The story so far:
My mind was wrapped up in a cocoon, a neat little cradle. It felt safe. Cozy. Cold.
No, this isn’t a safe place, I realized. There was something evil there. I reached out into the nothingness and tried to push my way free.
My efforts were met with immediate resistance. A sharp pain stabbed deep into my belly, making me gasp and stop pushing. The pain immediately went away.
So, I thought, you think pain will keep me trapped? Clenching my teeth, I pushed again, fighting to ignore the pain as it sank in deeper and deeper. A soothing feeling rested inside the cocoon, inviting me to stop fighting and let it tend to me.
But I was too stubborn for that. I kept fighting, struggling for freedom and doing my best to ignore the pain. But it continued intensifying, wracking my entire body. I couldn’t take much more.
The push! It had stopped Charlie. Would it work to free me? Doubts flooded my mind, fear of this power I had never before known I possessed, but I had to try. If I didn’t, the pain would defeat me.
LET ME GO!
I opened my eyes to see the ceiling of my office. The pain slowly faded from my body, leaving behind only the smallest of twinges. But I was free.
Taking slow, deep breaths, I carefully pushed myself to a sitting position. The paperweight was still clutched in my hand. Fat lot of good that did me. I discarded it and stood, finally managing to get my thoughts in order. Charlie knew where Paige was. I had to find Charlie.
I grabbed my purse and hurried out of the office. As I stepped out of the building, I slowed at a movement out of the corner of my eye. A man was sitting in a blue Mercedes sedan, staring intensely at me. I felt a little jolt of fear. Who was he? Why was he watching me?
I forced myself to keep steady as I walked to my car. The man exited his car and began walking toward me. I could see he would reach me before I could reach my car. Should I run for it or make a stand?
“Dr. Adara Davis?” he asked, stopping only a yard from me.
I hesitated. He was a little taller than me, but looked out of shape. If I had to fight, I was sure I had a decent chance against him. I planted my feet and kept my chin up. “Yes. Who are you?”
He paused. “Do you know what your sin is, Dr. Davis?”
A cold chill swept through me, but I forced my tone to remain even. “No.”
The man’s bald head bobbed a little as he took a shaky breath. “I know what mine is.”
I stared, uncertain of how to react. He looked afraid, as though the boogeyman was due to pop out of the shadows at any moment.
His eyes shadowed with grief. “It’s pride. Dear Lord, what have I done?” His hand flew to his shirt and he pulled out a rosary, his fingers flying over the beads as his lips moved in a silent prayer.
I took a step forward. “Who are you?”
He finished the rosary and clutched it tightly. “I – I’m Dr. Lipscomb. We need to talk.”
I led the way into the office and picked up the paperweight on the pretense of tidying up. Feeling better with it in hand, I turned as Dr. Lipscomb dropped heavily into one of my chairs. “Okay, Dr. Lipscomb,” I said. “What is it?”
He was silent for a moment, then his hands returned to the rosary. “I – I made a terrible mistake.” His eyes glistened.
I sat down across from him, adopting the soothing tone that I use when speaking with patients. “It’s okay. Just slow down and start at the beginning.”
He nodded. “A little over two years ago, the state called on me to evaluate a patient in the prison. A man who refused to speak. I sat in silence with him for ten minutes and he didn’t budge an inch. So I started all the usual tricks, you know, talking about his crimes, asking about his motives. Still nothing. And then-” His voice broke. “And then I was talking. I don’t know how it happened. It was like I was drunk or something, and couldn’t control what was coming out of my mouth. Dear Lord, forgive me!” His fingers worked the beads again as tears slid down his cheeks.
I patiently remained silent, waiting. Once his fingers stopped, I held out my box of tissues.
He gave me a weak smile of thanks and took one, wiping his face before continuing. “I told him everything about all of my patients. I was telling him why they were seeing me, where they lived, everything.” More tears escaped his eyes. “And now all my patients are turning up dead. It’s my fault, Dr. Davis. Mine! I told him everything, and now…”
I couldn’t hide my shock. “You told someone about your patients?”
“I – I never meant to! You have to believe me! It was like it wasn’t really me talking. It was me, but it wasn’t!”
The words rang a bell. It was how Esparanza had described her phone call to me. “Like someone was controlling you?”
“Yes!” He looked relieved. “Yes, that’s exactly what it was like! You do believe me, don’t you?”
My brain kicked into overdrive. “Is that why you left town so abruptly?”
