“Are you sure about this?” The pirate, better known as Dennis Hanson, looked worried. “My dad told me that if I get into trouble one more time, I’m grounded until Christmas.”
“Relax!” Ben Kennedy, the vampire, gave his faithful compatriot a reassuring smile. “It’s Halloween. We’re supposed to scare the little kids. All the other times have just been practice for tonight.”
“Yeah, but taking their candy…isn’t that going a step too far?”
“What’s scarier to a kid than losing his candy? It’s called trick-or-treating for a reason. They get treats from the simple-minded adults, and then they get tricked into handing them all over to us!”
The third member of the gang—a colossal ogre, complete with a large spiked club resting nonchalantly on his right shoulder—spoke up for the first time. “Give it a break, Ben.” Jason Arrowsmith scowled. “You can try to justify it to yourself however you want, but we’re not going to trick them; we’re going to simply take what we want.”
Ben smiled, careful not to show any sign of the tension that he felt. Jason was easily the biggest of the three fifteen-year-olds and was capable of beating up most of the kids in their neighborhood, including the sixteen- and many of the seventeen-year-olds. Ben knew that if Jason ever objected, Ben would lose his place as the leader of the trio. So far that hadn’t happened, but Ben knew he had to listen when Jason spoke. “Dennis is the one who needs the justification, not me.”
Jason shrugged and return to his more normal silence.
“Anyway,” Ben said, trying to bring back the mood of anticipation that had disappeared with the interruption, “we’ll wait until it starts to get dark. We’ll leave the littlest kids alone and concentrate on those a year or two younger than us, though we won’t pass up on someone our age if the opportunity arises.” He smirked. “At our age, they shouldn’t be knocking on doors, anyway. Once we’re done, we’ll head to Sandy’s party and get drunk. I’m also going to get laid,” he added with a wink. “Sandy’s told me to stay the night.”
“I have to be home by midnight.” Dennis was wearing a forlorn look.
Ben draped an arm across Dennis’s shoulders. “Relax, dude. It’s Halloween! It’s a time to have fun. You’ll go home when you’re ready, and if you’re a little late, so what? Your ’rents aren’t going to make a deal of being a little late tonight of all nights.”
Dennis screwed up his face. “If you say so…”
“I do. Now, let’s head back to my place and play some video games until it’s time to collect candy. I’ve got just enough time to show you two who’s the king of the console.”
* * *
As the two pre-teen Pokémon fled—the female Pikachu crying and the male Charmander not far from doing the same—the vampire, pirate, and ogre examined the loot they left behind.
“Hey, there’s another one of those homemade toffee things!” Ben grabbed it before the others could react.
“There’s some sort of fruit bar that looks similar to the one I had last time, too.” Dennis hesitated and then looked up at Jason. “Why don’t you have that one?”
Jason grunted and took the offered item. Moments later, an expression of rapture appeared on his ogre face. “Man, this is good!”
Ben tried to say something, but the toffee in his mouth made his words come out all garbled. A minute later he freed up his teeth enough to speak. “We’ve got to find out where these things are coming from. I want more! Next time, we don’t let the kids run away until after we’ve checked what we’ve got.”
Dennis glanced down the street. “There’s someone by themselves coming this way.”
“This is our chance.” Ben caught his co-conspirators’ eyes. “Let’s get back behind the bushes again. Remember, we hold them until we know where they’re getting the stuff.”
“They might not have any,” Dennis said in a hesitant tone.
Ben kept his irritation at the pirate’s negativity to himself. “Then we keep going until we find someone who does.”
The trio followed through with the plan that had worked twice before. As Ben stepped out in front of the trick-or-treater, the other two slipped around the back to cut off any escape.
“What do we have here?” Ben sneered. “A poor little Vulcan out by himself. Don’t you know that Vulcans shouldn’t be trick-or-treating? You’re supposed to be logical, not having fun.”
The Vulcan swallowed. He glanced over his shoulder, saw the other two, and dropped his head. “What do you want, Ben?”
“What all vampires want: to suck your blood.” Ben smiled maliciously as he recognized the guy in front of him as another freshman from school. “But if you want to suck our dicks first, Gary, we won’t object.”
Gary stiffened, and his lips pursed. “Fuck off. I don’t do that stuff.”
Ben’s hand snapped forward and grabbed Gary Ricardo’s shirt. He pulled the smaller teenager forward until they were nose-to-nose. “No one speaks to me like that.” He then leered. “And that’s not what I heard. I heard you love sucking dick…faggot.”
The momentary bravado over, Gary’s body slumped. “Get it over with.”
Ben frowned as he released Gary. “Get what over with?”
“You’re going to beat me up and then run off laughing about it.”
Before Ben could respond, Jason spoke. “No one is going to beat you up.”
With a diversion toward gay-bashing vetoed by the strongman on the team, Ben switched back to their original objective. “Give us your bag. We want to see what you’ve got.”
Gary sighed as he handed it over, his head bowed. “Really guys? Stealing candy?”
“What’s it to you? And aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” Ben asked as he checked out what candy Gary had collected.
“Mark’s sick, so I’m doing it for him.” Gary’s tone was despondent.
“Who’s Mark?” Ben asked without looking up.
“His younger brother,” Jason said. When Ben and Dennis stared at him, Jason shrugged. “We go to the same church.”
Ben wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he had spotted what he was after in Gary’s bag. He pulled out the homemade toffee and held it under Gary’s nose. “Where did you get this?”
