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Better the Devil You Know (Belphegor's Friday 13th Vignette)


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Date: October 31st, 2008

Jos Terhune strode down the streets of Kingston, whistling a somewhat upbeat tune.

Anything can happen on Halloween...

Children and tweens scampered about in an assortment of costume, most light and colorful and kid-friendly, but some were grotesqueries fitting an R-rated horror film. More than one group appeared to be a "Junior Freedom League," and numerous 'zombies' shambled about, though there were also some kids dressed as characters Terhune did not recognize, a possible indication that some of the kids truly favored creativity and imagination. Or that he just wasn't as in-touch with the superhuman community as he perhaps should be.

Terhune himself was in a disguise of his own. Sneakers, blue jeans, an UWL (Ultimate Wrestling League) t-shirt, a bit of latex over his nose and brow to give him a more "rough" appearance, and topped with a backwards Freedom City Comets baseball cap. The clothes had all come from a Goodwill shop, paid for in cash. He had considered just strolling down to Kingston in his demonic form -- it's Halloween, it's one of the few times of the year he could do that -- but decided the risks were too high. Too much chance someone might recognize him from the Golden Calf debacle, or knows enough real magic to realize he's a real demon and not some guy in a fancy suit.

One child ran by, dressed as a red demon, with little bat-like wings dangling off his back. Terhune smiled inwardly.

Ah, but business first. He should be around here somewhere... ah, there!

Terhune had come looking for Ted Forrester. Forrester was the man he'd been stuck next to on the plane from Morocco, prattling on the entire time about his lost love and a descent into alcoholism which lead to him being dishonorably discharged from the air force and killing his ultimate dream of becoming an astronaut. In the three months since, though, Forrester had experienced a string of good fortune, due in large part to having found the love of a good woman, whom he had moved in with. They had recently announced their engagement in the newspapers.

This could not be permitted. So Terhune dug and searched and called in favors until he learned where Forrester lived, and knew a night where he, his fiance, and her infant son (from a prior relationship) should all be at home. That it happened on Halloween was icing on the cake.

He approached their house, a nice upper middle class home like so many in Kingston. He rung the bell, and waited patiently for a reply, which was not long in coming. The door opened, and Forrester's fiance, Elaine Hagerty, stood by with a large bowl of candy. "Why, you're no trick-or-treater!"

"No I'm not, ma'am," Terhune said in a slightly lower-than-usual voice. "I do hope you can help me, though. I'm supposed ta meet a buddy of mine for a Halloween party. I thought this was da place, but I t'ink I'm lost. I'm lookin' fer 201 Clinton Street."

"Oh, why, that should just be a few doors down!" Elaine replied. "This is 193, so 201 should be..." Elaine stepped out and looked to the left, then the right, then left again, "four houses down that way!"

Terhune bobbed his head a bit, "t'anks, ma'am. Have a nice night!" He walked off in the direction she indicated, but then looped around, doubling back so he was soon in Hagerty's back yard.

Mister Forrester, you are about to have a very, very bad night. And so are you, Ms. Hagerty, though your torments won't last long.

"Tragedy struck Kingston last night as a man beat both his fiance and her infant son to death. Police responding to an anonymous call report that Ted Forrester, who had recently announced his engagement to Elaine Hagerty, had strangled her son, a child from a prior relationship, then beat her to death with a blunt instrument, all seemingly while in a drunken rage. Forrester, a recovering alcoholic, has had a history of traumatic stress-related problems..."

The television clicked off, showing Terhune's reflection as he lounged in his Riverside home. He smiled to himself, close enough to the truth as they'll likely get. It was easy enough to amp his love for her cache of wines, and once he was happily drunk, manipulating his emotions was child's play. He'll remember killing her son in a jealous alcohol-fueled rage, thinking it the only way he could have her to himself, then his rage shifting to her even as she see-sawed between icy fear of and unnatural love for the man. Once he was done, a healthy dose of despair kept him from doing anything but drink more and more. Lucky for me, Halloween's activities kept anyone from wondering about the few shrieks coming from their house. Then I called the police, pretending to be a concerned passerby who saw something very unusual through their windows.

He glanced over at a small pile of objects d'art, And I even made off with a few pieces of art, too. I doubt Forrester will even notice they're gone... if he ever sees that place again!

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