Looks like I have a new nurse. I think. He’s acting like one, cleaning my wounds, making sure I got a bath. They’d moved me to another room. Seems New Angels is suffering a bad outbreak of Jubilant and they need intensive care for those more desperate.
After my bath he redressed my wounds. While he did that he asked me about my encounter. I see no harm in telling him. Might help if the monster is returning.
Except, that’s not all he did. I could, I don’t know, feel him in my mind. He wasn’t digging, just looking for stuff I couldn’t put into words.
I stopped talking, began exploring that feeling.
His mind quieted even more than it had been. I guess he sensed me sensing his presence.
I smiled, tried to let him see I’m okay with it.
His smile warmed, went deeper, if that’s right. “Tell you what,” he said. “Just take your mind to the moment they killed Luis. Then, we can see, and deal with what we learn.”
Strange, we slid through just about everything, what I saw, felt, the change my mind went through. He even laughed at me making fun like that.
When we finished he sat for an hour writing it all down. Doesn’t he have other patients to work with?
He rocked his head, no. Told me, mentally, that he came with the package that would pay my hospital.I sat back and let him journal while I let that sink in a bit. Someone I don’t know is paying for my recovery.
He studied me for a moment. “Because, what you now know is worth more to that someone than the money, and he’s happy to trade.”
I let him go back to work. I studies that thought. The tablet cost a lot, but my happiness was worth more. That one nurse’s job was worth more to him than my face. And I’m working through monumental changes.
I could be dead. I’m not. What am I worth now?
James stood up, tucked me in, let me know my uncle was coming up with hidden treasures, and began to go.
“Wait,” I said. I pointed at my temple, “Teach me?”
He smiled, nodded, gathered his homework, and opened the door for my uncle.
Three people just outside my door hold a debate. Well, that’s a quiet way of putting it. Any louder and I won’t need this trick to hear them.
I recognized James right away. Took me a bit to recognize Gwyn. She’s tired. Her bones ache, and I guess the CBD stuff she’s taking to ease her stomach isn’t enough for today.
The last “voice” sounded, I don’t know, like mixed company. Well, his eyes couldn’t stay on Gwyn’s eyes long enough not to notice her bust size, or the expensive tweed coat covering them over. If the average mind had been messy this man’s was a wreck. Sure, the usual ruminations over work, home, his other job, the secrets he held cluttering just about every corner of his mind. Worst, though, his mind seemed to harmonize with that one voice. He heard it, just didn’t know he did.
I guess James felt my worry over that and tried to ease my mind a little. I asked if he heard that voice. No, though he had no doubts about it.
The stranger’s voice seemed to focus. “Listen, I’m an investigator. I’m going to talk to him and I’m going to do it now.”
Why did that make me nervous? I didn’t really know the man. Did he make Gwyn and James that nervous?
Not that it mattered much. Gwyn didn’t back down. “Now, listen up, Lt. Kennedy, and listen good. You know who you really work for, right? You should, he’s given you enough money to turn that wreck you call a life around. This boy is under his protection, and right now he’s still in recovery. Don’t worry your pretty little head over it. When he tells us something important about that scene, we’ll pass it onto you. Now, do something useful about that new drug coming through town, Jubilant.”
“Why, just taking scumbags off the streets.”
“Because those ‘scumbags’ pay taxes enough to pay your renovation another three times over. Without them where would you work?” She seemed to get in his face, “Or, we tell a paper or two how your renovation was financed. Then where would you work? Not even at a Bangkok brothel, servicing men.”
I sensed two things change with that insult. Her mind had already been very focused on matters at hand. It had just become omniscient. James, too, but he seemed to back off, then I lost contact with him. As for Kennedy, he became a storm, raging against the insult, against this woman, against his daddy, and against just about anyone he could think of. And for some reason that Voice seemed to swell, like it had found one it could sing with. Then, like a drum beat it all went silent.
Kennedy still felt angry, but he backed down. The image of a large black man in Columbia Park cracking a woman’s head open with a flick of a finger flashed before his mind. The memory seemed to be his own, but pulled up by someone else. “We’ll take this up latter. Just you wait, I’ll let Castle know you were interfering with my work.”
“Better hurry up with that report. He’s not had much to make him smile, here of late. What with children murdered and people dying from this Jubilant.”
Gwyn felt giddy.
James opened his mind again. I sensed something, I don’t know, the shadow of Ominous?
You know, I don’t understand it. I’m back in the ICU. Except today I’m not here to recover. See, the New Angels Municipal Medical Center ain’t the richest in the valley. Then again, Our Lady of the Valley won’t take no charity case if they can’t pay up front, especially since ‘08. And no amount of legislation seems able to change that, n’so. You know, today won’t be no different.
James, who I’ve learned really is a registered nurse with big degrees in general and psychiatric medicine, has offered his time and talents to the place. He just asked me once if I really wanted to learn this psychic stuff, and pulled me in to help him out.
First lesson of the day; Ignoring the Crowd.
When I left this place last week only two people wanted help, and one was cleaning out a bad drunk weekend. No, that wasn’t my friend with the buzdro. Today, beds from the 70s had been brought up and the halls became ICU central.
