Bite Somebody · Forever Dead · Halloween Town · Sara Dobie Bauer

Vampire love stories are yours today in Ravenous

You may have noticed I love vampires. Well, I love vampires in love even more. Today, Pen and Kink Publishing releases its newest anthology, just in time for Halloween. Ravenous “explores saucy, sexy, and sweet tales of forbidden vampire/vampire hunter love, vampire threesomes in space, kink as only a vampire could enjoy it, and so much more.”

My noir horror-romance story, “Forever Dead,” fits into the forbidden vampire/vampire hunter love category: When ancient vampire Dario almost murders Detective Zach Mede for the fun of it, he is stopped by a sexual connection that threatens to ruin both their reputations. Despite keeping their forbidden tryst secret from the world, a vengeful female vampire finds out and makes Zach a target. Will Dario be in time to save the young mortal he has come to love, and at what price?

Here’s a teaser of “Forever Dead” to whet your spooky appetite:
(Warning: sort of explicit dude on dude content to follow.)


I first saw Zach Mede when he worked SWAT. His team tumbled into this blood club in Miami. Word was vampires were killing humans in the club bathrooms, a serious no-no in the so-called modern world where vamps and walking blood bags were supposed to live in unity. Instead of going along peacefully, a gang of male vampires, myself included, fought back at the injustice of the bust.

As fate would have it, I got matched up in hand to hand with Zach. I was so impressed with his strength and speed, I let the kid beat the shit out of me. He didn’t move like other humans. He moved too fast, and I suspected he’d been trained by one of my own. Oh, yeah, and he smelled good, looked good. Something about that black hair; those angry, dark eyes; and the immensity of his shoulders—I just let him whack away at me until I decided to play dead. I snuck out before they could cuff me and then tailed him home.

I politely let myself into his apartment.

He wasn’t even out of his shoes when I threw my first punch. I lifted him about ten feet off the ground and dropped his dead weight on the kitchen table. I pinned him down and let him know, “I was just playing earlier. Now, I’m gonna kill you.”

He didn’t even yell when I tore at his throat. He barely struggled. Guess he figured when your time’s up, your time’s up. But then his hands were in my hair. He made a pleased “ung” noise. Before I knew what the hell I was doing, my mouth covered his parted lips. I shoved my tongue against his teeth, setting up imaginary flags that said “Mine, mine, mine.”

I distinctly remember the sound of clothes tearing as I sought bare skin. That first time was and always will be a ménage of images, sounds, and smells: Zach’s tan chest, the sound of his voice, and the blood that pooled down the side of his neck.


Wanna read some more? (Oh, God, yes.) Check out the full Ravenous anthology, featuring stories from Wendy Nikel, V. Hummingbird, Tiffany Michelle Brown, and several others. Celebrate Halloween early with some sexy vampire lore.

Also check out my guest post on the Pen and Kink Publishing website. Click HERE to read about the “Forever Dead” atmosphere, soundtrack, and even fantasy movie cast.

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear … Speaking of vampires, my paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody won Best Paranormal Romance Novel in the 2017 Imadjinn Awards. We’re pretty dang pleased around here, let me tell you. I even put my trophy on the fireplace mantle, because I think that’s where trophies are supposed to go? Many thanks to my publisher, World Weaver Press, along with the people who made it all happen: Sarena Ulibarri and Trysh Thompson. Love you ladies! Now, go read “Forever Dead.”

Amazing “Forever Dead” art by Turner B. Davis.
Charleston · Halloween Town · Sara Dobie Bauer

Beware: Love spell gone wrong!

It’s Halloween time, which is the time of year I love the most. ‘Tis the season for witches and werewolves, vampires and ghosts. Every October, I drink too much Pumpkin Spice coffee. I watch horror movies I’ve seen a million times. I decorate my house to look like a crypt. My neighbors probably think I attended Hogwarts, so it seems apropos that today would mark the release of two very witchy tales.

From World Weaver Press, SonofaWitch! presents six stories of spells gone wrong. In my comedic short, “The Trouble with Love Spells,” witch Violet has been crushing on her local Coffee Boy for over a year when she decides to work some magic and make him notice her. Things don’t quite go to plan …


Read a teaser for “The Trouble with Love Spells:”

A year earlier, Violet had never expected to order a tall redeye and meet the man of her dreams, but one look into those big, grey eyes, and she was finished. Maxwell was hipster hot, and he walked like he knew it, in his tight trousers, vests, and multi-colored button downs. He kept clean-shaven, without the traditional hipster stubble, but his hair was long on top, short on the sides, and it often flopped down over his eyes.

“Have we decided if his hair is black or brown yet?”

Zoe sipped her chai tea. “I vote brown. I saw him in the sun once, and it was kind of reddish on the ends.”

Violet gawked at her friend’s good fortune. “You saw him in the sun?”

Zoe lifted dark brows. “Yeah, it’s official: he’s not a vampire.”

“Okay, there’s no one in line, and I need a refill. How do I look?” She ran her palms down the sides of her blonde pixie cut and pressed her lips together.

“Gorgeous. Now, go get that hot piece of ass.”

Violet focused on walking with a little hip shimmy as she made her way up to the counter, where Maxwell leaned on a bar stool and read a faded book by Elmore Leonard. “Hey,” she said. She attempted nonchalance but felt awkward with her hands hanging at her sides. She crossed them under her chest instead and gave her breasts a boost.

He looked up momentarily. “Hey.”

“Could I get a refill? French roast.”

He put the book down and reached across the counter for her cup but not before a blue spark flew from her finger and into the back of his hand. “Ow!”

“Sorry!” It was only the eighth time she’d done that—the wussy witch’s subconscious equivalent of a hand caress. “Must be static electricity.”

