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On the night before Halloween, known as Mischief Night by the local hoodlums, Kelly has a second date with Owen. She agreed to it, not because he is particularly handsome or wealthy, but because he was dignified, a smart dresser, and respectful on the first date, and besides, she had nothing better to do. He’s a recently divorced accountant with no kids. No children equals zero baggage in Kelly’s mind, and that’s a definite plus. They first met at the firing range when he complimented her for being an excellent shot. Other than these few things, she doesn’t know that much about him. On the phone, he sounded eager to tell her something over a simple dinner at Villa Grazia - seemed harmless enough to her.
Kelly drives her yellow Volkswagen bug through the neighborhood towards the restaurant, admiring the orange, crimson and amber foliage as she goes. There’s a cluster of teenagers by the next stop sign where she barely slows down - then quickly, she accelerates past them, leaving them in a whirlwind of leaves. Taking her leisurely time might have encouraged them to throw eggs at her shiny new car. Last year at this time, there was a spike in the crime rate in this neck of the woods. Splat! “Son of a bitch!” They nailed her back window anyway, and from quite a distance.
At twenty-six, she is younger than Owen, and has never been married. This is not an ideal match, but she hates to pass up a free meal. Tugging the steering wheel to the right, she pulls into the parking lot of the restaurant and stops the car. She takes a deep breath and thinks, oh, what the hell, before getting out. As she approaches the building, she can already smell the delicious Italian cuisine wafting through the autumn air.
Upon entering, Kelly notices that all the walls are filled with beautifully hand-painted murals of Italy. Some are scenes of market streets where tables are set outside of certain shops, and people are shown window shopping or dining. Peeking into the small, dimly lit dining room, she is perturbed by the realization that Owen has not yet arrived. A look at her watch confirms what she already knew, that he’s at least two minutes late. With a huff, she folds her arms over her denim jacket as she stands there uncomfortably. Her black leather pocketbook is slung over her left shoulder, and she sports knee-high suede boots over her jeans. Kelly’s dusty blond hair rests upon her tense shoulders, and her already pouty lips are gnarled into a noticeable scowl. Just as she contemplates leaving, a waitress comes over and asks if she’d like to be seated. Before answering, she hears Owen’s soft-spoken hello behind her. She swings around to see him smiling with his unusually bright teeth and holding out his hand to greet her.
“Sorry I’m late.” He takes her hand and gives her a peck on her rosy cheek.
“Don’t be silly, you’re right on time,” she lies. “Let’s sit down.”
Ten minutes later, a bottle of Merlot, Owen’s favorite, sits in the middle of the table next to a burning candle and a basket of bread. As he enthusiastically sips from his glass, Kelly finds it strange that a person can maintain such white teeth while apparently devouring so much red wine.
After all the usual pleasantries and small talk are behind them, their meals arrive. They both order pasta, but hers is with eggplant, while he likes meatballs, and lots of them. “So, what did you want to tell me about yourself that you haven’t already?” Kelly asks, finally breaking the ice, but not the tension.
“Yes, that’s why I asked you here tonight,” he acknowledges. She could tell that Owen is uncomfortably pensive, pausing as he glances down at his plate. He continues, “This is not easy to say.”
“What? You’re married, engaged, or have a girlfriend, right?” She sips her wine with a coy smile. Kelly is not attached to this guy, and doesn’t much care if this friendship ends tonight, although she does admit to herself that Owen seems far more charming now than he did last week.
With a grave expression, he looks up at her, saying, “Think you’ve heard it all, huh?” Suddenly, Kelly feels drawn into the flickering candlelight in his eyes.
“Yes, I have. And I’ve heard all the bull-shit too.”
“I bet you have,” he said. “I know the general consensus these days. I know what women think of men.”
“What, that they’re creeps? They are.”
“No,” he corrects, “they don’t think that of all men; just the straight ones.” Kelly, stunned, raises her eyebrows. Owen finishes his thought, “An out-of-the-closet homosexual is a hero, but a straight male is just a creep.”
“What are you trying to say?” she asked. “Are you trying to be a hero tonight? If you’re gay, why are you out with me?”
“I’m not gay!” Owen barks, and then he cringes when all conversation in the room abruptly stops. Flushed, he knocks back the rest of his drink.
“Then what’s the big revelation?” she whispers. “You’re straight but not a creep? Well, I’ll be the judge of that,” she grins, pleased with her own wit.
He furrows his brow looking like he’s never divulged what he is about to say to anyone, not even to a priest anonymously in a confessional booth. Then he relaxes as if opting for a different approach. “Look, it appears that I’m in a bit of trouble. I can sure use your help. All I need you to do is…”
With all his charm, Owen somehow convinces her to come back to his house and be of some assistance. When she enters, she is immediately struck with his taste in design and lack of clutter. Not what she’d expect of a single man, living alone. Wait, she thinks, he’s single, neat, well groomed - a metrosexual!
“Now, you know what you’re supposed to do, right?”
“Yes,” she replies. “I’m to lock you in a room and stay with you until morning, and then unlock the door. And you promised you won’t put any moves on me; I’ve warned you that I’m armed and dangerous.” Kelly assumes that he respects her shooting ability so much that he cannot feel safe on this particular night alone without her. Someone must have told him that his life is in danger on the night of October thirtieth. He needs two people, probably to switch between watching and sleeping.
“Here’s the room,” he opens a very solid metal door, and she walks inside, dropping her pocketbook next to the TV on the stand. A Lady Derringer is safely tucked away in an inside pocket of her denim jacket. In contrast to the rest of the house, she is aghast at the pitiful condition of this tiny box of a room: no closets, no windows, torn furniture, holes in the plaster, and the smell of wet dog (he must have had the wool carpet cleaned recently).
“There’s little time,” he says nervously, “Go outside and bolt and lock this door securely.”
“What? I thought we were locking the door from the inside.”
“No! You weren’t paying attention,” Owen scolds. “You have to make sure that no one goes in and no one comes out - until morning. Now, there are beverages and snacks in the fridge, help yourself. I’m going in. You can open the door at sunrise. There’s no time. Good-bye. Now lock me in!”
Kelly is secretly relieved and has no intention of sticking around after the door is locked. She’ll be back in the morning.
“Fine,” she says. “Get in.”
He does and she closes the door behind him, turns the lock, and checks it. It’s secure. Then she slides the heavy bolt, the size of a two by four, across and into place.
“See ya!” she says cheerfully. “Sucker.”
She heads out the front door, but the second she sees her yellow bug sitting at the curb, she remembers her pocket book; her keys are in it.
She turns around and heads back to the locked and bolted door. No problem, she says to herself. She slides the bolt back out of the slot and returns the lock to its unlocked position. The door slowly begins to open with a rusty creak, and suddenly, it bursts open violently, knocking her against the wall in the hallway.
Before she gets back to her feet, her eyes follow a blur that wisps past her and stops at the front door. Her jaw drops, her eyes widen, and her hand shakes as it fumbles inside her jacket. A gray colored beast - hairy from ears to tail, muscular chest and hind legs, narrow waist, yellow eyes, and flashing menacingly through a dripping sneer and an angry growl are the most brilliantly white canine teeth she has ever seen. She tries to steady the gun in front of her with both hands, but the huge gray wolf turns his attention towards the incessant cackle of the street punks, and gallops off into Mischief Night.