Trick or Treat

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.12: Part One

 

Pequot Lakes
Minnesota
27th October 1993

Sally Carmel wasn’t scared of anything. At least, that was what she liked everyone in high school to think. After all, it paid to be the one everyone else looked up to, didn’t it?

Except right now, as she walked home from a get together with some of her friends, she didn’t feel so brave. Her watch read ten after midnight, and she was alone.

It was all Arnie Kinmont’s fault – he’d promised to walk her and then decided to stay back with some of his football buddies instead.

Typical man, Sally huffed silently.

Of course, there was no real reason to be afraid. She was in a pretty safe suburban area where mostly the “older generation” lived.

No reason to feel jittery, and yet Sally did feel jittery.

She felt chills running down her back and her throat was becoming suddenly very dry.

Stop it! She chided herself. There’s only one block to go now…

But the edgy feeling wouldn’t go away, no matter how much she internally scolded. In fact, the sensation had grown to the point were Sally was convinced she was being followed.

She could hear her footfalls echoing on the concrete and feel her own chest rising and falling far too quickly as she panicked.

Stop being such a wuss! Sally spun around, handbag at the ready to assault any would-be attacker, but the street was empty save for a lone black and white cat pawing at a trash can that’s lid had been left off.

Sally chuckled and took a deep breath. Boy, her friends would have the last laugh if they could see her now. Even so, as she focused back on her journey, she quickened her step just a little. There was no harm in getting home a few minutes faster, after all.

The houses around her were in darkness, every last one of them, and that did little to quell the fear in the pit of her stomach. Mostly seniors lived here, and Sally guessed they were all in bed already.

Not good if I AM being followed…

Behind her, the cat she’d seen suddenly shrieked, and as Sally whirled around again, she saw it skittering off into the night, its tail between its legs like it had seen a Hellhound.

Sally’s hands began to shake, and she dropped her bag. A bright pink purse and various makeup items tumbled out onto the pavement, and she was forced to drop down to her knees to retrieve them.

Why had she stayed so late? Why was she so dang scared of a creepy cat anyway..?

A long, misshaped shadow fell over her and Sally froze. It looked odd, like it had lumpy, sticky out pieces on the head. She swallowed hard, daring herself to look up at the person standing over her.

The face that stared back wasn’t human – it had sack cloth for a head, with glowing red demon eyes sunk back into the material and little bits of straw sticking out from every orifice.

The head was cocked at an odd angle, as if it found Sally to be intriguing.

The scarecrow’s body was just as scruffy. Dirty, torn clothing with more straw protrusions, and where the arms finished, there were old tan leather gloves. In the right hand, there was some kind of strange tool – a slightly curved blade with a hooked end.

The sight of the thing was such a surprise, Sally fell flat on her bottom, and then burst out into a fit of giggles, sudden relief making her laugh.

“Billy Young, you’re fooling no one! Everyone in town knows you’ve been working on that dang scarecrow costume for Halloween for the past six months!” Sally scowled at the thing and then stumbled to her feet, scooping her purse back into her bag along with the makeup.

The scarecrow’s head straightened, and it looked at Sally for one second longer before lunging at her with the blade in its hand.

Sally screamed, her lungs expelling every ounce of air until they felt raw. And then she ducked, just in time for the blade to narrowly miss her throat.

Sally dropped her bag again, and this time she didn’t stop to retrieve it, she simply ran. Her legs felt like Jell-O and her mind couldn’t focus, but she moved anyway. This wasn’t Billy, and it wasn’t a joke.

Behind her, she could hear the slithery steps as the scarecrow gave chase. And once, she was sure she felt the waft of the blade as it was swung at her again and narrowly missed the back of her left shoulder.

Ahead there were more trash cans, and Sally decided she was going to use them. As she raced past, she grabbed the nearest can with her left hand and spun it around behind her.

There was a crash as the metal hit the footpath and the can’s contents spilled out into the road, but Sally daren’t look to see if it had tripped her assailant, instead she kept up the ridiculous pace until the muscles in her legs begged for mercy.

Sally ultimately slowed as pain and cramp crept into every sinew of her body, and eventually, when her ears could no longer discern someone following, she stopped, just for a second and looked back.

The street was empty.

No scarecrow, no stray cat, no nothing.

Sally sucked down fast, painful breaths until the burning in her chest waned. Her eyes darted from street corner to front door and back again as she decided her next move.

There was a mist starting to form over the low ground, and in the waxing moonlight it frightened her almost as much as the scarecrow had. This was all wrong, all so very wrong.

This can’t be happening! It can’t! I need a phone, I need the police…

Sally pushed her tired limbs to jog to the nearest door, and she began to pound on it until she felt splinters of wood stick into her fist. She ignored them.

