The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin
at Texas A&M University
Copyright 2016 Van Allen
The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin
at Texas A&M University
Copyright 2016 Van Allen
The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin
at Texas A&M University
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Shakespir License Notes
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the author/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name or names. Any resemblance to individuals known or unknown to the author are purely coincidental. This is entirely a work of fiction.
The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin at Texas A&M University/Van Allen
FIC030000 FICTION / Thrillers / Suspense
Table of Contents
– My Arrival
– The Investigation
– Health and Welfare
– Snoopy Detail
– The Pumpkin Patch
– Closing In
– All Hallows’ Eve
This year, 2016, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the airing of Charles M. Schulz’s on TV in 1966. I am a huge fan.
Disclaimer: My story is laced with gobs of profanity. My heavy use of swear words is very likely to be offensive to meemaws, church ladies, and a bunch of men too.
While it’s true that US Marines commonly spoke with profanities 20 years ago, I have a sense they use profanity less so today. Also, 20 years ago profanity was reserved for talking with excitement and spiciness amongst Enlisted Marines. We never used profanity to talk to Marine Officers, civilians, our spouses, our kids, recruits, cadets, or anyone else except other Enlisted Marines. Today’s Marine Corps is more polished and professional and I applaud the upgrades.
I’m writing this with all the profanities that were common of Enlisted Marines in the mid ‘90s. So sit back, continue reading, and fucking enjoy.
The United States Marines Corps selects a certain number of Enlisted Marines yearly to go through the long processes of becoming Officers of Marines. The Marine Corps loves to promote from within and over the years, a healthy number of prior Enlisted Marines have always proven themselves a goldmine of talent, experience, and leadership added to USMC Officer ranks ().
“One of the most common programs Enlisted Marines use to transition from enlisted to officer is the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP). MECEP offers qualified Marines the chance to go to a four-year college full-time, while maintaining active duty status and pay. MECEP is open to all active duty Marines and Marines in the Active Reserve (AR) program who meet the eligibility requirements. Selection is based on an individual’s potential for commissioned service as demonstrated by their service record, previous academic record, and evidence of career and academic self-improvement.”
After my selection to the MECEP (Mee-Sep) program, the Marine Corps reassigned me to Texas A&M as a Corps of Cadet Military Staff Instructor. The platoon of USMC instructors assigned to the University were also full time college students carrying a full time load of college classes while at the same time required to teach a variety of military prep classes to cadets and other students who were interested in becoming Marine Officers. I taught combat swimming, marksmanship (shooting guns), small unit infantry combat tactics, field survival, leadership, drill (marching), obstacle course, fitness, and military history.
The Marines on the instructor staff gave me the call-sign “Mustafa the African God of War” or often Mustafa for short. I had a particular flare for teaching combat tactics and teaching lessons learned from famous military battles, while using historical references. I had a reputation for teaching the classes you did not want to miss. I always tried to teach my classes by being overly dramatic and by being just a little bit scary and in your face. I liked to teach as if I was Rambo in front of fresh young undisciplined maggots…a God of War.
The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin is a real and secret society of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. You will never find one former cadet or student or faculty who will admit they’ve ever heard of it or they know anything about it. To talk about it is to bring forth the curse of The Great Pumpkin and find yourself haunted and ostracized by Aggies for the rest of your life. No Aggie would want that.
I’m telling the story because it is one of the most amazing things among many amazing and strange things I saw while I attended Texas A&M and because I am a story-telling writer and I like to write and tell stories. I’m not worried about Aggies haunting and ostracizing me. I wasn’t a kid when I attended Texas A&M University. As an entering freshman student, I was already 27 years old, a decorated combat veteran, and a single father.
As a combat tactics instructor, I tried to make war stories come to life. That’s what I do. I’ll tell you this story and teach you everything I know, everything you need to know about The Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin at Texas A&M university.
Thank you for reading my book. Leave a review when you can. Follow me for more of my stories on Twitter and Facebook. Gig’em!
Chapter 1 – My Arrival
“Allen, get in here,” Master Sergeant Thompson yelled from inside his office. The noise boomed out his office and down the hall to where US Marine Sergeant Allen sat near the receptionist’s kiosk.
“That doesn’t sound good,” Allen said to the not-so-young lady working in the receptionist’s area.
“I don’t know,” she replied without even looking up from her word processor.
Allen stood and then marched down the hall to the Master Sergeant’s office, making sure to strike the heels of his patent leather dress shoes on the tiled floor in just that certain way that should have signaled a person of authority and importance was on the way.
Boom Boom Boom, Allen banged with the base of his closed fist on the doorframe outside the Master Sergeant’s office.
“Enter,” Master Sergeant Thompson yelled. Allen detected even more of the man’s frustrated mood.
“Sergeant Allen reporting as ordered,” he said after centering himself in front of the Master Sergeant’s desk, snapping to attention, ensuring his heels clicked loud and clear. He had been trained that for Marines these first meetings were important and every seemingly insignificant detail from showing up on time to wearing a crisp and clean uniform with your medals and badges properly displayed were significant chances to instill confidence and communicate one’s commitment to whatever the mission might be.
“At ease,” Thompson said, looking up at Allen, unimpressed. He tossed a manila folder at him hitting him in the chest. Allen barely caught it, keeping its contents from spilling. He righted the large folder and read the label.
Thompson was a tall Marine; this was evident even as he sat down behind a desk. He also wasn’t what Marines called a desk flyer. Thompson was a combat-tested infantry specialist. After his most recent tour of duty in Iraq, where shrapnel from an explosive device left a large scar and crater above his left eye, the Marine Corps assigned him to Texas A&M as a Senior Military Instructor. The Marine Corps gave Thompson the assignment to give him a break from the intensity of multiple successive combat tours, even though Thompson rejected the idea that he needed such a break.
Tall, thin, a badass, Allen thought, looking at the man’s colorful and shiny medals and badges displayed in rows above his left breast pocket, probably a great runner, shooter, and a great combat tactician. They don’t let just anybody become infantry Master Sergeants. Allen looked in the folder.
“The Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin?” Allen said aloud. “What’s up, Top?”
Allen had just made his first mistake of many by referring to the Master Sergeant as “Top,” a term of endearment Master Sergeants usually reserve for Marines who have earned their respect. Marines don’t call Master Sergeants “Top” without his or her permission to do so.
“My rank is Goddamn Master Sergeant. You got that Allen?”
There was no real requirement for senior Marines to offer similar respect to their juniors. When the Master Sergeant called Sergeant Allen “Allen,” he communicated that in his mind the jury was still out as to whether Sergeant Allen was even deserving of his respect as either a Marine or a Sergeant of Marines. It would mean something huge to Allen to get promoted in the Master Sergeant’s mind from Allen to Sergeant Allen. A Marine Sergeant needed to earn such recognitions and Allen knew that.
“Yes Master Sergeant. Understood,” he replied.
“What’s this all about Master Sergeant?” Allen asked again.
“Look at the goddamn pictures Allen. There’s some squirrelly shit going on with these goddamn cadets and squirrelly shit makes my ass itch.”
Allen thumbed through the pictures in the folder and finally asked, “The Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin, like Charlie Brown?”
“No asshole! Not like Charlie Brown… Well, maybe it is something like Charlie Brown, but don’t get cute with me Allen. You ever seen anything like this?” Thompson asked.
“I can’t say that I have, but what is this?” Allen replied.
“That’s three years’ worth of pictures and notes showing the kind of shit that goes on at Texas A&M every Halloween night. It’s the Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin or the Curse of The Great Pumpkin or some stupid shit like that.”
Allen said, “It doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary compared the typical shit college students and frats houses pull at every college and university around the world.”
“Oh does it now?” Thompson said. “You look at those pictures real good Allen. Look at them long and hard, because this is the year we stop the Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin at Texas A&M University.”
Allen saw a glimmer in the man’s eye, a gleam that suggested, a touch of crazy, Allen thought, just like all Master Sergeants.
Allen snapped to attention and said, “Yes, Master Sergeant,” thinking maybe the man was feeling some residual effects of his recent combat injuries.
“What are you staring at?” Thompson asked. “Are you staring at my wife?”
