Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
I left the knife lying there and joined the others behind the couch. Sure enough, the girls were right. It was the flower lady. She was laying face down on the floor, fully clothed. Her body was still and motionless. Even if I could manage to touch her and feel for a pulse, I knew I wouldn’t find one. She was dead.
There weren’t any signs of blood or anything to indicate foul play though. She was just laying there as if she collapsed. Her clothes were a little disheveled, but that could have happened during the fall.
“What happened to her?” Kelly asked, her voice shaking.
“Heart attack?” Lori asked, perhaps hoping this was the case.
“I don’t know.” I knelt down and reached out to touch the body.
“What are you doing?” Asked Donald. “Don’t touch it.”
“I’m just going to roll her over,” I replied.
“What if you leave prints? We might be ghosts, but we don’t know if we leave fingerprints or not.”
“If that was the case, they would have all our prints from the rescue squad.” I looked to the the others. “I just want to make sure..”
“I don’t hear the shower anymore, “ Kelly said, a nervous edge to her voice.
“No singing,” added Lori.
They were right. The house was quiet. A little too quiet. Had the person in the shower somehow heard us? And if he came into the room right now, would he be like the grieving father and be able to see one or more of us?
A sound of something hitting the floor and then be dragged across it broke the silence. We all looked up. It was coming from directly over our heads on the floor above. Before we had a chance to investigate, a thumping sounded on the steps, as if a large object was now being dragged down the staircase, allowing it to bump loudly on each step. Then came the voice. Low and grumbly at first, but coming closer to where we were.
“You just had to push me, didn’t you? You just couldn’t let it go, could you?” It asked. No one answered. Not us, and certainly not the dead woman.
“You started it, woman. Blame yourself, not me.”
The shuffling sound came down the hallway with the man’s gravelly voice. He was dragging something behind him.
“You said if it weren’t for the kids we could be together.”
He came into the den. We all stood still, frozen in place, trying not to move as if we were playing a game of 1-2-3 redlight. He didn’t look much like the man we saw outside the movie theater with the flower lady. He was changed. Different somehow. Then he had looked like your average working class joe. Dark, close cropped hair. Clean shaven. A walk that showed masculine confidence. Now his hair was matted and wet, his face haggard and sullen, his walk like that of a lumbering ghoul. Behind him, he dragged a large rolled up carpet. He dropped it as close to the couch as he could, and began unrolling it.
“I don’t know what you are so upset about,“ he said. “You said some days you wanted them gone. Don’t act like you’re the first to have wished that.”
He came around the couch and knelt down at the woman’s body. With his big burly hands he rolled her over. Lori gasped, and put a hand to her mouth. The woman’s throat was crushed. You could see the skin was heavily bruised from where he had wrapped his hands around her throat and choked the very breath out of her. The small, diminutive woman never had a chance.
Brian was holding Kelly’s face to his chest so she didn’t have to see, but the look on his face was that of horror. We had seen dead bodies before. The classmates in the bus who didn’t make it or were left behind. But this was different. This was flat out murder. With his own two hands he had killed this woman, and for what?
“Oh, don’t look at me like that,” he said, looking down into her lifeless eyes. “You knew I followed that bus for months, mapping out every stop.”
“Oh my god,” Lori moaned.
I looked at Donald. He looked like he was in complete shock. “You got to be kidding me, “ he mumbled.
The man picked up the woman by her shoulders, half dragging her to the unrolled carpet. I looked around me for something. Anything to protect us with. I knew he couldn’t see us, but it would have made me feel better knowing I had a weapon in my hands. Beside me on an end table was a telephone and a notepad with pen. Not very good weapons at all. I put my hand on the telephone and took the receiver off the hook.
“They even changed buses on me.” He laughed and it sent chills up my spine, but at least it was loud enough to mask the sound of me dialing 911. “No matter, it still worked out. It went off the bridge just as planned.”
He began to roll the woman’s body up in the carpet. We were going to have to do something. I looked at Lori. “Come on,” I said, and passed through the walls of the house to emerge into the night.
“Chris, what are you..?”
“We have to make some noise, “ I said. “Its not like we can run next door for help.” I looked around us. There was a small flower garden at the side of the house. Its borders were marked by red bricks, placed in a circle. I ran over and snatched one up. I hefted it in my hand and looked at her. “Smash the car windows and lay on the horn. If we’re lucky someone will call the cops.”
“Not much a plan,” she replied, reaching down and picking up one of the bricks.
“I took the phone off the hook and dialed 911.”
“Well, that’s a better one.”
I ran over to the nearest car, a red Volvo parked at the curb. I slammed the brick against the glass and it shattered.Reaching my hand through the gaping hole and pressed the horn in short staccato bursts, before holding it down to let it wail continuously in the still night.
Lori was doing the same to another car nearby. She had chosen a yellow VW bug sitting in a nearby driveway. Not only had she smashed the window, but she then opened all four doors, so the interior light would come on. Laying on the horn, it seemed to echo off the house in its long, unending wail. To my surprise, she left the car and it’s horn continued to sound. Maybe she’d found something to jam down in the horn to keep it going, or perhaps it had just gotten stuck. Either way, it was effective.
