by Gary Hoffman
Halloween Weekend Massacre is the first of our Halloween Short Story contest entries that we will be publishing. Watch for many more between now and Halloween, including the winner in our October 24 issue!
The note was horrific. It was found at the front desk at the police station, but no one could remember seeing who dropped it off. The sergeant there just found it when he moved a small stack of papers he needed to work on.
This little burg needs some excitement. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I know just how to create it. Last year there were only four recorded murders in this place. I think it needs more. Three in 3 days would be pretty much of a record.
Tomorrow is October 30, Devil’s Night. I think that is a good night to start. I’ll see to it that one person gets closer to their relatives tomorrow. On Halloween, I’ll put one more in the ground. Then on All Saints’ Day, the last one will meet their maker.
Since there have already been two murders in town this year, I‘ll make sure the record really gets broken, not only for the year, but for three in three days.
Let the games begin!
Detective Dick Olden leaned back in his chair while holding the note up to read it. It was now enclosed in a plastic bag, even though the lab had confirmed there were no useable fingerprints on it. The only prints found were from the deputy who handled it. The desk sergeant hadn’t taken the proper precautions when he opened it, but the lab was pretty sure the author didn’t leave any prints there. It was the same with the envelope.
“Name Jerome mean anything to you?” Olden asked his partner Detective Susan Russell.
“Nothing. You think this person’s serious or is it just a Halloween prank?”
“No real way to tell. Got to treat it as serious.”
“Makes me shiver just to think about it and that there’s someone out there with that kind of mind. Serious or not.”
“Know the feeling.”
Olden and Russell were the only two detectives in the Prescott County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s office was in the small town of Allison, population 8,935. Most of the time their job was pretty simple, like robbery or assault cases. Now they had a serious case, and all they could do was wait.
They waited all day on Thursday, October 30 before getting a phone call from dispatch at nine that night. Olden took the call.
“Come on partner, let’s roll,” he said as he stood and grabbed his jacket. “A body has been reported out on Pointer Road.”
“These hours are gonna kill me as well as ruin my marriage.”
“Too late to save mine, so the hours don’t mean much anymore.”
The girl appeared to be in her early twenties with long brown hair. There was no visible blood, but from the looks of the marks on her neck, they figured she had been strangled with a rope or something like it.
Olden snapped on a pair of latex gloves before unpinning the envelope and read the note in it.
This is the easy one, but we had to start somewhere, didn’t we?
So, excuse my attempt at poetry, but roses are red, violets are blue, sleep well tonight, because tomorrow’s number two.
Think Halloween. Trick or treat.
“Bastard’s cocky,” Olden said. “Any of that mean anything to you?”
“Let’s get Walt out here from forensics and see what he can find. You and I will go to every house on this road and see if anyone saw anything.
The only information they got from people who lived on the road came from Freda Higgins who lived about half a mile from where the body was found.
“I was coming home from the grocery store about six this evening. I saw a car on the side of the road. I figured they might be having trouble, so I stopped to ask. The man said he thought he might have a tire going flat, so he stopped to check it. When I asked if I could help, he said he had a small compressor with him and that he would take care of it.”
“Can you describe the car?”
“I’m pretty sure it was silver and had four doors. Other than that, I’m not much on the makes of cars nowadays.”
”Can you give us a description of the man?”
“Not really. It was pretty dark by then, you know with daylight time ending and all. He was wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, so it was hard to see his face.”
“Could you tell if he had a beard or anything?”
“How tall was he?”
“I couldn’t really tell. I rolled down the passenger window, and he was bending over talking to me, there was really no way to tell. Sorry.”
“That’s okay. You’ve been a big help.” Olden handed her one of his cards. “If you remember anything call me anytime. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll do that.”
Once they were back in the car, Russell radioed into the station for reports of any stolen vehicles.
“Got one from Carl Winslow.”
“Let me guess. A silver four door sedan.”
“You’re either psychic or onto something. Yes, a Lexus.”
“Call Mr. Winslow and tell him we’re on our way to talk with him.”
Carl Winslow told them he hadn’t driven the car for two days. It was in his garage, and he discovered it missing when he wanted to go into town for some groceries that evening.
“At first I thought my son might have taken it out, but he was studying in his room. That in itself is an event.”
“So you really have no idea when it was taken?”
“Sorry, not really.”
The two detectives returned to the station. Olden said, “I’m gonna get some shuteye.”
“Sorry, partner. Not quite yet. Remember, we still have a note about another body. And we still have a body that’s supposed to turn up on Halloween.”
“Oh, crap. I forgot about that.”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about it. It says to think trick or treat. What do most kids get for treats on Halloween?”
“And who’s got the largest candy counter in town?”
“Old man Deming in his drug store.”
“Right. I think we better go check on him.”
The drug store’s front door was locked and the shade pulled down. A closed sign hung where it usually did. They knocked on the door, but got no response.
“He lives behind here, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah. Ever since his wife passed away he lives alone in a room behind the store.”
The back door to the building was slightly open. Russell drew her 9mm Glock and Olden took out his 500 Smith and Wesson before entering. Mr. Deming’s body was behind his candy counter. There was blood on the front of his shirt and a large pool of blood around him. An envelope was pinned to his lab coat. Olden snapped on gloves and carefully removed the note inside.
Congratulations. You’ve found #2. Only one more to go. I’ll be sending a soul away on All Soul’s Day. Rather appropriate, don’t you think?
Think Halloween again.
