Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

There's A Devil in the Dark, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 10

They had slept for four hours, and were still tired. But the sun rising had awakened them, filling their borrowed beds with welcome yellow light, and somehow no one wanted to still be asleep just now. They were too keyed up, too restless for good sleep. There were things to do, places to go. Like home!

The meeting with Costel in the middle-of-the-night darkness has been quick and unceremonial. The professor had pulled the Sasquatch aside the moment the front door of the big chateau had opened at their knock, had a brief, intense conversation with him, and then the boys and Horace were being ushered into the house and given places to sleep. Only after they were up again and had had something to eat had they settled down to talk, with Charlie and his group taking turns with the professor in telling their story.

"I still don't believe it!" Costel said, for about the seventh time, looking around at the faces of the group seated in his spacious living room. The room was exactly what Charlie would have expected from a busy, inquisitive academic. Books, papers, files, and a collection of storage media for the desktop computer warred for dominance of the room with artwork, statuary, and antique pieces of every sort. It might have looked cluttered were it not for the subtle sense of organization detectable among the masses. The room looked comfortable, lived in, and thoroughly engaging for someone who wanted to do more than just sit and admire the mountain view outside the large, multi-paned windows.

Costel was obviously a thinker, and someone who wanted to learn - both endearing qualities to someone like Charlie Boone.

The big Sasquatch also came across as being as kind and decent as he did hairy. The boys liked him immediately, and the elves gave them all the subtle signs that Costel was good people.

"I had something of the same reaction," Professor Dithering admitted, nodding. "After I got over my initial shock at just finding them standing there at my hometown Halloween gala."

Costel laughed, a deep, thunderous sound reminiscent of a small avalanche of boulders down a very steep hill. "I can imagine."

"I like your name," Kippy said to the Sasquatch. "It sounds intriguing and dreamy."

The big man laughed again. "It is the diminutive of Constantin, actually. But all my friends call me Costel."

"Then we will, too," Kippy answered, smiling.

Charlie glanced over at Ricky, and both boys tried not to smile. When Kip liked someone, he let it be known very clearly. Just as clearly as he did if he did not like someone!

Adrian's eyes smiled at Kip, but he manged to keep it from appearing on his lips. "It's beautiful here. What a wonderful place to live."

"I like it," Costel agreed. "There is much history here, and the mountains have many stories to tell."

Professor Dithering sought out Keerby then. "How is it coming along?"

The elf looked tired, but pleased. He was the only one not to get any sleep the previous night. "Almost there."

The werewolf and the Sasquatch both leaned forward in their seats. "A way back to your own world," Costel said, sounding fascinated. "This is surely a better route to take then risking the reintegrator. So far, we have no idea where your people go when they step inside, as none have returned to inform us."

"You don't think it just kills them, do you?" Adrian asked.

Both of their hosts looked horrified. "No," Costel replied immediately. "The mathematics are very clear. The doorway that is opened is to a neighboring timeline from this one. Instruments may be poked through the warp and measurements taken. The world on the other side is habitable. Cameras pushed into the opening just enough to see show a world similar to this one. But nothing that goes through completely is able to return. So no investigative instruments have been able to peer much beyond the other side of the door."

"What about a cable?" Charlie asked. "A camera, or some sort of rover, that can go look, and stay attached to this world by a cable?"

"No." Dithering shook his head. "There is a limit. After going not even the height of a single tall man through the doorway, the cable parts. It has to do with the mass of the object pushed through the doorway. Once more mass is on the other side than here, the connection is cut. Living things going through must do so very quickly, to keep from being damaged."

Ricky raised one eyebrow at that. "Sounds dangerous." He turned to smile at Keerby. "I vote we go your way."

The boys laughed at that.

"Let me ask you this," the professor said, his eyes going from Charlie over to Keerby. "If you successfully return home from our it possible you may someday come back?"

Keerby looked up at that. "Oh, certainly. Once I know the way, we could come any time!"

Both of their hosts looked pleased at that. "This is wonderful!" the professor said. "The first possibility that there may be real and lasting communication between our species!"

Costel smiled. "Do my people exist on your world?"

"Depends on who you ask," Ricky said. "There's a lot of people that believe in the Sasquatch."

"And who believe in werewolves, vampires, and ghosts," Charlie added. "So I would say that your people, in our world, exist in the same state as our people do in yours."

Costel looked startled by that. " are real!"

Charlie smiled. "Exactly. So what does that tell you?"

Costel looked over at the professor, and suddenly both men smiled. "I think I see," Costel said then. That was followed by another resounding laugh, and his eyes looked happy indeed. "This has been a wonderful meeting for me!"

"It's not over yet," Charlie replied. He turned to Keerby. "How long do you think?"

"Less than an hour. I'm almost done."

Adrian sighed, and sat back on the sofa. "Then all we have to do is relax and wait."

They heard a chiming sound then, and Costel blinked and gave a shake of his head. "Oh! That's my ring!"

He dug into the harness he was wearing, and produced a cellphone. "Costel here."

Kippy leaned up against Charlie and sighed. "I can't wait to sleep with you tonight," he whispered.

Charlie smiled at that. "We may be too tired for lovemaking, Kip."

"Who said anything about that? I'll be happy just to sleep with you!"

Charlie laughed, and they exchanged a quick kiss.

"This is terrible!" Costel suddenly said, pushing his phone back into his harness.

"What happened?" Professor Dithering asked, sitting up straight.

The Sasquatch looked truly alarmed. "That was my brother-in-law in town." He fastened his eyes on the humans. "He works for the police force there. He said they have been informed that the military is on the way to the area, because humans have been detected here!"

"What?" The professor jumped to his feet. "How could they know?"

"There is a group of ghosts visiting Babeș-Bolyai University. One is a sensitive. She has detected our friends, and the military is looking for them."

"We must run!" the professor said, turning to the boys. "Quickly!"

