So, I'm not dead. But I appreciate the concern, I really do.
I've been insanely busy the last few weeks—work, teaching, boxing, the hospital, etc. (The last two may or may not be related.) Consequently, this story has been written piecemeal in a record number of locations, just edging out Smashing Moral Ambiguity's six. There are also a lot of similarities between the two, concept-wise, so if you enjoy this story, SMA would be a good one to check out.
This piece was specifically written for the ArTina Ficathon, from a prompt by Adatrix. The prompt is: Tina and Tina's house have been nominated for the Glee Halloween party. She wants to set up a haunted house, and asks Artie to help her prepare and set up for it. No Mike/Tina.
Timeline: Post-wheels, Pre-Baby Mama Drama. Oorah.
I don't own Glee. Or a Spiderman mask. Or anything, really.
October 29th, 7:14pm
"I have no idea how this even happened."
"Yeah, this is really an underwhelming amount of notice."
"I blame Puck entirely."
"Me too. I'll run him over and make it look like an accident, if you want me to."
"He'd kill you."
"Probably. But I'd die a happy man, knowing I hobbled him in the process. Shouldn't the pizza be here by now?"
"I thought you ordered it."
"I did order it. I'm just expressing my displeasure over its fashionably late arrival."
"Speaking of, weren't Kurt and Mercedes supposed to be here at 7?"
"What time is it?"
"Bitches probably stole our pizza and ran off into the sunset, cackling evilly."
"Halloween is in two days. This is the only time of year I'm allowed to say it, so stop looking at me like that."
Tina swiped lazily at Artie's arm, not even bothering to look over to see if her blow had landed. After three hours of hanging black curtains and orange Christmas lights—not to mention filling the house with bowls and baskets of hastily purchased candy—she had declared herself exhausted and had sprawled out melodramatically on the living room floor. Artie had been given the much easier tasks of transporting CD players with Halloween music to all the main first floor locations and rigging up a projector in the living room that would screen Freddy Krueger movies on the wall. Still, when Tina decided that she needed a break, he had dutifully eased himself out of his chair and stretched out on the floor next to her.
"It's going to be really stupid, isn't it?"
Artie's mind was still on the pizza, so he nearly missed Tina's quiet murmur. "What, the party?" he asked, looking over. Her eyes were darker than normal, and she merely nodded, gazing at him solemnly. "No, of course not," he said reassuringly. "It's going to be the best 27-hours-notice Halloween party in the history of parties. Seriously, Tee—they're going to be so blindsided by all the awesome, nobody will want to leave. You'll have to throw them out, begging for more, just to get your house back."
Tina gave him a sad smile. "Thanks," she said, somewhat unconvincingly. Artie stared at her. "What's the matter? Really," he asked as Tina bit her lip. Finally, she sighed.
"The way I dress, I—it's just…people think I should be good at this," she began. "Scary Gothic Girl and Halloween and all. But I'm just me. I don't live in a haunted house or sacrifice animals in the backyard or anything. I don't even write Bad Death Poetry." She twisted her hair nervously. "But I can't help but think that's what everyone's expecting. And I don't want to disappoint everyone when it turns out that the party's not that special."
Before Artie could refute everything, the doorbell rang. Tina swiftly got to her feet to answer it, leaving Artie to pull himself back into his chair.
October 29th, 3:06pm
In all fairness to Puck, it was partly Rachel's fault. And Rachel's neighbors, sort of.
On Thursday afternoon, two days before Halloween—and one day before the official New Directions Halloween Extravaganza—Rachel had stormed into the choir room in a particularly indignant mood. Apparently, the "tone deaf and unnecessarily bad-tempered couple who live next door called one of my dads at work to complain about the noise level of my vocal lessons. They're being completely irrational; 9:30 is in no way too late in the evening to strive for perfection." She huffed resentfully. "In any case, they're talking about contacting their lawyer again. Though it is my personal belief that they're bluffing and wouldn't follow through with their threat, my dads have agreed that having a dozen high schoolers over a day after they've voiced their complaint might be interpreted as spiteful and provoking behavior in a court of law."
With Rachel's house suddenly unavailable for the party, the group was divided in their opinions over what to do instead. Unhelpfully, the two loudest factions were the 'Let's Just Jack a Couple of 12-packs and Light Shit on Fire' group (Puck, supported by Matt and Mike) and the 'Any Party Planned at the Last Second Is Going To Suck And I Don't Want To Waste My Time' bloc (just Santana; Brittany was too busy struggling to turn on her cell phone to pay any attention to the debate).
Just as Artie had resigned himself to another Halloween weekend watching bad horror movies and overdosing on sugar, Puck surprised them all by suddenly switching arguments mid-dispute. "Hold up, doesn't Raven live in a freaky haunted mansion with, like, zero parental supervision?" he asked, pointing at Tina. Tina, startled by the sudden appraising stares of nearly everyone in the room, couldn't bring herself to stammer out anything resembling a denial, and the details were quickly settled.
