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Hannah was floating. Everything was black, save a trickle of light, far below her. Somewhere, far away, she heard a voice. Something else was in the darkness. She felt it try to touch her. Its anger was like a rolling tide. Rising higher and higher, she thought it was going to crash down on her. Instead, it shrank away. Hannah felt herself pulled back, out of the darkness. There was noise and blinding light.
The first thing she noticed was the bed. It was much too comfortable. Sitting up, she felt the world rock uneasily around her. Hannah squinted. Everything was blurry and white. A television was squawking in the corner. Computer monitors beeped by her head. There was a plastic clamp pinching her finger. Hannah pulled it off and threw it across the room.
“Ever the compliant patient.” A tall, attractive woman in scrubs appeared. She picked up the pulse oximeter and wagged it at her. “This isn’t a toy, Hannah.”
“Nice to see you too, Liz,” Hannah said.
“Give me your hand.”
“I feel fine,” she said. “I don’t want to wear that.”
“You’re in my hospital, you do as I say.”
“Oh, it’s your hospital, now? You’re going up in the world.”
“When did I get here?” Hannah asked as she stuck out her hand.
“Two days ago,” Liz said. “They wanted to bring you to Maimonides. Like hell, they would.”
“Have I been out the whole time?”
“Yes,” her doctor said. “I’ve checked up on you as much as I could.”
“God, what’s wrong with me?” Hannah moved around a little. Her muscles were sore and she had a headache. But nothing felt broken or oozing.
Liz busied herself with the machines beside the bed. “Just a few bruised ribs. The rest is shock and exhaustion.”
“Oh,” Hannah said. “Well, that’s good.”
“Yep. Looks like we don’t need this anymore.” She ripped the IV from Hannah’s arm.”
“Ow! I guess you’re pissed.”
“Yes I’m pissed,” Liz said. “The last time I saw you, you were being carried into my house by some strange man. Then you run off without an explanation. Finally, I get a call from the police as they drag your carcass in. I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” Hannah said. “I didn’t mean to run off. Should’ve left a note, or something. And, I didn’t mean to take your good jeans.”
Liz looked away, covering her face with a hand. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. You forget there are people who care about you, dummy.”
Hannah stared at her bed sheets. She tugged at a loose thread. “This was more than a story, Liz. But you’re right. I was thinking about myself. I didn’t realize how my actions would affect you.”
Liz looked at her, surprised. “You’ve never said anything like that before.”
“Maybe I’m growing up, a little,” Hannah said.
“A little.” The doctor pointed across the room. “I brought some clean clothes. Do you need help getting up?”
“I think I can manage.”
Neatly folded on a table were Hannah’s belongings. Sitting on top of the clothes was a thick manila envelope.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“I dunno. That Silas person left it for you,” Liz said.
“How is he?”
Liz shrugged. “He’s fine. Broke his arm. Too bad it wasn’t his mouth. He was hanging around here the first day, but I shooed him off.”
Inside the envelope was a stack of paper. A Post-it read, “Thought this might help your article. S.B.” At the top of the page was written, “The Brides of Ozryel. Case No. 268.” It was Silas’s detailed notes on the entire investigation, starting with his examination of Emily Lisbon’s apartment. It was over forty pages long.
“Anything interesting?” Liz asked.
“You can say that.”
Silas sat in his armchair. At his feet was Barnabas, asleep like a stone. The detective’s arm itched. He couldn’t scratch it, on account of the cast. Currently, he was thinking of implements that he could fit under the plaster. This prevented him from paying attention to the short, gnarled man sitting across from him. He had been talking for twenty minutes. Silas heard none of it.
“What was that, Leonard?” Silas shook himself out of his reverie. “You were attacked by a hobgoblin?”
The man shook his head. Light bounced off his incredibly thick glasses like strobes. “That was last week.”
“Then what is it?”
“You haven’t been listening?” Leonard asked.
“Sorry, Leonard. Scratch that, I’m not sorry. If you have a real problem, take it to the police.”
“And tell them what,” Leonard said, “that I’ve been the victim of a time-traveling experiment?”
“Oh, God.” Silas rubbed his temples.
“It’s true. It explains everything.”
“Leonard, you’ve been coming to me almost every week for five years,” Silas said. “Not once has anything you’ve told me been provable.”
Leonard gesticulated with both hands. “That’s because I only just stumbled upon the truth. But you’re smart, doc. I know you can get to the bottom of this.”
Silas stood up and grabbed the man by the arm. “I’m not a doctor. And I think it’s time you sought a professional.”
“That’s what my mother keeps saying,” Leonard said.
“No it isn’t. She’s been dead for ten years.”
Silas managed to drag the surprisingly light man to his front door.
“You have to help me, Silas, I’m a client.”
“I maintain a policy of refusing service to anyone,” Silas said. “I’m enacting that policy for the first time.”
“But I’ve got proof.”
Silas stopped in front of the door and turned to face him.
Leonard pulled out a weathered piece of newsprint. The date was 1894. He held it up to Silas, pointing at a grainy photo of Times Square.
“See that little boy?” he asked.
Silas squinted. “You mean the out-of-focus newsie a hundred feet from the camera?”
