“I want to thank you guys for helping me. I know there’s other things you’d rather have been doing today than helping me move all my crap up two flights of stairs. So, here’s to you my friends!” Steve said, raising his beer bottle in salute to the group of his tired, grubby buddies Phil, Jake, and Tommy.
Tommy spoke up, “You’re leaving out the part about packing your crap, lugging it down one flight of stairs, loading the truck, and driving it across town before we dragged it up the two flights of stairs.”
“Yeah, well, thanks for all that too!” Steve said with a grin.
“By the way, you never said why you moved all the way over here anyway,” Phil chimed in. “Your other apartment was awesome! The location was great. It was a really nice place. This place is… well, it’s OK I guess, but…”
“You can say it,” Steve said, “it’s a dump – especially compared to my other apartment. But it has a couple of very good things going for it.”
“Like what?” Tommy asked.
“Well, first there’s the rent. It’s got a lot more room for half what I was paying. That extra cash is going to be really nice. Plus, have you noticed how cold it is in here?”
“Yeah, it’s almost too cold. It must have one hell of an AC unit – it’s got to be close to 100 degrees outside!” Jake exclaimed.
“You’re not going to believe this, but the AC isn’t even on!” Steve smiled.
“What are you talking about? The AC has to be on – waaaaay on! I think I can see my breath!” Phil said with a shiver. “It was nice when we were moving stuff in, but it’s really too much right now. Seriously, dude, you can turn it down now.”
“I happen to like it like this, but no joke – the AC is turned off. See for yourself,” Steve said, pointing to the thermostat.
Tommy walked over and looked at the thermostat. “Jesus! It says it’s 56 degrees in here! And… Steve’s right. It’s set to off.”
“No way!” Jake said, making his way to Tommy’s side. “I’ll be dammed! It is off! There must be another thermostat or something.”
“Nope!” Steve replied. “It just stays cool in here. It’s going to save me a fortune in electric bills during the summer.”
“Buddy, I think there must be another temperature control somewhere and if you don’t figure it out real fast, you’re going to have a thousand dollar electric bill!” Phil warned.
“No, really guys. It’s not AC. When I found this place, the property manager said it had been like this since the last tenants… left.”
“What was that?” Tommy said suspiciously.
“What was what?” Steve replied, feigning ignorance.
“What was that hesitation when you said the last tenants… left?”
“Oh, well, that’s part of why the rent is so low. The last tenant… well there was a murder-suicide in here. Dude’s girlfriend hacked him up with an axe before she took a header out the window. That stain you’re standing on Jake, I think is probably his blood.”
Jake quickly took a step back. “You’re fucking with us, right?” he asked doubtfully.
“No. The landlord said that the guy was really abusive and he was in the process of getting him evicted because the neighbors were complaining about the noise and having to call the cops all the time to break up the fights. Shannon… I mean, the girlfriend, got tired of it and just snapped one night and went to town on him in a blind rage before she realized what she had done, then freaked out and jumped out the window.”
“Wow! That’s just crazy!” Phil commented.
Just then, the lights flickered and the room seemed to shake slightly.
“Uh, guys, you kind of need to watch what you say around Shannon,” Steve said nervously.
“Shannon?” the guys asked in unison.
“Yeah, uh… Well, she’s the really great thing about this apartment!” Steve said enthusiastically. “I was keeping this as a surprise, but I guess the cat’s out of the bag now,” he said walking over to the bedroom door and cautiously opening it. “Shannon, are you in here?”
He stepped back as a woman appeared in the doorway wearing a nightshirt. Her stringy black hair covered her face and in her hand was an axe. Strange as her appearance was, it was stranger still that she appeared to flicker between partially transparent and fully solid and all of her color was shades of gray as if she had stepped out of a black and white movie.
“What the fuck?!” all three men yelled out as they rapidly back-pedaled until their backs met wall.
Steve held up his hands, “Guys, guys, it’s OK! You can relax! Guys, this is Shannon. She’s… well, she’s my girlfriend.”
Phil was the first to gain his composure enough to respond, “Steve, I hate to break this to you buddy, but that’s not a girl and she sure as hell ain’t your friend!”