He gingerly picked up her mug and filled it. “I’m worried if you have anymore coffee, you’re going to start bouncing around the room.”

She laughed, surprised at her own volume, and tucked her hands behind her back. “Uh, I can hold my caffeine.”

“I know.” He slid the mug across the counter, smiled just a little, and picked up his book.

Violet practically danced across the floor. “I zapped him again, but he talked to me at least,” she whispered to Zoe.

“Well, I would hope so. It’d be weird if he just stood there in silence.” She turned a page just as Violet noticed her chai tea refilling on its own.

Violet put her hand over Zoe’s mug. “Hey. No magic in public.”

“Says the girl who occasionally shoots blue sparks at the guy she likes.”


Already, SonofaWitch! has been called “a must-read for anyone who loves modern fantasy” and “heartily recommended for all fans of funny romance.” If you liked the Bite Somebody series, this is an anthology for you! Buy your copy today!

Also out today is Elphame Realms Issue #2, featuring my story, “Forget Me Do.” A bit on the serious side, this one features a witch who believes she can heal a broken heart … but what if that heart doesn’t want to be healed? The eBook is currently on sale for .99 but won’t be for long! If you need MORE witches in your life this holiday season (and who doesn’t?), buy your copy of Elphame Realms HERE.

Happy spell casting! Remember to cuddle your black cat, burn your sage, and curse not lest ye be cursed. Blessed be.

“The Trouble with Love Spells” aesthetic.
Halloween Town · Modeling · Ohio · Sara Dobie Bauer

The Halloween Photo Shoot (Don’t be scared …)

I have some friends who are just as freaky as me, so when I suggested I wanted to do a gothic baby doll shoot in my church basement, they were like, “Well, obviously.” So we did. In honor of Halloween, I give you this little gift (which has successfully made my pastor afraid to go downstairs alone). Hair and makeup by Cheryl Mong; photography by Dennis Mong.

dennis8

dennis1

dennis2

dennis7

14876077_10154863049898128_1675536363_o

dennis5

And the blooper reel … Possibly thanks to that huge bottle of rum and coke.

dennis3

dennis4

Shout out to my gorgeous husband …

14923002_10154863170473128_1462040626_o

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

Film · Halloween Town · Television

This Rocky Horror remake really pisses me off

tim-curry

No. Just no. I watched the teaser for Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show remake, to air in October, and just … no. Look, I’m happy that maybe this remake will introduce a whole new generation of viewers to the glory that is Dr. Frank N. Furter, but …

No, I’m lying.

Tim Curry is and forever will be Dr. Frank N. Furter. I mean no disrespect to Laverne Cox, who I’m sure will do a good job, but from what the teaser showed me, she’s just doing a Tim Curry impersonation. AND why is a woman playing this part? I know, some chicks are going to be all up in my grill over this, but “Sweet Transvestite” doesn’t have the same ring when it’s a woman singing about dressing up like a woman!

GAH! I can’t ….

Even …

Type ….

Dfkjhvpiouzxjcvkmasndijhasjmjndvcxkzmncviuyerhf!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve observed Hollywood is going through this phase where they’re just making the same movie over and over again, but you can’t remake a cult classic. Cult classics become classics by accident. When they were first making the low budget B-film that is Rocky Horror Picture Show, nobody knew it was going to become the salvation of teenage freaks everywhere. They didn’t know it would become the perpetual, immortal midnight show. They didn’t know suicidal goth kids like me would consider the film to be Practically Perfect in Every Way.

The beauty of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show is that it isn’t beautiful. It’s a hysterical mess of cheap costuming, campy music, and the glorious thing that is Tim Curry in tights. Without Tim Curry, the movie would have sucked. He MADE that movie. Now, they’re making it without him (although I think he has a cameo), and they’re expecting it to be as magical as it was in 1975?

Rocky Horror Picture Show saved my life.
When I used to dye my hair black and write “you’re ugly” on mirrors …
When I used to hide beneath clothes three sizes too big …
When I used to smoke cigarettes and cut myself with my own fingernails …
Rocky Horror Picture Show was there, telling me, “Don’t dream it, be it.”

So maybe the remake will save some other troubled kids … but not if it sucks! If they actually give the movie a respectable budget, feature famous people, and just try to imitate the original, the remake is going to flop and troubled kids will miss the point. The biggest flaw, truly, is casting a female as Dr. Frank N. Furter, because part of embracing the freak in me was seeing a man in drag and realizing my freakiness was okay. Not only okay but pretty damn cool.

Film · Halloween Town

Would you survive a horror film?

polt-big

Back in the day, my friends used to tell me I would survive a horror movie, despite my wild appreciation for alcohol—probably because I was a virgin and had an obsessive love for scary movies.

Well, I’m not a virgin anymore, and I’ve developed a habit of wearing insensibly high heels. I also have wobbly breasts, so let’s face it: I might be first to go nowadays.

Man Crates is a new gifting company who delivers cool gifts for men in custom crates. (You’ll even need a crowbar to open it.) They recently asked me: “If you were in a horror movie, what would you want or need in a crate to survive through to the end credits?”

Although not all my items will fit in a crate … it’d have to be a big crate … I did come up with my Horror Movie Survival Kit, just in time for Halloween. I’m not paranoid; I’m just planning ahead, okay?

Guns and a crap-ton of ammo

This is where NRA members will have the step up. I mean, how else are you going to kill Leatherface if not for, like, fifty bullets to his head? Even Michael Myers, well, a bullet would at least slow him down. And if Zombieland taught us anything, bring extra ammo and don’t forget the double tap.

Car

Screw running and screaming through the woods. Get in your car. Drive away. And make sure you have a phone with you and an in-car phone charger so you can warn your friends who’re still having sex upstairs. Maybe this is why my husband always wants to have a full tank of gas—just in case we become victims of Scream, Part Infinitum.

