Magnificent Seven ATF Universe

Fright Night

bt Linda Borchers

Main characters: Vin and Ezra

They took the hairpin turn on screeching tires at sixty miles an hour.  Ezra’s Jag easily negotiated the side street and barreled down the one-way road off the main highway heading out of town.

“Damn it, Ez, I don’t want to lose this one.” He growled, his adrenalin pumping in his veins.

“We won’t,” Ezra assured the Texan as he took another sharp left following the fleeing car’s tire tracks merging onto a rural dirt road.

“Any idea who he is?” 

“I’m afraid not.  J.D is still trying to compare the clown mask he wore to any known manufacture of clown or Halloween costumes.  However…”

Vin felt the con man’s apprehension. “Come on, Ez. What did he find?”

“It’s not what he found that is so puzzling; it is rather what he didn’t find.  Vin…J.D. used every computer program he could get his hands on and…”

“Damn it, Ezra!”

“Sorry. It just seems too inconceivable to be true, but the clown was not wearing a mask.”

Vin remembered the hideous clown mask.  He had seen it once before, years ago. It looked the same now as it did then: White skin peeling away from the skull exposing bone and muscle, black, empty eye sockets and a huge red nose. But that was not the most disturbing feature. The mask had a huge mouth filled with decaying, razor sharp teeth, the lips curled back like a rabid dog, ready to attack.

“What are you trying to say, that this is his real face?”  Vin asked incredulously.

“I can only relay to you what Mr. Dunne found.  The face is made up of real flesh and bone. ”


Vin felt a shiver run down his spine as Ezra left the question unanswered.  Silence filled the car as they each digested the possibilities.  In reality there were none, but there was no denying the fear that was brewing in the pit of Vin’s stomach. 

Ezra suddenly hung a right, the Jag’s tires squealing in protest.  The car fishtailed for a moment then straightened out, the headlights cutting through the black night. Four hundred feet ahead they saw an odd shape in the darkness. “A house?” Ezra asked softly, not wanting to admit to himself that he was feeling very uncomfortable.

As the headlights spotlighted the building Vin gasped. In the soft lights of the console Ezra could see the sharpshooters face turn deathly pale.

VIN stared at the old purple and yellow striped circus tent.  He had seen it before…he felt his heart beating in his chest so fast he feared it would explode.  He fisted his hands so tight he drew blood, willing his mind not to flash back to the past, not to drown him in a sea of fear and terror.  He felt himself drifting back in time but couldn’t stop the journey.

He was only seven and in his newest foster home. He’d never celebrated Halloween before. His Mama had been too sick before she died to think about a costume for just one night and his last two foster homes had thought it was a waste of time and money. That’s why he snuck out of his bedroom window every night to see the Halloween Fright House that had come to town a week ago

He was too young to go in.  Only teenagers were allowed into the inner sanctum. He’d huddled in the bushes watching the high school kids walk in, their faces glowing with anticipation. He heard the nervous laughs turn to terror filled screams.  When they walked out their faces were chalky white.  What was inside there?  What made them scream, both the girls and the boys?  Why were their discussions of what was inside hushed whenever he was near?  He had to know.

He took a deep breath and scurried across the pathway.  To his relief the purple and yellow tent flap was still unzipped.  He pulled it open just enough to squeeze in.  Surprised, he found the canvas tent hid an old wooden structure. Splintered boards covered the walls.  Dirt lined the floor. Thick cobwebs hung from the ceiling.  There was an unnatural quietness to the place that made the hairs on the back of his arms stand on end.  Maybe this was not such a good idea after all.  No, he was here now.  Only a scared little kid would turn back with his tail between his legs. He pulled his jacket closer around his chest. He could do this.  He would know what the secret was before the night was over.

There was just enough light to see that the entrance quickly narrowed to a hallway that led to a set of double doors.  He could see shapes ahead, but not enough to see what they were.  He swallowed hard and took a step forward. Something wet and slimy brushed across his cheek and he leaped sideways hitting the wall, the sound echoing like an explosion.  He stood stone still, waiting.  If there was anyone in here, had they heard him? A low growl rose up behind him and he froze.  He slowly turned around. What little light there was, was cut off by something large and black moving toward him. 