Carve a pumpkin. Carve an old pumpkin.
“What the hell does that mean?” Olden said as he put the note back in the envelope.
“I sure need some sleep, but I doubt if I could. What about you?”
“I’ll survive. I’ll give my husband a call and let him know I’m still alive, although as tired as I am, I’m not sure myself.”
When they got back to the station, they had information from forensics. The woman who was killed was named Judy Breeze. She worked as a paralegal for one of the lawyers in town. She was single and lived alone.
The Lexus had been recovered. Nothing of any real value was found in it. There were some long brown hairs in the trunk, so they theorized the woman had been killed elsewhere, somewhere quieter and more secluded, then transported out on Pointer Road to be dumped. There was a fair amount of traffic on Pointer road, so just dumping a body would take less time than killing the person there. Her cause of death was strangulation with a piece of rope.
The first note was written on common copy paper, probably typed on a computer, and printed on a common printer.
“So what do we know about this guy so far?” Russell asked.
“He doesn’t seem to be targeting any special group of people except those that live alone. Sex or age doesn’t seem to matter to him. He is probably local since he seems to know a lot about the town and maybe people’s habits. He seems to be fairly intelligent. Doesn’t make a lot of grammar or typing errors, except maybe not writing out numbers, except the number one. Other than that, we really don’t know a damned thing.”
“Let’s get on the internet and see if we can find anything in this second note that will give us a clue. An old pumpkin doesn’t ring any bells with me. How about you?”
Olden went for coffee while Russell got on her computer and logged into the internet. By the time he got back, Russell was silently reading her computer screen. Within three minutes, she said, “I may have something.”
“Oh? Good my computer is almost finished booting up. Got to get this thing looked at. So what’ ca find?”
“Back in early Scotland and Ireland, when Halloween was celebrated, they didn’t grow pumpkins. They carved turnips like they carve pumpkins today.”
“Yep. Who around here has anything to do with turnips?”
Olden was quiet for just a few seconds before he snapped his fingers. “Zeb Collins. He got into this living green thing and is growing acres of turnips to feed to his cattle. The university is helping him because it’s part of their program. And, he lives alone on his farm, up in the northeast corner of the county.”
“This is the best clue we’ve got so far. Should we go up there?”
“Damned straight. We need to get all the deputies we can together and head up there. We’ll take all the unmarked cars we’ve got”
“You seen anybody new or different hanging around here lately, Zeb?” Russell asked.
“Not really. About three months ago, I did hire a hand to help me around here. I let him put a trailer down by the spring. He’s stayin’ there.”
“When does he come to work?
“Should be here around eight. He’s got an old red Chevy pickup truck. Usually parks it beside the barn.
“The barn big enough we can get our cars in there so he won’t see them when he drives up?”
“Yeah.” Two deputies went out and moved the two cars into the barn.
“You sure ‘bout all this, detective? JB seems like an awful nice guy.”
“Yeah, JB Smith. At least that’s what he told me.”
“That J could be for Jerome. It’s sounding more and more like he might be our man. We’re going to scatter out where we can watch him when he comes in. I’m going to stay in the house with you. Russell, you take the barn. I’ll put the other deputies outside in the trees and bushes,” Olden said.
When everyone was in place, a pleasant silence settled over the farm. Nothing was unusual. The birds did their morning singing and the cows could be heard talking to each other out in the pastures.
At ten after eight, nothing had happened. Olden started pacing the room. He looked out a window and decided in five more minutes he was going to the barn and see if Russell was okay.
In the barn, Russell was sitting on a couple of bales of hay that gave her a good line of sight out one window.
Before she had any indication that something was wrong, she felt a rope being pulled around her neck.
A person behind her started talking. “You cops think you’re so damned smart. Got to get up earlier than this to out-fox JB Smith.” The rope tightened, but was not cutting off her air.
“Now, little lady, you’re my ticket out of here. We’re gonna get in that first cop car and drive it through the back of the barn and around to the road. All those other guys are up by the house, so they won’t have a chance to stop us. I’ve already let the air out of the tires on the second car, so a chase is pretty much out of the question. You just got to be number three instead of old Zeb.
“Now put your hands behind you so I can cuff you with your own cuffs. How’s that for being ironic?”
JB pushed Russell ahead of him as he walked toward the sheriff’s car. He put her in the passenger’s seat and went around to drive. Olden came into a side door of the barn just as JB started the car and started for the end of the barn. There was a loud screeching of metal on wood as the car careened through the end of the barn.
Olden ran from the barn to the side away from the house. As he rounded the corner, the car was coming right toward him. He unholstered his 500 S&M and aimed at the radiator. He didn’t intend to hit JB. He knew what his gun could do, penetrate through an engine block. He took two shots.
At first, steam rolled from under the hood and then the car sputtered to a stop after going another hundred yards. JB got out and drug Russell out on the driver’s side.
JB had a gun against Russell’s head. “Give it up, cop. You do anything stupid and she dies.”
Olden kept his gun aimed in their direction. Russell lifted her right leg backwards and caught JB square between his legs. He groaned and let go of her. She fell to the ground. An explosion from Olden’s small cannon ended the whole affair. Most of JB’s intestines were on the ground behind him.
JB had raised the murder rate to four for the year, tying last year’s record. His death was the third in the Halloween Weekend Massacre, as it became known in Prescott County’s history, but never counted as a murder—only his prediction that three people would die. .
Both detectives took the next two days off. Olden slept. Russell also slept, but found time to remind her husband he still had a wife.
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