On the dark streets near the cemetery, illuminated by the nearly full moon more than the unevenly-placed streetlights, a pale girl walked unsteadily all alone, shivering in her too thin jacket for October's chill. Periodically, she stopped to scan the streets, as if looking for someone. An observer would have to be looking extremely hard to see the glazed, unfocused look in her eyes. Or notice the fact that her breath wasn't turning white. In a parked car two blocks down, Detective Cross watched the zombie like a hawk through a pair of binoculars.
“Can’t believe you managed to get it so lifelike.” she said, taking a sip of coffee. “But her gait’s still too unnatural.”
“Hey, Victoria’s just fine. You wanted her to seem unsure of herself, this’s what you get.” Scott countered, finishing a doughnut. They had stopped at a doughnut shop for what Cross had deemed were “stakeout supplies”: a dozen doughnuts and roughly a gallon of coffee. The necromancer had already scarfed down six, and both he and Cross were downing the coffee like no tomorrow. Amber just shook her head.
“I wanted her to look like a half drunk girl coming home from a party that went too late, not lurch from side to side like a drunken cat driving a robot.” she snapped back.
“The correct word is ‘pilot’ a robot. Do you know nothing of anime?” he teased.
“No. I don’t.” she said flatly. A moment of silence passed in the car.
“Hey. You were supposed to meet with the mayor today, for reinforcements. How’d that turn out?” Amber said at last. Cross snorted.
“Don’t remind me. That pompous…windbag threw me out and threatened to replace me if I couldn’t find the Craven Falls Killer. Hmph. He and Chief Mason only brought me in because I have a reputation for being tough and fierce-”
“No, really. I can’t see why.” Scott said. Cross took a moment to glare at him.
“But it turns out it was all a political maneuver, just a play to make it seem like they were doing their best to catch this guy. They’re announcing a big party for the whole town on Halloween night. It’s suspicious as all he…ck.” she said, still trying to hold her tongue.
“Detective, we’re aiding you in an unauthorized, illegal sting operation. We can handle swearing.” Amber pointed out. Cross coughed.
“Anyway,” she said, cheeks turning red. “They seem more into this party than trying to stop the killer.” She sighed. “At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if they had connections to whoever it is.”
“They probably do.” Scott said nonchalantly. Both women turned to face him.
“What?” Cross said.
“Think about it. They put on a show trying to catch the guy, but don’t actually care, and they’re both in the perfect position to bewitch an entire police force. Ten to one that one of them is actually the killer himself. My money’s on Chief Mason.” he said.
“And how do you know that, you brat?” Cross snapped, worried that he might be right and beating herself up she didn’t think of it sooner. Scott shrugged and took another doughnut.
“I don’t, not for sure. Ooh, frosted sprinkles. But it does make sense, and in my experience people in authority either look the other way or use it to cut down people that they don’t like.” he said, a trace of bitterness in his voice.
“Scott?” Amber said softly, looking concerned. “Is there-”
“Hold on. Holy crap, look alive, people! We’ve got a live one!” Cross suddenly said, throwing the binoculars in the back and starting the car.
Two blocks down, a shadowy figure dressed all in black, with a blank mask covering its’ entire head seemed to coalesce from the night itself, quickly approaching Victoria form behind, darting form shadow to shadow. When it was close enough, after looking around to see if anyone else was looking, it abandoned stealth and ran up to the “girl,” tackling her into the cemetery gate with enough force to break it open, a cloth filled with chloroform over her mouth and nose. It dragged her deeper into the shadows of the cemetery.
However, not fast enough. Cross’s car screeched to a halt, the detective practically leaping from the car, her gun drawn on the figure hovering over the zombie with a knife, Scott following her close behind.
“Freeze! You are under arrest! Stop or I will shoot!” Cross shouted, keeping her glock trained on the figure while reaching for her radio. “Drop the knife and surrender at once! Dispatch, this is Cross. I have a suspect at Amity Memorial, requesting backup, over.” she barked. The figure dropped the knife and slowly stood up, hands raised. Amber tried to swallow, but found she couldn’t. She started to shake; this was it, this was the person who had taken her life and her heart, all for promises of power that would now never come to fruition.
“You! Murderer! Give me back my heart!” she couldn’t stop herself from crying out.
“Dispatch, this is Detective Cross, requesting backup, over.” Cross said, growing worried. She had received no response, and there was supposed to be someone on call 24/7.
“I think it’s time we find out who the infamous Craven Falls Killer is.” Scott said, his eyes narrowed but grinning at the victory. “You’re going to stay right there and not move, or she’ll shoot. Understand?” he called out. The figure nodded.
“Rrrgh. I don’t like this. Be careful, kid.” Cross said, tossing a pair of handcuffs to him, gun never leaving the figure. Scott caught them and nodded, approaching the figure slowly, illuminated by the headlights of the detective’s car. He pulled the hands down and cuffed them behind the figure’s back.
“Now then. Let’s see who you really are.” he said. He reached up to the mask and pulled it off. Long blond hair spilled out, and she shook it out of her face Amber gasped, almost a scream.
“Bess!?” The bossy mother hen, always trying to keep the group of friends grounded. Who had insisted they always brush their teeth as kids. Who had always loved each and every one of them like a nurturing older sister.
“Dispatch, do you read me?” Cross barked into the radio, but this time it crackled to life.
“There will be no backup delivered to your location.” the operator said lifelessly, like a robot. “By order of Chief Mason.” Cross’s blood ran cold.
“Bess? Bess Clairfield? You’re the Craven Falls Killer?” Scott said confused. This girl wasn’t on his radar at all. She merely stared down at Cross, silent, expressionless, like a brick wall.
“Not exactly.” someone called out from deeper in the shadows of the cemetery. Everyone turned to the sound, including Cross’s gun. Walking casually up to them, arms crossed coolly and confidently, in a designer blouse and a miniskirt more daring than Amber had ever seen her in, was Stephanie. “You see, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood, by my design. The Craven Falls Killer was never a man. And what’s more, there was never only one.” She snapped her fingers, and from behind bushes and gravestones stood Carla, Ivory, and Courtney, all dressed in black clothes identical to Bess’s, all wielding knives. All of them Amber’s friends. Practically her family.
“W-What’s going on? Who are you people?” Cross said, trying to keep her gun steady while glancing around at all of them. Unconsciously, all three of them drew closer together, a herd surrounded by wolves.
“They’re Amber’s closest friends. I’ve seen them in school.” Scott said, rattled. How had he miscalculated this badly?
"So you’re the one snooping around past curfew." Stephanie said, the others arranging themselves in a loose semicircle around the trio. Ivory whispered a few words behind Bess and the cuffs dropped off.
"Thanks." she said, picking up her knife and taking her place. Scott eyed them warily.
"So it seems we were wrong. Turns out there were five Craven Falls Killers. You must be proud of yourselves for thinking up this little trick. But why? What possible reason could you all have for doing this?" he said, hoping he sounded confident. He had to keep them talking. The longer they talked, the more chances he, Cross, and Amber had to get away. Stephanie chuckled.
"Trying to play dumb? It's no use, you know. Carla could feel all that dark magic you've been throwing around for weeks. She's especially sensitive to that kind of thing." she said.
"Aww, thank you." Carla said. "But it was hard to miss all those negative vibes. Just what the hell were you doing? I had a headache for hours from whatever you did on Wednesday."
"Look, everyone shut up! You're all under arrest!" Cross shouted, trying to regain control of the situation.
"Please. We're holding all the cards here, you're barely an afterthought." Stephanie dismissed, then turned back to Scott. "I've been trying for weeks to find out who's been recklessly throwing magic power around. But once I received a little hint, it was easy to put two and two together. A pity, you two didn't knock together a half-bad plan. But once I knew who you were Scott, it was easy to lay a trap. Isn't that right?" she said, glancing at a tree. Scott frowned.
"Wait, what are you-" he started, but stopped. From behind the tree, Brian stepped out along with Chief Mason. While Brian had a sullen look on his chubby face, the police chief seemed out of it, staring around blankly as if in a daze. "Wha-? Brian?"
