“Deadly Desire”

I woke up face down on a dirt covered road. My entire body ached and bled. I tried to raise my left arm but it only moved inches. Something burned on my forearm like I was branded with a hot iron. No street lights, no lights of any kind. I’m surrounded by the night. Can’t even move my body off the road. Maybe the pain will go away if I die here in the dark.

Bright lights, headlights, moved quickly towards my mangled body. This is how it ends run over by a car in the middle of nowhere. The lights stopped in front of me. Suddenly a female in white illuminated by the headlights (an angel?) walked towards me. “Oh my god!” I heard her say then I passed out again.

I remember being lifted onto a stretcher and the loud, blaring sound of the ambulance. Incoherent voices talked to me. Nothing made sense. Everything was blurry. I fought hard to stay awake. People kept talking around me. “He’s lucky to be alive . . . lost a lot of blood.” ‘I’ve done all I can for him.” ‘The police want to talk to him when he regains consciousness.”

My mind saw Isabella’s cover girl face, the source of my greatest joy and my greatest pain. Her long black hair cascaded over the white pillow case. A pear shaped diamond necklace drew my eyes to her sensuous ebony body. Laughing, happy, she enjoyed the moment with me. Isabella’s soft brown eyes invited me to a world of pleasure.

Isabella screamed! Then the pain began.

I recall being thrown from the bed against the far wall. Gilley stood over me. His menacing six foot frame had a muscular build from his obsession with the weight room. “YOU BASTARD!” He kicked me in the stomach. I gasped for breath. “And robbing me too!” He emptied the briefcase covering me in a sea of fifty and hundred dollar bills.

Isabella ran from the bedroom wrapped in a sheet crying loudly. Taz, Gilley’s henchman a mountain of muscles and tattoos, rushed in. “What happened?”

“Mac was in bed with my wife!”

Taz jammed a silver revolver against my head. “Just say the word Gilley.”

“Not here. Drag his ass  behind the house in the woods.” Then Gilley looked at me. “I won’t kill you. But when we’re done with you you’ll be begging for a bullet to your head!”

“She loves me Gilley.” I blurted out.

Taz’s boot smashed into my face. The next few hours I was in and out of consciousness. The beating brought me to a new level of pain throughout my body. I heard Gilley say something about calling Joshua, Gilley’s tattoo guy, “to come over right now. You and Joshua dump his body couple hours from town.”

I woke up on the dirt road and again in a hospital bed. A warm hand in mine. A woman’s voice.”I’m alone in the world since  my divorce is final. No reason to hurry home just Checkers my cat waiting for me. I hope you wake soon. There’s so much I want to share with you.”

My eyes tried to focus. A nurse sat next to my hospital bed. I attempted to smile at her instead I moaned. The cute nurse had blondish brown hair, dark, expressive eyes and reacted with a big smile when I opened my eyes.

“Hi. Welcome back.” She greeted me.

“Were you the one who found me, who saved me that night?”

“Yes I did. I take that shortcut to the hospital when I’m running late and I’m always running late. There’s no traffic. It saves me ten minutes every day.” She paused and gripped my hand tighter. “I almost didn’t see you. I could have run you over.” A tear ran down her cheek.

“But you didn’t. I’m alive thanks to you.” I returned her smile even though my face hurt. “How long have I been here?”

“One week tomorrow. You were in a coma for days. I didn’t know if you would come back to me. I sit with you every day on my breaks and after my shift’s over. You have blue eyes. I haven’t seen them till now.”

“I’m sure you have lots of questions for me.”

“You’ve mumbled some names in your sleep like Gilley, Taz, and Isabella many times. I hope you’re not married.”

“I’m not. No kids either. Let me rest. We’ll talk tomorrow. And thanks again for saving my life.” I passed out and didn’t hear her leave.

The next day I spent with doctors and medical tests. Everyone seemed happy that I had returned from the dead. Nobody asked me my opinion to be back among the living. Maybe it would have been better for everyone to have died on that dirt road.

Still, I longed for my dark beauty Isabella, my reason to keep living. Would I ever see her again? The welcome mat will definitely not be out for me if I go back.

My dinner tray arrived. Hunger dominated my thoughts until I saw a bowl of soup, crackers and orange jello. I used the straws for my drinks. Based on my sore jaw I couldn’t chew anything hard. I had my last spoon of jello when she walked in my room. “There you are,” I said. My nurse friend had arrived. She removed my tray and sat next to me.

“We haven’t been introduced. I’m Kate Mathews. No one knows your name. You’re listed as John Doe.” Her hand slipped into mine.

“Everyone calls me Mac.”

“Are you able to answer my questions? The police detective said you couldn’t remember what happened.”

“For you I’ll answer anything.”

“Who beat you up and nearly killed you?”

“That would be Gilley.”

“Who’s Gilley?”

“My brother. A dangerous man. He’s involved in drugs and guns. Not the man to cross.”

“Who’s Isabella?”

“The reason I’m in the hospital. Gilley’s wife. We were gonna run off together with a briefcase full of Gilley’s drug money.”

Kate dropped my hand. “Maybe I have judged you all wrong.”

“I’m not a bad guy. Just got crazy over the wrong woman. The other name you mentioned Taz is a big mean dude. Avoid him at all costs.”

Kate stood and looked at me. “You’ll be able to leave the hospital in a few days. I thought about offering my home to you. I’m not sure. Can you explain your tattoo?”

“What tattoo?” She pulled off the long bandage on my left forearm revealing, DONT COME BACK. “I didn’t ask for that.” I explained.

“You need my help. I’ll take you home on a trial basis. We’ll see how it goes.” She left the room.

The day finally came and I rolled along in the wheelchair to Kate’s waiting car. My legs were gaining their strength from my daily walks down the hospital hallways. My left arm remained weak though.

We ate a quiet meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Soft food helped my jaw the most. I finished my coffee. She walked me to the guest room. “I hung some of my ex-husband’s old clothes in the closet. They should fit you. I’m across the hall. Don’t get any ideas. I’m locking my door.”

I slept soundly and woke to an empty house. Kate left coffee for me. I managed to find the toaster for some breakfast. I showered, dressed and watched tv until I fell asleep in a comfortable chair.

Kate ran into the house. “Mac, a man came looking for you at the hospital. A huge man dressed in black, Taz?”

I jumped to my feet. “Do you have a gun in the house?”

“Yes, but I’ve never used it.” She handed me the pistol and a box of bullets. “He won’t find you here.”

“He might have followed you from the hospital.” Suddenly a bullet shattered the front window. I knocked Kate to the floor. The second bullet slammed into the wall over our heads. The only good news, Taz couldn’t shoot real well. He relied on his brute strength to punish people. I loaded Kate’s gun and crawled to the broken window.

Taz’s size made him a very big target. He ran from the oak tree for a closer shot, his fatal error. I could shoot. I did learn something from my brother Gilley. Both bullets hit his chest knocking him backward to the ground. I hurried outside and watched him struggle and bleed in front of me. My last shot went directly into his large head. I took his gun and fished two more clips out of his pocket. Grabbing his Humvee keys, I found Kate standing behind me.

“You’re not going back there! They beat you to death last time.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“I have to. They nearly killed me twice. I can’t wait for them to come after me again.” She reached for me. I turned away.

“All you care about is that bitch Isabella!”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t look back at Kate. I hopped in the Humvee. If they see Taz’s vehicle, I might be able to drive right in before they notice. Was I going back for revenge on Gilley or for the love of Isabella? Maybe both. Since I had a couple of hours to drive, I thought about Kate. She had feelings for me. It might be better to turn around and make a new life with her. Sure I’ve had my share of other women in my life. But Isabella brought a sensual desire I’ve never known before. Being with her makes the whole world stop. Only the two of us exist in a combination of lust and love. My exotic girl, my reason for living.

Gilley would never understand. He tried to corner the market on beautiful women of every color. Isabella represented his flavor of the month. He would tire of her and send her packing. All I want is one woman, Isabella; he can have the rest for himself.

