Jenny Mills could cope with shitty police station coffee if she had to, but she saw no reason to drink shitty burned police station coffee. She dumped the old pot down the sink, and hunted in the box of crap behind the ancient, one-warmer coffee maker until she found a box of filters. Ichabod was out on a doughnut quest, but Frank and Abbie were bickering at the tiny break room table.
"Why not my place?" asked Abbie, and Jenny smirked, tossing the old coffee grounds. It was nice to listen to her holier-than-thou sister screw up, but mostly Abbie couldn't afford mistakes these days because every one would cause mass murders or bubonic plague or the Rapture. Her Royal Smugness fucking up – as long as nobody was going to die -- was a positive balm to Jenny's soul.
She finished loading up the fresh grounds, switched on the pot, and turned around, leaning against the counter to watch the show. Frank was glaring at Abbie. "Thanksgiving will be at my apartment, Office Mills."
"No, but--" Abbie gestured vaguely toward the ceiling in a way that was probably supposed to indicate Ichabod. "Crane's all excited about Thanksgiving, says he wants to show off 'a traditional mode of giving thanks to Almighty God, Miss Mills,' though he's also been muttering about humiliation and fasting. ..and now I'm looking at your face and I'm thinking I missed a cue at some point because you look like someone ditched all their paperwork instead of offering to cook you Thanksgiving dinner. Sir."
Frank's angry captain eyes were really impressive. Jenny got a little turned on by the coldness in his voice. "You got a wheelchair ramp into your apartment, Mills?"
Abby's eyes widened. "Uh."
"Do you have an accessible bathroom, for some reason of which I'm unaware?"
A gurgle of a laugh escaped Jenny.
"Do you think accessibility is funny?" spat Frank, cutting his eyes at Jenny.
She leaned across the break room table, scattering sugar packets from the Dunkin' Donuts on Wildey as she held Frank's gaze. "I think concerned dads are hot," she said. "I'll bring lemon meringue." And then she fucked off while she still had the last word.
She could pick up a decent cup of coffee on her way home, after all.
It was a gorgeous autumn afternoon by the police station, crisp and sunny, but down in the woods a mist rose off the creek. It shrouded a stand of four white trees, until the thin November sun struggled to penetrate the gloom. A damp, unearthly chill rode in on the grey wisps of fog, and no birds called.
In the gloom, from beneath the rotting leaf mold, something arose.
"Wait," said Abbie, putting her hand over the plastic wrapped tray from the butcher. She'd sent Crane to grab a few packs of turkey breasts while she sorted through cranberries and cans of pumpkin, but now, unloading the bags, she saw far more than she'd expected. "I thought I smelled something fishy. Crane, does that thing still have a head?"
Crane raised his eyebrows and peered down at Abbie from his (frankly ridiculous) height. "I don't understand this era's obsession with food which looks like it came from none of God's creatures. Of course it still has a head."
"And what's it doing in my kitchen?"
"I can hardly boil a cod without a cod to boil, Lieutenant." Crane held the wrapped fish closer to his face – Abbie flinched away from the one staring eye – and peered more closely at it. "Though I highly doubt this is actually cod at all. It more closely resembles haddock. Lieutenant Mills, I believe the fishmonger has taken advantage of my ignorance of modern food packaging."
Abbie waved her hand, maneuvering around the table so the new box of Rice Krispies was blocking her view of the fish. "I'm sure boiled haddock will be every bit as popular as boiled cod. And what's...that?" She tried and failed to find a name for the package of meaty something wrapped in plastic. It looked like a fleshy rock, or maybe avant garde art. The really disgusting kind of avant garde art.
"Suet, of course." Ichabod put the meatwad on the kitchen table with a carton of eggs, a box of prunes, a bag of brown sugar, and several jars of spices.
"Of course." Discretion was the better part of valor, Abbie decided, and asking was the better part of whatever was the opposite of valor. "Suet and boiled haddock, they'll go great with the turkey and trimmings."