"Chief!?" Cross cried.
"You, Brian...but, but-how? Why?" was the only thing Scott could get out.
"I bet it was easy for you." Brian spat out venomously. "You look down on everybody, always think you're better. You get to have the magic powers. You get a job with the cops. You look down on me and pity me, but you laugh behind my back!" He straightened up, going over to Stephanie's side. "Well, I'm tired of taking your crap! ‘Wanna come over this weekend?' Pah!" he mocked, spitting on the ground. "Well, I've got a news flash for you: I don’t need you anymore. I've got new friends now. And Stephanie'll teach me super magical powers and I'll help her take her rightful place in her new world."
"Yes, indeed. I went looking for a minion, and found a partner instead. It's so refreshing from the mind slaves Courtney's so good at making." Stephanie said, smirking cruelly.
"What? Teach magic? New world? What the hell is going on? What are you talking about?" Scott said, sweating.
"And what have you done with the Chief?" Cross demanded, levelling the gun at her. Stephanie was unphased.
"Oh, that's simple." She snapped her fingers and a bag floated up to her. Scott’s eyes bugged out. No sigils, no incantations, just a thought and a snap; it went totally against everything he knew about magic. She reached into the bag and pulled out a dusty old tome. “Behold. The Libris Malefactorum Arcana. The book of magic. Everything you could ever want to know about starting your own coven of witches. Or summoning and making a pact with a daemon.” She said smugly, tenderly holding the book, caressing it’s’ spine like a lover. Scott gasped.
‘That’s it! That’s how she’s able to use the magic so easily! They pool, divide, and pass the power between them, creating a resonating effect and she takes the lion’s share, not to mention whatever the daemon’s giving them!’ he realized. He swore, loudly.
“As for my new world, that happens next week.” Stephanie continued. “I have plans, you see. Set in motion forces that are unstoppable. You see, I realized something when I found this book in my attic a couple of years ago. There is only one thing that matters in this world. Power. Plain and simple. If you have enough power, you can do anything you like. Obtain anything you want. Nothing can stop you. The police? Army? Man, computers, strategy, weapons? Right? Wrong? All useless.” she dismissed with a wave of her hand. “When you’re strong enough, and clever enough, you can decide what’s right and wrong. And ultimately, the only way others have of making you submit to them is force.” Stephanie smirked. “And if you have a greater force…” She swept her hand out, encompassing her coven, her informant, and the mindless police chief. “Who can say you are wrong?” Scott and Cross gaped at her.
“On Halloween, I shall ascend to godhood, along with my followers. Aside from the unfortunate girls who have to be sacrificed, my reign shall be bloodless. The party is a catalyst in a ritual that will leave the whole town similar to our Chief of Police here, only actually with their brains intact. Isn’t that right, Mr. Mason?” she asked sweetly.
“Yes…mistress…” he droned, as Cross stared in horror.
“Anyway, everyone will be perfectly fine. In fact, they’ll be even better, seeing as they’ll worship me as their Queen. Oh, there’ll be no officially decrying it, but I wouldn’t want it that way. After all, that would draw too much attention. This way, we can move on to Nahumville, and repeat the process. And from there, to Miskaton City, then Whichdun…” She smiled wickedly. “I think D.C. wouldn’t be too out of reach, don’t you think?”
“You’re insane!” Cross shouted, pulling the trigger and sending three bullets her way.
“Swvah.” Stephanie said, her eyes lit from within by a deep purple glow and holding her hand out, seeing Cross move before her finger twitched. The bullets impacted a translucent shield in front of her and hung there, as if frozen in molasses. “How rude. I wasn’t done.”
“S-Scott, please tell me y-you have something to get us out of t-this.” Cross whispered to the necromancer, trying to keep from trembling and failing. He gulped.
“Girls,” Stephanie said, “show them we mean business.” The air was suddenly filled with hurried incantations, too many strange words to make out.
