The cliff facing the ocean was still the same.
Moving carefully Rick stepped forward, the sunlight shining
his face as it fell out of a blue, crystal clear sky. The light wind
coming off the
water felt calm. The air was warm. Beyond the drop, the Pacific ocean
stretched smoothly to the horizon, wide and serene. As Rick walked
further towards it, he could feel the salty taste in the air, tingling
on his skin.
was at peace.
But he... wasn't.
Despite his surroundings, he felt tense. Stepping across lush green
that in his memories had looked gray and been soaked with rain, he
forward under the bright sunshine. His eyes were locked on the figure
before him, outlined against the sky and sea with his back to him,
standing inches from the
cliff's edge. Rick swallowed nervously, stopping where he was. Not
daring to come any closer he called out, trying to keep the quiver he
felt inside from showing in his voice.
"Trevor, come down from there. Please..."
The figure turned his head, still outlined against the clear blue sky.
Trevor looked back at him, and smiled.
Rick spoke again.
"Please just move away 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 his toes.
"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 said.
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 his run and
follow the figure off the--
A loud ringing
suddenly interrupted everything.
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
covering his bedroom window. But despite that, the tinge of a new
morning could be
seen glowing around the edges.
And his cell phone was still ringing.
His head dropped wearily back onto his pillow. Rick reached and fumbled
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
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
"That's depressing..." Rick lifted his head, still holding the phone to
his ear as he continued.
"Trevor... Would it be illegal to kill someone who everyone else
already thinks is dead? Because this early in the morning, I'm
seriously considering it."
"Can't kill me, man. I'm a god. Immortal."
Rick nodded. "We could test it."
"I already did. Jumped off a cliff, remember?"
"Right," he said softly. "I remember."
"Look. You and Frechette. I'm getting the band back together."
Rick's brow crinkled. "What? Why? Last night's performance was a
full night of bickering and arguing. You're lucky I didn't punch him."
"Sounds like a band to me."
Rick ignored that. "And you. It seemed you were calling us every 30
"Every 25 seconds. I had a checklist. But there's still some parts
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, his voice louder and exasperated. "I
haven't slept! I was up all night
on this insane mission of yours. I'm exhausted. Aren't you? When do you
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 this 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--"
"--Oohh-kay!" Trevor broke him off, not letting him finish. "Right.
Got it. Check." He made a clicking sound. Then there was several
moments of silence as Trevor waited.
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 lonely herd of male minotaurs during mating
So... really? That's it? That's all it takes and the big strong,
alcoholic police sergeant gives up? I thought you guys were tough."
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
Rick's head popped up further. "Marginally? What? I--"
Trevor's words rushed over him, not listening. "You're ready to
this poor, sad individual's ONE chance at ever finding someone to spend
the rest of his life with just because he's not so nice and hurt your
"That pretty much nails it on the head, yeah."
"Well, cowboy up! Take it like a man! Damn the torpedoes! Whatever
useless mixed 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 impolite people'!"
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words scare the crap out
"'I have a dream!'" Trevor was still quoting. "'I have seen
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 the same way Trevor had done to him before. With Trevor's litany
Rick finally spoke again, sounding tired, exhausted. "Ok, Trevor. Look,
if I agree to continue ,will you shut up so I can get some sleep?"
"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 can only increase your chances. "
Losing hope, Rick dropped his head back into the pillow. "Oh god..."
"Speaking." Trevor said in an instant knee jerk response.
Without the strength to continue, Rick finally... surrendered. "Ok,
fine. I'll do it. I'll help that arrogant wacko god whipped lackey find
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 the phone.
"Well, now that you ask..."
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 handgun,
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
minions. Say hi to each other."
Frechette's eyes could have shot daggers. "Hi."
"Hi," said Rick coldly back.
"Great start you two! Oops, gotta go. So get out and get
cracking! Your happily ever afters await!"
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. "Yeah."
Frechette's expression 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."
With a shrug, Rick
said it simply. "I have a gun..."