Allen glanced at the 30×20 portrait hanging behind the Master Sergeant’s desk, showing of a very attractive and curvy blonde. He wasn’t quite sure the woman in the portrait was real or even the Master Sergeant’s wife at all.
“No Master Sergeant,” he replied. “I have a thousand-mile stare and I didn’t even notice the picture of your wife.
“Oh, so you don’t think she’s good enough for you?”
“No Master Sergeant, that’s not what I mean. It’s just that when I get a mission, I focus on the mission and I don’t easily get distracted from the mission.”
“That may be the best answer I’ve heard since I got here,” Thompson said. “Says in your file you have a background in investigations among other specialties.”
“That’s true,” Allen said, still not staring at the man’s wife.
“Your file also says you’re not married.”
“It also says you’ve been in a little trouble before.”
“That’s true, Master Sergeant, but I’m more mature now.”
“Took you just a little longer than normal to get promoted to Sergeant. The average age of Marine Sergeants here at Texas A&M is 23. You’re the oldest one here at 27 and you’re only a freshman. Your file also shows one of the highest intelligence test scores I’ve ever seen, but the real reason I’m assigning this Great Pumpkin bullshit to you is because of your legal and criminal investigations experience. You’re new and you’re a Marine that I think can rattle a few cages better than the other sergeants and maybe we play good cop bad cop to get to the bottom of this. What do you think?”
Allen fought back a smile. He loved a challenge, a mystery to solve, a code to crack, and he was immediately very curious to figure out this The Great Pumpkin thing.
He said, “Are you sure you want to dig into this Master Sergeant?”
“I’m sure and even more important, our General is sure. Every year these dumbass cadets pull this goddamn prank and cost the school more than $250,000 to clean it up. Every year the Marine MECEP platoon tries to stop The Great Pumpkin and every year we fail. Well, this is the year we stop it. It’s not going down while I’m here. So criminal investigator, Allen, by Monday I want your plan for how we are going to stop this.”
“Master Sergeant, I have major exams next week and the weeks after. I planned on using my free time to study.”
“You can fuck that studying bullshit Allen! Your number one priority is to stop The Great Pumpkin and you have until Halloween night to fucking figure this out! Have I made myself clear?”
Allen snapped back to attention and shouted, “Yes Master Sergeant!”
Staring at the Master Sergeant’s wife, inside his mind he thought, Goddamn these fucking dumbass college students. Great Fucking Pumpkin I have my own shit I need to do; tests, papers to write, cadet classes to teach. What if I wanted to just chill out and get good grades? I guess that’s a low fucking priority. Now I gotta give up the next two months of my life for this fucking childish bullshit. Son of a bitch!
Picking up the case file folder, Allen left the Master Sergeant’s office and passed the receptionist’s area on the way out.
“That didn’t seem so bad,” she said sarcastically. Allen ignored her, showing a deep scowl on his face and kept walking.
Chapter 2 – The Investigation
In the library for the next few days, Sergeant Allen searched databases, news articles, books, periodicals, and microfiche archives for any hint of The Great Pumpkin. He emerged from the library after finding nothing of the sort and thinking the whole matter was just possibly a hoax. He stopped and asked random cadets on campus, nothing.
“Not one shred of evidence of this Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin,” he reported back to Master Sergeant Thompson, “except for what’s in your folder already.”
“Not good enough,” Thompson said. “You need to find me something and find it quick. What would you do if these were Marines we were dealing with?”
Allen, standing at attention again in front of the Master Sergeant’s desk said, “Permission to be at ease?”
“Granted. At ease,” Thompson said. “In fact, sit down.”
Allen took a seat and took a deep breath, “If this was Marines either at a base or on a ship, I would do a search or as the lawyers or JAGs say, inspect the barracks, kind of like a shakedown at a prison or a brig.”
“Lawyers. I hate those fuckers. So, are there any legal considerations we need to make in all this?”
“There’s always search and seizure. If we search the cadet dorms and we find something illegal like guns, dope, or a dead body, we could be in trouble if we’re not careful. So, we have to call it a random health and welfare inspection and not a search. That way if we find anything very alarming, we can be honest and say we didn’t really start this inspection specifically just to find that alarming thing. Then if we find something alarming, the cadets will still be subject to school discipline without us worrying about illegal search and seizure.”
“I’ll have to check with the Adjutant for legal advice,” Thompson said.
“That should be okay so long as you don’t tell her what we are planning to search for or why. If you could, just tell her we want to do a health and welfare inspection for training purposes.”
“You think this will work?”
Allen replied, “Will it work to point us in the right direction for The Great Pumpkin? Yes, I think it can work, but you never know until you try. It worked at the 39th Marine Helicopter Squadron when we suspected a few Marines of smuggling drugs from the Philippines. It would need to be unannounced, complete wall to wall, floor to ceiling, top to bottom, inside out, even in the ceilings and the air-conditioning vent spaces, and it should be on a Monday, and it needs to be MECEP platoon Marines doing the inspection only.”
Thompson said, “Twenty-one Marines searching 25 cadet dormitories with more than 50 dorm rooms, each with three cadets per room?” That would take maybe an entire week. You do know there are more than 3,000 cadets here?”
“We can use random selection. Maybe we select four or five dormitories to search in full. We could select random full floors in different dorms. We could search random rooms in the dorms. Just mix it up to keep the cadets guessing and call it a health and welfare inspection. We do it by the book and we do it old school Marine Corps style.”
“What are you expecting to find?” Thompson asked.
“I don’t know Master Sergeant. Maybe we find something, a loose string, a Gollum, a clue like Scooby Doo, a stray photograph, or a suspicious item like a tool. Maybe we find nothing, but we gotta give it a shot, right?”
“Okay,” Thompson said. “I’ll run this by the flagpole and see what the Adjutant and the General say. Go ahead and brief the MECEP Platoon. So they know to be ready on Monday.”
“Master Sergeant Thompson, with all due respect, we shouldn’t give our Marines advance notice.”
“You think some of the Marines in our platoon are part of this?”
“I don’t think so, but I’ve only been in the platoon for three weeks. Still, they say ‘loose lips sink ships’ and the MECEP Platoon has tried every year to stop The Great Pumpkin and failed. I suggest we try some different tactics. We should make our dormitory selections this weekend and muster our platoon Monday morning like always for Monday morning physical training, 0500 in the morning. Instead of physical training, we go over to the dorms and conduct our health and welfare inspections. We’re going to need all officers and all senior enlisted on site to provide oversite to the Marines. We can call it a training operation focusing on leadership, management, and welfare.”
“I like your plan. If we find something we can then focus…”
“No…no focusing Master Sergeant. Just health and welfare. If the Marines find something, we just document it and then strategize later on what to do about it.
One by one, we have the cadets come up and unlock their rooms and their lockers and cabinets. The cadets leave the room and the Marines search. The Marines will write down what they find out of the ordinary and unless it’s something highly suspicious like a piece of criminal evidence, then we should close up the room and not let the cadets know what we found until the right time.
I have a feeling we will find something. When we do, we’ll know who to watch, but they won’t know we are watching them.”
“Four weeks until Halloween night, Allen. We have four weeks to crack into a secret society that’s been operating on this campus since who knows when.”
“To be honest Master Sergeant, we should lower our expectations. While I didn’t find anything in the university library about the Secret Society of The Great Pumpkin, I did find some things related to other secret societies here at A&M and at other universities. They don’t like it when people try to crack their systems.”
“We’re not people. We’re Marines. The fucking General said to crack the system and I intend to fucking crack the system.”
“I’ve only been here three weeks Master Sergeant and I’m already starting not to like college students and cadets.”
“That makes two of us college student Allen,” the Master Sergeant replied. “I’m sorry if this is getting in the way of any fun shit you wanted to do. But how about this… How about you don’t get to do any fun shit until I order you to do some fun shit? You got that?”
Allen stood up and snapped back to attention and shouted, “Yes Master Sergeant!”
Chapter 3 – Health and Welfare
“Are we ready to do this?” the Master Sergeant asked.
