The Devil’s Night. All Hallows Eve. Halloween. The time when monsters hold sway over the world.
For Misty, she just wishes they’d leave her out of their plans as she finds herself in the midst of another paranormal problem. This time a spooky specter makes itself known, and it’s demands are a little high. She and Roland escape from its clutches and find themselves looking down the barrel of another familiar problem. Things start to look dim as intentions become transparent and problems become worse, but they find a little help in the most unlikely of places.
These days the diner was a twilight zone of weird. Take that fateful night before Halloween, the eve of All Hallow’s Eve, when Ned stumbled through the doors. He climbed onto a stool and looked at me like a man who would have obliged someone who told him to walk off a cliff.
“Coffee. Now,” he ordered me.
I filled a mug and slid it over to him. He tipped back and let the thick sludge slide down his gullet. I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as he consumed his daily amount of grime in a second.
“Easy there. That’s a terrible way to go,” I told him.
The pale trucker slammed the bottom of the cup onto the counter and gasped. “You’d want to die, too, if you saw Lady Violet.”
“In the flesh?” I teased.
He shook his head. “This ain’t no joke. I saw her with my own eyes. She stood on the side of the road and stared at me like she was searching my soul.”
“What the heck are you blabbing about?”
one of the other guys spoke up.
Ned whipped his head to his peer and glared at him. “I’m talking about Lady Violet, you idiot!”
“What’s that? Some sort of new scent?” the trucker retorted.
“Don’t you know anything?” Ned snapped. “She’s a ghost! A phantom! An apparatus!”
Regardless of Ned’s obvious deficiency of spiritual jargon, I was interested.
“Where’d you see her?” I asked him.
He waved his hand in the direction of the diner doors. “Out on the old Vine Road just off the highway. She was just standing there in a long white dress waiting for someone.”
“Who’s this Lady Violet dame, anyway?” the same ignorant trucker asked him.
Ned threw his hands into the air. “Don’t you know anything about these roads?”
“I would if you’d tell it,” the guy snapped.
“Lady Violet’s a ghost of a woman who was supposed to have been in a car crash along the highway seventy years ago. Her boyfriend was driving and he lasted for a few days before he died, but she was killed instantly,” a trucker by the name of Frank interrupted.
Frank was one of the more unusual usuals. He finished all his ‘ings’ when he spoke and he came around on the dot once a month for his coffee and pie. He also paid in cash, and that made him one of Ralph’s favorite customers.
“You sure it wasn’t just some Halloween prank? Kids like to pull those things with those old stories,” the trucker suggested.
Ned glared at him. “How can this be a Halloween prank if Halloween isn’t until tomorrow night?”
The trucker frowned back. “I’ve been by that place tons of times and ain’t seen no ghosts.”
The other truckers crowded around the pair and tossed out all the old-wives tales their old wives had told them.
“Maybe ya weren’t there at the right time,” one of the guys suggested.
“Or maybe she only comes around once a year,” a guy in the back of the crowd suggested.
“You know, I heard it’s bad luck to see a ghost,” Frank spoke up.
“I know that, but what am I supposed to do about it?” Ned shot back.
“There’s some folks believe you have to take the ghost back to its grave,” Frank told him.
“What about garlic?” one of them suggested.
“This ain’t no vampire,” another pointed out.
“You could recite their name over their grave and tell ‘em not to mess with ya,” someone answered.
“Or sacrifice a chicken over their grave,” another offered.
“That better be ordering or ya all need to pay yer bills and git out of here!” Ralph shouted from the kitchen.
The crowd dispersed back to their tables in pairs and talked under their breath to each other. Their eyes flickered to Ned so much I was afraid that I’d breathe and blow them out. Frank took a seat beside Ned, and Ned closed his eyes and shuddered.
“Damn ghost. I can’t even get myself steady enough to drive my truck. . .” he mumbled.
“Some bottom-of-the-pot for Ned here. I think he needs it,” Frank told me.
“We want to calm his heart, not stop it,” I quipped.
Ned opened his eyes and glared at Frank and me. “I don’t want none of your pity. Just give me some of the Soup Surprise and let me alone a while.”
“Isn’t your blood running cold enough?” I pointed out.
Ned slammed his fist against the counter. “Just give it to me!”
