"The Haunting of Johnny and Roy..."
It's Halloween night and Johnny and
Roy pull duty
at an isolated station near the coast.
What happens as the moon comes out
and witching hour draws near???
A Kindred-Spirits.net IA
JoAnne was not happy when Roy told that her Johnny had somehow gotten himself and Roy posted at an isolated station near the coast. That meant that he was not going to be able to help with the Halloween party this year, which was to be held at their house.
How Johnny had managed to do that in the first place, Roy was still trying to figure out.
"Come on, Roy, don't look so glum, at least we know that we won't get bothered where we're going," Johnny said over the top of his coffee cup.
Roy lowered the newspaper he had been reading.
"Look, Johnny...don't try and get on my good side. JoAnne isn't happy with you right now and for that matter...neither am I. You knew it was our turn to host the Halloween party at our house this year. And JoAnne was going to need all our help. I just want to know one thing...how in the world did you get us stationed at the only station that hardly gets any calls? Especially on Halloween night?" Roy asked, as he watched Johnny's face turn a funny shade of red.
"Well ya’ see, Roy... uh...I...uh...made a bet with the guys and lost," Johnny said, squirming in his seat.
"Oh, THAT explains everything," Roy grumbled. "Tell you what, Junior...the next time you make a bet with somebody, make sure I'm not included in it!" Roy snapped, as he lifted his newspaper to ignore Johnny again.
"Roy, I can't believe you're acting this way," Johnny said, as he set down his cup and leaned forward.
Roy lowered the paper so that only his eyes were showing, raised his eyebrows and then snapped the paper back up.
"Boy...you try and show your partner that you care and this is the gratitude I get," Johnny complained, as he leaned back in the chair.
The shuffle of footsteps and the sound of voices sounded as the rest of "A" shift showed up for their morning coffee.
"So Roy, I hear you and Johnny volunteered to man the station out near the Cliffs this year," Chet said, as he smiled at Mike.
"No, Chet, you heard wrong. I didn't volunteer. My-so-called partner there decided that I shouldn't help my wife with this year's Halloween party that's going to be at MY house," Roy responded, without lowering the paper.
"Well, you know, Roy...there has been a lot of talk about that area being haunted and all. Lots of other guys who have worked THAT station said they have had weird dealings with some of the calls," Chet said, as he winked in Mike and Marco’s direction.
"Chet, please don't get Johnny started!" Roy growled, as he lowered his paper and gave him a dirty look.
"What? I'm only telling you what I heard from the other guys," Chet countered with mock innocence as he looked to see if Johnny was paying attention.
"What are you talking about, Kelly? I haven't heard anything about any problems at that station," Johnny said, as Chet now had his full attention.
"Johnny, all I'm saying is that a lot of the guys from other stations have had...hauntings. Whenever any of them go on a run out there, they seem to encounter...THINGS! Real STRANGE THINGS!" Chet said as his Phantom smile slowly crept out.
"You are joking aren't you?' Johnny asked.
"Nope," Chet replied.
"Guys, cut it out so we can eat!" Capt. Stanley said as Marco served breakfast.
"Roy, what time do we leave again?' Johnny asked.
"In about an hour," Roy replied.
"Better be careful Johnny! There's going to be a full moon tonight!' Chet said.
"Shut up Chet!" Johnny said with annoyance in his voice.
"Man I hope Chet's wrong!" Johnny said.
"Did he spook you?" Roy asked as he pulled up to a little station surrounded by beautiful countryside.
"No!" Johnny denied as he got out.
Sure, Junior... Roy thought.
Inside the little station was small, but well stocked.
Checking every cabinet, Johnny was happy with the items he found.
"Ya’ know Roy, I could stay here a week and never go hungry," Johnny said as he closed the last cabinet door.
"Johnny, don't get carried away. We're only staying tonight and tomorrow night," Roy said as he pulled out a chair.
"Hey, Roy, maybe we'll make it through the night and not get any calls the whole time we're here," Johnny said as he went to check out the surroundings. Roy could only hope that their two nights were quite ones. He didn't think that he would be able to deal with any pranks from Johnny or anything else that might happen at this station.
As night fell, the mist rolled in from the sea and seemed to engulf the firehouse. The two paramedics were absorbed in the books and papers that they had brought along with them when the phone rang, jarring both their nerves.
