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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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!)
Jonathan dragged her inside, where the whole family rapidly began to appear at the sound of uninvited guests. Angie noticed there were only four of them in total: the one called Aunt Marie; a well-dressed man with a moustache, probably in his mid-fifties; a forty-something lady with Jonathan’s bright blue eyes; and finally, a petite lady with white hair, glasses, and a frown, who had to be the Crane matriarch.
“What on earth were you doing outside?” The little old lady moved faster than any old lady rightly should.
“It’s my fault, Ellis.” Marie stepped forward. “I helped him sneak out.”
“Sneak out? On Halloween?”
“Baby.” The blond moved past grandma and lifted her hands to her cheeks. “Are you covered in blood?”
“Right. Can Angie use the bathroom? I’ll explain.”
“I think I should probably be here when you explain.”
Jonathan glanced down at Angie, holding her massive, leather book of spells. “Right. Well, this is Angie, and I snuck out to see her, and um … well, the Horseman, he’s real, and he’s trying to kill us, but Angie’s a witch, and …”
“Jonathan. You’re doing a shit job.” Angie addressed this family of strangers, all of whom looked practically murderous. “Look, the Headless Horseman from a fictional short story is actually real, and he’s down in Tarrytown killing people trying to get to Jonathan. So please tell me you have a protective spell on your house, because if you don’t, I’m a witch, and I need to get started right now.”
Surprisingly, it was the intimidating grandmother who stepped forward, took Angie’s blood-soaked arm, and gently said, “Come along, dear, let’s wash you up.”
Angie looked over her shoulder at a blood-soaked Jonathan and was surprised to find he still looked attractive, despite what might have been a piece of another man’s skin under his right eye. She then allowed herself to be coached through the house, past expensive-looking antique heirlooms and a room full of deer heads—which gave her the creeps.
Then, there was a long hallway of paintings. Angie recognized the elder woman by her side, Ellis Crane, among them, but then, she recognized someone else.
“Hey.” She stopped. “Is that …” She pointed at a particularly striking young man.
“But … he looks just like … or Jonathan looks just like …”
“Yes, the resemblance is quite significant, but he does have his mother’s eyes.” Ellis led her on, as if the creepy similarity between a long dead ancestor and a very living college student was run of the mill.
Finally, they found a bathroom bigger than Angie’s entire apartment. Ellis took the book from Angie’s hands and set it on a decorative, marble table. She then pulled a washcloth from beneath the sink and began to wash Angie’s face.
“I’m certainly glad Jonathan snuck out to meet you, honey. I was beginning to think he was a homosexual.”
Angie bit her lip to stifle a smirk.
“And a witch, no less.” Ellis glanced at the rather sizeable square of leather on the nearby tabletop. “Quite a big spell book for someone so young.”
“It was my mother’s.”
“Ah.” Ellis put her hand on Angie’s head and smiled. “What a lovely girl.” Then, she leaned forward and whispered, “And yes, the house is protected by many spells, but I do hate scaring the younger ones. Most people aren’t as comfortable around witches as I am.” With no further warning, Ellis put the washcloth down on the sink and left Angie quite alone.
Jonathan paced the living room, hands on his hips. He jumped at every noise, while the rest of his family merely watched him walk around. Grandma Ellis came back, followed closely by Angie, who was no longer covered in blood but who still hugged her spell book as if it in itself would save all their lives.
Jonathan watched his uncle approach the little witch. “I’m Rupert, by the way, Jonathan’s uncle. Marie is my wife.” He gestured to Jonathan’s aunt, who waved politely from a plush white chair in the corner.
“Sorry. Introductions.” Jonathan put his hand on his mother’s shoulder where she sat on a pink paisley couch. “Ange, this is my mother, Bernadette.” He watched his mother stand up and clasp Angie’s hand.
“Very nice to meet you. Sorry about the circumstances.”
“Me, too,” Angie replied.
“I’m surprised we haven’t had any calls from the police.” The room turned to face Ellis, who was peering beyond the curtains and out into the front yard.
Jonathan looked toward Angie, who’d suddenly gone a couple shades paler than usual.
“I have to call her. Tell her to stay inside.” She shamelessly reached between her breasts and pulled out a tiny black cellular phone before she disappeared back toward the bathroom.
By now, Rupert, too, stood at the front window. “Ah,” he said, “We have company.”
Jonathan heard the horse hooves before he reached the window, followed of course by a house-shaking burst of thunder. When he pulled back the shade, he was more than horrified to see the Hessian with about a half dozen decapitated heads attached to his black saddle.
Jonathan promptly threw up in a nearby potted plant. When he was finished, he glanced back at his family. “Let’s not tell Angie about that.” He gestured to the sad looking fern.
“We won’t, dear, but you might want to wipe the blood off your face.”
Rupert offered him a handkerchief, which he accepted, gladly.
“What’s going on?”
Jonathan didn’t want to tell her, but he didn’t really have a choice. While wiping his face, he turned to Angie and said, “Is everyone okay?”
“They’re drunk, but they’re fine. Why are you all standing by the front window?”
“Well, because there’s an angry horseman outside, dear.” Ellis dropped the curtain and sighed. “I think it’s time we told them the truth.”
“Ellis,” Marie hissed.
His grandmother approached him and put her hands on his upper arms. “How about a drink?”
As a collective, they followed her to the library, where rows of books were challenged by rows of multi-colored liquor bottles. She chose a scotch—one of Jonathan’s favorites—and poured an inch of gold in each glass. Jonathan took his back like a shot, and when he lowered the glass, he realized Angie must have, too, because the entire family stared at them. Ellis poured them a second round and gestured to the leather furniture around the room.
Angie didn’t ask before she lit up a clove. Jonathan gave her a sidelong glance, knowing she’d left her purse at her own apartment. When she noticed him watching, she pulled a second clove from between her cleavage and extended her hand to him.
“What else are you hiding down there?”
“A lighter.” Which she presented and used to light up. No one complained.
“Well. Jonathan. Darling. We’ve never told you the truth about your great-great-great-grandfather. It was just too soon, and you were too young. It’s a secret to be shared by adults.”
“This doesn’t sound good.” His shoulders were tense, and Angie lit his cigarette before he could even ask. In fact, when he looked around the library, he noticed everyone was tense … and avoiding eye contact.
“Ichabod Crane was, well, like you, very handsome. He was a travelling teacher of sorts in Sleepy Hollow, and he caught the eye of a local girl by the name of Katrina Van Tassel.”
“Van Tassel? Like from the story?”
“Yes, dear.” Ellis nodded at Angie. “But you see Katrina was already engaged to a local boy, Brom Bones. When Ichabod tried to woo her nonetheless, it was quite a scandal, but woo her he did, and well …” His grandmother’s eyes looked up to the gold-encrusted ceiling. “Well, it started kind of a feud between Brom and Ichabod. So Ichabod cut off Brom’s head.”
“What?” Jonathan felt the sudden urge to stand.
“Yes, well, it would seem that Washington Irving and your great-great-great-grandfather were good friends, so they made up a story as a joke and told everyone in town that Brom had left in a huff, never to be seen again.”
“You’re telling me … Ichabod Crane murdered someone, and now, that someone is outside, headless.”
Angie stood up, too. “What happened to Katrina?”
“Oh, she married Ichabod. She’s Jonathan’s great-great-great-grandmother. This house was known as the Van Tassel Estate before they got married. Now, it’s called Crane Manor.”
Angie fell back down on the couch. “What an f-ed up family.”
“So if I’m to understand correctly, Brom Bones is the Headless Horseman. Not some Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War.”
Ellis waved her hand. “Oh, that was just part of the story.”
“Right. The story written to cover up a murder.”
“Precisely.” His grandmother sipped daintily on her scotch.
“So …” Jonathan pointed toward the front entrance. “What does he want?”
“Your head. Probably.”
“Well, it is an unfortunate coincidence that you look so much like Ichabod.”
Jonathan finished his second glass of scotch and put it down heavily on the table. “This hiding out every Halloween in the house, you were doing that because of me?”
“Well, you and every male direct descendant of the Crane line. As you know, it’s your responsibility to keep the family line alive, and you inherit the fortune. Can’t be too careful.” She laughed, softly, until the expression on Jonathan’s face made her stop.
He looked toward his mother. “Mom? He wants my head?”
“Well, there are other options.”
“I think he would also accept the sacrifice of the woman you love.”
