by MCJ

This story was written in response to the 2008 Tracy Island Writers Forum's 'Halloween Challenge.'

Three brothers in a graveyard. A legendary dark iron statue. A mystery no-one can explain. Not the nicest way to spend Halloween, no matter how old you are.

Kansas - October 31

It sure had seemed like a good idea, yesterday. Yesterday, he would have done anything for the chance to be out here. But yesterday was yesterday and today he had to be a man and go through it. All of a sudden his good idea wasn't looking like a very good idea at all.

John Tracy looked around at his surroundings uneasily and listened to the broken old gate creaking precariously on its hinges. The moon was full. A dog howled in the background. He tried to ignore the strands of rusty barbed wire holding the fence posts together as they moved backwards and forwards on their own. This place was enough to give any kid the creeps. All he wanted to do, right now, was feel safe helping Grandma with the supper.

But Grandma wasn’t home at the moment and he knew he couldn't chicken out. Not now, when they'd finally agreed he was old enough to come out here with them. They were standing there together looking around with their hands shoved deep in their pockets. They didn’t look like they were the least bit spooked by what they were about to do. Scott even looked like he could hardly wait to do it. So how come his heart was pounding so hard and fast that it felt like it was in his throat?

It had taken a lot of convincing before they’d allowed him to tag along. When he'd first knocked on their bedroom door, they'd told him to go away and to come back later. Something about ten year olds not needing to hear more than they needed to hear, Scott had told him. He’d quickly made a point of reminding Scott that in fifty one point five six weeks he'd be eleven and on his way to twelve.

He’d also refused to leave their bedroom and that didn't please them at all. He hated being the kid in the middle all the time. Too old for Al and G; too young for them...where was a guy supposed to go if he thought he had a problem?

“All right, so what’s your problem, then?” Scott had demanded from his dominant position on the bed. “And it had better be good,” he added in warning, “Virg and I have things to do.”

He’d squared his jaw defiantly and stood up as straight as he could. “I've decided to tell Grandma that I’m not going trick or treating this year," he’d announced. “I’m far too old and she can’t make me.” The determination on his face and folded arms soon got their undivided attention.

They’d told him to keep his voice down and frantically motioned him to shut the door. The lecture from Scott began immediately after. What was he actually trying to do? Was he a little crazy or something? He should know by now that Grandma didn’t have the tolerance for any disobedience or signs of rebellion. With Father away, she’d been left in charge and that meant deciding who did and didn’t do what around here.

“I know Grandma’s the boss but I don’t want to go. Scott, I’m ten. Dressing up and knocking on doors is lame.”

“It’s not lame, Johnny,” Virgil said, trying his best to sound honest.

“And both of us were expected to do it when we were ten,” Scott reminded him, clearly not sympathetic.

Then the lecture re-commenced again and this time Scott really let him have it. What was the point in trying to fight the inevitable? Making waves around Grandma would not only cause trouble, it would also guarantee him a one hour tele-call from Father in Japan. Surely he remembered what happened the last time Grandma told Father it was time for an attitude adjustment in the house?

“Yes, I do remember, but I’m still not going. Grandma can go right ahead and call Dad if she wants to.”

Virgil looked anxious. "You don't mean that, Johnny.”

"Oh yes, I do."

Scott intervened. "Oh no, you don’t. The last time Grandma had to call Dad about you, I was the one who got into all the trouble.”

Scott’s final words bought the argument to a close. He was going with Grandma and that was that. The two little guys had been looking forward to Halloween all week and whether he liked it or not, he wasn’t going to spoil their fun.

"Fun? How can you call that fun? Have you seen what Grandma expects me to wear in public?"

Scott had merely shrugged him off. Of course he’d seen the get-up and it wasn’t so bad; at least not as bad as he was making it out to be. No-one was going to recognise him once he got the cape and mask in place. If he looked on the bright side, it was almost an honour. Batman had been a real hero back in Grandma’s day.

"Are you kidding me? How many heroes do you know go running around dressed in a cape and tights?"

Virgil had burst out laughing then and said he was glad he wasn’t the one who had to wear it. A guy could live with the cape and tights but the chastity belt Grandma had been working on since breakfast was really something else.

Chastity belt?” Scott spluttered from beside him. “Batman wore a utility belt, you dope!”

The next ten minutes were taken up with pleading that they had an obligation to protect their poor little brother. Trick or treating in a Batman costume would not only mess with his head but with his life. Kids in his class got beaten up for less. Did they want his two black eyes to be on their consciences for life?

“Please you guys; please let me stay home with you. I promise I won’t get in the way. I’ll do anything you want. Just don’t make me go trick or treating. I hate it. I really do.”

For a moment he thought that the pleading had worked. He’d watched as they’d exchanged worried glances. Virgil looked like he’d agree with a little more encouragement. But the final say was Scott’s and he remained steadfastly silent.

“It’s not that you’ll be in our way, Johnny,” Virgil started; looking like he felt the need to explain. “It’s just that Scott and I…”

“…have other plans,” Scott interjected followed by a long, hard glare at Virgil.

Scott’s interruption made him instantly suspicious. Whatever their plans were, he could bet his life that Grandma didn’t know anything about them. They’d hardly said a word when he asked them what was really going on. The shrugged “nothing much” and “none of your business” soon became the lifeline for his survival.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll go down and ask Grandma right now. I’ll bet she’d like to know what you’re up to.”

“No!” they’d chorused in a horrified unison. He’d never seen Virgil move to barricade a door so fast.

“You’d better keep your mouth shut if I tell you, Johnny.” The tone of Scott’s voice said it all. “One wrong word out of you and I swear I’ll personally see to it that you don’t make it past the sixth grade.”

“You know me.”

“Exactly the point.”

“I won’t tell.”

“You’d better not. That’s all I’ll say, Johnny.”

