Once Upon a Halloween, p.17Richard Laymon
They must be inside, Jeff told himself.
They'd better be.
Please, let them be inside.
As he followed a walkway toward the porch stairs, the front doors came into sight. The screen door was shut, but the main door seemed to be wide open and he could see into the lighted foyer.
That's a good sign, he thought.
On his way up the porch stairs, he saw jack-o'-lanterns on both sides of the open door. A cheerful face was carved into one. The other had a gleefully vicious face with sharp teeth. But the face holes didn't glow and shimmer as they should. They looked black. The candles had probably burnt out.
He saw nobody in the house's foyer.
As he crossed the porch, however, he glanced both ways. Saw someone on the floor. Flinched and yelled, "Yiii!"
The shape on the porch floor didn't move.
He stepped toward it and slowly crouched.
A man was sprawled on his back, wearing dark pants and a shirt. The shirt was wide open.
Jeff reached down, touched the man's cheek, and jerked his hand away fast.
Maybe not, he told himself.
From far away came a pop!
It passed through Jeff's mind that some older kids, done trick or treating, must've set off a firecracker.
Wish I were with 'em, Jeff thought.
Though reluctant to touch the body again, he reached down to check the neck pulse. Instead of a pulse, his fingertips found a thin cord pulled so tightly that it felt embedded in the skin.
As he look his hand away, something snagged his forefinger. A loop? He felt it.
The seemed to be tied with a bow knot at the front of the dead man's neck.
A shoe lace?
Jeff found his gaze pulled to the man's feet.
While most of the body lay in darkness, the light from a window slanted down on the man's high-top walking shoes. One was neatly tied. The other had no lace. Its flaps were loose, its tongue bulging.
Jeff let out a quiet moan and stood up. He whirled around, rushed to the screen door, threw it open and ran into the house.
Blood in the foyer. Another body, a man, this one naked.
So much blood.
Jeff went to the left, lurched through the living room entryway and stopped.
Another body was sprawled on the floor, naked and bloody. A woman. Black hair.
Not Mandy, thank God. Not Rhonda, either.
"MANDY!" Jeff shouted. "BRET! IT'S DAD! ARE YOU HERE?"
He ran from the living room, leaped over the man's body and raced up the stairs.
She whirled around, rushed to the screen door, threw it open and ran into the house.
Blood in the foyer. Another body, a man, naked.
Halfway up the stairs sat another man, gazing down at her, his eyes grim.
"Oh, my God, Jeff." She leaped over the body and raced up the stairs.
Jeff rose to his feet. He looked haggard.
She stopped one stair below him and wrapped her arms around
him and hugged him hard.
"I lost 'em, Sue. I lost 'em."
"They're not lost, honey. Bret just called. He told me I'd better come looking for you, knew you'd be worried. He said if I couldn't find you on the street you might be in here."
"Are they all right?"
"Mandy has a broken arm. She's being taken to the hospital."
"How'd she break her arm?"
"Bret's not sure."
"He called, didn't he?"
Jeff started sobbing. Sue held him more tightly. "It's all right, honey. It's all right. Everything's fine."
"This other girl. She was with us."
"Far as I know, everyone's fine. Bret sounded... pretty excited. Come on, let's get out of here."
They let go of each other and Sue turned around. As she started down the stairs, she felt Jeff's hand settle on her shoulder.
"They're really okay?" he asked.
"If you can call a broken arm okay." Her eyes drifted sideways to the man at the bottom of the stairs. Glimpsing his genitals, she looked away fast. "What on earth happened here, honey?"
"I don't know. Something... really bad."
"Another body upstairs."
Sue made a detour around the naked man, trying not to look at him again, but giving him one last glance anyway that made her feel a little sick and a little ashamed of herself.
Outside, Sue managed not to look at the dead man on the porch. She trotted down the stairs and hurried over to the driveway with Jeff holding on to her shoulder all the way.
Then he stopped her and turned her around and put his arms around her.
Sue's throat tightened. "Are you all right?" she asked.
"I... I was so scared. In the house. So many bodies. I thought I'd find them in there. I went hunting through every room upstairs and every time I opened a door or turned on a light... I thought I'd find Mandy or Bret. Their bodies."
