TRICK: a new 'Halloween' short story
November 1. 2:38am.
Vic spotted the older man first, zeroing in on the limping fellow as their van drove down the deserted Main Street. The man was hard to miss. Most of the town was hunkered down safely in their houses, doors and windows locked. The cops were on the other side of town. All of them. Something was going down—something big. And for a petty low-life piece of shit like Vic, that meant hunting season had officially begun. Billy and Johnny went along for the ride, and were down for pretty much anything, the thoughtless submissive pups that they were. They’d already seen some action earlier that night, messing with those trick or treaters by the Lost River Drive-In and smashing pumpkins along Meridian Avenue. That nosey old fuck Mrs. Elrod nearly called the pigs on them, but they managed to double-back to Vic’s van before the blind bitch could get a good look at their faces. Still, a part of Vic wanted to go back and do the Elrod hag. She was a miserable old bitty and everyone in Haddonfield knew it. Someday she’d get hers, Vic laughed as they sped off into the dark of a fading Halloween night.
Amped on booze and amphetamines, Vic wasn’t ready to call it a night just yet. And with the cops preoccupied with whatever was happening over on Orange Grove. As far Vic was concerned, Devil’s Night was over yet and there was still plenty of time—and opportunity—to get into some serious mischief. After they robbed the old dude, Vic thought they might hit up the hardware store. He knew it had been hit yesterday and no one would ever think it would be broken into twice in less than twenty-four hours. And Mr. Frost, the owner, was just stupid enough to have left the register full of cash. Worst case Vic figured, they could make off with a shit-ton of tools he could sell on the side.
The van circled the man twice. He walked slowly with a pronounced limp, dragging his right leg behind him as he walked. His footing was steady enough, so Vic knew the geezer wasn’t drunk or high, which would have made nabbing and robbing him that much easier. But still, how much of a fight could the gimp have in him?
On the second pass, Vic got a pretty good look at dude. He looked to be somewhere in his forties, approaching fifty. The man’s right hand clutched at his left side, near the ribs. His hands looked dirty, covered with some dark material. Grease maybe. Or just dirt. For a moment, Vic thought the dude might be homeless and wanted to call it off. What the fuck could they possibly steal off some nasty homeless fuck? Drugs maybe? Or maybe something else to drink. Vic’s flask went bone dry hours ago and he was feeling parched.
The van slowed as it approached the intersection of Main Street and Glendon Way. Billy and Johnny jumped out, closing the doors without making a sound. No sense alerting the old dude to their presence, Vic thought. Johnny twisted the handle on the back door and it turned. They were ready to go.
Johnny and Billy stalked the geezer from behind, matching his pace and keeping a safe distance of about fifty-feet. Vic drove along the curb and slowed to a crawl as he approached the gimp. He leaned over and rolled down the passenger side window.
“Hey! Hey you,” Vic shouted. “Mister! You need some help, mister?”
The gimp walked on as though he hadn’t heard, the lame leg dragging behind him on the leafy pavement. Johnny and Billy quickened their pace slightly. They had to be ready when Vic honked the horn. That was the signal to move on the geezer.
“Mister! Hey! I’m talking to you! Are you deaf or something, mister? Or just stupid,” Vic said.
The man stopped walking. And everything fell silent, except the sound of the man dragging his lame leg across the crunchy leaves until it met its counterpart. He stood motionless, still clutching at his side. Vic saw the blood then. It was spilling though the man’s fingers where the man clutched at his ribs. The droplets of blood hit the cold hard ground with a thud, sounding as loud as gunshots to Vic.
The man’s head shot to the side. His black eyes met Vic’s and a cold shiver ran up and down Vic’s spine. Vic gasped and recoiled as the man held his gaze with those cold, dark staring eyes. They’re so black, Vic thought. The devil’s eyes.
The sinking feeling in his stomach told Vic that this had been a bad idea, and the taste of iron in his mouth said he was a goner. Vic was going to call off the wolves. Honk the horn and pick up those degenerates. And fuck hitting the hardware store. Vic was done for the night. That fucking gimp had walked all over his grave and every bit of instinct Vic had told him he’d better haul ass or else.
Vic slammed on the brakes and pounded his hand against the horn. The horn blared, screaming through the still autumn night. In an instant, Johnny and Billy were on the gimp, seizing him from behind. The man’s body went limp to their touch. And all the while, the man’s black eyes never left Vic.
“Fuck,” Vic hollered. “No!”
But it was too late. A second later, the van’s rear doors flew open and Johnny and Billy tossed the gimp into the belly of the van. They hopped in and pulled the doors shut behind them. Vic took his foot off the brake and pumped the gas. The van sped off down Main Street like a bat of hell, speeding the hapless passengers closer and closer to their inevitable deaths.
“Come on! Grab the old fuck’s wallet,” Johnny said to Billy as they pat the gimp down.
“He doesn’t have one,” Billy said.
Vic shot his head around and eyed the scene for a second, before returning his attention to the road. “Forget it! We’re dumping him in the field by the drive-in.”
