Hidden 27 days ago 16 days ago Post by LePouvantail
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Barrel stuck his tongue out at Carver.

"Better late than never."

The trio walked alongside Jack to the pumpkin patch, still giggling from the results of their trouble. Even Jack couldn't hide his smile, at least until they got to the front door, where he noticeably put more effort into regaining his poise. Shock picked up the battering ram on the way out and slung it over her shoulder.

"Gotta give this back to Agatha," she said with a grin.

"Agatha let you borrow it?" Jack asked.

The two young witches weren't exactly known to get along, and usually at best tolerated each other.

"She saw a monster in need and offered assistance," Shock said sweetly. "Isn't that what we're supposed to do?"

Jack sighed and shook his head. Shock ran ahead of the group to get to the witches' shop, where Agatha currently ran the counter. After a quick verification that the shop witch got her toy back in the same condition that she lent it, and that they'd settle the debt on the next scorpion exchange, Shock raced to the pumpkin patch to meet up with her brothers. Lock and Barrel kept pace with Jack, mostly so the Pumpkin King would have no reason to give chase and potentially set off the nitroglycerin if he accidentally jostled Carver's cage.

Once they reached the gate to the pumpkin patch, Shock caught up and expectantly held out her hands to take Carver. Jack carefully handed him over. Unfortunately for Carver, he hadn't forgotten what he said earlier.

"Find a head, carve it, then bring him back to my house," Jack said. He glanced up at the sky. "It looks like you'll have plenty of time to do it before sundown."

Shock gingerly adjusted Carver's cage in her arms. She barely bit back a grimace, but Jack not only let them get away with battering the door down, he intentionally let them cause trouble and got Carver away from Finklestein. All things considered, it wasn't worth arguing with him when they were on the Pumpkin King's good side.

"...Okay, Jack," the trio said.

They turned to head into the pumpkin patch.

"See you--" Shock called over her shoulder.

"--Later--" Lock said as he waved to Jack, then followed his sister.

"--Jack!" Barrel said with a grin.

"Before sundown," Jack said firmly.

He watched the tricksters disappear among the pumpkin piles, then headed home to set up a space for Carver.


Jack did a round around town a bit before sunrise to ensure the pumpkin creature's arrival. He then sat down with Carver and made a list of anything else they needed to retrieve from the Finklestein home, anything else he needed from the Finklesteins themselves, and times the two of them agreed upon for Carver to check in with him before going off with the trio. Jack was aware that Carver at times went off for days at a time with the tricksters, and therefore didn't require it every day, but he wanted it to be at least often enough for the two of them to touch base and ensure Carver was getting what he needed.

Jack accompanied Carver the following morning to the Finklestein residence to retrieve some personal possessions and drop off some specifications for the new endoskeleton. Jewel and Igor had gotten the lab back into a manageable enough condition that a temporary one could be ready that afternoon.

For their part, Lock, Shock, and Barrel didn't put up much of an argument about Carver's living situation. Shock had taken the nitroglycerin back once Jack had been out of sight yesterday, and she and her brothers let Carver pick a pumpkin, that the three of them then worked on with input from the tapping code.

The three eyes were non-negotiable. They had their wicked hearts set on it, and each of the trio carved their own design to better personalize the pumpkin.

Today, as Carver was getting a new, proper body, the trickster siblings had other things to do.

Like celebrate their victory and yesterday's trouble properly. Lock and Shock went to procure refreshments - Lock to the sewers to barter with some of Halloween Town's better brewers for a good hard cider, and Shock to the pumpkin patch to bargain with Behemoth for some of his best pumpkin lager - and in the meantime, left Barrel to get their friends together.

His task, he felt, was the easiest: find their friends, invite them, go home and start making snacks. No way he could mess that up!

Probably best to start with Agatha. She did loan them the battering ram, after all. Barrel strolled into the witches' shop. After the familiar greeting - and brief pause that often came when one of the trio entered - Barrel got straight to business.

