Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
Part VII (of VII)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
They did as they were told, moving a few feet away from where Marie stood—all except Rupert, who seemed dazed and jolly behind his wife. Suddenly, he clapped his hands. “Oh, this will work out just fine!”
“Rupert …” Bernadette had her hands on her pale cheeks, mouth half-open in shock.
“Dearest Bernadette, did you know we murdered your husband?” Rupert was practically gleeful; Angie noticed he did a little hop before he continued. “Car accident? It wasn’t a car accident. We knocked him out and shoved his car into the Hudson! Marvelous!” He cackled.
Angie could see it took all Jonathan’s resolve to not go running across the room. Meanwhile, Bernadette began to sob, falling to her knees on the floor.
“Why?” Ellis’s voice was barely a whisper. “Why would you do such a thing?”
“Because we want the family fortune, of course,” Marie replied.
Angie was getting tired of the headlock. She struggled slightly, but the gun only pressed tighter against her skull.
“And we all know the family fortune only passes to Crane men, don’t we?” Rupert did a little spin. “And I’m not a Crane man, grandmother; I married into the family, so I don’t count.”
“But what if there were no Crane men left?” Marie continued.
“Yes.” Rupert pointed. “There’s only you, son, and there is someone outside who desperately wants to see you.”
“No!” Angie and Bernadette bellowed the word at the same time.
“In fact, he wants to see all of you. Somehow, dear Marie and I will be the only Cranes to survive the horrible massacre.”
“Sadly.” Angie looked up to see Marie putting on a fake pout. “All it took was a girl, Jonathan. A girl made you go outside, and now, you’re all going to die because of her.”
“You wanted me to go out tonight,” Jonathan said through gritted teeth.
“Of course I did. It’s why I helped you sneak out, isn’t it?” Marie danced back and forth with Angie. “We dug up the skull ages ago, of course. Have been planning this for years. And as my dear husband pointed out, it’s all working out just fine!”
Angie’s mind spun. Could she work a spell with a gun to her head? Hmm. It was possible. There was that one spell her aunt liked to show off at Christmas when it got cold outside. She might end up dead, sure, but at least she could save Jonathan. Speaking of Jonathan … “Hey.”
The sudden entrance of the witch in the conversation made them all shut up.
“Jonathan. I think I’m falling in love with you.”
“I’m falling in love with you, too.”
“Cool. Just wanted to get that out of the way …”
“How sweet. A Halloween Romeo and Juliet.” Rupert made a raspberry noise with his tongue.
Again, Angie had to think and think fast. First, get the gun off her head. Second, get the gun away from Marie. Third, find the skull and make Brom Bones go the hell away. She hadn’t used telekinesis in a while, and granted, she’d always kind of sucked at it, but it was worth a shot.
In her head, she concentrated on Jonathan and said, “Can you hear me? If you can, blink twice.”
Well, he almost gave them both away when he tripped over his own feet and fell into a table. He did, however, have the presence of mind to blink, twice.
“I’m going to do something that will make your bitch of an aunt let go of me immediately. When she does, take her down, get the gun, and let’s find that freakin’ skull.”
He blinked, probably about four times, she noticed.
Then, Angie closed her eyes and said the words in her head, just like her aunt taught her. Within seconds, she lit up like a dried out Christmas tree in bright orange flames. Marie screamed and batted at her burning clothes. Through the smoke, Angie saw Jonathan swoop past her and tackle his screaming aunt. Bernadette and Ellis watched Angie, horrified, and Rupert went sprinting from the room.
“You can … put out the fire now.”
She sighed, and the flames disappeared, leaving her skin and clothing completely unscathed. Jonathan had the gun pointed at Marie, who lay on the floor, smoldering. Beneath her burnt clothes, Angie saw melted skin, which put a smile on her face. She glanced at Jonathan.
“Can you never do that again, please?”
“Saved your ass, didn’t it?”
Ellis shuffled forward. “Where’s Rupert?”
“He ran upstairs.”
Angie took off, not stopping even at the sound of Jonathan’s voice shouting her name.
“Here. Take this.” He handed the gun to his mother, whose hands shook. “Don’t let her move.” He gestured toward his aunt, who had possibly passed out from the pain. She didn’t look like much of a concern, but one can never be too careful. With the downstairs situation under control, he took off after his crazy witch girlfriend.
Upstairs was pitch-black, so when he reached the top of the steps, he ran right into Angie. “Sorry,” she said. “Aren’t there any lights up here?”
Jonathan flipped a switch to their right, illuminating fancy green and gold wallpaper, a long hallway, and about a dozen closed doors.
“Great,” she muttered.
Luckily, Rupert was an idiot without his wife, and within about two seconds, they heard someone stomping around the attic.
Jonathan’s eyes looked up.
“Any guns up there?”
“Who knows? This house has been in our family since the freakin’ Civil War.”
“If I get killed by an antique, I’m going to be really pissed.”
Jonathan led the way down the hall to the attic door, which squeaked like a ghost when he swung it open.
“Guess we don’t have the element of surprise,” she said.
“Stay behind me.” He turned and pointed his finger right in his face. “I’m sick of you saving me. I’m the one who’s supposed to save you.”
