The Ghost Rider: A Halloween Shorty Small Adventure

📅 Published on October 24, 2023

“The Ghost Rider: A Halloween Shorty Small Adventure”

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Shorty Small, a man neither short nor small, sipped coffee as he waited in a diner located several blocks from his house. Abandoning the normal protocol for such meetings, Small requested the conference. Homer LaCroix, the tall lanky Cajun, normally initiated these get-togethers. However, today, the big man held a good reason for sharing coffee with his Tourism Board contact.

LaCroix entered the crowded dining room and spotted Small. He ambled over and sat across from his friend. “You don’t usually ask to meet with me, is everything okay?” He paused as a waitress placed a cup of coffee in front of him. “Thanks, love.” He took a sip and tilted his head. “You’re not thinking about quitting, are you?”

Looking over his coffee cup as he sipped, Small shrugged.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, Shorty, you can’t quit. You have built a good reputation in this town. The NOPD has you helping with investigations and the Tourism Board recently increased your retainer.” His eyes widened. “Think of me, Shorty, I’ll lose my job if you quit.”

Small chuckled. “Got ya, Homer. I’m not quitting.”

Taking a deep breath, LaCroix let it out slowly. “Mon cher, you scared me. Don’t do that again.” Taking another sip of coffee, the tall man eyed his companion. “Then why the meeting?”

“Claire and I are taking a vacation. Well, it’s not really a vacation, we have to go to New York State. Her father’s health is failing.”

“I am so sorry to hear this, Shorty. I didn’t know her father was still alive.”

“Neither did I. But after we moved to the house and got away from the shop, she started to miss her family. Claire and her father were estranged after he divorced her mother. She always blamed him. But after the incident with her grandmother, a few years ago, she realized who really was to blame.”

“Who reached out to whom?”

“Claire initiated it. They’ve stayed in contact ever since. Apparently, he’s a New Orleans Cajun living north of New York City in a small town called Tarrytown. I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to the trip.”

“Glad they are getting along better. How many days will you be gone?”

“Not sure. Probably a couple of weeks. I’ve already cleared it with Captain LeCompte. Now I’m letting the tourism board know.”

“What about Claire’s classes?”

“She’s worked her schedule out with her advisor.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Saturday. I told her I really did not want to spend another Halloween here in New Orleans. She agreed.”

“Let’s hope it’s a quiet one this year.”

Small finished his coffee and stood. “Right, Homer, when did that ever happen.”

With a frown, LaCroix replied, “Never.”

“That’s why we’re leaving Saturday.”

* * * * * *

30,000 Feet Above The Southeastern United States

From her window seat, Claire Honoree looked up at her fiancée and said, “I appreciate you getting us first-class seats, Shorty.”

He smiled, “I don’t do well in coach. I have a tendency to make anyone sitting next to me uncomfortable.”

She patted his bicep. “I have never felt uncomfortable sitting close to you.”

The two fell into contented silence. He stared out the window while she flipped through a magazine. After several minutes, Small asked, “Did your dad remarry?”

“Yes, I’ve never met his wife.”

“Think you’ll like her?”

“I hope so. She sounds nice on the phone and cares deeply about my father.”

“Well, guess you’ll get to meet her later today. Are you nervous about seeing your father after all these years?”

Putting the periodical down, she took a deep breath. “A little. I’m afraid he won’t look like I remember him.”

With a slight grin, Small said, “We all change as we get older.”

She returned the smile, “When I was little, I looked up to him. He was a tall, strong man and he commanded respect wherever he went. Kind of like you. I always thought of him as the most handsome and athletic father of any of my friends. I was very self-centered back then and I allowed it to keep us apart.”

“It takes two for an argument.”

“I know.” She paused and grew silent for several moments. “I may also have said a few things that broke his heart.”

“How old were you?”

She looked out the window before she answered. “The argument occurred on my twenty-first birthday.”

“You’re thirty-five now. That was fourteen years ago. Words can be forgotten. Just remember, both your mom and grandmother are gone. He and your sister are the only family you’ve got left.”

She returned her gaze to him. “I have you. You’re my family now, Shorty.” She hooked her arm around his and placed her head on his shoulder. “I hope you’re right. I sensed he has forgiven me.”

“I’m sure he has.”

Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and relaxed as she leaned against the big man. She drifted off to sleep as he placed his hand on hers.

* * * * * *

Tarrytown, NY

After renting a Ford Edge and driving north from LaGuardia International, the concrete and steel buildings of the city soon turned to trees, grass, and single-family homes. Using a GPS function on his phone, he found her father’s house and parked at the curb in front. Small could see the Hudson River flowing past behind the well-maintained craftsman house.

“You said he lived near the river. Did you know it was this close?”

She shook her head. “No, but I’ve never been here either.”

“Well, I’m anxious to meet your father. Maybe then, you two can get acquainted again.”

Before they could arrive at the front door, a slender woman in her mid-fifties, opened the door. She smiled and waved them inside. “Claire, I recognize you from your father’s pictures.” Spreading her arms, the two women hugged. “I’m so happy you’re here. He’s been anxiously awaiting your arrival.”

“You must be, Robyn.”

“I am.” She turned to Small. “And you’re Shorty.”

