Asani kept the old place looking run-down from the front; it suited her to have the neighbors ignorant to her presence. She didn’t drive, after all, and didn’t need to leave the house all that often; when she did, she could walk down to the bus stop with none the wiser where she’d come from.
The front rooms of the house were empty, the doors closed, the windows shuttered. It meant that she could light up the back of the house as much as she wanted and, thanks to the dense foliage, even nosy neighbors were unlikely to see the lights. A yard service kept the place trimmed and painted enough to not bring down property values, but they told people (with more than a little honesty) that the house’s estate paid for the work. Asani was left to her work in quiet, and that was how she preferred it.
She liked to take walks at night, when the neighborhood had mostly gone to bed, wrapping her favorite jacket around her, an old white wool duster that, while it might have seen better days, was long, warm, and blocked the wind; besides, who was going to see her, anyway, in the middle of the night?
Late winter, early spring, those mystery days when the weather changed every fifteen minutes, she shrugged into her coat for a later-than-usual walk, walking lightly over the packed and frozen snow in the dim light of very, very early morning. She slipped down the path of trees towards the side gate, only to come face-to-face with a couple of the older boys from down the street, staring at her in frank terror.
“Shit, Jonah, I told you there was a ghost here,” the taller of the two mumbled. “Now what do we do?”
“Run?” the shorter one offered nervously. “Damn, Carter said he’d seen her, but I didn’t believe him. That lady who died, you think?”
“Gotta be. Shit, ma’am, we’re sorry.” The boys were backing towards her gate hurriedly. “We’re sorry. We’ll go leave some flowers for you, all right? Don’t spook us like you did Carter, all right?”
They were gone before Asani could say anything, leaving her wondering what had happened to Carter – and how she could use this to her advantage.
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