Hallowe'en

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Hallowe'en escapade.

Submitted: October 19, 2014

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Submitted: October 19, 2014

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HALLOWE’EN

Hunter’s Moon was a small town set on the edge of woodland and farm land. The story or legend came from the fact that a group of people looking for somewhere better than a huge city to live, had arrived at the place on the night of Hunter’s Moon, the full moon that comes just after the Harvest Moon, and seeing its magnificence, named the village after it. It had grown larger and larger till it resembled more of a small town than a village. There was a shoe shop that sold walking boots, Wellingtons, sports shoes, plimsolls, school shoes, and evening shoes for both men and women. There were two bakers: one which served the typical rustic loaves and cakes, the other produced the more modern type of sliced bread and cup cakes, and the usual iced fruit cakes and sponge cakes. Of course, there were a few pubs, a tearoom, two restaurants, a coffee room, and a vegetarian shop that served specialised food. Anyone who wanted something a little more exotic had to travel to the larger town of Bluestone nearby. There were innumerable bed-and-breakfasts and the ‘Hare and Hounds’ hotel, which boasted a fine restaurant. Anyone visiting the small town for the first time could easily imagine that they were in another age, till they saw that all the citizens had mobile phones, WiFis, iPads, and phones which were more like mini-computers. The shops were not at all backward, but stocked the newest and the most versatile objects. If there was anything wrong with Hunter’s Moon, then it had to be in the inhabitants. The people were difficult to get organized to do anything that was just that bit out of the ordinary. Anything that required joining in as a group, was only achieved with a lot of coaxing and cajoling, and there was always someone who wanted to be top dog. The general population bought their clothes from a gentleman’s outfitters or a ladies fashion establishment. All in all, life in Hunter’s Moon was not bad - just boring at times.

 

Preston Harris was the owner of the ‘Hare and Hounds’ hotel and restaurant. He was rather uptight about things, he took everything seriously, and liked things to be done his way. The hotel was run like a boot-camp, and woe betide any of the workers who didn’t obey his commands. He started every day by striding into the entrance, and after staring around him for a minute, he would touch shelves and tables to see if there was still any dust left. He couldn’t stand anything to be out of place, and ordered that the magazines and newspapers be left on the tables in line so that they didn’t overlap on the table. The vacuuming of the floors was carried out in the same way.

He employed Hedy to oversee the cleaning women’s performance. Hedy was a sixtyish woman, with waist-length iron-grey hair. Those who worked in the hotel called her the ‘Little Mermaid’ due to her long hair, and when she was particularly nasty as to the standard of their work, they would mutter all kinds of dire things they would do to her hair. Hedy was safe as far as her job was concerned, as she never went near food, therefore the kitchen staff was liberated from her and her caustic comments. She also had the habit of marching around the hotel when the cleaning staff was on duty, pointing out the tiniest bit of dust, if missed, as a major crime. She always said, “One speck of dust reflects on me, and as I’m a perfectionist, I expect you to be perfectionists too.”

The cleaners worked hard and well, and were well remunerated for their trouble. If not, there would have been a rebellion in the hotel. The guests praised the cleaning and said how impeccable everything was. Hedy stood to one side with Preston when all the adulation was handed out by departing guests.

 

The majority of the visitors to Hunter’s Moon drove up in their smart cars for a day out, then at lunchtime they went to ‘The Frog and Pearl’ pub and restaurant. For those who came from further afield, they spent some days away from their ugly cities in order to fill their contaminated lungs with air, fresher-than-fresh, at the ‘Hare and Hounds’ hotel. The bedrooms were done out in the typical country colours with flowery patterns, there was nothing strident in the furnishings. The idea that Preston had conceived when he got a decorator to do it professionally, was that the ambiance was to be restful and keep everyone relaxed and happy.

Preston’s rival, if it could be called that, was Bradley, who owned and managed ‘The Frog and Pearl’ pub and restaurant. He managed to keep going because he kept his prices reasonable, and didn’t have the overheads that Preston had. The two men had been known to each other for years, and they had no secrets as far as it was known. Both of them were for promoting Hunter’s Moon on the map, and keeping it there. Throughout the year, there were meetings in the town hall to find some sort of excuse for setting up an event. As those two were ambitious to the extreme, then it was left up to them to find a way to up-date the town, to allow it to show off in the public eye through the media. Hunter’s Moon was to be the best small town in the county, and eventually in the country. Hallowe’en was coming up, and so far nobody had produced an original idea for celebrating it. Both Preston and Bradley were getting desperate at the lack of response from their fellow citizens, and were holding a meeting on the next Saturday night, to drum up some kind of interest for the end of the month.

Martina was Bradley’s wife, and she was more than fed up with everything in the town being left to her husband and Preston, so she decided to push things a bit to see whether that would have some kind of reaction. Her solution was to create a scandal and then sit back and watch the result. One of her friends, called Serena, had confided to Martina that, years ago, she had had a boyfriend who had walked away from her after their first kiss, and had left her sitting in the park, till she realized he wasn’t going to go back for her and take her home. His name was Joseph and was known as Joe. He had gone, disappeared, leaving nothing behind him. Serena, had tried tracking him down for ages, but hadn’t struck lucky yet. Martina said to Serena, “He’s probably married by now with children, and if so, what’re you going to do?”

“I want to show him up for what he is - a low-down! He’s definitely not a good person.”

Martina’s idea was to have a hunt for Joe, and the winner would get a holiday on a Caribbean Cruise. During the week leading up to the night of the meeting in the town hall, Martina and some of her friends designed posters for the manhunt. She did wonder at times, in a quiet moment, whether the hunt would get the townspeople fired up. Surely, some of them must have known Joe. Martina made up her mind to ask Serena the next time they met, where Joe was from, or if he was a local man.

Bradley was talking to Martina, “Do you think by sticking posters up all over the place anyone will be interested in finding Joe. That story is as old as I am. He could well be married with a wife and a stack of kids by now. You don’t know what a hornet’s nest you might be disturbing. Just you be careful, and that friend of yours, Serena, too.”

 

Saturday arrived and as it was near the end of October, the air was a bit misty with that ghostlike air that accompanies it, with the smell of bonfires in the gardens and farms, and the longing to be indoors as soon as it was dark. Hallowe’en celebrated outdoors, as it was in Hunter’s Moon, had a different feel to it. During the Hallowe’en festival there were no children going around knocking on front doors and asking for sweets, it was more of a celebration of autumn food and stories of ghosts. During the day the meeting was going to be held, all the residents who were interested in Hallowe’en and the meeting, spoke of nothing else. As day became night, there was a steady stream of those interested walking towards the town hall.

The local mayor, Stanley Worth, was at the door shaking hands with all who entered. A soft chatter could be heard before the meeting began, and then the mayor got onto the podium and said, “Good evening, good people of Hunter’s Moon. We have a big problem for Hallowe’en this year, which is almost on our doorstep. So far, nobody has come up with an original idea of what we might do in order to celebrate, without copying other towns and villages. As we have always done, we’ve looked for the different and new, in order to help put Hunter’s Moon on the map. If any of you have anything fresh to offer, please step forward or hold up your hand.”

Every head was swivelling around like windmills to see if anyone had an idea. Martina was fed up, she held up her hand, stood, and said, “I have an idea, and that is to have a manhunt. Some years ago, a man called Joe walked away from his then girl friend and disappeared for good. That is, until now, no one has had sight or sound of him. We could make it rather like a paper-chase or asking around. They believe he came from Bluestone, so it would mean going over there to discover what happened after he walked out of Serena’s life, never to be seen again. A Caribbean Cruise would be the prize for the person who discovers where he is.” Martina sat down. There was no applause, but there was a lot of chatter and murmuring. What she had said, had certainly attracted attention. So far, so good.

“If we accept this as the only plausible activity for Hallowe’en, how would we go about it?” Nicholas, the local doctor asked.

“I thought we could go out in pairs and share information rather than make a posse. As we all suspect he might be dead or even have emigrated, it’s a great unknown,” Martina said to the audience.

The mayor stood up, and said, “Does everyone agree with Martina’s manhunt idea?”

The attendees looked at each other. No one else had come up with anything of an idea, so that was that. All those who were present raised their hands, and the motion was passed, the manhunt for Joe would be the venture for the next Hallowe’en.