Jonathan glanced at Angie, who pointed her finger and said, “I will hex the hell out of you.”
He rolled his eyes. “What’s our other option?”
“We could always give him back his skull.”
Now, both Jonathan and Angie’s mouths hung open. “You still have the skull?”
“It’s buried in the backyard,” Ellis replied.
“Sick.” Angie stubbed out her cigarette in her empty glass of scotch.
“I’m not sure it would work, but it’s worth a try.”
“How are we going to get to it? He’s outside.” Jonathan held his hand out and waved at the front door.
Angie blew out a loud breath of air. “Distraction. I’m a great distraction.”
As she stood up, book in hand, he held onto her shoulders. “You’re not going outside.”
“I don’t have to go outside. You have windows.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. Shoot sparks and shit. It’s what I do.”
“She is a witch,” Rupert whispered into his drink.
Angie pointed. “Hey, don’t judge me, moustache.”
“They burned people like you for a reason, sweet girl.”
Jonathan literally had to get between Angie and his uncle to keep an all out brawl from breaking out, and frankly, he was surprised at the small girl’s strength. “Enough! I’m going to get the skull.”
Well. That managed to stop all discussion.
“Jonathan.” Bernadette stood up.
“Mom, I have to do this.”
She sat back down but would not look at who she still considered her little boy.
“Gram, where is the damn thing?”
“In the family plot, of course. Beneath Ichabod’s tombstone.”
“That is so twisted. Do you have a flashlight?”
“Yes, honey, on the back porch.”
Jonathan looked down at Angie, who he still held tightly in hand.
“Are you sure?” she whispered.
“Do we have a choice?”
“No.” She glanced around the room. “Do we have time for a quickie?”
He smiled and pressed his forehead against hers. “I’ll come back.”
“And I’ll distract.” She dropped her precious book and put her hands on the back of his neck, pulling him into a long, wet kiss that almost made his knees buckle.
When she finally let him go, he shook his head. “I swear you put a spell on me.”
“Well, I didn’t put a spell on myself, so I think it’s just animal instinct.”
The sound of an angry horse huffing and puffing pulled them out of their flirtations and back into a world where a headless maniac wanted people dead.
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
“You kind of sounded like Bruce Willis just then, and I think Bruce Willis is really hot.”
Ellis cleared her throat behind them before Tonsil Hockey, Round 2.
Angie tossed the book on the couch by the front window and opened the curtains. Jonathan watched her turn pages until she found what she was looking for, but it was Russian to him. Obviously, it was the language she’d spoken earlier in the woods, but it was private—a Duncan … er … Good family secret, most likely.
She looked up at him. “Gimme five minutes. And then go.”
Jonathan glanced at his watch. “Five minutes.”
He turned to leave, and she grabbed his arm. “If you don’t come back safe, I’ll kill that mother trucker with my bare hands.”
He nodded and headed for the back exit, his family close behind. As he walked, he could hear his mother’s voice, begging, pleading, but there was no turning back. They were out of options, and if Angie could keep the ghost of Brom Bones distracted, Jonathan could be gone and back quick as a hippie on cocaine. From the back porch, he grabbed the flashlight and a small shovel. Looking at his watch, he had two minutes to go. He took a deep breath. The scotch felt warm and comforting in his stomach, and he could still taste the clove cigarette on his breath.
“Good luck, boy.” Rupert’s thin fingers on his shoulder did not incite confidence.
Jonathan took one glance back at his mother before shooting into the night. The wind whipped against his ears, and the cold air pulled at his skin. He knew the way to the family cemetery, not far beyond the house. There were the wrought iron gates, illuminated by the flashlight beam that shook in his hand. He pressed forward, and of course, the damn gate creaked.
Ichabod’s grave was famous in the family—the only one immortalized in a short story. Also the only cold blooded killer, Jonathan now knew. He slid to his knees at the base of the memorial and started digging. Shovel after shovel, dirt flew up around him in a cloud until finally, he hit something … but that something was not solid. He found an empty piece of cloth where a skull should have been.
And at the sound of Angie’s screams, from somewhere far away, Jonathan knew he was in trouble.
“Shit.” He scrambled to his feet, leaving the flashlight and shovel behind. He was a daily runner—had been all his life—and yet in some nightmare scenario, he felt he could not move fast enough. From his position, he could see his family, waving for him to come closer, faster, now! When he saw Angie shoving them out of the way, he knew Brom Bones was coming.
He heard the horse before he saw it, turning the corner at the back of Crane Manor.
“Shit. Shit.” Jonathan dug in deep to the very bottom of his endurance, but the horse was faster. He saw the glint of sword in the night light, and he did a diving roll in an effort to keep his head. Unfortunately, he didn’t get up fast enough, though, giving the horseman time to swing his sword back and cut a deep gash across the center of Jonathan’s chest. He screamed in pain but then felt a positive presence over him: Angie, with her pale hand in the air.
In his injured, bloody haze, Jonathan now recognized the words from the forest earlier, and again, the Headless Horseman was trapped in a green-glowing web that made him back away in momentary defeat.
He felt Angie’s small hands under his arms, pulling him back inside the house. He also felt his shirt soaking with too much blood. His breath came hard and ragged down his throat, but he didn’t feel pain. Jonathan took that as a bad sign.
Once he felt carpet beneath his back, he heard Angie’s voice, commanding, “Back up! Give me some goddamn space!”
His eyes found her, kneeling above him. She tore his flannel shirt open and paused.
“Damn, you have a great body.”
He found the strength to say, “Angie, what the hell?”
“Sorry, sorry.” She ripped the locket from around her neck, took it in the palm of her hand, and pressed it directly into the wound that spread from pec to pec.
Her touch felt like fire, and he yelled out again, over the sound of her voice chanting, chanting, something he couldn’t understand what with the searing pain that ripped through his ribs and down his spine. He thought she was killing him until the pain began to subside. As the pain subsided, though, he noticed Angie weave above him. She suddenly fell, face first, against his healed chest, completely limp.
(Have a happy weekend, everyone! Watch out for headless men on horseback! We’ll finish up parts VI and VII next week. Thanks for reading!)
“It’s just some guy riding a horse in the forest. At midnight. On Halloween. Right?”
“Angie, I really think you should run.” The sound was getting closer.
“And just leave you? What the hell are you talking about? Let’s just get out of here.”
But it was too late. The horse hooves were close—very close—so close they could hear the sound of a horse breathing hard. It was hard to see anything with the utter lack of moonlight, but when a flash of lightning illuminated the darkened field—really, a flash of lightning—the figure appeared, and it glowed from inside: a rider, headless, with a glowing Jack-o-Lantern, on a black horse the size of a damn Clydesdale.
“No. Freaking. Way,” Angie shouted.
“Holy shit, it’s true.” Jonathan latched onto her arm and started to run in the opposite direction.
“Wait.” She struggled against him. “Jonathan!”
“Angie, come on!”
“Stop!” she shouted, and the sound of her voice sent Jonathan flying onto his back as if a strong force had shoved him in the chest. He turned around in time to see the Headless Horseman, sword drawn, riding directly at the girl he yearned for. Her palm was held up toward him, as if in greeting, and she was saying something … something … Jonathan couldn’t quite make out the words.
“Angie!” His throat hurt with the volume of his voice, but she didn’t waver.
The horseman, now mere inches from lopping off Angie’s head, suddenly stopped as a green light emitted from the ends of her fingers. The green light spread to form a cocoon that covered the Hessian like a reinforced spider web. He fought against it and fought … and fought … until Angie turned away and pulled Jonathan to his feet.
“Now we run,” she said.
“What the hell just happened?” He tried to keep up, but she could move a lot faster than she looked.
“We have to get to my apartment. The web won’t hold him long.”
He grabbed her by the shoulders. “What? The web? Wh—no, we have to go to my family and warn them.”
She tore away from his grasp. “No, we have to go to my apartment first.”
Although disgruntled, she knew he had no choice. She knew Jonathan Crane was a much better guy than just about any other guy on campus, so she knew he would follow her wherever she went just to keep her safe. They ran together down Main Street, running not only from a Headless Horseman but from an incoming thunderstorm that followed them in echoes all the way to her front door.
The longer it took to find her keys, the closer she felt the Hessian was to killing them both, but finally, she dragged out her keychain and unlocked the door.
“What are we doing here?” he shouted once inside her apartment.
“We’re getting the book.”
“The book? What book? The Bible?”