"Hmm..." Frechette paused, 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 again. It was Trevor.
"No sleeping! And no guns!"
Saying nothing further, the line went dead.
Rick stared at Frechette, his voice stunned. "He said no sleeping and
Frechette's eyes widened, as if Trevor had known everything they had
said in the last few seconds. "How did--?"
After a few seconds, they both cautiously looked up as if they were
being watched by some divine force from above.
Rick looked at Frechette again. "Could he have some sort of powers?"
Even Frechette smiled at that. "Trevor?"
At that exact 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 instantly
the blender's loose top, spilling everywhere as Trevor frantically
turned back to hold the top down and stop the blender, looking at the
Back in the hallway, the two men considered Trevor, realizing how
"Nah..." 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 'mission'."
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 mess.
There were fast food bags and wrappers scattered chaotically
everywhere. 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, different sized beer
As Rick walked past, he didn't seem to notice, heading towards the
"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 succeeding.
"I... I did a preliminary search of the name you gave me last night.
Martin? You told me she works at one of the local hospitals. I have
access there. I'm one of the hospital administrators."
Rick leaned back to look at him through the doorway, surprised. "You?
Mission-loving, note-taking, Cupid-fearing you?"
"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 Angela Beesly working in
having ever worked in 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.
"Yeah. 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 her?"
"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
"Look, I've made a few mistakes--"
Interrupting, Frechette 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
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
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
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 was pale against the white, wintry sky above. The
was cold as it flowed over the bustling Chicago sidewalks. Cars on the
streets drove through the darkened slush of residual snow, 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 on the
other side of the
passing traffic. His face was buried in his notebook as he
onto the paper. Shifting his gaze, Rick looked towards the pretty blond
on the same sidewalk behind the doctor. She was walking quickly away,
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 as he started to cross. 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 would you say that?"
"You look even more grim than usual."
Ignoring that, Frechette continued to write. ""Attempt # 28. Location :
Downtown Chicago. Subject results : Inconclusive."
The two men began to walk down the sidewalk side 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 here."
"Yeah, you're supposed to find me someone, and I'm supposed to find you
someone. all to to get some insane Cupid wannabe off our backs and help
again. It's like we're caught in an episode of Oprah. 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
this last night. At least the current batch aren't quite as
concerned with credit cards and payment
The two of them were crossing a bridge over the water downtown, the
skyscrapers high all around them in the chilling air. The scene seemed
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 for--"
Rick had heard enough, his voice louder. "Love can't sneak up on anyone
if you pounce on
it like a lion bringing down a zebra!"
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 prospects!"
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
cold .She chatted softly to the men walking by, and was obviously a
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. "Guess whatever you're looking for must be at the
bottom of that flask."
"Thanks for the sermon, Dudley do Right."
Finishing his drink and putting the flask away, Rick searched the
"Ok," he said. "I'm up. My turn to find you someone."
Seeing nothing else, he gazed at the prostitute for several long
Not saying a word, he looked back at Frechette, a question in his eyes.
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 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 enjoy yourself."
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 with admiration.
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 cute."
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
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, you know."
Jaclyn nodded. "How long are you behind the bar this time? When does
your next movie role start?"
"Not till May. Once it warms up."
Jaclyn tilted her chin down and looked up at him. "I love it when
Placing his hands wide apart on top of the bar, Champ chuckled. "You're
trying to distract me."
She nodded. "More than trying."
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 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 closer too.
"Turns," she continued forward, edging closer still.
"Love interests." His voice was soft, only for her, their faces inches
"Love interests?" she repeated, smiling gently. Her eyes really were
sparkling now. Champ felt lost in them, still coming closer.
"Romance. Heroes..." he continued.
Their faces continued to move towards each other over the top of the
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
"Villains," she said coldly. She turned away from Champ, the moment
Champ looked over at the new arrivals.
Rick and Frechette were standing at the front door, both staring around
the bar and seeming completely out of place.
