Clara Sue’s brother was just killed in a car accident. Now her grandfather is allowing a strange, sick boy they know nothing about to stay in her brother’s old bedroom. They say he was poisoned, but the boy won’t speak. No one knows who he is or where he came from. What happens when they learn the truth about his past?


I paused when I reached Willie’s room. The boy was obviously waiting for me. He was simply sitting up and staring at the doorway.

Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I could get him to tell the truth. I looked back, listened, and then stepped into Willie’s room. He eyed me with caution as I walked slowly toward him. This close, I could see how dainty he looked, so fragile. Could he have gotten this way just from the poison? His skin was so thin that I could see little blue veins in his temples and cheeks. He looked like he had the bones of a bird.

I waited to see if he would speak, but he just stared at me, those blue eyes looking so anxious. He wasn’t as handsome as Willie had been. He looked more like a pretty boy, a doll, with his perfect nose and mouth and that golden hair. His hands were small, too, and his arms looked like they might snap if he raised them too fast or too hard.

“Did they hit you a lot, too?” I asked.

His eyes widened a bit, but he didn’t speak.

“You know you were poisoned, right? They told you that, right?”

He nodded, barely.

“So you almost died and would have if my grandfather hadn’t gotten you the best doctors and nurses.”

He still didn’t speak.

“How do you like living in my brother’s room?” I asked.

He looked around as if what I said had made him aware of where he was for the first time.

“I bet it’s a lot nicer than the room you had in your home, right?”

He stared at me.

“Did you have a bed this big?”

He looked like he was thinking.

I drew closer. “Well?”

“Bed?” he said. The sound of his voice surprised me but also encouraged me.

“Yes, bed. Bed. Where you sleep, remember?”

He shook his head.

“Oh, come on. You can’t forget where you slept. I’ll tell you what,” I continued, now standing beside him. “I’ll tell you a secret about this room if you tell me one of your secrets, like where did you live or what’s your name or who you think put poison in your food. Okay?”

He widened his eyes and stared at me like he was trying to figure out if I was human or an alien from some distant planet.

“Okay. Here’s the secret. My brother had a secret place in this room where he kept interesting bugs because he knew the maids would clean them up. He kept them for a while, and then he got rid of them himself after he studied them. In that closet, he has a microscope. It’s not a toy. My grandfather got it for him two years ago. I’ll show you how to use it, and you can look at a strand of your hair or something. It’s amazing. Would you like that?”

He nodded.

“Good. So what’s your name?” I asked.

He smiled. He’s going to tell me.  My heart started to race. I looked at the door. I would get him to say what they couldn’t. I’d be the one to end this. I’d be the one who got the police to do something. My grandfather could stop changing the house immediately.

I waited a moment. “Your name? What’s your name?” I demanded. “If you don’t tell me, I won’t tell you anything. There are more secrets, more fun things to find. I’ll tell you everything, but you’ve got to tell me your name first. Okay?”

He nodded and smiled.

“Good. So what is it? What’s your name?”

“William,” he said. “William Arnold.”