Dirty Harry PotterbyStultus©
Copyright© 2012 by Stultus
Synopsis: In a grove near you, pagans and other Vermont towns folk are gathering to celebrate Samhain, the night when the veil between the living and the dead, between this world and others, is thin... and sometimes a passageway for ancient evils! Can one modern witch and a very confused local town sheriff put an end to a hundred and fifty years of terror? You don't need magic when you carry a .44 Magnum, but sometimes it really helps!
Sex contents: A Little Sex
Genre: Romantic Horror
Codes: MF, Exhibitionism, Magic, Masturbation, Supernatural, Violence
Thanks to my usual cast and crew of advance readers and editors, especially Dragonsweb, The Old Fart, WanderingScotand WorldWanderer
Let's get all of the jokes out of the way right now.
My name is Harrison Potter, but for most of my life I've been called Harry. You get it... Harry Potter. Go ahead and laugh; laugh away... you know you want to. Get it out of your system so I can tell my story. It's a serious one. Sure it involves witches and even wands... Damn it! Stop laughing! This is a serious story and it doesn't involve a single overly cute kid or castles or schools of magic! Well, maybe there is some magic involved... or maybe not. You can decide for yourself.
Since the first Harry Potter book came out in the US about ten years ago, I couldn't count the amount of times I've heard someone joke "You're a wizard Harry". It does wear a bit thin after a while, like after the second time I heard it, not to mention the second hundredth. And I've heard all the puns about my 'wand'. Been there, done that - have the t-shirt.
For two years now I've been the Town Sheriff of Spooky Hollow, Vermont, sometimes called Halloween Town, USA. No, that's not the same as Sleepy Hollow, the fictional town based upon the old Washington Irving story. But it might as well be. We're as witch haunted as Arkham, Massachusetts, albeit without most of the spooky gothic architecture. Sometimes things around here do go bump in the night, but that's why the township pays my salary.
I got the job the old fashioned way. I suffered ten years of hard work and training in law enforcement, mostly with the San Francisco Police Department. So I had merit... and my father had also been the Town Sheriff here for nearly twenty years. He put in twenty-five years with the NYPD and then 'retired' here. He died quietly in his sleep of a heart attack while still in his mid-sixties and just moments after he was lowered into his grave the Township Aldermen (and woman) asked me if I'd assume his position. I hadn't really wanted to retire early from the SFPD, but I didn't know how I could have said no to the town council. Back in California, the state and city were both feeling pretty broke that year, so they were looking to reduce government payroll anyway. I had been there just over ten years so I qualified for a small 'early retirement' lump-sum payout, plus their full 401k matching payments. There was also dad's NYPD pension and life insurance, his personal 401k savings, plus another small insurance policy funded by the township, plus dad had another smaller personal life insurance policy via his New York police credit union. Dad's finances were in very good shape indeed and when everything was cashed in and all lumped together it came to quite a tidy sum. This easily covered my minor moving expenses and allowed me to dump the rest into my personal investment and retirement accounts to grow some more for a hopefully very comfortable retirement.
The Township Sheriff's salary wasn't particularly generous, being quite a bit less than what I had made in San Francisco, but my expenses here would be far lower here, which would more than make up the difference. My father's house was paid for in full and the local food prices at the area farmers markets were also a bit cheaper than west coast supermarket prices. The township also paid for my police cruiser and its gas and maintenance. Finances shouldn't be any trouble whatsoever, especially since I was still single and didn't have a wife or family to support.
I'd miss that big beautiful city, Sodom-by-the-Sea, a lot - but returning to Spooky Hollow was really just like returning home... in the good sort of nostalgic way.
I think dad had guessed recently that his days were numbered. He hadn't been feeling well for months and he complained to me about chest pains during our last phone conversation. During his last days he had completely cleaned up his small house, updated his will and left me a couple of long handwritten notes. He wanted me to take his place... but warned me of the dire perils of living solely off of the cheeseburgers at Karin's Kountry Kitchen, the local diner, which did serve the best burgers I'd ever had. They were the food of the gods when I was a teenager and they only seemed to taste better now. I think it is the maple wood smoking of their grilled beef and the local cured bacon piled on top, not to mention the locally made Vermont white cheddar cheese generously melted in-between. Yum.
