Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Short Story by Yvonne Yourkowski

Today I get a visit from Yvonne Yourkowski a Canadian mystery writer.  She graces us with a short Halloween story.

The street lights cast an eerie glow as Lacy’s heels echoed through the empty streets. She wrapped her arms around her thin frame, trying to control the shivers, as mist gently fell around her. It had been three years of hell working at the 50’s diner. Bikers and truckers were their main customers; and from Lacy’s experience, they were the dregs of society. She gently rubbed her bruised ass and grimaced.

A loud clatter in a nearby alley caused Lacy to jump and her heel slipped. Arms flailed as she fell toward the towering lamp post. As her arm and the post made contact she cursed, “I can’t wait till I have enough money for a car.” Lacy cradled her sore arm and quickly continued toward home.
A large park loomed ahead; and Lacy braced herself for the worst part of the journey. Orange and brown leaves lay scattered along the path and crunched as she entered. The abundance of branches kept the park dry. Skeleton arms reached down trying to scrape the back of her neck. Lacy swung her head back and forth, trying to walk calmly, dodging the lowest hanging branches. The town really needed to trim these, it was dangerous when someone was there after dark. The branches seemed to blend into the night until some unsuspecting victim wandered in at their own peril.

The noise reverberating around Lacy didn’t instill any courage in her already shivering body. It seemed like ages before Lacy stepped into the street and sighed in relief. Only a few more blocks and she would reach the safety of her house. Pumpkins and skeletons peered down at her from the houses and trees she ran by. Once in a while, a motion sensor activated and an ear-piercing scream scared the crap out of her. Halloween was the worst holiday, in Lacy’s opinion, and the sooner it was over the better.

Her earliest memories of Halloween were of Jack, her oldest brother, stealing her candy and trying to scare her. If she woke up with nightmares he just laughed and celebrated attaining his goal, tormenting his little sister. For most of her childhood, Lacy’s relationship with Jack was marred from those experiences. It was just lately that they had started to communicate and become family again.
Her roommates were the ones that loved to hand out candy to the excited children. Lacy had to admit some of the kids brought a smile, when she ventured into the living room to watch. Lacy felt her muscles start to loosen as a few other people wandered into her view. It was usually safer in numbers.
Lacy had made a deal with her roommates, decorations were ‘outside only’. She knew it was a ridiculous fear but nothing could stop it. The smothering feeling overcame her as she stepped through the hanging spider webs; Lacy was grateful the girls had shown some restraint. There were no
gruesome, or horrific, objects obstructing her path to the door. Their yard was pretty tame compared to some neighbours. The girls had been accumulating decorations over the couple of years they’ve lived here, and the neighbours were getting more outrageous as well.

Music could be heard through the door; and Lacy laughed when Ariel’s voice belted out the words.

“This is new.” Lacy said, bending down to pick up a striped box. She gave it a little shake hearing something hit the sides. There was no card indicating who sent it. Lacy balanced the box while trying to reach into her pocket for keys. She squeaked as the box tipped over and plummeted to the ground with a thump.

“Damn. Hopefully it wasn’t breakable. Hey Girls!” Lacy tried yelling over the music. Ariel and Samantha, Sam for short, were dancing and singing in the living room. All three girls had attended the same school and agreed living together after graduation was the best outcome of their friendship. Lacy couldn’t help laughing as she watched.

“Is anyone expecting a package?” she asked, holding up the box.

Ariel reached over and turned down the volume shaking her head. “Where was it?” she asked.

“On the porch.”

“Well open it!” Sam said excitedly.

“Are you sure?” Lacy said, eyeing the box suspiciously. “Who could this be from?”

The girls crowded around Lacy talking all at once.

“Fine, fine.” Lacy said pushing past them carrying the box into the kitchen and setting it on the counter. She reached into a drawer pulling out a pair of scissors and cut the tape. As Lacy carefully removed the lid, a smell wafted towards them.

“Oh gross, what is that?” Ariel demanded.

Lacy scrunched her nose, as the lid came free, and they all peered in. She screamed, and backed up, holding a hand over her heart. A dead mouse, it better be dead, stared out at them.

“Well look at that.” Sam said, with a giggle.

“It’s not funny!” Lacy screeched.

The girls tried to hold in their grins.

“One of the guys were probably just trying to scare us. Don’t let them know it worked.” Ariel said.

“That was really cruel…I’m going to my room.” Lacy stomped out of the kitchen. This was turning out to be just like her childhood, no wonder she hated Halloween.

