``I love Halloween!''
Michelangelo was chomping his way through his second caramel apple and had a sack full of candy tied to his belt. The city streets were filled with trick-or-treaters and no one gave the turtles a second glance.
``You've got enough candy to last two months,'' Leo said.
``Provided he don't eat it all in one sitting,'' Raph added.
``How about we call it a night?'' Leo asked.
Mikey was opening his mouth to protest when they heard the sounds of children screaming.
``Tricks?'' Don asked.
``Let's find out,'' Leo said, taking off at a dead run.
Mikey tossed the remains of his apple into a trash can and followed, the candy sack thumping against his thigh. They'd only gone a block when a half-dozen kids of different ages came running towards them, still screaming and clearly panicked.
``What is it?'' Raph tried to ask, but none of the children would stop.
The kids were nearly out of sight when there was another shout and two teenage boys came racing in their direction.
``Hey,'' Don called, stepping out in front of them, ``what's going on?''
The teens slid to stop, both quivering in fear. ``Back there,'' one of them said, pointing behind them. ``This . . . thing.''
His friend grabbed his arm. ``Let's go!''
They darted around Don and ran. The turtles looked at one another.
``Well, okay, then. Guess we're investigating,'' Raph said.
They were in a neighborhood of older brownstone townhouses, well-kept homes each with their own areaways. Most were decorated for Halloween, with their porch lights burning, the universal signal that treats could be had there.
The first thing that caught their notice was the candy. Some was on the sidewalk, some in the street, as though dropped by the kids while they were running. It wasn't a lot though, nothing representative of the amount of candy those kids would have collected.
``Follow the trail,'' Leo said.
``Not necessary.'' Raph pointed ahead of them. Three brownstones in a row were dark and rundown looking. The lights from the streetlamps didn't penetrate the ring of darkness surrounding those homes.
``Okay, that's not a good sign,'' Mikey muttered.
``They're for sale,'' Don said. ``The kids would have walked past them.''
``Then let's walk past `em,'' Raph said, marching forward.
It was after fully penetrating the darkness that they realized they could no longer hear any sounds; no car horns, no children squealing, no music - nothing. Looking up, they couldn't even see the glow of the city lights.
Don flicked on his flashlight only to have it immediately go dead.
``Weird.'' Don shook the flashlight but it wouldn't come back on.
``Why does this stuff always happen to. . . .''
Mikey didn't get to finish the sentence. A section of the porch next to them suddenly lit up and a figure, dressed in white from head to toe, flew down the stairs directly at them.
On instinct Raph swung at it, only to have his fist go right through the apparition. Leo jumped high to kick at its head, but connected with nothing. Donatello pulled his bo and tried to sweep its legs, but there weren’t any.
The apparition ignored all three as it made a beeline for Michelangelo.
Mikey's eyes widened and he backpedaled to escape the ghostly figure. It's hands reached for him; the long, bony fingers outstretched. Though Mikey swung his nunchaku at the apparition, his weapon was ineffectual and the specter drew closer.
It wasn't reaching for Michelangelo's neck though; the ghostly grasping hands were trying to get his sack of candy.
``No way, no way!'' Mikey shouted as he pivoted to run.
``Give it the candy!'' Leo yelled.
``Leo, up there!'' Don called, pointing to the top of the stairs from whence the apparition had come.
A trail of glistening white led from a small statue on the porch all of the way over to the apparition. Leonardo took a quick look around and then practically flew down the sidewalk towards Mikey.
``Raph, get the statue!'' Leo ordered as he caught up to his younger brother. ``Don, hotwire a car!''
Neither questioned the order. Mikey was dodging the apparition, who continued to chase him. Leo caught up to him and grabbed the sack of candy.
``Untie it,'' Leo snapped.
Mikey knew better than to argue with that tone of voice and quickly released the sack from his belt. Leo immediately tossed it on the ground in front of the apparition, where the sack popped open, spilling candy at its feet.
The apparition pounced on the candy and began shoveling piece after piece into its open maw.
``Shit, this thing's heavy!'' Raph exclaimed from the top of the stairs.
``Come on,'' Leo said, tapping Mikey's arm and then running to help Raph.
