The cliff facing the ocean
was still the same.
Moving slowly Rick stepped
forward with the sunlight shining warmly on him as it fell out of a crystal
clear blue sky. The wind coming off the water was calm. The air was warm.
Beyond the drop, the Pacific ocean stretched smoothly to the horizon, wide
and serene. As Rick moved further forward, he could feel the salty taste
in the air. Everything was at peace.
But he... wasn't.
Despite his surroundings,
he felt tense. Stepping across green grass that in his memories had been
soaked with rain, he moved cautiously forward in the bright sunshine. His
eyes were locked on the figure before him, outlined against the sky and sea,
standing inches from the cliff's edge. Rick swallowed nervously, pausing
where he was. Not daring to come any closer he called out, trying to keep
the quiver he felt inside from his voice.
"Trevor, come down from
The figure turned his head,
still outlined against the clear blue sky. Trevor looked back at him, and
"Please just step back
from the edge and everything will be fine. It's... it's not too late."
A soft breeze wafted over
the cliff, gently brushing over both of them. Their eyes looked at each other
and shared a quiet moment, and they both understood. There was no going back,
no stepping away. Trevor turned his head and looked down at the drop beneath
"It is too late," he said,
Rick decided to risk stepping
closer, his voice sounding desperate. "Trevor, please come down. This doesn't
have to happen again. This--"
The figure turned his head
again, but it wasn't Trevor that was standing at the edge. Rick blinked when
he realized he was looking into his own face. He was the one standing on
the cliff. He watched as calmly, the figure smiled again.
"It's okay," his own voice
Without moving his feet,
the figure tilted outward, his face full of serenity. Rick scrambled forward,
but the figure dropped away and disappeared past the cliff's edge.
"No! No!" Rick called out,
still running closer. The world seemed to shake with his steps as he finally
reached the cliff. His eyes looked everywhere across the fall, trying to
see, trying to stop and not follow the figure off of the--
Suddenly a loud ringing
Rick jerked up in his bed
sheets where he had been sleeping face down, opening his eyes and looking
around. He was in his dingy, rented apartment in Chicago. Everything was
quiet, dark. The blinds were drawn, covering his bedroom window, but the
tinge of a new morning could be seen glowing around the edges.
And his cell phone was
His head dropped wearily
back onto his pillow. Rick reached for his cell phone without looking up,
the small device ringing and rumbling on the night stand beside the bed.
Slowly placing it against his ear he answered it, his voice muffled since
his face was still buried in the pillow.
Trevor's voice came through.
"Whoa. I thought I sounded
hazy in the morning. Rise and shine Valentine! We've got work to do. Today
is the best day of the rest of your life!"
Rick lifted his head, still holding the phone to his ear as he spoke.
"Trevor.. Would it be illegal
to kill someone who everyone already thinks is dead? Because this early in
the morning, I'm considering it."
"Can't kill me, man.
I'm a god. Immortal."
Rick nodded. "We could
"I already did. Jumped
off a cliff, remember?"
"Right. I remember," he
"Look. You and Frechette.
I'm getting the band back together."
Rick's brow crinkled. "Why?
Last night's performance was a disaster. A full night of bickering and arguing.
You're lucky I didn't punch him."
"Sounds like a band
Rick ignored that. "And
you. It seemed you were calling us every 30 seconds."
"Every 25 seconds. But
there's still some parts of what happened last night that I'm unclear about.
So come on. Give it to me. Spit it out. I'll need a full AAR, or sit-rep,
or whatever. We can fix this. Work with me studly."
"Trevor..." Rick sounded
worn out. "I haven't slept! I was up all night on this insane mission of
yours. I'm exhausted. Aren't you? When do you sleep?"
Trevor's voice sounded
like it was going a mile a minute.
"Oh, I haven't . Pretty
wired right now. So look--"
Rick rubbed his eyes, before
interrupting more forcefully. "I'm not going through that again, Trevor.
I can't do it."
"Old 'chetty couldn't
be that bad." Trevor answered simply.
"Frechette?" Rick blinked.
"The man was annoying. Condescending."
"A complete and total assh--"
broke him off, not letting him finish. "Right. Got it. Check." He
made a clicking sound. Then there ws several moments of silence as Trevor
Confused, Rick waited too.
"Umm, is... is that not enough?"
Trevor scoffed, and even
over the phone he could tell Trevor was rolling his eyes. "MORTALS. You
all think you've got it bad, but you've never been around a herd of male
minotaurs during mating season. So... really? That's it? That's all it takes
and the big strong, alcoholic police sergeant gives up? I thought you guys
Rick didn't care one iota.
"Welcome back to reality, Trevor."
"You throw in the towel
because one man on the quest for love is marginally unfriendly?"
Rick's head popped up further.
"Marginally? What? I--"
Trevor's words rushed over
him, not listening. "You're ready to throw away this poor sad individual's
ONE chance at ever finding someone to spend the rest of his life with just
because he's not nice and hurt your little man-feelings?"
"That pretty much nails
it on the head, yeah."
"Well, cowboy up! Take
it like a man! Damn the torpedoes! Whatever useless metaphor you like. Can
you imagine if all of history's world leaders thought like you?"
Rick tried to interrupt
in futility. "Ummm, what does any--"
" What if the speech
went 'We have nothing to fear, except someone hurting our feelings!'.
"Trevor, you can't--"
"Or if someone had said
'Ask not what you can do for your country, ask why your country is filled
"Sticks and stones may
break my bones, but words scare the crap out of me!"
"'I have a dream!'" Trevor
was still quoting. "'I have seen the promised land! And it's mean!'''
"I--" Rick tried his best
to get a word in, but Trevor was on a roll.
"'We the People, in
order to form a more perfect union, are forever hindered because the Union
is filled with as--"
"Okay!!" Rick finally interrupted
loudly, not letting him finish the word as Trevor had done to him before.
With Trevor's litany broken, Rick finally spoke again, sounding tired, exhausted.
"Ok, Trevor. Look, if I agree to continue ,will you shut up so I can get
"Yes!" Trevor said
proudly. "I mean... no. Or maybe. I don't know. The universe is full of
possibilities, so it's hard to say. But it might increase your chances.
Losing hope, Rick dropped
his head back into the pillow. "Oh god..."
Trevor gave an instant,
knee jerk response. "Speaking."
Without the strength to
continue, Rick finally... surrendered. "Ok, fine. I'll do it. I'll help that
arrogant wacko god whipped lackey find the love of his life. But I don't
know what you could possibly expect me to do this early in the morning."
Trevor's voice came through
"Well, now that you
Suddenly there was a loud
knocking on Rick's front door. Angrily, Rick sat up, his hand reaching out
and pausing over his policeman's gun, wanting to shoot whoever was knocking.
Especially if it was Trevor. With a soft curse he thought better of it and
got out of bed, leaving the gun behind to stumble across his apartment in
a weary haze to answer the door.
Still holding the cell
phone to his ear, he undid the locks and jerked the front door open to find...
Frechette standing in the hallway outside, just as upset at having been awaked
by Trevor as Rick was. He held his own cell phone to his ear too. The man
looked bleary eyed and even more dour than usual, silently seething at what
he had heard.
"Three way conference
call," Trevor explained over both their phones. "Now, minions. Say
hi to each other."
Frechette's eyes could
have shot daggers. "Hi."
"Hi," said Rick coldly
"Great start you two!
Oops, gotta go. So get out there and get cracking! You're happily ever afters
The call ended, leaving
the two men staring at each other.
Rick didn't blink. "You
heard all that?"
Frechette didn't blink
either. "Heard what? Something about an arrogant wacko god whipped lackey?"
Rick's gaze was steady.
didn't change one bit, still glaring at him. "No... I didn't hear a thing."
Looking away, Frechette
paused, thinking. "There must be some way out of this nightmare."
Rick said it simply. "I
have a gun..."
"Hmm..." Frechette's voice
sounded intrigued. "We'll call that plan B."
"Sure." Rick started yawning,
obviously on the verge of drowsing off again right where he stood.
Suddenly Rick's cell phone
rang. It was Trevor.
"No sleeping! And no
Saying nothing further,
the line went dead.
Rick stared at Frechette,
his voice stunned. "He said no sleeping and no guns."
Frechette's eyes widened,
as if Trevor had known everything they had said in the last few seconds.
After a few seconds, they
both cautiously looked up as if they were being watched by some force from
Rick looked at Frechette
again. "Could he have some sort of powers?"
Even Frechette smiled at
At that moment back at
home, Trevor was preparing his breakfast, tossing raw eggs and fruit into
a blender for a morning drink. When he pushed the button to start it, the
contents swirled and spurted past the blender's loose top, spilling everywhere
as Trevor frantically turned back to hold the top down and stop the blender,
looking at the mess.
