~ CHAPTER 1 ~
The leaves had already fallen from the trees; a chilly breeze made it's way through Four Corners. For the most part it was a quiet day. Folks were preparing for winter and the upcoming holidays. Halloween was just a few days off. It was to be on a Friday this year. The children were excited. This was one of the few times they had candy. A group of folks would special order the candy from the east as a treat for the kids. Homes and shops opened their doors at dusk to the ghoulish trick-or-treaters. After nightfall, a large bonfire was lit and ghost stories told. This Halloween would be different, if not for everyone, for the seven defenders of Four Corners.
Judge Travis was having supper with his daughter-in-law, Mary, and grandson, Billy, when the message came to him.
NEED HELP. UNDER ATTACK. SEND HELP IMMEDIATELY. TOWN OF SLEEPY HOLLOW.
The judge questioned the messenger about the town, who told him that's exactly as it came over the wire. He did not know if it were a prank or not. Mary told the judge he shouldn't question it because people's lives may depend on their help. He agreed, and he had the messenger find our where Sleepy Hollow was located. Immediately following supper, he gathered the men. Vin, Ezra, Chris, JD, Buck, Josiah and Nathan joined the judge at the Standish Tavern. Mary, Billy, Casey, Inez and Sammi joined them out of curiosity.
"Gentlemen, I got a message from a town by the name of Sleepy Hollow. Now, before any of y'all say anything, I know it's strange being the time of year it is. Nonetheless, they are requesting our assistance," Judge Travis explained.
"Sleepy Hollow days before Halloween?" JD nervously asked.
"Why? Are you afraid, JD?" Casey asked.
JD ignored her.
"You can't be serious?" Buck, too, questioned the judge.
"Y'all ain't scared; are ya?" Nathan teased.
"Of what?" Vin asked unfamiliar with the story.
"A man named Washington Irving wrote a story about 50 years ago, give or take a few years. It's about a small hamlet in turn-of-the-century New England named Sleepy Hollow," Chris informed those unaware.
"What was the story about?" Inez asked.
"A school teacher, Ichabod Crane, who falls in love with one of the village's most attractive women. A large ruffian attempts to thwart his efforts of courting the fair maiden. Mr. Crane, in his efforts to escape, flees on horseback to some nearby woods. The woods are, according to legend, the domain of one headless horseman that carries a carved pumpkin to replace his missing head. He is constantly in search of a head. You do no t wish to be caught alive wandering solitarily for fear of losing your head," Ezra summarized the story to Vin, Inez and Sammi.
"So, what happened to Ichabod Crane?" Sammi asked.
"He was never heard from again. His body was never found. He was seen entering the woods, but not exiting them," Josiah finished the story.
"I for one, do not relish the consideration of visiting a town here or anywhere entitled Sleepy Hollow at any time of year," Ezra offered his opinion of the venture.
"Well, it is just a story, right?" Vin questioned.
"Yes, Vin, it is just a story," Judge Travis assured.
"Then, what's the big deal?" Vin asked.
"Have you never been afraid of the uncertain?" Ezra questioned him.
"What d'ya mean?" Vin responded.
"You know, ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night," Buck informed.
"Ya mean like spirits an' stuff?" Vin replied.
"Yeah," Buck confirmed.
"Not afraid of 'em. Spirits bring messages. Many a medicine man has tried to summon them for guidance," Vin answered the original question asked by Ezra.
"Vin, you have spent too many years with the Comanche and Kiowa," Nathan smiled as he put an arm around Vin's shoulder.
"Mrs. Travis, I do believe we should consider teaching Mr. Tanner horror and haunting literature," Ezra concluded.
"I do believe you're right, but do you think he'll appreciate it?" Mary answered as she playfully jabbed Vin in the side.
"We will see," Ezra replied.
"Look, y'all, back to this message. I need y'all to check it out. It's probably just a prank being it's Halloween and all," Judge Travis restated the reason for the gathering.
"I would like to see this Sleepy Hollow. I think it would be rather interesting. The story you told, Ezra. It being Halloween and the moon is comin' up on full again," Sammi stated her eyes flickering with child-like excitement.
"Me, too," Inez added.
"Y'all are weird," Buck concluded about the women.
"You're just chicken-livered, Buck. Come on, have some backbone for adventure," Sammi teased and coaxed.
