Jan. 28, 2013

Excerpt From "Ghosts among Men"

I told him as calmly as I could, and when I was done, he patted the couch next to him so I would sit down. I sat, taking a deep breath. “How do you know it was real?” he asked, his face paler than I had ever seen it.

 

“I asked where they found the body, and how they found her. Lance confirmed what I had seen in my dream,” I explained, and he took a deep breath.

 

“Well, at least,” he cleared his throat. “At least you know something about what happened. That’s good, right?”

 

I nodded, sensing something was wrong. “Yes. It is. Is there something wrong, Mark?”

 

He shook his head. “No. Nothing…” his voice trailed away. “Yes,” he said, placing his hand on my shoulder, “there is something wrong. You know I don’t like this ghost stuff, right?” he asked, and I nodded. “And I don’t really understand how it works.” I nodded again. “But every time I watch you talk to them or have dreams about them, I wait for you to complain about your lot in life. But you don’t. You just lift your chin up and you do what you need to do. I have to say…” he paused, looking down at his lap. “I have to say that I’m in awe of you.”

 

My mouth dropped slightly open. “What brought this on?”

 

He looked up at me. “You. You brought this on. You’re amazing.”

 

“Thanks,” I said, feeling myself blush. “You’re pretty great yourself for putting up with my crap.”

 

He laughed. “Yeah, I know. But I only do it because—” the phone rang before he could finish. He got up off the couch and went to answer it. “Samantha Davidson’s office this is Mark speaking. How may I help you?” He listened for a bit, and then replied, “I’m sure she can think of something, Mr. Allen. I’ll tell her.” He listened again. “Okay. No problem. You too. Bye.”

 

He hung up and turned to look at me. “That was Mr. Allen.”

 

I nodded. “Yeah, I got that much. What did he want?”

 

“Well, apparently his wife is a little suspicious about you coming over tonight, and he said that it would be less suspicious if you brought someone with you.”

 

“What do you mean?” That didn’t make any sense. After all, I usually did everything by myself when it came to the investigation stuff.

 

He means you need to bring a boyfriend with you, Allison said in my ear, and I jumped.

 

“Why do you keep doing that?” I asked her, as she sat next to me on the couch. Well, it was more like she appeared to be sitting then physically sitting.

 

She shrugged. It’s fun.

 

I sighed. “Why do I need to bring a boyfriend with me?”

 

My mother thinks that every girl should have a boyfriend. And if you bring someone with you, she’ll think that you’re so upset about my death that you couldn’t deal with it on your own.

 

“How the hell does that make sense?” I asked her, a little peeved by the whole “if you have a boyfriend you’ll be less suspicious” thing.

 

She shrugged again. She’s my mother. She never makes sense. Not even to me.

 

“Great,” I huffed. “Where the hell am I going to find a boyfriend in less than,” I looked at my watch, “two hours?”

 

She cleared her throat and pointed to Mark. “Oh no.” I told her, shaking my head. “I don’t think so.”

 

Just ask him, I’m sure he’ll help you out.

 

I took a deep breath, closing my eyes for a minute. When I opened them, Allison was gone, and Mark looked very pale. “You okay?” I asked him, and he nodded. “Listen, would you like to come with me tonight? That is, if you don’t have any other plans.”

 

“Sure,” he breathed. “Is she gone?”

 

I nodded. “Yeah, she’s gone.”

 

He sighed. “Good.” He walked over to the couch and sat down again. “What time would you like me to pick you up?”

 

I got up off the couch, and started to get ready to leave. “Come get me around five-fifteen or so, okay? We don’t want to be too early.”

 

Mark nodded. “Sure, no problem.”

 

Giving him a thumbs up, out the door I went. I didn’t want the whole situation to get awkward, so I just left. I sighed as I walked out of the building to my car. It wouldn’t take me ten minutes to get home, and it would only take me fifteen to get washed and dressed.

 

When I got to my apartment building, I tried to make my entrance as quite as possible so my landlord wouldn’t hear me. It wasn’t that I owed him money or anything, it was just that he had a bit of a crush on me. And when I say a crush, I mean that he was obsessed with me.