New-Carrie-vs-Old-CarrieWhiskey and cigarettes

Everyone talks about needing water to survive a zombie apocalypse. How come no one talks about booze? If some undead Thriller-style Michael Jackson is chasing me, I’m going to want a drink afterward—several, most likely. A cigarette will calm the nerves, and if I have to, I’ll burn someone with it. Which reminds me: bring a lighter.

Change of clothes

If you happen to run out of ammo and all you have is a chainsaw, that’s going to cause quite a mess. You’ll want a costume change. I’m telling you, there’s nothing worse than blood and brain matter on your favorite 80s prom dress.

Garlic and holy water

Garlic is good for your cardiovascular system … and for warding off Dracula. Holy water apparently has all sorts of uses if Exorcist is any indication. Nothing is more distracting for an undead vampire than to have his or her skin melting off, let me tell you. Drink the holy water if you’re thirsty. Never know; it might miraculously cure that whiskey hang-over.

James Bond

Although Daniel Craig probably won’t travel well in a crate, I think he’d be really helpful in a horror movie, what with all his ninja moves, gun knowledge, and general affinity for escaping any and all enemy attacks. So what if he’s a fictional character? So are horror movie characters—until they’re not.

Man Crates, who prides itself on cool gifts for men, has their own Zombie Annihilation Crate that includes things like a flashlight, duct tape, and first aid kit. I might want to add it to my list, you know, just in case. It closely resembles the trunk of Dean and Sam’s car in Supernatural. Happy haunting!

Arizona · Halloween Town · Ohio

WE’RE MOVING TO OHIO

4512507780_3e194bdab4_b
I won’t call it a mental illness, but if I was to name how I’ve felt for the past year, I guess you could call it “Desert Fever.” As of today, Jake and I have lived in Arizona for a little over five years. Amazing friends have been made; amazing things have happened (including our wedding). I owe my fantastic career to Phoenix. I would almost call her My Muse. Still, something has been missing …

In October, it’s still 90 degrees outside. Trees don’t change color. The sky isn’t the color of a dirty puddle, and the air doesn’t smell live clove. It is distinctly un-horror-movie-like at Halloween time in Phoenix.

In December, the sun refuses to go away. There are blue skies everyday. Christmas feels fake and forced, because everyone knows, Christmas is supposed to be cold and white. You’re supposed to want hot chocolate, not iced coffee.

In April, it doesn’t rain. The grass doesn’t grow green, and flowers don’t bloom. Instead, everything prepares to die, because summer is coming, and summer carries with it the oppressive sensation of being burnt alive.

My Desert Fever involved more than weather, though; it has been about family. My blood relatives are, for the most part, on the east coast, as are all of my oldest friends. Sadly, two of our biggest family occasions since I’ve lived out here have been funerals, so basically, I’ve been paying Southwest to let me cry a lot.

Jake was the one who first suggested we move east. (He was probably sick of me watching all my horror movies, obsessively, because they always take place in the Midwest around Halloween, and I longed, longed to be someplace that looked like the places in my scary movies.) Deep inside me, there has been a longing for small town life again. Lack of rush hour traffic. Backyards not brimmed by concrete walls. Not having to travel 50 minutes to meet a friend for lunch.

This is not to say I dislike Phoenix. I’ve fallen in love with her over the years. I love her downtown, her Day of the Dead, her restaurants, and the smell of creosote after a monsoon. I’ve enjoyed getting to use the word “haboob” and eating authentic Mexican food surrounded by artful graffiti in the shape of skulls (my favorite).

Then, while on a “vision quest” road trip three weeks ago, Jake got the job offer of his dreams at a farm outside of Chardon, Ohio, near Cleveland. He called me while I was on my way to my college reunion in Athens, over the moon. Just like that, it was official: we were heading back to my home state.

We’re moving in two weeks. Have I had moments of terrific panic? Yes. Been a bit weepy lately? Of course. But not because I’m leaving Phoenix; it’s because, again, just like when we left Charleston, I’m leaving friends. I know it doesn’t do to stretch things out. It’s okay that we’re leaving in two weeks, but it is odd when you have a beer with someone you care about and realize this will be the last beer … possibly for a very long time.

I will miss things about living here. I will miss, most of all, my friends. I will miss being an active volunteer for Gina’s Team (even though I hope to continue my prison book clubs elsewhere). I will miss the food, the photo shoot fun, and the well-hidden dive bars.

But for the first time since I left Ohio ages ago, I will have a proper Halloween this year, complete with falling leaves and clove-scented rainstorms. I will have snow and the possibility of a white Christmas. I will have April showers and a green backyard filled with trees. Speaking of, maybe I’ll leap into an autumn leaf pile. Maybe I’ll try to teach my dogs how to make snow angels and buy them little sweaters. And my parents and auntie will be a two-hour drive away, as will friends I’ve kept since first grade.

There will be going away parties the weekend of the 14th: one Friday and one Saturday. I am available for impromptu happy hours and hugs. I will not leave this city without letting people know I love them and value them and will never forget them. But it’s time to go home. Home.

Film · Halloween Town

Evolution of horror films: The Babadook and mad mommies

23BABADOOK2-articleLarge

If you know me at all, you know I love scary movies. I find them therapeutic, as in, “Well, at least I’m not THAT person, being chased by the psycho with the butcher knife!” Really puts life in perspective.

In the past week, I’ve watched three horror films: The Babadook, Oculus, and The Others. Two of these movies I watched alone, which meant I couldn’t go pee without first checking behind the shower curtain because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

Babadook is about a monster that pops out of a children’s book. Oculus is about a damn evil mirror. The Others is about … I can’t tell you, because it’ll ruin everything. That said, all three of these ghoulish, scream-worthy films had one thing in common: mad mommies. Crazy ladies. Bonkers beauties.

