Bernie’s Bakery had been a part of Amity Park for over 80 years. The original Bernie was long gone, as was his son. His grandson lived out in California and left day-to-day operation of the bakery to the Head Baker, a wiry, small black man named Alfonso. Alfonso’s white hair and wrinkled countenance suggested he may have been there since the beginning.
Danny Fenton pushed through the heavy oak door and headed over to the display of Halloween doughnuts. It was the night before Halloween and Danny was making a snack run. The store hadn’t changed much in 80 years. Blond wood paneling waist high with plaster leading up to the twelve foot ceiling. That in turn was ornamented with plaster floral wreaths. Fluorescent lights had been added in the 40s. Twinkling Christmas tree lights circled the large plate glass front window but the sconces for the original gas lights were still mounted on the walls. Pumpkins, witches and scared cats hung from them currently.
“I’d like a dozen doughnuts,” Danny told the clerk behind the counter. “Ah ... three of the cream-filled ghosts, three of the jelly-filled pumpkins, ah...” he searched among the selection, then noticed that the clerk hadn’t begun to fill his order. He looked up and found something familiar about the white-faced zombie clerk. “Val?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Don’t tell anyone about this, OK?”
“That you’re working in a bakery?”
“No, that’s I’m wearing white-face. A Black wearing white face! The irony is killing me.”
Danny's first thought was 'you're a zombie! Zombie was supposed to be pasty-face,' but didn’t think it mattered to anyone but her. “Yeah, but you’re a zombie so I think it’s OK. Nice costume, did you make it?”
“Me? Sew? Don’t be ridiculous!” Val had been part of the inner circle of rich girls at their high school, till her father lost all their money. Suddenly she was an outcast from her former friends. But some habits die hard: making clothes was for losers and poor people.
“I thought you were working at the drugstore down the street?" Danny asked.
“They’ve already put up their Christmas decorations. If I hear one more 'ho-ho-ho' I was going to explode. So when I heard they had an opening here at the bakery I leaped for it.”
“Well, I’m glad the stores’s open,” he said, “ but isn’t midnight on the day before Halloween kind of ... ah ... risky?”
“Nah,” Val answered as she folded together a doughnut box and started filling Danny’s order. "I’ve got a silent alarm button, there’s surveillance camera all over the place and, like the sign says, “Cashier has only $40. And if someone does want to rob the place my orders are to let them. There’s nothing in here worth getting killed over. And with Halloween tomorrow, if we don’t sell these doughnuts and cupcakes we’ll have to pitch ‘em.” She waved her hand at the two cases filled with Halloween decorated sweets.
“What about ghosts? Jack O’ Lantern ... the Headless Horseman ... ?” Having fought them in the past Danny knew that they were real. “It’s true what they say about ghost coming out on Halloween. Dad proved that there’s some kind of cosmic alignment that thins the walls between earth and the ghost zone making it easier for ghosts to invade our world.”
“Ghosts! You and your father going on about ghost all the time. If some ghost tries to hassle me, I’d just kick them into the next county!” Yes she would, Danny reflected, having been kicked around a few times by Valerie. Just as he had two lives, so did Val. By day she was a hard working teen but at night she donned some expensive ghost-fighting gear and went out looking for ghosts ... Danny Phantom in particular. But as Danny Fenton he wasn’t supposed to know any of that. It made life difficult remembering what he was and wasn’t supposed to know.
As she closed and taped the box shut, Val asked, “So what brings you out in the middle of the night to the only doughnut shop open in town?”
“Sam called out of the blue suggesting we have have a Halloween party. Seems her parents are having a Halloween party for adults only...”
“You mean the kind with the keys tossed in a fishbowl?” Val asked.
Danny looked at her disgustedly. “N-o-o. It’s just a bunch of old people talking about trust funds, how terrible the government is, and how horrible kids are today. Sam had to get out of the house. So I’m off to bring refreshments for her party... which we’re having at my place.”
“Sounds like Manson.” Val and Sam did not get along, perhaps due to the fact that while Sam denied that Danny was anything more than "a friend" she became highly jealous when Danny and Val has gone dating for a time. Sam, with some reason, argued that one shouldn’t date a girl who’s trying to kill you. But as long as Val didn’t know that Danny Fenton was also Danny Phantom, Danny figured he was alright.
