A Trick for a Treat

by S. Douglas Larsen © 2002

As far as everyone else was concerned, he was just another crazy father, dressed up like a goblin for Halloween. He hummed as he pushed the baby carriage through the crowded station. There were more people than usual. The vast majority were adults. Many had escaped from their children who were busy sweeping through their neighborhoods in search of goodies. Like children, however, most everyone was dressed up for whatever costume ball or other big event they were going to. He stopped and searched the crowd. Then, not finding what he was looking for, pushed the midnight blue baby carriage back through the conglomeration of faces. Nobody really noticed him as time and time again he carried out the same routine. That was one of the benefits of working a well transited area. People never stayed long enough to grow suspicious of him. All he had to do was be patient, and sooner or later his prey would come to him.

Finally, he saw what he was looking for. They were a young couple dressed for an exclusive masquerade. Their elegant clothes would have looked out of place on a night like this had it not been for the elaborate feathered masks they both wore. Like him, they pushed a baby carriage across the crowded floor. When they reached the long bench along the far wall they stopped and sat down to wait. He calmly pushed his own carriage over and sat down next to them. When they looked at him, he showed a tight lipped smile and nodded politely. The couple did likewise.

“Couldn’t find a sitter, eh?” He grumbled. After a brief moment. The young gentleman looked at him in silence for a moment and then answered politely. “No, they have a nursery at the ball.”

“How convenient.”

The couple both shook their heads in agreement and looked expectantly toward the platform.

He watched them carefully. He was careful to not let them see him watching, and careful to take in every detail about them. The jewels the young lady wore were authentic. He’d grown up among such gems. Although he’d seen more rough than cut ones, he knew exactly how to tell the difference between a fake stone and the real thing. He studied the heavy necklace for a moment, weighing the stones in his mind. Perhaps they were a family heirloom he thought. Not that it really mattered.

He reached into the midnight blue baby carriage and squeezed the doll that lay under its blankets. It cried just like a real baby and he immediately began rocking the carriage back and forth as he hummed to the doll inside. The young mother quickly checked her own child. He smiled to himself. A caring family of means was the perfect target. He waited for the couple to grow careless and not pay attention to the goings on around them, but they were always quite alert. He began to despair. To find the perfect target and not get the booty was horrible. It made him feel sick inside.

To his delight, the moment the announcement bell rang, the couple rose and looked down the tracks toward the oncoming light. People began to move, pushing and shoving. It was all the chance he needed to make his move and snatch his prize.

He waved as the couple crowded onto the train. They didn’t pay any attention to him though. The young man lifted the carriage up into the wagon as his wife pressed through the conglomeration of bodies to make room for him.

He watched until the train pulled away and then smiled a sharp toothed grin. That baby swapping trick works well, he thought with glee, they won’t even notice until they’ve reached their party. He ran a sickly green tongue over his lips as he pushed the carriage through the crowd toward the exit.

“What a treat,” he said out loud to himself as he looked at the plump baby boy that now occupied the place of the doll. He didn’t worry when the baby started to cry, sure in the knowledge that nobody would notice with all the noise of the station. Besides, on Halloween he was just another crazy father, dressed up like a goblin, taking his baby home.

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