The Visit

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Rose, Mitch, and Wolf stood at the hospital desk. "Her name's Indra Gillespie," Rose said. "She came in with a head injury a week ago and she just got out of the ICU."

"Oh, okay," the nurse behind the counter said. "She's in room 304C." It's, uh, down that hallway, take the elevator up to the third floor, and then the hallway on your left. But you can only stay for a few minutes."

"Thanks," said Rose.

"Gillespie?" Mitch asked as they walked away from the desk. Did she ever use that name?"

"It hasn't crossed her lips since she was a little girl," Rose replied. "She hates it."

The ride in the elevator was tense and quiet. There was a lot to say, but no point in actually saying any of it.

Finally they stood in front of 304C, and Wolf reached out to knock gently, then open the door.

Indra was sitting up in bed as they came in. Rose stared at her and she stared back. Then she began to cry. "It's all gone, Rose. It's ... it's gone."

"Hey, Indra, it's okay," said Rose. "I can't count the number of times I've wished it would just go away."

"No, damnit, it's not okay," Indra said. "I was maybe a freak before, and then for a little while I was something else, something wonderful and powerful and sweet. But I don't know who I am now. Now I'm just ... just Indra." She glared defiantly at Rose.

Rose held her hand, not knowing what to say. Finally she explained to Mitch and Wolf. "Guys... I can't hear her anymore. You know, except with my ears."

Wolf leaned over the bed and stared into Indra's eyes. "Hey," he said. "There's a guy out there who still thinks you're wonderful and powerful and sweet. And I'll bet he's okay with you being just Indra."

Indra's face fell. "Philo..." she said. "The nurse told me he'd been here a lot when I was asleep, but you guys are the first visitors I've had awake."

"You know, Indra," said Rose. "This may be the only way you'd ever get to be you again. I mean, you know how that's the hardest kind of Lost to get out of, when people need you to be something? Well, you were in front of a lot of lonely people being something they needed a lot. If you were still hearing the Voices, you'd be that, instead of you."

Indra nodded. "You're right," she said. "But it wasn't so bad, being... what I was for a while. I got to do some people some good anyway."

Mitch nodded. "And you stopped one very bad man from preying on any more innocents," he said.

Next to the bed, a machine beeped.

"What's that?" Rose asked.

"They're putting more drugs in me," Indra replied, gesturing at the IV in her arm. "That's the beep that says I'm going to get sleepy now."

"Well, I guess it's time for us to leave anyway," said Wolf. "You get well, okay?"

"Thanks for coming, guys," Indra said.

As they walked away from the room, Rose shook her head. "Well, that was strange," she said.

"What do you mean?" Mitch asked.

"She's very, very ... well, real. Like the Pagoda almost. But it's not the kind of real that people are, that's always changing with their moods and thoughts, it's the kind of real that things get to be when people have paid a lot of attention to them, like a shelter zone. She's always been a little that way with the tattoos, but now ... it's overwhelming. And she's all alone in her head."

"You're jealous, aren't you," Wolf said.

Rose paused, then shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "I thought I would be, but ..."

"But she's lost something, too," Wolf said.

"Yeah," Rose replied. "Yeah, she has."

***

Mitch and Wolf stepped out of Rose's house and started a longish walk back to the bus stop.

"Well, that's mostly it," Mitch said. "Mostly."

"Dover's still bothering you, isn't he?" said Wolf.

"Yep," Mitch said. "That's the thing that still doesn't make sense."

"Well, with Rose safe and the killer stopped, and my name about as cleared as I guess it's possible for it to be, I think I got everything I wanted." Wolf shrugged. "I'd like to know about Dover too, Mitch, but ... Hell. I can't even pay you for the work you've done. We may never find out what the hell he was up to. And anyway, you can go back to being a regular cop now."

Mitch shook his head. "You owe me nothing, Wolf. I got your dime, remember?"

"Didn't David say that Lieutenant Purdy would clear you and take you back?" Wolf asked.

"Yeah," Mitch said. "But I got a PI's license now, and I think I want to try that for a while."

Wolf smiled a crooked smile. "You need any testimonials," he said, "I'll write 'em. I figure I got my dime's worth."

Mitch snorted. "Actually, what I need is a partner," he said.

Wolf looked at the sky for a long moment. "I don't know about that," he said. "I lost the construction job when I didn't show up for several days in a row, but I'm not sure I want to be a private eye."

"You're good at it," Mitch said.

"Maybe," Wolf replied, "but I don't think I like it."

"I won't pitch it too hard, but I will say this; police work, and private detective work, isn't something you do because you like it. It's something you do because of justice and because people need it done. And it isn't the work you have to like; it's who you are when you go to sleep at night."

Wolf smiled. "Good point," he said. "Tell you what, Mitch. I need some time to spend out between the boondocks and the sky again. Where my foot doesn't come down in the middle of a thousand other people's footprints, if you know what I mean. Time to think, and space to know who I am again. I'll think about it."

Wolf got on a bus headed for his apartment in the Mission district, and Mitch waited for a bus headed the other way, to his place in the outer sunset.

On the bus, Mitch leaned back and thought hard about things. He had the feeling he was missing something.

About the time the bus crossed nineteenth avenue, he let fly a string of obscenities, reached up, and rang the bell to get off at the next stop.

He leapt off the bus and ran down the street, surveying the traffic until he spotted an unoccupied cab waiting at a red light. Dashing across a lane of traffic while fumbling for his wallet, he got into the back of the taxi before the light turned green.

"Whoa..." said the cabbie, turning around.

Mitch tossed a couple of twenties on the front seat and said, "I've got to get to San Francisco General before some bastard who's probably already there murders somebody."

"Dude," said the cabbie, grinning an idiotic grin. "You're serious?"

"Serious as a goddamn heart attack," said Mitch, tossing another twenty onto the seat.

Behind the taxi, another car honked.

"The light's green, Dude." Mitch fumed. "Let's get going!"

The cabbie's grin widened until he looked positively maniacal as he turned back around in his seat. Grabbing the gearshift, he clutched into first and gunned it. A bored-out V8 motor with dual four-barrel racing carburetors, dual exhaust, and a performance air intake manifold screamed to life as he flipped a completely illegal cutout switch to route the exhaust past the catalytic converter and mufflers. The rear tires left a trail of smoke and rubber, and the taxi was up to forty miles per hour before it cleared the intersection.

"Might wanna fasten your seat belt, dude," the cabbie said, stabbing the transmission into third as the taxi hit fifty and swerved around a delivery truck. "We're gonna get some air on these hills up ahead."

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