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Howls on Halloween

Published by Arletha Kropfelder

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As the sun leaked in between the shades in Janey’s room, she could not shake the feeling that something big had happened last night. Something dark. Something life-changing.

Janey? “Janey?”

Janey’s heart stopped. Who did this dark voice belong to? Unless her beagle, Miles, had magically acquired a new lexicon in the last 12 hours, it could not be him.

Janey?

Who’s there? she asked.

Silly lady, stop playing around. It’s me, Nash.

Oh, Nash. Of course, Janey replied.

While she thought it was strange there was an unknown man, Nash, in her house, she was not afraid. She thought that he must have something to do with the previous night she cannot seem to remember. Of course, the night was Halloween.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Crap, it’s already 6:30, Janey sighed.

The day started out like any other. October 31 was just another day, just another dollar. Janey never bought into the whole ghosts-and-goblins-make-it-go-bump-in-the-night stereotype of the candy-cravers holiday. It was a day to go to work, to avoid the annual distraction of plump Martha dressed as a pumpkin (and looking quite similar to one) and Tony dressed like a vampire.

He’s no Edward Cullen, she smiled. Yes, Janey was nearly thirty years old, but she had a soft spot for Stephanie Meyer’s realm of Forks, Washington.

As she snapped out of her mini-dream of being Edward’s spidermonkey, Janey crawled out of bed, brushed her teeth, washed her face, and headed into to kitchen to let Miles out and pop a piece of bread into the toaster. As she turned on the morning news, Janey grimaced as she saw the newscasters dressed up as Ron Burgandy and Veronica Corningstone.

CLICK. Janey turned the news off. She was fairly certain Halloween was starting to take the place of Valentine’s Day as her least favorite holiday. Especially after she had successfully lost fifteen pounds since summer. All the candy made it hard to stick to her diet.

After she let Miles back in the house and treated him to his favorite snack, Janey headed for the shower. As she let the steam rejuvenate her, she planned her excuse for why she would not be able to attend the nightly Halloween festivities her coworkers would surely invite her to attend. Unfortunately, Janey was a believer in karma and believed that if she made up a white lie, chances are it would come true.

I make up excuses better on the spot, anyway, she thought, “I’ll just use whatever excuse comes to mind.”

Next thing she knew, she was out the door. Power suit, power heels, power car. She had purchased the newest Cadillac CTS right off the showroom floor just last month to congratulate herself on receiving her first promotion at work. Janey was now director of Environmental Education for the State of Louisiana. All those years of graduate work had paid off and she was top dog in a man’s world. This did not intimidate Janey, though. She enjoyed being able to talk ecology, habitat preservation, and techniques for environmental appraisal to hordes of all-male conference rooms.

As she pulled through her neighborhood, houses were already wrapped with the white mush of toilet paper.

Damn kids.

Janey made the commute to her building and pulled into her reserved space. As she looked in the mirror, she checked her makeup. Perfect, of course. Long blonde hair, steel blue eyes, shiny lips, and accurately manicured eyebrows stared back at her from the rearview mirror. Her only flaw was her eye lashes. No matter the mascara she uses, they never were as plump and full as the commercials promised. Janey was not going to apply fake eyelashes. She liked many material things, but she would not subject herself to alterations of her natural self. Makeup was a far as that girl was willing to go. No tanning. No highlights in the hair. Definitely no extensions.

Good morning Ms. Lenner, stated the new intern

Good morning, Emelia, Janey returned courteously. Janey Lenner always kept a distance from the office employees. She was not sure what everyone else thought of her. They probably thought she was cold and distant. Janey was really just a little self-conscious under her tough girl façade. She also wanted to maintain some level of mystery around her coworkers. She believed this allowed them keep a certain respect for her. After all, it was hard to come by respect in an office full of “good ol boys,” as Janey liked to call them. As she entered the elevator, she stared at the other eight bodies in the small room. Every single one of them was over fifty, round in the belly, and wearing starched jeans and ostrich leather boots.