After that part of the agenda had been completed, the next subject was what the children would be enthralled with. The mayor’s wife and two other ladies who formed the committee, came up with the idea that the children should dress up in witches’ costumes, ghosts, skeletons, vampires, and holding orange lanterns parade through the streets. In the event that it was raining, the children could make a parade around the hall in the ‘Hare and Hounds’ hotel. Afterwards, there would be a drink of thick, hot chocolate, with cakes and biscuits. Games would be the typical apple-ducking type, then enjoy marshmallow and chocolate ghosts, skeleton cupcakes, spider cupcakes, foggy drinks, and pretzel skeletons. Every child would receive a fortune cookie, inside which would be a paper with the name of a present written on it.

At nine o’clock the meeting in the town hall was over and done with. Now it would be up to the adults to chase up Joe, and the children’s committee to make sure that everything went off as it should for their charges.

 

Karen, the owner of the tearoom, hadn’t gone to the meeting, she was too tired of working hard and not making the money she would like to have done. When news got round to her of the Hallowe’en festivities, she felt strange. She was uneasy about the whole story of Joe, and wondered why so many years later, his disappearance had come to light. Karen didn’t know Serena, and therefore had no notion of what she was like or why the manhunt had been thought up. There were still ten days to go before Hallowe’en, and the groups of manhunters were busy making every kind of effort to get some kind of information about Joe, however insignificant it might seem.

 

Bluestone was much larger than Hunter’s Moon. The origin of the name had been lost in the annals of local history. It was said, that once, centuries before the arrivals to the area that was eventually called Hunter’s Moon, there was just one small town called Bluestone.

Bluestone was a town built around a square, which showed that it was much older than Hunter’s Moon. All the services that anyone might require were situated on the square. There was a police station, a fire station, a bus station, the local library, and an office which housed information on all those who lived or had lived in Bluestone. The local library and the police station were considered the best and obvious places to start looking for Joe.

 

Nicholas the doctor and Finn the lawyer had both attended the Hallowe’en meeting, and had paired up for the search. “Do you think we’ll find anything out?” Nicholas asked his companion.

“We shan’t know till we get into the matter,” Finn replied.

They were both of the same opinion that the best place to start looking would be the Citizens Bureau, Nicholas offered.

“You’re right, provided they help us. Have you thought that what we’re doing might be considered illegal?” Finn asked.

“That’s good! You’re the lawyer! You’re supposed to know all about this kind of work. Well, we’re here now, so let’s get it over with,” Nicholas said, as he entered the automatic sliding doors with Finn following behind.

The receptionist, a young blonde lady stationed at a desk on which a metal name plate stated her to be Bridget Burnett, said, “Good morning, gentlemen. What can I do for you?”

“We’re on a manhunt for someone who disappeared some years ago from Hunter’s Moon,” Finn declared.

The receptionist stared at the two middle-aged men standing on the other side of her desk, and said, “Is this official business?”

Finn said in reply, “I have my accreditation as a lawyer right here, so you can see it’s not just a game.”

Nicholas, thinking that Finn wasn’t making things very clear, said, “The Hallowe’en festivities in Hunter’s Moon this year include a manhunt and that’s the reason why we’re here, to hunt down a man. The only thing we know is that his name is Joe, and that he disappeared some time ago.”

“Don’t you have any other information?” Bridget asked them.

“We believe he came from Bluestone, and that’s why we’ve started the hunt here.” Finn answered.

The receptionist began tapping away on her computer, then said, “This type of case is handled by our own manhunter called Percy James, and he’ll see you in his office. Take the lift to the second floor and it’s on the right.”

Nicholas and Finn thanked her, and followed her instructions and found the office with the legend painted on the glass panel in the door: PERCY JAMES, Missing Persons investigator.

 

Preston was not happy about his hall being used for the children in the event that it rained heavily, and hadn’t stopped moaning about it since the night of the meeting.

“I get a bit fed up with all these events to get the town on the map. It isn’t fair. This year we’ve got a large number of tourists who are expecting a fantastic Hallowe’en party, and now we’ve got to have the local children running around the hall.”

“They’re only going to be here if it rains, otherwise they’ll be in the streets having their party outside. Anyway, their party is earlier in the day. They won’t be around when it’s night time, their parents will have taken them home,” Ruby, Preston’s wife, said, hoping deep down that the rain wouldn’t start until Hallowe’en was over.

