The heart monitor showed a silent trace, a green line with a bump for every heartbeat. The chart hanging on the foot of the bed showed that the patient was getting better, slowly.
On the bed, like a ragdoll, lay the form of Indra Gillespie. Her white hair was cropped closer now, and its red roots had gotten nearly a quarter-inch long. Her tattooed face showed incongruously above the neck of a hospital gown, and her intricately inked arms lay atop the covers, inert.
A tall man quietly entered the room and closed the door. He was blonde, with watery blue eyes, and wore a five thousand dollar suit. "Well, Ms. Gillespie," he said, looking at her sadly through his gold-rimmed glasses. "Here we are." He circled the bed slowly and finally stood looking at the IV bag.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know it wasn't your fault. But .... contro tutti i dii. This is the twenty-first century, and we just can't have real live Goddesses running around anymore." He shook his head sadly, withdrew a syringe from his pocket, pulled back the plunger, and reached for the IV tube.
"Air embolism's a hell of a way to go," Mitch said conversationally as he came out of the bathroom. "I'd been hoping you weren't exactly that kind of bastard." He had his pistol out. "Step away from the bed, Dover. Or whatever your name really is."
Dover had whirled, startled at hearing Mitch's voice. But then he straightened up. "Think about this, Flanagan. We have to deal with things like the Hook, and we have to deal with things like Aphrodite."
Mitch shook his head. "Not if it means murder."
"Damnit," Dover snarled. "Indra Gillespie's dead already. She committed suicide in that club when she let the crowd make her into this thing. This isn't her any more. this is a Goddess, and if you let it live it'll spread chaos, superstition and blood. You want to go back to the ages when humans were the playthings of petty Gods and Goddesses with the morals of spoiled brats? That's what you're looking at here!"
"We could debate what she did," said Mitch. "But it doesn't matter. You're not going to kill her in cold blood."
"Damnit, Mitch, it's not about what she did. It's about what she is! This woman glows in the dark now, she's never going to be able to get away from it." Mitch could hear the Italian accent coming out now that Dover was under stress. It went with his Italian suit.
"She still glows," Mitch said. "She glows so bright you can't read me, doesn't she? You didn't know I was there. And she glows so bright you can't do shit to my head while we're in here, too, doesn't she?"
Dover glared at him. "Mitch. This has to happen."
"I heard you," Mitch said. "I never studied any Italian, but 'contro tutti i dii' is pretty clear once I understood what the hell you're doing. 'Against all Gods', right? There's a bunch of you guys, isn't there? You're not the only one."
Dover frowned. "This what people like me put to a stop a thousand years ago and it's what I'm here to stop today. As long as nobody really believes in us, nobody makes us into things ... like this." He gestured at the bed. "And as long as things like this aren't around, everybody, including us, gets to live their own lives. Who else there is, I have nothing to say about."
Mitch sighed. "I wouldn't let you kill her even if you were right," he said. "But you're wrong. She's not Lost anymore. And she's not Aphrodite. There's nobody in her head now but her."
"Mitch, you're not one of us," said Dover. "You can't possibly know that."
"Everybody is, a little bit," Mitch said. "Or at least that's what Rose tells me. I was down here with Rose one of the times she regained consciousness, and she was Indra, not Aphrodite. Rose can't hear her anymore. Says she has what you call glow, but it's like a thing - doesn't change with her moods and thoughts, doesn't respond to other people's. The doctors said she has a brain hemorrhage and they were all impressed how little function she'd lost. Of course, they didn't know what kind of function she'd had, did they?"
Dover turned to the bed, facing the blinding light of Goddess' power, and realized for the first time that that power wasn't shaped or stirred by dreams. Not even the slow, quiet dreams of the deeply unconscious. Not a ripple, not even an undercurrent. This was only an echo of power, a place of shelter lying where a Goddess had lain. Flanagan was telling the truth.
He stuck the syringe back into his pocket. "So what happens now?" He gestured at himself, at Indra.
"Well," said Mitch. "If I was still a cop, I would have to take you in for attempted murder and maybe conspiracy to commit. But I'm a private investigator now, and nobody's paying me to take you anywhere. What happens now, I figure, is you go back to those others you have nothing to say about, and you tell 'em Aphrodite and the Hook are both dead. Mission accomplished. And Indra, well, maybe she's always going to glow in the dark a little bit, but she's never hearing the voices again. She gets to live her own life and so do the people around her."
Dover gave Mitch a long, unreadable look, then asked, "When did you figure it out?"
Mitch shrugged. "When I ran your story back against the FBI, it didn't hold up. Then I thought you were a pawn for the Hook," he said, "But when Lucy got Lost after talking with you, she wound up back in New Orleans. And if you were with the Hook, you wouldn't be getting innocent bystanders out of harm's way, now would you?"
"Impressive," said Dover. "Next time I need to work with a numbsk -- um, someone without the gift, I'll call you."
"Did you call Mike too?" Mitch said.
"Who?" said Dover.
"Get out of my sight," said Mitch.
Dover walked past him out the door without another word.
Mitch holstered his gun and went to stand next to the bed. "Well, I feel better now," he said, picking up Indra's hand. "Now all you have to do is get well."
Her eyelids fluttered, and weakly, her hand grasped his. "Thangs..." she slurred. "Won'... vorged this."
"Hey, girl. They got you on a lot of sleepy drugs. How long have you been awake?" Mitch asked.
"Szinze he zaid ... gondro ... thad thing," Indra slurred. "Vigerred ... wanded do hear." But then she faded again. Her hand went limp and fell back to the bed.
Mitch looked up at the green trace of the heart monitor's line, going bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump. "Get some rest, Indra," he said gently. "I saw Philo in the parking lot waiting for regular visiting hours. He's got flowers and a little jewelry box with him, and he's actually dressed in a suit. However bad you wanted to hear about Dover, it may be best if you don't remember."
Quietly, he turned out the lights and left.
YOU ARE READING
This is a story that tells, among other things, why it really sucks to be psychic, what people who endlessly collect art and trivia are really doing, and where Gods, Goddesses and Devils come from. Rose is a telepath - but it isn't really "readin...