Guilt etched across his features and his hand shook on the rosary. “I tried to pretend it never happened. After all, the man never speaks. Who would he tell? But then Amelia-” He choked back a sob. “But it was so strange, and they never caught the killer, and this man was still in jail. I was sure it had to be coincidence.”
He grabbed another tissue and wiped his eyes again. “That was over two years ago, and nothing else happened, so I thought I was safe. But then Esparanza Flores called me to say Nona was dead, the same way Amelia died. I was terrified. I knew – I don’t know how, but I knew it was all my fault. And I was afraid he’d come after me, too, so I ran. I was a coward.”
I closed my eyes as I struggled to find the logic in it all. “Dr. Lipscomb, if this man is in jail, how could he be killing people?”
“I don’t know how. But that man is evil. I knew it after I spoke to him.” He shook his head. “And I told him everything. It’s my fault! Dear Lord…”
I got up from my chair and gathered up the scattered files. “If this is true, then we need to figure out who else he might target and warn them.”
I turned back to Dr. Lipscomb to find him standing right behind me. His face had changed. His expression looked calm and unafraid now, but it was more than that. Almost like it was someone else entirely.
His eyes twinkled coldly. “Congratulations, Adara. You’ve found me.”
I recognized not the voice, but the feeling it left in me. The same feeling I’d had in that cocoon. Evil.
Dr. Lipscomb took a step forward, a smile tracing his lips. I faked right, then bolted to the left and out the open door. I didn’t slow down until I was inside my car with all the doors locked. Driving out of the parking lot as fast as I dared, I grabbed my cell phone. I had to reach Franco. I didn’t know why, but for some reason I knew he was the only one who could help me now.
This was it.
Jimmy couldn’t help but smile as he returned to his own body. Everything had come down to this day, and his work would reach its pinnacle tonight. Perfect.
Adara had already passed the first test, the opening movement. She’d easily broken out of the little prison he’d constructed for her mind. She was strong, without a doubt, and she would make the completion of his work resplendent.
He slid into his next agent. He normally wouldn’t travel like this, jumping from one to the next so quickly, but the strain would be worth it. Every little harmony was coming in at the right place. Tonight was his night of glory.
Dr. Lipscomb stared at his shaking hands. How long had he been standing there? What had he done? He’d nearly attacked Dr. Davis! It was the same as when he’d spoken to Jimmy, when he’d told that vile man everything. The same loss of control.
He gripped his rosary again. “Dear Lord…”
Heavy footsteps fell in the office behind him and he turned, coming face to face with a man who had a ruddy face and greasy red hair. The man smiled and lifted a long knife. “Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain.”
Franco gripped the armrest as Methra kept the gas pedal pressed against the floor. The road was a lonely stretch, and the police had more important things to do than watch it. Franco was grateful for that. The last thing they needed was a delay.
He wanted to curse his superiors. If they had only allowed him to reach out to Adara before now, maybe he could’ve done something to stop this. And now Adara had realized her full power. Franco had felt it from the day Esparanza had made that phone call threatening Paige. The Com Killer wanted Adara, but only after she’d been awakened.
And now that it had finally happened, Franco was miles away.
“Can we go any faster?” he asked.
“Not unless you want to destroy the engine,” Methra replied. “Can’t you go to her?”
It was immoral to enter another being, but Guardians were allowed to do so if necessary. But if Franco left to help Adara, Methra and Paige would be vulnerable. On the other hand, if Franco stayed put, then he could quickly stop any attempts the killer made to harm either of them – but that left Adara unprotected.
“I can’t,” Franco said. “We have to get to Adara.”
A slender arm appeared between them, startling Franco. “Paige?”
Paige grabbed the steering wheel and jerked with all her might. As Methra screamed and Franco shouted, lunging for the wheel, the car spun out of control. The wheels struck the rut at the side of the road as Franco recognized the presence inside of Paige. Before he could do anything, though, the car rolled, tumbling over and over, and the world faded to black.
Charlie stopped at the gas station only long enough to fill his car and pick up a pack of cigarettes. He didn’t dare stay put for long in any one place.
Could Jimmy really use Adara to kill him?
A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and he wiped it angrily. Jimmy was his partner! Sure, the guy took the game a lot more seriously than Charlie, but they’d worked together through all this. And now Jimmy was turning on him as if he’d been nothing.
He clenched his teeth. He couldn't hold his own against Adara, but he’d never even tried to take on Jimmy. Maybe it was time to give it a go.
Franco wasn’t home.
