The Crime Readers' Association

McCormick Street by Reagan Rothe

Spooky ghost story for Hallowe'en

First Street


Jane Simmons continued browsing through rows and rows of used clothes hung on iron hangers that dangled from an old, ten-foot ladder. Each end of the climbing mechanism was supported by smaller ladders, serving as its temporary support poles.

She had this eerie feeling that a certain elderly woman was following her from one part of the garage sale to the next. Jane pulled her shades down from her lengthy brown hair over her eyes. She pretended to sort through children’s toys, while keeping an eye on the white-haired lady, who was slowly creeping closer.

Jane froze, having enough of these foolish games, and waited for the woman to make the next move. Now only a couple of arm’s lengths away, on the opposite side of the shopper’s table, the woman wearing a blue button-up blouse with matching pants, stood. She appeared to be thinking of the right words, wanting to speak.

“Hello, there,” she said, smiling and revealing coffee-stained teeth. “My name is Greta Scottsberry.”

Jane waited to see if the elderly woman was going to extend a hand or add more.

“I’m Jane Simmons. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Are you the new folks who moved into the house at fourteen-twelve McCormick?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jane replied. “My husband, Neil, and I.” Neil heard nothing of this conversation at present, as he was counting all the pieces to a weight set—bench, bars, dumbbells, weights, etc…

“Well…that sure is wonderful. We all welcome you to the neighborhood.”

“Thank you. That’s very kind.” The woman emitted an uncomfortable vibe that Jane was eager to move away from. She began edging further along the folding table, looking through more useless items, finding nothing that truly interested her. Greta Scottsberry followed.

“Such a tragedy, my dear, wasn’t it?” the woman asked Jane. The beautiful girl in her mid-twenties didn’t have a response—she didn’t have a clue where this was going.

“Excuse me?” Jane responded politely.

“In the house. Where Miss Anne lived. Where you now live. Just horrifying.”

“We aren’t familiar with anything that happened in that house before we moved in,” Jane said. “All we know is that the owner passed away, and now we’re renting the place.”

“Oh, dear. I’m so sorry no one told you. It was so awful.”

Jane couldn’t take the hype anymore. She wanted the old woman to hurry and get to the point. The build-up was tearing at her mind—her curiosity.

“Hey, hun. Find anything worthwhile?” The elderly woman’s eyes moved to Jane’s side. Jane turned and saw her husband, Neil, beside her. He scratched his goatee, showing small flashes of gray, and then placed his hand on Jane’s shoulder affectionately.

“Not much,” she said. Jane proceeded to introduce Greta Scottsberry to her hubby. After the friendly exchange, she filled in Neil. “Mrs. Scottsberry here was just telling me about our house’s history.” She turned toward the woman. “Please go on.”

“Well…” Greta Scottsberry continued.



Second Street


Six nights before the Carter’s family garage sale, Jane Simmons was unpacking dishes wrapped in newspaper. She organized the plates neatly in the kitchen’s cabinets above the double-sided sink.

After putting away small dishes, large dishes, fancy serving bowls, cereal bowls, and some matching coffee mugs, she moved to the taped box marked ‘Silverware’. She opened a sliding drawer to the right of the sink and began sorting the forks, spoons, knives, etc…

And then she heard the noise.

She thought it might have been made by their dog, Brecky, an intelligent Boston terrier, coming from the office, but it didn’t sound like a canine.

A faint, yet distinct, cat’s meow was the exact noise that broke her concentration. Hearing the sound reminded her that she had forgotten to unpack the CD radio earlier and put on some music. Maybe the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange or Untouchables, or maybe—

The noise occurred again.

This time the meow was closer and made by more than one animal.

Jane moved to the back window. She peered into the backyard, seeing three large cats, one calico and the other two black, crawling along the top 2×4 runner of their picket fence. They were traveling in the direction of the house. Jane guessed they had arrived in the back left corner of the fence, which enclosed the thirty-foot square yard.

She shook her head, leaving the cats to themselves, and headed for the home office where Neil was studying for his Master’s degree. She gently rapped her knuckles against the closed door, hearing Led Zeppelin inside, but she couldn’t quite name the tune.

“Come in,” he said over the music. Jane entered as the sound lowered. She saw her husband working at the computer and her dog, Brecky, sleeping in his doggie bed on the floor.

“You should see these huge cats stalking around our backyard. They are sure loud.”

“Maybe in a little while. I need to finish reading a couple more chapters.”

