By Vin's Trio ~ Sherry, Wendy, and Jan
Story: Car trouble on the way home from a conference forces the Seven to walk home on a cold, dark, and windy night.
Disclaimer: We don't own 'em, and we know we can't keep 'em. This story is for entertainment only.
Thanks go to Jo for making the wonderful collage for this story. To Wendy for the beta and to Vin and the boys for playing.
It was a dark and cold Friday night as the seven MCAT agents made their way home from an overnight trip they had made to attend a law enforcement conference. The interior of Nathan's black suburban was oddly quiet as the men inside of it thought about what a waste of time the conference had been for them. With the level of security that their federal agency held, they were usually several steps ahead of other government agencies in obtaining access to new technology, and information regarding new procedures and laws. Despite the fact that they had only been away from home overnight, each man was eager to return home and be reunited with their families.
At one time or another during their drive home each of the men thought about Halloween, which was coming up in a few days. Their wild bunch of a family had grown over the years to include wives and a whole passel of kids to share the joy of innocence with. They reflected on how having the kids around had added a new dimension to Halloween and they were all looking forward to the festivities.
"Hey," Buck Wilmington called out from his place in the back seat. "Turn up here. There's never any traffic on Old Crypt road, and it will cut our time in half. We should be able to get home sooner."
Chris Larabee, who was driving, glanced over at Vin Tanner who was in the passenger seat riding shotgun before returning to his duties of driving. Tanner had been nominated to be the navigator on the entire trip, by the rest of the team and he wanted the man's opinion on the change of direction.
"He's right, Cowboy," Vin said softly, as he turned on the interior light to study the map in his lap one more time. "The road is rougher, so there is hardly ever any traffic on it."
Chris applied pressure to the brakes in order to slow down to make the sharp turn safely, even as he asked, "Everyone okay with us taking a short cut?"
"I'm all for anything that gets us home sooner," Nathan Jackson answered to which the rest of the men in the vehicle gave their agreement.
Larabee took the turn and immediately the suburban started bouncing and jerking from side to side, as he maneuvered it over ruts and around holes. Vin was right the road was rougher, but without any other traffic they were making good time.
"Next time Director Travis wants to send agents from MCAT to one of those conferences, let's have the newest members go," Josiah Sanchez said stretching his back.
Everyone laughed and agreed, all seven of them knowing it wouldn't happen like that. The rest of the team would stay in Denver, while one or more of the team leaders got stuck going to the boring meetings.
"Should only be a half hour more and we'll be home," Vin commented, anxious to get home to Kelli, Jason, and Andi. For a man who hadn't thought he wanted to set down roots, the Texan was still amazed sometimes at how fast they came, and how deep those roots were, being with his family was when he was happiest.
A loud bang shook them all out of their musings. Chris carefully pulled off to the side of the road, and then seven men piled out. "Must have picked up a rock back in that stretch of gravel," Larabee said looking at the flat tire.
"Guess it's gonna take a little longer to get home boys," Vin said heading for the back to get the spare.
"I'll help Vin," JD volunteered and followed Vin.
"Okay," Vin growled, as he opened the back of the suburban. "Where's the spare?"
"Um," Nathan said not looking up at his friends, "It's the same size as Rain's, she had a flat last week. I didn't want her not to have a spare with her so I gave her mine. I was going to get another one and put it back, but I guess I forgot, sorry."
Josiah put his hand on Nathan's shoulder saying, "It's alright brother, no use crying over spilled milk."
Each of the men reached for their cell phones only to find no signal in the valley they were in. "Guess we're walking," Chris said, reaching into the suburban's emergency kit. He removed the only two flashlights, handed one to Vin, and kept one for himself.
They all pulled their jackets tighter against the wind, which was blowing steadily, chilling them, and making the night almost moan. Vin noticed JD looking out into the darkness surrounding them. Moving close Vin said softly, "It's okay JD, just the wind."
JD smiled at the Texan, grateful that Vin was discreet and he hoped none of the others noticed his skittish reaction. JD couldn't help it; even knowing it was just the wind moving through the branches of the trees lining either side of the road, which was making the eerie sounds, the moans were still creeping him out. "Let's tell stories," JD suggested to the others, "it'll help make the time walking pass faster."
JD ~ Mystical Cats
Vin kept pace with JD, he realized that for some reason his young brother seemed nervous, and stayed close by. "I reckon since it's your idea JD, you should start."
Dunne thought for a minute and then started talking. "I didn't get to take part in a lot of Halloweens, but when I did...it usually ended up the same."
Buck knew that JD had missed out on some of the normal things boys did growing up, but did not know that missing Halloween was one of them. "What do you mean they all ended the same?"
"Cats, Buck. I attract cats, mostly black ones, but sometimes they had a tiny bit of white. Anytime I was out for Halloween I always had at least five, or more of the little felines follow me home." JD stepped up his pace when he thought he saw something in the darkness. "It wasn't just on Halloween night either. Cats seem to like me, and I haven't the foggiest clue as to why."
"It's all that excessive energy you channel JD. They just follow the flash you create when you move." Nathan chuckled.
"All I know is that they just seem to appear when I'm out at night, and still do. I remember one night that Casey and I were walking around downtown window shopping, you know with no particular destination in mind. I had the feeling that we were being followed." JD shivered because he had that same feeling now. "I turned around and there were three black cats trailing after us. Well you know Casey and animals, she tried to pet one of them and they stopped just out of her reach. She turned to me with those beautiful hazel eyes and I knew I was gonna have to catch one for her so..."
"The eyes will get you in trouble every time son." Buck laughed.
"Don't I know it? I went after the smallest one and it started to run, I tripped on the curb and fell flat on my back, in the middle of the sidewalk. Here I am laying there in pain, open my eyes expecting to see Casey, and there is that darn cat sitting on my chest like she had good sense. Casey ran over and grabbed the cat checking it over for any injuries, and then she turns to me and says 'you could have squashed her JD'."
"Let me guess, Casey kept the cat right?" Vin grinned, and tried to hide the laughter he knew was gonna break free any second.
"She would have, but when she set the cat down to help me up, it disappeared."
"It ran off you mean," Chris corrected.
"No, I mean it simply vanished right before our eyes, same as the others."
"Wait a minute are you saying that all these cats that followed you did the same thing?" Ezra raised a brow and questioned.
"Every single one of them," JD sighed. "Any time a cat follows me and I try to touch it...it just disappears."
"Remind me of that if we ever get cornered by a cat on a case." Larabee smiled.
"You never know, Chris, one of these days you just might need my mystic connection with cats."
Ezra ~ Ghost of the Bayou
"Ezra, how about you tell us a story?" JD suggested, glancing over at the well dressed, green-eyed agent walking on the other side of Nathan.
He was rewarded with a slap on the back of his head from Buck. He shot Buck a glare, before realization sank in, and he wished he could take the question back. Ezra very seldom talked about his childhood, because too much of it was filled with pain, and the brothers had long ago made a pact not to ever prod him into revealing more of it than he was willing to do so. Dunne shrugged his shoulders in a silent apology for the oversight, and all seven men fell silent for a while as they continued walking.
"You don't have to tell us one if you don't want to Ezra," Chris said softly after a few moments.
"Your sensitivity is appreciated, brothers, but not needed," Standish said quietly, thinking yet again how fortunate he was to have such men in his life, as well as the rest of the members of the Wild Bunch that he was privileged to call family, specially, his lady love Barbara Lindsey. The friendship, respect, and love that he shared with these six men, most of all, almost made up for the retched childhood he had had.
