Three Nights for Justice
By Teresa Murguia
Selena Rubio felt claws sinking into the back of her neck again. She clenched her eyes shut, whispering, “Let me be dreaming. Please, let me be dreaming.” She knew, though, that this was no dream. It never was. For the past thirteen nights, she’d been woken up at about 2:47 AM, her chocolate-point Siamese cat, Maat, digging her claws into her neck and growling, and a sinking feeling in her stomach. Perhaps it was the man that had just moved into the house across the street caused the sinking feeling. More correctly, the man who had moved back into the house across the street.
The ghost that she knew would be standing at the end of her bed was responsible for the growling, clawing cat. The ghost of a woman, who, rumor had it, had been murdered by her husband. Her husband, the man who had moved back into the house he had supposedly murdered his wife in. Finally unable to take Maat clawing her neck any longer, Selena’s eyes popped open and she sat up, sending the cat scrambling to the corner of the room, blue eyes huge, and creamy white and brown fur puffed out.
There she was again, floating at the end of the bed. The ghost had been a beautiful woman, tall, slim, and angel-faced. Selena knew from the pictures she’d seen on the news when her husband had been paroled that her large doe eyes had been a lovely leaf green, and her curly shoulder-length hair had been golden brown. She had no color now, just an odd green-blue glow. Irritated, Selena asked for the first time, “What do you want?”
“Justice.” The word seemed to crack like icicles against the air, and a ghostly hand lifted towards Selena, as if asking for assistance.
A scream choked off in Selena’s throat, and Maat let out a feline screech that she swore nearly ruptured an eardrum. Her hair stood on end, and chills ran over her whole body. In the whole two weeks this had been happening, the ghost had never said anything. She had only moved once, the night before. She had done the same thing, reaching toward Selena, like she was asking for help. “Wha…what did you say?”
The halting words stabbed into Selena like ice and glass. Maat’s claws scrabbled on the hardwood floors as she bolted under the bed. “Um, I don’t know what you mean. Your husband went to prison for mur…murdering you. What more do you want?”
“Huh? Did not what?”
The ghost’s mouth worked wordlessly for a moment, a frustrated look on her face. A car’s headlights shone into the bedroom for a moment, probably Mrs. Kendrick, her next-door neighbor, who was an ER nurse and usually got off work late at night. When the lights faded, Selena blinked to re-adjust her night vision. She clutched the bed sheet to her chest when she realized that the ghost was no longer at the end of the bed. Maat had also gone silent from her kitty fortress under the box spring. Trembling from head to toe, she flicked on her bedside lamp and flipped the bedclothes away.
Selena stumbled into her bathroom, toes curling against the chilly hardwood floor of her room and the linoleum of the bathroom. She slapped around blindly for the light switch. Her eyes screwed shut against the suddenness of the bright overhead lighting. Prying open one eye, then the other, she looked at herself in the mirror. The harsh lights highlighted the dark circles under her eyes, and the bright pink spots burning in her cheeks. A few splashes of cool water faded the pink from her face.
Selena put her head into her hands, groaning. She had moved to Los Milagros, a small California town wedged between Oceanside and San Clemente, to get away from her reputation in her hometown in Minnesota. Since she had been a little girl, Selena saw things other people could not. When she was small, Selena had chattered away with the ghosts she saw in her house, not knowing other people couldn’t see them. As she grew, she noticed that no one else, not even her parents, seemed to see the people she talked to. Eventually, she had stopped speaking to them altogether, and ignored the ghosts when they had attempted to speak to her. Not too long after that, she’d noticed she could only hear them every once in a while, and even then, the only ones she could see and hear were ‘older’ ghosts, people who had been dead for a long time.
Still, Selena had the reputation of being the ‘weirdo’ who talked to herself all the time. After high school, she’d gone to St. Cloud State University, majored in English Lit, and moved to California as soon as she could, after being offered a job editing articles for Southern California based magazines. The income was okay, but still allowed her to rent this little house in a good neighborhood and pay all of her bills. Selena went back into her bedroom and spent about five minutes coaxing Maat out from under the bed. When she finally had the cat limp and purring in her arms, she went to the window and looked at the house across the street.
The inky dark of a night with no moon emphasized the light that was on in the front room, a faint flickering indicating that the TV was probably on. Looked like someone else was having trouble sleeping tonight as well. Chills ran up and down Selena’s arms, and she cuddled the cat closer to her chest, hoping some of her heat would sink in and chase away the chills.
She supposed she would have trouble sleeping too, if she were living in a house she’d murdered someone in five years ago. My murderer did not. The ghost’s words seemed to dance up her spine. Did not what? The ghost hadn’t had a chance to answer before disappearing. Did not serve enough time? Did not go to prison? If the ghost’s murderer didn’t go to prison, that meant that her husband didn’t murder her. Selena moved closer to the window, her breath leaving a light frost on the pane in the December chill. She wondered what had kept the man up tonight, what he was watching. Most of all, she wondered with a shudder, if he hadn’t murdered his wife, then who had?
* * * * *
Half an hour later, Selena was asleep again, lying on her stomach, face squashed into her pillow, arms hugging around it. Maat, however, had her wide eyes glued to a spot at the foot of the bed, ears perked to catch the slightest breath of sound. The ghost floated at the end of the bed, still invisible. The soft snorts issuing from the sleeping woman made the corners of a transparent mouth curl upward in amusement. Jessica Purdue’s ghost knew that this woman could help her. Floating to the spot where the woman had looked out at her house, she, too, saw the lights on in her home. Jessica let out a silent sigh. Thank goodness, her mother hadn’t believed that Greg had murdered her, or her house might belong to someone else now. A stranger would live there, and justice would not be served. The woman in the bed would help bring her murderer to justice. Her voice seemed to crackle and pop against the air, silent to human ears, but not so to feline. Over the increasingly loud warning growl of the cat, she said, “Very soon, Greg, you will know, and have your own justice. Soon.”