Lacy tossed and turned as she tried sleeping. The image of a dead mouse would not leave her head. There were mice running across her vision every time her eyes closed. A scraping sound on the window made her jump out of bed. What the hell could that be? Lacy thought, as she slowly pulled the curtain back just enough to peek through. It was pitch black and the only thing she could see were shadows. A sharp finger shot out of the dark and Lacy squealed dropping the curtain. She looked back out and groaned in disgust, it was a tree branch. She would be calling tomorrow to get that trimmed.

Lacy climbed back into bed pulling her blanket up over her head. She really wished every little thing didn’t make her jump, but it seemed to be wired into her DNA.

Morning came too soon; and Lacy slammed her hand down on her alarm with a hiss. She was disoriented for a moment, why did she set her alarm? Lacy looked at the time, stumbled out of bed, and into the shower. She was having brunch with her mother. It wasn’t usually a burden to visit with her but after last night Lacy was a little sensitive; and it was a foregone conclusion Jack would be part of the discussion. “Why couldn’t they get along? It was ages ago?” They just didn’t have anything in common.

There was no sign of the box when Lacy walked into the empty kitchen. She chugged back a glass of orange juice before grabbing her purse and heading out. Lacy made it to the end of the sidewalk before letting out a gasp. Across the sidewalk lay a prone body, she used the toe of her shoe and poked it looking for movement. As Lacy looked closer, she saw that a dummy lay in front of her. She slowly walked around searching for clues as to who left it; there was no one else on the streets.
“For crying out loud, what is going on?” Lacy demanded, kicking the body and stomping back to the house. She slammed the door open and yelled, “Sam, Ariel are you awake!”

She waited a few minutes before there was rustling and groaning from above and two sleepy faces peered down at Lacy.

“What?” They asked.

“Come outside, we have another present.” Lacy turned around not waiting for a response.

The girls scrambled down the stairs, hurrying after Lacy, and skidded to a halt, almost running into the prone form.

“What the hell is that?” Ariel asked.

“I don’t know, and I’m getting worried about these creepy gifts. Help me drag this to the garbage.” Lacy leaned down grabbing one of the disjointed arms. The body flipped over and she grimaced as a blooded face looked up at her.

“Let’s put this in the yard, so they will see we’re not bothered by this.” Sam said.

“No way do I want this here.” Lacy disagreed, vehemently, shaking her head.

“I agree with Sam. Come on Lacy.”

Lacy gazed between the two before groaning, “Fine, but I don’t want anything to do with it. And not right by the sidewalk. I’m gone.” Lacy dropped the body and walked toward the bus stop. She fumed, all the way, about assholes and who the hell was doing this. Of course Lacy was late for the bus, because of the body, and she had to run after it. She collapsed in the only empty spot beside an elderly woman who looked and sounded like she was on her last leg. The moment the bus lurched forward the lady began to hack up a lung and then proceeded to try and shake Lacy’s hand.

“My name is Shauna, what is yours.” the woman said.

“I’m Lacy.” She was able to avoid the handshake and sighed in relief.

They discussed multiple topics until Lacy was able to escape to meet with another disaster waiting to happen.

“It’s great to see you!” Lacy’s mom grabbed her in a big hug as soon as she entered the café.

“You too, mom. How’s it going?” Lacy said, setting her purse on the floor and sitting down. She felt a jerk as someone passed behind her chair; looking around there were no empty chairs available and space was limited. Lacy quickly scanned her menu hoping to beat the rush.

“So how is everything going? I haven’t heard much from you lately?”

“I’ve been busy, mom. The diner has been nuts and I started the class at the college.”

“What are you taking?” her mom asked, leaning forward pushing the menu away.

“Just an English class, I haven’t decided what I want to do yet.”

“Well you just keep working at it. You’ll do great whatever you pick.” Her mom said encouragingly. They sat quietly, contemplating the menus, as servers ran back and forth. Her mom was the first to break the silence, “So have you talked with Frank lately?”

Lacy gave a huge sigh and stared at her mother. “Really mom. You know the answer to that.”

“I just wanted to hear your side of it.” She said defensively.

“Please let it be. We are working on it but things like this take time.”

“He’s your brother.”

“I know, that’s why I’m trying; otherwise, he would be out on his ass.”

“Watch your language.” She said frowning into her menu.

“Sorry. It’s frustrating having you ask every time I see you.”

“I love both of you so much. I want you to be happy. Let’s talk about something else O.K.”