I kept shouting his name as I ran through the house, bolting every door, but received no response. He hadn’t answered his phone when I called him from the road, either.
Exhausted, I dropped into a chair at the kitchen table and let the files in my arms fall to the surface. I had to figure out who was next. I had to save them.
I set aside the files for Nona Flores and Will Engram. Next was some guy named James Barton. According to Lipscomb’s notes, the guy was some kind of street preacher trying to convert prostitutes. I shook my head and set that one aside, too. If this guy was killing sinners, then Barton was safe.
The next few names and pictures were unfamiliar, and the notes revealed nothing that stood out as particularly sinful. But then again, Esparanza had told me that Nona didn’t bear false witness. For all I knew, this guy had some other criteria. I closed my eyes. How could I figure this out?
I opened my eyes to find one hand on the doorknob and the other hand clutching my keys. How had that happened?
I blinked again and I was in my car, the key in the ignition.
I couldn’t have jumped out of the car fast enough. My heart was pounding as I stared at it. What was going on?
And then I felt it, that same evil feeling. He was here, I knew it. Inside my head.
Fear sent my mind into chaos. I watched as my feet calmly walked back to the car and slid into the driver’s seat. My hands closed the door and turned the car on.
I pushed hard, trying to break free of the strange spell. I won’t let you control me!
There was no answer as my body continued working against my will, driving the car down the street. I pushed again, harder this time, and felt the same sharp pain as before. I beat this once, and I’ll beat it again. Feeling a surge of confidence, I sent out my power once more. LET ME GO!
But the pain didn’t stop. And my limbs continued smoothly controlling the car, driving to some unknown location, entirely unconcerned about the panic that seized my mind. Why wasn’t this working? I mustered up my strength and tried again. LET ME GO!
I knew it was a mistake the instant I did it. My mind felt weak as I fell back, unable to fight any longer. My power had been exhausted.
A low chuckle reached my ears as the pain subsided. A name, the name of this man in me, rang through my mind. Jimmy.
Welcome, Adara. Welcome to my world.
I wanted to cry. He had me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Jimmy’s grip on Adara was rocked violently. He moved his mind, splitting it to keep control over Adara while he investigated. A power was pushing in at his mind, trying to enter it. To take over.
The notion was so absurd that at first Jimmy didn’t react. Someone was trying to enter him? He reached out cautiously, mindful to keep Adara on track even as he did so.
Charlie. Jimmy almost laughed out loud. Charlie was trying to move in on him. Well, the scumbag might have spoiled their original plan, but now he was making the new one all the more fun. A little arpeggio always spiced up a composition.
I watched as my body parked the car outside a scummy hotel. What are you doing with me?
It’s rude to interrupt.
I was helpless to fight him, but there was nothing he could do to silence me. And it’s rude to take over people’s bodies. What are you doing with me?
The low chuckle was my only answer. I wanted to kick something.
I was moving now, going to the trunk. A large duffel bag sat beside my tire iron. In a burst of energy, I fought for control, struggling to get the iron, but I failed as resoundingly as before. My hands picked up the duffel bag and closed the trunk.
Wait a minute. Where did this bag come from?
I could feel his delight so acutely, I wanted to vomit. Dr. Lipscomb’s arrival was most fortuitous. He kept you occupied just long enough.
My hand pushed a hotel door open and shut it behind me. Fear rattled my mind as I saw Charlie sitting on the end of the bed. His hands were pressed against his temples and sweat streamed down his red face.
“Come on, come on,” he whispered over and over.
He didn’t seem to notice me. My hands opened the bag and removed a wooden plank, a spike, a hammer, and some rope. Jimmy was going to kill Charlie, and he was going to use me to do it.
NO! STOP IT!
My hands paused.
Hope fluttered anew in my heart. My power was back!
LET ME GO!
The struggle was brief but intense. I could feel him pressing against me from every side, pushing in to keep me trapped as I fought to be free. I cried out again and again, trying to push harder with each attempt.
Without warning, it broke. My mind was exhausted, and I couldn’t fight any longer.
It was little comfort that Jimmy seemed equally worn out from the fight. He had lasted just a little longer than I had, and that was all that mattered.
He was pleased that I had fought. I felt sick.
My hands resumed their task. The plank was set aside. The hammer and spike, placed on the desk. The rope was gripped tightly. My feet approached the bed.
Charlie, look out!
My cry echoed back to me, never leaving my lips. Charlie might be the scum of the earth, but no one deserved to die like this.
