Other Stories in this issue

Hi! I'm Heather

by Thomas Millstead

About the Author: Thomas Millstead's short stories have appeared in more than a dozen mystery and fantasy/horror magazines and anthologies. His published novels include BEHIND YOU (Dell), CAVE OF THE MOVING SHADOWS (Dial), COMANCHE STALLION (Avalon. He is a former newspaper journalist, public relations manager, and corporate CEO speechwriter.


“Oh, he’s a cute one, this one.” Sergeant Hagen’s tightwire mouth curled in a sarcastic grimace.

The email message on the screen read: “Do you like pets? Specially dogs? Fluffy white speckled spaniels with the most adorable brown eyes you ever seen?”

It was only Hagen’s second day with the Computer Crimes Unit. They’d set up a decoy on a chat room, a fictional 13-year-old they’d christened Heather. And accompanied it with a stock agency photo of a clearly underage child. Within hours there’d been six hits that loudly triggered alarm bells. Heather’s online identity had been carefully crafted, typing in only her age, her hair color—blonde—and the complaint that she was “totally, freakily” bored at home.

Hagen was surprised at how swiftly the responses had come racing in. Five of them were clumsily obvious. Sitting at the keyboard, he patiently played along. Avoiding any language that might smack of entrapment should this correspondence at some point surface in court. Letting the predators, which surely some of them were, press forward more assertively.

Most could be strung along with a few chirpy, cheery, only slightly flirty sentences. It wouldn’t take long, he’d been briefed, before the responders moved to the next level. How cool if Heather could swing free for a while! What funky stuff they’d get into! Sooner than not, a meeting arranged.

The bait so avidly swallowed, the trap would then snap. And the street cleansed of another piece of filth.

Story Comments

Add story comment: