy footfalls now and the thrashing of leaves and branches. He wanted to look behind him but he was too afraid. The only course open to him was to keep running. The end of the path was only a few hundred yards ahead, if he kept running he could…
Bobby's mom and dad both worked and he was used to being home alone after school. Mrs. Fixx taught high school English and stayed late grading papers so that when she got home she could give her full attention to Bobby and her husband, Patrick. When his mom walked into the house at 5:30, she didn't think it was strange to find the house empty. Bobby often went to play with friends around the neighborhood. He was supposed to leave a note on the fridge but when his mom looked there and found no message; she made a mental note to talk to him. Bobby's parents trusted him but he was still a little boy and they needed to know where he went when he left the house.
Patrick Fixx got home a few minutes after his wife. He parked his car and found her in the kitchen making dinner. He walked up behind her, put his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek.
"Smells good," said Patrick.
"Tacos," said Miranda.
"My favorite. Where's the kid?"
"Ok, I'm going to change. Back in a few," said Patrick.
When Patrick returned to the kitchen, Miranda had dinner on the table. There was still no sign of Bobby.
"Did Bobby leave a note?" asked Patrick. Bobby knew that wherever he was playing, he needed to be home for dinner at 6 sharp.
"No, I'll talk to him about it when he gets home."
The Fixx's sat at the table and waited. Patrick kept checking his watch as the hands went passed 6:10, 6:15, 6:20…at 6:30; he started calling Bobby's friends.
"No one's seen him since 3:30," said Patrick, as he hung up the phone. "I just talked to Spencer's mom and Spencer says he last saw Bobby taking the path through the woods."
"Pat, what if he's hurt? He could have fallen or…"
"I'll go look for him, I'm sure it's fine," said Patrick, grabbing a flashlight from the utility drawer.
"I'll come with you," said Miranda.
"No, you stay here in case he comes home."
While Patrick searched the woods, Miranda paced nervously. She hated leaving Bobby by himself after school. She felt it was a mother's job to take care of her child, that she belonged in the home. Unfortunately kids need clothes and sneakers and a whole laundry list of other items which require both parents to work. She worked to provide her son with the best in life but it kept her out of the home and now he was lost. The sense of guilt was almost overwhelming as it brewed under her nervous façade.
"No sign of him," said Patrick, when he walked in the door a half hour later.
"Pat, oh my God," said Miranda, covering her mouth least a scream escape.
"I'm going to call the police. It's going to be ok."
Patrick was a deputy district attorney in King County and had lots of friends on the police force. An hour after he made his call a small army of police officer's combed the woods. Danny McCoy, Spencer's dad, organized some of the other neighborhood fathers and joined in the search. Patrick and Miranda Fixx sat in their living room. Patrick told the police everything that had happened since he'd come home while Miranda clutched Bobby's teddy bear.
Police and volunteer's shouted his name as they moved through the woods. They were spread out in a line from east to west and moving north in order to cover the vast expanse. A police helicopter circled overhead but its powerful spotlight barely penetrated the dense woods. Danny McCoy was with Officer Martin when his German Shepard, Rusty, made a discovery. The dog stopped and pawed the ground while waiting for the men to catch up.
"Whatcha got boy?" said Officer Martin.
"Oh shit!" Danny sighed, when the dog lay down in front of its find.
Back at the house Patrick was giving his statement to another detective when an officer stuck his head in.
"Excuse me sir, I think we've found something," said the officer.
Detective Grace left the Fixx's and conferred with his subordinate. When he returned, he was carrying a plastic evidence bag.
"Mr. and Mrs. Fixx, does this belong to your son?"
Miranda took the bag and examined the red Converse sneaker, boy's size 7, and let out a blood curdling cry. It was one of the shoes her son had been wearing when she dropped him off at school that morning.