Sergeant Allen replied, “The platoon is formed and all the Marines understand the mission today. They all understand the General’s orders. We notified the cadets of our plan to inspect the dorms Friday night. They’ve had the whole weekend to get ready, so I guess if we find something there won’t be any excuses. I’m just not sure why the General crushed our plan to give the cadets no notice.”
“You can let the General and the Adjutant worry about that,” Thompson said.
Allen said, “We reduced the targeted number of dormitories from five to two. Twenty Marine inspectors and 20 random dorm rooms in two buildings and again I’m not sure why the General cut off our nuts like this.”
“You want to be a General, Allen? Okay first, you complete this assignment and graduate from fucking college and then maybe you’ll have a long shot at it. Until then, we follow our orders.”
Allen motioned to the 20 Marines standing in formation, dressed in their workout physical training gear (shorts, t-shirts, with running shoes).
“The Marines are ready, Master Sergeant,” Allen said.
“Alright, let’s kick this off,” Thompson said.
Each Marine of the platoon walked toward the selected dorms with clipboards in their hands. Most of them were very appreciative of the break in routine to inspect dorm rooms for the morning rather than the usual five-mile Monday morning 0500 platoon run. Plus, it was a wet rainy day and Master Sergeant Thompson liked getting his Marines muddy whenever he could. No real Marine sergeant ever minded getting muddy, but given the choice, most Marines, even the toughest and meanest preferred dry to wet, warm to cold, clean to muddy.
Marines began searching the dorm rooms while staff officers oversaw the health and welfare inspection.
“Where are you going, Allen?” Thompson asked.
“I’m taking a walk to look in the cadet parking lot. The General didn’t say we couldn’t look in the parking lot. Searching the parking lot is part of health and welfare.”
“I thought you wanted to search their rooms?”
“Master Sergeant, this is Texas A&M, not the Marine Corps. These are Aggie cadets, not junior Marines. These are cadet dormitories, not Marine barracks. We’re not going to find anything in those dorm rooms.”
Two hours later the Marines met back in their training room. Each of the twenty Marines reported finding nothing. Every cadet dorm room inspected was pristine, the beds made perfectly, nothing out of order, a picture of the President of the United States, the President of the University, the Governor of Texas, and the General of the Aggie Corps of Cadets squared and lined perfectly on the main wall of every dorm room.
Master Sergeant Thompson collected the inspection sheets and then dismissed the Marines to head to their classes. Allen stayed back. Once the Marines had left, Master Sergeant Thompson said, “Well, that was a huge waste of time.”
“Not really,” Allen said, handing the Master Sergeant a list of four license plates. “I’d like to know which cadets own these cars,” he said.
“Why, what did you find in the parking lot?” Thompson asked.
“I found some squirrelly shit, Master Sergeant. Give me a second.”
Allen left the room and went to his wall locker and returned with a very large pickle jar, only it wasn’t filled with pickles.
“What the fuck is that?” Thompson said.
“I don’t know Master Sergeant, but it looks like a jar of turds, possibly human. This was in the back seat of the first car listed there. The door wasn’t locked, so I helped myself.”
“And these other three cars?”
“Each one of those cars had similar jars of crap and strange shit in them either on the floor or in the seat.”
“You gotta be shitting me!”
“I shit you not, Master Sergeant.”
“So what’s your suggestion, charge these cadets?”
“No. We say nothing about this just yet. Not even to the General. Can I get the names and then follow these cadets for a while and see what else they’re up to? I’d also like to see their cadet files.”
“I’m starting to like how you think, Allen. I’ll get you the names and the files and you get one week. After one week, I want to know what you found. I want to hear that we can stop the Great Pumpkin. We got four weeks ‘til Halloween Allen. You got four weeks.”
“Okay, but I could use some help.”
“Who did you have in mind?”
“Sergeants Cano, Parker, and O’Neal.”
“Alright, make it happen and this all better stay clean Allen.”
“Understood, Master Sergeant.”
Chapter 4 – Snoopy Detail
“So what’s your plan, Allen?” Cano asked while polishing his boots.
“Tomorrow morning and for the next couple of mornings, I’m going to confront a couple of cadets in the chow hall during breakfast. After I confront them, you stay close and see what happens next,” Allen said checking his row of medals in the mirror.
“What are you expecting?”
“Well, if I rattle the cage just right, the cadets will probably let someone know about it. The cadet or cadets they run to become more names on our list, kind of like finding little spiders on a spider web. If we pluck the right web lines, we’ll hit pay dirt and find a big old ugly hairy spider.”
“You got a thing for spiders huh?” Cano asked.
“No. I hate ‘em, hate ‘em with a passion,” Allen said.
“Okay, so we rattle a few baby spiders, and then what?”
“We just keep pulling at loose strings and see what unravels.”
“What if nothing unravels?”
“How old are you Cano?”
“I’m twenty-seven. These are just kids. Not one of them is older than 19 or 20. They’re kids. We’re Marines. They’ll crack if we find the weak link.”
“You really think this Great Pumpkin bullshit is real, I mean what if it’s just a myth or a hoax? What if we’re on some kind of witch hunt?” Cano asked.
“It’s real. I’ve seen the pictures and the cleanup bills, not to mention the jars of crap I saw in those cars. Plus, it’s not a witch hunt if you find witches.”
“Don’t these dumbass kids have anything else better to do?”
“Well I sure as shit do,” Cano said.
“Me too.” Allen adjusted his tie in the mirror. “I can think of a hundred things I’d rather be doing in my free time than this.”
“And if we can’t stop it?” Cano asked.
“If we can’t stop The Great Pumpkin then some dorm is going to get shit-bombed on Halloween night. Best thing about that is at least it will be over.”
“By the way, thanks for bringing me in on this,” Cano said sarcastically.
“You got it bro. You can say I owe you one.”
“Good cause there’s a girl I met at church and I could use your help if you go out with her friend. Call it a double date? She’s actually very attractive.”
“Who, your target or her friend?”
“Both. You owe me, right? And who knows, maybe after this date you’ll owe me more. What do you have better to do? You don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Okay. Count me in. What’s the plan?” Allen asked.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I make one,” Cano said.
Sergeant Allen walked into the chow hall. “Good morning, Sir,” cadets said as they got out of Allen’s way. Cadets generally tried to avoid their Marine instructors unless they were in class with them. Allen noticed Cano on the other side of the chow hall talking to a small group of cadets. Allen waited.
He heard a commotion to his left.
“You fucking dumbass,” a senior cadet wearing senior boots said to a freshman cadet. “That’s not what I ordered you to fetch for me.” The senior slapped the tray of food out of the other’s hands and the tray landed on the floor. “Now you can get down there like a dog and eat it yourself,” the senior cadet said.
The freshman cadet got down on all fours and started eating the food off the floor. Allen walked over.
“What’s going on here?” Allen asked.
“Good morning, Sir,” the cadets there said as they popped to attention.
“Get off the floor cadet,” Allen said. “Why would treat this cadet like that? You think this is how we treat people in the military? This has got to be one of the most immature things I’ve ever seen. Is this the kind of childish crap that happens in the chow hall? Maybe I need to start coming down here more often.”
“Sorry Sir,” the senior cadet said.
“I guess I should make you get down there and eat the food off the floor, but I’m not going to do that, because that’s not how we treat our brothers and sisters in arms. That’s not how we treat people. Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir, I do.”
“Good. Ten demerits for this dumbassery. Five demerits for you senior cadet Tipton for acting like a jerk and five demerits for you freshman cadet Smith for following the orders of a jerk. You will clean up this mess yourself senior and if I hear about this happening again, you’ll be hearing from me again. Understood?”
“Good. Now get this cleaned up and think about what real respect looks like, both of you.”
Allen looked around the chow hall. It had gone quiet all of a sudden. He grabbed a glass and filled it with red juice. He walked calmly through the chow hall, nodded at Cano and then sat down at the table across from three cadets.
“Good morning, Sir,” they said.
“Cadets, I need to speak to Cadet Schroeder, alone.”
“Yes Sir,” the cadets said. They stood and left.
Allen sipped his juice and then slowly leaned in close and whispered, “Tell me Cadet Schroeder, tell me about the jar of shit you had in your car.”
Cadet Schroeder sat at attention and swallowed his last bite. He said nothing. Allen watched for several seconds as beads of sweat formed at his temples.