Assuming the job of Sheriff, my father had left me with a small but competent staff that didn't begrudge me coming in from 'outside' to rule over their roost. I'd gone to both middle and high school here and I knew virtually everyone worth knowing in the entire valley. I had also returned here fairly regularly for vacations and holidays to visit my dad so I'd never really been forgotten or treated like a visiting stranger. We had always been quite close. I was just enough of a outsider that folks respected my authority, but enough of a local that nearly everyone kept me on a first name basis and trusted me well enough to not worry about me abusing my position either.
Dad had always handled law enforcement in the valley with a very light and balanced touch. We didn't have any 'big city' crime issues and frankly our only real disturbances were with bored teenagers letting their fun get out of hand or wrangling escaped dairy cows in the central valley. The hills and mountains on three sides of us are heavily forested and frankly more than a bit dangerous, and even the most adventurous teens usually know well enough to stay out of them, but we always seem to lose at least one or two every year anyway. Always have... this was true even when I was a curious kid.
Every remote New England town has old ghost stories, but there was just something about being up in these hills at night guaranteed to put the fear of the supernatural into even the most courageous brave soul, or teenager with overly adventurous hormones. Now it's the visitors, mostly hikers and geo-cachers that we normally have to worry about. Most are skilled enough to not need our professional rescue services, but invariably accidents do occur and the Pauwau Mountains are no place to be trapped if one occurs.
There was occasionally the issue of handling a drunk or troublesome tourist, but since most of the town industry utterly depended upon those day-trippers they had to be handled with baby gloves, as gently as possible. My father was superb at this; he almost never issued a traffic ticket but with a few friendly words could usual get the rudest Mass-Hole or New York visitor to see their error and apologize. The stranger then leaves us (hopefully) in a good mood and willing to return someday, maybe with his friends... and with more money.
Most of the other towns around us are pretty much blatant speed traps and write a gazillion traffic tickets a year. We can't do that... those tourists and visitors are our life blood.
Spooky Hollow, aka "Halloween Town USA", got its start during the height of the Depression in the mid-1930's. The idea for it began when a small mountaintop town in the next county over called Maple Ridges, found that its traditional winter skiing and maple syrup businesses had both dropped below the levels of town sustainability. Everyone was broke and businesses were closing right and left. Their town council decided that they needed to do something to bring in the out-of-state tourists, or heck any kind of tourist or paying customer at all. After a lengthy debate, and a few unusual new town ordinances, they officially changed their town name to Santa's Village, Vermont.
The plan was to become a year-around Christmas themed town, but specializing in bringing in the tourists for holiday ski vacations. They shipped in a herd of Lapland reindeer and built a large Santa's Workshop for the local unemployed workers (wearing elf suits) to make toys for the tourists to buy, and they decorated every square inch of the town in holiday decorations and waiting for the spending customers to arrive. It took a few years, but by 1940 the experiment could be considered a success. The war years hurt tourism a lot, but starting again after 1946 business soon became even better than ever! They're still going like gangbusters today. It was an idea worth stealing.
Our town, formerly known as Pauwau Valley Township, was in slightly better financial shape with its dairy, cheese and maple syrup industries, but we were no one's idea of a tourist destination. We are not located on a major state road and visitors must take a small local county road five miles from the nearest state highway to reach us in the center of the valley. We don't have any fancy ski lodges or resorts here since the snow levels here in the valley can be a bit unpredictable. With mountains to our west, north and east, sometimes the big snowstorms tend to dump most of their snow on the other side of those slopes and leave us only with the leftovers. This is quite ideal for dairy farming, but not so good for bringing in outside big city spenders or snowbirds wanting to play.
