Prosperity: A Ghost Story by Deborah Woehr
“I know. You put me here.”
Amanda Thorne gazed at her dead husband, who stood five feet in front of her, his head and face perfectly intact when they shouldn’t have been. She had gone to the funeral home to view his body. He had no business standing here, in front of his grave, accusing her of killing him.
“You’re not going to get away with this!” Joel’s eyes darkened as the familiar rage grew inside of him. “You should be here, not me.”
“I didn’t do this,” Amanda said in a tight whisper. “You did this to yourself!”
He punched her square in the chest, sending her sprawling across the wet grass. “You sent him after me, you lying, sneaking, conniving bitch.”
Joel stood over her. “I’m going to get you,” he promised her.
Amanda stared at the overcast sky, Joel and his punch an instant memory. She pulled herself up, aware of her bare feet and her silk pajamas. A middle–aged police officer stood on the road that separated the section where Joel’s grave lay from another section of the cemetery.
“What are you doing here?” he said, as he appraised her with bloodshot eyes. He had caught her in here at least an hour before the cemetery opened to the public.
“I don’t know,” she said hazily. The last thing she remembered was going to bed, but her house was four miles away. “I don’t know how I got here.”
“You look familiar to me.”
Amanda shrugged her shoulders. She looked past him, and then to her left, towards the cemetery’s entrance.
“What’s your name?”
The officer turned to his side so he could see what she was looking at, and to keep an eye on her.
“What are you looking for?”
“My car. I don’t see it.” She hugged herself against a sudden cold gust of wind. Did I walk all the way out here?
“Where do you live?”
“The Garden Apartments. Do you know where that is?”
“Yeah. How did you get here, if you didn’t drive?” The officer was intrigued.
Amanda cleared her throat. “I think I walked. I woke up in here.”
“Ho! No, shit? That’s a pretty long way to sleepwalk, Mrs. Thorne.” He stared at her as though he were still trying to place her.
She didn’t recognize him, although she had had many interviews with the San Jose Police detectives, both before and after Joel had died. He was just another uniform, as far as she was concerned. “Will you take me to Valley Med? I think I’m having a reaction to my prescription.”
“I don’t think that’s the cause of this.” The cop walked past her and up to Joel’s grave.
Amanda let her gaze wander around the cemetery. Monterey Highway was visible from her vantage point, allowing her to watch the beginning of the morning commute.
“What?” She looked over her shoulder at the cop.
“Are you taking me to the hospital or to jail?”
“I’m taking you home.”
Amanda walked with him to the entrance. The chapel sat on the left side of the gate. She couldn’t figure out if it was an English or Dutch style building. The walls were painted an ugly cream color, mottled with dark brown stones.
It had stained–glass windows and a stone chimney. The roof matched the stone insets, but it didn’t look like any roof she had seen in San Jose. It looked like someone had draped a wet, scaly skin over the top of the building, and left it there to dry. The eaves curled inward, giving the impression that she was looking at a fat toadstool.
She knew what it was, a chapel and a mortuary. Joel’s casket had sat inside that chapel. His father and sister were the only family who had attended the funeral. The rest of his family stood by his mother’s “deathbed,” making sure she didn’t OD on martinis and Valium. ‘I just couldn’t bear the thought of burying my Joely,’ she would later tell Amanda.
“You okay?” the cop said, shattering her reverie when he laid his hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry.” Amanda gave him an apologetic smile when she realized that she had stopped to stare at that awful building. The wind was picking up again, carrying the spray of the water fountain with it. She clutched at her pajama top in vain.
“You want my jacket?”
The cruiser sat next to the curb, its yellow lights flashing. Amanda walked alongside the cop, grateful that she wasn’t wearing handcuffs for the world to see. It was bad enough to be walking around in her pajamas and bare feet.
“Do you have anybody you can talk to?” Moreno asked with sincerity.
“Yes,” Amanda lied. Joel had alienated her friends, but his murder had chased them away for good. She had no one but her psychiatrist, who was more interested in doping her up with Paxil than listening to her.
This experience was a fluke, she told herself. It won’t happen again.
Moreno sat her in the front seat of his cruiser as another cruiser pulled up behind him. Amanda turned around in her seat after he closed the door, and watched the two cops meet on the sidewalk. They began talking about her in hushed tones.
A lot of people had talked about her after the murder. Few had approached her with direct questions, or to ask her how she was “holding up.” As far as everyone was concerned, she had killed her husband. Five months later, the police were still watching her and waiting for her to confess to the killing.
Amanda turned away from the officers, who were laughing at some private joke. She couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed or smiled. It had been a long time.
Without warning, the radio belched out static. Then a female voice uttered some cop code, followed by plain English. A shooting had occurred in the Capitol and Quimby area, which was nothing new. Most likely, it was gang–related. Amanda tuned out the radio and looked at the cops through the side view mirror.
They were still talking.
“Open the glove box.”
Amanda’s eyes widened at the urgent whisper of a male voice. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a jean–clad leg. Someone was sitting next to her, and it wasn’t Moreno. It was a Mexican gang–banger, with a ragged bullet hole in the side of his neck.
“Come on, bitch! Open the fuckin’ glove box before he comes back! I don’t want him to see me like this.”
Amanda gaped at the kid’s neck. “What?”
Before he could answer, the driver’s side door opened. “You okay in there?” the cop said, hesitant about getting in the front seat with her.
“Could you take me to Valley Med, please? I’m hallucinating.”