Allen whispered again, “You want to play fucking games with me Schroeder? Do I look like someone who wants to play fucking games? Tell me about the jars of shit you cadets are collecting.”
Schroeder jutted out his bottom lip into a classic Aggie cadet smirk and said nothing.
“You keep that tight lip,” Allen whispered. “If I find out you had something to do with this Great Pumpkin shit, I swear I’m going to ride your ass like the fucking Headless Horseman.”
Allen stood up and left the chow hall stomping his dress shoes on the floor tiles with extra heat, making a loud resonating sound as he crossed the floor. Every cadet in the chow hall noticed.
“What did we get?” Allen asked later, back in the Marine’s training room.
Cano reported, “Two cadets sat down in front of Schroeder seeming to ask what happened. After the two left, Schroeder left the chow hall and went to the cadet morning formation. After the formation, another cadet spent about five minutes talking alone to Schroeder. The two of them then walked across campus and ran into another cadet and talked for about ten minutes. Schroeder was late to his first class by 30 minutes.
“We need names.”
Cano pulled a small green notebook from his pocket. The two cadets were Adams and Phillips. The cadet at the formation was Fontenot. The cadet they spoke to after that was Cadet Franklin. Do any of these names ring a bell?” Cano asked.
“No, but good work. I’ll pull their files. You remember the food on the floor at the chow hall this morning?”
“Yeah. I like the way you handled it,” Cano said.
“It gave me an idea. I looked in Schroeder’s file and he’s been getting a lot of merits lately, more merits last month and this time last year than any other time. You mind looking at the rest of these files for a minute while I get these new files?”
“Sure, what am I looking for?” Cano asked.
“Jot down any September or October merits and demerits and the dates.”
Cano looked through a file and made notes in his green notebook. Allen returned from the admin office with the four new files and sat across from Cano.
“Every one of these files shows all the merits and demerits the cadets earned going back to their first day as a cadet. Schroeder’s a sophomore. Franklin’s a junior. See here in his file… Lots of merits in September and October going back two years.”
“What about this year?” Cano asked.
“He hasn’t earned any merits this time around, not this year, but oddly enough he’s issued a bunch.”
“Same trend here in Fontenot’s file. He’s a junior also,” Cano said. “Looks like the two juniors and the senior we’ve pulled give out merits to sophomores and freshmen like candy in September and October, but not in November.”
“And here is freshman Cadet Patterson’s file. No merits,” Allen said.
“Is that unusual?”
“I don’t know. Patterson had a jar in his car and I watched him take it back to the dorm.”
“Well in any case, it seems like you had a good idea,” Cano said. “So, now what do we do next?”
“I’ll keep looking through files. I’ll be at the chow hall tomorrow morning for round two.”
“I have an early class tomorrow. Can we make it lunch time?” Cano asked.
“Yeah. That works. Gracias hermano,” Allen said.
Chapter 5 – Report
“Allen, get in here,” Master Sergeant Thompson yelled from inside his office. The noise boomed out his office and down the hall to where Sergeant Allen sat near the receptionist’s kiosk.
“That doesn’t sound good,” the receptionist said without looking up from her word processor.
Allen stood and then marched down the hall to the Master Sergeant’s office.
Boom Boom Boom, Allen banged with the base of his closed fist on the doorframe.
“Enter,” Thompson yelled.
“Sergeant Allen reporting as ordered,” Allen said after centering himself in front of the Master Sergeant’s desk, snapping to attention.
“At ease,” Thompson said, looking up at Allen, unimpressed. “I need a goddamn report Allen.”
“I thought you wanted to be updated on Monday.”
“I want the report now.”
“Permission to sit down, Master Sergeant?”
“Denied. The report?”
“Yes Master Sergeant. Sergeant Cano and I have been working to get to the bottom of this Great Pumpkin thing and every time we confront a cadet they refuse to talk. We were thinking maybe you could talk to Cadet Schroeder who had the jar of shit in his car. We know he knows something. Maybe you could bring him in and question him.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why, why not?”
“Because Cadet Schroeder just withdrew from the Corps of Cadets and dropped out of the fucking university as of yesterday. That’s why not, Allen. Now what the fuck would explain that?”
“I don’t know Master Sergeant. All I did was ask him why I found a jar of shit in his car. I asked him what he knew about The Great Pumpkin. He didn’t say a word, not one fucking word. He just sat there looking like a smart-ass freshman drill team cadet.”
“And then what happened?”
Sergeant Cano followed him a little to see who he would go talk to next.”
“And then what happened?”
“That’s pretty much it. We haven’t had time to do anything else. We looked through some cadet files. That’s it.”
“So you talked to a cadet and less than 48 hours later he drops out?” Thompson asked.
“I asked a cadet about The Great Pumpkin and less than 48 hours later he dropped out. What does that tell you, Master Sergeant?”
“What the fuck does it tell you Allen?”
“It tells me we pulled on the right string,” Allen said.
“How does pulling this string stop The Great Pumpkin?”
“To be honest, it probably won’t. I was hoping we could get more info from Cadet Schroeder. Maybe we can talk to Cadet Franklin and the others.”
“What have you got on them?” Thompson asked.
“Based on the few files we pulled, it looks like there are a number of junior cadets who give out merits possibly related to The Great Pumpkin in September and October every year. Freshmen and sophomores get merits from the juniors. Cadets stop earning these merits when they become juniors and they stop giving out these merits when they become seniors.”
“And they’re earning merits for what?”
“I think they earn merits for any kind of funky shit they collect in the jars like the one I found and the other ones I saw in their cars.”
“Why would they keep jars of filthy shit in their cars?” Thompson asked.
“They don’t keep the jars in their cars. They keep them in their dorm rooms. When we announced the health and welfare room inspection, they moved the jars from their rooms to their cars. I stayed close by one the cars and saw freshman Cadet Patterson taking a jar back inside the dorm later that day after the inspection.”
“You’re saying Cadet Patterson has a jar of shit in his dorm room right now?”
“Definitely,” Allen said.
“Let’s go look and see.”
“I thought you said the General said we couldn’t, Master Sergeant.”
“He said you couldn’t. Spot-checking dorm rooms is part of my job.”
Allen saw the glint, that gleam in Thompson’s eyes again, just a touch of crazy.
“Well howdy fucking do,” Thompson said, holding up the edge of a blanket, looking under Cadet Patterson’s bed. “There’s your jar of shit Allen, just like you said.”
“Let’s not touch it. Can you see what’s in it?”
“Flashlight,” Thompson said using an attachment to his key chain. “Looks like some kind of dead animal. Maybe a roadkill skunk. Nasty fucking cadets,” he said shaking his head.
Allen looked around the room and opened a desk drawer. “Merits,” he said holding up several small white papers, “ten merits in one week.”
“That’s definitely an unusually high number of merits,” Thompson said. “That’s the going rate for a dead skunk? What next?”
“We leave everything just like it is. Nobody knows we were here. We check out the cadet that wrote these merits and see what other merits he’s giving out.”
“You check out the cadet,” Thompson said. “I want a full update on Monday.”
“I asked the platoon to meet today because I need to find out what you all know,” Allen said after sharing every shred of evidence he had collected, facts, opinions, and speculation.
“We probably don’t know as much as you think we do,” Sergeant Cameron said. “Four years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of weird cadet shit, but I’ve never seen anything as secretive as The Great Pumpkin. I don’t think any of us have.”
“I’ve run into nothing but dead ends for the last two weeks. It’s one week ‘til Halloween,” Allen said. “Does anybody have any ideas? Did anybody ever see anything weird? Most of y’all have been here two or more years, working with these cadets, training with these cadets, living with these cadets. Maybe something, anything.”
“So you’re saying it’s juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. We could just start shaking them down one by one,” Sergeant Phillips said.
“That won’t work,” Allen said. “The cadets don’t talk and if you press them hard enough, they drop out. The General won’t let us do that, and there are too many possible cadets.”
“Then we need a way to isolate and focus on just the ones that are the real leads,” Sergeant Simmons said.
“We need a trend analysis,” Sergeant Reed said. “I’m working on a data analytics team and we did a trend analysis to predict the likelihood of teenagers to start smoking.”