After musing for a moment, he finally decided on a story to tell his brothers that would fit the current occasion. "When I was about ten or eleven years old, Mother and I drove down to visit my Aunts, Ida and Stella Cavanaugh, on the outskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana. Their sizable estate is located down on the Bayou itself, and has been in their family for generations."
"Aw, the Bayou..." Josiah said on a sigh, closing his eyes for a moment. "There isn't anything quite so lovely as watching the sun go down over the bayou, casting shadows onto the ground through the gnarled branches of the magnolia trees."
"Uh, Josiah, just whose story is this anyway?" Buck asked, his voice laced with amusement.
"Sorry, Ezra...please continue," Josiah was quick to say.
Standish chuckled. "It's quite alright. I know all too well just how entrancing the Bayou is. Now, where was I? When Mother and I drove up the driveway, I got the first glimpse of the house and grounds and was aghast at what I saw. The old Crones were practically antiques themselves and hadn't been able to continue the upkeep of the house and property. The windows in the upper floors were dirty and broken, shutters hung loosely by a solitary nail, and paint was peeling."
"Instead of the immaculate lawn I had expected, there was a wild overgrowth of weeds and grass. I felt a cold chill run through me as Mother and I got out of the car and proceeded up the walk to the front door."
"The interior of the house did nothing to alleviate my growing fear. Dark and dusty, Gothic style furniture graced the rooms. Chandeliers that hadn't seen a good washing in decades gave off dim light throughout the massive rooms, and were only augmented by melting candles in elaborate candelabras placed sporadically in each room. The eerie setting was made even more ominous, when it began raining while we were eating dinner."
JD shivered involuntarily as he listened, and was immediately reminded that there was something predatory out in the darkness watching them as they continued along their journey towards home. He turned his attention back onto the story that Ezra was telling them, and realized that he had missed part of it.
"...the storm was so bad that the electricity went out in the few rooms that had been wired for it, and we were forced to resort to using candles to light our way. I was given a room in the north wing and we all settled into bed for the evening. Almost as soon as I shut my eyes I became aware that I wasn't alone in the room. A shiver raced down my spine as I opened my eyes and I could make out two golden orbs glaring at me from a corner of the room. At first I thought that the eyes belonged to a cat that I hadn't yet been introduced too, but the more I continued to stare at it, I was able to make out this misshapen shape that was clearly much to large to be that of a domestic animal. Too say the least, I was too terrified to sleep a wink that night. That is one place I haven't traversed back to again."
Josiah ~ A Ghostly Halloween
JD felt like he was being watched, he kept telling himself that those glowing eyes that he thought he saw in the dark, were only his imagination, stirred up by Ezra's story. He needed another story to talk his mind off of the direction it was going.
"How about you Josiah?" JD asked. "You believe in ghosts?"
"Yep," Josiah said smiling. "Saw one once."
Vin started to laugh as they were waiting for Josiah to continue. When Josiah didn't say anymore Vin said, "You can't stop there, tell us the rest."
"It was when we were children," Josiah started his deep voice competing with the wind. "Our father was in a good mood that year, he allowed Hannah and me to go trick or treating as long as we dressed up as religious leaders."
As Josiah continued his story, his own mind flashed back to his childhood and that magical Halloween night of long ago. He was holding Hannah's hand the two went from house to house gathering goodies, and got so wrapped up in their fun, that they had wandered farther away from home than usual. There in front of them stood a majestic old home. The windows seemed to sparkle with the lights glowing cheerfully, their warmth beckoning Josiah and Hannah inside. Josiah reached up for the knocker when they arrived at the front door. Smiling as the door opened, Josiah and Hannah held out their bags saying, "Trick or Treat."
The elderly lady who opened the door smiled back at them. "It's a cold night, won't you come in and join me for hot apple cider."
A chill seemed to surround the children as they thought it over, nodding at Hannah, Josiah said, "Yes, ma'am that would be kind of you."