 

I slowly took my keys out of my pocket making sure they didn’t jingle, and I was just about to put the key in the lock…

 

“Hey, Samantha,” Alex yelled from his apartment down the hall.

 

Hell fire and damnation. I was caught. “Hey, Alex,” I said with a smile. I wanted this to be over with as quickly and as painless as possible. After all, Alexander arrHaHarris (my landlord) wasn’t a bad guy and really wasn’t bad looking either. He was a little taller than I was, about five six or so, with chestnut brown hair and hazel eyes. His face was a gentle and kind face, and he was very skinny. But the thing that got on my nerves was his obsession with what I did. He would talk and talk and talk about ghosts and “Why did they pick you?” or “What’s it like being a medium?” I get a headache just thinking about it.

 

Alex ran over to me, taking big strides and almost falling over himself. Did I mention that he’s a little clumsy? Well, a lot clumsy. “Hey, Samantha,” he said again, breathlessly.

 

“Hey, Alex. What do you want?” I asked, trying to keep the smile on my face.

 

“I just wanted to know how your day was.”

 

“It’s not over yet. But so far so good. How about yourself?”

 

He nodded. “Good. So, what are you doing home so early?”

 

“Uh,” I paused, not knowing how to explain it to him. If I told him about Mark, he’d freak out. However, if I told him about the case, he’d ask me a million and one questions and I would never be able to get ready in time. So I decided to lie. “Well, I’m going out with some friends tonight, and I wanted to change before I went out.”

 

He smiled, and nodded like a chicken. “That’s nice. Well, I won’t keep you. Have a good time.”

 

“I will.” I told him as I opened the door, going inside. “Bye.”

 

“Bye,” he said, as he stood right outside my apartment, waving as I closed the door on him.

 

Taking a deep breath, I locked the door behind me. Then I took off my shoes, placing them by door like always, and proceeded to get ready. I took a nice hot shower. Once I was done, I began my regiment. I brushed my teeth and blow-dried my hair, making sure that it was as straight as I could get it with the dryer. Then I took a flat iron to it, and started on my make-up. It was just something simple: a little foundation under the eyes, curly lashes, black mascara and a little bit of tinted lip balm. Finally, it was time to get dressed.

 

I had this Van Heusen red dress with white polka dots and a belted waist that I had been dying to wear. So I took that out of my closet with my red cardigan and my black wedges. I put about a gallon of lotion on my freshly shaved legs and my arms then I put on the dress, buckled the small belt under my bust, put on the shoes and the cardigan, and was ready to go.

 

It was about ten after five, by the time I was done, and I knew that Mark would be right outside any minute now. Thank God, it was warm out. Otherwise, I would have frozen to death with my legs bare like they were. I took my black purse off the chair by the door, putting my keys and cell phone in the inner pockets. Then I checked myself in the mirror on the wall by the buzzer, and I was out of my apartment.

 

Looking around, I made sure that Alex wasn’t outside his apartment before I locked the door behind me, and then B lined it for the front door. Thankfully, he didn’t come out and try talking to me, but I had a feeling that he saw me running out of my apartment and decided against it.

 

Oooo, you look nice, Allison said, as the front door shut behind me.

 

I looked down at myself. Force of habit. “Thanks. You don’t think it’s too much, do you?”

 

She shook her head. No, it’s perfect. My mother will absolutely love you. You’re very conservative.

 

I glanced down at my bare legs. “This is conservative?”

 

She nodded. Oh, yeah. Especially since, she had me as a daughter.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

She shrugged. I never dressed like she wanted. My skirt was always too short or my shirt too revealing for her. You know...that sorta thing. She’d probably say that’s what got me killed.

 

My eyes widened. “That’s awful. Why would she say that?”

 

That’s just her way. She’s always blaming me for everything. So why not blame me for my own death.

 

I shook my head. “That is just wrong.”

 

She shrugged again. You get use to it.

 

“I don’t think I could ever get use to that.” I thought about my own mother and the fact that she wouldn’t except what I was. But she would never blame me for my own death. That much I knew to be true.