I crossed into Taver Hts. and knew it would only be twenty more minutes to reach the other side of town and Gilley’s house. I had no plans, running on straight adrenaline. Pulling to the side of the street, I reloaded the clip in my gun. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Taz left a bottle on the floor. I filled my mouth with good Kentucky bourbon. This could be the beginning of my new life or the end of my sorry one. There would be no mercy from Gilley, even for his own brother. I glanced at Joshua’s tattoo – DONT COME BACK. Too late. I’m back right now!

Gilley’s big country house had a large yard until he bought out his neighbors and tore down their houses. Then he owned the whole street. For late night shipments of guns and drugs, no prying eyes wondered what that truck delivered at four in the morning. At any given moment, six of his henchmen worked in the house or in the vast woods behind the house. Most of the men knew me. I’d work for Gilley off and on. He always overpaid me probably felt sorry for me.

I remember the first time I saw Isabella, the African queen of Gilley’s collection of gorgeous, international females. When our eyes met, I knew I had to have her. I started hanging out more at Gilley’s house. Unloading trucks, packing boxes, anything to appear useful, I needed to see her, be around her all the time.

That moment in the kitchen her hand touched mine. I reached for her hand squeezing it tightly. This time our eyes locked together for a brief moment. Talk about dangerous desire, my brother’s wife! We would exchange words in passing throughout the house.

“He won’t let me leave the house ever. I’m like a prisoner here. You know he hits me when he’s drunk.”

“We have to be careful or he’ll kill us both.”

Another time days later she said,”I’ve been putting money aside for us. He’ll never miss it.”

We stepped into an empty bedroom. I hugged Isabella for the first time. We shared a passionate kiss. I unbuttoned the front of her white cotton dress. Then I let my hands move across her black skin and she moaned with desire. I had to have her.

“When?” I whispered.

“Tomorrow afternoon, he’s leaving with Taz for a meeting downtown. It could take hours.”

The next afternoon we planned to take the briefcase of money and leave everything else behind. It didn’t happen that way. We were in the bedroom. We were alone in the house. One kiss led to another. Clothes flew in all directions. The blue quilt joined the clothing on the carpeted floor. Passion made its own plans, its own rules. Her perfumed body, her inviting brown eyes, I never heard Gilley’s voice until he opened the bedroom door.

Now I approached the house in the Humvee. A red Benz left the four car garage. Seeing my arriving Humvee they assumed a returning Taz and kept the garage door open and honked in my direction. At this time of night, probably a food run before the trucks rolled in again. A lucky break for me.The other two cars in the garage included an emerald green Jaguar and the midnight blue Corvette. Gilley loved his cars. As I closed the garage door, I set the house alarm to warn me when they returned. Any opened door of the house or garage would set it off.

I needed to find Gilley before I could save Isabella and live out my dream life. College football blared from the enormous family room tv sound system. No one occupied the black leather furniture. I entered the adjoining kitchen. There Gilley sat on a bar stool with his back to me. He drank the remainder of his Scotch rocks. “That you Taz? You killed Mac for me?”

“Afraid not Gilley.”

He turned to face the pistol I pointed at him. “Don’t do anything stupid Mac. You want money, I’ll give you money.”

“You know what I want, who I want.”

“Isabella? She’s outta your league brother. She loves me for my money. You have nothing to offer her.”

“Is she alright?”

“Outside of that black eye for saying your name, she’s perfectly fine.” I watched his right hand move slowly to a butcher knife laying on the counter. “You won’t leave this house alive. The guys’ll kill you if I don’t.”

“Nice try Gilley. I saw them leave.”

He threw his glass at me and grabbed the large knife. My gun fell to the floor. I managed to kick the knife out of his hand. We scrambled for the gun. He elbowed my nose and it exploded in blood. The gun landed across the floor from us. But Gilley moved faster and inched closer to the gun and killing me.

I didn’t hear her. Isabella stood over Gilley screaming and stabbing him repeatedly with the butcher knife. Lastly, she buried the knife up to the handle in his back.

Gilley was dead.

“We have to leave now.” I pleaded with her. I tossed her a kitchen towel. “Wipe the blood off your hands.”

“I need my purse.” Isabella hurried up the stairs unsteadily as if the reality of the moment finally caught up with her.

We raced to the Humvee. We’ll need different transportation that will blend in soon. I punched in the alarm code and we drove away. With Gilley and Taz both dead we had time to disappear. Isabella sat next to me leaning on my shoulder. Tears of joy and I’m sure regret, streamed down her face. From now on we would live our lives on the run.

By the way, her purse was filled with Gilley’s cash!

Michael Woll

Posted in "Deadly Desire" | 1 Comment


I sat in the darkness with my newly lit cigar and a glass of forty year old Macallan Scotch. Easing back in my comfortable rocking chair I tried to relax.  Smooth jazz played through my Bose speakers. Dave Brubeck will be missed in the music world. I wore my navy silk pajamas one last time. My life was ending and I had grown to accept the inevitable event. Will this be my new reality – eternal night?

Dr. Harvey gave me my death sentence. “Sorry, there’s nothing left we can do. The cancer has spread throughout your body. Go home. Spend time with your family and friends.” I never told anyone. Just a quick smile and reassuring words that everything would be alright. They bought the lie.

Are there days or hours remaining for me? The grandfather clock chimed loudly twelve times, the midnight hour. I drank my expensive Scotch. No reason to save that $10,000 bottle anymore. Nothing to be concerned with since my will and power of attorney  were all in place. I waited for my midnight visitor.

I exhaled the cigar smoke into the air. Suddenly two red eyes appeared out of the blackness of my family room. “Mephistopheles, I wondered when you’d show up.” I forgot how tall the devil’s wing-man stood nearly seven feet.

“Good evening Edward. Time to pay the piper as they say.” Mephistopheles sat in the chair next to me.

I blew smoke rings in his face and laughed. “I know all about contracts. I’ve practiced contract law for thirty-six years.”

This seemed to amuse him. “Experience? Try hundreds of years dealing with mankind’s greed and desires. You are still a rookie when it comes to contracts.”

I tapped my cigar lightly onto the ashtray watching the burning ashes. “Should I turn on a light?”

“You know I have an aversion to light.”

Jumping to my feet, I began switching on every lamp in the room. “Now I can see you in all your ugliness.” He wore a black cape over his leathery  crimson skin. Huge red wings and a bearded face with small horns completed the fallen angel’s appearance. “If you made a deal with your boss Satan for good looks, you need to rescind the deal.” It was my turn to laugh.

“Glad to see you are in good spirits knowing your soul is going to eternal damnation in a matter of hours. The fires of Hell are real and waiting for you.” His large frame shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Most men in your position are crying and begging. Praying to the god they betrayed for a last minute reprieve. Take me to the pearly gates. Please god please.” His laughing filled the room.

“No regrets, no begging from me.” I drank deeply from my Scotch rocks. “A deal is a deal. After my years of contract law cases, I know if the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted, a contract is a legally binding agreement in any court of law.”

Displaying the ancient book in his hands, he said,”I brought the book you signed in blood in case you would argue that you never wrote Edward J. Sterling Jr. inside.”

My laughter stopped him. “Sorry, please continue.”

“A sense of humor still?” The face of evil spoke. “Your soul will be mine. You had your successful life, your wealth, your bling as they call it today.”

“Yes, that was part of the contract or was it?”

“Are you trying to confuse me? Do not waste my time Edward. This is not my only stop tonight.”

I left the room and refilled my Scotch. “If these are my last hours on earth,” I said entering the room again,”I get to select the topic of our discussion. The other souls can wait.”

“I will play along with your game for now. But do not try my patience Edward.” His personality could change from charming to screaming in a second. I’ve witnessed both.

“I graduated from Notre Dame and remained there for my three years of law school. By my last year, I had met my future wife, Abby. We didn’t know until graduation day that she was pregnant with our son, Frank.”

“You are boring me,” Mephistopheles commented.

“Wait till you enter the story.” I puffed on my cigar before placing it in the ashtray. “When the final rank of my law school class came out, I dropped to twelfth. Sure I graduated from Notre Dame but the top ten lawyers were guaranteed the big money. This is when you came into my life.”

“The star arrives.” He smiled his crooked yellow teeth at me.

“I was desperate. Abby and I married. The big law firms passed me by. I had huge college loans. I had a family.”

“You needed my assistance. I met you at midnight in your apartment.”

“Then you painted the picture of golden tomorrows, of power, prestige, and wealth. At twenty-five, my mind was law school sharp. I listened to your offer. Weighed the pros and cons.”

“Mankind is weak.” Mephistopheles continued,”I tell people what they want to hear. Money for a soul. People are not even sure what the soul is. If only they knew! Losing one’s soul  did not matter when one is desperate or greedy like you.”

“Have you ever lost a soul you thought was signed, sealed, not delivered?”

Mephistopheles responded,”I try not to dwell on that.” He seemed to choose his words with care. “Of course over hundreds of years, someone slips away. A very rare occurrence.”

I smiled at his lies. He would never admit to failure in front of a mere mortal. “Back to my story, I signed your book in blood. Edward J. Sterling Jr. The contract between us began.”

“You have no regrets?”

“None for Edward J. Sterling Jr. Within a week I flew to New York and interviewed at Danford and Associates. They hired me. I made six figures by my third year at the firm. My stock choices were golden. We had more money than we could spend.”

“A fairy tale came true.” He answered with sarcasm. “Are we done reminiscing? I have other places to be.”

“No.” I finished my cigar. “Abby became famous for her charity work and served on many boards in the art world. Then came her heart attack. I called for you.”

“Yes, we met a second time.”

“But you wouldn’t help her. My contract did not include her deteriorating health. Damn you!”

“A deal is a deal. You said it yourself.” He rose from the chair and began pacing back and forth. “The hour is late Edward.”

“Frank became successful in the brokerage business selling commodities on Wall Street. He married Ava and they are expecting their first child soon.”

“Enough! Let us finish our business.” Mephistopheles marched towards me. His size alone intimidated and then there were those glowing eyes of fire.

“Sit down,” I said as firmly as I could. “Let’s talk about that contract you think you have.” I smiled at the evil being.

Mephistopheles returned to his chair. “We both know your last hours on earth have changed to minutes. Ticktock, time is almost up.”

“About that contract . . .” I teased him.


I stood and acted out the part of my favorite contracts law professor, Dr. Metger. Yeah, the same guy who wrote all those books and was on the short list for the Supreme Court. “Each side enters into a contract with a promise made. The first party offers a life of wealth and fame. The second party offers in return his immortal soul. A binding contract is made when, in this case, his name is signed in blood in your book of souls.”

“Yes, yes. I need to leave!” His anger grew with each word.

“What if a mistake happened to void the contract?”


“Oh no, very possible.” I lit my final cigar to celebrate my victory. “The name I signed in your book look at it again. Open your book of souls.”

“What exactly am I looking for?” His vicious temper nearly exploded.

“The name Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“Yes. I see your signature. What is your point?”

I blew smoke in his direction. “That’s not my name. My father was named Ralph and my grandfather Benjamin. Sorry no junior. You made a deal with someone who doesn’t even exist! I keep my soul. You lose!”

His book flew past my head. He shrieked. Suddenly, the archdevil appeared to regain his composure. “You win your soul. But you gave away another’s soul tonight. Remember what you did for all eternity!”

“What are you talking about? There is no Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“Call your son.” Mephistopheles vanished from sight.

I dropped my cell and tried again for his number. “Frank?”

“I was just about to call you. We have great news dad. Ava had a boy and we named him after you, Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“NO! NO! NO!” I stumbled backwards, fell and left this world a broken, bitter man.

Michael Woll

Posted in "MEPHISTOPHELES" | 1 Comment

Murder Me Twice


Posted in "Moonlight Drive" | Leave a comment

“If the Shoe Fits”

Annie marched down the sidewalk, passed the car-lined street, and blended in with the large group of people walking towards the mansion. At that moment she searched through the crowd. “Ricky?”

“I’m here.” A reluctant Ricky responded. “Told ya I’d rather wait in the car.” Her flowing red hair and captivating smile made it hard for him to say no.

“This is where Vito the Mauler Lepinski lived! One of the most famous mobsters of all time. Don’t you wanna see his house?” They walked through the imposing iron gate.

He caught up with her. “No. Not interested in a giant garage sale.”

“It’s an estate sale, not a garage sale. They’re selling everything for cheap. Maybe you’ll find something to buy.”

“I doubt it,” he said. “All the good stuff is probably gone by now. Okay, I’ll play along. After all I’m Italian too.”

A long table was set up opposite the front doors and had become the place of business. Two serious-looking men in short sleeve shirts sat in front of a cash box with a stack of papers between them. A uniformed policeman paced behind them reflecting on his luck at getting this off duty assignment. The short line of people carried everything from lamps to paintings over to the table.

Annie grabbed Ricky’s hand. “Let’s explore the upstairs. There’s over a dozen bedrooms.”

“How exciting,” Ricky yawned.

The large staircase led them to spacious hallways. After ducking in and out of several rooms, Ricky spied a king sized bed and sat down. “I’ll wait for you here. At least this bed’s comfortable.”

“This is Vito’s bedroom!”

“It’s as big as the entire first floor of our house! Look a mirror on the ceiling too. Who needs a room this size?”

Annie pointed at the burgundy couch and chairs with the well-stocked bar. “Bet a lotta deals went down here. Probably gave orders to have people killed.”

“You read too much. That’s gossip not fact. I heard he never served a day in jail.”

“Gangsters got the best lawyers. Everyone knows that.”

Ricky reached under the bed. “Hey look what I found – black patent leather shoes! I could use new dress shoes. I’m sure they won’t fit.” Ricky tried on both shoes and stood up. “Damn, they actually fit. Good condition too. I’m guessing two hundred easy for these.”

Annie entered the huge walk-in closet. “There’s still some of his suits in here. Maybe you can find a suit to go with your shoes.”

“Thought he was fat.”

Annie laughed. “You haven’t looked in the mirror lately.”

He flipped through the suits and pulled out a black three piece suit. “What’d think Annie?”

“You’ll fit in at Muraski’s Funeral Home.” She placed a black felt hat on his head. “Now you look like a real gangster!”

They cut short the rest of their upstairs tour and joined the line of customers. “Don’t know what they’ll charge me.” Ricky remembered having about a hundred and twenty in his wallet and had to buy dinner tonight for them. “I wonder if Vito left me some cash.” He laughed this time.

Ricky rifled through the suit pockets and retrieved a handful of hundred dollar bills. Since the line was slow, he counted out twelve hundred dollars. This day just kept getting better! “I owe you a special dinner tonight honey.” He flashed the roll of hundreds for only her to see.

“Wow!” Annie reacted. “Let’s dress up for dinner. You can wear your new clothes.”

They reached the table with the emotionless men staring at them. “What are you buying?” The man on the left asked.

“Gotta suit, shoes and oh yeah this hat.”

The second man wrote everything on a blank sheet of paper. “Your offer?”

“Two hundred for everything?”

“Done. Sign here and put today’s date. All sales are final, no refunds.”

Annie left the mansion and began strolling through the colorful flower gardens, neatly trimmed hedges and Roman style water fountains. Ricky followed closely behind. He would not complain this time. Maybe he finally got lucky; his ship had come in at last.

Hours later, they dressed for their night on the town. “Yes you need to wear a tie Ricky.” She stood in her white slip staring into her closet. Something dressy, something sexy. The short navy dress always looked good showing off just enough of her shapely figure to turn a few heads when she entered a room. Of course she would add the pearl necklace.

Ricky walked in with two ties. “The blue stripes or the solid red?”

“Blue, it’ll match my dress.” She was startled by his smack on her behind as he left the room. “You’ll pay for that Ricky.” She giggled.

“I plan on collecting babe.” He called to her. “How bout that expensive Italian place, the Golden Bowl?”

“You need reservations to eat there.”

“Well let’s stop anyhow. I should buy a lottery ticket with my luck today.” As he zipped her dress, he said,”You look amazing!”

“And you look like a gangster out of the old black and white movies, especially with that hat.”

After a short drive, they reached the Golden Bowl. Annie took his arm as they walked up to the maitre d. “Need a table for two Oscar.” Ricky said to the white coated man.

“Vito?” Oscar couldn’t hide the shocked look on his face. “Of course, your usual table follow me.” He tried to regain his composure.

They sat at a small table by the enormous fireplace. The waiter appeared handing them menus and pouring glasses of water.

“Tony, how’s the veal tonight?”

“Delicious, your favorite meal I know. Sorry for giving you menus Mr. Lepinski. A pleasure to have you dining with us again.” Tony reached for the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.

“How do you know everyone’s names?” Annie questioned. “I thought you never ate here before.”

“They wear name tags I guess.”

“No, they don’t Ricky.”

Ricky shook his head. “Can’t tell you. It just came to me.”

Tony returned and filled their wine glasses with champagne. Then he left the bottle in a bucket of ice by Ricky’s chair.

“You’ll love the veal doll. Best I ever had!”

Annie said,”Ricky, you’re doing it again! You’re scaring me. It’s like you became Vito!”

“Don’t be silly.” He grabbed her leg under the table. “Who else would do that?”

“Okay, I’m overreacting. Let’s enjoy our dinner.”

The salad bowls were quickly joined by their dinner plates of veal and penne. They ate quietly. Ricky refilled their glasses until the bottle was empty.

Oscar rapidly crossed the restaurant to Ricky’s table. “Vito, you need to leave now! The Torelli brothers pulled up in a white limo. Follow me through the kitchen. We have a car waiting for you.”

“Annie, we gotta scram. Those are the Torelli brothers who killed me!”

Too startled to talk, Annie’s wine glass slipped from her hand spilling champagne on the white tablecloth. She took Ricky’s hand. It felt like a dream or a nightmare and she couldn’t wake up. They rushed past the kitchen crew and into the dark sedan in the alley.

Oscar closed the car door. “That was too close,” he said to the darkening night sky.

“Is it really you Vito?” The driver asked as he drove rapidly through the downtown streets.

“Michael, good to have you at the wheel. Like old times.”

Was it the champagne? Had she fallen asleep watching Edward G. Robinson in a gangster movie? Tell me this can’t be happening; Annie cried into her hands.

“Change of plans tonight Michael. Drop us off at 1370 Wallings. Then disappear. I’ll see you in the morning, usual time.”

“Whatever you say boss. Gotta a little hideaway for you and the girl. Fine by me.”

Annie waited in her lace robe until she heard Ricky snoring. As she expected, he piled all of his clothes on the bedroom floor. Whatever spell Ricky was under, the clothes appeared to be the key. She scooped them up, with his shoes, into a garbage bag and threw it in the trash can behind the garage. Perhaps she could sleep and life would be normal in the morning.

Ricky emerged from the shower towel-drying his black hair. “Annie, I barely remember what happened last night. I should never drink champagne.”

Putting on her robe again, she responded,”We had a great time, especially when we got home.”

“That I remember!” He smiled when the sizzling memory resurfaced. “You’re incredible.”

Annie kissed his cheek. “I’ll make some coffee while you get dressed.”

Ricky called out to her,”Hey, where’s my new suit?”

She didn’t answer. Maybe the genie was finally back in the bottle. No more mobster Vito.

“I found my new shoes. Must’ve put them in the closet.”

Shoes, Annie thought, they were tossed away too. She poured the water in the coffeemaker and flipped the switch.

Ricky appeared in all of his gangster clothes – black suit, black shoes and hat. Annie was speechless. No, it couldn’t be possible! “Ricky?”

“Who’s Ricky?”

Ricky/Vito kissed her hard on the lips and squeezed her ass. “Thanks for last night doll. I feel like a new man. See you soon. Michael’s got your address.” Then he walked out the door and into the waiting Lincoln Town Car.

Annie collapsed onto the kitchen chair in a burst of tears. Why? Why was this happening?

“Where to boss?” Michael asked.

“Silvio’s. Gotta connect with the boys. Let ’em know I’m back.”

“Oscar called me from the restaurant. Said the Torelli brothers came in heavy looking to kill you. Guess they went away disappointed.” Michael finished the drive and opened the car door. “Call me when you’re ready to leave boss.”

Ricky walked through the side door of Silvio’s. “Hey Frankie, good to see ya.”

Frankie’s large frame slowly rose from the desk chair. Stacks of twenties, fifties, and hundreds covered the desk. “Vito?”

“Who else?” He hugged Frankie patting him on the back. “How’d we do last night?”

“Pretty good. I’m still counting. Surprised to see you Vito.” Shocked better described his true feelings as he returned to his chair.

“We need to hit Dominic and Vinnie Torelli. They were gunning for me at the Golden Bowl. We gotta put them in the ground.”

“Lemme call Max. His crew would be perfect. Nobody knows them.” Frankie dialed and nodded to Vito. “They’ll be here in ten minutes.”

“I’m going too.”

“Not a good idea Vito. They’ll see you coming.”

“I’ll stay outta sight. I gotta watch them die for what they did to me!”

Joey, a slender man in his twenties, walked in. “Rumors must be true! Vito lemme make you a drink. Scotch and water?”

“Always, thanks Joey. Good to be back.” Ricky sipped his Scotch and waited.

The phone rang. “Yea,” Frankie answered. “Keep an eye on ’em. Call me here if they leave.” Frankie hung up the phone and wrote on a small piece of paper. “Got an address, Hillcrest Motel over on State. The Torellis are staying there.”

Max opened the door. His blonde hair and glasses reminded Ricky that he wasn’t Italian but had prove his loyalty many times. A ruthless killer he could rely on.

“Here’s the address.” Ricky handed him the paper. “I’m riding along with you.”

“Yes Mr. Lepinski. Whenever you’re ready.”

Max opened the back door of the black Impala for Ricky. Two other men were already seated rechecking the clips from their pistols. Max took the wheel as they slowly approached Hillcrest Motel. He stopped and gave the orders. “Front door for you two. Bobby take the parking lot. I’ll take the door.”

Like a smooth military operation, Max’s boot kicked open the motel door. All three men fired before the Torellis could reach their guns. Dominic never got off the bed. Vinnie fell by the bathroom door riddled in bullets. Max shot each brother in the head.

Ricky stood by the motel door. “Good job! I could always count on you Max.” Then he turned and walked away.

Frankie answered the ringing phone. “Max, is it done?”

“Yes. You won’t believe this Frankie. Vito vanished. All we found was a pile of his clothes. Can’t find him anywhere.”

“Is this a joke? It ain’t funny Max.”

Annie started to calm down by her second cup of coffee. Nothing made any sense. Vito back from the dead? Suddenly Ricky walked in the house. Annie jumped up and greeted him with a big hug. “I’m really glad to see you.”

“Crazy thing is I don’t have any shoes.” A confused Ricky added, “And I’m standing here without any pants on. What’s been going on?”

Michael Woll

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“Christmas Cash” – 1

The economy sucks and so does the job market. But you know that! Craigslist, newspaper classified ads, employment agencies – I tried all of them and nothing worked. I heard encouraging words like “apply on line” and “part-time could lead to full-time.” No help. I kept hearing I have one talent. “You have a great voice. You should be an actor.”

I laughed at that remark. An  actor? I can’t memorize a tiny grocery list let alone Shakespeare! And I was told I have the dance moves of a rhino on ice. So I continued looking for work. I lived off my slim savings account for now. But for Christmas expenses I needed a job.