Back in the hallway, the
two men considered Trevor, realizing how absurd it seemed.
"Nab..." they said as one,
their shoulders relaxing.
Rick turned and headed
back into his apartment calling behind him.
"Come on in. I'll get dressed
and we'll get out of here. At least we can go through the motions of this
Frechette entered Rick's
apartment slowly, but he couldn't help but let his face wrinkle in disgust
at what he saw in the dim interior within.
Rick's apartment was a
There was fast food bags
and wrappers scattered chaotically all around. Some still had half eaten
pieces of food inside them. The carpet below was dotted with papers and trash,
and every flat surface in the apartment was a miniature skyline of empty
brown beer bottles. as Rick walked past, he didn't seem to notice, heading
towards the bedroom.
"Have a seat," he said
matter of factly.
Gingerly, Frechette removed
some worn and unwashed clothing from the couch, clearing off a small space
on the edge. He sat as near the edge as possible, not wanting to lean back.
Frechette looked around, evaluating. His eyes locked on the living room window
blinds, drawn down and shut tightly, closing out the new sunshine of the
day beyond. For a moment, it struck him how the room's interior possibly
mirrored the person who lived there.
Frechette could hear Rick
in the other room, opening drawers as he changed, so he called out to him,
trying to keep his disgust for the man's apartment from his voice and almost
"I... I did a preliminary
search of the name you gave me last night. Pam Martin? You told me she works
at one of the local hospitals. I have access there. I'm one of the hospital
Rick leaned back to look
at him through the doorway, surprised. "You? Mission-loving, note-taking,
"Yes me," Frechette answered
obviously, his face harder looking than normal. "I searched the records of
my hospital and all the other ones in Greater Chicago as well. There was
nothing on the employee record of a Pam
Martin working at or having ever worked at any of the hospitals in
Chicago." Frechette gave him a look. "Isn't that strange."
Rick came out of the bedroom
fully dressed but not looking much more presentable than before. He seemed
nervous at Frechette's questions, not looking at him and scratching his head.
"Well, she may have changed
her name when she moved out here."
"Changed her na--? Wait..."
Frechette looked at him with more scrutiny, studying. "Were you stalking
"Legally?" Rick thought
about it. "Well... yeah."
Frechette seemed incredulous,
staring harshly up at the man. "Is that why she moved here to Chicago? To
escape you once the relationship ended?"
"Look, I've made a few
shook his head. "Starting when? Birth?"
Turning his head slightly,
Rick looked questioningly at him. "Not very therapeutic, doc. Besides, at
least I'm not a crazy man's even crazier follower."
Frechette was really glaring
at him now. "Respected psychiatrist, honored member of the community, hospital
board administrator. As opposed to a pungent, unemployed alcoholic stalker.
You're right. My life's much more of a mess than yours."
Rick shrugged. "Well, glad
we finally agree on something, 'proxy man'."
Frechette fumed at the
sarcastic use of Trevor's nickname for him, but said nothing.
Rick grabbed his coat against
the chill February air waiting outside. "Come on. Let's get this freak show
on the road."
The late afternoon sky
was pale against the white, wintry sky. The wind was cold as it flowed over
the bustling Chicago sidewalks. Cars on the streets drove through the darkened
slush of residual snow on the streets, mist wafting from their tailpipe exhausts.
One man waited impatiently on the cleared sidewalk. Shivering slightly, Rick
looked across the street and watched as Frechette came towards him through
the passing traffic, his face buried in his notebook as he scribbled notes
onto the paper. Shifting his gaze, Rick looked towards the pretty blond on
the sidewalk behind the doctor. She was walking quickly away, with only one
furtive glance back at Frechette as if happy to be escaping.
Engrossed in what he was
doing, Frechette stepped in front of a moving car. It skidded to a stop,
sliding forward and kicking up gray, mushy snow. The driver started honking
loudly. Turning his head slightly, Frechette didn't seem concerned, his thoughts
returning to his research as he continued to write, continuing on to cross
the street until he joined Rick on the sidewalk.
Rick chuckled as Frechette
came within hearing distance. "So I take it that it didn't go well?"
Looking up from his notebook,
Frechette only paused long enough to glare at him. "Why do you say that?"
"You look even more grim
Ignoring that Frechette
continued to write. ""Attempt # 28. Location : Downtown Chicago. Subject
results : Inconclusive."
The two men began to walk
down the sidewalk sid by side. Rick sighed. "What are we doing here?"
Frechette still didn't
look up, finishing up the details as he walked. "You know what we're doing
"Yeah, you're supposed
to find me someone, and I'm supposed to find you someone to get some insane
Cupid wannabe off our backs and help me 'feel' again. But ignoring the ridiculousness
of that statement, do you really think that this is the best strategy? Cold
cornering random women on the street? There are even less women out here
now than when we tried last night. At least these are the type who aren't
more concerned with payment options.."
The two of them were crossing
a bridge over the water downtown, the skyscrapers high all around in the
chill; air. The scene seemed gray and dismal as cars whizzed past on the
street, the stone railing beside the sidewalk sliding by.
Frechette finished his
notes and looked up, answering Rick's question. "One of the things Trevor
has taught me is that romance can sneak up on you. Any place can be prospect
Rick sounded exasperated.
"It can't sneak up on anyone if you pounce on it like a lion talking down
Frechette tried to keep
his cool. "Trevor taught--"
Rolling his eyes, Rick
exhaled. "Trevor taught! Trevor taught! Can't you think for yourself, doc?
Use that expensively educated brain of yours and look around. Look at your
A woman wearing way too
much makeup was on the corner, smiling at people and wearing skin tight pants
with a thick heavy jacket against the cold .She chatted softly to the men
walking by, and was obviously a prostitute.
Frechette looked back at
Rick, who was already taking a drink from a small flask he had taken out
from his inner coat pocket. He spoke to him pointedly. "Whatever you're looking
for, guess it must be at the bottom of that flask."
"Thanks for the lecture,
Dudley do Right."
Finishing his drink and
putting the flask away, Rick searched the streets again.
"Ok," he said. "I'm up.
My turn to find you someone."
Seeing nothing else, he
gazed at the prostitute for several long moments. Not saying a word, he looked
back at Frechette expectantly.
Frechette's face hardened
even more. "No."
"Hey, Trevor only wanted
me to get you laid."
"Just a thought."
Frechette glared at him.
"If that's the best you can do I might as well enlist in a monastery."
Rick shrugged. "It's the
best either of us can do out here. We need a place with more people."
The two of them stopped,
thinking. Then Frechette turned his head and looked at Rick.
"I know a place..."
The large, open interior
of Taggerty's was already starting to fill with a few people, music playing
in the background as behind the bar Champ smiled and offered a tray of drinks
to a young man waiting there.
"There you go. You guys
As the customer left, the
large, smooth headed black man seemed happier than usual, his face beaming
as he turned back around. It probably had something to do with the petite
redhead looking at him from her seat at the bar, her eyes practically sparkling
Jaclyn smiled as he came
closer. "Sometimes I think you really enjoy it. Working here."
Trying to keep a tiny grin
off his face, Champ pretended to not understand, wiping down the bar. "What
do you mean?"
"You." Jaclyn laughed leaning
in closer. "Look at you."
Champ felt his heart flutter
in his chest from the warmth of Jaclyn's gaze. "Well, working here does have
it's perks. Some of the regulars..." he looked right at her, "...are really
Jaclyn smiled and said
nothing, looking at him as she gently sipped on the red straw in her drink.
Exhaling and almost knocking an empty glass off the bar, Champ tried to ignore
the image. He had a job to do after all. Getting his composure back, he continued.
"Besides. Someone has to help manage this place. Linda can't be here everyday,
Jaclyn nodded. "How long
are you behind the bar this time? When does your next movie start?"
"Not till May. Once it
Jaclyn tilted her chin
down and looked up at him. "I love it when things warm up."
Placing his hands wide
apart on top of the bar, Champ chuckled. "You're trying to distract me."
She nodded. "More than
Going back to her drink,
Jaclyn continued. "Besides... working here is not really the same thing as
filming a movie, is it."
"Oh, I don't know. " Champ
looked out into the bar at the crowd that was beginning to trickle in. "This
place has it's stories. The cute, red headed starlet with a certain 'je ne
sais quoi' that everyone in the bar is looking at..." He turned his gaze
back to her.
"The handsome leading man,"
she replied as she put her drink down and ever so slowly leaned closer.
"Twists," he said leaning
"Turns," she continued
forward, edging closer still.
"Love interests." His voice
was soft, only for her, their faces inches apart.
"Love interests?" she repeated,
smiling gently. Her eyes really were sparkling now. Champ felt lost in them,
still coming closer.
"Romance. Heroes..." he
Their faces continued to
move towards each other over the top of the bar as they both leaned in. Hovering
on the edge of a kiss, both their lips separated slightly, almost touching.
Then there was the ring
of a bell.
Jaclyn's gaze shifted,
looking at who had just entered through the front door.
"Villains," she said coldly.
She turned away from Champ, the moment broken.
Champ looked over at the
Rick and Frechette were
standing at the front door, both looking around the bar and seeming completely
out of place. Rick looked at the array of people spread about the many tables
inside, before looking down at his own clothing, feeling underdressed in
his worn slacks and unwashed jacket. Feeling like a street person.
"Here?" he asked incredulously,
still looking around.
Frechette was looking around
too, unconcerned. "Trevor used to operate out of here. He has sent me here
on many a night."
Rick sighed, deflating.
"God... To think I've come to such bad circumstances in my life to be forced
into a place like this..."
Frechette continued to
scan the room as they stood by the entrance. But he answered anyway, his
words confident and simple. "That's a common misconception. Life isn't created
by circumstance. It's created by outlook. Take a seat. I've got to talk to
As the balding doctor left,
Rick watched him with a grudging smile, impressed by Frechette'S flash of
Walking across the room,
Frechette approached Champ and Jaclyn at the bar. As he came up to them,
Jaclyn glared at him coldly, before offering him a brief "Ian..." and getting
up to leave.
Frechette watched her get
off her barstool and brush past him, walking over to the other side of the
room. He continued over to Champ.
The jovial looking bartender
smiled, obviously not having the same reaction to him, chuckling as Frechette
"Jaclyn still hasn't forgiven
you for threatening to put Trevor on THORAX-B," he explained.
Frechette gritted his jaw
at the memory. "I remember."
Deciding to tease Trevor's
new devout follower even further, Champ continued. "Or for trying to personally
hunt him down after he shot Faith."
Frechette's face grew even
more stern. "Yes. I know."
"She still sometimes calls
you 'the creature'--"
"Ok, I get it!" Frechette
said more loudly.
Letting it drop, Champ
couldn't help but be anything but happy, bathing in the afterglow of Jaclyn's
attention with a sigh. He looked over at the new arrival Frechette had come
in with, watching as Rick walked to a table and took a seat. Champ turned
his gaze back to Frechette. "So... It seems you've snagged another passenger
for the crazy train."
Frechette's shoulders seemed
to stiffened at the mention of his unwanted partner, none too happy to have
Rick along. "Yes I have."
Champ couldn't help but
be amused by Frechette's discomfort. "And why is that, exactly?"
"Because Trevor is making
Understanding, Champ nodded.
Frechette continued. "Could
you get us a couple of drinks, please? We need to wait for nightfall, so
the bar can fill up."
As Champ started making
the unspecified drinks, he looked at Frechette, a playful light in his eyes.
"I notice you've been doing a lot of your 'missions' in here lately. Better
be careful, doc. People might start calling you a regular," he teased.
Frechette blinked, offended.
"I'm not irregular! Why, what have you seen me doing?"
Champ paused. "What? No.
Not irregular. A regular. Here at the bar. It just seems that maybe you're
finally loosening up."
"Hmm..." Frechette replied
lightly. Looking down, he seemed to be honestly considering it. Then he looked
back up at Champ with absolute clarity. "No. It doesn't."
Champ laughed, turning.
Facing away, he continued to talk to Frechette in a normal voice without
looking at him. He went on filling drink orders and tried to not draw attention
to the two of them, acting as if they weren't really talking at all.
"So... how is our 'mutual
Frechette didn't flinch,
all poker faced. "He's fine. Well."
With a grin, Champ looked
at him out of the corner of his eye for a brief moment before turning again.
"The 'well' part is debatable." The smile faded, and suddenly Champ's face
became serious. "I saw him. A few nights ago. He came by here and looked
in through the window. He shouldn't have done that. If he gets recognized..."
Lowering his gaze, Frechette
nodded in sympathy. "I know... I've used all my professional acumen to try
and convince our 'mutual friend' to to stay put. But let's just say, in my
professional opinion, this particular case subject is... hard headed."
Champ pretended to be surprised
by the 'revelation'. "Hard headed? You don't say. Well that does seem a familiar
way for describing our 'mutual friend'."
Suddenly Frechette's cell
phone rang. Pulling it out of his pocket, he looked down at the screen to
see who was calling. "The evidence does seem to support the accuracy of our
assessment." Frechette sighed, looking back up. "Our 'mutual friend'."
Champ turned away again.
"You better answer him. Otherwise he'll end up calling the ba--"
Suddenly the phone behind
the bar counter started to ring as well.
With a sigh Champ reached
over and quickly lifted and dropped the receiver, not bothering to answer.
The ringing stopped.
Frechette turned his attention
back to his own phone, which after a moment, stopped as well. Both men, looked
up, surprised at the unexpected silence, having expected Trevor to be more
persistent. Together, they started to relax.
Champ seemed pleased. "He
must have gotten the hint. Guess you can teach an old God new tricks after
For the first time since
he had come in, Frechette actually smiled. He held a glance with Champ. "Don't
count on it..."
It was several hours later,
and the interior of Taggerty's was filled with light, music, and happy people
as the darkness of a cold Chicago night pressed against the windows. In contrast
to being relatively empty in the afternoon, now the bar was packed, full
of people laughing and enjoying themselves.
Seated at a booth on the
far side of the room with a drink in his hand, Rick watched as slowly Frechette
made his way back through the crowd to him. From the look on Frechette's
face, he could already tell it hadn't gone well. The woman Rick had tried
to introduce to the balding older man was already talking to someone else.
Rick sounded frustrated
as Frechette came within earshot. "Oh come on! What was wrong with that one?
She was really cute! I've been trying to introduce you to people, talk you
up, make up some good qualities, but you don't seem to like any of the women
in this whole place!"
Frechette looked uncomfortable
after his failed attempt, Taking a seat across, he looked at Rick across
the table. "What's your point?"
Rick took another sip from
his drink, several other empty glasses already clustered on the table. "My
point is that you're obviously looking for someone specific. You keep searching
the crowd expecting to see something, but it's like you can't find her, man."
Pausing, Frechette looked
at the table as the music continued to play over the hum of conversation
in the crowded bar behind him. Several times that night he had seen a flash
of pale skin, or of luminous blond hair, glimpsed in the crowd, but none
of them had been what he thought. Finally, Frechette smiled. "I suppose that's
Rick noticed the look on
Frechette's face. "There! Right there. That image you're thinking of in your
head. That's what we should be trying to find. Someone like that must be
in here somewhere. Tell me. Picture her in your mind's eye. Describe her
"Well..." Frechette shifted
back in his chair, getting more comfortable. People passing behind him as
he spoke, Frechette described the image with fondness. "She's beautiful.
A free spirit. There's a serenity and a light about her. A warmth that encompasses
the whole world. Like she's finally let her heart soar and is able to love
everything like that's all there is or ever was. Her eyes.... are this dazzling,
amazing blue that make you feel like your living for the first time, every
time you look into them. A voice that makes my heart beat faster just by
the sound of it. Blond hair as golden as the first sunrise of creation. Her
every step.... lighter than air. And a clarity when she looks at you. Like
she's gone through something horrible, and has freed herself from it. Freed
herself from every bad thing that could ever exist."
Frechette looked up to
see Rick staring blankly at him, the description not really what he had been
Chuckling, Frechette summarized
it in a way Rick would understand.
"Umm... blonde and hot."
"Blonde and hot!" Rick
came out of his stare. "Right! That I can work with. I'll be back."
Rising to his feet, Rick
nearly fell over from all the alcoholic beverages he had consumed, barely
managing to make it out of the booth. Embarrassed, he finally steadied himself,
emitting a loud burp before he stumbled off into the crowd.
Frechette sighed, not expecting
much and looking away. Then his cell phone rang. He picked it up, already
knowing who it was.
"How's it going?" Trevor
asked over the phone.
Frechette was about to
answer when suddenly there was a loud crash across the bar. Rick had stumbled
and fallen, knocking over a table full of drinks onto the boyfriend of the
blond he had been talking to.
Trevor heard the crash
through the phone. "That bad, huh?"
Sitting there with a sense
of inevitability, Frechette watched as one of the people at the table stood
and pushed Rick away. Rick pushed back, and suddenly fists were flying everywhere.
Champ and some very large, muscular looking bouncers were already rushing
towards the commotion as the fight grew larger.
Frechette didn't bother
to get up from his seat. Trevor could obviously hear the fight over the phone.
There was another crash as a second table was overturned and the bouncers
tackled Rick to the ground.
Turning away, Frechette
sighed as the fight continued behind him. On the front glass, approaching
police lights were already flashing. After a few moments, he turned his attention
back to his cell phone.
"I'll be at the police
Several hours later, two
men stepped out of the local police precinct station and out into the wintry
air. Rick seemed more sober than before, no longer stumbling, but seemingly
happier, smiling up to the night sky as he breathed in his newly found freedom.
He looked over at Frechette.
"Smells good doesn't it?"
Crinkling his nose, Frechette
obviously didn't agree. "What does?" he asked.
"That first bit of air
once you're finally out of your holding cell. After being released into the
custody of my supposed 'shrink' of course."
Frechette simply nodded
in response as the two men moved down the front steps and began to walk along
the sidewalk. Frechette couldn't help but ask.
"So it seems you have experience
with this type of situation?"
Rick laughed. "Believe
it or not, I HAVE been drunk before."
"You don't say." Looking
straight ahead, Frechette continued to walk. "Never would have guessed."
"And thanks again for bailing
me out of there. Coming up with that story out of nowhere, claiming to be
my shrink. Have to say, I'm impressed. Very smooth. Not a flinch from you.
You know, for such a stuffy guy, you're pretty fast on your feet."
Frechette smiled. "I'll
inform my shoes they'll have to do better if they want to keep up."
"Right..." Rick looked
ahead into the shadows draped over them as they walked for a few more moments
Suddenly Frechette seemed
thoughtful as he went over the events of the night. He looked over at Rick,
as if trying to peer into the man he was tasked to help.
"I realize I never asked
you in return," he said finally. "What are you looking for in a woman, Rick?"
Rick shrugged as the two
of them walked forward, the sidewalk dark all around them. "I don't know.
The usual stuff, I guess. Love. Happiness."
Frechette continued. "And
if you picture that in your head. That Love. Happiness. In your mind's eye...
Who do you see beside you?"
Honestly searching for
his own answers, Rick's voice quieted. "I don't know. Hard to say, doc. Someone
that will make me feel whole again. Someone who will help me get my life
back together. Help me find myself."
Frechette nodded, before
looking over at him again. "Sounds to me like you're looking for something
in yourself rather than in another person."
Rick thought about it,
growing quieter still. "I suppose..."
The two of them were silent
as they continued forward, until Rick realized something, stopping in place.
"Do you here that?"
Frechette listened carefully.
"Silence. No ringing cell
phones. Wait... It's been almost two whole minutes. Shouldn't Trevor be--"
Suddenly Rick's cell phone
began to ring, followed a few seconds later by Frechette's. And even though
it was well past midnight, they looked at the prospect of still having a
long night ahead of them.
Sharing a glance they both
turned off their cell phones and the ringing stopped.
"Tomorrow," Frechette sighed
"Tomorrow," Rick agreed,
the two men walking quietly down the dark street.
It was the next night,
and Frechette and Rick were back in Claire's house while she was away overnight
for work. The rest of the home was dark except for dining room light shining
on the two of them and Trevor, as was usual. But as the two men looked at
the dining room table where Trevor was standing before them, it was completely
Love Central had become
a communications hub. Two tiny, battered tvs were on the dining room table,
each showing a different news channel. Their screens flanked a laptop computer,
its flat screen glowing with some kind of program Trevor had running on the
internet. Various wires and cords snaked across the dining room table to
other devices behind.
"Trevor, What is..." Rick
began, before Trevor interrupted eagerly, his voice brimming with enthusiasm.
"This is Love Central 2.0
baby! Going high tech on romance's ass. Because of you two. After yet another
fiasco on the high seas of love, I decided to pull out the big guns and finally
buy all these binoculars to spot the icebergs. This is how I'm going to stay
plugged in, zoned out, and in constant communication with you guys, guiding
Trevor started picking
up each item as he described them. "I've got two cell phones, one home phone,
two different news channels to spot prospects and targets of opportunity,
broad band internet--"
This time it was Frechette
who interrupted. "And... a video game guitar?"
Trevor shrugged. "In case
I get bored. Believe me. The God of Love can multitask. You should have seen
me outside Athens that one night before fire was invented. Two very willing
nymphs and a whole heard of enraged, charging griffins. And I didn't miss
a beat. On either front. Or back. Helps being a God of War-God of Love hybrid,
Rick's voice sounded concerned.
"Umm, this may be an obvious statement that you've heard many times before
but, something you just said bothered me. Did you say constant communication
with us? I know I'll regret this next sentence but, what did you mean by
Trevor simply looked at
the two of them for a moment, a smile growing on his face.
"Glad you asked."
Taggerty's was still as
noisy and crowded as it always was. Moving stiffly side by side, Rick and
Frechette walked up to the bar where Champ was working. As soon as he saw
the pair approach, his smiling face became completely serious, pointing a
warning finger at Rick.
"Hey you!! I don't want
any more fights in here! If your gonna stay in here you're gonna half to
learn to behave or I'll toss both your asses out on the street myself."
Sheepishly, Rick answered,
seeming uncomfortable. "Umm... I'll behave. I promise."
Champ blinked at the response,
not expecting it. He took a moment to get a better look at them, growing
surprised. Finally he spoke.
"You look like space cadets."
Rick and Frechette were
standing side by side in the crowded bar, very bright blue lights glowing
from silver wireless earpieces on both of their prospective right ears. The
two pieces were extremely noticeable and extremely identical on their heads.
Frechette tried to hide
his embarrassment, looking down. "Courtesy of Trevor."
Champ couldn't help that
he was still staring, mystified by their ridiculous appearance. "How did
he get a hold of--"
Rick shook his head. "We
have no idea. They're always on. Constant communication." He repeated despondently.
"And so..." Blinking, Champ
stared at them, trying to understand. "...that means he's listening now?"
The two men looked down,
as if reacting to something only they could hear.
Frechette looked back up.
"He says to say... yes."
Rick nodded. "And something
about 'the Imperial governors will now have direct control over their territories'?"
Champ shook his head. "Another
Star Wars reference."
Slowly, Frechette smiled
at the absurdity of their situation. "He doesn't get out much."
"Trevor, this will never
It was an hour later, and
Trevor was still remotely guiding Rick and Frechette through their paces
all across the bar. At the moment, both of them were looking at a pretty
red head they had mentioned to Trevor, siting alone at her table. Trevor
had told them to simultaneously focus their attention on her, and the two
men seemed cautious at what he might be suggesting.
Trevor's voice came through
"Ok, stay with me here
Tom and Jerry."
Back at the house, Trevor
was a jumble of moving hands and activity, doing multiple things at once,
fully surrounded by Cupid Central. Taking a large bite from a homemade submarine
sandwich, he placed it aside. Chewing vigorously, his fingers danced over
his laptop keyboard, doing a person search as he wedged one cell phone between
his ear and his shoulder, a wired ear bud on the other side of his head connected
to a second cell phone on the table. A black strap was angled across his
chest, leading to the video game guitar controller hanging at his belt. He
stopped what he was typing once his chewing was done, stretching to reach
a cookie from the plate Frechette had prepared and specifically labeled 'Gods
Only'. As he crunched on it, he nearly dropped the cell phone wedged against
his left ear, catching it off his shoulder just in time.
"Ok, minions. The facts
are these. You're both going to walk up to her."
Back at the bar, Frechette's
face was full of skepticism as he looked at the redhead. "Right..."
Trevor circled the video
game guitar forward and into his hands, starting a song, still munching on
"Both of you two 'viral'
young men are gonna go up to that table, sit down at the same time..."
Rick looked over at Frechette
and the two of them shared a worried glance, not liking where this was going.
Rick spoke to Trevor through his headset, the red head still completely oblivious
to what was going on.
"Trevor, what exactly are
you suggesting here?"
"Let me put it more clearly."
The laptop continued to
do it's search on Claire's dining room table, words and images passing on
the screen, running the specific program Trevor had designed to crack into
various databases. The two small tvs still showed streaming news channels,
but Trevor ignored them. There was a third screen now, hooked up to the guitar
controller, colored markers sliding towards him on a virtual fret board.
Trevor hit notes as he continued.
"I believe the technical
term is... 'Ménage à trois'."
In the bar, Frechette's
eyes widened. "Trevor you can't be--"
"No way!" Rick protested.
"Absolutely no way!"
Trevor's voice came through
both of their earpieces, sounding animated as he tried to calm them.
"Hey! Whoa! That's not
what I meant! You guys aren't ready for that. That's advanced level stuff,
and you two are still Newbies. Just go to the table, and sit down with her.
I'll tell you what to say. I don't expect both of you to have a shot here,
but maybe in the messy aftermath, one of you will. Even if both of you don't.
You follow? It's the spaghetti principle."
Rick didn't understand.
Souring at the thought,
Frechette looked over, obviously familiar with it. "You throw a bunch of
spaghetti against the wall..." he started.