Smashing his hands over his mouth he tried not to scream, but a bloodied hand reached down for him. He ducked, feeling it scrape the top of his hair as he raced deeper into the darkness.  He saw a flash of steel and a huge axe flew past his face, just missing his nose, embedding itself in the wall.  He fell to his knees and scrambled beneath it. The walls began to groan and bulge inward, trapping him.  He could feel his shoulders being pinned by the rough wood.  He screamed, panic propelling him forward, forcing him to push his way past the constricting walls. He stumbled into a huge room lit by torches hanging on the walls.  In the corner a steel cage sat ominously, the torchlight unable to reach into the depths of the dark cell.  A dim green neon sign blinked “Exit” above the doorway to the left of the cage.  He knew he had to pass the cage to get out.  He was shaking with fear so overwhelming that he could barely breathe.  He only wanted to go home. He heard the sound of a chain hitting the outside of the door.  He looked at his watch…12:00.  They were locking him in!  He ran toward the door screaming, pounding on the door, “No!  I’m in here.  NO!” he pleaded, “Don’t leave me in here.”  He heard the zipper beyond the solid wood door seal the tent and the padlock locked into place, then silence.

Something moved in the darkness of the cage beside him.  He looked up, too afraid to move.  He thought his heart would stop beating any second.  A huge gnarled hand, its fingernails as sharp as talons, appeared out of the blackness and gripped the cell bar. A deep vicious growl filled the room, making the torches flutter, followed by a laugh, a laugh that sounded like it came straight from Hell itself.

Low and evil, it made the ground shudder.  Young Vin’s legs turned to jello and he collapsed against the door, sliding to the ground. He heard a whimpering sound and realized it was him.  All he wanted was to be in his bed safe…The cell door slowly creaked open.  A huge clown, his mouth filed with razor sharp teeth stepped out of the cage.  Young Vin tried to crawl away but his body was paralyzed with fear. The clown walked toward him, saliva dripping from his fangs. Hollow black sockets, where his eyes should have been, stared at him. “You’re mine,” it growled, pointing a finger at him, an evil laugh filling the room… 

“Mr. Tanner…Vin…Are you all right?” Ezra’s persistent voice drew Vin out of his reverie. He found he was gripping his knees so hard that his knuckles had turned white.

He took a deep breath, his heart beating so fast he thought he would have a heart attack any second. He had not had that memory for a long time.  It was a nightmare that had haunted him all the way through his teen years. It was a night he never spoke of. 

When his foster mom found him missing from his bed she waited until morning and when he still hadn’t returned, she called the police.  They didn’t find him until the Fright House reopened later that morning huddled in a corner, catatonic.

He was questioned afterward by the police, but they dismissed it as a child’s prank that had gotten out of hand. His social worker, fearing that the incident would traumatize him further, warned his foster parents to never speak of the incident again.

“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine, Ez .  Just a little flashback,” he answered hoping Ezra would not hear the fear in his voice. 

Ezra stared at the tent, sweat breaking out on his forehead for no accountable reason." What in the name of everything holy is that monstrosity?”

“It’s a Halloween Haunted House. They spring up all over the place at Halloween.  Some are unbelievably elaborate.”

“From your initial reaction it appears that you have encountered one before.”

Vin stared at the tent.  It seemed so familiar. Even the sliver of moon in the sky above the tent was the same. “It was a long time ago. I was a seven year old kid and my imagination got the best of me.”

“Forgive me, Mr. Tanner, but you still seem extremely agitated.”

“Some nightmares never truly go away,” Vin admitted. “How close are the rest of the guys?”

“Their flight landed two hours ago but there was a major accident on the freeway. With several Halloween parties getting out of hand, the police force is sorely outnumbered on a night like tonight.”

“How long, Ez?”

“At least ninety minutes.”

Ezra looked apprehensively at the menacing tent. “We are going to wait for them, are we not? Mr. Larabee will be most unhappy.”

“And lose him?” Vin still remembered the hysterical 911 call for help from the local high school. Their Halloween party had been crashed by a maniac in a clown suit killing three teachers and two students and wounding seven others.

Vin and Ezra were in town setting up a buy with an up and coming cartel who thought they were safe to conduct business in a small town. Ezra played the buyer while Vin was his bodyguard. Once the meet was set the rest of Team7 would move in for the bust.

They were a block away when they heard the report coming over the police radio.

“Alert the local PD that we’ve tracked him here.  Cover the back so he doesn’t sneak out I’ll go in and keep him busy until they arrive.”

“Mr. Tanner, I believe that is an unwise course of action, especially in your present state of mind.”

Vin glared at the undercover agent.

Ezra was not deterred. “It would appear, considering his attire, that he would feel right at home in there”

Vin punched the car door open, “I want this guy, Ez. He’s been in my nightmares too long.  Now it’s my turn.” He pulled his cell phone from his pants pocket. “I’ll keep the line open. You do the same.”