"Is Agatha in?" he asked.
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It took several hours for the trio to carve the new head. The eye in the center took the longest to create; Shock made it fairly detailed with a slitted pupil and fiery iris, cut in at different depths to create a mildly shaded effect. Lock made the left eye into a jagged swirl. Barrel did a pretty basic crescent design for the right eye, pointing to the side like a confused bulldog. The mouth on the front was a similarly simple wedge smile with two fangs pointing down. The mouth on the back was made from three vaguely horizontal but irregularly shaped slits. By the time Carver’s non-vision-based spatial sense recognized the lines together as an implied pair of thick kissy lips, it was too late. The trio reveled in the mock-tantrum and dramatic vine-slaps that followed that realization. Finally, Barrel painted a long up-turned “nose” and curvy “mustache” above the hind-facing mouth. His siblings broke down in cackles for a few moments upon seeing it, but refused to tell Carver why. His spatial sense couldn’t make out the flat painting, so he simply had to trust that they at least wouldn’t disrespect his autonomy enough to put something on his head that he explicitly wouldn’t be okay with.

When Carver returned to Jack and Sally’s house that evening, the Pumpkin King tried to gently inform him of the nature of the drawing. Carver’s response to that information -- and Jack’s innocent confusion regarding said response -- set Sally into a short fit of giggles. The rag doll then came as close to blushing as her physiology would allow and hurried herself to bed to avoid explaining to her boyfriend why exactly she was laughing.

Jewel was ready and waiting for them the next day. She had some short notes already prepared for the basic design of the framework, such as the main structural material and the types of joints needed at specific points in order to maintain stability while allowing for reasonable range of motion. Carver was happy to give his input on what he would consider upgrades from his previous endoskeleton design.

The biggest request was for a sort of swiss army knife -esque shifting tool set for each arm, including a saw, a scoop, several sizes and shapes of blades (both serrated and not), and chisels of various types. The old frame had only had one retractable double-edged straight knife for each arm, and he always had to borrow other tools from the trio or Behemoth when making heads or jack-o-lanterns.

Carver sneered. “It’s no wonder Finklefart always loses the contest. It never occurred to him, even as he was making what he intended to be the ultimate pumpkin-carving machine, that you might need more than one kind of tool for the job.”

Jewel sighed. “I… am just now understanding the context behind that time he made you help out in the lab, and no matter what tool he asked you for, you always brought him a hammer.”

Carver’s middle eye narrowed from the bottom as his front mouth closed and widened a bit. “It was worth having the hammer thrown at me. Wasn’t surprised he didn’t catch on to my point, though. I learned… pretty fast, not to expect much from him.”


Carver waved her off. “You jammed his wheels and let Shock duct tape his mouth shut. Any apologies on your part would be redundant at this point.”

Jewel visibly relaxed at that. She nodded. “Anyway… Back to the new body. I assume you still want detachable limbs?”

“Yes. Please,” he added. He bunched up some of his vines into shoulder-like shapes and shrugged them. “I mean... It’s fine if it takes more work to detach them; I expect the arms’ll be a lot more complicated just by necessity. I can manage having to decide whether it’s worth twenty minutes to disassemble each limb for whatever reason. The biggest thing is that my vines need to be free to separate out and move on their own as easily as possible. I’d rather have arms that dangle uselessly but don’t come off at all, than ones that can be removed but which vines are stuck inside whenever they’re attached.”

“A completely fair desire.” The scientist jotted that down under the ‘requirements’ section of her notes. “I have some ideas, but it will take a while to implement them all. How about I make you a base structural framework first, with attachment points for the tools and tool-swapping mechanism to be added later?”

Carver nodded. “Sounds good to me. About how long will that take?”

“Well... “ Jewel hesitated, making calculations in her mind. “First I have to design the entire thing, so that I know where those initial attachment points will be and the form they have to take. If I do the creation process properly, I’ll also then need to make at least a few scale models and prototypes to catch any design flaws early on. Igor is a dear about retrieving tools and laying out plans, but… Well, Harold didn’t create him to be particularly intelligent. The design process isn’t something he’ll be able to help with.”

She lifted her skull cap and rubbed her brain half thoughtfully. “I’m also… unused to working alone, except on minor projects that my husband thinks would be ‘beneath him’ in some way. I’ll… probably be rather slow, starting out. Even if I skip the scale models -- which I really shouldn’t -- and put you in the first prototype… Perhaps three days to a week?”
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Jack, for his part, took a marker and drew over Barrel's obscene sketch into something less...attention-grabbing.

He politely greeted Jewel once they arrived, and aside from a quick discussion of the things Carver needed, he mostly allowed the pumpkin creature to speak with Jewel uninterrupted. There might have been a small chuckle at the mention of the hammer.

"Carver needs a frame, soon, though," he said, then looked up the ramp towards the lab, where they could faintly hear the doctor working. "Hmm..."

He thought it over for a moment.

"I'm sure having the doctor assist you would expedite the process, but the problem is ensuring he follows your designs and expectations."

An idea came to him. Jack grinned.

"...And I'm certain Shock would be happy to assist with that task."

He turned to Jewel.

"Within set conditions, of course."
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“Hmm?” Jewel looked at Jack. “That’s… actually not a very bad idea. I don’t think I’ll tolerate any more damage, but… Knowing Shock, I imagine simply breathing down his neck and bothering him by the nature of her very presence… would be at least fairly satisfying, in it’s own way.”

Carver twisted the left side of his front mouth upward and tightened the spiral eye toward its center. “Oh, you know it!”

Both adults chuckled at that. They hammered out a few more details, and then Jewel left to begin drawing up blueprints while the other two retrieved Carver’s belongings.

The pumpkin creature asked Jack to pack up the collection of wooden heads from the shelf, then took advantage of the town leader’s distraction to sneakily disconnect and hide the signal box connected to all of his bugs across town. Wouldn’t do for Jack to learn of their existence and have them all removed, after all. He’d break in with his friends later and retrieve all the secret and sensitive tapes and tools hidden around his room. Since the Finkelsteins already knew that Carver liked to record pranks he managed to pull on his friends, he did grab a few of the least suspicious tapes and a hand-held recorder/player, just in case they asked.

There wasn’t much to pack up, after that. An oil can for lubricating his mechanical joints, a stack of dried fertilizer planks, and a small box of various novelty items he had found and/or stolen over the decades. Carver didn’t bother bringing any of his clothes. His old pair of cargo pants had never been retrieved from the treehouse after The Prank, and the recently bought clothes wouldn’t fit on his endoskeleton, anyway. With Jack’s long arms and the pumpkin creature’s many vines, they were able to transport everything in one trip.

The Doctor complained about being forced to help design and build a new body after his previous design had been so dramatically rejected. Then he tried pitching a fit when his wife informed him that Shock had been invited to ensure that the process went as smoothly as possible. Fortunately, all Jewel had to do was threaten to make him cook his own food until the frame was complete; he quickly resigned to helping.

Shock vehemently enjoyed hovering at Finkelstein’s shoulder and watching his every move. Occasionally she even literally breathed down his neck, just for kicks. It only took a few swats to his skull with a hand crank before he stopped trying to surreptitiously “improve” the designs outside of the parameters Carver and Jewel had set.

The eldest trickster also surprised both the scientists by not only understanding all the technical jargon and symbols in the blueprints, but catching a few minor flaws before either of them, and offering insightful suggestions for efficient modifications. White her input, the design process went by exceedingly quickly, and by the end of the day the first prototype base frame was built and ready to install.

Shock continued “helping” while the new limbs and their attachment mechanisms got fitted onto Carver’s cage, much to the Doctor’s chagrin and his creations’ amusement. Once that was done, the two teenagers were ushered out of the tower as quickly as he could manage.


Aggie was manning the counter when Barrel walked in. She smiled politely, rang a small bell behind the counter, and then proceeded to make small talk with him to keep him fully distracted from any potential mischief while he waited.

The witches had recently made a minor upgrade of their own. Rather than having to shout across the premises when there were more customers than witches -- or risk Agatha forgetting to shout at all, and leaving the shop unattended again -- they had spelled a small network of bells to ring in harmony with each. There were three simple patterns of tones the bells could make, depending on the situation, and the one Aggie had just sounded was the most specific one.

Agatha was lying across her bed on her stomach, flipping through Mortician Weekly and contemplating whether to switch to the latest makeup brand endorsed therein, when the bell in her room went off.

The teen witch squealed and scrambled off the bed. She quickly patted down her hair and dress and adjusted her hat, taking a short moment to check her appearance in the mirror before dashing down to the shop area.

Agatha rushed through the door, almost sliding across the floor on her heels. She skidded to a stop, put her hands on the counter to steady herself, and struck a pose of relaxed calm as if she had been there all along. She bit her lips before putting on a smile of polite interest.

“Hi, Barrel.”
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Barrel picked up a few items he needed while he waited, and chatted with Aggie in the meantime about toadstools. Maybe he'd try a different type the next time he made stuffed ones. He looked up when Agatha burst in and giggled as she slid across the floor. He hadn't even given the invitation yet, and she was already ready to party!

"Hey, Agatha!" he said.

He let Aggie ring him up while they talked. Barrel crossed his arms, set them on the counter, and leaned over it to better be at Agatha's level.

"We're gonna have a party tomorrow," he said. "Wanna come?"
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As Barrel leaned in and passionately locked his gaze with hers, Agatha found herself lost in his eyes. Instead of an iris of any color, he had pupils that took up more than a third of the visible portion of his eye, and the white so contrasted the impossibly black circles that she found herself unable to breathe. It was like staring into the deepest, darkest pit in Halloween Town; a midnight sky with neither moon nor stars to mar the beauty of the infinite ebony abyss.
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After nearly a minute of awkward silence and uncomfortable staring, Barrel reached behind to scratch his neck. At least she seemed pleased by the thought, if her smile was anything to go by.

"Um...I'll take that as a yes?"
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His words jolted Agatha from her daze. He scratched his neck apologetically as he realized that their soul-gazing had distracted them both from his question. Of course it would be distracting; he was so gorgeously--

She snapped herself suddenly back to the present, to avoid getting lost in daydreams. "Oh-- I mean, yes! Of course! I'd love to!" She beamed.

Aggie watched with an amused smile that ever so slightly bordered on a smirk. Poor lovesick puppies, the both of them. It was adorable, in a way, that neither of them seemed quite confident enough to be the one to make the first move. She had learned from experience that being too brazen about one's affection didn't always provide the best results, but if the two younglings kept completely dancing around the issue like this, they'd never get to a proper kiss!

Perhaps she and her sister would have to give them a little push...
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"Great!" Barrel said. "We'll have music and snacks and such, but you can bring something if you want."

He stood up and collected his things.

"See you tomorrow!" he said cheerfully.

He headed out with his purchases to find some more of their friends. The square was bustling. There really weren't many monsters out and about - or many more monsters to invite, either. Huh. It was times like this where he realized just how small Halloween Town was. Or maybe it was just that there were so few monsters the trio's age.

Barrel strolled past the fountain and up to the gate by Town Hall that lead into the main residential area. On his way to Vampire Castle, he saw Sobki and...what was his name? Chud? Whatever. Sobki was one of their friends, and here he was. As Barrel got closer, he briefly overheard their concersation.

"...derstand her fascination with Egyptian mythology," Sobki said, "but I don't think she understands that I'm not actually a god."

"What's she want to be called again?" Chad asked. "Basket?"

"Bastet," Sobki corrected, "the cat goddess."

He sighed.

"Maybe I should break up with her..."

Chad shrugged.

"Bro, no offense, I know every dude wants a girl that worships him, but you can get dat ass anywhe--"

"Hey, Sobki," Barrel said.

He completely ignored Chad.

Sobki looked up, somewhat with relief at the sudden topic change.

"Hey, Barrel," he said.

Chad looked up at the newcomer.

"Ooooh, this one's Barrel!"

Barrel grinned. Looked like that trick was over.

"Yeah, that's me." He turned back to Sobki. "Can I talk with you for a minute?"

"Sure," Sobki said. "About what?"

Barrel briefly glanced to Chad. While he had been helpful getting the door down yesterday, he also remembered Shock's discomfort and fury in his presence. He wasn't going to risk Chad not having his older sister's permission to be in their home.

"...It's personal," he said.

Chad calmly held up a hand.

"Reading you loud and clear, bro," he said, then gently waved. "Catch you later!"

Barrel and Sobki both waved back. As soon as he was out of sight and earshot, Barrel turned back to Sobki.

"We're having a gathering at the lair tomorrow night," Barrel said. "Just a small celebration for Carver getting their old body back. Anyway, you can come if you want."

Sobki nodded.

"...Actually, yeah, that sounds fun," he said. "I need to get my mind off of Veronica anyway. We're...having some difficulties."

Barrel shook his head.

"Mortals," he said.

Sobki shrugged.

"It was nice starting out, but now...I don't know." Sobki shook his head. "Anyway, who else is coming?"

"Agatha," Barrel replied, "and I was about to ask the vampire twins."

"Lillith will probably come," Sobki said, "but...Carmilla? In the same room as your sister?"

Barrel giggled.

"Yeah," he said. "It's gonna be great!"

"...You're serving popcorn, aren't you?"

"Along with other stuff," Barrel said as he held up his bag from the Witches' Shop.

With that, he headed to Vampire Castle.
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A loud, hollow thunk... thunk... thunk... echoed through the grand entry hall of the vampires' home. Totter, the household butler, slowly lurched forth from a side room, his arms dangling at his sides and a broom dragging along the floor behind him.

"Mmmmmmraahhhhhhh..." Totter's sagging mouth let out a low moan of greeting as he slowly but dutifully pulled the front door open for whomever had knocked. Each of his sunken eyes pointed in a different direction, neither of which was toward Barrel.

"Hi, Mister Totter!" Barrel waved cheerfully as he stepped across the threshold. "Are Lillith and Carmilla home?"

"Mmmmmmraahhhhhhh..." The butler shuffled aside to let the youngest trickster in. Once Barrel was out of the way, he took a couple slumping steps forward to close the door again.

"Who ees-- Ah." The head of the vampire clan appeared on a balcony nearby. "I see. Tank you, Totter. That veell be all."

The butler moaned again before making his way out of the hall, still dragging the broom.

"Vat can vee help you vit, today?" Vlad asked as he glided down the stairs.
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Barrel had only been inside Vampire Castle a few times over the last few decades. As such, he took a moment to appreciate the majesty of the foyer, before he was startled out of his thoughts by one of the four vampire clan leaders suddenly appearing.

"Oh! Um..."

Barrel readjusted his shopping in his hands as he regained his train of thought.

"Are Lillith and Carmilla home?" he asked again.
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"Yes." Vlad came to a halt in front of him. "Deir etiquette lessons should be concluding shortly. Vat business do you have veet dem?"
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"We're having a party tomorrow, and they're--"

Barrel took a moment to try to remember the fancy word Lillith used whenever she told Lock he was invited over for dinner. He grinned, confidently lifted a finger, and continued.

"--Cordly invited."

Vlad titled his head.

"...Cordially?" he gently offered.

"Yeah," Barrel said. "Corj-ly."

His grin never faded, though it became a bit nervous, as Barrel took the head tilt as suspicion.

"A-anyway, it's gonna be great!" he continued, in an attempt to allay any fears the vampire elder might have. "Sobki and Agatha are gonna come, we'll have music, and snacks..."

Barrel held up his shopping bags.

"We're gonna have snake chips, and popcorn, stuffed toadstools, blood pudding cups, jellied slugs--"

He licked his lips. Death, he was hungry just thinking about it!

"--monster cheese fondue and all kinds of stuff to go with it, rodent rolls, death dip, tentacle surprise bites, scream cheesecake bites..."

Barrel looked down at his groceries, then tried to think if he was missing anything. He had quite a list, because he wanted to make sure no one left hungry.
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Vlad listened while Barrel rambled on about food. On the one hand, if any of the tricksters -- or Carver -- ever started a description of a party by mentioning the presence of the two most responsible teens in town, and then immediately went into a list of foods available, he would have suspected them of going out of their way to avoid talking about whatever illicit activities they were actually planning. On the other hand, this particular trickster was Barrel, who famously thought with his stomach.

The vampire leader stroked his hairless chin. Any gathering held by the trio was almost guaranteed to have some sort of mischief involved. If that mischief were particularly major, however, they likely wouldn't have sent the most easily distracted of their number to the riskiest place on their guest list.

"Hello, Barrel."

No one had heard the twins come in from a side door. Of course, their footsteps never made a sound, so that was hardly unusual.

Lillith glanced at the bag in Barrel's hands before continuing. "Is anything the matter, Father?"

Vlad shook his head. "No, my daughter. Eet appears dat de trio have extended an inveetation to you."

He gestured for Barrel to give that invitation properly.
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Barrel was pulled out of his hungry thoughts by Lillith. He grinned and waved at her and Carmilla.

"Yeah, what he said."

He shifted the bag in his hands.

"We're having a party tomorrow," he said, "and you two are corj-ly invited."

Barrel gave an exaggerated bow in an attempt to show good manners, then straightened up.

"Wanna come?"
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Carmilla rolled her eyes at Barrel's attempt at repeating a word he didn't know; luckily, the utter lack of features in her eyeballs made it subtle enough that she could get away with it.

Lillith smiled politely, but raised an eyebrow. "Both of us? Are you quite certain that Shock won't have any issues with my sister's presence? I seem to recall it mentioned that no one is welcome at your home unless all three of you welcome them."

Said sister paused. The only reason she was allowed in the lair at all was that her exquisite singing voice improved Lock's band. Would she be welcome for an event outside of band practice?
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Barrel shrugged.

"I wouldn't be here if you both weren't invited," he said. "Otherwise, we'd just have Lock tell you on a date."

He gave a glance to Vlad, remembered to be careful about what he said, then looked over at Carmilla.

"It's Carver's party," he said, "and they want all their friends there, so Shock agreed."

He giggled and shook the shopping bag.

"Besides, I got more popcorn just in case fireworks fly."
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Lillith shook her head, withholding a sigh. Of course he got popcorn. There was a not-insignificant chance that the main reason Carver invited Carmilla was expressly for the purpose of spectating drama. She decided to focus on something else.

"Is there anything we're expected to bring? I can guess from your groceries," --and his general personality -- "that there will be plenty of food. Shall we bring any refreshments?"

There. In the event there was going to be alcohol at the party, this left an opening to ask her father to bring a bottle of the only kind of alcohol the vampiresses would be interested in partaking. And in the event Barrel got so distracted by the idea of eating that he forgot about hydration, she could ensure there would be something to drink besides water.

Carmilla gave a tiny "harrumph" but held back from saying that if fireworks flew, it would be because Shock launched them at her guests. "I suppose I could make an appearance, at least."
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Barrel actually caught her hint, looked at his groceries, then back to Lillith.

"Actually, yeah!" he said. "If you could bring a drink, that'd be great!"

He shifted his bags again.

"Anyway, I gotta go," he said, with one last glance to Vlad. "I need to find Wolfboy and tell him. ...Actually, have either of you seen him lately? I've checked the usual places on the way, but he wasn't there."

Come to think of it...when had he last seen Wolfboy?
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Lillith blinked. That was... marvelously unspecific. "Would pumpkin punch be alright?"

Carmilla shook her head at Barrel's question. "I think I saw him a few days ago, helping his father place a trail of mysterious claw marks and smeared handprints around the residential district."

Vlad nodded with an approving smile. "By the time next Halloween comes, those marks will have started to grow moss and the prints will have faded, leaving observers to wonder if the danger has long passed or might still be lurking about."
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