"Wait!" the Sasquatch held up a hand. "They do not know where you are, only the general direction from the university. My brother-in-law has no idea they will be coming here. He just wanted to warn me that humans might have arrived, and that I should stay indoors!"

Keerby also stood up. "I don't need much more time. Is there any way we can hold them off?"

"We don't even want to do that," Charlie said. He indicated the two scientists. "What about our friends after we are gone? We can't just stay here and let the authorities come. The professor and Costel will be arrested!"

"We should leave before they get here," Dithering insisted. "If we stay ahead of them, they will not know we are involved."

"I don't believe they were close enough to your vehicle back at Kinniston to properly identify it," Frit said. "The moment we were airborne, the surrounding field would have distorted any view. So they may know it was a vehicle of that type, but there will be no way to trace it to you." He turned to look sadly at Costel. "But if they come here, to your home, there will be no question that they will know you are involved. I suggest we get away from here now, while they are some distance away. And...that you two stay here."

"But...what will happen to you?" the professor asked, his face falling. "We can't just abandon you!"

Pip jumped up. "If you could direct us to a place away from here where we can hide, we can hold them off until Keerby is ready to transport us home."

Costel waved a hand. "I know a place! But--" he shook his head. "You would never find it on your own. I will have to take you there."

"We will have to take them there," the professor insisted. "You're not leaving me behind to wonder."

"But you two are in danger--" Frit began. But suddenly he laughed. "Actually, you can guide us, and then I will simply teleport you back here."

The two scientists stared at each other.

"Teleportation!" The professor repeated, clapping his hand together. "Oh, wonderful!"

"You people are incredible!" Costel followed with. "Is there anything you can't do?"

"Many things," Charlie replied. He shook his head. "This will be dangerous for you. We will need to go now. How far is this place?"

Costel frowned a moment, which gave his face a fairly frightening appearance. "About three kilometers. It will take some time if we have to walk. But I have an off road vehicle that can get us there quickly. About ten minutes or less."

Frit stepped forward. "Take me. Once there, you turn around immediately and come back here. Then only one of you will be taking a risk. I will teleport back and move everyone to your hiding place."

Pip suddenly looked anguished. "You can't go without me!"

Frit moved closer to his boyfriend and smiled. "I'll be fine. You are needed here to defend the others if something happens. Please, my love."

Pip gnawed at his lip, but nodded. "Hurry back!" And then he pulled Frit close, and kissed him.

Costel leaned down to the professor and whispered, but Charlie heard him anyway. "You know, I cannot tell the males from the females in this group!"

The professor nodded, and then shrugged at his friend. Charlie didn't comment, figuring this was no time for a subject like this one.

Frit started for the front door, waving at the Sasquatch. "Let's go!"

The site was an old church, and the shattered remains of a town around it. Costel informed him that the town had been bombed during the Great War, and the damage so obviously complete that the town's residents had not come back to rebuild. The church was made of stone, and while the nave and the apse were simply roofless walls surrounding charred remains, the bell tower had miraculously survived. It was about three stories tall, square, and had windows on all sides on the first two floors, and open sides at the top. The glass was long gone from the windows, and the old bells could still be seen in the tower above.

Costel dropped off Frit and immediately headed back home, so that his vehicle would not be seen if the authorities arrived before Charlie's group was gone. Frit returned to Costel's home and teleported everyone to the bell tower, and then went back to wait until Costel showed up, so that he could bring him along, too. At the last moment before they left for home, Frit would return the two scientists to Costel's chateau, and then rejoin them. That way goodbyes could be said before leaving. Charlie felt that they owed the two men that much. They wanted to see this thing through to the end.

"I'll bet this place is creepy on a dark night," Adrian observed, as they surveyed the ruins below from the bell chamber. He made a fist and rapped his knuckles against one of the bells, returning a faint but audible ding from it. "Ring these on Halloween night, and see who shows up!"

Kippy gave a small cringe at the idea. "If I lived nearby and knew the history of this place, and then heard the bells ringing on Halloween night, my first reaction would not be to come and see who was doing it!"

That brought a small round of laughter.

"There are no legends surrounding this place," Costel informed them. "The bells have not rung since the town was destroyed, and that was before I was born. It is a simple ruin, barren of all life."

Kippy sighed, but smiled at the man. "You sure know how to mess up a good ghost story!"

The scientist looked baffled by that. "What do ghosts have to do with it? As far as I know, none have ever visited this town!"

"Never mind," Charlie said, giving his boyfriend a warning look. "Different circumstances between our worlds, is all."

"Oh," Kippy said then, and nodded. "Oops."

The room at the top of the tower was fairly large. The floor was built of wood, and covered with boards of impressive thickness.The old staircase that rose within the boundaries of the tower walls and provided access to the bells was equally stout, and showed no signs of deterioration. The openings in each of the four stone walls were tall, and arched at the top. They could see some distance in every direction, as the church stood on the highest ground within the town.

Frit and Pip had taken up the watch while Keerby finalized their escape plans. So far, they had not sensed anything happening in their vicinity.

Professor Dithering had seated himself atop a wooden chest that still held tools once used for the bell tower maintenance. He looked a little withdrawn, and when Charlie noticed, he went over to speak to the man.

"Everything okay?"

The werewolf smiled. "Well...I will miss you when you go. This has been the most exciting experience of my life."

"It's been a little wild for us, too," Charlie agreed. "We're just worried that something might happen to either of you after we're gone."

"I don't think so," the other countered. "There are many models like my bus home on the roads. As long as Pip is correct and no one got the tag number, it will never be traced back to me. My practice when I go on vacation is not to say where I am off to. That leaves colleagues who might wish to occupy my time with problems while I am gone less inclined to bother me." He smiled. "The life of an academic, you know. Always something crazy!"

Charlie smiled at that. "And Costel? We are only a few kilometers from his home."

