It had to happen. There was no doubt. On a Halloween that had gone without incident, other than the average type of call they could get any other day or evening of the week, there had to be a cat related rescue for the paramedics of A-shift at Station 51. And, of course, it had to come after dark. Something paramedic John Gage was not thrilled about.
“Man, I hope it’s not a really big cat. . .you know, like that tiger we had to deal with in the back of that car for that commercial being filmed awhile back.”
“Maybe it’s someone dressed as a cat,” his partner Roy DeSoto said as he took a quick glance at him from the driver’s side of their squad.
Johnny gave him a sour look. With a ‘cat stuck’ call, that could lead to some ‘interesting’ situations.
Roy was just glad it wasn’t a call like the year before around the same time. He shuddered at the memory. A small boy with a broken hand, who claimed a pumpkin bit it. A pumpkin that later gave both he and Johnny an uneasy feeling to say the least. . .and ended up smashed and in a dumpster.
This rescue couldn’t be any more bizarre than that. Or at least he hoped.
The address of the response was at a one-story home, with the typical Halloween decorations. Homemade orange paper pumpkin cutouts taped to the inside of a large picture window. And a white paper ghost taped up on the front door. The porch light was on, probably for any trick-or-treaters who came by, as well as them too.
The paramedics waited after Roy rang the doorbell. It wasn’t long before an elderly woman opened the door and greeted them, quickly introducing herself.
“Please come in,” Marjorie said, her tone fretful. But before she could close the door, three small children dressed in costumes came up the sidewalk.
“Can you hand me that bowl?” she asked as she pointed beyond Johnny.
He noticed the short wooden stool in the entryway with a large glass bowl on it. He picked it up and held it while she grabbed a handful of candy for each kid.
He and Roy traded glances. She sure wasn’t stingy with the candy. But they were even more amazed she took the time to hand out treats, as upset as she'd seemed to be.
As soon as the children turned to leave, she closed the door and turned off the outside light, while Johnny placed the bowl back on the stool.
“I can’t have anymore visitors tonight. Not until I find Mona.”
She was now near tears.
“Find Mona?” Roy wondered. “Is that the cat? I thought she was trapped."
“Well, she’s missing. But she must be stuck somewhere,” she explained as she wrung her hands together. “She’s my beautiful gray tabby I’ve had for twelve years and she’s never been gone this long. . .it’s been hours!”
The men again exchanged glances. They were likely going to have to disappoint her, because there was no way they were going to be able to stay for long with the cat's situation being so uncertain. Stuck cat they could free, yes. Lost cat that could be anywhere, no.
Majorie went on with her story, the tears now pooling in her eyes. “She got out when the first group of children came to the door, before dark. I’ve called and called for her, she just won’t come back. Please, can you look for her?”
The men shrugged slightly at one another. How could they turn the very upset woman down?
“We’ll have to contact the department and make ourselves available for another call,” Roy explained. “But until one comes, we can do our best to find Mona.”
“Oh thank you! Thank you so much.”
“I guess we’d better get our flashlights,” Roy said. He headed outside, as Johnny comforted the distraught woman.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure she’s fine, probly just scared. . .you know with all the strange ghosts and goblins runnin’ around out there.” He smiled in reassurance, but it didn’t seem to ease her worry.
“Here, Mona!” Roy called out as he searched the back yard, Johnny doing the same. When they came up empty, the two stood at the back of the house, their flashlights downcast to the ground.
“Well, if she’s here, she’s certainly hiding awfully good.”
Roy nodded in agreement. “Maybe we should branch out a little.” They both looked up at the moonlit trees towering over the roofs of houses in the area. “Um, no pun intended.”
The paramedics walked into the front yard to the right of Majorie’s when Johnny caught something out of the corner of his eye on the porch about four feet away. He did a double take and his gaze froze.
“Hey. . .Roy. . .?”
The dark-blond medic glanced over from a few feet away. “You see something?”
“Uh. . .I think so.”
Roy followed his line of vision and noticed a jack-o-lantern on the porch with a steady bright glow from within, likely from a small flashlight beam and not a candle, since it didn’t waver.
“A pumpkin with somethin’ strange goin’ on inside.”
Johnny got a few steps closer, Roy joining him. They were close enough to see there was definitely something ‘going on’.
“We need to check that out.”
“I know,” Gage agreed.
Neither man moved.
After a few seconds of nothing, Johnny stated, “Well, one of us needs to go up to it.”
“Yeah, one of us does.”
“You saw it first.”
“Oh man.” Gage knew he’d lost. He slowly edged his way forward until he was less than a foot from the large orange pumpkin that had been carved with an angry evilly-grinning face. He slowly bent down to peer inside. Just what he’d thought he saw. Clumps of gray fur were visible through the eye holes. And bits of matted gray fur were between each carved tooth; sides, tops and bottoms. Claw marks giving the face a scarred appearance were around the mouth and two-holed ‘nose’.
“You aren’t gonna believe this, but it’s gray fur. This pumpkin has gray fur in its mouth and head. . .body. . .whatever it’s called.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Roy asked from where he still stood in the same spot.
“If you’re thinkin’ about last year, probly so..”
Johnny gave an involuntary shudder. He would rather be facing a raging fire right now rather than another supposedly ‘evil’ pumpkin. . .that had fur within that matched the description of the missing cat.
“Not again,” he mumbled to himself.
“Well? You going to lift the lid?”
Johnny turned without straightening up. It was then he saw that Roy hadn’t come any closer. He wasn’t the only one still not liking this. As silly as it sounded, he was dreading lifting the lid of the pumpkin, fearful of what he’d find.
Jackolanterns aren’t alive, he assured himself in thought.
With a little hesitation, he got right upon it. He then grabbed the stem. The paramedic was amazed at the rate his heart was beating. Johnny peered inside the hole as the lid came clear.
Cat hair . . .
Scattered everywhere . . . some clinging to the interior sides. A small flashlight was providing the illumination.
At least all that hair couldn't have come from Mona, if some even did. There was gold and white colored fur as well .
Johnny turned to look at Roy and startled when he found he was now right behind him. He took a deep breath to recover.
“Man, don’t do that.”
Then both men startled when something darted from underneath the porch. The two watched as a cat dashed across the yard and to Marjorie’s house. A couple of yowls and her outside light came on.
“Mona! My Mona!”
The two men were on their way back when they heard her exclaim, “Oh my, what happened to you? You’ve lost some clumps of fur!”
The medics stopped in mid-step and eyed one another in alarm. They then slowly turned to look toward the pumpkin with the curious contents.
“You thinkin’ what I’m thinking?” Johnny asked this time.
“If it involves getting the hell out of here, probably so.”
That response was enough for Gage. Since his level-headed partner had that thought, he definitely didn’t want to stick around.
They bid Marjorie and Mona a quick farewell then headed for the squad, passing a trio of small trick-or-treaters with an adult escort. Johnny and Roy gave a nod ‘Hello’, then opened the doors to the cab of their truck.
Gage glanced over his shoulder at the still brightly lit pumpkin that the kids were about to pass.
“Maybe we shoulda taken it with us. You know. . .like before.”
Roy shook his head. “One, it belongs to someone we don’t know. And two. . . would you want that thing on the seat between us?”
“I was thinkin’ more like up on the back of the squad.”
Hours later, as the paramedics slept somewhat uneasily at the station, a black cat wandered up to the barely-lit pumpkin on the porch, the flashlight battery nearly used up. The feline sniffed, then rubbed up against the sinister face . . .
This story was inspired when incredible mold grew in our pumpkin within three days. . .it really did resemble cat hair! It's a sequel to my story 'Pumpkins'
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