Ezra knew how determined the Texan could be when he made up his mind. “Watch your back my friend.”

He watched Vin slowly approach the tent, every step telegraphing his unease. Whatever had happened to him in the past had left a lasting impression.  He only hoped the authorities would arrive in time.  As he left the security of his Jag and made his way around the tent to cover the back he could understand Vin’s apprehension. The air reeked with a feeling of malevolence.

He did something he seldom did: He prayed to God to keep Vin Tanner safe.

Vin parted the purple and yellow tent flaps and stepped inside. His stomach dropped as he saw the same wooden structure he remembered from years ago. He hesitantly reached out and touched the door. It swung open on rusty hinges. The smell was so familiar: dank and musty, as if it had not been opened to the air for the past twenty years .

He took a quick shallow breath, pushing back the old memories of a seven year old, and stepped through the open door.  Alarm bells went off in his mind.  This place was the same as he remembered, exactly the same.  He reached out and felt the rough planking that covered the walls.  The only thing that seemed different was that he was no longer only four feet tall.  His hair brushed against the cobwebs that covered the ceiling.

Pushing through the second door he couldn't contain an audible moan.

He pulled out his cellphone and switched to video. Slowly he swept the labyrinth, making sure he recorded every inch.

“Ez?” he whispered into his phone.

“Yes, Mr. Tanner, I hear you.”

“I’m sending you video.”

Ezra waited for the email to alert him of incoming video. What he saw sent a shiver down his spine. He was not a man easily frightened, especially by slight- of- hand theatrics. But there was something unholy within the confines of the tent.

He sent the video to Chris Larabee before switching back to speaker phone. He would have to reach the leader of Team7 as soon as possible to explain the unexplainable.

“Mr. Tanner, I have forwarded the video to Mr. Larabee. I would strongly urge you to exit that asylum post haste until reinforcements arrive.”

“Can’t do that, Ez.”

“Vin, there is only one egress which is the door you entered. The back exit is padlocked from the outside.  He has no way to affect his emancipation. Please join me out here where you will remain safe.”

Ezra heard a low rambling growl over the phone’s speaker, feeling the ground beneath him vibrate with the sound.

“For God’s sake, Vin, get out of there!”

Chris Larabee stomped on the brake again. It seemed the traffic eased up for a couple of miles just to slow to a crawl again.

Buck sat in the shotgun seat while J.D, Nathan and Josiah were squeezed in the back of the four - door Saturn, the only rental available at the airport. They knew better than making any kind of remarks when Larabee was close to exploding.

“Looks like the goblins are out early,” Buck chuckled. Only Buck and Vin had the nerve to push Larabee’s buttons.

“Shut up,” Chris ordered.

Pleased with himself, Buck sat back and watched his best friend’s face turn red. If this were a cartoon, steam would be coming out of his ears.

At this rate it would take another hour to reach the motel Vin and Ezra were staying at.

The sound of his cell phone playing funeral music came from his pocket. “Damn it!” he swore at the tittering electronics expert sitting in the back seat.

He dug it out of his pocket and tossed it behind him. “I think it’s for you,” he grumbled.

Buck reached back and grabbed the phone. “Chris Larabee’s Ghost Tours.”

Chris tried to snatch the phone back but had to stomp on the brakes again when the car in front of him screeched to a stop.

“Buck, you’re dead,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Hey, it’s a video from Vin. I didn’t know junior knew how to do anything but send and receive calls. And it looks like it was forwarded from Ezra’s phone.

Buck hit play and started cackling at the best haunted house he had ever seen. “Hot damn. It looks like the boys found the mother of all Fright Houses.”

“Their asses are toast. They won’t see the outside of the file room until next year!”

Buck passed the phone to the three agents in back. Nathan grinned, but J.D. didn’t seem to think that it was that much of a joke.

“Did you hear Vin’s voice?" Josiah asked. "He really sounds scared.”

“I’m sure Ezra is coaching him,” Buck laughed.

“They won't think it's so funny when I get my hands on them.” No one said another word knowing Chris would make life miserable for the two pranksters.

“Mr. Tanner, I have sent the video to Mr. Larabee. I am sure they will arrive as soon as possible.”

