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Halloween Justice: A Halloween Mystery Short Story

IN THE October 17 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Sharon Marchisello

This story won third place in last year’s Bienvenue Press Halloween Fiction contest.

No one in the neighborhood put on a better Halloween display than Diana Hunter. Every year, she added new decorations to scare young children and delight older trick-or-treaters. Last year, she hung a two-foot black velveteen spider from a wispy net between the birch trees; the net’s threads were so fine, trespassers who cut across her grass became entangled in the creature’s web. The mechanical skeleton who cackled maniacally when he popped up from the lawn’s tombstone at irregular intervals was a long-time favorite. A steam machine and haunting music pierced with an occasional eerie scream enhanced the atmosphere.

This year, Diana had purchased a full-sized brass coffin, a model being discontinued by the local funeral home. It was too good a bargain to resist. She was still trying to decide where to place it for maximum effect.

Before her husband Harvey’s death, the Hunter household never celebrated holidays. Harvey turned off the porchlight every Halloween, and if a trick-or-treater had the audacity to ring the doorbell, he’d bellow, “Go away if you know what’s good for you.” Once, some pre-teen boys pelted the house with raw eggs and Harvey caught them in the act. They never tried that trick again.

No one liked Harvey much. Diana never appeared in public without Harvey, so no one knew a lot about her. She wasn’t from these parts. Sometimes her scarf slipped away from her face and exposed fresh bruises.

When the police delivered the news of Harvey’s demise in a one-car accident along a lonely, dark country road one Halloween night, she’d shown no emotion. “Bad things happen to bad people,” was all she had to say.

Townsfolk speculated that Diana had had something to do with Harvey’s death—some abnormalities were discovered in the braking system of his car—but no one could find any proof. Despite the rumors about Harvey’s affair with his young secretary, and the fact that Diana had recently purchased a large insurance policy on his life, with herself as beneficiary, the inquiry was quickly closed and Harvey’s death ruled an unfortunate accident.

The next year, the over-the-top holiday decorations began. Diana donned a witch costume every Halloween, complete with a black, pointed hat, a wart-covered nose, and green face make-up. She offered brave trick-or-treaters cups of her “witches brew” which was really only ginger ale mixed with orange sherbet.

Also new to the décor this Halloween was Darth, Diana’s one-eyed black cat. Darth had lost his eye, large patches of his fur, and part of his tail last summer when a gang of pre-teen neighborhood boys decided it would be fun to douse a stray cat with gasoline and then set it on fire.feral paws rescued black cat

Diana had driven by just as the boys were running away. She thought she recognized Colin Chesterfield among them, but when she reported the crime to the police, they questioned Colin and released him after his parents provided an alibi. Diana rescued the cat and rushed him to the veterinarian, who recommended euthanasia. But Diana insisted on saving Darth. After thousands of dollars for surgery and months of recuperation, Darth pulled through and became Diana’s loyal pet. His near-death experience had taught him to become an excellent judge of character. “Bad things happen to bad people,” she told Darth, and he contemplated her with wise, yellow eyes. “You know.”

Anna Lee, Diana’s ten-year-old granddaughter, arrived from school and helped Diana string the cardboard bat and ghost mobiles around the windows, and line the front door with black crepe paper.

“Have you tried on your costume yet?” asked Diana. Anna Lee loved to dress as a princess, and Diana had spent the past few weeks sewing her the most beautiful princess gown.

Anna Lee frowned. “I don’t want to go trick-or-treating this year. I just want Halloween to be over.”

“But I made you a new princess gown. It’s your favorite shade of pink.”

“I wish you hadn’t. I can’t do it again.” Tears flooded the girl’s eyes and she stopped hanging the mobiles in mid-string.

Diana winced. She knew Anna Lee had been scarred by last Halloween’s fiasco. One block from home, after Anna Lee had spent a fun night trick-or-treating with her friends, Colin Chesterfield and his buddies had ambushed them. The boys had drenched the girls with shaving cream, stolen all their candy, and left them crying in the street. During the attack, Colin had pushed Anna Lee so hard she’d tripped over the hem of her princess costume, falling onto the concrete and breaking her arm. Colin and his friends had just laughed and run away.

“He’ll be out there.” Anna Lee’s lip trembled as she taped the last of the mobile string onto the window frame.

“What if I told you Colin won’t be a problem this year?” Diana reached for her granddaughter’s hand as Anna Lee stepped down from the ladder. “I saw his mother in the supermarket last week, and she told me they’re moving to Florida. They should be on the road by now.”halloween

Anna Lee brightened. “Really? Colin is gone?”

With a nod, Diana said, “Go put on your princess gown. Have a wonderful time tonight.”

When Anna Lee had kissed her and gone upstairs, Diana turned to her new brass coffin. Where to put you? On display in the center of the living room, or hidden in a corner?

As she wheeled it into position, Darth rubbed against her legs. Faint scratching came from inside the coffin. Darth hissed. Diana shrugged, checked the latches. From a nearby credenza, she retrieved a solid black tablecloth, which she draped over the coffin. That pitiful noise will stop soon. “Bad things happen to bad people,” she assured the cat.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways, mystery short stories, and more Halloween stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!

Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press: Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). Her short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Shhhh…Murder! (Darkhouse Books 2018) and Finally Home (Bienvenue Press 2019). Her other publications include travel articles, corporate training manuals, book reviews, a blog (Countdown to Financial Fitness), and a nonfiction book about personal finance, Live Well, Grow Wealth. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is an active member of Sisters in Crime. She lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, and does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Claire A Murray
Twitter: @Clamo88
October 18, 2020 at 6:42am

Love the story. It’s just right for Halloween. Thanks.
A recent post from Claire A Murray: What’s Your Favorite Halloween Memory?My Profile

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