"Dude, where is your costume?" nine-year-old Shawn Spencer exclaimed as he opened the door to find his best friend in what appeared to be normal clothes.
"This is my costume, Shawn!" he frowned at his friend's reaction. "Isn't it obvious?"
Shawn ran his eyes up and down the outfit, running every possibility through his mind. "You're a… nerd?"
Gus tsked. "No! I'm Bud! From The Cosby Show! People always say I look just like him! Also my mom didn't have time to put together the Frankenstein's Monster costume I wanted, so my options were limited."
"Frankenstein's Monster? I thought it was just Frankenstein?" Shawn grinned when his friend opened his mouth to respond and interrupted him before he could argue. "Can you guess who I am?"
"Shawn, you've been telling me for weeks about the Karate Kid outfit your mom was helping you put together."
"But can you tell?"
"Of course! We've only watched the movie dozens of times."
"Awesome! You may only refer to me as Shawn-san from this point on."
Both of them looked up as Henry walked in from the kitchen, still in his police uniform from his shift. "Okay boys, are you ready to go Trick-or-Treating?"
"Yes!" they both yelled, grabbed their bags, and ran out the door, leaving Henry to catch up with them.
An hour later the sun had set as the streets filled with children in various costumes running around. Shawn and Gus had already filled up their bags more than halfway and were going a little crazy not being able to eat any of it yet until Henry could examine it all properly.
Shawn had just started bragging to Gus about all of the compliments he had gotten on his costume over Gus's one compliment from an elderly grandma when they heard someone yelling in the street behind them.
Henry and the boys turned to see a women in her 30s frantically searching around and looking at every kid that passed her by as she continued to yell and cry louder.
The briefest moment of relief flashed on her face as she saw Henry in the street, visibly lit up from a lamp.
"Officer!" she ran up to him, panic coming off of her in waves. "Wait, are you a real police officer?"
Henry raised an eyebrow. "Yes ma'am, I'm Sergeant Henry Spencer, what's the problem?"
"My daughter, Lucy! She's only 6! She was right next to me and I turned away for just a moment to say hello to my neighbor and when I turned back she was just gone! Nobody saw her go anywhere! Oh god, I don't know what to do."
"It's alright, calm down, Mrs…."
"Lara. Regina Lara."
"Mrs. Lara. Everything's going to be okay, why don't you take a deep breath? I'm sure Lucy just wandered off to do some more Trick-or-Treating, you know how kids are. How about we look for her together? What was she wearing?"
The mother took a few moments to collect herself before responding. "She's dressed as a princess. Poofy pink dress, a yellow crown, and she's using her purple pillowcase for candy."
"Okay, let's go search for her. If for some reason we can't find her, I'll call the station and get others to help, alright?" Henry gave Regina a reassuring smile as she nodded.
Spinning around, his face turned instantly serious as he addressed his son and his friend. "Shawn. Gus. Listen to me. You are to stay put right here under this lamp. I'm going to go up the street to help Mrs. Lara but I will be turning around to check up on you. Under no circumstances do you move from this spot, do you understand me? I will be right back. If for some reason I go out of sight and don't return for ten minutes, I want you to walk straight home together. I'll call from wherever I am to see I am if you are there. Are we clear?"
Gus gulped and nodded as Shawn opened his mouth to rebuttal. "But Dad-"
"No buts this time Shawn. This is serious." he lowered his voice so only the kids could hear him. "That little girl could very well be in serious trouble and I will not have you two getting into your own. Are. We. Clear?"
Shawn looked down as accepted his father's words. "Yes, sir."
Turning back to Regina, he led the way as they went back down the street, calling out periodically for the missing girl and methodically searching with the flashlight.
As soon as Henry had gone around the corner, Shawn excitedly turned to his friend, a mischievous look across his face. "C'mon Gus, let's go!"
"Go? Go where? Your dad told us to stay here!" Gus argued.
Shawn tsked. "Gus! It's Halloween! We only get a chance to get free candy once a year! Look, my dad is going to be looking for that girl. That gives us at least ten minutes until he comes back, and another fifteen minutes or so it takes us to get home. We can go around the other way and have at least another half-hour of trick-or-treating!"
Gus had to admit he liked the idea of getting more candy. And they weren't technically breaking the rules if they ended up at the Spencer house, were they? "I guess… But I'm blaming you if we get in trouble!"
"Yes! Now c'mon, I've got my eyes on the house across the street, I think they're giving out full sized candy bars!"
With one glance back down the street, Gus reluctantly followed his friend. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw which house Shawn had decided was their next target.
"Shawn!" he called to, who was already halfway down the sidewalk. "We can't go in there!"
Before him loomed a dark and rundown two story house, with a dead and unkempt yard surrounded by a broken fence with the gate laying half off its hinges.
"Sure we can Gus! I've heard all about this place at school. They keep it dark and creepy on purpose so only the true trick-or-treaters come, and those brave enough get full sized candy bars!"
"I haven't heard anyone say anything about that."