Scott then started off reluctantly. If he really had to know, they were planning to go to the old graveyard. Rumour around school was that the grave underneath the “Dark Angel” opened up every Halloween to free two dead kids. Scott said he didn’t believe a word of it and he wouldn’t believe it until he got to see the kids climb out of the grave himself. Virgil said he wasn’t keen to see it happen at all but admitted he had to go with Scott, because he wasn’t allowed to stay home by himself.

“That’s awesome, you guys,” John had breathed in wide-eyed excitement. His imagination had already run away with him. What could possibly be cooler than spending Halloween in a graveyard? They could count him in. He’d love to go.

Scott’s head immediately shook from right to left.

“Uh uh. That’s not the way it is, Johnny.”

There was absolutely no way he was taking a ten year old anywhere near a graveyard. He was far too young to be walking around at night and the last thing he and Virgil needed was the responsibility of looking out for him if the stories about the Dark Angel were true.

Blackmail was all John had left to try. He’d sulked and tried to push past Virgil. If they didn’t agree to take him, he’d go straight down and tell Grandma everything. Then who’d be the ones getting the vid-call from Father in Japan?

“You wouldn’t dare,” Scott openly challenged him. “I meant what I said about you not making it past the sixth grade.”

“I would dare. You just watch me.”

“Don’t push him, Scott. You know he will.”

Scott gritted his teeth. “Yeah, I know he will. Why do you think I didn’t want to tell him?”

There was another exchange of worried glances. Scott and Virgil both knew if he blabbed to Grandma they were sunk. John waited for the verdict. Virgil shrugged silently in Scott’s direction.

“OK,” Scott groaned, “you can go.”

That had been yesterday. Now Scott was groaning again. Why hadn’t he just kept things all to himself and come out to the graveyard alone? Anything beat babying two little brothers who were scared at the sight of their own shadows.

“Hey! I didn’t say I was scared of anything,” Virgil bristled back from beside him.

“And I didn’t say I was scared of anything, either, “John added, deciding it was a good idea to pretend to be offended too.

Neither of them got to pretend for long. When John heard it, he glanced at Virgil. Then both of them looked at Scott, their eyes wide open with fright.

“Wha…what was that?” John stammered, hoping for a logical explanation.

Scott rolled his eyes and looked down at him. “What was what?” he glowered



That. That’s what.”

Scott sighed loudly and shook his head.

"That, Johnny, is nothing but an owl. Look over there…in that tree.”

Scott was right. A quick look at the tree nearby revealed the outline of a large owl sitting on one of the lower branches. Almost on cue, it hooted again; a black shadow lurking in the eerie glow of the moonlight.

John breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed. “Whew. For a minute there I thought it was a ghost or something.”

Virgil shuddered. “Or a zombie.”

“Or a werewolf....”

“Or a vampire...”

“Or even those dead kids.”

Scott rolled his eyes again and began to move in the direction of the graveyard gates. “Sometimes I wonder how I could possibly be related to you guys. I’m going in. Grandma’s due home in an hour.”

He stopped and turned back to where both Virgil and John stood motionless. “So, what’s it to be? Are you guys coming with me or not?”

Virgil swallowed hard and nodded reluctantly. John felt the contents of his stomach lurch. He knew he was expected to nod, too. As they followed Scott into the graveyard, Virgil caught at his wrist and murmured words of support. There was nothing to worry about. Scott was in charge. If they all stuck together they’d be fine.

“Are you sure, Virgil?”

Virgil tried a little harder to be convincing. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. “Scott always knows what he’s doing.”

“But can he handle a ghost?”

“I dunno. I guess he can, Johnny.”

“What about a werewolf?”

“There aren’t any werewolves in Kansas.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t want to know that.”

“That doesn’t make me feel any better about this, Virg.”

The moonlight didn’t indicate their path for long. Scott was forced to use his penlight for direction as the street lights disappeared from view. Rows of thick maple trees soon formed a canopy around them. They blotted out the stars completely and it didn’t help that they were rustling.

A creepy silence marked the appearance of the gravestones. Some were crooked; others down. Scott manoeuvred the penlight to make sure they stayed on the pathway. It weaved to the right and left and back again, with gravestones on either side.

“Can you see anything, yet?” Virgil eventually found the courage to whisper.

“Nope,” Scott whispered back. “But from what they said at school, the angel’s near the centre, somewhere.”

“Where’s the centre?”

“If I knew that, we’d already be there.”

“I guess so.


“Now what, Virgil?”

“Why do people always whisper in graveyards?”

“Oh, hell Virgil, how am I supposed to know that? Maybe they don’t want to wake anybody up, huh?”

Scott stopped and moved the light in another careful half-circle. The concentration of headstones seemed to be greater to the right. “I think it’s this way,” he said, and they deviated from the pathway. The unkempt grass parted around their knees as they walked.

Suddenly, Scott veered to the side to avoid another fallen headstone. John failed to see it and stumbled forward awkwardly in the dark.

“I told you to watch where you’re going,” Scott snapped as he grasped John’s arm to steady him.

“No, you didn’t,” John fired back. “You didn’t tell me to do anything, Scott.”

“Well, I’m telling you now; watch where you’re going.”

“I can’t see where I’m going. You’re the one with the light.”

It was hard not to notice that the wind had picked up speed. The rustling of the maple trees had grown louder. Another owl called unexpectedly into the darkness. Something screeched. The shadows moved.

“I don’t like it out here.” John’s voice held a hint of panic.

Virgil put a reassuring arm around his shoulders. “It’s OK, Johnny. It won’t be long now.”

“I want to go home.”

“Soon, I promise.”

Then Scott’s awestruck whisper...

“Holy crap, there it is!”

The Dark Angel stood like a sentry right in the middle of the graveyard. It towered at least six feet over the small grave it guarded. It had huge iron wings, covered in thick green moss and empty eyes that gazed sightlessly over the rows of gravestones in its path. It was fearsome and dark and without a doubt, the most daunting looking creature the three of them had ever seen.