All the tv commercials were promoting Christmas. The new toys every kid wanted and that swell present your wife or girlfriend desired. A brand new car as a holiday present? Who did that? With my credit cards tapped out I needed cash for the holidays. My search continued.

I knew one job I could always get if I was desperate – PHONE SALES! Every list of employment opportunities included many companies advertising for phone solicitation. Finally desperation won. I looked at the company names and decided to go with the first company, Acme Inc. Wasn’t that the company the coyote ordered his stuff from when he chased the roadrunner? That never ended well!

One call later and I headed for Acme’s phone center. A fast-talking guy named Roger led me to his office. I looked at the rows and rows of people talking on their phones. I counted fifty total with five rows of ten desks.

“Sit,” Roger insisted as he closed the office door. “I remember your voice from the phone call. What’s your first name?”

“Alvin,” I responded. “But you can call me Al.”

“Okay Alvin. Here’s how this job works. I give you a script to read from. This week we’re selling Hamilton’s Encyclopedias. Disc or books are available.”

“Does anybody buy the books these days?”

“You never know. Sometimes your older customers don’t use computers and will buy the books. I’ll also give you the yes and no lists. If a customer says yes, follow these directions to close the sale. If a customer says no, these are the answers to say for any question or doubt the customer has.”

“Anything else I need to be aware of?”

“Let’s go.” Roger walked out of his office and I followed. “This is the break room, restrooms, refrigerators, vending machines. You get five minutes off every two hours and a dinner break for twenty minutes. Try not to take your dinner time before seven. You’ll miss out on some good sales.”

Roger continued walking into the call center. “Row three, you’ll be at station 27. Most guys would fight for this spot.” He stopped in front of my new home desk 27. “Girls, this is Alvin. Alvin, these are the twins Teri, number 26 and Tara, number 28. If it wasn’t for the numbers, I couldn’t tell one from the other.”

“Hi Teri and Tara.”

They both smiled in my direction as they talked on the phones. “Try to ignore them and just do your job,” Roger said. “I know that’s not easy. The reason we have this opening is because the last guy at 27 tried to date both of them.”

“I’m here to work. I need the money for Christmas.”

“Good. One more thing tonight’s incentive is $50. The first person with three confirmed sales gets this fifty dollar bill. Best of luck Alvin.”

“Call me Al.” But he was already gone. I opened the large phone book to M. Here goes nothing!

Michael Woll

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“Christmas Cash” – 2

Alvin was an okay name until the Christmas songs started dominating the radio. Alvin and the Chipmunks, need I say more? So call me Al please!

The first night at Acme was uneventful. A few sales and a lot of weird calls. Let me give you an example. I dialed the next number on the page and said,”Good evening. I have a unique opportunity for you tonight. My company purchased a boat load of encyclopedias from Hamilton Inc., the world’s largest publisher of encyclopedias. I can give you a great price if you act now.” Yes I was off script.

“You have a wonderful voice. I trust you,” the woman responded.

“You can have the entire world at your fingertips. Do you own a computer or would you like the books instead?”

“If you can bring the books to my house tonight I’ll buy them dear.”

“Before I get your credit card information, can I ask your age?”

“Seventy-five,” she answered proudly. “Come see me honey. Forget the books – just you! Get it while it’s hot!”

“I don’t think it’s been hot since Nixon was president.” I hung up the phone quickly. Of course there were a lot of people’s hangups and cursing before I could get into the sales script.

Teri, the blonde on my left, won the fifty dollar bill. As she walked up to get the cash, yea I watched her walk, I wondered if the callers saw the twins when they talked. I looked over at Tara. Why do twins always dress alike? Now I know why the last 27 was fired.

Here are some more insane reactions from my phone calls:

“Alvin? Are you a chipmunk?”

“You are part of the alien nation. I watch for you every night in the stars.”

“I can buy one book a month if that’s okay.”

“Are you sleeping with my wife? Would you like to?”

Anyway, I waited till the middle of the week before I asked Teri and Tara to a late dinner after work. They knew an Italian place, Lembertos, fifteen minutes away. To make it easier, I followed them in their car. It was a bit of a surprise that they didn’t have identical cars!

We sat in numerical order like we did at Acme. I checked over the menu as an older woman approached our table to take our order. The twins, in unison, ordered for all of us in ITALIAN! Unbelievable!

So much for the dumb blonde jokes, I was the dummy at this table. As we ate our eggplant parm and wine, I asked,”How long have you worked at Acme?”

“Four years next month,” Teri responded.

“Do you really enjoy talking on the phone?”

Tara laughed,”I’m on my cell all the time so why not get paid for it.”

I sipped my wine and noticed the twins even ate alike. “When you two get dressed in the morning, do you look at each other and not a mirror?”

They both laughed this time. Teri looked at Tara,”I told you he was funny. We still fight over the mirror every morning.”

I filled our wine glasses. “Do you always dress the same?”

Tara answered,”Ever since we were kids. Blame it on our mom. We never buy clothes unless we can purchase two of everything.”

I paid for dinner and we walked to our cars. Teri and Tara each kissed my cheeks. “Thanks for dinner Alvin.”

“Call me Al,” I smiled back. I watched their car drive off. Now I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.

Michael Woll

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“Christmas Cash” – 3

Wow! My desk turned into a winter wonderland overnight. In the corner of my snow-covered desk glowed a tiny Christmas tree with flashing lights! Teri and Tara smiled over their handiwork. “You girls are too much. Even my apartment never looked this good for the holidays!”

“You’re welcome Alvin,” they responded in unison. “Look at our desks too.” Snowmen and candy canes decorated their desktops. A small string of red and green lights blinked to the Christmas carols playing over Acme’s speakers. Of course their desk displays were identical. “Roger lets us select the music to play.”

Roger appeared from his office and announced,”Our new product this week is our biggest seller every holiday season – Mrs. Smith’s Fruitcakes. Everybody loves fruitcakes at Christmas.” Our new phone scripts were passed out to everyone. “The first confirmed sale today wins this fruitcake.” He held it proudly for all of us to see.

I  said only to my blonde neighbors,”I’m going for the second sale. I don’t want a fruitcake. Most people avoid fruitcakes or people who act like fruitcakes.”

The girls laughed as they read over the new script. “You’re so bad,” Teri stated.

“It’s the ultimate gift to regift for the next holiday season. Besides, fruitcakes last forever. You never know how old they are unless you carbon-date them.”

Tara tried not to laugh,”Teri’s right. You are an evil man. Funny but evil.”

We reached for our phones. My black phone looked like it was covered with snow. I don’t know how they did it. I looked closer and saw a miniature winter village with houses, sleds and snow-covered trees. Oh yea, I’m supposed to be making phone calls!

The first call was always the strangest. I went through my script and waited for a fast hangup or a curse word you don’t use in front of grandma ever. But to my surprise – a sale! I got all the information and bragged,”I got a sale!”

The twins yelled loudly,”Alvin has the first sale!”

A smiling Roger handed me the boxed Mrs. Smith’s Fruitcake. “Good job Alvin. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your fruitcake or use it as a holiday gift.”

After Roger returned to his office, I said,”If I give this fruitcake to someone I know, I’ll never see them again. How come I never win the fifty dollar bills?”

We returned to the phones. What started out as a very profitable night slowed down. All I had the rest of the night was one more sale. If you’ve never had a job like this, and I hope you haven’t, they pay you a low hourly rate and bonus money for every sale.

I looked over my Christmas list and knew that I needed more money. My cell bill and next month’s rent cut into my holiday cash flow. I might have to use that fruitcake for a present after all.

The rest of the week the twins wore Santa hats. If they were Santa’s elves, the kids might be in line for Santa Claus but the dads would be in line for telling the twins what they wanted for Christmas. HO HO HO!

Selling fruitcakes was a lot like selling snow to Eskimos. It could be done just not easily. I better sell some fruitcakes fast!

Michael Woll

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“Christmas Cash” – 4

Three days till Christmas and I’m not finished shopping. Not for lack of time, it’s a lack of money. I rolled into Acme determined to have a good sales night. Roger posted a one hundred dollar bill as tonight’s bonus.

