It began and ended with a breath.
Deep heavy breathing in fact.
According to my new client, the breathing started in the middle of the night at the foot of his bed, as if someone were standing there, watching him. He’d awoken with a start, his heart pounding, eyes straining to see in the gloom.
In and out.
In and out.
But there was no one there.
This happened for a week, until, well, until something else happened.
My client was sitting before me now, in my office, crumpling up the gloves in his hands. Snow fell peacefully outside the window, but his eyes were glazed in fear as they darted around the room.
“Just take a deep breath, Mr. . .”
“Helston,” he replied, before finally meeting my gaze.
“Mr Helston, tell me what happened next.”
His eyes went wide. “It . . . it was a few days ago. I went to bed, dead tired, hoping it wouldn’t happen again, but it did. This time it was worse. This time she . . .”
“The spirit is a she?” I asked.
He nodded. “She appeared. I saw her, right there. She sat on the bed staring at me, and I could feel the weight as she sat down. I swear, it was like she was really there!”
“I believe you,” I said, seeing the pleading in his eyes. I’d seen it before.
Terror, mingled with the truth.
“The bed sank beneath her – I felt the weight!” he said, staring into the middle distance.
I nodded, pretending to jot down notes, but I’d heard it all many times before. It was a classic case: nighttime apparition, and now a physical manifestation so the spirit can interact.
There must be a seriously good reason for the spirit to be here, I thought, watching him shifting in his seat.
“So this woman who is appearing to you – do you recognize her?”
Helston’s eyes narrowed now. “I. . .I don’t know. She looked vaguely familiar, but it’s hard to see her face.”
“And how many times has she appeared?”
“Too many . . .” he said, his face darkening. “I haven’t slept in days.”
“So she comes every night now?”
He nods, and I pretend to jot down more notes, already knowing full well everything he’s telling me.
“And how does she look when she appears? Happy? Sad? Lost?”
He looked me full in the eyes now, suddenly calm, and no longer wringing his gloves.
I pretended to write ‘angry’, but what I actually wrote was ‘LIAR.’
He wasn’t lying about the spirit being angry. I knew exactly how angry she was – for she had come to me as well. Seven times, just as she had to Helston. She hadn’t said a word to me, but they rarely do. And I never need to open my mouth either. They can read my thoughts as I can theirs. So I know all about this spirit – who she is, what she seeks.
And from her I also know all about Helston, and why he’s so rattled.
He should be.
He’s about to pay for what he’s done.
“So?” he barked, jolting me from my thoughts. “This is what you do, right? You. . . mediums? Or psychics or whatever you are? You’re gonna talk to her, tell her to leave me the hell alone?”
I give him my best customer service smile as I lean towards him. “I’ll tell you what I tell all of my satisfied clients – I’ll take care of it.”
He stood and nodded. “Well good, that’s good. I never believed in ghosts until. . .well, just take care of it!”
He stormed out, and I sat back, smiling to myself, because while I might have been referring to him as my client, my satisfied clients were not the living, but the dead.
And now his bill was coming due.
Good thing I always ask for half up front, I think, pocketing his check.
The following night he let me into his apartment – and the thought comes unbidden: just as he let her in.
No, I think to myself, come on. Be strong, for her. Wait for your moment.
He shows me into the bedroom, and he gets into bed, as we planned. Everything is as it normally would be. I sit in a chair near the head of the bed, so we’re both facing the corner where she usually appears.
I can hear him breathing, but his breaths are shallow and fast. He’s too scared to fall asleep. I would be too – if I had done what he did.
Then with a shiver, she’s there, at the foot of the bed. The air goes cold, and her eyes shine ice blue behind her long dark hair. It covers most of her face, but her rage blazes through, fixated on him.
He shrieks and backs against the headboard. “There! She’s there! Do something!”
I stand and nod imperceptibly to the spirit. She doesn’t even acknowledge me, until I speak, my voice low and clear.
“It’s all right. Be at peace now.”
Her eyes meet mine, piercing right through me before flitting back to him. He gapes up at me.
“What? What do you mean-”
I point my gun and pull the trigger.
I wrap his lifeless hand around the gun, my leather gloves squeaking softly.
The spirit sighs then, a breath of pain and release held for so long, too long. Her form wavers in the dark room, lit only by a strip of streetlight coming through the blinds. As she dissolves into nothing, I see her smile, and know my job is done.
I leave as silently as I came, leaving no trace, no sound – only vengeance, delivered.