And from right behind it was coming the most frightening, ghostly moan.

“Wha…wha…what’s that?” This time it was Virgil panicking.

Scott cut the light and motioned them close. “I don’t know,” he admitted, looking worriedly around him. “And somehow I’m not so sure it’s a good idea for us to stick around long enough to find out.”

The moaning seemed to be coming from nowhere; long, low wails that emphasised death as they echoed across the graveyard. They huddled together, too scared to move. Scott wasn’t quite sure what he should do.

“I want to go home,” John whimpered, again.

“Me too, Scott,” Virgil joined in the pleading.

Scott remained silent, trying to figure out a plan.

But then the wind suddenly stopped and the graveyard was still. Even the owl in the tree fell into a silence of anticipation. They looked at each other. Was something going to happen?

And when it did, they had never run so fast in their lives.

Tracy Island – October 30 – 14 years later

John Tracy lay on his side staring at the alarm clock, wondering at what point his eyes would get the message that his brain was demanding them both to close. Three in the morning and not an ounce of sleep…for crying out loud, what was going on with him?

He shifted position and rolled onto his back. The frustration burned as he stared at the ceiling. Who was he kidding? He knew what was going on with him, all right. Father’s latest decision was the reason for his insomnia. The decision had seriously pissed him off.

In Father’s opinion, he wasn’t ready to resume his normal duties in the satellite. Father still wasn’t convinced he was over the accident properly and he didn’t want to take any chances. He would be staying at the base until he could demonstrate he’d recovered. There would be no further discussion on the subject.

John relived the accident from two weeks before and decided to make a pact with himself to reform. The next time Scott yelled “duck”, he was going to do it and not waste time asking questions. The resultant concussion had left him with two black eyes and a suspected fracture of his right cheek. Not to mention a headache that could only be described as gargantuan and an ego that was nearly as battered and bruised as he was. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d been injured during the course of a dangerous rescue operation. But knocked out helping Scott and Virgil renovate the pool deck? That was past the point of a man’s embarrassment.

The accident had also cost him the opportunity to visit Harvard; his only lecturing opportunity for the next six months. He’d spent hours the previous month researching the Boomerang Nebula and the Canus Major Dwarf Galaxy as his subject material for the lecture. He’d also spent a good deal of time trying to convince the Dean’s new secretary that she had at least fifty good reasons to go out with him.

And all for what? For Father to sit him down the night before and inform him he wasn’t going anywhere until he was in a fit condition to be in control of a high speed aircraft.

With still no sleep and the clock blinking almost four, John rubbed his eyes and tossed back the covers. It wasn’t much use lying here feeling sorry for himself. Better off brewing himself some coffee and calling Five to see what was going on. Or at least calling Five to see if Alan was still talking to him. Alan hadn’t been too impressed last night when Father canned his Halloween plans.

Father hadn’t even seemed to notice the frown that followed Alan’s curt nod of compliance or the look on his face as the discussion ended and he disappeared from view. Of course Alan didn’t mind manning the satellite for a few more days; Father had reassured everyone over dinner. Alan and Tin-Tin were only planning to attend some costume party on the mainland.

“That’s right, isn’t it, Tin-Tin?” he’d questioned from his place at the head of the table.

“Yes, Mr. Tracy,” she’d responded carefully. Father obviously hadn’t recognised the look of disappointment on her face, either.

John pulled on his t-shirt and padded down the hall, heading in the direction of the kitchen. On second thoughts, he’d leave the situation with Alan alone. Alan would still be sulking over the rotation for sure and after John’s own heated exchange with Father on exactly the same subject, the last thing any of them needed right now was to be involved in another argument.

Are you all right, son?” The authoritative voice that came from behind him sounded concerned. John turned back to see the shadow of his father, who was standing bleary-eyed in the hall.

“I can’t sleep,” he replied abruptly; a little too abruptly. He saw the shadow stiffen a little and immediately recognised the signs. “I’m sorry, sir, “he decided to add in a hurry.” I didn’t mean to wake you. “

“You didn’t. I was already up. So where are you headed, then, John?”

“The kitchen,” John felt himself shrugging. “I thought some coffee might clear my head.”

“Sounds good. I think I might join you.”

“Usual strength?”

“Yeah, strong.”

There was something about drinking coffee at four thirty in the morning; especially when it was with the man who had taken up temporary residence on the opposite side of the bench. It was the one of many things John found reassuring about his father. Last night he’d pounded on the desk, defending an unpopular decision. This morning he was back to his usual self again; eager to talk about the tropical storm that had passed over the island overnight.

John decided to make the most of the amiable situation as he filled their coffee cups to the brim.

“Are you sure Alan didn’t mind you changing his plans for tonight?” he enquired, still concentrating on the task at hand.

His father frowned a little before acknowledging the leading question with a slight inclination of his head.

“Alan was fine with it. I’m surprised you need to ask me again. It’s not like you deliberately planned all this, John.”

“Yeah Dad, I know. But I figure Al would be pretty disappointed, what with his big date with Tin-Tin and all.”

“Alan knows that he has a job to do and he’s happy to do it. They can go to the mainland another time.”

John nodded and handed him the cup, unsure whether it was safe to push the issue any further. He weighed the consequences and decided it was worth taking the risk. After a few small sips, he began.

“Dad, about last night…”

Jeff looked across the bench at him in silent expectation. John felt himself squirming but continued on.

“Dad, I realise I shouldn’t have lost my temper and I know you don’t want to hear my side of things again, but honestly, I think you’re overreacting about my fitness to resume duty on Five.”

Jeff Tracy’s face remained devoid of all expression. He calmly reached over and spooned sugar into his coffee. “I’m very sure you do, John,” he eventually replied. “Last night you made it more than clear to everyone in the room that you didn’t agree with the decision that was made.”

For a moment John felt a little encouraged that there might be room to negotiate. At least his father hadn’t said no again, yet.