Claire smiled. “Yes, this is my fiancé, Shorty Small.”

Offering her hand, the woman appraised the big man. “Your name does not fit your stature, Mr. Small. Is it a nickname?”

“No, ma’am, it’s my legal name.”

She chuckled. “Claire’s father is looking forward to meeting you. However, he envisioned someone not quite so tall. Come, I’ll take you both to him.”

As she shut the front door, Robyn said, “Claire, I have to warn you, your father has lost a lot of weight over the past few years. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve seen him, but try not to be shocked. He’s also confined to a wheelchair.”

“He didn’t mention the wheelchair when I spoke to him.”

“As you know, he’s a proud man. He doesn’t like to discuss the matter and is more than a little embarrassed about it.”

“Where is he?”

“Back porch, watching the river. Follow me.”

The reunion of father and daughter played out exactly as Small envisioned.  A lot of hugging, crying, multiple, ‘sorry I said that’s’, and more hugs.

Finally, she broke her embrace and turned toward her fiancé. “Daddy, this is Shorty.”

The man sitting in the wheelchair frowned and looked up at Small. “You taking proper care of my daughter?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, you’re the one who saved her from that damned grandmother.”

“I’d have to say yes, sir.”

The frown turned into a smile and the man offered his hand. “I apologize for not being able to stand. Damn glad to meet you, Shorty.”

They clasped hands. Small said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Honoree.”

“The name’s William, but I prefer Billy.”

“Nice to meet you, Billy.”

* * * * * *

As the sun set in the west, the two men sat on the back porch watching the water flow and sipping beers. Small said, “I like the location of your house, Billy. It’s peaceful.”

“One of the reasons I left New Orleans, I needed peace.”

Taking another sip of beer, Small did not reply.

“Claire tells me you work for the Tourism Board and consult with the NOPD.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Were you a police officer before you moved to New Orleans?”

Shaking his head, Small replied. “Far from it.”

With a slight nod, the older man returned his attention to the river. “My daughter told me how you rid the world of that evil grandmother of hers.”

Small nodded, but remained silent as he studied Claire’s father.

“Thank you. She was the reason I divorced Claire’s mother and left New Orleans. The bitch had a strong hold over my daughter and her mother. Did Claire tell you I lost all visitation privileges?”

Small shook his head. “No, she didn’t.”

“That damn witch of a woman must’ve cast a spell over the judge. Even my lawyer was shocked at the settlement.” He paused. “Do you believe in witches, Shorty?”

“Since I’ve moved to New Orleans, I’ve seen things that caused me to question my normal skepticism.”

“That place can have an effect on you.” The older man’s gaze returned to the river as dusk turned to night and lights danced on the water. “Could you do me a favor, Shorty?”

“If I can.”

“Ever hear of the Headless Horseman or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?”

“The story or the dozens of movies about him?”

“The original story.”

With a smile, the retired hitman nodded. “I grew up in Wyoming cattle country. Not much to do there but read.”

Honoree chuckled. “I suppose not. Allegedly, the one that inspired Washington Irving’s tale was a real-life Hessian mercenary decapitated by a cannonball in a skirmish near White Plains. The battle occurred sometime around Halloween 1776. Pretty gruesome way to go, if you ask me.”

Small grimaced. “Ouch.”

“Exactly. Anyway, according to the legend, every Halloween the horseman rises from the grave to find a replacement for his lost head.”

He chuckled. “Let me guess, there’s been a rash of decapitated bodies found.”

The older man shook his head. “Not yet. Over the past decade, about this time of year, we’ve seen a rash of mutilated animals, mostly cattle and deer, in the surrounding area.”

“Mutilated how?”

With a grim smile, the old man said, “Decapitated. The heads normally several feet or yards from the body.”

“Billy, are you suggesting the Headless Horseman is doing this?”

“I’m not suggesting anything. One would have to believe the legend before coming to that conclusion.”

“So, who is saying it’s the horseman?”

“The Mayor and the Board of Trustees.”

“And you’re on the Board of Trustees?”

“No, actually, I’m the deputy mayor of Tarrytown.”

“Do you believe the story?” Small watched the older man take a deep breath, and then nod as he exhaled. “Why?”

“Because I’ve seen the specter riding an enormous black horse as he galloped into the woods.”

“Daylight or nighttime?”

“Midnight with a full moon.”

Small grew quiet as he watched the river, now bathed in the light of a waxing gibbous moon.

“Shorty, I’ve only discussed the sighting with the board, no one else. The fact I’m from New Orleans causes me to accept what I saw.”

“Yeah, there’s some strange shit in New Orleans.” He returned his attention to the older man. “What are you asking me to do?”

“What you do for the New Orleans Tourism Board, find it and get rid of it.”

Keeping his eyes glued to Honoree, Small stayed quiet.

“There will be an honorarium involved.”

“I get paid half up front.”

“No problem.”

* * * * * *

“I thought we were on vacation, Shorty.”

“So, did I. But your dad asked for my help.”

Claire folded her arms. “He hasn’t changed.”

“I’m not following you.”

Her frown intensified. “I don’t want to get into it. But one of the reasons he and I exchanged harsh words came from his refusal to face controversy. He didn’t fight for custody or visitation rights. He just packed up and moved away.”

