Scores of masquerading children swarmed sidewalks, knocked on doors, and shrieked “trick or treat” to smiling folks toting bowlfuls of candy. Some stopped under pale luminescent streetlights to examine the contents of their pillowcases and plastic pumpkins. Others plopped to the curb, feasting and swapping confectionary delights. Almost everyone enjoyed the festivities with friends. Almost everyone. Everyone, but Andrew Marshall. New in town, Andrew plodded on, alone, to collect free treats.
“Ahoy mate!” a voice cackled from the shadows. “Nice patch, kid.”
Andrew jerked around.
“It’s Andrew, right?” one asked, stepping from the shadows. “My name’s Billy. This is Alex,” he said pointing to the boy beside him. "We're in P.E. together. You gotta good haul tonight?”
“Not bad,” Andrew answered, glancing into his sack. “How are you guys doin’?”
“Great,” Alex answered, elbowing Billy in the side. “We wait here in the dark and steal little kids’ candy. It beats goin’ door to door.”
A wave of panic flooded Andrew as he noticed a trail of wrappers leading from the walk into the darkness.
“But, we’re not gonna take yours…yet,” Billy added. “Since you’re new in town, we’re gonna give you a way to keep your candy.”
Andrew looked from one boy to the other, not knowing whether to stay or sprint for home. “And that way would be…?” he asked, swallowing around a lump in his throat.
Alex smiled. “You’ve got to go up and knock on the door at the old Hutton Place. Some say it's haunted.”
“It was empty for years,” Billy added. “Then a renter would come along, and then another. Some new family bought the place…moved in...with the ghosts. If y’ go knock on the door, y’ get t’ keep your candy. If y’ chicken out, y’ give it to us.”
Andrew clinched the bag tighter. “The Hutton House? I haven’t heard of it.”
“You are new here, aren’t y'?” Alex chided. "Hardly anybody calls it th’ Hutton House anymore, but my granny still does. She tells me stories. Supposedly, Old Man Hutton died ‘bout fifty years ago, and his spirit came back t’ roam th’ place, mainly t’ scare off intruders and t’ tend to his cat, Midnight. I guess that’s why renters move in and out so quick.”
Billy bellowed “boo” at a horde of youngsters and swiped at a bag brimming with candy, missing. “Some say you can still hear that cat screeching at night, howling for his master.”
“So, where is this place?” Andrew asked.
“Follow us,” Billy ordered.
Billy pointed into the shadows. "There it is."
The Victorian three-story rose ominously on a hill, turrets straining to reach gathering storm clouds. Patchy moonlight revealed shutters flapping and loose boards squawked resistance to wind whistling around the house.
"So, Andrew," Alex taunted. "What'cha gonna do?"
Andrew dug into his pocket. "Let me text mom and dad." Andrew deftly tapped out a message.
"Oh, Andy's gotta tell mommy and daddy that he's gonna be late," Billy teased.
"Nope," Andrew said snapping the phone shut. "I'm going in."
Lightning flashed, illuminating a natural carpet of red, yellow, and orange under an oaken canopy. Unsettled leaves skipped and scampered, seeking a spot to rest. Andrew crept up the nearly invisible walk, crunching leaves underfoot with each stealthy step. He eased up on the porch, the steps groaning under his weight. A silhouette curled around his ankles; its tail flipping nervously.
Andrew grasped a bronze knocker, poised to tap. The door swung open wildly and a gloved hand grabbed Andrew by the wrist dragging him into the dark abyss. A scream echoed down the hill followed by a yowling wail. Both watchful hooligans scampered down the street, spilling candy in a frenzied escape.
Andrew peered through sheer curtains, giggling. A firm hand rested upon his shoulder. "Did you have a good time son?"
"Not until now. Thanks Dad...that was perfect. And great cat sound. Nice touch." Alex grinned ear to ear.
“Um, that wasn’t me,” Dad grimaced. “Blackie got her tail caught in the door.”
“Poor thing,” Andrew comforted, scooping up his pet. "Who'd a thought our old fixer-upper would scare off a couple of bullies?"
"Yeah, who'd a thought? Now, let's check out your stash."
"Sure thing, Dad. Sure thing."
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