You know he does. His sins have led him to this moment.
I wanted to clamp my hands over my ears. And what about your sins? You’re a murderer!
Justice is not murder. I give these people what they deserve.
Before I could respond, Charlie shook his head as if to clear it. He looked at me, his face showing first confusion, then fear. “Adara?”
My body moved, sliding behind him. The rope closed around his neck as my hands pulled tight. Charlie choked and struggled, but he had no leverage from his position.
I knew I was too exhausted to try again, but I couldn’t just sit there and watch. I pushed, fighting for control, harder and harder until the pain was so fierce I thought I would die.
Suddenly I was standing in the middle of the room. Charlie was flat on the bed, rope still around his neck. His eyes were glassy, fixed on the corner of the ceiling. I felt a growing dread as I realized that I had lost awareness again. My mind was in a painful muddle, wrestled between agony over what Jimmy had forced me to do, fear over what would happen next, and despair. Utter despair.
Thou shalt not kill, Adara.
My hands took the rope again, removing it from Charlie’s neck. They tied neat slipknots at either end and slid the plank through both. Then set the contraption on the desk and picked up the spike and hammer. Climbed on top of the desk. Pounded the spike into the ceiling and fastened the rope to the spike.
There was nothing I could do to stop him. I had fought and failed.
Climbed off the desk and pushed it to the other side of the room. Moved the cheap rolling chair under the hanging plank. Tore part of my sleeve off and stuffed it into my mouth as a gag. Climbed up.
My new power just wasn’t enough, and any time I got close, he simply did something that made me unaware of what was going on. There was no way to beat him.
Slid my hands into the slipknots. Tugged to make sure they were secure. Kicked the chair away.
I dropped against the ropes, feeling the pain as they dug into my wrists. One final low chuckle, and Jimmy was gone. Not that it did me any good now.
I was going to die.
Franco groaned and forced his eyes open. His whole body was killing him. It took him a moment to get a grip on his surroundings, largely because of the disorienting fact that he was upside-down.
The car was on its roof in the desert, and he was suspended only by his seatbelt. Clenching his teeth, he braced his good arm against the roof of the car and released his seatbelt’s latch. His body dropped painfully and he groaned again.
Paige. He winced. The killer had taken control of Paige and used her to crash the car before Franco had a chance to react. “Paige?”
But he was the only one in the car. Franco carefully eased himself out onto the desert sand. “Paige? Methra?”
Silence met his ears as he turned around, his eyes searching for any signs of life. A figure was hunched over another one about fifty yards away.
“Paige?” he called as he started limping in that direction. “Paige? Methra?"
There was no answer. As he came closer, he saw that the hunched figure was Paige, bending over Methra. Franco hurried, moving as fast as he could. His leg and hips sent pain through his body with each step, but he gritted his teeth and ignored it. Paige didn’t look up as he reached her side. She had a razor in her hand and was calmly digging into Methra’s skin with it.
A shudder passed through Franco and he put his hand on Paige’s head. “That’s enough! Get out of her!” he ordered, releasing his power into the girl. He briefly felt the evil presence before it obediently fled, releasing Paige.
The razor fell from Paige’s hand and she dropped backwards, her eyes wide with horror. “Franco!”
He knelt at her side and pulled her into his arms. She sobbed into his chest, clinging tightly to him. As he stroked her hair, murmuring words of comfort, he glanced down at Methra’s still body.
Her neck was broken and her shirt had been torn halfway down her chest. Neatly carved into her skin were the words, “Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Grav-” Franco had interrupted before the work could be done. Arranged neatly above the words was Methra’s necklace, the crux commissa.
Adara’s despair was the sweetest aria Jimmy had ever heard. He paused for a moment inside his own body to regroup. Adara had nearly beaten him, and then that fool of a Guardian had forced him from Paige. But it didn't matter. Everything was still going just the way it should.
Before meeting Father Preston, he’d believed things happened randomly and without purpose. But now he knew there was no such thing as coincidence. When Father Preston had brought up Adara, Jimmy had hardly given her a thought. After all, the priest was just using her as an example of how the devil can invade a person’s mind with evil visions.
But when Charlie had also told him about Adara, Jimmy had paid attention. And then all of Dr. Lipscomb's patients were transferred – to Adara! From that moment, Jimmy had known Adara was the key to the completion of his work. Her death would bring about the justice, the proper punishment of the sinners. God would be pleased, indeed.
And now he was ready to begin the final movement.