Teri and Tara were wearing identical, of course, green elf costumes, including little green hats that couldn’t completely cover their long blonde hair. “Hi Alvin.” They smiled and spoke in unison.

“Hi girls. You look wonderful and more distracting than usual.” They giggled. “I’m going for that hundred bucks if I can stop looking at my double vision of Christmas. Teri and Tara, you’re making my life great and terrible at the same time.”

“Sorry Alvin,” Teri answered. “Would it help if we wore brown paper bags to work?”

“No, I would still be gazing at my stereo sweethearts.” I laughed. “If you wore paper bags, it wouldn’t be any fun here.”

We finally got to the phone calls. Gotta move those fruitcakes! First call. I zipped through my little speech and waited for a response.

“What kind of fruit? Is it fresh fruit?”

“No it’s fruitcakes.”

“Cake, I like cake.”

“Fruitcake, fruitcake, the best of both worlds.”

Hangup! I tried the next number and had success.

“I’ll buy three if I can get them before Christmas.”

Yes! “If I have to, I’ll drive them to your house.”

Moments later I returned to desk 27 one hundred dollars richer. Teri and Tara clapped for me. Whenever society has picture phones, Teri and Tara will be instant millionaires. Nobody would say no to them!

The rest of the night was hit or miss. A few sales added to a productive evening. I decided to visit the mall tomorrow morning and finish my shopping. My Christmas cash idea worked!

The next night my entire life changed with one phone call. I called Browning Inc. I usually avoided calling companies but I had nothing to lose. I altered my script slightly to promote a company sale.

“Ted Browning here. I was walking by my secretary’s desk. What did you say about a great Christmas present for my employees?”

One thousand fruitcakes for his employees and ten for Ted’s family, I was walking on air!

One year has passed since that famous call. Let me catch you up. I replaced Roger as the manager at Acme. Teri and Tara are working for me at desks 1 and 2. The biggest news, I found a way to have the twins wear different clothes, for one day at least. I married Teri! One wedding dress allowed, sorry Tara.

It’s a great life! We were married on Christmas day by a justice of the peace dressed as Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope all your dreams come true!

Michael Woll

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“A Gift for Santa”

I placed another log on the fire and felt the warmth fill the family room. My son Ted struggled to tear the Santa wrapping paper from his big Christmas present. My lovely wife Mary left the glow of the fireplace and knelt down in her red nightgown to aid Ted in his efforts. The smell of pine complemented the taste of eggnog in my reindeer glass. I paused for a moment taking a mental picture of Mary and Ted with the enormous, decorated Christmas tree behind them. A beautiful holiday memory!

But then I opened my eyes to the reality of a small apartment, a tiny Christmas tree and no Mary or Ted, just like it’s been for four years now. I was between jobs, which is nothing new. Fortunately, I waited for a phone call that would provide me with seasonal employment.

I opened the refrigerator and found the usual: generic beer in white cans (Bob’s Beer?), generic cola, white bread a week past the expiration date, lunch meat I can’t identify, the cheese with the holes – Swiss, and a freezer full of microwave dinners. At least the rent’s paid for December and the electric bill too. Gotta tv outta the trash my neighbor Ray threw out. It works good enough. Ray got one of those HD big screen tvs. No cable for me either. Maybe someday.

My cell phone rang. “Bobby, Bobby Richards?”

“Yes sir that’s me.”

“This is Mr. Masters the store manager at Watkins Department Store. It’s Christmas time again. We would like to offer you a job as our store Santa Claus starting on Wednesday.”

“Thanks Mr. Masters. I would love to work for you.”

“Good Bobby. I’ll see you Wednesday nine o’ clock sharp.”

I’ll have money for the holiday season. I owned one Christmas decoration a small Christmas tree that has seen better days. I kept it in my apartment storage space till December. Sometimes the little lights blink and other times they don’t. They usually stayed on in all their bright colors.

Wednesday came and I set two alarms so I wouldn’t sleep too late. I took the Grant Street bus which stopped right across the street from Watkins Department Store. The Santa job barely paid over minimum wage but they gave me a cafeteria pass good for one meal each day as long as I worked there. You better believe I loaded my tray at the department store cafeteria. And good food too, better than my cooking.

The store dry cleaned the Santa suit before December. It had two pairs of pants which came in handy sometimes. I tried the red suit on and it fit fine. It seemed like every year I required less and less padding. Guess that said a lot for my physically unfit body!

Jingle bells announced my arrival. I entered Candy Cane Lane on my way to the “North Pole.” Large red and white candy canes and huge Christmas trees decorated each side of my Santa throne. My boots walked across the fluffy fake snow as the children in line screamed and several jumped up and down. The padded seat on my Santa throne didn’t help much by the end of the day.

The Keller twins, Bev and Becky, dressed in their cute green elf costumes with green hats. The two blonde college juniors have been working here since high school. They filled their green outfits the right way, not like me and my Santa suit. Sure I looked at them. It helped the day pass faster.

“Bev, bring the first child up,” I said.

“It’s Becky, Santa.”

“Sorry.” I always mixed them up.

The first little girl wore a white sweater with a red reindeer over her designer jeans. She jumped on my lap and started talking before I did. “Hi Santa. Mom and I sent you an email with all the toys I really want. Can you get something nice for mom like diamonds? She loves diamonds.”

“I’ll see what I can do honey. Merry Christmas.” Bev, or was it Becky, gave her a candy cane while her sister brought the next boy to me. “Merry Christmas. What would you like for Christmas?”

His navy Dallas Cowboy sweatshirt seemed too large for him. “I’m on your naughty list Santa. My mom had a baby, baby sister and I don’t help her. I’ve been a brat. But if I could have a puppy, I know my sister would like it too.” He pulled on my beard.

“Now that’s naughty son. Don’t touch Santa’s beard. I’ll try to find you a puppy if you’ll help your mom.”

“Deal Santa.” We shook hands.

The next girl wore a red dress decorated with white snow flakes. “I want a picture with you Santa.” She smiled with several missing teeth. The store photographer Bert started taking pictures. I felt something warm and wet. The girl peed on me!

When she joined her mom discussing all the expensive picture packages, I called my elves over. “Santa needs a break soon. I just got urinated on.” One twin laughed; the other bit her lip to keep from laughing. Like I said before, the Santa suit came with two pairs of pants.

I took my cafeteria break in the late afternoon and found the turkey special. After lunch, the rest of the day moved quickly. Before long I changed clothes, wrote a note pinned onto the soiled Santa pants, and hurried through the blowing snow to my bus. I caught “Frosty the Snowman” on tv as I sipped my generic cola. I went to bed early.

Another day and another long line of kids wanting to see me. A lot of stores stopped having a store Santa Claus so Watkins got families traveling over an hour for Santa. If they spent some money in the department store, and they always did, all the better for business. The day passed surprisingly slow even though we had lots of kids. I found myself checking my watch a few times which I almost never did. Finally the last child stood in line, even my elves needed a break.

The boy came over and talked to me without sitting down. He stood about three feet tall, unkempt dark hair and sparkling hazel eyes. His long burgundy coat reached his knees. “What do you want for Christmas Santa?” His question surprised me.

“I guess I never thought about it. What’s your name son?”

“Sebastian. Come on Santa. Answer my question.”

“If you wanna know the truth Sebastian, I’m pretty lonely these days, no Mrs. Claus waiting for me at home.”

My head spun around to see her walk into the room. She wore a black leather dress with matching black boots. Her grey fur coat was unbuttoned. When she smiled in my direction, I nearly fell on the floor. Her black hair flowed past her shoulders and those bright green eyes stared at me.

I turned to Sebastian. “That’s an example of a woman who is out of my league, no chance.”

Sebastian patted me on the back. “Never say never Santa.”

She approached me! “Let me take you to dinner Santa.”

Somehow I managed to say,”Just give me a minute to change clothes.”