"I am adventurous," Buck retorted.
"Liar. You can't even handle being alone with me," Sammi ribbed.
Buck turned red, as the others all knew he was quite the ladies man.
"Yeah, well you're a tease," Buck quickly blurted trying to save his reputation.
"Maybe so, but you've definitely had your chance to take advantage. You, regardless, stammered. When you regained yourself, you left like a shot from a cannon," Sammi laughed.
The others began to laugh and tease Buck until he could take no more.
"Fine! So, you make me nervous. OK, there, I said it; are you happy, now?" Buck angrily responded and stormed out.
The laughter stopped and Sammi followed after him.
"Judge, don't worry, we'll go," Chris affirmed.
"And you will take us?" Inez pressured.
"Yes, we'll take y'all if you want to come, but you have to do as we say. If it's dangerous and we tell y'all to stay put, you better damned well stay put; is that clear?" Chris sternly agreed.
"Si, senor," Inez happily answered.
"Yeah, well, unlike JD, I can admit to being afraid. I do not wish to go. I'll see to the Halloween activities here, if that's OK with everyone," Casey announced.
Mary, too, was happy with the decision to allow them to go as she whispered to Chris about taking Billy.
"Mary, I think he'd be better staying here with his grandfather," Chris answered her.
"I'll be good," little Billy pleaded offering Chris the most sorrowful of puppy dog eyes.
Chris remembered how his own son could use the same technique against him and get what he wanted.
"Oh, alright, but you must mind any one of us that tells you something; understand?" Chris warned.
"Yes, sir," Billy enthusiastically replied.
Mary smiled at the obvious softening of the gunfighter.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
The group gathered supplies and told Judge Travis they'd be back as soon as they could. They left in the early morning hours. The trip took nearly two days. They men and women arrived just before dusk on Halloween. The moon was already showing itself - full just as Sammi predicted. The sheriff of Sleepy Hollow greeted them as they rode up the main street. They all convened at the sheriff's office.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Sheriff Chad Warner. We here in Sleepy Hollow have been experiencing some deadly raids from an outlaw gang. We need your help," the sheriff explained.
"Don't worry, Sheriff, we will do our best to help y'all out," Chris agreed to help.
"OK, that's great. The hotel is across the street. I'm usually here, in case you need me," Sheriff Warner replied.
The seven men, three women and Billy headed for the hotel. They checked in and separately investigated the little town. Mary, Chris and Billy stayed together. Mary insisted on stopping at the newspaper office.
"Chris, if anyone knows anything, the folks operating the local newspaper would," she told him.
Chris agreed, and they questioned the man, Josh Logan, setting up the presses. Mr. Logan told them a little bit but not much.
Josiah strolled over to the church to question the town's spiritual leader, Jacob White. Jacob told him what he knew, which was only of the four murders that took place previous to today.
"If you'd like, we can have a meeting tonight and pray. You can speak to the townsfolk. I'm sure they would welcome anyone who offers them hope," Jacob White told Josiah.
"That sounds like a good idea. Why don't you pass the word around," Josiah agreed.
JD accompanied Nathan to the doctor's office.
"If anyone knows about attacks, it ought to be the doctor," Nathan explained to JD.
The two men approached the doctor, Will Flemming, and interrogated him about the latest events in town. He confided that four people had so far died. He only treated one gunshot wound. The victim did not see the attacker.
Buck and Sammi visited the bathhouse and Miss Sallie's escorts, against Sammi's protests.
"I don't see why you have to ask them, Buck," Sammi argued.
"Because I know how to talk to 'em," Buck rationalized.
"Yeah, right," Sammi answered sarcastically.
They entered Miss Sallie's Bathhouse and Escorts and questioned several girls. Finally, Miss Sallie entered the main hall and offered her services. Sammi informed her Buck did not need her services. Buck ignored Sammi and began questioning Miss Sallie. She knew nothing for sure. She could only relate what she had heard from her clients.
Vin, Ezra and Inez spent their time at the saloon. Ezra asked a few of the gamblers what they knew. Inez questioned the bartender, and Vin queried several patrons of the saloon. The three exited the saloon with not much more info than they entered with.
Meanwhile, Preacher Jacob White passed the word around about the church meeting with Josiah. The men and women from Four Corners exchanged information about what they found out and whom they had spoken to. Josiah informed them of the church meeting that would be held that night.