“The Bible? No.” She ran to her bedroom and opened her closet, but Jonathan was right behind her.
“Angie, what the hell happened back there?”
“I did … what I do.” Where was it? Where was it? She hadn’t used it since she’d moved to Tarrytown. She pulled down sweaters and old children’s books from her days as an innocent little kid. Finally, her fingers felt leather, and she knew she’d hit the jackpot.
“What? What do you do?”
“Jonathan.” She hugged the leather bound book to her chest. After the tumble in the woods, her witch hat was gone. Her long black hair fell loosely down around her shoulders, which seemed in character, under the circumstance. She went on to explain, “I’m a witch. I’m not from Podunk, Massachusetts. I’m from Salem. My last name isn’t Duncan. My name is Angela Good.”
“Yeah, as in Sarah Good. One of the first three women executed during the Salem Witch Trials. Can we talk about this later? We really need to get to your family’s house.”
“Okay, so the people they executed in Salem, most of them were innocent, but some of them weren’t. My relative? Not so much innocent. In fact, I heard she was a real bitch.”
“Yeah, and I didn’t leave my old school because I stole some girl’s boyfriend. I left because I stole her boyfriend and made all her hair fall out.”
He exhaled, loudly.
“Jonathan, we have to go.”
“You’re a witch?”
“You’re being chased by a freakin’ Headless Horseman. Why is this such a big deal?”
“Did you put a spell on me?”
“No. I don’t put usually spells on people. Oh, except Max, I used my mom’s ring to put a spell on him.”
“Okay, there’s gonna be a dead dude with a huge sword and no head here in, like, five minutes. We really need to move. If your family is smart at all, they’ve probably had someone like me put a spell on your grandma’s house so that he can’t come in. I don’t have time to do a protective spell on my apartment right now. We need to go. Okay?”
“I’m freaking out.” He did look pale, and Angie didn’t want to consider carrying him to wherever the hell his rightfully superstitious family lived.
“Sweetie.” She stepped forward and put her hand on his chest. She knew what he felt when she did it: calm. She was pouring every ounce of calm she had into the center of his chest, and she could see the change based simply on his skin tone. “Hi.”
“Let’s go, okay?”
“Okay.” He nodded, and in that moment, he was back, holding onto her hand and pulling her toward the front door.
She had no idea where they were going. Angie could barely make her way around campus, let alone into the outskirts. She followed him anyway, because she trusted Jonathan. She had trusted him since her first day in class—something she sensed.
They walked up the crowded Main Street where most kids were happy in their ignorance. Apartment balconies were full, and the bars overflowed onto the sidewalks. Everyone was in costume, even the bouncers. It would have been a great night, if not for … well.
When Jonathan turned a corner to head up a dark alley, the sound of a horse’s nay just about sent them both into hysterics.
“Hey!” One of the campus security horse police pulled back on the reins of a beautiful off-white palomino. “Watch where you’re going.” As he walked his horse around them, they heard him mutter, “Damn kids.”
Angie heard Jonathan expel a loud breath before he started walking. Of course, being in a dark alley, their trials weren’t over. A pack of about five guys exited the shadows, each holding bottles in paper bags. “Look at her! She’s hot.”
Jonathan batted this first boy’s hand away and shoved him in the chest, which brought the unwanted attention of the other four. Not only were these guys acting like a gang, they were dressed like one: all in black leather jackets with black jeans and ski masks pulled back on top of their heads, revealing pale, inebriated faces.
“Don’t worry, bro.” One of them snickered. “We’ll take care of your girlfriend for you.”
Jonathan spun around and headed back for Main Street, apparently not in the mood to fight with four immature hoodlums. Again, they heard the sound of the horse, but Angie knew immediately, this was no trained palomino.
“Holy shit.” She pulled back on Jonathan’s hand just as the Headless Horseman rounded the corner on them, sword raised. “DUCK!”
Jonathan and Angie crouched low, just in time to hear one of the wannabe gang members shout, “Nice costume,” followed by a telltale chop and a blood shower.
Angie couldn’t help herself. Hugging her spell book and Jonathan’s hand, she shrieked.
“Come on, Angie!” His voice got her moving again as the Hessian went about dismantling the rest of the alley rats. Luckily, the noise from the alley caught the policeman’s attention. The cop and his horse were headed in their direction when Jonathan said, “I’m about to doing something really illegal.”
“Okay.” She tried not to notice the blood dripping down her face and arms.
As the cop rode by, Jonathan let go of her hand. He latched onto the horse’s rider and dragged him to the ground. The out of shape officer was too shocked to even speak. He rolled around on his back like a turtle as Jonathan threw Angie onto the back of the horse and then climbed on himself.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he kicked the horse into gear.
Over the sound of hooves, Angie muttered, “You know how to ride a horse?”
He guided the animal off Main Street and up a series of inclining hills until they finally reached a summit, surrounded by trees that had to be older than Tarrytown itself. Up the drive and past an impressive guest house was the Crane family mansion, which Angie took in with shock and awe … or maybe that was because her ass was firmly planted against the pelvis of the guy she liked. Either way, she ran on adrenaline.
When they got to the front door, Jonathan slid off the horse and lifted her down from the saddle. “Come on.”
Angie had never seen a house with such an entrance: several wide stairs led to a double door that could have easily fit a school bus. “This is where you grew up?”
Still latched onto her hand, he used his other hand to try and open the front door: locked, of course. Why wouldn’t it be, with a damn Headless Horseman running around? He sighed and started knocking with all his might. Angie had time to notice beneath the gold porch light that he, too, was covered in some poor kid’s blood. Together, they looked like a John Carpenter nightmare.
Which was probably why the poor middle-aged woman who answered the front door screamed when she saw them. “Jonathan!”
“Hey, Aunt Marie. This is Angie.”
Through the guts and gore, Angie smiled. “Hi.”
(Are you having fun yet? MWAHAHA!!! Part V goes live Friday. Then, we finish the story next week. Hope you’ve been enjoying your very special post-Halloween present.)
They both turned to see Tanya, embraced by behind by an intoxicated Max. “Do I still have to show Max my boobs?”
Angie cleared her throat. “Honey, I think that’s going to happen of its own accord.”
“What is she talking about?”
“Oh, um, we made a bet before we came here.” She sipped her drink.
“A bet? What was the bet?”
“She bet me you wouldn’t come, and I said you would. If she won, I would have to make out with Max, but if I won, she would have to flash Max.”
“You knew I would come.”
“Who are you?”
His curiosity was interrupted by Max’s shout. “Okay, everyone, the Phi Delt’s are hosting a haunted house in the McMurray cornfield. Tanya and I,” he slobbered a kiss on her neck, “are taking travelers and hitting the road. Who’s with us?”
Angie’s hand immediately went up. “We are!”
“Yeah, it’ll be fun. Chug your drink. We can grab another one for the road.”
Five minutes later, Jonathan helped Angie with her black velvet cape. They refilled their now empty Solo cups and followed a group of about ten people out the back door, down the porch steps, and onto dying grass, already wet with evening dew. While the other kids ran to stay at the front of the pack in the deep darkness of New York night, Angie and Jonathan stayed to the back, their arms barely touching as they walked down a sidewalk covered in autumn leaves.
“So tell me how it feels. To be free.”
He smiled up at rolling October clouds. “It feels pretty good.”
“You’ve never been out for Halloween, your whole life?”
“Can we just address an issue, really quick?”
“Ichabod Crane isn’t real. The character. Isn’t real. I thought Irving based him on some guy he met in the army.”
Jonathan nodded. “My great-great … great grandfather.”
“I’m serious. Irving was, um, when he was a kid, his parents sent him to Tarrytown to escape an outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan. Tarrytown was … is … right next to a place called Sleepy Hollow. What the biographers don’t know is that Irving eventually came back to Tarrytown, which is when it happened.”
“When my great-great … great-grandfather ended up headless.”
Jonathan chuckled while drinking his Hairy Buffalo. “The townspeople knew the Hessian’s ghost did it, this soldier who was decapitated by a cannon ball during the American Revolutionary War. Apparently, the people of Sleepy Hollow said there was something personal between the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. That he didn’t like Ichabod for some reason in particular, and that our family was cursed. That if any of us showed our faces on Halloween night we would lose our heads, too.”
“Uh-huh. Right. Okay. I call bull shit.”
“Hey, call it what you want, but my family’s been adamant about the whole thing for almost two-hundred years.”