Sergeant Cano said, “We started a simple trend analysis looking at merits.”
Reed said, “Maybe we can dig a little deeper. We need the cadet files.”
“All of them?” Allen asked.
“No. Just a sample,” Reed said, “like all the A last names and all the S last names. A sample is all we need to build a database.”
“I can get the files,” Allen said.
“Let’s make it a party,” Summers said. “We can meet at my house Friday night and build a database.”
“Hey Allen, I think we may have something,” Reed said less than an hour after they had built their database. “Trends:” Reed continued, “There are definitely spikes in merits in September and October, but also in November.”
“Bonfire is in November,” Cameron said, sipping a beer.
“Right,” Reed continued, “but Bonfire merits are spread out all over every cadet dormitory on campus. Merit spikes in September and October are only in five cadet dormitories, Kilo Company. One of the two dormitories we searched was a Kilo Company dormitory. How did you know to search that dorm, Allen?”
“I didn’t pick the dorms for the search, the General picked them.”
“Well then you got lucky,” Reed said.
“What else you got?” Cano asked. “Anything else?”
“There’s a trend that tracks with rank,” Reed said. “The higher your cadet rank, the more merits you issue in September, October, and November.”
“So we could focus on Kilo Company leadership?” Cano asked.
“That doesn’t seem right,” Summers said. “The leaders in every company are the seniors and you already said seniors are not part of this. Is that right?”
“Yeah,” Reed said. “There’s no September October spikes for senior cadets.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Summers added. “It’s not the company leaders. It’s gotta be the players who are in line to be the next company leaders when they become seniors.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” Allen said.
Cano said, “So Kilo Company’s leadership are the cadets who issued the most merits when they were juniors?”
“Possibly,” Reed said. “But there’s also a trend showing they were also the ones who earned the most merits as freshmen and sophomores.”
“But wait,” Cameron said. “Wouldn’t that be true for all companies? The cadets with the most merits and the fewest demerits become the company leaders.”
“Let’s check,” Reed said. “Summers can you run these numbers?”
Summers ran the numbers.
After a few minutes and a few sips of beer, Summers said, “So no, it’s not true. There’s a very weak correlation between merits and demerits in all the cadet companies except one, Kilo Company.”
“No shit?” Cano asked.
“No shit,” Reed said. “Kilo Company leaders are the only ones correlated with merits and demerits as sophomores and freshmen. There’s an even higher correlation with the merits they issue as juniors.”
“So what does it all mean,” Cameron asked.
“It means we are looking for Kilo Company junior cadets who issued a lot of merits in September and October this year.”
“No,” Allen insisted. “To stop The Great Pumpkin, we’re looking for the cadets these juniors issue the most merits to.”
“You’re right,” Cameron said. “Allen, Cano, Reed, Summers, let’s meet at the admin office in the morning, early. We can pull files and figure out who these juniors are and who their favorite cadets are.”
Chapter 6 – The Pumpkin Patch
“Where are you and your nutjob cadet friends heading, junior Cadet Marshal?” Allen asked no one while driving his car on Highway 21 heading west, sure to keep Marshal’s gray F150 pickup truck in his view up ahead. “Where are WE going?”
Allen glanced down at his road map. He was thankful none of the cadets knew what his car looked like. He drove, listening to a book on tape, one of his favorites, . Two hours later the gray pickup he followed turned right into a large farmer’s market in Austin, Texas.
Allen parked his car. Dressed in regular every day street clothes and with a baseball cap low over his eyes, he watched the cadets also dressed in street clothes walk through the market. He kept his distance.
The three cadets made their way straight to a display area with a farmer, a woman selling pumpkins. A sign read, “Nora Jean’s Pumpkin Patch.” In the center of her area, she had made a display of a giant pumpkin. Several people lined up to take their picture next to the giant pumpkin.
That’s the biggest fucking pumpkin I’ve ever seen, Allen said to himself.
The cadets measured the giant pumpkin with a carpenter’s tape measure. They handed the woman a pile of cash. One of the cadets hugged her. After a few minutes, Marshal backed up his pickup truck to the pumpkin patch. The cadets then assembled some sort of wench and lifting arm to the back of the truck. They secured straps around the pumpkin and began lifting the giant pumpkin into the bed of the pickup truck. Once they had the giant thing loaded, they drove away, slowly.
“I guess they must really like pumpkins,” Allen said to the woman.
“I guess so,” she said. “Every year they buy my biggest pumpkin and they pay good for it too.
“Do you know what they do with it?”
“Hell if I know,” she replied.
“Do you know them?”
“I know they’re cadets from A&M. I grow giant pumpkins and they always buy my biggest one. They always show up throughout the year to help me out as volunteers on my farm.”
“That’s very nice of them,” Allen said.
“They are the sweetest young men,” she said. “Now can I help you find a pumpkin?”
“No. I wanted to get my picture with the giant pumpkin.”
“Well come back later, sugar. I’ll have another giant out here in a less than an hour.”
Allen smiled. “Alright. I’ll come back.” He then walked quickly to his car and drove away, headed back to College Station. Within a few minutes, he had caught up to the slow moving pickup hauling the giant pumpkin in the back.
Allen stayed back far enough behind the truck as it drove east now on Highway 21 headed back to College Station. Once in College Station the truck continued south on Highway 6 until it later arrived at a farming community in the vicinity of Navasota. The truck eventually turned down an unimproved road, and Allen had to pull off to the side of the highway. There was no way to turn down that same road behind the truck without the cadets knowing another vehicle followed them. Allen checked his map.
The roadmap showed nothing. Allen waited a moment and then continued driving south down Highway 6 until he saw a turnaround. He made a U-turn and then pulled off to the side of the highway and waited far enough away to be inconspicuous, but still close enough to see if the truck might come back out the same road.
He waited. An hour passed. He listened to the rest of during that first hour until his eyes got heavy. Then he turned off the radio and shuffled through the note cards he made in preparation for the major Psychology test scheduled for Monday. He looked at the clock. Two hours passed. The sun began to set over his left shoulder. He stared again at the last three cards in his deck.
: Changes that take place in the genetic and physical characteristics of a population or group of people.
: The effectiveness of behavior in aiding organisms to adjust to changing environmental conditions
: The sum of socially transmitted knowledge, customs, and behavior patterns common to a particular group of people
His eyes grew heavy again. Then in a flash, he saw a car turn down the same road the pickup truck turned down about two hours earlier. He watched the road as two more cars turned down the road. Now, he had a chance.
He started his car, sped up, and made the turn down the road. There was some chance anyone noticing would think his car was just another car in a string of cars.
The rough two-lane road meandered in the fading sunlight. Cars in front of him kicked up dirt, and rocks and left a trail of dust that was easy enough to follow. In the dim light, he saw bright red taillights as the cars applied their brakes, stopping at a T in the road. The three cars each turned left and continued down the next road.
Allen waited, at the T, hoping the cars ahead of him and to the left didn’t see his car behind them. After a full minute, he turned right, went down about a half a mile, did a K-turn, parked his car facing the T, and then turned off his car. Now in total darkness, he waited. He looked at the glowing dial of his watch.
“Shit,” he said. “I’m supposed to meet Cano for another double date. I can’t be late. I can’t miss it. Shit.”
He got out of his car and opened his trunk. There in the dark, he changed from street clothes into combat tactical clothing. He laced his boots tight, closed the trunk, locked the car, crossed over a barbed wire fence, and then took off running in the woods. He stayed close enough that he could see more cars going down the road on his left, but no one would see him in the dark. He counted 15 more cars passing to his left. After about a mile, the cars all turned right into the improved drive of a very large and impressive ranch house.
Allen checked his watch. He made his way around to the back of the ranch house. There he saw more than 50 cadets gathered around the giant pumpkin drinking what might have been some sort of alcoholic punch from a large intricate crystal bowl. They had those large pickle jars with them, filled with what Allen assumed was vile disgusting stuff. A cadet tossed dry wood onto a small bonfire. Several other cadets were off to the side, making, building something that looked like a wooden cart. Someone, Allen couldn’t make out, started saying something that sounded official. The cadets all stood and chanted. The leader then cut into the top of the large pumpkin with an Aggie ceremonial sword.