Jumping to his feet Johnny answered the phone before it could ring again. "Hello?"
"Yes, this is the fire station. Do you have an emergency?" he asked as he reached for a piece of paper and pen.
"Okay," he wrote down the address as he listened.
"Okay, that's 1313 Mockingbird Lane," Johnny confirmed.
"Roy, we have a rescue...a person stuck in a tree at 1313 Mockingbird Land. Sounds kind of kooky to me, Johnny said as he and Roy headed for the squad.
"There it is," Johnny pointed to a large, rusty mailbox barely visible amidst the scraggly bushes that had grown up around it.
As Roy turned into the driveway, he exchanged a look of apprehension with his partner. The driveway was heavily lined with huge trees whose thick branches formed a dark canopy that reached down like bony fingers. Finally, they reached the house. No lights were visible in any of the windows.
Johnny swallowed hard and opened his door. He walked back to the equipment compartments and pulled out a large flashlight. He reached for a second one as Roy rounded the back of the squad. As he switched it on, Johnny turned toward the house, his expression clearly showing his reluctance to go any closer.
Roy noticed Johnny's hesitation and grinned slightly to himself. He leaned over and whispered, "Boo!", in his partner's ear. The result was better than he expected.
Johnny jumped back with a loud, "Aaaaaahhhhh!", and dropped his flashlight. He closed his eyes, clutched his chest, and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, he found the culprit grinning at him. "Roy! What did you do that for!
You almost gave me a heart attack!" he elaborated by placing his hand back on his chest.
"I couldn't resist. You looked like you were expecting a ghost at any moment so I tried to oblige," Roy shrugged, unable to stop his chuckles.
"I did not! I was just scoping things out -- trying to be careful."
"Sure, sure," Roy drawled. He gave Johnny a knowing look and began to walk toward the house. After a moment, Johnny followed behind.
Roy felt like he was walking into one of those old creepy movies with Johnny following closely behind in his footsteps. He kept turning around checking behind them. Roy stopped suddenly when he heard an owl hoot from the trees. Johnny bumped into him and Roy had to laugh to himself when Johnny seemed ready to jump into his arms.
*Flutter... flap... scrap...* "Who...who...."
"Hey, Roy, did you hear that?" Johnny asked as he looked around at the tree limbs hanging down on the way to the house.
"Johnny, just calm down. It's just an ow,." Roy said as he checked to make sure there wasn't anything moving around them.
"Roy, you hear that? Sounds like it's coming from over there in that tree," Johnny said as he took a closer step towards Roy.
"Johnny, I didn't hear anything," Roy said as he craned his neck. "The only thing I hear is the wind blowing through the trees."
"I'm tellin you, Roy, there's someone in one of these trees," Johnny said as he did a 180-degree turn with his flashlight, ending up in Roy’s face.
"I don't like this at all." Johnny’s eyes got as large as saucers. "Nope, don't like it all..." Johnny repeated. He aimed the beam of his flashlight upward and strained his eyes to see if he could spot the source of the noise. He knew, without a doubt, that there was some 'thing' lurking in those branches.
"Would you put that flashlight down?" Roy asked, becoming rather annoyed at his jumpy partner. "We're on a call. Let's just see..."
A loud *creeeeeeeeeaking* sound coming from the front of the house silenced Roy.
Already on edge, Johnny jumped at the sound and wheeled around on the ball of his heels. The white light from his flashlight illuminated the tall, formidable figure that filled the doorway.
Johnny stood with his mouth hanging open. The guy was huge, another Lurch from the Adams Family. Swallowing hard, Johnny managed to squeak out the words: "We're from the fire department...we had a report of someone trapped in a tree."
"Mr Crouthers went up in that tree," the second Lurch explained pointing to a tree just in front of Johnny and Roy. "He slipped and fell."
"I told you I heard someone," Johnny hissed at Roy, before turning his attention to the aforementioned tree.
"Have you talked to him at all since he fell?" Roy questioned, adding his flashlight beam to Johnny's.
"No, sir. Mr Crouthers wouldn't talk out here." He stopped and looked around as if making sure no one else was listening. "He wouldn't want them to know what he was doing," he whispered before stepping back into the house.