"You don't hang around the cool kids enough."
"Neither do you, Shawn!"
Shawn tsked. "Man, just come on!"
Going against his better judgement (how did Shawn always make him do that?), Gus slinkied through the gate and joined his friend as they continued up the path.
The stairs creaked and groaned as they climbed up them and landed on an equally unsolid porch. They both jumped a little when a cat scattered away into the yard.
"I really don't think this is a good idea, Shawn."
"What's the worst that could happen? No one answers and we turn back."
Gus shook his head but knew that what Shawn was saying was mostly logical.
Together they reached forward and knocked loudly on the door.
When there was no indication of any movement, Gus started to get antsy and glanced around.
"Looks like no one's home, let's go!"
"Shhh!" Shawn hushed and put his ear to the door. "Don't you hear that? There's someone in there!"
"It's probably haunted!"
Shawn knocked again harder then smiled when he heard floorboards creak inside.
"Get ready Gus, we're about to score!"
As soon as the door squeaked open, both boys held out their bags and yelled their greetings with different levels of confidence.
The door opened only half way, revealing a man dressed in all black with a baffled look on his face. "What do you kids want?"
They both shared a look at the unexpected response. "Uhm, candy, preferably. Full-sized bars would be great. Gus here like Snickers but I'm more of a Butterfinger guy myself."
"There's no candy here, now go away!"
Shawn looked at the man stubbornly. "But Jimmy said this was the best candy spot in town, what do you mean there's no candy?"
The stranger, more than a little irritated now, opened the door further and leaned down in their faces. "There. Is. No. Candy. Now scat!"
Gus immediately turned and ran but Shawn stood his ground as he glanced inside the dark house. One detail immediately caught his eye. On the floor was a girl in a poofy pink princess dress, clutching a purple pillow case.
"Hey, that's the missing girl, Lucy Lara!"
Shawn didn't even have time to yell out before the man grabbed him and pulled him into the house, slamming and locking the door behind them.
He angrily shoved Shawn against the wall, knocking the air out of his lungs with the force, his arms easily pinning the boy. Shawn looked up in surprise and slight fear as the stranger put his face right into his and demanded, "What do you know?!"
Shawn struggled to catch his breath as the guy shook him when he didn't answer right away.
"N- nothing! My- my dad went to help look for her be- because her mom was frantically looking for her. I just heard her description."
The man released Shawn, seeming to accept his answer and let the kid drop to the floor. "Crap."
From the other side of the room, the terrified girl spoke up from her silent sobs. "M- Mommy?"
"Shut up, kid!"
Shawn's heart began to pound again when a pair of footsteps sounded on the stairs, revealing a man dressed in a generic Frankenstein costume ('Frankenstein's Monster!', Gus's voice sounded in Shawn's head), sans the mask. "What's going on down here? Who's he?"
"Some punk kid who came to trick-or-treat and recognized the girl. I thought you said we were secure here?"
"I was pretty sure, I mean this place has been abandoned for years! What kid would be dumb enough to be trick-or-treating here?"
Shawn gave them a sour face and replied, "Says the dude dressed as a mindless monster?"
The two mystery men shared an incredulous look then stepped forward to loom over Shawn who shrank as far away from them as he could. "What do we do with him Frank?"
The costume-clad man reached down and pulled Shawn to his feet, holding on tightly to his forearm. If Shawn wasn't so scared in that moment, he might have made a comment about the man dressed as Frankenstein being named Frank. Instead he kept his mouth shut as his head spun from being lifted up so quickly.
"I say we just get rid of him. We only signed up for the girl."
"W- Wait, no! You can't!" Shawn stuttered.
"Oh yeah? And why's that, kid?"
"My dad's a police officer! My friend Gus is probably finding him right now, and the whole force is going to be bursting through that door! If you hurt me, you're a dead man!"
Both criminals muttered expletives before turning away and having a quiet but heated conversation. Before long they had turned back around and Frank was smiling down at Shawn.
"Okay kid, new plan. We're going to our second location, and you're coming with us. We just got richer a second ransom!"
Crap, Shawn thought. What had he gotten himself into?
"Are you sure this is the right house, Gus?" Henry examined the rotting structure with no signs of any life within it.
"Yes, Mr. Spencer, now please hurry up, I think Shawn is in a lot of trouble."
"You sure are right about that. What was he thinking wondering off against my explicit instructions?" Henry motioned for Gus to stay at the sidewalk. If something really was going on, he was going to make sure at least one of the kids were safe.
Slowly Henry approached the house, flashlight drawn, looking around for any sign of movement. As he bounded up the stairs, he immediately saw a bag of candy that had been dropped and spilled in front of the door. He pounded on the front door and was surprised to find it opened with his knocks. On further alert, he stepped cautiously inside, scanning the room with his flashlight. Two different items made his gut drop. Towards the middle of the room was a purple pillow case half filled with candy. Not far from it was an homemade Karate Kid headband. The same one Shawn had made.
What was going on?