As darkness shrouded the little town, a thick, dense fog moved in. Only the evil full moon was bright enough to glare through the eerie fog. It was almost time for the church meeting. Suddenly a numbing scream was heard from an alleyway. Everyone rushed toward the horrifying shriek. Upon arrival, the bloody body of an old man was found lying in the alley.
"Did anyone see anything?" Chris yelled out to the crowd as Nathan and the doctor confirmed the man's death.
No one answered Chris. Gasps and mumblings were all that was heard. Josiah ushered everyone to the church as the undertaker took the body to prepare for burial.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
The church meeting began. Josiah told the residents not to worry and to report anything they see or hear. He preached from the Bible to help calm their spirits. It seemed to be working, he figured, because the church began to quiet down. When it became too quiet, he glanced up at Chris and the others. To his surprise, they were the only people in the church. Everyone was gone. Josiah became rather pale when he stared blankly at the empty church.
"Where'd everyone go?" Josiah asked prompting the other six men and three women along with Billy to turn around.
Billy cuddled closer to Chris, who wrapped him in his arms.
"Chris?" Mary questioned.
"Don't ask me. I'm just settin' here along with the rest of ya," Chris responded.
"Let's get outta here an' have a look around town again," Buck offered taking Sammi by the hand exiting the church.
He stopped dead in his tracks, frozen, pale-faced at the sight. The others joined him.
"What's happening?" JD asked.
"I have no inclination," Ezra admitted.
"Mama, I'm scared," Billy clung to Mary.
"It's alright, we'll be fine. It's just a little fog; right, Chris?" Mary attempted to calm Billy and herself.
"Uhmmm…Yeah…yeah…it's, uhm…just fog," the usually fearless Chris stuttered.
"Why don't we split up and see what we can find?" Vin suggested.
"That's a good idea," Josiah agreed.
"It is?" Buck questioned.
"Yeah, but don't let any of the women out of your sights. Try not to get lost in the fog, and meet back here in one hour," Chris attempted to reassure his leadership.
They split up. Mary and Billy went with Chris. Sammi left with Buck. Inez accompanied Vin.
Ezra walked along the boardwalk. He turned to his left and saw a faint light from across the boulevard. He cautiously walked toward it. When he approached, he realized the light was emitting from the saloon. Ezra pushed open the doors of the saloon and saw numerous individuals drinking, laughing and playing cards. He strolled up to one gaming table and questioning its occupants. No one even so much as acknowledged his presence, let alone answer his questions. He found it odd, but decided to continue on to another table. He decided to join one of the games and ask questions during the game. Ezra found a table with an empty seat and took it.
"Deal me in?" he questioned the dealer.
The dealer did not respond, but did deal him in. He played several hands, winning most.
"Why did everyone vacate the church?
"Why congregate here?"
No one answered his questions; instead, they continued playing cards. Until…
The scream came from the back of the saloon. Ezra rose to his feet, gun drawn. No one in the saloon appeared to be bothered by the scream. Ezra nervously moved in the direction of the scream. As he drew nearer to the unmentionable area the sound emerged, he saw the form of a woman lying dead on the floor just inside the door to a back room. Ezra entered the room to examine the body for a cause of death. Before he could locate one, the door slammed shut. He stood and tried desperately to open the door.
"Hey, someone, anyone, extricate me from my incarceration," Ezra yelled as loud as he could.
No one answered Ezra's pleas. He frantically pounded on the door to no avail. He finally leaned his back against the door and slid down to the floor. As he sat on the floor, he realized his leg was where the body of the woman should have been. He quickly leaned forward to feel the floor. Nothing. Not only was he locked inside this unknown room, but also the body that lay before him had apparently either vanished or got up and walked away. His worst fear was if the dead woman remained somewhere within the room. Ezra tried to contain his fear and his rapid heart beat, which felt as if it would burst from his chest.
Nathan, meanwhile, was drawn to the whimpers of a child that had many cuts about him.
"Can I help you, little one?" Nathan asked.
The child did not answer, but continued to cry. Nathan ushered the child to Dr. Flemming's office. Dr. Flemming and Nathan tended to the wounds on the child's body.
"I'll check on him a little later. I have to finish checking around town for these renegades and some missing folks," Nathan informed the doctor.