"Well, can you tell us which tree he…" Johnny began, just as the door to the old house shut with a thud.
The two men looked at each other and shrugged. "Well, why don’t I go knock on the door again and ask some questions and you go look over in the tree near where you heard the sound," Roy offered.
Johnny swallowed. "Um, why me, Roy?"
"Well, you’re the one who heard the sound, aren’t you?" Roy gave Johnny a sober look and turned towards the house, missing the look of apprehension on Johnny’s face.
"But…" Johnny watched Roy walked towards the house, and then turned back towards the group of trees behind him.
The beam of his flashlight barely cut through the thick, damp mist, and the limbs made peculiar shadows as he shined the beam up into the branches. They didn’t even appear branch-like in the mist. They were more like fingers, talons, bones.
Johnny listened intently for another sound coming from the trees, but heard nothing. There was not even a breeze stirring the air. Behind him, he heard only the gentle, rhythmic sounds of the waves hitting the rocks on the beach below. It was calming and hypnotic, restful.
Johnny held tight to his flashlight this time, but stiffened, and sucked in his breath. His fist tightened around his flashlight as his palm began to sweat.
The sound came from directly above him. "Ooooooooo…"
He hesitated briefly before shining the flashlight up into the trees. "C’mon, Gage, don’t be such a wimp." He could almost hear Chet’s voice in his head chastising him. He brought the flashlight up near his ear and swung the beam in a broad arc into the branches of the tree. Seeing nothing, he repeated the process.
"Hello? Can you hear me? Are you hurt? I’m here to help you, but you have to tell me where you are." Johnny spoke up into the tree, hoping his voice wouldn’t betray the fact that he was spooked beyond belief. Again, the sound came from the tree, but again, Johnny saw nothing.
What is he doing in that tree, anyway? I thought he fell out, he thought to himself, suddenly remembering the words of the tall creepy guy in the house. Johnny shined the light down into the grass and gasped at the sight of blood beneath his feet. The blood drops made a trail along a path that led to a small hill...with a rather large tree on it. Johnny approached it very slowly.
This isn't the time to flip out! I've got to stay professional! Johnny thought as he neared the large oak. The blood trail became thicker as he came to trunk of the tree. Then he heard a strange noise and jumped backwards.
A small, wizened, old man stepped out from behind the tree, shading his eyes from the strong glare of Johnny's flashlight. His right shirtsleeve was torn and soaked with blood.
"M-Mr. Crouthers?" Johnny sputtered nervously.
"Sh-h-h!" the old man whispered sharply, looking around. He turned back to Johnny, beckoning the young man to follow as he began to walk further up the path.
Johnny gave serious thought to turning back to get Roy, but the paramedic in him was concerned with the amount of blood coming from the old man's injured arm. He gave himself a mental shake and forged ahead.
He stopped searching for a moment to listen, thinking that he would be able to hear the rustle of the leaves on the ground if Johnny was moving around nearby. There was only silence.
Roy began another sweep and froze as his light hit the blood on the ground. Truly worried about his partner now, he followed the trail of drops into the night. As he followed the drops of blood down the path, the sound of a shrill scream stopped him cold. Not knowing if it were Johnny or not, he ran ahead to where the scream had originated.
"Oh my. Young man, are you alright?" The old man shined his light over the edge of a shallow ravine at Johnny, who was trying to untangle himself from all the debris that he'd picked up on his ride down.
Johnny glared at the man, shielding his eyes when the light swung into them. "Yeah, I'm okay." He wiped at the mud on his pants, noticing a tear on his backside. "Oh yeah. Just peachy," he mumbled.
"Pardon? Did you say something?"
"Nothing," he said in frustration. His arms were covered with scratches where the rocks had dug in when he'd tried to slow his fall, and now that the initial shock had worn off, he was beginning to feel more bumps and bruises by the second.
"I told you to watch your step. You really should pay more attention if you're going to be out here."
Johnny’s patience was wearing thin. These woods spooked him and he just wanted to leave. "Well, Mr. Crouthers," he huffed while he pulled himself up the slope. "The only reason...I was out here to begin with was...because we got a call that someone was...hurt."