Carla stepped back into a shadow and melted into it, disappearing. Bess’s arm started leaking orange slime that covered and coated her knife, fusing it with her arm. The resulting amalgamation sprouted eyes and the serrated blade grew longer, another blade jutting out from her wrist, making a ‘jaw.’ It gnashed its’ teeth together. Courtney tossed her knife to the ground, but that only made it more dangerous. The knife writhed and grew, elongating until it was a metallic snake made out of blades, hissing in a voice like a blade being scraped against metal. By contrast, ivory’s knife was almost mundane. Lightning crawled and sparked along the blade, extending its’ reach out three feet.
“Now then.” Stephanie said placidly. “I have a proposition. The powers I and my coven wield are mighty and great, to be sure. But I’m always on the lookout for new talent. Carla’s been doing some divining and tells me you practice necromancy. While it does pale in comparison to our skills, power over life and death could be useful to our cause. Well, Scott? Will you join us? Say yes and I’ll let the detective live as well.” They looked nervously at the display of magic menacing them.
“A-And what w-will you do if I say n-no?” Scott said nervously. Stephanie shrugged.
“Nothing.” Everyone stared at her.
“What?” Ivory and Scott both exclaimed.
“Oh come on!” Courtney said.
“You can’t be serious.” Bess said. “I’ve agreed with your decisions before, but this just seems foolish.”
“I’m not going to force anyone to do anything.” Stephanie said, unperturbed. “If he can’t see the benefits of aligning himself with us, then he isn’t smart enough to join us anyway. Then they’ll have two choices: join us on Halloween anyway, or run away. He can’t stop us, and no one will believe either of them. We have the police and the mayor under my thumb. We have superior magical ability and numbers. We’re the winning side. So.” Stephanie turned back to Scott, who looked like he was a bug under a magnifying glass. “I give you your choice. What will you do?”
Throughout all this, Amber was silent. She couldn’t find the words, even the will to speak while Stephanie was telling her the plan. She didn’t want to believe it, couldn’t comprehend this witch so casually describing such horrors and her best friend were the same person. Slowly, she drifted forward.
“Stephanie…no…” she moaned, eyes never leaving her friend.
“Amber?” Scott said, looking at her nervously. “No! Get back! Amber!”
“Amber?” Stephanie muttered, looking confused, then realized why Scott was staring at empty space. “Oh. Oohhhhh! I think I see what’s going on.” she said, smirking. “Ulmeths ab cinaron keth.” Her eyes flashed purple, and suddenly Amber stood before her, trembling. “Amber! It really is you. I honestly never thought you’d be hanging around as a ghost. Guess you had a little more resilience than I gave you credit for.”
“Why?” Amber asked simply. “Why are you doing this? Why…why did you kill me?”
“Ah, Amber.” Stephanie closed her eyes and breathed in and out, like a parent readying to explain a difficult fact of life to a child. “I really did like you, you know. You were my best friend, before I found the book and began forming the coven with the others.” Shining green tears began to slide down Amber’s face. Stephanie reached out and tenderly caressed her cheek, smiling tenderly. “Do you know why I never brought you into my plans, never initiated you into the coven with everyone else?” She shook her head. “Because you were stupid and weak.”
The words hit her like a slap, cold dread washing over her spectral body. Stephanie didn’t let up there.
“You were my best friend when we were children, but that’s all you ever were. You refused to grow up, always going on about how great a friend I was, following me around like a little lost puppy. I grew sick of it, sick of you. The others took convincing that the coven was for the best, but I knew you would never approve. You could never do what needed to be done. Too weak, clinging to your delusions that everything would be wonderful forever. You were too naïve, and it seems not even your death has changed that.” Amber just mutely shook her head, too shocked for words. The other girls shifted uncomfortably.
“No…this, this can’t be real…you’re Stephanie, my best friend, we share everything…I-I loved you like my s-sister.” she stuttered. “No! You’re lying! I don’t believe you!”
“Believe whatever you want. I honestly can’t care enough to pretend anymore. You’re a nuisance, and my life has been so much easier ever since I put that knife in your chest and took your heart during our sleepover.” Stephanie said coolly, as if discussing the weather. Amber’s mind raced back to lunch a few days ago, Stephanie not wanting to talk about her in the slightest. Back to at her funeral. Where her best friend. In all the world. Never showed up.
