Chapter 46

                “I have gathered you all here to discuss a matter of grave importance and personal safety.” Nick made this declaration as he set down a twelve pack of sodas on his cheap dining room table, around which Mary, Hershel, Alice, and Vince were already seated.

                “It’s Wednesday night,” Vince reminded him. “We came over to hang out and play board games.”

                “Come on man, let me have a little theatricality now and then.” Nick coughed lightly to clear his throat and resumed the more somber tone. “Our group faces an eminent threat on the horizon, and while you all may be content to ignore it, I for one prefer to meet my enemies head on with a plan of battle.”

                “Mary, will you please tell us what’s going on in that head of his so we don’t have to sit through twenty minutes of this one-man play?” Alice demanded.

                Mary looked up at Nick, who met her gaze with a dastardly smile. “As much as I hate to admit this, and he knows it, Nick’s building up to a point that I actually somewhat agree with. It’s already September, which means our yearly ritual of something going horribly wrong is just around the corner.”

                “Halloween,” Hershel muttered. Between Vince getting jumped, Alice having an emotional breakdown, and Vince’s reunion with Eliza in a crowded bar, the last day of October had a history of throwing them all for a solid loop. Granted, sometimes the after effects weren’t so bad, Alice had also first discovered her true power that night, but few of them looked back on those evenings with pleasant feelings.

                “Exactly what I was building up to, you freaking show stealers,” Nick said. “Seeing as our track record is so spotty, I thought perhaps this year we should get out in front of it, picking a way to celebrate that had the least chance of somehow blowing up in our faces.”

                “Screw that.” Alice crossed her arms and adopted a harsh glare. “Tried to get ahead of it last year, rented out private areas, minimized the chances of us getting into trouble, and things turned messy. I’m going to vote that we lock all the doors, hang some crosses on the windows, and go to bed at six that night.”

                “Granted, that’s probably the most sensible plan, but I don’t see it happening,” Hershel said. “Halloween is too much fun, if not for me then certainly for Roy. History be damned, when the night comes he or I will be in a costume and out among the town.”

                “I sort of like it too,” Vince said. “It wasn’t something I really got to do as a kid, but it’s still been interesting, even if we do tend to pull in more tricks than treats.”

                “Pretty much my assumptions when we started this conversation.” Nick popped open the soda case and began doling them out around the table. Much as he might have enjoyed a cocktail on these nights, Wednesday meant school and training the next day so none of his guests would touch the hard stuff. The only thing worse than drinking alone was drinking alone in a crowd.

                “So let’s go over our options,” Nick continued. “There are bars, the yearly frat party, and Screamtopia if we want to repeat any of the Halloweens past.”

                “I’m going to say a firm no to the frat party,” Mary told them. “Wasn’t my scene then, even less so now.”

                “Screamtopia was a lot of fun,” Hershel said. “And really, nothing bad that happened was on them. Other than the thing with Rich it was an enjoyable night all around.”

                Alice let out a long breath, her eyes dropping a few inches. “Screamtopia might be a good one to visit again, but I think I sort of ruined that for us. Given the size of the scene I made, there’s a chance someone could still be working there and recognize me. If it were just the crying that would be fine, but with me also crashing those lights and causing people to evacuate… the risk of someone connecting the dots just seems too great. Though it’s possible I’m being paranoid.”

                “Even if you are, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong,” Nick told her. “The odds of that biting you are slim, but present. Given that it’s all of your senior year, probably better to not take bold chances just to revisit a haunted house.”

                “Nick’s right,” Vince agreed. “Which leaves us with the bars, I guess. They’re not really my favorite, but if it’s what makes everyone else happy then I can still have fun.”

                Hershel looked over the table, taking a quick and easy read on what the sentiment to that thought was. It was a simple task; aside from Roy, and Nick when he was in the right mood, none of them were big on the bar scene. Which, given their track record, was hard to blame them for.

                “I don’t think that’s the best fit for everyone either. Maybe it’s time to revisit Alice’s idea,” Hershel suggested.

                “Skip Halloween?” Mary’s expression was quizzical in her confusion, a rare sight on the telepath’s face. And something Hershel considered to be a gesture of love. Even after years together, she still made a point to avoid reading his mind.

                “Not that part. I meant about locking the doors and hanging the crosses. Except we also add some spider webs, plastic skeletons, and other decorations. Basically I’m saying we have a Halloween party. Invite our friends over and watch scary movies,” Hershel said.

                “Good scary movies.” Alice snapped the words before Nick could so much as get a syllable off, though everyone could see the excitement shining in his eyes. “I’m not saying I’m totally on board, just putting that requirement out before the talk goes any further.”

                “Didn’t we throw that idea out last year, and decide with our running luck Melbrook would burn down?” Vince asked.

                “Something like that. Yet we saw how well taking it off-site went,” Mary reminded them.

                “That was our first year no one got punched,” Alice pointed out. “I think we can sort of claim that as a victory.”

                “I’d bet money that Roy would disagree.” Nick dropped the case of drinks to the floor and pulled out tonight’s board game, one of Hershel’s, of course. Evidently this game required them to be train robbers in the old west, trying to collect the most stolen loot while evading the law. “But there is the logistical issue of space. If everyone from the class shows up, and brings no other friends, that’s eighteen people in the common area. You don’t have any outdoor space, and the lounges require thumbprints to let people in, so that’s tight quarters. Plus, we’re assuming the suits will even let you throw one in the first place.”

                “So we’re back to not having any ideas?” Vince said.

                “Well, not entirely,” Nick told him. “I don’t disagree that a controlled area might be best, just that yours might not be the right one. I, on the other hand, don’t live in a dorm under constant DVA surveillance. Plus, my apartment has a big room that we can rent out with enough notice, and I’m certain no other resident here is paranoid enough to be thinking about Halloween already. Granted, some folks might not want to come to a party thrown by a washout for very practical reasons, but if we make it a masquerade that might alleviate some worry.”

                “That is a very kind gesture.” Despite her words, the gleam of suspicion in Alice’s eye was unmistakable. “But in this room you can rent, would there happen to be a place for watching movies?”

                “There may be a giant flat screen and DVD player where I could have a constant stream of classic horror gold going at all times,” Nick admitted. “But it will still be a party, so people need only pay as much attention as they want.”

                “Well, I’m in,” Vince said. “He was probably going to try and make us watch bad scary movies anyway, at least this way we know the circumstances upfront.”

                “Vince makes a good point, plus it would be nice to have something more relaxed,” Hershel agreed. “I’m in.”

                “No bar and in walking distance of the dorm? You have sold me,” Mary added.

                “I’m going to agree with this, but I want it officially on record that I think Nick’s up to something,” Alice told them all. “This is a little too easy, and I don’t trust it.”

                “Would I ever do something like that?” If Nick’s history didn’t already tell them the answer to that question, the mischievous grin on his face certainly would have.