Gary looked up, a puzzled expression on his face. “From old man Daffyd.”
“Wacko Willie?” Ben blinked. “He made these?” They all knew the old back-to-nature man who wandered barefoot through town in his ragtag clothes. He grew his own food and tended to stink from the herbal remedies he applied to himself; everyone knew he didn’t trust doctors. To some people he was merely eccentric, but to Ben he was just plain crazy.
Gary shrugged. “He’s handing them out. I guess he made them.”
“Give him his bag back, Ben,” Jason said, his tone firm.
Ben’s mouth opened, but he shut it again without speaking. He wasn’t happy that Jason had chosen that moment to contest the leadership position. His eyes flicked from Gary to Jason, silently wondering if the rumors about Gary were really true and whether he and Jason knew each other more than they were letting on.
Jason stared back impassively. “We found out what we wanted to know. We don’t need his candy. We’ve got better stuff to get.”
Ben didn’t take his eyes off the ogre as he tossed Gary’s bag onto the ground. “I’m keeping this,” he said, holding up the toffee. He smiled, mainly from relief, when Jason nodded.
“I hope Mark feels better soon,” Jason said to Gary. “Now go.”
Gary snatched up the bag, took two hesitant steps backwards and then turned and ran. Jason grunted and then stared at Ben. “What’s next?”
Ben hesitated, but he sensed that he was back in control. He knew he would have to do something about Jason eventually, but there were more important matters at hand.
“Okay, we all know that Wacko Willie is blind, so he won’t know we’re not kids. We can go and get as much of this stuff as we like. We don’t need anything else—just the toffees.”
“And the fruit bars. They’re good, too.” Dennis hesitated. “I’ve heard that he grows weed. Do you think he’s put that in what he’s made?”
“That’d be cool if he does. It might even explain why his stuff tastes so great.” Ben rubbed his hands in anticipation. “This is going to be so much better than taking candy from little kids.”
* * *
Ben ignored the peeling paint on the front door and, after failing to locate a doorbell, knocked. It seemed to be forever before the door opened, though that may have been because Ben was eager for more toffee and hated waiting.
A faint acrid odor wafted out of the old weatherboard house as an elderly man appeared, dressed in what seemed to be a combination of threadbare discards and homespun, undyed wool. “Yes?”
“Trick or treat!”
William Daffyd frowned, his unfocused eyes peering in Ben’s direction. “Aren’t you a wee bit old to be doing that?”
“I’m not that old, but Mom’s told me this is my last year,” Ben lied. He put on a fake smile, forgetting for the moment that the owner of the house was blind. “Please…do you have any candy for me and my friends?”
The old man smiled and reached across to a table that had been placed just inside the door on which there were a number of bags of various sizes and colors. Without any sign of groping, he picked up a pale-blue bag. “I do indeed, but you can only take one piece each. You don’t want to be greedy. And no peeking!”
“Sure. Thanks!” As the old man held out the bag, Ben reached in. He could feel what appeared to be toffees, and quickly held one in his palm with three fingers while using his thumb and forefinger to grab another. He grinned as he pulled out the two pieces of toffee and then stepped back. “Your turn, guys.”
The old man cocked his head. “Do you want the same as what your friend has, or would you like something different?”
“Something different,” Dennis and Jason chorused.
Ben frowned. He had hoped they would go for the toffees so he could then negotiate a swap for something else. However, with two pieces of toffee already in his hand, he wasn’t going to interfere.
The three headed back down the street, savoring their treats. Ben noticed that the other two had only taken one fruit bar each, but he decided it wasn’t worth chiding them for not taking more. It was no skin off his nose if they hadn’t taken enough, and he was already planning on how they could get more.
And so it was ten minutes later that the trio were back at the front door of old man Daffyd’s house. Again, Ben knocked and waited.
Ben forced his voice into a higher range to sound more like a kid. “Trick or treat!”
Old man Daffyd’s blind gaze swept over the trio. “Is this your first time here? Everyone only gets one treat. More than one is being greedy. Bad things happen to greedy people.”
“It’s our first time, mister.” Ben smirked at Dennis and Jason and gave them a wink. “We heard you have some great treats.”
The blind man smiled. “I do, indeed. All natural and good for you.” He reached to the table just inside the door and picked up a bag. “Reach in and take what you want. But only one and don’t look! It has to be a surprise.”
“Sure, mister!” Ben noticed that the dark-green bag was bigger than the one on the previous visit.
Ben reached in and immediately felt something slimy. This definitely wasn’t the toffees he had been hoping for. Whatever was in the bag was difficult to grab, almost as if the treats were trying to avoid being picked up. Despite that, Ben closed his fist on what he thought would be two, maybe even three, of the items.
He pulled out his hand, eager to see what he had received. His eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped, and he stumbled backwards in horror. “Get them off me! Get them off!”
Old man Daffyd chuckled. “Don’t worry, boy. Once they’ve sucked out all the bad blood, they’ll just drop off.” He snorted. “With you, that might take a wee bit of time.” A huge grin appeared on his face as he pushed the bag towards the other two teenagers. “Do you two boys want a treat, too?”
Dennis and Jason edged away. “N…n…no, we’re good,” Dennis stuttered.
Ben barely heard them. He was too busy trying, and failing, to shake the still-swelling leeches off his hand.
Copyright Notice - Copyright © October 2016 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's express permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank rec for his invaluable editing, and Ricky for that crucial final review before publication.