A short and sweet Halloween Tale.
This story was also a challenge entry in October 2009.
Mid-Day – October 31
The Winchester Estate
San Jose, California
“SE’ – ance, Kid.” Hannibal Heyes pronounced each syllable distinctly. “It’s a ceremony where the participants sit around a table by candlelight, holding hands, in hopes of conjuring an apparition.”
“By apparition, you mean ghost.” Kid Curry’s response was a statement, not a question.
Feeling the need to expound on Curry’s unanticipated knowledge, Heyes continued. “Could be a ghost, or maybe a vision, or some other type of paranormal experience.”
“Don’t sound like no kinda normal experience to me.”
Heyes choose to ignore the retort. “The seance is conducted by a medium.”
“A medium?” The Kid raised a questioning eyebrow toward his dark-haired counterpart.
Heyes nodded. “Mrs. Winchester. She’s a medium.”
“She ain’t no medium. You taken a good look at her? That woman’s definitely a small.” The Kid chuckled at his own joke, which came at the expense of his vertically challenged employer. Turning back to his work, he pounded another nail in a staircase to nowhere.
Undeterred by Curry’s attempt at humor, Heyes pressed on. “Look, Mrs. Winchester wants both of us to join her tonight for a Halloween seance and I’m thinking we should do what we can to placate her, Kid. She’s already suspicious. You’ve seen the way she looks at us!”
“YOU, Heyes. Mrs. Winchester looks suspicious at YOU. I think she kinda likes me.”
It was true. Since their first day of employment at the Winchester Estate, Sarah Winchester had taken an almost motherly interest in “Thaddeus Jones.” “Just right!” she had declared on meeting him, patting his cheek. Turning to “Joshua Smith,” she simply shook her head and mumbled, “Not quite.”
“I still think it’s in our best interest to oblige her.”
“You can do what you want, Heyes. I already got plans for Halloween, which DO include hopes of conjurin’ somethin’ by candlelight and handholdin’…but not with Mrs. Winchester, or you either. Sorry, partner.”
“Candy?” Heyes confirmed, placing a final board in the pointless staircase.
“Nothin’ wrong with a little ‘Candy’ on Halloween.” Curry smirked, pleased at his own wit.
“Mmm!” Heyes shook his head for emphasis. “Can’t say as I blame you, Kid. That Candy Dulcet is one fine-looking woman!”
“And sweet, Heyes. Real sweet!”
“Mr. Smith, Thaddeus Jones, I trust you will be joining me tonight?” Mrs. Winchester called, as she made her way toward her waiting buggy.
“Thaddeus here was just telling me how he will need to respectfully decline, due to a previous engagement. But I’d be more than happy to join you in your seance, ma’am.”
Mrs. Winchester glanced in Curry’s direction, her eyes dropping in disappointment, then, sweeping over Heyes. “I guess your presence will have to be sufficient, Mr. Smith.” She accentuated the surname, taking in the Smith and Wesson Schofield strapped to Heyes’ thigh. “But Mr. Wesson,” she pointed toward the weapon, “is not welcome. The contacting of spirits requires an atmosphere of loving acceptance. NOT of violence.”
“Not a problem, Mrs. Winchester. I will join you tonight, unarmed.”
Curry moved close behind his partner as Mrs. Winchester’s buggy disappeared around a bend. “Heyes, I’m startin’ to get a bad feelin’.”
After dark – October 31
“I am so glad you changed your mind, Thaddeus Jones. Three participants in a seance will be so much more productive than two.” The flame of the single candle she held flickered, lending an eerie glow to the already spooky gathering.
“What should we do first?” Heyes asked, as a panel slid shut, closing them into a windowless and, seemingly, doorless inner room.
“First we sit.” The three sat and Mrs. Winchester placed her candle at the table’s center. “Now, we join hands.”
Each reforming outlaw took hold of one hand of his employer, then, with a matching set of eye rolls, joined their free hands together.
“Now what?” This was Curry.
“Now we chat.”
“Just like that? With the apparitions?”
“Not with the apparitions, Thaddeus Jones. With each other.” The girlish giggle that accompanied her words was the first emotion either had witnessed from Sarah Winchester. “We get to know one another. To feel more comfortable.”
“I’m all for feelin’ more comfortable.” The Kid pulled his hand away from Heyes, tugging at his belt, mindful of the Colt tucked uncomfortably in the backside of his Levis. Having no intention of leaving himself and his partner unprotected, the Kid had been insistent. “If I don’t need it, Heyes, she won’t ever know I got it. But if I do need it, and I don’t got it, then we’re gonna be in real trouble.”
“Mrs. Winchester, there’s something I’m curious about. You always address my partner by his full name, Thaddeus Jones. Is there some particular reason?” Heyes reached for Curry’s hand again as he spoke.
“There is, Mr. Smith. His name has thirteen letters. A perfect, full circle of thirteen. I don’t suppose it is any secret that my favorite number is thirteen. If feel it is a sign. A sign of trustworthiness and kinship.”
“And you don’t feel you can trust me?”
Mrs. Winchester gave a heavy sigh. “I must confess, Mr. Smith. It is the reason I wanted you present for this seance tonight. Initially, I felt you were also a perfect, full circle soul, a kindred spirit so to speak, like Thaddeus Jones and myself. Yet the number of your name does not add up. Joshua Smith. Not quite.”
The wanted outlaws exchanged a wary glance.
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Mrs. Winchester.” The note of apprehension in Heyes’ voice could only be detected by Curry.
“I’m getting at the truth, Mr. Smith. If you won’t tell me your real name, perhaps the spirits will!”
Mrs. Winchester took a deep breath. “Shall we begin?” She closed her eyes.
Curry closed one eye, keeping watch over his partner with the other. Heyes joined his boss, exhaling deeply and dutifully closing both eyes. With Kid Curry watching his back, what could happen?
Almost Midnight – October 31
“It’s not the first time that gun of yours cost us jobs, Kid.” Heyes wiped foam from his upper lip and placed his mug of beer back on the bar.
“This wasn’t my fault, Heyes. Besides, may I remind you, it was YOU wanted me at that dang seance in the first place!”
“Not with a Colt shoved in your pants!”
“Well, I wasn’t goin’ in there without it! And how was I suppos’ta know there was somethin’ to all that apparition mumbo-jumbo? How’d she know all that stuff she knew about you anyways?”
“It was a coincidence, Kid.”
“A coincidence? You’re tellin’ me she guessed your initials are H. H. an’ ya got thirteen letters in your name?!”
Curry’s tirade was met with a cautioning glare from the owner of the so-numbered name. “That’s exactly what it was, Kid. A lucky guess!”
Dangerously ignoring the signs of warning, Curry forged ahead, with his nose inches from his partner’s. “Then how come we quit? How come we’re leavin’ San Jose?”
An accusatory finger made its presence known with repeated poking gestures against Curry’s chest. “‘Cause when Mrs. Winchester’s cat jumped up on that table and YOU pulled out that Colt, quick as only YOU can, THAT’S when Mrs. Winchester put thirteen and thirteen together and came up with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!”
With a final glance at the offending finger, a smile tugged at the corner of Curry’s mouth. “Guess I must’a looked pretty silly, huh?”
Unable to resist, Heyes nodded, then chuckled, and soon, he and Curry shared a hearty laugh.
“Guess I must’a scared Mr. Whiskers pretty good too.”
“Scared more’n one life outta that cat, but no more’n he scared you, I suspect.”
Curry’s expression sobered. “You don’t think Mrs. Winchester’ll go to the sheriff, do ya?”
Heyes shook his head. “She don’t need the money, that’s for sure. And besides, she looks on both of us as kindred spirits now.”
“How do you figure, Heyes? She knows now my name ain’t Thaddeus Jones and apparently, she always knew yours wasn’t Joshua Smith.”
“True enough, Kid. But my name IS Hannibal Heyes, with thirteen letters. And your name IS Jedediah Curry, also thirteen letters.” His boastful grin turned into a full, dimpled smile and he lifted the mug again to his lips.
From the top of the stairs, an enticing pair of green eyes beckoned to Curry. Candy Dulcet winked his direction and mouthed the words, “Trick or Treat!” before blowing a kiss.
Curry finished off his beer in one gulp. “So you think this kindred spirit thing will buy us enough time we don’t hafta leave town ’til mornin’?”
“It’s a sure bet, Kid.”
The blond, thirteen-lettered outlaw slapped his partner’s back and took the stairs two at a time, calling over his shoulder, “See ya in the mornin’!”
The widow, Sarah Winchester, who held a major portion of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune, was only four feet, ten inches tall. She believed spirits of the people killed by Winchester Rifles were angry with her. To appease them, she conducted seances, and ordered odd construction on her massive estate in San Jose, California, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, following the guidance she received through these seances. One such oddity is the ‘staircase to nowhere’. She also had a fascination with the number thirteen.
Although ‘Trick or Treating’ and candy at Halloween were not part of the All Hallows festivities of the mid-1880’s, for the sake of this fanfic, the author has thrown historical accuracy to the wind.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
All historical people and places are used fictitiously.