Lights started to come on in nearby houses, and I grinned. “Yes!”
Over the sounding horns I heard a scream and looked back to the house. Kelly was standing on the porch yelling at us. A panicked, frightened look was on her face.
I took off towards her, as did Lori. We bounded up the steps and through the door into the house. In the den, the killer had rolled the body all the way up in the carpet, but he was now laying on his back throwing his arms around as if trying to swat a horde of angry flies. Brian was standing over him trying to land punches at the man’s face. Thought he couldn’t make contact because of his anger, it was apparent the man felt something annoying the air around him. It had been enough to set him off balance, so that he’d tripped over his own feet to land on his ass.
“Brian! Stop!” I yelled. In his anger, I knew he was doing nothing but wasting his energy. He would be better off picking up an object and hitting the guy, but Brian was beyond reason. He was as furious as the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket.
He looked at me with fire in his eyes. “Son of a bitch killed us!” he growled. “He admitted wanting all of us to die just to get her kids out of the way.” He looked down at the man. “You sick bastard.”
The man couldn’t hear Brian, but he laughed any way. “Is that your ghost then?” He chuckled.
We all froze, as his laughter almost echoed off the walls.
“You wouldn’t be the first bitch to haunt me. You’re not the first one I have fixed a family problem for.” He clambered to his feet, looking around the room as if trying to see someone. “They all cried and complained too.” He snickered like that damn dog on the cartoons. “I ain’t afraid of no ghost, and certainly not yours.”
“I’ll make you afraid,” Brian snarled. He ran over to the fireplace and grabbed up the poker.
The man’s eyes grew wide, but he was beyond both reasoning and sanity. He had come completely unhinged. But not so unhinged that he would just stand there while a floating poker came at him. He ducked out of the way, went down on his knees to lift up the rolled up carpet, body and all. He turned his head just in time to avoid the poker from scraping his cheek. And when he did this, he noticed the telephone off the hook.
“Shit,” he yelled, just as the poker finally made contact, slapping him across the back and almost knocking the wind out of him. Brian had hit him so hard, he had lost the weapon from his hands, and again in an unthinking gesture, tried attacking the man with his bare fists.
This gave the killer the break he was waiting for. With all his strength, he hefted the carpet roll and flung it over his back. He was heading for the door. The hysterical Kelly got out of his way, as if he would plow her down. Donald had been standing motionless the whole time, watching the action from the other side of the room, and it was apparent he wasn’t going to do anything to help now. Not so with Lori.
The bravest girlfriend ever was trying to slide objects into the killers path. A Chair, an umbrella stand, wooden coat rack – anything to trip him up. But he dodged her attempts, using his bulk to knock these things aside, as he fled the den and went down the hall towards the front door.
Brian was already on his heels. Taking a cue from Lori, he was throwing stuff at the man’s back in a desperate attempt to slow him down. But the man was like a machine now. He was concerned with nothing around him and he burst out the front door like he was Robocop or something. Behind Brian, I could see where he was heading. His work van.
He threw the carpet to the ground at the rear of the vehicle. It made a horrible thud, reminding us all there was a dead body inside. He opened up the van doors and bent over to lift up the carpet. Whack! A tree branch whacked him in the back of his legs. Kelly tried to hit him a second time with the old limb but the wood splintered and broke, rendering it ineffective.
Shoving the carpet inside, he was closing the doors, when somebody yelled, “hey!” We all turned. A man was coming across the yard in a bathrobe and slippers. “You okay, Kev?” He asked. He had this look on his face like he thought his neighbor was on drugs. It was apparent he had no idea he was face to face with a killer.
“I’m fine, Larry, go back inside,” he snarled. The neighbor had enough sense to realize this was bad. Something was seriously wrong and it stopped him in his tracks, making him back up just a little. Kev looked at him with a devilish grin. “Or I’ll fix you, too,” he said.
We all stood there, none of us no longer on the attack, as if we were just casual bystanders to a conversation. Despite the fact we were ghosts it was hard getting used to the fact we didn’t interact as humans anymore. We had stopped trying to stop the killer when Larry the neighbor had arrived, thinking he was going to take care of it. He wasn’t.
He must have seen something dark and evil within Kev’s eyes, because he turned and ran back to the safety of his house. To some of the others this may have seemed cowardly, but to me I thought it was the best choice he could have made. Kev grinned and opened the driver’s side door. Then he stopped. In the distance, sirens were sounding. The sheriff and his posse were finally on the way.
While the others smiled, and shouted, “yeah!” in some form of triumph, Kev just grinned that evil, Joker-like smile. “Always too late,” he mumbled. “Always.”
“Not always,” Brian said, helplessly lunging at him. Kev got in the van and closed the door, completely unaffected. Starting up the engine, he put the vehicle in gear and began to pull out of the driveway. The sheriff was going to be too late to catch him. I saw a flash of movement as Lori dashed by me and dove through the paneling of the van. Kelly leapt through the back doors. As it hit the street, both Brian and I quickly joined them as passengers, the four of us and one dead body against a killer who had obviously done this before.