Seeing the success of Santa's Village, the aldermen of our township deliberated long about doing nearly exactly the same thing. They held endless meetings and dithered so long that another Vermont town in a county to the south-east of us decided to beat us to the punch getting into the themed holiday town action as well. They renamed themselves Liberty Town in 1942 and decided to go the ultra-patriotic route, capitalizing on the summer Fourth of July holiday trade. They did pretty well for a decade or two but during the Vietnam years they changed their name back to Pasuak in a fit of anti-military ultra-liberalism. There was talk a few years back that they might revert back to becoming Liberty Town once again, but the start of the Iraq War and a fresh outbreak of local anti-war jingoism put an end to that.
At last, in 1948 our township voted to officially rename itself as the Township of Spooky Hollow and in less than a decade we had became the premier Halloween tourist destination in all of New England. It was a license to print money and ever since then the crowds of tourists have only grown each year. The tourists come and enjoy themselves and spend their money happily and the locals as a result enjoy low property taxes and new markets for their dairy and maple products. The township is even able to salt away a huge 'rainy day' savings fund for the future. It's a win-win for everyone here! A few of the businesses even make so much profit during 'the season' that they can stay closed, or mostly so, for most of the rest of the year.
It also helps our marketing image significantly that we do have our very own true historically documented Civil War era 'evil witch' story, 'The Spooky Hollow Witch'!
According to our town records, a certain woman named Hausisse (a generic Algonquin Indian word meaning 'old woman') was living in the upper northeastern reaches of Pauwau Valley on the upper part of Fsau (or Ghost) Creek, which already even by then had the local name of Spooky Hollow. She was infamous for wreaking her own special brand of havoc by leveling curses right and left before she met a suddenly violent and mysterious end... and on Halloween night too! What could possibly be better? It's a story just perfect for Hollywood!
Like the also infamous Bell Witch of Tennessee, old Hausisse was pretty much accorded to be a complete nutjob by all of her neighbors. Dangerously insane, completely batshit crazy and howling at the moon mad. If anyone ever had anything nice to say about her it isn't recorded by any of the dozens of surviving official complaints filed against her between the years of 1836 to 1863, the only years that the township records mention her. There is an oral tradition that she was half Mahican Indian and that her father had been a tribal medicine man who had sided with the English during the Revolutionary years, but there is zero written evidence to support that claim. It is fairly clear she did not get along at all with her neighbors and was plainly accounted by all to be a witch, and not a kindly 'misunderstood' good one either.
The townships records, which are oddly incomplete and sometimes annoyingly vague, clearly list a litany of complaints against her. It was all of the usual 19th century sort of complaints about women suspected to be in league with the devil; people cursed, cows poisoned or cursed, monstrous black cats seen at night near her home, more cows missing (presumed eaten by the cat), and other accounts and accusations of performing black magic. Oh, and yet more complaints about cursed cows. In other words, all of the usual stuff that crazy old women used to be accused of doing back in the dark days before satellite television.
Her curses were successful enough to make her apparently a rather rich woman, as she demanded good silver or even gold in payment to release her malevolent blights upon her neighbors. She was also reputed to be a miser, hardly ever parting with even a clipped penny.
What makes our crazy senile witch more interesting and relevant is found in the surviving documentation of the events of 1863. Many of the township records from this period are missing; someone suspiciously minded might think that these records were removed or destroyed intentionally long before even my father became sheriff here. Yeah, that would definitely include me... my cop nose can smell a cover-up even a hundred and fifty years later.