Johnny and Billy turned the man out for something worth taking, something that would make this all worthwhile, but came up empty. The gimp had nothing on him—no wallet, no pills, no weed, no powder, no booze, no condoms. Not even a snotrag. In short, the gimp had absolutely nothing on him but the dirty coveralls on his back and boots on his feet.
“Nothing, Vic! The dude’s got nothin,” Johnny cried. "Just this stupid mask." He tossed the pale mask in the corner.
“Fuck,” Billy said. “I couldda used a hit of somethin.”
Vic wanted to feel relief but couldn’t. The drive-in was about a minute down the road. They’d dump this weird fucker out and in half an hour, Vic would be under the covers trying to forget those eyes. Those black, lifeless eyes that chilled Vic to the bone.
“Fuck it. We’re dumping him,” Vic said.
The van’s headlights flashed on the entrance to the drive-in. The field was just around the bend a couple of hundred yards. A few more minutes, and it would all be over, Vic thought. Indeed, it would.
Johnny gave the gimp one final pat down, and this time his hands struck something hard beneath the man’s coveralls. “Wait, hold up. Whaddaya know, the dude’s got something on him after all.”
Vic’s blood turned to ice. “What?”
“I dunno. Give me a second. Let me see if I can—”
The man grabbed Johnny by the throat so powerfully he crushed the kid’s windpipe. Johnny wheezed and struggled for air, kicking his feet and punching at the man. But the man only tightened his grip around Johnny’s throat, squeezing until a loud crack signaled that the boy’s neck had been snapped. The boy gave one final cry and his body went limp. The man tossed it aside so easily it might have been a ragdoll and not the body of a human teenaged boy.
“Johnny,” Billy cried. The man’s head snapped to the side, catching Billy in his sights. “Oh fuck. Oh fuck.”
The man painlessly rolled up to his feet and dropped the bloody hand that had been clutching at his side, revealing the bulky handle of what was surely a long kitchen knife that was buried deep in his side. Slowly, he pulled the silver blade out of his body.
“Shit, Vic. Shit.”
Vic turned in time to see the shimmering bloody blade slice clean through the supple flesh of Billy’s neck. The walls of the van sprayed red with Billy’s warm blood as he fell to his knees, making a series of gurgling noises and grunts as he drowned in his own blood. The man watched as the life ran out of Billy’s eyes, tilting his head to the left and then to the right to observe how the boy died. Billy’s lifeless body crashed against the blood-soaked wall of the van and slowly slid to the ground beside the other recently deceased teenager.
Vic slammed on the brakes. The van screeched, and the tires screamed. His body lurched forward against the steering wheel. In the mirror, the black Shape of the man fell forward into the darkness and out of view. Vic’s heart raced, the blood pumping through his veins a mile a minute. He put the van in park and shot through the door, running for his life.
The van’s rear doors burst open and The Shape jumped out. Vic turned, screaming as he saw the man slip a stupid white Halloween mask over his face. A second later, The Shape closed in on him. The bloody knife shimmered under the moonlight with every step.
He’s not limping, Vic thought. It was a trick. It was all a fucking trick. He wanted the van. We weren’t hunting him, he was hunting us the whole time. He fucking hid that knife in his side.
Vic ran as fast as he could, trying desperately to put distance between him and The Shape, but it was no use. He couldn’t outrun the evil that had returned to Haddonfield that Halloween night.
The Shape grabbed a handful of Vic’s greasy and whipped his head back. The knife tore through Vic’s back as easily as if it was buttering toast and burst through his heart. A stream of blood poured from Vic’s open mouth as The Shape eased the knife out of the boy’s body. Vic fell onto his back, his hand trying to cover the mortal wound in his chest. A steady flow of blood gushed down his chest, soaking through his faded KISS tee shirt, turning the band’s white faces to crimson with every lub dub of Vic’s heart.
Vic’s head rolled to the side, long enough to see The Shape slamming the van doors shut and climbing into the driver’s seat before everything faded to a cold black.
The van turned back onto Main Street. It could hear the sirens now. No doubt they’d discovered some of his treats. Maybe tomorrow they’d stumble onto the one it had just left for them behind the drive-in. It would save the two in the back of the van for something more special. Maybe a stop on the interstate. It needed a change of clothes and could do with some rest.
Another Halloween was over, and as the van made its way to the border, a sign read—You are now leaving Haddonfield. Come back and see us again real soon.
It would come back home. Evil always finds its way back home. It would hide until it was ready to strike again, biding its time. Waiting. Watching. They'd be looking for it again. The doctor and that sheriff. Others too. It would have to disappear for a little while, just long enough so they forget what death is. Long enough so they stop believing in the Boogeyman. And the moment they drop their guard, it would be there. Ready to kill.
Haddonfield grew smaller in the rearview mirror, the small town ablaze with flashing red and blue lights. Tonight’s body count had risen to fifteen including Vic, Johnny and Billy. But one had gotten away, put up one hell of a fight and slipped right through its savage fingers. She would never forget and knew it would come back for her eventually. And she’d be ready for it with a trick of her own.
“Happy Halloween, Michael,” Laurie said. “See you next year.”