She dropped the phone, leaving the receiver dangling by its coiled cord, and ran to the door. She was about to close it when she noticed that it was Ethel, limping up the steps like a resurrected mummy pursuing the archeologists who disturbed his tomb.
“Ethel, thank God,” Maggie said, running up to her. “I’m talking to nine-one-one, you stay here, and I’ll be right back.”
Maggie went back into the apartment, picked up the phone, and continued speaking to the dispatcher. She hung up as Ethel walked inside.
“Is Mr. Zimmerman . . . dead?” Ethel took the scarf from around her head and used it to cover her nose.
Maggie nodded. “We’re supposed to leave his apartment so that we don’t contaminate anything. I’ll open the front door when the police get here.”
Maggie helped Ethel set down on the top step. “Did you see Mr. Zimmerman?”
Maggie nodded and looked at the floor. She did not want to talk about it.
“Did he have a coronary . . . or was it something else?”
Ethel took a cigar from her pocket and lit it.
“I don’t know if you should smoke that, it might contaminate the area.”
“It’ll mask the smell and besides, I’m too sore to walk back down the steps.”
Maggie agreed and walked down the hallway to a window where she would see the police driving down the driveway. They waited in silence, occasionally giving each other a reassuring smile.
“They’re here. I’ll be right back,” Maggie said, walking past Ethel and down the staircase. She let the officers in and took them up to Mr. Zimmerman’s apartment.
After an officer had instructed Ethel to stop smoking, he wrote down Maggie and Ethel’s names and addresses while another police officer set up a boundary with yellow crime scene tape and orange cones. He questioned both of them about their accounts of the incident as a man with a tie came up the stairs. When he got closer, Maggie noticed he had a police badge on the left breast and a firearm clipped to the belt of dark-gray dress slacks.
“Hi, Detective Becker,” the officer said, turning his attention from Maggie and Ethel to the detective.
Detective Becker stepped past Ethel, still sitting on the top step, and smiled at Maggie as he walked into the crime scene with the officer.
Ethel looked up at Maggie and grinned. “He’s a crime scene investigator, like on TV . . . and he likes you.”
“Shush, not so loud,” Maggie said, blushing. “They’ll hear you.”
Ethel groaned as she changed position. “Are they done with us yet? My butt is getting sore.”
Maggie listened to the conversations in Mr. Zimmerman’s apartment. She heard someone mention that the weapon that inflicted the fatal wounds had not been found. And that, even though, the victim had been dead for a few days, there appeared to be recent stab wounds, as well. It was Susie, Maggie thought. She had a knife and had gone to the third floor. But Susie was a ghost. Can a ghost use a real knife and kill someone?
The detective took his gloves off, disposed of them, and walked out of the apartment and up to Maggie. “Hi, I’m Detective John Becker, the crime scene investigator. Are you Margaret McGee?”
She nodded. “Yes, I’m Maggie.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“No, not at all,” Maggie said, looking at the handsome detective. He was about her age and seemed to have a gentle demeanor by the way he carried himself with a calm self-assurance.
“Officer Kline already briefed me on your answers to his questions, but I was wondering how many times you have been here, at Mr. Zimmerman’s apartment.”
“This is the first time. I moved in only a couple weeks ago.”
“Your apartment is 22C on the second floor, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Have you seen anyone come up to this floor?”
“I saw Susie . . .” She stopped speaking mid-sentence. Susie was a spirit from the past. Then movement caught her attention over the detective’s right shoulder. Debbie and Bruce were standing several feet behind him. She stared at them as they laughed at her.
“Who is Susie?” the detective asked.
Maggie could not take her eyes off the two of them. “She’s ah . . .”
Ethel grunted as she stood up, moved toward Maggie, and stood next to her.
Detective Becker watched Maggie’s eyes. “What are you looking at?”
Maggie pointed past the detective. “Do you see them?”
He turned around. “See who?”
“Debbie and Bruce; they live on the second floor.” Maggie looked back at the detective, knowing he was beginning to doubt her integrity. “I mean, they used to live there.”
“Are you seeing them now?” He kept glancing at Maggie and the hall behind him.
She shook her head even though she was still looking at them. “I’m sorry; I haven’t had much sleep lately. My husband committed suicide several weeks ago, and I guess I’m just not back to myself.”
“When was the last time Susie came here?” he asked. His voice was not as soft as when he had first begun speaking with her.
“Yesterday . . . No, I don’t know.” Maggie knew she was beginning to sound crazy.
“You’re a guilty, stupid bitch,” Debbie said as Bruce pulled her closer. Then she spoke louder, “Detective, Detective, Maggie killed Mr. Zimmerman.”
“No, I didn’t,” Maggie snapped. “Stop accusing me.”
Detective Becker looked surprised. “Who’s accusing you?”
Maggie shook her head and began to cry.
“She needs rest,” Ethel said, touching Maggie’s arm. “She’s been through a lot.”
“How long have you known Maggie?” Detective Becker asked.
Ethel looked at the floor then up at the detective. “Only a couple weeks but we’ve become good friends.”
“Have you seen anyone come up here?”
“No, no I haven’t.”
“Have you seen anyone else on the second floor?”
She shook her head. “No. The only other person I’ve seen in the building is her friend, and that was a week ago.”
Bruce walked up directly behind Detective Becker and began speaking next to his ear. “Maggie killed him. Maggie killed him. Maggie killed him.”
“Don’t listen to him, he’s lying to you,” Maggie said as tears rolled down her face. She looked away from Bruce’s fiendish glare.
“Who’s lying to me?”
“Bruce.” Maggie sobbed. “Bruce and Debbie are lying.”
As the officers took bags of evidence from the apartment, the first responding officer came out and stood next to the detective. “Do you need me to make a call?”
The detective looked back at Maggie. “Ma’am, would you like me to call a counselor for you?”
Maggie did not answer as she watched Bruce and Debbie continue to talk as if the detective could hear every word they were saying. Maybe his subconscious could, she thought. If that was the case, she was doomed.
“She’ll be fine. She can stay with me.” Ethel said, pulling on Maggie’s hand. “Dear, come with me . . . if you’re done questioning us, Detective.” She looked at the detective with sweet old-lady eyes.
Detective Becker gave them both his business card. “I’ll be back in touch with both of you soon. Call me if you think of anything regarding this case.”
Ethel took the cards. “Thank you, Detective, we will. Come along, Maggie.”
The detective and the officer watched as Ethel, limping from her sore hip, guided Maggie to the elevator.
“We need to keep an eye on them,” the officer said, crossing his arms.
“I agree.” Detective Becker did not stop watching them until the elevator door closed.