Ruby Florence was waiting.
After Harper was shot, the police had pulled her body away. Then they’d stormed the building again, looking for accomplices. The ghost made sure that not all of them made it back out, and the rest had called for a retreat to assess the situation. Now they were just watching, probably preparing for another assault.
The ghost was alone in the upstairs room where Harper had sheltered. The other, new ghosts were downstairs, adjusting to their new existence. Ruby Florence was angry that Harper was not one of them. She had heard the police telling each other that Harper had been the one that killed the Captain. Nobody seemed to remember that the murderer had been seen with a missing head.
The demolition crew had gone home. Even the repellent fat man had been sent on his way. The ghost would have one more night, at least.
The nurse had gone, and Harper was alone. She watched the news on the TV that the nurse had left on. The only story being reported was the one that Harper had initiated that afternoon. Then, it had been an interesting piece of local history. Now, it was a tragedy.
With a dramatic musical sting, the news anchor began to speak. “We’ve just received word that possible accomplices of the alleged murderer, Shannon Harper, have killed again. Four more officers are dead following an attempt to search the premises of the former 80th Avenue General Store. With Harper currently in custody at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it is unclear at this time who is responsible for the most recent attacks.”
Harper stiffened. Ruby Florence wasn’t finished. And the police would keep sending men in, to their deaths, not realizing the true nature of the thing that was inside the building.
For several hours, Harper wrestled with her options.
She could do nothing, and hope the police realized that they were being attacked by a vengeful spirit.
That would clear her name, but the chances of it happening were almost nonexistent, and it was unlikely to occur before the ghost used lethal force again.
She could tell the truth. But she was sure that nobody would listen. They would discount the explanation that same way that the fat man had.
Or, being the only person who knew the true story, she could do something to stop Ruby Florence.
The only problem with that plan was that, by taking that path, Harper would still be the only person linked to murders.
It was almost sunrise when she made up her mind.
Gritting her teeth against the pain, she disconnected the IVs and wires that were taped to her body. Using a needle she’d just removed, she managed to pick the lock on the handcuffs. The same needle served as an improvised weapon when she threatened the guard outside the door. She ordered the guard back into the room, then locked him in and escaped down the hall.
Gretz woke up to the doorbell. He threw on his robe and padded down the stairs to answer.
“You’re coming with me,” said the person on his porch. It took him a second to place the strange visitor. Disheveled and bandaged, it was Harper. She had something in her hands. It looked like it could be a gun.
“Don’t hurt me,” Gretz pleaded. “They told me what to do.”
“Shut up,” said Harper. “I’m not here about that. But we need to go. There’s not a lot of time.”
They arrived at the general store at first light. Gretz flashed his ID at the officer posted at perimeter of the site, now a crime scene. “I have to secure my equipment,” he told the guard. He was waved through.
“Pull up as close as you can,” whispered Harper from the back seat. “Get ready to jump out.”
Gretz did as he was told and parked just behind the police line. Then, with slight hesitation, he followed Harper’s orders as they both leapt from the car and ran toward the storefront.
The police were too surprised to see somebody going toward the building that they were too late to stop the trespassing pair.
The ghost smiled as she watched the scene unfold.
“Florence,” called Harper. “I’ve got somebody here who I think you’d like to talk to.”
Ruby Florence floated down the stairs and materialized by the door. She noticed that Harper was careful not to cross the threshold.
“It’s real,” said the fat man.
“Of course I am,” she told him. She turned her attention to Harper. “I’m glad you were able to do as I asked.”
“Oh,” said Harper casually. “He’s not here to talk to you. I just needed a credible witness to see you and clear my name.”
“What?” said the ghost, confused.
Ruby Florence watched in horror as Harper pulled the trigger on the gun she was holding. The ghost noticed, too late, that it was attached with a hose to something on Harper’s back.
Gasoline streamed from the gun’s plastic barrel. Harper made sure to cover the whole front of the building and to get some inside. Then she dipped her shoulders to shuck the tank from her back, and threw the entire apparatus through the door.
“Go,” she told Gretz. “Tell them what you saw.”
He didn’t need any more prompting and sprinted away, back toward the police.
Harper locked eyes with Ruby Florence. “You shouldn’t have killed. I could have helped you.”
“You didn’t,” replied the ghost.
“Maybe you didn’t deserve it,” said Harper. She flicked a lighter and tossed it into the building. Fueled by the gasoline, the structure was engulfed in seconds.