Lacy left the café in a better mood than when she arrived. After the first initial conflict the rest of their visit had been pleasant. Her mother was busy with her church bee and volunteering, and her dad still loved tinkering in the garage. None of them ever knew what he was doing; the first sign of an invasion and he would holler to leave him alone. Of course, when he finally would come out he had made something outstanding with wood or metal. Lacy had quite a few things throughout her house from him that she was very proud of. Many of her friends complimented the intricacies and the hard work that was put into each piece. Lacy slowed down as she reached the house and hoped maybe the girls had decided to get rid of the body instead of torturing her. She was almost to the house when it came into view. Of course there it was, in plain view, disgusting and scary. The house was quiet so Lacy used the time to try and catch up on her reading; tonight they would be discussing their assignments and correcting them. Lacy enjoyed the class, she was able to use her intellect, not like at the diner. No one wanted to talk; it was stuffing their face, and harassing her, that they enjoyed the most. She was finishing cooking spaghetti when Sam and Ariel walked into the kitchen.

“Looks good Lacy. Don’t you have your class tonight?” Ariel asked as she grabbed the dishes out of the cupboard.

“Yeah, I have to leave in an hour. The buses suck at nighttime, it adds an extra half hour on my travel time.”

“You know you can borrow my car.” Sam said.

“I’m fine, I don’t want to take your ride. Eat up.”

Lacy felt her eyes close, and gave herself a shake, as the teacher droned on about adverbs and verbs. Her body was telling her the sleepless night was catching up with her. As soon as she got home it was bedtime, she thought. Lacy was able to stay awake for the rest of the class and even answered a few questions. She dreaded having to wait for the bus and then travel miles out of the way until it reached her stop.

“Wait up Lacy.” A girl called out.

“How’s it going?” Lacy asked.

“Pretty good. Do you want a ride tonight? I have to go through your area, I’m going to see my parents.”

“That would be great! I wasn’t looking forward to the ride tonight. Thanks.”

Lacy arrived home in record time, and she collapsed into bed with a grateful sigh. She had to work
tomorrow night so hopefully she would be able to sleep in or else it would be a long shift.
A loud knocking pulled Lacy from her pleasant dream, and she struggled to untangle herself from the blankets almost falling onto the floor in the process. She looked at the clock and saw it blinking 11:00. Who could that be? Lacy thought, quickly dragging some clothes on, as the guest kept up their insistent pounding. She peered through the peephole and saw a young, pimply faced boy, in a courier outfit, staring back at her.

“Yes?” Lacy asked.

“I have a package for Lacy.” He squeaked, holding out a small box.

Lacy almost denied her name, as she remembered the dead mouse, but instead she asked, “Who is it from?”

The boy squinted at his screen and then at the package, “It’s from a secret admirer. I need you to sign so I can get going.” He held out the computer and pen. Lacy slowly signed the screen and took the box closing the door. She walked into the kitchen and put the box on the table. Lacy sat staring at it trying to decide if she should open it. Only two more days until Halloween and then it would all be over, but until then Lacy would just have to suck it up. With shaking hands, Lacy undid the ribbon and opened the box. Inside lay what used to be a Barbie doll. It reminded her of the dolls from the first Toy Story and the cruel little boy. Should she call the police? Could they really do anything? A clock chimed 11:30 and Lacy put the package on the fridge and hurried to her room. She had to shower and get ready for work, she couldn’t be late. The last server that was late had been yelled at in front of the all the customers; Lacy didn’t need that right now.

After putting on her uniform, Lacy rummaged through the fridge looking for something appetizing. She pulled out some cheese and grabbed a couple slices of bread, a grilled cheese sounded like a good idea.

Lacy pulled her jacket closed as the wind whipped around her blowing the leaves up in front of her and landing in their yard. It should make Sam and Ariel happy; they would have more stuffing for their Halloween bags and characters. Lacy had to walk fast to make it in time; and she saw her boss in front of the clock as she stepped into the diner with five minutes to spare. For a Friday night there were quite a few customers throughout the room. If this was any indication, Lacy would be kept running her feet off.

Lacy groaned as she rubbed her sore feet. Everyone in the city must have come through this place tonight. She stared down at the plate of food in front of her and debated if she really wanted to eat it. Her stomach growled and Lacy smiled, her body had decided. She began shoveling the potatoes in, barely tasting the food, she wanted to get home. Last night had been a great start to catching up with her sleep but she still needed another good night. Lacy waved to the staff on her way out and tried to see if there was anything waiting for her in the dark. Seeing nothing threatening Lacy hurried home, she would also need to deal with her new doll. The girls would of course tell her to forget about it, nothing seemed to bother them, but Lacy was probably going to call the cops tomorrow.

“Hey Lacy how was work?” Ariel asked from the kitchen.

“Busy.” Lacy answered rubbing her back. “Where’s Sam?”

“She went out for a while.”

“What are you doing?”

“Just grabbing a snack and may be watching a movie.”

“You’re not going out tonight?” Lacy bugged Ariel, grabbing a handful of popcorn.