Small remained quiet as he listened.

“Now he wants to put you in harm’s way because he doesn’t want to face an unknown. I say we pack our stuff and go home.”

“No, Claire. Did you ever stop and think about how your grandmother always got her way?”

Shaking her head, she kept her arms crossed and glared at Small.

“Did you forget she tried to kill you?”

Stomping her foot, Claire said, “She did not—” She stopped, her eyes wide. Tears ran down her cheek. Rushing toward her fiancée, she buried her face against his chest.

Bringing her into an embrace, he put his chin on her head. “He told me your grandmother placed some kind of spell on the judge. That’s why he lost his visitation rights. He’s in a wheelchair now and can’t take care of this problem by himself.”

“Thank you, Shorty.” She looked up at him. “I’ve always blamed him for the way things were. Guess I need to reconsider how my grandmother may have been responsible.”

“Give him a chance, Claire. He’s a good man and loves you deeply.”

They stayed in the embrace for a long time. Finally, she asked. “How much is the honorarium?”

“Enough to pay for our trip and then some.”

“You’ll be careful?”


* * * * * *

An early morning call sent Small to a pasture east of Tarrytown. Two patrol cars were there along with the county sheriff. When Small showed his ID to one of the deputies, the guy smiled and pointed to a man wearing dress slacks and a navy blazer. “That’s Sheriff Benson.”

The two men shook hands and the sheriff said, “So, you’re Shorty Small. The deputy mayor speaks highly of you as does a captain in the New Orleans police department.”

Raising an eyebrow, the retired hitman said, “Hope I can be of service.”

The sheriff led him a short distance and pointed to the remains of two large bovid animals. “The owner of the herd told me he found them this morning just as the sun came up.”

Kneeling. Small studied the wounds for several minutes. Looking up he said, “How many so far?”

“This will make seven this year.”

Small surveyed the scene. Both animals were missing their heads. The cuts were clean, much like a guillotine would inflict. “Have you found the missing parts?”

“Not this time. Normally, we find them within a few feet of the carcasses. Not today.”

Wandering in circles around the animals he reached a little over twenty feet away and stopped. He bent down and examined something. Standing, he asked the sheriff. “How often have you found horse hoof prints nearby?”

“What do you mean horse hoof prints?”

Pointing down, Small said, “That is the print of an unshod horse.”

Benson walked over and looked at the spot indicated by Small. “Huh, didn’t know that. How can you tell?”

“Grew up in Wyoming, lots of wild horses out there.”

“Shorty, we don’t have that many horses around here. If we do, they are normally shod.”

“Then you have your first clue. Last time I checked, ghosts don’t leave footprints. Whoever did this, was riding a real unshod horse, not a ghost horse.

The sheriff, pursed his lips. “Damn.”

With a slight grin, Small started following the horse’s trail, the sheriff behind him. Looking up from his trajectory, he saw they led toward a densely wooded area approximately two hundred feet ahead. “What’s beyond the tree line?”

“To the north a lake, south more trees.”

“For how far?”

“At least a mile or more.”

Small stopped walking and turned to the sheriff several steps behind him. “The deputy mayor told me this is an annual event, always around Halloween.”

“Yeah, it happened a year ago. I wasn’t sheriff before then.”

“When do they end?”

“Last year, the final carcass was found on October 31st.”

“So, I have a week.”

The sheriff shrugged. “I guess.”

* * * * * *

An Hour Before Midnight – October 27th

A waxing gibbous moon provided sufficient light from a cloudless sky for Stan Steinburg to trudge his way west along Neperan Road. Tarrytown Reservoir reflected the moonshine to his left with dark and still woodlands to his right. He cursed his luck, having failed to properly judge the amount of fuel his ancient Ford F-150 would need to get him home. The poorly maintained vehicle ceased to operate a little over a mile behind him.

Non-existing traffic and a dead cell phone battery made his choice to cover the next five miles to his house on foot, his only option. After a lifetime of repeated poor decisions, this one would be his worst.

Still feeling the effects of too many beers consumed after getting off work, his gait hesitated at times as he struggled to keep walking in a straight line.

The quiet of his nocturnal journey was shattered as he heard a commotion coming from behind. Turning, the sight he beheld, sobered him in a split second as he started running.

Middle-aged and horribly out of shape, his breathing became ragged as the noise grew louder. He glanced behind and saw a large black horse baring down on his position. The rider seemed to raise a long blade over its headless shoulders which reflected the light from the moon.

Steinburg stopped running and turned toward his assailant in astonishment. In his last few seconds of life, he decided what he was witnessing could only come from an alcohol induced hallucination.

* * * * * *

Small’s cell phone danced across the nightstand as it vibrated with an incoming call. Snatching the object, he checked the ID as he struggled to fight his way out of the fog of sleep.


“Is this Shorty Small?”


“This is Westchester County Sheriff Loyd Benson. We met yesterday.”

“I remember, sheriff. Why the call?”

“Ah…” He hesitated. “We had an incident last night east of Tarrytown. Could you possibly take a look at it?”

“Sure. Where?”

The sheriff gave Small the directions and hung up.

Claire rolled over and propped herself up on one elbow. “What’s the matter, Shorty?”