The few undisputed facts of the Spooky Hollow Witch case are these. Late in the spring of 1863, a certain Thomas Gladdener was appointed by the Governor to be a special inspector for the state to coordinate with the federal government with its new draft of young men for the Union Army. In theory, this was supposed to mean that Gladdener was only supposed to insure that proper draft rules were observed, but in practice he soon found himself in the position of receiving large payments for commutations - for granting deferrals to wealthy young men for releasing them from army service. Soon he hit upon the scheme of coercing groups of uneducated rural men that could then be hired out by him as 'substitutes', earning him a fee of up to $500 dollars per man that he could enlist, voluntarily or not, into army service as a designated substitute. That was an awful lot of money in those days. In fact, his methods of coercion were plainly just kidnapping under the vague guise of law. Prepared with an armed force of accomplices, and unfortunately entirely legal paperwork that declared himself to be licensed state agent, he would travel across rural Vermont gathering every single young man he could muster, by any means, illegal or foul.
His usual method of gathering draftees was to gather a listing of the town's men folk and then prepare forged conscription documents, complete with a valid state seal, which they would use to then force the young man into drafted service. The draftee, if truculent, would be shackled and then placed on the nearest train for the state capitol, often in groups of a hundred men at a time, like convicts in a chain-gang. His agent and partner in crime there would arrange the sale of these new substitutes and then handle their final delivery to the Union Army recruiters. The Union Army was desperate enough for men and ignored the circumstances behind these sometimes extremely irregular and quite illegal deliveries of recruits.
In a very short time, Thomas Gladdener was a very rich man, but like most criminals he was greedy for yet more profit, and yet another big score long after he should have had the sense to quit. In the fall of 1863, he and his inland press-gang arrived at Pauwau Valley, but found the pickings to be extremely slim as warning had arrived a few days earlier of his approach. Only five young men could be located and captured, including the son of the Spooky Hollow Witch, a young man of uncertain age named Ethan. No last name for him is listed and no birth certificate has ever been found, but several surviving township notations for the lad invariably list him as being 'simple'.
Naturally this did not sit at all well with the old witch, who was then alleged to have cursed Gladdener and the entire township, for allowing this malfeasance to occur. She probably had a good point there. Already Gladdener's irregular recruiting activities were stirring up legal difficulties up at the capitol and eventually (after the war was over) his actions were proven to be illegal and some minor settlements were made to his victims. His abuses were already quite common knowledge and most towns never lifted a finger to assist him when he arrived. Why Pauwau Valley decided to cooperate is not explained in any of the township records. In any case, they did -- they got cursed -- and then bad things started to happen... in spades!
From this point, the few remaining township records for 1863 get much vaguer. There is an expense account for the parish church listed for twelve cords of cut firewood and the services of the gravedigger in October 1863, but no specific explanation of who was buried (or burned) or why the township itself paid for the expense. Yes, you can burn an awful lot of witches with over 1500 cubic feet of wood, but apparently they either had a lot of other bodies that needed burning (cremation was not at all customary at that time in these parts) or else someone wanted to make damn sure this one witch stayed burned!
There are no apparent gravestones or markers for those particular burial or burials either, but oral tradition has it that the simple uncarved white stone at the southeastern corner of the township cemetery marks the location for this peculiar internment of remains. You guessed it, the furthest and most remote corner of the graveyard where no grass or even weeds ever grow. The monthly alderman's meeting minutes for both October and November of that year are missing; the twenty-seven lost pages were apparently deliberately torn from the yearly record book. When this was done and by whom is unknown, but obviously the township decided that they wanted no written record of what had occurred and wanted the entire incident forgotten... and remain that way.
Right at about this time Thomas Gladdener also disappears from history, his place and time of death unknown. The only two rumors of any substance are that he had fled to Canada (with his wealth) and changed his name there in order to evade a forthcoming state investigation about this time. The other rumor is that he was murdered somewhere in the wild mountains of Vermont in revenge for his crimes. There isn't a drop of evidence for either claim. His last historical recorded sighting was in Pauwau Valley on Halloween day, if or when he ever left here is a matter of conjecture.
The final remaining shred of evidence concerning her fate is a short sentence in a courting-letter written by a local dairy farmer to his intended in early November 1864 that commented tersely that he had 'lost a cow in Spooky Hollow on the high slopes near Ghost Creek on All Hallows Eve night for the first time since the old witch was burned on that same day last year.'