Why Valerie Grey hated Danny Phantom had to do with how her father had lost his money. He owned a high-price security firm. He had been hired to ghost-proof a laboratory only to have it wrecked by ghosts. The resulting lawsuit had taken every thing he had. They had been forced to sell their mansion and moved into an upstairs flat in the poorest part of town. Her father unable to anything but the meagerest positions, Val had taken on two and sometimes three part-time jobs after school to help make ends met. And it was all because of Danny Phantom. What she didn’t realize was that Danny had been trying to stop a gigantic ghost dog from tearing up the place. By the time Danny had figured out how to control, the ghost dog, Cujo, the place was a shambles. The owners blamed Valerie’s father; Valerie blamed Danny Phantom.
“How long are you staying open tonight?” Danny asked as he handed over the money.
“Just till midnight. That’s six hours for me ... all the state allows for minors ... and they couldn’t find anyone to come in to relieve me so they have to close up. Alfonzo will open up the front when he comes in at four to start the day’s baking.”
There was a large antique pendulum clock on the shelf behind Valerie. It’s face was an ad for a drink called “Moxie.” It started gonging. Danny glanced at it. “Looks like it’s midnight already. Want me to wait and walk you home?”
Val reached under the counter and flipped some switches. Most of the lights went off, including the neon “open” sign in the window. “Nah, It’s OK. I’ve got some stuff I want to do tonight. Have fun at your party.” Val was leading him to the door. She laughed as she pulled the door open. “I’m in costume, the one time I’m ready for a party, but I just can’t wait to get this make-up off.”
Danny suspected the ‘stuff’ she had planned was flying around in her high-tech ghost-fighting gear looking for him. He was tempted to tell her that Danny Phantom would not be flying tonight.
“Hey! For old time’s sake...” She leaned in and kissed him. On the lips. And held it for a moment. “I miss the fun we had together.”
“Even thought it was all caused by Technus?” Danny reminded her.
“I don’t think it was all Technus.”
The clock tolled the last note. As the sound died away Danny started to say “Happy Halloween” when the front of the bakery crashed in on them.
There was a splintering of wood, the thud of falling bricks and crash of the huge plate glass window shattering. Dust filled the interior of the shop, getting into Danny’s eyes and mouth. His first instinct was to go ghost and slide through the wreckage but Valerie was here. If she saw him change... He just couldn’t let that happen. So he pushed against the wood and bricks that lay on top him. He got his head clear and called, “Valerie?”
There was a muffled “Yeah!”
Danny slithered out from under the rubble, found Val, and pulled her free.
“What the hell happened?” she screamed, anger more than fear clouding her face.
“Shhh!” Danny pointed.
It was a thing. Clearly not human. It stood around ten feet tall. Long body, short legs, and arms that touched the floor even when it was standing up. It’s head brushed one of the fluorescent lights and with a snarl it rips it out of the ceiling. Danny couldn’t take his eyes off it’s head. It looked like some kind of pumpkin with flames of yellow fire popping out of its eyes, nose and mouth. It’s nose was just a slit but it’s mouth had fangs coming down from the top and rising up from the bottom. Pincers grew on either side of the mouth. Large. Hard. Opening and closing with harsh clicks. Ear like a giant bats sprouted from its sides and the top of its head was open, like a carved pumpkin, with flames leaping a foot or two out of the hole. It walked on its knuckles, swinging its tiny legs forward from time to time. It was climbing through the gaping hole that had been the front of the bakery, sniffing the air with some relish. It paused in front of a table of decorated cakes, sniffed loudly. It picked up a rubble covered cake. It had been chocolate frosted with marzipan tombstones. The creature brought it to its face. A tongue of flame shot out of its mouth, licking the side of the cake. It paused, then shoved the whole cake into its mouth.
“What is that thing?” Val whispered
"I have no idea."
They watched as it picked up another cake, sniffed it, then swallowed it whole. A loud rasping sound filled the shambles of the bakery. Danny vaguely recognized it was purring.
“We’ve got to get out of here while it is still distracted." He grabbed Val’s hand and started pulling her towards front of the shop. Val pulled back. “My stuff is back there!” she whispered insistently.
“You’ll never get past it, Val. We’ve got to go this way!” He pulled harder.
“My stuff!” She insisted. Then they both froze as the creature stopped eating and tried to listen for voices.
After a heart pounding moment the monster turned back to the table of cakes. It picked up one with orange frosting and licorice flavored bats and nibbled on it. Then took the whole table, cakes and all and shoved it down it’s throat. It’s mouth expanded to take in the table. It swung around and faced the doughnut counter, sniffed again and tore the counter loose from the floor and shoved it into its mouth, glass, metal, doughnuts and all.
Danny had finally dragged Val to the front door, they were standing on it actually. Danny looked back at the frightening beast. “I think we know what the bogeymen looks like, maybe.”
“It appears to have quite a sweet tooth, doesn’t it.”
Danny pulled Val through the ruins of the front door and they started running down the street.
