by Patricia Harrington
"I said be there the night before Halloween. I paid you enough for the job."
"Yeah," Al replied over the phone. "But I got another gig that night."
"Don't try to hold me up!"
"Okay," Al grumbled. "I'll switch."
"Remember, make it look like some joyriding kids were taking pot shots."
"What's the signal going to be," Al asked.
"We'll be on the front porch, and when I . . . Wait, someone's coming. Just be there. You'll know." The line went dead.
Al hung up and stared at the phone. He hated customers telling him how to do his business. “You’ll know.” Yeah—a fat lot of help that was. Al sighed and then hustled out to the company truck. Holding down two jobs was killing him!
As he drove, Al went over the details again of his moonlighting assignment. In his line of work, he shouldn't have been surprised when a wife called asking him to “take out” her husband, and then later, the husband phoned and wanted his wife whacked. Their marriage sure wasn’t made in heaven! Al accepted the jobs, though, thinking he’d do them on a first-come, first-served basis.
Henry Wilson trailed behind his wife Betty as she searched for seven matching pumpkins. Betty wanted to create an outdoor Halloween display with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs carved as jack o’lanterns. "The woman's out of her gourd!" Henry had mumbled when she mentioned her decorating plans.
Since they’d arrived at the pumpkin patch, Betty had snapped directions at Henry until he thought his blood pressure would blow. Instead, to calm himself down, he pictured his girlfriend Melanie in her red teddy. He had no intention of kicking the bucket before Betty.
The car accident she’d been in last year had made her even crankier. Though she was okay now, she still saw her physical therapist. What with the impending insurance settlement, Henry thought they could be on Easy Street—only he planned to live on it with Melanie, not Betty.
Betty glanced at Henry, who hadn’t shaved before leaving home, and shuddered. He had so let himself go. But she didn't shudder at the thought of Adam, her physical therapist, or the feel of his hands. He’d confided at one of their trysts that his dream was to have his own fitness center, and Betty vowed with every fiber of her being to get that for him. Now with the insurance settlement, she’d make Adam’s dream come true.
The night before Halloween, Henry scooped out the pumpkins, and Betty sketched and carved the dwarfs' faces on them. While they were busy carving the jack o’lantern, Al slipped into a grove of pine trees that faced the house with its wraparound porch and railing. The porch lights were on and the living room drapes open. Al had everything he needed—a night scope on his rifle and a quick route back to his hidden car.
Henry and Betty worked together with none of their usual bickering. Under their knives, Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy and Grumpy took shape. Betty added costume pieces to the carved pumpkins. She’d already set the cutout of Snow White on the porch. As soon as one jack-o'-lantern was finished, one of them took it out on the porch, set it on the railing and lit a candle in it. Finally, all the fairy tale characters but Grumpy were glowing cheerfully.
Betty said to Henry, "Here, you take out Grumpy."
"No, Honey,” he replied. “You take him. This was your idea."
"All right. But I insist that you light the candle.”
Betty carried the jack-o'-lantern outside and placed it on the railing. Henry held out his cigarette lighter. “Light him up."
Betty shook her head. "No, you do it."
"I insist!” Henry said, shoving the lighter at her. Betty batted it away and Henry grabbed her hand. She yelped and, making a fist with her other hand, slugged Henry. He buckled, but recovered and pulled Betty close. Then the two began wrestling over the lighter.
Al had figured while he waited that whoever lit Grumpy was supposed to be his first target. He’d waited, rifle ready, but when Henry and Betty started their tug-of-war, he realized he couldn't get a clean shot off like he wanted. Henry was figuring out what to do when he saw the couple crash over the railing, stagger to their feet, and then began flailing at each other in the midst of Grumpy's smashed remains. Al lowered his rife. "Let 'em do each other in."
On the drive home, Al decided that if the crazy couple called wanting their money back, he'd say. "No refunds. I showed up, BUT you screwed up. Trick or Treat!"
Patricia Harrington is the author of the Bridget O'Hern Mystery Series -- "A sleuth seeking bliss and finding bodies." Her new book titled DEATH COMES TOO SOON is now available. CLICK HERE to order from Amazon.com.
Pat is donating a portion of her online book sales of DCTS to two animal rescue groups helping Hurricane Katrina victims.
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