Franco’s mind raced as he held Paige. The car was useless now. The empty road meant hitchhiking was out. There was only one choice. It was unfortunate, but he had no other option. Allowing her to stay awake would leave them exposed.
She wailed. “It happened again! I didn’t want to, honest, I didn’t!”
“Hush now, it’s over,” he whispered, stroking her hair. “You’re safe now. And I’m going to keep you safe. Do you trust me?”
Whimpering, she nodded against his chest.
“I have to make you go to sleep, Paige. To keep you safe.”
She tensed and whimpered again.
“I know it’s scary, honey, but I have to do it. That’s the only way I can keep him from coming in you again.”
That did the trick. She nodded, sniffling.
“I’ll wake you up when it’s all over. I promise.” Franco kissed her on the forehead, then placed a hand on either side of her head. At his mental prompting, her eyes closed and she went limp against him.
The trick should work. The killer wouldn’t be able to use her while she was unconscious. In hindsight, he should’ve done it the instant he found her and Methra, but he knew making her sleep like that would increase the chances of visions. He’d tried to save her from that and wound up getting Methra killed.
Shaking his head, he pushed the thoughts aside. He couldn’t change the past, and there was no time to beat himself up over it. He had to find Adara. Closing his eyes, Franco reached out, seeking the woman he loved.
It was getting harder to breathe.
I had thought Jimmy had finished his torment when he finally released my mind, but it had been far from over. I didn’t know how much time had passed since he’d left, but every minute had been pure anguish.
No matter how much I twisted, the rope always spun back so I was facing Charlie and his unseeing eyes. And my heart stopped at every little sound from outside, certain that it came from the person Jimmy had sent to kill me.
My arms ached. I couldn’t breathe properly while stretched out like that and had to push against the ropes to take a real breath. But my arms were wearing out. Was this how he planned to kill me? My arms would eventually give out and I would slowly suffocate.
A sound outside the door stopped my heart again. The doorknob rattled as it turned and the door swung open.
“Help!” I shouted into the gag.
The door clicked shut and a man walked into view. His red hair bobbed as he looked me over. “Adara.”
It was him. Jimmy. This was the man he would use to kill me.
The man pulled a large knife from the duffel bag. As he stepped toward me, I kicked hard, trying to knock the knife away. The man stumbled back and chuckled. “There’s no sense fighting God’s will, Adara.”
I kicked again as he approached, but he shoved my leg aside. He gripped the waistband of my jeans and the knife slid in, cutting the denim. I twisted, trying to get away, and gasped as the knife cut into my thigh.
“Trying to speed things up?” the man asked. He twisted the knife and I cried out against the rag, but the cry was cut short. I couldn’t breathe.
“That won’t do, Adara. This must be done right.”
The knife came out of my leg and resumed sliding down my pants.
My vision blurred as my lungs ached, desperate for air. This was it. I was dead.
The knife suddenly paused. Then clattered to the ground. Hands wrapped around my legs and pushed upward, relieving the strain. I gasped as I drew in air, panting heavily.
“Adara? Adara, are you okay?”
The man was the same, but his voice, his entire demeanor, had changed.
Franco. Was it possible?
“Adara, honey, speak to me!”
I managed a grunt through the gag.
He sighed in relief. “Hang on, honey. I have to let you down for just a moment, then I’ll have you free, okay?”
I nodded, then winced as he lowered me back down. He pulled the desk over and climbed up, cutting the rope and gently lowering me to the floor. I felt tears burn my eyes as he gently loosened the slipknots and pulled my aching wrists free.
“Adara,” he whispered as he took the gag from my mouth.
My body shook as I sobbed. “He was going to kill me.”
The man brushed my hair back. “I know, honey. I know. You’re safe now. I’m here.”
Even though the body was that of a complete stranger, I felt Franco’s presence so strongly that I let him gather me in his arms, rocking me like a child. Everything was going to be okay.
Fury twisted Jimmy’s gut. The Guardian! How had he gotten his hands on Brandon?
But it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. He would use Paige to kill the Guardian, and then he could take over Brandon again. Then he could take his time finishing his work, since he would no longer have to fear interruption.
So his opus would have an extra movement. He always liked surprise endings, anyway. Smiling, he leaned back and reached out for Paige.
A sick feeling twisted inside of him. Where was that brat?
Realization dawned. The Guardian knew Jimmy couldn’t take her if she was unconscious. He’d slipped her under to keep Jimmy from doing exactly what he’d just planned to do. Fury built again and his fingernails dug into his palms.