“It’s not that I doubt your decision-making, Father, “he admitted.” I’m just really itching to get back into action, that’s all. It’s boring being stuck here at the base. Like I said last night; I’m more than capable of handling things on Five. What I expect …”

He stopped and corrected himself. “I mean…what I would like, sir, is the opportunity to prove it to you.”

They each took another sip of coffee. Jeff Tracy’s eyes remained firmly fixed on the bench.

“I’m sorry, John,” he replied and his tone was firm. “As far as I am concerned, the answer’s still no.”

He put down his cup and tried to explain. John sighed impatiently as he listened to the logic.

“I don’t agree with you,” he interjected with his father still in mid-sentence. “I’m telling you right now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. “

This time it was Jeff Tracy’s turn to breathe the sigh of impatience. His voice became stern.

“You can tell me whatever you want, John. You should know me well enough by now to know I’m not going to change my mind.”

He took the time to justify his decision again. While John was still getting the headaches, his place was at home on Tracy Island. When the blurred vision improved he could go out on rescue with his brothers. If he coped with that, he could return to Thunderbird Five and complete the balance of his rotation. No more discussion. No more argument.

The matter was closed.

“But Dad…”

“I’ve already made myself clear, John.”

John stared into his coffee. It was pointless arguing any further.

“Fine,” was the only word he trusted himself to say.

Kansas – October 31

Jimmy Delaney was a typical seventeen year old guy and there was nothing wrong with a typical seventeen year old guy planning to spend his Halloween in the arms of a typical sixteen year old girl.

Not that Mary-Sue Ryan was typical. She was far from the stereotype, in fact. With her long blonde hair and dark green eyes, she was the closest thing to a goddess Jimmy had seen. He couldn’t believe his luck when she agreed to go out with him, let alone make the suggestion it would be nice to go somewhere private in his brand new second hand car.

His Dad had purchased him a car during the previous summer vacation. It was to be his means of transport to college, he’d said. Jimmy still wasn’t sure if he actually wanted to go to college, but the car was certainly coming in handy while he was making the final decision.

“So you like parking in cars, Mary-Sue?” he’d asked her over lunch in the cafeteria.

“I like doing anything you like to do,” had been her quick and very provocative reply.

That’s when he knew Mary-Sue Ryan wasn’t typical. He’d planned the entire evening based on that unexpected statement. He’d take her for a bite to eat at the local burger joint first; then take the car for a spin and show it off around the district. They’d finish the night out on the old church road. Lots of kids made out behind the maple trees at the back of the old graveyard.

His thoughts drifted towards that creepy old place. It was the oldest in the county and isolated as hell. There were hardly any lights and nobody went in there if they could help it.

It was also the home of that freaky “Dark Angel” that everyone in high school was afraid of.

Rumours had been circulating for years about the Dark Angel and all the strange things that were supposed to happen around Halloween. No-one he knew had actually seen anything and last year, when Jimmy had tried to suss things out for himself, he’d been too scared out of his wits to stay.

He still couldn’t explain the moaning he’d heard. What were those shadows he’d seen moving beside the gravestones? Why did the wind suddenly stop like that? Did he really see what he thought he saw?

His fingers tapped the steering wheel of the car as he waited out the front of Mary-Sue Ryan’s.

Maybe going out there at Halloween wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Tracy Island – October 31

Gordon Tracy had already made the announcement, twice, that a certain blond in the family had absolutely no sense of humour. Not only had John been acting like a bear with a sore head since Father had deferred his rotation, he was now threatening to jam a pumpkin up the ass of the very next person who tried to involve him in any Halloween preparations.

John’s latest rant was occurring over his lunch plate. What in the blazes was going on around this place? Everywhere a guy went he was accosted by crap…rubber bats hanging in closets…pumpkins smiling at him from the bathroom floor. Hell, he’d even found a set of vampire teeth in Thunderbird 3 when he was trying to concentrate on a fault that had developed in the electronic equipment.

“This is a not a difficult statement for you to comprehend, Gordon,” he continued through clenched teeth. “Listen carefully to what I’m saying. I don’t like Halloween. I don’t do Halloween.”

A strained silence followed the slamming down of the orange juice and the resultant glare across the table.

“What I don’t get is why you refuse to “do” Halloween in the first place,” Gordon eventually responded. “You haven’t had your heart in Halloween for as long as I can remember.”

John strangled his napkin and snapped up his fork. Moments later he was stabbing at his potato salad. “Maybe it’s because I’m not a child anymore,” he shot back, making no attempt to hide his irritation. “So why don’t you and your rubber friends take the hint and leave me to “recover” from my accident in peace?”

“No wonder a guy prefers it on Five,” he grumbled under his breath. The potato salad was stabbed and stabbed and stabbed again.

“Oh, lighten up, why don’t you?” Gordon frowned at him, annoyed. ”Halloween is fun for most of the population.”

“Halloween is not fun.

Gordon refused to let the matter drop.

“Yes, it is, Johnny. Your problem is that you’re out of sorts right now, because Dad won’t let you back on Five to play with your hi-tech toys.”

“I am not out of sorts,” John argued hotly. ”I’m just sick to death of you constantly acting like a five year old about to go trick or treating.”

“I liked treat or treating.”

“Well, I didn’t”

“Hey, not this guy’s fault you turned out weird.”

Scott sat back at the head of the table and tried to keep the smirk on his face from developing into a full-blown grin. Watching the dynamics between Gordon and John was always interesting entertainment. John had zero tolerance for Gordon’s unique sense of humour and his tolerance level had nosedived even further since Father had deferred his rotation.

Scott felt really bad about the accident. He and Virgil should have gotten a firmer grip on the decking timber before they lifted it above their heads. He could still hear the sickening crack to John’s skull when he turned around to see why they were yelling at him to duck. John was knocked out clean; head backwards into the pool. He’d been one sore and sorry individual when he finally came around. He’d also been extremely difficult to live with, which was made more than obvious by the heat of the current conversation. Just as well Father had eaten lunch earlier and was down in the laboratory with Brains.