Dithering waved a furry hand in dismissal. "That is as good as if it were hundreds of kilometers, Charlie. Costel has no direct ties to humans, any more than I do. Our field of study encompasses many things. No one will make any connection to him. Plus, his brother in law will vouch for him, that he was at home the whole time."

Charlie relaxed a little. "Frit could teleport you and your motor home back to Kinniston before we go," Charlie suggested. "It would only take a brief moment. That would give you a better alibi than anything."

The werewolf's eyes grew large. "He could teleport my vehicle, too?"

"I think so. His powers have grown a lot in the last year or so." Charlie smiled. "We're all growing up."

The professor gave a very human sigh. "I hope you'll come back someday."

"I think that might be arranged."

Kippy came over to join them. "Pip said there is a plane flying over, very high. He thinks they are looking."

The professor sighed again. "It is starting. A reconnaissance would be the first order of business. The ghost had the direction to start with. Now they will fly her in a line above that direction, until she detects you below."

Pip came over then. "That plane is circling above us."

Costel came over to join them too. "They have you pinpointed. Now they will come."

"How, do you think?" the professor asked.

The Sasquatch shrugged. "Well...if it was me, I'd send in helicopters bearing soldiers, and land them nearby. I would supplement that with trucks full of troops, but they will take longer to arrive." He nodded. "Helicopters first."

"How long?" Charlie asked.

"Well...if they come from Cluj, about ten minutes."

"I'll be just about done by then," Keerby said. The elf looked exhausted, and Charlie was worried about him.

"You'll be okay to get us out of here, right?"

Keerby smiled at him. "Yes. I'll need a nap at some point, but I'm fine."

Charlie looked around the tower, and shook his head. "We're really exposed here. I think we should go down one floor and watch out the windows."

"I agree," Costel said. They all got up and hastened down the stairs to the second floor of the tower. The walls would be proof against small arms fire, but anything big would trash the place in short order.

"Pip, can you shield the tower like you did the motor home?" Charlie asked.

"Sure. I'll do that now, but leave it invisible so we can see out."

That made Charlie relax a little.

The second floor of the tower had once held furniture, and some sort of storage. There was enough stuff still there for everyone to find something to sit on, though the dust and dirt had to be carefully swept away first.

"Can't say much for the housekeeping here," Horace said, trying to lighten the mood.

Charlie smiled at that man. "Having fun?"

"Actually, I am. These little adventures of yours are always fascinating, Charlie. I wouldn't have missed this one for the world."

"Our world, or this one?" Kippy asked, grinning.

The ghost hunter laughed. "Either one. I never fail to be enthralled by what our universe has to offer."

"Good way to be," Ricky put in, with a laugh. "Because anything can happen when we go for a walk!"

"You know, I was thinking," Costel suddenly said, looking surprised at himself. "With your powers, if your people sent an army here, we probably couldn't stop you."

Professor Dithering looked astounded. "Cos! These are our friends!"

The Sasquatch looked embarrassed then. "Oh, I wasn't suggesting that these fellows would do that." He shook his head. "But with such army so equipped would be unstoppable!"

Charlie shook his head. "Well, first of all, most humans have no powers at all. The ones that have arrived here have had minimal powers, and they have crossed swords with some elemental being and lost the battle. We are not the average back home, by any means. So you never have to be worried about invading armies. There aren't enough of us with powers to make even one army, let alone many."

The two scientists stared at each other. "What a novel idea!" Professor Dithering said then. "We always thought all humans had strange powers. It's why they are feared so much here." He shook his head at Charlie. "So you're saying that most humans are no different"

"That's right" Kippy agreed. "Just people."

"Helicopters on the horizon," Pip said then. "Keerby?"

"A few more minutes," the other elf said. "A small glitch, but I think I've got it figured out."

They got up and went to the windows, and looked out. They could see but not yet hear the strange looking helicopters moving along every horizon towards them. Charlie counted five on his side alone.

"Looks like they mean business." He turned to the professor. "I thought this place was a sort of a backwater?"

The werewolf looked pained. "The planetary defense is an international effort. But I'm still surprised at the speed of the response here. What a time for ghosts to be visiting the university!"

Costel nodded. "Without that having happened, they would never have detected you here."

Charlie sighed. "Too late to worry about that now." He turned to Pip. "We're protected?"

"Yes, Charlie. I'm sensing some pretty powerful explosives on those machines. Missiles, and shells. These are, um, gunships, I think they're called."

"Great. You can hold them off?"

"Yes. But I'll need to concentrate. Maintaining any magic over time is harder than just doing something quickly."

Kippy sighed. "We know."

Professor Dithering came closer to Charlie. "If this sensitive is any good, she will have been very put off by the power she detects among you. They will be careful about approaching you."

Charlie frowned. "Can she detect the shielding Pip has placed around the tower?"

"Well...I would say 'yes'. Sensitives can detect any propagation of this form of energy."

"Okay. "Charlie smiled at the man. "Thanks."

The professor put out a hand and patted Charlie's shoulder. "I want to see all of you escape to safety. I have always thought that hunting down human visitors to our world was wrong. But now, I especially think it would be wrong to capture all of you."

"That's not going to happen," Kippy reassured. He leaned gently against Charlie's shoulder. "Adrian and I can help."

Charlie turned to face his boyfriend. "How?"

"Well, Pip is going to be busy shielding us. Keerby is busy getting things ready for our escape. Frit will need to be able to teleport the professor and Costel out of here before we leave. Adrian and I are the only ones left that have anything that could be used to defend us."

Charlie smiled then. "Oh, yeah. I forgot!"

"So we'll be ready," Kippy said. He looked over at Adrian. "Right?"


The helicopters began to land in a circle about a half-mile from the devastated town and the church tower. As soon as they touched down, the tiny figures of soldiers erupted forth form their sides and quickly found places to hide among the brush-covered landscape. It was hard to be certain at this distance, but Charlie thought there were eight or ten soldiers in each chopper. He also couldn't be certain at this distance, but he suspected that all of the troops he had seen so far were vampires.