Allen moved a few feet closer to get a better view and pushed aside a low bush blocking his way. Then he saw four dogs with the cadets. Two of the dogs perked up their ears and turned in his direction. He froze in place. One of the dogs seemed to look directly at him, though the woods, through the trees, through the darkness.
He looked down at his watch and then he backed slowly away from the ranch house. The dogs found other things to pay attention to. Allen then turned and ran as fast as he could back to his car. Once there, he started up the car and drove back to College Station. He made it back just in time to get cleaned up for his date.
Chapter 7 – Closing In
Master Sergeant Thompson entered the training room, looked at the 21 Marines seated there, and said, “It’s five days before Halloween, Five days before The Great Pumpkin. What do we got?”
Allen spoke first, “We think Kilo Company is behind this, Kilo Company juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. We think they are building something deep in the woods at an exclusive ranch just north of Navasota.”
“Who in Kilo Company?” the Master Sergeant asked.
“We don’t know.”
“What were they building?”
“We don’t know.”
“What exactly do you know, do any of you know?” Thompson asked, frustrated.
Sergeant Summers said, “Working backwards, we know they perform some sort of ritual prank ever Halloween night at midnight.”
“It’s not a fucking prank,” Thompson said. “It’s a fucking attack. Every year at midnight on Halloween, these shit stains attack a building on this campus and leave it FUBAR, fucked up beyond all recognition. Didn’t we know that six weeks ago?”
The Master Sergeant continued, “Here I am in a room filled with 21 of the best sergeants the Marine Corps can produce, and so far we’re getting out-played by cadets. Either you assholes haven’t been taking this serious or I should have asked to be stationed to train Marine sergeants at The Citadel or the Naval Academy or Notre Dame or fucking Tulane!”
Cameron said, “Top, (Thompson decided that MECEP Marine seniors ready to graduate could call him Top) we know junior Cadet Marshal drove to Austin with two cadets on Saturday and brought back a giant pumpkin. Allen followed them.”
“And then what happened next?” Thompson asked.
Allen said, “They took the giant pumpkin to a ranch near Navasota and started cutting into it.”
“And then what?” Thompson asked. “Were there secret handshakes, or brandings, or tattoos, secret robes, masks, or secret coins? Were they hazing each other?”
“No, none of that. They were talking, drinking, chanting, and cutting into the giant pumpkin, and sitting around a bonfire. That’s it.”
“And then what happened?”
“Well, then I had to get back to College Station. So, I don’t know what happened next.”
“You had to get back? For what?”
“I went back out there first thing the next morning,” Allen said.
“And everything was gone.”
“Do you see my fucking point? Does every sergeant in this room see my fucking point?”
“We see your point, Master Sergeant,” Cano said.
“No you fucking don’t! What was the mission?”
Allen said, “The mission was to stop The Great Pumpkin.”
“Was the mission to follow a bunch of dumbass cadets across Texas? Was the mission to snoop on a bunch of dumbass cadets in the woods? Was the mission to catch a bunch of dumbass cadets with disgusting shit in their dorm rooms? Was it even the mission to get a bunch of dumbass cadets to drop out?”
“No, Top,” Summers said.
“Here we are five days before Halloween and I’m starting to think I should bet on these cadets. Now what are you going to do?”
“We should bring in Cadet Marshal and press him,” Allen said.
“Press him for what?” Thompson asked. “How would getting him to drop out stop The Great Pumpkin? The mission isn’t to get more cadets to drop out. You need something better.”
“We could put the whole cadet company on lock-down,” Summers said. “If they can’t get out, then they can’t do whatever it is they’re planning to do.
Thompson said, “Lock-down an entire cadet company on a Saturday, a Saturday night? That’s not a bad idea. I have to run it up the flag pole and get the General’s approval.”
“I’ll be surprised if the General approves it,” Allen said.
“Maybe we need a backup idea, a backup plan in case the General doesn’t approve,” Cameron said.
“We could do night patrols on campus,” Simmons said.
“We’ve done that for the last four years,” Cameron said. “All it ever got us was Sergeant Reed kidnapped.”
“You got kidnapped?” Master Sergeant Thompson asked.
“Yes, Master Sergeant, they caught me on the north side of campus and duct-taped me to a tree blind-folded with my pants down. That’s the side of the campus they hit last year, so we were close. I’m just telling you these cadets are serious about this.”
“And you don’t think I’m fucking serious?” Thompson asked. “Or maybe YOU’RE not all serious?”
“Top,” Sergeant Cameron said, “every year we run around at night on Halloween night chasing these cadets around this campus trying to stop The Great Pumpkin. Frankly, I would rather be at home trick or treating with my own kids. We didn’t start this tradition. It’s older than any of us. It’s 21 of us against 500 of them. Twenty-one Marine students against a whole buttload of cadets and their wild traditions.”
“Technically it’s not 500 cadets,” Allen said. “There can’t be more than 100 cadets involved in this. It’s not even every cadet in Kilo Company.”
“That’s still a lot of cadets.”
“Twenty-one sergeants of Marines are supposed to outnumber a thousand cadets,” Master Sergeant Thompson added.
“Can we get radios this year?” Reed asked. “I asked for radios last year and somebody shot that down.
“Anything else?” Thompson asked. “Radios, lock-down, and campus night patrols.”
“We have major tests this week,” Cano said.
Thompson pointed his finger at Cano. Cano held his hands up to say, “Never mind.”
“We meet back here at 1800 today and at 0500 tomorrow. We do meetings twice a day like this every day until after Halloween.”
Master Sergeant Thompson entered the Marine training room at 1800 that same day. All 21 of the Marines were there, seated, dressed like typical college students. Silent tension filled the air.
“Well Marines you got your wish,” Thompson said. “The General authorized us to lock-down Kilo Company all day and all night Saturday, the whole fucking company. You get your radios and you get your campus night patrols. The General said he’s counting on us to stop The Great Pumpkin this time and if we fail to stop it, we won’t be able to say we didn’t have HIS support.”
Chapter 8 – The Flight of The Great Pumpkin
Master Sergeant Thompson pressed the button on his radio. “Radio check, over” he said. One by one all twenty-one of his Marine sergeants checked in on their radios. Ten of the Marines were at the five Kilo Company dormitories, two Marines per dorm. The rest patrolled the campus. All Marines wore their Dress Blue uniforms. Dress Blues was Thompson’s idea, to send a message. The Marines all agreed.
“It’s 2200,” Thompson said into the radio. “Next radio check in 30 minutes, over, out.”
Allen met Cano near the basketball arena across the street from an empty Memorial Student Center. “This place is a ghost town,” he said.
“Yeah,” Cano said. “I talked to a few students this week and they said every year people leave the campus and go somewhere else for Halloween, all the teachers and all the students. No one wants to be here on the night of The Great Pumpkin. I’m just wondering, how bad can it be?”
“Based on the pictures, it just looks like a hazmat cleanup at worst,” Allen said.
“Well let’s stay sharp. Maybe this is the year we stop The Great Pumpkin.”
Allen looked at his color-coded map with bold lines drawn around various areas denoting the separate sectors each Marine covered. “This is a big fucking campus. Eleven Marines can’t possibly cover this. We needed some inside help. We needed to crack a few cadets.”
“I don’t see that ever happening,” Cano said looking down at his map. “These cadets know the game. It’s like they’re playing chess and we’re playing checkers. They’re better at playing chess than we are at playing checkers.”
Allen said, “Well if anything goes down in any sector, we can all run our asses off and get there in about 10 minutes, even in our Dress Blue uniforms.”
“I guess we ought to stretch and warm up a little,” Cano replied jokingly.
Someone came on the Marine’s radio frequency and with an unnatural voice said, “Each year on All Hallows’ Eve at midnight, The Great Pumpkin rises from the pumpkin patch and flies through the air gracing the campus of Texas A&M University with its haunted blessings, delivering tricks or treats to all little girls and boys.”
“Who’s this on our fucking radio?” Master Sergeant Thompson yelled into his radio. “This ain’t no time for games!”