“Thanks, Ez.” Did his voice shake as much as he thought it did? He didn’t know if he could do this again. How could he have ever known what lay ahead for him when he was a terrified boy of seven, locked inside a haunted house, terrified beyond sanity?  But, of all the things that had happened to him since: living on the streets after running away from another abusive foster home, a stint in the army as a sniper, two years with the U.S. Marshalls then a bounty hunter before joining Team7. Nothing could compare with that night.

He took a step forward.  A low guttural growl came from behind.  He looked back.  A black shadow loomed up behind him, but this time he was not terrified.  Common sense told him it was mechanical. He had tripped a wire.

Another growl and Ezra couldn’t take any more. “I’m coming in!”

Running around to the front of the tent Ezra opened the flaps and found a solid wooden door that looked as old as time itself. He pushed on it and it opened on rusty hinges.

Fascinated by the true meaning of All Hollow’s Eve, Ezra was not found of the commercialism of the sacred day. He avoided carved pumpkins and haunted houses whenever possible. But he had been in one or two and nothing compared to this. There was such a vile feeling to the atmosphere his instinct was to turn and run. But he would not leave Vin Tanner alone in this hell.

He stepped through the door hit by a dank and musty smell. Like Vin his hair brushed against the cobwebs that covered the ceiling and he brushed them away, his fingers coming away covered in sticky webs.

Vin forced himself to walk forward. He found himself in a hallway and panicked when he felt the walls bulging, the rough planks squeezing at his shoulders. His mind told him it was hydraulic pumps behind the wall but his instinct was screaming at him to run.

He turned sideways and still he felt the walls pressing in on him, robbing him of his breath. With a surge of strength fed by fear he squeezed through finding the opening to the large room, just as he remembered it.  If this was as it was twenty years ago, there would be a cage next to the exit.  That was where he had seen it:  The very heart of his nightmares.

The cage stood in the corner, just as large, just as ominous. Fear so real he could feel it pressing in on him like a solid weight rose up from his stomach, constricting his throat. He could not control it.  All the fears of a seven year old boy came flooding back.  He looked around, straining to see in the flickering lights from the torches held in brackets on the walls, creating macabre dancing shadows in the darkness.  Smoke curled its way up to the ceiling and hovered like clouds above.  His instinct told him to run.  But he was a grown man now, not a seven year old child that could be frightened by a circus clown.  The sound of a foot scraping on dirt behind him made Vin spin around to see…

Chris drove slowly through the thickening fog that had seemed to form out of nowhere.

“Are you sure these are the right coordinates?” he asked J.D.

“One hundred meters ahead is where Ezra called us .” J.D. answered, not able to disguise the uneasiness in his voice.

Chris slammed on the brakes when a purple and yellow tent appeared in the road. “What the hell?”

J.D. leaned forward between the two front seats. “Wow…! That is really spooky.”

“Getting cold feet, Kid?” Buck joked, but there was a hint of fear in his voice.

Chris opened his cell phone and found no service. “Shit! Ezra got through an hour ago.”

“I don’t understand it,” J.D. said.

Buck took a deep breath. “I guess that means we’re going inside.”

“Are you saying you’re scared Buck?”

Buck looked at the tent, fog swirling around the base and the sliver of moon hovering overhead in a pitch black sky. Everything nightmares were made of.

They climbed out of the car, Nathan opening the truck to grab his medical bag and slowly the five approached the tent, no one hiding their apprehension.

Ezra made his way through the hallway, the walls pressing in on him, trying to remind himself with every step that this was all smoke and mirrors. His years as a com man told him this was all an elaborate hoax. Problem was, it was so well done that he couldn’t keep the needling thought that there was more reality than he was ready to acknowledge.

  Vin stared at the cage, the horror of it making him weak in the knees, but something drew him toward it. He fought to stay rooted in his spot but his feet moved on their own and he was drawn closer and closer.

A growl shook the walls. Deep. Animalistic. Savage.  He was only inches away from the cage now. The iron door opened slowly on rusty hinges. The clown stepped out towering over him even as a grown man. Its huge mouth hung open, exposing razor sharp fangs that dripped with saliva, hungry for the kill. The stench of death filled the air. Vin tried to move, but he was cemented in place.  The clown reached out for him, his hand gnarled, huge, thick fingers tipped with long ugly claws that could tear a man in half with one swipe. The knurled hand swiped at him and he tried to bat it away, but it was as hard as steel. Pain lanced through his arm to the sound of bone snapping. He staggered backwards, slamming into the bars of the cage, his arm hanging uselessly at his side.  Behind him to the left was the exit.  The green Exit sign still blinked dimly above the door.  The last time the door had been locked from the outside, he was a prisoner all night.

