To take care of any legal issues: I do not own Kim Possible, or any of the other characters in this story. This story is not intended for sale, merely for the enjoyment of anyone who reads it. That said, I hope you like it.
This story is my entry into Zaratan's Halloween challenge.
A big thanks goes to CaptainKodak1, for giving me permission to write this story based upon his story, 'A Box of Cuddlebuddies'.
I would also like to thank Joe Stoppinghem, for beta reading this tale.
Ron Possible Jr. stepped off of the concourse at the Middleton Transfer station and hoisted his bag onto his shoulder. "Two and a half-hours to fly from Tokyo to Denver, then another forty-five minutes from Denver to Middleton," he thought. "I really caught the slow flight."
Still, the crisp, autumn day, after the intense training at Yamanouchi, made him smile. For some reason, his grandmother wanted to speak to him and it was important enough for Sensei Yori to send him back to the states. Curious, he threw his bag into a waiting cab, let the electric eye scan his retina, and announced his destination. The robotic system quickly delivered him to his destination.
He stepped out of the cab, as a speaker announced the amount that would be deducted from his account, and looked at the old house. At times, Ron didn't understand his grandmother. During most holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and so forth, she decorated the old house to the hilt. Yet, even though today was Halloween, there wasn't so much as a single decoration on the house. Oh, the old woman gave away candy but she always had every light in the house on during that particular night. No, grandma just seemed to go through the motions on Halloween and Hero's Day.
He shook the thought out of his mind, taking comfort in the fact that there were some aspects about his grandmother that would never change, no matter how much the world around her tried to force her to do so. The house, for example, was one of the original homes in Middleton, dating back to even before Upperton and Lowerton separated, then re-incorporated with the central municipality. About a half-dozen historical preservation groups wanted to buy the house and turn it into a museum, but she would have nothing of it. A couple of dozen developers wanted to purchase some of the nearly farm-sized property but she refused to break up the acreage where she had first grown up, then raised her own family.
No, his grandmother could be incredibly stubborn about some issues. Take the mailbox that Ron now walked by. Despite the fact that his grandfather had died when he was a kid, the label still read 'T&R Stoppable.'
The old woman must have been watching for him to arrive, as she opened the door and embraced him before he could even ring the bell.
"Ronnie!" She exclaimed, drawing him into the large house and seating him on the couch. He weathered the usual barrage of questions and comments: The flight was uneventful, he was neither hungry nor thirsty, he realized that he needed a haircut and he really was too thin. With the formalities out of the way, the old woman composed herself and prepared to bring up the issue that had caused Ron to cross the Pacific, on very short notice. Ron studied his grandmother while she did so.
The old woman was in her eighties but was very spry for her age. "Eighty is the new sixty," she would tell anyone who commented on this. Ron knew better. The athletic lifestyle she had followed since her teens was paying dividends at this time. Ron had paged through her high school yearbooks (he still had trouble believing that people had once printed books on paper) and even though it sounded…sick and wrong…he had to admit that his grandmother had been a stunningly attractive woman.
"Why don't we get down to business?" Tara Stoppable interrupted her grandson's thoughts. "Did anybody tell you why it was so important for you to return home, so quickly?"
"Sensei Yori told me that you would tell me everything I needed to know," Ron answered, then hesitated a moment. "She doesn't seem to…approve of you."
"As well she shouldn't," Tara nodded, with a sad expression, as she handed him a large, manila envelope.
"This is a copy of my will," Tara told her grandson. "In it, you'll find that I've left the house and the property to you, under the condition that the property is never parceled. This property must stay in the family, Ronnie, and it's your misfortune to be the caretaker for your generation."
"I don't understand," Ron admitted.
"It all started over sixty years ago," Tara told him. "But the real consequences didn't make themselves known until a little over forty years ago, when your Uncle Lon was mowing the lawn, just before Halloween…."
Sixteen year old Lon Stoppable guided the mower over the lawn's last patch of uncut grass and switched it off. He detached the bag and hauled the combined mass of grass clippings and shredded leaves to the garden. At times like this, he wished that either he wasn't the oldest kid in the family, or that his father would spring for a riding lawn mower. Still, at least they had a cordless electric, which was easy to guide around the yard.
"Yard," he thought, as he dumped the load on the compost pile and headed back to the mower. "Some countries would call this a range, and refer to the garden as a farm."
Still, he had to admit that the large property's benefits outweighed the liabilities. First, the house was huge. His brother, sister and he could all have friends over and not get in each other's way. Secondly, the small grove of apple trees provided a kind of labyrinth, perfect for playing 'space quest,' or one of the other, countless, childhood games he had enjoyed. Lately, the grove provided privacy for when Lorrie Mankey came over to visit. Lorrie's mother, Liz, had been on the cheerleading squad with his mother, back in the day, and the two visited each other frequently. Lorrie had agreed to go to the upcoming Halloween dance with him, a situation that seemed to delight both of their mothers.
Finally, there was the yard. Both the front and the back yards were large, level, and just about perfect for anything active children could imagine. While his mother might complain, occasionally, about how the games tore up the grass, his father had always overruled her. Ron Stoppable had always valued function over form and considered a beat-up yard to be a small price to pay for a family of healthy, active kids. Just like his oldest son considered spending a couple of hours working on the yard, each week, to be a small price to pay for having such a yard.
Lon reconnected the bag to the mower, started up the machine and guided it back to the shed. "No," he thought, as he surveyed his handiwork. "This home's just about perfect for a teenager. There's only two flaws in the yard situation."