James advised I let my eyes set my focus. He said “It’s like being in the cafe. There you are, eating, and so focused on the pretty face across from you nothing else really matters. Not the couple at the next table, the lone teen across from you, the customer at the counter flirting with the three others there. Then, someone from the other side of the cafe jumps up with a rebel yell to say ‘fuck!’ Then your focus shifts, for a moment, to be sure what passion just hollered at you. And you go back to what’s important to you; the pretty face across from you. Just let your eyes direct that psychic focus the way they would your hearing.”
I surprised myself, I tell you, how fast I figured that out. Maybe it’s from learning to focus just to hear all them years. Anyway, some water here, adjust a pillow there, and as kind a word as I could honestly give–hay, if I can hear a lie why can’t someone else? I quickly learned who had been on a Jubilee Bender, two or three days on the stuff with little to eat and less to drink. Most showed up needing a drink or two, maybe something else to settle their fluttering heart. One mind would beg for more of that stuff, the other wanted to know where they were, how they got there, and does this mean they don’t have to go to work on Monday? Some had been at it who needed direct intervention, not just rest. For them two minds thrashed themselves to death in their heads in rave tempo. One kept saying, help, don’t want to die. The other begged for more. Twice I caught a third mind. It was that Voice, only it welcomed them to joyous bliss. It sounded like the monster who killed me, like two actors saying the same lines from the same play. And this one sounded far more seasoned at it. Talk about mixed blessings. Yay, my monster is done, dead, last rites, Mi Señora’s concern. And then darn, there’s another. Are the stories I heard from my Aunt true? Was, no, is the Claw real? Shit!
Then I heard it…I mean, didn’t hear it. I tried to offer this girl, looked like a cheerleader with a Capt Angel t-shirt, some water and some hope. She shot straight up and yelled. No, not just cover your ears and hope to recover yell. The only mind not yelling from her was that Voice.
And then silence.
Even that Voice went quiet. Like, he sat anticipating the next thing in the show like it’s his favorite.
Then a light went out of her body and dove for the floor without a fight.
Except she rolled off the gurney and stumbled in my direction. And I’m sure she’d already died. If I wasn’t focused before, I sure am now.
“¡Madre de los muertos! James!” He tried to pull me aside to safety. “She’s already dead, how is she still moving?”
He focused. I tried to hear what he did, except he blocked me out again. Why?
Before I could ask I’d stumbled to the floor trying to push him back. He panicked. That panic flooded my mind so I almost lost hope.
Only my mind went back to that slab, and the fun I had mocking my killer. “No, no, no I won’t sniff it no more. I’m tired of waking up off the floor.”
By the time the song was trying to walk out that door I found my feet again. `Course, I forgot the verses, so I tried the chorus again.
The song, my smile, seemed to confuse her, and the Voice driving her. She stopped trying to tear my mentor’s head off and started for me.
Some of the heart went out of my song while I backed off, leading them form the target rich environment. Unfortunately for me, that was a supply closet with no way out.
Strange, I thought I heard my grandma again, telling me to play it again, with vigor.
Vigor? Panic had taken hold of me again, leaving me breathless, and feeling pushed from my body again. Still, I felt her smile, her warm touch. I could even smell her enchiladas. Why?
Never mind, it did for me now what it did when I lived with her in Wisconsin. I felt better, and I remembered where I heard that song before. And while my mouth sang softly, my minds began a choir that made church sound pathetic.
“No thank you please, it only makes me sneeze,” and she dropped dead. The Voice was distant again, and I could feel James’ mind return to peace.
I took a fresh breath, let it out with some giggles. I heard a few more from the hallway. Did they think my performance that good? Or did they feel the same relief I did for the same reasons?
James suggested I rest, get some water.
“I’m good, real good.”
“Rest, recover, get stronger. There’ll be more to do later.”
I smiled, took in a lung full, a step forward. Then used the door post to keep from falling. “Now, who’s having trouble finding the door? Sure, rest, recover, get stronger.”
I took another breath, crossed myself, thanked my grandma and Mi Señora, and went to my room.
“So, when Lt. Kennedy came by, you blocked me out, then helped him find a memory. Why?”
He looked at me, surprised at the question. He studied it, and the incident.
“Hadn’t noticed blocking you out.”
“Guess you’ve been at this your whole life. Maybe you do somethings without thinking.”
“Maybe, but I’ve not done this my whole life. It started in 76.”
Quietly we shared a memory. He lay on a table like mine, dead men standing over them with bladed finger things. A man sat on a throne, lifting his head to look at interlopers. A lean, tall teen ran up to James’ killer and body slammed him into the throne, missing by feet. He picked James up and handed him to another, older man who looked like he’d been in a fight or two and was trying to dry up.
James cut the memory short. I sensed he didn’t mean to share that with me.
I just thanked him. “So, did you get the scar or just the stretched psyche?”
He opened his shirt to show me an old scar at the top of his chest. “A lot of children died that year. It’s one of the few scars my employer can’t keep hidden from me.”
I played the memory over again, looking for something. Found it. “My monster is not your monster. But yours is the voice I’ve been hearing, the one driving that cheerleader. Is that what your employer is worried about?”
James just nodded.
“You get some rest. You go home tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’ll still help you get better, and teach you what I can.”
Good, cause this roast beef tastes like tin.