Authors: Tamara Thorne
A shot rang out and be felt the wind of a bullet pass near
his face. The gargoyle shrieked in his ear, then he heard another
shot, and this time the creature screamed, deafening him. Its
claws ripped from his flesh as it thrashed away. John rolled
and got to his feet. "Sara?" he called.
She was no longer on the bridge, but running across the
meadow. "John, are you all right?" she asked, throwing herself
into his arms.
"I'm fine," h
e said, trying not to flinch as the gun, still in
her hand, hit his shoulder.
"You're hurt." She pulled away
"Not much," he said. She held out the gun and he stuck it
in his waistband again, knowing that putting it in its shoulder
olster would hurt like hell. ''How about you?"
"I'm fine," she said. "Thanks to you."
"What happened back there? In the chapel."
"I don't know, really, except that black ball of whatever-
started to take human form. T
hen it turned back into a ball
and began to fade. It wasn't as cold. Did you notice?"
"I did. Minerva and Paul?"
"John, I followed you out of there, but they seemed to have
things under control."
He put his arm around her waist and they stepped back so
that the moonlight hit the fallen nightflyer. Its chest had been
blown out, and it was hard to see in the dim light, but the blood
appeared to have turned black and solidified. The open eyes
were no longer red. John toed the body and was surprised to
meet solid resistance. He bent and touched it: it was cold and
felt like stone
Taking the gun from his waistband, he backed up, Sara with
him. At a safe distance, he aimed and fired; then they approached
and saw rock shards where the head had been.
Sara took his hand and squeezed. "So I guess we should go
back and shoot all the gargoyles at St. Gruesome's."
''That's probably a good idea
I left Mark and Kelly waiting at the gate." He
hesitated, then faced her and took her other hand. "Sara," he
said before he lost his nerve, ''I love you."
''I love you," she said softly, turning her face up toward his.
They brushed their lips together. It was barely a kiss, but it
was wonderful just the same.
"Here he comes," Mark said as a spotlight blinked on deep
in the Parker orchard.
"Who's coming?" Sara asked.
''The Headless Horseman," the boy replied. turning to watch
Sara jumped as a horse's frenzied whinny shrieked through
the loudspeakers, and John put his arm around her, pulling her
close as hoofbeats sounded. ''It's just like it was when I was
a kid." he told her as the Horseman began his journey toward
outside the cider mill.
She glanced up at him. ''Beats the hell out of last Halloween,
John smiled. "Sure does."
St Gertrude's was empty now, except perhaps, for a few
ghosts. The nuns had vanished by the time he and Sara had
returned from Witch Falls, leaving behind a cluster of furious
and indignant followers. Paul Pricket had insisted that the
both the cultists and the vast majority, who had slept
through the night unaware of the events thanks to the tranquilizers
in the hot chocolate-
should be taken in by Catholic orphanages.
ad, he explained,
already been under the influence
of the Church's "enemies" and needed to experience the "other
ide." John had agreed and by the middle of the following day,
buses had taken all the girls away to start their new lives.
To put it mildly, John had ignored the letter of the law in
regretted his decision. Though h
wasn't pleased by the way the Church had covered things up,
he knew it was best for the girls, so as sheriff of Moonfall
County, he'd done a little sweeping under the rug himself.
He had also been cavalier about legalities in the case of
Kelly Reed. She had lived with Minerva for a year now, going
to school at Moonfall High
she was in one of Sara's history
classes and working at the Gingerbread House. She'd trans
ormed from ugly duckling to swan over the last few months,
and Minerva, whatever her age really was, seemed younger
and more invigorated under Kelly's influence.
year ago, John felt he was a prisoner set free, and tonight,
watching the horse and its headless rider gallop closer, he felt
exactly the same way. His entire adult life had been plagued
by fear and guilt until last year, when his memories had returned.
The afternoon of All Soul's Day, he, along with Paul Pricket,
Frank Cutter and Caspar Parker, had returned to the deserted
abbey and blasted every last gargoyle to Kingdom Come. Most
merely shattered. but a few were
, and their bloodcurdling
screeches rent the air before their bodies crumbled.
Now, the Horseman, on his mount, rode to the center of the
clearing. The horse reared and whinnied. just as it had twenty
years ago, and with fond sadness, he remembered his
Mark, eight inches taller than last year, his voice cracking
into adulthood. glanced back at him and grinned. ''Cool, huh?"
He smiled at Sara. "Next year, we'll bring the squirt. That'll
Sara nodded, unconsciously touching her expanding stomach,
her eyes on the Horseman as he charged away into the
night. John squeezed her closer as a chill breeze ruffled their
red?" he asked,
wondering if he'd ever told Mark he'd
called his own younger brother "squirt." He decided not to
"Not tired." Sara murmured. "Just thinking. Next Halloween,
we'll have another son." She smiled up at him. ''And he'll
be safe. And Mark will be safe. And you." Standing on tiptoe,
she kissed him.
"Yeah." John barely heard Caspar's traditional good night,
liberally laced with warnings about hitchhiking spirits. Last
year he'd lost Gus, but he would be the last. Sara was right;
Mark and the unborn baby she carried would be free of the
curse. "Let's go home," he said, resolving never to take his
new life for granted.
The trio walked out to the parking lot, and John opened the
pick-up's door for Sara, who awkwardly slid in. Mark squeezed
in beside her and John went to the driver's door, but didn't
open it. He stared up at the moon, smelled burnt pumpkin and
smoke and smiled to himself, enjoying the night, musing
over the fact that he needed to trade in his pick -up for something
roomier. A minivan, maybe.
A shadow passed in front of the moon, and in the distance,
something shrieked. Only a hawk, he told himself as he opened
the door and slid in.
Only a hawk.