Hannah and Josiah warmed themselves by the cheery fire as they ate some oatmeal cookies and sipped their hot apple cider. Their hostess introduced herself as Mrs. Peters, she told them how delighted she was by their visit as all of her family was gone and she didn't have company often any more.
The children and Mrs. Peters visited like old friends, sharing stories and laughter until Mrs. Peters looked at the big clock on the mantle saying, "Oh my, look at the time. As much as I'm enjoying this your parents will be worried. Thank you children for coming inside and spending some time with me. As it was the day of my birth, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I used to host a party each year and now you two have allowed me to have my party one more time."
Josiah and Hannah were happy as they headed home. They had a fun night and had done a good deed visiting with Mrs. Peters, they promised each other to make time to visit with her again soon. A few days later they returned to the old house during the day with small gifts for their new friend. They were shocked to see the house falling apart, the windows were boarded over and the yard overgrown with weeds. The door knocker was hanging to one side and when Josiah and Hannah looking through the cracks in the boards the house that was cheery and in good repair a few days ago now was covered with dust and cobwebs.
"You sure it was the right house," Vin asked totally entranced by Josiah's story.
"Yes," Josiah said, "we asked around and found the house had been empty for the last 25 years. Ever since the last resident, Mrs. Edward Peters passed away in her sleep."
"Mrs. Peters," JD said, "the same one you talked to."
"Hannah and I went to the local newspaper and found articles with some pictures." Josiah paused lost in his own memories, looking back at his friends he added, "It was the same woman. Halloween was her birthday and every year she hosted a huge Halloween party and invited everyone in town."
Nathan ~ Haunted Cemetery
"Hey guys, look," JD said breaking the silence that had ensued after Josiah had finished talking. A short distance away from them, the road that they were traveling on ended into the entrance of an old cemetery.
"I thought you said this was an access road, Buck?" Chris asked questioningly as he looked at Wilmington.
"It is! It was!" Buck exclaimed, his blue eyes wide with confusion as he stared at the wrought iron fencing that lined the cemetery. The flashlights beams flashed off of tombstones of every shape and size through the bars of the fence.
"It certainly doesn't appear to be so now," Nathan spoke up. "Perhaps we turned off onto another road by mistake?"
Tanner shook his head. "No, the headlights flashed onto the street sign as we turned onto the road, and 'Crypt' was clearly visible on it."
"Then, how...?" JD asked his dark eyes wide as the seven men stood around in a huddle.
"I don't know, but I don't like it." Larabee said and started walking. "The quicker we get through the cemetery and out onto the main road on the other side, the happier I will be."
"I concur," Ezra agreed and the men walked the last few feet to the entrance. One by one the seven MCAT agents slipped through the gates and into the cemetery. Larabee led the way through the overgrown weeds, his flashlight pointed slightly downward to forge a path for them to follow.
Tanner brought up the rear, with the other five men sandwiched in between them as they walked in a line.
JD was grateful for the change in the walking pattern, liking the fact that Chris was leading the way, while Buck was directly behind him. He usually didn't scare so easily. As a MCAT agent he had faced down some very scary situations, but for some reason the odd occurrences that were happening this night, were really starting to spook him.
"This reminds me of a time when a couple of friends and I snuck out of the house one Halloween, after we had all returned from trick-or-treating," Nathan said, breaking the silence.
"How, Nathan?" Josiah asked.
"There was this old cemetery a few blocks from my house that the older kids in the neighborhood used to tell all of us younger ones that it was haunted," Nathan answered.
"Did you and your friends believe them?" JD couldn't refrain from asking.
"Yes," Jackson replied. "At least, enough for us to get the courage up to sneak out of the house and go investigate the cemetery ourselves. We had hidden some flashlights in my room, earlier in the day, in anticipation of our sneaking out. Mark, Timmy, and I waited until my folks were asleep before we climbed out of my bedroom window and took off running into the night. It wasn't until we had gotten to the old graveyard and entered the gates, when things started to happen, and we began to get scared."
