My friend, Raine Weaver inspired me by example to finally do a book trailer for my erotic romance paranormal, LANCELOT. You can view it here:
Mike maneuvered the last wheel into place on a 2000 Ford E350 van brake job. He glanced down at Demon lying on a piece of cardboard near the wall in front of the van. In the year he’d had the dog, Demon never left his side unless forced to. Since he never bothered any of the customers, Mike’s Dad allowed the dog in his shop whenever Mike worked after school and on weekends. Demon sat up as if sensing Mike’s scrutiny. The vet thought Demon was an Australian Sheppard/Labrador Retriever mix about two years old. The dog’s now well groomed mottled black coat shone under the lights and one ear shot up straight while the other half flopped as Demon cocked his head attentively.
“You plannin’ on finishing the van or staring at that damn mutt?”
Mike chuckled at his Father, Dan’s gruff voice. He turned around to face him. “I’m buttoning up the wheels now, Dad.”
The older, heavier, and slightly shorter version of Mike wiped his hands on a shop towel. He walked up next to Mike with a wide grin on his face. “Since you put in a full day on Friday during that goofy teacher no work day at school, take off after you test drive it, Mike. It’s Halloween again and Demon’s first anniversary. You have any plans?”
“You mean like take him out to dinner and dancing?”
Dan chuckled appreciatively. “I meant are you and Demon going out ghost hunting anywhere in remembrance of nearly ending up in the morgue last Halloween? I still get laughed at whenever I tell anyone how you acquired Darth Dog over there. You didn’t gin up that tale just so I wouldn’t make you get rid of him, did you?”
Mike’s features took on a more somber aspect. He shook his head. “It happened like I told you. In answer to your question I think me and Demon will stay home tonight and pass out candy. You think Demon would mind if I put a red cape and a funny hat on him?”
Demon growled. A low throaty hum coupled with his upper body hunching down threateningly. Mike and his Father laughed at the enraged dog. Mike patted his leg and Demon ran over with his tail whipping back and forth at high speed.
“I swear to God that goofy dog understands English better than your sister.”
Mike covered Demon’s ears, looking reproachfully up at his Dad. “Don’t listen Demon. Joanie does too know more language.”
“Demon comes when he’s called and reacts to every subject regarding anything having to do with him. Joanie, on the other hand, needs to be bopped in the head even when we’re trying to get her attention at the dinner table. Explain that, wise-guy.”
“She’s fourteen, Dad.” Mike continued stroking Demon’s head while shaking each paw the dog alternated in putting into his hand. “Joanie’s having the usual first year of high school assimilation troubles.”
“Well look at you – all grown up and spittin’ out words like assimilation.” His Dad clasped hands in prayerful form while exaggerating a look of reverence. He pretended a credible all choked up look. “We… we’re so proud.” Letting his hands drop to his sides and straightening as his act drew laughter from Mike he continued on. “I’m forbidding anymore playing of the puberty card from you and your Mom on Joanie’s behalf. You enablers will have to learn some self discipline too.”
“Enablers? How about what I put you through my first year? Both you and Mom ended up down at the school for three days running and had to get me a lawyer.”
“The assholes had it coming!” His Dad’s face lost all joviality. His voice reflected it. “Those three guys were trying to shove you into a drainage ditch. That wasn’t any hazing prank. I should have…”
“Calm down, Dad,” Mike urged, standing up with his hands held out in placating form. Demon sat at attention next to him with a short bark as if emphasizing Mike’s entreaty. “My point was you believed me even though until the cops finally leaned on Tim Pasquale hard enough to get the truth, it was my word against the three I injured. Joanie might need a little understanding until she gets used to high school. Her grades are good.”
“Hey Dan! Can you come over here for a moment?” A voice belonging to one of the older mechanics called out to Mike’s Father.
“Be there in a couple minutes!” Dan replied over his shoulder. He gripped his son’s upper arm. “How in hell did you get to be sixteen goin’ on forty, kid? Sometimes you say things that make me think your Mom was foolin’ around with the mailman and you can’t be my son.”
Mike laughed. “Oh I am so going to tell Mom.”
“Not if you ever want to be seventeen. Speaking of last Halloween whatever happened to that good lookin’ redhead you had over to the house last year?”
