The ashes fell to the floor and fizzled out on the tiled surface.
“Did you do this,” Shelly asked, but realized Allen couldn’t have, not unless he was lying about his abilities to materialize and make things move.
“Allen, are you still here? Please tell me?” Shelly wondered if Allen was still lurking somewhere in the room. One thing for sure she wasn’t going to get undressed in front of this annoying intruder. Who knew how male ghosts got their jollies at seeing young women naked? “Oh, this is bad.” She sat on her bed and leaned against the wall, going over all the strange things that had happened to her. “It all started with that mugger,” she said, recalling the blood-soaked corpse, the knife protruding from his chest…Allen sawing through his chest. She shivered at the memory of the knife moving up and down, up and then down into flesh and bone. “Damn him anyway,” she cursed.
Unable to relax, Shelly walked over to her laptop and sat down on the college-issued plastic chair. Thank goodness I brought a cushion with me, she thought as she settled onto the chair and lifted the cover of her laptop. Her fingers dangled over the keyboard. She began to type. The search engine listed several sites that looked promising. She highlighted one and the local crime reports appeared on the screen.
She began to scroll down the reports, eager to make sure she hadn’t dreamed-up the entire episode in the park. “Damn!” There in bold print was the headline “Brutal Rapist Found Stabbed in Park by Cute Coeds.” Typical sloppy journalism, she thought. Was he found by coeds or stabbed by them? And of course there was a picture of the two ‘cute’ coeds, dressed in tight jeans and shirts tied just below the breasts, revealing flat midriffs, staring with wide-eyed horror at the corpse still on the ground. Did these two really find him or were they planted by the sensation-seeking reporter? Shelly felt lucky her picture wasn’t included.
The article was short on details, and what details were provided were definitely more graphic than factual. The reporter was clearly playing it for sensationalism. She tried to pull the facts from the descriptions written to titillate and give the readers a vicarious thrill. “The man’s head had smashed like a pumpkin against a rock, blood coloring the asphalt…the girl’s had screamed in terror at their first sighting of the bloodied corpse.” Well, what else would they do? She glanced at the alleged coeds again and sighed. “Fifteen seconds of fame…tight blouses and all.”
What was more interesting to Shelly was the statement that the police were stymied by the ability of the man to stab himself in his heart in what appeared to be a self-directed rampage since no other fingerprints were found other than the deceased. The pathologists theorized the victim fell or was pushed down and somehow impaled himself on his own knife and then turned over onto his back and proceeded to finish the job. How he could repeatedly stab himself was anybody’s guess.
Shelly read the article again, especially noting, “There were no other fingerprints on the knife and too many footprints from joggers to determine if anyone else was there when it happened.” No fingerprints…Allen.
Shelly sighed. At least they would not be able to use footprints to find her. That was the first good news since this whole mess started. She continued the article. “Without any apparent witnesses, the police are at a loss for an explanation.” So am I, she thought bitterly, so damn it am I.
Shelly leaned back, trying to think. She wasn’t a suspect, not even a witness. I’m home free, she thought, but almost instantly realized she really wasn’t free. The article, as lurid and sensational as it was, had proven that the events in the park were real…the mugger was real. The dead body was real. “Damn! That means my “ghost” is also real.” And the only one who could have sliced and diced that bastard up like that. He’s capable of such brutality…He could be anywhere in the room. I’ve got a cold-blooded butcher of a ghost somewhere in this room? Or was he just trying to protect me? I saw that mugger creep…he wasn’t dead. Something told Shelly that Allen could not be that brutal butcher she had imagined. If he had stabbed the mugger, it was because he had felt forced to do so to protect her. She owed him her life.
“You’re too stubborn to show yourself,” she said. “Okay, you win. Enjoy while you can!”
She pulled a clean button-down shirt and a gray skirt and matching jacket out of the closet. Next she dug out a plain white bra and pair of white lacy panties. She thought of stockings and low heels, but decided to go with grayish flats.
There was still no sign of Allen. Have it your own way, she thought, angry that she had no real way of knowing if he was playing peeping Tom with her. She sighed and pulled on her
robe again. With the robe covering her, she removed the panties she had slept in and slid the fresh pair on. She then held the bra under the robe and slid the robe off with her free hand. The bra was dangling against her breasts. She needed both hands to clasp it in the back. “I hate you,” she said as she threw the robe on the bed. She was standing now by the bed in her bra and panties. Was he watching? What difference does it make, she thought as she gave up all effort to conceal herself and pulled on her shirt, skirt and jacket. “So now you saw me,” she said, slipping into her flats. “Did you like what you saw?”
No answer. “Okay, fine. But I guess this proves a visit to Professor Lasker is my best option.” She waited for a response in vain. “I’ve decided,” she said in a threatening tone, “I’m going to the parapsychology department. I’m going to see if I can get rid of you once and for all.” She stormed out of the room, locking the door behind her.
The hallway was deserted, oddly unfriendly looking, the lights on the ceiling dimmer than she remembered. She quickly checked her notepad on the door. No new warnings. “I’m going now,” she said and started toward the stairway.
She was at the top of the stairs when suddenly she grabbed the banister. She was looking down, frozen at the top of the landing. Sweat was beading on her face and her eyes were staring down the stairs. She had had a vision of falling down the marble steps. She could see her body crumpled up and broken at the bottom of the steps. Who was reflected in her eyes?