“Hey! I need help! Anybody! Somebody, please just answer the door!

Eventually, an upstairs window creaked laboriously open and an old lady with a bright red hair net poked her head through. She looked annoyed, her nose wrinkling up in disgust. “Will you dang trick or treat people just scoot? Don’t ya’ll know it’s not even Halloween yet?”

Before Sally could respond the woman vanished back inside and the window was slammed firmly shut.

Sally’s stomach lurched and she abruptly hated herself for all the tricks she’d played on the elderly over the years. Ironic, now, that those pranks were hitting her right back in the face.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The scarecrow still hadn’t reappeared, and Sally’s taxed brain screamed at her to run for the callbox on the corner of the adjoining street. It wasn’t far, but to her legs and her terrified psyche it may as well have been the other side the world.

The box was cold inside, like a refrigerator, but Sally was welcome of the sanctuary it seemed to offer. She grabbed the handset, her hands still trembling and began to dial.

She’d half put in the number to her parents house when the shadow from earlier returned across the battle-scarred glass of the booth.

And there was only one way in or out.

Sally dropped the phone and reflexively turned just in time to see the scarecrow step from the still forming fog.

And damned if it didn’t seem to be smiling.

That was the very last thought Sally Carmel ever experienced.

The scarecrow brought the sharpened tool in its hand up in a thrusting movement straight into Sally’s chest. Her eyes bulged, and she slowly slid down the back of the booth, leaving a streak of blood on the glass panels as she slumped to the floor.

Above her, the scarecrow cocked its head again in morbid curiosity, its radiant ruby eyes watching every last dying breath until the girl was no more.

* * * *


Mission City P.D.
Crow Wing County
Minnesota
29th October 1993

MacGyver pulled the Jeep into an empty parking spot and killed the engine. Instead of stepping straight out, he sighed and looked around at the bustling place that had once been his home.

It was good to be back, and he really should come more often, but then this time wasn’t exactly his own idea.

Neil Ryder, his old school buddy had called the previous day saying he had a problem Mac’s “unique talents” might be able to solve. When Mac had pushed for more details, Neil had been pretty elusive saying that it was police business he couldn’t discuss on the phone.

For a while MacGyver had considered whether it was just a ruse to get him back to Mission City, but the strange tone in Neil’s voice had convinced him otherwise. After Sam’s recent climbing accident, it had still been a pull to come out here and leave his son behind. He hoped Neil’s mystery was worth it.

Mac ran a hand through his hair, took out his keys and hopped out of the Jeep. It was a short walk into the police station and up to the duty sergeant’s counter.

He leaned on the desk and smiled. “Hi, name’s MacGyver, I’m here to see Sgt. Ryder?”

The cop the other side eyed him warily, and then sauntered into a back room without speaking. Two minutes later, Neil appeared in his place, a wane smile on his face. “About time we saw you around these parts again,” he teased.

MacGyver rolled his eyes. “C’mon, Neil, you know my work keeps me busy. And now that Sam’s around too…”

Neil nodded and gestured that they go outside into the police lot. “Yeah, you need to bring the kid over more often. We should all go camping together, a father and son kinda deal.” He reached a police cruiser and opened the driver’s door. “Get in, I want you to meet someone. I’ll explain on the way.”

MacGyver raised a brow – all this secrecy wasn’t like Neil at all, and that meant it must be something pretty big. He climbed into the passenger seat and waited until Neil was out onto the local highway before looking at his friend expectantly.

They appeared to be heading out of town, and that meant out of Neil’s jurisdiction if they carried on.

“So?” Mac finally asked. “What are you up to, and why do you need me?”

Neil pulled up at a red light and glanced over. When his eyes met MacGyver’s they were filled with something akin to dread. “Two nights ago a young high school kid named Sally Carmel was killed in a neighboring town, and then last night another from the same school was murdered in exactly the same way.”

Mac rubbed at his neck. The long drive had made him stiff and sore, but he pushed it aside. “Sounds nasty, but how do I fit in? I’m not exactly a cop, and by the sounds of things it’s not your jurisdiction either?”

Neil nodded. “It’s not, but a friend of mine, Sgt. Steffi Webber was working on the first killing. We’ve known one another awhile and we try to help one another when we can. You know, cross border intel and so on…”

“You said she was working on the first killing? Something happen to change that?”

The lights changed to green and Ryder pulled the cruiser away and into a right lane. “You could say that.” He grimaced. “Steffi went over to interview the dead girl’s high school friends and was actually there when the second kid, Tom Klein was killed. She actually saw the killer and…”

Mac’s interest was suddenly piqued by how Neil’s voice had petered out, like he didn’t want to tell the rest of the tale. “And?” He pushed.