Artie couldn't help but be happy about the change in venue. He'd been to Rachel's house only once before—8th grade science project—and while she was certainly more tolerable one-on-one, the 957 photos of her decorating the first floor alone were decidedly creepy. Seeing the barely suppressed panic on Tina's face, however, made him feel a little guilty for not speaking up. Things were still getting back to normal between the two of them after the all-around epic failure that was Stuttergate, but he still should have realized immediately that party planning wouldn't be a strong point for Tina, who hadn't even had a birthday party since she was nine.
Ignoring all of the others, who were discussing whether or not costumes were appropriate for a Halloween party taking place the day before Halloween, Artie reached over and tapped Tina's arm. "Want some help setting up for the party?" he asked. "We can drive out to Sam's Club after rehearsal and get supplies and decorations and stuff."
The look of relief on Tina's face was palpable. "Would you please? I have no idea what I'm doing." Artie smiled back. "Anytime. Seriously. However," he teased, "I don't have a costume yet. So if they decide the dress code calls for one, you're buying me a superhero mask or something."
October 29th, 7:21pm
When Tina returned to the living room a minute later, her face was perfectly composed, betraying nothing of the fears she had just confessed. Kurt and Mercedes followed her into the room, the latter of whom was carrying a partially eaten pizza. "Okay, not my fault that the delivery guy had the IQ of cheese," she said defensively, when Artie raised an eyebrow at her. Kurt nodded in agreement. "Supermarket brand cheese slices that taste like plastic and probably don't even contain dairy," he groused. "And speaking of foul tasting, haven't we had the pineapple pizza discussion?"
Tina rolled her eyes. "Not unless you're Hawaiian or having a luau," she recited. "I notice it didn't stop you from intercepting and eating half of it. I'll get plates, come on."
Artie snagged Kurt's sleeve before he could follow Tina and Mercedes to the kitchen, putting a finger to his lips to keep his friend from making an audible fuss. "I need your help after school tomorrow," he muttered quietly. "Mercedes too. I have a time consuming and ridiculous plan to liven up this party, and it'll require all hands on deck."
Kurt eyed him evenly. "This jacket is DKNY, please don't tug on it," he said prissily. "Sounds like work. What's my motivation?" Artie wasn't wholly surprised by Kurt's initial resistance. He paused to consider his options. "I'll give you half credit for the plot if it goes well," he offered finally. "And I'll let you borrow our handicap parking permit on Black Friday."
Kurt's eyes lit up. "Deal," he agreed quickly. "What's the plan?" Artie smiled devilishly. "Give me a ride home after dinner, I'll explain on the way," he promised. "But for now," he paused, glancing toward the kitchen to make sure neither of the girls were eavesdropping.
"Let's just say that if Puck wants a haunted house, he's going to get a haunted house."
October 30th, 7:12pm
Friday night came too quickly for Artie, who could have used a little more time to prepare his master plan. And to force Tina to take a nap; Artie was fairly certain that she hadn't slept at all. He had jokingly suggested that she dress up as a zombie after seeing the dark circles under her eyes, but she had completely missed her cue and had merely responded that she was recycling her witch costume from the previous year.
And not that Artie would ever tell her, but homegirl made a damn fine witch. Mmhmm.
Artie really had gone the superhero route, and was clad in a Robin costume from the superstore. (It may have been a child's size costume, but everything fit fine and he wasn't complaining about the $8.99 price tag.) Straightening his black eye mask under his glasses, he surveyed the living room. Most of the guests had arrived at this point, and about half the club had worn costumes as well.
Rachel, predictably, had been the first to arrive, and was thoroughly decked out as Little Red Riding Hood. She had also flounced straight over to Tina with a tray of 'Happy Halloween!' sugar cookies. "I was going to make them say, 'Happy Halloween and thank you very much for assuming hosting responsibilities on such short notice and I'm very excited to be here', but I didn't have enough icing." She had beamed at a stunned Tina before leaning in conspiratorially. "Is it true that your house is actually haunted? Because although I normally take anything that appears in Jacob Ben Israel's blog with a grain of salt, he claims that our own Mercedes Jones is one of his sources, and I must admit I'm very eager about the possibility of potentially witnessing a paranormal event."
October 30th, 4:02pm
The party began in three hours, and Artie was slightly terrified. Not because he didn't think they could pull it together in time. The supplies were purchased, the majority of the work was already done, and Mercedes had already leaked a bullshit story about Tina's house being haunted to the 'press'. As long as they made it to Tina's by six, everything ought to run reasonably smoothly.
No, Artie was slightly terrified because Kurt was currently pacing around his bedroom in an olive coat and a pair of sunglasses, looking unnervingly like Kim Jong Il.