He suddenly remembered the two vampires that had stopped to give them a ride to town. Darf and Grim. They had been startling, but had proved to be very friendly, and very human in their responses. People. Charlie had no wish to harm people.

He turned back to his boyfriend. "Whatever you and Adrian do, try not to hurt anyone."

Kippy looked startled. "Oh, Charlie. That little girl with the pigtails back in Kinniston may have called us monsters, but I certainly don't intend to act like one!"

"Me, either," Adrian said, looking adamant. "I don't mind scaring a few of them, but that's as far as I go."

Ricky grinned, and clapped his boyfriend fondly on the back. "That's telling him!"

Charlie rolled his eyes. "Telling who, Rick?"

Ricky frowned. "Well...uh...anyone that wants to hurt people, that's who!"

"No one here wants anyone to get hurt," Horace said firmly. "Relax, all of you."

Charlie sighed, but nodded.

Suddenly, there was a loud squeal outside somewhere, and then a hugely amplified voice rolled across the land.

"You there, in the town! Surrender now, and you will not be harmed! You have one minute to comply!"

Charlie winced at the volume. "That sounded pretty clear."

"They're frightened of you," Costel said then. "Don't take any chances."

Charlie looked over at Keerby. "How long?"

The elf looked frustrated, but determined. "Five minutes. I think."

Charlie knew better than to say or do anything to increase the level of stress the elf was obviously feeling. "Good job. Keep me updated."

Keerby nodded, and closed his eyes.

"Your time is up!" the huge voice called. "Surrender now!"

Charlie turned to Frit. "Can you amplify my voice?"


Charlie grinned. "And make it know? Scary sounding?"

The elf laughed. "Sure. Go ahead."

"Come and get us!" Charlie called. He really didn't want to throw fuel on the fire, but just ignoring the demands of their besiegers seemed a guarantee that they would act sooner than later. Maybe if they knew they had to go hard, they would stop to plan out their attack.

Charlie's voice was not made louder inside the tower, but it rolled out among the hills at twice the volume of the first voice, a cross between a shriek of rage and the growling snarl of some large, cornered animal. The bells on the floor above them rattled and rang in response to the sheer power of the sound waves, and everyone in the room ducked instinctively.

"Holy crap!" Charlie breathed, and then grinned at Frit. "That must have given them something to think about!"

Apparently, it had. One of the choppers loosed a single missile, which tore across the landscape and impacted against Pip's shielding. That shielding apparently deflected just about everything. All they heard was a soft pop, like a soap bubble breaking, while flames and torn up landscape shot backwards away from the tower.

Charlie turned to Pip. "You okay?"

"Yes. If they all start shooting at once, it may get a little hairy, though."

Keerby looked up then. "Almost ready, Charlie."

Charlie nodded, and turned to Professor Dithering. "Time for Frit to take you two to safety."

The werewolf looked torn. "I hate to go without knowing you are safe!"

Costel nodded. "How will we know?"

Charlie smiled at the two. "When we leave, the screen protecting this tower will be gone. Those choppers will probably tear the place to pieces. In the end, they'll think they got every one of us." He nodded. "But as long as we are here, the tower will stand."

Costel nodded. "I can just see the tower with my binoculars from the upper floor of my home. We will watch from there."

"Not both of you," Frit announced, shaking his head. "Professor, I need to take you and your truck back to Kinniston."

The professor looked anguished. " will I know what happens?"

Frit patted the man affectionately. "Easy. Call Costel on your cell, and he will let you know how things turn out."

The werewolf looked surprised, and then resigned. "I guess it is for the best."

The boys each took turns hugging their new friends. "We'll be back to see you, someday," Charlie promised.

Professor Dithering nodded, looking touched. "I will never view the universe in the same way, Charlie."

Charlie smiled. "Neither will we."

"Good luck to you all," Costel called. "I'll be watching!"

Frit moved between the two men and put a hand on each one, smiled at Charlie...and then they were gone.

Kippy sighed, wrapped an arm around Charlie's, and hugged him. "I'll miss those two."

"More missiles!" Pip yelled then. "Hold on tight!"

Everyone dropped to their haunches and covered their heads. But all that happened was that several dozen soap bubbles burst all around the tower, while tremendous fireballs and waves of dust and debris wafted back at their besiegers.

Pip groaned. "That one gave me a headache!"

Charlie stood up again. "If they think they can just shoot at us with no response, it might make them brave enough to rush us. Someone out there is bound to get hurt. He went to the window and looked out. "Maybe some deterrent is in order. I can't really see if anyone is in those choppers...but let's assume the pilots still are." He turned to his boyfriend. "Come here, Kip."

Kippy moved to stand beside him, and peered out the window with Charlie. "That chopper...the one there? Can you pick it up, shake it a little, and then put it down forcefully enough to scare anyone still inside?'

"I can try." He turned to Adrian. "Come here and give me a little extra juice."

Adrian came to stand beside Kippy, and put a hand on his shoulder and closed his eyes. Kippy turned to look out the window, and Charlie watched.

The far off helicopter suddenly bounced into the air above the field as if kicked there by an angry giant. It spun quickly about its axis, turned on its side, and flopped around in a large circle in the air before righting itself and crashing back to the ground on its landing gear. Which promptly buckled and allowed the chopper to hit the ground with a metallic rending noise they could hear even in the tower. A huge cloud of dust erupted skyward, and immediately blew away on the breeze.

Two things happened simultaneously. The side doors of the chopper opened, and a man scrambled out of each side and ran for his life. And the brush around the chopper erupted as soldiers in hiding leaped to their feet and all ran away from the stricken aircraft.

Charlie laughed. "I think that did it." He turned quickly to Adrian. "Now, take your electrical points, and send one to the far side of the chopper. Pip? Can we send something out through your shield"

"Yes, Charlie. It only keeps things out, not in."