 

A car beeped from the curb and Allison disappeared. Mark’s car was a brand new silver Lincoln—where he got the money for it was a mystery to me—but I only had a second to admire it before he rolled down the window yelling, “Hey, come on.”

 

I ran up to the car, getting in the passenger seat. He had put on the air and when it hit me, I shivered. “You okay?” he asked, and I looked at him with a smile on my face.

 

“Oh, yeah.” I told him, and his eyes widened. “What?”

 

“You look amazing tonight,” he said, blushing a little.

 

I laughed. “Thanks. You look pretty good yourself.” He wore a pair of black slacks and white button down long sleeved shirt. His jacket was in the back, but the best thing about the whole outfit was the burgundy bow tie. What can I say? The man had style.

 

I fixed the bow tie because it was a little crooked, and his face turned red again. “Thanks,” he said.

 

“You’re welcome.” After that, we sat in silence almost the whole ride there. It wasn’t an awkward silence. Actually, it was comfortable. We didn’t need to talk to each other in order to be together. I liked that about this friendship. We could just sit for hours as silent as the grave without breaking it. It was awesome, especially when one of us had enough going on in her head already and didn’t need to add idle chatter to it all.

 

But when we were almost there, he asked, “What’s our story? How did we meet and all that?”

 

“Let’s stick as close to the truth as possible.” I told him, thinking about the first time that we met. “I put an ad in the paper for an assistant and you were the only one who showed up. We talked and you wound up asking me out.” That last part wasn’t true, but I continued. “One thing led to another and we became boyfriend and girlfriend.” God, I hated those terms. He wasn’t a “boy” and I wasn’t a “girl,” so why anybody uses those names for one another over the age of eighteen is beyond me.

 

He nodded. “Sounds good to me. Are we planning on getting married any time soon?”

 

My eyes widened and I just blinked at him for a second. What the hell kind of question was that? “No,” I said bluntly. “Hells to the no. Why would you ask something like that?”

 

He shrugged. “Just trying to establish how serious we are.”

 

“You do realize this is fake, right?”

 

“Yeah,” he said, looking at me sideways. “I realize that. Just want to get the story straight.”

 

Somehow, I didn’t quite believe him. “Uh-huh. Sure you do.”

 

“What’s that suppose to—”

 

“We’re here,” I interrupted his question, and as I looked out at the newly darkened night, what I saw made my eyes go wide and my mouth drop open. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

 

Mark nodded slowly. “Oh, yeah. I’m seeing it.”

 

The place was lit up by its arches, all twelve of them, with a charcoal gray roof and a cream exterior. It had four chimneys, a terrace on the second floor and at least a dozen or more rooms. Off to the side was a green house lit from the inside so you could see that there were plants everywhere, and finally the driveway that led to a garage as big as my apartment building and office-building put together. The place was long and wide but only had two floors. Thank God, I wouldn’t want it to be too tall as well. That would just be horrible. Even in my head, I was being sarcastic about this place. It was a defense mechanism. I couldn’t believe that someone would want to even buy this “house,” let alone live in it. I mean, talk about excessive, especially for only three people.

 

We parked at the entrance to the garage, and when we got out, we were greeted by Mr. Allen himself. “Hello, Sammy. Mr. Branson.” He nodded to both of us in turn, and we smiled at him.

 

“Call me Mark for tonight, Mr. Allen,” Mark told him with a slight nod.

 

“Sure,” he said with a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. He was nervous, I could tell. Shoulders on high alert, and he was ringing his hands repeatedly.

 

“Don’t worry, Mr. Allen,” I said, placing my hand on his tense shoulder. “There’s no need to be nervous. We just act as if nothing has passed between us, and if Allison decides to show up, Mark will deflect. Isn’t that right, Mark?”

 

He nodded. “Sure. I got this.”

 

“See? Nothing to worry about.”

 

Mr. Allen sighed. “I hope you’re right. God, I hope you’re right.”

 

By: Laura Del (a.k.a. The Fiction Writer)