Gordon was being a royal pain, but he was absolutely right about John not having his heart in Halloween. John had withdrawn from anything to do with it since the night they saw the two shadows climb out of the grave in Kansas. At least that’s what they thought they’d seen, Father had said and rather sternly. Imagination could be a useful thing when it came to making excuses for their irresponsible behaviour. They should never have gone to the graveyard in the first place and if they knew what was good for them, it had better not happen again.

Grandma hadn’t wasted any time picking up the vid phone when they’d informed her of their little Halloween adventure.

He and Virgil had chosen to forget about it; grateful when the three months of extra chores came to an end. But Johnny was different. He had to have an explanation for everything. He spent every spare moment chained to his computer until Father stepped in and said enough was enough. It wasn’t always essential for possibility to equal probability and there would be no need to question it in the first place if he’d done the right thing and gone trick or treating with his brothers.

“I mean it John,” Father had insisted firmly. “I don’t want to hear another word about your theories on graveyards, Halloween, or that blasted Dark Angel.”

Scott smiled to himself and relived the memory. They’d all been so scared of the Dark Angel that night. In hindsight, it had been a ridiculous thing to do. Common sense said graves only opened with human intervention. It was a medical impossibility for bodies to rise from the dead. It was laughable that he’d even had such a morbid fascination with the subject.

The smile broke through as John left the table, still arguing the point with Gordon.

He also wondered how many other kids would be out there, tonight, doing exactly the same thing that they’d done.

Kansas – October 31

Things were hot and heavy in the back of Jimmy Delaney’s car, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the unseasonal warmth of the dark October night in Kansas.

Jimmy had parked the car in a clearing near the river, making sure it couldn’t be seen from the road. He didn’t want the sheriff showing up and asking what the heck they were doing. Sheriff Kennedy played golf every week-end with his dad.

The remoteness of the area had unnerved Mary-Sue at first, even though she was the one who had made the suggestion. Howling dogs and hooting owls were not very conducive to getting to know him, she’d shivered. But a little liquid encouragement soon helped her to adjust to her surroundings. One little drink wouldn’t hurt either of them, he’d said.

“Mary-Sue,” Jimmy Delaney groaned into her mass of thick blonde hair.

“Oh yeah,” she replied and closed her eyes to his exploration.

The sudden rustling of the maple trees went unnoticed, courtesy of the radio turned down low on the dash. The moon had risen and climbed high above the trees, bathing the car in an uncanny, yellow light.

It was then that Mary-Sue startled from beneath him. “I think someone’s out there,” she whispered into Jimmy’s naked chest.

Jimmy lifted his head and scanned the darkness outside. The maple trees moved gently in the warm Kansas breeze. There was the sound of the river rolling nearby. An owl or two hooted but that was nothing unusual.

“Relax,” he breathed. “There’s no-one around.”

The radio hummed on and they were soon distracted. The moon rose higher. An old gate began to creak.

Neither of them were prepared when the unexpected came. They both nearly died with fright at the tapping. There, at the window, was a small child looking at them through the glass.

“You have to help me,” he begged. “My brother’s in trouble. He’s stuck in the graveyard and he can’t get out.”

Jimmy looked worried as he sat bolt upright and fumbled around in the dark for his clothes.

“Why would two kids be out here in the middle of the night?” Mary-Sue whispered.

Jimmy feigned innocence. “I don’t know.” But there was no doubt in his mind the kid and his brother had been in the graveyard checking out that stupid Dark Angel.

The child continued to ask for help. He was too small to get Billy out himself. They had to come. They had to come quickly. Didn’t they understand Billy was in a lot of trouble?

“Please,” he pleaded. “I need somebody to help. It’s cold and it’s dark in there.”

Jimmy Delaney looked at Mary-Sue Ryan and noticeably swallowed; his past Halloween memories still fresh. He’d sworn the last time he came out here that he’d never go near the Dark Angel again. But he couldn’t just leave a little kid wandering alone in the middle of a graveyard, either His conscience tugged him in both directions.

“All right,” he nodded. “Give me a minute.” He reached forward to grab his flashlight.

“Lock the doors and keep them locked,” he instructed a very frightened Mary-Sue.

“You must come now,” the child demanded, and turned to walk back through the gate. “Billy doesn’t have much time left.”

Thunderbird Five – October 31

A Vampire cape, fake fangs and a cross; lost for hours in her long dark hair. That had been his plans for a happy Halloween on the mainland. It would have been good to attend the costume party with his racing buddies and be alone with Tin-Tin again.

But accidents happened, Father had told him on the com-link, and by what Alan had seen of John in the background when he said it, Thunderbird Five was going to be home for at least the next two weeks. At least he was lucky that Tin-Tin had understood when he called her to apologise for the last minute cancellation.

It had been a long, slow month for International Rescue and Alan had been looking forward to the welcome return from space. He’d only picked up two rescue calls in the last ten days. The days and the nights had dragged.

Yet here it was, October 31, and he’d screened eight potential calls already. They’d all been from kids fooling around in the dark with the exception of an inebriated teenager who’d gotten lost on the way to his girlfriend’s Halloween party.

“At least he got the opportunity to go to one,” Alan sulked as he viewed the earth from the satellite.

His attention soon returned to the console in front of him. There was another situation he’d picked up earlier and was currently monitoring with interest. Some kid called Gregory Fisher who kept asking for help for his brother. The signal was coming from an old graveyard in Kansas. Alan had recorded the details but was yet to decide if the kid was on the level.

Father had made it very clear earlier in the evening that he wasn’t in the mood for any bogus calls.


Jimmy Delaney simply couldn’t figure this out. No matter how fast he walked he never seemed to walk fast enough to catch up to the kid who called himself Gregory Fisher. When he walked fast, Gregory Fisher walked faster. When he slowed down his pace, the result was exactly the same. It was downright strange, and his uneasiness was magnified ten times over by the rustle of the maple trees overhead.

