This story is a sequel to *Trick-Or-Treat* , which can be found on the Stories Page. It’s not necessary to read the other first, but it may help some. :o)ry
By Audrey W.
“You’re gonna do what on Halloween?” Chet asked, a look of disbelief on his face.
“You heard me,” Gage remarked, sitting forward on the couch. “I’m gonna take Amanda and her friends trick-or-treating again. What’s wrong with that?”
Kelly shook his head. “Man, I figured you’d outgrown that by now.”
“Chet, I’m taking them.” Johnny splayed his hand on his chest. “I’m not trick-or-treating. Besides, what about you? You’ve been talking about taking a date to a haunted house again this year. . .you’d think you would have out grown trying to scare women by now. . .well, aside from when they’re actually on a regular date with ya,” he snorted.
“Kind of hurts when it comes back, huh, Chet?”
“Nah. I can take it.”
The other firemen on A-shift grinned at the exchanges between the two men.
“If you ask me, you’re both crazy,” Marco said, getting up from the table. He walked over to the counter. “I’m gonna spend it with the family again. You know, games for the kids and that kind of thing. It’s safer and a lot easier on all of us. It’s a lot of fun, too.”
“That’s exactly my point, Marco,” Johnny stated. “It’s fun taking kids around.”
Lopez shook his head. “Fun is when you can sit back and enjoy it. Not worry about keeping track of seven kids. . .someone else’s kids. . .outside in a neighborhood going house-to-house.”
“I’m taking mine around,” Roy offered. “But only in our area.”
“What about you, Mike?” Chet wondered. “What are you gonna do this year? Bowling again?”
The engineer shook his head. “No.”
Kelly waited for more of an answer, but none came. “That’s it? Just ‘no’?”
Johnny got up from the couch and walked over behind Chet at the table. He patted the fireman on the back. “Have fun at the haunted house. Hope it doesn’t end up scarin’ you,” he snickered. “Now that would be fun for your date.”
Chet shook his head slightly and rolled his eyes.
It was early evening on October thirty-first. Johnny pulled his Land Rover into the driveway at the Freemans’ house where Amanda and her friends were waiting for him to pick them up and take them trick-or-treating. Gage wondered if it would go anything like last time. . .would the little boy who was a ghost the year before still be superstitious?. . .Would Tammy be a ‘Barbie’ again, or would she have grown out of her klepto Barbie habit? . . .Would the little boy who was a cowboy have better bladder control? Johnny made a mental note to himself to be sure and have each kid hit the bathroom before letting them out of the house.
Bonnie Freeman answered the door, her stomach pooching out due to being in her fifth month of pregnancy, and looking a bit more frazzled than the last time she had the neighborhood kids in her house for the holiday.
Surely they can’t be any worse, Johnny thought. Must be the hormones. “How’re you feeling?”
“Tired. . .but other than that, not too bad. C’mon in,” the woman said, stepping back. “The kids’ve been waiting . . .and you can probably guess, it’s been all afternoon again.”
“Practicing knocking on doors?”
Bonnie grinned. “Ah, you do remember last Halloween. I was wondering if you’d kind of forgotten when you agreed to do this again.”
“Things went pretty good,” Johnny said, following the mother into the livingroom. He could hear the chatter of kids coming from down the hallway that lead to the bedrooms. “Except for a ‘cowboy’ nearly wetting his britches and a ‘princess’ taking a tumble. . .and a ghost being so superstitious that we had to walk all the way around the block to get to a car that was just a few feet in front of us.”
“The black cat?”
Johnny nodded. “The black cat. It couldn’t have waited just a few more seconds to run across the sidewalk. It oughtta be against the law, anyway, to let a black cat run loose on Halloween night.”
The mother grinned.
After hearing Johnny’s voice in the livingroom, Amanda and her friends came running down the hall to greet their chauffer.
“Johnny!” Amanda called out, running over and giving her hero a hug around the waist. The two had been through a lot together in the past year, both having close calls with nearly losing their lives; Amanda in a serious car accident and the paramedic the victim of an unprovoked attack by a few teens. Although Johnny still only came over on occasion to see the little girl, they had developed a bond that grew stronger as time went on. Just as with Roy’s kids, Amanda was like a relative to Johnny.
Gage picked the girl up, grinning at the Barbie costume she was wearing, the plastic mask hanging over her shoulder on the elastic band. It was then he noticed Tammy was dressed as a witch this year. Well, well. . .either Tammy’s gotten over the Barbie kleptomania, or Amanda’s learned to hold her own.
“Oh. You’re getting to be a big girl!”