Trevor finished in both
"... you see what sticks.
Rick swallowed, growing
hushed, a fearful realization slowly dawning on his face. "We're the spaghetti..."
"Exact-- Wow!" Trevor
shouted about something else, distracted by what he was doing back at Claire's.
" I just 5-starred everything on expert! Pathetically easy game. Now get
Rick And Frechette were
seated side by side, surrounded by the happy boisterous crowd around them.
The two grown men looked blankly across the table at the very pretty red
haired woman with them. She blinked, waiting for something to be said. They
blinked too. Then again. Nothing. The three of them merely sat there in their
bubble of awkward silence amidst all the activity filling the rest of the
room. Rick and Frechette never felt so out of place in their lives.
"I'm Amy, by the way..."
The red head looked at
them quizzically, a tiny smile growing on her lips. "Wait... are you two
a couple? That's so sweet!"
Rick's eyes opened wide
Trevor's voice came screaming
through the earpieces glowing bright blue on their ears. "Woah! Mayday!
I head off to the bathroom for one second and this happens! You're losing
her Chetty! Do something BOLD! Something ridiculous! Something macho!
Show her your penis!"
"What?!" Frechette responded
loudly to Trevor.
"Your metaphorical penis!
Be a man! Grunt or flex or something!"
Amy looked at him, finally
hearing Frechette's voice and thinking he was talking to her. "It's a simple
question," she said good naturedly, tilting her head slightly. "So how long
have you two guys been an item?"
"No! No!" Rick leaned forward
in a panic, having heard enough. "You've got this all wrong! Really absolutely
wrong. We're just two flamingly heterosexual men. 100% Broadway free!"
Offended by what Rick was
saying, Frechette frowned, speaking low to himself. "But I like musicals..."
"Look, we're just two completely
normal, average, ordinary guys who would like to... " Rick's lips wrinkled,
searching uncomfortably for the best words to say.
Trevor piped in quickly.
"This is your chance! Your chance to say the perfect thing! Don't blow
"Two normal, guys who would
like to..." Finally, words slipped out. "... do you."
"So close..." Trevor
Amy nodded slowly. "Right..."
Trevor switched from 'all'
to Frechette's private channel. "We're losing her, Chetty. Get in there!
The guy's a caveman. Rick's idea of poetry is the label on a six pack!
"I heard that!" Rick replied.
The red head laughed, thinking
Rick was talking to her. "Well, nice to know
my voice still works. But a bit of a delay in your response time there.
You guys really aren't used to doing this are you?"
"No," the two of them admitted
softly in unison.
She nodded. "Actual words.
Or... word. Better. Why weren't
you guys willing to talk a second ago?"
Rick looked down. "We...
weren't allowed to."
Frechette nodded simply.
Amy's eyes opened slightly,
dumbfounded, giving them a pleasant, tight lipped look.
Frechette's earpiece crackled
again and Trevor's voice came through. "
Am I on? Chetty, you copy me, man?"
"I'm here!" Frechette answered
loudly and clearly, sitting up in his chair.
Amy smiled at his words,
beginning to suspect he wasn't all there in his mental development. "Yes
you are!" She reached over and patted the back of his hand comfortingly on
the table. Frechette had to admit that that small touch sent a thrill through
him. She looked back at the two of them. "So considering the delicate elegance
of your opening moves, how much have you two had to drink?"
"Not enough..." Rick groaned.
She nodded. "You sure you
two aren't a couple? I see you both in here all the time. Whispering to each
other," she finished with an amused conspiratorial twinkle in her eye.
"Well all of that's..."
Rick struggled for an excuse, "classified."
"Sure," she said simply.
Finally settled with the
wiring at home, Trevor chimed in again. " Ok, lets get into it. You're
up to bat first Chetty. Top of the order. Get ready and take a swing. Stand
tall, stoke up the sizzle, fire up the burners, aim for the fences! Time
to give her a smoldering passionate look. Make your sex appeal appeal! Wow
her with your best NON gay heterosexual come hither stare! Make her stare
Worried, Rick looked over
at Frechette, still listening in on Trevor's transmission.
Frechette paused as he
looked directly at Amy, trying to put a smolder in his eyes. His body began
to tense and contort as he stared at her meaningfully.
She grew more uncomfortable
the longer he did it. With a concerned expression, she leaned in. "Do...
you need to go to the bathroom?"
Rick let out a frustrated
exhalation at his performance. "Oh come on, Ian! That's
it? Really? Are you sure you're not gay?"
Frechette stopped his stare,
embarrassed as the other two looked at him. Finally a playful smile curled
up the corner of his lips in the smallest, slightest way. "Well... I'm just
intimidated around incredibly beautiful women."
"Nice." Trevor said
at Frechette's save. "Ok. Foul ball. Next pitch. Here we go..."
It was several minutes
later and things were getting out of hand as Trevor kept switching back and
forth between his 'secret' transmissions to the two men.
The view of the rest of
the crowded room seemed to be swiveling around the three of them at the table.
Frechette's prompted wording and mixed compliments were tumbling incoherently
out of his mouth as he talked to Amy and the room continued to spin. Trevor
finally interrupted again. "Chetty no! Bad Chetty! That's not how to say
it at all!"
Frechette blinked, stopping.
Trevor was at home, jumbling
a dozen different activities, encased in Cupid Central. The room seeming
to spin around him too as he readjusted his phone equipment from its awkward
position on his shoulder. He was still tapping away on his laptop as the
darkened living room slid sideways behind, trying to keep up with the two
distant men on separate phone lines.
"Amateurs! You're getting
this all wrong! I thought head shrinkers were smart! Try the stare again!
Hold on..." Trevor struggled to switch lines as the view rotated around him
and his equipment. "Ricky boy, here's your chance to jump in. Tell Amy what
a complete tool Frechette really is."
In the bar, Frechette glowered.
Amy blinked at his words.
"What's a Mitravor?"
Trevor's voice came through
Frechette's wireless earpiece, the bar still spinning around him. "Right,
Chetty. Stare away my brother."
There was a click and Trevor
was speaking to Rick. "Rick?"
With the view of the crowd
rotating past Rick leaned away from the table, speaking in a desperate whisper
off to one side. "Trevor, this is falling apart! I'm pulling out!"
Rick started to get up,
but the waitress finally came with his next drink. Seeing it, he calmly changed
his attitude and sat back down to take it. Trevor's voice however, still
came frantically though the phone, trying to stop him.
"No, hold the line!
HOLD THE LINE! You stay right there! You can still do this. You're a beautiful
hunk of beer scented man meat and you just got you're orders to show it off!
Rick paused, uncertain
what he had heard exactly. "Wait. What am I supposed to do with my man meat?"
Amy leaned back slightly
at that, offended. "Excuse me?"
Frechette broke from is
'come hither' stare and jumped in. "Turrets syndrome. Its okay its just a
... rare form."
Rick lifted the glass of
bright colored alcohol and ice the waitress had given him and took a drink
as the view circled the table. Through the head piece, Trevor heard the ice
tinkle against the glass, barely perceptible.
"Wait..." he said.
"Is that the ice clink of an Alabama Slammer I hear?"
Startled, Rick paused the
glass before his mouth, about to take another drink. "No..." he denied in
Trevor continued speaking
to the two men, as everyone talked at once. His voice was going a mile a
minute through their ear pieces, first one, then the other, switching back
and forth, giving suggestions and prompts. In her chair at the table, Amy
seemed to be growing more uncomfortable by the second, if it was possible.
The room was still spinning around the, when she decided to interrupt the
incoherent babble being thrown at her from both sides. "Are you both from
Chicago? So what do you two guys do?"
Frechette panicked. "We're
not gay!" he said loudly.
"I know," Amy sighed. "You
said that. MULTIPLE times."
Trevor's voice grew enthusiastic
in their ears. "Great! Backgrounds! We worked on this! you guys should
be ready and smooth as glass."
Rick jumped in first, remembering
Trevor's previous instructions. "I'm a fireman."
Frechette blinked, looking
over at him, the crowd rotating past behind him. "I thought I was the fireman."
Rick shook his head. "No.
You're a spy."
Amy blinked. "He's a what?"
Trevor's voice grew louder.
"NO! You never say you're a spy! Newbie mistake. You say you're something
realistic. Say you're a mountain climber and you've been to the top of Mount
The two men blinked at
Trevor's words. "Wait... which one of us is the mountain climber?"
Frechette nodded. "I think
Rick scoffed. "Right. Because
you SO have that mountain climber physique."
Frechette smoldered angrily.
"If I hear on more insult from you..."
Rick glowered back. "You'll
what? Go climb another fictional mountain on the orders of the Easter Bunny?"
Back at his home, Trevor
was no longer listening, going through hospital employee records on his laptop.
