The Phantom Knight of Holland Farm, Part 1

In observance of Halloween, I am writing just a fun little piece involving the main characters from my paranormal mystery series, Kyrie Carter and Spook Steele. In the first part of the story, Kyr is disappointed and angry because Spook didn’t show up at a Halloween party. She is doubly upset because he had promised to make this a Halloween she’d never forget.

As she leaves the party early, she finds herself in peril of the paranormal kind…

**********

horseman

The Phantom Knight of Holland Farm

Strings of orange and purple lights twinkled festively in the windows as I stepped out onto the front porch of the farm house, but I hardly noticed them. My party mood had died long ago. A large jack o’lantern grinned eerily at me from a small table by the door. “What are you smiling at?” I muttered irritably, then glanced around quickly hoping no one had heard. Thankfully, the others were inside, oblivious to the fact that I had slipped out, tired of putting up a brave front. Spook had stood me up, and I was devastated.

I should have known this might happen, I chided myself. Spook hadn’t been keen on coming to this party at all. He had groused about how much he hated costume parties, and he refused to give me a yea or a nay as to whether he would come or not. Then about a week ago, he’d done a complete about-face, agreeing to come to the party and actually sounding excited about it. He’d agreed to wear something to complement my princess costume and even teased me about wearing a dress to lure him in. Then he’d unexpectedly promised a big surprise, saying this would be a Halloween I’d never forget.

Oh, I’ll never forget this Halloween; that’s for sure. I walked across the porch and sat down on the top step with my knees drawn up and my chin propped on my crossed arms. A single tear slid down my cheek and splashed onto my dark green velvet dress. I quickly brushed it away before it could leave a wet stain on the fabric, and then laughed bitterly. What does it matter? I had spent hours hand-sewing the medieval princess costume, eagerly anticipating Spook’s expression when he saw it. I wasn’t much for dresses, especially dresses with form-fitting, corseted bodices, so I knew seeing me in this costume would be quite a surprise. I’d wanted to make this a Halloween he’d never forget either.

***

A loud burst of laughter came from inside, and I sighed miserably. JoEllyn and Brad had really outdone themselves with this year’s party, and I felt guilty for cutting out early, but I just couldn’t pretend I was having fun anymore. I had smiled gamely through the costume judging, applauding the winners in spite of my disappointment that Spook hadn’t been there for the couples’ competition. I’d sung along during karaoke, laughing good-naturedly at the off-key attempts and cheering for the impressive performances. I’d shivered through the hour of ghostly tales, wishing I had Spook’s strong arms around me through the spookiest parts. I hated to admit it, but I had been especially unnerved by the story of the phantom horseman who rode through the fields of Holland Farm, where this Halloween party was being held.

As the evening progressed, it became apparent that Spook wasn’t going to show. I kept checking my phone, and I asked JoEllyn a number of times if Spook had called the house. Her sympathetic responses soon turned to irritation at my constant queries, so I’d stopped asking. I had even called him several times, but all my calls went to voicemail. As it grew later and later, I flip-flopped between anger and worry. Had he just decided to skip the party and not called, or had he been in an accident on the way? After the planned activities had ended, guests sat around talking, having drinks from the open bar, and nibbling on Halloween-themed hors d’oeuvres. As the grandfather clock in the hallway chimed 11:30, I’d had enough and slipped out.

***

I got to my feet and walked over to the side of the porch to gaze out at the small orchard. Ghost- and skeleton-patterned luminarias lined the paths to the orchard and to the barn. An almost-full moon glowed pumpkin orange just above the trees in the orchard, casting eerie shadows in the yard. I leaned against the railing and whispered to the man in the moon, “Why didn’t Spook show up?”

A sudden movement in the orchard caught my eye. Was that a deer among the trees? I leaned out over the railing to squint at the tree line. No, it wasn’t a deer. It almost looked as though a ghostly greenish-blue glow came from the orchard. Wait, was it…could it be…a man on a horse? Cold fear gripped me as I recalled the story about the phantom knight. Music, laughter and conversation still echoed from the party inside, and I wondered if I should go inside and tell someone.

The man on the horse turned to face me. Could he see me? Did he know I was there? Suddenly the horse stepped forward just outside the cover of the trees. Silhouetted on the hill, both horse and rider glowed eerily in the moonlight. Slowly, the man raised his arm and beckoned. A prickle of fear ran down my spine, but I was intrigued. I did love ghost hunting, after all.

Glancing over my shoulder at the front door, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look; I wouldn’t go far. I crept off the porch and picked my way quickly but carefully up the rocky, luminaria-lined path. Once or twice I stopped and looked back towards the house; was I crazy or what? I didn’t know who or what I was walking towards. It could be the ghost–and if it was, what would I do when I got close to it? It could be a psychopath–if it was, I shouldn’t be going towards him. A sudden thought made my heart race with excitement–what if it was Spook? He had promised a surprise. I lifted my long skirts and started to run, but I turned my ankle on a rock in the path. Muttering a curse, I kicked off my sparkly shoes and tossed them aside.

When I started towards the mysterious rider again, I realized that he had moved back under the cover of the trees, almost as if he were luring me into the orchard. I stopped again and glanced back over my shoulder towards the house. The steady thump-thump-thump of the sound system still came from inside, and I knew that even if I screamed at the top of my lungs, no one in the house would hear. I turned back to the horseman again; he had moved another ten feet or so back into the trees, glowing even more eerily in the darkness. The horseman raised his arm and beckoned again.

“Spook? Is that you?” I asked, silently cursing the quaver in my voice.

A whisper floated to my ears on the breeze. “Come.” It didn’t sound like Spook…or did it? The horseman kept moving backwards and gesturing to me.

I took a few more steps forward until I was underneath the cover of the trees. A bit of moonlight filtered down through the branches where the horseman stood, and I saw the unmistakable glint of metal. My eyes widened in horror, and I realized that I had been stupid to come alone this far from the house. Turning quickly, I picked up my skirts and began to run towards the house. Even more quickly, footsteps sounded behind me. One large gloved hand clamped over my mouth, and another managed to pin my arms behind me. Terror swept over me as I realized this was not a phantom; this was a flesh-and-blood man. I struggled to free myself, but the man was too strong. “Be still, Princess. I won’t harm you; I give you my word.”

I turned his voice over in my mind, trying to see if I recognized my captor. It sounded vaguely like Spook’s voice, but why would he do something like this? Was this his idea of a surprise? I doubted that, but I stopped struggling for a moment, thinking that if I could fool him into relaxing his grip, I might be able to pull free and fight him. The man took his hand away from my mouth and began fumbling with something behind my back. I took a chance and tried to pull free. The man tightened his hold again. “Princess, if you’re going to continue to struggle, then you leave me no choice.” I felt a rope being wrapped snugly around my wrists; I dropped to my knees to throw him off balance, but he seemed to anticipate that move and moved with me, pinning me to the ground and securing my wrists. “Don’t even think about screaming, Princess, or I will have to gag you as well.”

I decided it was best to remain quiet; no one would hear my screams in this remote location anyway. When he had finished, he hauled me roughly to my feet before stooping to grab me around the waist and throw me over his shoulder. I had just enough time to see that the horseman wore glowing chain mail and a helmet. That must have been the glint of metal I had seen. So he was supposed to be a knight, was he? Not that the realization helped me feel any better about the situation. “Who are you?” I asked stupidly, knowing he wouldn’t answer. “What do you want?”

The mysterious knight said nothing, but unceremoniously dumped me onto the back of his horse before climbing up behind me. His eyes glowed through the eye slot in his visor as he looked down at me. My breath caught in my throat as I once again questioned whether this was a flesh-and-blood person or a phantom. The knight clucked his tongue and urged the horse forward deeper into the orchard, setting off at a leisurely pace. He didn’t seem in any great hurry to get me to…”Where are you taking me?”

An evil laugh rumbled in his chest. “Soon enough, Princess. Soon enough.” He ran a gloved fingertip up my arm, over my shoulder, and across my collarbone. Then he caressed my cheek before drawing his fingertips along my lower lip. “So soft, so beautiful,” the knight crooned. “Like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked and eaten. I can’t wait to take a taste”

I couldn’t help shivering at his touch, his words. This was the reaction I expected from Spook. Spook! Indignation exploded in my chest; who did this man think he was? “This peach belongs to someone else, Sir Knight, so you’d better take your hands off.”

“Oh, does it now?” the knight chuckled. “I saw you with no man tonight. Perhaps he forgot about you. Or maybe he was…spirited away. Finders keepers, losers weepers; isn’t that how the saying goes?”

My breathing became ragged with fear at the knight’s words. He was right; I was in quite the predicament. My anger at Spook flared once more. Now look at the mess I was in because he hadn’t shown up tonight. If I lived through this I’d…If I lived through this. I realized just how much trouble I was in. No one knew where I was; no one knew this…ghost…man…psychopath was here. I began struggling again, although what I hoped to accomplish with my hands tied behind my back, I didn’t know.

The knight’s arms came around me tightly, crushing me against his chain mail. “Be still, Princess,” the knight growled. “I’ve promised you I won’t hurt you, but if you keep struggling and fall from my steed, I can’t be held accountable.”

We soon came to a small clearing. I had never been this far back in the Hollands’ orchard, and I wondered how far from the house we were. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I saw what appeared to be a campsite surrounded by glowing jack o’lanterns. Exactly what is this sicko up to? I wondered. I looked around the orchard, trying to see if the Holland farm, or any other houses, were visible; there was no one else around for miles. I wondered if the Hollands even knew this man was here camping–and doing whatever else–on their property.

The knight dismounted and then reached up to help me off the horse. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I wrestled free and began to run. It was no use; the knight was much faster, and his hands weren’t tied behind his back. As he grabbed me and pulled me roughly to him, he hissed, “My, you’re a feisty one. That should make tonight’s activities even more…exciting.”

I wrestled and fought, trying to escape. At one point, I had almost broken free when my low-cut gown began to slip. Not wanting to give this freak any more pleasure than he was already getting from the situation, I tried futilely to cover myself. The knight took advantage of my attempt at modesty to scoop me into his arms and carry me back to the campsite. He put me down in front of a young apple tree. Pinning me against the tree, he reached around to untie the ropes from my wrists. Not quick enough to capture my arms again, the knight cried out as I reached up and hit his helmet hard enough to knock it off. Good, now I can get a look at my abductor.

As his helmet fell to the ground, my eyes flew open in terror. What I saw was not a man’s face, but a ghoulish skull face that shimmered with the same green-blue as his chain mail. I let out a horrified scream, before everything went black.

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