“So, it’s been fun catching up, but I have business to take care of. Guess I’ll have to kill you again.” Amber watched helplessly as Stephanie raised her finger, purple energy pulsing and glowing brighter. She could dimly hear Scott and Cross shouting behind her, but her entire world was reduced to the girl in front of her. “Goodbye, Amber.”
Stephanie fired, the bolt of energy blowing a hole in Amber’s side, shredding it into oblivion. She howled in agony as her soul was torn apart, but the pain vanished as she was forcefully reconstructed in an instant. Scott grunted and fell to a knee as the drain on his power saved her.
“Amber…” he muttered, panting heavily. “Get back!” he ordered absolutely, and Amber could not disobey. The chain materialized, pulling her back like a fish on a line. He caught her with one arm, but she paid him no mind. All she could do was stare at her friend who had not only killed her and stolen her heart, but tried to erase her soul.
“So then,” Stephanie said, as if nothing had happened. “What do you say, Scott? Want to join us? You have everything to lose, and the world to gain. I don’t know about you, but I only see one real option here.” All eyes were on him, except for Amber. He glanced at the girls with weapons, at Cross, at Stephanie, and then at the girl in his arms. He took a deep breath to steady himself and nodded, deciding what he was going to do. He grinned.
“Gee, I’m honored to be chosen for your little cult, I really am.” he said, getting to his feet. “But forgive me if I say I’m gonna have to decline. I saw how you treat your friends-” he glanced down to Amber “-and believe me when I say that there’s no way in hell, you crazy, messed up psycho bitch. Now get the hell out of my sight before I rip your soul out and crush it like a grape.”
“Ah well.” Stephanie shrugged, unconcerned. “I guess there’s no reasoning with some people. Carla?” The girl rose up out of the shadow of the gravestone next to her. “Take me home. Well Scott, I’m sorry you feel that way. Get in touch if you change your mind, although you don’t have much time. As I said before, I’m not going to do anything to you if you refuse. I’m not in the habit of forcing others to do something they don’t agree with. That goes for you too, girls. If you don’t think just letting him go is a good idea, see if you can’t…convince him. Ciao!” Stephanie waved as Carla wrapped an arm around her shoulders, both girls vanishing into the shadow of the gravestone. The remaining ones grinned and spread out, encircling the trio.
“We have you now. If you come quietly, you won’t get hurt.” Bess said, trying to reason.
“Like hell we will!” Cross roared, firing a bullet at her. Her mutated knife-hand moved on its’ own, the double blades snatching the slug out of the air. It bit down, both pieces of the caught bullet falling to either side.
“There’s no need for violence, but we can if you insist.” Bess said dryly. The other two snickered. Cross growled and bared her teeth, but it was a fruitless gesture.
“Come now, Detective. You should know attacking with direct force like that won’t work.” Scott said, eyeing the metal snake that was slithering closer, Courtney right behind. It hissed menacingly, mouth full of knives. “We’re going to lose like that.”
“Hah!” Courtney snorted. “You lost before you even got here! But you are a loser, so I guess we can’t expect anything different. I remember seeing you in class. I thought you were a nerd with all the reading you do, but you never got higher than a C on any test I saw. I don’t think you have any friends, either.”
“He doesn’t!” Brian called out from the safety of the tree line. Courtney blinked, then went back to insulting the necromancer.
“Yeah. What a loser. Too dumb to join us, and trying to fight us? Too stupid to live.” Scott bristled at her comments. Then grinned.
“Yeah. May be I am dumb. But answer me this: who’s more stupid, the guy who brought backup, or the girls who forgot about it?” The others looked around in confusion, and Bess narrowed her eyes.
“What are you talking about?” she said, moving to attack. The necromancer snapped his fingers.
“Victoria! Arise and defend us! Defeat them!”
In the back of the group, Ivory suddenly felt something grab hold of her ankle. She looked down. Scott’s focus had long since broken; she saw a half-rotted, skeletal corpse cling to her leg, staring up at her with black eye sockets.
