Ghost felt better after leaving his friends to enjoy their stolen beer. He went home and dressed himself in black, including a ratty ski mask he’d found in his father’s closet a few years ago. He had no intention of being seen tonight; he’d mastered the art of prowling about at night, keeping to the shadows, moving with breathtaking silence, just as if he were a ghost.
Ghost realized he felt more comfortable on his own as he knelt among a line of cypress trees boarding the tan duplex where Ruth lived. He watched her park her boxy white Nissan in front of the garage after her shift at the convenience store. The place was pitch black and hers the only car, which told him she was likely alone.
He sat cross-legged on the cooling earth and waited. Had Ruth looked hard enough, and in the right place, and cleared her mind of distractions, she might have seen him. Despite sitting in the open, he knew he was invisible to her. People rarely saw what they couldn’t trust themselves to believe.
The lights in the apartment flared on, and as the minutes passed, they each went black again. He moved to the rear of the duplex and lay on the grass, found her bedroom window, the only room still lit. He watched her undress and he could see her soft, virgin-like form through the sheer bedroom curtains. She seemed to glide from the bedroom into the bathroom.
After a few moments, the bathroom light went dark. Ghost couldn’t get over how the curtains made it look as if she were floating like an angel. It made his chest swell and another part of him that pressed tight inside his pants. The last glimpse he had of her was just before she shut off the bedroom light. He imagined her crawling into bed, then he rolled onto his back and stared at the sky with nothing to do but wait a while longer.
He relied on his senses to tell him when it was time, then crept close to the house and tried the handle on the screen door. It wasn’t locked, but the main door was. At least there was no deadbolt. The only thing that kept him from Ruth was a simple door latch he could easily pry open. Withdrawing a flat-head screwdriver from his back pocket, he wedged it inside the door jamb. He had brought the tool from home, along with a knife, which were the only implements he ever needed. With a quick shove, he snapped open the door. He paused a few moments and listened. He had already determined that Ruth had no dog, and no one was living in the adjoining duplex.
Ghost entered and closed the door. Although it was dark, even darker now that he was inside Ruth’s home, his eyes were good enough to see the layout. He was made for this sort of thing.
He could tell Ruth kept a tidy place. No dishes in the sink. Toaster in a corner on the counter top. Nothing else, really, to take up space. He liked that about Ruth. She was an orderly person. He knew about orderly people, so afraid to let their lives get out of control they wouldn’t know how to cope should things become disorganized. He almost made a tsk, tsk sound as he made his analysis. Oh, well. On to the fun!
Ghost moved with all his senses alert. A creak in the floor here, a settling crack there; the deep breathing of a young woman who had left her fears at the edge of slumber beckoning him down the hall. They were natural sounds in a house, and if you made yourself one with the environment, you could move about undetected.
He had replaced the screwdriver in his hand with his beloved knife, a black-handled switchblade he had stolen from his neighbor. Old-man Mercier collected knives and had probably never realized one was missing. It had been easy to steal in the dead of night, the one true thrill of stepping into Mercier’s dream world. Otherwise, the old man had not even stirred. Ghost liked the knife even more after pricking Bull’s neck with its blade earlier.
This was far more exciting than stealing Mercier’s knife, though. Ghost’s skin tingled despite the day’s heat still retained inside Ruth’s home. As he stood in the doorway to Ruth’s bedroom and stared at her, he assumed she had foregone air conditioning because of the cost. The bedspread was folded back, and she lay underneath only a thin sheet. It looked so sensual, Ghost had a hard time controlling himself; he wanted peel the sheet back and gaze at her. Her curves intrigued him. He hadn’t dwelt on her figure earlier, but she was wearing an apron at least a size too large. It probably wasn’t even her apron.
On numerous occasions before, he had stood in bedrooms and watched people sleep: couples, old folks, single mothers, and children. But he had never felt this way before, not the way he felt here with Ruth. He decided it was because no matter how brief, they had connected on some level back at the convenience store. She had made such a pretense of being strong and unafraid. Yet, here she lay, vulnerable. He was sure he could terrify her if he wanted. His feet took him to the end of her bed. She lay on her right side, facing the window, the moonlight turning her skin porcelain. She looked beautiful yet fragile; not how she had wanted to appear earlier in the evening.
Ghost turned the handle of the French switchblade in his hand, thinking of all the many things he wanted to do and knowing he would do none of them to her tonight. It was enough to imagine what he could do; it would have to be enough for now. To do anything that would awaken her was asking for trouble he could avoid. The incident with Bull was still fresh, and he couldn’t deny that he had been at the convenience store and had contact with Ruth. He had even talked to the cop. No, it was too risky because even Sugar could have put it together. Earlier when he was waiting for her to come home, he had thought these things through and decided tonight would have to be mostly hands off.
Ruth moved underneath the sheet; a natural thing. He wasn’t worried, but it excited him. With as dark as it was in the bedroom, he didn’t think she would see him even if she opened her eyes; if he stood still, that is. He knelt at her feet and peeled back the sheet. He wanted to touch, but again he thought better of it. Instead, he rolled the sheet up inch by inch until it was up as high as her thighs as he dared. She moved, feeling the air. Just a few moments, though, and he’d be finished.