“None of you have ever gone out on Halloween before?”
“Nope. But enough about me. Tell me about you.”
She groaned and kept walking.
“I don’t know anything about you. Literally.”
“My name is Angie Duncan. I’m a theater major.”
“Where did you grow up?”
“Massachusetts.” She kicked a rock on the path. “A little Podunk town. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it …”
“Hey! Slow pokes! We’re here!”
At the sound of Max’s voice, Jonathan looked ahead of them where he saw their little crowd circled around the well-lit entrance to the McMurray Farm cornfield on the edge of campus. Two frat boys dressed as goblins guarded either side, and tiki torches cast an orange glow on the faces of their companions. As they neared, Jonathan noticed Max and Tanya were still attached at the hip, which was irreconcilable with basic reason.
“Live in fear, those who enter here!” shouted one of the goblins, while the other extended his black-gloved hand in welcome.
“Ooooo …” Angie grabbed onto Jonathan’s hand, and neither of them let go.
Into the corn maze they went. What was that saying? The corn was as high as an elephant’s eye? Jonathan could believe it. At six-three, he couldn’t see a dang thing beyond the path. But back to Angie …
“Can I ask you another question?”
“Yeah, as long as you protect me from monsters.”
“Why did you transfer to a new school your junior year?”
“Ah, that. Well, I decided to go to school close to home; I soon realized I was too close to home. Plus, there were complications.”
“Yeah, I got into some trouble.”
“Now, this is good conversation.”
She laughed just as a kid clad all in black jumped out of the cornstalks and screamed at them. Jonathan and Angie weren’t fazed.
“Seriously, what kind of trouble?”
“I … don’t always fit in very well.”
“What are you talking about? You’re the most popular girl on campus right now.”
“Okay, I misspoke. I don’t always fit in with other girls.” She looked at him and lifted her eyebrows.
“You stole someone else’s boyfriend didn’t you?”
She feigned insult. “My goodness, I would never do anything like that.” Pause. “Okay, so I stole some bitch’s boyfriend. And it got ugly. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so I left.”
“And that’s why you went after me.” He tried to cover his comment with his Solo cup.
“You don’t have a girlfriend.”
“No, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I was a challenge, so you went after me.”
She stopped walking again, and her hand escaped his grasp. “I didn’t go after you because you were a challenge.”
“Then why did you?”
“Because you’re hot.”
He laughed. When had he ever felt this good? In all his life, when had Jonathan Crane ever felt quite like this? Angie laughed, too, and she put her arm around his lower back as they walked together deeper into the darkened maze of corn-filled horrors.
Jonathan loved when she screamed and held onto him tighter. He loved the way her black hair smelled and the way her little hands squeezed his when she was afraid. In all honesty, he could have stayed in that cornfield with her forever, just to be strong for her, to protect her. The ride ended too soon, though, and they were coughed out onto the edges of Tarrytown Forest. A fog had settled, and without a moon, the colors were muted. Tree shadows mimicked wild beasts, and Jonathan could sense trepidation in all of them at going any further.
“Seriously?” Max turned around in circles. “They lead us into the damn forest? Great.”
“Guess his buzz wore off,” Angie whispered, which sent Jonathan into his own buzzed giggles. “Come on.” When no one was paying attention, she dropped her Solo cup and pulled him further beneath tree cover.
“Where are we going?”
Deeper they went into the darkness, with only her hand to guide him.
Once at a sufficient distance, she turned around and pressed her chest against him. “Kiss me.”
His Solo cup hit the underbrush as he leaned her against a tree and pressed his lips against hers. Surely his face would be covered in red lipstick, but it didn’t matter. As the warmth of their lips melded, he felt dizzy. From her or from the booze, Jonathan didn’t care. He was hungry for her touch, and he noticed her mouth tasted of cinnamon. Her body was soft and warm against his palms, and when he moved his lips to the top of her corset, she didn’t stop him. Instead, she moaned his name and held onto his head, urging him to delve deeper into her skin. Her fingers pulled on his hair until his lips were back within her reach, and they kissed and kissed—for how long, who knew? But when they finally stopped, they were alone, their group, gone.
They slumped down together against what would forever be “their” tree, and Angie dug in her small purse. She pulled out an unfamiliar pack of cigarettes. “Clove?” she said through gasps.
“Like the cooking spice?”
“No, it’s a kind of cigarette.”
“Sure.” He leaned his head against the tree, unable to catch his breath. “I love kissing you.”
She laughed and handed him a smoke.
She lit his before lighting her own, and Jonathan was surprised at the taste. “It’s like pumpkin pie.”
“Wait, aren’t these the things the president declared illegal?”
He watched her blow smoke into the night air. “Well, how do you have them?”
“I’m a hoarder. As soon as the legislation passed, I bought out all the stores.”
It was Jonathan’s turn to laugh. “You are like no one else I know.”
“I’ve heard that a lot.”
He stood up and brushed the leaves off the back of his jeans. “Come on.” He extended his hand down to her on the ground. “I want more Hairy Buffalo.”
“You lush.” She extended her hand to him, and it was amazing how light she felt as he lifted her to her feet. “What’s the fastest way back, you think?”
“I don’t know. This way.” He pointed.
“Sure. My captain, my captain.” She gave him a salute.
He took her hand in his as they continued to smoke their pumpkin-flavored cigarettes while walking through the forest toward what they imagined had to be street lights.
I can’t tell you who heard it first, the horse hooves, but it was Angie who stopped walking and pulled back on Jonathan’s hand. “Do you hear that?”
“No, really, do you hear that?”
“Do I hear … what?”
“Shut up and listen.”
Jonathan dropped her hand. “No.” The word was barely a whisper.
(Part IV comin’ at ya Wednesday! Until then, remember to vote tomorrow!)
Angie met Tanya for a beer, because they had agreed to meet after Angie’s talk with Jonathan. Angie had hoped to toast her success; Tanya had apparently known better, because as soon as Angie walked into the quaint, townie bar known as Tony’s, there was already a shot of whiskey and a bubbling beer waiting for her.
Angie threw her bag on the nearby booth and sulked.
“He said no. Didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did.” She threw back the shot of whiskey. “That’s never happened to me before.”
“Oh, I feel so bad for you.” Tanya rolled her eyes.
“No, seriously, that’s never happened before. What the hell is wrong with him?”
“I told you, Ange, he’s a Crane. They don’t go out on Halloween.”
“I don’t buy it. I mean, the Headless Horseman? Really?”
Tanya shrugged. “Welcome to Tarrytown.”
“That’s it. I’m making out with …” She threw a hand in the air. “Everyone tomorrow night. Maybe even you.”
“Just hit on Max. You know he’d go for it.”
Angie sipped her beer. “I don’t want Max. I want Jonathan Crane, the quiet, humble, sexy type. I mean, he looks like he’s made of rock.”
“Mmhmm.” Tanya nodded.
“This isn’t over. Nope. Not over.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I bet he comes out tomorrow.”
Tanya chuckled. “I bet you’re wrong.”
Angie spun on her chair, hand already extended. “Oh, yeah? What’s the bet?”
“No, no.” Tanya shook her head left to right. “I don’t like this.”
“If Jonathan Crane shows up to Max’s party tomorrow night, you have to flash Max.”
“Poor boy will have to sleep with the lights on.” She finished her beer and gestured for another. “Fine. If you’re wrong, you have to make out with Max.”
They shook on it.
Jonathan stomped all the way across town, up the hill near the river, through two cemeteries, and finally, to his grandmother’s mansion, where he knew his whole family would already be convened for their annual shut-in weekend. He didn’t bother knocking; the door was always unlocked on the thirtieth of October. He slammed it behind him, which made his aunt drop the book she was reading in the study. He joined her, tossing his bookbag on a sofa older than him by three decades.
“What’s got your goose, boy?”
He groaned loud enough to wake the dead.
“You look all in a tizzy.”
“A girl asked me out today.”
“Is that a problem?” His Aunt Marie leaned forward in her seat. In her mid-fifties, she looked better than most women at thirty-five. She was svelte with expensive fashion taste and gray-streaked raven hair. She always wore the most top of the line makeup, and thanks to the family dough, she had never worked a day in her life.
“A problem? No. Yes. Yes, because she wanted me to be her date to a Halloween party tomorrow night.”
“Ah, I see.” Marie leaned back in her chair and continued to read while Jonathan fumed. “Why don’t you just ask her out another time, honey?”