"There goes another job," Val complained when they got to the corner. "But if it's the Bogeyman, why did it show up before Halloween?"
"It didn't. Halloween started five minutes ago. We're used to thinking of hauntings starting at the end of the day but the thinning of the walls between dimensions starts the instant it turns October 31st."
"Yeah ... um ... Danny. My ... ah ... bike is chained behind the bakery I've got to go get it..."
Valerie was obviously trying to ditch him so she could run back to the shop and recover her ghost-fighting gear. Danny ought to dissuade her because of the risk of being caught by the bogeyman but as he was trying to ditch her too, he just murmured a “be careful. I’ll head downtown looking for a phone to call the police.” Val was too busy thinking about her gear to wonder why Danny didn’t have his cell phone with him. He watched her run down the cross street to the alley running behind the bakery. As soon as she disappeared Danny went ghost and soared back to the bakery. He figured he’d have no more than a minute to dispose of the ghost monster before Val interfered.
Swooping in through the hole it had torn into the building, Danny socked it hard on the shoulder and turned to make his exit, which turned into a desperate flight from an ever-expanding arm. But the arm stopped stretching after a moment and shrank back to its normal size. The monster went back to what it had been doing. Having consumed all the cakes, doughnuts and pastries it was sniffing at appeared to be a plaster replicate of a wedding cake. It sniffed at it dubiously, took a bite out of it and spat the crumbling plaster out, tossing the rest of the display piece away. It picked up another plaster cake....
Danny swooped in another and knocked the plaster display piece into the creatures face and darted out at top speed. The bogeyman turned and lumbered after him. Danny had wanted him out of the building before they fought in an attempt to contain the damage. The monster had just stepped out of the building when Danny was unexpected struck by an electro-sonic bolt. Pain sizzled through his body and he fell out of the air, landing hard on the pavement across from the store. Squinting his blurry eyes, Danny could see Val mounted on her flying jetboard soaring past him then turning towards the bogeyman.
“Damn it, Val,” Danny muttered. “Stop interfering.” He was forcing numb limbs into standing up when the creature flung an arm up and swatted Val from the air. She didn’t know about the arms ability to stretch and was caught unawares when it doubled in length. She smashed up against a billboard above the store across the street. Her jet board went spiraling off into the dark while Val fell limply towards the ground.
Danny forced himself into the air and rocketed towards her, catching the costumed ghost fighter just inches above the pavement. He willed her to go intangible and was able to cancel enough of her momentum that she hit with only a hard thump.
“Get your hands off me to damn dirty ghost,” she screamed struggling to get away from Danny while simultaneously pointing her blaster at him.
“I’m not the enemy,” Danny said, exasperatedly. “That monster is. I’m trying to drive it back to the Ghost Zone. Just get out of the way and let me do my job.”
“Your job? Hah! You’re in cahoots with that thing. You’re trying to make me loose my job just like you made my dad loose his!”
“I was trying to stop a ghost from tearing up that place, not wreck it.”
“It was still wrecked!”
“But I wasn’t the one who wrecked it!”
“You’re a ghost and you were there, that all I need to know!”
Danny grabbed her blaster before she could fire and aimed it away from him. “Val, just listen to me... Hey! Where’d the bogeyman go?”
They both turned to look at the shattered bakery. The gangling creature was no where to be seen.
“Oh, great,” Danny snapped. “Your interference allowed the ghost to escape!”
“We’ve got to find it before it destroys anything else. Where would it have gone?” Danny was vaguely aware of Val trying to jerk her blaster free from his grip. “You said it had a sweet tooth. Maybe it’s looking for another bakery...” He turned to the girl and shot, “Where’s the nearly 24-hour bakery?”
“What?” Val had been too busy trying to get her gun free to listen.
“Another bakery. Where is it?” Danny repeated.
All Val could say was “Let go of my gun.”
“We’re going to need help.” He let go of the gun and Val stumbled back against the building in surprise. Danny put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle.
Val, by this time, was a little confused. She holstered her gun then pressed a button on her wrist control panel, summoning her jet board. It’s autopilot brought it to her a moment later. By which time a digging sounding could be heard, though where it was coming from couldn’t be located. Val was still looking for the source of the scratching when it was replacing by happy yipping as a small glowing ghost-dog came running up to Danny and leaped into his arms. Danny was rubbing its ears while it joyfully, slobberingly, licked his face. “Cujo!,” Danny cried, “Good boy! Good Boy. Who's a good boy?"
“I knew it!” Val exploded behind it. “You were in cahoots with that dog! He’s your pet!”
Danny turned to see Val leveling her blaster at the little puppy.