Got me thinking about the horror movies of my glorious youth. Remember them? Movies like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Going further back, Dracula and Frankenstein. These movies were about identifiable monsters: creatures (human and otherwise) that came for you in the night. These horror flicks gave you a villain and told you which way to run.

Flash to 2015, and although the monsters (and ghosts) are real, the main concern — the real fear — is mothers killing their own kids. Mothers gone mad. The monster is no longer something we run from but something within the people we love and trust the most.

Is the change because, in the glory days of horror, back when Stoker and Shelley were writing their masterpieces, we didn’t want to think that the monsters were, in fact, ourselves? In the cases of both Dracula and Frankenstein, the creatures were certainly metaphors of what humans could do to each other, but they were only that: metaphors.

Now, we see horrible things on the news — people killing each other, mothers drowning their children, mothers going mad — and we realize … The monsters are real.

There has been an outpouring of these crazy mommy movies in the past year. I don’t mean to discount gorgeous films like The Shining and Amityville Horror, in which daddy goes dark, but those 80s pics didn’t feel quite as upsetting. They weren’t as upsetting because, in the 80s, we still didn’t want to think about a mother killing her kids. Now, it happens. We watch the news; we watch the court cases. We shiver.

No longer are we running from guys in masks. If horror movies are any indication, it’s reality that truly scares us — what we are capable of — and human nature is a lot scarier than a guy with claws.

Halloween Town · Writing

Halloween Short Story: The Trouble with Smartphones

Eva-Green-Witchy-Woman-vanity-fair-21315720-460-318
Ana’s niece went through men like vampires went through bags of blood. Ana would know; her immorality spanned centuries. She and her “family” had a strange arrangement. She shared the wealthy Bauer bloodline but was the only immortal in the clan. The rest of the Bauers came and went, generation after generation; yet, each generation accepted her. Each generation understood what she was and welcomed her. She was often invited to Christmas, birthday parties, and celebrity balls. However, Ana kept her distance—until Mary was born.

Mary was born on Ana’s own human birthday, June sixth. As soon as Ana met the child, there was a connection, and as years passed, she became the “favorite auntie.” Ana was the one Mary went to with her dirty secrets. As a child, those secrets included stolen candy from the grocery store. As a teen, stolen alcohol and messy make-outs with boys at debutante balls.

Although Ana lived in New York—Mary and her rich parents in Boston—they kept in touch over the phone. Then came things like smartphones and Skype, and it was when Mary turned twenty-one that the name Ethan first entered their lengthy conversations.

“I’m seeing someone, auntie.”

Ana had her smartphone leaned against the vanity; made it easier to pretend dear Mary was in the room with her while she sat in her New York flat, upper East Side, sipping a glass of iced blood. She brushed her long, black hair in the mirror and sighed.

“I saw that,” Mary said.

“You’re always seeing someone, dear.” Ana glanced at her young niece, already curled up in bed, staring back through her own smartphone camera.

“This is different.” Mary pouted; her voice whined. No matter her age, she still sounded like a sixteen-year-old. She was a woman, true; a very intelligent woman who would, in the fall, return to school at Brown where she studied psychology. Yet, Mary could never escape the cheerleader she once was, thanks to her Minnie Mouse voice and bright, blond hair.

“Who is he?”

There was a long pause on the line.

“Mary?” Ana looked at the smartphone screen, and Mary’s eyes crinkled around the edges.

Her voice lowered to a whisper. “It’s a secret, and you can’t tell anyone.”

“I’ve never told your parents a single secret.”

“I know. I know. But I think I’m in love.”

“Well. Who is he?” Ana asked.

“His name is Ethan.”

“Ethan?” Ana picked up her phone so she could fully focus on her niece. “Does he have a last name?”

“Prince.”

“Is he a prince?”

Ana watched Mary’s flawless face smile. “I wish. Would make things a lot easier.”

“He’s not homeless, is he? A drug addict?”

Mary shook her head, and her voice sunk even lower. “He’s the chauffeur’s son.”

“Mary Elizabeth Bauer!”

“Shhh!” She looked around, as if sound traveled in the castle the Bauer family called a home.

“That’s not love; it’s a fling.”

“Ethan is not a fling.”

Ana shook her head and chuckled. If Mary’s father knew … “How long has this been going on?”

Mary shifted in her bed, laid down on her stomach and rested on her elbows. “A couple months.”

“A couple months hardly does love make.”

“I want you to meet him.”

“Darling, you know I don’t meet your beaus. It’s too much energy to explain who I am and why I’ve been alive since before electricity and running water.”

“I already told him about you.”

Panic welled in Ana’s chest. “What?”

“He knows what you are, and he’s fine with it.”

“Mary.” Ana stood up. “You promised never to tell anyone about me.”

“But this is the man I love.”

Ana paced the luxurious interior of her apartment. Then, a buzz from the front door: blood bag delivery. “Mary, I have to go.”

“I want to talk more about this.”

Ana looked down at her phone, and her beautiful, intelligent, man-eating young niece looked concerned. “We shall, but do not be a fool. Do not tell the chauffeur’s son anything else about me, and do not get caught schtooping in your parents’ home.” She paused and noticed Mary’s sad face. “I love you, darling.”

“I love you, too.”

Ana ended their call. She felt shaky; she finished the glass of blood on her vanity just as a text message arrived: from Mary, of course—a covert photo caught as a man slept in what was obviously Mary’s king-sized bed. He reminded her of Byron, a poet Ana once knew long ago: wild, black curls of hair; pale skin; and a long, faultless neck.

For the first time, Ana saw Ethan.

***

Over the next few weeks, Ana and Mary rarely spoke. Mary was busy back at school; Ana was planning an extensive tour of Europe, her home country. There were more photos of Ethan, some with Mary included, his arm around her, her lips on his face. The first video arrived early the week before Ana’s trip.