“Aaauuugghhh.” it moaned.
“Yiiiiaaaaaah!” She let out an ear-piercing shriek and stabbed her weapon into the slowly-rising corpse, sending 10,000 volts into the body, which would have at very least incapacitated a normal human. Scott laughed. Corpses didn’t use their muscles to move. The zombie grabbed Ivory by the throat with its’ cold, boney phalanges, heedless of the witch stabbing it over and over, cooking what little remained of its’ flesh. It squeezed, its’ empty eyes staring into her wide, horrified whole ones.
“Ivory!” Suddenly Bess was there, chopping off the grabbing hand. As it fell to the ground, the Victoria corpse shoved its’ now spearlike humorous at Ivory’s face.
“No!” ivory threw herself to the side, and the zombie turned to Bess, clawing at her face with the other hand. “Why won’t you die!” Ivory shouted and cut off a leg while Bess removed an arm from the shoulder. The corpse merely reached up from the ground to grab at ivory again, making her scream and jump back. Gunshots sounded out again.
“Courtney!” Bess snapped back to her fellow witch. Courtney was being forced to hold a shield while Cross slowly retreated, firing at both her and the snake, keeping both at bay while Scott got in the car.
“Let’s move!” he shouted, opening the driver door. Cross emptied the rest of the clip at the snake, then turned and ran to the car, darted in, and peeled out, zooming away.
“Damn it!” Courtney screeched, watching the taillights disappear around the corner. “We had them! How could they get away!?”
“Whatever. It’s over for now.” Bess said, turning back to the writhing zombie. “Iganzif hatha!” The corpse burst into flames and fell still, soon to be completely destroyed. “Are you all right?” she asked Ivory, who had her arms wrapped around herself and was standing far away.
“Y-Yeah. I’ll be fine. J-Just caught me off guard.” Ivory said. She couldn’t stop remembering the bones around her throat, closing in with inhuman strength, that rotten face coming closer and closer. She kept stabbing, and stabbing, and stabbing, and it still kept coming…she shivered.
“Well, what are we going to do now?” Courtney asked, grabbing her snake by the tail and yanking it back into an ordinary kitchen knife.
“Well, for the time being we should reconvene at Stephanie’s house. We know where Scott can be found. We’ve only got two days until Halloween, and we only have six hearts collected. Besides,” Bess’s jaw set and she straightened up. “I personally feel that the way Stephanie has handled things so far…I find myself questioning some of her decisions. Does anyone else here agree with me?” she asked quietly. Courtney and Ivory looked at each other, and were forced to nod.
“Yeah…I mean, the magic’s great and all, but I just don’t know about the whole daemon thing.” Ivory confessed.
“Hah! Like we need them!” Courtney snorted. “I’m good enough for the mind control spell all by myself!” Bess stared at her dubiously and sighed.
“Courtney, you’d die if you tried to cast a spell that big at once. You know that, right?” Courtney grumbled and looked away. “Look, it’s been a long night, and no matter what, we need to talk to Stephanie. Let’s just get to her house.”
“Great! We’re leaving now, then?” Brian said, happily trotting up with Chief Mason in tow. All three girls stared at him. Bess blinked.
“…I honestly forgot you were here.” she admitted.
“Oh, yeah, of course.” he said, desperately trying to play it off. “I mean, I don’t know any kickass magic spells yet, so…yeah. But don’t worry! Once I do I’ll be the best wizard you ladies have ever seen! You won’t have to lift a finger when I’m around.” he finished with a greasy smile and what he thought was a seductive wink. Ivory blanched, Courtney gagged, and Bess merely let out a long-suffering sigh.
“Look, why don’t you take Mr. Mason and bring the car around.” she said.
“Yes…mistress.” the chief said, and turned to get the police cruiser. Brian started jogging after him.
“Yeah, sure thing, babe! C’mon, Mr. Chief, we can’t keep these ladies waiting!” Bess put her head in her hand and wondered what she did to deserve this.
“Oh right, the murder.” she muttered to herself.