“People are so gullible!” Paul scoffed. “I can’t believe that they actually buy this stuff!”
“Well, it shows that we are good at our job!” Lynette suggested, lifting her long skirts to step over a puddle.
“Yes, but the reason that we have this job in the first place is that idiots actually believe in ghosts!”
Pausing, he studied their reflections in a shop window. In the yellow glow of a street lamp, he studied Lynette’s oval face. Partially shaded by the large black hood of her cape, the shadowy depth only hinting at the foundation paled skin and dark circles round her eyes. His top hat rested on a pale forehead above similarly darkened eyes. A thick line of dark red ‘blood’ was visible just above the line of his collar. Their capes drifted in a slight breeze and Paul frowned noticing a slight flicker to the left of his reflection. He thought he had seen the image of a man, but glancing behind he saw no-one.
“Come on, it’s cold.” Lynette scolded, shivering in the breeze that danced her skirt round her ankles. Nervously she glanced around, unwilling to voice her uncertainty, but eager to leave the silence of the street. She hadn’t been keen to work Halloween, but the money had been too good to refuse.
Nodding, Paul turned and they continued down the street, habitually striding along to the click of Paul’s cane on the pavement. As usual their boss was standing in the doorway as they approached. He always liked to count them in, and tonight he wore an especially worried expression.
“Yeah.” Paul nodded, chuckling as he thought back to the group of American tourists who had been so scared they had left the cemetery at a run. “The fools didn’t see any of it coming.”
“Well, glad you made it back alright. Go on in and change, we’re just waiting for Michael and Rose.”
“But they left the graveyard before us!” Lynette gasped, a sudden chill running through her veins as she noted the fear in Malcolm’s eyes.
“They’re probably taking a moment to themselves!” Paul shook his head. “Couples do that sometimes.”
Unconvinced, Lynette shrugged and followed Paul down the narrow stairway to the basement changing rooms.
Turning into the men’s changing room, Paul noted that Jim’s skeleton hung on the wall in its allocated space.
“Typical of him not to wait!” He muttered to himself as he removed his top hat and hurried to change. As he sat in front of the mirror and reached for the facial wipes to remove the thick makeup, he shivered in a sudden draft. He scowled as the lights surrounding the mirror seemed to flicker in response as though they were candle flames.
“Have you’re lights gone funny?” He turned and shouted out to Lynette.
“No, but it has gone very cold!” Lynette’s voice wavered. “Can we hurry up and go?”
“I’m nearly done with my make up, and then we can check with Malc and head out.”
Turning back to the mirror, he lifted a wipe to his cheek and froze. His blood ran cold and his heart leapt into his throat as his eyes settled on the flickering image of a man to the left of his reflection. Eyes wide, he watched motionless as a grin slowly spread across the pale face, who’s top hat rested above darkened eyes. Paul found his gaze was drawn slowly down to the man’s collar, which was stained red with blood that was pouring from a long gash across the throat.
“Paul, my zip’s stuck, can you help me get it loose!” Lynette asked, stepping into the room, causing the man in the reflection to vanish. His heart hammering in his chest, Paul glanced wildly about the small room.
“Get your clothes.” He ordered, standing so abruptly the chair toppled backwards to the floor with a thud.
“But you’re make-up…my dress…” Lynette gaped, un-nerved by the normally calm Paul’s wide eyed demeanour.
“I’m not staying here to wait for more of Jim’s practical jokes!” Paul strode past her heading for the stairs. “You can either stay here and change alone, or get your clothes and change at home!”
Quickly, Lynette turned and raced to get her clothes as Paul took the stairs two at a time to get out into the open.
“Malc?!” Reaching the top into the cold night air, he was surprised to find his boss had vanished.
“Where is Malc?” Lynette asked, panting as she joined him clutching a bag to her chest.
“Probably in his office.” Paul shrugged off a growing concern that was lodging itself in his mind. He couldn’t get the image of the strange man’s reflection out of his head, and he shivered instinctively as he read the malicious intent in the grin on the thin lips.
“Come on, we’ll call him to tell him we’re off.”
“But what about…he didn’t tell…” Lynette’s voice grew a pitch higher as nerves began to take a firmer hold.
Unable to answer Lynette’s frightened questions, Paul flipped open his phone, and hitting the speed dial lifted the device to his ear. Unable to contact the missing man, Paul was forced to leave a message and the dread settled deeper on into his stomach.
They rushed through the streets as a cold eerie mist began to descend on the city, the glow from the street lamps casting ominous shadows at every corner. Every so often, Paul would catch a glimpse of their reflection in shop windows, and thought he saw the image of a man striding along side them, tapping his cane on the pavement. Yet, whenever he glanced round, there was no-body around.
As the security gates of the campus came into view, Paul found himself breaking into a run. Lynette followed suit, lifting her heavy skirts, both drawn by a shared un-spoken terror. Paul’s long legs carried him forwards faster, and he soon pulled away from his companion. Suddenly, she cried out, her scream cutting through the mist and piercing his fear so he found himself stopping and turning back, despite his instinctive desire to save himself.
She had vanished, only her bag remaining on the pavement, the contents still settling to the ground. His heart pounding, Paul cautiously approached looking round wildly, eyes wide. There was no-one to see. A slight movement to his left caught his attention, and he looked up to stare into the dark confines of an unknown alley way. The movement repeated itself, a soft billowing of shadowy fabric, and his throat tight and dry with apprehension Paul approached. Finding himself staring down at Lynette’s lifeless body, he cried out, dropping to his knees alongside her. Staring at her blue eyes, staring blindly into nothing, it took him a few moments to realise that his knees were wet. Reaching down, he felt the sticky warmth of her still flowing life blood.
“Oh my God!”
Breathing heavily he stumbled up and into the street, rushing up the security guards office.
“Lynette…body…alley…lots of blood…”He mumbled, gesturing wildly behind him.
Without waiting for a response from the startled guards, he rushed away, certain he had to get inside to escape from the unseen danger in the street. Fumbling with his keys in the lock, it took him several attempts to get the door to open. Falling into the house, he slammed the door shut behind him, and twisted so that he sat legs outstretched leaning on the solid timber door. Clenching his eyes shut he sat for several minutes listening to the hammering of his heart, breathing deeply.
“Did you really think a door would stop me?” A crackling voice spoke above him, and he opened his eyes with a start to find himself staring up at a translucent figure.
“You’re…You’re…” Paul gaped.
“I’m many things and have been called many things.”The spectre grinned maliciously down at him. “A doctor, a scientist, a psychopath, a murderer, evil are a few of the more common.”
“You can’t be here…!”
“Why? Because I’m dead? You forget lad, its Halloween! And I couldn’t resist paying a visit to the man who does me such flattery with his portrayal!”
“You can’t…I must be imagining… no such things…”
“So you keep telling yourself. Yet I would like to suggest otherwise.” The spectre removed his hat and bowed slightly. “Jacob Smalley at your service.” Replacing his hat, the spectre began to play with the knob at the top of his cane, twisting it and pulling to reveal a thin glint of metal.
“What do you… why are you…”
“I thought that as you were doing such a good job of being me, it would be only fitting that you deserved a proper end!”
Paul stared mutely as the slender dagger withdrawn from the cane glinted in the light and flashed down towards him.
Flesh blood spurting towards him, the spectre smiled, dropping the dagger across the outstretched knees as he faded into the netherworld. His job complete for another year.