“Apparently, your father has convinced the local sheriff I’m someone he can consult. He wants me to look at a crime scene.”

She sighed and fell back to the mattress. “Remind me to have a talk with him.”

As the big man pulled on a pair of jeans, he chuckled. “Sorry, you’re on your own with your father. I like him.” He stood and pulled a sweatshirt on over his head. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

* * * * * *

Twenty minutes later, Small lifted the tarp covering the body. He looked up at Benson. “Where’s the head?”

With a shrug, Benson said, “Can’t find it. Whoever did this may have carried it away.”

“Huh.” Small stood and looked east on the road. “Do you know who the victim is?”

“ID on the body identifies him as a local named Stan Steinburg. We found his truck about a mile east of here, out of gas and the interior smelling like a brewery.”

“So, he was walking west toward town.”

The sheriff nodded. “He rents a house near the river in Tarrytown.”

“Has this ever happened before?”

“What’s that?”

“A human being decapitated.”

Benson shook his head. “Not to my knowledge.”

Small started walking east. “Any clues to his attacker?”

“Not yet. That’s why I called you.”

With his back to the sheriff, the big man rolled his eyes and started walking east. A hundred yards later, he knelt down and looked at a spot next to the asphalt road. He called over his shoulder. “Sheriff, you might want to look at this.”

When Benson arrived at Small’s location he stared down. “Son-of-a-bitch.”

“Looks like the same unshod hoof print we saw yesterday near the dead cattle.”

“I agree. I’ll have an impression made and compare it to the ones from yesterday.”

Keeping his attention to the east, Small said, “It’ll match.” He stood and continued walking. Twenty feet further, he said, “More here as well.” Resuming his trek east, he eventually came to a patch of trampled grass leading into the trees next to the road. Turning to face the sheriff who was ten yards behind him, he said, “How close are we to where you found the cattle yesterday?”

Gesturing toward the west, the sheriff said, “About three-quarters of a mile. Why?”

Folding his arms, Small grinned ever so slightly. “Seems our horseman likes the woods around here.” Pointing to the trampled grass, he continued. “Here’s where he came out.”

“What have I got here, Shorty?”

“Sheriff, I don’t know. Let me make a few phone calls. Where are you gonna be this afternoon?”

“Good question. I hope to be back at the office.”

“I’ll call you first.”


Driving back toward his future in-law’s house, Small decided to pull off and park in the Tarrytown Lakes parking lot. He marveled at the beauty of this northern location. With it being fall, the trees were ablaze in reds, gold, yellows, and orange. The air crisp and cool. This was the kind of weather he missed living in New Orleans. A slight smile came to his lips as he remembered the cold winters of Wyoming.

Taking a deep breath, he took his cell phone and dialed a number he knew by heart.

* * * * * *

The Tulane professor busied herself in the cluttered office, moving books from one side of the room to the other. Searching for a specific book sometimes took hours from her day. The phone on her desk clattered with the sound of an incoming call.

“Oh, thank goodness, I’ll look for the book later.” She sat at her desk and picked up the receiver. “Anthropology, Carmen Fowler.”

“Doctor Fowler, it’s Shorty Small.”

“Shorty, good to hear from you. I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“You’ve taught me well, professor. I don’t need to consult with you as often. Except, today.”

“Oh, you usually come to see me in person.”

“I’m in Tarrytown, New York visiting Claire’s father.”

“Oh, I love the Hudson Valley. It’s beautiful this time of year.”

“Yes, it is. I need to ask a favor.”

“Oh, Shorty, you know I love helping you.”

“What do you know about the legend surrounding the Headless Horseman?”

“You said you were in Tarrytown?”


“Sleepy Hollow is the village due north of there. If I remember correctly, there were two towns. The northern section was originally named North Tarrytown. But the citizens voted to split into two separate entities. They renamed the northern part after the famous city in the early 19th-century short story by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The southern part of the village became Tarrytown. The tale is about Ichabod Crane and his encounter with a headless horseman.”

“I know, I heard all about it the first night Claire and I were here. What about the legend?”

“I did some post-graduate work at Columbia University in New York City before I moved to Tulane. It’s a fascinating part of the country. Lots of history.”

“I’m beginning to understand that.” He paused for a moment. “As you have taught me, professor, all legends have a core story. Is there one for the Headless Horseman?”

“Let me think for a moment.” She paused. “I need to find a book.” She laid the receiver down and went to one of her floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. After examining several volumes, she took one from the shelf and went back to the phone. “Here it is.” She read silently for a few minutes. “Oh, dear, Shorty.”

“What, professor?”

“As I feared, Washington Irving didn’t invent the idea of a headless horseman for his story. He borrowed the idea from tales stretching back to the Middle Ages.”

“Really. Such as?”

“Mainly the Irish story of the Dullahan. It’s a ghostly grim reaper figure. He supposedly searched for victims and would sever their heads. He then kept them as trophies.”


“Have you encountered a headless horseman, Shorty?”

“Maybe. I’ve not seen it yet.”

“Be careful, the legend says it will take your head unless you know how to kill it.”

“And that is?”

“Destroying the head and body at the same time.”

“How would I do that?”

“The legend doesn’t give specific information on how, just that they both have to be hit by a blunt instrument at the same time.”

