The ten o’clock news came on, so Clara knew it was time for Alfred to come in. She used her remote to turn off the television, then picked up her cane and hobbled out to the kitchen. She opened the back door.
A chilly wind blew against her. She took a deep breath of the fresh October air, and peered across her yard.
“Al-l-l-fred!” she called.
Generally, she would hear the clink of his collar tags before ever seeing him. She listened, but heard only the dry shuffling of leaves on the graveyard trees.
Careful not to fall—her broken hip last year had laid her up good and proper for five months—she stepped down the three wooden stairs to the yard. She made her way across the moonlit lawn, and stopped at the edge of her flowerbed. From there, she peered through the bars of the cemetery fence. So dark over there, the trees shading the moon.
“Al-l-l-l-fred!” she called. Much too loudly. She imagined heads rising in their coffins, turning—corpses listening to her voice. Softly, she called, “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.”
Her eyes searched the darkness.
Saw a solitary figure near the cemetery fence.
Gasping, she took a quick step backwards. Her foot slipped on the dewy grass. She jabbed down her cane, and caught her balance.
“Dear me,” she muttered.
She looked again at the dark figure—the stone angel of a monument she’d seen thousands of times before, in daylight. The graveyard looked so different at night. She didn’t like it, not one bit. She should’ve stayed in the doorway to call Alfred, the way she always did after dark.
“You just stay out,” she muttered, “if that’s your drother.”
She turned away from the cemetery, and started her journey back to the open kitchen door. She hurried. The back of her neck tingled with gooseflesh, and she knew it wasn’t the wind’s doing.
I’m just being silly, she thought. That graveyard’s safe as apple pie. I’m just letting my jitters get the best of me.
Never yet been a corpse crawl out of its hole and go chasing after live folks. It’s not hardly about to start happening tonight.
Fur brushed her leg, and she yelped.
Alfred scampered up the porch steps, stopped abruptly in the doorway, and looked over his shoulder at Clara.
“You rascal,” she said,
She took a deep, shaky breath, and pressed a hand to her chest.
“Scared my wits out,” she told him.
She started to climb the steps.
That was when she heard a quiet, muffled clank rather like a crowbar dropping onto a wooden floor. Staring at Alfred, she hardly breathed.
The cat turned away, as if bored. He disappeared into the kitchen. Clara hurried in after him. She swung the kitchen door shut, and locked it.
Alfred sat down in front of the refrigerator. He looked back at Clara.
“Not just now,” Clara whispered.
Turning off the kitchen light, she limped into the dining room. She made her way past her highboy. The room was dark, but she saw no use in planting herself smack in front of the window where she just might be seen—so she approached the window from its side.
If she just had one of those cardboard periscopes like Willy used to play with… Well, you couldn’t ever see much with that contraption, anyhow.
Bracing herself on the cane, she leaned toward the window. She eased aside the soft, priscilla curtains and peered out.
The Sherwood house, next door, looked no different from usual. The old colonial was just as dreary and forlorn as could be: its driveway and lawn overgrown, its siding sadly in need of paint, its windows boarded over.
Though she couldn’t see its front door from here, she knew it was padlocked shut. So was the brick door. Glendon Morley, the real estate man, had the only keys.
Maybe he’d gone in, for some reason. Didn’t seem likely, though. He hadn’t come by with house-hunters since July, and Clara suspected he’d given up on trying to foist off the place. Who’d want to live there, after what happened?
If it wasn’t Glendon in the house, though, who could it be?
This sleepy town may never recover from this nightmare. Every town has as a past but the grizzly murder of the Sherwood family is one the small town of Ashburg barely recovered from. The Sherwood house has remained vacant for years so who is sending out invitations for a party there? The townspeople are intrigued and who can resist a party at the murder house on Allhallow’s Eve?
This title was previously published in 1985.
Horror [Samhain Publishing, On Sale: June 7, 2016, e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9781619233355 / eISBN: 9781619233355]
About Richard Laymon
Richard Laymon was born in Chicago and grew up in California. He earned a BA in English Literature from Willamette University, Oregon and an MA from Loyola University, Los Angeles. He worked as a schoolteacher, a librarian, and a report writer for a law firm, and was the author of more than thirty acclaimed novels.
He also published more than sixty short stories in magazines such as Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, and Cavalier, and in anthologies including Modern Masters of Horror.
He died from a massive heart attack on February 14, 2001 (Valentine’s Day).
Also published under the name Richard Kelly.