“No.” She replied firmly. “I want to go out with Santa.”

I followed her almost in a trance. “I don’t get paid till Friday. So maybe we could have coffee.”

She took my gloved hand. “I’m paying for dinner. I’ve always wanted to have dinner with Santa Claus.”

We crossed the street to Devon’s Diner. Before I opened my menu, she ordered,”Two steak dinners with everything. Two coffees and two pieces of peppermint pie.”

Children sitting at other tables yelled excitedly,”Santa, Santa!” Fortunately their parents smiled and told them to “Let Santa eat his dinner.” I waved to the happy children.

Then I tried to make conversation and not stare at her like a lovesick school boy. “You are beautiful. Sorry, I had to say it. You probably hear that all the time.”

“Never from Santa. When I was a child, the stores would have breakfast with Santa. My parents could never afford for me to go. Now that I own a software company I can do anything I want.”

The steak dinners arrived and I fought a losing battle trying to keep my white Santa beard clean. She laughed so I took that as a good sign. I could barely finish my pie. I stared into her hypnotic green eyes. “Can’t remember when I’ve eaten such a great meal. Thanks.”

She grabbed my hand. “Oh I’m not done with you Santa. You’re coming with me.”

We walked through the downtown streets as the snow fell lightly. When we reached the town square, red and green lights flashed on the Christmas trees around the gazebo. Standing inside the gazebo, a group of carolers entertained a small gathering of holiday shoppers. Children surrounded us and we sang along to the great Christmas songs. A magical moment I’ll remember forever!

The next morning I woke up in my apartment still dressed in my Santa suit. I realized that I never asked her name. Did last night  happen or was it a dream?

Back at Watkins Department Store, I watched the children come and go. Before I realized it, I started my second week as Santa Claus. That attractive woman never returned and I believed it never happened at all. Every year at the Christmas season I had a sense of loneliness. But I didn’t discuss my feelings with anyone.

The Christmas countdown had begun. More people filled our store. Long lines of kids kept us working extra time especially on the weekends. At least we got paid overtime. Bev and Becky noticed my depression. “What’s wrong Santa? You don’t seem like your jolly old self.”

“It’s nothing girls. Thanks for asking. I do enjoy working with you every season.” I noticed Sebastian standing alone in the line. “I got this girls. You can go home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Sebastian marched over to me. “Hey Santa, long day?”

“Yes. I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve been very busy with Christmas approaching.” Sebastian seemed older than I remembered.

“You’re not a child are you?” I guessed noticing his pointed ears for the first time.

“No. I work at the North Pole for the big guy in the red suit.”

“You’re kidding right?” I could hardly believe it.

“I travel around and try to make wishes come true at Christmas time. I thought I’d given you someone to take away the loneliness. You seem so sad Santa. How can I help?”

I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. “This one might be too big for you and the real Santa.” I hesitated. Did I even want to discuss this with a stranger or an elf?

“Do you believe in Christmas miracles Bobby Richards?”

“When I was a little boy growing up in Ohio, I would wait up for Santa Claus and fall asleep on the couch. I guess Santa became my Christmas miracle every year till my older sister ruined everything telling me Santa didn’t exist.”

“You don’t have to tell me anymore. I know about your son Ted.”

I stood up and faced Sebastian. “I never mentioned Ted to anybody. Every year I buy him a Christmas present and put it on the shelf in my closet. It’s been four years since I’ve seen him. His mother took him one day and disappeared. No letters, no phone calls. The police didn’t help.”

Sebastian gripped both of my gloved hands and called,”Ted, come and meet your father.”

I saw my son too stunned to speak. A little taller than I remembered, same messy brown hair and soft blue eyes. Ted appeared happy and confused at the same time. I hugged my boy for the first time in four years and never wanted to let go. I removed my beard and Santa hat tossing them onto the throne seat. “There’s so much I want to say to you, ask you Ted. I’m so happy you’re here with me.”

Then she entered my life again. “My two favorite men!” This time she dazzled in a floor length red dress covered up by a black leather coat. “I have a job offer to discuss with you Santa. It starts the day after Christmas. Let’s get some dessert and discuss our future family.” She wore my Santa hat. “My name’s Holly.”

Sebastian said as we strolled out of sight,”Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Michael Woll



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“Black cat, black cat hanging from a tree, black cat, black cat come join me.” The black cat dropped onto the witch’s shoulder. Black cats had more than nine lives especially at Halloween. Witches filled the sky, even the Ancient Ones had flown with them. It was twenty years since The Incident. This would be a special Halloween, a dark Halloween in Clearfield, Ohio.


“It’s been twenty years this Halloween. Your kids need to skip trick or treating. It won’t be safe for . . .”

“Stop it dad,” Emily cut him off. “I know the story by heart. You saw the witch’s face and pulled the little girl away from the witch’s grasp.” She had changed from a long haired teen beauty into a short haired mom with blond streaks in her brown hair.

“That little girl was you Emily.”

“I know, I know. And you spent the next five years in the Rosemont Sanitarium.”

“They put me with all the crazies. People laughing hysterically, crying, screaming every night. I was the normal one. I told them the truth about that witch. They didn’t want to listen.”

“Ever since mom died and you couldn’t be by yourself anymore, Bill and I took you in, gave you a home.”

“And I’m grateful. I offer you my disability check every month.”

“Dad, we don’t need your money. Bill has a good job. We’re not rich but we’re comfortable.”

“Emily, Halloween is in two days.”

“The kids won’t let me forget that. I know you’re worried and want us to be safe. Just don’t talk like this in front of Bill. He’s not your biggest fan.”

“And Clearfield Acres are open and waiting for me.”

“I didn’t say that dad.” Emily stood, heading to the kitchen. “I bought four pumpkins this morning. Why don’t you carve them before Ted and Caroline come home from school.”

Dad looked out the big living room window. I know the witches are coming, coming for me and my family, he thought. He walked to the kitchen and sat in front of the pumpkins.

Emily handed him the large knife. “You can put the pumpkin guts in this paper bag.” She zipped her light jacket. “I’ll be outside raking leaves.”

The first pumpkin was not his best work. The smiling face and hollow eyes stared back at him. Dad reached for the second pumpkin. Pulling out the pumpkin guts, he thought of a different face, a silly face for the kids to enjoy.

But the knife wouldn’t cooperate almost like it had a life of its own. The slices were different this time. A face emerged not of his choice. NO! It couldn’t be! The last strokes completed the second pumpkin. The large knife dropped to the table. It was the witch’s face!

Then the pumpkin’s mouth spoke,”I am flying to kill you and everyone you love! All my friends are coming too. You cannot escape your fate this time!”

Dad leaped backwards from his chair and fell to the kitchen floor hitting his head. He looked up at the pumpkin. Was the pumpkin laughing at him?

Emily ran from the back door. “Dad, oh my god what happened?” Dad was unconscious covered by pieces of a broken pumpkin.


“Ghouls, it is time to awake, there are more souls to take.” The legion of witches joined an enormous army of bats. the sky turned black as night as they flew to their Ohio destination. Two days remained before Judgment Day on Halloween.


“Dad, are you alright?”

His eyes opened slowly and he looked up at Emily. “I’m okay. Sorry about the pumpkin. Maybe I need to take a nap after lunch.” He sat down again.

Emily made chicken noodle soup and placed a box of crackers on the table. They ate quietly. Finally, she said,”You scared me dad.”
“I’ll call my doctor. Don’t worry.” He carried his soup bowl to the kitchen sink. “I’m gonna get some sleep.” Dad had a small back bedroom. But he still had furniture in storage for many years now. Perhaps for his future condo? If he lived that long!

Dad fell deep into sleep and had That Dream again. Twenty years ago Emily was his little girl. Trick or treating wrapped up and Emily’s bag weighted down with candy. They turned on Walnut Street for the long walk home.

The witch appeared before them. Her long black arms reached suddenly for Emily. Dad pulled Emily closely into his arms. Then he saw the face of the witch. An evil face of an old hag with black lifeless eyes. He raced Emily down the sidewalk safely into their house. He stood by the window staring into the dark night. That was where the medics found him incoherent and in shock.

