Introduction and Author's Notes:
This tale is based on Rene Gutteridge's "Boo" series, set in the small town of Skary, Indiana between the events of her Boo and Boo Who novels. It is approximately the third week of December, placing it post-conversion and post-engagement for protagonist and former famous horror-writer Wolfe Boone, but before the craziness of Christmas Eve that transpires in the second novel. I admit there wasn't a lot of room for a gap-filling tale here, so I had to give Alfred an extra trip on a plane, but with the "Boo" reference to "several book-signings" that were looming in December, it seemed not outside the plausibility that he might do this, especially in the world of this rather odd town and its inhabitants.
The event concerning the rat is based on something that really happened in our own home, complete with the reaction of our (only two) cats and the general manner of its being finally resolved. One small liberty I have taken is allowing the affectionate nickname of "Boo" to move slightly beyond the bounds of the townfolk themselves so that it could be used by those who are not from Skary, but who may have heard of it from other admirers.
I sincerely hope you enjoy it and I thank Rene, once again, for creating such fun characters to take on this rather amusing virtual romp. Much effort was made to remain true to both her characters and to the tone of her writings, I hope it has been successful. - AB
It had been an unusual beginning to winter this year, in Skary; an early November blizzard having swept through to bog down the Thanksgiving holiday week, now an unusually warm wind had melted almost all of it away again. Heaps of slush and dirt-spattered remains of snowmen slumped the town towards a possibly cold and muddy Christmas season.
The lack of snow any heavier than the occasional dusting didn't stop the townspeople from breaking out their decorations, snow tires and snow blowers though. No matter what came after, they were ready.
Another thing that had been changing was the tourist trade. In spite of the brightness of the sun's light on the wintering town, the tenacity of Wolfe Boone's somewhat 'dark' fans had continued for a bit. The news that he'd been caught in the blizzard had brought out a small number of well-wishers and curiosity seekers, some of whom had done a bit of holiday shopping while they were at it. It had been a short-lived revival though, all too soon returned to their own homes to leave Skary alone once again. The town still had to face a seemingly inevitable decline, but after November's happenings they were generally more at peace with it.
But they didn't all leave, not quite yet.
Wolfe's announcement that he would no longer be writing horror novels hadn't slowed down all of his fans. There was a faction of them who simply would not believe it; while the initial surge had died down, a tiny number of the most die-hard among them still broke their collective piggy-banks for occasional pilgrimages to their chosen mecca of horror to validate their own bubble of denial.
They were usually easy to spot. The local residents of Skary had seen enough of their type over the years that a straggling horror-fan here or there gave them little pause, and the two that emerged from a mud-encrusted used car on this day were of no particular interest to the passerby. They wore relatively normal clothing, for one thing, except maybe for the coat the college-aged girl wore, a thick black poncho she had modified to make it more cape-like. She and her friend had met through an online fansite for Wolfe, and this was their first long journey together, all the way from Illinois. Of course the first thing they did upon arriving after trying to scout out the location of Wolfe's house was to look for Sbooky's bookstore.
Between them they'd invested most of their meager savings in lunch and gas money, but they couldn't leave empty-handed. No doubt this much famed bookstore carried plenty of their favorite books, probably all signed by the author too. Boo wouldn't disappoint his fans after all the way they had come just for him, would he? They were surprised to note the large S on the bookstore sign was down, making it just "bookys" with the outline where the S had been.
"Must have been a windstorm or something," the girl, Frankie, surmised.
Her companion, Bram, turned his skinny neck upwards to scrutinize it. "Cool."
Dustin looked up from the book he was reading as they entered. He briefly swished his long bangs out of his eyes and assessed them as more of Wolfe Boone's readers, though were getting fewer and farther between as the year went on. His initial notion was confirmed at Frankie's squealing - yes, squealing - when she saw their Wolfe Boone cardboard standee. It wasn't from Black Cats, but had been useful over the course of three different titles to give the corner by the window a nicely foreboding presence.
"Bram! Look, he has his own section. Isn't this wonderful?"
"Of course he does. This is Skary, right? Hey, look, there's a lot of great stuff here. Fingers of the Mummy and The Fingers Return! I thought those were out of print."
Frankie poked him with her elbow, her hands were full of Wolfe Boone titles. "Those aren't his books," she frowned.
"But I already have all of his books."
"So buy some more; it's disloyal to even consider buy someone else's books here, right?" She directed this last question to the young man behind the counter.
"Huh?" asked Dustin, who hadn't been paying attention.
"I bet it must be exciting working here. Does he come here often?" she pressed.
"Oh. Um, sometimes. See that picture? I took that one just a little while ago."
Frankie peered at it. "Bram look at this."
"It doesn't look like him," Bram observed. He glanced back at the standee for confirmation of it.
Frankie turned back to Dustin. "If anyone should know, it would probably be you. Can you tell me something?"
Dustin shrugged. "Depends on the question. Maybe." Inwardly he knew what was coming, and sure enough she plowed ahead right into it.
"What about that announcement we read, about him saying he wouldn't be writing anymore horror novels? That can't be true, right?"
Dustin shrugged again. He'd heard it so often by now he had a standard answer. "I'm sure it's probably a publicity stunt." As time had gone on he still secretly hoped this was true, though so far there was nothing to encourage it. The few glimpses of Wolfe he'd had over the last few weeks were entirely innocent of anything resembling active writing.
"You really think so?"
One more shrug. "I just think that someone like Wolfe Boone could never just stop writing, he's too obviously a 'natural' at it." Dustin wasn't sure what he himself might be a 'natural' at, though he did feel strangely flattered when Wolfe's fans wanted his autograph or picture with them. He knew it was simply because he had met Wolfe in person and lived there in Skary. They took what they could get and so Dustin signed their autograph books.
"I thought so," she nodded then fished into her pocket for a small booklet. She handed it to him. "Can I have your autograph?"
"Um, okay," he took it from her and hunted for a pen that worked.
"Can I ask you one more thing?" she continued, leaning in towards him in a whisper.
She glanced back at Bram, who was staring up at a large poster hanging overhead.
"Is Wolfe Boone….single?"
"Uh yeah, sort of."
"My boss said he'd heard Wolfe is getting married pretty soon."
"What?" she said a bit louder. Bram looked over at her curiously. She whispered again. "To who?"
Dustin was trying out a couple different pens, making little circles on scratch paper. "Uh, the town's sheriff. I mean his daughter. She's okay. This works." He took a pen and scribbled on her journal, liking to think someday his own scrawled signature would be worth something, whenever he found out whatever he was natural at.