Read Halloween Hiccups: A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery Novella Online
Authors: Ava Mallory
A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery Novella
By Ava Mallory
Copyright @2015 Ava Mallory. All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Cover Design & Image Credits: Danger Zone;
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“Five minutes and that's it! I mean it, Ruby. As soon as five minutes have passed, I'm out of here.” I gave Ruby my best death stare. She knew how much I dreaded Halloween.
Ruby did her best imitation of a witch's cackle as I stomped away from my car and made my way to the rundown ramshackle of a home, known locally as the Anderson Manor for this oh-so-special Halloween night.
“Just go inside and check it out. We really went all out this year. I'm so glad that the city allowed us to rent this house for the whole week. I just love it, don't you?” Ruby ran to catch up with me as I climbed the stairs leading up to the old home on the hill.
“Does the city own it?” I asked.
“It is a historical site. Someone local still technically owns it, but I had to get permits from the city for my Hallowpalooza.” Ruby explained.
When we were growing up, this home was occupied by the late Anderson family. They were a strange lot, very befitting of this creepy home. It used to be the place that other kids on the schoolyard would spin all sorts of scary tales about. For me, it was the kind of place that I avoided at all costs. I would walk three extra blocks, just to steer clear of the manor and the quirky – and, not in an amusing way – family.
I kept my eyes focused on the steps in front of me. That's the way I intended to keep it, whether Ruby liked it or not. The fact that I had agreed to tour her haunted house to begin with was enough to make me a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize as far as I was concerned.
I didn't do scary and I especially didn't like haunted houses, no matter how much money Ruby and her husband Hank shelled out to make it appear so.
“Mercy, will you slow down? I want to see your face when you walk in and see what we've done to the place.” Ruby said as she struggled to keep her long, black dress and cape from getting caught underneath those ridiculous pointy toed shoes she'd found at a thrift store in San Francisco ages ago.
“The clock is ticking.” I reminded Ruby as I made my angry, yet slightly tentative approach to the front door.
Ruby hiked up her dress and took two steps at a time to catch up to me. It didn't matter. I had already reached the door by the time she'd gotten to the top of the steps.
“Well, go in, Mercy.” She urged me as she adjusted her hideous getup.
It was hard to find the doorknob with my eyes focused on the size elevens connected to Ruby's slender legs. I didn't care though. I wasn't going to allow myself to look up. For all I knew, one of the Anderson un-dead would be staring right back at me. Worst case scenario, I'd have to run down that steep set of stairs again and the gas wasted to get from my side of town to here wouldn't have been worth it at all. Best case scenario, I wouldn't be able to sleep for weeks because I'd let her drag me out of my house to take a tour on what I considered to be the worst night of the year – every year.
Ruby rolled her eyes at me and pushed my hands out of the way, so she could open the door. “Sometimes you behave like such a child. Open your eyes. All the way!” She demanded.
The door opened, creaking in protest, just like I'd suspected it would. This house didn't want me in it, any more than I wanted to be in it.
“Go in.” Ruby urged me.
I took a step back, chills already wreaking havoc on my spine. “You go in first, then. You're the one who rented this place, not me.” I protested.
Ruby narrowed her eyes at me. “Really?”
“What? That's a law, right?” I shrugged.
This was her idea. Why did I have to make the first move?
In the center of the foyer sat the requisite round table, but instead of it being adorned with a gigantic floral arrangement, there was a bowl with assorted body parts in it – made out of candy, of course.
Ruby beamed with pride over her grotesque creation. “Isn't it great?”
“That's gross.” I said dryly, taking in the rest of the equally garish Halloween decorations. “Is there a skeleton in that closet?” I pointed to an entry closet.
“Only in yours.” Ruby snapped, not appreciating my remarks.
I noticed a grandfather clock next to the staircase, leading up to what I was sure would be the Zombie Zone, knowing Ruby.
“I came. I saw. I'm out of here.” I announced.
Ruby stepped forward, hitting me in the face with the brim of her witch's hat. “You're not leaving. You haven't even seen anything yet. This is just the front entry. There's still three floors of rooms to see, plus the graveyard and the haunted corn maze.
I'm sorry, but did she just say graveyard?
Ruby grabbed my hand, forcing me to follow her up the staircase. “You're going to stay and see the whole thing. You know how much this means to me. It took me years to get the city council to approve this. The least you can do is be supportive and finish the tour. We only have an hour until we're open for business.”
