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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Here is an excerpt from The Ginseng Conspiracy just in time for 
Halloween. Kay is at the Black and Orange Halloween costumed ball 
after having just witnessed a murder by a group of six robed 


We were just about to leave the hall, when I saw Al standing in 
the hallway looking at me. There was nothing casual about his 
gaze. He came over, took my hand and asked Phil, “May I borrow 
your wife for a few minutes?” And he led me out on to the dance 
floor without waiting for an answer.
“Kay, did you think you could get away from me?”

“What...what do you mean Al?" My lips trembled.

“Remember, you promised me a dance tonight. Allow me..." Al put 
his hand on my shoulder. My heart beat double time to the music. I 
felt trapped. He terrified me by his closeness.

“Kay, you're trembling. I didn’t realize I made such an impression 
on you!" He threw his head back and laughed a horrifying baritone 
laugh. The heartbeat in my ears was so loud that I couldn't even 
make out the music we were dancing to. 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
The jack-o'-lanterns sneering and glaring at us, at this last 
house on the edge of town, were the best of the evening. It was 
late. Most of the porch lights had already been turned off for at 
least an hour. We had seen this bright porch light in the 
distance, beckoning us to this house which we had never noticed 
before. Deciding it would be our last one of the evening, we 
lugged our heavy, candy-filled sacks up the path to the door.  We 
rang the doorbell, and hollered "trick-or-treat". We stepped back 
a few paces as the door slowly, creaked open.

A man with grey hair sticking out of his clown mask opened the 
door a few inches. He looked at both of us and said, "Hello 
Ti...ah boys. Don't you think it is getting a bit late for you to 
be out? You should go home." There were sounds of music and 
laughter coming from inside the house. 

"It sounds like you are still partying," said my too-bold-for-his-
own-good best friend Bobby.

A woman wearing a witch mask came to the door, opening it wide and 
said, "Pete, let the boys in. Come in boys. Join the fun. There 
are lots of goodies and treats inside." 

With the doors wide open, we peered into the room. People of all 
ages were dancing, drinking, and eating. Tables brimmed with 
platters of cakes and pies, plates of cookies, bowls of pudding, 
and candy.

"Let's leave," I whispered to Bobby. "I'm already late, and I am 
going to get heck from my mom and pop." 

"Let's just stay for a little while," Bobby replied. "Look at all 
that food!"

We entered the house, leaving our sacks by the door. Bobby went 
straight over to the table and started stuffing his mouth with all 
kinds of treats. I was used to his eating disorder. Seeing a cute 
girl that looked familiar, I went over to her and asked, "Would 
you like to dance?"

"Sure. Have you had any of the yummy cookies yet?"

"Not yet. Looks like my friend is having enough for both of us," I 
said, seeing Bobby now eating a big piece of chocolate cake.

The woman in the witch mask came over to me with a tray of 
cookies. "Have one," she said, making it sound more like a command 
than an offer.

I took a cookie, and when she went past me, I slid it into my 
pants pocket. Do they ever push food here, I thought to myself.

Looking back at the cute girl I asked, "What's your name? I think 
I have seen you before."

"Susie Sullivan. Maybe you want some punch?"

Looking around the room at the other people, I noticed that many 
looked familiar. The man in the clown mask was over at the punch 
bowl. He removed his mask to take a drink. He looked over at me. I 
could have sworn he was old man Harris, who had lived down the 
street from us. I had heard my parents say that he had Alzheimer's 
and had just walked away from his home one autumn, a few years 
back. The authorities thought he must have fallen into the river 
and drowned. His body was never found.

Leaving Susie, I went over to Bobby who was now eating a popcorn 
ball. Pieces of popcorn were all over the front of his shirt. 
"Don't you think you should slow down Bobby?" He didn't answer. 
"Hey Bobby," I shook him gently trying to get his attention. "I 
just talked to Susie Sullivan. Remember her. Her photo was in the 
paper. She disappeared last Halloween! And Mr. Harris, from down 
the street...look over at the punch bowl. There he is."

Bobby looked up at me for a moment. Then he picked a piece of 
popcorn off his shirt, ate it, and took a handful of candy corn. 

"Bobby, let's go home. Something is wrong here! We can watch a 
horror movie at home, instead of being in one! We have lots of 
candy to eat and my Mom made caramel apples. Okay?" 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt

"No! I like it here."

Deciding to leave, I quickly walked over to the front door. 
Grabbing my sack of candy, I opened the door and turned back just 
for a moment, looking into the room. Bobby was still eating. The 
masked woman with her back to me, was talking to Mr. Harris, who 
glanced in my direction and nodded his head slightly. I half-
walked, half-ran, all the way home.

After telling my mom about Bobby, Susie, Pete Harris and the house 
at the edge of town, she called Bobby's mom. I went up into my 
bedroom and poured my candy out onto the bed, looking over all of 
my loot. It sure would have been fun to trade candy with Bobby. I 
remembered the cookie in my pocket and took it out. It was all 
crumbled up. I went into the bathroom and flushed it down the 

In a little while I heard the doorbell ring. Going downstairs to 
see if it was Bobby, I saw two policemen at the front door along 
with Bobby's parents.

"Tim, the police want you to show them the house where you and 
Bobby went trick-or-treating," my mom said.

We drove up and down the roads for what seemed like hours, looking 
for the house at the edge of town. We never found the house that 

It's been several months now since I last saw Bobby. I've been 
thinking about it a lot lately. Next October 31st, I'll be looking 
out for that bright porch light. 


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