“I don’t think she’s the kind of girl who takes kindly to being rejected.”
“Most women don’t.” She licked her finger and turned a page.
“Why do we still do this anyway, Marie?” He gestured to the high ceilings and antique bookcases.
“Why do we still hide in this house every Halloween?”
She turned another page but then paused. Quietly, she closed the book and set it on the table to her right. “Jonathan?”
“You like this girl.”
“She’s like nobody else.”
With her elbows on her knees, Marie leaned forward and whispered, “I have an idea.”
Saturday afternoon, Angie was perfecting her witch ensemble when Tanya walked into her bedroom, clad in head-to-toe orange. Angie gave her one look and said, “I don’t know how you’re going to flash Max in that thing.”
“I borrowed it.” She gestured down at the smiling Jack-o-Lantern face on her stomach and the orange tights that covered her thick legs. “Do I look like an idiot?”
“Well, you don’t look sexy, that’s for sure.”
“We’re not all size zeroes, Ange.” She shoved against the stuffing in her pumpkin suit and sat heavily on the edge of Angie’s unmade twin bed. “Don’t you look spiffy?”
“I’m doing my best. To impress Jonathan.”
“He’s not gonna show.”
“Yes, he is. I know it.”
“Even if he does show, hypothermia is not a good look. You’re going to freeze in that outfit.”
“I have a velvet cape, silly.” She shook her head back and forth, making her tiny spider web earrings shine in the dim lamplight. Her black hair was in a high bun, and a miniature, pointed, purple witch hat was pinned jauntily on the side of her head. She wore a choker with a spider at the center, a black corset, and a short black skirt, made mostly of tulle. On her feet were a pair of her favorite platforms, decorated with black glitter. “Oh, almost forgot.” She clasped her mom’s locket behind her neck.
“I feel like a cow.”
When Angie turned around, Tanya’s face was buried in her orange-gloved hands. “Oh, sweetie. I know what will make you feel better.” Angie scampered to the jewelry box in her closet and pulled out a couple drawers before she found it. “Look.” She held a glamorous gold and emerald ring up to the light.
“What is that?” Tanya was on her feet, practically drooling.
“It was my mother’s, and I think you should wear it tonight.”
“I can’t wear that. What if I lose it?”
“You won’t, and the boys will love it.”
“Boys never love anything about me, Ange.”
“Shut up, pumpkin.” She tapped Tanya on the head and held out the ring. “Just put it on. You’ll feel better.”
Carefully, Tanya plucked the priceless gem from Angie’s outstretched fingers. She slid the ring over her ring finger and took a deep breath. “Wow. I feel better already.” She held out her pudgy hand and turned it back and forth, back and forth. “Look how it twinkles.”
“I know.” Angie smiled.
“Thanks, Ange.” She wrapped her in a big, orange hug, and together, they headed to the kitchen for their first pumpkin beer of the night.
The girls arrived soon after at the Alpha Psi Omega fraternity house where all the theater boys lived. Well, not all the theater boys; the actors lived at the APO house. The actors were the top of the food chain in the theater program. They ruled the roost. They threw the best parties. They got their own frat house, led of course by Max Hedwig, who greeted the ladies at the front door.
“Angie! Tanya, right? Welcome to our house of horrors!” He adjusted the crooked crown on his head and extended his arms wide, lifting his red velvet cape with his elbows.
“A king. Of course.” Angie was pulled into a not so welcome hug.
“You look hot.”
She sighed. “Thanks.” Max was everything Angie avoided in men: cocky and aware of their good looks. It would be a serious drag if she had to kiss his slimy mouth that night.
“And Tanya?” He paused. “Tanya.” He tilted his head. “You look … wow. I barely recognize you. Can I get you some Hairy Buffalo?”
Angie elbowed Tanya to get her talking. “Um. What?”
“Hairy Buffalo. We pour a bunch of liquor in a garbage can and throw fruit in to soak overnight. It’ll get you messed up.”
“Come on in.” He grabbed the hand adorned with Angie’s mother’s emerald ring and dragged Tanya inside, leaving Angie alone on the front porch.
Angie smiled knowingly and glanced down the sidewalk outside. There were people everywhere, of course, dressed to the nines in costumes ranging from Hangover characters to ghosts in white sheets. Still no sign of Jonathan.
Inside, Angie had to admit the APO house did resemble a house of horrors, but it didn’t require decorations. It was your basic frat house, complete with sticky floors, crooked furniture, and posters of Al Pacino and the Rat Pack on every wall. Techno played from an invisible stereo system, and Jamie Leigh Curtis screamed over dead friends on the big screen TV. Being early, there were only about twenty or thirty people milling about, each one holding a red Solo cup.
Angie wanted whatever they were drinking, so she headed to the kitchen, where a boy she knew from class was bonging a beer from beneath a Richard Nixon mask.
“Angie, Angie.” Max waved her over and handed her a cup of her own. He had his arm around Tanya’s shoulders, and Tanya giggled into her drink. “I heard you invited Crane to the party.”
“He’ll be here.” She took a sip from the Solo cup. It was like fruit punch. But uh-oh. She couldn’t taste booze, which meant this Hairy Buffalo was dangerous stuff.
“Didn’t everyone tell you, the guy doesn’t come out on Halloween.”
“He’ll come out for me.”
A boy from her stage movement class scooted up beside her, dressed as Dracula. “I would come anywhere with you.”
The double entendre wasn’t lost on Angie. Max gave the vampire a high five, while Angie grabbed the front of his shirt. “Let’s dance.” She winked at Max before she left and waved black-tipped fingers at Tanya.
Jonathan had been to parties at the Alpha Psi Omega house before. He’d actually been offered the chance to live there, which he’d blatantly turned down. No way he wanted to be around theater people all day; being in class with his fellow majors was hard enough. Still, he felt nervous, standing outside. Not only was there the inherent fear of being a Crane on Halloween; there was the fear of rejection. What if Angie had already forgotten about him? Oh, and of course he didn’t have a costume. He’d never needed one before—no Crane ever had—so there weren’t even old outfits hiding around his grandmother’s mansion. If anyone asked, he would say he was an unemployed actor.
Climbing the front steps of the two-story, broken down old house, he could hear music and the sound of multiple voices laughing, screaming, and singing along. He pushed the door open. It was dim inside, lit only by strings of colored Christmas lights hung around the edges of the ceiling. People were everywhere, jamming the front foyer and the living spaces on either side. Even the staircase in front of him was covered in bodies, a couple of which were joined at the lips. How would he find her in this mess?
Then, a hand grabbed his arm. “Crane?”
“Hey. Max. Nice costume.”
“Didn’t think you’d show.” The boys shared a fancy hand shake and high five.
“Yeah, well, Angie invited me.”
“Right, I heard that. I just didn’t think …” He chuckled. “You’re out on Halloween. Wow, man, uh, you want a drink?”
“Is Angie here?”
Again, Max laughed. “Is Angie here?” He nodded toward the makeshift dance floor. “Look over there.”
She was hard to miss. Angie danced in the center of about six young men, all trying to make a move. Her ensemble left little to the imagination, and her pale skin glowed beneath the twinkle lights. It was especially hard to avoid the locket around her neck that bounced back and forth as if pointing to her corset-supported breasts.
“Lucky bastard.” Max patted him on the back. “I’m trying to make it with her friend, Tanya.”
“Tanya? The chubby girl?”
“Yeah. Something about her tonight, man, she’s on fire. Gotta go, but get a drink.”
“Yeah …” He couldn’t take his eyes off Angie. And then, over the crowd, he noticed her noticing him.
A smile warmed her face, and she shoved past the hungry masses surrounding her. She stopped about six inches from his body and tilted her head up to look at him. “You came.”
“What’s your costume?” She took in his plaid collar shirt and jeans.
She laughed and touched his arm. Heat shot into his shoulder and neck.
“You make a very good witch.”
“Thanks. You want a drink?”
“Good. I’m empty.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the crowd to the kitchen.
He noticed the place was crawling with costumes. Like a two-year-old trick-or-treating for the first time, Jonathan took it all in. He’d never seen an actual Halloween party, outside of a movie screen. This was something new, and frankly, strange. I mean, how often did you see a king humping a pumpkin on the dance floor? When he realized it was Max and Tanya, he looked away, spurred onward by Angie’s warm hand. She stopped moving once a kitchen sink was in view—a kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes and empty beer cans.