Dr. Flemming continued to tend to the child seemingly ignoring Nathan's comment. Nathan watched for a moment; then, he left the building. He still saw no one else. No townsfolk, not even his own friends. It was as if he were the only remaining inhabitant of the town.
Throughout the night, JD arrested three of the men terrorizing the town. The fourth man he arrested, he escorted to the jail. He climbed the stairs, greeted the sheriff, and ushered the man to his jail cell. Upon arriving at the cells, JD realized the other three prisoners had vanished. Quickly, he put the fourth man in one of the empty cells. When he turned to question the sheriff, he was in shock to meet bars in front of him. The sheriff was gone. The four men he arrested were standing outside the jail cell laughing at him. JD slowly backed up realizing he was now the prisoner.
"Chris! Buck!" JD screamed out the window.
JD turned back to his taunters only to find there was no one around. He was completely alone. He shriveled down to the floor holding his knees to his chest wishing he had stayed in Four Corners with Casey.
Chris told Mary and Billy to stay put while he checked a building where he saw a light.
"Chris!" Mary hollered bringing Chris running back into the street.
"What is it?" Chris held her.
"Billy's gone," she cried.
"Did he wander off?" Chris asked.
"No, he was right here beside me. Someone bumped into me. I turned to see who it was, but all I saw was fog, think fog. I turned back around to Billy, and he was gone. What're we gonna do?" Mary's words became muffled as Chris pulled her close.
"Don’t worry; we'll find him," Chris tried to comfort her knowing he didn't even have an idea where everyone else was.
Mary and Chris searched everywhere. They found no sign of Billy.
"Let's go back to the church," Chris suggested.
Mary just cried fearing the worst. As they approached the church, they noticed no one else had arrived. The hour had nearly passed. Mary and Chris sat on the steps outside the church. Chris held Mary tight in his arms.
Chris attempted to comfort Mary, "Don't worry, Mary, we'll find him in the morning if not tonight. When everyone comes back, we'll have everyone keep an eye out for them."
As the couple spoke, they got closer and closer. Mary found herself yearning for Chris to kiss her. Her thoughts seemed to have entered his mind. Chris, suddenly, felt the urge to oblige her yearnings without a word of it uttered. He gently stroked her golden hair and touched his lips to hers. She accommodated him by pressing herself to him. The couple became lost in each other not realizing the passing of time.
Nathan and Josiah found each other and returned to the church. They found Chris and Mary clutched to one another on the stairs.
"Y'all are here already?" Nathan asked.
"Nathan, you were suppose to be here a half hour ago," Chris stated.
"Where's Billy?" Josiah noticed the boy missing.
"We don't know. Mary says she felt someone bump into her, but no one was there. When she turned back around, Billy was gone," Chris explained.
"When did this happen?" Nathan asked.
"'Bout an hour ago," Chris confirmed.
"You see the others?" Josiah questioned.
"No, have y'all?" Chris responded.
"No," Josiah and Nathan answered simultaneously.
"Great. Josiah, can you stay here with Mary?" Chris queried.
"Sure can, my pleasure," Josiah sat beside Mary.
"Aw'ight, Nathan, you want to look for the others?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, you want to split up again?"
"That aw'ight with you?"
"Sure, I have to check back with Dr. Flemming though, too. I brought a child there to be tended to. He had a lot of cuts on him," Nathan informed.
"OK, I'll meet you back here. Check in with Josiah and Mary from time to time," Chris answered, as he headed in the direction of the saloon looking for Ezra.
Nathan headed for Dr. Flemming's office. Josiah stayed with Mary reassuring her that Chris and Nathan would find the others and Billy.
~ CHAPTER 4 ~
During the course of the night, Buck and Sammi became separated. Buck had searched the town completely, twice. He had almost given up. He began his third search of the town when he became distracted by two beautiful women heading into Miss Sallie's Bathhouse and Escorts. He strolled up to the two women and asked them about Sammi's whereabouts. Although he found the women beautiful and wished he could proposition them, he opted for finding Sammi. He knew her wrath well, and did not wish it upon anymore. The two women did not respond to Buck's request. Buck shrugged it off, but continued to follow them inside. After entering the "bathhouse and brothel", as Sammi called it, buck found himself alone. The place was empty - not a soul in sight. While he as there, he decided to check each room. He quickly opened all the doors exposing empty vacant rooms. With only two doors left, buck heard Sammi scream. He opened the door to the room he thought the scream came from. Buck found a man leaning over someone. As her approached, the man raised a sword above his head. Buck didn't know who the unfortunate victim was, but he knew he had to do something. He lunged forward at the sword-wielding man. When his body landed on what he thought was the attempted murderer, he heard her words.