The first flaw was the sidewalk, which bisected the front yard. It was the only blemish in the open, green expanse. He and his friends had, by unspoken agreement, declared the sidewalk a 'tackle free zone' during their football games. The second flaw was the old cistern cover, in the back yard. While the cistern cover wasn't particularly large, and only stuck out of the ground a foot or so, it was still a pain. First, it was still another obstruction, which Lon had to trim around before mowing the yard. Secondly, his father didn't like the idea of the hollow, subterranean space in the yard.
While the Stoppable family wasn't rich, they were clearly well off. Yet every time Ron Stoppable started to make arrangements to fill in the old cistern, Tara Stoppable shot him down. Since she had grown up in the house, Ron tended to defer to her wishes when it came to the property. She never gave any real reason for keeping the cistern, just some vague remarks about it having always been there and that she was accustomed to it.
With the mower put away and his chores finished, Lon left the shed and headed for the house, entertaining some vague plans of calling up Brian Reger, hanging around and trying to 'accidentally' run into Lorrie. His pleasant musings were interrupted when he spotted several uncut blades of grass against the cistern lid. While Lon Stoppable didn't enjoy mowing the yard and his father wasn't a real stickler for every little detail, Lon didn't like doing a shoddy job. The teen rested one hand on the cement surface while he reached down and plucked the offending grass.
Satisfied, he pushed on the lid to straighten himself up when he felt an odd sensation in the palm of his left hand, which happened to be the one on the lid. It felt like a faint vibration, similar to the time a contractor had some heavy equipment working on the street. At that time the Stoppable children, all under ten years old, had spent hours sitting on the lid, in the company of their father, amused at how the vibrations had run up the concrete and into their backsides. What Lon felt now, however, wasn't quite the same; it felt like something was scraping the cement.
Curious, Lon used his other hand to knock on the lid. He felt the impacts with his left hand and then...nothing. The vibrations he had felt earlier had stopped. Straightening again, the boy was just about to pull his hand off of the lid when the vibrations returned, much closer and stronger. It felt as if something was scraping the inside of the lid! Lon dropped to one knee and lowered is head towards the concrete. Just as his ear was about to touch the lid…
"LON!!" His mother's voice sent him vaulting to his feet.
"Get away from that thing!" She ordered him, from her vantage point on the back porch. "You know I don't approve of you kids being anywhere near the old cistern!" Lon did, indeed, know better. There were only two things that really set off Tara Stoppable. One was the very thought of her children visiting Camp Gottagrin and the other was anybody spending more than a few minutes close to the old cistern.
"Sorry mom," Lon called back, now walking towards the house. "I thought I heard something in there, like something was scraping at the inside." For a moment, just a moment, an expression of pure panic crossed his mother's face. Then it was gone, so fast that Lon didn't know if he had imagined it or not.
"There's no way that anything living could be in that old pit," Tara chided him, gently. "And even if there is something in there, it's probably a gopher, or badger, or something like that that tunneled in there. There's no way I'm letting you open it and get rabies, or something like that."
"Okay mom, sorry I scared you," Lon answered. It was true that Tara was exceedingly cautious about the cistern, despite the fact that she was determined to keep it. Four times each year, during the first week of January, April, July and October, she marched her husband into the back yard and watched him re-mortar the seal between the lid and the opening.
"It's okay," Tara assured her oldest child, fondly ruffling his hair. "Now why don't you get cleaned up and maybe head to the athletic center with Brian?" Tara's smile grew almost sly. "Liz tells me that Lorrie's going to be swimming there today and that she just bought a new suit that really compliments her."
"Mom…" Lon muttered in protest, but he took a shower, then called Brian. The two went to the athletic center. They went swimming, where they met Lorrie. Lon wound up spending the rest of the day at the pool.
"I tell you, there was something in the cistern," Lon told his younger siblings, that night after dinner. The three children were in the basement, where their parents couldn't overhear them.
"So what?" His younger brother, Roy, asked. "If it got in, it can get back out."
"But what if it can't figure out how it got in there?" Lon answered back. "What if it can't get back out?"
"That would be terrible," Kim, their younger sister, remarked. "We can't leave it in there to die!"
"What can we do?" Roy asked. "Mom won't let us near that thing for any reason. She gets jumpy when I run by it on the way to the shed!"
"I've got a plan," Lon told his younger siblings. "The day after tomorrow is Halloween. Dad always helps out at the Scaring for Caring Haunted House and mom will spend the entire evening on the front porch, handing out candy. I'll be able to chip open the seal and open the cistern. If there's anything in there, I'll let it out. Either way, I'll re-mortar the seal and mom will never know the difference."
"How are you going to get the lid off?" Roy asked him. "The Flaggs' have an old cistern, as well. Mr. Flagg says that the cover weighs almost two hundred pounds. There's no way you can lift that, Mr. Noodle-arm." While the Stoppable children got along fairly well, they kidded each other a lot.
"No problem," Lon answered right back. "Dad still has that frame and pulley contraption that he rigged up to handle the boat's outboard motor. The outboard weighs a lot more than one-fifty and I can handle it with the frame."
"That makes sense," Kim admitted. "But what about the dance?"
"What about the dance?" Lon asked back.
"Aren't you going to be going…with Lorrie?" She asked. Both of the younger Stoppable children collapsed into fits of giggles, while Lon turned red.
