The doorbell rang. Perry Hutchinson grabbed the big bowl of sweets and marched to the door to distribute candy to the neighborhood kids. In the den of the house, his older sister Raven and her husband Victor Johnson were hosting a Halloween party for their eight-year-old son Quinn and his friends. Perry didn't know how he'd let Raven talk him into coming over and helping out, especially since she knew Halloween was his least favorite holiday.
Ten years ago, he had been nearly killed by a maniac when he foolishly took a dare from his friends to ring the doorbell at the Beringuel manor. Of course, Perry hadn't known the place was haunted at the time. He also didn't remember much about what had happened that night. The psychiatrist had told his parents he had suppressed the memory because it had been too painful to remember. Since then, he'd stayed at home in his room on Halloween, locked away writing songs and letting everyone else enjoy the fun.
Perry opened the front door and three little kids, dressed like ghosts, under the age of ten stood there. Their parents waited in the yard, watching as Perry doled out the sweets. The kids and their parents thanked him and left and Perry closed and locked the door. He walked to the den and peeped inside. Quinn was bobbing for apples and his parents and friends were egging him on. Horrible Halloween music played in the background. Perry looked at the clock on the wall. It was nearly nine and all the festivities should come to an end soon, then he could go back to his apartment and chill out with his roommates Jasper and Vaughn for the rest of the evening.
Jasper had dropped Perry off earlier because he and Vaughn had been invited to a grownup Halloween party at the university they all attended. Perry had been invited, too, but he'd used the excuse of helping Raven to get him out of going.
Perry had just gotten comfortable at the kitchen table when the doorbell rang again. He got out of his seat and went back to the front door, but instead of finding kids, he found his two best friends. "You guys are kind of early, aren't you?" he asked, letting them in.
"From the looks of things, I think we're right on time." Jasper dug his hand into the bowl of candy and stuffed treats into one of the pockets of his baggy jeans. Jasper's family lived in the next block, and he and Perry had been friends since elementary school.
Perry offered the bowl to Vaughn.
"No, thanks. I like my teeth."
Vaughn's family lived around the corner. Perry and Jasper had met him in the second grade when his family had moved to Salem from Boston. Perry had been with both of them on the night he had been attacked, but all that his friends could remember was the police bringing Perry back home naked and covered in blood. Someone had found Perry wandering the streets that way and had alerted the authorities. Since then, Jasper and Vaughn stuck very close to him and never mentioned the incident. The three friends ended up in the kitchen, eating the finger sandwiches and snacks left over from Quinn's party.
"We've come back to take you somewhere," Jasper said to Perry. The six-foot, one-hundred-eighty-pound basketball player guzzled down a bottle of apple juice without stopping. He wiped his mouth on the back on his hand. Jasper was often invited to frat parties and other activities because he was the most popular of the three, and women literally threw themselves at his feet. He wore his light-brown hair combed back from his forehead, exposing his brows and handsome face.
Vaughn was more the prep school type. He'd been dating some girl he'd met when they'd entered collage a few months ago but he'd recently broken up with her, though he'd never explained why. Vaughn had aspirations of being a lawyer. He worked at a local clothing store with Perry but was looking for a better-paying job that didn't interfere with his classes. At five feet ten, Vaughn was just a little taller than Perry. They were both blonds, but Vaughn's eyes were hazel, while Perry's were green. People often mistook them for brothers, but other than the hair color and slender builds, Perry didn't see the resemblance.
"Where?" Perry asked. "You know I don't like being out at night, especially on Halloween." He went directly home from work every night because darkness spooked him.
"Yeah, we know, man," Jasper said. "But you're going to like this place."
Raven came into the kitchen, interrupting their conversations. "Hey, guys," she said to Jasper and Vaughn.
Both younger men spoke to her.
Perry and his sister did look alike, except she was shorter, ten years older, and pregnant. When their parents had been killed in a car accident eight years ago, eighteen-year-old Raven had continued to look after Perry by sometimes working two jobs to make ends meet. She'd married her high school sweetheart, Victor, a year later. Shortly afterward, she'd gotten pregnant with Quinn. The four of them had lived in the family home until Perry had graduated from high school and moved out. Raven was carrying twin girls and she had already turned Perry's old room into a nursery. Perry didn't care, since he didn't plan to move back home. He was taking business management classes at the university and hoped to become a successful songwriter and music promoter after graduation.
"The party has finally ended," Raven said. She kissed Perry on the cheek. "Thanks for helping out."
Vaughn and Jasper laughed at him.
"What's so funny?" Raven asked. "I can't help it if he's so cute."
"It's okay to have a boy-crush on your brother," Vaughn teased, "but he'll never get a girlfriend that way."
"Ha ha, very funny," Raven said as she began putting away the leftover food. "Perry's into guys, or have the two of you conveniently forgotten?"
"Oh yeah," Jasper said. "Didn't he have a crush on some jock all through high school?"
Perry scowled at Jasper. "Vince wasn't some jock. He was the quarterback, and he was so fine."
Jasper and Vaughn continued to chuckle.
Raven laughed right along with them. "You should have made your move on him before you graduated, Perry. Now he belongs to some college football team."
"No way," Perry said. "He would have beaten the hell out of me had I confessed to him, and, besides, Vince isn't gay."
Raven leaned against the cabinet. "How do you know?"
"Because he dated some empty-headed cheerleader all through high school while I was crushing on him," Perry explained.
"Maybe he was trying to uphold his image," Raven reasoned. "You're going to hate yourself when he's drafted to a pro team and he comes out of the closet."
Perry didn't think so. Vince had been notorious for cheating behind his girlfriend's back, and the quarterback had gotten one of those girls pregnant. His rich parents had paid for the girl's abortion. No, he was better off worshipping the guy from afar. "You guys still haven't told me where you're taking me."
"You're going out?" Raven asked, getting back into their business.
"Yeah," Vaughn answered. "We're taking your brother to a grunge concert."
Perry's heart thudded excitedly. "Did you say a grunge concert?"
"Yes, he did," Jasper said. "We heard about it at the university. It starts at ten and it's free to the public."
"I don't know," Perry said, suddenly feeling nervous.
"We won't let anything happen to you," Vaughn promised. "You're going to love it. There are supposed to be a lot of big name bands there and some of Salem's best local talent."
"Yeah, and you might run across someone who might read some of your songs," Jasper said. "Look at it as a stepping stone to your future. The only way you're going to get your songs heard is to hang out with the right people."
Even though Perry knew this to be true, he still feared the night.
"They're right," Raven said. "Whoever did that awful thing to you is probably long gone or dead. You can't let it control you anymore. You write some kick-ass lyrics, and I'm not saying that just because you're my brother."
"Where are they holding the concert?" Perry asked.