"Hurt?" The man looked at his arm. "Oh this? This is nothing, I can take care of this. By tomorrow it won't even be noticeable." He looked around. "Well, that is if I can find everything I came out here for." He watched Johnny crawl up and over the edge and onto the path. Johnny lay on the ground to catch his breath. "Are you sure you're all right?" Johnny nodded. "You took a pretty good tumble." He leaned over Johnny shining the light in his face. "When I'm finished here you could come back with me and I can fix you right up, how about that?"
Johnny pushed the light away so he could see. "Mr. Crouthers..."
"Oh, look at that." He shined the light into the woods, spotting something of interest. "You sit tight, young man. I'll be right back."
"No wait. You shouldn't..."
"Johnny?!" Roy came running up the path.
"Yeah, Roy! Over here!" Johnny's eyes were finally adjusting to the dark again. He started to get up and call out a warning when he saw Roy. "Roy! Watch your..."
"Uffff! Duh, oouch, ah..."
"...step," Johnny finished. He leaned over the edge that he'd just finished climbing. "Roy? You okay?" It was too dark to see anything, but he heard shuffling and grunting.
"Oh, yeah. Just peachy."
Johnny strained to see Roy but all he could make out was the light from Roy's flashlight. "Hey, toss me your flashlight. I'll shine it down so you can see to climb up. Mr. Crouthers took mine." He caught the light and spotlighted Roy then moved it to illuminate the ground in front in front of him.
A couple of minutes later Roy made his way up to the top. Johnny reached down and grabbed Roy's hand, pulling his partner over to safe ground. He brushed the twigs and crushed leaves that clung to various places on Roy's head and body. "UGH!" he blurted out as his hand hit something slimy on Roy's back. "What is THAT?"
"Where?" Roy twisted his head around to see what Johnny was talking about.
"Be still, Roy!" Johnny ordered. "Let me get a stick."
"What is it? I can feel something moving! Get it off!" Johnny could hear the tinge of panic in Roy's voice.
"All right, all right! I'm gettin' it! Just stay calm... Johnny found a small twig and reached out.
"Wait! Don't touch that!" Johnny felt himself being pushed away. Mr. Crouthers plucked the thing from Roy's back. "There! That's the last ingredient I needed. Now I can get started with my recipe."
Johnny and Roy peered at the object in Mr. Crouther's hand. It appeared to be a large snail without its shell.
'Recipe?' Roy mouthed.
Johnny shuddered and stepped back.
"I want to thank you fellas for helping me find the last few ingredients. This one," he held the creature up, "is usually the one I have the hardest time finding. You saved me a great deal of trouble!"
"Ah, you're welcome, Sir," Roy smiled hesitantly. "Now that you have all your...ingredients, why don't you let us check out that arm."
Mr. Crouthers carefully placed the slug into his container. "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt. Okay, let's go back to the house. We'll have to be really quiet when we start back. I can't let the neighbors know what I'm doing. Whenever they get wind that I'm gathering the ingredients for my special recipe, I can't keep them away. I do all the work and they do all the eating." He began to creep back down the path toward the house.
Johnny and Roy stared uncertainly at the disappearing back of the little old man. "Uh, Roy? After all this do you REALLY want to go inside that house?"
Roy gave Johnny a dirty look.
"Look Junior, don't push it. I'm beginning to NOT enjoy this call," Roy said as he pushed Johnny ahead of him. Making sure that they watched their footing, Johnny and Roy slowly followed Mr Crouthers towards the house. As they reached the porch, the door slowly opened with a loud creaking noise.
Johnny stopped dead in his tracks.
"Uh Roy, did you see that? There's no one at the door and it opened all by itself. Did you see it?" Johnny asked a second time.
Roy pushed Johnny up the creaky steps. Not watching his step, Johnny stumbled onto the porch. He took two more steps trying to gain his balance. On his last step, he heard a loud creak and promptly got smacked on the butt with one of the planks from the porch. Johnny let out a yelp and Roy just about turned and ran for the squad but caught himself.
"Okay...breathe." Roy thought to himself. This is only an old house, that's all. It's not haunted.
"Gentlemen, please come in." Mr. Crouthers seemed oblivious to the paramedics’ edginess. Out of the shadows, 'Lurch' appeared. "Oh, good. Lurch, could you take this into the kitchen? I think I was able to collect everything. Those mushrooms were the hardest to find. There were a lot of mushrooms out there, but I needed the 'special' ones for the recipe." He winked and patted the huge man on the back.