"Right then," the tiny dictator affirmed, hands laced behind his back in military position. "Last minute strategies before doing battle, ladies. I've done some thinking, and I've come to the conclusion that in order to pull this off successfully, we need to minimize the x-factor."
Artie and Mercedes, who were both sitting on Artie's bed, exchanged confused glances. "Boy, what in the hell are you talking about?" Mercedes asked, echoing Artie's thoughts exactly. Kurt glared impatiently. "The x-factor. The unknown element," he explained. Seeing that Artie and Mercedes were still not on his thought train, Kurt sighed deprecatingly. "People behave in ways that you expect 99% of the time," he continued. "Threaten something important to them, though, and their behavior becomes increasingly erratic and hard to anticipate. And as inspired as this little arrangement is, you must admit it's a bit precarious. We really can't afford anything unexpected to screw it up."
Abruptly, Kurt stopped pacing. "The biggest obstacle we face this evening is that our most likely source of said unpredictability is also very smart and extremely ruthless. If we're going to pull tonight off, we need her out of the way."
October 30th, 7:46pm
Almost an hour after the party began, Artie rolled across the kitchen floor with one hand, holding a full glass in the other. Reaching his target, he put on his most innocuous smile. "I brought you a refill," he offered, shaking the drink lightly so that the ice cubes could be heard clinking against the rim. "I know you hate red plastic cups."
Santana Lopez narrowed her eyes suspiciously as she took the glass. Reaching into her clutch purse for a coaster and an eyedropper, she expertly shook a few drops of the beverage onto the cardstock and waited. After a few seconds she nodded, apparently satisfied with the results, and took a deep swallow.
"All right Abrams," she acquiesced. "The drink is clean, it's something I actually like, and you nearly rolled into the dishwasher trying to bring it to me. What do you want, because I'll tell you right now I'm not having sex with you."
"Oh darn," Artie replied dryly. "Actually we're short on vodka, and you're one of the only ones here with a passable fake ID."
Santana rolled her eyes. "Only in this cowtown," she snipped. "I could use my older brother's ID and get away with it—every Hispanic looks the same to assholes in this state." She scoffed. "I'm annoyed now," she stated unnecessarily. "Make one of the guys do it."
Artie tilted his head. "Well, that's the thing," he confided. "I don't really trust any of them with a $100 bill for $40 worth of alcohol." He produced the money from the bag slung over the handles of his wheelchair—Robin should really get some pockets—and eyed it casually. "I mean," he added, "what's to stop them from stashing the money at home, swiping a bottle of cheap liquor from another party, and coming back an hour later claiming I only gave them a $20 and they got lost coming back?" He beamed at Santana. "You might have the entire school terrified of you, but I don't think you'd steal money from a kid in a wheelchair."
Santana snatched the money out of Artie's hand. "You're so right," she agreed, in the faux-sincere voice she used on Mr. Schuester at least once a week. "Guys are assholes. Get my jacket, and see if you can get rid of Berry before I get back. If I have to listen to one more explanation about the origins of theatre superstitions tonight, I'm digging her larynx out of her throat with a spork."
Artie fetched her coat while she downed the rest of her drink, and listened carefully until he heard her slam the front door. He checked the clock on the stove—7:54. Perfect. On his way out of the kitchen to get the bottles of vodka that he'd stashed in the first floor bathroom, Artie gave the cutlery drawer a pat. He felt sort of bad, stealing from the envelope of cash that Tina's parents refilled whenever they were in town, but only a little bad. After all, they'd never notice. And really? Getting Santana out of their house before she could smash anything expensive or discover where they hid the antique firearms was practically money in the bank. Not to mention probably a public service.
October 30th, 4:17pm
"Next up," Kurt ordered, hands on his hips and nails tapping on his coat. "Did you finish the pictures?" Artie passed over the stack of photographs, two of which were stolen from Tina's house. Kurt examined them one at a time, nodding with approval. Mercedes peered over his shoulder and shook her head. "Damn Wheels, you're good," she admitted, taking two photos from Kurt and looking back and forth between them. "If I didn't know you'd tweaked it, I'd never be able to tell."
Artie took a mock bow. "If it's good enough for you guys, it'll definitely be enough for tonight," he replied. "Go ahead and pop the new ones in the frames."
October 30th, 7:59pm
Artie surveyed the room discretely. The party was small, as they had expected, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Being careful to give Mike (dressed as one of the Blues Brothers, but demonstrating the Thriller dance for Mercedes) a wide berth, Artie zeroed in on Finn. Half-watching the movie screening on the wall, Finn had abandoned his Spiderman mask in favor of working his way through a pumpkin-shaped bucket of candy. A few feet away, Puck was nuking aliens on Tina's computer and drinking straight from a bottle of Jim Beam, definitely within range.