But he would adapt. There was no choice. His work had to be completed.
Franco was still comforting me when I felt a very familiar shiver of cold.
The next thing I knew, I was grappling with the red haired man, struggling for his throat.
“Adara!” Franco shouted. “Adara! Fight him!”
Jimmy! A sharp chord of panic rang through me. Jimmy had taken over again!
“Adara!” Franco cried again. “Now!”
I wouldn’t be beaten again. I would not let Jimmy kill Franco. The power swelled inside of me, churning like a massive tidal wave. “LET ME GO!”
The force of my push startled even me. I blinked, looking as if through a blurry lens at the cold ceiling above me. I was lying down? I lifted my head and stared at the prison bars a few feet away. Jimmy was there, I could feel him. But where was he?
Jimmy pushed hard against me and it was suddenly clear. I was inside of him, in control.
Let me go, Adara.
Not on your life.
This is God’s will. You cannot stand in its way.
I could feel his fear. Evidently this experience was as new for him as it was for me. This isn’t about God, you twisted psycho. This is about a sick murderer who forces innocent people to do evil things.
An image passed before my eyes. Amelia, dead. Thou Shalt Not Covet. Then Nona Flores. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Eliza Crawford. Honor Thy Father And Mother. Will Engram and some woman. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. Some man I didn’t know. Thou Shalt Not Steal. Father Preston. Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me. Then James Barton. Remember The Sabbath And Keep It Holy. I gasped at the sight of Dr. Lipscomb, his face covered in blood. Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain.
I almost threw up at the last image. Methra, her neck at a strange angle, with bruises and blood all over her, the words carved into her chest. Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Grav-.
Do you see? Nine commandments. It must be completed. You’re the final one, Adara. Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Fury rose inside of me. That’s right, Jimmy. Thou Shalt Not Kill. You’re the one who killed all these people. You’re a murderer.
No! I am righteous! With that, his mind sprang at mine, fighting with a primal might. I was rattled by the attack, but regained the ground quickly, pushing back. My mind had rested while I was stuck in that hotel room, and my power had been renewed. Jimmy, on the other hand, had already been exhausted before he attacked me. His mind shattered at my push and faded silently away.
I was still for a moment, blinking at the prison bars. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I wasn’t even sure how to get back to my own body.
A tug caught my attention, lightly gripping the edge of my mind. I immediately recognized it. Franco.
I opened my eyes to see the red haired man bending over me, looking at me with Franco’s anxious eyes. “Adara? Adara, are you okay?”
I let him help me sit up. “Yes. He’s gone.” I gripped his arms. "Paige! Where is she? Is she okay?"
"Yes, she's fine," Franco reassured me, gently squeezing my hands. "She's safe. I'll take you to her."
I closed my eyes and slumped against him. "Thank God."
Franco wrapped his arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Adara. I wanted to help from the moment I met you, but my superiors wouldn’t let me. I don’t know why. I’ve never wanted to disobey orders more in my life.”
“I can only act if they allow me to. I don’t know why they held me back for so long." He paused. “All I can think is maybe this was the only way to stop the killer. I hope that’s the case. There has to be some reason they let you go through all this.”
I shook my head. “I think you’re going to need to explain a lot more than that. But,” I looked up at the red hair, “maybe that can wait until we get your real body back.”
Franco laughed. I could tell he was so relieved that it was over, he would’ve laughed at anything. He squeezed me again. “Sounds like a plan.”
“So what’s the story, doc?” the guard asked, sliding his thumbs under his ample belly fat and into his belt loops.
The crisp doctor sent a distasteful look in his direction, then returned his attention to the prone figure on the cot. “He’s in a coma. We’ll need to transfer him to the hospital for further tests, but there seems to be no evidence of higher brain functions.”
The guard frowned. “Yeah, but how’d he get that way? Just the other day he was fine, but we check this morning and he’s like this. So what happened?”
“I don’t know,” the doctor sniffed. “Perhaps there was something in his food.”
“Hey, now, we watch his food careful. Nothing gets in that we don’t see.”
“Yes,” the doctor replied, giving him a meaningful look. “I imagine that’s exactly the case.”
The guard grunted crossly as the doctor motioned for the EMTs. Under the doctor’s watchful eye, they transferred Jimmy Garcia onto the stretcher and wheeled him out to the waiting ambulance.
Shaking his head, the guard took a final look around the cell. “Good riddance.” He stepped out, shut the door, and whistled as he walked away.