"Oh, sure, you wait 'til I'm tied to take advantage of me!"
"Sammi?" Buck questioned in a slightly higher pitch than usual.
"Who'd you expect?" Sammi asked.
Buck untied Sammi.
"You OK?" Buck questioned.
"Yeah, I'll be alright," she answered.
"Who was that guy, and where'd he go?" Buck asked.
"What guy?" Sammi responded with a frown.
"The one with the sword. I heard you scream; so, I rushed in," Buck explained.
"Buck, you untied me and removed this from my mouth," Sammi answered holding the cloth that prevented her from screaming.
"Then, who screamed?" Buck asked.
The door slammed shut behind Buck. It slammed so hard, Sammi nearly leapt into Buck's arms.
"Come on, Buck, let's get outta here," Sammi made for the door.
Buck tried to open the door, he couldn't.
"Come on, buck," Sammi pressured.
"I'm trying. It's stuck."
"Well, now what're we gonna do?"
"I don't know."
The couple attempted to find the bed Buck thought he saw in the room. They could not locate any bed. Instead, they found a dirt floor surrounded by cold stone.
"We're not in the same room, Buck. What's goin' on?" Sammi asked as she huddled closer to Buck.
"I don't know, Sammi, but I sure as hell wish we stayed in Four Corners."
"Me, too. I'm sorry for teasing you about being scared. I am glad you are here with me, though," Sammi admitted.
"I'm glad you're here, too, Sammi. It sure makes being alone not so lonely."
Sammi smiled at Buck; although, he couldn't see it. He pulled her closer and held her tight.
Nathan revisited Dr. Flemming.
Nathan searched the entire office. There was no sign of the doctor or the little boy. After searching for about twenty minutes, he left and returned to the church.
"Did you find the doctor?" Josiah asked.
"No, he and the boy are gone. No signs of 'em. It's like they weren't even there," Nathan declared, frustrated at the entire night.
Vin and Inez spent the night following shadows. One moment Vin thought he saw someone only to find no one; then, Inez did the same. Vin saw a man dart behind a building. He recognized the man as Frank Davis, a man he once put in jail during his bounty hunting days. Weird because the fog was so dense they could barely make out most objects; yet, they could see this man as if he were standing before them. Frank Davis darted into the telegraph office. Vin and Inez were quick on his heels. When they entered the telegraph office, the moon served as their only light. Frank Davis was no longer there. There was no exit other than the one that served as an entrance. Inez remained by the door. She waited for the Vin to return with the man.
"Where is he?" she asked when Vin approached.
"Gone," he replied.
"Vin, this is the only exit, right? He did not come this way."
"I know. Come on, let's get outta here."
Vin attempted the door.
"What is the matter?" Inez questioned.
"The door won’t open."
"Here, let me try."
"What? You're stronger than me?"
"Vin, you never know 'til you try."
Inez tried the door. Nothing. Inez left the door and grabbed onto Vin.
"I want to go back to Four Corners now," Inez whimpered.
"Yeah, that's what I figgered. I guess the others were right about the name of this town."
"We have to get out of here, Vin."
"Yeah, I know."
"No, Vin, you don't understand."
"I did not know how to tell you before, but now…now, everything has changed."
"How do you mean?"
"When we spent the time in the cave on the way to Rosarita's wedding…" Inez began.
"Inez, don't tell me you waited 'til now to tell me something that will change our lives," Vin interrupted.
"I am sorry, Vin. I did not know how to tell you. I was afraid you would be angry with me. I did not know how you would take it."
"Inez, tell me…"
Vin sat down on the floor. Inez sat beside him.
"I am sorry. Are you mad at me?" Inez asked tearfully.
"No," Vin answered holding her close.
"That is good."
"Did you know when Rebecca Jane was here?"
"No, not for sure, but I had a feeling," Inez admitted.
"Don't worry, Inez, everything will be aw'ight, and we will get outta here," Vin reassured.