"Hey Finn? I could use your help with something, if you've got a minute," Artie asked politely. Finn jumped slightly at being addressed—perhaps the movie was more engrossing than Artie had thought—but shot Artie one of his trademark lopsided grins as soon as he recovered. "Yeah, sure. What's up?" He asked.
Artie made a show of glancing around the room before leaning in, noting with some satisfaction that Puck had tilted slightly to the right in order to hear him better. "Well, Tina's parents keep the key to the ice cream freezer in Mr. Chang's study," he stage whispered. "But it's on a pretty high shelf, under a tray of bourbon chocolates, and it's a couple feet over my head. I'm pretty sure I couldn't—"
Artie didn't even have to finish his sentence. Finn's eyes had lit up at 'ice cream freezer', and Puck had swiveled dangerously in his rolling chair at 'bourbon chocolates'. Both boys stood up, eager to help, and Artie led the way out of the living room.
The lighting in the hall was deliberately shadowed for the party, but the lighting in Mr. Chang's study was always kind of dim and creepy. "It's on the bookshelf between the picture frames," Artie instructed, pointing at a shelf level with Finn's shoulders. Puck reached out faster, tossing Artie the key before snatching a couple of chocolates for himself. Flopping in Mr. Chang's desk chair, he spun around, unwrapping the candies one at a time and popping them into his mouth.
Finn, however, was captivated by the framed pictures on the bookcase. "Tina has a sister?" he asked with obvious surprise. "I didn't know that." Artie dropped the key noisily on the wood floor, startling and drawing stares from both Finn and Puck. "You didn't see that," Artie said emphatically. "You cannot let Tina know you saw that."
Finn glanced at Puck, who was frowning in confusion. "…okay?" he said cautiously. "Um. Why not?" Artie closed his eyes, letting out a deep sigh, and then gestured to the only other chair in the room. When Finn was seated, both he and Puck gaping intently at Artie, Artie looked back earnestly.
"How long have you guys known Tina?" he asked. Finn frowned. "Not until Glee. Why?" Artie shook his head. "This doesn't leave this room," he ordered. Puck leaned forward in his seat, eyes sparkling maliciously.
"Tina…well, she used to be kinda normal," Artie began. "A little quiet, sure, but just your average girl—no gothic clothes or fake stutter or anything. Them, almost a year ago, her older sister Lily just disappeared one night. No note, no ransom, no trace of her. She had really severe asthma, so she'd been homeschooled for years and didn't spend a lot of time outside, so not too many people even noticed she was gone. The rumor is that the Cohen-Changs didn't even call the police, because they didn't want the bad publicity drawn to their business."
Puck snorted, but Artie noticed that his derisive expression didn't quite reach his eyes. "That sounds like one of those scary stories written for ten year olds that my little sister reads," he commented. "No way that really happened."
Finn, however, looked uneasy. "Why doesn't Tina ever mention it?" he asked Artie, who bit his lip before answering, as if he were trying to decide how much information to divulge. "Tina went ballistic for about a week," he admitted. "Screaming, crying, fighting with her parents. She idolized Lily, and couldn't understand why her parents were barely reacting. Then she was out of school for the last few days before Winter Break, so nobody heard from her for almost three weeks." Artie shook his head and swallowed before continuing.
"Once she came back in January, though, she was totally different—the goth look, the stutter, barely speaking to anyone. And she won't talk about Lily. I tried asking her about it, but it's really weird: she just gets this glassy look on her face like she's been hypnotized or something, and says she doesn't know what I'm talking about."
Finn looked completely spooked; Puck remained silent. Picking up the key from the floor and passing it to Finn, Artie looked around the study. "I hate this room," he commented, shuddering. "Mr. Chang gives me the creeps. I don't even know why he has family pictures in here; everyone knows how mean he is to Tina. And he was always yelling at Lily." He rolled toward the door, being careful to avoid making eye contact with anyone. "And Mrs. Cohen isn't any better; she never wanted kids. I wouldn't be surprised if they got rid of Lily themselves, and stuffed her body in a wall or a storage trunk or something."
Smiling blandly, he gestured for Finn and Puck to exit before him, shutting the door firmly once they were all out in the hall.
October 30th, 4:43pm
Mercedes frowned at Kurt from her spot on Artie's bed. "I just think that the less people that are in the know, the less likely that someone's going to spill the beans, or ruin it all by overacting. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if Rachel knew? It would be like a latter day version of The Exorcist with a Jewish Linda Blair."
Kurt and Artie shuddered simultaneously.
Kurt recovered faster. "I just think the whole operation will run more smoothly if Tina knows what's going on. It is her house, she might be able to help us out." He turned to Artie. "What's your take? Keep in mind that I plan on disregarding your opinion entirely if you don't back me up."
Artie rolled his eyes. Of course. "I think we should at least warn her that we're plotting something, so she doesn't freak when the power goes out," he advised. "And Brittany doesn't need to know anything in order to play her role, but there's one more person we need to bring in."
