122 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO Time seemed not so much to slow as to go sideways for a moment, a whole series of things not happening so much as at once but rather in a timeless sort of mishmash.
John pulled the trigger, there was a flash of light and–at this range–a deafening crack.
I cried out in some combination horror and far-too-late warning.
I saw the bullet explode outward from John’s head, although something seemed wrong about that, although I couldn’t put my finger quite on what.
John stayed resolutely upright in his chair, his arm not even so much as slackening its grip on his gun.
My gaze followed the bullet’s trajectory to the wall only to find no blood sprayed their, but rather a nice cluster of bullet holes, each a perfect crater of plaster.
John turned to me, lowering the gun as he did. There was no sign at all of a wound on his head.
Time collected itself, catching and starting up once again back on its everyday course.
“Padre, how could to see you again. Have you heard anything more about my brother?”
Just that, completely ignoring the fact that I’d just seem him completely ignore a suicide attempt that–even if it could have failed–shouldn’t have failed quite so completely.
“You… What… With the…” I stuttered. Time was flowing again, but my thoughts were having a bit more of an issue.
“What, this?” He gestured at the gun. As if there were anything else I could have been mumbling about. “Funny story that.” He sounded almost creepily cheerful.
John had a warped sense of humor if seemed. He continued on though, shifting back to his previous topic, “I bet you figured out how to get rid of him, didn’t you? I knew you could do it. Don’t ask me how I knew, but I just knew it.”
He was rambling a bit now, but at least I had managed to take back some measure of my voice. “How did you do that?”
He just shook his head, slowly, avoiding the question. “But why are you here then, if you figured it out? Why would you need my help? I tried to shoot you after all.” He voice kept alternating between cheerful and distressed, fast enough that it was really troubling.
Two could play at that game though, avoiding questions. I could be every bit as stubborn as him. “You’re not human, are you? You’re like an angel or something.”
It didn’t really make sense even as it came out of my mouth, but I couldn’t think of another alternative. Granted, even after meeting Michael in person, I didn’t really know much more about angels than the Sunday school stories I’d grown up on. Not much in the way if surviving self inflicted gunshot wounds without so much of a scratch in those.
But John was just shaking his head. “An angel?” At least it was part of an answer. “I don’t think I’m an angel. I don’t feel much like an angel. What does an angel feel like?”
He was scanning downwards, down his own frame. When he got to the gun, he jerked slightly. I wouldn’t even have noticed had I not been watching him carefully, but as if was, the movement caught my attention and wouldn’t let go.
Why would he be surprised by his own gun? By the gun he’d just used on himself.
“No, definitely not an angel,” he said.
“Then what are you?”
“I’m nothing,” he said, shifting back to terribly sad once again. “Not any more.”
“What in the world does that mean?”
“It means that my brother isn’t the only one that’s dead.”
I blinked at him. Was he saying what I thought he was saying? “How can you be dead?” Without taking a moment to think about it, I reached out and poked him. He felt normal enough, if a bit cool to the touch. Not unnaturally though. “You can touch things.”
He shrugged. “I haven’t the slightest idea. Not why I’m still here, nor why I can touch things and Alex cannot. I don’t even know why Alex came back in the first place.”
I thought we’d narrowed down that one at least. Mrs. Claire had a bit more power than she was letting on, somehow bound together with that piece of pottery. Instinctively, my thoughts went to the wall safe I’d stored that shard in. I hadn’t checked it since yesterday, but it was still safe–right?
“When?” I asked. I didn’t have to specify which question I meant. “How?” I knew it was a rather personal question, but at the moment, I was too stunned to care.
He answered both, “It was a car crash. Years ago. I’d always thought that I’d just miraculously survived somehow. But then when Alex died…”
His gaze fell down to the gun still in his hands and his words faded. But he didn’t need to continue. I had a feeling I knew exactly where he was coming from.