A/N: More adventures of Toni Karlsen. Haven't had reviews on the first story about her here, but nobody objected, either . . . so here's another one that I thought might be fun to read. : ) Toni has become friends with Wendy and Amy, and has even made new friends in school.

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I much prefer Christmas myself, to be honest; it's my absolute favorite holiday in the whole year. But everybody I know loves Halloween, and this year we made it loads of fun. Mother decided we were going to have a haunted house right there in our living room; conveniently enough, Dad was going to be off on a business trip for the last two weeks of the month, so there was no reason for him to know about it. Doubtless he'd have nixed it if he did know.

One problem, though, was that Halloween was on a Tuesday, so we had to treat it as a school night. And from the way Mother described this project, it was going to take the entire day to get it ready. "How are we gonna help if we have to be in school all day?" Jackie protested.

Mother mulled over it for a few minutes, and then focused on us. "I don't think you girls have had a physical in quite a while, do you?" she asked.

We shook our heads. "I think my last one was when we first moved here," I said.

"Me too," agreed Jackie.

"Then there you go," Mother said and smiled. "I'll call now, so there'll be a better chance of getting you girls appointments that day. You both probably need booster shots anyway."

"Can't we just skip the shots?" Jackie pleaded, but Mother stood firm. If we wanted to help with the haunted house and get out of going to school on Halloween day, getting shots was the price we'd have to pay. Reluctantly we gave in, but we weren't too happy about it.

Mother succeeded in getting us scheduled for Halloween day, and I could hardly wait, shots or not. I was so excited that I told Sharon and my two other new friends from my eighth-grade drama class, Diane and Susan. Mother had forbidden us to tell our friends in the neighborhood, but she hadn't said anything about school friends. When they heard about it, they were really impressed. "Cool!" Diane exclaimed. "Do you think your mom'd let us help out, Toni?"

"She might," I said. "You don't live in my neighborhood, so if you weren't in it you wouldn't get to see it. But do you know where I live, so that you catch the right bus and get off at the right stop?"

"Don't worry about it, Toni," Susan said. "Sharon knows, all we have to do is follow her."

Mother was a little taken aback when I told her that Diane, Susan and Sharon wanted to help us with our haunted house. "Well, to be honest," she said, "we could use a few more players. Kristen's too little to participate and three of us wouldn't be very effective. All right, tell them I said it's okay."

That excited the heck out of my friends, and we started listing ideas and crossing out ones that didn't sound too good. Finally Diane decided she was going to be a vampire, for which Sharon volunteered a fake-blood recipe that she said could pass for the real thing; and Sharon herself thought it would be fun to be the Bride of Frankenstein. Susan and I teamed up: she was going to be a mad scientist trying to raise the dead, and I would be the dead body.

So on Tuesday the 31st, Jackie and I had our physicals and got our shots (two for me and three for Jackie). We got started right after we returned home about 10:30 that morning. The three of us cleared out furniture in the living room, packing everything off into the dining room or the kitchen, and Mother found a bunch of folding screens in the garage which she used as a guide to the route trick-or-treaters would be taking through the haunted house. It took the three of us to dismantle the twin bed that Kristen doesn't use, lug it downstairs and reassemble it in the living room for the séance scene Susan was writing a sort of script for. We then covered the mattress with a plain white fitted sheet and put a pillow at the head of the bed. Mother rummaged around in the attic space among the Christmas stuff and found a box full of old clothes and scraps of fabric; and she got out the shopping bag full of gaudy makeup that she'd bought over the past weekend.

While Mother was setting up the folding screens, I poked through the box and made an incredible find: a long purple skirt with a little white woolen poodle appliqué off to one side of its front, near the hem. "Wow!" I shouted. "Mother, where'd this come from?"

Mother turned around and stared. "My word, that's Tabitha's poodle skirt," she exclaimed, referring to her older sister. "I have no idea how it ended up among my things, but try it on anyway, Toni. It might fit."

It did fit; so we decided to use it for my outfit. My grandmother Morley had given me a fuzzy white sweater and a pair of penny loafers for Christmas the previous year, and fortunately everything still fit me. Mother helped me dress up and folded my socks down to look like bobby sox, then gazed critically at my hair. "It's a little short for a proper fifties ponytail," Mother mused, "but we can give it a try anyway. Do me a favor and see if there's a long scarf in that box, Jackie. If not, go into my dresser drawer and see if I have one in there."

So by the time my friends got off the bus and knocked on the door, I was ready to go. Mother had made up my face in dead-white pancake so I would look more like a recently deceased corpse, and I could have stepped out of a 1955 sock hop. We were in the middle of setting up some of Jackie's old dolls in assorted roles as hanged people, demons or goblins, using old fabric scraps and makeup. My friends all stared around the living room and then at me. "You look GREAT, Toni!" exclaimed Susan. "Where'd you get that poodle skirt?"

"It was my aunt's," I said. "You're just in time, we need a lot of help in here."

So the preparations went on. I helped Mother set up a card table at the exit so kids could pick up candy as a reward for surviving the haunted house. Diane helped put orange nightlights in strategic spots. We set around ceramic pumpkins containing tealight candles, which we would light as soon as we saw the first gangs of trick-or-treaters beginning to make their rounds. That meant we'd have to keep watch starting around five or so. At the séance scene we put up a large industrial-style flashlight, pilfered from Dad's workbench in the garage, so that people could see the scene we planned to enact there.

Mother set herself up as a gypsy telling fortunes and hid her pale-blonde hair under a long black wig. Then she put on colorful clothes and makeup, about ten necklaces and two dozen bracelets, and a ring on every finger except her thumbs. She even found a bright-red scarf for her hair and a pair of huge gold hoop earrings.

"Mom," called Jackie, "I need help with this green makeup!" She was going to be a witch.

"Could I use some food coloring, Mrs. Karlsen?" asked Sharon, preparing to mix up her fake blood. She was already decked out like the Bride of Frankenstein, right down to the white streak in her dark hair.

Susan and I, meantime, were surveying the séance scene. "I think this'll probably do," she mused, "but it's too bad you don't have a black cat." She was wearing a huge white lab coat and had even scrounged up a stethoscope from somewhere.

That was when I remembered something. "My little sister has a stuffed black cat she got for her birthday," I said. "It'd be perfect - it has these really neat eyes. Flip a switch and they glow in the dark."

"Cool!" Susan exclaimed. "Quick, go get it."

So we added Kristen's black cat to our haunted house, and tried to think of some other stuff to do. Jackie had been hanging knotted strings that were supposed to be cobwebs and was now tying big black plastic spiders to each one. Diane emerged from the kitchen, where Mother was still helping Sharon mix the fake blood, and said, "You know what we need? Sound effects! We gotta have thunder and creaky doors and scary moans and howling wolves and screaming. And creepy music if we can get it."

"The 'Dark Shadows' theme song," Susan said. "That'd be perfect. My mother watched that when I was a little kid. I used to lie in bed at night and listen to that weird music coming down the hallway. It always gave me the creeps."

"I remember that," I said. "Actually, I think my parents might have a record someplace that would fit the bill. Let's go see if we can find it."

We might not have the "Dark Shadows" theme song, but there was an ancient LP full of dirgelike organ music that made me think of vampires and Igor and Frankenstein trying to make his monster come alive. So we used that as a background for the other scary noises Diane had mentioned, making two tapes at the same time on Jackie's and my portable cassette recorders so that we could have one tape going all the time while we rewound the other one. Jackie would be in charge of keeping the noises going.

Once we got done with our tapes, we found Jackie at the kitchen table, stirring something vile-looking in a black Dutch oven Mother must have given her. She grinned at us when we came in. "Hey, you guys, taste my witch's brew," she invited, lifting a ladle out of the stuff in the pot.

We tried it and looked at one another. "It kind of tastes like Coke," Susan said.

"Wait a minute, I've tasted this before," Sharon exclaimed. "It was at some party I went to when I was ten or so. It's 'suicide'. That's when you mix up all different kinds of soda."

"Weird," I said. The stuff had tasted pretty odd, even though it was sweet.

"Aw, you just don't know how to have fun," Diane said and smirked. "This stuff is a staple at summer camp. You're a sissy there if you drink anything besides suicide. So of course, practically everybody drank it."

Jackie lugged her "witch's brew" into the living room and put it on a second card table, and hid her cassette recorder and the two tapes behind it. By now we had done just about all we could do. Diane would be the first "attraction," leaping out in front of people trying to bite them on their necks. Anybody who refused to go the course alone was to be branded a coward by Sharon, next in line with her blood-spattered Bride of Frankenstein (complete with an enormous plastic green Frankenstein-monster head, mounted on a cloth-covered table and lit from within by a small flashlight). Susan and I came third in our séance scene, and then Jackie would offer everyone some of her witches' brew while handling the tapes. She put the recorder on top volume so it could be heard clearly. At the end, Mother would pass out the candy on people's way out; she even had Kristen dressed up like a little gypsy.

We ate supper a little before 5, and then posted a lookout to watch for trick-or-treaters so we could light the candles at the last minute to make them last longer. It wasn't long - at a quarter past, Jackie cried excitedly, "I see some! Hurry up, they're coming this way!!"

Mother and I both hastily lit all the candles we could find. It wasn't quite dark yet, but pretty close, so their flickering light gave off just the effect we wanted. We all scrambled to take our places; Mother opened the front door and turned on the porch light. At first we didn't have many customers, but by about six or so, the school-age kids began to arrive. Because I was supposed to be a dead body, I had to lie on the sheet-draped bed with my eyes closed, so I couldn't tell who was coming along unless I recognized their voices. I couldn't wait till Wendy and Amy came through - they'd been boasting for weeks that Halloween didn't scare them!

A good while went by before they did; and when Susan "revived" me in front of the kids right before them, I thought I heard Amy screech, "Ooooo, you're all bloody!" And then Wendy said rather loudly, "Hey, where's Toni?"

"Lie down, quick," Susan hissed as soon as the other kids, wide-eyed with shock and giggles at my stiff, "dead" movements and my crazy expression, moved on. Mother had added a little too much blusher and bright-red lipstick to provide contrast to the white pancake on my face, and when I looked in the mirror I thought I had a kind of clownish look to me; but Susan had insisted it was perfect in the low light because the red looked almost like black, which of course made it creepier. Now she pushed on my shoulders. "Somebody knows you, and they're coming."

"Yeah, I know," I said with a quick grin. There was a scream as Diane leaped out to "attack" some kid with her bloodied fangs. I lay down and arranged myself, closed my eyes and waited, carefully calming my expression into a blank "asleep" look.

Just in time, too. "Oh gosh, Wendy, look, it's Toni, and she's DEAD!" squealed Amy in horror.

"Wow, this is neat-o!" cried Wendy. "Oooo, she looks really dead."

Susan had already launched into her rehearsed speech. " . . . died in a horrible accident in 1958," she intoned. "Tonight I attempt to raise the dead. Arise, my daughter, arise!" That was my cue. I sat up stiffly, opened my eyes and looked straight at Amy.

"Oooo, Toni!!" squalled Amy, looking terrified.

"Wow," breathed Wendy. "Gosh, this is super-cool!"

"Arise, my daughter," Susan moaned behind me and to my right. "Tell me who you are and where you are. Tell us what happened."

In wooden tones I delivered my lines: "My name is Toni Karlsen. I was killed horribly in a car crash . . . on Halloween night of 1958." I never took my eyes off Amy the entire time.

"It worked!" screeched Susan. "She is arisen!"

"She looks all wrong," said Amy fearfully. "I mean, look at her, Wendy, it really looks like she died or something." I was still staring at her, knowing it was spooking her all the more.

"I'm gonna try something," Wendy announced. "Can I, scientist?"

"You dare to interfere with my experiment?" Susan demanded threateningly.

"Well, she's alive," Wendy pointed out, playing the game.

"If you fail, you'll pay," Susan warned in a low, deep voice.

"Toni, look at me," Wendy coaxed. "Come on, please, look at me and not Amy."

I got an idea just that moment and hoped Susan would have the presence of mind to play along with it. I shifted my gaze to Wendy, stared hard at her for a moment in the same blank way I'd been staring at Amy, and then screamed out, pointing a shaking finger at Wendy, "SHE WAS DRIVING!!!" Wendy's mouth fell wide open and her eyes grew twice their normal size, and I pretended to choke and fell back onto the bed, lying stiff and still again.

Susan did play along. "My experiment!" she howled. "She lives no more! You're going to pay for this, girl! You killed her again!"

"Let's get out of here," yelled Wendy, and that was that. I could hear them scrambling off in Jackie's direction. We had to continue playing our parts, because Wendy's playacting had backed up three more groups behind them and we had to start our scene all over immediately. But when we got a break, we cracked up laughing.

"That was perfect, Toni," Susan cackled gleefully. "I was so afraid I was gonna break up and ruin the whole thing. It was fantastic! And you really had the crud scared out of that blonde one. Aren't they the kids you hang out with and babysit sometimes?"

"Yeah," I said and grinned. "They'll probably hate me tomorrow, but it was worth it."

Overall, the haunted house was a success and a complete blast, and we couldn't stop talking about it while Mother drove Sharon, Susan and Diane home about 9:30. The last of the trick-or-treaters had come and gone about an hour before then, and they'd helped us clean up, put away the Halloween things and remove the folding screens. All we had left to do was put the furniture back in place.

Wendy and Amy told me they'd absolutely loved our haunted house and especially the séance scene. "Only problem is, you know I can't drive," Wendy admonished me. "How come you said that?"

"Because you were swaggering around like you weren't scared," I said with a grin, "and I wanted to blow you away with something. I think it worked."

Amy smirked. "It did," she said. "She ran away even before I did!" Wendy whacked her one on the arm, and I laughed. I hoped we could do something like that next year. I might never be able to outdo my little "surprise" for Wendy, but it had definitely been worth it!