October 30th, 8:18pm
When Artie wheeled into the front hall, Brittany was still sitting alone on the stairs with a basket of candy. Despite everyone's best efforts, including the heavy use of visuals, she stubbornly remained near the front door, waiting for the trick-or-treaters to come. Apparently undeterred that none had arrived yet, she was happily chewing a Twizzler while combing her fingers through her vat of sweets.
Reaching the foot of the stairs, Artie smiled disarmingly at Brittany. "Trick or Treat!" he humored her, and was rewarded with a hazy smile. "What a nice costume," she praised, handing him a fistful of candy. "I think you're supposed to stay outside and ring the doorbell, though."
Unsure if she was being serious or not, Artie thought it best to just take the candy without comment. "No costume?" he asked, unwrapping a Crunch bar and biting it in half. Chocolate rocked. Seriously—best holiday ever.
Brittany blinked at him. "No, I'm wearing one," she said mildly, tugging at her Cheerios skirt. "This is Sasha's uniform."
Nonplussed, Artie shook his head. "Right. Listen," he started, "we're going to play a special Halloween game, and you can have the best part, if you want to play." Brittany nodded eagerly, ponytail bouncing. Artie smiled. "Great! Follow me."
Five minutes later, Brittany was tucked into the secret storage room under the stairs. Artie held a winter coat off of his head—the room was only accessible through the hall closet—while he gave Brittany her final instructions. "Now remember, once you scream, the game starts, and you can't come out until someone finds you. Got it?"
"What if I have to pee?" she asked. Artie blanched. "Uh…wait as long as you can, then scream again," he decided uncomfortably. "Someone will come find you and end the game." Brittany nodded, checking the watch Artie had given her. "When the big hand is on the six," Artie reminded her. "That's in three minutes." He held out the basket of candy. "Want to keep this with you?"
Suddenly, inexplicably, Brittany was glaring at him severely. "Take off your mask," she ordered sternly, sounding so much like Santana that Artie started to sweat a bit in fear. A little scared, and more than a little bewildered, he complied. Immediately, the frightening demeanor was gone, and Brittany was all sunshine and rainbows again. "Oh, hi Artie," she chirped, taking the candy from his lap. "You're not a stranger; I can take your candy now."
October 30th, 8:30pm
Brittany might not have been the brightest of Artie's friends, but damn if she didn't have a brilliant sense of timing. Her scream rang through the house exactly on cue, making everyone jump or drop whatever they were holding seconds before the power died—plunging the house and all it's occupants into total darkness. Artie felt, rather than heard, Kurt slip in the doorway behind him moments later, settling against the wall just as people began fishing cell phones out of pockets and purses and illuminating the room with pinpoints of dim blue lighting.
"Is everyone okay?" Tina's voice quavered anxiously. From the sound of her tone, Artie guessed that Kurt hadn't been very specific about what was going to happen, and his heart went out to her.
Then again, she'd fooled him before.
The light closest to the ceiling bobbed dangerously. "Someone screamed. Who was screaming?" Finn asked. "It sounded like one of the girls."
"Or Hummel," Puck snorted from the couch. Kurt bristled from a few feet away. "Your wit never fails to astound me," he scoffed dryly. "And anyway, it wasn't me. Is everyone in the room?" Lights danced and flashed as everyone with a cell phone immediately began attempting to count.
"Wait, hold on." Artie could hear Tina stumbling over to the computer station. A few moments later, her industrial strength flashlight beamed through the room. Though she was still shrouded in shadow, Artie could just make out her lips moving silently as she counted. "We're missing Santana and Brittany," she croaked, and Artie was quick to step in. "Santana went to the liquor store about half an hour ago," he told everyone, "and Brittany was in the hall five minutes ago."
Mercedes, who was closest to the hall, peered around the doorframe. "Britt?" she called out. "Guys, I don't think she's—wait." The air was thick with tension as Mercedes left the room, returning less than a minute later with huge, scared eyes. "Brittany isn't there," she said quietly. "But there's candy scattered all over the floor, and…"
Apparently unable to speak, Mercedes held up her free hand. Though it was difficult to see the color of anything in the poorly lit room, there was no mistaking the dark, glistening smears of blood on Mercedes' fingers. "Oh, God," Mike muttered softly.
October 30th, 8:35pm
Artie looked around the room, masking his satisfaction at the simmering panic Mercedes had caused. Everyone was whispering hysterically to each other, even Matt. "We can't stay here," the usually mute boy was repeating to himself. "If Britt got attacked, we can't stay here."
Rachel interrupted sharply. "We don't know what happened, Matt. I'm sure she's fine." Though Rachel was doing her best to sound like her usual brash self, a tinge of desperation colored her tone, giving her away. "Tina, this is your house," she continued, "where could Brittany possibly be hiding?"
