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Day Thirty-seven: Messenger

“Mrs. Lucy Baker?”

The woman who answered the door of the sprawling suburban mansion looked exhausted. In her early fifties probably, her hair was still dark, with only a hint of gray roots. She held onto one edge of the doorframe as though it was holding her up. “Yes?” she said.

“Widow of Andrew Baker?”

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Yes.”

“Andrew Baker who – shut up!”

She straightened. “What?”

“Not you, love, sorry.” The man on her front porch was small and slight, wearing an ill-fitting suit that wanted cleaning and a small, battered hat. His eyes never stopped moving, dashing from one place to another and only occasionally landing on the person he was talking to. “Andrew Baker who passed away in a car accident last week?”

“Look,” she said, “what do you want? Are you from the insurance company, because we’re already in the middle of clearing up the mess my husband left us.”

The man standing on her front porch flinched as if someone had hit him. He turned around to glare behind him and said, “If you don’t knock that off…” He stopped in mid-sentence, glanced back at her and straightened up. “No, ma’am, I’m not from the insurance company. I’m here on private business. Your husband’s business.” He paused, and in the pause his eyes narrowed and he clenched his jaw.

“I don’t understand,” Mrs. Baker said. “What sort of business?”

“May I come in, Mrs. Baker?”

She crossed her arms and for the first time stood up straight. “All week I’ve had people coming to my house asking for things, mister…”

“West,” he said. “David West, and you’ll just-”

“All kinds of people have been trying to sell things to me, buy things from me, or generally try to take what is mine or what is left of my husband’s legacy. Which, I might add, isn’t a whole lot.” West flinched again, she she didn’t notice. “Between bereavement counselors, used-things buyers, and the lawyers, frankly I never want to let anyone else in this house again. So here’s the deal.” She ostentatiously looked at her watch, which sparkled in the sunlight. “You have one minute to explain why you’re here before I send your picture to the police.”

West glanced up and, for the first time, noticed the small security camera up near the top of the door. “You could have SAID something,” he growled quietly.

“I just did,” she said. “Your elevator pitch starts now.”

West cleared his throat and took off his hat. “Your husband had a significant amount of money in a Caymans account that he wants you to have. First Cayman Bank, account number-” He paused for a moment. “6284956292AFA. The password is-” He paused again. “Seriously?” He shrugged, and said, “Lulubell1983.”

Mrs. Baker’s arm fell. Her mouth hung open and she stared at him for a full minute. Then, in a move that seemed beyond an older, exhausted widow she grabbed West by the lapels and dragged him into the house.

She didn’t say anything until the door was locked and the window blinds were closed. “Kitchen,” she said as she walked away down the hall. West straightened his suit, smirked at something to his left, and followed her.

She was holding a gun when he got there, a small revolver. “You have got to be kidding me,” he said.

“I’m not, I assure you,” she said. She gestured to a chair. “Sit.”

He went to the chair and sat down. “You never said anything about a gun,” he said.

She snorted a laugh. “Why would I have, Mr. West?”

He looked up at her, a reply on his lips, but he suddenly closed his mouth and held his peace. It looked like it was costing him dearly, though.

“I’ve been looking for that information for months now,” she said. “You’re going to tell me how you know it.”

West cocked an eyebrow. “Months? I thought your husband died a week ago.” A breeze rustled the curtains in the window, but she paid it no mind.

“I’ve known about the account for months,” she said. “I was trying to get Andrew to tell me about it, one way or another. All I knew was that it’s more money than I’ve ever seen, and that he wasn’t using a dime of it. But he died before he could tell me, and now here you come along.”

West leaned back and crossed his legs. “Died? Or ‘died’?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t like what you’re implying, Mr. West,” she said.

“Neither do I, love.”

“I didn’t murder my husband, Mr. West,” she said.

“Never said you did, Mrs. Baker.”

The refrigerator door popped open and a glass fell off the shelf. This got her attention, and she glanced around. When she looked back, West was standing, his hands clenched by his sides and his eyes closed. His voice, when he spoke, was strained. “Your husband… though… has other ideas.”

His mouth shot open, and a glowing white mist spiraled out of it, wrapping itself around him and screaming as it went. The room started to rumble – cupboard doors blew open, vomiting out their contents. Drawers shot across the room, and the silverware danced across the linoleum. Knives flew through the air and slammed into the wall next to Mrs. Baker, causing her to shriek and fire a single shot into the ceiling.

West seemed to grow and shudder, and he was soon lost in the howling, shrieking mist. When Mrs. Baker looked at him again, and saw who he was becoming, she emptied the rest of her pistol into him.

To no effect.

The mist, or whatever it was, caught the bullets as they flew and dropped them to the floor. It raised what seemed to be its head, looked at her with eyes that glowed blue with rage, and said, “You really thought that would work, Lulubell?”

She screamed and tried to run, but the mist-figure of her husband wrapped an arm around her and pulled her back into the kitchen. The roiling fog smelled like scorched metal and rubber and burning oil and it clung to her skin.

The doors slammed shut, the windows broke, and as it pulled her close the screaming in the room rose to a deafening pitch.

Then there was silence.

“That was why you killed me, Lulubell?” the ghost said. “For money?”

“I… I… I…” She couldn’t say anything else. She struggled against him, but he only pulled her closer.

“There were plenty of good reasons to kill me,” it said, and it almost sounded amused. “I thought you would have chosen a better one.” She flew out of his grip and was held up against a wall. The ghost rose on a spiraling column of stinking, glowing mist and pressed a hand to her forehead.

“I was going to let you have that money, Lulubell,” it said. “It would have been enough to keep you in Oxycontin and pool boys for a long, long time.” It chuckled, and the laugh sounded like glass being crushed. “I figure I’ll just leave you with this instead.”

Its fingers slipped into her skull, up to their last knuckle, and Mrs. Baker tried to scream. It was a high, wheezing, soundless scream that went on forever.

The spirit withdrew its hand, and she dropped to the floor, twitching and mumbling. The figure of mist stared down at her, and then loosed itself, flowing across the floor in cold white waves. David West stood at the epicenter. He brushed off his suit and looked around the ruined kitchen before taking a good look at the woman on the floor.

“Reliving the car crash? Forever?” He smirked. “Not very original, is it?” He shrugged. “Hey, whatever makes you happy.” He started to step his way through the broken glass, battered metal and ruined furniture. He pulled the magnetized shopping list and pen off the refrigerator door. “What was that account number again?” He paused and started writing down digits. “And it was ‘lulubell1984,’ right?” He scratched out a number. “Three, right.”

He folded the paper, put it in his pocket, and picked up the phone. An anonymous 911 call would do to get her put in the right mental hospital, and from what he had just seen, she’d never remember him. He made his way outside, got back in his car, and started it up. “You got what you wanted,” he said. “And I’m set for life. We good?” He nodded, sat still for a moment, and then shuddered.

Whistling softly, he pulled out of the driveway. The money was good, yes, but there would be more work. There always was. David West thought he should get busy enjoying himself before it turned up.

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