Sometimes, the dream became a nightmare and Emily disappeared with the witch into the moonless sky. He would wake up crying into his pillow. Once, he woke up screaming. Bill was the first to open his bedroom door. Not a way to make points with Bill. Dad stopped talking about it until today with Halloween fast approaching.

Emily’s car was gone when he left his room. Time to pick up Ted and Caroline. Dad grabbed his car keys and drove slowly down the street to the police station. He needed to get his question answered without being arrested.

The desk sergeant Murphy looked up from his paperwork. “How can I help you sir?”

Dad tried to choose his words carefully. He wouldn’t be much help to anyone if he spent the next few days in jail or the Rosemont Sanitarium. “I guess with Halloween in two days I”m concerned about the safety of my grandchildren trick or treating.”

“Nothing to concern yourself. We have police cruisers on all the main streets. The side streets aren’t ignored either.”

“Thanks, but I was worried about other, people, bothering the children.”

Murphy nodded. “I understand. We recommend the parents or grandparents escorting the younger kids. You can always call 911 if necessary.”

“They’re coming for us!” Dad pleaded. “You have to be ready for the terrors of this Halloween!”

“Buddy,” Murphy replied,”go home. We’ll be safe on Halloween.”

Dad hurried back to his car. It wasn’t enough protection. The police had no idea what was heading to their town.

The witches scattered everywhere. No one could see them until they wanted to be seen by others. They could spy on the people and plan their Halloween mischief. One witch landed in front of the police station watching a man drive away in his car. “There he is! Revenge is mine! This Halloween will be remembered forever by my sisters of the night!” The bats continued flying and dominating the afternoon sky.


“Spider, spider come out of your web, spider, spider many will be dead.” The brown spider moved slowly over the witch’s outstretched hand. Nellith smiled with her crooked teeth as the spider climbed onto her other hand. She was named by two of the Ancient Ones, Zoraida and Louhi. The original Nellith called “the searcher of the night” many centuries ago.

But Nellith needed to add a young girl to the witches’ coven. Her failed attempt in Clearfield, Ohio had embarrassed her. What seemed like a few moments had been twenty years. Now revenge was hers and now a young girl would be hers as well.


Ted ran up to Dad when he walked through the door. “Cool pumpkins gramps. Mom said you did all the work.”

“Well, your mom helped too. You got homework young man?”

“Some math. Guess I’ll try to do it without anyone’s advice.”

Dad ruffled Ted’s hair. “Good idea.” When Ted left the kitchen, Dad continued,”You know Caroline is ten years old, just like you were when it happened.”

“Dad, I thought we finished this conversation.” Emily replied as she filled a pot with water. “If it will make you feel better, come with us when the kids trick or treat.”

“I will. You can bet on that!”

“Enough dad. Bill will be home soon.” She continued making dinner and Dad spied Caroline on the living room couch.

“Tell me about your day honey.” Dad sat next to her.

“Me and my friends were talking about Halloween. We wanna trick or treat together without moms.”

“NO!” Dad shouted.

Emily ran into the room. “What’s going on?”

Caroline looked at her through teary eyes. “Gramps yelled at me.”

“I’m sorry,” Dad said as Emily gave him an angry look. “I’ll go outside till dinner. Where’s my sweater?”

Dad sat down on the old chairs they kept on the patio. Emily had made a small dent in the multicolored leaves decorating the yard. If his back would hold up, he could help with the raking. Probably not though.

He had always liked the fall even as a child. He would throw the football around and even play in the neighborhood football games. Going back to school was never a problem for him. It was a chance to meet girls, even his future wife, Jackie, had been a classmate of his.

But all Dad could focus on was Halloween. Would the witch return? He knew the answer. Of course she would return and bring other more powerful witches this time. He felt a sudden ice-cold chill as if winter had started only for him.

Nellith stood over him. Should she let him see her? Too soon. Maybe her little friend would want to say hello. She dangled the brown spider in front of his eyes; back and forth it went.

“What the hell?” Dad screamed out loud as he swatted at the spider without success. Suddenly, it was climbing on his forehead. He tried unsuccessfully to knock it away. Terror gripped him as the spider moved down his face. There was an otherworldly laugh and the spider vanished. Dad’s entire body shook until Bill arrived home.


“Terrors of the night, bring fright on Halloween night.” Nellith watched the costumed children hurry down the sidewalk to school. Halloween, the wait was finally over. The Ancient Ones had selected the flat roof of Clearfield City Hall to watch their sister witches tonight. Nellith readied for her choice of a little girl to become a witch just like how it happened to her ages and ages ago.

Black magic shrouded her from being seen by these foolish people. Nellith did realize that the one they called Emily was that little girl on the sidewalk all those years in the past. But now there was a daughter, Caroline. She would be a real prize to give to the Ancient Ones.


“Maybe you need to stay home tonight dad,” Emily said as she stirred her coffee. “I’ll be with Ted and Caroline for trick or treating.”

“No. I’m coming too. The children need to be safe.”

“Dad, you haven’t been yourself. You’ve been on edge for days now.”

“I’ll be joining you for trick or treat. It’s important to me Emily. Humor your old man.”

“Okay dad.” She finished her coffee. “Are you up for bagging leaves if I do all the raking?”

“Sure. Let me get my jacket. I”ll meet you in the backyard.”

The day passed from raking leaves to eating lunch. Then Emily left to pick up the kids from school. Dad wondered how he could help protect the children tonight. Twenty years later his strength and reflexes had weakened. Would this be a battle for Caroline’s life?

Ted walked in carrying his green monster mask. “Hey gramps. Are you walking with us tonight?”

“Yes I am.” Dad responded. Caroline followed in her white angel costume complete with a halo clipped in her hair. “You look beautiful honey.”

Caroline smiled. “Thanks.” Then she left for her bedroom.

“Change your clothes before dinner,” Emily called to her. “No food stains on that white dress.”

When Bill arrived, Emily served dinner. The children ate quickly with more on their minds than meatloaf. Dad pushed his food around his dinner plate with little being eaten. Emily worried too but didn’t want to show it.

Bill announced,”I’ll pass out candy and try to get some work done on my laptop.” He felt more comfortable with numbers than people. Fortunately, he spent most of his working hours in his Federal Savings office away from the customers.

Caroline struggled while Emily brushed her hair. “I’m almost done. Let me use these clips on your halo.”

Ted dressed in his costume and stood by the front door. “Let’s go!” He carried a pillowcase for tonight’s treasures.

Dad and Emily exchanged glances as they followed the children out the door. Nothing needed to be said. Bill disappeared into cyber space unaware of the terrors of Halloween night.

Ted and Caroline hurried to each house as Emily waved to the neighbors. Everything seemed like a normal Halloween. Pumpkins and ghostly displays decorated the porches. Emily smiled at the cute costumes for trick or treating. Then they turned the corner to Walnut Street, the same street where It Had Occurred.

Dad’s heart skipped a beat when he saw a woman wearing a witch’s costume. Only it was a mom just joining in with her children. Dad’s eyes looked past the children up and down the street. Would this be the battleground again?

Emily searched through the growing twilight for the witch from twenty years ago. “I must keep my children safe,” she kept repeating.

Nellith materialized in front of Caroline. “Leave my sister alone!” Ted cried out. Dad turned and dove towards the witch. He crashed onto the sidewalk in pain. How did the witch disappear?

“Pretty, pretty girl.” The ancient gnarled fingers grabbed Caroline’s arm. Emily screamed and rushed to her daughter. Dad reached out and grasped the witch’s hat. “My hat?”

Emily scooped up Ted and Caroline and they ran down the sidewalk. Dad faced the wrath of Nellith. The intense pain made his chest explode. Dad fell dead on the sidewalk. Emily ran into the house locking the door behind them. She stood watching and waiting for her father, her hero.

Michael Woll



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