"Yes, Sir." Lurch took the sack and lumbered down the hall.
Mr. Crouthers turned a questioning look toward Johnny when he heard a muffled snorting noise. "Yes?"
Johnny fidgeted, holding one hand over the torn seat of his pants. He hadn't meant to make the noise, it just came out. "Uh, nothing, really. It's just that..." He pointed down the hall. "Uh, his name's Lurch? Like in the Addams Family?" Johnny couldn't help the small smile that touched his lips at the coincidence.
Mr. Crouthers looked thoughtful. "Addams? I don't believe I'm familiar with the family. Do they live in the area?"
"No, Sir. They're..."
Roy decided to jump in at that point. "Mr. Crouthers, would you like us to take a look at that arm? You lost a good amount of blood from that cut."
"Oh, no, don't be silly. It's just a scratch." Mr. Crouthers lifted his sleeve. "See? It's fine."
Roy couldn't believe what he was seeing. The wound had stopped bleeding and had healed a good deal. That extent of healing should have taken at least two days. This is just too creepy. "Johnny, look at this."
Johnny leaned in closer. "What the...Roy, a little while ago this was really bleeding."
"I know. I saw the blood."
Mr. Crouthers shrugged. "I've always been a quick healer."
Roy took a few steps toward the door. He tried to be casual about it but the urge to run was becoming overwhelming. "Well, since you seem to be okay we really have to be going..."
Johnny quickly followed his partner’s lead, backing up to the door. "Um, yeah, we really should get back to the station."
The old man held his arms out as a plea. "Oh, dear, I really wish you'd stay for dinner. It won't take long and I'm sure you'll find it delicious."
Roy reached for the door handle, while still facing the old man. "Well, Sir, we really appreciate the invitation..." He turned and pulled on the knob. "...but you see, we've got things to do." He tried the knob again, and threw a glance at Johnny, who began looking the door over for locks. "We're still on duty, and if you're not in need of our help, we have to be available for someone who may need us." While he spoke, he listened to Johnny trying to turn the knob. Johnny grunted and tugged but the door wouldn't budge. Roy was standing so close to the door that Johnny kept bumping him. His fingers tangled with Johnny’s as he tried the door again for himself. "But thanks, anyway. Maybe another time."
Johnny hissed at his partner. "Roy, I can't get this open and I don't see any locks."
Roy finally turned to face the door. They both tugged and banged on it but there was no way to get it open. Suddenly, from behind, they each felt a hand on their shoulder. In unison, they looked to the large hands resting on them, then took a fearful glance at each other before allowing Lurch to bring them around to face their host.
"Gentlemen, I really must insist that you stay for dinner."
Johnny opened and closed his mouth a few times before anything could come out. "You know, Roy, I really am kinda hungry." He patted his stomach.
Roy looked up...and up...at the man between and just behind him and John, then to Mr. Crouthers. "Sure, I guess we could stay for dinner."
"Good! right this way," Mr. Crouthers said.
The dining room was spooky to say the least. It was dark and dingy with cobwebs everywhere.
I hope we can get out REAL soon, Roy thought as he sat down.
"Today we are having chicken with peas and a side of mashed potatoes," Mr. Crouthers announced.
"Sounds good," Johnny said, trying to conceal the fact that he was scared out of his wits.
"So, Mr. Crouthers, um, what do you like to do?' Roy asked as they waited for Jenna, the cook, to finish preparing their meal.
"Well, I'm a scientist," he said in an eerie voice. "Do either of you dabble in science?"
Johnny and Roy gulped in unison while shaking their heads, no.
Mr. Crouthers clapped his hands together. "Well, enough chit-chat. Where are my manners? You boys have had quite a time tonight in the woods, I'm sure you'd like to get cleaned up a bit before we eat." He stood up and headed for a doorway. "Follow me, Gentlemen, I'll show you to the washroom."
Roy and Johnny practically clung to each other as they followed their host down the long hallway, which was lined with family portraits -- portraits that to follow them with their eyes.
Johnny jumped, bumping into Roy. "Did you see that?"