"That's why I want to take care of this right after school," he confessed.
"Lon and Lorrie, sittin' in a tree," his two siblings started to chant. "K-I-S-S…"
"Kids!" Ron Stoppable's voice echoed down the stairs. "It's time for your homework check!"
"Dad just saved your lives," Lon growled at his two younger siblings, who snickered right back at him. Soon they were in the den, going over their homework assignments with their father. After that, it was time for bed.
The next morning dawned clear, yet cold. The three Stoppable children headed to school, meeting up with Brian and Betty Reger on the way. They didn't talk about anything important, which was usual for the five of them. Eventually they reached a point where Kim and Betty, eighth graders, turned to go to the middle school while the other three continued to the high school. Once in the high school, Roy left for the freshman wing, leaving the two juniors behind.
Lon went through his classes and headed for the locker room at the end of the school day. The team had played the last game of the season the previous Friday and Coach Barkin wanted a word with each of his returning players. With a last name starting with S, Lon wound up waiting until Thursday for his meeting. As it was, he had to wait nearly a half-hour for his turn.
"Stoppable," Coach Barkin greeted the boy. "Come in, close the door and sit down."
Lon did as he was told, studying his football coach. Steve Barkin was either in his late fifties or early sixties, but was clearly on everyone's 'do not mess with' list.
"I'm not going to talk to you about your performance or you motivation," the older coach informed the boy. "Both are excellent. If you keep improving, you'll challenge your father's single year records next year."
"I have a hard time believing that dad was that good," Lon confessed. "I mean, he lives such a boring life. He's a government consultant of some sort and he runs a restaurant."
"That's what he wants you to believe," Coach Barkin countered. "Young man, your parents have chosen to keep some secrets from you. As much as I'd like to respect their wishes, the fact is that your father developed some very powerful enemies when he was your age. I want you to know the truth, in case one of his enemies comes looking for you, here at the school. Besides, it's about time he had some of the credit he deserves." The coach leaned back and gave the boy a measured look. "So tell me, Stoppable, is there anything…out of the ordinary…that you've noticed about your father?"
"Well, coach," Lon mused. "I've noticed that dad's really close to the Possible Family, all four of them. I don't think that a week goes by without a visit from Jim, Tim, or their parents. Not only that but dad and Mr. Mankey dress up as a unicorn every Halloween and help out at the medical center's fund raiser."
"You realize, of course, that Jim and Tim Possible had an older sister?" Barkin prompted.
"Yes, coach. I think her name was Kim and she was the same age as my parents. She was a teenage hero and vanished after graduating from Middleton High. We celebrate Hero's Day in her honor."
"Almost correct," the coach smiled at the boy. "Son, your father won't mention this, but Hero's day isn't celebrated in Kim Possible's honor, it's celebrated in Team Possible's honor. Team Possible consisted of Kim Possible and your father."
"Dad was a teenage hero?" Lon gasped.
"Not for very long," Coach Barkin explained. "When Team Possible started going up against the big villains, your father followed Kim. He was more a sidekick than anything else but he refused to let her go alone. Your father kept getting more and more capable as time went by, becoming her invaluable assistant by the time they graduated. Hero's Day is celebrated on the anniversary that the two of them derailed Dr. Drakken's most violent attempt to take over the world; the night of their junior prom."
"Dad was involved with that?" Lon asked.
"Not only involved," Steve Barkin assured him. "He was instrumental. He stepped up in another way that night, as well. Kim Possible and your father had been inseparable friends since they had been four years old. On that night, Ron Stoppable became her boyfriend."
"You're saying that my father dated Kim Possible?" Lon gawked. "I can't believe it."
"Believe it, son," the coach smiled. "I've seen plenty of teen couples get together. Those two were clearly on their way to the altar. That's why your father doesn't talk much about her at home. He's not about to make his wife feel that he's comparing the two of them."
"So dad and the Possibles?" Lon asked.
"The Possible family was ready to welcome your father into their family. Jim and Tim looked at him as a big brother and James and Anne considered him a son." The big man chuckled. "There was an impressive betting pool for when he was going to propose. My bet was June 28th, between their sophomore and junior years of college."
"But she vanished after graduation." Lon's words were more a statement than a question.
"From appearances, it looks like she went swimming up at Lake Middleton one day that summer, drowned and vanished." Steve Barkin told his listener. "Personally, I don't believe it. She was too strong of a swimmer and the lake isn't that big. If she had drowned, the authorities wold have found her body when they dragged the lake. No, I think that one of her enemies caught up to her, but that's just my opinion."
"So how did mom and dad get together?" Lon asked.
"Your mother had been fond of your father since they were sophomores. She hid it well, but not well enough that a vice-principal, who had over ten years dealing with teenagers, couldn't spot it. Back then, your father really wasn't into the dating thing and almost everybody assumed that he and Possible were an item, so your mother didn't really make her feelings known. After Possible vanished, she was there for your father."
"She was there as a friend," Barkin added, upon seeing the boy's odd expression. "It wasn't like she moved on him the moment Possible was out of the picture. That friendship turned into something more, just like it had between Possible and your father. The fact that you're sitting here is a testament to how far that friendship evolved."
"Dad's consultant missions?" The boy prompted.
"Are missions similar to those he took on with Possible," Coach Barkin confirmed. "Most of them involve retrieving stolen items or rescuing people. Occasionally, they turn violent. Son, your father doesn't talk much about it but there aren't too many people who can stand up against him in a fight. This is another legacy of his time with Possible."