Chris entered the saloon. The same music, drinking and gambling was going on as when Ezra was there earlier. Chris attempted to ask the bartender about Ezra. He did not answer. Chris started, as Ezra had before, questioning gambling tables. No one answered him. As he approached the table Ezra had played cards, a tall unshaven filthy man rose from the table. He shoved Chris and drew his gun. Chris had heard the man's name earlier in the day.
"Mr. Brian Ketchum?" Chris addressed one of the men he had spoken to earlier in the day.
Mr. Ketchum did not answer. He glared at Chris, and he pointed toward the swinging doors with his gun. Chris understood the challenge. He knew he was better. Chris turned to head out the doors. He heard only his own footsteps on the dirt road. Curious, he spun around to see if Brian Ketchum had followed him. There was no one. Chris hurried back into the saloon. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The saloon was dark except for the moonlight that shone through the doors. Everyone was gone. No drinks being served. No card games. No idle conversation. Chris slowly walked out. He cautiously returned to the church.
"Did you find anything?" Josiah asked.
"No, there were some folks in the saloon, but when I was challenged to a dual, they…" Chris started.
"Disappeared?" Nathan finished the sentence for him.
"How'd you know?" Chris questioned.
"The doctor and that kid are gone, too."
"Not to mention Billy, buck and Sammi, Ezra, JD, Vin and Inez," Josiah sighed.
"What are we gonna do?" Mary asked.
"Wait 'til morning," Chris instructed.
"…and pray," Josiah added.
~ CHAPTER 5 ~
Dawn rose on November first, All Saints' Day. Chris, Mary, Nathan and Josiah remained on the front steps of the church. They had miraculously made it through the night and managed to fall asleep. They awoke with the brightness of the sun. When they opened their eyes, they stared in disbelief. For instead of sitting on the steps to the church which was located in the center of town, they were sitting on the steps to the church located in the middle of…a cemetery.
"Oh my God!" Mary exclaimed.
Chris, Nathan and Josiah just stared with their mouths gaped open.
"OK, where's the town?" Nathan finally spoke.
"I have no idea," Chris uttered.
"How are we suppose to find the others, now?" Nathan questioned.
"Maybe we should've heeded the fear Buck, JD and Ezra showed about this place," Mary thought aloud.
"Nonsense! There has to be an explanation. Even if there's not, they have to be here somewhere. I just hope they are OK," Josiah stated as he prayed to God the others would be there and all right.
"There's an entrance way over there. I'm gonna check it out. Maybe there's a sign or somethin'," Chris said as he started in the direction of the entrance to the cemetery.
The others followed close behind. They all stopped when their eyes came to rest on a large sign hanging over the entrance: SLEEPY HOLLOW CEMETERY
To the right was another sign. Chris read it aloud:
HERE LIES THE TOWN OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT, AN OUTLAW GANG ATTACKED AND SLAUGHTERED MANY TOWNSFOLK. WE MANAGED TO KILL FIVE OF THE OUTLAWS. THOSE FOLKS THAT WERE SO VICIOUSLY MURDERED AND THE OUTLAWS ARE BURIED WITHIN THIS CEMETERY. THE ABOVE GROUND CRYPTS ARE SIMPLY MONUMENTS TO THOSE THAT BECAME MISSING DUE TO THE FIRE. THE TOWN WAS BURNED TO THE GROUND BY THE REMAINING MEMBERS OF THE OUTLAW GANG. THERE WERE ONLY SEVEN SURVIVING RESIDENTS. WE HEREBY LEAVE THIS TOWN AS A SHRINE TO THOSE SO BRUTALLY MURDERED.
"Chris?" Josiah called out softly.
"Do you see the date?"
"This all happened a year ago on Halloween."
"That would make this the anniversary of the destruction of this town," Mary added.
"I think we need to find the others and get outta here," Nathan said nervously.
"I completely agree with you, brother, Nathan," Josiah agreed.
The four re-entered the cemetery calling the names of those missing. They searched the entire cemetery; yet, no one was found.
"Mama!" a young voice cried out.
"Billy!" Mary recognized the voice.
"Billy, where are you?" Chris joined in.
"Down here," Billy answered.
They followed the voice to a dry well. Chris lowered the bucket, which fortunately seemed to be in fairly good shape.
"Climb inside or hang on tight, Billy," Chris hollered down.