The diner went as silent as the grave talk. Ralph stepped out with a bat in one of his hands. It’s name was Beater. In all my years working the diner I’d only seen him take that bat out twice. Once was to get a black bear out of the place and the other was to get the point across to a drunk that he wasn’t welcomed in the diner. The drunk got the blunt end of the point when Ralph knocked him out cold with a hard swing to the guy’s temple. He lived, but for a few weeks after that the guy’s diet had a wide range of fruit juices courtesy of the county hospital.
“Ah’m mighty fond of my diner and not much fond of ya, Ned,” Ralph growled as he tapped the head of the bat into the palm of his hand. “If ya try to rearrange so much as a salt shaker Ah wouldn’t mind rearranging yer face. Ya know Ah will. Ya were here when Ah had to take care of Flat-Nosed Finnegan.” Ned scowled, but turned his head away. “Good, now pay yer bill and get out. Ah don’t want to see yer mug around here until ya’ve got over this here ghost business of yers.”
Ned tossed a large bill on the counter and marched out the front doors. Ralph turned to the rest of the customers. “Anybody else wanna try anything?”
Apparently no one else felt adventurous because they whipped their eyes down to their plates and mugs. Ralph shuffled back into the kitchen, but paused between the two swinging doors. He looked at me with his lips pursed.
“Tell me if he bothers ya again and Ah’ll take care of it.” He disappeared into the kitchen.
“I’ll have some of the apple pie, and your opinion on what Ned said,” Frank whispered to me.
I shrugged and cut a slice from the crumbling pie in the display on the counter. “He believed it.”
Frank took the plate from me and smiled. “Don’t you?”
“I’ve got enough pains in my neck without getting mixed up with people who have transparency problems,” I replied. I leaned on the counter and looked him over. “Why? Do you believe him?”
“Ned likes to tell tales, but he usually gets them from someone else,” Frank pointed out.
“So you really think it was that Lady Violet?” I asked him.
“A lot of strange things have been happening lately,” he commented. He looked up from his coffee and caught my eyes with a steady stare. “Your aunt and uncle have been in a lot of the trouble. Brady’s disappearance, the Squash Festival fun.”
I snorted. “I wouldn’t call dealing with a crazed squash maniac fun.” The final police report on the festival was that a maniac had donned a costume and run amok among the gourds.
A slow smile spread across his face. “No, I suppose it wasn’t.”
I leaned away from Frank and frowned. I couldn’t quite explain it, but the look in his eyes was a little creepy. Kind of like when you looked at an old clown doll and wondered whether it would give you nightmares that night or the next.
Frank broke eye contact and pushed the empty pie plate towards me.
“Well, I guess I’ll be going. My truck isn’t going to drive that highway on its own,” he commented.
“Unless a ghost helps you,” I teased.
He smiled and tossed down some cash. There was always change, and I always got to keep it. “It’d be nice to have the company, but see you later, Misty.”
“Later, Frank,” I returned.
He walked out, and I grabbed the cash. Something fell from the folds and clattered onto the counter. I picked it up and saw it was a silver chain with a flower emblem attached to it.
“Frank!” I yelled, but his shadow moved away from the door towards the line of trucks. I rushed around the counter and out the doors. “Frank!”
A semi pulled out and steamed down the road away from the diner. My shoulders slumped and I sighed.
“Perfect. . .” I muttered.
I walked back inside and looked over the crowd. “Anybody know where Frank lives or his phone number?” Everyone shook their heads. “Even better. . .” I mumbled.
Now I would be babysitting a necklace and a soul box, but at least this was easier to carry. I placed the necklace around my neck and walked into the women’s bathroom. I needed to use it, but not because I’d eaten some of Ralph’s food. What Frank said about Ned made a believer out of me. I got out my phone and pressed the number on speed-dial.
“Yes?” Roland answered.
“We might have a problem with an urban myth besides yourself,” I told him.
“Which one?” he asked me.
“The kind that’s deader than you,” I explained. “Ned came in here whiter than you and said he saw a ghostly woman near the highway along Vine Road.”
“Vine Road?” he repeated.
“Yeah, why? You been tangled in it?” I wondered.
“That’s a half mile from the house in which you found me,” he revealed.
“You think Derdrom’s decided to play dress-up and hitchhike back to town?” I guessed.
“I doubt such has happened, but we shall see,” he replied.
I sighed and rolled my eyes to the ceiling. “I get off at three.”
“I will be waiting for you,” he assured me. Click.
I pulled the phone away from me and looked at the blank screen. “I really need to stop telling him this stuff so fast.”