The “good ol boys,” as Janey referred to them, were the ecologists, botanists, biologists, and etymologists that worked in her office. They were not nerdy like the stereotypical scientists, but a breed of Louisiana cowboys that saddled up every day to spend hours upon hours at their microscopes. These men contrasted greatly with the Others: a group of secretarial and technological staff that kept the office connected with the outside world.

The Others were generally good people. They had their quirks, of course, but they had good intentions. All but Martha and Tony. Janey figured they had rough high school lives because they carried so much resentment in their adult lives.

As she entered her suite of offices, Martha, dressed as a pumpkin (not surprisingly) and Tony, dressed as his typical vampire, greeted Janey and automatically asked where her Halloween costume was.

In the dumpster, where yours both belong, Janey replied. Okay, so she did not say that, but she really wanted to.

Oh, I must have forgotten it was Halloween. In reality, there was no way Janey could have forgotten. Martha was always sending out reminders, pinning Halloween flyers to the bulletin boards, and soliciting the yellow and orange candy corn that was spread over her desk for the last three months.

That’s okay, Martha said. “You will still have time to go home and change after work and get ready for Emelia’s Halloween party tonight.”

Right. Emelia’s party. I can’t go. My cousin has asked me to take his daughter trick or treating tonight because he has to work late. Yes, this was Janey’s spur of the moment lie.

Hmmmm, Tony pursed his lips. “Janey, Janey, Janey. You have to get out if you ever plan on meeting the man who will sweep you off of your feet.”

I like to stand on my own two feet, thank you very much, Janey snapped. Truth be told, she did want a man who would be there when she came home from a long day of work. It seemed that she had “Do not date” written across her forehead in ink only visible to attractive members of the opposite sex. That is probably why she hated Halloween so much. There were too many parties to go to that had pairs of Fred and Wilma, Superman and Lois Lane, and matching ketchup and mustard getups. She would not be the singular single person at a party.

Well, it seemed like Halloween was off to its usual craptastic start for Janey Lenner. Janey worked mindlessly through her email, answering the typical questions about educational resources available to school systems through her department. As she reached for her Nalgene bottle (because she didn’t believe in wasting bottled water), a new email came through that caught her eye. Sender Unknown.

Do you hate Halloween?

Are you looking for something to do tonight?

Are you single?

Do I have your attention?

Crap! Janie exclaimed. She hoped she didn’t just open a spam email that would infect her new Mac.

Sender Unknown.

After Janey restarted her computer and was certain she didn’t contract a virus, she reopened her email. The suspicious message was still there. For some strange reason, Janey was interested. She clicked reply and typed three short letters: YES.

Send.

Not four seconds later, Janey received a response that had a map embedded in the message. The location that seemed to be the destination was only seven miles away from her home and office. There was only one sentence under the map.

Costume not necessary.

As freaked out as Janey was, she was also interested.

Janey? Martha called. “You having lunch? We are ordering from the Corner. Want a sandwich?”

No. Yes. I mean, order me a chef salad. Light Italian on the side. Unsweetened tea with lemon, Janey replied.

Lunch came and went. All Janey could think about was the message. “Costume not necessary.” She didn’t know why she was so intrigued. She didn’t know what time to arrive, who would be there, or what this party was. Hell, she didn’t know if a psycho murderer would be there waiting for her. Oddly enough, she wasn’t scared. She was attracted.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Janey stood up and ripped the batteries out of her wall clock. She never liked the plain brown clock she had inherited with this office. It would stay off the wall indefinitely. Five o’clock was not coming soon enough. Of course, the day she had a plan, a mysteriously fantastic plan, the afternoon would drag on.

Finally! Janey jumped out of her chair, rushed past Martha, Tony, and Emelia without a word, and hopped into her Cadillac. She rushed home, let Miles out, and ran into her bathroom. What would she wear? How would she do her hair? Would she go sassy or sweet?

What am I doing? Janey asked herself.

Having fun, her alter ego answered.

Janey dressed in her sleekest black dress, equipped with deep red high heels, newest Coach purse, and her most valuable accessory: a Walther 9 mm pistol. Janey was no fool. She qualified for her concealed handgun license once she turned 21.