I hated when she used guilt as a motivator. Of course, I wanted to support her, but why couldn't I support her from home - where I belonged.
“Okay, I'll do it, but I swear, if something jumps out at me or you try to scare me in any way, I'll never speak to you again.” I warned her.
“Yes, you will. I'll never be able to get rid of you.” Ruby muttered under her breath, but I heard her.
“I'm going to let that one slide, Ruby.” I said.
The top two levels of the home were just as creepy as I had always dreamed they would be. The hallways were narrow and long. Leaving the hideous wallpaper out of it, the entire second and third floors felt claustrophobic, like the walls were closing in on me. It didn't help that the only lighting I could find were sconces with candles in them.
Did the Anderson's not have electricity?
I had to admit, as far as Halloween décor goes, Ruby and Hank had put together quite the display. They made sure to hit every horror movie trope, including recordings of people screaming, footsteps walking, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and even a room, filled with dolls. That room and the clown room were the stuff nightmares were made of. I didn't go in them, but from what I could gather from my post behind Ruby's hat and cape, they were spine chillingly frightening.
After surviving the tour of the inside of the house, Ruby led me to the outside of the house. I closed my eyes, determined not to see what she meant by graveyard and haunted corn maze. I didn't like the sound of either one of those options and I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to enjoy seeing them up close and personal.
You see, when the powers that be were passing out traits, I was offered courage, but opted for a healthy appetite instead. Life is all about choices, right?
Ruby groaned when she noticed that I had my eyes tightly shut. “Open your eyes, Mercy! This is the best part.”
I reluctantly did as she asked.
In front of us stood a small man with beady little blue eyes and a pointy nose. I screamed in response to his presence, causing him to jump.
“Why are you screaming? That's Stanley, remember?” Ruby spoke through clenched teeth.
I blinked to clear the cobwebs – proverbial, not actually real, I mean. If they were real, we'd have a whole other problem on our hands, but I digress...
Yep, Ruby was right. That sure was Stanley Riddle or, as I often referred to him over the years, my arch enemy.
“Nice to see you, Mercedes. You're looking... You're... Um... How have you been?” Stanley struggled to find his words.
I was struggling too, but my struggle had more to do with not giving him a piece of my mind for how he treated me years earlier. Prior to Ruby being appointed my supervisor at Nightingale Nurse's – the traveling nurse agency both Ruby and I had been employed with for well over a decade – Stanley was my supervisor and a horrible one at that.
“I was fine up until a minute ago.” I answered sarcastically.
Ruby nudged me in the rib cage with her elbow. “Stanley operates a home health agency now. He and his business partner Ernie are my sponsors for this haunted house.”
“Sponsors? Stanley?” I heard her, but I didn't quite believe my ears.
When had she decided to go into business with this worm of a man? When was she planning to tell me about it?
Ruby stood in front of me to block Stanley's view. “Yes,” she started through a fake smile. “They are sponsors. They helped fund the house and the maze. They even bought bushels of apples for an apple bobbing contest for the kids.”
I rolled my eyes.
I could have bought some apples.
I think I'm qualified enough to buy fresh fruit for my best friend and her silly haunted house and, if you asked me, Stanley was more of a conundrum wrapped in a riddle than he was a helper.
“There she goes. I told you this wasn't a good idea.” Stanley removed his glasses and used his tie to wipe the lenses as he whined about my supposed bad behavior.
“Listen here, Riddle Me Not, I don't have to like you. I'm not the one who went into business with you. If you want to say something about me, say it to my face.” I threatened.
Well, that escalated quickly!
Stanley furiously continued to wipe the lenses of his glasses as he spoke. “If I had known that Ruby was going to invite just anyone to this event, I might not have been so inclined to go into business with her.”
That was it. Now, he was upsetting my friend.
“Maybe, Ruby did it because she felt sorry for you, you swindling swine.” I answered.
Ruby put her hand up. “Stop it. We have visitors.” She nodded to the small crowd of parents and children that were watching our heated exchange from the other side of the wrought iron fence.
“Welcome, these are two of our actors. They're just practicing their lines.” Ruby glared at me to warn me to stop this silly argument.
I did plan on stopping, but first I had something to say.
“Well, have a good night, Stanley. I hope you don't choke on an apple.” I said to the astonishment of everyone, including the parents that were about to shell out five dollars a pop for each one of their kids to tour the haunted Anderson Manor.