This was an attempt at a Halloween story. I hope it disquiets someone ...hee hee hee cackle

A Dark and Stormy Night

The silence was broken by the spooky voice that intoned, "It was a dark and stormy night."

"Cut that out!" whispered Goniff, the fear evident in his voice.

"Well, it is," said Chief quietly as Casino snickered.

"Actor," said Garrison, clearly warning the owner of the eerie voice. There was silence for a moment then they clearly hear the howl of a wolf in the far distance. That was bad enough but the answer was from just behind them and to the left. There were enough goose bumps to go around as the two farthest from the group took a step closer.

"Blimmey," swore Goniff. "Let's get outta 'ere.

"Yeah, Warden," said Casino quietly, all thoughts of hijinx were gone, "before …".

"We have to wait for the signal."

"No we don't. 'ow about you wait 'ere and the rest of us will go back to the barn an' wait there." They might have considered it until they heard the rustle behind them. There was someone there, or something. Another step closer.

"Over there," whispered Actor.

"Where?" asked Garrison and Casino anxiously.

"There, to your right." All eyes peered into the darkness. There was someone there and they were pointing with their left arm and motioning with their right. That was good enough. Five men took off in a crouched run over the low stone wall and across the field.

Garrison took the lead with the others strung out behind him each leaving as much space as they dared. Once they reached the other side they jumped the wall and hunkered down on the leeside. Garrison waited until the last one appeared and then he set off along the wall. Once he reached the end he waited until they were all together again. Mentally he reviewed the map he had been shown.

Garrison sent Chief to scout out the road. They waited. Meanwhile a stab of lightning flashed in the distance and then the thundered rolled. Chief returned and they proceeded to cross and then follow it for a short distance. They had to be extra careful not to wander too far from the road in the dark. There was no telling what was there. Another flash, closer this time, showed the hump-back bridge that they would have to cross. It also showed the sand bagged machine gun nest that guarded it and to the two who happened to be looking in the right place when the flash lit the sky, the barrel of a weapon pointing in their direction. Chief turned, grabbed his leaders arm and pulled him farther from the road. The other were pulled silently aside but there was no gun fire. Apparently the gunman had not seen them. There was a possibility that he was asleep but that was not one any of the men were willing to count on especially after the thunder.

Something touched Chief's arm. If he had not been so aware of Garrison's presence beside him it might have startled him. Instead he moved closer to hear what was asked of him. "See if you can get closer and take him out." No need to answer he got to his feet silently and made his way closer. Because of the dark he had to move slowly and it was a good thing he did. Without warning his world exploded with light and pressure and he was flung to the ground.

The other men just fifty feet away were stunned. Garrison and Actor had both been peering towards the bridge watching their team mates progress when the lightning had struck. They were both now holding their faces, their watering eyes scrunched up against the pain. Casino and Goniff had fared better, they had been looking behind them, watching their backs.

Nobody moved as the smell of ozone and something else wafted in their direction. Garrison reached out blindly, felt someone and moved closer. "Actor?" he whispered barely making a sound. "I can't see. Is Chief all right?"

"I don't know," was the pain wracked response. "I can't see either. He might have been struck by the lightning."

Casino had felt tingly and his hair all stood up just before the lightning struck. Even now he felt weird so he moved in closer to the others. "Warden? You all right."

"Yeah. Just give me a moment."

"Casino, can you see?" asked Actor.

"Yeah."

"Can you see Chief?" he asked anxiously.

"No." There was a trace of fear in his voice. "But then it's too dark to see." It was not as dark as it had been. There was a glow from behind the sand bags. "Want me to go look." Garrison assented so he began to move forward. If he had moved just two feet either way he would have missed his team mate. As it was he almost tripped over his sprawled body. At least he thought it was him. His hands flew over the body, first to the throat checking for a pulse, yes, and then to the shoulders and down an arm to the wrist. The presence of the leather arm band confirmed the identity but there was no knife. Must have dropped it. Next a check to see or feel if he was bleeding. He could not feel anything. Must have been thrown clear. Next he edged up closer to the bridge. The glow was dying but as he got closer he noticed that the machine gun barrel was now pointed at the sky. Watching it intently for motion he crept closer. He wished he hadn't.

Willing his stomach to behave he moved back to his team mates. "I found Chief. He's up ahead, unconscious but the guard at the bridge is dead. How are you doing?"

"Better," he said as he wiped his eyes again.

They did not want to wait too long in case reinforcements arrived so the two who could see led the others to where Chief was struggling to sit up.

"You okay kid?" There was no reaction so Casino moved around in front of him. "Chief?" Normally Casino would not touch the man but these were not normal circumstances. He put out his hand to touch the Indian's arm just as his moved. Their hands met momentarily.

"Bertie wants you to know that it was Archer that fingered you for the Sanders job." The voice was Chief's but he sounded different somehow.

Casino yanked his hand back, startled. "What?" he asked a little to loudly.

"Archer hated you for shutting out Petes. He owed Petes and he wanted the debt settled."

"What'a you know about Petes?"

Chief raised his hand and rubbed his forehead. "What happened?" Chief was back. He looked toward the bridge and began to get up.

"It's all right, Chief, he's dead. Hit by lightning." Casino tried to sound normal but he was shook up, first by the sight of the dead soldier, and now by what Chief had said, something he could not possibly know anything about.