“Look, guys, I know Shannon’s not the usual type of girl I go for…”
“You mean like alive?!” Jake shouted.
“I know this is a little weird, but once you get to know her, you’ll see why I fell in love with her.”
Tommy started for the door. “Dude, this is more than a little weird. I am out of here, guys. And if you’re smart, you’ll be right behind me!”
“Wait, Tommy!” Steve shouted after him. Before Tommy made it to the door though, Shannon flickered and suddenly appeared directly in front of him in solid enough form that he bounced off of her and landed flat on his back a few feet away. He scrambled to his feet and retreated toward his friends.
“Guys, you have to calm down. Shannon’s really a very sweet girl. You’ll see.” Steve urged. “Shannon, would you leave us for a little while so I can explain things to my friends? I’ll call for you when we’re ready.”
She flickered for a moment and then was gone.
“Steve, what the fuck?!” Tommy said wide-eyed with fear.
“OK, just listen for a minute. Part of the reason this place is so cheap is because the landlord hasn’t been able to rent it. Besides the fact that the property manager had to reveal the murder-suicide thing by law to any prospective renters and that got rid of most of them, but every time someone came to look at it anyway, Shannon would appear and scare the shit out of them. The manager wouldn’t even step foot through the door when I came to look at it and wouldn’t say why. He just told me to take my time looking around and he was going back to his office. Anyway, I came in and was walking into the bedroom and there she was! It startled me for a minute, but there was something about her that kept me from running out. She was so beautiful, and she seemed so lonely.”
“Oh boy! Steve, you’ve always had a thing for broken women, but this is ridiculous!” Phil exclaimed. “She’s a ghost, buddy. There’s no fixing that.”
“I know that, and I know it’s still early in the relationship, but I already have a stronger connection to her than any woman I’ve ever met before. We just bonded immediately. That day I came to look at this apartment for the first time, my eyes met hers… well, what I could see of them through her hair, and I just knew she was the one for me. That first day, we just hung out in that empty bedroom and talked for hours.”
“She talks?!” Jake asked with surprise.
“Well, it’s more like growls and moans so she’s kind of hard to understand, but we communicate on a level that transcends the spoken word.” Steve replied.
“That’s great buddy, it really is,” Phil said with an expression on his face that said that it really wasn’t. “But… if she’s your girlfriend… but she’s not… living, per se, isn’t that going to create some… challenges?”
“Like what?” Steve asked.
“Um, well… How would you go out on a date? It’s not like you can take her to dinner and a movie, right?”
“That stuff’s not important when you communicate on the deep level that we do. We’re perfectly happy together right here.”
Jake spoke up, “Not to be… indelicate, but have you thought about the… you know… the intimacy aspect of your relationship?”
“I haven’t just thought about it. Let me tell you fellas, Shannon is a monster in the sack!” The lights suddenly flashed and the room shook slightly. “I said you were a monster in the sack, not a monster, sweetie!” Steve called out. “Sorry, guys, she’s a little touchy about her circumstances.”
The three friends just looked at one another, then at Steve, and then back at each other before Phil asked hesitantly, “Uh, yeah, I get that, but getting back to… You were saying…You’ve had sex with her? Like, real sex, not some weirdness that transcends actual sex?”
“Yep!” Steve said with a grin. “I don’t want to kiss and tell, but Shannon’s pretty open so I know she won’t mind me saying that same day I came to look at the apartment, well, one thing led to another and… it was amazing, that’s all I can say! Under that nightshirt, she’s got a rockin’ body, although it phases in and out from fully solid and her skin is kind of cold and clammy – but I got used to it real fast, if you know what I mean!” The looks of horror and disgust on his friend’s faces said that indeed they did know, or at least could closely imagine, what he meant. “Anyway, when I left here, I went to the management office and signed the lease. I think the manager was surprised, but there was nothing that was going to keep me out of this apartment!”
“And you’re sure about this?” Phil asked. “Remember how you were when you first met Angela. We had to talk you out of proposing to her on your second date! You know you can be a bit impulsive in love, buddy.”