 

The hotel was being festooned with pumpkins and autumn-coloured flowers. Bowls of autumn fruits and vegetables were also present as decorations on the side tables, plus orange and black candles to add to the atmosphere. Preston expected two groups of tourists the day before Hallowe’en, and hadn’t anticipated any problems, till he had been informed about the children using the hall. He too was hoping that the rain would fall anywhere except on Hunter’s Moon. Preston and Ruby had opted out of the manhunt, giving work as their motive for not participating.

 

Bradley’s inn was being decorated by Martina and Serena. Bradley wasn’t keen on the manhunt idea, and had said so to Martina. “What on earth made you think up such a crackpot thing to do for Hallowe’en? Is this something to do with Serena? Because, if it is, I shan’t be pleased that you’ve let her put you up to something that is nothing to do with you or anyone else in this place.”

“She just wants to ask him why he left her sitting on the park bench without ever sending her a message or escorting her home. She still feels peeved after all these years.” Martina looked sideways at Bradley and hoped he wouldn’t get too annoyed. He always made a fuss if she got involved with anyone who wasn’t a member of the family or an extremely good friend.

“None of it makes any sense to me. Meanwhile, the manhunters are out there trying to chase up a man who might even be dead. Hallowe’en isn’t far off, it might have been easier if you had thought of something to do with those already dead instead of this silliness.” Bradley had said his piece, and for the rest of the evening was heard to cast aspersions on Serena’s sanity, and that after all the time that had passed, had to be a bit soft in the head to try going after a man who had clearly not wanted her.

 

Percy James had proved to be of some help, and both Nicholas and Finn were happily making their way to the church to see the vicar, who it was hoped would show them the register of christenings, weddings, and funerals. The information that Percy had given them was to the fact that there had been several Josephs born about the time the missing Joe would have been, and a couple had already been buried. The church was old, grey, and with a well-worn air. The churchyard was covered in gravestones, some still upright, but others bent to one side as if they had been pushed. The lawn hadn’t been cut since the summer, and just a few days in October away from November, it wouldn’t be cut again till the spring. The vicarage lay beyond the graveyard and behind the church. Neither of the two men knew what to say to the vicar, who might be doing something like writing a sermon or having a sleep or eating. They rang the front doorbell and waited.

It was the vicar himself who opened the door, “Good afternoon, I’m Gregory Mason. How can I be of help?”

“Good afternoon, Vicar. I’m Finn Carter, a lawyer from Hunter’s Moon, and this is Doctor Nicholas Trent, also from Hunter’s Moon.”

The vicar stood aside to let the men enter the vicarage.

“Would you like tea or coffee?” The vicar offered them.

“Yes, please, either would be fine for us, wouldn’t it, Nicholas?” Finn answered for the two.

The vicar went off and some five minutes later returned with a tray holding the teapot, cups and saucers, and a plateful of sliced fruit cake.

After serving the tea and cake, the vicar was given a blow by blow account of the Hallowe’en event called ‘the manhunt’. “So that’s the reason behind your looking for this man called Joe. The books holding the registries of marriages, christenings, and burials are inside the church. We’d better go there and see what they can tell us.”

The three men went to the church through the back gate. The church was empty, as it was too early for an evening service and few people went during the day. The books were kept in a closed cupboard in the vestry. The vicar took out a long chain from his trouser pocket, and with one of the keys opened the cupboard and took out a couple of very large books.

“How long ago would this Joe have been born?”

“According to his ex-girlfriend he would have been born about thirty-five to forty years ago. There is another problem, she didn’t know his surname,” Finn added.

 

Karen was taking a rest whilst waiting for the new batch of scones to cool down. The news of a manhunt as a kind of prank to play at Hallowe’en wasn’t at all funny. She didn’t and couldn’t understand why Martina had listened to Serena in the first place. Why had Serena brought up a silly incident that had occurred so long ago? Karen began tidying up the kitchen at the back of the shop. When she had finished her chores, she made her way home, and unlocked the front door. “Hello, I’m back,” she called out to her husband.

 

The Rev. Gregory Mason was pleased to help Finn and Nicholas in the manhunt. He typed in Google on his computer, ‘Where is Joe from Bluestone?’ Almost straight away the legend appeared on the screen. ‘JOE’S CAR MART We buy and sell at excellent prices new and used cars. Proprietor: Vincent Joseph Marsh.’ The address was a town in Hampshire with the corresponding web page and phone number. They phoned the number, and he confirmed that he was ‘Joe’.

