Gary smiled as Erica curled up next to him on the sofa. Giggling softly, she began to slowly run her narrow fingers up and down the front of his shirt,
gradually unbuttoning it after placing a gentle kiss on his neck. She looked up at his approving eyes and then opened the shirt to expose his bare chest. She began lightly running her tongue down from his neck to the center of his chest, stopping and then doing it again. Gary started kissing her in return, first on the forehead and then on the tip of her nose, before moving slowly to her lips. She began playfully biting his lower lip until he suddenly felt a sharp pain and pushed her away. After running the back of his hand across his mouth, Gary noticed a small amount of blood that must have come from where Erica bit him.
"Hey, Erica," he chuckled, "Not so rough, I'm bleeding!"
"I thought you'd might like that, Gary," smirked Erica, "I know I did!" Smacking her lips, she licked the few drops of Gary's blood that had dripped into
her mouth. "This tastes wonderful....just the way I like it."
"Howzat? What the hell are you talking about?" He stood up, "Whaddya mean just the way you like it?"
Erica smiled and stood up next to him, "It's very simple, *Paper Boy*," she opened her mouth wide and showed him her fangs, "I'm a vampire...and Henry's a werewolf ...and *you*," she laughed menacingly, "Are my next victim! Let's see your *Paper* try helping you now!" She sank her fangs into his neck.
After being suddenly woken up by the familiar morning noise, Gary quickly sat up in bed, looked around the loft to make sure he was really alone and then shook his head. 'It was only a nightmare,' he thought while wiping some sweat from his forehead, 'Damn! It seemed so....so real! Erica as a blood sucking vampire.' Shaking his head once more, he carefully ran his fingers across his neck, 'Nightmare or not, it *was* Erica, after all,' he mused, 'And it sure wouldn't hurt me to check for any puncture marks.'
Jumping out of bed, Gary quickly went to get The Paper and let the cat in, "I'll tell you what, ya damn furball," he told the cat, "This morning you earned your breakfast! You picked a great time to wake me up!" After picking up The Paper, Gary walked into the kitchen and reached for a can of tuna that was on top of the refrigerator, "You get a special treat today! Tuna!" He laughed, "In my dream, Erica didn't think The Paper could help me," he opened the can and put it the cat's dish, "But you really showed her, didn't ya? Waking me up just in time!"
Having taken care of the cat, Gary glanced over the headlines of tomorrow's paper and grimaced, "No wonder I had that nightmare!" After throwing The Paper on the kitchen table, he walked towards the bathroom to take a shower and yelled at the cat, "I hate Halloween!"
Gary finished taking his shower and got dressed. Grabbing The Paper off of the table, he proceeded to walk down the stairs to McGinty's office. He planned on going into the kitchen and making coffee, but the delightful aroma of some that had already been brewed came from the direction of the bar and Gary realized that Marissa had come in early today.
"Gary? Is that you?" quietly asked Marissa, sitting at a table.
"Yeah, it's me, Marissa," he answered, "A little soon for you to be in
here, isn't it?"
"I thought I'd come in a little earlier today. I made some coffee, if you'd like a cup."
Gary nodded his head, walked over and poured some, "I could sure use it right now. I had one hell of a nightmare."
"Really? Want to talk about it?"
He walked back over to her, sat down, took a sip of coffee and asked, "Do you know what day it is?"
She smiled, "It's Halloween, Gary. I know you've mentioned to me in the past how much you dislike it, but you've never said why. Did the nightmare have anything to do with Halloween?"
"I guess...maybe. I'm not sure. It...well....Erica was in it and......"
"Erica?" She shook her head, "Just mentioning her name and Halloween in the same breath gives me a fright! Remember that Halloween a few years ago when I almost lost Spike? He was never really the same after that poisoned apple incident. I really think that may've hastened his having to be retired."
"I remember it well, but for some different reasons that I'll tell you about another time."
"I understand, Gary. So what was this nightmare about? Can you talk about it?"
"No...it was stupid. You'd laugh at it."
"No, I wouldn't. I thought you knew me better than that."
"I know..." Gary took another sip of coffee, "Ya see, Marissa...um...Erica was a vampire and was about to bite me on the neck just before I woke up."
She smiled, "That's actually quite fitting, Gary. Maybe in your subconscious, you've finally realized that she was draining your life away when you dated. Perhaps this was a way you've achieved some closure and the nightmare was your mind's way of showing this to you."
Gary frowned, "Or maybe I just had the nightmare because I hate Halloween."
"That's possible, too, Gary." She took a sip of her coffee and then carefully placed the cup down, "Will you tell me why you hate Halloween so much, or is that none of my business?"
"If you quite tryin' to psychoanalyze me," Gary answered, "Maybe I'll tell you."
Marissa nodded her head and smiled, "Fine, no more psychoanalysis."
Gary took a deep breath and exhaled, "Ya see, I used to really look forward to Halloween when I was a kid back in Hickory." He took a sip of coffee, "That is, up until I was twelve years old. It was gonna be the last time I went out trick or treating, so it was gonna be special. But something happened that turned it into the worst Halloween I ever had!"
"What happened? Did you get hurt?"
"No, not physically.
"Well? Are you going to tell me about it or not?"
Gary sighed, "Marissa, this...this is what happened......"
As Gary and Marissa sat at a table in McGinty's that Halloween morning, he tried explaining what had happened to him when he was twelve and about to go trick or treating.
