Chapter 2:

Mike walked out several minutes later, after hiding the summoning circle in Harold's bedroom. He'd transported it carefully, keeping the cube in the center and the cloth spread out. He'd told Jack to hide, and there was no sign of him as Mike entered the party.

There were a surprising number of people already there, all dressed in myriad kinds and types of costumes. Mike walked amongst them, waving to those he knew and could recognize. On second thought, he was kind of glad that Jack had whipped him up the costume.

The people talked and conversed in many of the rooms, forming small clumps scattered around. Everyone was waiting for Harold to announce the beginning of the movie, the highlight of his annual Halloween parties. Mike walked to the mini-bar in the main living room. He grabbed himself a small drink and sat down at one of the sleek white barstools, watching the view-screen. It was playing an ancient horror film called Night of the Dead. Mike chuckled.

He sat quietly for the main part. He greeted anyone he knew that walked by, but the thoughts racing inside his head unnerved him.

He wasn't sure he was ready for an apprentice; Richard had been in his mid-sixties when he'd begun training Mike. And now he was expecting Mike to take an apprentice of his own.

And Holly. Holly bugged him, too. Well, not her, really, but the thought of her as a necromancer. It just seemed... odd. He sighed. Holly had always been a quiet kid, a grade behind Mike and Harold all through grade school.

She'd be 22, Mike thought, I think. She'd moved back to the city right after finishing college, so that seemed about right.

Mike had been engrossed in his thoughts for several minutes when a voice made him turn.

"Hey Mike," the voice said, high and definitely feminine. Mike frowned and turned to see Holly standing behind him. She grinned. Mike blinked.

Holly was dressed as a witch. She wore a black mini-dress and her golden hair flowed out from beneath her black pointed hat. Her skin was slightly pale, setting up an interesting contrast with the dress's dark black. Beneath the pointed witch's hat, her face was the same cute face that Mike remembered form their childhood. The intervening years between those long-buried high-school days and now, however, had given that face the help of a generous growth spurt. She still had a rather petite frame, of course, but one that seemed to have considerably more curves than Mike remembered.

"Oh," he said, then blinked again, "hey." She giggled.

"You okay there Mike?" she asked, raising an eyebrow as she took the unoccupied seat next to him. Mike bit his lip.

"Oh, yeah," he said, "I'm fine. Just... surprised to see you."

You're going to start seeing dead people any day now, and after the party your dead grandfather wants to talk to you, Mike thought involuntarily. He grinned weakly. Holly, blind to his thoughts, smiled.

"So," Holly asked, "you been keeping New York for me?" Mike laughed and nodded.

"Just like when you left," he said.

"Cool," Holly said, reaching over the mini-bar to grab a drink, "and how've you been?" Mike blinked at her once as she sat cross-legged at the barstool before coughing.

"Oh, fine," he said, "just... living. Helping down at the precinct, doing odd jobs here and there."

"Ooo, like a detective?" Holly asked excitedly, leaning forward slightly. Mike laughed.

"No, no," he said, "just tech stuff. I fix their computers and stuff, you know. No hard-biting crime drama for me." Holly shrugged and sat back again, taking a sip of whatever drink she'd gotten. Mike just stared at her.

Why me? He thought desperately. Holly saw him looking, though, and looked up questioningly.

"Oh," Mike said quickly, "uh... How've you been doing, then?" Holly shrugged again and pursed her lips.

"Oh, you know," she said, stretching, "just glad to be back. I mean, Tennessee's nice and all, but it's seriously lacking in three things: Good Movies, Good Parties, and Good Guys." Mike chuckled.

"What, no football players or basketball players or anything?" he asked. Holly rolled her eyes.

"Oh, no," she said, "there's plenty of guys. The emphasis goes on good. And not just good-looking, either. Nah, there's plenty of good-looking guys down there, even if I don't really go for the strong guy type, but they're all morons. Like, seriously. It's kinda sad, really." Mike chuckled.

"Hm," he said, "figured you'd have some college guy wrapped around your finger by now..." Holly frowned at him and lowered her eyebrows, giving him a definite "oh really?" look. Mike laughed and put his hands up in a calming gesture. She laughed.

"Anyway," Holly said a few moments later, "it's not like you've got a girl, anyway." She stuck her tongue out at him. Mike gasped.

"Oh really?" he said. Holly just looked at him. Mike blinked once, twice, then slowly raised his glass to his lips and muttered, "Touche," before drinking. Holly laughed at loud and smiled widely. They sat silently for a few minutes, watching the corny horror flick on the screen before Mike spoke back up.

"So," he asked, "do you have a job, place to stay, all that?" Holly nodded.

"Yeah," she said, "my old roomie Jen helped me find a nice apartment around here. It's not like this one with all the cold light, though."

"Heh," Mike said, "neither's mine. Jack hates the stuff, creeps him out. Apparently."

"Jack?" Holly asked, and Mike had a strong urge to hit himself in the face.

"A friend of mine," Mike said quickly, "he was at the last party, you know, the masquerade ball one? He had a snake mask?" Holly's mouth went to an "o" shape and she nodded. Mike smiled in relief. "Anyway," he said, "job?" Holly blinked once then nodded.

"Oh, right," she said, "I work a shift or two at Jen's uncle's coffee shop. When I need to, at least. You know how it is. Maybe I should start my own company, too..." Holly looked over somewhere behind Mike and bit her lip.

Mike frowned and was about to turn when Holly stopped him.

"Hey," she said quickly, "would maybe like to grab a coffee sometime? When I'm not working, of course." She smiled widely at him. Mike frowned.

Well, he thought, it'd be a nice chance to get started on training. Assuming, of course, that she even believes us... Mike smiled.

"Sure," he said, "I'd love to." Holly grinned widely and gave him a quick hug, and her witch-hat fell off. Just as Mike bent to recover it, the room around them grew quiet.

"Movie time!" Harold called out to the door to what Mike had thought was a second living room. Behind his friend, however, Mike could now see that it was intended to be a theater, with a bunch of seats having been placed inside.

Mike handed the hat back to Holly, who tossed it onto her head casually before walking with Mike to the theater with the rest of the party.

He and Holly found seats near the middle of the small theater, and sat. Holly took off her hat, obviously sorry for the people behind them, and set it on the ground. She looked over at Mike and grinned. Mike laughed.

"So you're the good witch, then?" he asked sarcastically. She rolled her eyes and gestured at her dress.

"Not with a black dress I'm not," she said, "especially one this sexy." She grinned, and Mike just bit his lip.

Harold walked up to the front of the theater and waited for the room to quiet before speaking.

"Alright, then," he said, "this year, we've got a suspense mystery from Idaho, the obligatory slasher flick, and a little known thriller. What should we start with?" The room quickly filled with voices. Harold laughed and held up a hand and everyone silenced again quickly. Holly shot a confused look over at Mike, and he just shrugged.

"We do it every year," he said, "and we always start with the slasher. Always." Holly laughed and turned back to her brother.

"Okay," Harold said, enjoying playing the host, "who wants the mystery?" Several people shouted. "Alrighty then," Harold continued, "the thriller?" A few scattered people clapped. Harold just laughed. "Okay," he said slowly, "who wants the slasher, then?" The room erupted with clapping. Harold smiled and bowed slightly, quickly bringing the film up on screen before walking back to his seat.

As Mike settled down and waited for the film to appear, something seemed to pass through the room. No one else seemed to notice, but Mike shivered just as a neon green spark appeared on the screen briefly before disappearing. Mike frowned confusedly, and looked over to Holly when she let out a shaking breath and rubbed her arms as if she was cold. Mike's frown deepened as the slasher started on screen. In his book, shivering was never a good thing.