"Great! Adrian? Got that point on the other side of the chopper yet?"

"Just there now, Charlie."

"Good." He turned and took his boyfriend's hand and plopped it onto Adrian's shoulder. "Help power him, Kip."

Charlie squinted at the distant chopper again, and felt certain that no one was anywhere near it. "Okay, Adrian. Connect your points with electricity, and crank up the voltage!"

A second elapsed, and then a bolt of blue-white lightning as thick as Charlie's arm flashed between Adrian's power points, catching the helicopter in between. It simply exploded with a roar and an incredible flash of light, and such was the force of the detonation that he could see small pieces of the former aircraft bouncing off Pip's shield and falling to the ground.

There was a moment of total silence after that; and then, without warning, every helicopter left fired off everything it had. The soldiers hiding all over the countryside also fired, and tracers and streaks of light shot towards the tower.

"I think you made them mad, Charlie!" Kippy said, ducking.

Frit reappeared at that moment, and immediately ducked, too. "All done, Charlie! I got the professor and his motor home back to Kinniston, and Costel is back at his house."

"And I am finally ready!" Keerby said, standing up. The elf looked haggard, but triumphant.

"Good, because this hurts!" Pip squealed, wincing as he fended off the attack from outside.

"Everybody come stand around me!" Keerby ordered.

Frit ran to help Pip, who was so busy concentrating on their defense that he couldn't open his eyes. Frit guided his boyfriend to the group and then put a protective arm around Pip' shoulders. "Ready!"

Keerby closed his eyes.

Charlie, his own arm around Kippy, saw a ripple run through the stone wall, as if it was made of water. And then another.

Suddenly, the noise of the battle reached their ears for the briefest of seconds, and the floor trembled beneath their feet...and then they were gone.

Three kilometers distant from the church tower, Costel watched through his binoculars. "Something just blew up," he said into his phone, blinking through the binoculars at the huge fireball. "I think it was one of the helicopters."

Forty-five hundred miles away, Professor Dithering grunted. "I hope no one was killed."

"No. First the helicopter left the ground and spun around a few times, and then it crashed back into the ground. I saw the flight crew bail out and run. So did all the soldiers nearby."

A satisfied sound came from the phone. "Our friends, showing they can bite back, and be merciful at the same time."

A thunderous roar came to Costel's ears then, and he saw the tower bathed in the light of a furious round of explosions. "The army is shooting back!"

"Are they getting through?" Dithering asked, sounding breathless.

"" Costel let out a laugh. "The tower is ignoring their weapons as if they were just another spring rain."

"Why aren't the boys leaving?" Dithering asked, now sounding worried.

But then as if by magic, the intense fire aimed at the tower suddenly stopped bouncing off with no effect. The tower immediately erupted in flame, and was literally torn to pieces before the eyes of the Sasquatch.

"It's gone!" he yelled. "The tower is gone!"

In seconds, the noise of the battle ended. There was simply nothing left to shoot at.

Costel shook his head at the destruction of the old landmark, but a sense of satisfaction filled him then. "They got away, Pilfer. I know they did. The shield around the tower simply vanished. They left, and the protection went with them."

"You think so? I can't stand the idea of those boys being killed."

"No. I am sure they got away. But there will be an investigation, and I'll see what my brother-in-law can learn. It's not every day that humans invade our countryside!"

A soft laugh came over the phone. "I think you're right, Costel. They did get away. I feel it in my bones, I think."

Both men sighed then.

"Pilfer?" the Sasquatch said then. "I have two weeks of vacation coming up next month. How about I come to see you?"

"I would love that, Costel. We can compare notes...and observations."

"Yes. Our visitors have left me with much to think about, too. I would love to share my ideas with you and see what you think."

"As would I. Well, I guess this is done for now. I'll call you back when I get home, okay?"

"Sure. Any idea when that will be?"

The laugh that came over the phone sounded relaxed now. "A couple of days, I would imagine. I came home to Kinniston to enjoy the Halloween gala. I intend to do that now."

Costel smiled, imagining his friend roaming about surrounded by costumed townies. The ones wearing human costumes would stand out now, would mean something more than they ever had before. He knew now that the fright was in the image, in the stories, and not the reality. Not in the humans themselves. Fear was always mostly in the imagination, after all. In the things you didn't really know face to face. Once you got to know the devils you feared, they tended to lose their power to scare.

In fact...there would be a Halloween festival happening in the local town this very night. Costel never attended such things, but this year, he thought he would. He relayed his plans to Pilfer, and both men laughed about it.

"Have fun," the professor said knowingly. "And try to pretend that you're scared!"

Charlie blinked as they returned to a familiar place. They were out in the entrance foyer of Carl Wolfbridge's house, just outside the door of his den, which was closed. But as the world around them firmed, he could hear voices within the room.

"I didn't know he would do that, mom! I just told Pyewacket that we needed to do something about the visitors, because you were worried about them. I never dreamed he would send them away!" The voice was male, sounded fairly young, and scared.

Charlie immediately turned to Pip. "You sense Pyewacket nearby?" he whispered.

"No, Charlie. I mean, he's still here in the town, but he is not still surrounding the house."

Charlie took a moment to smile at Keerby, and mouth a silent thank you. The elf smiled, but looked exhausted. Kip and Adrian took note of that, and moved to stand on either side of the elf to prop him up if the need arose.

Another voice within the den spoke up, and Charlie recognized it as that of Carl Wolfbridge. "This could have dire consequences for the town! Those people came here to return Pyewacket, not to harm us. When they don't return home, what will their people think?"

"That we did them in, somehow!" the young voice responded. "And we did!"

A woman spoke then, Rhea Willman. "As powerful as I sensed these witches to be, no one can stand up to Pyewacket's powers. But having a war start between our town and witches of their capabilities could be too much for even Pyewacket to handle!"