"That picture. The one of the woman..." he pointed to a portrait about three frames down from where they stood. "...I swear it winked at me."
"Johnny, you think every woman winks at you."
Johnny grabbed Roy's arm. "Roy, we have to get out of here."
"No kidding. I'm open to suggestions. I really don't want to be here when this guys 'special recipe' is served. You know what I mean?"
They both let out a yelp when Mr. Crouthers came up behind them.
"Oh, I see you're admiring the family portraits. Aren't they wonderful? They're authentic, you know. Each one has something of the person it portrays on it. If you look close, you can see their real hair. This one down here..." he moved down the hall, "...is special. The brownish color here in the jacket, it's my uncle's actual blood." He moved back up the hall. Putting out a hand, he ran it over the women Johnny had mentioned. "Mother was very captivating, wasn't she?" He looked to his guests.
Johnny and Roy began stammering. "Oh, yes, very captivating." "Yes, a very handsome woman. Yes."
Mr. Corrupter left the wall and brushed past them. "Yes, indeed. Now, Gentleman, please. Lurch will soon be finished cooking up all the goodies I collected. I just know you're going to love it."
Roy moved first, followed by Johnny. "Oh, yes, Sir. I'm sure it'll be memorable." He tried not to look at the remaining portraits on the hall wall as he passed by them. He could feel Johnny’s fingers dig into his arm.
How are we going to get out of this?
Roy desperately tried to think of an excuse for them to leave. Suddenly an idea hit him. I can make us available and then pretend we have a call! "Mr. Crouthers, uh, before we sit down to that, uh, delicious meal you so thoughtfully invited us to, I need to step out to the squad. It will only take a moment.
"I suppose if you have to. Meanwhile, this young man..." Mr. Crouthers squinted at Johnny's name tag, "Johnny can start getting ready for dinner." He clasped Johnny's arm and led him further down the hall.
A flash of guilt went through Roy when Johnny threw him a look of panic and accusation. He nodded back, hoping Johnny could tell that he had a plan. Turning slowly, he retraced his steps, trying not to look at the family portraits.
"Come along," Mr. Crouthers urged, acting as if nothing unusual happened. "No need to be shy."
Johnny entered the washroom slowly. He jumped when the door mysteriously swung shut without any help. Grabbing the door before it could close completely, he examined it for any mechanical devices. There were none. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. "H-h-how does it do that?" he stammered.
"Oh, don't worry -- it's just my uncle. Uncle Hershel likes to open and shut doors. He just loves it when we have guests," Mr. Crouthers answered from the other side of the door.
Johnny abruptly stepped back and scanned the room nervously. He wished Roy hadn't left him, or better yet, that he could have gone out with him to the squad. The door closed again. Johnny walked cautiously to the sink and quickly washed his hands. After drying them on the towel next to the sink, he moved toward the door. Sure enough, it began to open as he approached. Johnny walked through, still spooked by the idea of the invisible Uncle Hershel.
As Mr. Crouthers walked him back down the hall, Johnny felt even more uncomfortable passing in front of the family portraits. Roy, where are you?
They soon came to the dimly lit dining room. Johnny felt his heart pound again when Lurch made a noiseless appearance. "Dinner is served," the tall manservant announced.
"Wonderful!" Mr. Crouthers enthused. "Shall we be seated?"
"Uh, maybe I should go check on my partner," Johnny stalled. "He may need my help."
"I'm sure he is quite all right. He seems to be a very capable young man."
Johnny reluctantly sat down in the chair Mr. Crouthers pulled out. What is taking Roy so long? His intuition was telling him that something was wrong.
"Shall we begin with the appetizer while we await the return of your friend?" Mr. Crouthers suggested.
"Uhm...well....uh...." Johnny stammered, nervously eyeing the large platter which Lurch now held before him. "What....uhm....just what is this stuff?"
"Well...let's see...." Crouthers leaned forward, motioning to each unusual delicacy spread out across the black, glass plate. "I believe Lurch has prepared baked caterpillar ziti, saute'd crickets and red fire ants....and oh, one of my favorite taste treats....honey coated scorpions. Do try them....you'll never taste anything quite like them."