“Val ... put ... the gun ... away!” He warned her as the puppy began to growl. It wiggled out of Danny’s arms and leaped to the ground, growing in size to meet the pavement. In seconds it was a six foot tall, adult looking English bulldog. It’s growl turned into a snarl, exposing teeth longer than Val entire head.
“Cujo! Sit! Stay!” Danny shouted. The dog looked at him, back to Val, growled, looked back to Danny, then dropped to its haunches. It continued to glare at Val. Her eyes, bulging whitely could easily be seen through the mask of her battlesuit. When Danny asked her again to put her gun away, she did.
“Cujo was one of the guard dogs at the laboratory your father was securing. He was just looking for the squeak-toy he had as a puppy. Once I found that and worked on some obedience training, he’s coming a little sweetie. But you don't want to make him anger.”
“Little...?” Val wondered.
“Relatively speaking. I think Cujo can find our missing monster. Cujo, come!” Danny lead the monstrous dog into the shambles of the bakery and held up a fragment of the plaster cake the bogeyman had rejected. “Smell!” Danny commanded. “Find!”
The immense ghost sniffed the chunk of plaster, then began sniffing around the floor. He trotted out of the bakery and started down the street. “Come on!” Danny called to Val as he floated along beside his hulking little puppy. He immediately regretted speaking to Valerie. Just because he thought of her as a friend didn’t mean that she thought of him as a friend. Who knew whether she was more interested in taking down the bogeymen or ... himself.
Cujo lead them down a couple blocks, zigzaging from street to street before stopping in front of some warehouses. A hole in the wall of one pointed out the location of the bogeyman.
Danny slowed to a hover and turned to face Val. She had her gun out but quickly lowered it as he turned. “What we’ve got to do is soften him enough so that I can suck him into this.” He held up a small short cylinder with several buttons and knobs.
“What’s that?” Val asked, never having seen one before.
“It’s a ...” Danny stopped before saying ‘Fenton Thermos.’ He didn’t want her to wonder why he, a ghost, would be wandering around with tech from the city’s foremost ghost fighting industry. “...containment vessel.”
“Why does it look like a thermos bottle?”
Ignoring the question Danny called, “Come on, let’s go.” And angled down towards the hole in the building. Getting closer he could make the faded paint that announced the “Great Lakes Candy and Nuts Emporium.”
Flashing into the building Danny saw the beast was holding a barrel of taffy in one paw and tossing them one by one into his flaming mouth. Danny exploded the barrel as a way to get the bogeyman’s attention, made faces at the monster and in general tried to lure him out of the building.
The creature lunged for him as Danny danced out through the hole, then hastily dodged a blast from Val. “Sorry!” she called but Danny thought she sounded insincere.
He fired a bolt of ectoplasm at the creature. It mostly bounced off it’s scaly hide, but there was enough bite left in the blast to make the creature howl. Flames erupted from the hole in the top of its head, climbing twenty feet in the air. Danny could feel the heat coming off him and backed off a bit.
He threw another glob of ectoplasm at the monster and while it caused it great pain didn’t seem to be actually weakening it any. He considered using his Ghostly Wail on the being. That would surely knock out the bogeyman but it would probably destroy all the nearby buildings. And there was the fact that the Wail was so draining that he tended to collapse back to his human self afterwards. Can’t have Valerie seeing Danny Phantom change into Danny Fenton. So that was out.
The red costumed girl ghost fighter was having a little more effect with her electro-sonic blaster. At least the monster tended to retreat from its fire, which it hadn’t with Danny’s ectoplasm.
“Aim for its eyes,” Danny shouted and directed his blasts there. Val followed suit a moment later. The ghost withered under the combined fire.
Just as Danny thought maybe the bogeyman had been weakened enough to suck into the Fenton Thermos, it turned on him and lashed out with a tongue of fire from its gaping mouth. The explosion of fire was so awesome that Danny froze for a second watching it expand, then realized, too late, that it was aimed at him. It encircled him, yanking him out of the sky then dashed him to the ground. The impact left cracks in the pavement, sparks dancing in Danny’s eyes and pain shooting up throughout his body. He felt himself beginning to flick down to his Fenton self and fought to stay a ghost. He collapsed with a sigh.
Valerie watched her enemy being thrown to the ground with a mingled feeling of horror and elation. Then she was conscious that the monster’s full attention was turned towards her. She fired her blaster until the blaster glowed red from the heat. She put the gun away and threw a couple ectoplasm bombs at the thing before backing away.