“Angela was a long time ago. I’m a lot more mature and grounded now and I know what I have with Shannon is real, guys! Come on, let’s order a couple pizzas and sit down and share a meal and you’ll see how great she is.”
“OK,” Phil said reluctantly as the others nodded in disagreeable agreement.
“Great, let me call Shannon back out and order the pizza. You guys can get to know her over a beer while we wait for the food.” Steve walked to the bedroom door and called out, “Shannon, come on out, the guys really want to get to know you.” A moment later, she flickered into view in the doorway and a split second later materialized a few feet in front of Phil, Jake, and Tommy.
“Uh, nice to m-meet you, Sh-Shannon,” Phil stammered as he nervously offered a shaking hand for an unsteady handshake.
Shannon blinked out of sight for a moment and then was back again, having switched the axe to her other hand to be able to accept Phil’s right hand. “Glauahhghh,” she replied as her cold, damp fingers closed around Phil’s hand.
“See, it’s cool,” Steve said with a smile.
Jake offered his hand next, followed by Tommy. After the handshakes had been exchanged, the men slowly edged towards the fridge to get beers. Shannon flashed over next to them and they eyed her warily as Phil opened the refrigerator and handed bottles to Jake and Tommy. “Uh, would you like a beer, Shannon?” he asked.
“Glauahhghh,” she replied extending her hand. Phil passed her a bottle and she growled her thanks.
“Hey, has anyone seen the bottle opener?” Tommy asked, looking around on the kitchen counters.
“I think it’s over there on top of one of the boxes,” Steve replied absentmindedly as he stared at the app on his phone he was using to order the pizzas.
Tommy started towards the boxes, but Shannon suddenly flashed in front of him. “Bahhh,” she said as she swung her axe and neatly sliced the top off of the bottle in Tommy’s hand.
Tommy yelled in terrified surprise, but when he realized that Shannon was just trying to be helpful, he managed to choke out a hoarse, “Thank you,” in acknowledgement of her assistance.
After several periods of awkward silence interrupted by Steve repeatedly asking his friends, “Isn’t she great?”, the pizzas arrived and the group filed into the small kitchen to eat. Though still nervous about Shannon, Steve’s buddies were starting to get used to her presence, as well as her lack of presence when she would flicker out of sight for a few seconds every so often.
After a while, Phil actually started to warm to Steve’s chilly girlfriend and decided to try to engage her in conversation. “So, Shannon, where are you from?”
“Nooooo Jaaahhwseeee,” she moaned in response.
“New Jersey?” he asked, somewhat surprised that he had understood her or at least thought he understood.
“Ahhh,” Shannon said, her head lurching forward and backward in a series of flashes.
Jake laughed. “Oh no! After sticking with it and getting used to you, now I find out you’re from New Jersey. I’m sorry, Shannon. There’s just some things I can’t overlook!” he exclaimed jokingly.
Sadly for Jake, Shannon had no sense of humor whatsoever (a common trait of vengeful spirits) and thinking Jake was serious, she quickly raised her axe and sunk it through the middle of his skull. Jake fell to the floor as blood poured from his head.
“Shannon, NO! He was only joking!” Steve shouted.
Phil and Tommy stepped back in horror as the pool of blood expanded on the wood print vinyl floor, which although it was not the most stylish flooring, it would fortunately be easy to clean.
“Oh my god!” Phil yelled.
For her part, Shannon did look ashamed of herself. She was flashing in and out of solid form, alternating between having a hand over her mouth and raising her arms up in a shrugged position. “Ahhhm saaahry,” she moaned apologetically.
“Shannon, we talked about this. You can’t just keep chopping people in the head when they make you angry!” Steve scolded her as though she was a child he had just caught drawing on the wall with crayons.
“Wait! KEEP chopping people?!! This happened before?!!!” Phil shouted.
“Uh… No!” Steve lied. “I… uh… was talking about when she killed her boyfriend.”
“Aaaaand daaa plummaaah,” Shannon added, dropping her head in shame even further forward than she usually held it.
“Did she say the plumber?!!!” Phil exclaimed in horror.