Mike shrugged. He hated when anything reminded him of Laura and her image popped into his head, complete with accompanying ache. “She remembered she was a junior and I was a sophomore. No big deal.”
“Yeah, uh huh. I know that look, kid. I wore it when your Mom was raking my ass over the coals back in the day. You fell hard and came up short. Put it behind you.”
“You didn’t put Mom behind you.”
“I’m a cement-head.”
“Gotta’ go help Ralphy before he costs me overtime. It’s Saturday. Test drive the van and then go have some fun. You need any money?”
“I’m good. I’ll see you later. Thanks Dad.”
“Stay out of the haunted houses, kid, and away from the redheads,” Dan admonished as he walked over to help his other mechanic.
“Will do.” Mike looked down at Demon. The dog regarded him with interest, expecting some pearl of wisdom or direction from his human connection. Mike deciphered it that way for his own sense of reality. “I got nothin’.”
“Arf.” Demon agreed.
* * *
Mike walked over the rain dampened sidewalk toward his house with Demon prancing a step behind him. The dog intuitively acted as if he had been trained for a circus act, amazing the Rawlins family at every turn since Mike adopted him. Mike chuckled remembering the incident last week when Demon carried his empty water dish into the living room and threw it down in front of Mike and his sister. The seemingly endless nuances Demon displayed when people talked as he had done in front of Mike and Dan, amused everyone coming into contact with the dog. Although from experience Mike knew Demon could fight with terrifying skill, the dog never reacted aggressively toward humans or other four legged creatures. His Mom’s calico cat Patches slept sprawled out against Demon at every opportunity.
Mike glanced around at Demon and saw Jerry slowing his Toyota Corolla next to him with Stan in the passenger seat. Mike watched the car draw closer before popping his left hand up alongside his face, blocking out the sight of Jerry’s vehicle. He heard immediate laughter.
“Big Mike’s shunning us, Jer,” Stan said without turning his head away as he hung partly out the window. "Demon… buddy… pal… are you going to allow your anti-social partner to dis us?”
“Arf!” Demon answered the challenge without a glance.
“Traitor!” Jerry accused the furry walker. “I gave you a ham sandwich at the shop last week when I picked up my Toyota you ungrateful cur!
Demon slowed inexplicably and nipped Mike’s cuff, giving it a jerk. Mike stopped with a sigh, having given up being surprised at the dog’s interactive ability. Jerry stopped the car.
“That’s better,” Jerry complimented Demon. “I’ll bring you a salami next time.”
“What’s with you shunning your best buddies?” Stan asked. “Where’s your Chevy?”
“I live only eight blocks from the shop. It gives Demon a couple extra walks. He gets cabin fever at the house. Besides, he has my Mom trained to give him treats all day. If I don’t keep him moving around, he’ll look like Garfield the cat.”
“Grrrrrrrrrrrrr…” Demon hunched down into attack form with Stan and Jerry egging him on.
“Oh… you been served, D!” Jerry said in between bouts of laughter as he leaned around Stan.
“He called you Garfield, D!” Stan added. “Castrate the prick!”
Demon began circling Mike like a shark with blood in the water. Mike was laughing so hard he could only pantomime defensive gestures to hold off his dog. Demon snorted as if satisfied and sat down. It took another minute of hilarity before the three young men could talk. Mike stabbed his right finger down at Demon.
“Just for that… no more lasagna for you.”
“Grrumph…” Demon turned his head away from Mike, examining the tree nearby.
“We have to figure out a way to make money off your paranormal dog, Mike,” Stan said.
“I know you guys slowed down to turn my dog on me for a reason. The answer’s no. You’ll have to go get eaten by monsters without me this year. Admit it. You two didn’t stop near me on Halloween night to say hi. Stan, the adrenaline junkie, has come up with a new way to get killed, right?”
“I told you he was a psychic, Jer.”
“We need you and the Demon, Mike,” Jerry said. “We’re on a mission.”
“Been there, done that. No!”
“You stay out of this, Odie!” Mike warned. “One more bark out of you and I won’t let you watch ‘Family Guy’ ever again. The only time you’ll get to commune with your hero ‘Brian’ will be in your dreams.”
Demon flopped down with his paws outstretched to allay Mike’s threat, shocking Stan and Jerry.
“Holy shit! The Paranormal Pup watches ‘Family Guy’?” Jerry stared down at the quiet Demon in astonishment.