The screen changed, and his eyes locked on a list of names, staring at it.
Clicking on a link, he stopped on one page with a woman
pictured, losing his train of thought.
"That's it!" Frechette
said angrily in the bar, fed up. "With all this bickering--"
"All this bickering what?"
"With all this bickering,
we sound exactly like a--" Frechette continued, before the two men stopped
and looked at each other, realizing they sounded exactly like a bickering
couple. They both finally turned back to Amy, speaking in unison.
"We're not gay!"
The view which had been
rotating behind them finally seemed to settle on their two surprised faces,
everything going still, the room no longer spinning as they looked across
Amy's chair was empty.
They could barely see her walking away in the distance, disappearing into
Rick threw down his earpiece
in disgust, watching Amy walk away from the table. Beside him, Frechette
didn't seem to notice, still listening to Trevor, his eyes going wide.
Rick shook his head at
what Frechette was doing. "It's too late, Ian. She's gone."
Frechette ignored him,
his words stumbling out in shock as he spoke to Trevor. "I... How did you...
Not understanding, Rick
continued. "What? Why are you still listening to him? It's over. She's walking
away. Maybe she's the smart one."
"No, not that. It's..."
Frechette finally spoke to him, still seeming at a loss for words because
of what he was hearing.
"Then what?" Rick asked
again, growing impatient. "What's he telling you?"
Frechette turned his gaze
to him, still stunned.
"I didn't think it was
possible, but... It appears that Trevor has found you're girl."
The small isolated hospital
seemed minuscule compared to the vast medical buildings Frechette was used
to working in. But as he and Rick walked towards the shadowed structure,
its sign glowing out front, the sight of it seemed full of promise.
Rick was following reluctantly
at Frechette's side as the crossed the icy asphalt lot, their breath misting
on the frozen night air. He looked up worriedly at the glowing lights of
the hospital windows ahead as they approached the front door and the promised
warmth within. But he couldn't keep a sense of reluctance out of his voice,
feeling unsure as he spoke.
"Umm, what are we doing
"Trevor thinks the target's
in here," Frechette answered, opening the door and pausing to look around
the lobby, intent on his mission. "The woman you came to Chicago for and
couldn't find again? He hacked the employee database and believes he found
her new name, her new job. You must have become an expert at driving her
away if she went to all this trouble. But she should be on shift. Here. Tonight."
Rick seemed to squirm.
"Umm, tonight? Trevor actually thinks she's in Chicago? Tonight?"
Not really paying attention,
Frechette walked forward like he owned the place, looking around. Suddenly
out of the corner of his eye, a woman in hospital scrubs caught his attention,
revealing a flash of golden hair. In his peripheral vision, it seemed that
her scrubs were faded, worn, the leg bottoms muddied, something he hadn't
seen her wearing in a long time. But she had turned a corner before he could
turn his head and get a clear look. His heart leaping, Frechette ran towards
that corner, desperate to see her again, to see Faith's eyes looking into--..
He reached the corner at a sprint, but stopped, the polished floor empty,
no one in the hallway.
Running over to his side
to catch up, Rick looked at Frechette, wondering at his sudden dash. "What?
What is it?"
Frechette's face fell as
he faced the empty hallway, silent for a moment before looking over at Rick.
"Umm... nothing. It was nothing."
Rick looked down. "Her
going through all this trouble to stay away from me. You must think I'm a
Frechette was looking at
the empty space where he thought he had glimpsed Faith. "Yes, a complete
psycho." he said absently, before motioning to the doors down the hall. "Her
ward. It's this way."
The two men walked over
to a locked pair of double doors at the end of the hall. On the wall beside
it, a card scanner glowed with a small red LED light, barring their path
forward. Frechette stared at it, as Rick looked around uncomfortably, before
"Look, we're not supposed
to be here. This is a colossally bad idea. Maybe we should just turn around
Without blinking, Frechette
took a card from his pocket and waved it in the air before the reader, the
light switching to green.
Amazed, Rick searched for
words. "How did you--"
"Trevor's gotten really
good with computers." Frechette smiled at Rick. "He doesn't get out much.
He made me a scan card to get into most hospitals months ago. Needed it for
a mission. He's probably in their system clearing out the record of our access
even now, as we speak. So. Once we're inside, my hospital administrator credentials
will clear me, but I need your eyes. So you I'll have to sneak in. Let's
Rick couldn't believe he
was doing this as Frechette opened the door and pushed him through into the
darkened hallway beyond. He looked around, hoping not to be spotted.
Rick was crouched down
low, and standing straight beside him, Frechette glanced disdainfully at
his ridiculous behavior. "No," he said simply after several seconds, and
Rick sheepishly straightened up.
"And Trevor's sure this
is the right ward?" Rick continued.
Frechette nodded. "You
mentioned the target changed her name, so he found a candidate that fits
her profile. He's convinced she's the right one. The one you were involved
with back home."
"But how could she even
be in--" Rick began, but he stopped himself. "Wait, what do you expect to
happen here? She hates my guts! Even if she were here, when she sees me security
would be on us in seconds!"
"There are always risks
in love." Frechette answered as he looked around, moving down the darkened
hallway. most of the ward was shut down for the night. But there was still
a small bit of light from the nurses' station ahead. "But this is just preliminary,
since you don't have security clearance to be in here. Just make a simple
visual ID of the subject. You see her, tell me if she's the right one, then
we get out."
"What?!" Rick's whisper
was almost frantic. "What if we get caught! Hold on.... You said you've broken
in to secure places like this for Trevor before. How did the last one turn
Frechette smiled. "Oh,
"Sir, can I help you?"
A stern female voice called out from the lit area ahead.
Not batting an eye, Frechette
stepped immediately forward into the light, a scowl on his face as he picked
up a chart off the nurses' station and started going through it like it was
the most natural thing in the world. Glancing quickly back to the dark area
he had come from, he noticed there was no sign of Rick. Except for perhaps
a soft, barely noticeable click in the shadows where a door had closed.
"Sir, I'll have to ask
you again. You're not supposed to be in here. This is a security ward. Who--"
Frechette interrupted as
his hand reached up and showed her his hospital administration badge with
a disinterested air. "Yes, I'm one of the administrators for this medical
group of hospitals."
Her eyes widened when she
saw his credentials. "Administrator Frechette. Yes, sir. I'm sorry sir. Can
I help you with something? And... weren't you with someone?" She looked back
to the shadowed hallway.
Frechette was still going
through the random chart as if it was exactly what he had came for. "No,
I was alone. Perhaps you're seeing things. I need to speak to a particular
paramedic that you have on call tonight. A Barbara Manners. Is she here?"
"Yes sir, she just left
on a run doing a transfer. Picking up a sick prisoner from County lockup.
She has an ETA of four minutes inbound."
"Uh-huh," Frechette said
offhandedly, eyes staring absently at the chart in his hands but not reading
a word as he flipped through it. Inside his mind was racing, jumping on the
opportunity. "This patient their transferring. Did they every send a case
The woman blinked, uncertain.
"Umm, yes. Of course."
Frechette looked at her
coldly for several long moments, as if the next part should have been obvious.
"Could you get the file for me please?"
"Umm, yes. Certainly."
The woman got up, going into lit room in the back.
Frechette watched her go,
before moving quickly back into the shadowed hallway he had come from, looking
for the door Rick had hidden behind. Finding it, he pushed it open slightly,
spotting Rick hiding within the empty patient room.
Frechette came into the
shadows within and spoke to him, closing the door behind. "The target should
be here any minute," he explained. "When the target comes in, we'll get a
look at her."
"Ok, Stop saying 'the target'!
I mean, really. Stop." Rick started pacing, on edge. "Ohh I think this is
such a bad idea."
Frechette blinked at his
reaction. "You're nervous. Why? Don't you want to see the tar--... this woman?"
"Well of course. But I
mean, breaking into her hospital... It's not the best way to reintroduce
yourself to someone, you know?"
Nodding, Frechette considered
it. "I understand. But she doesn't even have to see you. If you can get a
visual confirmation that this is the same woman, then we'll proceed from
there, and she'll never even have known you were here. So unless this patient
transfer she's on is coming directly into this room--"
Suddenly there was a knock
on the door.
The charge nurse's voice came through. Rick scrambled around to hide, bumping
into Frechette several times before ducking into the patient bathroom.
Without warning, the charge
nurse opened the door and came in, turning on the room's lights just as the
door closed where Rick was hiding. She looked at Frechette standing there.
"Here's the patient file you wanted. And I wanted to let you know, they're
pulling up now. I have to get the room ready."
"Oh. Very good. Thank you."
Frechette seemed stiff as he took the new chart.
The nurse looked at him
skeptically. "What were you doing in here?"
"Umm... going to the bathroom."
He knew he shouldn't have said it the moment it left his lips.
Inside the bathroom, Rick
was turning in place, listening to them, trying to follow Frechette ruse.
Without thinking he reached out and flushed the toilet.
In the patient room, the
nurse watched Frechette as several seconds after he had come out, the sound
of a toilet flushing was finally heard.
Frechette's lips tightened
and wrinkled. "The flush seems very delayed. Someone from maintenance should
have a look at it in the morning. But not now. Definitely not now."
"Yes sir. Excuse me, can
I get past? I have to set everything up."
"Oh yes, certainly." Frechette
intentionally moved aside to block the bathroom door. He began to look through
the file he had requested earlier, oblivious to what was inside as he flipped
pages, and nodding far to much at what he was not reading. Instead he was
watching the nurse out of the corner of his eye.
The charge nurse moved
skeptically around the room, opening the closet, pulling out some sheets
and taking the ones off the bed, before turning on various instruments and
monitors in anticipation of the patient's arrival. As she went about her
work preparing the bed, there was a suspicious glint in her eye as she watched
Frechette watching her. Finally, she couldn't take any more of the attention
on her and she turned to him. "Sir, are you sure you didn't come in with
somebody? Because if you did, I would have to see their authorization. This
is a security ward."
The bathroom door, slightly
ajar as Rick listened seemed to close again in panic. Frechette coughed after
the noise to try to cover it, stepping towards the woman and keeping her
attention on him. "Check that monitor again. It seems it might have a problem.
And I told you, miss. I was alone when I came into the ward."
Frechette's eyes kept following
her as she continued her work, hoping against hop that she wouldn't approach
the bathroom door. And then again, the woman noticed what he was doing. She
stopped and looked over.
"Sir, you're looking at
Frechette swallowed, trying
to sound convincing, but starting to lose his nerve. "Umm, is that a... is
that a problem?"
The woman went back to
getting the room ready, finishing with the new sheets on the bed. "It's sweet.
But I'm married."
His eyes widened at what
she thought. "No, that's not what I--.. It's not what I meant at all."
The woman actually smiled
at him. "Uhh-huh. I need to go swipe the paramedic team through the security
doors. But thank you, though."
She turned and walked out
of the bright room, leaving Frechette sputtering behind her. When she was
definitely gone, he turned back to the bathroom and opened the door slightly.
Rick's face could be seen
through the small gap. "Doc, I gotta get out of here. This is getting out
Frechette remained calm.
"Just a quick glimpse, that's all we need. Look, the nurse is gone. We'll
move you to another room before they see you, and then--"
Suddenly the room door
behind them burst open and several people came in at once pushing a wheeled
gurney with a patient on it. They fanned to either side of the bed, getting
ready to transfer the patient off the gurney and set up more of the equipment.
In contrast to a second before, now the room was filled with activity.
"Excuse me, sir." A female
paramedic smiled at him, adjusting the wheeled gurney past him and next to
the bed. The patient was sleeping, some young man covered in gang tattoos.
Frechette however kept his eye on the female paramedic, studying her, wondering
if Trevor had really found her after all. His gaze shifted to the bathroom
door but it was completely shut, and he knew Rick couldn't see anything.
Finally the shift nurse and the two paramedics started counting down together,
before smoothly shifting the sleeping patient from the gurney to the bed,
settling him in. After several long agonizing minutes, they finally had everything
set, all the machines and I.V. were attached. Frechette wondered how he was
going to get them out of the room.
"Sir, could I have that
file sir? We have to sign him in." The female paramedic looked at him, waiting.
He couldn't help but stare into her eyes, starting to see what Rick saw in
her, and slowly growing impressed.
She, on the other hand,
was growing uncomfortable. "Umm... the file, sir?"
Frechette came out of it.
"What? Oh, yes. Of course."
Confused by his strange
attention on her, the charge nurse and the female paramedic left side by
"Why's he staring at me
like that?" she whispered to the charge nurse.
The charge nurse whispered
back. "He was doing the same thing to me. Must be really hard up for a woman's
The female paramedic scoffed.
The two women laughed quietly
as they exited the room and moved down the darkened hallway, leaving Frechette
alone with the sleeping patient. He thought about what the women said, needing
an actual woman's touch, his eyes dropping. But then suddenly his body jerked
to one side, grabbing the bathroom door and roughly pulling Rick out.
"Come on. We have to move,"
he said sternly.
Rick struggled free. "What?
I'll be seen."
"It's now or never. Unless
you want to wait back in there until they wake him and help him onto to the
"I see your point."
Taking a breath, the two
men stepped into the darkened hallway, the light from the patient room still
falling on them as Frechette waved Rick into the shadows further down the
hall while he kept his eyes on the nurses station in the opposite direction.
No one was looking at them, however. The two women busy signing papers in
the patient's file heads down. All the while the male paramedic looked bored
behind them. Until he spotted Frechette standing in the light of the patient's
room. He stepped closer to the desk where the female paramedic was working.
"He's looking at you again."
The female paramedic looked
over at Frechette, before shaking her head, finishing the paperwork.
"Freak..." she muttered
Frechette backed into the
shadows, joining Rick where he hid in the dark, the female paramedic easy
to see at the other end of the hallway, standing at the well lit nurses station.
The charge nurse had gone
into the back, but she returned to join the small group at the desk as Frechette
and Rick continued watching them from the dark.
After a moment, Frechette
asked. "So... is that her?"
Rick blinked. "Which one?"
"The paramedic. Is that
the woman who was there with you? On the cliff?"
Rick watched her intently,
studying her from afar. But his eyes were blank, and then he seemed even
more nervous than before. "Umm, it's not her."
"Look, look, I'm sure.
Can we get out of here?"
Frechette didn't understand,
but he accepted it. "Ok. Let's go."
They were so far back they
were only a few feet from the door with the card reader.. Frechette turned
and swiped Trevor's hacked card over it, the LED going green. He opened the
door into the hallway beyond, but the two men paused, looking at the pretty
paramedic at the other end of the hall again.
"You sure?" Frechette asked,
a tinge of skepticism there.
Rick seemed to come out
of a daze, watching the woman. "Yeah, I'm sure. let's go."
Frechette stepped out of
the security ward, but Rick paused a moment longer, giving the paramedic
one last glance.
"It's... it's not her,"
he said softly, before slowly leaving and closing the door.
A late morning glow was
flowing into Frechette's bedroom window as he lay sleeping face down, completely
exhausted on the bed. Nestled under the covers, the man tossed back and forth
after a very long night. Still asleep, his body continued to twist, before
he softly called out, still encased in his own dreams.
"Faith..." he said softly,
"Why have you left me? Where are--.... Faith!"
With a start, Frechette's
head popped off the pillows and he suddenly awoke, squinting in the bright
light falling on him. Shading his tired eyes from the glare with his palm,
he rolled away from the sun and over to the part of the bed in shadow.
Looking up at the ceiling
now, Frechette sighed, disappointed in himself.
He had dreamed about her
Some deep part of him knew
this couldn't continue. He was dreaming about her every night, catching imagined
glances of her even in his waking moments. Fleeting glimpses in the crowd,
or remembered shadows out of the corner of his eye. Regardless, even when
he didn't almost see her he was constantly thinking about her. Like a song
playing softly at the edge of his hearing, a song that wouldn't go away.
Maybe it was because he wanted more, wanted to hear it. The song wasn't enough.
And he knew he had spotted her several times, even if she hadn't spoken to
him. Maybe his mind had manufactured her, not needing the pretense
of believing that she was actually there. But... hadn't it always been
this way? Maybe it had it all been manufactured since the beginning. Had
she ever been real? Or was he finally going mad.
With a groan, Frechette
rose out of bed.
With an all too similar
groan, Rick also woke up in the trashed out disaster of his cluttered, messy
apartment. On his back, his eyes opened to look at his bedroom ceiling much
as Frechette had done. He sighed when he realized he was awake and breathing,
his voice full of disappointment.
"Damn... Still here," he
Finally realizing he hadn't
died in the night, Rick sat up, dreading the fact that he now faced another
day. He thought about what had happened to him... the long night sneaking
into the hospital with Frechette, the insane mission a crazy man named Trevor
had enlisted him into... and he honestly didn't know how he had come to this
point. Of course that had been true for several years now anyway.
Rick looked around his
apartment again, feeling caught in a loop with no escape. Here, there was
no morning light flowing in. He usually kept his windows closed and the blinds
shut. But he could still tell it was morning by the tiny amount of light
leaking past the edges.
Still in bed, he shook
his head, feeling terrible. Trevor had kept him so busy lately that he suddenly
realized he had been drinking less. Now his throbbing temples were making
him pay for his lack of alcohol. Maybe that had been Trevor's plan all along,
to subtly clean him up and make him more presentable. Well, it wasn't working,
and now all he had was a headache to show for it.