Shaky at first, Ana soon recognized Mary’s dorm room at Brown. The vantage point was from Mary’s bed, and for the first time, Ana saw Ethan in motion. He stood across the room and looked into the full-length mirror Mary kept against the wall. He wore a black suit, and he was much taller than previous photos foreshadowed.

“Tell me you love me, babe,” said Mary’s disembodied voice.

“I love you,” he said.

“Tell me again.”

At this, he glanced back at the camera. “Mary, I’ll be late.” He stood and faced her, trying to tie his tie.

The camera shook some more, danced even, as Mary got closer to Ethan. Ana could picture her, kneeing her way to the base of her bed. “Tell me again.”

“I love you,” he said. He smiled—a lovely smile that revealed matching dimples.

“Again.”

His fingers stopped fiddling with the tie, and he got so close to the camera, his face went out of focus.

It was obvious Mary had trouble keeping hold of her phone, but she giggled when the video went sideways, as she was tackled on her own bed. Soon, all Ana could see were figments of Ethan’s black suit. Then, the video stopped.

***

sex dreams
Ana found herself dreaming of Ethan. She had but fleeting images of him, from Mary’s photos and occasional videos. She found herself fixated on his neck and his hands. Thanks to a recent conversation, Ana knew Ethan was older—twenty-nine. Was a lawyer. Attended Harvard on full scholarship. All these details danced around his neck, his hands—the things his hands could do to Ana, the things she could do to his neck.

She woke up embarrassed, sweating. She showered after these dreams, guilty for using Ethan’s image this way—guilty for stealing from Mary. What would her niece think if Ana told her about the dreams? Would the pictures stop coming—the videos? But Ana needed both; they had become her only joy. She jumped at every new message from her niece and was disappointed when statements were general, like “Ethan bought me roses!” Ana wanted more pictures of his face. She wanted the sound of his voice.

One night, Ana could not sleep, obsessed with Ethan and the way he might smell. Did he wear cologne? Or did he smell simply of blood and skin? She knew then how much trouble Ethan was in—how broken Mary would be if Ana’s fantasies continued, so she forced herself to stop thinking of him, even deleting Mary’s media messages before being opened.

And Ana would have survived without him, Ethan, if not for Mary’s untimely death.

***

A wolf on the campus of Brown University? Suspicious, but then again, the wolf was escaped from the zoo. Of course Ana knew all this was a careful smokescreen, fanned to flame by Mary’s own parents. The existence of vampires was not generally accepted; therefore, admitting that a vampire had killed their daughter would put into question the Bauer sanity and the Bauer estate.

Ana stood on the edge of the cemetery and watched her niece’s ivory box lowered into the dark green grass. They had spoken but five nights before—the last time they would speak—and of course, the conversation was about Ethan, although Ana brought things round to school and family and future plans—of which, for Mary, there would be none.

Ana watched her human family, earned glances from but a few because only a choice few knew of her existence, those being Mary’s parents and a few old uncles, cousins. Ethan wasn’t there. But then, he was, away from the casket, away from the cold hole in the ground. She saw his hair first: that unruly mop of black. Then, his eyes: frigid, cold blue, ice. She put her arms around herself to shield his chill.

He was broken, very broken, but since his affair with Mary had been secret, only Ana knew why.

A luncheon was thrown afterward, in honor of Mary. Ana knew her niece would have hated the event: all somber faces, black suits. Mary would have much preferred a celebration, covered in pinks and baby blues.

Ana moved through the crowd, through the immense ballroom of the Bauer mansion, and past the disgusting smell of human food. She disappeared to the empty servant’s quarters, where she knew, thanks to Mary, of a secret entrance to her niece’s bedroom—the entrance only Ethan ever used.

Ana could still smell Mary when she entered: like flowers and sweet spice. Even though the bed was made, the room clean, she smelled something else, too: sex. She smelled the buttery scent of sex and something male. Cologne. The cologne could only belong to him.

The mournful auntie ran her fingertips over her niece’s hairbrush on the vanity. She touched stacks of psychology textbooks. She caressed a dress, tossed over the back of a wooden rocking chair. All so cold with Mary gone, killed by some monster, some blood-sucker who knew the Bauer family history—probably knew Ana.

Then, the door behind her opened. The cologne was more prevalent, as was the poisonous smell of cigarettes. “She didn’t tell me you smoked,” Ana said and turned to find Ethan, half revealed behind the secret door to Mary’s room.

“I don’t. Usually,” he said, alive, not on camera, his flesh right in front of her.

Ana stood at full height and looked at him. She pulled her small, black velvet jacket tighter around her small shoulders. She made a show of brushing a piece of lint from the edge of her dark red, floor-length dress. “Did you want to be alone in here?”

“No.” He shook his head, took a step, and closed the door behind him. He stood with his hands in his pockets, seemingly unsure of himself, although he’d never looked that way on Ana’s smartphone screen.

Ana’s boots made loud taps as she walked toward him. She removed her leather glove and touched his hair, pushed a piece behind his ear. A line of goosebumps began at her fingers and moved up to her shoulder, over her chest. “You’re more handsome in person.”

The side of his mouth turned up. He looked at the floor.

“Am I the only one who knew? About you and Mary?”

He nodded, but as he nodded, a salty tear fell down his face. She wanted to lick it off, but instead, she pulled him into her embrace and put her hand on the back of his head. He leaned against her. He held her in the vice of his long arms and shook in silence as the pain of his loss soaked her shoulder.

“Shh,” she said. Her fingers ran down the back of his neck. “Shhh.”

“Do you know who did this?” he said.

“I have my suspicions.”

“Was it one of you?”

“I believe so,” she said, and he tore himself away from her.

“Why? Why would one of your kind kill Mary?”

Ana shook her head.

Ethan stopped in his pacing, and his eyes found her, his gaze just as chilled as the cemetery. “Is it because of you?”

“Yes,” she said.

He was out of breath, she could see, when he said, “God, I wish I could …”

“Hurt me?”

The expression on his face told her he didn’t mean it, not really, but she could hear the blood pumping through his veins. His anger was like a hot breeze through the room.

“I’m hurting enough,” Ana said.

“How will you find who did this?”

“There are places to go,” she said. She looked away from him to hide the added rouge to her mouth and cheeks. She realized coming to the funeral was a mistake; being alone with Ethan, a mistake. He was too close, and she wanted him too badly. The scent of his blood now filled the room as smoke fills a chimney, and Ana wanted him right there on her dead niece’s bed.

“Take me with you.”

“No,” she said.

“I’ll find the killer, with or without your help.”

“No, you won’t,” she said to the window that overlooked a lush, green backyard with a maze in the middle.

“Stop me,” he said.

“I can stop you.” The quietness of her tone made the words all the more menacing, but when she gave him another look, Ethan was not afraid of her. He carried the same blind trust as her niece. Even though Ana was a monster, they believed her incapable of hurting people she loved, and by proxy, the people they loved.

“I’ll go out tonight,” she said. “You can come by my hotel room in the morning.” Then, she used speed no human could see. She grasped his chin, and he jumped backwards at her unexpected touch. He knocked into the vanity, and Mary’s gilded brush fell to the wood floor at their feet. “If I sense you anywhere near me tonight,” she said, “I will lock you where no one can find you until this is over. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” His voice shook, and Ana left.

***

Silhouette of woman looking out of a window-1350607
The next morning, she woke to the scent of him outside her hotel room door. She wrapped herself in a robe at the sound of his knock and opened windows, let the light in. Ana did not fear the sun; had not in over a hundred years when she realized she was too old to be harmed.

He looked younger, so much younger, without the suit and tie. “My God, you could be a college student,” she said.

“May I come in?”

She opened the door. She stayed in one of the old hotels in Boston that overlooked a square where witches once hung. Her room was lush, filled with antique couches, flowers in tall vases, and throw blankets for keeping warm in the New England chill.

“What did you find?”

Ana stepped past him, toward the phone. “Would you like coffee?”

“No.” He shook his head.

She hung up the phone. “Nothing. Yet.”

“I’m coming with you tonight.”

“No. You’ll get hurt.”

He took two long steps forward, and he had her back against the wall. “Who cares?”

Ana remembered all the sweaty dreams she’d had of this man—all the times she’d awoken, whispering his name, before Mary was dead, before his skin was inches from her teeth. She shoved past him, but the warmth of his chest lingered on the palm of her hand where she’d pushed him away.

“Mary would care,” she said at the window, facing the street below.

“She’s dead.”

“Do you rush to meet her?”

“I can’t just do nothing.”

She felt him get closer, until he lingered, inches from her back.

“Please, Ana,” he said.

She wanted him to say her name again. She wanted him to beg. To quench her auditory longing, she turned and hugged him around the waist. She leaned her forehead against the side of his chin and took in a mouthful of scent.

She was surprised by the way his tension melted in her arms, as if they were old familiars. Perhaps Mary had shown him pictures, too—of Ana, of Mary and Ana. Perhaps he once dreamt of her.

“Just tonight,” she said. She pulled back and touched his face. So soft, just shaved. “Only tonight will you need protecting.”

***

She took him to a vampire bar—one where few mortals dared venture, especially without an escort. Ana would be Ethan’s escort, and she would be careful, because he was too beautiful to be left alone. The place was called Vlad; Ana found this trite; having once met the infamous vampire, Dracula, she found him stupid and dull.

The interior was black and red—black walls, red carpet. The place smelled of Old Country church incense and an undercurrent of blood no mortal could detect. Ana took Ethan’s hand as they stepped inside and whispered, “Pretend we’re together,” meaning not friends but lovers.

And he looked the part in a black suit and shirt, no tie. He looked the part: pale skin; bright, wicked eyes. He looked like a man a vampire would love.

Eyes turned when they entered because they were new and easy to admire. Ana dragged him to the bar; ordered a shot of blood for her, vodka for him. They toasted, and after they drank, her lips found the edge of his mouth; he didn’t pull away because he only pretended.

They allowed themselves to be touched, flirted with. Ana noticed Ethan was an old pro—had no doubt spent years being treated this way by many different women. She kept her nose open, waiting for the scent of Mary or perhaps the flicker of a gaze. Surely whoever killed Mary also knew of Ethan, her sexual secret; if Ana saw recognition in the eyes of an admirer, she would know whose throat to slash.

Yet, as time passed, no scent arrived; eyes did nothing but gaze adoringly on Ethan. There was no guilt here. No fear. Only the hope of a warm meal, which Ana was careful to dissuade with her hand on Ethan’s shoulder, her own stare planted on his neck that shined like a moonlit pond. No one doubted he was hers, but perhaps they hoped for a threesome—a hope she shook off when other monsters looked to her with their pleas.

Soon, he grew tired, and she told him it was time to go home.

***
dddd
Ethan trusted her because Mary, his love, trusted her, so there was no hesitation when she invited him up to her hotel room for a nightcap. After the bar, a quiet, relaxing drink was what they both needed. He sat on the couch and leaned his head back. Ana watched him, and her fingers shook as she poured two glasses of wine.

She approached, handed him his glass. His skin smelled like the cologne she now knew well, along with a tinge of laundry detergent on his dress shirt. She ran her hand through his black hair, and he closed his eyes against her touch—not in pain but in pleasure. He was comfortable with her, had proved as much since the funeral.

Then, he moaned softly, and she realized he was asleep. Before the untouched glass of wine could fall to the wooden floor, Ana removed the long stem from his fingers and set it on the lamp-lit table by his side. Her own glass joined his, and she watched him sleep until she was certain her movements would not wake him.

She removed her high-heeled shoes and set them on the floor. She kneeled on the couch and straddled his waist. Still, he did not move.

Ana pulled her smartphone from the side of her bra. She leaned back, on top of him, and saw Ethan through the camera lens. She teased herself with the distance the lens afforded—like all those photos and videos from dear, dead Mary. Ana even took a picture of the sleeping man, for old time’s sake. Then, she moved her camera away to remind herself he really was between her legs.

She placed her petite hands on his chest and felt the warmth there. She heard his heart beat and smelled the blood beneath his skin. Warmth began to spread through her own body, starting in her thighs and up into her stomach. Her head felt light, delirious with desire for this doomed man whose only mistake was falling in love with her favorite niece.

Ana leaned forward and brushed the side of her cheek against his. “Ethan,” she whispered.

She pulled back as his lashes fluttered. His blue eyes looked up at her, confused. “Ana?”

She put her thumb against his mouth. “Shhh. This won’t hurt a bit.”

He tried to stand up, but before his feet could find placement, she had the top two buttons of his dress shirt torn and her teeth against his throat.

He tensed when she broke skin. He whimpered, said her name. His hands pushed against her shoulders until the poison in her fangs spread through his brain and made him lazy in her arms. His head fell against the back of the couch; his arms went limp. He was a six-foot ragdoll, but at times, she felt him pull closer to her—perhaps running toward death to see his Mary once more.

His blood was all she hoped, knew, it would be. Ever since the funeral, the smell of him haunted her. Now, what kept him alive poured down her throat and made her dead heart … beat, beat, beat. Halfway through the meal, she found herself moaning against his flesh, because she knew this was not about death.

Yet, Ethan was near death—very much so. She pulled her teeth away and looked at his face. If she didn’t know better, she would think he was but asleep.

She rose higher on her knees. She used her own teeth to carve a hole in her wrist, and she dripped blood between his parted lips. Her job well done, she fell back on the couch beside him. She licked the lingering blood on her lips—her own mixed with that of Ethan’s.

She sat and waited, but she did not need to wait long.

He was suddenly awake at her side, bent forward, doubled over in pain. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “It’ll be over in a moment,” she said.

His new-found strength was difficult to manage as his humanity died. Becoming a vampire was not a pleasant process, Ana recalled. Yet she was strong enough to hold him, keep him from breaking the room as he fought to escape bodily hurt. When he shouted, she covered his mouth with her hand. She soon found herself kneeling on top of him, pinning him to the couch and holding him in silence.

Ethan’s breath then calmed. His body relaxed. He no longer fought her, and she leaned away, gave him space. “Ethan,” she whispered, and she touched his hair.

“God, what have you done?” He wouldn’t look at her.

“You’ll never lose the woman you love again.”

“I don’t love you,” he said.

“You will.” She pushed his hair behind his ear and saw his profile—wide open eyes and parted lips. “Let me see you.”

After long moments of nothing but background city noise, he finally turned to her. His skin was no paler than it had been before, but his eyes, even brighter. A drop of blood stood out like a beauty mark on the side of his chin; she left it there for him to find, and she held his face in her hands.

“I’ve wanted you since I first saw you,” she said. She kissed his parted lips, once.

“Why?”

“You remind me of someone I once knew.” She thought back to her beloved Byron. “And you made Mary so happy.” She paused. “Make me happy, too, Ethan.”

She still held his face in her hands, and for the first time since they met, his eyes moved to her lips and he kissed her. He was gentle, perhaps testing out the taste and feel of her, until she pulled hard on the back of his neck and opened his mouth with her tongue.

Ana pulled away long enough to say, “Touch me,” before her mouth once again found his.

She thought back to the innocent smartphone video from Mary’s dorm room—a video that ended like this, with Ethan on top and in a black suit. Tell me you love me, Mary had said, and he did.

One thing Ana would never tell Ethan: that she’d killed his precious Mary to have him all to herself. Mary was too unreliable with men; she only would have hurt him anyway.

The End – Happy Halloween 2013

Halloween Town · Writing

Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow? Part VII. The Big Ending!!

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.”

“Because we want the family fortune, of course,” Marie replied.
“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.”

Within seconds, she lit up like a dried out Christmas tree in bright orange flames …
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.

“Ange?”

“Mm?”

“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.

ψ

“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.”

“You promise?”

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.

His hand shook so much, he almost dropped the skull, which Jonathan was quick to grab and hold like a newborn child …
“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.”

She sighed.

Over the sound of incoming police sirens, Jonathan asked, “Do you want to get a drink?”

“Sure.”

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.

THE END

Happy Halloween!

… for the first time in his life, Jonathan Crane felt safe on Halloween.
Halloween Town · Writing

Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow? Part VI

Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?

Part VI (of VII)

By Sara Dobie Bauer

She felt herself waking up. She could hear voices, smell the scent of an old, old house. There was Jonathan, shouting about the skull—the skull wasn’t there, he said. Where was the skull?

She moaned in an effort to respond, and his hand was in hers immediately. “Angie?”

She moaned again.

“Please wake up.”

For him, she would. She opened her eyes. His skin was paler than usual, covered in a thin sheen of sweat. She reached up and de-wrinkled the wrinkle between his eyes.

He kissed her hand. “Thank God you’re all right.”
He kissed her hand. “Thank God you’re all right.”

“Are you all right?”

He glanced down at his chest, covered by, she noticed, a replacement forest green sweater. “Thanks to you.”

“Where’s my locket?”

He reached behind her head to the table by the living room couch. The piece of silver fell into her hand, still covered in his blood.

“Very Halloween-y.” She let go of his hand long enough to clasp the bloody piece of jewelry behind her neck. With the cold metal against her skin, she felt stronger again. “It was my mother’s. She died when I was a kid.”

“My dad died a few years ago.” He kissed her hand again, and Angie finally noticed the rest of the Crane family, curled together in a tight circle in the corner.

“What’s Brom Bones up to?”

“Circling the house.”

The phone rang, making them all jump a mile.

Ellis sighed. “I’ll get it.” She left the quiet circle and answered a phone that looked older than she was. “Happy Halloween! … Yes, officer, we’re aware. … I wouldn’t worry your head over it.” She gasped and covered her mouth. “I just meant …. Well, he’s at the house now, so the town has nothing to worry about. We’re dealing with it.” She hung up the phone. “Our undead friend killed seven students, it would seem.”

Angie sat up suddenly. She would have fallen over onto the floor if Jonathan hadn’t caught her. “Oops,” she muttered before standing up with Jonathan’s help.

Bernadette was on her in a flash. “Thank you!” She wrapped Angie in a hug that managed to cut off her supply of oxygen. “Thank you.” She kissed Angie on the cheek.

“Hey, no biggie. I like the guy, too.” She nodded at Jonathan. “So. Who else knew about the skull in your backyard?”

This brought a noticeable air of tension to the room.

Ellis glanced at each member of her family in turn. “Only the people in this room, dear.”

“So which one of you dug it up?”

“Ange …” Jonathan put his hand on her arm.

“What? You’re thinking it, too. I know Grandma is.”

Angie noticed despite the circumstances, Ellis smiled at her friendly epithet.

“How dare you come into our house and start pointing fingers?”

“I don’t like you, Rupert. I think you’re a little weasel, with your weasley moustache.”

“Watch your mouth, witch.” Marie stepped forward, and even Jonathan seemed surprised by the ice in his aunt’s voice.

“Okay, everyone calm down.” The authority in Jonathan’s voice made them all shut up. “I guess it’s worth asking. Does anyone in this room know where to find the horseman’s skull?”

In the silence, they heard horse hooves and the sound of a sword on tree-trunk. Apparently, Brom Bones was bored and sharpening his weapon.

Jonathan sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”

“I do.”

“You do?” Ellis seemed hopeful from her seated position.

She noticed her spell book on a nearby empty chair. She picked it up. “I need to use your kitchen.”

“What for?” Rupert demanded.

Angie hugged her book to her chest. “A truth serum. Ellis?”

The old woman pushed herself up from her seat. Angie noticed she was looking older already, after the near loss of her grandson and the basic unraveling of her big, happy family. Nevertheless, she guided Angie to the kitchen, followed closely by Jonathan.

“A truth serum?”

Angie threw the book down on an updated black marble island and began turning pages. “Mmhmm.”

“How long does it last?”

She started digging through cabinets for cooking spices, along with wine and a sharp knife. “I’ll make one that only lasts a couple minutes, although some of them have been known to last weeks.”

“That would suck.”

“Telling lies lately, Jonathan Crane?” She raised her eyebrow at him.

“No, but it’s nice to have a filter, especially with you around.”

“Don’t tell anyone about the blood,” Angie said. “People get weird about that.”
“Oh, really?” She leaned her elbows on the counter, knowingly flaunting her breasts. “And what would you tell me if you didn’t have a filter?”

“I guess we’ll find out in a few minutes …”

Angie was a speed demon at potions, always had been, thanks to the teachings of her aunts, who were masters of the ancient art. Thankfully, Ellis had a well-stocked kitchen, although Jonathan looked away when Angie cut her own flesh and added a drop of blood to the mix. “Don’t tell anyone about the blood,” Angie said. “People get weird about that.”

Jonathan didn’t have words to respond.

Angie carefully poured the completed potion into six rocks glasses, if only to be fair. She felt that if she was making the Crane family take the potion, she might as well, too, in case they suspected the witch of some evil intent. She used a fancy silver tray to carry the glasses into the living room, where everyone waited, none too excited at the prospect of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“Okay, everyone, take a glass.”

“I refuse to drink some witch’s brew,” said Rupert, twirling his moustache with a finely manicured finger.

“Then, I suspect you, Rupe.” Angie smiled.

He indelicately snatched a glass.

The rest of the room followed suit, and Angie lifted her glass in a toast. “Okay, bottoms up. Question and answer begins as soon as you swallow.” She closed her eyes and took her shot down first; it tasted like Italian food gone bad—real bad.

Everyone was wincing when she opened her eyes, and she immediately pointed at Ellis.

“Ellis Crane, do you know where the skull of Brom Bones rests?”

Her eyes were slightly dreamy as she said, “No, dear, but I once spit in a casserole dish for the Rotary Club because a woman on the potluck committee slept with my husband.” She gasped and covered her mouth.

“Guess it’s working.” Jonathan rubbed his forehead.

Angie was on the move. “Bernadette Crane, do you know where the skull of Brom Bones rests?”

“No.” She appeared to be biting the inside of her lip to hold something back. Angie moved on to Marie just as Bernadette blurted out, “I’m not a natural blond!”

Angie pet her on the shoulder, but before she could ask Marie much of anything, the black-haired broad had her in a headlock with a gun against her head. “Stupid, meddling witch!” she shouted.

Jonathan took a step forward, and Angie felt Marie’s arm tighten around her throat.

“You take another step, nephew, and I’ll throw her outside.”

He stopped moving.

“Marie?” Ellis stood, frozen to the spot. “What are you doing, Marie?”

“Everyone, just back up, or ding dong, the witch is dead.”

(THE FINAL INSTALLMENT GOES UP FRIDAY!!! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Halloween romp! I know I enjoyed writing it! Cheers!)