• tab Simon smiled. He was always smiling, a reserved grin that radiated peace and love. His eyes glittered, half-hidden beneath a fringe of soft brown hair. Everything about him, from his impeccable suit to that irresistible smile, was perfect. Simon had the peculiar quality of attracting children. When they saw him, they’d run towards him and follow him around like puppies. They were enchanted by his appearance, so clean and perfect he seemed to have stepped out of a storybook. His reassuring smile beckoned them like the Pied Piper’s song. Children loved Simon, and Simon loved children. They were so innocent and vulnerable. Most of all, they were trusting. They'd follow a kind stranger even though he might turn around and snap their scrawny little necks. He loved to break their whole-hearted trust and, on occasion, their scrawny little necks.
    tab Right now a sweet little girl in a floral dress followed him down a busy city street. She gaped at him, dragging a teddy bear in the dirt behind her. Simon smiled as he heard her pattering little footsteps. He turned down the first street he came to, and she followed. Now that they were safely out of view of whoever was caring for the girl, Simon glanced over his shoulder at her. The girl gasped in surprise and dropped her teddy bear, but when Simon kept strolling so did she. He slowed down until she was stepping on his heels, then suddenly spun around.
    tab "Why hello!" Simon said, as if he hadn't seen her before. "What's your name?"
    tab "Julie!" the girl chirped. She beamed at Simon and he smiled back.
    tab "Well, it's very nice to meet you, Julie." Simon offered his hand to the girl. "My name's Simon." He looked around. No one on the sidewalk spared a glance for the two of them.
    tab "Simon? Like Simon Says?"
    tab Simon laughed. "Yes, exactly."
    tab Julie grabbed his hand. "Can we play Simon Says?"
    tab "Of course we can, Julie. Come with me." Simon stepped forward, but Julie stayed where she was. "What's the matter, Julie?"
    tab "My mommy told me I shouldn't go places with strangers," she replied, looking down at her pretty white shoes. "Even if they tell me they have good things, like candy or a puppy."
    tab "Well then, I guess we'd better take you back to your mommy then." He made no move to do so as Julie clutched his arm.
    tab "No! She won’t let me play with you! Besides, you're not a stranger," Julie answered. "You're Simon!"
    tab Simon smiled at the girl. "So you want to come play with me, then?"
    tab "Yeah!"
    tab Technically speaking, Simon never kidnapped children. They always came of their own free will. The little girl skipped and hummed as he led her down the street. Simon made random turns and doubled back on his path, guiding Julie into a darker part of the city. He glanced into the filthy alleyways they passed until he found one unoccupied by derelicts and steered the girl in.
    tab "Where are we going, Mr. Simon?" Julie asked, looking around.
    tab "Please, Julie, just call me Simon."
    tab "Okay."
    tab "And we're just going to my house. We'll play there."
    tab Julie squirmed, impatient. "Can we play now, Simon?"
    tab Simon smiled. "Simon Says… touch your nose!"
    tab Julie giggled and obeyed eagerly.
    tab "Simon Says… take two biiiiig steps forward!"
    tab She stepped forward, stretching her little legs out as far as they could go.
    tab "Now run away!"
    tab Julie burst out into a fit of giggles. "You didn't say Simon Says!"
    tab "That's right, I didn't." Simon reached out and ruffled her curly blonde hair. "You're a smart little girl."
    tab Julie began to giggle again, until Simon grabbed her hair and yanked sharply to one side. "Ow!" She flailed her arms and screamed as Simon threw an arm around her waist and pulled her into the darkness of the alley.
    tab "Simon Says be quiet," he hissed, still smiling.
    tab "Simon, Simon that hurts! Ow!" Julie began to cry.
    tab "Oh. You didn’t do what Simon said." Simon sighed. "I guess that means you lose."


    tab The news covered the missing child with the usual false sympathy. Her mother gave a tear-filled plea to get her daughter back, and a dramatic photo of the teddy bear lying face down in a gutter filled the screen. Simon paused outside of an electronics store to watch as the news anchor made one last call for the return of the girl and, without any change in emotion, switched seamlessly to a story about rising orange juice prices. He continued on his stroll, his hands stuck into the pockets of his tailored suit.
    tab Simon looked up at the sky. An airplane passed far overhead. Behind him, shoes slapped the pavement, irregular and quick. He turned a corner and the shoes followed. As he passed a store window, the reflection revealed a little boy, gazing up at Simon in wonder. Simon smiled.