The three men thought it was unwise to pursue the manhunt. Joe hadn’t committed a crime, instead he had created a healthy business. What none of them liked, was that Serena couldn’t let it go. After all, he had done nothing wrong. Finn and Nicholas said that there was no story to merit a manhunt, and would say nothing to Martina. But they would never reveal that the winner of the cruise was Joe himself, so as to close Serena’s silly story for ever.

 

Later that evening, Finn and Nicholas told Martina that no such person as Joe had ever existed in Bluestone, and that the manhunt should be declared null and void. Martina was very annoyed but secretly relieved, the only problem she had was, how to tell Serena that Joe had never existed in Bluestone, as far as they knew. Bradley told her off when they were alone in bed that night, “Perhaps you’ve learned your lesson. You always want to be into everything that goes on in Hunter’s Moon. Well, next time there are festivities, for instance, Christmas, you would be better off staying out of the organising and leaving it to others. You thought the manhunt was a good idea based solely on what Serena told you. She isn’t right in the head. What was she after: revenge or to show him up in front of his wife and family, supposing he’s still alive?”

“You are really annoyed with me, aren’t you, Bradley?”

“Fed up is a better way of putting it. Hunter’s Moon doesn’t need to get on the map, it’s already on it. If you have observed, we have a steady stream of visitors all year round. Goodnight, Martina, and remember what I’ve just said.”

Martina was thinking that the idea had been OK, but she shouldn’t have let herself get involved with such a silly scheme. Her motive had been to do something different for Hunter’s Moon but it had turned out against her. Next year she would have to keep things more down to earth or give up. Tomorrow she would have a serious chat with Serena.

 

Serena was dumbstruck when she heard that no Joe had ever been heard of in Bluestone. The manhunt had been called off, and she felt a fool.

“I told you it was an impossibility to find him, but you insisted on me doing it. Well, thanks to you, Bradley is annoyed with me,” Martina told Serena.

 

The Hallowe’en festivities continued. As the rain held off, and in the end the children were walking around the town in their fancy dress costumes and carrying pumpkin lanterns and enjoying themselves immensely.

 

That night, a man of about thirty-five, together with his aged parents arrived. His sister, Karen, lived in Hunter’s Moon. They would be seeing her the next day for lunch. The trio went for a walk around Hunter’s Moon to see what was going on and to get out of the hotel.

 

The following day at lunchtime, Karen opened her front door to her family. Once they were sitting down in her small living-room, she said to her brother, “I suppose you know that the manhunt has been cancelled?”

Vincent Joseph said, “Yes, the three who found me, asked me to pretend I was someone else.”

 “Some silly woman said you kissed her a long time ago, and she was left by herself in the park. Is it true?” Karen asked.

Vincent Joseph looked at Karen and laughed, “If every woman I’ve kissed and walked away from set up a manhunt for me, I’d be the most ‘wanted’ man in the country. I finally met the one I couldn’t walk away from.”

Vincent Joseph’s mother asked him, “You used to come over here when you were a teenager. Do you remember anything about it?”

Vincent Joseph, who had been called ‘Joe’ as a boy, said, “Not a lot.”

 

That evening, the prize winners for the fancy dress, games, and other contests were awarded. Everyone was waiting holding their breaths, anxious to know who had won the cruise. The mayor stood on the podium and declared in his best voice, “The prize for discovering where Joe is, which was thanks to Google on the internet, is a Caribbean Cruise, and the winner is ….. none other than ….. Mr Vincent Marsh, who is visiting us from Hampshire. Come up and claim your prize, Sir. ..… Mr Marsh, congratulations. I hope you enjoy the trip. I understand Joe himself has asked to be left in peace,” and handed him the Cruise ticket.

The two men shook hands, and Vincent went back to his seat. Vincent’s wife hadn’t gone to Hunter’s Moon, saying she hadn’t lost anything there.

 

Apart from the family, only the vicar, Finn, and Nicholas knew the truth.

 

Serena had gone off home in a huff on being told Joe was unknown in Bluestone. Well, that was that. The manhunt was over, the prizes had been given.

 

The festivities committee at their next meeting made a new rule - that there would never be another manhunt in Hunter’s Moon.


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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