Rick groaned softly as
the bed creaked and he staggered out of it, steadying his weary body.
He spoke to himself as
he shambled slowly forward.
"Man... This has really
got to stop."
"This has to stop..." Frechette
was talking to himself as well, looking around his clean, elegantly furnished
home. Even now he half expected to catch a fleeting glimpse of Faith there,
at the edge of his sight, but always gone if he turned to see. The thought
of that filled him with a soft, quiet fear. It was all in his head, he told
himself again. All of it. Maybe it had been exactly that, all along. Frechette
felt nervous, tense. Now he really was afraid that he was losing his mind.
Thinking about it, a resolve
settled over Frechette's face, walking forward now with a certainty to his
step. He knew what he had to do.
A gold door handle turned
and Frechette walked into his home study, looking around at the elegant interior
of polished wood, dark and luxurious. Stepping to the side he opened a drawer
by his desk, looking down into it. Finally, he spoke to himself.
"Maybe it's the only solution..."
"But it can't be."
Rick came back into his
bedroom, looking at the small night stand beside his bed. "It can't be the
Standing there, he thought
about the liquor in the living room and the beer in the fridge. Thought about
all the drinking he had and had not been doing the past few months. Then
he looked over at the night stand again. Slowly... he walked over to it and
pulled open the top drawer. Seeing what was inside, he paused and closed
his eyes, thinking.
"Has it really come to
"Maybe it has come to this.
I don't know," Frechette said to himself in a hesitant voice, looking down
into the open drawer in his study.
"These visions need to
stop. Maybe it's the only way."
In his bedroom, Rick opened
his eyes and looked fearfully into the drawer.
"The only way to break
"The only way to break
the delusion," Frechette said as he reached down. "To not feel her absence
"The only way to make it
stop." Rick reached into his drawer too. "The only way to get out of this."
Slowly, Frechette pulled
his hand up, out of the drawer. His fingers held a small, cylindrical pill
container, the contents shifting as he lifted it closer, reading the label.
Rick slowly reached down
into the drawer beside his bed, fingers wrapping around what was inside.
The grip of the handle, the metal of the trigger felt cold in his palm. But
he hadn't lifted it out of the drawer yet.
Frechette exhaled as he
looked at the pill container, the last few samples of his failed, experimental
drug. Suddenly reluctant, he tried to decide. He knew it would work. It would
chemically free him of his visions. He would never see Faith again. But he
didn't know what to do.
Holding the cold metal
in his hands, Rick knew it would be so easy. One squeeze and it was all over.
He just had to take it out of the drawer. Simple enough.
His grip tightened, and
he started to lift it, feeling heavy in his hand. It rose up to finally reveal
"No." Frechette said sharply,
putting the pills away and closing the drawer.
In his bedroom, Rick paused,
his hand still inside the drawer of his night stand. The moment seemed to
stretch. And finally, he let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been
holding, before lowering his hand and letting it go. Collapsing down to sit
on the bed nearby, he closed the drawer.
Frechette nodded, growing
certain. "No. I'll handle this in my own way."
Rick looked at his night
stand for a long time. He remembered the first time he had meet Frechette,
the conversation on his doorstep. Remembered mentioning what he had in that
drawer, a way for them to be free of Trevor's constant manipulations. He
remembered what Frechette had said, and he smiled as he repeated the words.
"Let's call it Plan B."
Feeling better after his
moment of darkness, Rick got up and walked into the kitchen, thinking that
it was morning, and something was missing. Finally he realized what it was.
"Trevor' usually pestering
us by now," he said to himself. "I wonder what he's up to?"
Trevor was pacing worriedly
before his front door, waiting for Claire.
The deepening winter sunset
was glowing a rich yellow as it angled in through the large front windows
at Taggerty's. The light streamed past the bar's name where it was painted
on the glass and into the warmth within. The shadows of the lettering fell
onto the table where Frechette and Rick were sitting, bathing the two of
them in a mosaic of light and dark as they continued their discussion.
"This has got to stop,
Ian. You know that. We can't keep doing this day after day, night after night."
Frechette looked at him,
agreeing. "I concur. What do you suggest?"
Rick's eyes were steady.
"We both know what's really going on here. Why the two of us are his proxies.
Trevor's too afraid to come out of the shadows he's hiding in, to afraid
to do all this himself."
"I know," Frechette nodded.
"But I suppose it's understandable."
Rick didn't understand.
"What? How? How can he accept a life where he locks himself away."
Frechette seemed sad. "We
chose our demons, Rick. They don't chose us. And the impetus of that choice
for Trevor or anyone else is always the same. Fear."
"Fear..." Rick thought
about it, looking away.
Frechette seemed lost in
his thoughts as well, growing introspective as he continued, staring at nothing.
"Maybe he's afraid of how
the world will look at him if he tells them the truth. If he showed them
who he really was, what he feels, what he sees. Revealed what is happening
deep in his heart. If he actually told people the truth, people would think
he was crazy. Maybe... maybe he can't handle that."
Frechette looked down embarrased.
Still lost in his own head,
Rick answered, his gaze unfocussed and aimless. "No. He's not afraid of that.
I don't think Trevor's ever been afraid of showing people he's Cupid. If there
was ever someone wearing his heart on his sleeve, it's him. And doing it
proudly. No. What scares him is what he has to lose now. Losing someone. Eventually
being forced to leave to Olympus, or go away to a mental facility.
Or instead... watching people die as he keeps on living, and not able to do
anything about it. Standing there in the rain... helpless."
Frechette paused, and then
blinked. Across the table from him, Rick did the same thing. The two of them
tried clearing their heads as if coming out of a daydream as the afternoon
sun fell warmly on them through the window.
A question in his eyes,
Frechette looked back towards him. "The two of us are still talking about
Rick cleared his throat,
uncomfortable, playing it off. "Yeah. Umm... Of course."
Frechette nodded. "Good."
Getting back to task at
hand, Rick's voice grew more determined. "What Trevor's really afraid of
is losing Claire. He's not hiding from public ridicule or possible arrest
charges from some incident years ago. Or even from killing Faith in self
defense. He's hiding from being forced to leave Claire behind. He's scared
to death of getting his hundred beads. Like some expiration date on the
finally saw it. "I can't believe I didn't see this earlier. Trevor's immortal.
He can't die. But his hundred beads... they've become his unique version
of 'mortality'. His own private time limit... for staying with Claire."
Rick nodded. "And deep
inside, he can't help being who he is. Still wanting to put people together."
Frechette locked his gaze
on Rick's. "And so you and I are his proxies. Because he hopes that way it
Rick seemed to agree.
"While Trevor hides in
the shadows. Afraid of what actually being Cupid might ultimately mean. But
unable to stop going through the motions... Acting only through us." Rick
leaned back, looking away. "It's all ridiculous of course. Cupid. Immortality.
His hundred meaningless beads. None of it is real. Doesn't mean he can't
become trapped in his own delusion."
"In one way or another,
most people are..." Frechette said off handedly, still thinking about what
he had just discovered, "I... I never saw. I've always been a faithful follower.
Tried to help the God of Love.... but I never saw. He's a god in need."
Rick chuckled at Frechette's
unbreakable faith, expecting nothing less from a true believer.
Frechette looked back at
him. "You should tell him."
Rick blinked. "What?"
Frechette leaned forward,
his voice growing more certain now. "I'm a believer. You're not. Either way
it doesn't matter. Because no matter which is true, he still needs our help.
He needs this to stop. Trevor's not really living this way, trapped in his
own walls, his own fears, with us as his proxies."
Rick couldn't argue. "I
Frechette gave him a meaningful
look. "You're the one who wanted to save him. Perhaps you still can."
"What do you mean?"
"Talk to him. Make him
Rick thought about it.
"All I know is I can't keep doing this. Hounded by Trevor 24\7."
Frechette went over the
options in his head. "What we need is an intervention."
"We need more than that."
Rick leaned in close, his voice taking on a conspiratorial tone. "What we
need is a mutiny."
"What?" Frechette's eyes
went wide with shock.
"The two of us quitting."
"Yes, A unified front.
The skeptic and the believer. Telling him it's over. We're done. Adios."
"I ..." Frechette paused,
uncertain. "I don't know if I--"
"Ian," Rick pressed further.
"We need this! Time for a good old fashioned coup. We overthrow the God of
Love. Stop playing his game. Force him to see."
Frechette said nothing,
feeling nervous about the prospects of going against a man he had come to
revere as an immortal. Then a strength grew in him, fragile, but there. He
was finally able to meet Rick's eyes again before speaking.
"Ok... We'll tell him.
We'll tell him together. Tonight."