“That’s helpful, Professor. Thanks.”

“Now tell me why you’re visiting the Hudson Valley?”

Carmen Fowler ended the call thirty minutes later. Hearing the reason her friend was in New York, put a smile on her face.

* * * * * *

Checking the rear-view mirror to back out of the parking lot, a familiar face stared back at Small. Not one to be easily startled, he gasped. “Madam Adriana!”

“Do not turn around, Shorty. You can only witness my presence in the mirror.”

Taking a deep breath to calm his racing heart, he let it out slowly. “How?”

“We share a cosmic connection, my son. That is all I can tell you. But I need to warn you about the quest you are preparing to commence. All is not as it seems. Your very soul is at stake with this encounter.”

“What’s not as it seems?”

“The phantom you seek is far more dangerous than any you have encountered so far.”

“You said that about the Rougarou.”

“The Rougarou was a child compared to the ghost rider.”

“Is it the Headless Horseman?”

“No, it is far more unholy. It is the Grim Reaper personified.”

“Can it be destroyed?”

“Yes, but you must get it off the horse.”

Small frowned. “How’s that going to help?”

“The horse is the key. The rider draws energy from the beast from hell.”

“Then how—”

“Silence! My time is short. Away from the beast, it is vulnerable. Now I must go.”

As he stared at the rear-view mirror, the image of Madam Adriana faded into a hazy mist.


* * * * * *

Billy Honoree silently watched the river flow past his house. When Small set a beer down next to the man, he looked up at his future son-in-law. “Thanks. I understand a body was found this morning.”

Sitting next to the older man, Small nodded. “Who’s your source?”

With a slight smile, Honoree replied. “Not yet, Shorty. I’ll tell you before you and Claire leave. But not yet.” He took a sip of the beer. “Did they identify the body?”

“Yeah, a man named Stan Steinburg.”

“Not surprising. Stan always had a tendency to overindulge after he got off work.”

“How did you know him, Billy?”

“Frequent guest of the county. As deputy mayor, I got a daily list of Tarrytown residents who were incarcerated. Any idea why he was walking alone in the middle of the night?”

Small set his beer down, turned, and looked at the older man. “Billy, you obviously know more than I do. Why don’t you just tell me?”

“That’s what I like about you, Shorty, you see through the BS.”

The big man remained quiet.

“Benson is totally out of his league on this one.”

“He told me he was new. What two years on the job?”

“If that.”

“Why does he keep calling me when they find something?”

“Because the county executive suggested he do so. He didn’t protest. I think he’s lost and he knows it.”

“Billy, Westchester County is the second largest in New York. Why is the sheriff not an experienced professional?”

“Because he’s the one the good citizens of the county elected.”

“Surely he has a competent command structure?”

“He did. The problem is the competent ones get hired by New York City. Our county sheriff’s department is kind of the farm team for our close neighbor to the south. They pay a heck of a lot more than the county. Besides, the municipal police departments are large and don’t rely on the county too often.”

Small nodded. “Understood.” He sipped his beer and watched the lights on the river. “If I needed someone familiar with the woods north of Neperan Road, who would it be?”

“The ex-grounds keeper for the Rockefeller Estate.”

Raising an eyebrow, Small did not respond.

“The estate is just west of the woods you’re talking about.”

“I take it you know him?”

“He’s an old hunting buddy.”

“Introduce me.”

* * * * * *

A Minute Past Midnight – October 29th

For the third time in as many days, David Martin, cursed his decision to buy a used electric vehicle. Sitting on the shoulder of the southbound lane of Saw Mill River Parkway, he contemplated what to do next. The battery in his new-to-him EV would not hold a charge, and once again, found himself stranded in an isolated part of the county. Only this time, it was past midnight, and finding a tow truck would be a challenge.

The only positive aspect of his situation was an almost full moon and a clear night sky. At least he could tell a towing company his exact location.

Standing outside of the vehicle, he did a search for towing services available at night on his cell phone. Jake’s 24-Hour Towing looked like a good candidate and operated out of White Plains, a close large municipality. At the same time, he pressed the send icon, he heard a blood-curdling scream and the sound of horse hooves racing toward him.

He looked up in time to see a large man on a black creature swinging the steel blade of a sword toward his neck.

* * * * * *

By four-thirty a.m. Shorty Small watched as EMTs loaded the headless corpse of one David P. Martin into an ambulance. He turned to Sheriff Benson, “You said a tow company got a call from this guy’s cell phone but he never said anything?”

“The call went through but all the operator heard was the sound of a horse galloping into the distance. They thought someone might be in trouble so they contacted the wireless company. Once they had the phone’s location, they sent a truck.”

Small nodded. “Okay, mind if I look around for a minute?”

“That’s why I called you.”

Using a small super-bright tactical flashlight, Small headed north on the road. Shining the light on the grassy area next to the shoulder, he spotted where something emerged from the woods to access the highway. Kneeling down, he saw the tell-tale sign of an unshod horse’s hoof. He swept the light over the path and walked to where a small sapling had been broken. The small tree was now bent in half and pushed to the side of where it grew.

He took a red strip of cloth from his back jean pocket and tied it to the small limb. This would help him find the location when he returned mid-morning. Once it was light, he would follow the trail into the woods.

