“We need to shake things up this year!” The speaker was Joyce as she addressed the other nine members of the monthly Bloody Merry Book Club. The name was selected due to two factors: the love of alcohol and murder. “We’ve done the classics, the cooks, the cats – the many, many cats – the widows and the creatures. It’s Halloween girls! Do we really want to spend the night trick-or-treating again? Let our menfolk take the kids for once.”
There was a murmur of support under the cover of clinking glasses. Amber asked, “What do you have in mind?”
“Well! Let me tell you what I’ve been planning,” Joyce answered as she rubbed her hands together. “We’ll meet…”
The historic Wallace Mansion was decorated and illuminated brightly for All Hallows’ Eve. Beginning at noon and ending at 1am there was a steady roster of fun events for all ages. The culmination of the annual festivities was the 40th edition of the Charity Costume Ball: all proceeds donated to local organizations. The cash bar pumped up the coffers. The police gave free rides home.
The club members all arrived by eight in the evening, sugar wired children deposited then watched by the posse of deputized husbands at Carmine’s house; the shrieking sleepover in full swing. Joyce’s spouse was out of town – or so she said – on an emergency company trip. They rendezvoused at the bar. All of them wore masks and the Bloody Merry badge, a shot glass with crossed knives. They ordered drinks and Joyce led them through the back hallways where quiet corners were all filled with revelers as they indulged in naughty fantasies. They dodged and weaved and apologized until Joyce arrived at the door and with a dramatic flourish produced a silver gilt key. “Your attention Ladies! Welcome to the All Hallows’ Eve Bloody Merry party.”
The latch released with strained groans, the hinges protested loudly as the elaborate carved mahogany panel pivoted open and revealed a vast unrelieved darkness. Joyce flicked the switch. A string of bare light bulbs illuminated the spartan interior. The bare pine steps led down into the reputed haunted bowels of the mansion. It was said Spenser Wallace disposed of his first wife during the construction of the concrete foundation. That titillating fact was trumpeted on the front cover of the brochure in the gift shop. True or not, the cleaners demanded double pay to enter the cellar and always worked in large groups. Joyce was granted the room at no charge after she had signed a waiver absolving the Wallace Foundation of all responsibility.
The caretaker had set up several round tables with candles and a separate one with refreshments. The emergency exit, now propped open, had been added during past renovations. It had been pointedly pointed out to Joyce when she’d booked the basement: as was the fact no staff had agreed to partake in serving the party. Joyce had pooh-poohed the ghostly legend and with her normal steamroller antics then ‘persuaded’ her fellow club members to attend a secret party with a special guest.
Joyce clattered down the steps and made a quick perusal of the tables. “All right ladies. You can take your masks off now.” She turned to Laura and Amie. “Help me push these tables closer together.” The scrape of metal legs on concrete grated but was short lived. “Grab something to munch on everyone and let’s get started. Our guest will be here shortly.”
While the ladies topped off their glasses and selected snacks, Joyce opened the cardboard box and removed the contents. She set a book at each place setting and lit the large candles in the center of both tables. As her friends settled in the chairs and exclaimed over the lurid book cover Joyce swiped a drink and canapé for herself. She then retreated to the base of the stairs and turned off the lights at the secondary switch. The room was plunged back into darkness to the excited squeals of eight dimly lit faces.
“This ladies is the selection for the coming month. Rather than discuss last month’s novel I wanted to introduce a new author to us.” Joyce paused and raised her book so that embossed figure on the glossy paper glittered in the candle’s glow. “Lysander Stanopolis has created a character that thrives in the dark corners of twisted souls. Sir Nachton MacRath is a Scottish Highlander Vampire Steampunk Regency Pirate who solves the coldest of cases for the Crown. “All eyes were on Joyce as she continued dramatically said, “Ladies of the Bloody Merry Club! It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, the immortal Sir Nachton MacRath!”
The emergency door was yanked open and great rush of cold air flooded the basement. It smelled of old blood and wicked corruption not seen since ages past. The women squealed when the heavy draught snuffed out all but one of the wicks. The soft tread of foot drew near. The air grew colder still. The women froze.
Out of the gloom loomed a figure swaddled in sable. An otherworldly nimbus hovered at the edge of a hooded visage. A pale hand reached into the gold circle cast by a single flame. A gleam of steel: a rasp of flint. A warm, luxurious, melodic masculine voice said, “Ladies. Allow me.” The individual candles reignited. The frozen faces thawed. The hood was thrown back to reveal an ornate red and gold full-face mask: pale eyes pierced each woman in turn. His gaze lingered on Joyce.
“Welcome Sir,” she said more than slightly out of breath. “I trust your journey was not too difficult.”
“M’lady.” He placed a hand to his heart and bowed. “I have answered your summons and brought the sacred object.” He flicked back his cloak and removed a long wrapped package from a silver hook at his belt. He laid it across his left forearm and offered the hilt to Joyce. She drew it forth with a slither of silk, raised it high then placed it in the center of the table. There was a simultaneous hiss of shock from eight throats.
“Oh no you didn’t!” Tawanda cried out.
Over the babble of shocked objections Joyce shouted, “Ladies! We talked about this two months ago!” As they quieted down she continued, “We talked about consequences because all of us have been guilty of not reading the assigned book.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Mary retorted, “Robert spanks you all the time!”
“And it works!” Joyce shot back. “Don’t tell me y’all wouldn’t be better in getting your tardy asses in gear with dear ole hubby waiting at home paddle in hand.”
“I agree with Joyce.”
“Olivia!” Paula yelped. “Since when?”
“Since we discussed it. I went to Tom and we agreed to a trial run. He spanks me when I misbehave or fail to do my chores on time. Ladies, it works.”
“Well,” Amber huffed, “if I’d known about this ahead of time Joyce, I would have complained.”
Joyce stood up again and waved her hands for quiet. “Ladies, if you don’t want this, that’s fine. I thought it was settled, obviously I was wrong.”
SMACK! Echoed in the basement followed by a loud OUCH from Joyce.
Dead silence fell.
Sir Nachton MacRath hefted the scarlet cherry wood paddle. It was twelve inches long, three-quarters of an inch thick with a six-inch handle threaded with a leather thong looped around his wrist. The beveled edges were carved with runes and both flat surfaces had been sanded to a high gloss then covered with red lacquer after the club emblem had been burned into the ends.
“Lady Joyce,” the vampire detective purred with a voice centuries old, “am I to understand you were remiss in informing your fellow members of my presence here on this most holy of nights?”
“Yes, no,” she squeaked. “Sorry.”
“Then Lady Joyce, by the regulations you yourself desire, you shall be the first to christen this paddle with your tears of remorse.”
Joyce felt his large hand push her inexorably forward and down until her arms rested on the table surface. There was a scrabble to move the candles away lest her hair catch fire. Fingers roamed and explored her backside freely. “Are all women dressed so outlandishly in this time?”
“It’s All Hallows’ Eve Sir,” Carmine said. “It’s a time for dress up and fantasy.”
“In my day,” Sir Nachton MacRath said, “only wanton trollops dared appear in public thusly adorned. They were often soundly thrashed for loose morals.”
“Just who do you think you are?” Amie protested. “You waltz in here all dark and spooky and threaten to spank us. You have no right!”
Dead silence. The room grew colder as the walls seemed to shrink and squeeze the air from the women’s lungs.
CRACK! “I am Sir Nachton MacRath, Peer of the Realm.” CRACK! “Immortal vampire, lover of many and anointed chastiser for the Queen!” CRACK! “Lady Joyce summoned me across time with dark magic!” CRACK! “She at least owes me her bottom in recompense for my travels!” CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
Joyce was confused as the paddle rose and fell on her costumed posterior. This was not what she and her husband had agreed upon. It was supposed to be some lighthearted fun and roleplaying! Pinned to the table by one cold hand at her nape while her bottom was spanked hard was way out of line! “Sir! I’m sorry for bringing here under false pretenses but aren’t you going to read an excerpt from your latest adventure?”
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! “That is true Lady Joyce.” CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! “I did promise a reading for the members.” CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! “Very well. No Lady Joyce, remain as you are, you have not yet atoned for your presumptuous behavior.” The vampire gathered the ladies with his shimmering gaze. “Consider this a test of loyalty. I have found when dealing with the fickle sex, they will betray and malign their friends at the slightest provocation.” CRACK! “I will recite a tale while each of you will choose to either join Lady Joyce and be punished or shall join me in punishing her.” CRACK! “Choose your fate Ladies and be quick, midnight will be here soon enough and I must fly back to my home.”
Tears sprang into Joyce’s eyes when only Olivia bent over by her side. “Girls! How could you do this to me?”
“As I suspected,” the vampire said with relish. “Who would like a turn first?”
“Give me that thing!” Tawnda said harshly. “I hope you’re satisfied for ruining Halloween Joyce. Forget about a reading you creepy vamp wannabe. I’m going to paddle yo’ ass hard girl and then I’m going upstairs to find myself a real party.”
One by one Joyce’s so called friends hit her sore bottom twice while she cried in anger and embarrassment. Some apologized and some spanked softly, but all got their licks in before they too went upstairs. Olivia was not spanked by any of the girls and was left to squeeze Joyce’s hand and whisper reassurances.
“Do you want me to stay?” Olivia asked with concern.
Joyce sobbed and said brokenly, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this! Why did this happen to me?”
The brief sound of loud music wafted down the stairs for the last time as Olivia gently shut the door behind her.
Sir Nachton MacRath raised Joyce to her feet and pressed an embroidered linen handkerchief into her shaken hands. “Dry your eyes little one. You are better off without them.”
“How dare you say that Robert! I knew you never liked my friends but you’ve gone way too far this time!”
“Excuse me Lady Joyce, who is Robert?”
Joyce blew her nose loudly. “Give me break Robert. It’s over and you’ve had your fun. I don’t know how I’m going to face them upstairs… the children! What am I supposed to say when we pick them up at Carmine’s tomorrow?” Joyce shoved the vampire in the chest. “You better fix this buster or you’ll be sleeping on the couch for the rest of your life!”
“You are overwrought m’lady. Let me soothe your bruised flesh and take away all of your pains.”
“Stop already Robert! This isn’t funny.” Joyce stalked over to the emergency exit. “Let me lock up and I’ll turn the key over to the custodian upstairs.”
A frosted steel claw clamped over her wrist. “I cannot allow you to do that Lady Joyce. I have marked you as mine.”
“Let go of me!”
Joyce’s phone rang and shattered the brittle atmosphere. “Very funny, again, Robert.”
“You have a music box in your attire?”
“You are the one calling me Robert. It’s your ringtone, ‘Spread’ by OutKast? Duh! Take your other hand out of your cape.”
Sir Nachton MacRath slowly raised both alabaster hands into the air.
Joyce blanched as her eyes were caught in his hypnotic stare. As if in a dream, she reached into her pocket and drew forth the strident phone. “Hello?”
“Hi honey! I am so so sorry I couldn’t make your book club party. I had the costume on and then my phone died, the car wouldn’t start and for some reason no one was home anywhere! It took forever to contact the auto club… I’m on my way. I should be there in about twenty.”
“Robert?” Joyce said in barely a whisper.
“What Baby? I can’t hear you.”
Robert continued to speak as the phone slid from nerveless fingers and cracked on the concrete floor. Joyce turned around and truly saw for the first time what Sir Nachton MacRath was without his concealing mask. She would have screamed in terror if she had not swooned first.
Sir Nachton MacRath, a Scottish Highlander Vampire Steampunk Regency Pirate who solved the coldest of cases for the Crown was there to catch her before she landed on top of her now silent phone. “Do not fear Lady Joyce. I always take care of my own.” The emergency exit slowly swung shut behind a tall sable figure with a limp female tenderly cradled in his arms.
If, on that fateful night of All Hallows’ Eve, around about midnight, as the revelers cheered the ticking clock into November, if you would have glanced out a window at the back lawn a strange apparition may have been spotted. There was a puff-puff of smoke and stately rose, running lanterns on, a steam powered airship piloted by Sir Nachton MacRath as he steered towards a vertical slit of orange light in the moonless night sky. A bright iridescent flare erupted as the airship parted the veil at the stroke of midnight and vanished from our world for all time.