They heard a car screech to a stop near them, though none of its lights were on. ``Over here!'' Don yelled.
Raph had started down the stairs with the statue and Leo ran up to give him a hand. It was indeed heavy and it was also very, very cold.
``I think I'm getting frostbite,'' Raph griped.
Mikey was holding the car door open for them. ``Guys, uh, guys. Hurry up. It's almost finished with my candy.''
Together, Raph and Leo managed to toss the statue onto the backseat. Raph climbed in next to it, staying as far to one side as he could, while his three brothers crowded into the front seat. Don stepped on the gas and sped away.
Looking back through the side window, Mikey saw the apparition spring into the air and begin flailing as it was dragged along with them.
As they left the block, the street lights in front of the three brownstones came back on, but as they passed other lights; street, homes, traffic - they all went out.
``Where are we going with this thing?'' Raph asked.
``There,'' Don answered, pointing ahead of them.
It was a marina that Don was speeding towards. He turned the car quickly and then battled the steering wheel when the backend started to fishtail. Racing past docked boats, he drove to the end of a pier and skid to a stop.
With Mikey's help, Raph maneuvered the statue out of the car. As they lifted it up over the water, the apparition, having been dragged along, snapped back into the statue.
Don and Leo joined their brothers in heaving the statue as far as they could. It hit the water with a splash and then sank fast.
The dock lights came back on and so did the lights on the borrowed car.
``A ghost that hungers for candy,'' Don said. ``Now I've seen it all.''
As the foursome walked back to the car, Leo said, ``It is definitely time to call it a night.''
``No. Uh-uh. No way,'' Mikey protested. ``You guys owe me candy. We're going back and hitting some houses.''
His brothers all groaned in defeat. Getting between Michelangelo and his Halloween candy was a seriously bad idea.
``Is it just me, or is a graveyard an odd place to have a Halloween block party?'' Leo asked as he and his brothers picked their way past gravestones.
``Not when the block grew up around the graveyard,'' Raph said. ``Casey says they do this every year. Been doing it for a long time. I thought it sounded fun.''
``Look at all the food!'' Mikey exclaimed.
All along the sidewalk in front of the graveyard were long tables laden with dishes, bowls, and platters. A pair of entertainers on a raised platform played music for the milling crowd, and children raced from one game to another, with everyone winning a small prize.
In the street, which had been closed off to traffic, were booths where people dressed in costumes handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. There was a fortune-telling booth and a face painting booth as well.
Smoke billowed from a pair of grills set a little farther away as men in aprons prepared burgers and hot dogs for the hungry mob.
Michelangelo was practically drooling, his eyes two times larger than normal.
Leo waved a hand in front of his younger brother's face and then grinned. ``I think we've lost him.''
``Nah, he's just doing his impression of a food zombie,'' Raph said.
``Are you sure it's okay for us to just show up like this?'' Leo asked. ``Most of these people probably know each other.''
``Hence these,'' Don said, holding up a plastic container he'd been carrying since they'd left the lair. ``Three dozen of April's double chocolate cookies. She checked and as long as you contribute something, you can participate.''
``Did you save any for us?'' Mikey asked.
Don gave him a look and ignored the question. Instead, he took some money from his belt and handed the bills to each of his brothers. ``You guys need to put that in the tip jar next to the grills to help offset the cost of the meat.''
``On my way,'' Mikey said, waving the cash as he started moving. ``I want a burger and a dog.''
``Of course ya' do,'' Raph said.
Mikey was working his way through a second hot dog and listening to a conversation between Donatello and a computer programmer when movement in the graveyard caught his eye. He turned, but whatever it was had gone.
``Kids,'' Mikey thought to himself and looked around for his other brothers.
Raphael was trying his hand at a bean bag toss and Leo was having his palm read, an indulgent look on his face. Mikey had to chuckle as he tried to imagine what the woman had said to get Leo to sit down and let her do that.
The shout was followed by the clattering of cups. Once more, Mikey caught a blur of movement from the corner of his eyes as something darted from one table to another.
This time a container of Jell-o seemed to slide off the table of its own accord. The splatter made a woman shriek and it was then Mikey saw a pair of tiny, glittering eyes looking over the edge of the table.