It had been almost fifteen minutes since he’d left Mary-Sue alone in the car and he still hadn’t found any trace of the missing Billy Fisher. As he continued to follow Billy’s brother deeper and deeper into the graveyard, he started wondering if he was about to become the victim of some elaborate Halloween prank. His high school buddies were renowned for shit like that. It was so tempting to forget he’d seen Gregory Fisher at all and get the heck out of here.

By now they’d come so far that they were almost in the centre of the graveyard. The fallen gravestones and narrowing path only meant one thing to Jimmy. One hundred feet and a few more trees would bring him face to face with the Dark Angel.

Gregory turned towards him when he hesitated at the sight and the sound of the intimidating moss-covered statue.

“Billy’s over there,” he said, pointing directly in front of the Dark Angel. “You have to come closer and help me get him out.”

Jimmy stood completely still. He couldn’t go any closer. He simply couldn’t. He didn’t know what he’d find.

“Please,” the monotone of Gregory Fisher called to him. “Please. You have to help me get my brother Billy out.”

Jimmy’s flashlight followed the ground as he forced his legs to move forward. His rapidly beating heart and frazzled nerves told him this had to be a big mistake. Any moment he expected something from the earth below to grab at his ankles and drag him into hell.

Then the flashlight caught the inscriptions on the stonework at the base of the Dark Angel.

William Patrick Fisher “

Gregory David Fisher “

Rest in Peace, our darling Angels.”

That was when the ground opened up completely and Jimmy Delaney fell.

Thunderbird Five

“I know this is probably going to sound kind of crazy, Father, but I’ve just received a distress call from a girl in Kansas. The only name she’ll give me is …errr…wait for it...Mary-Sue.”


“Uh oh.”

“You’re kidding.”

“We’ve all heard that one before.”

Jeff Tracy’s face dropped to express a combination of annoyance and disbelief. “You got us all out of bed for something like this, Alan? I thought I made myself very clear that you were to exercise your discretion tonight when you received those types of calls!”

Alan coloured and looked at his brothers who had been hurriedly assembled in the lounge. Scott only wore a pair of wrinkled boxer shorts. Virgil’s hair stuck straight up in the air. John stood half-asleep with a pillow in his arm-pit. Gordon hadn’t even made an appearance.

“I have been exercising discretion, Dad,” Alan protested over the monitor, clearly unhappy at the admonishment. “It’s just that her call ties in with some other really weird things I’ve been monitoring at the same location.”

Such as?” Jeff Tracy folded his arms and nodded at him to continue. Alan took the nod as a gruff acknowledgement that maybe calling had been the right thing for him to do.

“Dad, Mary-Sue said she was trying to contact the local sheriff from her cell phone. For some strange reason the phone wouldn’t connect with the network so I picked up the call from Five. She told me that she was alone in a car about three miles from our old farmhouse. She and some guy called Jimmy Delaney had been out by the river...you know…um…celebrating Halloween.”

Alan ignored the smirks from his brothers at his obvious discomfort and continued to explain the situation to his father.

“Apparently Delaney went into the graveyard to help a kid called Billy who’d gotten into some kind of trouble. Mary-Sue said he’s been gone for almost two hours. I figure Scott should go and take a look out there, Dad.”

Jeff’s eyebrows knitted as he viewed the image of his youngest. He could hardly believe what he was hearing at eleven thirty five in the evening.

“A missing person is absolutely no reason for us to offer our services to anyone, Alan. Surely by now you have enough experience to know...’’

Alan interrupted him before the dressing down went any further. “Please Dad, allow me to finish. I thought the same thing too…at first. ”

“Go on,” Jeff bit back, trying hard to contain his impatience.

“You see, I’ve also been picking up another signal for most of the night. It’s a kid who keeps saying his brother Billy needs help.”

“So what exactly are you saying, Alan? “snapped Scott, who was sick of the puzzle. “That you think it’s the same Billy?”

Alan didn’t flinch, his belief in his intuition firm.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s the same frequency and almost the identical location. And get this; ten minutes before I picked up Mary-Sue’s call, the kid told me a Jimmy was in big trouble, too and both of them needed our help.”


The whirr of their hoverbikes cut the air as they scoured the length and breadth of the graveyard. There was nothing to worry about, John Tracy kept telling himself. There were no open graves with dark figures climbing out. What they’d witnessed fourteen years before had been a figment of their imaginations.

Of all the rescues to prove his fitness, Father had to select him for this one. He’d nearly turned green when Father decided a third crew member should go along in case they needed to operate any machinery. Machinery in a graveyard. Wouldn’t that be a load of laughs? Gordon sure knew when to stay in bed with a stomach ache after too much pumpkin pie.

“This all seems pretty straightforward I think, but John can join you as a precaution,” he’d said to Scott and Virgil before despatching them full speed to Kansas.

“Sure you’re up to it, son?” had been aimed in John’s direction.

“Of course I am. There’s nothing wrong with me, Father.”

What choice did he have if he wanted to go back on rotation?

The light on his hover bike slowly scanned the distant outline of the Dark Angel as it towered over the graveyard. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that the stupid statue still scared the crap right out of him. Virgil was doing a pretty good job of trying to pretend the whole thing didn’t worry him. However, a closer observation of his tight-lipped expression told John a very different story.

“We’ll leave the area near the centre until last,” Virgil decided, turning his bike and motioning John to follow him.

John relaxed a little and began to chuckle. “Not scared of anything, are you?” he teased as they headed in the other direction.

Virgil flashed him a disapproving frown. “Since when did I say I was scared of anything?”

“Not since the last time I said I wasn’t scared of anything, either,” John grinned back.

“Now come on, Johnny; we were only kids back then.”

“And that’s why we’re searching the Dark Angel last, right?”

Virgil went to respond but was interrupted when Scott joined them from where he’d been searching at the other end of the graveyard.

His voice boomed in the stillness

“This is hopeless. We need to split up. I’ve already spent the best part of thirty minutes grappling with trees and overgrown grass over there and so far, I haven’t found anything.”

“Split up?” John questioned him, doubtfully.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Virgil added.

Scott immediately swung his hover bike around to look directly at his two younger brothers.

“Yes, I’m serious. Why wouldn’t I be serious? You know what we’re expected to do.”

“But Scott... we all know what we saw that night.”

Scott wasn’t in the mood for them to revert to their childhood or start questioning his decisions.

“Let’s get something straight right now. There are two kids in trouble around here and we need to find them and fast. I’m sure you still have reservations about this place, but we are no longer the teenagers who ran home and confessed everything to Grandma. And before you say anything John…” Scott lifted a finger to warn him, “… don’t even think about trying to be a wiseass. After what Dad said to me, I should remember more than anyone, that you were only ten years old at the time.”

Scott had always been a pretty good mind reader. John closed his mouth and gave the expected nod of compliance. All three of them remembered who’d borne the brunt of the terrified confession to their grandmother. Father had been so angry he’d returned home from Japan to deliver the lecture to Scott in person.

Satisfied he’d made his point, Scott continued, explaining what he wanted them to do.

“Now, I’m going to check the area up above those trees,” he said. “I want you guys to spread out here and sweep up every row of gravestones until you reach the Angel. Look carefully for any trace of ground disturbance. If you find anything, no matter how small, call me on my wrist communicator, OK?”

Virgil flinched at the mention of ground disturbances and glanced apprehensively towards the Dark Angel.

“F.A.B,” he grimaced uncomfortably.

“John?” Scott demanded when he received no reply to his instructions.

John indicated the communicator firmly strapped to his left wrist. “Shouldn’t you also be reminding me to watch where I’m going at this point?”

Scott glared at him, less than amused.

“I don’t think so,” he snapped abruptly. “This time you have your own light. How about you use it and help me find those kids?” Then he shot his hover bike off in the other direction, expecting his orders to be obeyed.

“You just can’t help yourself, can you Johnny?” Virgil chided as Scott disappeared into the blackness. He gave a resigned shake of the head to indicate he was annoyed.

John sensed the disapproval. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what it means, Johnny.”

“He needs to give me a break.”

“Maybe you need to give him a break. A simple FAB was all that was required.”

The search for Jimmy Delaney then resumed in an air of awkward stiffness. But contrary to Scott’s orders, they remained together, steadfastly side by side.

“We didn’t want to miss anything,” was the agreed-upon excuse. It had nothing to do with being in a graveyard at midnight with the Dark Angel lurking nearby.

“You know, there has to be a logical explanation for all this,” John offered, their sharp exchange already forgotten.

Virgil scooted lower to the ground to check a large indentation.

“There always has to be a logical explanation for everything in your world,” he observed, offering a quick smile to offset the sarcasm.

“No, I mean it,” John continued earnestly. “I’ve thought about this Dark Angel thing for ages. A grave just doesn’t open up by itself, right?”

“You’re learning.” Virgil moved on from the indentation to the next row of trees. “Nothing here, either,” he said. “Let’s move it over towards the west.”

Another row of weathered marble revealed nothing; then another and another and another. Twelve more rows and they’d be face to face with the imposing, black cast iron statue. The close proximity of the Angel started John off all over again.


Virgil frowned at him. “So, what?”

“So, how do two walking, breathing individuals just disappear right in the middle of a graveyard?”

“Three actually,” Virgil corrected him. “Don’t forget the kid that Alan was supposed to be monitoring.”

John’s expression altered at the mention of Alan’s name.

“Yeah, well that’s another thing that I don’t get. I don’t know what he’s doing up there but he should be able to pick something up with the tracking equipment in the satellite.”

Virgil shrugged his shoulders.

“You heard what he told Scott on the radio. The only heat mass that’s registering up on Five is the girlfriend sitting in the car.”

“That defies all logic,” John argued back, refusing to acknowledge Alan’s report to Scott was correct. ”If they’re alive, there has to be a heat mass. It’s as simple as that.”

“Johnny, you more than anyone should know that trying to be logical and argue with Alan at the same time is not an easy thing to do.”

The Dark Angel loomed closer as the search continued. Almost in unison, they pushed the hover bikes higher. It gave them a better overall view of the graveyard, they decided. Being safely above the statue had nothing to do with moss covered metal, strange noises or sightless eyes.

“So back to my original question…” John broached the subject for a third time. “How is it possible for anyone to disappear in the middle of a graveyard?”

Virgil sighed, a mixture of tiredness, worry and frustration. “I don’t know, John. How about you tell me?”

“An open grave, perhaps?”

“Graves aren’t left open overnight.”

“It’s Halloween, Virgil.”

“I know it’s Halloween. And you heard what Dad said about it, too. We didn’t see what we saw that night.” Virgil seemed to be refusing to allow himself to re-live the memory of the night the three of them were spooked.

“But we did see it and that’s my point. Two shadows climbed out of the ground in front of us and if it wasn’t a grave, there’s no doubt in my mind that it had to be something else.”

“Like what?”

“Like a tunnel, I figure.”

Virgil dropped his hover bike to the ground.

“A tunnel?” he frowned. “Has it occurred to you that if someone dug a tunnel though here, they might not like what they’d find?”

Annoyed, John dropped his bike down to the ground, prepared to defend his theory. “And has it occurred to you that I might have done a bit of research on the subject of tunnels being dug through old graveyards in the south?”

Virgil looked confused.

“Why would you even bother with something as bizarre as that, Johnny?”

“Because I am still determined to find the answer for something our father told us was complete improbability at the time!”

John caught his reaction and immediately felt foolish. It was the reaction of the ten year old child he had been when they were creeping around in the dark fourteen years before.

“Besides, Virg,” he continued, embarrassed at the outburst, “you know how much I’ve always liked the challenge of solving puzzles.”

Virgil nodded without a word and waited for him to explain further. John pulled himself together and continued on.

“A couple of years ago I read an article about the slave trade in the Kansas Territory. Some of the things the slaves devised to escape from their masters were pretty darn amazing,” he said. “One way was by tunnel to a nearby river where they escaped in makeshift boats.”

“Wouldn’t it be dangerous descending the river bank in the dark?”

“Oh, sure, but they still took the risk. Hundreds of them escaped like that. What’s interesting is the fact that most of the tunnels started near a church and all of them had working graveyards. There isn’t much research available for the graveyards around this part of Kansas but in my thinking it might be a possibility. After all…” He pointed to the church and then the river, “...we’ve got both of the necessary ingredients right here.”

Virgil thought for a moment. ”Yeah, you could be right. It would kind of explain things, I guess.”

“It’s only a theory.”

”Maybe it is, but nevertheless I think we should inform Scott right away. He’s somewhere over by the old church.” He lifted his wrist to speak into his communicator.

How all three wrist communicators could malfunction at once was completely beyond their comprehension. All the communicators had been working perfectly less than five minutes before. Virgil tried his backup. Like John’s, it was completely dead as well.

“This is really weird, Johnny,” Virgil said uneasily. “I don’t think I like being out in a graveyard in the middle of the night with absolutely no means of communicating.”

“I think we’ve got more important things to worry about at the moment.”

The wind had started to pick up speed and something behind the Dark Angel was moaning.

“Please tell me you have a theory for that as well,” Virgil quaked at the dreadful sound coming from behind the statue.

John swallowed hard while he tried to recollect anything he’d read or heard. “How about it’s the wind blowing through the cracks in the statue?” he offered.

“Johnny, the last time you and I heard moaning like that we both saw something we didn’t want to see.”

“You heard Scott. We’re no longer three kids in a graveyard.”

“No, we’re three men without any wrist communicators”

“That’s not what I want to hear right now, Johnny.”

It was hard to ignore the angel as it moaned, but they knew for Jimmy Delaney’s sake, they had to forget their childhood fears and continue. They forced themselves to sweep the rear of the statue. Just when they were convinced there was nothing to worry about, the wind disappeared and the entire graveyard was still.

Suddenly, John thought he saw something move to his right. He motioned with his head and silently removed his gun from its holster. Virgil drew own his gun when he saw the movement too.

It was happening again and they weren’t imagining it. Someone was climbing out of the grave on the other side of the Dark Angel.

Virgil took aim at the slowly moving shadow. He didn’t needed to be reminded what it took to defend himself in the middle of a graveyard. John did the same, his finger steady on the trigger. One wrong move and whatever it was would be dead before it hit the ground.

But then the shadow swore and began to splutter and cough.

“A guy could get blasted claustrophobia down there. Hurry up, fellas. We’ll need a stretcher. Delaney’s broken his leg but he’s fine.”

Tracy Island

“To the Dark Angel.” The glasses lifted in unison.

“And to all those who impersonate her.” The glasses lifted again towards Scott.

“And to those who reveal their theories in graveyards.” It was a salute to John.

“And to those who are so desperate at the time, they have no option but to believe them,” John laughed, raising his glass to acknowledge Virgil.

Despite the lack of sleep and the new dawn on Tracy Island, the three eldest Tracy brothers were happy to sit through the necessary debriefing with their father before heading off to bed.

“You did a good job, boys,” Jeff Tracy smiled, amused at the light-hearted ribbing amongst his sons. “ No-one had any idea that old tunnels existed in that graveyard. Delaney was lucky to escape the situation with only a broken leg.”

“You could have ended up in worse shape than Delaney,” Virgil grumbled in Scott’s direction. “I hope you realise I had my gun aimed right at you.”

“And in a graveyard, I tend to shoot first and ask questions later,” John added to support Virgil’s complaining.

Scott swallowed his scotch, caught Virgil a bear-hug and then leaned forward to ruffle John’s blond hair. “Nah, you wouldn’t have shot me, you guys.”

“That’s what you think,” John growled back. “Whatever happened to the order to keep in touch if you found any kind of ground disturbance?

John was pleased to see his comment had the desired outcome from their father.

“My communicator went dead, Father,” was Scott’s explanation to the questioning frown. “So when I saw the rotted door in the ground at the back of the old church, I had to take the gamble and go down there. The hardest part was trying to find Delaney in the tunnel. That tunnel ran nearly the whole length of the graveyard. I was on my hands and knees for most of the way. By the time I found him I think both of us were delirious. It’s not a good feeling, believe me.”

“You weren’t the only one delirious,” Virgil berated him. “I swear my heart still has two rows of teeth marks on it after seeing you come out of that ground.”

“And no doubt that was what you all saw that night when you shouldn’t have been there,” Jeff Tracy acceded. “Two people horsing around in that tunnel who decided it was time to call it quits.”

There was silence as Scott, Virgil and John pondered on their father’s statement and how they’d felt that terrifying night when the ground opened up right in front of them and two children climbed out into the graveyard.

“I wonder who scared the crap out of us fourteen years ago?” Virgil said, shaking his head.

There was something cold crawling down John’s spine. He forced out the words he really, really didn’t want to say. “Guys…we never did find any trace of Greg or Billy Fisher tonight.”

Scott and Virgil stared at him. John saw the same unwanted realization hit them both.

Scott wrenched his gaze around, looked at his father instead. “Delaney was adamant that he was following Greg Fisher through the graveyard, Dad. But I never saw anyone but Delaney.”

Jeff had been leaning forward, sucked into the moment by the tension that ran between his sons. Then he seemed to catch himself, abruptly sitting back and shaking his head. His expression made his thoughts very clear. Oh, no, you don’t. We’re not doing this again!

He firmly ended the debriefing with one final statement.

“We saved a life, boys. That’s all that matters. Let’s just leave it at that. ”

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