Tina was shaking. Artie decided that she really didn't know what was going on, and started feeling bad for not insisting that she be more fully informed. He definitely owed her an apology later. "Um, I…" she was spluttering, "upstairs has the most places, I guess." Rachel turned to everyone else. "Upstairs then," she declared. "I believe we should split up and—"
"Wait a minute, Scrappy Doo," Puck cut her off. "You want us to do what now? I'm not traipsing through the Haunted Mansion in the dark without a weapon and a bunch of muscleheads watching my back. No, I mean it," he insisted over Rachel's shrill protests. "I'm the badass here. I don't know how many horror movies you've seen, but being the badass means the only person here with a shorter shelf life than me is the black dude. Sorry, Matt." Matt shrugged his shoulders, seemingly not offended.
Puck wasn't done. "And besides, look at Stutterfly—even she's scared of this place, and she freaking lives here."
Everyone obeyed and looked at Tina, who was unusually pale and clutching her flashlight with a death grip. "I can, I mean—I know how to fix the power," she offered nervously. "But I'm not going into the basement alone, and it's going to take at least ten minutes to get it working. And Brittany…"
There was an awful silence.
Finally, Finn spoke up. "I'll go with you," he offered. "Kurt, you know about cars and stuff, do you know anything about electricity?" Kurt nodded, gracefully getting up and working his way across the room. "Not much, but enough to be useful," he affirmed.
Two minutes later, Artie and Quinn sat in silence, listening to the others go up or down their respective staircases. They'd been left with a book light from the side table drawer (Tina) and strict instructions to call 911 if they heard another scream (Rachel). As the last of the footsteps faded, Artie turned to Quinn. "You all right?" he asked kindly, but somewhat warily. Pregnant or not, she was still Quinn Fabray.
Fortunately, Quinn merely nodded. "Thanks for the warning," she murmured. Artie smiled, a pointless gesture in such consuming darkness. "Thanks for not telling anyone," he replied. "I think we've got another three minutes before the grand finale. Want some candy?" Quinn hesitated, then shrugged her delicate shoulders. "Okay," she agreed. "But give me the candy you covered in pig blood, and you'll be peeing in a bag for a month."
Artie shuddered. "No thank you," he said quickly, reaching under the side table for a bowl of plain M&Ms. "And also, uh," he added, "Mercedes…may or may not know what I poured all over the stairs." Quinn gave him a scandalized look and he held up his hands defensively. "Please, you know Rachel went all Crime Scene Investigator and examined it on the way up! It had to look authentic; I didn't think she was going to stick her hand in it!"
The pair was silent for a minute.
"But, um, if you could maybe not mention that to her, that would be great."
October 30th, 8:42pm
Armed with the flashlight, Tina, Finn, and Kurt crept down the stairs to the basement. "The circuit breaker is on the other side," Tina told the boys. "I've only had to reset it once though, so it might take me a minute to remember what to do." She grimaced apologetically. "If that doesn't work, I'm out of ideas."
Finn smiled encouragingly at her, until he realized that she probably couldn't see his face. "Just do what you can," he said kindly, trying to keep his voice steady and unworried. "Kurt and I can help, if you need it. Right Kurt?" He flashed Kurt a meaningful look behind Tina's back, and the smaller boy brightened with understanding. "Right," he confirmed. "Finn, why don't you aim the flashlight, and Tina and I will see what we can do?"
Moving slowly, the trio picked their way through boxes and antique furniture across the unfinished basement floor. Finn dutifully held the flashlight steady as Tina opened the panel box. She and Kurt began quietly discussing the circuitry in front of them, and it didn't take long for Finn to lose the thread of the conversation entirely. While the two worked, Finn looked around the basement warily. It actually wasn't as creepy as he expected, but appearances could be deceiving. And he had to be on his guard—as the biggest and strongest by far of the three, it would be his job to protect the others if a murderer or a zombie came charging out at them.
Finn gulped. Yeah, he wasn't nervous at all.
Tina and Kurt were quiet now, clearly concentrating on something. Their silence allowed Finn to hear something that he hadn't noticed before. "Hey Tina?" he asked softly, trying not to startle her—Finn wasn't quite sure how electricity worked, but he'd electrocuted himself a couple times in 7th grade science, and it hurt, like, a lot. "What's that buzzing sound?"
Tina frowned for a minute, listening. "Oh," she breathed. "That's the ice cream freezer over there," she said, pointing about ten feet behind Finn. "It must be on the backup generator along with the temperature control for the wine cellar." Finn nodded, pretending he understood what she said. His stomach growled a little bit at the mention of ice cream, and he blushed slightly, embarrassed.
The power was mysteriously out, Brittany was missing, there was a bunch of blood on the stairs, and it was entirely possible he was standing in a dead girl's basement while his sort of crazy friend and gay teammate tried not to blow them all up. Now was really not the time to be eating.