* * * * * *

A newer Ford F-150 parked behind Small’s rented SUV. A deputy sheriff’s car provided legitimacy to the small gathering. The driver of the pickup exited and walked toward Small and the law enforcement officer.

Observing the new arrival, Small smiled slightly. The man, who appeared to be in his sixties, stood as tall, but not quite as massive as the retired hitman.

The truck owner offered his hand. “You have to be Shorty Small. Billy told me you were a tall lad. I’m Luke Forsberg.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Forsberg.”

“Call me Luke, everybody else does.”

“Very well.” He turned to the deputy. “Luke, this is Deputy Roger Smith. He’s providing security for us while we explore the woods.”

“I know Deputy Smith.” He offered his hand. “Glad to have you helping out, Roger.”

“Thank you, sir. What are you two looking for?”

Forsberg glanced at Small, “I’ll let him answer.”

Small gave the deputy a slight grin. “A legend.” He turned and walked toward the woods. With Forsberg trailing a few steps behind, he walked along the shoulder of Saw Mill River Parkway in search of the red ribbon he used to mark the spot earlier in the morning.

When he located the material, he stopped and let the other man catch up. The ex-grounds keeper asked, “What exactly are you looking for, Shorty.”

Pointing to a red ribbon on a broken sapling, Small answered, “I marked the exit point of a horse last night. I’ve been thinking the rider might have a hiding spot in the woods. Know of any caves nearby?”

“Not around here. Though, there are some up north.”

“Are they big?”

“A few. What are you looking for?”

“Something large enough for a man and a horse to hide.”

The ex-groundskeeper shook his head. “If you’re searching for where the headless horseman supposedly hides, you’re in the wrong place. These woods have multiple trails and regular hikers.”

“Apparently, you’ve heard of him?”

“Everyone’s heard of the sightings, few have actually seen it.”

Small raised an eyebrow. “I’m new here. What can you tell me about him?”

“Kind of like Big Foot. It’s a local legend. Everyone likes to gossip about the creature, but few can claim they’ve actually seen it.”

“What if I told you two men are dead? Both decapitated. Their bodies were found surrounded by horse hoof prints and their heads missing.”

Forsberg folded his arms. “You’ve personally witnessed this?”

“The aftermath, not the man and horse.”


“Over the past three days.”

“Damn.” Looking at the ground next to the red ribbon, Forsberg knelt and examined the exposed soil. He pointed to a partial indentation in the soil. “Is that what you’re referring to?”


Looking up, Forsberg asked, “Billy said you’ve had some experience with these types of phenomena.”

“I live in New Orleans, Luke. Weird shit occurs all the time down there.”

Standing, Forsberg brushed the dirt off his hands. “Why do you think it lives in a cave?”

“I don’t. But it would make sense. The horse is physical, it leaves hoof prints. If the horse is real, then someone or something is riding it.”

Staring down at the partial print at his feet, Forsberg nodded. “Let’s say you’re right. How do we kill it?”

Small gave the man a slight grin. “From what I’ve been told, a blunt force is needed. I figure a shotgun fired at the appropriate time might do the trick.”


“You willing to help?”

“Hell, yes. I love a good hunt.”

* * * * * *

Two Hours Before Midnight, October 30th

A waning gibbous moon in combination with a cloudless sky cast distinct shadows as Forsberg drove his F-150 north on Lake Road. He pointed to their left. “Like I mentioned this afternoon, this section of the property has a chain link fence making access difficult. No gates, just fence.”

“Huh.” Small looked to his right as moon shine illuminated a similar obstacle to the land on the other side of the road. “How far does this fence go?”

“Far enough that I don’t believe this is the area we need to search.”

“You know the land. Where to?”


With a nod, Small turned up the volume on the police scanner Forsberg brought. Normal dispatcher traffic on the county frequency could be heard.

Forsberg turned north on Taconic State Parkway. The two men could clearly see the heavily wooded landscape in the moonlight on both sides of the road. Small asked, “You mentioned earlier about sightings of a ghost rider. Where have most of them been?”

“Mostly up and down the Hudson Valley. While there are many communities, there are still plenty of rural areas as well. Most of the sightings occur after midnight.”

Small consulted his wristwatch. “It’s a little before eleven.”

“There’s a centrally located spot I know of near here. We can park and listen to the police scanner.”

Ten minutes later, with the pickup’s lights off and the windows rolled down, the quiet made Small think back to his days as a hitman stalking his mark.

Forsberg interrupted in a low voice. “What’d you do before getting hooked up with the New Orleans police department?”

“Lived in Chicago.”

“I take it you weren’t a cop?”

“No, far from it.”

With a chuckle, Forsberg said, “Doing what?”

“A little bit of this and a little—”

The scanner interrupted the conversation with reports of a horse and rider causing drivers to take evasive action to avoid hitting the large animal. The dispatcher then relayed the location of the disturbance and what direction the rider was headed.

Forsberg started the engine and glanced at his companion. “That’s less than a mile from here.”

Small remained quiet while he checked the readiness of his shotgun. He concentrated his attention out the front windshield as the truck accelerated forward.