“No!” replied Steve. “She said, uh… the uh… FINE! Yes, she said the plumber! When I checked out the apartment, I noticed that the kitchen sink was kind of backed up and I mentioned it to the property manager. I guess he sent out a plumber. Anyway, Shannon didn’t kill him. He ducked out of the way in time and she just grazed his arm with the axe. He was running out the door when I was coming in with a few things. He was obviously not too bad off considering how fast he was running. He wasn’t even bleeding that much!”
“Oh, well, that’s OK then,” Phil said sarcastically. “Tommy we’ve got to get the fuck out of here! Tommy?!”
Tommy was in a daze, staring blankly at Jake’s rapidly exsanguinating body in front of him.
“TOMMY!” Phil screamed at the top of his voice.
“Huh?! What?!” Tommy sputtered as he regained his composure.
“We need to get out of here right now!” Phil exclaimed, grabbing Tommy by the shoulder.
“But what about Jake?” Steve asked.
“I’m going to call the cops when we get out of here, that’s what!” Phil replied, tugging Tommy towards the door.
“And tell them what? That a ghost killed him? Or that I killed him? Because that’s the only thing they’re going to believe!” Steve shot back. “Do you want me arrested for murder?”
Phil paused for a moment. He hadn’t thought about that. Something had to be done, but he quickly realized that although Jake was dead because of Steve’s bad choices, Steve was not a murderer and didn’t deserve a death sentence for something he didn’t do. “No! Of course not, but we can’t just ignore what’s happened! I need to think for a minute – somewhere not inside this apartment! If you want to talk about this, come on outside with Tommy and me.”
“OK,” Steve nodded. “Shannon, I’m gonna go with the guys and figure things out. Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you. It was just a mistake. I’ll be back soon.”
Shannon flickered in place for a moment and then was gone.
The three friends made their way out of the apartment. “I need a fucking drink,” Tommy declared when they reached the parking lot.
Phil nodded, “Yeah, me too. I didn’t see any bars around here when we came out this morning. Steve? Any suggestions?”
“There’s a place a few blocks down.”
“Great, you drive,” Phil replied.
A short time later, they parked in front of a run-down building with a neon sign that once proclaimed the establishment to be “The Rapier”, but now had burned out letters so that it spelled “The Rap e”. The three made their way into the dark, dingy surroundings. It stank of stale beer and cigarettes mixed with a variety of other unidentifiable stenches. They approached the bar and a heavyset man in shorts, a dirty “Hello Kitty” t-shirt, and otherwise covered in tattoos glared up at them from an old recliner over the top of a well-worn and badly-used Playboy magazine. “Whatta ya want?” he grumbled as he set the magazine aside and struggled to get the recliner positioned upright.
“Make it simple and just give us three glasses and that bottle of Jack over there,” Phil said pointing to a line of bottles on the bar.
The man heaved himself upright and pulled down some glasses and set the bottle of whiskey on the bar in front of them. “That’ll be… Sixty bucks,” the bartender said. “Cash.”
“Sixty bucks?! The bottle’s half empty!” Phil argued.
“Full,” the bartender replied.
“What?” Phil asked.
“The bottle’s half full. I’m a fucking optimist and I’m optimistic that you’ll either pay me the sixty bucks or you three are going to get the fuck out of here!”
“Whatever…” Phil said, pulling out his wallet and slamming three twenties on the bar. The bartender picked up the bills and headed back to the comfort of his recliner. Phil grabbed the bottle and the three picked up their glasses and headed to a table in the back. Although the bar was deserted except for the bartender, they wanted to keep their conversation as private as possible.
Phil poured each of them a glass of whiskey and he and Tommy quickly slammed theirs down while Steve slowly took a few sips of his before speaking up, “Look guys, Jake was my friend too, and if there was any way to fix what’s been done, I’d do it. But if the police get involved, there’s no way this ends without me – and maybe both of you if you tell them the ghost story – going up on murder charges.”
“I already got that,” Phil snapped. “Steve, this is a fuck-up that’s very much on your head, but nobody’s going away for murder. Right Tommy?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course,” Tommy nodded nervously. “But what are we going to do? Jake’s body is bleeding all over Steve’s kitchen floor.”