It was unusual for Ariel to be at home on a weekend, she was never lacking for friends or invites to parties.

“No, I feel like hanging out here tonight. Do you want to watch with me?”

“Sure. But before we do I want to show you what I got today.” Lacy said, pulling down the box.

“You got another gift?”

Lacy grimaced, “I wouldn’t call this a gift. I’m getting worried.” Ariel leaned forward and gasped, “Who sent that?”

“I don’t know, it just said a secret admirer.”

“How did it come? Did you find it outside again?”

“No, it came by courier.”

“I think you should call the police tomorrow.”

Lacy sighed with relief, “I’m glad you said that. I thought you might say I’m overreacting.”

“No, that’s three times now. Why don’t you put that away and come watch with me, get your mind off all of this.

Lacy was drifting off when a noise shattered the quiet.

What the heck was that? It was probably the girls downstairs. Sam had shown up when Lacy had been going to bed, and she and Ariel were staying up for a while. A scream came from below along with a thump. They better not be trying to scare her, Lacy thought, grabbing her house coat. Her door opened with a screech and she winced as she stepped through. It was dark downstairs, the T.V was playing quietly. There were no other noises filtering up. Lacy was getting nervous, she tiptoed closer to the banister and peered down. No movement, so she proceeded downstairs trying to avoid the squeaky steps. At the bottom step, Lacy sighed in relief glancing into the living room. She clamped her hand across her mouth in horror, Ariel lay on the floor her head at an unusual angle. What the hell was going on? Lacy whipped her head around at the sound of footsteps. Where was Sam? Was that her? Lacy walked toward the noise, dread filling her. Maybe she shouldn’t be doing this, should she run? This is stupid, but she continued. The kitchen was ahead, a light shining under the door. She hesitated before pushing gently on the door. This time she couldn’t stop the scream from bursting forth. Sam was propped up in a kitchen chair, her throat cut. Lacy glanced wildly around looking for the intruder. Who could have done this? Why? Were they responsible for the packages?

A hand snaked around the door and closed over Lacy’s mouth yanking her against a large body. A warm breath feathered across her cheek as a voice whispered, “Well, well look what we have here.” Lacy tried screaming, but his fingers held back the scream. Her struggles were useless, he was too strong.

Lacy woke up in a trunk and screamed until she was hoarse. The movement of the vehicle would throw her body against the side, once in a while, making her wince. As they came to a stop, she couldn’t stop the terror from filling her body. What was going to happen to her? She peered into the darkness looking for a weapon but the trunk was empty. Lacy held her breath hoping for a miracle and the lid swung up. Her captor wore a mask, and all Lacy could make out was a man with broad shoulders and a stomach to match. He pulled her out by the arms and set her down facing a large house. Lacy gazed around at her surroundings while the man shut the lid.

They were on the edge of the city on one of the acreages. A long, winding driveway was behind her and a walkway was in front. He still hadn’t said a word and Lacy demanded, “Where are we? What are you going to do to me?”

The man just grunted, and clamped a firm grip on her arm, as he pushed her to the waiting house. Towering trees surrounded the house and lights twinkled in most of the windows. Lacy heard a dog bark somewhere from within and couldn’t control the shiver that ran down her spine. She struggled briefly and the man barked “No!” and wrenched her body closer to him. Lacy blinked back the tears and stumbled up the steps toward the waiting door. The door swung open and Lacy was pushed in, to the shouts of “Surprise!”

Shock paralyzed Lacy as she stared at Sam and Ariel, grinning, in front of her and a large crowd behind.

“No, no it’s not possible.” Lacy said, in horror, tears streaming down her face. She whipped her head around and glared at the man behind. He had taken off his mask and a familiar face grinned back. “Happy Halloween.” He said.

The huge gash across Sam’s neck was very well applied; even up close it looked real. Lacy wasn’t sure how Ariel had broken her neck but she was great now. Lacy could feel the anger rise and knew if she didn’t leave words would be said. She looked once more at her friends, turned around, and walked out.

Ariel and Sam raced after Lacy and caught up at the bottom of the stairs.

“Come on, Lacy, where are you going?”

“Anywhere but here!” Lacy swiped her tears away. “You’re supposed to be my friends.”

“We’re sorry Lacy. We wanted you to have some fun at Halloween. There’s a party inside. Come on.” Ariel coaxed.

“You think having me see you dead and putting me in a trunk would be fun?”

“We’re sorry, please. We were trying to get you in the spirit.” Sam chimed in.

Both girls latched onto either side of Lacy and started propelling her toward the house.

“I am still really mad at you!” Lacy said, as they dragged her toward the waiting music.

Yvonne's first novel is Murder from Beyond the Grave

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