Half a mile from where they started, the retired groundskeeper slowed the truck. Ahead of them, the headlights outlined a large figure on horseback blocking the parkway.

“Big fellow, isn’t he?”

Keeping silent, Small opened the passenger door and slipped out. He closed it and stood on the shoulder of the road. His shotgun pointed forward. He guessed the distance to be at least a hundred yards or so. Distance and the light of the moon kept the details of both the rider and the horse vague. The only particulars he could discern were the size of both apparitions. Together they were huge.

He moved forward as Forsberg kept the engine running on the pickup.

An unearthly shriek reached his ears as the horse reared up on it’s two hind legs and then charged. Forsberg accelerated toward the ghost rider. The retired hit man watched in amazement as the rider easily guided the horse to the side as the speeding truck passed harmlessly. The squealing of truck tires could be heard as the F-150 went sideways in a hard braking skid. The ghost rider and mount continued their charge toward the big man.

Time stood still as Small raised his weapon and fired the Mossberg shotgun three times in quick succession. The blasts failed to stop the figure who was barreling down on the big man’s position and raising a sword.

Moonlight glinted off the blade as the rider swung it downward. Raising the shotgun to a vertical position and bracing it with his massive upper body strength saved Small from the attack. A loud clang of metal on metal sounded as the horse and rider flashed past his position.

Shorty Small pumped the Mossberg again, aimed at the man’s back, and fired two more shells at the receding rider.

The F-150 braked hard and stopped next to Small. Without hesitation, he jumped into the passenger seat and the big truck sped after the horse.

“Did you get a look at it?”

Breathing hard, Small nodded.

“What’d you, see?”

“The horse’s eyes glowed red and I caught a whiff of an acrid smell. One I’ve smelled before.”

“A smell?”

“Yeah, like burned flesh.”

“I didn’t see a head when I drove by it.”

“To be honest with you, I was too busy trying to stay out of the sword’s path to notice.” He glanced at the shotgun’s barrel and saw a groove where the steel blade struck. “Shiiitt”

* * * * * *

An Hour Later

Small poured a cup of coffee from a thermos as he listened to the Westchester County sheriff’s dispatcher direct deputies toward the various sightings of the ghost rider. Forsberg stood outside the Ford talking on his cell phone.

When the older man returned to the driver’s seat, he turned to Small. “Just talked to the sheriff. He’s way out of his league on this one.”

“Kind of figured.”

“He wants to deputize you and I.”

Closing his eyes, Small chuckled. “What for? This rider isn’t alive, Luke.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t miss with a shotgun. I placed five 12-gauge rifled slugs into its torso at less than seventy-five yards.”

Forsberg stared wide-eyed at his passenger. “Five?”

“Yeah, five. No effect.”

“I thought you said, a shotgun would take it down.”

Shaking his head, Small took a deep breath. “I was told it would take hitting both the torso and the head at the same time with a blunt instrument. I figured a shotgun slug was a good blunt weapon.”

“Shorty, are you telling me if we are to stop this thing, we have to shoot it in the head and chest at the same time.”

“That’s what I was told.”

“I didn’t see a head on the rider.”

“Never the less…” He stood silent staring off into the gloom of midnight. “It’s Halloween, right?”

“Just barely. Why?”

“In the past when do the sightings stop?”

“November the first.”

“Then we’ve got a short window to defeat this thing.”

“Just how the hell do you plan to do that?”

Taking another sip of his coffee, Small grinned. “We have to get him in the open, away from the road.” An urgent request for all available cars came over the police scanner. “How far are we from there?”

“Couple of miles.”

“Then let’s go.”

As Forsberg accelerated the pickup, Small extracted two objects from his backpack positioned on the floor of the front passenger seat. He placed one each in the pockets of his utility cargo pants. Plus, he reloaded the Mossberg with double-aught buckshot shells.

More reports on the police scanner indicated the specter was moving southwest on Sleepy Hollow Road. Forsberg glanced at Small as he drove the truck. “The woods start getting thinner around there with several good clearings.”

Looking at Google Maps on his cell phone, Small nodded. “He seems to be making a bee-line toward Sleepy Hollow. Where can you gain access to the clearings?”

“I know just the place. What’ve you got in mind?”

Small pursed his lips. “I want to get in front of it. I’m working on a plan.”

“Mind sharing it?”

“As soon as I figure it out.” He paused for a brief moment. “All I know is I have to get the rider off the horse.”

“When I get you to the clearing, what do you want me to do?”

“Provide backup.”

The large pickup accelerated southwest on Sleepy Hollow Road.

* * * * * *

Moonshine bathed the open clearing, casting shadows and providing enough light for Small to see where the clearing stopped 700 yards to the north. The time on his watch told him it was half past one in the morning. A peaceful stillness permeated the area.

Having secured the two objects he brought, strategically to his north, he had attached fishing line to the metal rings. He held the lines taut with his left hand and the shotgun in his right.

His watchful eyes scanned the area. Memories of stalking marks on the streets of Chicago came back to him. The waiting. Always the waiting. A stillness swept over him as he returned to hunter mode.

Feeling exposed, standing in the open he moved to his right and found a large chestnut oak to help obscure his presence. Predicting the path, the ghost rider would take toward the town of Sleepy Hollow, had been pure guesswork. But he had always been good at determining how his marks would travel as he stalked them.

He felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket. Accepting the call, he spoke barely above a whisper, “Yeah.”

Forsberg said, “Police scanner just reported the sighting of a horse and rider due north of your position. Seems it crossed under Phelps Way, following Sleepy Hollow Road.”

“Thanks. I’m in position.”

“I’m a hundred yards to your south. What will be your signal?”

“You’ll know when you hear it.”

“But how—”

A sound to the north caused Small to disconnect the call before his partner could ask the question. In the pale light, he saw movement at the edge of the tree line in the direction of the noise. Taking half of a step to his left, he exposed his position. The rider stopped the horse and Small could hear the animal snort and then saw it rear up in protest of being halted.

To Small, the period the two warriors stared at each other seemed to last an eternity. In reality, it only lasted a few moments. The rider withdrew his sword and the horse charged forward.

The distance between Small and the rider diminished rapidly as the horse galloped. Returning to a position behind the tree, Small yanked on the fishing lines and shut his eyes.

The detonation of two flash-bang grenades shook the quiet of the night. Just as quickly, he stepped out from behind the tree to see the results. The horse bucked and reared back on its hind legs. Small could see the rider struggle to stay in the saddle. When it fell back and off the horse, the ex-hit man rushed forward.

The figure returned to standing and revealed its true size. Taller than Small by at least a foot, the sword remained firmly in its grip.

Aiming the shotgun at the creature, the distance separating the two was less than fifty yards. He pulled the trigger, pumped the gun, fired, pumped again, and fired for a third time. Nothing.

A maniacal laugh punctured the crisp fall night air. Then, instead of charging at Small, the figure rushed toward the horse, which stood ten yards to its right. Swinging up into the saddle, the horseman reared the creature up on its hind legs again and let out another unearthly scream.

Small pumped the shotgun again and prepared for another shot.

The sound of a truck engine under heavy strain to his left diverted the ex-hitman’s attention. He looked and saw Luke Forsberg’s F-150 speeding toward the horse and rider.

The ghost rider once again reared the horse up and then charged at the oncoming vehicle.

* * * * * *

Dawn October 31st

Near the Village of Sleepy Hollow, NY

Shorty Small leaned against a Westchester Sheriff’s Department’s vehicle. He watched as deputies swarmed around the totaled Ford F-150. What was left did not seem proportionate to the collision he had witnessed hours earlier. Sheriff Benson walked up to him. “Luke is stable, he came through the emergency surgery without further complications.”

With a nod, Small did not take his eyes off the smashed, burned-out vehicle in the open field. “Thanks for the update, Sheriff.”

“Now that things have calmed down a bit, want to tell me what happened?”

“I don’t think there’ll be any more sightings of the ghost rider.”

Folding his arms, Benson frowned. “How do you know that?”

Pointing toward the wrecked truck, Small said, “A Ford F-150 doesn’t hit a figment of someone’s imagination and suffer that much damage. Luke ran the ghost rider down.”

“Then where is it?”

“Damned if I know. There was a blinding flash as the truck hit the horse and rider. I heard the sound of crunching metal and an unearthly scream. Because of the intensity of the light, I turned away. When I looked back,” he once again pointed at the truck, “that’s all I saw, the truck. No horse, no rider.”

“Hmmm. I’ll talk to Forsberg when he regains consciousness.”

“Probably a good idea.”

“Where will you be, Shorty?”

“Billy Honoree’s house.”

“Need a lift?”

Small shook his head. “No, thanks. I’ll walk.”

* * * * * *

Two Days Later

Westchester Medical Center

“What do you remember, Luke?” Standing next to the bed, Small observed his friend’s reaction.

Looking up at the big man, Forsberg shook his head. “Not much. I remember seeing the giant horse roll over the hood and strike the windshield, but after that…” He pursed his lips. “Guess I blacked out.”

“You don’t remember me pulling you out of the truck?”


“Got you out just before it caught fire.”


“Don’t mention it.”

“What happened to the horse and rider?”

Small shrugged.

“Now don’t do that to me, Shorty. What happened?”

“When your truck hit the horse, the rider flew off. It fell back into the path of the truck, then they both vanished.”

“Vanished? How can that be? The collision destroyed a new sixty-thousand-dollar pick-up. I know I hit something.”

“Oh, you hit something. Remember, I told you we needed to separate the horse and the rider?

“Yeah, I remember you saying something like that.”

“We needed to hit both of them with a blunt force. The shotgun wasn’t blunt enough.”


“Well, your pick-up packed a damn hard force.”

Forsberg chuckled and then grimaced. “Still hurts to laugh.”

“I wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

“I had the rider off the horse and pumped three double-aught shotgun rounds into him. Nothing. He stood, jumped back on his horse, and was about to charge me. If you hadn’t come along, someone would be looking for my head.”

“Well, then, you’re welcome.” The two men remained silent for a few moments. Luke continued. “How long are you and Claire gonna stick around?”

“We were planning to get married this spring, but since we’re here and her dad’s health is slipping. We’ve decided to have the ceremony at his house.”

“Congratulations. When?”

“As soon as you can get out of that bed to be my best man.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by J.C. Fields
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: J.C. Fields

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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