Kurt raised an eyebrow at him, as if he could tell what Finn was thinking. "You know, it's too bad we don't have the key," he said slowly. "I'll bet Quinn could use some ice cream. It's really good for pregnant women undergoing stressful situations." Finn nodded in agreement. It really was too bad they didn't have the key.
"Hold on, Artie gave me the key," Finn said proudly, fishing it out of his pocket and holding it up. "I was going to get some earlier, but I…forgot," he finished lamely, realizing halfway through his sentence that Tina might not appreciate hearing that he'd been distracted by the story of her sister's disappearance. Fortunately, neither Kurt nor Tina seemed to notice his word stumble. Tina was focusing on the circuits again. "Sure, go ahead and get some," she said, preoccupied.
Handing the flashlight to Kurt, Finn carefully picked his way over the freezer. The door was secured with a rusty chain that was padlocked together. Picking up the padlock, Finn grimaced. There were traces of something red and sticky on the chain, leaving stains on his fingers. "I think someone must have spilled strawberry sauce on the lock," Finn commented worriedly. "It wasn't me, though."
Tina slowly turned to look at him. "Finn, we don't have any strawberry sauce in the house," she said quietly, "my mom's allergic."
It was like a scene from a horror movie, only without the super creepy music. Still, even without the music, Finn just knew something terrible was going to happen. Like a disturbing talking doll or a guy with a chainsaw popping out of nowhere.
Kurt and Tina made their way over to where Finn was standing, and Finn removed the lock and chain from the refrigerator as if on autopilot. If he had been watching from the audience, he'd be screaming for the hero to stop being an idiot and to run away as fast as he could.
Instead, he opened the door.
Bloody, frost covered bags of flesh were crammed on the shelves. A jar of what looked suspiciously like eyeballs sat precariously close to the door. A paper-wrapped package sat on the bottom rack with the word 'Liver' hastily scrawled on top with a black marker.
And right in the center, matted with blood, was an alarming amount of blonde hair, still held together in a ponytail.
October 30th, 8:43pm
Puck was kind of starting to regret suggesting that Lucy Liu host the Halloween party. Even though he'd gotten plenty of booze and some stolen expensive chocolate out of it, things were starting to get a little too weird. For one thing, the combination of Artie's probably-not-true-but-still-freaky story and the sudden power outage was unnerving him a little more than he'd like to admit.
Plus, Santana was gone and Brittany was missing, so it wasn't like he could take advantage of the blackout.
And then, Rachel had started yapping like a coked-up Chihuahua insisting that they follow her plan of stumbling around in the dark until they found Brittany or got dead or something, which was so not what he wanted to be doing right now. At least he managed to avoid actually searching with Rachel (Mike and Matt were stuck with her). On the downside, that meant searching with Aretha, who dragged him down the side of the hall with more rooms to search.
She claimed it was because 'Tina is my girl, and I'm not letting your grabby hands anywhere near her underwear drawer', which was basically chick-speak for she was a killjoy who wouldn't let Puck have any fun.
So far, they had searched two guest rooms and a linen closet (Brittany was insanely flexible, in a good way) and hadn't found Britt or even anything interesting. Mercedes pushed open the next door, which turned out to be a bathroom. Puck automatically reached for the light switch, like he had every time they had entered or exited a room, before cursing softly and shining the penlight on his keychain around the room. And nearly dropped the light, stunned.
The stopper blocked the drain of the marble sink, which was filled with some sort of dark liquid. The surrounding counter was covered with an assortment of shiny silver tools: cutting tools, knives, giant needles, all glittering metal and refracting the light from Puck's hand.
"What the hell," Mercedes said softly. Puck nodded, thoroughly disturbed. "We're getting out of here," he commanded. "I'm not staying in any room with this many sharp objects." Mercedes shook her head. "We need to check the shower first," she decided, "then we're getting the hell out." Puck, not seeing any way to change her mind, but also not wanting to, y'know, die, grabbed a scalpel and crouched into a fighting stance. "Okay, go," he agreed.
Mercedes crept slowly toward the shower curtain. Puck mentally willed her to hurry up—not that he'd ever admit it, but the suspense was making him sweat even as his mouth went dry. I hate Halloween, he decided.
With a lunge, Mercedes ripped back the curtain. The shower was empty. Mercedes and Puck both let out huge sighs of relief, each courteously pretending not to hear the other. "Empty. Fantastic," Puck drawled. "Let's get out of here."
Then, three things happened:
1.) Puck turned to leave the room, and promptly tripped over the ugly-ass throw rug in the doorway.
2.) Mercedes lunged to grab him before he fell, bumping into the squat little trash can and knocking a framed artsy print off the wall, exposing a hole where solid wall should have been.
3.) Rachel, Matt and Mike came running down the hall, having heard the noise.