“This ain’t Washington Irving, babe. It’s 2012.”
“Just stay behind me.” He turned and crept up the old, wooden steps. It comforted him when Angie reached up and took his hand.
There was light up there, reflecting off the myriad boxes and dust-covered furniture. It came from a single bulb, lit with the pull of a white string, in the center of the massive room that stretched the length of the entire mansion. There was no sign of Rupert, which made Jonathan considerably nervous.
“Where is he?”
“Shh,” he whispered. When a box moved in the corner, they both ducked, but Rupert still didn’t show his cowardly face. At that point, Jonathan had had enough. “Rupert. Get the hell out here.”
“It was her idea, you know.” His voice came from the direction of the box. “All her idea. I was a pawn.”
“Apparently, the truth serum wore off,” Angie said, crossing her arms.
“Just give me the skull.”
“And you won’t hurt me?”
“What? No, I won’t hurt you. Give me the damn skull.”
It appeared above the box, held in the center of Rupert’s palm like some Shakespearian prop.
“Stand up, Rupert.”
“She’s going to zap me.”
Jonathan glanced at Angie. “She’s not going to zap you.” He lifted his eyebrows at her to insinuate, “Don’t zap him.”
Jonathan elbowed Angie.
“Yes. I promise, you little weasel.”
Finally, Rupert stood up. His hand shook so much, he almost dropped the skull, which Jonathan was quick to grab and hold like a newborn child. He turned to Angie and handed it to her before knocking his uncle unconscious with a fist to the face.
“Nice punch.” She kicked Rupert’s foot with her platform shoe.
“Thanks.” He took the skull back from her fingers, and together, they walked down the steps.
“Oh, thank God,” Ellis said when she saw the ancient bones.
“Where’s Rupert?” Bernadette asked. She was calm now, and cold, Jonathan noticed. She looked ready to kill, especially since she now knew how her husband had really died.
“Jonathan knocked him out.”
“Good job, son. Now what?”
“We give him back his head.” He turned away from his mother and grandmother but hesitated at the front door.
Angie was at his side. He could feel the warmth of her skin. Her perfume was back—lavender and vanilla—and her fingertips on his arm, as usual, spread a cool calm through his chest. “What?” she asked.
“What if he still kills me?”
She reached down and took the hand not holding the skull. “Then, I’m going with you.”
They stepped out into the night. A frigid breeze blew the edges of Angie’s black hair against Jonathan’s face, but the air had nothing to do with his shivers. A headless Brom Bones sat not ten feet in front of them, sword in hand, with a cornucopia of dead heads tied to his saddle.
“Oh, my God,” Angie breathed.
Jonathan squeezed her hand and held the skull high in the air. “Brom Bones.”
The horse reared back and screamed at them.
“I have your … head.” He cleared his throat. “Do you want it back?”
The horseman dismounted, and Jonathan realized he would probably have a heart attack before the ghost even had a chance to cut his head off. Angie was practically squeezing the feeling out of his fingers as the horseman stomped toward them, sword drawn, shoulders vacant of a head where some sort of readable expression would be.
Jonathan was sure their number was up. After all they’d been through that night, it was finally time to die. But then, Brom Bones sheathed his sword and viciously grabbed the decayed skull from Jonathan’s shaking fingers. The horrible Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow held up one leather-gloved finger as if to say, “One moment please.” He then walked back to his horse and hid in the darkness.
Jonathan looked down at Angie; Angie gawked up at him.
It was a minute later that the horseman reemerged, no longer headless at all. In fact, he was probably their age, with flowing brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a sour expression on his unshaved face.
As he approached, Jonathan shoved Angie behind him and prepared to be destroyed.
The horseman grunted as he walked and stopped so close to Jonathan that Jonathan had to lean back to avoid the smell of a dead man’s breath. Then, the horseman said … nothing.
Jonathan had trouble swallowing, but he managed the words that needed to be said: “You know I’m not Ichabod Crane, right?”
The man once known as Brom Bones considered this. Then, he made Jonathan jump when he started to laugh—a deep-belly, hearty laugh of a man after two many pints. “You? Ichabod Crane? Ichabod Crane could not run five feet, let alone with the speed with which you ran across yonder field.” He gestured toward the backyard, the scene of Jonathan’s earlier near-death experience.
“Oh. So. We’re good then?”
Brom Bones scratched his broad, furry chin. He blew out a breath of stank air and walked back to his worthy steed. He leapt onto the horse’s back without the aid of stirrups and turned to ride away. Halfway down the driveway, he stopped. He pulled his silver sword from its sheath and spun it in the evening light.
“I was not really hoping to get your head, Crane,” he shouted. “I was hoping to get your whore.” With that, Brom Bones growled at his long dead animal companion, and halfway down the driveway, they disappeared, quite literally, to God only knew where.
Angie stepped forward beside him. “Do I look like a whore?”
“A really expensive whore.”
Over the sound of incoming police sirens, Jonathan asked, “Do you want to get a drink?”
He took her hand, and they walked away from Crane Manor and hid in the bushes when the cops sped by. Family drama could wait until tomorrow. After all, it was only midnight, and for the first time in his life, Jonathan Crane felt safe on Halloween.