"Not if that's your friend, Pete," replied the officer, as he pointed to what I could now recognize as a very, very badly burned body. It wasn't much more than ashes and a few bones.
"They say it happens every twenty years," he continued, "but I really didn't believe it. I should have had an officer stationed here, but I thought the video surveillance would be enough. I checked the recording. It shows everything. He got out of his car, went over there and took off all his clothes. He just stood there for a long time looking at something that only he could see, then he walked over to where he is now and started.... he started...." The officer was obviously struggling for words to describe what he had seen. Finally he just blurted out, "He started fucking the air. Damnedest thing you ever saw. I could swear something was pulling on his prick, but there was nothing there. Whatever it was, he was really into it, but just as he shot his load, he put his head back and screamed and burst into flames. It was like one of those military magnesium flares. It flared out the camera it was so bright. And then he was gone. It was all over in a just few seconds. There's nothing left but a little bone and ash. I have no idea how in the hell I am going to write this up."
I had a lot of questions, but I asked the most obvious one first, "Every twenty years since when?"
The officer smiled. It was more of a grimace than a smile. He shook his head in that way that someone does when they know you aren't going to believe what they are telling you and began to explain, "Back during prohibition - the roaring 20's - there was this strip club speakeasy that operated in a couple of the warehouses along the river front. It was evidently a pretty wild place. I guess if you are already breaking federal laws about alcohol, what difference does a little nudity and on-stage sex make? Anyway, one Halloween night they evidently got some new act from somewhere. They called her 'il Diabla.'
They must have thought that meant "She Devil." Anyway she was all painted red and oiled up with something and was banging guys on stage when something went wrong and they both burst into flames. According to the report, just as they reached, "that magic moment," she screamed and he screamed and 'boom.' It was probably one of the stage lights blowing out and showering them with sparks or something. They must have been using some kind of really flammable oil because they and everything around them burned to ashes in just minutes and both warehouses burned to the ground. Luckily, everybody else got out."
He then pointed to the ground where the firemen were still aiming a light misting spray. "In the '40's one Halloween night, they found a crispy critter right there where your friend is laying. Same thing in '60's, the '80's, and so forth..., every twenty years - always on Halloween. My predecessor left a file in the desk with a note to make sure I check out this area at Halloween this year. Wish to hell I could figure out what is really going on here."
"I think I can shed some light on this, officer."
"What have you got?"
"I have to show you," I replied and he and I went back to my place. We walked into the kitchen together. I turned on the light and pointed to the kitchen table where I had left Pete's note. There was nothing there but a thin, square, pile of ashes.
"What in the hell does this mean," barked the officer.
I shook my head and answered, "I guess it means that you better leave a note telling them to station an officer down there on Halloween in twenty years." He looked at me with his eyes wide as I added, "but I don't think it is going to do them any good."
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