“So this is a Halloween party,” he whispered.
She leaned up on her toes and spoke in his ear: “Yes, this is a Halloween party. Would you like a Hairy Buffalo?”
She stepped back, smiling. “Just say yes.”
“Yes. I would love whatever you just said.”
“Elliot!” A boy dressed as a vampire jumped at the sound of her voice. “Gimme two refills, would ya?”
“Anything for you.”
“An admirer?” He put his hand on her upper arm; he could barely believe he was allowed and even welcome to touch such a captivating creature.
She leaned her body back against him. “He’s got nothing on you, sweetie.”
Never, never, in his twenty-one years had Jonathan Crane ever been treated like this. It made his head float … or maybe it was just his ego.
Within moments, two filled-to-the-brim red Solo cups floated back to them across the crowd. He took a sip. “This doesn’t taste like booze.”
“I know.” She toasted him. “Dangerous. I’ve had three. So how’d you sneak out?”
“What makes you think I had to sneak out?”
“Cuz you look sneaky.”
“All right, I snuck out, but it was all my aunt’s idea.”
“What’d she do? Lock the rest of your family in the basement?”
“No, she and my uncle, her husband, they fed me scotch, and then, told everyone I was too drunk and sent me to bed. I jumped off the roof into a tree.”
“You jumped off a roof to come to a party?”
“No. I jumped off a roof to see you.”
Finally, it was Angie’s turn to blush—quite an accomplishment, he imagined.
“Angie!” The noise was like a howling cat.
(End of Part II. Part III goes up Monday! Have a great weekend!)
You may have noticed … today is HALLOWEEN! In celebration, I wrote a short story. Consider it my super-spooktacular gift to you. I present Part I of “Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?” Don’t get scared, now.
Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
PART I (of VII)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Angie Duncan pulled her long, black hair into a ponytail in front of her bathroom mirror and shouted into the hallway, “I need a date for Halloween.”
She heard her friend, Tanya, flip through the newly arrived Victoria’s Secret catalogue out on the couch in Angie’s diminutive living room. “Who doesn’t?”
Angie sighed and leaned forward to apply deep red lip stain to her pouty lips. She ran her fingertips beneath her blue-violet eyes, removing remnants of charcoal black eyeliner. Properly pleased by her look, she pulled down on her black tank top, did a little spin, and clasped her mom’s silver locket around her pale neck. She then joined Tanya in a disorganized living room, covered in theater textbooks and Stephen King novels.
“What are you going to be for Halloween anyway?” Tanya didn’t look up from the catalogue.
“A witch. Keeping it simple.” She fell back into a thrift store armchair that still smelled like cigarettes thanks to the previous owner. Having just moved to Tarrytown three months prior, Angie’s apartment was a conglomeration of found objects. Since she was a poor college student, those found objects were in pretty crappy shape. “What are you going to be?”
Tanya shrugged. Tanya was the closest thing Angie had to a friend so far. Strange, upon transferring to Tarrytown College from an even smaller college in Massachusetts, Angie had not expected to encounter cliques. Yet, entering Tarrytown as a junior felt distinctly like being the new kid who just didn’t fit. Everyone already had their group of friends, so where was a newbie to go?
Tanya threw the catalogue on the crooked coffee table that fit snugly between the couch and Angie’s chair. “Any dating prospects for Max’s party then?”
“Care to share?” Tanya twirled her finger around the edges of her curly, brown hair. Like Angie, Tanya was a theater major, which was how the girls met. They connected over high school memories of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other than that, they had nothing in common. Where Angie was petite, Tanya was lumpy. Where Angie was flashy, Tanya was morose. Perhaps that was part of Tanya’s motive, though; already, two months into fall semester, Angie was famous with the male members of the Tarrytown College Theater Department. Tanya, usually so invisible, felt much less invisible with Angie around.
“Hell no. Too skinny.”
“No. Too cocky.”
Tanya sighed. “I’m not going to name every guy in our class.”
Tanya almost fell off the couch. “You can’t ask Jonathan Crane to go out on Halloween!”
“He never goes out on Halloween.”
“Uh. Why not?”
“Well. Because …” Tanya’s eyes moved to Angie’s scuffed, permanently beer-soaked floor.
“He’s a Crane.”
“Yes, his last name is Crane.”
“Yeah, like, Ichabod Crane.”
Angie chuckled. “What?”
“Uh, ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow?’”
“Yeah, I know who Ichabod Crane is. What does that have to do with Jonathan Crane?”
“Ichabod Crane is a fictional character, Tanya.”
“Not in Tarrytown.”
“I thought I moved to New York; not the nineteenth century.”
“It’s for real, Ange.”
She let out a huge yawn. “I need coffee.”
“You can’t ask him out.”
“Well, I’m going to do it after stage design class today, so yes, I can.” She pushed herself up from the chair. “Speaking of which, we’re going to be late.”
Tanya leapt to her feet. “Angie, do not ask him out.”
“He’s the hottest guy on campus, sweetie, and I’d like to someday sleep with him, but to do so, I have to ask him out first. Baby steps.”
“He’ll turn you down.”
“He’s too nice to turn me down. Plus, I caught him checking me out once.”
“Angie, I know you’ve cast some kind of spell on all the other theater guys, but Jonathan Crane is different. He’s not even allowed to go out on Halloween.”
“Not allowed?” She scooped her heavy bookbag onto her right shoulder.
“His family, they all go into hiding on Halloween. Plus, he’s the last male heir of the Crane fortune; they particularly can’t let anything happen to him.”
“Okay, enough.” Angie held her hands up in front of her and dug in her bag for a clove cigarette. “Let’s go to class. And we’ll see if he turns me down.”
The fact was, Jonathan Crane checked out Angie Duncan as much as he could. Not only was she the new girl in the Tarrytown Theater Department, but she had something other girls at school didn’t. She was … different, although Jonathan could never put his finger on what was so different about her. She had long black hair, and she was rarely seen without her trademark red lipstick. Although new to campus, she was already rumored to be wild at parties—the first girl to jump on the bar and dance. She had the body to match the personality, and when she walked, Jonathan often found himself incapable of looking away. Which was probably why he barely spoke to her; she made him nervous.
Of course, Jonathan Crane was nothing to slouch at. As Angie acknowledged, he was one of the more attractive young men at the school. Well over six-feet-tall, he ran five miles every morning and swam laps on the weekends. He had dark brown hair and scalding blue eyes that made most women blush with just a glance. He was also seemingly unattainable. Jonathan never dated. He never took girls home post-party. Generally, he rarely spoke at all to members of the softer sex, and no one—no one—had ever asked him on a date for fear of the inevitable rejection.
Then, there was Angie Duncan, transfer from Massachusetts and already rumored to be the director’s favorite. She was Jonathan’s favorite, too. He hoped she would get cast in the upcoming production of Macbeth. Jonathan was a senior set design major, so it was his senior project to design the entire set for the Shakespearean tragedy—which could also entail time spent with the young woman who made his head tingle.
Students rumbled down the third floor hallway of Irving Hall, named of course for the famous author and historian, Washington Irving, who spent some time there as a young man. Although the classroom behind him was practically empty, Jonathan hated being one of the first to arrive. An early arrival necessitated small talk, and Jonathan Crane hated small talk. Therefore, he stood, hands in his jeans pockets, bookbag on his back, and waited a requisite three minutes, or at least until the professor showed up. Jonathan could at least speak to his professors.
He sighed. The next day was Saturday. The next day was Halloween—a much dreaded event in the Crane family. He contemplated a night of drinking scotch with his uncle, alone, while other kids his age had fun. Then, she arrived.
The door to the staircase swung open as if shoved by a great force, and the frame surrounded her like some kind of eighteenth century portrait. Of course Jonathan immediately looked away, but he looked long enough to know she wore a tight black shirt beneath a red hooded sweatshirt. Dark jeans covered up black boots on her feet, and her luminous black hair was pulled into a high ponytail on the top of her head.
His head swooned the closer she got, until she walked right past him, her crony, ugly Tanya, in tow. Angie said his name quietly, “Hey, Jonathan,” and damned if she didn’t wink before walking past him into class.
Unable to help himself, his head turned to watch her walk away, his head bobbing with every swing of her slim hips.
Then, a hand smacked his shoulder. “Take a picture, dude.”
“What?” He stood up straight.
