by John Weagly
Enjoy this never before published Halloween mystery short story.
I hate Halloween, Max Regan thought to himself in the dark of his living room. He was doing his best to ignore the endless knocking at the door. It was just stupid kids looking for free candy. He wanted the brats to think nobody was home.
He sat on his couch, thinking of the duffel bag of money on his kitchen table. It had come easy – like trick-or-treating. Walk into a bank wearing a werewolf mask, say a few words, leave with a bag full of joy. Then hop in the car Jerry kept running at the curb and drive to the next financial institution. The two of them had knocked over five banks that fine October afternoon.
Then they drove to Max’s house to divide up the cash.
Max and Jerry had known each other for six years. They’d worked together at the tire factory, both of them getting laid off around the same time. They helped each other through the tough times, sometimes with cash when one of them had a little income, sometimes with a can of beer and a kind ear.
Jerry was the one who came up with the idea for a Halloween Heist. “Kids in costumes go in and out of businesses all day,” he said.
“Even the banks,” Max said. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. The tellers throw a couple of gummy bears at ‘em. It creates goodwill.”
“Nobody’s gonna think twice about someone steppin’ up to the counter in a Halloween mask. It’s fun!”
Jerry was right, it worked like a charm.
“I’m gonna take Rhonda out to the best dinner she’s ever seen,” Jerry said as he carried the bulging duffel through the back door into Max’s kitchen. Max listened and grabbed a butcher knife off the counter. He stabbed Jerry in the spine.
The money was a lot for two people, but it was even more for one.
It took Jerry a while to die, lying on the linoleum floor, unable to make his body work. Max waited in silence, taking in the disquieting smells of this morning’s bacon and eggs mixed with Jerry’s slow death. Once Jerry was gone, Max dragged him down to the basement, closing the basement door on the way back up. Then, as he cleaned up the kitchen, the first trick-or-treaters started to arrive.
Max didn’t want kids to see him moving around in the kitchen, so he went to the living room and sat down without any lights. From the darkness, he could see them through the window – ghosts and zombies and other things. They came up on the porch, knocked, and then rushed to the next home when they found out his was a house of disappointment.
Over the years, helping each other through the tough times had been somewhat lopsided. Max always found a couple of dollars for Jerry when Jerry needed it, but, if Max was down on his luck, Jerry usually only offered a kind ear. This unbalance had been on Max’s mind for a while. The more he thought about it, the more Max wondered if he even liked Jerry anymore. Was Jerry a friend? Or a bad habit?
As he sat and thought about their diminished camaraderie, the trick-or-treaters kept coming in a steady, rhythmic stream. Footsteps on the porch – knocking at the door – footsteps running away. The regularity of the revelers, combined with the tension of the day’s activities, lulled Max into an uneasy sleep.
Max jerked awake at the pounding on the door. He rubbed his eyes. The house had gotten colder. The clock on the wall said it was just past midnight. It was too late for children to be out.
Then he realized the knocking wasn’t coming from his front door. It was coming from the kitchen. Where the basement was. Where Jerry was.
Max stood from the couch and made his way through the darkness. He’d been sure Jerry was dead, he’d checked for a pulse and even kicked the body a couple of times. So, who was pounding on the door? Was this some kind of midnight-hour-Halloween-magic revenge thing? Was Jerry on the other side of the basement door all zombified and dripping and gross?
Max flicked on the light in the kitchen and the knocking stopped. He walked over to the basement and put his hand on the doorknob. That’s when he heard the voice.
“Max!” it cried in a whispery, high-pitched grumble, “Max!”
“Jerry,” Max said. “Is that you?”
“No.” Max shook his head. “No. This isn’t happening.”
“Let me in, Max!”
The energy drained out of Max’s body. His skin constricted, and it became difficult to breath. “I…I’m sorry, Jerry. I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have killed you.”
The voice got louder. “What?”
“I shouldn’t have killed you,” Max said through the closed basement door. “I’m sorry. Please, go rest in peace. Please, let me be.”
The knocking started again. KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK! “Max,” the voice said, “Let me in!”
That was when Max realized the knocking wasn’t coming from the basement, it was coming from the back door. He took a deep breath and crossed to the door and opened it. Rhonda, Jerry’s girlfriend, stood outside. She was holding a gun.
“Let me in, Max,” she said.
Max stepped aside and Rhonda walked into the kitchen.
“Hey, Rhonda,” Max said. “How are you? What’s with the gun?”
“Jerry gave it to me so I wouldn’t be scared at night. I’m looking for him and thought I might find him over here.” She swallowed a lump in her throat. “Did you kill my boyfriend?”
“What?” Max gave a nervous laugh. “What gives you that idea?”
“You yelled ‘I’m sorry, Jerry, I shouldn’t have killed you’ at your basement door.”
Rhonda didn’t let him finish. She brushed passed him and went down the stairs to the basement. When she came back up a moment later, she had tears in her eyes.
“Max,” she said. “You were Jerry’s best friend.” Then she shot him three times in the chest. Max fell to the linoleum in a bloody heap.
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