Something Wicked This Way Camebymadam_noe©
"What on earth happened to your face? You're a mess."
"The man dressed as a wolf, bare chest, long black hair, face paint?"
Diane grinned. "Ahh, so that explains it. A party crasher, I'm afraid. No one I invited came dressed that way."
"But you saw him!"
Diane crossed her arms. "I saw you dancing with the Dread Pirate Roberts."
"Okay, let's try this. A guy who graduated our year, probably Navajo or part Navajo, tall, like six-two, long hair, built like a brick shithouse?"
Diane thought for a long moment. "The only one who comes to mind is Daniel Whitefeather. He was in our freshman bio lab. But he left school sophomore year, transferred I heard. Gina, he was killed in a car crash three years ago on the reservation."
Gina felt her heart chill and shatter into a thousand pieces. "What?" She swayed on her feet and Diane caught her.
"It's Halloween, ghosts abound!" Raggedy Andy said with a drunken slur.
"Excuse me," the hostess brusquely said to him, and walked Gina to the bathroom. Inside she set her down on the toilet and grabbed a hand towel, wetting it. She pressed it to Gina's face and asked her to remove her mask.
Gina did, numb.
"Look, it was just something I heard. Maybe it was a rumor, maybe he did what he said he would, went on to become a biologist. And maybe he crashed tonight, looking to scare the devil out of you."
"He seemed so real, but wouldn't tell me his name. He was real!"
Diane nodded and removed the wet towel, washing it to get the paint out. "Well, this paint sure is. Look, now that I think about it, I think it was his brother James Whitefeather that was killed. It was so long ago, read about it in the paper. I just didn't invite Daniel because he didn't graduate with us. Transferred to USC, I believe."
Gina nodded numbly.
"Go ahead, go upstairs and use my computer in the office to check. Then come back and join the party, you're as white as a sheet. You need a drink."
She followed Diane out to the stairs and climbed them, finding the office on the third try. The computer was on so she sat down and opened the browser, letting it load. She searched and after a few minutes found an obituary for James Whitefeather.
He'd been in a car driven by his brother. They were returning from a family wedding in Chicago, had driven straight through. Daniel had gotten drowsy, crossed the center line, and they hit a truck. James was killed instantly and Daniel was injured severely. A later article said charges were dropped when they found a blown tire had caused it, and the trucker they'd hit suddenly recalled seeing the tire blow.
She sat back and sighed with relief. Daniel probably just didn't want to deal with all that baggage, preferring the role of dark stranger.
Feeling better she went down and got more punch. She chatted with Dread Pirate Roberts and a woman dressed as a mermaid. After a time she caught sight of the Indian Princess coming in from a smoke on the patio.
"Excuse me," she said to her companions and ran to intercept the woman.
"Hi, I'm sorry, but were you dancing with a man dressed as a skinwalker before?"
The woman stiffened. "I would never! That's highly offensive!"
"I'm sorry, so you are Navajo?" The woman nodded. "Do you remember Daniel Whitefeather, transferred out of school sophomore year?"
"I saw you dancing with him, he was dressed as a skinwalker."
"I danced but with...with...I don't remember. I've had a lot to drink." She touched her temple and shook her head. "Anyway, a skinwalker is offensive. In our culture it is a kind of witch who can take the form of any animal. They are pure legend, but people have tried, and they are always a grave danger."
"Why is that?"
The Princess looked at her like she was a slow child. "They live to take skins, become new people. And the only way to become one is to kill a member of your family. Now, if you'll excuse me, on a night like Halloween I find this conversation distasteful. Want to discuss your ancestors burning witches?"
"No. I'm sorry," Gina mumbled. She watched her walk away, her heart pounding.
Kill a member of their family. There was no arguing it, Daniel had killed his brother James. Intentional or not, he had done it. They live to take skins.
Heart pounding she found her purse in the downstairs bedroom and fished out her phone, calling Millie at the ranch. "Hello," her friend sleepily answered.
"Sorry to bother you, and you won't believe me, but this is highly important. Do not accept a reservation from a Daniel Whitefeather. I think he wants to kill me."
"Wait, what? You can't be serious. Someone by that name just checked in late, I just showed him to his room and laid back down. Total babe, seemed sexy but harmless. He said I had nice body."
The room began to spin. "Millie, you have to get out! Get out now! He's dangerous!"
There was a scream and the phone dropped. There was silence and Gina stood there, trembling. "Millie? Millie!"
The phone rustled as someone picked it up. She heard deep breaths and then a familiar voice. "She really does have a nice body, Gina. I'm going to enjoy wearing it. But don't worry, I won't take yours just yet. I like making you scream too much."
The line went dead.