It was most definitely not human. Mikey stared without blinking, taking in the round face, the pointed ears and the sharp little teeth that filled its mouth. To Mikey it looked like a gremlin, and that's what he decided it was when it reached out with an impossibly long arm to scoop up some candy in its clawed hand.
The gremlin was gone in a flash, leaving in its wake all sorts of mischief that had people shouting and then arguing with each other.
``Don, Don, Donny!'' Mikey yelled, finally getting his brother's attention. ``We've got a problem.''
Don politely excused himself from his conversation and then jogged to catch up to Mikey, who was trotting towards Leo. Their older brother glanced at them and then got up with a quick thanks to the palm reader.
``What is it?'' Leo asked.
Something crashed, the sound followed by more shouts. Raph joined them quickly.
``Gremlin,'' Mikey said. Seeing the looks on his brothers' faces, he added, ``Yeah, yeah. Not making it up and haven't had much sugar. You can see it if you don't try to see it.''
``What the hell does that mean?'' Raph asked.
``Corner of the eyes, dude,'' Mikey told him.
Don spotted the creature as it knocked the legs out from under a mounted dartboard. ``He's right!''
``How do we get rid of that thing?'' Raph's head turned as he followed the gremlin's movements. ``Where'd it come from?''
Snapping his fingers, Don said, ``I saw some teenagers coming out of the graveyard earlier. They were laughing and talking about `old bones'.''
``Old mausoleums,'' Leo promptly said. ``I remember reading that there are a few in an older part of this graveyard.''
``Maybe they let the thing out,'' Raph said. ``That means all we gotta do is shove it back where it belongs.''
``How do you propose we do that?'' Don asked.
They looked at each other and then noticed that Mikey was no longer with them. A loud thud turned their attention to an overturned food table and their younger brother running towards it.
A group of neighbors were trying to clean up the mess of spilled food, all of them talking at once. One of the men righted the table but before anyone could grab the tablecloth, Mikey scooped it up and ran into the graveyard.
His brothers raced after him. When they entered the graveyard, they heard a weird chortling sound and saw a blob of dirt hurtling towards Mikey. Before it hit him, he made a leaping dive and came down tablecloth first.
A small thrashing form beneath the tablecloth proved that he'd captured the gremlin. By the time his brothers caught up, tiny tears were showing through the material as the gremlin tried to claw itself free.
Mikey bundled the bottom edges together and hoisted the gremlin up, tossing the tablecloth wrapped captive over his shoulder. ``Where to?''
``This way,'' Leo answered, running towards the oldest section of the graveyard.
When they saw the mausoleums, the brothers split up to locate the one that had been broken into. It was Raph who found the broken lock on the metal gate which was meant to keep vandals out of the crypt.
``Over here!'' Raph called out before entering the mausoleum.
``Where are you?'' Don asked as he stepped into the dark interior.
``Ya' got a light?''
Don took out his shell cell and activated the flashlight feature. He spotted Raph standing at the top of a set of stairs. Mikey joined them and Leo brought up the rear.
``Hurry, this thing's trying to escape,'' Mikey urged.
The turtles took the stairs down to the lower level of the crypt. Cobwebs hung all around them, many of them recently broken. When they reached the bottom step, they saw that a couple of coffins had been pulled from their slots in the walls.
A claw scratched against the back of Mikey's shell and he swung the bundle off of his shoulder to see that the gremlin had managed to punch one of its arms free. It was gibbering and fighting violently as it tried to widen the opening.
``This one!'' Don exclaimed. He pointed at a metal plate affixed to the coffin in question. ``It's Latin. It basically means ``Take the mischief with you.''
Inside were skeletal remains that had clearly been disturbed. The arm bones, still connected by a bit of gristle, weren't laid out straight, but instead had a curved appearance.
``I suppose sealing the coffin keeps that thing inside,'' Leo said.
``Better idea.'' Mikey tossed the struggling gremlin on top of the skeleton's chest and then grabbed its arms.
As soon as he draped the arms over the bundle, the gremlin stopped moving. The tablecloth flattened out, almost as if the contents had sunk into the skeleton itself.
It didn't take the turtles long to seal the coffin and push it back into place, along with all the others that had been disturbed. When they left the mausoleum, Raph bent the metal bars on the gate to seal it shut.