"We don't want a witch war," another male voice said. "My god, this is the twenty-first century! Surely these people can be made to understand it was an accident! "

"We won't have a war, Fred, if we can think about what to do about this," Wolfbridge returned. "Kiernan, are you certain that Pyewacket can't bring these people back?"

The young male voice still sounded upset. "You know he doesn't talk. I just get things he senses. But I did get the impression that he doesn't really know where the other witches went. How can he bring them back if he doesn't know where he sent them in the first place?"

"This is crazy," another female voice put in. "How could something like this happen?"

"We let it happen, when we didn't stop the mayor from bringing in the ghost hunter!" Fred said. Fred Little, Charlie assumed now, one of the council members Wolfbridge had mentioned when they'd visited him earlier. "I voted against that, if you will remember."

"No one knew this could happen," Wolfbridge put in patiently. "I'm just sorry this happened to those boys. I will never feel the same about Pyewacket again! Those witches had families and friends that will be worried about them! This is simply an intolerable situation!"

"It's my fault," the voice of Kiernan Willman said. "I was scared, and anxious. I was worried about Mom. I let Pyewacket absorb that fear. It's not his fault. He was defending us!"

Charlie had heard enough. He looked around at the others, nodded at the door, and then reached out and took the door handle, and opened it. He marched into the room, the others hot on his heels.

Within, six people were sitting around the coffee table. They all looked up in surprise as Charlie and the others came in, and then Wolfbridge leaped to his feet. "You came back!"

"That's impossible!" Rhea Willman said, at virtually the same time.

Charlie smiled. "It was an interesting place to visit, but we didn't want to live there. So we returned."

The people in the room stared at them a moment longer, and then everyone was on their feet, asking questions. Carl Wolfbridge looked around at his friends in surprise, and then held up a hand and hollered. "Hold it, hold it! We can't all talk at once!"

Pip patted Charlie's shoulder then. "Uh oh! Company coming!"

"Grandpa Max!" Frit added. "And the Big Guy!"

There was a fairly insistent popping sound, and Max and Nicholaas appeared in the room. Both men looked around at the gaping faces, and smiled.

Max tried not to laugh, too. "Geez, boss. You'd think they never saw people teleport before!"

Carl sat down hard, clutching at his chest. "Teleportation! What next?"

"Greetings, all, "Nicholaas said, smiling around at the everyone. But then he turned to Charlie and placed a hand on his wrist. "You okay? All of you?"

"Yes. Thanks to Keerby. He figured it out."

Nicholaas smiled at the exhausted elf. "And a fine job it was, too. Thank you, Keerby. I could not have done a better rescue myself!"

The elf looked delighted, and Charlie understood why. High praise, indeed!

Kippy had been staring across the room, and now he tugged on Charlie's sleeve to get his attention. "Look there," he whispered out of the side of his mouth.

Charlie let his eyes go the young man seated on the sofa, and wanted to smile. This would be Kiernan Willman. He did appear to be about their own age, and was a handsome lad, indeed. Charlie looked over at Rhea Willman, and could see some resemblance there. But while the woman looked defiant, her son simply looked scared.

Charlie did smile then. "Um, look. Everybody relax, okay? We know this was all an accident. So before we start hollering again, maybe we should all be introduced?"

Carl Wolfbridge stood again, his eyes bright. "That's a very good idea." He smiled at Max and Nicholaas. "My name is Carl Wolfbridge, and this is my home." He pointed at Rhea, and then the young man seated next to her. "This is Rhea Willman, our town historian and chief librarian. That likely looking fellow next to her is Rhea's son, Kiernan."

Kiernan raised a hand and gave a tiny wave. "Hi."

"And that's Fred Little, whom I told you boys about before. Our resident expert on otherworldly creatures."

That man was small and balding, with a ring of curly hair surviving around his crown. "Very pleased that you all are still with us!"

Carl indicated another woman seated across from Rhea, who seemed similar in age, and was rather striking in her own way. "That's Nancy Alton, one of our town merchants. And the fellow seated next to her is Gary Shannon, Kinniston's own builder and developer." Carl turned to Charlie. "This is the council that oversees the Order of Sebastian that I told you about."

The town's people nodded, and Charlie could sense their discomfort. He introduced Nicholaas and Max, and then the rest of his group.

Carl looked quickly around the room, and pointed at Kiernan. "Help me, will you son? We should be able to get enough chairs from the other rooms that everyone can sit."

"Oh, wait!" Max said then. He waved a hand, and two more long sofas appeared in the room and edged up to the gaps around the circular coffee table so that anyone sitting on them could at least see and be seen by everyone else. "Have a seat, fellas."

Carl spent a long moment staring at these new additions to his room before slowly sinking back to sit again himself. "So, what?"

Nicholaas looked around the room, and then his eyelids sank to slits. "Pyewacket? Come here a moment, will you?"

Charlie immediately sensed the feeling of gathering as the familiar circled the house, closing off all feeling of the outside world again, and seemed to tower over them, with two huge eyes gazing down at then.

Nicholaas seemed unimpressed. "Now, now. You behave, you understand me?" Nicholaas held up a hand, and Charlie felt the entity tremble, while the great eyes suddenly looked shocked. "That's right, I know who you are," Nicholaas continued. "I expect you to behave. No more casting people to the winds of time, you understand me? It's wrong, and I will not have you doing such things to my people."

The great eyes looked around at the seated humans, and Charlie sensed the familiar spirit unwind itself from around the house.

"No, you don't need to leave," Nicholaas comforted gently. "You are welcome here. You just need not to act rashly anymore. We want to all be friends, understand?"

The great eyes seemed to seek out Kiernan Willman, who must have sensed them, and who smiled. "It's okay. Friends are much better than enemies. We'll be fine, Pyewacket." The young man smiled at Nicholaas. "He just wants to make sure we're okay."

"And you are." Nicholaas nodded. "This entire thing was a mix up, based on your group and Charlie's group not expecting to meet the other."