Ichabod opened the second shopping bag and squinted at the two packages of turkey breasts. "Abbie," he said slowly. "I am greatly concerned these cuts of ostensible poultry came from some monstrous kind of malformed fowl."
Abbie raised an eyebrow and peered at the turkey. "Moloch's infecting the groceries, now? Looks normal to me." She hoped. Would she recognize an apocalyptic touch on the Thanksgiving dinner?
"Normal?" Crane's voice rose with distaste. "I know of no bird which could produce a breast of such immense proportions. Perhaps it's from an ostrich?"
The demon dragged each foot one by one from the sticky muck, escorting a cloud of blackflies and midges through the woods toward town. Its elongated, multi-jointed arms hung, misshapen in front of its vulnerable thighs. As it gained strength, the miasma of evil surrounding it spread, leaving even the blackflies struggling, fluttering suddenly useless wings against now misshapen bodies, until they tumbled in wretched heaps to the forest floor.
Frank was unsurprised when the banging on his door turned out to be Jenny Mills dangling a six-pack. He was surprised by the shopping bag she held in her other hand.
"What are you doing here, Mills?" He stood back and let her in, as she wandered into his kitchen and made herself at home.
"A little bird told me you can't cook worth a damn," she said, unloading green beans, pecans, and sweet potatoes from her grocery bag. "Where do you keep the can opener?"
He crossed his arms and glared it her, but it had zero effect. He supposed in Tarrytown Psych she'd gotten a lot worse than cop dirty looks. "Your sweet talk leaves something to be desired."
She glanced up at him, grinning wickedly. "Oh? It's not working?"
He opened the fridge and started rooting around for butter so she wouldn't see his smile. "So what're your Thanksgiving traditions, Mills?"
She made a harsh sound. "Dry turkey and boxed mashed potatoes served by bitter staff who were angry about having to work on the holidays, of course. And if you're good, you don't get force fed." He put the butter on the counter and tried not to look pitying, but he probably failed, because her mouth twisted. "Christmas was more entertaining. Christmas the bitter staff get replaced by kindly white ladies who volunteer to show up in fur coats and sing carols as part of their annual good deed, and the game was how uncomfortable you could make them without crossing the line and getting in trouble."
He laughed; he couldn't help it. "Let me guess," he said. "You were the best at it."
"God, yeah. Kindly volunteers have the weirdest damn ideas about mental illness."
Frank cracked open a beer. "What about family Thanksgiving?"
"We weren't much for those, either. Abbie tried to make it special, but Mama didn't make it easy. We didn't go to church but she scouted out the churches with the nicest Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners." She opened her own beer. "One year we had Thanksgiving at Temple Beth Abraham. That was weird."
Frank tried to picture it. Jenny as a miniature ballbuster brazening it out, giving evil eyes to anyone who looked at her funny, Abbie probably trying to fit in, telling people they were adopted.
Jenny tilted her head and examined his face. "How about you? What's your Thanksgiving tradition like?"
"Being married," he said, then winced. "I mean –"
"Hey, no worries," she said, smiling just a little. "Broken families mess us up."
He saluted her with his beer. "Yep. So how do you make meringue?"
In town, the demon lurched toward the apartment blocks where the Witnesses were prophesied to be. On the order of Moloch the Lord of the Dark, it would devour their allies and their young, leaving the Witnesses vulnerable and suffering. It would rend them, devour them, feast upon their innards.
Though the streets were busy with townspeople headed to holiday meals or purchasing last-minute ingredients, passers-by seemed to sense something deadly in rising, clammy chill. Shoppers raised their collars, hunched their shoulders, and ducked down side streets and into stores. The streets were left empty and cold for the creature's shambling advance.
"My last spring on Earth, before my sleep, President Jay declared a day of Thanksgiving, which we celebrated in Saratoga with a great feast –"
Abbie interrupted, as she was wont. "President who, now?"