She headed out of the door again and her mind suddenly took over. “STOP! TURN AROUND! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Stupid survival instincts, she mumbled under her breath. Janey had made up her mind. She was going to where the email had directed her.

As she traveled down the freeway, she took exit 185 towards Emerald Street. Three blocks later, Janey was hooking a left into a dimly lit drive.

Blue Heron Way, Janey recited. “Just where I should be. Shouldn’t I?”

She stepped out of her car, smoothed her dress out and headed into the brightest light she could find.

Small’s. Janey spotted a bar and headed in. The inside was as obscure as the exterior. Low lighting, hazy, thick air, lingering bartender. As she walked toward the bar to order her usual G&T, Janey spotted someone lurking behind the pool table. She figured she’d keep an eye on that one.

Actually, she realized he was the only one. Besides the bartender, creepy, lurker guy was the only other person in Small’s that night.

One G&T. Would you like to open a tab?

Yes, I probably should, Janey replied as she slid over her credit card.

Excuse me, are you Janey Lenner? a deep, male voice asked.

Depends who’s asking, Janey whispered.

My name is Nash Carroll. I’m a private investigator your soon to be ex husband hired to observe you. But I cannot just observe anymore, Nash said.

Damn dirty, cheating, lying, no good, two-timing husband, she thought.

Ummm, okay? What can I do for you, Mr. Carroll? asked Janey.

I’d like to show you something. I have been watching you for the past seven weeks. I sent you the email today because I can’t stay away from you any longer. I cannot just watch you go about your work day. I have to ask you a question. I know you are into environmental studies and I thought maybe you could help me.

Janey thought about it for a minute. What could a private investigator need with an environmental educator he has been stalking for the past two months?

Let’s go outside and look at the sky. You know, it’s a full moon, Nash declared.

I hadn’t noticed. In fact, Janey did notice. She always noticed the full moon. She had always been enamored with it ever since she was a small girl. She loved the way it always looked different, yet very similar. Some months it looked big a bright, others eerily orange. She was attracted to its light.

As Janey and Nash walked outside, she noticed he began to quiver.

Nash, are you okay? Nash? NASH?

Suddenly, Nash Carroll burst into convulsions and writhed on the ground. His dark hair began to stand on end and his eyes flashed golden yellow. His clothing ripped to shreds and his fingers suddenly turned into paws.

Oh. My. Gosh. Janey sputtered. “Are you freaking kidding me?”

Before she realized what had happened, Janey was staring at a real life werewolf. A full grown, true to form, growling and howling werewolf.

Janey rushed to her car, pushed the button into the keypad in her door, and hopped in. After two quick breaths, Janey pushed the button to start her car and threw it in reverse. As she looked straight ahead for the quickest way out, Nash, the werewolf, whatever he was, appeared just in front of her car. Oddly enough, he didn’t look menacing. He had a look of worry and want in his eyes.

Sadness, Janey breathed.

With this realization, Janey hopped out of her car and grabbed the animal by its ear. She stroked his head and picked a few leaves out of his fur. His throat hummed in response.

Come on, Nash. Let’s go home. Some kids may see us. You know it’s Halloween, right? Of course you do. Silly me.

Janey led the smelly dog into her leathern clad car and set her GPS for home. She’d need a bottle of Maker’s Mark when she arrived home. Good thing she picked one up just last week.

As soon as they pulled into the drive, Janey rushed out of the car and into her kitchen. She didn’t even realize that Nash had followed her into the house. She poured herself a glass of bourbon and guzzled. She could not believe what was happening to her. What was in her house? Who was in her house.

Before she knew it, Janey’s Halloween evening was spinning around her. The Maker’s Mark had done its job. Nash growled in the kitchen but he could not snap Janey back into reality. She was gone.

Nash grabbed a hold of Janey’s arm in his mouth and dragged her into her bedroom. He loaded her onto the bed and licked her forehead. He liked the way she tasted but wished she had been able to compose herself. He knew she would be the one to save him. He needed help and she was the one.

 

 

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