“Oh it’s time for games,” the unnatural voice said.
“Top, I don’t think that was one of us,” Cameron said. “Our frequency is compromised.”
“Switch to the backup frequency,” Thompson said.
Sergeant Reed pressed the button on his radio, “Master Sergeant Thompson, we got a situation over here in cadet dormitory G3, over,”
“What kind of situation?” Thompson asked.
“The cadets have all come out of their rooms into the hallway.”
“Tell them to get back in their fucking rooms.”
Sergeant Cameron said, “Uh, we tried that, Top. They’re all dressed like zombies and they’re heading out the front door.”
“Son of a bitch. I’m on the way,” Thompson said.
“We got a similar situation going down over here at dorm A6,” Sergeant O’Neal said. “Except they’re all dressed in bed sheets like ghosts. They’re all just walking out the front door all together.”
“Same thing over here at K2,” Sergeant Phillips said over the radio. “They’re all wearing weird creepy clown masks. It’s like a prison break.”
“Copy that here at J4,” Sergeant Summers said over the radio. “They’re all dressed like scarecrows and they’re all walking right out the front door.”
“They’re all wearing orange and black face paint here at H9. They’ve all left the building. They ignored our orders,” Sergeant O’Neal said.
“Where are they going?” Master Sergeant Thompson yelled into his radio.
“They’re running away in all directions and lighting fireworks,” Reed replied.
“Copy that. Same here. Some of them have torches.”
“A bunch of them just ran past me,” Allen said.
Master Sergeant Thompson said, “Everybody pick a cadet and follow that fucking cadet. We may get lucky. Follow them to the moon and back if you have to!”
“We’re on it,” Sergeant Reed radioed back.
“On it,” Allen said.
“I’m on somebody’s tail dressed like a creepy clown carrying a torch. You sure this is a good idea?” Cano asked.
“Just do it,” Cameron replied.
“I’m on it. I’m following him into Kyle Field. He’s running through the bleachers,” Cano replied.
“I’m tracking two pumpkin heads running across the golf course,” Summers yelled.
“There’s a bunch of them here at the Sul Ross statue. They’re just kneeling and praying,” Sergeant Wilkie said.
Sergeant Serrano said, “I’m tracking a small group of zombies running across the Bonfire field, but I’m losing them.”
“I’m running after ghosts heading north now to Rudder Tower. They’re hanging a right and headed to the Psychology building,” someone yelled into their radio.
“I’m running behind a group of ghosts carrying torches and we’re circling the Administration Building,” Sergeant Sanderson said.
“I chased a whole bunch of zombies all the way out to Pig Farm Road.”
“Who the fuck’s all the way out to Pig Farm Road? Is that you Parker?”
“Yes, Master Sergeant. You said follow them to the moon.”
“Get the fuck back here now Parker?”
“Creepy clowns with machetes chasing me,” someone said.
“I’m staying with a group of scarecrows that’s circling back around to the Quad,” Sergeant Brown radioed.
“I’m running behind a small group of pumpkin heads and ghosts that just crossed the railroad tracks west,” Master Thompson yelled. “Cano and Carmichael break contact and meet me west of the tracks.”
“I’m on the tail of a whole platoon of ghosts running by the bell tower,” someone said.
Carmichael said, “I just lost some pumpkin heads near the Corps Museum. They threw some firecrackers and shot roman candles at me. I’m now heading west to the railroad tracks to meet up with you, Master Sergeant.”
Someone yelled, “I’m over near the H2O Fountain and it looks like these assholes dumbed some kind of dish soap or laundry soap and red die in the fountain. It’s full of bubbles and foam. Looks like bubbling blood.”
Allen radioed, “I was running after five or six zombies and I followed them north into the Dixie Chicken. They ran out the back and I lost them. I’m headed your way Master Sergeant.”
Allen looked down at his watch. Son of a bitch! It’s 2345, 15 minutes to midnight.
“We got 15 minutes,” he yelled into his radio as he ran out the front door of the Dixie Chicken. A chaotic swarm of swirling ghosts, zombies, scarecrows, creepy clowns, and pumpkin heads ran through the campus hooting and hollering, waving torches, and setting off fireworks. People in the Dixie Chicken stood outside to watch the shenanigans.
On the radio, Allen heard, “Something’s going down. Something’s going down in sector 7!”
It sounded like Sergeant Reed.
“It’s going down. It’s going down in sector 7! It’s going down. I need help!”
Allen hesitated and looked at his map. Shit. That’s the other side of the campus. “I’m heading to sector 7,” he radioed in. He turned and ran as fast as he could in his patent leather dress shoes and his Dress Blues, a red, white, and blue blur in the night. Four more Marines radioed they were headed to sector 7.
Allen ignored all other chatter and commotion on his radio. He heard the midnight gong of the university clock tower as if he was underwater in a dream. He saw several flashes of light and ran in that direction. He ran on another quarter mile before arriving where a bunch of costumed cadets had duct-taped Sergeant Reed to a tree with his pants down. Allen pulled the tape off Reed’s mouth and face.
“Those fuckers took pictures of me,” Reed yelled. “They fucking posed and took pictures of me.”
Summers pulled more tape off Reed and pointed at the dorm behind the tree. Allen walked slowly to the dorm. A foul stench, the intense smell of sewers, human waste, and rotting things crashed into his mouth, nose, and eyes. He fought back a reflexive gag.
Master Sergeant Thompson and six more Marines arrived from the west. Four more Marines arrived from the east.
“Son of a fucking bitch,” Master Sergeant Thompson said.
Summers radioed, “It’s sector 7, dormitory building 119. We were too late.”
“What now?” Allen asked. “We failed.”
Master Sergeant Thompson turned and faced his 21 Marines and said, “I’m going in.”
“It’s hazardous, Master Sergeant. Maybe we should wait for the cleanup team and maybe get some hazmat suits,” Cano said.
“You wait. I’m going in.”
Master Sergeant Thompson pulled the brim of his white dress hat down low over his eyes, squared his shoulders, and marched forward toward the dormitory. Allen waited a few seconds, tried to slow his breathing, and then followed his Master Sergeant. Everyone else waited.
The two Marines walked passed a wooden catapult on wooden wheels, some sort of pumpkin launcher. The thing was about as big as a golf cart, designed to propel a giant pumpkin with great velocity horizontally like a canon. This catapult was set in the front door of the building. Thompson and Allen rolled it back. Allen wanted to cover his nose, but since the Master Sergeant didn’t cover his nose, he wouldn’t either.
They entered the front door of the building and turned on the lights. They could see where the cadets had fired the giant pumpkin into the building. It flew down the hall of the building shattering into hundreds of pieces, exploding its vile contents all over the hallway. Dead things, human waste, and other disgusting things littered the hallway. Some things not quite dead slithered in the gore and some other things flopped about in the gore.
Thompson stood there up to his ankles in the gore, looked around with a hard mean look in his eyes, a proud war veteran in his Dress Blues. He said, “It smells like Satan’s ass crack in here, Sergeant Allen.”
Just a touch of crazy, Allen thought.
Monday morning, the Marines met at 0500 in their training room. Someone taped a bunch of polaroid pictures to the whiteboard. The pictures showed Reed taped to a tree with his pants down with an assortment of creepy clowns, pumpkin heads, scarecrows, ghosts, and ghouls posing next to him, pointing at his penis. Next to the polaroids, someone wrote on the whiteboard in large red letters:
[* Next year we suggest you go trick or treating instead of snooping around pumpkin patches. We have more pictures and video. ~The Red Baron *]
Prologue – Preview of Part II
Allen entered the General’s office, centered himself in front of the desk, clicked his heals and snapped to attention with great snap and pop and then spoke, loudly, “Sir, Sergeant Allen reporting as ordered.”
“Tone it down sergeant,” the General said. “This is my office, not the parade field.”
The General, a two-star Air Force general, picked up a report from his inbox and flipped through the pages. “Have a seat, Sergeant Allen,” he finally said. “Do you understand why you’re here?”
“No Sir, but… Maybe, yes Sir. Am I here because I ordered the inspection of three additional dormitories and the adjoining cadet cars which you did not authorize?”