"Is everyone all right?" Rachel asked breathlessly. "I have pepper spray and Neosporin, should anyone require any assistance." Puck snorted. She would. "Just the world's creepiest home surgery in here," he told them, gesturing toward the sink so the others could see. As they reacted wordlessly, Mercedes picked up the picture from the floor. "Point that thing over here," she commanded, gesturing to Puck's penlight. "I can't see where this is supposed to hook back up."
Puck grunted, but did as he was told. The hole in the wall was jagged, like someone had punched through with their fist and the plaster had started to deteriorate. And the rim of the hole was…wet? "Hold up," he ordered, grabbing Mercedes arm to stop her. She stepped back, giving him room to examine the hole more closely. There was something tucked inside, but Puck couldn't quite see what it was.
"Mike, shine your light over here," he called over his shoulder, and the light aimed at the spot doubled. Reaching an arm into the hole, Puck felt around. "Oh, be careful," Rachel fretted nervously, just as Puck's hand closed on something…clammy. And soft. And…
Filled with dread, Puck slowly pulled his hand out of the wall. And tried very hard not to throw up.
The object in his hand, covered with loose strands of long, black hair, was unmistakably a human ear.
October 30th, 8:51pm
The screams started in the basement. Seconds later, they were echoed by the screams upstairs. Thunderous footsteps resonated all over the house as everyone in the house ran either up or down a staircase, running at full speed toward the front door. Finn ducked in the living room long enough to scoop Quinn up in his arms bridal-style, running away without offering a word of explanation. Artie was left alone in the room, waiting.
He didn't have to wait long. A minute or so after the front door slammed, Mercedes slunk into the room. "Hey Wheels," she said lightly. "How'd it go?"
Artie smiled back. "What, the only 'sit around doing nothing' part of the evening for me? Great. You?"
Before Mercedes could answer, the lights flickered back on, and Artie could hear Kurt and Tina coming back up the stairs. Upon entering the room, Kurt bowed dramatically, eliciting applause from Artie and Mercedes. Tina glared at them. "I hate you all," she declared. "You couldn't tell me you were going to cut the power? What if I had something recording on TiVo?"
Best. Girl. Ever. Seriously; if Kurt and Mercedes hadn't been in the room, Artie probably would have kissed her.
Kurt stood back up, adjusting his hair. "Sweetheart, I did tell you we were going to scare the crap out of everyone at the party," he reminded her. "You didn't think we'd be able to pull that off with the lights on, did you?" Artie added his puppy dog eyes, and Tina relented. "Okay, that was kind of awesome," she relented, visibly trying not to grin. "But what if someone calls the police?"
Mercedes waved a hand. "Already taken care of," she said, whipping out her cell phone and pressing a few buttons. "I had a mass text ready to go. And…we're sent," she said triumphantly.
Artie rolled over to Tina and opened his arms for a hug. "Forgive us," he begged melodramatically, "we only wanted to give you the most authentic Halloween party ever, with the added bonus that Puck will never set foot in your house again." Smiling, Tina ruffled his hair. "I just can't believe you got everything done right under my nose," she mused. "I mean, the blood on the stairs, sure. But sneaking a blonde wig in the meat freezer?"
She turned to Kurt, who was smiling enigmatically. "A lady never reveals his secrets," he said loftily. "But my apologies if you thought I had actually put ice cream in there. And congratulations on becoming such a gifted actor." He paused, looking slightly guilty. "Also, we may have made a giant mess in one of the bathrooms upstairs. But I'll have it pristine and back to normal by noon tomorrow!" he promised hastily, as Tina's eyes widened.
"Anyone else waiting for Rachel to bust in here and start yelling?" Mercedes asked, snatching up a sugar cookie from the coffee table. Kurt and Tina laughed, but Artie suddenly remembered something. "Hold on guys, I'll be right back," he called over his shoulder, wheeling quickly into the front hall.
Taking off his mask this time, Artie opened the closet door and pushed back the coats. He eased the barely perceptible door open, revealing Brittany who was still working on her bowl of candy. "Hi Artie," she said cheerily. "Did you win?" Artie smiled at her. "Yeah, I won," he confirmed, and she nodded. "That's good for you. I thought Kurt would be the one to find me."
Artie stared at her, baffled as he always felt when Brittany opened her mouth. "Brittany, I knew where you were hidden," he reminded her.
She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. "Yeah, but Santana used to say that Kurt spent so much time in the closet, he might as well live there," she informed him, and smiled. "I thought maybe she meant this one."
Artie was saved from having to reply when the front door burst open. "I'm back," Santana called out, sounding more than a little drunk. "Hey, C Reeves," she smiled, spotting Artie. "I got your vodka. Spent the whole $20 on it, though." Artie nodded, trying to keep a straight face. "That's okay," he said solemnly. "You were gone for a while, though, we were worried." Taking a drink right from the bottle, Santana clawed her hand through the air dismissively.
"I got lost."