“Security” by Cherie Ann Turpin: Story #4 (30 Stories in 30 Days)

“You keep scaring off the customers, Nadine.  Amp down a bit,” whispered Cindy as she pulled down the mesh gate and locked the glass doors. Thank the Gods the last two customers were too much in a rush buying last-minute foundation pieces to notice the shadows looming behind the check-out counter, or the flickering lights behind the displays of bras, panties, and waist cinchers.

The cash register was already cleared of the day’s take, and the blue money bag was locked away in the safe for the morning deposit run.  Cindy poked her head into the back room and reached for the panel to turn out the lights on the mannequin displays, in the fitting room, and finally on the main merchandise floor.  A click-click-click-click of heels closely followed Cindy while she closed down her shop for the evening.

Cindy raised her eyebrows, briefly, then scooped up her purse from the gray locker near the back door. As she activated the alarm system, a cold shiver ran through her arms down through her well-manicured hands.  Blinking her eyes twice as if to shake away the impression, Cindy pulled the door shut with a decisive slam and nodded as she heard the alarm complete its activation.

Under the glare of bright lights Cindy’s gray Honda Civic sat in the middle of a now empty parking lot.  It was eleven at night, and the shopping center was silent, save for the occasional passing car on the main road.  She unlocked the door and threw her purse into the passenger seat before plopping down onto the ink blue cushion and slamming the driver’s side door shut.  Sticking the key into the ignition Cindy paused for a moment, then started the engine.

“I’m sorry about knocking over the lace panty rack, Cindy.  Those two brats were about to boost half the store had I not chased them out of there” — so spoke Nadine from the backseat, startling Cindy.  Nadine’s body began to shimmer into view as a translucent manifestation.  The temperature in the car dipped far below the humid 80 degree night air outside.  Cindy rolled down the windows, and shifted into first gear as she rolled out of the parking lot.

“I’m just saying, Nadine, you didn’t have to go apeshit over those girls.  You do realize you almost made full manifestation today, do you?  I thought you knew how to control it.  That’s why I hired you to do security in the first place.”

“Yes, for the store and for you in your home, Cindy.  I’m sorry I made a mess of things. Won’t happen again.  I promise,” whispered Nadine.

The road was quiet as the Civic passed by closed restaurants, car wash, an open Taco Bell.  The freeway ramp loomed ahead.  Cindy shifted into fifth gear as she pushed the Civic to 70 mph.  She would be home in 15 minutes.

“Okay.  It’s not a big issue.  I’m just….I’m still nervous about the stalker.  I care more about getting him off my back than two shoplifters.  Now the Agency said you were a specialist in dealing with stalkers who used astral bodies, familiars, demons, or confused spirits to do their bidding–” Cindy paused for a moment.

“–and you have no idea just how many of these bad boys I’ve already taken out.  They are legion.  Your stalker is getting frustrated because nothing is hitting home.  Sooner or later, he will show up in person to complete his evil assignment,” said Nadine, her whispering voice growing louder.  Cindy glanced at the apparition sitting in her back seat, looking for her to complete the thought.  “When he shows up there is no doubt that he will be stopped.  Permanently.” The ghost shined almost into fullness with the last word to emphasize her intent to protect Cindy.

With that, Cindy pulled into her driveway and looked up at the windows of her condominium.  Her home was seven floors up from street, a quiet corner in a rather artsy but strangely affordable part of town.  It helped to be a college town.

The lights were out.  She’d left them on using a timer to alternate times to be switched on and off.  They should be on right now.  Unless….

“Stay in the car, Cindy, and lock the doors.  He sent a human to your house this time.”  And with that Nadine flew out of the car and up towards Cindy’s condo.  Suddenly, the glass exploded outwards, showering on the ground below–and with the shards of glass came down a screaming bulk of a man dressed in jeans, black tee-shirt and a wool mask.  The body hit the street with a crunched, nauseating thud.  His head was twisted all the way to his back, facing his spine.  The gun he carried was still in his right hand.  No time to shoot a ghost.

Nadine reappeared in the backseat, unaffected by the brief battle.  She leaned into Cindy’s ear and said, “call the police, and report that you have an intruder who inexplicably killed himself in your home.”

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