The General stood up and walked to his window overlooking hordes of cadets training outside; some marching, some running, some doing pullups, some practicing hand-to-hand combat, some in the middle of inspections by senior cadets and military instructors.
He finally returned to his desk chair and sat down, staring at the Marine, seated, locked at the position of attention in front of his desk. He picked up the report again and flipped the pages. The General read from the report.
“Confiscated: Road Kill Skunk (4)
Road Kill Squirrels (4)
Road Kill Dogs (2)
Road Kill Unidentifiable (6)
Vomit (5 Jars)
Feces Human (8 Jars)
Feces Unknown (16 Jars)
Animal Parts Unidentifiable (14)
Human Hand (1)
Human Skull (1)
Animal Skull (6)
Animal Guts (4)
Human Guts (1)
Human Heart (2)
Human Brain (1)
Fetuses Unidentifiable (4 Jars)
Blood Unknown (8 Jars)
Live Bats (7)
Live Rats (9)
Live Snakes (2)
Live Toads and Frogs (15)
Semen Unidentifiable (2 Jars)
Dead Fish (25)
Dead Birds (8)
Dead Turtle (1)
Dead Lizards Unknown (4 Jars)
Pig hearts (6)
Goat Heads (4)
Chicken Feet (2 Jars)
Pigs Feet (2 Jars)
Pickled Eggs (2 Jars)
Pickles (2 Jars)
Rotten Assortment of Unidentifiable Vegetables, Herbs, and Plants (5 Jars).
And you also have here a list of 78 cadets, seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, accused of various acts of duplicity and conspiring to support The Great Pumpkin.
Well then, you’ve had a very productive and industrious day Sergeant Allen. All of course, against my explicit orders, but nonetheless, you have made some exceptional progress. There’s a problem, a nagging little conundrum.”
Allen tried to breathe and calm himself. The General swung his chair to the side and stared at the large computer screen off to the side of his desktop. Long minutes passed before Allen spoke up.
“Sir, you were saying?”
The General waived a finger to say “no no” and shook his head at the Sergeant and continued to read the information displayed on his computer screen. Sergeant Allen sat still and tried to anticipate what would come next.
Would the General expel him and send him back to the Marines as a failed student? Would the General court-martial him for violating his orders? Would the General send him to the brig or worse transfer him somewhere like Tulane? Would the General demote him? Would the General use him as the scapegoat for something he was up to? The limitless possibilities gnawed at his soul.
Finally, the General stopped looking at the large computer screen and turned back to face the sergeant.
“Okay, explain yourself Sergeant Allen,” he said.
“Sir, Master Sergeant Thompson assigned me a mission to stop The Great Pumpkin,” Allen began.
“Oh, so I should blame the Master Sergeant for this boondoggle?”
“I’m sorry, Sir. I don’t understand what the boondoggle is.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re just a Sergeant of Marines. Someone gives you an order, you execute that order. Your egregious commitment to this is impeccable.”
“Well, yes Sir.”
“However, in this case you were provided orders, instructions to focus on an approved dormitory to inspect. Instead, you inspected three ancillary dormitories and cadet vehicles, all unapproved, and you found all of these abhorrent disgusting effects. Why did you do that? Why did you refuse to comply with my direct orders?”
“Sir, with all due respect, I felt the order to only inspect a single announced dorm contradicted the first primary order to stop The Great Pumpkin. I decided that stopping The Great Pumpkin was the highest order. Ultimately, Sir, I accept your judgement and punishment and I won’t fight it.”
“That’s thought-provoking. What I sense Sergeant Allen is that you are exceedingly perturbed about not stopping The Great Pumpkin last year. I sense you feel irate even at the inkling that you almost stopped it.”
“I don’t know, Sir. I’m trying to remain professional and not take things personal.”
“That’s virtuous, but do you comprehend my dilemma? No, you don’t. You see Sergeant Allen, some of the most significant donors for this university are former cadets and parents of cadets. If I expel their sons or daughters for drug use or other criminal activity, these parents will assent to that because criminal acts go against the very fiber of this Corps of Cadets. If I, as a two-star General inform any one of these parents that their cadet failed enough classes to warrant suspension or expulsion, sure, it would be a tough pill to swallow, but they would accept it. We don’t expel cadets for participating in the most important hallowed traditions of this university. Your orders were to stop The Great Pumpkin. Have you stopped The Great Pumpkin as I ordered Sergeant Allen.
“No. All you’ve done Sergeant Allen is accosted a cadre of cadets, a gaggle of post adolescent kids for collecting revolting disgusting things in jars. None of this would ever result in any one of them being expelled or suspended. And foremost, none of this appears to be working to stop The Great Pumpkin. Now let me contemplate this for a moment,” the General said. He turned away to look back at his computer screen.
After a long while, the General asked his receptionist to bring him a cup of coffee. Stirring and sipping his coffee, he looked at Sergeant Allen and shook his head.
Allen waited, imagining how he would explain to his grandparents that he had been kicked out of Texas A&M for violating the orders of a two-star Air Force general. He twitched in his seat.
After inhaling half of his coffee, the General said, “You’re going to sit there for another 30 minutes. Everyone will assume I chewed you out really good. You’ll walk out of here with your tail between your legs and you’ll tell everyone that the General isn’t to be messed with; I’m not to be second-guessed. You’ll tell everyone how badly I chewed you out and that I threatened to send you to the brig. Can you follow these orders, Sergeant Allen?”
“Yes Sir, General Sir.”
“Sir,” Allen continued, “I just have one observation, Sir.”
“Sir, I’m aware that cleaning up after The Great Pumpkin, about $250,000 each year, doesn’t cost this university a single dime. Donations cover the costs of The Great Pumpkin clean-up, donations from a handful or very generous and wealthy supporters, sponsors, donors, Aggie Corps alumni, some of whom were cadets themselves.”
“Interesting. So, how exactly did you figure that out Sergeant Allen?”
“I just did, Sir, just now. The look in your eyes says I’m right.”
“Noble. Very well Sergeant. You are a very impressive Marine. Now for the next 27.5 minutes tell me about your life growing up. Tell me how you eventually ended up here at Texas A&M and don’t go long because I have a 0930 meeting with the university president. And pardon me if I interrupt you to ask clarifying questions, Sergeant Allen.”
This year, this month of October 2016, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the airing of Charles M. Schulz’s on TV in 1966. I’m a huge fan.
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About the Author
I’m a former Captain in the US Marines. In my 21-year military career, I developed expertise in both combat training and criminal investigations. I have served as a Senior Investigator, Legal Advisor, Recruiting Officer, Civil Rights Investigator, and Program Director. While in the Marines, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. Later I completed a Masters in I/O Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Originally from Houston, Texas and currently residing in Frisco, Texas, I fancy myself a secret physics, statistics, and data nerd. I’m also known today for being a part-time tennis strategy and coaching genius…by my kids…sometimes. If you ever want to talk about business strategies, criminal law, or zombies and conspiracy theories, drop me a line.
Thank you for reading my books. If you enjoyed this book, please leave positive reviews with your favorite eBook retailers.
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Previously Published Writing Projects
Hire the Right People and Win Big
Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic
Bear (a full length horror/thriller novel)
Zombie Outbreak Survival Guide
Zombie Outbreak Survival: The Definitive Test
I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat
Jasper and Van
The Old Man in the Hospital
A Civil Rights Case Study
Van’s First Bike
Zombie Outbreak Survival: Fitness Training
Bugs – Alien Invasion (full length novel due in 2017)
The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin
at Texas A&M University
Copyright 2016 Van Allen
Disclaimer: My story is laced with gobs of profanity. My heavy use of swear words is very likely to be offensive to meemaws, church ladies, and a bunch of men too. While it’s true that US Marines commonly spoke with profanities 20 years ago, I have a sense they use profanity less so today. The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin is a real and secret society of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. You will never find one former cadet or student or faculty who will admit they’ve ever heard of it or they know anything about it. To talk about it is to bring forth the curse of The Great Pumpkin and find yourself haunted and ostracized by Aggies for the rest of your life. No Aggie would want that. This book is my account of my investigation into The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin, a frightening annual Corps of Cadets Halloween tradition at Texas A&M University.