Rick looked at the array of people spread about the many tables inside,
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 as 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
Take a seat. I've got to talk to somebody."
As the balding doctor left, Rick watched him with a grudging smile,
impressed by Frechette's flash of self confidence.
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
him, chuckling as Frechette came up.
"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
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
Cupid's crazy train."
Frechette's shoulders stiffened at the mention of his
new 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 me."
Understanding, Champ nodded. "I see..."
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 friend'."
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
Lowering his gaze, Frechette nodded in sympathy. "I know... I've used
all my psychiatric acumen to try and convince our 'mutual friend'
stay put. But let's just say, in my professional opinion, this
particular case subject is... hard
Champ pretended to be surprised by the 'revelation'. "Hard headed? You
don't say. Well that does seem a familiar way for describing our
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 all."
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 that afternoon, now
the bar was packed, full of
people laughing and enjoying themselves.
Seated at a booth with a drink in his hand,
Rick watched as Frechette made his way back through the crowd to
him, always first and eager to make any attempt at their 'mission'.
From the look on Frechette's face, he could already tell it hadn't
gone well. The woman Rick had half heartedly attempted to introduce to
man was already talking to someone else.
Rick was fed up 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, invent some good qualities about
you don't seem to like any of the women
in this whole place!"
Frechette looked uncomfortable after his failed attempt, Taking a seat
in the booth, 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 as if
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 who he thought.
Finally, Frechette smiled. "I suppose that's true..."
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 to me."
"Well..." Frechette shifted back in his chair, getting more
comfortable. People were passing behind him in the packed bar 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 love's all there is... or ever was. Her eyes.... are
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
Frechette looked up to see Rick staring blankly at him, the description
not really what he had been expecting.
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
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 into 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 calmly as the fight continued behind
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 station, Trevor."
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
"Smells good doesn't it?"
Crinkling his nose, Frechette obviously didn't agree. "What does?" he
"That first bit of free air once you're finally let out of your holding
cell. So I can be released into the custody of my alleged 'shrink' of
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
"So it seems you have experience with this particular type of
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
Frechette smiled. "I'll inform my shoes they'll have to keep up."
"Right..." Rick looked ahead into the shadows draped over them as they
walked for a few more moments in silence.
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.
"You asked me, but 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
Frechette nodded, before looking over at him again. "Sounds to me like
you're looking for something in yourself rather than in another
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. "Hear what?
"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
"Tomorrow," Frechette sighed tiredly.
"Tomorrow," Rick agreed, the two men walking quietly down the dark
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
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
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,
to pull out the big guns and finally buy all these binoculars to spot
icebergs. This is how I'm going to stay plugged in, zoned out, and in
constant communication with you guys, guiding you through."
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
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
charging griffins. And I didn't miss a beat. On either front. Or back.
Helps being a God of War-God of Love hybrid, huh?"
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,
did you mean by that?"
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.
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
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. "Constant..."
"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
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 work."
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 their earpieces.
"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.
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
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
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 a cookie.
"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
"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
"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. "The what?"
Souring at the thought, Frechette looked over, obviously familiar with
"You throw a bunch
of spaghetti against the wall..." he started.
Trevor finished in both their earpieces.
"... 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 in there!"
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
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 with shock.
Trevor's voice came screaming through the earpieces glowing bright blue
on their ears. "Woah! Mayday! I head off to the bathroom for one
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
talking to her. "It's a simple question,"
she said good naturedly, tilting her head slightly. "So how long have
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
"Look, we're just two completely normal, average, ordinary guys who
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 it man."
"Two normal, guys who would like
to..." Finally, words slipped out. "... do you."
"So close..." Trevor sighed.
Amy nodded slowly. "Right..."
Trevor switched from 'all' to Frechette's private channel. "We're
her, Chetty. Get in there! The guy's a caveman. Rick's idea of poetry
is the label on a
"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
Rick looked down. "We... weren't allowed to."
Frechette nodded simply.
Amy's eyes opened slightly, dumbfounded, giving them a pleasant, tight
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
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
much have you two had to
"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 aware!"