“Here’s the door,” the detective said.
Silas opened it. Standing on the other side, hand raised to knock, was Hannah. He smiled.
“Oh look, my four o’clock is here.”
“But it’s only two,” Leonard said.
With his good arm, Silas pulled Hannah into the foyer and swung Leonard out. The man was still holding up the newspaper as Silas closed the door on him. He pressed his back against it for good measure.
“Who was that?” Hannah asked.
Silas led the way back into the living room. “I take it Liz the doctor has given you a clean bill of health?”
“Got a few bruises, that’s all,” she said. Hannah stopped at the fridge and took out a Mexican orange soda. She popped the lid off on the counter edge and squeezed passed the Narnia-like wardrobe. The brown dog raised his head at the sight of her, walking over to give her hand a lick.
“How’s the arm?”
He rapped the cast with a knuckle. “Still there. It’ll be fine in a few months. Makes it hard to write, though.”
She took a swig of her drink. “You need a computer.”
“Can’t type. What good’s a computer?” he asked.
“There’s such a thing as dictation software, Merlin.”
“There is?” He paused to consider the wonders of technology. “What brings you here?”
“I wanted to thank you for the case notes,” she said. “They helped a lot.”
Silas returned to his chair, a book already in his lap. “You finished the story?”
“Finished and sent it off,” Hannah said. “The Daily liked it. Getting a lot of hits.”
He made a hmph noise as he flipped through The Mating Habits of Burmese Gibbons. “Looks like you’re well on your way,” he said.
“I didn’t mention, everything,” she said. “Doubt people would believe it. Don’t think I would.”
“People reject anything that doesn’t fit into their worldview,” Silas said.
“But the paper was eager to learn about the missing women. Got me to interview Emily. She’s recovering by the way.”
Silas nodded, but said nothing.
“They’re pretty curious about you,” Hannah said.
“Is that why I’ve been getting so many calls lately?” he asked.
“They probably want to interview you.”
Hannah took another drink of her soda, before realizing the bottle was empty. She set it on the fire bench and sat down. “My memory’s fuzzy about what happened. At the very end.”
“Not a surprise,” he said. “Just be glad the psychic link didn’t cause permanent damage.”
“It’s not like I want to remember everything,” she said. “But what happened after the mirror broke?”
Silas closed the book. “Daragon was destroyed and everything went tits up as his pocket dimension unraveled.”
“What about me?” Hannah asked.
“What about you?” he asked.
“For a few seconds, I was somewhere else.”
“Were you? Last thing I remember, some SWAT guys were dragging us both out of there. McClelland was at the park on the other side with EMTs and the lot.”
“Do you have any idea what happened to me, in those few seconds?” she asked.
“Only you would know for sure,” Silas said.
Slowly she shook her head. “I’m not sure.”
“Then it’s probably for the best. Not every memory is worth keeping.”
“Maybe.” Hannah looked at her feet. She was almost unable to say the next thing. What she really went there to say. “What do I do now?”
Silas closed the book. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” she said. “I can’t go back to my normal life. Not after this. How I just go on living like everyone else, knowing all that’s out there?”
“You can’t,” he said. “Things happen and you’re changed forever. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. At least you made it out alive, right?”
“How do you do it?” she asked.
Silas looked at Hannah, a level of sincerity in his eyes she had yet seen.
“I rest in the fact that, with every case, I’m one step closer to the truth.”
“Of everything,” he said
“I guess I don’t have the luxury,” Hannah said. “Seeing as how this was my one and only case.”
“Too bad.” He went back to his book.
“You know,” she said, “I could help you out, if you had more tough cases. I could learn more, myself. You said you needed extra hands.”
“Maybe,” the detective said. “I could use a permanent assistant. Organization isn’t my strong suit.”
“But what about your career?” he asked. “Shouldn’t you be chasing down leads?”
“The Daily wants more on you,” Hannah said. “I could send them something from time to time. That is, if I was around to see it.”
“Killing two birds with one stone, huh? I assume I’m suppose to compensate you for your help?” he said.
“How’s twenty dollars an hour sound?” she asked.
“Is that a lot?” he asked.
“You can afford it,” Hannah said. “I read up on your dad. Looks like you inherited more than just his artifacts.”
“I have a feeling I’m going to regret this,” Silas said.
“So, it’s a deal?”
“It seems so.” He cupped a hand to his mouth and shouted. “Mrs. Plonka!”
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Need a dog sitter. We have a case.” He pushed himself out of the chair.
“Right now?” Hannah asked.
“They were expecting me an hour ago.” He pulled a coat out of the wardrobe–a new green one–draping it over his shoulder.
“Why the delay?” she said, following him from the living room.
“I was waiting for you.”
“Shut up. You didn’t know I’d come,” she said.
“Of course, I would.” He looked back at her, smirking. “You’re an hour late. I had to spend time with Leonard. But come on, I got something to mark the occasion.”
He trampled down the steps like a child, Barnabas right behind. Hannah stood at the top of the stairs, listening to him batter Plonka’s door. She closed the apartment door behind her and started after him.
“Better not be a dead body. Again.”
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