Lanterns: Day Ten

They reached the nurse’s station at the end of the hallway without incident when Abby noticed the first Post-It note. It was one of the small kind — the size of a couple of postage stamps — but it stood out against the red lights and neutral grey carpet well enough.

She looked down the hall and a few feet later lay another note, and another. Abby paused at the nurse’s station, leaning against the counter and reflecting on Claude’s cleverness.

Gerard caught up a moment later and kept his mouth shut, to his credit. She saw him catch sight of the Post-Its and nod to himself. He passed her and walked into the nurse’s area, where Dove’s kid-sized leather jacket and motorcycle helmet hung on pegs on the back wall. He pulled Dove’s purse from where it had been stashed under the counter and began rummaging through it.

Abby glared at him and tossed up her hands in a seriously, what the hell? gesture. Gerard held up a one second finger, then pulled out a stun gun from the purse with a triumphant smile.

Abby gave him seriously, what the hell? again. Gerard pointed at the trowel Abby carried, then pointed at the stun gun, then at himself.

Abby sighed. “Fine, you can speak.”

“Thank goodness,” Gerard said. “I missed our talks so much.” He held up the stun gun again. “If you’re armed, I want to be, too. It only makes sense.”

“It makes sense if pumpkins had nervous systems.”

“These pumpkins aren’t normal in a lot of ways,” Gerard said. “I’m putting my faith in the good men and women of…” he peered at the weapon, “Vipertek.”

Abby rolled her eyes. “Let’s go. Time to follow the yellow note road.” She looked up and down the hallway for jack-o-lanterns, then set off in search of the others.

The trail of notes grew sparser, spread out further and further, but it led Abby and Gerard around the corner to Parky’s office. The door was closed, and a quick check around the next corner revealed no new notes.

Abby put her hand up to the door, right below the ALEX PARKINSON – HEAD OF SECURITY plaque, and paused. How smart were the jack-o-lanterns? What if she opened the door and there stood Parky and his pumpkin, ready to pounce?

Gerard said what she was thinking once again, and once again it massively irritated her. “They strike me more as ‘search and destroy,’ not ‘lie in wait’.”

Abby puffed her cheeks and let out the breath in a slow hiss. “Yeah. Yeah. It’s Claude. He’s smart; he wouldn’t do anything stupid. He’s in there.”

She pushed open the door slowly. Claude would be in there, of course he would. Abby had never known him to make a misstep. The nonverbal clue of the notes was a testament to that.

The room was a bit brighter, and a bit spookier, than the rest of the complex due to a surfeit of glow-in-the-dark star decals spread across the ceiling.

“Claude?” she said softly.

“…Abby?” Claude’s voice sounded from behind Parky’s overturned desk which had been moved, barricade-style, to block off a corner of the room. Papers and a blotter lay strewn about the floor. Parky’s Newton’s Cradle, its wires and metal balls hopelessly tangled, rested in a sad heap by a tipped-over filing cabinet.

Claude slowly stood, pumpkin-free, from behind the desk, clutching a nightstick. “Abby?” he asked again, then on seeing the two of them, “Gerard! My man!” He shoved the desk aside to make a gap and walked over, bear-hugging them both.

“I knew you’d be all right,” Abby murmured, crushed into his cardigan. As he let her go, she walked to the desk. “I knew you’d get away. You wouldn’t let yourself get caught. You’d never do anything that dum–”

She looked over the edge of the desk to see Fleur hunched in the corner. The girl had Claude’s Zippo lighter, flicked, and she moved the flame slowly back and forth in front of her eyes, mesmerized.

“What in God’s name did you do?” Abby said, louder than she’d intended. She clambered over the desk and snatched the lighter from Fleur’s hand, closing it and cutting off the flame. Fleur stared at the air for a few seconds, face filled with confusion over the disappearance of her beloved fire, then she looked up at Abby.

“Hi,” she said in a tiny voice.

“…Are you okay?” Abby asked.

“Abby,” Claude said, “she was losing her damn mind. She would have given away our hiding place. It was all I could think of.”

“You probably added another five years of therapy to her life,” Abby griped. “Come on, baby, stand up. That’s it.” Fleur got to her feet, and spotted the lighter in Abby’s hand.

“Can I –?” Fleur asked, pointing at it.

Abby slipped the Zippo in her pocket. “Never mind that,” she said. “Don’t think about it.”

“Okay,” Fleur said, like a child who’d been told not to think about Santa on Christmas Eve.

“It was all I could think of,” Claude said again, and Gerard looked like he was about to come to Claude’s defense.

Abby raised a hand. “Skip it,” she said. “Just…what happened to you two?”

“We heard you holler,” Claude said, “and then we saw Gladys limping at us with a pumpkin on her shoulder, with two loose pumpkins bringing up the rear. So we ran. I guess you found my note? Notes?”

“Yeah,” said Abby. She felt like she was going up and down hills, happy at the top and pissed at the bottom. “We got trapped in Gerard’s room, but got out through the window. And there’s news, good and bad. They got Dove.” Fleur gasped — Dove had been so sweet to her, too. “The one bit of good news is that the pumpkins can be killed.”

“Tell me about it,” Claude said. “One of the loose ones got in here before we could close the door, and…” He walked to the overturned filing cabinet and hefted it with one hand. Abby could see brown, sticky gunk webbed between the cabinet and carpet. Claude set the cabinet back down with a squish and rubbed his hand on his pant leg.

Abby could picture Fleur cowering in a corner, eyes bugged out as Claude did battle with the rogue jack-o-lantern, and understood Claude’s decision to calm her down a little better. But she still wanted to be upset about it, if only a bit.

“Any other news?” Claude asked.

“Just bad,” Abby said. “Whatever it did to Dove, it kept going after we’d killed it. She wouldn’t come with us.”

“She’s wrecked,” Gerard added.

“Damn,” said Claude. He reached out and gave Fleur’s hand a squeeze and the girl came out of a daze and smiled at him, and at the others.

“So what now?” Claude asked.

Abby met his eyes. “I bet you and I are on the same page about that, aren’t we?”

Claude nodded. “Get the van?”

“Yeah. And then get the hell out of here.”

*****

Today’s Words: 1188
Total Words: 11248

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Notes: Very tired and very stressed. Going to bed. Good night!

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I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!

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