Third Time's a Charm

Authors: Alyse M. Wax

Hosted by VendrediAntiques.com


1: Organizing the Vault

"Okay, a little to the left...good...now try to wedge it into the corner -- watch it, Ryan!"

Micki jumped back to avoid being knocked over by falling antiques. While Jack did inventory, the cousins tried to organize the vault for what seemed like the umpteenth time.

In the process of moving the electric chair, one of the larger objects, Ryan had knocked over a shelf and set them back good two hours work.

"Hey, guys. Jack told me you were down here."

"Hi, Johnny," they replied in unison.

"Rearranging the vault, huh? Wow, I don't think I've ever been down here and really looked at this place. Some of this stuff is amazing."

"This isn't a toy store, Johnny. These things are dangerous," Micki warned.

"What does this one do?" Johnny picked up the doll that still gave Micki the creeps. Upon seeing what he held, Micki immediately snatched it away and set it aside. "Don't touch that."

With the curiosity and attention span of a small child, Johnny moved on to the next object.

"Wow, an original copy of a 'Tales of the Undead' comic!"

Johnny only managed to flip through the first couple of pages before it was confiscated by Ryan.

"That turns the reader into the blood hungry main character, Ferrus."

"How 'bout this?"

Micki glanced over her shoulder briefly before returning to work.

"The compact can change its curse. It's a tool of revenge and feeds off peoples' vanity and obsession. Johnny, if you're not going to help us, do you think you could at least get out of the way? There's scarcely enough room down here as it is."

Johnny only half heard Micki's request. He was hypnotized by the shimmering gold compact. Unable to resist, Johnny had to open it. Upon doing so he was blinded by the cracked mirror held within, sending the compact to the floor. Both Micki and Ryan jumped when they heard the clatter.

"Johnny, why don't you leave." It was a statement, not a question. Johnny locked eyes with Micki for a moment. In that moment, Micki saw something that sent inexplicable chills down her spine.

Without another word, Johnny left. Micki and Ryan returned to work.

2: Secret Admirer

"Micki, there's a package for you!"

Micki bounced down the stairs and took the package from Jack.

"No postage or return address," he commented.

Micki put the package to her ear, "Well, it's not ticking." She opened it and withdrew a single cassette labeled simply "Play Me."

Micki followed the instructions and soon heard Toni Basil's voice screeching over cheesy 1980s pop: "Oh Micki, you're so fine. You're so fine you blow my mind. Hey, Micki...!"

"Looks like someone has a secret admirer," Ryan teased.

"No note, no return address...not even a postmark. Who could it be from?" Micki pondered.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Over the course of the next week, Micki received scores of gifts: roses, fruit baskets, champagne, volumes of poetry. None of it came with a note of any kind.

Micki was unperturbed for the most part. The gifts were sweet and probably from some neighborhood kid.

That changed with the arrival of a large clothing box. Micki opened it, Ryan and Jack watching over her shoulder. She blushed profusely when she saw the sexy lingerie inside.

"Woah, who is this guy?" Ryan inspected the lingerie, discovering that he could see right through it.

"There's a note!" she exclaimed, immediately reading it.

"Dearest Micki, I hope one day to see you in this. I shall reveal myself to you soon, when the time is right, and then maybe you will reveal yourself to me. Love always, your Secret Admirer."

Micki stopped. "Jack, this is Johnny's handwriting!"

"Geez, Micki, what have you two been doing while we were gone?"

One look from her, shut Ryan up fast. "What would have brought this about?"

"I don't know. I haven't been flirting with him or anything. Have I?" She looked questioningly to Jack and Ryan, who were of no help.

"I'd better go talk to him. Get this thing straightened out."

Determined, Micki grabbed her coat and car keys, and took off.

3: Theft in the Night

"Johnny, it's me! I need to talk to you a moment," Micki shouted through the door to his apartment.

"I know you are the one who has been sending me the gifts."

This brought him to the door in a flash.

"Did you get the teddy? I didn't know if it was your size --"

"Johnny, we need to talk." Micki took a seat on his worn sofa, and Johnny perched himself on an opposite chair.

"Johnny, what you have been doing is very sweet, but I just don't think it will work. It will interfere with our professional relationship, and, well...I just don't have the same feelings for you. You understand, don't you?"

Micki finally chanced a look up at him. His once ecstatic expression was now downfallen.

"Micki..."

"I'm sorry. I just can't do this. I'm sorry, Johnny. I never meant for this to happen, and I certainly never meant to hurt you."

Johnny was silent.

When she moved to put a comforting arm on his shoulder, he pulled away, wounded. Micki stood.

"If you ever want to talk...I'm sorry," she repeated. Feeling vaguely helpless, Micki left.

Johnny remained sitting there, stunned by what had just happened.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The next few days were uneventful. Micki received no more packages, and Johnny didn't drop by. Micki didn't really expect him to; after all, she had broken his heart.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Micki awoke in the middle of the night when she thought she heard a rustling in the corner of her room. She called out weakly, thinking that perhaps it was Ryan.

The rustling stopped, and Micki struggled to pull her sleep-laden body into an upright position.

She stopped halfway and gave her room one more cursory glance.

Was that shadow over there moving?

Micki decided her tired eyes were playing tricks on her, and she went back to sleep. She did not wake until morning.

From the corner, Johnny stood silently until he was sure Micki was asleep and could not possibly recognize him.

He stole out of the room and into the dark night, gold compact tucked securely in his pocket.

4: An Unwelcome Gift

"Ryan, I had the strangest dream last night," Micki said the next morning over coffee. "I thought someone was in my room...I thought it was Johnny. I guess the whole situation is finally catching up with me."

"Ryan! Micki!" Jack cried from the basement. Micki and Ryan gave each other an alarmed look before they raced downstairs to help their friend.

When they got there, they found Jack in the middle of the vault.

"Are you okay, Jack?"

"The vault...someone broke into the vault!"

Micki was stricken, "I guess that wasn't a dream."

Seeing the confused look on Jack's face, Micki rushed to explain. "Last night, I dreamt that someone was hiding in my room, Johnny I believe. At least I thought it was a dream."

"Did he take anything?"

"I don't know, I haven't been able to have a good look around."

"The compact!" Micki exclaimed. "I placed it right here, between the writing box and the umbrella stand. It was the only thing that would fit there, I remember exactly."

"And Johnny did seem awfully taken by the compact that day. Remember how he dropped it?"

"Ryan, you don't suppose--"

"That he looked into the mirror? It wouldn't surprise me," he said grimly.

"And now he has it," she concluded softly.

"We've got to go get him!" Jack said, and th three ran upstairs and out the door. On the way out, Ryan nearly tripped over another package on the front stoop.

"Micki, it's addressed to you."

Her eyes filled with trepidation as she slowly opened the package. She was curious, even hopeful that maybe this was the dreaded gold compact. No such luck.

Micki peered into the dark depths below, but the waning sunlight didn't help her ascertain the box's contents. She slowly reached her hand in and clutched a small hard object, covered with a thick, sticky substance. She withdrew her hand and screamed, dropping her "gift" Jack and Ryan moved in closer to see. It was a replica head of the cursed doll that still frightened Micki. Except this head had red hair and green eyes, just like Micki. And this doll's head was covered in blood.

Ryan calmed Micki down while Jack swiftly took care of the mess. Micki looked Ryan straight in the eye and coolly said, "Let's go find this asshole."

5: The Confrontation

Ryan ended up kicking Johnny's door in when he refused to answer their insistent knocking. Sticking close to Ryan for protection as well as support, they found Johnny sitting on the couch in the dark.

"I knew you would come."

Micki found her voice, "Johnny, you've got to stop this. This isn't the real you talking: these aren't your real feelings. You're possessed."

"Only by my passion for you," he said, rising fro he couch. Micki took an instinctive step back. "And if you can't see things the way I do, I can help with that." A stray ray of sunlight cut through the heavy drapes and glinted off the compact, which Johnny produced from his jacket pocket.

Johnny was quick, but Ryan, quicker. He tackled Micki to the ground, covering her face so se could not be bewitched by the compact's now-exposed mirror. The force of her head meeting the floor had rendered Micki unconscious. When Ryan jumped up to tackle Jonny next, Jack went over to care for Micki.

Ryan dived for the compact, but Johnny was determined. The two struggled over the object like young siblings over the best new toy. But Ryan got the upper hand, and forced the compact away fro his face and towards Johnny's.

A scream erupted from his mouth as he was blinded once more by the deadly antique. Johnny fell to the floor, and Ryan snatched the compact away before Johnny could recover. He was not prepared for what he saw next: Johnny melting into a steaming, sticky puddle of protoplasmic ooze. He was only knocked out of his reverie by Jack's gentle voice behind him.

"Ryan, we need to get Micki to a hospital."

Numb, Ryan nodded and followed his friends, one limp in the other's arms, out the door.

6: Johnny will never bother you again...

"Jack, is she okay?"

"She's fine. A minor concussion. The doctor's will release her in a few hours," he told Ryan after a brief consultation with the doctor on staff in the ER.

"I can't believe he just...melted like that," Ryan mumbled, switching topcs suddenly. "How...I can't believe I did that..."

"Ryan, it wasn't your fault. Johnny knew that we were dealing with dangerous things, he knew that from the beginning. He chose the treat the situation lightly, and was unprepared for the consequneces. When you play with fire, you're going to get burned, and in this case, Johnny got burned. Don't blame yourself."

"Does Micki know?" The look on Jack's face answered Ryan's question. "How are we going to tell her?"

"Gentlemen?" a young doctor interrupted. "Miss Foster would like to see you now."

Ryan and Jack entered Mick's room t see her propped p on a pile of pillows. "Is Johnny over everything now? Is he cured of the curse?"

"Well, in a way..."

"What do you mean? Where is he?"

"Micki, Johnny will never bother you again..."