Spook Hill Chronicles™
by Paul D. Race
Back in the Crows Nest, Megan saw Robin and several others on Joe's security team. Kay and Bea were not there, for which Megan was glad—both had an uncanny ability to get in the way when something important was going on.
Joe was giving lists of instructions to each team member, using terms and acronyms that Megan couldn't follow. So far, there was no evidence that any incursion had incurred, but, as Joe pointed out, that might just mean that these invaders were smarter than the ghost-chasers, which wouldn't have been hard.
Joe was using the town's closed-circuit network to broadcast a warning and call to arms.
"Citizens of Fosterville, we have received warning that a team of criminals may be approaching, may already be within our borders. Those of you who have assignments, get ready. The rest of you, please activate your homes' defense mechanisms and go to your safe rooms until further notice. We will keep you updated on the video link."
Robin grabbed the microphone and added, "And remember, this is Spook Hill. So whether you're going to be on lock down or helping us fend of the baddies, it's time for full monster mode. What's Spook Hill without the spooks, anyway?! Let's give these pinks a night to remember!"
Megan could imagine all of Spook Hill's residents putting on their idiosyncratic "uniforms" for the coming battle, of nerves, if nothing else.
Just as two of Joe's people were leaving to take up positions elsewhere in town, there was a pounding on the doorway. Joe drew a pistol and signaled to Robin to open the door and stand back. The intruder was Bert.
Bert was not surprised by all the activity and gear in the Crow's Nest. "Boy, Joe, you've come a long way from binoculars and walkie-talkies," he said.
"Wait," exploded Megan, "You knew about this, too?"
But Joe ignored her outburst and responded coldly to Bert, "You're not welcome here, Bert—you've brought your troubles to our door."
"So give me some way to help."
Joe looked for a moment as though he was ready to shove Bert back down the stairs himself, but then he seemed to relent. "Okay. Robin wants to check this house's defenses. Why don't you go with him?"
Before the exchange could go on, Robin dragged Bert toward the secret staircase, explaining the core defense systems of the house as he went. "Oh, and I got some new video screens we can use, too," he was saying as the door closed.
Joe caught Megan's eye and shook his head in something close to disgust. "Maybe it will keep him out of trouble," Megan offered. In response, Joe just gave her a look. Then he said, "Why don't you go down with the kids? We can handle this."
"No, I need to be part of this."
"I won't argue. With half my team deployed, I'll be needing another set of eyes on the screens. Go tell the kids we're going to lock them in and come back up."
"Can the kids help?"
Joe shook his head. "No, they might see things you wouldn't want them to. These are stone-cold killers."
Megan went back down to the Bat Cave, told the kids what was going on, and explained that they'd be locked in for a while at least. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem, since that was where they spent much of their spare time anyway. Still, Jessie started to protest out of habit, until something in the tone of her mom's voice warned her to back off.
When Megan got back to the Crow's Nest, she told Joe she was worried about Bert being out and about. Joe said, "Don't worry, Robin's pretty sharp. He's devious, too, which can come in handy. If we see anything on the monitors, we'll call them back up right away."
Then Joe asked his team members who were out and about to report their status. One by one, radio or video calls came in. The video feeds were the most interesting, since Megan had never seen some of the town's citizens in "full monster mode" before. Gene called in, already in his Headless Horseman outfit. While he was online he said, "Oh, Joe, ask Mom if I can borrow the car." Megan realized he was asking about the "ghost-drawn carriage" in her garage and she agreed.
When Robin came online, he was back in his pale-skin, blue-vein makeup. Bert was in the background looking just as he had earlier that day. But Megan was surprised to see where Bert and Robin were standing—in the tunnel under her home. "What are you doing down there?" she asked, breaking the flow of Joe's interaction with his team. Robin responded, "Oh, we wanted to make sure the tunnel entrance was secure."
Megan noticed that they had pulled the cart all the way up to the basement entrance, but couldn't imagine why.
Joe was not amused. "Why are you wasting your time on that? Is everything else in order?"
"Of course, sir."
After all of the anxiety of Megan's past several hours, the next two hours seemed to be an anticlimax. Occasionally the watchers would think they saw something move in one copse of trees or another, but no one was sure they saw anything worth worrying about.
On one set of monitors, Megan noticed that the alligators were approaching the road much closer than usual. "What about that?" she asked Joe, pointing.
Joe gave the kind of bitter chuckle that served him for a laugh and said, "Oh for occasions like this, we turn off the electric fence."
"Oh. You need to warn newcomers about things like that."
"We would have if you were out and about. I think you're safe from the gators up here."
"Probably. Are there any other boobytraps we should know about?"
"None in this house."
Eventually the shadows grew longer and the false alarms grew more frequent. But there was still nothing to show for all of their watchfulness, until, just at dusk, a tall white-haired man in a white sports jacket, trousers, and shoes appeared on the ferry landing. He was standing on the Spook Hill side.
Megan said, "That's Whitey Reynolds. How did he get there without us seeing him?"
Joe said, "I told you these weren't ghost-chasers. Let's see what he does."
After a minute, Megan and her fellow watchers could see him waving at someone across the bog. Soon she could see the ferry approaching, an oversized pontoon boat with an outboard engine on one end. This time there was no car on the ferry platform, only three men in dark suits and sunglasses, although it was nearly dark. As Megan watched, the ferry was drawing slowly toward the landing, one of the strangers piloting.
Joe said, "I read up on Whitey after you first mentioned him. He's a messenger boy for a handful of kingpins. I wonder what he's doing here."
Megan said, "I told you that. He's after Bert."
"Yes, but he never does his own dirty work, well, that they could pin on him anyway."
"He's creepy, all right, but do you think he's dangerous?"
"Well, he may have murdered his own father."
"Whitey's dad died of snakebite when Whitey was about thirteen. The boy was in charge of milking the snakes and handing them out at his dad's meetings."