“Okay, hun. No problem. But they are sure weird. Something strange about them. Their ‘meow’ maybe? Who knows?”

Neil laughed as Jane closed the door. He found it as amusing as she did, but Jane also had some other feeling running through her head—something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

She returned to the window. No cats in sight. Jane finished unpacking the kitchen.



Third Street


Three days before the Carter’s family garage sale, Neil Simmons was driving home from his last class. He was beating his fingers against the steering wheel to the rhythm of a signature drum solo blaring out his truck’s speakers.

He turned left from Bernard Street to McCormick Street, cruising past a dozen or so houses. Arriving, the Simmons household on his right—the black-metal numbers above the front door displayed 1802—he pulled his Dakota into the driveway.

He shook his head, quickly opening and closing his eyes before slowing to a stop. He couldn’t believe what was before him. Sitting in a near perfect line, across the patio’s front railing, were seven unusually large cats. One calico, four black, and two white felines.

Neil laughed, honking his horn with feelings of humor and bewilderment intertwined. He opened his driver-side door as the cats began to break up their assembly. Three cats, all black, darted around the left side of the house. The other cats hurried around the right side, all of them seeming to be headed for the back alley. He heard a faint meow, the sound trailing away.

As Neil watched them scatter, he thought the same thing as his wife had previously, damn, those cats were big. He reached back into his truck, grabbing his briefcase before closing the door. He looked all around him for more cats, but the neighborhood had grown quiet.

He walked to the edge of the house and around the corner. He arrived at the side gate, which led to their backyard. He tip-toed, peering over the fence, searching for the infamous felines. He saw nothing. He went back to the front door, which was now open.

Jane Simmons stood in the doorway, smiling. Brecky came running between her legs to greet his master. “Should have got ’em, boy,” Neil said to the excited dog.

He turned to his wife and added, “I saw those cats.”

Neil gave Jane a hug and a kiss, and they moved inside with their terrier, closing the door behind them.

“Oh yeah?” she asked.

And he proceeded to tell her of his comical arrival home.



Fourth Street


The night before the Carter’s family garage sale, Neil and Jane Simmons awoke to cacophonous sounds outside their house—the general direction the noise came from was their backyard.

There were loud ‘meows.’ There was hissing and screeching. All kinds of racket transpiring just past midnight. Neil hopped out of bed first—they had earlier let Brecky outside to go potty and hadn’t yet let him back in—headed out the bedroom door and down the small hallway to the living room. He went into the kitchen, flipping the switch for the back porch light.

His eyes bulged in terror. He immediately unlocked the backdoor, pushing through with force and yelling at the top of his lungs. He grabbed a broom that was leaning on the back porch, and begin swinging at the multitude of large cats, eleven to be exact, all clawing and scratching and biting Neil and Jane’s poor little Brecky.

Jane appeared now, also seeing the horrific events taking place before her eyes and looked for something to attack the cats with herself. One by one, the felines gave up their fight, taking blows from the broom handle that Neil wielded. When the dust had cleared, all eleven cats disappearing over the back fence, a shredded bloody mess of black and red lay kicking in the patchy grass.

Neil picked up his dog, gently toting him back inside. Together, they rested Brecky on an old towel on the kitchen floor. Once the dust had settled and their nerves began to calm, they realized the damage hadn’t been that bad. Besides a couple of deep scratches, the majority of the blood trickled out through smaller cuts, bites, and scrapes. Brecky appeared to not have anything serious wrong with him—a definite relief for the Simmons family. Plus, it saved them a costly trip to the vet.

Jane cleaned his wounds, and they wrapped him in a towel, carrying the little dog into their bedroom. He whined and moaned that night, but by the middle of the next day, he was on his feet again. Their precious Brecky, the excitable little terrier, was just fine.



Fifth Street


“Well…” Greta Scottsberry continued. “I just can’t imagine no one’s told you. Well…here it goes. Before you two moved into that house, that’s where Miss Anne lived. She was a peculiar old lady, always fond of those damn cats.”

Neil and Jane exchanged glances, with raised eyebrows, and then turned back to their storyteller.

“She had around two dozen near the end. I guess one night she just went to sleep and never woke up again, dead in bed is what my husband calls it. But because of all those damn cats, none of us, her friends, would go over to visit her. She would always come see us, when we played Gin or went walking or went to lunch. A couple of us tried calling her, but we thought she was just on vacation or didn’t feel like coming out those days.

“Anyways, the newspapers began to pile up on her front porch. Your front porch. Not only that, but the smell from the house was getting worse. Having all those damn cats was smelly enough, gave off a real foul stench, but now, there was a more ghastly odor. Not just her pets. The neighbors called the police, saying there appeared to be something terribly wrong. When the cops arrived, the door was locked and no one answered. There were at least a couple of weeks’ worth of newspapers outside. And Miss Anne’s old Caddy was parked in the driveway. And the smell was awful.

“So policemen broke into the house, and at first, all they saw were these big cats… everywhere. There was cat poo and yellow stains all over the floor and the furniture had been shredded and destroyed. When the two policemen made it to her bedroom—your bedroom—that’s when they found Miss Anne. She was nothing but skeleton bones. See… the large cats had eaten her up. They ate her eyes and nose and organs and all the skin and flesh, and they even ate some of her smaller bones, like her fingers, because those had been gnawed off. It was such a terrible tragedy… and such a nasty mess. I can’t believe the realtor didn’t tell you. I bet you wouldn’t have even—”

The Simmons family had heard enough. Jane interrupted Mrs. Scottsberry, saying, ‘Thank you for the information,’ as politely as she could muster.

Neil and Jane turned their backs on the elderly woman and headed for their ride out of this place. Brecky waited for them in the truck, happy to see their return. They drove to Bari’s, a local Italian restaurant, for some lunch and peace of mind.



Sixth Street

Several months passed. The couple, as they always did, made the best of the situation and turned something horrific into something rather amusing.

Also… there hadn’t been any sign of those large cats.

The games they played were comical: one night, Neil would hide in the closet, meowing and making a racket, the next night, Jane would be in the kitchen cooking, and she would meow and make cat noises. They would both laugh, and Brecky would bark and assume his attacking position.

Until one night—

Beneath a dark and cold setting, no moon in the sky, the Simmons crawled into bed and both immediately fell asleep.

That’s when the cats…returned. They piled high, one on top of another, until they were tall enough to reach the back door’s handle. The smartest cat picked the lock with his crafty paws and a fish bone. Then the cat used both paws to turn the handle, hanging on the knob while the other cats pushed their pile outward, opening the door. Brecky, who was sleeping in his bed in the living room on this night, heard the racket. The Boston terrier charged, releasing a couple of warning barks, and growling. He was immediately overtaken by the two dozen cats. They dug into him, shredding his furred skin and tearing out his little doggie eyes. Without another peep, the terrier was dead.

About twenty of the cats moved through the rest of the house. Only a handful remained behind, eating the dog’s warm flesh. With bloodied nails and teeth, some cats even sporting the crimson war paint on their fur, the felines proceeded into the bedroom through an open door. Neither Neil or Jane had heard Brecky’s bark, and neither had awoken.

Nine cats surrounded each side of the bed, ready for action. Upon the largest black cat’s signal, they pounced onto their new victims, tearing at the humans’ faces—eyes, noses, mouths, and skin. Jane woke first, screaming and flailing. Neil followed suit. They were both kicking and yelling, the only thing they felt besides the pain was a warming wetness soaking their bodies and bed sheets. The blood poured from their skin, oozing from an endless number of deep gashes and teeth marks created by the large cats.

Neil knocked a cat free from his arm, swinging the feline across the room. But two other cats filled the void, diving at his dangling flesh of a face and attacking some more. Jane looked over and saw one of Neil’s eyeballs out of its socket, hanging loosely and swinging like fish bait on a hook. She watched in horror, frozen beneath the fear inside her, too weak to move and fend off the cats clawing at her—she watched as one of the calico cats snatched her husband’s eyeball right out of the air, chewing it and swallowing the eye. She let out a deafening scream, hearing Neil say something like, ‘I can see inside the cat’s stomach,’ before her vision blurred beneath a cat’s scratch above her eyes, an inch-deep gash that freed the blood in her forehead to spill directly into her eyes. All she saw was red.

And that’s when Jane truly awoke. She sat up in bed—her breathing was heavy, her heart pounded in her chest. She looked around the room; it was dead quiet. Lying next to her, sound asleep, was her husband, Neil. She got out of bed and walked into the living room. There, lying in his doggie bed on the floor, was Brecky. Everything was perfectly normal.

And from that night forward, they never saw those cats again.




 © Black Rose Writing & Reagan Rothe  

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