"Dad's a hero?" Lon Stoppable had a hard time coming to grips with the concept.
"He's been a hero for a long time, young man. Time has taught him to keep a low profile about it but never forget the lesson you've learned today. Looks can be deceiving."
Lon arrived home earlier than his siblings did that night. His sister was visiting a couple of friends, an activity that seemed to consist of sitting with their heads together, pointing, and giggling. His brother was at basketball practice. Since his father was still at work, this gave him a few minutes to talk, alone, with his mother. He was determined to obtain some confirmation to what Coach Barkin had told him, so after the usual pleasantries, with his mother asking how his day went and if he spoke to Lorrie, he asked her about Kim Possible.
"Mom," he said. "I was talking to Coach Barkin today. He said that you were friends with Kim Possible, back when you were in high school. Is this true?"
"Yes, we were friends," Tara Stoppable replied, looking up from the kitchen sink and out the window, into the back yard. "She was the captain of the cheerleading squad and Liz Mankey and I were on the squad; GO! MADDOGS…GO, GO MADDAWGS!" The middle aged woman ended her sentence with a cheer still heard around Middleton High.
"Coach B says that she knew dad pretty well, too." Lon smiled at his mother's antics.
The question wiped the smile off of Tara's face. "Yeah," she said. "Your father was the squad mascot until our senior year. I was probably closer to Kim than most of the girls on the squad, most of the girls in the school. Her running off to fight supervillains and rescue people meant that she didn't have time for many friends. One of her best friends was Monique Jenkins."
"Monique Jenkins…" Lon mused. "That name sounds famil…WAIT! Is she the famous fashion designer?"
"None other," Tara confirmed. "Why do you think Middleton High's cheerleaders always have the badical uniforms? Anyway, she and Kim were close, but Kim's closest friend was Ron Stoppable."
"Yes, the two of them had been friends since before kindergarten. When she opened her babysitting website, and a mistake started her heroine career, Ron was right there with her. He really didn't have any business going; he was a late bloomer and afraid of just about everything, but he forced himself to go along." She took a deep breath and favored her oldest son with a wistful smile. "I think that that's what initially attracted me to him; the fact that he would swallow his fears and go someplace that he really shouldn't, just for a friend."
"Coach Barkin says that the two of them…became something more," Lon offered, tentatively.
"Yes, they did," now Tara's smile had grown a little sadder. "On the night of our junior prom, what became known as Hero's Day. I think that the two of them were the happiest that they had ever been for the next fifteen months. I really feel sorry for the way it had to end, but I think that it turned out the best for your father."
"What do you mean?" Lon asked. "Kim wouldn't have been a good wife for him?"
"No, she wouldn't have." Tara insisted. "But I'm sure that they would have married." Tara composed her thoughts, looking out the window and into the back yard again, before turning around, leaning against the counter and catching her son's eyes with hers. "You see, Kim Possible never really appreciated your father as an individual. She valued the help he always gave her and later she cherished it. She loved how he made her better, how he was always supportive but I don't think she ever really loved Ron Stoppable for being Ron Stoppable."
"I don't want to speak ill of the dead," she continued, turning around, glancing into the back yard again and returning to her work. "But I don't think that your father would have been as happy with her as he is with me. I'm sorry that she died, but I'm happy with the way his life, and mine, turned out."
"Uh…Kim, my sister," Lon started, tentatively.
"Is named after Kim Possible," Tara confirmed. "I wasn't too happy about it, at first. Here's a little advice about girls, son, girlfriends and wives don't like being reminded about former girlfriends. Still, when I saw how happy her name made the Possibles, I changed my mind. I'll never forget Dr. Anne Possible thanking me, with tears in her eyes, telling me how much she appreciated us making sure that there would be a Kim Stoppable, even if she wasn't her daughter."
"So you think she's dead?" Lon asked. "Coach Barkin says that he thinks one of her enemies finally caught up to her but without a body, how can anybody be sure?"
"I'm certain, dear," Tara answered. "If Kim Possible wasn't resting peacefully, I'm sure she would have found away to let somebody know."
Lon spent most of the rest of the afternoon putting the finishing touches on the Halloween decorations. Lon didn't know if he had inherited the trait from his father, or had learned it during his childhood, but he and his father both loved to go all out on holidays. The trees in the front yard were festooned with fake cobwebs, a scarecrow stood guard on the front porch, and three jack-o-lanterns, one carved by each Stoppable child, were lined up along the sidewalk. Of course, the windows were full of the typical paper, cut-out decorations. Ron stoppable arrived home while his oldest son was admiring his handiwork.
"Looking good this year," Ron complimented the boy.
"Yeah, dad, thanks for helping with the cobwebs on the trees."
"No big. Is your mother home?"
"Yeah, I think she's got everything ready for you in the kitchen."
Lon smiled as his father walked into the house. While his mother might assemble the ingredients, his father usually did the cooking. When it came to food, the three Stoppable children were hopelessly spoiled.
After homework and the dinner dishes were finished, the Stoppables found their way to the driveway too shoot baskets. Ron had put the hoop and flood lights in, shortly after his youngest son showed an interest in the sport, in middle school. Kim Stoppable also played the sport and the two youngest Stoppables quickly showed their elders some true skill. During the game, Lon excused himself to empty the trash. The teenager hauled the garbage to the large bins, which they kept in the shed. Knowing that his mother would be distracted by the game in the driveway, the boy stopped by the cistern.