“Well, it was someone dressed as a Halloween scarecrow, with some kinda weird blade we haven’t been able to identify yet. Webber tried to stop the creep when she saw what was going down – fired three shots into it, and it still kept coming at her.” Neil pulled into a vast parking lot and took the nearest available bay.

Mac waited for his friend to kill the cruiser’s engine before pointing out the obvious. “You don’t need me to suggest the guy was probably wearing a bulletproof vest, right? Amazing what a piece of Kevlar will do.”

Ryder squirmed in his seat, his hands clasping and unclasping on the car’s steering wheel before he got up the nerve to serve up the next piece of his story. “No, I don’t need you to tell me that,” he conceded. “What I need you to tell me is how come Steffi fired two more shots point blank into the thing’s head and it didn’t flinch? In fact, it sliced her pretty good. If she hadn’t fallen back down some stairs, it probably would have finished her.” He pointed to a large building at the back of the lot. “That’s why I want you to meet her.”

Mac squinted at the building, finally realizing it was a small out of town hospital. He swallowed hard, trying to take all the information in, as crazy as it sounded. It was Halloween, yeah, but no way was he buying that anything creepy was going down. “She’s sure she hit the guy twice in the head? I mean, c’mon, couldn’t she have been scared enough to have missed?”

Neil shook his head. “I trust Steffi’s judgment, Mac. I’ve known her for over ten years, and if she says she hit the thing I believe her. That’s why I asked you to come down. If anyone can think outside the box and figure out how that goon defied two slugs in the skull, then it’s you.”

MacGyver stared out at the stark hospital in the distance, and swallowed. If the killer really had taken two bullets to the head without flinching, he wasn’t sure even he could explain it.

* * * *


St. Joseph’s Medical Center
Brainerd
Minnesota

MacGyver wasn’t keen on hospitals. Heck, he’d spent far too much time in them to ever want to walk the white, sterile halls of one ever again. And yet, here he was following Neil down yet another antiseptic smelling corridor to Steffi Webber’s room.

According to Neil, the surgery to Steffi’s slashed arm had gone well and she was due for release later in the day, so that was something, but it did little to quell the queasiness Mac always felt in these places.

They reached a teak colored door and Neil paused, rapping lightly on the wood with his knuckles.

As they entered, a petite brunette sporting a sling on her right arm glanced up from reading a typed report and smiled. She looked tired, small bags under her eyes giving away lack of sleep. “Neil! I wasn’t expecting you just yet!”

Neil nodded and motioned to MacGyver with his thumb. “This is the friend I was telling you about…”

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” Mac bobbed his head. “Name’s MacGyver.”

Steffi’s smile widened. “Neil’s told me all about you. He thinks you can help me out with my little problem? I can’t exactly file it in my report or my colleagues will think I’m going nuts.”

Mac pulled out a chair and sat down at the side of Webber’s bed. Neil took a seat the opposite side.

“I’m sure willing to try, but I’m gonna need a few more details…” Mac raised a brow in anticipation.

Steffi shrugged, holding her injured arm as if speaking of the event actually made it hurt more. “There’s not much I can tell you that Neil probably hasn’t already. But I think we need to hurry. I have this gut feeling there might be more killings.”

“What makes you say that?” Neil asked, looking slightly surprised.

Steffi sighed. “When I interviewed the friends of Sally and Tom, the two dead kids, they reluctantly admitted to a practical joke, and I can’t help but think it may be what’s started all this.”

“What kind of joke?” Mac pushed, knowing all-too-well what kind of pranks high school kids could get up to.

“Well, it’s near Halloween and they’d all been drinking,” Steffi explained. “It seems they thought it would be hilarious to go into a local fruit farmer’s field and do a few “pagan rituals.” They lit a fire, wore some old robes and were out there chanting. Apparently they imagined it might freak out some of the more local yokels, as they put it.” She looked out of the window into the distance, as if she could see the field from her room. “I’m scared they’ve offended someone in a big way…”

Mac wasn’t convinced. “C’mon, would someone really dress up as a scarecrow and kill like this just to get back at a few kids? That’s kinda a big stretch.” He tapped his fingers on the end of the bed as his mind started to turn things over. “What about the murder weapon? Neil says it’s some kinda strange blade? Can you describe it?”

Steffi cocked her head as she apparently tried to remember. “It wasn’t a knife,” she began. “In fact it looked more like a tool of some sort. The blade was curved, and the end was hooked. It was about this long,” she indicated the thing’s length with her good hand.

Mac mulled over the description, biting on his bottom lip as he deliberated. “I think I’ve seen something like that before. In fact I think my grandpa Harry had one.”

“So put us out of our misery!” Neil demanded. “What the heck is it?”