``I can come back tomorrow night and weld this,'' Don said. ``Make it more permanent.''
They started back to the block party, which sounded as if everything had returned to normal. Raph clapped Mikey's shoulder and said, ``That was some quick thinking, bro', the way ya' wrapped that thing up before the rest of us could even blink. What made ya' move so fast?''
Mikey shrugged. ``It was headed for the pie table. I just wanted some pie.''
``Come on in, guys,'' Angel said as she waved a greeting to her turtle friends, who were still standing on the sidewalk.
Music and laughter spilled through the door she was holding open. People in costumes stood around on the front lawn, and they could see glimpses of others through the open windows of the college frat house whose Halloween party Angel had invited them to attend.
Michelangelo was the first to race up the staircase. He and Angel embraced and then went inside, both talking a mile a minute.
Donatello and Raphael went up next, followed by Leonardo. As was his habit, he took special notice of their surroundings and committed to memory every person he saw. Because of that practice, when he spotted a second person dressed like a character from a video game his brothers liked to play, he did a double take. It was an elaborate costume and it surprised him that two people would wear the same thing, down to the smallest detail.
He turned to say something about it to his brothers, but saw that Mikey was dancing with Angel, Don was examining the home audio equipment, and Raph was at the keg.
Raph gave him an amused look as Leo walked over. Indicating the cup he was holding, he asked, ``Ya' want one?''
``You know I don't,'' Leo said.
``Someday you're gonna learn to lighten up,'' Raph said, taking a drink. ``Not bad for cheap beer. And before ya' say anything, mom, I'm only having one.''
``I wasn't going to say anything,'' Leo said. ``Did you by any chance notice the guys dressed like one of the characters from Crossfire? There are two of them here who look exactly the same.''
Leo shook his head. ``And nothing, I suppose. It just seemed odd.''
Raph laughed. ``Ya' really can't take a night off, can ya'?''
``Did you guys see that audio system?'' Don asked as he walked over to join them.
``Why no, Donny. It is incredible?'' Raph asked with a grin.
``Go ahead, make fun,'' Don said. ``I heard they have a gaming system in the next room that's to die for.''
Raph nudged Leo. ``There ya' go. That's why there's two guys here dressed the same. Frat guys take their gaming seriously.''
``As if you don't,'' Leo replied. He spotted Mikey talking to a group of Angel's friends. ``He's in his element.''
``It wouldn't hurt us to mingle a little,'' Raph said. He nodded towards a corner of the room. ``I see some guys looking over the latest Hot Rod Network mag. Ya' wanna go scope it out, Don?''
``Actually, I was going to take a look at the gaming system,'' Don said. ``Leo?''
``I'll go with you.''
The gaming room was a little quieter than the main area, for which Leo was grateful. Loud music and loud people were more Mikey's thing than his.
A young couple had managed to squeeze into a chair together and were making out. Upon seeing the brothers, they hastily rose and left the room. Don found the game controller and activated the system, which included a very large screen television.
``Wow, I'd love to have one of these.''
Leo glanced at him and smiled. ``Your eyes are shining. You do realize that if we had something like that, you'd never get Mikey away from it?''
``I'm thinking about inserting a lock code into the controllers,'' Don said, his gaze on the TV. ``Mikey can't hog them if he can't turn them on.''
``Want to bet he'd figure it out?'' Leo noticed that when Don started to play, another smaller television came on. It was on a desk to one side of the room, and looked to be quite old. ``Weird.''
``What is?'' Don asked as he continued to play.
``This little TV. Wonder why they'd have something this old hooked up to their fancy new system.''
Don shrugged, his entire focus on the game he was playing. Leo took a last look around and then left, knowing that it might take a while for his genius brother to come up for air.
Despite the music and what appeared to be an influx of new arrivals, Leo could hear Raph's deep booming voice as he argued the merits of some engine or other. Mikey was dancing with someone dressed like a nurse.
``Everyone seems to be having fun but you,'' Angel scolded, sliding up next to Leo. ``Take a night off?''
``I'm enjoying myself,'' Leo argued. ``I like to people watch.''
``Let me translate.'' Angel's smile was mischievous. ``'A ninja must always be on their guard, always aware of their surroundings, and prepared for any contingency'.''
``That's the second one,'' Leo said.
Angel frowned. ``The second one what?''
``The second pair of people I've seen dressed like characters from a video game,'' Leo said.
``That is not unusual, Leo.''
``Two people, dressed identically down to the smallest detail?'' Leo asked. ``It was a different set of characters from the first two I saw, but that makes four from the game. Is there supposed to be a theme to this party?''
``No,'' Angel said. ``Some parties have themes, but this is just a standard Halloween party.''
Through the crowd, Leo spotted the face of the girl he'd seen in the gaming room earlier. Her expression was slack and she no longer wore a maid's outfit. She was now dressed as a soldier from the video game.
``Something odd is going on,'' Leo said, looking around the room.
He located the girl's boyfriend on the opposite side of the room. His outfit had changed as well, to exactly duplicate the girl's.
Both were carrying weapons, as had the other sets of twins. But where Leo had first thought them to be props, he didn't believe that to be true anymore.
``Leo?'' Angel stared at him with a worried expression on her face.
``Get Mikey. Tell him to stay on the pair dressed like SAS characters,'' Leo said. ``Make sure he knows there are two of them and that there are other lookalikes from the same game. Tell him I said to be ready to move.''
``Are we about to have a problem?'' Angel asked.
Leo glanced at her. ``Keep your eyes open too.''
She nodded and headed for Mikey, winding her way through the crowd. Leo went directly to where Raph was holding court and caught his brother's eye. At the look on Leo's face, Raph tossed the magazine he was holding on a table and moved to meet him.
``You know the characters from that first-person shooter game you're always playing? I've been seeing people dressed in those outfits, pairs of them, and they're behaving oddly. They're also carrying weapons that look pretty real,'' Leo explained.
``Ya' think we're about to have a live shooter incident? Where's Mikey?''
``I sent Angel to give him the head's up. Don's in the gaming room. Let's get him,'' Leo said.
Before they reached the door to that room, Donatello came out. Only he was now dressed like a game character, including the gun he carried.
``Is that. . . what the hell?'' Raph started towards his brother, but Leo's hand on his chest stopped him.
``Over there,'' Leo said, pointing.
Raph turned his head and saw an exact Donatello duplicate. ``Oh, shit.''
``They're all taking up positions along the walls,'' Leo said. ``We have to stop this before it starts.''
``Got any suggestions?'' Raph asked.
Leo thought fast. ``Start a distraction outside. Get the people out of here without panicking them.''
``I can do that. What about you?''
Looking towards the gaming room, Leo said, ``I think I know what started this. I'll try to end it.''
He maneuvered his way past throngs of guests and finally reached the game room just before a trio of young men were about to enter.
``Uh, you don't want to go in there,'' Leo said. ``Someone had an accident. It's pretty nasty.''
The men all made disgusted noises and turned away. Leo went into the room and upon finding that there was no lock on the door, he jammed a chair under the doorknob.
From outside he heard a loud crash, like two vehicles slamming into each other. There was a collective shout from the gathering and then the sound of Mikey telling everyone they should go find out what happened.
Leaving it to his brothers to keep everyone safe, Leo walked purposefully towards the small television set. Even though the larger system was off, the little TV flickered to life.
On the screen were images of the people who had been duplicated. In the center, lines began to appear, as though something was drawing a figure. It took shape quickly, and it started to look a lot like Leonardo.
``Oh no you don't,'' Leo muttered as he unsheathed his katana. With two quick strokes, he sliced the television into pieces.
Sparks flew, not from the TV, but into it from all directions. When the sparks fizzled out, the remaining television components melted into puddles which quickly hardened into harmless blobs.
Leo made a beeline for the door, wrenched the chair aside, and darted back into the main room. He spotted Mikey helping Don to his feet as Raph re-entered the house. The other duplicated people were scattered around the room, looking like their normal selves again as they began to sit up.
Sirens sounded from outside and the turtles beat a hasty exit. On their way back home, Leo explained what had happened and how he’d dealt with the haunted television set.
For a bit, no one said anything and then Donatello sighed. “Guys, can we talk about our unfortunate history with Halloween?”