Max, the theater department’s perpetual leading man, smirked. “She does fill out a pair of jeans, though, doesn’t she?” He made a clicking sound with his tongue and sauntered inside.
Damn it, Jonathan wanted to punch guys like Max Hedwig. Max was blond, buff, and confident as the biggest bull in mating season. If he wanted a girl, he got her. It made Jonathan’s stomach ache to think Max might go after Angie, but why wouldn’t he? She was fresh blood.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Crane. Coming to class today?”
“Yeah.” He shook his head, still dizzy from Angie’s arrival, and followed his professor inside.
Through the full hour of class, Jonathan swore he could smell Angie’s perfume: something floral with maybe a touch of vanilla? No, lavender? He was so busy trying to decipher her scent, he didn’t even notice class was over until other kids picked up their books.
He looked toward the front of the class.
“Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure.” His professor always wanted to talk to him; he was the guy’s favorite pupil.
“Would you be free tomorrow to throw a little something together for my kid’s Halloween recital? Just something small for behind the little ones. They’re dressing up like pumpkins. I’ll give you extra credit.”
Jonathan’s hands clasped tightly to the straps of his backpack. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I …” I’m not allowed to leave the house on Halloween. “I already have plans.”
“Well, it was just a thought. I imagine everyone has plans for tomorrow, it being Halloween and all.”
“Have fun then.”
Oh, how Jonathan hated Halloween. He practically stomped out of the classroom and into the hall, but then, a small, soft voice made him take pause. He turned, and Angie stood there, leaning against the wall in the near empty hallway.
“Hey.” She took a step toward him, and up close, he realized she couldn’t be over five-foot-five, couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. “Wanna go on a walk?”
He had trouble breathing. “Sure.”
They walked down the three flights of steps in silence and out into the late October air. It was practically frigid already; New York weather could be that way—unpredictable and generally cold. The majority of orange and red leaves had already fallen, leaving spindly skeletons in their wake. Yet the sky still burned blue, almost as blue as Jonathan’s eyes.
“So. I’m Angie.”
He laughed. “I know who you are.” He looked toward her, and she smiled, amused.
“And you’re Jonathan.”
“I am.” He nodded.
“You don’t talk much.”
“This is the most I’ve ever heard you say.”
She was picking on him, but he liked it.
“You’re designing the set for Macbeth.”
“I am. Are you auditioning?”
“Of course. Although there aren’t very many good female roles. Damn Shakespeare.”
“You could be a witch.”
“Only if they let me wear a fake, warty nose.”
“I hear they’re doing Electra next year. I think you’d be perfect in that role.”
She stopped walking, her feet half-planted in a pile of leaves discarded by the wind. “How do you know?”
“I know things.”
She smiled and kept walking. “I was wondering …”
“Well, I need a date.” She stopped walking again and turned to face him, halfway across College Green, in the direction of Main Street, Tarrytown.
“A date?” His head was in the clouds.
“Yeah.” She played with the locket around her neck. He wondered if it was a nervous tic. “To Max’s party tomorrow. I was hoping you would go with me.”
His head went from in the clouds to in the dumpster. Oh, Lord, he wanted to say yes. He wanted to say yes times one million. But … “I can’t. I don’t go out on Halloween.”
She looked like she’d been punched in the chest. “Oh. Okay.” She immediately smiled. “Well. I’ll see ya.” She spun on the heel of her boot and jettisoned herself toward home.
Jonathan held his fists to the sky and shook them. He buried his head in his hands, but if he could have buried his head like an ostrich in sand, he would have.
Part II goes live on Friday. Until then, have a wonderful evening! Scare some little kids for me!
When I first moved to Arizona, I discovered a wonderful holiday called Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The holiday is officially celebrated November1st, and it’s all about respect for the dead and remembering those we have lost. In Mexico, families travel to cemeteries with things like favorite dishes, favorite liquors, and sugar skulls (decorative candies in the shapes of skulls). Families leave these trinkets on the graves of their loved ones, and they basically hang out all day, telling stories, perhaps even weeping.
Although the holiday in itself comforts me, it is the imagery that fascinates me. Day of the Dead is all about calaveras—skeletons dressed as humans doing human things. They even have skeleton pets, and skulls, skulls, skulls. So of course, as an ode to this Mexican holiday I so adore, I decided to mix Day of the Dead with Halloween this year and become a walking sugar skull on Saturday night.
Hairstyle goddess Jessica did my hair; makeup genius Sabina (http://www.MakeupbySabina.com) painted my face. The painting took about an hour and a half. Costuming took about twenty minutes, while Jake had his own face painted to match mine. When all was said and done, when I was fully In Costume, I realized I felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of power. Was the corset cutting off oxygen to my brain? After weeks of being sick with the flu, did that first ginger and bourbon push me over the edge of Super Ego Land?
Nay. When I walked back into my living room, ready to hit the town, the eyes of those around me held the same shock and awe. It helped that my escort for the evening looked extraordinarily sexy, and together, we could hold a pose that would make a ghoul shiver in fright. Off we went to bar after bar, and never in my life have I felt so POWERFUL. There were men who looked at me in fear. There were men who asked me to dance, only to be rejected over and over. There were the girls who shrieked and fell down around me saying how amazing I looked. Then, there was Jake, and whenever I looked at him, I realized it wasn’t just me; there was something about being sexy and dead that really turned people on!
I plan to try and bring this sense of power to my daily life, especially since I suffer from social anxiety disorder, and my behavior Saturday night surprised even me. No, I probably won’t strut and cast bedroom eyes at, say, Safeway, but this Halloween weekend, I was reminded of what Halloween is all about: accepting and empowering an unfamiliar persona. In celebration of Day of the Dead, I came alive. I gave frightened men scalding glares. I danced, danced, and spun in my Flamenco skirt. Jake and I even won a costume contest for “Scariest Costume” and a two-night stay at a Vegas resort. There is power in being dead.
This was a spectacular Saturday night, not only because I won a prize but because I immersed myself in the culture I have come to love—that of Mexico and all its spooktacular holiday happenings. I became someone else—someone with power that vibrated and shook the sweet innocents who dared catch my eye. Oh, it was glorious. I’ll never forget the way it felt to be painted. I’ll never forget the extreme sexiness of my husband (even yesterday, when he still couldn’t get all the eye makeup to come off). I’ll never forget the POWER of being a ghoulish, dead goddess, all thanks to the imagination of hair and makeup artists and my sudden, inexplicable lack of fear.
And to think, there’s still Wednesday to look forward to …
Of course I saw Sinister. Of course I did. The trailer was enough to reel me in, as was a quote I saw on one such trailer: “This movie is going to f#@% a lot of people up.” Well said, reviewer. Well said. The first shot the audience gets is of four people being hung from a tree alive, two of whom are notably small children. And it only gets worse. Trust me.
Director Scott Derrickson has scared me before, in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The thing about Emily Rose was that it wasn’t gory or violent. It was the suspense that got ya, and Sinister is no different. It’s not like freakin’ Saw or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s a smart, psychological thriller that will probably give you nightmares.
Sinister follows a family to a new home. The father (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime writer, and he’s moved his family to a new city where a crime recently took place. He plans to write his masterpiece about this crime, which involved the hanging of four members of a family and the disappearance of the youngest daughter in said dead family. He hopes to unravel the murder mystery and find the missing little girl. What he doesn’t tell his wife is that they’ve actually moved into the house where the murder took place. Nice job, buddy.
While unpacking, Hawke discovers a box of old super 8’s in the attic. Being of curious mind, he watches them and soon realizes that each super 8 features the murder of a different family, spanning decades, but in each case, the family is murdered and one child ends up missing, never to be found. The super 8’s have clever, sick titles like “Yard Work” and “Pool Party.” You’ll understand why once you see the movie.
There is a supernatural element to all this, involving a strange figure that shows up in various places in each super 8. Who is this figure? How is he involved? And is he possibly still haunting the house where Hawke has knowingly moved his innocent family?
This is not a film for the highly sensitive. It’s not for people who dot their I’s with little hearts. This is a dark, SINISTER movie. Again, like Emily Rose, it’s not gory. It’s what you don’t see that scares you the most. Or it’s what you see just along the edges. My own imagination did most of the work, to be honest, because behind every dark corner, there is sure to be something lurking. Be certain of that.