Valerie was desperately thinking of what else she could bring to bear on the Bogeyman when the monster suddenly tipped over. There was a whitish blur tearing at the body. The loud, deep howl identified the blur as Cujo. The ghost dog had launched itself the moment the bogeyman had smashed Danny to the ground. It had grabbed one of the beasts great arms and was shaking it like a rag. The bogeyman willed the arm to be as flexible and stretchy as possible but the dog’s motions were too great to completely overcome. It tried to beat off the enraged dog with its other arm but Cujo had set its teeth and was not about to be dislodged.
The bogeyman threw out a tongue of fire, singing the great dog’s coat but that only made it more angry. Cujo dropped the insensate arm and leaped for the monster’s throat. The bogeyman roared and whistled like a steam kettle, its flames enveloping the ghost but bulldogs are single-minded.
Finally, in desperation, the monster grabbed the enormous dog and tore it from its neck. Great gouts of ectoplasm erupted as it dragged Cujo’s teeth away from, but mostly through its body. Flinging the dog away, it began running down the road as fast as its tiny legs could carry it.
Watching the Bogeyman run away, Valerie remembered the “containment device” the ghost boy had displayed. She jetted down to where Danny lay and rummaged about his body till she found it. The ghost boy’s enormous pet stood by and watched her without growling. Perhaps he had accepted her as a friend, perhaps he - it - thought she was trying to help his injured master. Val found the containment cylinder. She turned it over and over in her hands. There were half a dozen unmarked buttons on the cylinder. She had no idea which button did what. She was about to experiment by pressing one button at time to see what happened when Danny stirred and pulled the device out of her hand.
“Sorry, can’t have you suck Cujo and me inside,” he explained, painfully climbing to his feet.
“I wasn’t,” Val protested and realized with a start that she meant it. She had been trying to capture the bogeyman. The thought of sucking Danny Phantom in with it hadn’t occurred to her. “You’re getting sloppy” she snarled at herself. She could have polished off so much unfinished business if she had only been thinking.
Danny staggered over to the giant dog and crawled up onto its back. “Let’s go find that thing,” he husked and the demon dog off in a gallop. Valerie stood deep in thought for a moment, then hopped onto her jetboard, clamped her feet in the holders and took off after Danny and Cujo. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do when she caught up with them, but felt she ought to be in at the finish.
The trail only lead a few blocks away. Danny, still riding on top the mammoth dog, had opened one end of the cylinder and was pointing it at the weakened bogeyman. Eldritch energies seeped from the containment device and had ensnarled the monster. The energies were slowly dragging the creature towards the canister. For the moment the bogeyman resisted the forces by clinging to a light pole. It even seemed to be pulling away from Danny and the dog. Valerie looked from Danny to the bogeyman and felt a loss of which to shoot. Eventually she decided that the bogeyman was the greater threat. Animal-like it destroyed whatever was in front of it. Danny Phantom was a bit tidier.
She aimed her blaster at the arm the creatures had wrapped around the light pole. The bolt struck accurately. With a shriek the monster let got of the pole only to grab at a fire hydrant with it’s other arm. Val lined up and took another shot. The monster convulsed,, let go and began to slide right into the small cylinder, compressing as it entered the mouth. The instant it was gone Danny snapped the lid shut and flopped down on Cujo’s back, clearly exhausted.
Val aimed her gun at Danny Phantom. Now would be the perfect time to eliminate her hated foe, when he was too weak to resist. Then she thought of the giant dog he was laying on. If it was a ghost then it could fly. That it hadn’t so far only pointed to the force of habit making it act with a live dog’s limitations. Danny had warned her not to make him angry. Disrupting Danny Phantom’s existence would certainly count as ‘making him angry.’ She didn’t want to spend the rest of the night being chased through the skies by a monster that could treat the bogeyman like a rag doll.
She put the gun away before floating down near Danny. “What are you going to do with it now?” she asked. “Save it for the day when you want to destroy Amity Park?” Even though he had saved her life and taken on one of his fellow monsters she couldn’t resist taunting him.
Danny stirred, faced her and said, “Hey...”
After a long breath he added, “Where do you get these weird ideas? Amity Park is my home. I don’t want to destroy. This...” he hefted the Fenton Thermos, “I’m taking back to the Ghost Zone and release far away from any portals leading to this world. Armies of monsters ... sometimes Val I think you’re a little bit off your nut.”
“I’m not nuts,” Val hissed, “You are!” She stomped on the accelerator on her jetboard and zoomed away into the night.
It was an hour later before Danny Phantom dropped back into his bedroom. Sam and Tucker were there waiting for him. Danny flopped onto his bed with a mumbled “busy night.”
“Hey man,” Tucked asked. “Where are the doughnuts?”