The three stared at each other in silence. Finally, Phil said, “OK, here’s what we do. We have the tarps and the moving truck. We wrap Jake up in a tarp and drive the body out to the middle of nowhere and give him a decent burial. Then we get some bleach and clean up all the blood. Then we find an exorcist and send Shannon to… well, wherever ghosts go when they get exorcised!”
“Whoa! Wait a minute,” Steve said, holding up his hand. “I’m on board with the first part, but I love Shannon! We’re not doing a fucking exorcism!”
Phil sighed and rolled his eyes. “Wake up, Steve! That… thing is not a person. I know you have feelings for her… it, but she’s dangerous. Everybody loved Old Yeller, but when he went rabid, he had to be put down. Shannon is Old Yeller and it’s time for her to go before somebody else dies!”
Steve shook his head, “No way. I’m not going to let you do that!”
“Fine, you’re on your own then!” Phil replied angrily.
Steve turned to Tommy, “Tommy…”
Tommy held up his hand, “No, Phil’s right. We either do what needs to be done together, or we gotta go our separate ways.”
Steve jumped up from the table. “I thought you two were my friends! I see how it really is now! Fine, fuck both of you!” he yelled as he stormed out.
Phil and Tommy looked at each other before Phil nodded at the whiskey bottle and asked, “Ready for another round?”
“Fuck yes!” Tommy replied.
Steve alternated between anger and despair as he drove the few blocks back to his apartment. His tires squealed as he skidded into a parking spot. He jumped out of the car and raced up the stairs to his apartment. He took a moment outside the door to compose himself so as not to worry Shannon. He took a deep breath and opened the door as he called out to her, “Shannon, baby, I’m home!” It was then that he noticed that all of the lights in the apartment were flashing as if there was an intense electrical storm. Then he heard it, a mixture of growls and moans coming from the bedroom. “Shannon?” he called out as he approached the bedroom door. As Steve swung the door open, the sight of what could have been mistaken for a vintage porn movie met his eyes. A nude man flickering in shades of gray was pelvic-thrusting away on a spread-legged Shannon, her nightshirt pulled up in a bunch around her neck and her colorless breasts bouncing back and forth as he pounded her. “Jake?! What the fuck?!” Steve shouted.
The male ghost jumped to his feet and covered his erection with a pillow. “Steeeeve! Thisssss naaaht whaaaaht ittt looooks laaaahk!”
“Not what it looks like?! I’m not a fucking moron, Jake! I saw you fucking my girl! You’re supposed to be my friend! And Shannon… I loved you! How could you do this to me?!”
“Saaahhry, Steeeeeve. Bahht, weeeeeee werrr neverrr riiiighhht fohhr eeeeach oootherrr!” she moaned defensively.
“Never right for each other?! How can you say that?” Steve wailed, his eyes filling with tears as he turned and ran out of the apartment. He staggered down the stairs and fumbled the keys from his pocket before climbing into his car and roaring out of the parking lot.
A few minutes later, he burst through the door of The Rap e and stormed over to the table where Phil and Tommy were just discussing buying another bottle. The two looked up at him with half-drunken concern and Steve caught his breath for a moment before proclaiming, “OK, I’ve reconsidered and I’m on board with the plan, except for one detail – we do the exorcism first!
“Did you say exorcism?” the bartender called out from his recliner.
As it turned out, the bartender was a defrocked priest (defrocked for reasons the guys chose not to ask about) who just so happened to have been – pre-defrocking – an apprentice to the top exorcist in the Catholic church. He performed the exorcism that very night and even allowed the guys to dump Jake’s body in the bar’s dumpster, where it was picked up and carried off by a garbage truck the next morning. Phil and Tommy had really wanted to give Jake a decent burial, but Steve wasn’t exactly in a forgiving mood and he felt that the dumpster disposal was a fitting end for his former-friend. In the end, they all agreed that Jake had violated the “bros before g-hos-ts” covenant and the landfill would be his final resting place.
Steve quickly moved on from Shannon, and is currently having a torrid e-mail affair with a gorgeous lingerie model he met on an online dating site (although she’s actually the bartender from The Rap e).