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Happy to see the last of them, I closed the door on the last of the stragglers before turning back to look at my wife, standing oh so calmly beside me. I loved Ally, to the moon and beyond, but I wasn’t overly impressed with her at this point. Not after learning she had a hand in my being woken from a dead sleep just before midnight by a group of men I believed to be the police. It was bad enough they had banged on the front door fit to wake the dead, let alone a sleeping man but to then be all but dragged from bed as well? Not happy at all. I would probably laugh about it in the years to come but not now.
It was my own fault really. It was that time of the year when my brothers and I liked to prank each other. It had started out as a Halloween thing but over the years, as plans and pranks became more elaborate, it had taken on a life of its own to the point where whatever you had planned, it had to be executed no more than four days before or after October 31st, just so you could catch your intended victim unawares. Where was the fun if that victim knew it was coming?
Ally had been a part of my life for more than three years now and had learned to join in such things, or become the target. I loved that she did this; except when I was the one on the other end of her tricks; but I could never have seen her take part in the farce that had just happened. It was my own fault really. I should have known something was off when she insisted that we take off for a couple of days, just the two of us.
Our baby girl was barely 16 months old and the longest Ally had been away from her since the birth, was the couple of days she had to spend in hospital following a burst appendix. My wife had fretted the whole time, so for her to happily suggest leaving Mia with Mum and Dad was a little out of place.
Then again, I didn’t need all that much convincing, if I’m being honest. I missed being with her every time I had to leave for a new film, which seemed to be happening more often than not these days, so the three days we had just spent at the house on Jersey were exactly what we needed to reconnect. I would come to cherish the time alone but again, it wasn’t going to be until after I had calmed down first.
“You do realize that Halloween is still four days away, don’t you?”
Rather than answer straight away, she walked over and put her arms around my waist. As ticked off as I was, I was never going to stop wanting to be close to her.
“I do, which makes this prank even better because you weren’t expecting it. You would have known the whole night was bogus if we had tried to pull it on the day of. Don’t forget, you are also leaving for the US in a couple of days so it had to be now.”
“How did Charlie even get you to go along? You were supposed to be helping me prank Nik this year.”
“And I will, but babe; when he told me what he had planned, I just couldn’t say no. At least in the end. I’ve always known your little brother to have a great sense of humour but this was gold, even by his standards.” Giving me a squeeze, she added “I also figured if I was helping him, then he wouldn’t be thinking about pranking me. I’m still picking up confetti from the prank he pulled last year.”
I remembered that now, coming home to find her sitting in a puddle of confetti, an opened box before her that had clearly been booby-trapped to send the glittery pieces of hell all over our lounge room. I was going to comment about that being nothing compared to his having hired friends to pretend to be cops but she went on.
“I still can’t believe it went so well.”
“Aww, c’mon babe; admit it. What you’re really mad about isn’t that he got you but that you didn’t think of something like this first.”
Stepping back but taking my hand, she then led me to the kitchen where she set about warming up some milk. I didn’t answer her until I had taken a seat at the table. I was actually calming down but I wasn’t about to admit that my baby brother really had bested me.
“I will say this for him, he clearly took his time planning it all; there were so many moving parts to it, what with the fake cops, planting the evidence and other people being called in. I do have to say though that getting Mrs Picken involved was a bit of a low blow.”
“Oh, believe me, Charlie and I both had to work on our lovely neighbour before she would agree and it wasn’t easy. You know she adores you, right? When we first proposed the idea, she was appalled at the both of us. If not for Charlie swearing on the life of his firstborn’s head that you would appreciate the joke and get a huge laugh out of it, along with the promise of tickets to your next premiere, she threatened to call you and warn you about what was going on, and then calling the real cops.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Remind me to send her some flowers. We need to start building back the goodwill. It’s nice to know that at least one person was sane enough to try and stop you.”
Handing me a mug of warmed milk, my wife smiled. “I’m pretty sure Charlie would have found a way to work it if she hadn’t been on our side. Or something just as cool. If it’s any consolation, I did think it was a bit over the top as well, even for Charlie but then he rightly reminded me of what you and Piers had done to him last year. That’s part of the reason I offered to help him in the end.”
“Traitor” I mumbled, albeit with a smile on my face as I recalled last year’s effort. Piers and I had asked Charlie to drive us to the local wrecking yard, under the guise of picking up a bomb for the twins to fix as their first car. What he didn’t realize though was that our eldest brother had organized for a replica of his car to also be there, so we could have one of the workers ‘accidently’ crush it in the compactor, right before his eyes.
Our little brother had always been mad for cars and he particularly loved this one; a Bentley Continental that he had saved up years for; having had it barely a month so I suppose his reaction in believing it had been crushed into a cube was epic for a reason. When he learned the truth, that his car was in fact safe around the corner, he went ballistic and then stormed off, leaving Piers and I to find our own way home. He also didn’t speak to us for a week. Thinking back on it now, I had to admit his need for revenge was solid and doing something as simple as producing faked adoption papers like he had in the past just wouldn’t pass muster.
“You know” I began, putting my now half empty mug on the table; “with the way these pranks are escalating every year, I can see someone getting seriously hurt; or in trouble with the law for real. It kind of makes me wish we could go back to doing simple things like putting food coloring on a toothbrush the day of school photos, or making a piece of sponge look like a piece of cake.”
Ally laughed. “I’ve heard some of those stories from your mum. I gotta say, part of me was jealous at the time. My sisters and I played tricks on each other, just not for Halloween, which we didn’t celebrate, or even on the same scale as you guys. I think the worst thing to happen was Bethy putting paint blocks in the shower head so that Cate looked like Smurfette after taking a shower. It took a good two weeks for her to get rid of the blue; or most of it.”
I laughed at the visual, imagining my sister-in-law all colored up like that. I also made a mental note to perhaps try that on either Nik or Simon next year, taking things back to a simpler time. Reaching for her hand, I said “I need you to promise me something, sweetheart.”
“When Mia is old enough to understand all about Halloween and playing pranks, she is never to be left alone with her Uncle Charlie. I’m already having nightmares worrying about all the other bad habits he teaches her when he babysits. It will only be worse when she’s older.”
“I promise, although, he does have his own kids to train up first and Jack is already showing signs he is his father’s son. There are fun times ahead for the lot of us, babe.” I shuddered at the thought.
Waking up later that same morning, I put the kettle on before going out to get the paper. It was hard not to look over at the offending site, where my brother and wife had left their handiwork but I did make a mental note to remember to go and fill the hole in, sooner rather than later. I didn’t need for the neighbours to keep gossiping about this nightmare.
What I didn’t realize at the time of reading and wouldn’t find out until much later in the day was that the paper left on my porch wasn’t a real one. Actually, it was but the third page had been doctored with as part of the plan and that explained why when I opened the first page, I almost had a stroke. Under a photo of Charlie’s handiwork – the pit, complete with hands peaking through and the glowing back light – was the following article:
‘SUPER HERO OR SUPER VILLIAN By Omar Gosh
Henry Cavill, star of DC’s ‘Man of Steel’, was spotted in the early hours of this morning in police custody following an incident at the star’s Hertfordshire home overnight.
Details are still sketchy but it is believed police were called by an alarmed neighbour, after she reported hearing cries for help coming from Cavill’s side of the front fence.
Further investigation had police find a 6x3 foot deep pit, covered with bars. Inside was a man police are still yet to identify, alive but in serious condition.
Cavill, known for his portrayal of a much beloved superhero, was last seen being put into the back of a squad car like a common criminal, all the while protesting his innocence. His frantic wife could do little more than stand by and watch as her husband of three years was taken away. Neither she nor the neighbour were available for further comment at the time of publication.
Additional examination of the site, and indeed the actor’s home, are ongoing and look likely to last several days. Charges are expected to be laid later this afternoon.’
My little brother was now a dead man walking…
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."
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