"Ya see, Marissa...um...well it's like this..." Gary paused and shook his head, "I can't...you'll think it's trivial."
Marissa smiled and felt around for Gary's hand. Finding it, she placed her hand on top of his, "There's one thing I've learned in the years that I've known
you, Gary! When it comes to things that have taken place in your life, there isn't very much that ever could be considered trivial."
"I suppose that's true," he chuckled, "And getting The Paper only adds to it. I'll tell you what happened, but first I need to explain a little about Hickory."
"Fair enough, explain away!"
"First, do you know where Hickory is located?"
"In northern Indiana, isn't it?" Marissa giggled, "I'm sure you know that reading maps hasn't been one of my specialties."
"Yeah, I know." Gary continued, "Anyway, Hickory is located in north central Indiana, and this part's important, it's smack in the middle between South
Bend and West Lafayette."
Marissa was puzzled, "Why is that important for me to know and what does it have to do with trick or treating when you were twelve?"
"Everything! You'll see! Do you know what colleges are in those cities?"
"In South Bend, there's Notre Dame and West Lafayette is the home of Purdue
"So? What's that got to do with Halloween when you were twelve?"
"I'm getting to that, Marissa." He stood up, "Do you want another cup of coffee? I'm gonna go pour one for myself, so I'll get you a refill if you want."
"Only if you tell me what all that about colleges has to do with you and trick or treating!"
"I told you," Gary got up and walked over to the coffee pot, "I'm getting to that!" He poured coffee for both of them and walked back to the table.
"Everyone that lives in Hickory follows college sports like it was a religion. The Notre Dame football team is everyone's favorite. They always play well and they win a lot of championships. Even though Purdue is the same distance away from Hickory as Notre Dame is, no one usually follows their football team."
"Gary! What do college football and your bad Halloween experience have to do with one another? I'm confused!"
"I told you, I'm getting to that!" He took a sip of his coffee, "I had planned on going out trick or treating in a Notre Dame football uniform. I thought
that would be a great costume and since everyone in town followed them, I was hoping I'd get a lot of candy and other treats."
"That sounds reasonable." Marissa took a sip of her coffee, "But let me guess, something happened and you didn't dress up as the football player. What
"Yeah! She wanted me to go as something more fitting for the *spirit* of Halloween, as she put it. So when I was at school that day, she....she changed my football uniform into something else."
"What did she do to it?"
"She took out one side's shoulder pads and attached it to the other. Then she spray painted my helmet and tore small holes in my jersey. She then dripped red paint all over everything to simulate blood. When I came home from school, I was shocked! I asked her why and what was it supposed to be. She smiled and asked me if I'd ever heard of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I told her of course I had, but what did that have to do with anything? She laughed and said that now I could go trick or treating as his lesser known brother."
Gary paused for a moment and shook his head.
Marissa smiled, "And what was the name of his lesser known brother?"
"The Hunchback of Purdue."
Marissa laughed loudly.
"It's not funny, Marissa! Of all times my mother had to do something like that, it would have to be on the Monday after the Saturday that Purdue had beaten Notre Dame and knocked them out of a chance to be national champions again! I told her I wouldn't wear it, but she made me." Gary stood up and started pacing around. "I started going trick or treating after it got dark and I'd also planned on going to my school for a Halloween party later on. When I got to the first house, the lady at the door asked me who I was supposed to be and I told her. She slammed the door shut in my face. This kept on happening at every house, even when I didn't say who I was! I figured that people were calling each other to tell them about my costume! It was horrible! People started cursing and throwing things at me! I finally ran away and hid in a neighbor's barn until after midnight! My last Halloween as a kid and my mother ruined it for me!" He sat back down, "And you wonder why I tell you she makes a career out of embarrassing me! Sheesh!"
"That's the reason you hate Halloween so much?" Marissa shook her head, unfurled her white cane and stood up, "Gary! That has to be the poorest excuse for not liking an innocent holiday I've ever heard! If you want to know my opinion, I think there has to be more to it than that!"
"There is, Marissa." Gary spoke softly, "This time of year also reinforces the fact that I don't have my own kid to take trick or treating or help make a
costume for. That makes it even more frightening for me. Every Halloween I feel it."
Marissa sat back down and felt for Gary's hand again, "Your time will come for that, Gary. Just have faith. You'll have children someday, I'm sure of it.
And I wouldn't be surprised if your wanting a family of your own to be able celebrate Halloween with brought on your nightmare about Erica being a vampire. She was the last woman you were in love with and since you've broken up with her, maybe your subconscious was trying to purge any feelings you still may have." She gently squeezed his hand, "You'll find someone someday, Gary."
"I don't know....ever since I got The Paper..."
"Gary! The Paper! Have you read it today? You haven't mentioned any saves you have to do!"
"Yeah, I read it." He stood back up, "The saves are all early tonight. Nothing much, just some kids playing pranks that cause some damage to a school and a little kid who gets robbed of his candy by a group of older kids...all before seven o'clock. I was sorta hoping there'd be more for me to do, so I could keep my mind off of things."
"I have an idea, Gary!" Marissa beamed broadly.
"Oh? And what would that be?"
"Maybe after you finish your saves you can help me hand out candy tonight! I love doing it and it would be nice if someone could tell me what the children are dressed up as and help me give them treats." She stood up again, "And you wouldn't have to spend Halloween alone."
Gary smiled, "Sure. That'd be fun."
Marissa started tapping her cane towards the office.
She stopped and turned towards him, "Yes, Gary?"
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