“Yes, I know.” Johnny said, still smiling. He’d been on duty during Amanda’s birthday party on August twenty-sixth, but when he found out that their birthdays were that close together, the paramedic made sure to stop by the next day so that the two Virgos could wish each other a happy birthday.
After setting the girl down, the paramedic looked over the other kids waiting in the room. For the most part, they hadn’t changed much, except for having grown an inch or so. Even with different costumes on, Gage could tell who was who.
“So, Billy,” he said to the little Sheriff, “how’s Archie doing?”
The boy frowned. “I had ta give ‘im to my cousin Daryl.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. How come?”
“’Cause I got in trouble for chasin’ my little brother in the house with ‘im.”
“Yeah!” Chimed in another boy. “Ya shoulda’ seen the neat colors his little brother’s finger turned when he shut it in the bathroom door, tryin’ to get away! It was cool!”
Johnny winced. “I’ll bet it was.” He noticed Becky, last year’s princess, dressed in just jeans and a shirt, her belly button showing. “Aren’t you gonna wear a costume?”
“Nah. I’ll trick-or-treat, ‘cause I like the candy and it’s free. But no stupid costume for me this time.”
Johnny didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t expected that from the girl who was so sweet before. “Okay,” he said uneasily when he noticed the other kids giving her annoyed glares. “How about we get this show on the road?”
“Yay!” The group hollered.
“I’ll make sure each one hits the bathroom first,” Bonnie offered. She gathered the boys together and began to parade them down the hallway. “Okay, one at a time in the bathroom. After you finish going, be sure to wash your hands.”
As he watched the boys leave, Gage felt a tap on his arm. When he looked down, he saw Amanda staring up at him.
“Can Chandler go with us?”
“Yeah. . .he’s new. He’s got a costume. Can he go?”
Johnny shrugged. “Well, sure. . .I guess so. Sure. . .what’s one more?” He glanced around. “Is he already here?”
Amanda nodded. “I’ll go get ‘im.”
Bonnie came back with the boys when Amanda was bringing Chandler into the room to meet Johnny.
“Oh, honey, not the dog!”
Gage was amused at the pumpkin hat the little poodle was wearing, complete with little white eyeballs and a brown felt stem with green leaves. The dog was definitely dressed for the occasion. Johnny looked over at Bonnie. “Hey, I don’t mind as long as the dog has a leash. Besides, maybe he’ll keep the black cats away.”
The little boy who was a ghost again this year glared at the paramedic from underneath the sheet with two eyeholes. It wasn’t his fault black cats were bad luck.
“Are you sure?” The mother asked.
“He’s kid friendly, right?”
“I’m sure then,” Johnny said with a smile. “The kids can go door-to-door, and Chandler and I can wait out on the sidewalk.”
“Okay, then. . .I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Hey, what kind of trouble can a seven kids, a paramedic and a poodle on a leash get into?”
Johnny picked up the wet t-shirt by the only small section that was still dry and made a disgusted face as he dropped it into an old cooler in the back of his Land Rover.
It’s a good thing I had some old clothes in here.
He shook his head again when he thought back to how the kids in the rear of his Rover started yelling for him to pull over when Chandler cocked his leg. When Johnny had glanced in the rearview mirror, he could see the four boys dressed as a sheriff, ghost, scarecrow and lion all huddled together in one tight group, while the dog was peeing freely on the other side. Only problem was, he didn’t know at that moment exactly what the fuss was about. It was only after one of the frantic boys yelled “Look out! The peepee’s running this way!”, that Gage knew he had a problem. It took two old t-shirts to clean up the puddle. He only hoped the odor would dissipate soon.
“Well, I guess that’s what kind of trouble seven kids, a paramedic and a poodle can get into,” Johnny said to Chandler as the kids headed for the first house on the street. He pointed his finger at the dog. “You know, you owe me a cooler now. No way I can stick food in that thing again.” The dog just waited for Johnny to close up the back of his Land Rover so they could join up with the kids nearby. “Man’s best friend. . .ha!” When he saw he wasn’t getting any attention from Chandler, Gage sighed. “Alright, let’s go.”
By the sixth house, everyone had settled into a routine. The kids were taking turns on which one would knock on the door, then they all would yell “Trick or treat!” together. Chandler would sit down beside Johnny, while the two of them waited for the group to come back from a house. Gage grinned.
This is going better than last year.
As soon as he had that thought, he regretted ever bringing it to mind. Becky and Tammy were fighting over something that had happened at the door of the seventh house.
“Did not!” Tammy yelled as they neared their escort.
“Yes, you did! I saw you!” Becky held up a fist as she stepped to one side of Johnny. “Wanna knuckle sandwich for Halloween?”
Gage looked down as Tammy and Becky placed themselves on either side of him.
“Hey, what’s the problem here?” He tried to keep an eye on both girls and where their hands were, as he had a feeling he was going to be the recipient of a wayward punch. And at their level, it could be one of the worst he’d ever taken.
“She took my candy bar!” Becky snapped.
“I did not!”
“Look, you girls need to get this settled or no one’s gonna be getting anymore candy,” Johnny said, trying to guide them in front of and away from himself, and still hold on to Chandler’s leash. Man, Becky sure isn’t the sweet little kid she was last year.
Tammy handed a candy bar to Becky. “There! Ya happy?”
The other kids all sighed with relief. They had been afraid the two girls were going to ruin the whole night for them.
So, she’s left the Barbie klepto habit and gone on to candy? Johnny thought. Man, girls sure aren’t like they were when I was a kid.
“Okay, next house,” Gage said, hoping to get the young minds back on track.
“Yay!” The kids all yelled as they ran from Johnny, towards house number eight.
“Hey, walk, don’t run!”
Billy stopped and looked back at the paramedic. “You sound just like my mom.”
Gage stood with his mouth open as the boy walked with the others at a fast pace. “Did you hear that, Chandler?” When he looked down at the dog, Johnny saw the dog was cowering behind his heels while a group of kids in various scary costumes walked by. “Oh, c’mon. . .there aren’t real monsters out here.” But he couldn’t get the dog to budge. Chandler lay down on the sidewalk, and whimpered. “This is just great. The kids are back to being excited about trick-or-treating and now the dog won’t move.” He bent down and lifted the poodle up into his arms, sighing. “Okay, let’s go.”
By the fifteenth house, Johnny held Chandler in his right arm like a football and wiped the slobber off his left forearm using the side of his shirt, a look of disgust on his face.
“You sure are an affectionate pup, aren’t ya?”
The poodle looked up, the pumpkin hat still on his head. As annoyed as he was, the paramedic had to admit: the dog was cute. But cute or not, it’d be a lot better if Chandler would walk on his own. If only so many kids hadn’t decided to be creepy looking monsters this year. And with it now being past dusk and everything illuminated by streetlights, they looked even more eerie.
A tap on his arm got the man’s attention. Amanda was looking up at him. “What?”
“If ya talk to ‘im like a baby, he’ll feel better. That’s what mommy does when he’s ascared.”
“I don’t know. . .”
“Okay,” she said shrugging. “But it works.”
Johnny watched as the little girl caught up to the others at the door of the sixteenth house.
I guess it’s worth a shot. He glanced around to make sure no one was within hearing range. When he saw the coast was clear, the paramedic started talking to Chandler in a cutesy tone.
“Whatsa matter, huh, boy?” He patted the dog’s pumpkin head. “Don’t be scared. . .Daddy’s. . .uh. . .Johnny’s here to protect ya. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
The sound of giggles had the man quickly looking up and around. Standing off to his left were two little girls he didn’t know; one dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, the other as Little Bo Peep.
“Uh. . .the dog. . .” Gage stammered. “Well, he’s. . .uh. . .scared.”
The two girls just continued to giggle. Finally they moved on, but not before Johnny heard one say, “He’s funny!” and the other agreeing.
The dark-haired man turned his attention back to Chandler. “That’s it. . .scared or not, you’re walking.” He set the dog down. “All I need is for a cute chick out with kids to hear me talkin to ya. . .that’d be my luck.” He gave it another thought. “Then again, she may like it. . .”
When he saw Amanda and her friends were ready to move on, Johnny started forward, Chandler reluctantly following a few steps back. The paramedic sighed. “Okay, boy, we’re almost done in this section. Let’s go.”
The group was ready to go to house number twenty-four, then it would be time to head back to the Land Rover. Johnny didn’t want to keep the kids out late on a school night, but he promised to stop at another small section of houses on the way back to the Freemans’. Then another successful Halloween night out would be in the past.
As Johnny and his group approached the house at the end of the block they were on, a black cat came running from underneath a parked car. It raced in front of the trick-or-treaters, and immediately everyone knew that was it as far as going to that house. . .the little superstitious ghost wasn’t going to cross the path of the black cat. But they had more to worry about than that. Chandler saw the cat, and not expecting the dog to develop sudden nerve, Johnny didn’t have a tight hold on the leash. Before anyone knew what was happening, the dog was gone, following after the black animal.
“Chandler!” Johnny called out. “Get back here!”
“Chandler!” Amanda echoed.
“C’mon, we’re gonna have to chase after ‘im,” Gage said, motioning for the kids to follow him.
“I told you black cats were bad luck!” The ghost called out from under the white sheet.
Johnny would have given him a stern look, but at the moment he was more concerned on how he was going to catch up with a running dog and not lose seven kids with little legs in the process.
After ten minutes of trotting so that the boys and girls could keep up with him, Johnny pulled up and stopped. All eight of them needed a rest. As the group caught their breath, they heard whimpering.
Johnny put a finger to his lips to signal for the kids to stay quiet, then slowly crept over towards the noise. As he approached a line of shrubs, the black cat sprang out, startling him. A few feet away from where he stood, he could still hear the sound. Stepping over, he parted a small portion of the shrubs. There he saw Chandler’s eyes glowing from the streetlight above as the dog huddled on the ground. Gage let the bushes fall together again, then crawled underneath and pulled the dog out. There was a large scratch on the pups nose.
“I guess the kitty turned the tables on ya, huh, boy?”
“I told ya black cats were bad luck,” the ghost repeated. “Now he knows it, too.”
Johnny grinned. “Yeah, I think you’re right this time.” He wiped a little blood off of Chandler’s nose, then held him close, tucked in his arms. “C’mon, boy. Let’s go.”
The remainder of the night was uneventful. The group never did go back to the house with the black cat, but they did stop at the next section of the subdivision as planned. And while the kids went house-to-house, Johnny held Chandler safe in his arms, reassuring the dog that everything was going to be okay. Much to the paramedic’s delight, a cute chick did hear him pampering the pup and loved it more than he even imagined. The result was a date on his next night off.
After everyone was delivered safely back to the Freemans’ house, Gage headed home. Once again, he was glad he spent the night out with the kids, despite the few aggravations he’d endured. Only problem was, the odor from the urine-soaked shirts was creeping out from inside the cooler in the back of the Land Rover. Johnny frowned. Those things are goin’ in the trash . . . cooler and all . . . as soon as I pull into the parking lot.
“So you think you’ll take the kids around again next year?” Roy asked Johnny as they put on their uniforms in the locker room.
Gage closed his locker and shrugged. “Maybe. . .I’ll see.” When Chet walked in the door, the paramedic nodded towards the fireman. “Maybe I’ll just try Chester B’s approach and take a date to a haunted house.”
Kelly glanced at the two men and shook his head. “If you know what’s good for ya. . .I’d stick to kids trick-or-treating.”
Roy eyed the man suspiciously. “Why’s that?”
“Because. That’s why. And that’s all you need to know.”
Mike wandered into the room from the dorm entrance. “Because he found out there’s something worse than taking the girl who helped design the haunted house like last year.”
“Oh yeah?” Johnny was interested now. “What’s that?”
“You want to tell them, or should I?” Stoker asked.
“Wait . . . you went with Chet, Mike?”
“No, I just happened to be there and saw them.”
Johnny nodded in understanding. “So? Someone tell us.”
Kelly sighed. “Because she turned out to be a nail digger.”
“A what?” Marco asked, as he walked in on the conversation. “What’s a nail digger? Who are we talking about?”
“Chet’s date last night,” Johnny offered. “And I have a feeling I’m gonna appreciate the fact I just had to clean up dog urine and slobber after this.”
Marco didn’t even want to ask Johnny about that one. He waited with the others for Chet to explain.
“Oh, okay,” Kelly sighed. He held out his arms, exposing red marks on them in various places. “She dug her fingernails into me every time something scared her, which was practically every minute and a half.”
“Did any break the skin?” Roy asked, concerned.
Chet shook his head. “No.”
Johnny patted the man on the shoulder. “Sorry about your arms, but ya gotta see the humor in this. I got a date from pampering a wounded puppy, and you came away from a date looking like one.”
The stocky fireman opened his locker and shook his head. “That figures. Next year, I’m going alone.”
Roy and Johnny grinned as they walked out of the locker room and headed across the apparatus bay.
“You know, Roy? I think I will take the kids trick-or-treating next year . . . if they want me to. It sure beats ending up with a night like Chet had.”
“Yeah, maybe you could even take Chet around with you.”
Johnny slowed up, falling slightly behind his partner. Now that’s a scary thought.
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda! Any mistakes are mine. And a special thanks to my good friend, Angie, for sending the picture of her dog, Chandler, who inspired this story. I appreciate you letting me use him in the story, Angie! :o)