Director Derrickson also wrote this film, and the writing is impeccable. The storyline is horror, sure, but there’s excellent mystery here. The actors (especially Hawke and Juliet Rylance, who plays his wife) are intense, believable, and spot on in their performances. There were several moments when Derrickson “got me”—moments when I would whisper “no, no, no,” and then latch onto my poor husband in the darkened theater. There were also a couple moments, however, when I wondered why Hawke didn’t get his family and get the hell out of that house. I mean, seriously, how bad can things get before you admit to yourself they’re TOO BAD? Suspension of disbelief; yeah, you’ll have to do a little of that to believe a father would really put his wife and kids in such peril.
In conclusion, it’s like I told my parents: “Mom, don’t see this movie; Dad, you’ll probably like this movie.” It’s all up to you. Keep in mind, though, this is the best time of year to be scared out of your wits, and Sinister guarantees at least that.
Know what I did last night? I went to the White Tanks Cemetery with the Glendale Paranormal Chasers to hunt some ghosts. Tim Schell is the leader of this brave team of afterlife sleuths. Tim is an ordained priest. He decided to go the way of the cloth not only in dedication to his religious beliefs but so that he would be able to perform exorcisms and house cleansings. Makes sense to me.
The White Tanks Cemetery is located about two feet from my house, and I had no idea. It’s off Camelback and Sarival, hidden down a dark street where no one wants to live. See, the people buried at the White Tanks Cemetery aren’t your usual Grandma Myrtle and Papa Sam. These are Jane and John Does. These are people who died and couldn’t afford funerals. That or no one came to claim the body. They are prison inmates in some cases. Basically, the people who “live” at the White Tanks Cemetery are arguably pretty unhappy to be there.
We met after dark (of course). Tim brought his whole team, which included his wife and kids. Tim and his wife, Sheila, bring their kids along on many of their ghost hunts because they don’t want their children to be afraid of what mama and papa do. Instead, they want their children to understand that ghosts are nothing to be afraid of, despite what Paranormal Activity would have you think.
In true ghost-hunter style, the team brought the required equipment, which included dowsing rods (used throughout history to find water), a digital voice recorder, and an EMF meter (to measure electromagnetic fields). Then, we set off to get our spook on.
There are several stories about the White Tanks Cemetery, told to me by the GPC, who experienced these stories first hand. In the past, ghosts have turned on flashlights laid on graves. Another spirit likes making the sound of a bell ringing. By the Porta Potty, there’s a bad dude who seems to guard the bathroom. According to Tim, whoever he is, he is not to be trifled with. He’s a mecca of bad energy, although of course, I made Tim take me over to where this angry ghost was known to hang out. Unfortunately, he was out haunting someone else last night.
We were followed down the fence line by a noisy ghost who liked to tap-tap along the fence as we went. When we asked his name, we heard on the digital recorder something that sounded like “Les,” and although the dowsing rods did a bit of dancing, Les didn’t have much else to say. One member of the team was touched; a ghost reached out and grabbed her shoulder. About that time, the team’s battery-operated equipment went dead, because apparently ghosts use energy to harness the strength to reach out and make contact.
Did I get goosebumps on the back of my neck last night? Did a ghost whisper in my ear? Did I feel a mysterious presence in my home when I returned to my husband and dog? No. I admit the noises along the fence were spooky. The word caught on tape could have been the wind. A team member receiving physical attention from beyond the grave? Well …
I asked the team last night if making contact with a ghost has anything to do with how “open” a person is to the experience. They said not necessarily. I asked if some people are more sensitive to spirits than others. They said definitely. Since nothing happened to me personally (nothing ever has, and hey, I went to school at one of the most haunted universities in the United States), it begs the question: Did the ghosts sense a skeptic? And when they sensed me did they decide to lay off for the evening? I hope I didn’t ruin the afterlife juju last night, but I must admit, I’m skeptical of all this stuff—always have been—and perhaps until I begin to broaden my horizons, I always will be.
I told Tim I’d be happy to join the Glendale Paranormal Chasers again at the White Tanks Cemetery, especially since it’s a rock’s throw from my front porch. It was a spooky good time, and I do love a spooky good time. Maybe next time, that mean guy at the Porta Potty will give me a shove on the shoulder. Maybe he’ll shout, “Hey, Dobie, we’re here and we’re real, you stupid girl!” Or … maybe not.
To learn more about the Glendale Paranormal Chasers, be sure to check them out on Facebook. Thanks for letting me tag along, guys! I look forward to our next hunt!
I know we’re in the midst of a vampire craze, what with Twilight and True Blood, et cetera, et cetera. I want you to know, I’ve been vampire-obsessed, however, since eighth grade, when I discovered Anne Rice and her epic Vampire Chronicles. No matter how much I shun popular culture’s current adoration of all things undead, I do love a good vampire flick, and oh, there are many. I could probably list about twenty worth seeing, but in the case of this blog post, I’m talking about the ones I can watch over and over. I present, for your consideration, my Top Five Best Vampire Movies of All Time.
5. Let the Right One In
Oh, you beautiful Swedes; what wonderful horror movies you make. America, of course, tried to make its own version of this flick (Let Me In) and failed miserably. Let the Right One In is about 12-year-old Oskar, who is constantly bullied to the point of violence. Then, this creepy chick moves in next door (Eli is twelve, but you know, she’s been twelve for, like, 200 years). Eli goes on a couple accidental killing sprees and bonds with Oskar. This film is gruesome and kind of strange, considering there’s little kid nudity (but she’s really 200, right?). That said, it’s spooky as hell and tells an outstanding story, which is what many vampire movies lack. Plus, the bad guys get theirs,’ and oh, is it ever sweet.
4. Interview with the Vampire
I already mentioned the Vampire Chronicles, so how could I not include the film based on Anne Rice’s Book One? This film follows Louis, a mournful vampire who is tired of eternity, played by a brown-haired Brad Pitt. He tells the story of his relationship with his maker, Lestat (a blond Tom Cruise) and their “daughter,” Claudia (Kirsten Dunst as a kid). There are so many attractive men in this movie, it’s easy to lose count. The costumes and settings are spectacular, and it’s all about character development and okay, yeah, some man-on-man attraction. It’s odd watching Brad and Tom in these roles, roles so out of character for both of them, and you gotta imagine they giggled through the absurdity of certain scenes. This one is less horror, more fun to watch, and I can watch it again, again, and again.
3. Fright Night (remake)
I don’t particularly like the eighties Fright Night (sacrilege, I know), but Chris Sarandon doesn’t do it for me after his role as Prince Humperdink, whereas Colin Farrell totally does it for me—and let’s face it, Farrell was born to play a vampire. So Charley suspects his neighbor, Jerry (Farrell), is a vampire, which of course he is. Charley seeks out the assistance of noted vampire killer Peter Vincent (played by the oh-so-hilarious David Tennant of Doctor Who fame), and they go hunting. This is traditional, modern horror, with good scream scenes, sex, and comedy. The comedy is just fabulous, because it can be horrible when modern vamp flicks take themselves too seriously. You’ll get a good laugh, but you’ll also be scared of the dark. What more could you want?
2. We Are the Night
I just found this one, and I can’t stop watching it. It’s a German film (again, gotta love those Europeans) about three vampire chicks in Berlin who have just welcomed a new member, Lena. In the world of We Are the Night, there are no male vampires (men are too showy, apparently), so women bond together and kill lots of human dudes. Lena happens to fall for one of said human dudes, and well, there’s lots of lesbian angst, carnage, and excellent techno music. This movie is sexy, dang it, with all the femme fatales running around. They make the undead lifestyle glamorous, and Lena’s hatred of her new existence is heavy and convincing. This is another one strong on character development with plenty of bloody death and a kick butt soundtrack. Thank you, Germany, thank you so much.
1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Save the best for last. Ahhhhhhhh, I could live in this movie, not that I want Dracula running around, but it sure is a beautiful world created by director Francis Ford Coppola. This one follows the story of Dracula in all its gratuitous, gory splendor. It features an all-star cast (most notably Sir Anthony Hopkins as a fearless Van Helsing and Gary Oldman as Dracula). I can’t get over the imagery, music, or atmosphere of this film. Every scene is like something out of a nineteenth-century boudoir photo. The acting is impeccable (except for Keanu Reeves; he sucks), there’s plenty of T and A, and the scene in the crypt with the baby gives me oogie-boogies just thinking about it. <shiver> If you like vampire movies, this is a must-see. If you just like Gary Oldman, see it. If you like movies in general, must see. How else can I make you understand? Just watch this movie, will ya?!