The Spirit of the Season
I was driving back to the office after having dealt with a couple of would be Satanists up at the Hallowed Hollow boneyard and feeling pretty good about having locked them in the Hamperdamp family mausoleum. Old Man Hamperdamp had been a bastard when he was alive. Death hadn’t mellowed him and he hated being disturbed. If their hearts held out till morning, someone would be along to let them out eventually. And DeRigor Mortis, the funeral director, had paid in cash, no questions asked. Life was good.
I was cruising along, keeping an eye out for any sugar crazed costumed midgets who might dart out into the street and put a damper on my evening, and a costly dent in my grille when something in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I pulled over and slowly scanned the street. The house I had just passed was dark, the only undecorated one on the street. Nothing odd there. So, what was making the hair on the back of my neck do the wave? A group of kids passed by the dark house and moved on to the next. About 20 yards behind them, a lone boy in pirate gear, maybe 9 years old was fishing around in his bag of booty and dawdling along. Suddenly, the porchlight at the darkened house came on. The boy finished fiddling with candy and began angling towards the house. And a cold hand grabbed my guts. I pulled a fast u-turn, parked in front of the joint, and got out of the car to intercept the kid.
The boy saw me and stopped short. Smart boy. I pointed up at the house and shook my head.
“Forget that one, buddy. Light’s are on a timer, y’know?”
He glanced at the house, then back at me and nodded slowly.
I pulled a wad of cash out of my pocket, peeled off a couple of twenties, wadded them up and tossed them into his bag as I headed up the walk to the house.
“Happy Halloween, kid. Now go catch up with the others, okay?”
He took off like a shot, calling “Thanks, mister!” over his shoulder.
Quietly, I stepped up to the front door, rang the bell and sidestepped to the left. One beat too fast, the door opened.
“Ahoy, what a fine pir…” was all he got out before I had him by the throat.
I knew why this place set off my alarms the minute I got a good look at the home owner.
“Sonovavich…Bobby Lee Gagney! How’s tricks, you little freak?”
Bobby Lee was a child molestor and registered sex offender who had gotten out of prison about a month ago. The house had belonged to his mother.
He struggled to break my grip, squeaking something that sounded like “lawyer” and “sue”.
“Bobby, you know the damn rules! No lights. No decorations. And where is your warning sign?”
A quick dart of his eyes pointed out where the official “Sex Offender Warning” sign lay on the table next to the door.
I dragged his sorry butt out of the house and down to my car. A quick rap of his head against the roof put him down for the count and I tossed him into the backseat. I started the car and headed for the Boggman place. Every town has a haunted house, a place everyone avoids. Ours was the Boggman house. The place has been empty for over 75 years. Sort of. Bobby was just coming around when I parked in front of the old Gothic pile. I dragged him out by his collar and hauled him to the front door. Bobby babbled the whole way.
“This is kidnapping! I’m gonna have you arrested! I didn’t do nothing! I’m sick! I’m gonna sue!”
I gave him a good shake and pointed at the front door.
“Shut up and listen! Here’s the deal: I dare you to knock on that door. Do that and you’re outta here. You don’t and we go visit your parole officer. Choose!”
He looked at me like I had lost my mind. I was used to it and let it go.
“Seriously? I just knock and I can split?”
“Three times, yes.”
A creepy little smile crept across his face as he turned to the door and rapped his knuckles three times. He started giggling and whispered “Trick or trea…..” when the door swung open in well oiled silence, the shadows yanked him in, and the door swung shut once more. I lit a smoke as I waited. I had only taken two drags when Bobby screamed. He stopped before I finished my third. I heard the door open behind me and turned to see a figure in the doorway, formed by writhing shadows. A pair of glowing orange eyes watched me from beneath the edge of a tattered hood as a wide, sharp toothed smile that would have made the Joker green with envy split it’s otherwise featureless black face.
“Good evening, Mr. Chase.”
“Same to you, Mr. Boggman.”
“Please, call me Bogart. It amuses me and is close enough to my given name.”
“No problem. I gotta tell you, I’m a bit surprised to find you doing this sort of thing.”
“Why, Mr. Chase? I deal in fear. Some say I am Fear itself. Frightening children to teach them caution is my reputation. Giving terror back to those who find pleasure in spreading it is a higher calling, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Works for me, Bogart.”
“Excellent! Now, since you have brought me such a thoughtful treat, tradition demands I give you one.”
He reached into his own substance and withdrew a jingling bag the size of a melon and handed it to me.
“I cross your palm with clean silver, Mr. Chase, for the gift of one black soul. Now I must bid you good night, for Mr. Gagney has a great deal more screaming to do. Happy Halloween, Mr. Chase.”
“Happy Halloween, Bogart.”
He shut the door as I headed for my car. I hefted Bogart’s gift and smiled. They say you should never make deals with the Devil, but no one ever said you couldn’t bargain with the Bogeyman.