He placed his ear on the lid but couldn't hear nor feel anything. Still curious, he thumped the lid several times. He continued to listen for a short time, not hearing anything except his own heartbeat. The boy sighed, wondering if he should give up his plan to break the seal. Yet, just before his hand left the lid, he felt a flurry of scrapping on the other side. He dropped to a knee, next to the cover, and deliberately knocked three times on the concrete. The scratching stopped, then Lon felt three, distinct knocks.
The teen fell back, shocked. Mustering his courage, he crept back to the cistern and, almost against his will, lowered his ear to the cover.
"Lon!" His mother's shout nearly drew a scream out of him. As it was, he wound up on his backside, once again. "Are you alright out there?"
"Sure mom," he shouted back, getting to his feet and walking towards the house. "Just had a little trouble with the shed door."
"Well, it's bath time then bed time," he could hear the smile on his mother's face. "You want to look your best for Lorrie tomorrow."
"Mom!" His protest was accompanied by his siblings' giggles.
The next day, school passed in a blur. Lon couldn't quit thinking about whatever was in the cistern. He didn't have any problems believing that a gopher, badger, or some other critter scratching at the inside of the cistern, but knocking? And knocking the same number of times that he had? What kind of animal would do that? What was in the old cistern?
He barely remembered talking to Lorrie during school, setting up the time that he would show up at her house. They were both too young to drive, so they would meet up at her place, so that her mother could get some pictures to share with his mom, before walking to the gym. Fortunately for Lon, his gorilla suit wouldn't take long to put on. As soon as the final bell rang, he dropped off his books and sprinted home.
He stopped a block away from home and walked at a more sedate pace, so that his mother wouldn't be suspicious. Once home, he aroused her suspicions by bustling around, setting up the candy for his mother to hand out and getting a light meal ready for the family. Fortunately for him, his mother assumed that he was eager to meet up with Lorrie, so she spent a lot of time smiling. Finally, just after four PM and with his younger siblings in the house, the first trick-or-treaters arrived. Tara Stoppable positioned herself on the front porch, freeing Lon to slip into the back yard.
The first thing Lon did was thump on the cover and listen for a response. Within minutes, the scratching resumed. Next, he knocked on the cover four times. The scratching stopped, then he felt four blows strike the opposite side of the cover. He glanced back to the kitchen window, where his brother gave him a conspiratorial wave. Wasting no more time, Lon retrieved a hammer and chisel from the shed and went to work on the mortar.
Ron Stoppable was no stonemason, so he had made up for it with sheer mass of mortar. As such, Lon Stoppable had a great deal of mortar to chip away from the cover. It didn't help that the boy had to keep looking back at the kitchen window, where his brother was waiting to warn him if his mother left the porch. It took him over an hour, and evening was falling, when he removed the last of the mortar from the old cistern. Lon looked to the kitchen window, where his brother gave him a thumb's up. It was now or never.
Lon returned the tools to the shed, ran to the garage and retrieved the outboard motor frame and a crowbar. The teen lugged the heavy frame across the back yard and set the wheel brakes. He hooked the chains onto the cover's handles and hauled on the pulley rope for all he was worth. Not surprisingly, the cover didn't budge.
This was why the boy had brought the crowbar. As the sky continued to darken, he kept the tension on the rope with one hand and pried at the cover with the crowbar. Soon, the cover began to shift and Lon returned both hands to the rope. It was now too dark to see clearly, so the grating sound let the boy know that the cover was raising off of the opening. It was feel, not sight, and a rush of rancid air that told him he had pulled the cover off of the hatch. Lon pushed at the cover, with the crowbar, as he lowered it to sit, askew, on the opening. It was at this moment, even as Lon realized that he didn't have a flashlight, that he brother gave a sharp whistle from the kitchen.
Lon didn't have time to hide the frame, so he sprinted for the house. He managed to meet his mother and father before they entered the kitchen.
"I'm off to help with the fundraiser," his father told him. The elder Stoppable man had a smile on his face and the 'back half' of the unicorn costume on his lower body. Even in his forties, Ron Stoppable loved Halloween.
"You better get ready," Tara informed her eldest child. "Lorrie's going to be angry if you're late." Lon was beginning to think that his mother was more excited about his date than he was.
Lon saw his father off, then waited until his mother returned to the front porch before grabbing a flashlight and returning to the back yard.
The first thing that he noticed was that the cover was more askew than he thought that it had been. Now, he hesitated, almost afraid of what he might find. He took a deep breath, set himself and shone the light into the opening. He forced himself to look inside where he saw…
The cistern was very old fashioned, consisting of mortared stone rather than smooth concrete. Over the years, a thin layer of silt had managed to filter into the cavity but there was no sign of any animal. On second thought, the silt was disturbed, as if something had been moving in the cistern. Lon shrugged his shoulders; perhaps whatever had been in the cistern was now out. He held his breath against the horrid stench inside the chamber and studied the walls as best he could. There were no gaps in the stonework that he could see. Lon decided to not worry about the situation. He left the cover askew on the opening but returned the frame to the garage. He then rushed to the house and changed into his costume, making a mental note to replace the cover as soon as he returned.
Dr. James Possible was content, next to his wife, wearing his old vampire costume and welcoming people to the haunted house. Ron Stoppable and Josh Mankey were wearing that old unicorn costume, like they did every year. His twin sons, Jim and Tim, were once again dressed as zombies. James Possible had to smile; they were all really too old to be doing this, but it was still fun. As he did every year, he sighed and wished that his daughter could be here. Still, Kim Stoppable, Ron's daughter, had stopped by, along with his own grandchildren. The fact that there was a Kim Stoppable made some of the sting fade.
The rocket scientist's cell phone interrupted his memories.
"Hello, James Possible," he answered.
"Dr. Possible," the voice answered. "This is Edge's Home Security Services. Your home security system just activated. Are you at home?"
"No," James answered. "Nobody's in the house at this time."
"Do you want us to call the police?"
"No, let me check first," James reasoned. "We'll call you when we get there."
"Ronald," he continued, turning off his telephone. "Would my favorite action hero mind coming along with me to see if my house is safe?"
James couldn't help but laugh when the unicorn's rump detached and agreed to come along.
Half an hour later, James and Ron stood outside the Possible home, discussing the break in with the police.
"So let's get this straight," the officer summarized the interview. "You responded to your home security service's call, came here and called us when you saw that the door had been forced."
"Exactly, officer," James answered. "We weren't about to go inside, in case the intruder was still there."
"Good thinking, doctor," the officer approved. "Now, we've checked the home and there isn't anybody inside. I'd like you to come in and check the home for missing items."
James and Ron went inside, soon to be joined by Anne, Jim and Tim. The intruder hadn't left much evidence behind; just the broken front lock, a thin trail of mud and a broken mirror.
"Mr. Dr. P," Ron said. "Am I correct? It looks like the intruder broke in the front door, walked straight to one room, broke the mirror in there and then left."
"So it would appear, Ronald," James Possible agreed. "That was Kim's room."
Ron's cell phone interrupted any reply he might have made.
Tara Stoppable was having a wonderful time handing out treats to the neighborhood kids and exchanging small talk with the parents who accompanied them. She truly enjoyed this holiday; it gave everybody an excuse to spoil children.
With yet another group of children and parents leaving the porch and no other groups in sight, Tara walked to the kitchen, for a cup of tea. Halfway through the living room she paused, hearing the stairs creak. It sounded like someone was walking up the stairs! Now more cautiously, she continued to the kitchen, where she saw a thin trail of mud running from the back door, across the kitchen and up the stairs. Tara didn't hesitate; she did the one thing that the last eighteen years had taught her to do in an emergency.
She called Ron.
The dance had been great but Lon wasn't enjoying himself. Shortly after he had arrived, Lorrie became a great deal more interested in dancing with Bobby Jones than with him. Disappointed, the boy stormed out of the gym. Lorrie didn't even notice that he left.
Lon didn't know if he was fighting back tears or rage; he only knew that he was heading home.
Tara Stoppable turned off the front porch light and returned to the living room. She wasn't about to go upstairs and confront the intruder but she wasn't about to leave her home to the intruder, either. She had lived in this home for all of her forty-two years, so she knew the upstairs floor's creaks and groans. Whoever was up there was in Kim's room.
The room that had been hers, when she was growing up.
Tara heard the tread on the upstairs floor again and knew that the intruder was leaving Kim's room and walking towards the stairs.
Tara found a dark corner to conceal herself and waited, while the intruder reached the top of the stairs and started to descend. Tara gasped when the intruder appeared. It wasn't the skeletal limbs or the horrid reek that tore the expression of shocked horror from Tara Stoppable; it was the handcuffs on the figure's ankles and wrists.
"Y-you can't be…" Tara gasped.
"How long!?" The figure demanded, in a gurgling hiss. "How long have I been in there?"
Tara couldn't speak, couldn't move, as the figure closed on her.
"You KILLED me Tara," it shrieked, shambling across the living room. "I thought I had escaped, so I went home and what did I find? My room wasn't my room anymore and I saw THIS," here, the figure pointed to its face. "In the mirror. I didn't escape, did I? YOU KILLED ME, TARA! YOU TOOK MY LIFE SO I'M GOING TO TAKE YOURS!"
Tara Stoppable could only scream as a cold, muddy, skeletal hand clamped onto her throat.
Ron Stoppable and just reached his front door when he heard his wife's scream. Never, in close to thirty years of being first a sidekick, then a hero, had anybody threatened his family or his home. He charged through the door, summoning the Lotus Blade. He willed the blade into its Bo form as he ran through the den. His years of facing the bad guys meant that he didn't hesitate when confronted with the impossible sight before him.
"Get away from my wife!" He snarled, twirling his weapon in an up-strike against the hand holding his wife's throat. The weapon struck, with the sound of wood striking bone, forcing the assailant to release Tara. Ron kept the weapon moving, landing another up-strike, this time on his opponent's bony chin. The…whatever it was…staggered backwards, allowing Ron to interpose himself between it and his wife. Ron set himself and Tara started to cry, hysterically.
"Wife?" The figure demanded, in a hideous voice. "You married Tara? YOU MARRIED MY MURDERER? Ron, how could you betray me like that?"
Ron's training kicked in. Despite the fact that he was facing some sort of reeking, skeletal…thing, his mind started to analyze what his senses were picking up. The figure in front of him was mostly skeletal, with very little flesh. Yet, the rags clinging to the figure might have once been….capris and a crop top? The scalp had a few strands of hair. Most of the hair was covered with mud but a few hairs floated free. These were red. This…thing knew both him and Tara and considered his marriage to be a betrayal. The thing in front of him could only be….
"Kim?" He half gasped, half sobbed.
"Ron, how could you?" The thing's horrid voice sounded like it was sobbing, as well. "I loved you! We were supposed to be together forever! Tara killed me, Ron! Why did you marry her? Didn't I make you happy?"
"I…didn't…know…" Ron stammered, feeling like a sixteen-year old sidekick again. "Tara, what's happening?"
Tara Stoppable, however, wasn't answering. She was huddled against the wall with tears pouring from her eyes. Ron continued his stand off against…what had once been Kim. None of the three knew what to do next. Suddenly, a sixteen-year old boy, in a gorilla costume, burst into the room.
"Mom, Dad!" Lon shouted. "What's going on he…." The boy's eyes flew wide when he saw what he father was facing.
"Mom, Dad?" Kim snarled. "You had a child? While I was rotting in that pit, you married and had a child?" The…thing…glared at Lon for a heart-stopping minute. "That wasn't a boys room I was in," it hissed. "So you must have a daughter, as well. So this was the plan, Tara? You gave me a slow death and torment while you had a life and a family? NO MORE! It's time for justice! I'll take from you what you robbed from me! I'll take your life, I'll take your children!"
When the monster that had once been his girlfriend surged forward again, Ron was shocked out of his inaction. While he was still stunned by what was in front of him, while he still didn't really know what was happening, one thing was certain.
Nobody threatened Ron Stoppable's family!
As the skeletal hands reached for his oldest son, Ron struck them away.
"Don't do this, Ron!" Kim snarled at him. "She did this! I don't have anything against you! I'll take from her what she took from me and then I'll go. Don't stop my revenge!"
"I can't let this happen," Ron told her in a pained, serious voice. "I don't know what happened, I don't know why you're here, but Tara's my wife and Lon's my son. I won't let anything happen to them while I'm still alive to prevent it."
"That can be remedied, Ron," it hissed back. "If you throw in with…her…then so be it! I'll take her husband from her, as well!" With a wild shriek, the thing threw itself upon the middle-aged man. Ron willed the Lotus Blade into sword form and met her charge head on.
For the next several minutes, pandemonium raged in the Stoppables' living room as the two combatants tore at each other. The outcome was never really in doubt. While the…thing…that Kim had become was savage and strong, it was no longer the skilled, world saving heroine. Ron Stoppable was no longer the bumbling sidekick, but a master of Tai Shen Pek Kwar, the wielder of the MMP and a man whose family was under threat. The MMP, a force that existed to fight evil, reacted to the monster facing him. Ron took his hits; he was bloodied and battered, but soon the creature that had once been Kim Possible lay dismembered in the Stoppables' living room.
"Tara," Ron tried to keep his voice gentle, despite his pain and exhaustion. "What happened here? What happened to Kim?"
"Uh, dad?" Lon interrupted, pointing at Kim's remains. Ron turned to find the broken bones and tattered flesh slithering across the floor, slowly recombining to form the monster, once again.
"You can't win, Ron," the skull hissed at him. "I'm already dead. You can't kill me. I'll finish you, then your family will be next!"
"What can I do," Ron stammered.
"Put her back in the cistern!" Tara moaned. "It held her this long…wait! She escaped! That won't work!"
"It's my fault!" Lon wailed. "I opened the cistern! I thought I heard something inside, so I opened it up to let it out. I'm the reason she escaped."
"Quiet!" Ron roared, snapping back into mission mode. "Lon, go open the cover. Tara, go get a tarp, a canvas bag, anything."
The next several minutes seemed to drag on forever. The three Stoppables gathered Kim's remains, which struggled feebly, and returned them to the cistern. Shortly before the two younger Stoppables were supposed to return home, Ron and Lon finished re-mortaring the seal. Ron placed a broom, a rag and a mop in his oldest son's hands and pointed the boy at the living room. With his son out of the way, Ron Stoppable led his wife to the den, sat her down, and looked her in the eye.
"Tara," he said, his voice and expression devoid of the love and warmth they usually conveyed. "Start explaining."
"So that's why I have to live here?" Ron Possible Jr. asked his grandmother. "There's some sort of undead creature somewhere under the back yard?"
"Yes, Ronnie," the old, blonde woman told him. She flinched, reliving, with her grandson, the moment she had lived with her husband and oldest son those many years ago; the moment that, in their eyes, she turned from a loved, cherished family member to a cold-blooded killer. "After that night, your grandfather rented some earthmoving equipment and built up a raised mound in the back yard, then built a gazebo on top of it. The gazebo conceals a shaft that leads down to the old cistern. You may wonder why the gazebo is made of steel, not wood. It's sturdy enough to act as a brace, in case you ever need to open the cistern."
"But, what happened after grandpa built the gazebo?" Ron asked. "What happened between the two of you?"
"In a way, Kim got her revenge," Tara replied, looking at the floor. "I lost my husband and my oldest son that night. Ron got the full confession out of me and promptly moved out of our room. He made me tell him how I had tricked Kim; incapacitated her with her own knockout gas and sealed her in the cistern. He didn't report me to the authorities, since he didn't want to deprive our children of a…somewhat normal…family life but he never forgave me. He only touched me three times after that night. Those three times were when we danced at each of our children's weddings. Your uncle Lon became very cold towards me. He left for college the year after that and never came back. Oh, he would visit for a day or two but he always had some sort of internship, lecture or study session. We never told your Uncle Roy or your mother."
"Grandma," Ron Possible called upon his Yamanouchi training and forced himself to confront his own grandmother. "Why did you do it? Why did you kill her?"
"I've tried to come to grips with that, for years," Tara Stoppable visibly deflated. "I'm not making any excuses, I just ask that you take a moment to look at the situation from my point of view. There was an incident, early in high school, where your grandfather saved the cheer squad from a mutant. After that, I started to pay attention to him. I saw what he went through as Kim's sidekick and I saw how little Kim seemed to appreciate his sacrifices. I could also tell that he was in love with her, even though he didn't realize it himself."
"I cheered, along with most of the rest of the school, when they got together," Tara continued, now able to meet her grandson's eyes. "But over time, I remembered how quickly a hottie would turn her away from him. Your grandfather was a good man but he wasn't golden. Sooner or later, she was going to abandon him and leave him alone and broken hearted. I owed him for saving me, so I couldn't let that happen. To be honest, I didn't care if I wound up with him. There were other girls; your Sensei Yori was interested in him, as well as a girl named Zita. Neither one would have crushed him the way that Kim would have."
"I was wrong, Ron," she admitted. "I shouldn't have done what I did but by the time I realized it, weeks had passed."
"My great grandparents Possible?" Ron asked. "Did you ever tell them?"
"No," Tara shook her head. "That's one of the reasons your grandfather didn't divorce me, he didn't want to make them suspicious and he didn't want them to find out the truth. He wanted them to be able to hold onto the hope that their daughter had died a quick, painless death." She sighed. "Ronnie, your great grandparents had as happy a life, after losing their daughter, that they could. Their son, Tim, named his oldest son after Ron and, with all the time we spent with the Possibles, I should have realized that he would fall for my daughter. Anne Possible was delighted when your parents married. She had expected a Kim and Ron wedding but hadn't expected it to be Kim Stoppable marrying Ron Possible."
Tara grew serious again, "after that night, your father went to Japan. I think that he returned to the school that he had visited in high school. I don't know what happens there but I know that your Uncle Roy spent every summer, during his high school years, at the school. Your grandfather told me that every generation, Yamanouchi would prepare someone to face Kim, if she should ever get out. Your Uncle Roy was the…guardian…for his generation and you are for yours."
"I don't know all of the details," She admitted. "But you'll find that the University of Middleton will accept your credits from the Japanese school. You'll be able to finish your education here, in Middleton. You'll be able to find a good job here, as well." The elderly woman's gaze dropped back to the floor. "This is now your prison, Ronnie. This very home where I was so happy growing up, where I was so happy raising my children, is now your prison. You have to stay here, in case she ever escapes."
"Grandma, is she still…down there?" Ron asked.
"Yes," Tara choked back a sob. "There's something about this house you need to know. Back when the cistern was built, before there was running water, someone decided they didn't want to go outside and pump water. They built a channel from the cistern, to a small tank just below the basement's floor level. There used to be a pump in a small room, in the corner of the basement. The pump is long gone; there's just an empty pipe running down to the tank. Your grandfather knew about it and started to go down to that room. He was able to talk to…her."
"I eavesdropped on several of their conversations," Tara admitted. "Your grandfather begged her to tell him what he needed to do, so that she could find her peace. He offered to jump into the cistern and join her for eternity, if she would leave the rest of us alone. He offered to drag me in there, as well, if she would just leave our children alone. She wouldn't have anything to do with his offers. She howled and screamed that she wouldn't rest until she took everything from me that I had taken from her."
"After your grandfather died, I locked up the pump room," Tara continued. "But when Yamanouchi accepted you, I had to see if she was still…active. I went to the pump room and called her name into the pipe. She answered. Since then, I've gone down there once a year to make sure that she's still…there." Tara wiped her eyes. "She hasn't forgotten and she hasn't forgiven."
The two sat for several minutes, lost in thought. Finally, Tara composed herself.
"Very well, let's finish this," She said, in a businesslike manner. "Along with my will, you will find the keys to a safe deposit box in the envelope. The safe deposit box contains, among other things, my full confession. If the public ever becomes aware of Kim's condition, this confession will explain that happened. I've updated it every year, as events warrant. Now," here, the matriarch shuddered. "I think it's time for me to have my yearly conversation with her. I want you to listen in, so that you know how serious this is."
With that, Tara led her grandson to the basement.
Fifteen minutes later, the two returned to the living room. Ron was visibly shaken. He had never heard such anger. He couldn't believe that a mere voice could convey such hatred and evil as he had just experienced. He slumped, momentarily, then squared his shoulders. This was his duty; to guard the rest of the world from what Kim Possible had become.
"I'm so sorry, Ronnie," Tara apologized, yet again. "But it has to be this way. I know that your grandfather had some special…power, or influence and that the Japanese School has something to do with it. You and your Uncle Roy are the only ones who can stand against her, should she escape. He's spent his life in Middleton, ready to face her if he needs to do so. Now, it's you turn. I really wish that I could make it easier but I can't. This is your family legacy."
The front security chime interrupted Tara's apology, informing them that someone was approaching the front door. Tara walked to the front door, leaving Ron in the living room, alone with his thoughts. Suddenly, his grandmother shrieked in terror. Ron sprinted to the front door, to find her passed out on the floor. He opened the door and stepped onto the front porch, intent on finding out what had startled her so much.
He saw a girl, with red hair and wearing a black crop top and capris. Ron was rooted to the spot, even though he recognized a Kim Possible Halloween costume, as she approached him and held out a bag.
"Trick or Treat."