“She walked to the front window and twitched back the curtain. Fog had settled thick as smoke, rendering the glow from streetlights diffuse and pale yellow as the moon through cloud, altering cars and buildings into darkened shapes that might have been man-made or other things entirely. Rocks. Cliff faces. Trees. Every so often, what wind there was caught the fog and sent it swirling, like dancers across a stage. Here was where the tales of ghosts began. In mist and wind, memories of the grave still fresh in the mind.
Lauren forced a laugh to break the silence. Maybe she should have majored in English lit, left the business world behind and studied all those rambling poems of highwaymen and wronged women and vengeful spirits. She hugged herself as she squinted into the gloom and picked out the flower planters and shrubs, the wet gleam of wheel rims and bumpers. Dull reality. Safe harbor for an anxious soul.
Then she caught movement, the shifting of a dark shape. A man, face rendered indistinct by the haze, his clothes smears of dulled color. Jared? It would have been like her ex to wait until everyone had left to pay his respects. Except that Jared slouched and ambled like someone without a care in the world. Whoever this was, tension wrapped around him like the mist. He paced beside one of the cars, then stopped and stood in front of it, arms folded, gaze fixed straight ahead.
Then, slowly, he turned his head toward her.
Lauren stepped back, let the curtain fall. But even though she no longer saw the man, she sensed his stare through the murk, knifing through the glass and brick and plaster. She crept to the door and rattled the knob, tested the lock, activated the alarm. Then she ran from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, checked that windows had been closed and locked. In the kitchen, she latched the back door, her hand shaking so that it took her three tries to fit the chain into the slide.
Then she stilled, and closed her eyes. Listened, but heard nothing except her own rough breathing.
What the hell’s wrong with me? The poor guy had probably stopped by to pick up his girlfriend or collect his kids for a long weekend. Idiot. She counted to three, then walked to the front door, deactivated the alarm, and unlocked the locks. Took hold of the knob and twisted, yanked the door open, and walked out into the cold—
The man had gone. Lauren scanned the parking lot, the entries to nearby condos, but saw no one.
She walked to the edge of her courtyard and then across the short stretch of lawn to the parking lot. Mist brushed her face, condensed on her skin, trickled like cold sweat. She stopped in front of the car, an older-model Accord, and noted the license number, the UW parking sticker. Bent to touch the place where the man had stood, the damp and filthy asphalt.
After a few minutes, Lauren returned to her condo. She opened the curtains and turned up the lights, then grabbed her wineglass on the way to the kitchen and dumped the dregs into the sink. Debated making coffee, and settled for herbal tea. The last thing in the world she needed was caffeine.”
Alex Gordon, author of the supernatural thriller GIDEON, was born in the Northeast, grew up in the South, and now resides in the Midwest. She is currently working on JERICHO, the follow-up to GIDEON, and is having too much fun doing research. When she isn’t working, she enjoys watching sports and old movies, running, and the company of dogs. She dreams of someday adding the Pacific Northwest to the list of regions where she has lived. And maybe the south of France.
She also has never played for the Kansas City Royals.