Part 5 of 6 in this complete, ghostly story.
GETTING READY FOR THE HUNT
They weren’t sure how long they’d need to wait for Don Leightonan to start haunting them, so Mandy and Ric brought sleeping bags and take out Chinese food. Mandy couldn’t help but wonder if this was Ric’s strange way of getting a first date with her, but then decided she didn’t care. They set up in the front apartment on the main floor, the place Mandy wanted for herself and right next to Amalthea’s place.
They stopped by to let Amalthea know what they were planning to do, but the peculiar woman wasn’t home. The apartment was unoccupied. No shuffling around, no cooking sounds and though the food smells still hung in the air, they had dissipated.
“She must be working at her other business now. Catering. But she’ll be back later this evening,” Mandy turned to Ric.
“Let’s eat, I’m starving. All those food smells,” said Ric.
In the face of their strange purpose for being there at all, his reminder that they had food waiting for them was reassuring to Mandy. It grounded the fantastical, it assuaged her fears, and reminded her that she was human, alive, and that quite simply, she was hungry.
“Good idea,” she smiled and they returned to the other apartment, where they had already arranged food and sleeping bags in the middle of the living room. Being the property manager, Mandy had the utilities turned on for the apartment. It wasn’t too large or too small. One full bath with a nice sized tub, one bedroom with a decent sized closet, a living-dining room, a kitchen with a door out to the back yard, and right at the front door a small stretch of hall that connected it all, the hub.
All around the apartment, there were lovely bits of ornamentation, trimmings and details. Even just the little hallway was cute, with a wooden nook tucked into the wall for a phone. The nook had two compartments, an upper and lower part. On top was an inset shelf with a shell shaped arch. Underneath was a framed panel with a key; turning the key revealed a drop-down desk, a miniature secretary desk built right into the wall. It was painted the same white as all the crown molding and tall kick boards running through the rooms.
Tall coved ceilings were adorned with ornate plaster medallions, placed wherever a chandelier was thought to be necessary.
There weren’t any chandeliers hanging there now. A simple floor lamp plugged into the wall nearby aimed all its light upwards from a cone-shaped lampshade made of metal. It was almost completely pointless as a source of light, but it was better than nothing; just a remnant of a former tenant who didn’t want it anymore. Go figure.
Mandy sat on her sleeping bag, absently munching a spring roll, admiring the plaster ceiling rose right above her head. She remembered that the whole house had been rewired in the seventies, and realized it was probably time for an update. It was another cost, but this place was more than worth it if Ric could get the whole disastrous haunting thing to go away.
Ric sat across the decadent spread of Chinese takeout on the floor, quietly holding a carton of sweet and sour something-fried, legs crossed on his old ratty sleeping bag. He’d shrugged out of his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, but he kept his shoes on. Running might be involved if the list of renovations this ghost had caused were any indication. Ric ate another wonton and watched Mandy. She was nervous.
“You really remind me of this Bicycle Bandit I used to know,” he said.
That got her attention.
“I said, you really remind me of a Bicycle Bandit I once knew.”
“Dare I ask you to explain any part of that statement?” Mandy smirked with furrowed brows.
“You telling me you never heard about the Bicycle Bandits of San Francisco?” Ric feigned shock. “It’s a huge thing here. Oh yeah, really big problem.”
“I’ve been living in San Francisco for most of my adult life. I’ve never heard of that.”
“Well, I don’t know who’s been keeping it from you, unless you’re just being coy about it.” He squinted at her, playfully. “Maybe you really are that Bandit of old.”
Mandy scoffed. “Come on.”
“Oh yes, the bandits who go zipping about the city on their bicycles. Traffic here is almost always backed up for miles, inching along at a snail’s pace. But a bicycle? That can get you anywhere, and much faster than a getaway car.”
“So instead of getaway cars they use getaway bicycles?”
Ric nodded, raising his brows and peering through half closed eyelids, intentionally overplaying his seriousness. “But of course. It’s quite clever and diabolical. They pedal around, peering into cars, seeing if there’s anything just resting on a car seat or on the backseat floor. They see something they like, and then SMASH!” He threw his arms up into the air, startling Mandy, and then he brought his arms back down, swiftly, pretending to grab something. “They just grab and go, hardly stopping at all.”
Mandy looked at him, silent for a moment.
Ric wasn’t sure how to read her expression. “What is it?”
“I think that actually happened to me once, what you’re describing. My car window was smashed and my brand new leather jacket was taken. It was a hotter day than I expected, so I just left my jacket in the passenger seat. They knew to leave my radio behind; it was dated, basically worthless. Cops said there was nothing they could do and that in the future I shouldn’t leave anything valuable in my car, or at least not leave it where it could be seen from the sidewalk.”
Mandy rolled her eyes. “They knew it was Bicycle Bandits. Those two cops, they absolutely had to know.”
“Maybe they suspected you,” he hammed it up. “An inside job.”
Mandy chuckled. “That makes no sense whatsoever.”
“Exactly,” Ric nodded slowly. “A double blind.” He shook his finger at her and she smiled. Then he grabbed the bottle of red wine. “Would you like more wine?”
Mandy smiled, “Yes, please.”
“We won’t finish this bottle though,” he added. “We should both be as alert as possible. Just in case. We’ll sleep in shifts.”
It was a decent plan, but they didn’t follow it. They finished the bottle, they did stay up late laughing and talking, and they did both fall asleep around one in the morning. Neither one of them could manage to keep their eyes open any longer.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Mandy laid inside her sleeping bag, suddenly feeling as though there was an incredible pressure on her chest. She struggled to breathe. She opened her eyes but could see nothing but darkness. She was blind.
It didn’t make sense. She knew that to her right was Ric. At her feet was the large bay window. There were no blinds or drapes. She should be able to see moonlight and the street lamp streaming through that window, just over there. She could see nothing at all.
Then she heard a voice.
“That’s right,” he hissed. “You’re in my darkness now, under my power. That makes you mine, just like everything else in my house.”
Mandy tried to move, but she felt as though her shoulders were pinned down. She tried to move her legs but it was as if they were dead.
“You think you can come in here, and you think I won’t have anything to say about that. You’re wrong. It’s mine. It will always be mine, and now, you are mine.” The voice gurgled and hissed, a ragged voice that was both very high pitched and very low pitched, with nothing in between.
Mandy wanted to scream. She wanted to cry out for help. She opened her mouth but no sound could form. She could barely exhale. Her eyes, unseeing, were wide open.
“I take your sight away,” his voice was low and scratchy. “I can take anything away from you that I want. But first, I’m going to give you something, and you won’t like it. I’m going to let you see everything I can do, all of it. After all, it’s our first night together, here, in my dark.”
A violent chill rushed down Mandy’s back. She tried again to struggle free, she tried again to call for help.
“I’m going to tell you something,” the voice went on, slow. “I’m going to do things to you that will make you wish you were dead, slow, agonizing. I’m going to hurt you, every day, little by little, and then-.”