“The humans at my house can’t stand it, but Odie here watches it in my room. He also growls if he’s interrupted during the show.”
“That is so tight!” Stan shook his head in disappointment at Demon. “The mighty Ghost-rider cowered by a ‘Family Guy’ threat. Oh the shame. Anyway, back to business Mikey. This gig is different. The Senior class decided on a Rave up on Patterson Pass Road in Livermore under the ‘Hanging Tree’ near the ‘Gravity Hill’ area. It’s a party, my man. It’s outside and Demon’s famous anyway. No one will mess with the Demon if he comes along. Truthfully, we’d take him and leave you here.”
Mike laughed. “Me and Demon are staying home and passing out candy tonight. I know the history of that area. I ain’t goin’.”
“Laura will be there,” Jerry said.
Mike knelt down to pet Demon without speaking.
“Besides, me and Jerry didn’t abandon you when Laura moved on taking her herd of harpies with her. We shunned them.”
Mike chuckled. “You’re still dating Connie, Stan and I’ve seen Jerry in the hallways with Jan - you traitorous dogs.”
“I meant we tried to shun them,” Stan corrected his earlier statement. “They wouldn’t leave us alone. They had my Uncle Jim held hostage in an Oakland warehouse. The witches gave me no choice.”
“Laura loves you Mike,” Jerry added. “She watches you whenever you’re not looking.”
“Yeah, that’s why she’s wearing Tom Metger’s class ring.”
“He’s the first string quarterback, Mike. Laura’s a senior riding the wave. She’ll dump him as soon as football season’s over. Laura goes to bed every night with a picture of you and Demon Scotch-taped to her forehead,” Stan said, trading grinning looks with Jerry as Mike’s chuckle turned into full blown laughter.
“Okay… that was funny. I’m still not going.”
“Fine! I’m taking pictures of Laura tonight making out with Tom and E-mailing them to you,” Stan threatened.
“Better than watching it in person. See you two meatballs in school… maybe.”
“Hey, what do you mean maybe?” Jerry inched the Toyota ahead as Mike and Demon started walking again. “You said you know the scoop on the area. How about at least sharing that? Get in the back and we’ll drive you home and you can tell us all about it.”
“I didn’t say I went there. I know the ghost story history.”
“That’s more than we know.” Stan reached back and opened the rear passenger door.
Mike didn’t move for a moment but Demon jumped in much to Stan and Jerry’s amusement. Mike shook his head and got in next to Demon. Jerry drove to Mike’s house three blocks away and parked in front of the house. Inside the house, Mike found a note on the table saying Joanie went to a Halloween party and his Mom had left to get groceries. Mike fed Demon and went to the refrigerator for sodas. After serving Jerry and Stan at the kitchen counter, Mike sat down across from them.
“I heard Gravity Hill is a simple optical illusion where it appears to slope upwards but actually slopes downward. The ghost story claims a bus broke down on the hill with a group of fifth graders. They tried to push it, failed, and it rolled over them with no survivors. Legend states if you park your car on Gravity Hill it rolls upwards and little handprints become visible on the bumper.”
“Hanging Tree’s a little more complicated but just as silly. Supposedly when Livermore built a new high school called Granada High in 1963 they played the other school Livermore in football. A couple of winning players and losing players went up drinking under a tree on Patterson Pass Road. As a drunken prank, the winners took the losers’ clothes and put them up in the tree. The next morning, they called the losing teams’ players and told them where to find their buddies. They were found dead under the tree. No one’s supposed to touch the tree now because the dead players’ ghosts haunt the tree for revenge on other teens disturbing their final resting place. That’s it, guys.”
“I like it!” Stan slapped the counter enthusiastically. “We’ll all go up there, take Tom’s clothes, and hang them in the tree.”
“He’d kick both our asses,” Jerry pointed out. “Plus, he won’t be alone.”
“Mike can take him. Didn’t you kick the crap out of his buddies?”
“Three of them were kicking the crap out of me. They decided to stick me in the pipe at the aqueduct behind Porter’s Market. On one of my numerous trips to the ground trying to prevent it, I rolled over a piece of metal bar. I used the bar to keep from journeying into sewer pipe land. Anyway… I didn’t go into the pipe and the football players don’t speak to me.”
“Or mess with you,” Jerry finished for him. “That’s why you got expelled for a few days, huh?”
“The only reason I didn’t end up in juvy was my folks hired a lawyer.”
“Does Laura know the story?” Stan asked.
“Nope, and it’s going to stay that way. I never told anyone before other than my folks and the lawyer. I don’t want any more trouble. Tom didn’t have anything to do with it so what’s it matter? He may have heard a different version from his friends.”
“You and Laura were pretty tight for a few weeks. She was taking a lot of heat for dating a sophomore, Mike,” Jerry explained.
“I know that. Listen, you guys. Don’t go up there and get drunk. It won’t be ghosts that’ll get you if you get plastered.”
“Then come with us, Mommy,” Stan joked. “You can be our designated driver.”
“No. You guys are on your own tonight.”
“C’mon, Stan, I can tell from Mike’s face he ain’t budging. We need to scare up some costumes before we leave.”
“Call us if you change your mind, Bambi. We won’t be leaving until eight.” Stan followed Jerry toward the door in the entryway.
“Not going to happen. Don’t touch the tree.”
* * *
The doorbell rang. Mike glanced at the clock while gesturing for his parents to stay put. “Wow, 10:30’s a little late. C’mon, Krypto, your audience awaits.”
“Grrumph…” Demon jumped up, his red cape slipping to the side. The dog had to wait for a moment while Patches the cat stretched up off the cape as Mike’s Mom and Dad laughed.
“Demon’s not happy with your choice of costume,” Dan said.
“He’s lucky I didn’t make him wear a hat.” Mike knelt down and straightened the cape before grabbing the bowl of treats from their lamp stand.
At the door a group of five kids nearly Mike’s age were at the entrance without any costumes, holding up plastic grocery bags.
“Trick or treat,” the kid’s voice was almost as bass sounding as Mike’s.
“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Mike chuckled while throwing a couple of candy bars into each sack.
“Neat dog,” the girl behind the leader declared, stroking Demon’s head where it poked out the door.
“Thanks. Be careful out there. Scary costumes.”
Mike’s comment evoked some laughter as the kids retreated from the step. The phone rang as Mike shut the door and put the bowl down. “I got it.”
“Mike, it’s me, Jerry.” His voice noticeably slurred the few words.
“You’re drunk. Stan better be sober, brother or you’re in shit city.”
“Call a cab. The cost will be a good teaching tool. I’ll drive you guys back there in the morning to pick up your car.”
“Listen… your sister’s here. She…”
“What?!” Mike moved further into the kitchen while glancing at his parents. They were watching the TV without looking up. “Give it to me straight, Jer. No bullshit.”
“Joanie’s here. We… didn’t know… it was her until now. She’s wearing a cos…tume. Laura recognized her… told me. She came with a bunch of juniors.”
“Stay where you are. I can get there in half an hour. Thanks, Jer. Keep an eye on her, will you?”
“Sure… but she’s been drinkin’ too.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” Mike said, grabbing his jacket out of the hall closet. “Don’t let her have any more, okay?” Mike whispered.
“Will do, Mike.” Jerry hung up.
Mike pasted a grin on his face and went in the living room. “You’ll never guess. Stan and Jerry are in Livermore too wasted to drive. They don’t have any money. I’m going up to get them. Want me to pick up Joanie while I’m out?”
“Thanks. She’s at Carol’s house,” Mike’s Mom said. “That’s nice of you to volunteer to pick up your friends. With all the supposed lectures and teaching, the kids are still out endangering themselves and everyone else around. At least Stan and Jerry knew enough to call.”
“Yeah, you be careful driving, kid,” Dan said. “Call us if you need help.”
“I will, Dad. I’m taking Demon with me.”
On his way out the door, Mike was glad for the first time he had an old four door Chevy Lumina. He opened his rear passenger door and Demon leaped in, red cape fluttering. With Demon’s head sticking out the driver’s side window over his shoulder, Mike set his new Garmin GPS and drove for Livermore as fast as he dared. A little over twenty minutes later Mike was on Patterson Pass Road slowing to check out the barren highway between mile markers 127 and 157. He spotted lights reflecting off the dark cloudy night sky. When he reached a stretch where cars and trucks were parked in lines on both sides of the road, Mike turned around and parked at the front of the car lineup. He untied Demon’s cape and headed toward the sound of boom boxes blaring loud music across the rough terrain with Demon keeping pace.
Mike stopped when he heard angry shouts and screams over the music. He knelt down next to Demon, grabbing the dog’s head with both hands.
“Stay here boy unless I whistle. I don’t want to freak anyone out.”
Demon sat down. Mike resumed his jog to the outskirts of the crowded area in front of a huge tree with many spreading branches. Some of the people in outlandish costumes recognized him as he moved along the line of people searching for his sister. He heard voices he passed say his name. No one was dancing. They were watching something going on out of Mike’s vision near the tree. Whatever it was had the crowd watching in near silence. A few scattered lanterns with colored lights illuminated the scene in an eerie fashion. Mike heard Laura’s voice shouting and threaded through the other teens toward the tree base. He figured there were easily more than a hundred kids milling around.
Mike’s heart raced and his mind went into overdrive when he spotted Joanie. His sister sat on the ground, crying at Laura’s feet with Connie and Janis on both sides. Mike shoved his way through, listening to the arguments.
“Let us go, Tom! You’ve had your fun!” Laura shouted. “Joanie’s only fourteen. You could get into real trouble. Don’t let Nate…”
“Shut up!” Tom yelled at her, gesturing toward something Mike couldn’t make out at the base of the tree. “Those two nerds decided to bust up our party. I’ll be the one who…”
Relief and fear flooded over the girls’ faces as Mike rushed in and picked up his sister.
“Oh my God… Mike!” Joanie sobbed. “I…I’m so glad… can…can… you take me home?”
“You bet, Sis.” Mike hugged her. “Where’re Stan and Jerry, honey?”
“Ov…over there.” Joanie pointed in the same direction Tom had.
It was then Mike saw the naked forms of his two friends tied up at the tree base.
“Ain’t this a bitch?! I’ve died and gone to heaven,” a voice called out from behind Tom Metger. “Mike Rawlins come to collect little sis.”
“Oh boy,” Mike muttered as he recognized his attackers from the aqueduct along with most of the football team behind Tom. “I don’t want any trouble. I’m taking my sister and my friends away from here. Where are their clothes?”
“Up in the tree where yours are headed, asshole. You boys will be camping here tonight just like in the legend. We’ll take care of little sis.”
“That’s not happening, Nate,” Mike replied, edging Joanie behind him.
“Let them go you big dork!” Connie cried out. “We’ll have your asses arrested.”
“You better keep your mouth shut, girl, unless you want to camp out too,” another young man next to Nate warned.
Tom held out his hand as he saw more than harmless fun in his friends’ eyes. It was plain he wasn’t in any leadership role. “C’mon, Laura, I’ll take you home.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Laura moved next to Joanie, putting an arm around her shoulder where she huddled behind Mike. “Let us all go and we forget everything about tonight.”
“All right!” Nate laughed. “Another camper. You in for the overnighter, Jan.”
“You ain’t making me stay here overnight, Denkins! I’ll cut a man tries that shit on me.”
Nate Denkins chuckled and pointed at Mike. “Get your clothes off, Rawlins and maybe we won’t kick your ass all over the ground first.”
“Let us go. That ain’t happening ever.”
“What makes you think so, pussy?” Denkins edged ahead with his friends toward Mike.
“Because I brought a friend.” Mike whistled.
Sixty pounds of growling monster scattered the screaming crowd as if they were party favors blowing away in the wind. Denkins had only enough time to look up with horror as Demon hit him chest high, knocking the young man heavily to the ground. The jaw snapping, snarling terror herded the football team and gawking crowd into full flight. Only when the area was cleared did Demon return, prancing amidst the familiar faces around Joanie and Mike.
“Demon!” Joanie threw her arms around the dog’s neck, clutching him like a stanchion in a storm.
“That’s twice the damn dog saved our asses.” Janis sighed. “Help me untie the moonbeams under the tree, Connie.”
“I heard that!” Stan croaked miserably. “Today would be nice, ladies.”
Denkins began scuttling away slowly but Mike stopped him with only a gesture.
“Joanie, did anyone lay hands on you?”
“No Mike. They wanted me… to… to have more beer. They messed up Jerry and Stan because… they tried to stop them.”
“Get up in the tree and get my friends’ clothes, Nate.”
“Or what? You sic the dog on me.”
“Nope,” Mike replied, taking off his jacket and throwing it aside. He put up his hands in a fighting stance, corded muscle rippling with each movement. “If you don’t, I’ll bust your face up until even your own momma won’t recognize you.”
Denkins met Mike’s coldly determined gaze and looked away. He scrambled to his feet and lurched over to the tree without another word. Mike dropped his hands slowly. It took Denkins ten minutes to climb around in the tree and retrieve the clothing. Laura stayed with Joanie and Demon, watching Mike follow Denkins’ progress without dropping his guard or turning away. Connie and Janis worked the bonds off Stan and Jerry. Mike tossed clothing back to his friends as Denkins’ threw them down from the tree. Denkins jumped down gesturing angrily at Jerry and Stan.
“There! Can I go now? Why don’t you threaten me some more, big man?”
“Wouldn’t do any good with you Nate. Hey, Demon.”
The dog was at Mike’s side in an instant, his snout contorting to voice a low rumbling growl.
“Please escort Mr. Denkins to his car.”
“No… wait!” Denkins started running but Demon clamped onto his shoe dumping him to the ground. While Denkins scrambled forward on hands and knees Demon nipped him along with leaping attacks on all sides.
As Denkins’ cries of anguish faded into the distance, Mike turned around to check on his sister and friends. The usual ball of ache formed in his throat when Laura walked Joanie over. Laura’s costume consisted of a very short black maid’s outfit which nearly drove Joanie’s plight right out of his head. Seeing her big brother locked in a disconcerted stare with Laura, Joanie giggled. She stopped abruptly when Mike angrily turned on her.
“You think this is funny, you little twerp? What the hell were you thinking?! You’re grounded and I don’t mean like Mom and Dad grounding. You don’t do anything for the next three months unless I say it’s okay.”
“But… but Mike! You can’t… you just can’t!” The horrified look on Joanie’s face elicited laughter from the five seniors gathering near her.
Mike turned and whistled a short two tone note. In seconds Demon was again at his side. The dog spit out part of Denkins’ pants leg. “We can go and explain tonight’s happenings to Mom and Dad. I’m sure they’ll be happy to discuss terms with you.”
Joanie quieted immediately. “O…Okay, Mike.”
Mike retrieved his jacket. After taking out his cell-phone, Mike called his parents.
“Hey Dad, I have Stan, Jerry, and Joanie. Everyone’s hungry. Is it okay if I take them to ‘Denny’s for something to eat?”
“Sure kid. Are your friends manageable?”
Mike glanced over at the disheveled Stan and Jerry who gave him a finger wave. “Yeah, they’ve sobered up quite a bit.”
“Put it on the shop charge card. Your Mom and I are calling it a night. Lock up when you get home.”
“I will. Goodnight.”
Mike put away his phone. “Now, all we have to do is stop by Walgreen’s drugstore and get some Fabreeze. You smell like a damn brewery, Sis. We need to cover that. It’ll make Stan and Jerry more acceptable at Denny’s too. Thanks for watching out for Joanie. I owe you all big time.”
“That’s good,” Janis said, “because I had as much to drink as Stan and Jerry. Jerry drove but Connie was the designated driver and they slipped her something.”
Connie giggled as if to emphasize the point.
“She’s been doin’ that every few minutes for the last couple hours.” Janis pushed Connie into Jerry. “It’s annoying as hell.”
Connie giggled again.
“I…I came with Tom,” Laura said.
“Can you drive?” Mike asked. “You could drive…”
“I did those… jello shots someone brought. They were sooooo good.” Laura began to forget what the question was about.
“I think… maybe eight.”
Mike thought for a moment about logistics before speaking. “Here’s the only way we can do this then. Connie and Janis will have to sit on Stan and Jerry’s laps with Joanie in the middle. Laura can sit up front with Demon. If that won’t work I’ll call a cab for whoever wants to stay and wait.”
“We ain’t waitin’ out here!” Janis looked around at the ‘Hanging Tree’ with colored lantern light flickering in reflection over its branches.
Connie giggled. “I’m hungry.”
Mike grabbed up one of the lanterns nearby and gestured for them to follow. By the time they reached Patterson Pass Road all the other vehicles were gone except for Jerry’s Toyota and Mike’s Chevy Lumina. Mike helped everyone get settled in the car before getting in the driver’s seat. He opened all the windows.
“The fresh air will help but sing out if any of you need an emergency stop.”
“Thanks, Mommy,” Stan said.
After a quick stop at the local open all night Walgreen’s Drugstore, Mike drove the ‘April Fresh’ crew to the Denny’s on Marina Blvd in San Leandro. Jerry grabbed Mike’s arm as the group exited the car.
“I don’t think they’ll let you bring Demon in with you.”
“Sure they will. Demon and I have been in here before.” Mike walked around to the trunk. He opened the trunk lid and extracted a white cane and sunglasses along with a harness for Demon. By the time Mike outfitted Demon with the harness and stood up sporting white cane and sunglasses, the other teens were howling in laughter. “You know of course it’s not nice to laugh at the handicapped.”
This triggered another bout of hilarity before Mike followed the rest in with Demon gamely guiding him. With the many restaurant Halloween decorations, the group consisting of a Hobo, Vampire, Witch, Maid and ebony/ivory ‘Ashley Twins’ duo of Connie and Janis hardly attracted a second look. They were seated and served in short order. After Mike paid the bill with Laura’s help signing the credit card receipt, the costumed cadre left with a big bag of leftovers for Demon.’
Mike dropped each of the seniors off in order of nearness except for Laura. Jerry was the next to last let out near his house, leaving only Mike, Laura, Joanie, and Demon in the car.
“What time you want me to come by, Jer?”
“Better make it ten, Mike, thanks,” Jerry replied as he trudged up to his house entrance.
“Ten it is.”
As Jerry went inside and Mike started the car. Demon jumped into the back with Joanie. Laura reached over and grasped Mike’s hand.
“Want to drop Joanie off and walk me home. With Demon, it’ll be like old times. I live less than a mile away.”
“Sure,” Mike agreed, glancing back at Joanie. “You make sure your first stop is the bathroom, Sis. Brush your teeth and gargle with Listerine. Take a shower and get into bed. I’ll check you when we get home. If you forget anything, I’ll have Demon get you up again.”
Joanie giggled. “Yes, Mommy.”
“Okay for you. Demon… stir the witch up.”
Demon poked into Joanie’s side with his snout, eliciting screams and futile movements to avoid the dog’s persistent tickling attack until Mike called him off. Mike parked in front of their house and escorted the chastised Joanie to the door. She surprised Mike with a hug.
“Thanks, Mike. I…I know what I did could have gotten your friends hurt.”
Mike held her at arm’s length. “If you remember about the unintended consequences that’s a good first step. Dad’s worried about you. He mentioned Demon being easier to talk to.”
Joanie sighed, pulling away from Mike and walking inside the house. “I’ll do better. Get going. If you’re not back in twenty minutes lover-boy I’m callin’ the cops.”
“Why you…” The door shut in his face. Mike rejoined Laura and Demon at the front sidewalk. Laura was hugging herself.
Mike took his jacket off and draped it around Laura’s shoulders. “Still want to walk home?”
“Yes.” Laura put her arms around Mike’s waist. “Can I go with you and Jerry tomorrow?”
“Of course with Demon.” Laura reached up and bordered Mike’s face with her hands. “I…I’ve missed you. Tom…”
“Let’s forget about Tom for now.” Mike’s kiss, tentative at first, heated into a fevered embrace only Demon’s yank on Mike’s shoe broke up. The dog head butted Mike’s leg. “I guess it’s time to walk.”
Laura nodded, threading her arm around Mike and leaning against him as they walked.
“Maybe we could include a few adventures together in between Halloweens,” Mike suggested. “At least until you dump me before the Senior Prom.”
Laura gasped, trying to pull away but was held in place by a laughing Mike. She relaxed and settled for a playful slap on Mike’s face.
“That wasn’t very nice.” Laura met Mike’s amused look with a sultry one of her own Mike didn’t need more than streetlamp light to interpret. “How can I win you back?”
“You could start by taking off Tom Metger’s class ring.”
The resulting chase down the sidewalk with Laura on the attack had Demon circling the two teens as if trying to pick a side. When the two ended their spat in each other’s arms, Demon waited a full five minutes before he head butted Mike’s leg once again.