"Like what kind of things?" JD breathed the question out, glancing around the darkened burial ground, uneasily.
"Like...the moon overhead was suddenly shadowed by clouds, when it hadn't been before. The temperature dropped drastically, and then there was this fine mist traveling up from the ground that wasn't a few moments earlier," Jackson told him.
"Kinda like the mist that is creeping up on us now?" Buck queried, his tone serious, as he pointed down at the ground.
The other six men looked down and, sure enough, there was a fine mist creeping up around their legs. They exchanged silent looks, and then Chris said, "It's just a coincidence that's all."
"Come on, let's keep walking. The sooner we get to the main road, the sooner we can call someone to come and get us," Vin said.
The seven men started moving again, all of them eager to get home to their families.
"Why don't you continue telling us your story, Nathan?" Josiah suggested.
"Okay..." Nathan agreed. "Anyways, my friends and I weren't about to let a little mist get the best of us. So we continued further into the cemetery and that's when this mausoleum loomed up ahead of us. It just seemed to appear out of nowhere. That kind of spooked us, but none of us were willing to let on to the others that we were scared, so we continued walking toward it. When we got about four or five feet from it, the door suddenly swung open, and all three of us screamed and took off running back to my house. I never snuck out of the house again after that. Not even when I became a teenager."
The other six men burst out laughing, and Jackson joined in. JD felt relief flood over him, the laughter cutting through the darkness and lightening it up a little.
Silence fell over the group a few moments later, and the younger agent forgot that there was anything out in the darkness watching them.
Buck ~ A Valiant Effort
Buck noticed Vin limping slightly so he asked, "You alright there Vin?"
"Yeah," Vin said looking down at his feet, "these boots ain't made for walking."
Chris and Buck started to laugh softly while JD said, "Maybe another story will take your mind off 'em." JD was hoping it would take his mind off his imaginary stalker, that black cat in the woods following them, watching them, and staying just out of sight.
"How about you Buck," Vin asked, "you got a Halloween story to tell."
"I tell you boys," Buck started to talk, "I thought being a Navy Seal, a cop, an ATF agent, and now part of MCAT had prepared me for just about anything."
"You were wrong huh," Vin said with a laugh.
"I thought I'd help Inez out by taking the kids shopping for their Halloween costumes last Saturday," Buck said shaking his head.
"You didn't," Chris said joining in the laughter of the other men.
"Buck," Vin asked, "what were you thinking?"
"I wish I knew," Buck confessed. "It started off okay, we found costumes for Caleb and Maria right away. Little Sarah on the other hand was mighty hard to please."
"She has a mind of her own our little angel," Vin said shaking his head at Buck's dilemma.
"That she does," Chris agreed.
"I was almost ready to give up when Sarah screamed 'There Daddy', now I ask you who could deny my precious little girl. She was pointing at a pink angel outfit. Taking the girls' hands, with Caleb following close behind us, we charged over to the rack Sarah had pointed out. I reached out and grabbed it, only to have Attila the Mom snatch it at the same time."
All seven men were laughing in earnest now.
"I take it Attila wasn't about give it up," Vin prompted.
"Noooooo," Buck said pulling his coat a little tighter against the relentless wind. "I've faced down hardened criminals that didn't scare me like that lady did. She had that look in her eye that said 'I don't care how bad I have to hurt you it's mine'."
"That would be scary," Vin agreed.
"Attila and I both pulled, Caleb took Maria to stand safely out of the way, but Sarah and Attila Junior were both crying they wanted it. I tried to charm her, Attila just snarled back at me. Sarah gave her the puppy dog eyes, they didn't move her at all."
"Damn, that's cold," Vin said through his laughter.
"I suggested we ask if they had another in the back, Attila the Mom said she was taking that one and I could find another. The sales clerk gave us the bad news that it was the very last one, and dang if that ornery woman didn't get even more hostile."