“What do you want?” Vin gasped, trying to keep the terror from his voice.

A smile played at the clown’s mouth, baring his ugly teeth more.  “I knew you would return someday,” he growled, saliva dripping from his fangs. “They all do.”

Vin’s breath caught in his throat…stunned.  The clown remembered him?  It took a step closer, its eyes nothing but hollow black holes.  What was this thing?  J.D. had said the mask wasn’t a mask at all, but real flesh and bone. He felt the bars of the cell digging into his back.  He was trapped.  “Ezra!” he screamed, knowing that the undercover agent would be listening.  The clown lunged forward, its massive hands gripping his shoulders like steel vices and flung him to the floor.  He couldn’t fight this thing, whatever it was.  It stood over him, the stench coming from its vile mouth nearly making Vin wretch. It raised its right arm high above its head, and like a pendulum, the arm swept down and across Vin’s chest, its razor sharp claws slashing through his skin, raking across his ribs.  He felt the pain and the hot surge of blood soak his torn shirt. Paralyzed with fear he realized he was going to die, here and now, at the hands of a crazed inhuman clown. As outrageous and impossible as it sounded, it was happening.  He saw the clown raise his arm again through a haze of pain and terror, knowing that the next swipe of the huge hand would mean his death.

Ezra finally reached the end of the tunnel, his chest and arms aching from the constricting walls and plunged forward into the vast cavern. Forcing himself to remain calm, he looked around, the only light coming from the flickering torches on the walls.

Suddenly a dozen more torches came to life around an iron cage and Ezra took a step back in stunned disbelief. Vin lay sprawled on the floor beneath the hideous clown they had been chasing, blood covering the sniper’s chest, his face frozen in horror.

The clown turned his head slowly to face Ezra. “He’s mine.” Came the guttural warning.

“Step away from Vin.” Ezra ordered, knowing his words were insanely inadequate.

VIN’s chest was on fire with pain from the deep gashes left by the clown’s vicious attack.  Through a haze he heard a familiar voice.  Suddenly he realized it was Ezra. A fleeting moment of hope was destroyed when he realized Ezra couldn’t fight the insurmountable evil that stood above him.

He watched the clown stare at Ezra for a long moment, then raise its face toward the ceiling and he began to laugh.  Vin gasped as he remembered that laugh, so many years ago.  It resonated off the walls, making the torches flicker and nearly die out.  What hell was this clown from?

Outside Chris was trying to force the solid wooden door open. Buck pushed him aside and slammed his boot into the door. A small crack appeared and Buck kept kicking, the crack widening, but not fast enough.

A smell of death and decay drifted out from the interior.

J.D. rushed back to the car and rummaged through the truck until he found the tire iron.

“Here,” he said breathlessly.

Chris nodded and started ripping into the door, opening it enough for his team to squeeze in. He’d been in his share of fright houses both as a kid then with Adam, but he had never felt the vile evilness that hung in the air like this.

The hallway suddenly started squeezing in on him and he felt Buck pushing against his back needing to escape the feeling of being trapped.

He burst through the end of the tunnel into a vast cavern, the rest of the team stumbling out behind him. No one could speak, horrified by the site before them.

Vin heard the commotion and looked past Ezra at the stunned faces of the rest of his team. Dear God, had he led them all to this ungodly place?

The clown turned slowly looking toward the new invaders showing his razor sharp teeth then he reached down and grabbed Vin’s tattered shirt lifting him off the ground as if he weighed ten pounds.  The door at the back of the cage opened slowly on rusty hinges.  Cold, foul smelling air poured from it.  Vin grabbed one of the steel bars and held on with his good hand.  The clown simply jerked him back and Vin’s grip was wrenched from the bar.  The clown was going to drag him through that door into the depths of whatever hell awaited him.

Ezra saw the clown reach down and grab Vin like a rag doll.  Rage overcame him and he started running toward the cage knowing there was very little he could do, but knowing he could not stand there and do nothing.

The clown stepped into the cage dragging Vin with him.  A groan of disbelief came from J.D.

Chris pulled his gun and fired point blank at the clown's head. Nothing happened. The others started firing with the same results.

Chris looked around frantically for any kind of weapon.

Rusty chains and hooks hung from the wall, covered in webs. Nathan saw what Chris was looking at and nodded imperceptibly. Suddenly the medic screamed hysterically running toward the opposite wall.

The clown looked at Nathan with a satisfied sneer.

Josiah looked at the clown and knew the evil within this cavern was testing his fate. If he believed the clown could kill Vin, then he had to believe it was real. As if the clown read his mind he glanced toward Josiah gloating.

Chris grabbed a grappling hook with a heavy length of iron chain attached. The team had worked together long enough to see when a plan was forming. Josiah and J.D. ran over to help Chris with the heavy chain.

If Vin was drawn into that door he knew he would never see his friends again. Chris swung the grappling hook over his head and threw it. The clown screamed in agony and rage as the hook penetrated his back. The torches flared up, licking at the ceiling.  Chris, Josiah and Buck began reeling the hook back, dragging the clown and Vin out of the cage.  The clown grabbed onto the bar with his free hand and the cage shuddered under the strength of the clown’s grip.

Ezra crawled toward Vin grabbing his leg. He felt the clown regain his strength pulling Chris and the team toward him.

Josiah’s voice suddenly filled the cavern: “I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every specter from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God.”

Vin felt the Clown’s grip on his arm shutter and Ezra pulled him free.

Josiah continued his prayer, the torches sputtering under the biblical assault. The rock walls began grumbling around them, the ceiling collapsing

Nathan and Chris grabbed Vin’s arms knowing how badly the young sharpshooter was injured but knowing this was Vin’s only chance.

The clown growled in fury.

J.D. helped Ezra to his feet and they ran after Vin. The injured sharpshooter was slowing them down and Buck slung him over his shoulder trying to ignore the gasp of pain from Vin.

They reached the hallway and found the walls pressing together.

“Shit!” Chris yelled. Josiah continued to pray.

Ezra looked back to see the clown, his mouth gaping open in a hideous smile before it started lumbered toward them.  There was death in the black empty eyes.

Chris frantically tried to pry the hallway walls apart enough for them to squeeze through. They wouldn't budge.

A cry of pure rage rattled the crumbling walls. The clown leaped over J.D. and Ezra and grabbed Vin from Buck’s arms. It wrapped its huge arms around Vin’s chest until he couldn’t breathe.

Nathan heard Vin’s plea for help. He knew the talons of the clown had raked deep, possibly causing severe internal damage.

Chris tried to jump on the Clown’s back but he was flung away as if he were a child. Buck grabbed the chain with the grappling hook still embedded in his back. Josiah and Nathan grabbed onto the chain adding their strength. Josiah began his prayer again and the Clown seemed to falter.

Chris ran around and snatched an unconscious Vin out of the clown’s arms. Buck and Nathan began chanting along with Josiah: "I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every specter from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God.”

The roof continued to fall, large slabs of rock raining down on them.

The clown screamed in fury piercing their eardrums. “Vin Tanner, I will return! Never forget…you are mine!”

“No,” Vin moaned as he heard the cries of his friends fading under the crumbling cavern. “No.”

“Vin…Vin, can you hear me?” That was Nathan.

“Come on, Son, we have been waiting long enough.” Josiah…

“Yes, Mr. Tanner, I concur. It is time you awoke from your slumber.” Ezra…

“Come on Junior, this isn’t what we planned for our Halloween party." Buck.

“Sorry, Vin, we didn’t know you didn’t like clowns.” J.D.

He waited for Chris to join the chorus.

Where was Chris?

“Chris…” he whispered.

“He’s right over there,” Nate said. “Open your eyes and you'll see him.”

“Hey, Cowboy, it’s about time you woke up.” Chris’ voice sounded strained.

“What happened…?” Vin struggled to open his eyes. As his body awakened he felt the intense pain in his chest and right arm. What the hell had happened? The clown! Memories of his childhood were so vivid it could have happened yesterday instead of twenty years.

“Mr. Tanner…” a soft hand stroked his forehead. “Do you need more pain medication?” The nurse asked.

Vin forced his eyes open and saw his friends surrounding his bed. Everyone but Chris. Buck and J.D. parted and he saw Chris lying in a hospital bed. “What happened?” he asked again.

“Someone crashed the party wearing a clown suit. He was an ugly son of a bitch. You really lost it. For some reason it started attacking you with a knife, yelling ‘Never forget, you are mine.’”

Vin moaned, “No…”

“Chris got cut trying to drag him off you.” Josiah explained.

“It’s just a scratch,” Chris growled. “Don’t need to be here.”

Vin closed his eyes. Would he ever be rid of the specter of that clown?

Buck chuckled, “Can’t blame you for not liking clowns, especially that one. He had one hell of a mask. It looked so real.”

Vin nodded. He had escaped twice now. He would be ready in another twenty years.

The End… Or is it???

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