Charlie felt the darkness that was Pyewacket back off a little, and the great eyes disappeared.

Kiernan Willman smiled. "Oh! He seems happy to leave it at that!"

Nicholaas nodded. "They are mild and sensible creatures by nature. Their curiosity and sometimes willfulness can cause problems, however."

Fred Little looked intrigued. "I've never seen anyone handle Pyewacket so easily. Even Kiernan can't cow him like you just did."

Nicholaas shook his head. "Oh, I didn't cow him. I just reasoned with him. And made certain he knew that I meant what I said. You people are in no danger from us. We're all witches, right? We can get along."

Kippy gave a little startled gasp, and Charlie didn't miss the looks of surprise that quickly came and went on the other human faces in his group. Charlie knew he should also be surprised, but he really wasn't. The effortless way that Nicholaas always adapted to new situations had by now come to be expected. The man knew what was going on here, and he had no intention of giving the show away this early in the game. The witches of Kinniston would be most at ease with those of their own kind, so Nicholaas had decided to be a witch right along with them. It was the man's usual accommodation for others in action, and no real surprise to Charlie.

Rhea Willman licked her lips, and still seemed uncertain. "We don't have anyone among our group that can compete with what you people apparently can do, so I guess we'll have to get along with you."

Nicholaas shook his head. "Not at all. If you don't want our company, we will simply get up and leave, and you will never be bothered by us again. The choice must be one of your own making."

Kiernan looked aghast at that, and gently elbowed his mother. "Mom! Come on!"

Rhea turned to him, saw the near frantic look on his face, and slowly smiled. She turned back to Nicholaas, and nodded. "My apologies if I seemed abrupt. It's just...we have never known witches outside our own group."

"No need to explain." Nicholaas seemed very relaxed now. "All I propose for now is friendship. I'm sure we have things we can learn from each other."

"I'll say," Kiernan said softly, smiling now at his mother.

Carl clapped his hands together gently. "Well, this is wonderful! I have to admit to being happy how this has turned out. We were in quite a panic before you arrived, not knowing what would happen next."

Kiernan sat forward and looked over at Charlie. "Would you guys maybe be willing to trade a few crafts? I only know a few, but I might have something I can teach you."

Kippy grinned at Charlie. "I think something can be arranged!"

Nicholaas gave out a laugh at the expression on Kippy's face, and turned it into a tactful clearing of this throat. "Ahem. See? I think things will work out fine."

"We have a lot of questions," Gary Shannon said.

"We'll try to answer 'em," Max offered back.

"Will you stay a while?" Nancy asked. "It's Halloween, after all."

Nicholaas stood. "Alas, I have commitments. But Max and the others can stay, certainly. Max? If that's okay with you?"

"Sure, boss. We'll have fun!"

Horace gave Charlie a little poke, and leaned close to whisper. "You certainly know how to throw a good party, Charlie!"

Charlie smiled at the man. "It's not over yet!"

To their very great surprise, this Kinniston had a large bonfire on Halloween evening, in the field behind the shop district, just like the Kinniston in the world of werewolves and vampires they had visited. There were picnic tables, and grills full of hotdogs and burgers, and kids running all about in every costume imaginable. The atmosphere was genial, and again Charlie was impressed with the idea that here was a town that liked itself.

Max had decided to sit with the witch council at one of the tables, where they were quietly discussing plans for future cooperation. Horace had quickly found that he had little to offer to this conversation, and had joined the boys as they walked around checking out the costumes on display. The people of Kinniston went all out for their big bash, and some of the costumes the boys saw were simply stunning and amazing in their creativity.

"Looks like you guys have fun with the holiday," Kippy said to Keirnan.

"Well, sure. It's the best day of the year!"

"I love very holiday," Adrian put in, smiling at Ricky. "Though I'm told that every day is wonderful, if you keep the right company."

Ricky grinned. "Works for me!"

"Halloween does seem to draw out the mysterious in our world," Horace agreed, looking happy. "You never know just what might happen, if you are in the right place at the right time."

"This feels like the right place to me," Frit said, smiling at Pip.

"And the right time," Pip returned, smiling back. "Thanks to Keerby, anyway!"

Keerby had had a short nap, and looked somewhat revitalized. But he still had a sleepy look to his eyes that Kippy just loved, and Charlie had seen his boyfriend smiling at the elf more than once since their return. That was okay, and Charlie didn't mind at all. Kippy liked the beautiful things he saw in the world, and Charlie could not begrudge his boyfriend the pleasure he received from just looking. Not even if it was a cute elf he was looking at.

Or a cute local boy, who also happened to be a witch!

Someone dressed as a werewolf walked by them then, a curved, bushy tail behind the costume bouncing up and down as if spring-loaded. Kippy took one look at it and laughed, drawing all eyes to the costume. Kiernan turned to look, and then frowned at Kippy. "What's so funny?"

"Werewolves don't have tails," Kippy told him.

The local boy's eyes grew in size. "You've actually seen one before?"

"Yes. In that other reality we visited. It was peopled by werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and Sasquatches."

"Don't forget the ghouls, ogres, and zombies," Ricky reminded.

"Though we didn't get to meet any of them," Adrian added. "Well, we didn't actually get to meet any ghosts, either. But we saw a few."

"Maybe next visit, "Horace said, smiling.

Keirnan looked amazed. "You'd go back?"

Kippy nodded. "Well, yeah. We made a couple of good friends there." He smiled, and gave a little shrug. "It's just a little old alternate reality."

Charlie and Ricky burst out laughing, and Adrian drew a fist to his mouth and grinned behind it. The elves all chuckled, and Horace smiled ear-to-ear.

Kiernan looked around at his new friends, obviously not getting the joke.

Kippy put out a hand and patted the boy on the shoulder. "I was just kidding around. That was actually the first time we've ever been to an alternate reality." Kippy seemed to think about that, and then smiled again. "Well, an alternate reality like that one, anyway."

