Detective Maye has seen it dozens of times before. Stockholm syndrome. When the victim develops an affection for her captor.
He holds his hand out for the feral child hiding under the kitchen sink. If not for her wide marble eyes, glowing like orbs in the darkness, he would think no one is there.
He shines his flashlight inside. Compared to the photo he keeps in his chest pocket, she is unrecognizable. Gone is the fair-skinned angel with the free-flowing blond hair. Her skin is caked in dirt, hair a dingy orange collected in one unkempt knot atop her head. The t-shirt she wears barely covers her. She folds herself like an accordion amongst the kitchen chemicals, no bigger than a bottle of bleach.
Maye curls his fingers into his palm to draw her out. “Come on. He can’t hurt you anymore.” But then he wonders how many times this man has promised not to hurt her.
He stuffs his hands in his pockets, and child psychologist, Dr. Pridget, steps in front of him, opens her arms like a doting mother.
“You’re safe now.”
Maye thinks it’s working. The child emerges. All skin and bones, falling hair and ripped fabric. She shields her eyes to the flashing of CSI cameras. Pridget moves to hug her, but the girl drops her shoulder. On hands and knees, she crawls across the floor, between Maye and Pridget’s feet, exposing everything the shirt doesn’t conceal to everyone in the room.
A sickness in Maye’s gut tells him she’s used to being naked around men, she’s used to the heaviness of their hands, the tightness of their beer guts pressed hard against her fragile body.
They watch as she does what she’s had to do to survive for the last six months—curl herself underneath the sinking chest of the now dead man who killed her childhood, t-shirt soaked in both of their bloods.
© Nortina Simmons
This flash piece was originally published September 15, 2017, and features Detective Frank Maye, a character from my Lost Boy work in progress.