“I think it’s a turnip knife – an old farming tool, and I mean old.” MacGyver let out a long frustrated breath. “’Course, that doesn’t get us one bit closer to solving anything, though.” He looked at his watch. “I think I’m gonna go over to the high school and take a peek where the second kid was killed.”

Neil shook his head apologetically. “Well, I wish I could stay and help but I have a shift back in Mission City I can’t miss.”

Mac nodded. “No worries, I’ll take a cab…”

* * * *


Pequot Lakes high School
30805 Olson St.

It had taken MacGyver longer than he’d expected to actually get a cab and get to the high school. By the time he’d laid foot on the campus, the October sun was fading into oblivion, dull grey clouds interspersed with scarlet banded hues filling the evening sky.

Mac took off his sunglass and slid them into his pocket, taking short strides to a line of yellow police tape where the second kid had been killed, and where Steffi had been attacked.

Every few minutes, a student would pass by, stop, look and then move on with an expression akin to either curiosity, or terror. Mac didn’t envy them, while the killer was out there, and the motive was unknown, anyone was fair game.

He bobbed under the yellow lines and dropped down to examine the area.

There were dark stains on the concrete that had also been marked off with small numbered labels. MacGyver knew the crime scene people had left these behind after photographing for any potential clues.

He winced as he kneeled closer to the marks he knew had been caused by blood pooling. There had been a lot of it – the killer had been ruthless in the attack. The stains alone did little to help his plight, and he stood up, intent on checking out where Steffi had been slashed.

“Excuse me, young man, but just what do you think you’re doing? Those police markers are there for a reason!”

Mac spun around to see a middle-aged woman staring at him with intense blue eyes that seemed to burn like a laser. She was dressed like someone from a fifties B movie and her attitude was far from pleasant.

“Well don’t just stand there,” she growled. “I want an explanation, or I’m calling the police!”

The woman’s brash tone rendered MacGyver speechless, at least for a couple of seconds. Shouldn’t she be more cautious? I could be the dang killer for all she knows, and she confronts me on a rapidly emptying campus?

He slowly reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his Phoenix I.D. card. “I’m here at the request of a friend in the local police department,” he explained as he slid his credentials under her nose.

The woman took the card, scrutinized it for far too long and then handed it brusquely back. “I’m Professor Wilson,” she offered, appearing to relax just a little. “”I teach history here and I…well, I thought you were one of those ghoulish individuals who get a kick out of seeing where people died.”

MacGyver grimaced. “No, ma’am, I’m just here to help.” He nodded back to the dark, discolored concrete. “Do you know anything about what happened?”

Wilson’s face screwed up until she looked like a wizened fruit. “Everyone knows Billy Young is the one messing around with a scarecrow outfit. Why he hasn’t been arrested already is beyond me!”

Mac smiled. “You know, anyone can get a Halloween outfit. Owning one that looks like a scarecrow isn’t exactly an exclusive.”

The professor’s nose creased up and her eyes rolled skywards as if she was talking to someone of lesser intellect. “Really?” She offered with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Well, if you’ll excuse me Mr. MacDriver, I have to go, papers to mark and so on.”

Wilson skittered away with a folder under her arm and a definite bee in her bonnet.

“It’s MacGyver.” Mac corrected to no one in particular as the teacher vanished into the ether. Boy she was a tough cookie…

He stuck his hands in his jeans pockets and sighed. There was nothing here to give him any clues as to what had really happened, or how the scarecrow had performed its magic trick with the head shots.

Mac stole a glance at his watch. It was getting late, he hadn’t even arranged a place to stay, and his Jeep was still back in Mission City.

He’d noticed a motel on the way into town that would serve his needs, but he was going to need another cab to get there, and a phone to call one.

Feeling somewhat inadequate in his plight to help Steffi and Neil, Mac began to amble back towards the school buildings, hoping to catch campus security to let him use a phone. He was about halfway when he finally noticed he was ankle deep in a swirling white mist. It seemed to pool around his legs like it had a purpose and mind of its own.

Mac frowned. Yes, it was close to Halloween, and it was October, but still…

Something ahead made a scuffling noise and MacGyver instantly forgot the fog. He looked up; searching the shadows for whatever had caught his attention.

And there it was, looking back at him with shimmering red eyes, its head cocked to one side in morbid fascination.

Mac didn’t move. He simply stared back, almost mesmerized by the scarecrow’s gruesome features. If this was a costume, it was no “off the shelf” offering.

The scarecrow seemed to appreciate his lack of fear and took a tentative step forwards, its gait stiff and mechanical. In fact, it was almost slithering.

And in its right hand, was exactly what Mac had expected, a recently sharpened turnip knife that normally would have reflected the muted moonlight.

Except tonight, this one still dripped with a scarlet residue that MacGyver could only imagine was fresh blood.

 

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