Kiernan let out a little puff of air, and then grinned. "Man! I can't wait to learn more about the things you guys know!"

"We'll teach you some, sure," Charlie offered. Max had said it would be okay. Kiernan could only develop the talents he had been born with, anyway.

Something buzzed in Charlie's pocket then, and he dug deep and pulled out the little communicator that Pacha'Ka had given him. "Oh, that's for me." He stepped away from the others to answer the call.

"Charlie? It's Mike."

Charlie laughed with pleasure. "Where are you?"

"Oh, upstairs. You know - in orbit. Are we too late for the Halloween party?"

"No. It's just starting, actually. Who did you bring with you?"

"The usual. Me and Bobby, Pach and Kontus. We picked up Ragal and Casper on the way. The others had things going on and couldn't come. But the six of us are ready for a good time!"

Charlie looked around at the partygoers, and the amazing and elaborate costumes that some of them were wearing. Could they get away with inviting Mike and the others down? The humans would be fine, no matter how they were dressed, but the aliens...

Charlie suddenly grinned, a case of pure what-the-hell coming over him. He could count on a lot of people here being witches and being open to things that were a little outside the norm. And the other people of Kinniston lived with a phantom, for crying out loud, and kept the secret to themselves! What would be a few more outrageous costumes among this bunch?

"Can you home in on where I am, Mike?"

"Gotcha. Is it clear to teleport down?"

Charlie quickly looked around, and spotted a modern fire truck parked off to the side. This one was crewed by several guys in fire gear, but they were seated at one of the picnic tables, eating and watching the big bonfire burn. Beyond the truck was a patch of forest, and it looked like no one was there.

"Give me a minute, Mike. I'll call you back and let you know where you can come down."

"Right-o. In a few, then!"

Charlie turned off the communicator, but kept it in his hand as he turned back to the others."That was Mike," he said to the curious looks the others gave him. "They're, uh, upstairs."

Kippy grinned then, and gave a little cock of his head towards Kiernan.

Charlie smiled at the boy. "So, um, how'd you like to meet some of our friends?"

Kiernan looked around then, absorbing the grins of the others, and stepped closer to Charlie. "Are they witches, like us?"

"Sort of," Charlie agreed.

Kippy sighed happily. "Oh, witches, and aliens from other worlds."

Kiernan stared at him. "You're not serious!"

Charlie laughed, and took Kiernan by an arm. "Why don't we all move over beyond that fire truck where we'll be out of sight?"

The other boy looked confused. "Why do we need to be out of sight?"

Kippy leaned closer to the young witch. "So they can teleport in, dummy!"

Kiernan's mouth dropped open, and then excitement supplanted the look of confusion on his face. "Oh!"

Their group walked casually to the fire truck, and then around it, and just as Charlie had thought, they could find concealment behind it. There were both moonlight and shadows here, the perfect place for a Halloween meeting. They crowded into the space behind the fire truck, and Charlie pulled out the communicator again and called Mike. "Come on down, guys. Tell Pacha that there's quite a crowd of us around the communicator, so to be careful where he lands you."

"It'll just push aside anyone in the way," Mike returned. "No one will get hurt, believe me."

Charlie smiled. "See you in a few." He put the communicator away. "Better spread out a little, just to be safe."

They formed several small groups, six or seven feet apart. That way if the newcomers materialized too closely to someone, there would be room for them to be nudged out of the way.

"This is exciting!" Kiernan breathed. "I can't wait until my sister gets here. She'll love you guys!" He turned to Charlie then. "Some of these people coming? They're really aliens?"

"Yes," Kippy said, moving closer to Charlie and circling an arm around him. "You be nice, okay? These are our friends."

Kiernan nodded, only halfway listening. "They're from other planets?" He went on, his eyes bright in the moonlight. "For real?"

"Yes." Kippy sighed, and kissed Charlie's cheek.

"Wow," the young witch said, giving a small shake to his head. "I never thought being magical would be this fun!" He turned, and skipped over to join some of the others.

Kippy laid his head against his boyfriend's shoulder. "I can feel his excitement, Charlie."

"Yeah. Me, too. Oh to be young again!"

Kippy laughed. "He's just our age!"

"I know. know what I mean. He's going to be exposed to a lot of new stuff, hanging around with us!"

"Yes, I know. "Kippy sighed. "What a wonderful Halloween. You're so much fun to be with, Charlie."

Charlie smiled. "Kip, you have just as much to do with it as I do."

"Oh, I know. But it just wouldn't be the same doing it with anybody else." He drew Charlie aside, into their own small pocket of shadows. "Kiss me?"

Charlie nodded, and kissed Kippy's cheek. His boyfriend turned his head then, and their lips met in the near darkness. "I love you, Kip."

"I love you, too, Charlie. Happy Halloween."

A moment later they heard a faint popping sound, and then a startled intake of breath from Kiernan, and then his excited, whispered voice. "Oh! They're amazing!"

Kippy smiled against Charlie's cheek. "They're here," he said quietly.

Charlie nodded, in no hurry to leave the warm softness of Kippy's face. "In a second."

They stood quietly in the shadows, briefly sharing their special moment.

"Where's Charlie and Kip?" someone said then. "They need to see this!"

Kippy sighed softly, and Charlie smiled regretfully, and two of them drew apart. The spell had been broken, for now.

"Oh, well." Charlie said then. "Shall we go and see what the fuss is about?"

Kippy chuckled. "I guess we'd better, or people will talk."

"Let 'em," Charlie dared, smiling. "I can live with it."

And then he circled his boyfriend's arm with his own, and they moved together into the silvery moonlight to join their friends.

There's A Devil in the Dark, Charlie Boone! by Geron Kees © 2021. All rights reserved./p>

This is a work of fiction. All characters and situations are imaginary. No real people were harmed in the creation of this presentation.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead