Read the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY and my other books, as well. (Links to other free Frost Harrow tales at the end of the story.)
HALLOWEEN 2017 Special! Free Kindle book from my friend Lester Smith: The Pastime Machine. Grab it!
“At the Appointed Hour”
“Pack it in, dude. She’s not coming.”
Tony Frost checked his watch. 10:25 PM… Their model was, indeed, very late—more than half an hour late, if you assumed five to ten minutes for introductions to the other members of the group and setting up for the session.
Strange. Kristy was usually so reliable, which was why Tony had chosen her for tonight’s late-night drawing session in the first place.
“I’m willing to give her a few more minutes,” Tony told Ethan Ross, the only member of the informal art class still remaining. All the rest had given up ten minutes ago—and Ethan was probably only sticking around to drink Tony’s beer.
“Seriously man,” Ethan said, perched on the arm of the couch, “girl’s not gonna show. You shoulda asked that other one… whatshername…. You know… the skinny one.”
“Jenni? I did ask her. She was working.”
Ethan took another swig of beer and made a skeptical face. “At the grocery store? At this time a night? She’s blowin’ you off, man.”
Tony smiled a bit, thinking of a time she’d done just that—or something that sounded similar, anyway. He and Jenni had dated a few times since she started modeling for the group, but nothing regular, and they weren’t seeing each other now. But maybe he should have called her. Maybe… “Pick ’n Save is doing an all-night thing now,” he explained. “I think it’s just an experiment, but if it catches on…”
“Seriously? She-e-it. The Man’ll be workin’ every stinkin’ one of us 24 hours a day soon, if we don’t watch out.” Ethan laughed and took another drink. “Not you rich white folks of course… Just the rest of us.”
Tony chuckled and shook his head, but the “rich” crack hurt. Sure, he was well off, but he’d spent a lot of time trying to avoid being dumped into the same “rich bitches” category with the rest of the Frosts—something that was hard to do when the city where you lived, Frosthaven, was named after your kin.
That’s why Uncle Edward and his family left town, he mused. Would they ever come back? He wondered… Maybe he should move out as well… But he liked it here, in his hand-built A-frame on the shores of Lake Superior.
“’Course, I know the real reason you hired Kristy tonight rather than Jenni,” Ethan opined. “Girl’s got much bigger titties.”
“Yeah,” Tony agreed. “But tits didn’t enter into it. I needed someone who could model late, after Carmen got off work…”
“Not her fault the paper gave her second shift tonight,” Ethan put in.
“…and who I felt certain would show up, reliably, at the appointed hour,” Tony continued.
Ethan finished his bottle of Point. “Fail on that, old buddy.” He rose. “Well, much as I appreciate you holdin’ this drawing session at your fine house, and sharin’ this fine brew… I think I should get goin’. No sense waitin’ for the gal all night. ’Course, you don’t have to worry about that, ’cause you’re already home. Do a sketch or two for me… if she ever shows up.” He fetched his drawing pad and supplies from near the couch.
“Will do,” Tony said. He clapped hands with his friend and walked him to the door.
Ethan paused at the threshold. “Don’t wait up too long for her, man,” he said. “Girl’s not comin’.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tony replied. “Like you said: I live here.”
Ethan threw back his head and laughed as he walked off into the warm October night. “We should all be so lucky,” he called back.
Tony shut the door and leaned against it, gathering his thoughts. Yeah, sometimes being a Frost felt lucky, but other times it felt like a curse. That’s why he (privately) called the family manse up the hill “Frost Harrow.”
He sighed. Ethan was right; Kristy wasn’t going to show. Something must have gone wrong, car broken down or something. She could have at least called, though.
Models! Tony thought. So many of them were unreliable. It didn’t make the life of an artist—even a one whose family was rich—any easier.
Too bad Jenni’s working tonight…
He tried to push thoughts of the blonde cashier’s lithe body, and the things she could do with that body, out of his mind. No sense getting hot and bothered without anyone to share the feeling with.
A knock. Shave-and-a-haircut… Leaving off the “two bits” at the end.
Tony went to the front door and opened it. “What’s the matter, Ethan? Forget some—”
He stopped. It wasn’t Ethan.
“Kristy,” Tony said, surprised.
“Hey, Tony,” she replied, smiling weakly. “Am I too late?”
“Almost, but not quite. I was just about to pack it up for the night. Come on in.”
“Sorry about this. I got… delayed. Guess I shoulda called, but I didn’t think of it until I was on the way. Wish I had a cell phone, but you know how expensive those fucking things are.”
“That’s okay,” Tony said, setting up his easel. “Darn things don’t work well out here, anyway. Maybe ’cause Dad won’t let them put a tower anywhere on our land.” He shrugged and motioned toward the couch. “Relax and make yourself at home. Do you want anything to drink?”
Kristy shook her head as she sat. “Nah. I’m good.” She was beautiful, despite looking a bit out of sorts in her skirt-length faux-leather coat. Her eye makeup appeared a bit smudged—like someone had put a blotter to it—and her frizzy auburn hair hung in limp ringlets around her heart-shaped face.
Her hair’s wet, Tony realized. Why? It hadn’t been raining tonight.
Damp hair or no, at barely five feet tall, Kristy was quite a curvy package, and—as Ethan had pointed out—she had nice big tits.
Which Tony would soon be seeing… for purely artistic purposes, of course.
“The rest of the guys bug out?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “You just missed Ethan. Maybe you spotted him driving out while you were driving in?”
She shook her head again. “Nope. So… You still want to do this tonight, right? Still want me to model? ’Cause, honestly, after the day I’ve had… Well… It’d be nice if something worked out in my favor.”
“Sure,” Tony said, getting out his charcoals. “Any chance to draw from a live model is good practice.”
She smiled briefly. “Yeah. Never know when you might get another chance.”
“Got that right.”
She stood, her hazel eyes flashing green under the lights in Tony’s living room studio. “Want to start?”
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Kristy stripped off her leather coat. She wasn’t wearing anything underneath.
For a moment, Tony admired her small, curvy body: her pale skin, the auburn patch of her pubic hair, her large breasts with big pink nipples. She was, indeed, quite a package.
“You drive here like that?” he asked.
She shrugged. “What does it matter, so long as I don’t get stopped by the cops.” She smiled. “Besides, who said I drove?”
“So, are you telling me you walked all this way from town?” He indicated her wet hair. “Or did you swim?”
The remark seemed to take her by surprise. She felt one of her curly locks. “I washed my hair before I came. Is that a problem?”
“Good. How do you want me?”
Tony resisted the non-art meaning of that question. “Just settle onto the stool and give me some one-minute warm-ups for starters.”
She did, perching her butt on the edge of the stool’s seat cushion and then going through a series of poses while Tony sketched quickly: hand on hips… hands running through her hair… twisting her torso… putting one leg up (giving a very tantalizing view)… and then the other…
“Okay… Let’s do something longer,” he said. “Five minutes… maybe ten. Get comfy.”
Kristy opened her legs, perched her feet on the rungs of the stool, and crossed her arms under her breasts, pushing them up. “This good?” she asked.
She looked very sexy. “Yeah. That’s super. Just hold it there,” Tony said. He began to draw, his charcoal skating over the surface of the drawing paper, laying down light gesture lines first, and then shapes, before refining the edges and adding details and shadows.
His nerves tingled, not at the sight of the naked woman, but with the joy of drawing, of creating image out of idea, materials, and experience. He felt glad that Kristy had shown up tonight, after all.
This was a good pose, a good drawing. Maybe he should keep at it for more than ten minutes… But then he noticed she was trembling.
“Hey,” he asked, stepping toward her from behind his easel, “are you okay?”
She shivered. “Just cold.”
He picked up a blanket from the couch nearby and wrapped it around her. “We can take a break,” he said. “Let you warm up. Want some coffee or something?”
She looked up at him, her hazel eyes more blue than green now—another trick of the light. “H-hold me,” she said. “I-I can’t seem to get warm.”
He put his arms around her and gave her a reassuring hug; she felt like ice. Her lips looked blue as well. “You shouldn’t have come out with wet hair,” he said. “It’s warm tonight, but it’s still October, and…”
She gazed into his violet eyes. “Tony,” she said softly. “I didn’t want to be alone tonight.”
Her lips parted and she leaned up toward him.
“Kristy, are you sure?”
“Kiss me!” she whispered urgently.
She let the blanket drop, and he wrapped his arms around her. God, she was cold!
“Let’s get you upstairs and into a nice warm bed,” he suggested.
She nodded, and he picked her up—she couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds—and carried her up to his bedroom on the second floor of the A-frame.
Tony had made love to models previously—Jenni among them—but he’d never slept with Kristy before.
She took him passionately, urgently, their bodies rolling around his bed, intertwined in various positions, mouths kissing lips… faces… breasts… genitals… And then finishing with him on top and her clinging to him, arms wrapped around his back, screaming as they both climaxed.
He rolled off her gently and draped his arm across her waist. Even after the heat of their lovemaking, Kristy still felt cold.
She lay on her back, staring at the ceiling. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, exhausted.
“I needed that… before…”
But he never heard what came next.
Whether he drifted off that quickly, or whether Kristy never completed the sentence, he couldn’t be sure.
Because the next thing Tony knew, the phone was ringing, and his eyes were blinking open in the darkness, with only starlight to see by.
“Kristy…?” he said.
But she was gone—like a brief but intense dream. Only the dampness from her hair on his pillow showed that she had ever lain beside him.
“Kristy?” he called, louder now, but no sound came from the rest of his A-frame, only the incessant ringing of the telephone.
She must have snuck out, gone home without waking him.
Tony sighed, the memory of their lovemaking still warm within him. He picked up the phone.
“Tony?” Ethan’s voice on the other end.
“What time is it?” Tony asked groggily.
“It’s only one AM. I figured you’d still be up.”
“Well, I wasn’t.”
“Hey, sorry. But I thought you’d want to know,” Ethan said. “I just heard it on the radio.”
“Heard what on the radio?”
“It’s Kristy… Her car… She went over the side of Victor’s Bluff and into the lake. They just fished out her body. She’s dead.”
“What?” Tony said. He sat up, uncomprehending. “That’s impossible. She’s here.” He got out of bed and shouted: “Kristy? Kristy…?!”
“She’s gone, ol’ buddy,” Ethan said.
“You don’t understand! She was just here. She showed up after you left. We made love…”
“You musta been dreamin’, pal,” Ethan replied. “Radio said her car went over the cliff at eight—five hours ago.”
Tony’s whole body felt numb; he almost dropped the phone. “What?”
“I’m sorry, dude,” Ethan said. “I know you liked her. She was a good model—always there at the appointed hour. When she didn’t show, we shoulda known somethin’ was wrong.”
“Yeah,” Tony muttered. “She never missed a gig. G’night, Ethan.”
“Sorry, man. Goodnight.”
The receiver clicked. Silence persisted for a moment, and then the low hum of the dial tone returned.
Tony sat down hard on the edge of the bed and hung up.
Could I have dreamed it?
Or maybe the radio got the time wrong—or Ethan did.
Yes. That’s gotta be it.
They got the time wrong.
Somehow, the idea didn’t reassure him.
And from the bleakest recesses of his mind…
No wonder she felt cold.
He crushed the notion back into the dark shadows, until nothing remained.
Silence filled Tony Frost’s home and studio.
It suffused his mind, now, too.
A knock on the front door:
Happy Halloween, 2017, Everyone!
Read the previous Frost Harrow Halloween stories:
“The Weeping Ghost” (2012), “A Trace of Violet” (2013), “Lunchroom Zombies” (2014), “Omens & Visitations” (2015), and “Fata Morgana” (2016)