Johnny swallowed the hard lump in his throat as he watched Lurch slip several of the critters onto his plate. "That's a given..." he mumbled. Giving his host a half-grin, he said, "Ya’ know, I don't wanna ruin my appetite for the main dish...."
"I assure you, it's all quite nutritious...." Crouthers insisted, as he was being served. Turning a hard look at his guest, he demanded, "EAT!"
Johnny was ready to protest again until he saw the black anger in Lurch's eyes and the snarl on the lips of the gargantuan servant.
With a resigned sigh, he picked up one of the small forks and drove the prongs into one of the scorpions, cringing when he heard and felt a CRUNCH!
Slowly he raised the fork to his lips....
Slamming the squad door shut, he turned back to face the front door of the mansion....and found the building was...GONE!
"What the....?" Roy squawked. He hadn't even noticed the thick blanket of fog that had descended upon the area during the time he had spent trying to raise somebody via the squad radio. "Oh, for Pete's sake...what next!" he grumbled. Peering into the swirls of white, he headed in what he thought was the direction of the front door. He had only taken a few steps when an icy cold hand came to rest upon his left arm.
"Hey!" he yelped, instinctively yanking his arm free.
"Don't go back in there!" a feminine voice whispered urgently.
Roy struggled to make out the wispy figure of the woman, who seemed to blend in with the clouds of white surrounding her.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Don't go back in there!" the woman repeated, reaching out her thin hand. "He's evil!"
Roy felt a cold shiver run along his spine when her fingers brushed his cheek. He thought he saw raw fear in the dark eyes that studied him.
"You must not go back in there!" she insisted, her voice choked with tears.
"I...I have to...." Roy stammered. "My partner's in there...."
"It's too late for him! Save yourself!" she cried out. "Save yourself!"
"Save myself from what?" Roy demanded to know. He glanced toward the house where that lunatic was still ‘entertaining’ his partner. When he glanced back, she was gone.
"Oh, man! Roy?"
His own voice sounded foreign...as if it belonged to some ancient old being. He tried to wipe at his eyes, hoping to clear away the fog shrouding his mind...but found he couldn't move his arms. He tried to move his legs...and found that an impossibility as well.
I'm tied down! he thought, then realized that he couldn’t feel any ropes or other binding material. He simply could not get his body to comply with the commands of his mind.
What's happening? How did I get here? I was eating with that...that nut....those bugs...he made me eat those bugs....and then....? THEN WHAT!?
His eyes frantically searched the darkness.
He waited, desperately hoping to hear a response from his partner, but heard only a soft rustle to his left...and a low, mournful voice that began to chant:
"You're HIS now....you're HIS now..... You're HIS now...."
"Who said that?" Johnny asked. There was no answer. "Where are you, Roy?"
"W-what are you?" Roy stammered.
"I was his first victim. You must get out of here! He'll kill you!" she warned Roy.
"I've got to get to Johnny!" Roy said, close to hysteria as he ran up to the door.
"Johnny! Can you hear me?" Roy called to his partner.
Suddenly, the door swung open and a hand pulled Roy through the opening.
An hour later, Roy woke up. "Johnny... hurt...Mr. Crouthers..." Roy suddenly remembered everything. When he looked to his left, he saw Johnny on a nearby table.
"Johnny?" Roy said quietly.
"Roy? Is that you?" Johnny asked.
"Yeah. What's going on?" Roy asked.
"I don't know. I've been unconscious," Johnny replied.
Suddenly, they heard Mr. Crouthers coming.
Mr. Crouther's cheerfully breezed into the kitchen, stopping in front of Roy. "Oh, good, you're back." He indicated toward Johnny. "You're free to get up now."
Johnny was surprised to find that whatever force that was holding him down was now gone, with just a wave of the old man's hand. "How did you do that?" Johnny got to his feet with some help from his partner.
"Oh, it's nothing really, when you've been doing it as long as I have."
"Exactly how old are you, Mr. Crouthers?" Roy asked.
"Come now, my boy, that really doesn't matter."
"I think it does. See, I just had an interesting conversation with a lady outside. She had a lot to say about you." An idea had popped into Roy's head. He would have smiled but he believed the lady's warning about how deadly the old man could be. He just hoped he could pull off his bluff before the old man could react.
"She did, did she?" Mr. Crouthers asked suspiciously.