Chief looked up and as if on cue the sky was lit again by the electrical display. Two heads ducked momentarily, eyes scrunched shut, by reflex.

"Let's go." They hurried on. Casino avoided looking at the body, Goniff tried but had to see and like Casino wished he hadn't. Garrison and Actor looked briefly and silently sent prayers for his soul.

As Chief neared the sandbags he said, "You can go now. Go home where they're waiting for you." He turned and walked past.

The five men silently crept down the side of the road. Within a hundred yards they came to the entrance of their destination, the Romanian Funeral Parlour. Two large stone pillars stood guard, iron gates locked between them. Casino looked to make sure the coast was clear then tried to pick the lock. After a minute he returned to the others. "Can't pick it. Takes a big heavy key."

"Okay. Goniff," said Garrison as he nodded towards the top of the stone wall.

Chief was standing beside him so he cupped his hands to give him a boost. Not being able to see in the dark, Goniff lifted his foot then felt for where the hands were before stepping up.

As soon as their hands met Chief said, "Aunt Nell wanted to be there for your birthday. She says she sorry an' doesn't want you to be mad at her anymore."

Goniff had been so intent on the climb ahead he had ignored the words until he had his foot positioned and was about to jump. Comprehension stunned him so that instead of a jump he lurched and fell. "What?" He picked himself up and faced the speaker. "What'a you know about …" There was no way he knew about his Aunt Nell. He never talked about her. He had not spoken her name in years.

Garrison saw the commotion and approached, "Problem?"

Goniff didn't want to talk about it. He looked for and found Casino. ""ere gimme a boost." Up and over he went. The others followed similarly with Garrison giving Actor a hand up from the wall top. On the other side they looked to the huge stone house. There were no lights except for a candle that flickered in one window on the second floor. Instead of crossing the huge front lawn and risk being seen they opted to move along the wall to the side where they could approach by way of the summer house.

Garrison went first, running to the side of the building then waited. Chief took his turn, then Goniff. Casino came next then Actor. They paused as Garrison peered around the side. Nothing had changed. They were about to make the move to the house when a dark shape flew in front of the leader, then another. He pulled back momentarily startled. Bats returning to their shelter in the abandoned building. They each crouched lower as they passed that window. Then as they watched three dark shaped drifted across the lawn. Wolves trotting through, unhurried. They waited as one slowed and stopped looking directly at them. It scented the air then continued on its way still watching them. An omen?

They reached the main house without any further incidents. Casino picked the lock on the storm cellar door and they were in. Goniff was to have waited there to watch their exit but when he saw it was stacked with coffins he absolutely refused. Chief agreed to stay, the others headed upstairs. From the cellar door they entered a room with steel wheeled table and sinks, the body preparation room. The smell was strong enough to cause Casino to gag earning him a glare from the leader. A short hall and they were in the reception area. Garrison checked the signs, found the room he wanted and they entered the chapel. As they had been told Casino found and opened the safe behind the lectern. While Actor watched the door Garrison photographed the papers as Casino took then out. Once done the papers were returned, the safe locked and wiped. All they had to do was retrace their step except as they walked through the reception area they heard a voice. They stopped to listen and Chief walked out. Together they made their way to the cellar.

"What were you doing up there? You were supposed to stay here," demanded Garrison.

"He hated that tie. She did it for spite."

Completely confused, Garrison knew he didn't have time to figure it out. "Let's go." They retreated the way they came. By the time they reached the bridge they were starting to feel better until they remembered what was waiting there on the other side. Each kept their eyes averted except Chief but they all heard him say "thank you" as he passed.

As they approached the barn it was Actor who spotted their signal, the scarecrow still stood, one arm outstretched, the other broken, still swinging in the breeze

When they reached the barn Chief opened the door and held it. Garrison was the last in line so reached for the door to let Chief enter. Their hands met and Chief said, "Chuckie's sorry he wrecked your bicycle."

Garrison stopped, stunned, then waved the Indian inside. He could not let that go. "Chief, what do you know about Chuckie?"

"That he's sorry."

Casino heard the exchange and asked what he knew of Birtie.

"That's all I know, all he said."

"An' me aunt?"

Chief shook his head. Actor was puzzled. "Who are these people?"

Garrison was first to speak. "Chuck was my friend in grade school. He borrowed my bike and was hit and killed by a car."

"Birtie was gunned down in a cop shoot out."

"Me Aunt Nell died the day before my seventh birthday."

"So," said Actor, "each of you received a message from the dead." Looks were exchanged.

"What about you mate? Eh Chiefie, you got a message for Actor. Only fitting 'e get one too."

"That is not necessary." In truth he was afraid what he might hear, what the others might hear. There were far too many skeletons in his closet.

Chief shook his head to Actors relief. There was no message for him. But there was. "Your father will not be denied."

Actor drew himself up to his full height and said, "I will not."

"It does not matter. It's there if you need it." All eyes were on the two men who in turn had their eyes locked. A long moment and Chief broke the link and walked away.

No one spoke until Garrison asked quietly, "I take it he's dead?" A nod was the only confirmation he received.

"How'd you think Chief knew these things? Was it from almost being hit by lightning? asked Goniff.

"I do not know", said Actor, still clearly troubled by what he had heard. "It is Halloween, the night when it is said the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest."

"So hopefully this'll be the end of it?"

"I hope so too."

.