Worried, Rick looked over at Frechette, still listening in on Trevor's
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.
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
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
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
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
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. "But--"
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
"Amateurs! You're getting this all wrong! I thought head shrinkers were
smart! Try the stare again! Hold on..." Trevor struggled to switch
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. "Me, Trevor."
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
calmly changed his attitude and sat back down to take it. Trevor's
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
him and took a drink as the view circled the table. Through the head
piece, Trevor heard the ice tinkle against the glass, barely
"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 a monotone.
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
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 Olympus!"
The two men blinked at Trevor's words. "Wait... which one of us is the
Frechette nodded. "I think it's me."
Rick scoffed. "Right. Because you SO have that mountain climber
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
"All this bickering what?" Rick countered.
"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
"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 the table.
Amy's chair was empty. They could barely see her walking away in the
distance, disappearing into the crowd.
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.
Frechette ignored him, his words stumbling out in shock as he spoke to
Trevor. "I... How did you... Wow..."
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
Frechette turned his gaze to him, still stunned.
"I didn't think it was possible, but... It appears that Trevor has
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 here?"
"Trevor thinks the target's in here," Frechette answered, opening the
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
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 complete psycho."
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 whispering.
"Look, we're not supposed to be here. This is a colossally bad idea.
Maybe we should just turn around and--"
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 go."
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
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
security clearance to be in here. Just make a simple visual ID of the
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
Frechette smiled. "Oh, badly."
"Sir, can I help you?" A stern female voice called out from the lit
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
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 file over?"
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
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.
"Administrator Frechette?" 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
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
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
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
"Sir, you're looking at me."
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 of hand!"
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
She, on the other hand, was growing uncomfortable. "Umm... the file,
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 side.
"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 touch."
The female paramedic scoffed. "Perv..."
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 toilet."
"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 simply.
Frechette backed into the shadows, joining Rick where he hid in the
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
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
"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.
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--....
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
He had dreamed about her again.
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
"Damn... Still here," he said softly.
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
his bed. "It can't be the only solution."
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 this?"
"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
"The only way to break the cycle."
"The only way to break the delusion," Frechette said as he reached
down. "To not feel her absence anymore."
"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
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.
His grip tightened, and he started to lift it, feeling heavy in his
hand. It rose up to finally reveal the--
"No." Frechette said sharply, putting the pills away and closing the
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
Frechette nodded, growing certain. "No. I'll handle this in my own
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.
(NEXT MORNING: TWO MEN TWO OPTIONS OUT)
(BONDING AND BASEBALL SIGNS. NO ALCOHOL. Meet two paramedics at
Taggerty's. Tr sets up Fre with girl 'Barb' to force RK's hand and draw
him out oh his denial that she's not the one. Rk till denies. FRE: "You
don't have the real person stuffed inside your closet, do you?" RK:"No.
They tend to smell after awhile. And they attract flies." FRE takes a
long LONG pause. RK: "Kidding...")
(TREVOR FEARS LOSING CLAIRE. FRECHETTE'S DATE. )
(RICK waiter note from Trevor. TR: "last chance. Time to swoop in." RK
AND FRECHETTE FED UP)
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,
would think he was crazy. Maybe... maybe he can't handle that."
Frechette looked down embarrassed.
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.
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
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 Trevor, right?"
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
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 lunatic fringe."
"Expiration..." Frechette finally saw it. "I can't believe I
didn't see this earlier. Trevor's immortal. He can't die. But his
beads... they've become his unique version of 'mortality'. His own
time limit... for staying with Claire."
Rick nodded. "And deep inside, he can't help being who he is. Still
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 doesn't count."
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...
only through us." Rick leaned back, looking away. "It's all ridiculous
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
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
Rick couldn't argue. "I suppose...."
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 see."
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
"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.
"I ..." Frechette paused, uncertain.
"I don't know if I--"
"Ian," Rick pressed further. "We need this! Time for a
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."
To be continued...