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An Arkham Halloween

by Thomas Wm. Hamilton

Our town holds public events for all sorts of holidays, official or unofficial. Arbor Day sees tree plantings along roads and in parks, even school grounds. Official holidays such as the Fourth of July we go all out, the loudest and best celebration in the state. Halloween is mainly for children who don’t know better but, one year, events may have gotten out of hand.

Some of Arkham’s older residents have always cautioned against tempting fate around Halloween, but most adults look with a benign eye on children dressing as ghosts, goblins, witches or wizards as they collect their Halloween candies or cookies to the chants of “trick or treat.”

The stranger approached me as I was heading down Main Street. “Pardon me, sir, I’m looking for the library at Miskatonic University.”

“Straight ahead about four blocks is the entrance to their campus. But why the library?” I was just feeling curious.

“It put out a call for help. They have the original draft of The Necronomicon in Abdul al-Hazred’s own handwriting and are looking for help to prepare a modern English-language edition. Since I knew h... uh, know how to read medieval Arabic, I’ve offered my services.”

“Well, good luck with that. You’ll have to wait a few days, because the University, like much of the rest of this town, closes down for Halloween observations.”

“No problem; at my age I’ve learned patience, so I’ll... ah... tarry a while. Know any bed and breakfasts or hotels where I could stay?”

“My aunt has a B&B. What’s your name?”

“Joseph Ahasver. Feel free to call me Joe.”

I gave Joe directions to my aunt’s place, and told him to say I had recommended him.

A few hours later Aunt Ethel called to thank me for sending her a customer. “I’ve got both rooms rented out for a few days. And the one you sent me seems a lot more normal than the other fellow.”

“How so?”

“This strange one, saying his name is Val Tepes, knocked on my door just after sunset to say he wished a room for a couple of days. Spoke with a weirdo accent. Said he would not need any meals, so I knocked a couple bucks off for him. Of course, your fellow did ask if his meals could be kosher. I said I’d try.”

“How’s Gloria doing?”

“She and Bill still aren’t making me a grandmother.” She ranted on about this and other family matters. I finally got rid of her.

The next morning gave her and the rest of town something new to discuss when the town drunk, old man Gauthier, was found dead. Instead of the expected broken neck from a fall in a drunken stupor, the coroner said he had two small bite marks on his neck and seemed to be nearly totally exsanguinated. The sort of reason kids did their trick or treating before sunset.

The day after was the day before Halloween and the day of an unusual crime. Lovecraft Memorial Hospital had a raid on its blood bank, but only the B-positive blood was taken. An overnight orderly swore he saw something, perhaps a giant bat, fly in a window adjacent to the refrigerated section where the blood was kept.

I ran into Joe Ahasver on the street headed for a diner and, to be friendly, joined him for lunch. “So, my aunt treating you right?”

Joe smiled. “She’s very chatty. I know almost as much about your cousin Gloria as you must from growing up with her. Is it true she hasn’t had kids because she fears losing the ability to cast spells?”

I sighed. “My family has a long history of madness. One of our ancestors murdered his landlord and fed the meat to an investigator looking for the landlord, then screamed he could hear the victim’s heart still beating.”

Joe’s eyebrows raised. “I remember the case. Your relative, eh?”

“It looks as though you’ll have another case to remember, although I’m happy to think my family isn’t involved in the death of old man Gauthier or the theft from the hospital’s blood bank.”

Joe shook his head. “I’ve heard similar things in my travels. Not good, definitely not good.”

Hours later things came to a head. My cell phone showed Aunt Ethel was calling me, but when I opened it all I could hear was a distant voice sounding like her screaming for help. I raced in the evening’s gathering darkness to her house, passing Joe on the way. I called to him to help and, within minutes, the two of us burst into her home.

Feeble cries came from her sitting room. We found her sprawled across a sofa, Val holding her down. His open mouth betrayed enormous incisors he was lowering to her neck. I leaped at him. With a casual gesture he swept me away. My head struck a wall. Dazed, I lay there.

Dimly I heard Joe say, “So, Count, we meet again after so many years, this time in the New World.”

“I’ve no interest in you, Jew. Let me feed, and I’ll not harm you.”

“Isn’t feeding on your hostess a bit extreme, one might even say careless?”

“My favorite flavor is B-positive, but it isn’t all that common. This garrulous old woman has it, as did the drunk.”

I think I moaned. Joe, however, took an icon from a pocket and thrust it at Val, who spat out something in a foreign language. He jumped at Joe, who met him with a dagger. My blurry vision suggested the hilt bore a six-pointed star. Val snarled, “I’m not one of your Semitic tribe. That Mogen David symbol won’t stop me.”

“Perhaps not, but the dagger is silver and was dipped in holy water. Or have you converted to Hinduism? I have a vial of cow’s blood, if necessary.”

Val snarled something in English so disgusting I refuse to quote it. The blow to my head must have scrambled my brain, for it appeared he faded from sight and was replaced by a giant bat, which smashed its way out a window.

It took a couple hours for Ethel and me to recover. She started complaining Val had left without paying. Joe said he would cover Val’s charges, adding, “I’m bound to see him again someday, and he’ll pay. Meanwhile, I’ll stay in town until I can finish my work in the University library.”

Aunt Ethel likes him, and I hope his help for Miskatonic’s new English-language edition lets it sell lots of copies and make lots of money.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Wm. Hamilton

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