"John Jay, President of the Continental Congress, of course," Ichabod answered, gazing at Abbie in the rearview mirror, her lips pursed as she parallel parked in a spot near Captain Irving's home.
"Huh. Didn't cover him in U. S. History."
Oh? The future suddenly seemed far more pleasant. "Jay's forgotten? That's reason enough to dedicate a day to thanksgiving and prayer!"
"Let me guess," Abbie drawled, opening her door. "He was a jerk."
"Indeed," Ichabod replied. He unbent his own long form from the vehicle, pondering how best to describe the bombastic pettiness of that simpering toad. "A prodigiously ignorant fellow, an illiterate buffoon with superabundance of confidence who made up for his lack of knowledge with o'erweening ambition."
Abbie arched one shapely brow; her lips twitching in a poor attempt at holding back laughter. "Sounds like you didn't get along."
"I should think not," he insisted. They walked along the pavement toward the building in which the Captain held rented lodgings, Ichabod's hands ridiculous in the oven mitts Abbie insisted he wear to carry the pans of warm food. "He was a fulminating poltroon who enjoyed finding others wanting. His greatest joy was telling others how they wronged either him or our infant nation."
The Captain leaned out of the doorway, deftly hooking one of the parcels of food from Abbie. "Which Founding Father are you ranting about now, Crane?"
"John Jay," said Abbie. "Apparently he was a president. Who knew?"
Irving turned his incredulous look on his lieutenant. "And first justice of the Supreme Court, and second governor of New York State. Didn't you pay attention in school at all?"
"Justice of the Supreme Court!" Ichabod vociferated. How utterly appalling.
In the Captain's drawing-room, Miss Jenny placed her bottle of beer on a mat and rose to take the remaining prog from Abbie. Ichabod placed his own hot dish on the kitchen counter and joyfully shed the insulated mittens before slipping out to rejoin the ladies in the drawing-room.
"And second governor of New York," repeated the Captain. "After George Clinton."
"George Clinton?" cried Jenny. Abbie burst into peals of laughter, wrapping her arms around her middle.
"What's so humorous about Governor Clinton?" Ichabod would never predict what would be a source of laughter for these moderns. "An able commander and a loving father. I don't see much cause for mockery."
"Nothing funny!" gasped Abbie. "About our first governor being a loving father –"
"Able commander –" continued Miss Jenny.
"Vice President of the United States –" said Captain Irving, dry as the desert. Ichabod nodded, impressed but unsurprised.
"Bringer of funk—" said Abbie.
"The extraterrestrial funk –" said Miss Jenny.
Irving's smile was almost impossible to see as he added, "the uncut, freaky, parliamentary funk."
Ichabod slipped back into the kitchen to unwrap the various parcels. He'd never particularly noticed any musty odours about General Clinton, who used just as much scent of any man of their class, but presumably the sisters Mills were laughing at some other aspect of the future which he'd not comprehend.
In the drawing-room, the ladies chorused strange verses in oddly deep tones, "I pledge a groovallegiance to the funk, the United Funk of Funkadelica."
Listening to the restful happiness in their voices, he placed the boiled cod in the refrigerator.
The creature approached its goal: a bland apartment block in the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow Village. Prodded on by Lord Moloch's eternal hate, it wanted only to do its lord's bidding and end its latest cycle of suffering and pain. Only by rending its chosen victims could it find relief.
In a cloud of fetid rot and a shimmering miasma of agony, it lurched toward the door.
"Hey, bean," said Dad, as she scooted out of the elevator in front of her mom. "Hello, Cynthia. How was the drive?" He leaned forward and air kissed Mom on the cheek.
Macey rolled her eyes and wheeled herself toward Dad's apartment door. She didn't need to listen to the passive aggressive small talk between her parents, especially since her mother had been griping about Daddy for an hour in the car from the City.
"Yo, kid." Jenny waved Macey into the apartment.
"Still not dating my dad?"
Jenny smirked. "Still a smartass?"
"Miss Jennie!" Mr. Crane popped up like a gangly jack-in-the-box in his renfaire clothes. "I know this era is more casual about the language one can use in front of young ladies, but surely you should watch your words in from of the captain's daughter."
"That's cute," said Jenny.
"Shut up," Macey replied. "It is cute. He's got that whole CW clean-cut vibe going."
"Totally," agreed Abbie, from the kitchen. "But he'll surprise you. You think he's going to be the dad from Seventh Heaven but then he turns out to be more Pacey from Dawson's Creek."
"I do not understand any of what you just said," said Mr. Crane.
"Neither do I," Macey reassured him. "They keep using old people pop culture references like they think anyone who's not old people will care."
"Jesus Christ, we're old people?" Jenny looked horrified. "Er, sorry, Crane."
He waved one hand. "You'd be surprised how many blasphemers attended Oxford in my day. But please, do be aware of the young lady."
Macey beamed at him.
Dad came up behind her and handed over her project bag. "Your mom said not to forget your knitting here this time. And Mills," he added, looking at Jenny. "If Seventh Heaven" makes you two old people, I must be Methuselah."
"Hush!" Abbie came in with a tray of olives and cheese. "Next think you know, we'll have to fight him, too."
Macey pulled her knitting out of the bag. The ball was wrapped well enough it had stayed together, for once, and all five needles had stayed in the sock.
Mr. Crane dropped to one knee and investigate the half-finished sock. "Why, Miss Irving, however did you get all of those strips of color. How marvelous!"
"It's the sock yarn." She showed him the balled yarn, stripped in sky blue, lemon yellow, and twilight lavender. See, the stripes of color on the yarn are sized so when you knit it for an average -sized ankle, you get these awesome stripes."
"Indeed!" He reached out toward her, but pulled his hand back. He tucked his hair behind his ear, like he was one of the girls in her class embarrassed about something. "Er. May I, Miss Irving?"
"Sure." She put the half-finished sock in his hand. "Careful of the needles. They don't have ends so they can slip out, see?"
He turned the sock around in his hands, looking at the stripes, peering closely at the yarn. Macey squirmed. Something about Mr. Crane made her care about his opinion. Which was stupid; she knew she was a good knitter, and besides, they were striped socks. What did she care about what he thought about them?
"Do they meet with your approval, teacher?" Being snarky made her feel braver.
"Crane was a college professor before he decided to become a Founding Father," said Lieutenant Mills, who was lounging on the sofa with a beer. "Sometimes he can't help himself."
Mr. Crane looked up and widened his eyes. "I'm so sorry, Miss Irving." He hastily pressed the sock back into her hands. "It's quite well-crafted, though, and the fibers have a fascinating texture. My own stitches were never quite so even."
"Katrina taught me. She said a soldier should be able to mend his own stockings on the battlefield."
Macey mulled over her mental picture of Mr. Crane sitting in a muddy field with a tricorn hat, knitting a sweater, while cannonballs exploded above him.
"In any case," he continued. "I'm pleased to see those knitting machines haven't destroyed the domestic arts entirely." He said the words knitting machines like he was talking about something disgusting he peeled off the bottom of his shoe.
"Nope. Most of the girls in my class knit, and one of the boys."
"Miss Irving, I—" He looked away and ... was he blushing? Wow, how adorable was that? "I would be honored if you could make me a pair of stockings."
She smiled at him. Weird as heck but so incredibly sweet. "Sure. I'll have to find a pattern for, you know, revolutionary socks."
"I was hoping you could use that striped yarn," he said, quite seriously. Macey tried to hold back her giggles at the idea of Mr. Crane wearing knee breeches with pastel stripes all the way up to his knees.
Dinner was great, and she magically did find room for more food, although somehow she was completely full when Mr. Crane tried to offer her more of his boiled fish. Turkey and potatoes and cranberries, though, she had room for plenty of those. Lieutenant Mills and her dad were just coming out of the kitchen with dessert – pie, and another weird oldey-timey thing that hopefully didn't involve boiled fish -- when there was a noise in the hallway. The adults all put down the food in their hands, and suddenly, whoa, where did that come from? Jenny had a gun aimed at the door, and Dad and Lieutenant were standing on either side of the door frame having one of those cop conversations using only facial expressions. Mr. Crane stood between Macey and the door.
"Miss Irving," he whispered. "Perhaps you should go into another room."
Macey agreed. As much as she didn't want to leave her dad, one demonic possession in a lifetime was more than enough for her. She reached down to her wheels, but before she could move away from the table, the door burst open.
The thing which burst in was ... well. Macey had seen a lot of really disgusting things since her dad moved to Sleepy Hollow. This was definitely one of those disgusting things. It was vaguely human shaped, but a sort of gray green, with long arms dangling down in front of its legs.
They were gunshots, and a confusion of yelling. Macey. Jenny and Dad were both shooting at the thing, but all of the bullets just bounced off its head and torso.
"Get away from my baby!", her dad roared, backing out of the reach of the thing and shooting continuously. "Crane, get her the hell out of here!"
Macey backed up, but her chair hit something, maybe the sofa, and she may have been a cop's kid but she was seriously freaking out about all this gunfire, not to mention the disgusting monster that was, holy crap, headed straight for her.
"Crane!" yelled her dad, as he flung down his gun and just threw himself at the thing's back.
The monster hurled her dad away with one contemptuous swipe of its arm, and Macey screamed as her dad hit the coffee table and fell on it, breaking it to pieces.
"Daddy!" she yelled, and then she was just shrieking. The monster reached out with its slimy arms and aimed for her neck.
With no way to go backward, she slammed her chair forward as fast as she could, thinking maybe she could at least ram the monster in its toes. Though she felt something crack, the creature never slowed. Her advance did get her under the reaching arms, at least, so she was –ugh – up close and personal with its whole gross self. The sounds of yelling were really confusing, but she just wanted to make the monster go away. She shoved at it with one hand, and noticed with surprise that she was still holding the sock. Fine, then – she rammed her knitting needles straight into the thing's side, crying out at the other end of the bamboo needles dug into the palm of her hand. She shoved as hard as she could.
The monster bellowed, fell back, and actually dissolved.
"Holy shit, breathed Macey. "It's like a TV vampire. Did I stake it through the heart? Does it keep his heart in its thigh?"
"Little bean, are you okay?" Her dad wrapped himself around her so tight she could almost not breathe. There was blood running down his face.
"What the hell was that?" asked Jenny.
Lieutenant Mills' breath came hard and fat, but she knelt over the creature's remains. "I was reading about a demonology based on one of the apocryphal gospels," she said slowly. "The Gospel of Peter."
Mr. Crane turned to her with shining eyes, as he knelt beside her. "Euangelion kata Petron? Has it been found?"
"Yeah, in the nineteenth century," said Lieutenant Mills. "Anyway, it talks about the Romans chose not to break Jesus's legs to hasten his end, but they did break the bones of the crucified thieves, followed by the percussio sub alas, the stab in the side. The book listed a creature born from the rotted soul of the Roman soldiers. And if there were such a creature –"
"Then when I rammed its legs with my wheelchair and then stabbed it with a knitting needle –"
Lieutenant Mills nodded. "You either freed its soul from two millennia of torment, or sent it back to hell. Either way, it's dead."
Macey's dad heaved a gasping sob and squeezed her even tighter. She patted his back, and dabbed at the blood gash on his head with the ball of yarn still in her hand, the tail end of yarn vanishing into the goopy remains.
"Oh dear," said Mr. Crane, examining the pile of goo that used to be a monster. "I'm afraid your socks are ruined, Miss Crane."
"That's okay," she said, holding on to her dad. "I kind of screwed up the toe on that one."