She stroked the back of his head. "Oh, honey."
"I found their bags. Their Halloween bags. Upstairs. In one of the bedrooms. Somebody'd been in them. Eating the candy. There were wrappers all over the floor... and on some dead guy who's up there."
"Are you sure they were our kids' bags?"
"Bret had his name on his. And Mandy was using that Macy's bag from The Cellar."
"That's right," Sue said, nodding. "Do you suppose they were up there?"
"I don't know, I don't know. Where are they?"
"I'm not entirely sure. Bret said he'd meet us at the hospital. Apparently, he was calling from the cemetery. He had a cell phone You should've heard him, honey. He was so excited. He said he'd saved everyone except Mandy and how he meant to save her but couldn't, and how a sharpshooter got to save her instead."
"What?" Jeff stepped out of Sue's arms and held her by the shoulders and stared into her eyes as if he needed to see her to believe what she was saying.
"Well, apparently Mandy was saved by a SWAT sharpshooter."
Sue gave him a lopsided smile and shrugged. "That's what Bret said."
"Bret said 'Holy shit'?"
"No, no. About the sharpshooter."
"SWAT showed up at the cemetery?"
"That's what it sounds like. According to Bret, it sounds like maybe a dozen or so kids got grabbed off the streets tonight and taken to the graveyard. A couple of older gals, too. Bret sounded like they were his good buddies, but I'd never heard of them."
"Shannon and Laura?"
"That's it. Yeah. You've heard of them?"
"Not before tonight. That's their house right there."
"Oh. Well. Maybe that explains the bodies."
"What the hell was going on?" Jeff asked.
Again, Sue shrugged. "Apparently, a bunch of nutjobs were planning to sacrifice the kids and everyone in some sort of midnight ritual."
"Like... Satanists or something?"
"Something. I don't know. Bret didn't seem to know, either."
"Holy shit," Jeff muttered again.
"Or unholy shit, as the case may be."
He almost smiled. "But everything's okay now? Except for Mandy's arm?"
"Some other kid got hurt pretty seriously, I guess. I don't know. It sounded like all sorts of crap hit the fan. But yeah, it's okay now. Cavalry arrived. Ambulances. The whole nine yards."
"Let's go see the kids," Jeff said.
Holding hands, they walked down the driveway.
Sue turned her head. "So how did the trick or treating go?"
"Great. Up to a point."
"Next year, it's all of us or none of us."
"All of us."
Jeff chuckled. "Probably not."
They crept closer to the lights, then ducked behind a large marble tombstone and peered around its sides.
"What do you think happened?" Al asked.
Whitney turned around and sat down, her back against the slab. "The cops showed up, that's what."
Al sat down beside her, leaned back and stretched out his legs. "Guess we lucked out," he said.
"You can say that again."
"Guess we lucked out."
Whitney nudged him with her elbow.
He laughed softly.
"Dope," she said.
"Don't call we a dope. I'm the one figured we oughta stay away. I knew there was gonna be trouble."
"Only you wanted to come back and warn 'em. Talk about bonehead moves. Like they woulda thanked us for letting that bitch get away."
"You think she's the one called the cops?"
"What do you think?"
"Maybe her boyfriend called 'em."
"Nah," Whitney said. "Nobody gets away from Eleanor. It was that bitch we went after."
Al sighed. "Guess no ceremony tonight."
"I figure it's bullshit anyway."
"Yeah, me too," Al said. "I'm gonna miss it, though. I mean, shit, what a rush, you know what I mean?"
"Just a glorified orgy."
"But all that blood," Al reminded her.
"Yeah. The blood."
"Nailing all those kids."
"Shit. I'm really gonna miss it."
Whitney raised her hand in front of her face and pushed a button to activate her wristwatch light. "Still a couple of hours till midnight."
"Plenty of time. Let's haul ass outa here, grab a couple of kids and have our own ceremony. Who needs the rest of 'em?"
Al looked at her. "You serious?"
She reached over and patted his thigh. "Hell yes."
"What're we waiting for?"
Hunched over, the two robed figures rushed away from the tombstone and ran into the trees and the dark Halloween night.
And they all lived happily ever after.
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Richard Laymon, Once Upon a Halloween
Once Upon a Halloween by Richard Laymon / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes