“Where’s Papa? Where’s Caroline and Jack-Jack?”
Incorporeal entities couldn’t really speak, of course. Not in the way that corporeal beings could. But if they could manifest something close to a physical form, that usually meant they were also strong enough to push around air molecules, and produce something approximating speech.
I drew a slow breath. “Sound check,” I whispered.
Barnaby’s voice was low when he responded, gun in-hand but aimed at the floor. “Think he’s asking for someone.”
Franklin shifted a fraction of an inch further down the aisle. I could see the sweat beading on the back of his neck, darkening the collar of his shirt. “I heard a couple of names. Christine, maybe? Jay-Jay?”
“Caroline and Jack-Jack.” I reached carefully into my right pocket, palming the smoky quartz along with the silver coins. My hand was so sweaty that the quartz slipped from my fingers twice. “Say hello to Patrick Green Bouvier Kennedy.”
Barnaby muttered something appropriately crude under his breath.
Not a ghost. Not exactly. Out there in the world outside of this plane, Patrick was an infant, not even four months of age. But here, inside the plane — this plane that I had Seen as a fiery crash — he was a child. An angry, sad child.
This wasn’t just a Seeing. This was a psycho-temporal embridgement.
In the Bureau’s one hundred and fifty-five years, there had only been a handful of such cases: agents accidentally or deliberately connecting with the future version of a soul, usually while that soul was experiencing a particularly traumatic death. And usually a loved one: spouse, child, sibling. Someone with whom they had developed a strong emotional connection. Someone who’s soul they had touched.
And it never ended well for the agent.
I forced a wide smile, lilting my speech up; not unlike the gate agent, actually. If Patrick was here, there, in this future moment, dead or dying …. “No, Patrick, I’m sorry. I haven’t see your Papa or your sister and brother. Would you like me to help you find them?”
Patrick twisted his fingers together and dug the toe of one shoe into the carpet. The fibers smoldered. “Said we’d be safe.”
I slid a step forward, Barnaby and Franklin mirroring my movement, staying just a bit ahead of me. “Who said you would be safe?”
Patrick glared and wind gusted through the cabin. Franklin coughed and I wondered if he had gotten a whiff of the melting plastic and burning polyurethane foam.
“You said!” Patrick shouted. “You said we’d be safe! Caroline was crying! And Papa was yelling! Where are they?!”
He exploded into a hundred grey and black and white birds. Parakeets. Canaries. They darted and twisted and spun around the cabin, zipping up and down the aisle and in and among the seats. Beating at us with their wings. Pecking and stabbing with their beaks. Tearing with their claws. Completely silent. No squawks or trills. Not even the sound of the flapping of their wings.
I dropped into a low crouch, one hand reaching out to grab the back of Barnaby’s jacket, the make-up compact slipping in my grip. He and Franklin dropped, too, guns raised now, fingers on the triggers. Barnaby threw one arm around me, tugging me closer, half under him.
The birds continued to circle and whirl, a silent, punishing storm. I could feel blood running down my scalp, and I knew there were tiny, beak-shaped bruises all over my back. The smell of ash and fire grew stronger. There seemed to be more birds now. And more. They were multiplying, filling the cabin, and the smell was so oppressive now that it was choking —
The birds dove, merged, coalesced, and once again Patrick stood in the middle of the aisle.
I carefully lifted my head, peering around Barnaby. He held me down, arm still anchored around me.
“You lied!” Patrick yelled. “Liar!”
“No!” I yelled back and pushed myself upright. Barnaby gave way only reluctantly, muscles tight. He remained in front of me, gun steady in his hand. “Patrick Green Bouvier Kennedy, I did not lie to you.” Full name. Children and incorporeal entities always responded to their full name. “I would never lie to you. Your Mama knows that.”
His face screwed up into a pout. “No Mama. She’s in heaven.”
I stared at him. My tongue felt glued to the roof of my mouth, and blood and sweat were pooling against the collar of my jacket. In heaven. Already dead. Jacqueline was already gone by this point in Patrick’s life.
When? When had she —
Breathe. Just breathe.
Another sliding step forward, Barnaby and Franklin matching me. “When did your Mama go to heaven, Patrick?”
Barnaby’s shoulders went rigid.
The ghostly grey boy shrugged. “When I was a baby. You said she’s my guardian angel.”
Another step forward. I shoved the make-up compact and coins back into my pockets, and knelt until I was eye level with him. “Patrick, can you show me?”
Franklin hissed. “Madeleine, what the hell are you doing?”
Fucking psycho-temporal embridgement. It never ended well for the agent.
Patrick’s face had screwed up into a confused expression again. He scratched one ear with a chubby finger. He still hadn’t lost his baby fat when he died. Would die. Had died.
Then he shrugged.
I lifted my hand, fingers wrapped around one end of the chunk of smoky quartz.
Patrick reached out.
Franklin yelled. Barnaby grabbed me.
And everything went white.
Hollywood gets this part wrong, too. It’s never a stream of images and sounds. It’s a flash, everything all at once. Like every frame of a film blasting onto the screen, layered one atop another atop another. No order, no sense. And it’s all there, here, in your head, in your soul, and there’s no escaping it.
It’s everywhere and everything, all at once.
A cloud in the sky, shaped like a mushroom. Patrick is excited. Caroline is crying.
A bloody pink ballgown.
A crowd cheering while balloons drop. A massive poster of a frowning, stern man surrounded by red, white, and blue banners. Wallace ‘64. His name in big letters.
Cameras flashing, microphones squeaking. Johnson with his hand raised.
Jack, all in black, expression haggard. Caroline in a little black veil.
People in ballgowns and tuxedos running, tripping, falling. Gunshots, echoing. How many?
A rumbly plane engine, blue sky, people hurrying. Jack carrying Patrick.
Me at the top of the stairs, waving them to hurry, hurry, hurry.
Krushchev slamming his fist against a podium, yelling, angry.
Jacqueline in a pink ballgown stained red, pearls scattered across the floor. A man in a blue suit kneeling over her, pushing Jack away.
Hurry, hurry, hurry.
Wallace sneering at a room full of reporters and cameras, slicing his hand through the air.
Barnaby. Franklin. I’m sorry.
A man with a gun running. Running through the mass of panicked tuxedos and ballgowns. More shots, so many. Falling.
We’re falling. The sky is so bright. So hot.
I’m sorry, Patrick. I’m sorry.
I woke up with a gasp and lurch, and immediately rolled over to vomit.
I kept throwing up, even after my stomach was empty. Someone was holding back my hair, rubbing my back. Dry heaves followed the vomiting, leaving my throat raw and turning my abdomen into a mass of aching knots.
“Fuuuuck,” I slurred.
“Got you some water, boss. Nice and slow.”
The hands that were holding my hair and gently rubbing my back shifted, slowly pushing me upright. I kept my eyes closed. My head was buzzing with static. My entire body felt like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket while I was in the middle of a shower.
Or a bubble bath.
Yep. Bubble bath. With soap that smelled like jet fuel and ash and burning seat cushions.
There was the scrape of a bucket being taken away, and a canteen touched my lips. Water. I ignored Franklin’s advice and tried to guzzle the cool liquid, but he held the container steady. By the time I was finished, I was able to crack my eyes open.
I was on a table. Or maybe workbench. Franklin was there, and Barnaby, holding me up. Argyle hovered over his shoulder, while the flight crew and maintenance staff huddled a few feet away. One of the stewardesses looked more than a little freaked, while the captain was busy lighting one cigarette with the stub of another. The man in the dark grey overalls and tool belt was bouncing impatiently on his feet, arms crossed.
I rolled my head, forcing my eyes to focus on the plane. The open doorway. The windows.
There was still a shadow there. A small hand pressed against the glass.
“Wasn’t the plane,” I croaked.
Franklin held out another canteen of water, which I gulped gratefully.
Apparently satisfied that I could stay upright on my own, Barnaby returned to gently rubbing my back.
Despite the bruises and nicks left by ghostly parakeets and canaries, that felt very nice. I would have to tell him as much later. Maybe he would rub my back again.
Argyle moved around to where I could see him better. “Not mechanical failure?”
“Nope. But go ahead and tear the plane apart if it will make you feel better.” I shifted my focus back to the aircraft again. The shadow was moving back and forth now, agitated, darting from window to window. “You should probably wait, though. Lock it up. Maybe post a guard.”
“Wait,” Argyle repeated, confusion tinging his voice.
I started to nod, then decided that was a bad idea. “We need to get to Dallas. Immediately. Got a ride we can hitch?”
“Nothing commercial, not for several hours. But Hanger 3 —” he jerked his chin to the right “— is where all of the private planes are stored. I could have one fueled and ready to go in half an hour. Pretty sure that’s mostly legal.” He cast a quick glance over his shoulder, then turned back to me. “Captain Sanchez isn’t doing anything right now, and he was headed to Dallas anyway.”
I managed a smile. “I appreciate that, Mr. Argyle. I need to make a phone call, too.”
This time his chin jerked to the left. “Office, back in the corner. I’ll go make the arrangements.” He turned and walked away, aiming for the pilot, who was on at least his fourth cigarette.
I swung my legs over the edge of the workbench, breathing slow and steady. Barnaby and Franklin waited patiently.
“How much of that did you get?”
Franklin shrugged. “Incorporeal entity. President Kennedy’s son, except he seemed older. Six, maybe? Seven? Said his mother was in heaven. So what are we looking at? Foreseeing of a presidential assassination?”
I chewed the inside of my lip, trying to articulate what I had Seen, what I had experienced when Patrick had touched the quartz crystal.
Remembering that moment, I glanced down at my hand.
No signs of burns, but there was a fine smear of glitter all over my fingers and palm. The quartz must have shattered; maybe even vaporized.
“No,” I finally answered. “Not just an assassination. And that wasn’t just a Foreseeing.”
“Psycho-temporal embridgement,” Barnaby said.
Franklin’s eyes widened.
At my surprised look, Barnaby shrugged one shoulder. “You touched his soul and followed his lifeline thirty-eight times. There were bound to be consequences.”
I sighed and rubbed a hand over the back of my neck. It came back sticky with sweat and blood. “Was it that many? I lost count.”
“So,” Franklin prompted, “are you going to fill us in?”
“Yep. Come on. Phone call. The Field Office AD in Dallas needs to hear this, too.”
One more steadying inhalation and I dropped to the ground.
Which is when I realized that the angle of the sunlight outside the hanger doors was all wrong. It was coming from far in the west.
“Damn it. How long?”
Franklin pursed his lips. “Yeah, bad news, boss. We were in the plane for more than three hours. And you were unconscious for another hour after that.”
I scrubbed a hand over my face and turned towards the office in the back corner. I managed all of two steps before Barnaby grabbed my arm, making sure I stayed upright. “I hate it when they mess with my sense of time. What time is it, anyway? Actually?”
“Almost five,” Franklin answered.
I muttered something appropriately crude and followed Franklin into the office.
The phone sat in the middle of a messy desk covered in papers, oily rags, and random pieces of equipment. Getting through to the Dallas Field Office proved relatively easy. Getting ahold of the Assistant Director was another matter. It took his very apologetic secretary twenty minutes to track him down and get the call transferred to another department.
“Green? This is AD Chimansky. I’ve got an office of stressed out clairvoyants here. Where the hell are you? Are you here yet? I told Franklin hours ago that you needed to be here. Where are you?”
“Still in Tucson, sir, but we’re leaving momentarily. We should be in Dallas a little after seven.”
There was a short, bristling silence. “Care to explain the delay?”
And then I told him everything.
Franklin was meticulously filling out a crossword in the seat across the narrow aisle. Barnaby was quiet beside me, his thumb rubbing across the back of my hand.
His touch and presence were comforting, but I still felt icky and hungover. There was no bathroom on this tiny plane, so I had made a quick dash to use the facilities before we took off. My appearance was appalling. Bags under my eyes. Blood and sweat staining my skin and clothing. The back of my jacket was riddled with holes and there was a tear along one seam of my skirt. My hair was a mess.
I cleaned myself up as best I could and dashed back out to follow Captain Sanchez, Franklin, and Barnaby into the tiny little plane. Argyle followed, offering his sincere thanks, still under the impression that I had Seen and prevented an imminent crash. I didn’t correct him — couldn’t until I figured out exactly what my Seeing meant and I got clearance from bureaucrats higher up the chain of command.
Which meant that Argyle, as cooperative and competent and genuinely nice as he was, would probably never know the truth.
The last thing he said to me was “Thank you, Clairvoyant Green. I’ll sleep easier tonight.”
And then we were in the air, winging our way east.
I wanted a shower, a whiskey, and a bed. Preferably with Barnaby in it.
But we still had work to do.
The plane rattled and shook around us. The engine was loud. Every bump reminded me of what I had Seen when Patrick touched the quartz crystal; the sounds and smells, the all-consuming panic and fear. The sense of utter failure.
Captain Sanchez was on his seventh cigarette. He cast a few suspicious glances at us, then focused on flying.
East. East across the desert, across plains and rolling hills. East to Dallas — where Jacqueline would die, and the world would be set on its path to burn.
[End Part Two. The conclusion will appear in the October issue of ev0ke.]
[Written by Rebecca Buchanan.]