Neil Davies was born in 1959 and has found everything else to be an uphill struggle. He currently lives in the North West of England with his...read more wife, two grown-up children and two cats. Any spare time he can find he spends writing Horror and Science Fiction. For more information please visit his official website - http://www.nwdavies.co.uk
“The Press seem convinced this will make it three.”
Detective Inspector Heddison held his head in his hands and wished that, just once, everyone else in the squad room would quietly disappear.
“Do you think it will happen again, sir?”
“Sergeant,” Heddison looked up at his junior, standing beside the desk, and ground his teeth to control the rising anger. His dentist would not approve, but his dentist didn’t have to work with Sergeant Parkinson on a daily basis. “Please stop telling me things I already know and asking me questions I can’t answer.”
“Yes, sir. Shall we put out the usual warnings just in case, though, sir?”
“Do they pay you to be annoying, Parkinson?”
“I don’t know, sir. I’d have to check my job description.”
Heddison hesitated. If he hadn’t known, after four years working together, that Parkinson had a somewhat twisted sense of humour, his temper might have finally snapped. Instead, he allowed himself a sigh and a slight smile, easing the tension in his shoulders and the ache in his back.
“Yes, sergeant, you do that. And before you ask, include the descriptions we have from previous years, although they’re not exactly unique on Halloween: Witches, warlocks, horror movie villains, evil old crones…”
“How is your mother, sir?”
Heddison should have spat venom, instead, he laughed.
“She’s finally settled into the nursing home, I think, making their life hell instead of mine.”
“That must be why you’ve been so cheerful lately, sir.”
“Just get the warnings out to the press and the Neighbourhood Watches will you? Let’s see if we can prevent another bloodbath this year.”
Mrs Eileen Heddison, 84 years old, widowed and abandoned by her ungrateful son in a prison they called a ‘nursing home’, slumped in the armchair in front of the TV and glared at her fellow prisoners.
A young girl, probably in her twenties, wearing a white tunic, black trousers and a name badge that said ‘Sally’, came smiling towards her. They called themselves Care Assistants, but Eileen thought of them as Warders.
“And how are you today, Eileen?”
“Now that’s not nice, is it, Eileen? We need to watch our language, don’t we?”
“I’ve been speaking English for 84 years, what’s your excuse? Go home, you’re too young to be out on your own.”
Sally’s smile almost slipped and Eileen felt she had won a small victory. She had not wanted to come here, had been happy in her own home. She knew she had fallen a few times, almost set the place on fire when she forgot the cooker was still on, and occasionally had to phone her son to remind her where she lived, but that was no reason to lock her away. The real reason was that no good son of hers, more interested in his job than his mother. Well, she was going to find a way out of this place, although the walking frame didn’t exactly make a quick getaway likely. She’d find a way.
Sally was coming back, this time with an older woman in a blue tunic. Her name badge said ‘Doreen’, but Eileen knew everyone called her Matron.
“Now, Eileen,” Matron said. “I know you’re not happy here yet…”
“I repeat, piss off.”
“… and I know you probably feel that your son abandoned you here, almost as if he didn’t care.”
Eileen sighed. Here came the same old speech she had got on her very first day, about how her son really did care, and how being here in this place was the best thing for her in the long run. Did they really expect her to believe that?
“Well, you’re right, Eileen. He couldn’t give a shit. He dumped you here just like the children of all these others dumped them here.”
Eileen was stunned into silence. What had the woman said? Did she really say her son didn’t give a shit about her? Well, she was right! He didn’t, and it was gratifying to hear someone else say it out loud.
“Wouldn’t you like to get your own back on this society that values youth over age so much? Wouldn’t you like to fight back against the kind of bastards that make places like this necessary?”
“Join us tonight in our little get-together and we’ll do something about it. It’s almost Halloween, Eileen, and we have fun at Halloween.”
Two years of motiveless murders. Kids out trick or treating, adults answering the door with sweets in their hands, anyone seemed to be a possible victim. The only link was the date, 31st October, Halloween.
Heddison sat opposite the Chief Inspector who studied the reports on the desk in front of him.
“Last year we doubled the number of officers on the streets.”
“Yes, Chief Inspector.”
“And we still screwed it up.”
“We didn’t manage to catch anyone, yes sir.”
“So many, and all over the place. It’s got to be some kind of gang, don’t you think?”
“Triple the numbers, this time, Heddison. In fact, quadruple them. I want so many uniforms on the street tomorrow night, Halloween in case you forgot, that you won’t be able to move without bumping into one. I want unmarked cars roaming around, looking for anything suspicious. Forget about due process, bring anyone in you feel like. I’ll face the lawyers quite happily if we get through this year without another massacre.”
The Chief Inspector hesitated, leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desktop.
“My job will be on the line if this happens another year Heddison, and make no mistake. If I go down, so does the detective in charge. Do I make myself clear?”
Heddison swallowed in a dry throat.
Eileen Heddison shuffled into the back room, gripping her walking frame tightly. She still wasn’t quite used to it yet, but she had to admit it stopped her falling over quite so much.
The Matron smiled and helped her further into the darkened room. The faint light thrown from the hallway outside showed Eileen there were many others in the room with her, some with walking frames like hers. Other residents. That was the first time she had thought of them as ‘residents’ rather than ‘prisoners’. Funny how a few words from a like-minded person can change your whole perspective.
“Now, there’s nothing to be frightened of…”
“I don’t frighten easily.”
“I’m sure you don’t, Eileen, but I just want to give you some idea what to expect. When I close the door it will be completely black in here. Then I’ll say a few words.”
“Is this some kind of weird religious sect? Are you Mormons or something?”
“No, Eileen, we’re not Mormons.”
There was a faint ripple of quiet laughter around the room and Eileen bristled with embarrassment.
“I don’t hold with Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Muslims or anything like that. Not even sure I think much of the Church of England at the moment. And don’t get me started on the Catholics!”
“We’re nothing like that, Eileen, I promise. We follow the Prince Of This World, and our rewards are very much of the now, not waiting for us in some mythical life after death.”
“What kind of rewards?”
“Wouldn’t you like your health back? Wouldn’t you like to be rid of that horrible walking frame?”
At this, the others with walking frames in the room pushed them away, standing straight and strong without their aids.
“They’re just props, Eileen, for visitors and new residents like yourself. Don’t you want to be able to do anything you want? Why should age stop you having fun? Why should age stop you doing anything?”
Eileen nodded. Of course she would like to get her health back, to be able to do all the things she hadn’t done so far in life, and repeat a few that she really enjoyed. But nothing was free in this world. Everything cost something.
“What’s the catch?”
“All our Prince asks of us is a few little jobs every now and then, bring a few more people to him, cut down the numbers in opposition. Nothing arduous and always fun, and in return, you can have anything you want. Interested?”
It didn’t take Eileen long to decide. Even if the Matron was full of bullshit she had nothing to lose.
Matron closed the door.
Heddison and Sergeant Parkinson cruised the streets in their unmarked Police Car. The sun had almost gone, its last light draining from the sky over the houses in front of them. Already there were some trick or treaters out, mostly small children accompanied by parents. No one let their kids out alone on Halloween, not after the last two years.
It had been a long day of preparation, briefing the uniforms, working out the shifts, trying to make sure the Chief Inspector got the kind of coverage he wanted. Now, every time they turned a corner there seemed to be at least two officers walking the beat. The cost would be enormous, but it would be worth every penny if they could avoid more killings.
Heddison nodded with grim satisfaction as he saw yet another person stopped and searched. Eyewitness accounts had varied in previous years, but most were convinced the murderers wore Halloween costumes, just as he’d said to Parkinson a few days ago in the squad room. Remembering that conversation reminded him of his mother, and he immediately felt guilty. He had not visited her for over a week, being far too wrapped up in this Halloween business. He would apologise to her after it was all over, not that she’d believe him. She seemed convinced he wanted to be rid of her when really, despite the fact that she could be a disagreeable, rude and vicious old battleaxe at times, she was still his mother. In the nursing home, he knew she was safe and cared for. Maybe one day she’d understand that.
“Going to be a long night, sir,” said Parkinson, stating the obvious as always.
“Very,” agreed Heddison. “If we’re lucky it’ll be uneventful too.”
After last night’s strange ceremony in the darkened room, with chants in strange languages that she repeated parrot-fashion as told, a drop in temperature so extreme she wondered if they were in some kind of meat freezer, and a sudden small pyrotechnic display in the centre that all but blinded her, she had retired to her room, exhausted and unsure about what she had just witnessed.
She slept better than she had since arriving at the nursing home, and when she woke, she knew immediately that things had changed. There were no aches, no sudden pains as she sat up. Her legs felt strong and steady and, although she reached for the walking frame from habit, she quickly pushed it away again. She didn’t need it. She could stand, walk, probably even run, although she hadn’t had the courage to try it yet.
When the Matron came to collect her for breakfast, the woman had positively beamed to see Eileen standing and walking around the room unaided. And when she entered the breakfast room, everyone had smiled and laughed and a few even applauded. Eileen had smiled too. She finally felt like she belonged.
The day had rushed past, filled with experiment and laughter. She really did feel like she could do anything she was able to do in her youth, possibly more. Her mind was clear and active, her body supple and strong and pain-free. When she asked how it had happened she was told only that it was a gift from the ‘Prince Of This World’. She had no idea who that was, and she didn’t really care. She felt fit and healthy and young. She didn’t need to know any more than that.
When night had fallen, the Matron told her it was time to make good on the payment. Eileen didn’t complain. It was worth whatever price she was asked to pay.
She was led to the hallway where all the home’s residents had gathered. They were talking, smiling, laughing. Whatever the payment was it could not be too onerous. Members of staff stood around the doorway, each holding a cardboard box. Eileen saw the young girl, Sally, and smiled at her.
“Ladies and Gentlemen.” The Matron’s voice rose above the chattering and silenced it. “Fellow followers of the Prince, are you ready?”
A call of ‘yes’ went up from the elderly group who shifted and giggled and were as restless as any gang of youth could be. It was infectious. Eileen smiled and playfully nudged the elderly gentleman next to her, who grinned and winked. Eileen felt the stirrings of feelings she had all but forgotten in parts of her body long since numb to anything but the basic bodily functions. She blushed.
“Take one gift from each box as you pass and then go and have fun. And remember, for us the trick is the treat!”
Eileen moved forward with the rest, following their example, dipping her hand into the first box and pulling out a cape, the second a Halloween mask, the third a long bladed, satisfyingly heavy carving knife. She no longer questioned, no longer wondered, she just knew instinctively what to do.
The calls started coming into Heddison soon after daylight had fully disappeared.
Two children and their parents slaughtered on the street, their bags of sweets stolen. Witnesses described three witches running, cackling, from the scene.
A woman answering her doorbell, throat slashed by Freddy Kruger.
Michael Myers beheading a teenager who had stopped to admire his costume.
Jason running amok, swinging an axe at anyone who came close. Five dead.
More witches, more horror film characters, more crones and old men, and zombies, all killing, slaughtering. Just like the last two years, only this time there were policemen numbered among the victims. Increasing the number of officers on the beat had certainly had an effect, just not the one they wanted.
As Parkinson swung the car around another corner, Heddison saw an old crone slashing wildly at a young man who lay on the pavement, arms raised in useless defence. He saw the blood flying in the lamplight, watched the man’s arms drop, the life leave his body.
He was out of the car almost before Parkinson had stopped.
“Hey,” he shouted, running towards the murder scene. “Police, stop!”
He should have wondered why the killer didn’t turn and run, why the rubber-faced old crone simply stood there, facing him. He should have but he didn’t. There was too much adrenaline flooding through him. He was going to catch one of the bastards. Three years but he was finally going to catch one of them.
He could hear Parkinson on the car radio, calling for backup, but he didn’t want to wait. It was one person, significantly shorter than him, in a stupid Halloween costume.
The figure gave no resistance as Heddison grabbed the arm holding the knife.
With his other hand, he reached up and grabbed the rubber mask, vaguely aware of sirens in the distance, coming closer. He pulled.
“Let’s see what you really look like, you murdering bastard.”
He dropped the mask, let go of the arm, and stared in disbelief at the grinning face before him.
Eileen had seen her son sprint from the car towards her and had not even considered trying to escape. This was her chance to get even with the ungrateful little shit. Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son to his god in the Bible, but god had stopped him at the last moment. She could go one better for her Prince. No one was going to stop her.
Letting him pull the mask off was incredibly satisfying, seeing the surprise, the shock on his face as he recognised her. When he let go of her arm it made things easier, but she had felt strong enough to pull free from his grasp anyway.
The expression of complete disbelief, of horror, of pain as she slid the knife into his belly sent tingles through her body like she’d never felt before. She liked it. Each time she plunged the knife in, the strength of the tingles increased, making her skin crawl with a pleasurable, stroking sensation. She felt something building inside her, something strange and wonderful, something she had only ever read about, even before her husband died. Orgasm.
It flooded through her, making her gasp and tremble, her body jerking, her knees almost giving way beneath her as her son crumpled to the pavement at her feet, twitching in death.
By the time that foolish Sergeant who was always with her son reached her, she had recovered enough to drive the knife through his right eye socket. He dropped without a word.
Basking in the afterglow, she grabbed her rubber mask from the pavement and pulled it on. However satisfying that had been, there was a lot more of the night to go. Whoever knew paying your debts could be so much fun?
November broke with the screaming of tabloid headlines and blanket news coverage of the mayhem of Halloween.
Eileen sat in her favourite armchair, reading a paper without the use of her redundant reading glasses. The detective in charge of the case, her son, was dead. The Chief Inspector had resigned. No one knew who was behind the massacre, but theories from the plausible to the insane littered the Press.
“My name’s Henry.” The old man lowered himself into the seat next to her. “You nudged me last night before we went out trick or treating.”
Eileen blushed, again. “I remember.”
“Did you enjoy Halloween?”
“More than I ever have.” She sighed. “Such a pity we have to wait a whole year for it to come round again.”
Henry grinned and winked at her.
“A year? Just you wait until Christmas. Then we really have fun!”
Eileen laughed, thankful that her son had done one good thing in his life, sending her to Satanel Nursing Home For The Young At Heart.