"Yes, she did. She said you were an old fossil. Your spells and 'recipes' were outdated and useless. She said that the only reason you were even still practicing was because you gave the rest of your kind a good laugh. She couldn't even say your name without laughing. So look, why don't we just call it a night." He grabbed Johnny, who was staring wide-eyed at Roy. "Let's go, Johnny. I can't believe we let this guy waste our time."
Dragging Johnny behind him, Roy ran as fast as he could out of the kitchen door and down the hall. The look on the man's face had him more scared then he'd ever been, and he knew they had to get out of there, now.
They had made it to the parlor when the bellow sounded throughout the house. They grabbed the heavy wooden door and pulled with every ounce of energy they could muster. Slowly, the door pulled open enough to get through.
Roy pushed Johnny out first and quickly followed him, but ran into Johnny’s back. "Johnny, go!"
"Well, I'd like to, Roy, but..."
Roy looked over Johnny’s shoulder. "Oh, no." Lurch stood in the doorway glaring down at them. They backed up as he moved forward, shoving the door all the way open.
Mr. Crouthers steamed into the parlor. He shook his fists at them. "FOSSIL?! Out of date and useless?! I'll show you! I'll show all of you!" He waved his arms around, focusing on Roy. "You asked me how old I was. I've watched entire cultures rise and then fall back out of existence! And I'll still be living long after your bones become fossils!" He stopped waving his arms around and leaned close to Roy and Johnny so he could watch their reactions. "The recipe I cooked up will make me young again." He leered at the questioning looks on their faces. "You see, Gentlemen, you two are going to eat what I've prepared. The mixture of ingredients will allow me to absorb you life forces..." he held open his arms and smiled. "...and I will be young again." He then mocked sadness. "Unfortunately for you, if you survive the process, both of you will be left...rather old. Either way, the results are the same."
Johnny had a hard time believing that anything they ate would cause such an effect, but it could still be harmful to them. "Man, you're crazy! We've got family, and friends. You can't just make us disappear!"
"Oh, you won't disappear. You'll be found; both of you. Your bodies will be recovered from your charred vehicle and it will be reported as a terrible accident." Mr. Crouthers shook his head. "Such a tragedy."
Roy appealed to the man. "Mr. Crouthers, please. You really don't believe that you can become young again by 'absorbing our life forces', do you? What you're talking about is murder." His voice caught on the words.
The woman chortled. "You? You do nothing but order him around. 'Cook this, prepare that.' You don't appreciate him the way we do. You direct his power and then take the credit for it yourself. You're nothing without him. Just an old man." Her smile grew. "An old man whose time has just run out." She pointed to a wall and all eyes swung to the clock hanging there. It began to chime. "You really should pay more attention."
"No! I want to be young!"
"It's not going to happen, Old Man."
Mr. Crouthers balled his fists and headed for the door. "No, not this year, but I will find a way." He stopped in front of Roy and John. "Don't think you've seen the last of me, Gentlemen." Where his eyes had been friendly at their first meeting, they were now filled with hatred.
Roy shivered as he watched the old man hurry though the door. In his mind, he heard a line from the movie, "The Wizard of Oz". 'I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog, Toto, too.'
"Toto, I mean, Johnny, let’s get out of here."
"Right behind ya’, partner."
The woman tried to stop them before they could get out the door. "Oh, but won't you like to stay for dinner? It's already prepared."
Roy bumped past her as he bolted to the door. "Well, really, Ma'am, it's a gracious invitation, but we really need to go."
Johnny was quick to follow, jostling the woman as he ran past. "Um, yea, we're really busy, but thanks, anyway. Maybe next year." He turned and ran to the squad, grateful that he could hear the engine already running. Stones from the driveway kicked out from under the tires as Roy floored the accelerator and sped down the gravel road.
Morticia and Lurch stood on the front porch and watched the cloud of dust as it followed the squad.
"Well, those two were certainly odd," Morticia folded her arms in front of her.
"Honestly, some people just don't know how to enjoy the a perfectly good holiday."
She waved her hands and started into the house. "Well, no matter. Oh, It's so good to have you back, dear."
"Yes." Lurch shut the door after her.
"Oh, Gomez is just going to love this place. Though...it could use a few more webs...."
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