Within minutes Billy was tightly hugging Mary. Nathan examined him.
"He seems to have a slight concussion from the fall. Probably knocked him unconscious - the reason he didn’t answer last night when we called him," Nathan explained.
They again began to search the cemetery. This time, just out of curiosity, they read some of the headstones: Sheriff Chad Warner, Doctor Will Flemming, Jacob White and Josh Logan. They came upon a headstone simply marked "Frank Davis". Beside it was one of the crypts. A faint pounding could be heard along with muffled words. Chris, Nathan and Josiah put their strength together to attempt to move the stone door. They tried several times. They finally moved it about three feet. It was enough.
"Chris, Nathan, Josiah!" was all Vin could say.
Inez followed Vin out. The two were grateful for their release.
"Vin, Inez, we need to tell y'all something," Chris started to confront them about the town.
"What, Chris?" Vin replied.
"Uhmmm…I'll explain it later when we find the others," Chris reconsidered; so, he only had to explain once.
Vin noticed during the course of the conversation with Chris that the stone beside the crypt was for Frank Davis.
"He's dead?" Vin asked.
"Who?" Chris responded.
"Who was he?"
"He's an outlaw I brought to justice a few years ago. He's the one we were chasing when we got locked in the telegraph office."
Uh…Vin, that's what we gotta explain later," Chris told him.
Upon further examination of the crypts, one was located with the following inscription:
IN HONOR OF ALL THE WORKING GIRLS OF MISS SALLIE'S BATHHOUSE AND ESCORTS.
Chris, Nathan, Josiah and Vin pushed open the stone door. Out from the crypt, Buck and Sammi emerged. They were disoriented at their surroundings, but glad to be breathing fresh air.
"I was startin' to think we were dead," Buck exclaimed.
"What happened to the town?" Sammi noticed the town missing.
"We'll explain later. We still have to find JD and Ezra," Chris answered.
Part of the jail still remained. The bars were used as the doorway to another crypt. After opening the unlocked cell door, the men pushed open the stone door. A scared JD fled the cell.
"JD! Wait!" Buck ran after him.
Buck tackled the younger man and explained he wasn't the only one that spent the night locked up. He told him to stay with them because they still had to find Ezra, and besides, Chris still had to explain what happened. Buck returned with JD, who still appeared scared to death. Buck stayed by him to comfort him.
Soon enough, another crypt was located with the words:
TO ALL THE GAMBLERS THAT WERE TOO BUSY GAMBLING TO EXPERIENCE A FULL HOUSE.
Quickly, they all shoved the stone away from the doorway.
"Well, I would have expected to be liberated of my confinement more expeditiously than this moment," Ezra eloquently stated.
"Ezra, could you speak the same language, please?" Vin asked flashing his trademark grin at his friend.
"I said, I thought you would have gotten me out of this hell by now!"
"Oh, well, Chris has su'um to tell us," Vin informed him.
"Oh? Well, before he does, what, may I ask, happened to the entire village?"
Chris answered his question and all the questions the others had regarding the town and people that disappeared. He gathered the group together at the sign outside the entrance to the cemetery. He read the sign again and pointed out the date.
"Hey, that's last year!" Buck exclaimed.
"So, we did not experience what we just experienced?" Ezra asked confused.
"I do not know what we just experienced," Chris answered.
"They were all ghosts. They had to be - no other explanation. I told you we shouldn't have come to a town named Sleep Hollow," JD stated his opinion.
"Look, y'all, I don't think I want to know what happened. I just want to get outta here, an' get back to Four Corners. This has been one weird trip," Buck commented mounting his horse.
Also, to their surprise, the horses were tethered to the front gate to the cemetery.
"I don't know about y'all, but I'm with Buck. I've seen enough excitement to last me a while," Mary stated helping Billy onto her horse.
The others, except Josiah, mounted their horses and bid farewell to Sleepy Hollow. Josiah said a prayer at the entrance that the tortured souls of Sleepy Hollow might rest…just in case the theory of ghosts was to be right. Josiah took to his horse and joined the others in their trip home to Four Corners.
They all had quite a story to relate to Judge Travis that they knew he'd never believe. Who would? An entire town of ghosts - including the town! Who would believe in a "ghost town" on Halloween night under a full moon?
Comments to: KYLPTTY44@aol.com