Vin slapped Buck on the back, "Hate to tell you this pard, but you didn't stand a chance."
"You mean to tell me with all your knowledge of women you failed to take into account the premise of a woman fighting for her young," Ezra added not even trying to contain his mirth.
"He's right Big Dog," Chris said, "you should have known better."
"I was so close," Buck moaned, "I thought about pulling my gun but decided that would be a bad example for the kids."
"Ya think," Vin said sarcastically.
"We finally found a rainbow angel that Sarah liked even better," Buck said with a proud smile, "and I learned next year Inez can take 'em shopping for Halloween."
Vin ~ Phantom Cats
Tanner had listened to all of the captivating stories his brothers told, and he was glad that Buck had attempted to change the mood with his anecdote. Still, Vin had to admit that they were in the perfect setting to get a little spooked. Not that he was concerned, but he knew that JD was getting more apprehensive with each recitation. Dunne kept looking behind them as if he expected his childhood cat nemeses to appear at any moment.
"It's your turn Vin, tells us a spooky story," JD urged Tanner to share.
The Texan hated to tell stories, unless it was to the kids, but he could not refuse JD's request. He thought about it, and then smiled. "I don't have a personal experience to tell you about, but I do know about legends. Anyone know what a cryptozoologist is?"
"Crypotozoology is the study of animals that are rumored or suspected to exist, but for which conclusive proof is still missing. The term also includes the study of animals generally considered extinct, but which are still occasionally reported. Those who study or search for such animals are called cryptozoologist, while the hypothetical creatures involved are referred by some a 'cryptids' a term coined by John Wall in 1983," Josiah answered.
"Yeah, what he said." Vin laughed. "They search for hellhounds, Sasquatch, Yetis, big apes, Werewolves, lake monsters, Maltese or Blue tigers, Wampus cats, mermaids, and dozens of more creatures. The lists are endless."
"Mermaids, now there is something I'd like to study." Buck grinned.
"As if Inez would stand for that," Chris retorted. "We'd have an extinct Bucklin on our hands if you tried."
JD was interested in knowing more. "What's a Wampus cat?"
Vin retold the old legend. "The Wampus cat is a legendary creature from Tennessee and Cherokee folklore. Accordin' to the tale, a Native American woman disguised herself in the skin of a mountain lion to spy on the men of the tribe as they sat around the campfire, and told stories on a huntin' trip. When her presence was discovered, the tribe's medicine man punished her by transformin' her into a half-woman, half cat, who supposedly still haunts the forest of East Tennessee."
"Man, I'd hate to run into her on a dark night." Nathan shivered.
"Then there are the Phantom cats or alien big cats as they're called, a phenomenon of a number of countries and states, includin' ours, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Reported sightin's, tracks, and injuries indicate that large felines, like panthers, or pumas exist among us. Even in places not known to have cougars, panthers, or any other type of big cats...they have been seen."
"Phantom cats, Vin?" Ezra questioned suspiciously, "Really? Did you and JD conspire to both recount tales of feline apparitions?"
"Nope, mystery cats are legendary, especially panthers. The animals that have allegedly been seen are normally described as being black in color, but regardless of the fact that witnesses place them here, black panthers don't even belong on the North American continent. Most sightin' describe the big cats as being low-slung, jet black in color, with gleamin' eyes. They've been seen streaking across roads in the dead of night, heard ramblin' around in the foliage, and tracks have been found that lead off a distance and then suddenly vanish. There have even been reports of people shootin' them, but when the bodies were searched for, nothin' was found, not so much a one drop of blood."
The wind picked up and made a rustling noise in the overgrown bushes of the cemetery, just as a huge black cloud covered the moon. For an instant, JD swore he saw a dark shape move through the tombstones, but quickly dismissed the idea. He shook his head; he was only spooked by all the stories, and that's all it was.
Tanner continued. "Of course, that is how legends and folklore continue to be part of our heritage. Stories passed on generation to generation, and fertile imaginations, combine to make good tales."
"So none of it's real?" JD sounded a bit disappointed.
"Real JD?" The Texan grinned. "I reckon that depends on if you're the storyteller or the cat."
Chris ~ Fearless Leader
JD found himself almost forgetting about the mysterious eyes he had seen glowing in the darkness around them as they walked. It was a relief to laugh about something, instead of being increasingly creeped out by not knowing what it was that was watching them from the near distance. Suddenly JD felt a chill run down his spine as the seven men continued their journey through the graveyard.
"What in the hell was that?" Chris exclaimed suddenly, as something crossed through the flashlight's beam that he held. He switched the light over to his left hand and reached for the butt of his service revolver.
"What?" Buck asked, glancing around at the darkness surrounding them.
"Something just crossed in front of me," Larabee said tensely.
The other six men were suddenly peering through the shadows around them, knowing that Larabee wasn't an alarmist by nature. The darkness seemed to come alive with motion as a high pitched screech pierced the night air. All seven men reacted instinctively to the sound. Chris' gun was in his hand lightning quick; Vin went into a crouch, drawing his bowie knife, while Nathan drew one of his throwing blades. Buck, JD, Ezra, and Josiah all drew their service revolvers as well. They moved into an outward huddle as dark shapes began emerging from behind tombstones, and began creeping toward them.
"What the hell are those things?" Josiah queried.
"Cats," Vin said, "Panthers by the look and size of them."
"Panthers? You're kidding, right?" Buck exclaimed, "There aren't any panthers in Denver."
"Perhaps you should communicate that piece of information to them," Ezra quipped, as the apparitions apparently prepared to lunge at the seven men.
"What?" JD's voice cracked as he responded to Larabee.
"Now would be a good time to demonstrate your mystic connection with cats."
"No!" JD replied quickly, stepping back only to be met with resistance in the form of Buck Wilmington.
"Now, JD, you don't have anything to be afraid of. None of us are going to let anything happen to you," Buck said reassuringly.
"Just imagine that they are little bitty kittens like the ones Casey wanted," Vin offered the younger agent a bit of encouragement.
JD looked at the Texan as if he had suddenly sprouted two heads. "Are you nuts? Do those things look like kittens to you?"
"JD, just do it! We've got your back," Chris ordered him.
"It's not my back I'm worried about," JD replied, as he felt Buck's hand propel him forward with a slight shove.
"Alright, I'll do it," JD agreed reluctantly. "Just don't push me. These things take some finesse."
Slowly JD started forward, his hand outstretched. "Here, kitty, kitty..."
The dark shapes that had been set to lunge at them, were suddenly moving forward, and darting past them in blurs of motion that was too hard for the seven men to follow. One of them, however, seemed to be listening to the young agent's words, and came to a sitting position a few feet away from the outstretched hand.
"Here, kitty, kitty..." JD called out again, in a wavering voice.
The cat inched forward on its stomach until it was just out of reach of JD's hand. As Dunne leaned forward, attempting to touch the cat, the wind stilled, the clouds parted, and in the full moonlight, the apparitions vanished, as well as the surrounding cemetery, and the seven men were once again standing in the middle of old Crypt road.
Like a shroud, an eerie calm fell across the night. Seven men stood in stunned silence looking to one another for an explanation for what had just happened. Words did not come, even as JD stepped back into the circle of his brother's protection.
Vin laid his hand on JD's shoulder, and finally broke the silence. "You okay?"
"Yeah..."JD cleared his throat. "Yeah, I think so."
Chris returned his gun to his holster. "I think we talked ourselves into...a situation."
"Yes, that's what we did," Josiah agreed. "The mind is a powerful force; sometimes we don't realize how we prime our imaginations."
Nathan nodded his affirmation. "A group hallucination, brought on by unfavorable circumstances. That would explain it, and it is a known medical phenomenon."
"Are you saying a medical phenomenon is responsible for the bizarre apparitions we have just witnessed?" Ezra skeptically ventured.
"Whatever the hell it was, I say we keep it among ourselves unless we want to spend time in mandatory therapy sessions," Buck retorted. "I say what happened on Crypt road, stays on Crypt road."
Chris looked from man to man, as each one acceded acceptance to Buck's proposal. "Good, now let's move on, the sooner we get back to the main road, the sooner we can call for assistance to get home." Twenty minutes later they were at the main road and within cell service range again.
Vin called Kelli, instructing her to take the Tahoe, swing by the Jackson's home to pick up a spare for Nathan's truck, and then come for them. He closed the phone and told the others. "She should be here in another twenty minutes; we're not that far from home." Seven fatigued men sat down on the ground to wait.
Tanner saw the Tahoe first, and rose to his feet to meet Kelli. They all piled into Vin's SUV, and he drove back to where they had left the Suburban. The walk that had taken them over an hour was only a fifteen minute drive from where they were. Once they arrived, Josiah opened the back to retrieve the spare tire, but rushed to the front of the vehicle when he heard loud voices.
"What's wrong? You all sound..." Sanchez had stopped speaking in mid-sentence when he laid eyes on the sight before him. There sat Nathan's Suburban...with all four tires fully inflated...none of them flat. Additionally, the top and hood of the truck was covered with large paw prints.
"Vin, I thought you said y'all had a blowout or somethin'," Kelli questioned. "What happened?"
Without answering, the Texan took her by the arm and steered her back to the Tahoe. "Nate, I'll follow you home, but let's take the main road."
"Sure Vin, no problem." Nathan eyed his truck warily as he, Josiah and Ezra climbed inside. Not one of them mentioned the fact that the tire apparently had fixed itself, or had never been flat in the first place.
Chris, Buck, and JD sat in contemplative silence as Vin drove home. The gates of Larabee 7 came into view and as they entered each man sincerely hoped they had heard the last of Old Crypt road.
One week later ~ Saturday afternoon
Halloween was over for another year and this was one that each of the seven was glad to see behind them. Not one word had been spoken about their time out on Crypt road, and that was fine with them. Once they had made it home it was as if it had never happened at all, and more than one man had wondered during the last week if it really did.
Vin walked out of the house with a cooler full of beer. Setting it down, he opened it and passed a bottle of Coors to each of his brothers as he joined them on the deck. "Man, it was a great ride today."
"Yes it was." Chris agreed. They had all spent most of the day horseback riding, if had felt good to be out, but now it was family time and kids should be descending on them at any moment.
Right on schedule Jason and Andi Tanner were the first to come tearing up the stairs, followed closely by their cousins Caleb and Sarah Wilmington.
"Dad, you're home!" Jason yelled.
"We have a big surprise!" Sarah shouted.
"Can we keep 'em?" Caleb joined in.
"Pleeease Daddy, can we?" Andi turned her big blue eyes onto her father.
Vin looked over to Buck, who shrugged his shoulders. They had each learned a long time ago never to agree to any request from their children without knowing all the facts involved. The squirming blobs under the kid's shirt should have warned them, but they asked the question anyway.
"Okay, one at a time, tell us what we talking about. Caleb, you go first." Buck looked at his eldest.
"We found 'em in the barn." Caleb answered as if that explained everything.
"They really need us, Dad." Jason added as he looked to Vin.
Vin sighed, whatever it was would probably be added to the menagerie that already lived at the Tanner home. They had an Australian Shepherd named Tracker, a raccoon named Buttons, a box turtle named Ralph, and Andi's fish. "Show us."
All four children reached under their shirts and gently extracted four cute and cuddly...black kittens.
Seven male voices simultaneously groaned, "Aw hell."
For information about Vin's story check: