Thoughts to Rest a Three Card\'s Fan Fiction
By Jen

 Takes place after Dead Time. I think I posted this on the board long ago. Thought I'd brush it off and post it where it belongs. (and no, not the recycle bin ho ho ho). Forgive the lack of skillz, but it was fun for me, and happened to finish the story off how I'd always hoped.

 

 

Thoughts to rest.

 

 

“No….I’m losing it.” Jess shook her head, knowing it was coming to an end. She felt the heavy weight on her chest subside, pulling away as she slipped back into herself, in the hard wooden chair she’d been sitting in all afternoon. Her frustration was unsettling; the progress she’d made over the last few months seemed pitifully meager.

Sydney simply uncrossed her hands and reached to comfort Jess.

“What happened this time?” She asked softly.

“I was almost there, in the White Knight. I could see Daniel at the bar, he was making a little pyramid with the collection of empty shot glasses, it was tough on him, we had a pretty tense argument.”

“Merryman? “ Sydney was not surprised that Jess had not ended her relationship with the detective since her confrontation with Ylli.

“Are you surprised?

“Not at all Jess. I was once young too.”

“But it’s not like that, not really. It’s just that since after all these things started happening to me, I liked that Merryman understood me, in a way I don’t think Daniel can.”

“It doesn’t help that he still involved with your family, of course.”

Jess shook her head.

“Nothing seems easy anymore.” Sydney didn’t like the troubled look that crossed Jess’s features. “And I’m scared almost all the time. I keep waiting to hear his voice in my head again. I’m afraid of him hunting me down. And I’m afraid of Crawford. “

“Not unfounded Jess.” Sydney spoke. “But you have my word, that the Haven is simply that. Crawford can’t get you here, Ylli cannot see you.”

Jess thought over her next words, choosing them carefully. “So is that why I have a hard time picturing your face when I’m at home? “She laughed, tossing her head. “I mean, all I can remember is your silly bowtie, and some of the shop stuff. Your face….doesn’t come with me.”

Sydney glossed over the question. “I wouldn’t give too much thought about it, or me. Now, do you think if we tried again, this time with the Tarot card?”

“But I shouldn’t need them right? We’ve been working on this for months now, I’m stronger; they just get in the way!’

Sydney paused, knowing that Jess was simply stalling, that she was afraid that like Dumbo, she wouldn’t be able to fly without her magic feather.

“Humor me.”

With a huge sigh, Jess pulled the cards out of her handbag. She didn’t keep the whole deck with her, just the cards that triggered thoughts of those closest to her. She would be lying if she said she hadn’t pulled out Merryman’s card sometimes in the dead of night when she couldn’t sleep, but no one needed to know that but her.

Fumbling around, she took Daniel’s card, and studied it.

“Close your eyes.”

Sighing, she did as asked. The familiar sinking feeling and heaviness fell around her; she knew that she would make it this time.

 

Daniel was leaning against the bar, head down and deep into his cups. There were few people at the White Knight that evening, so the seats beside Daniel on either side were empty. Daniel decided to switch to beer after he finished his shot glass pyramid, and he admired it while he thought about the harsh words he got from Jess yesterday.

“Woman problem, eh?”

Daniel looked over his shoulder to hear a higher pitched, heavily accented voice approach him. The man was slight, weasel-ish.

“No problem.” Daniel chugged down the last couple of swigs. “In fact, I’m even thinking of writing a country/western song about it. She tore my beating heart out, and stomped that sucker flat.”

“It’s got a nice ring to it.”

“Ring yeah, I’ve got that too. I need a little time, she says, I need to think it over she says, and then Mr. Gumshoe comes along and screws everything up.”

The weasel moves in closer.

“Well, we’ve got something in common. I also want that detective out of the way. Merryman right?”

Daniel shook his head, trying to will some sobriety into his system.

“Merryman. Wait, how do you know?”

A sharp pinch of steel poked Daniel in the side of his ribcage. A small drop of blood dripped through his shirt, down the glinting silver blade.

“Don’t move, breathe, or say a word, or I’ll bury this in your groin, spilling the contents of your intestines into your chest cavity. The death will take a long time, and you will beg for it to end.”

Daniel froze.

“Just follow me, and stay calm. We get Merryman out of the way, and we part. Deal?”

Daniel gritted his teeth.

“I have a choice?”

“If you want to live?”

“Go with you, got it. Ok, pull the hook out, I’m coming.”

Daniel stumbled out of the building, and into the waiting car outside the White Knight.

Jess watched all of this in horror, rushing back to the Haven with a gasp, jerking back to full consciousness.

“What’s going on? “ Sydney knew something was wrong.

“One of Crawford’s men….he’s got Daniel, he’s pulling him into his car, they’ve left.” Jess shook her head, clearing her thoughts. “His cell phone, they tossed it out the window, I can’t get a hold of him. He’s in danger!”

“Was this a vision of the future, or of now? “ Sydney furrowed his brow.

Jess thought frantically. “I don’t know for sure, I think now, it felt like now. I’ve got to find out!” She dug through her handbag, quickly pulling out her Razor, tapping the button, dialing Daniel.

The phone rang and rang into her ear, finally cutting to voice mail. Jess was just about to leave a message when she heard the beep in her handset, signaling another call. Without thought she clicked over, hoping Daniel was dialing in on the other line.

“Jess?” a worried voice, not her boyfriend’s, was on the line.

“Mom? What’s going on? I’m kind of in an emergency.”

“That’s why I’m calling. Your father went out to take the dog for a walk tonight, and he hasn’t come back.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing Mom, you know how he gets sidetracked when Murph catches a scent.”

“But that’s the thing Jess, Murphy came back alone, trailing his leash, and there’s something on there, I think it’s blood.”

Jess’s heart stopped.

“Call Merryman, and the police, and get out of there. Please Mom, and don’t tell me where you’ve gone. I’m at the Haven, when you find a safe place, call here and leave a message with Sydney, she’ll know what to do.”

She closed her phone.

“It’s not safe anymore, I know it. That damned little monster is hiding in my mind!!”

 

___________________________________________

Jess slept fitfully on the daybed in the Haven, none of her questions answered for the time being. She and Merrymen agreed to meet tomorrow, hoping to figure out where her father and Daniel had been taken. The question of who had done this needed no answering. Crawford and Ylli had drawn her in once, hoping to wrest the “gift” that had recently awakened in her. Their first attempt was blunt force, this would be different, she knew.

 

Jess had expected her dreams to be dark, filled with the thoughts of her love ones tortured and killed at Crawford’s hands. But instead they were quiet, and the visions were peaceful. The sun was shining on her face, warming her, and she found herself sitting on a long park bench by a huge fountain. The worn wooden benches circled a large play area, and fresh bright green grass surrounded them. The water jets in the shining steel fountain were set to music and there were a dozen or so little children in wet bathing suits who were squealing, both chasing, and running from the spray. The current song playing was “Ode to Joy” and Jess knew they would be scrambling away soon, giggling and running into the arms of their parents, damp hair flying, to be wrapped in towels, munching on popcorn that would be bought from a vendor in a cart not far away. She could smell it, wafting towards her.

A young woman about Jess’s age walked up to her bench. The sun shone from behind her and Jess had a hard time making out the woman’s features.

“May I sit?”

“Of course.” Jess waved her hand and they sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the life around them. “Ode to Joy” had changed to a Mexican tune she didn’t recognize, and she took the time to watch her seatmate out of the corner of her eye. The woman’s eyes were clear blue, deep, like her father’s, and her hair was unruly reddish brown, thick and tousled. The woman fidgeted, shifting in her seat, and she saw Jess’s curious gaze and matched it.

“I found you.” The young woman watched her feet for a moment, as if the answer she wanted was there. “I wasn’t sure I could.”

Jess’s curiosity was peaked. “Who are you?”

The young woman played with her fingers, not meeting Jess’s gaze. “I’ve never done this before, so I hope I get it right. There’s so much at stake….”

If there was one thing Jess understood was the awkwardness and bizarre things that had happened of late. “Can I help you?” she said to the woman, trying to set her at ease.

“Yes. Daniel gone right now isn’t he? Missing….taken.”

Jess immediately tensed. “How did you know that?”

“I just do, and you’re in danger as well, but you don’t need me to tell you that.”

Jess remained silent, waiting for the woman to continue.

“I’ve gone over it so many times in my head, all the scenarios, and it all comes down to tomorrow.”

Jess furrowed her brow. “What happens?”

The woman took a deep breath, and turned to face Jess. “My life depends on you, tomorrow. Tzavaras has to be stopped. If he gets away from you….” She shook her head, “He’s got to get captured by the police.”

 

Jess head swam with the thought of it. Tzavaras was one of Crawford’s angriest hounds, and the thought of confronting him again made her fearful. She had almost been shot by him, her and Merryman both, and she knew he was an awful man. She looked again at the young woman, and saw her obvious distress.

“Tzavaras will stumble, when you think it’s a lost cause. You have to act then.”

Jess pondered her words. “Ok, I’ll do it. Is there anything else you can tell me, something that might help?”

She nodded. “He keeps a gun fastened in a holster on his right calf.”

“I don’t understand what going on, but thank you. I forgot, what was your name?”

 

The young girl smiled again. “I didn’t mention earlier but….everyone calls me Dre. I was named for my grandmother, but funny thing is, I had no idea for the longest time. Anyway, good luck for tomorrow.” She leaned over and warmly hugged Jess. “You’re going to need every little bit you can get.”

 

 

 

 

_____________________________

Jess’s legs trembled slightly, and she was afraid that the pins and needles that settled in her calves for the last twenty minutes would turn into numbness before long. She and Merryman had been crouched outside, peeking through a gap in the walls of the abandoned warehouse for over 3 hours past full dark. They hadn’t found Daniel or Ben, but they had tracked Trevasus here, and watched their poker game finally wind its way down. Jess was thankful for the brisk night, it kept her alert, her only wish was that they could have found a closer vantage point, so she could hear them talking. Jess was certain he knew where her loved ones were kept hostage, and she ached to find out more.

It looked like Trevasus was the big winner and after shots were downed and cigars smoked, they were finally breaking down for the night. One by one the other players dropped out, Tzavaras pile of bills stacked high. He never stood, his position at the head of the table uncontested. A few of his compadres clapped him on the shoulder, shaking their heads, most assuredly vowing that they would take him to the cleaners next time. A few climbed into their vehicles and sped off into the night. Neither Jess nor Merryman knew who had left, as they could only hear the engines flare and speed away, they couldn’t see the stretch of flattened grass where the group had parked.

A bad move, Jess thought inwardly.

She cast her glance over to Merryman. His face was impassive, but Jess could see his mind whirling behind his eyes. She played over their plan again. As soon as they were down to Tzavaras he would sneak inside and blindside him. Once they had secured him, Merryman would question him. It was in Tzavaras best interest that Jess finds Crawford and her loved ones. Merryman didn’t think it would take long to find out where they had him them hidden.

There was a side door they had propped open before, and it was now that Merryman gave Jess the signal, pointing towards it. Jess had her cell phone ready to dial 911 if anything went wrong. She was to stay outside, protecting the exit, and she had the keys to Merryman’s car, parked and hidden out of sight.

They slowly made their way over to the exit door, their footsteps quiet from the mulchy leaves and the wet ground. There was little noise from the outside, crickets and an infrequent hoot of a horn owl in a nearby tree, she will herself to breathe slowly, and quietly.

 

Merryman whispered briefly to Jess before sneaking inside. He had swapped out his wingtips for soft soled shoes, and a black sweater with turtleneck, and slacks instead of his normal oxford and trench coat.

Jess breath caught in her throat as she saw him inch closer and closer to Tzavaras. Behind rusted out tools, and abandoned machinery he slowly snaked to the smoke filled table where their target sat. A huge industrial wood stove burned, the area he slowly approached got warmer, or maybe it was his own nerves.

Jess’s heart was pounding in her ears. She bit down on her bottom lip, not enough to break skin, but to keep her attention focused. He was almost there now, the blackjack pulled from the back pocket of his pants. She prayed that Merryman would land a solid hit, and this could be over without a fight.

Merryman was within arm’s length of Tzavaras when Jess heard a slight clicking sound to her right. She had just enough time to register that it was the cocking of a revolver before a rough hand grabbed her around the neck cutting off her breath, the nub of the pistol freezing cold against her cheek.

“Got her boss!”

Both Merryman and Tzavaras spun in her direction, and because Merryman was crouched down he got only a glancing shot off the blackjack, but it missed the original target, the back of Tzavaras skull, and hit off his shoulder. It wasn’t enough. Tzavaras pulled a knife from the tabletop, one neither of them had seen before, and pointed it at Merryman’s carotid artery.

“Perfect Anderson. Bring her to me.”

He shifted the hand around her neck, but the gun stayed in place. Rough hands shoved her through the door, she had only the foresight to fumble her hand into her packet, quickly hitting the send, praying that her call for help would get through.

Her gestures were not lost on Tzavaras. “Anderson, her hand in her pocket, get whatever it is now!”

She fought him, not wanting to give it up. His heavy callused hand crushed her fingers with incredible force, prying it loose from her hand. She let go before he broke her fingers.

“It’s not a weapon, just her cell phone.”

Tzavaras shouted at him. “Destroy it you idiot.”

His hired goon threw the phone on the ground and fired his weapon at it. The first shot missed. Jess recoiled, unprepared for just how loud the gunshot pounded her ear. He changed tactics and stepped on it before he fired the second round.

“Dear Christ, stop with the gun! Enough!”

Anderson sulked and repositioned his weapon back on her face. He pulled her to him again, the sickly sweet smell of his aftershave and cigar smoke mixed in with the adrenaline in the pit of her stomach caused her to gag. He was easily a foot taller and many times stronger, and a sick part of her knew that he was enjoying watching her try to wiggle away from his body, which he kept shoving against her.

Merryman watched everything, wondering when would be the best chance to break free. He held his breath, his mind working furiously, and Tzavaras sensed it.

The edge of the knife pierced his skin, and Merryman froze. It was shallow, but too close to the mark. Blood coursed down his neck in hot tendrils, and he gritted his teeth, not wanting to give the bastard a response.

 

Jess came unglued.

“NO!! Stop it! You don’t have to hurt him, please….” Her tears came hot and fast. “You know why we’re here.” The petty annoyance of this cheap hood poking her, and even the gun pointed at her evaporated from her mind. This was real, life and death and, Merryman could die in front of her right now. “No one has to get hurt. Ylli and Crawford want me….and I want my Dad and Daniel. Please!”

Tzavaras pulled the tip away.

“No one has to get hurt.” It was almost like a mantra, if she kept saying it, it would stay true. She didn’t fight anymore against the hood as he pushed her down the stairs, away from the door and down to the poker table.

In her first few steps she replayed the words from the dream in her head. Her eyes squinted as she watched Tzavaras move, shift his weight from one foot to the other, the leg of his slacks shifting, and there it was, a ghost of movement, and she knew it was true. There was a gun holstered on his calf. But the pit of her stomach told her that Tzavaras would not stumble, so that gun might as well be on Mars unless she figured something out.

He marched her downwards, Tzavaras less than twenty feet away. The heat from the huge stove broke beads of sweat on her skin. The smell, her fear and tears were all real, and that’s when she knew what to do.

She gagged again. She made her mind go to rancid bacon grease, cigar butts, and the body of a flyblown raccoon she stumbled across in high school. She felt her bilge rise.

The hood barely noticed, but Merryman’s eyes narrowed and Tzavaras’s flew open wide. Her body hitched, and she went back to the smell of that sickly sweet aftershave and the rotted animal corpse crawling with maggots, and the first wave hit, her head tipped forward, the sting of bile and all her fear rushing outwards. A wretched sound escaped her and she emptied a good portion of her Chinese food from earlier today on the floor between them . Instinctively Tzavaras backed off a step and the hood released her.

The second wave hit, and she stumbled forward spewing vomit almost explosively. She fell to her knees, her bile coating Tzavaras expensive slacks.

Merryman swung for the fences and managed to knock Tzavaras off balance. Jess frantically reached for the gun, tearing it free. The safety was off.

Neither Tzavaras nor Merryman noticed, as they attacked each other madly. Fists flew, and the two men tumbled into each other. Jess turned to Anderson. His gun was pointed at her.

“Ho, whoa watch yourself there little lady.”

There was no nobility. She fired at him. The shots exploded in her ears, and the gun jerked upwards in her hand. She burst into fresh tears.

It wasn’t like in the movies, where they just fell backwards and silent. She watched blood spray behind him, the exit wound punching through. He didn’t call her a dirty rat, or shoot back in a last desperate attempt to settle the score. He was busy dying.

There was nothing Jess’s world but this. He cried in pain, tried to curl up in a fetal ball. Jess caught a glimpse of his insides and this time her mind went involuntarily to the fly-blown raccoon. His body went into shock, then spasms. Her hand wiped the snot and vomit and tears from her face and she watched on, chest hitching from her sobbing. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t help him, and the voices in her head pounded her a murderer over and over till she thought she’d go mad. The blood that pooled underneath him threatened to take her along. And then it was done. She still watched on.

A gentle hand touched her shoulder, and she spun around.

“It’s over.”

“Tzavaras?”

“He’s unconscious and handcuffed. The police are on their way.”

Merryman had blood and bruises of his own. He was sporting a huge road rash on the left side of his face, and there were knife wounds on his hand, and a particularly nasty gash on his forearm. That would need stitches.

“But if the police take him, Crawford will be the first person he calls.”

Merryman shook his head. “I know the captain from way back, he’ll drop him in a nice dark hole for a day or two, long enough for us to find out where they’re taken Daniel and your father. I’ve taken Tzavaras wallet and his briefcase. I’ll search his apartment in the morning.”

“But you…” and he took her chin softly in his hand and raised her head to his. “Need to know that you did the right thing. He would have shot us both without one sliver of regret. And your father and Daniel would be killed as well, just to tie up loose ends.”

She could barely nod her head, but she did enough so he knew his words struck home.

“As soon we finish up this stuff here, and I’ll take you back to my apartment for a shower and a little rest. Ok?”

She nodded and rested in the chair Tzavaras would never sit in again.

 

 

___________________________

“That was a pretty stupid move you made there, but damned lucky.”

“Is that your attempt at flattery to me? Cause it could use a little work.” She felt much more like herself after she had taken a quick shower and brushed her teeth. The light in Merryman’s apartment was sparse, so Jess was forced to squint her eyes, trying her best to sew closed the gash in his forearm. She made her stitches as small and straight as she could, and Merryman was holding on like a champ throughout it. Of course, a couple of shots of bourbon quickly tossed down hadn’t hurt at all. “Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the emergency room for this?”

Merryman, pure grit, shook off the thought. “You’re doing fine, if it had been on the other arm I could have done it myself.”

Jess grinned, and tied up the end, dabbing her handiwork with hydrogen peroxide. “I know now there was a reason why I took Home EC classes.” She grabbed a cotton pad, and wrapped his arm a few times with the bandage, and patted it, finishing the job. Merryman nodded and downed another shot, wiping his good arm under his chin.

“You really should take your shirt off, it is a total wreck. I’m afraid it’s not good for anything but the trash at this point.”

Merryman studied his turtleneck, now battered, bloodstained and torn. “You’re going to have to cut the sleeve off, hell, just slice it up the back. You’re right, it’s a goner anyway.”

He tossed his fedora on the kitchen table with a sigh, and Jess moved him over to the sofa bed that she had pulled out earlier. Carefully she cut through the seam on his bad arm, slicing it off, and delicately removed the rest of his shirt, throwing it into the trashcan beside them.

She knelt down on her knees, and untied one of his black shoes, loosening the laces, pulling it free. The wool sock was next and then the other foot. She looked up, and found him watching her, with an expression that was much like her own.

“You don’t have to do that.” Merryman spoke weakly.

“I know.” She stayed there at the foot of the bed, her eyes full of the feelings she had pushed down for months, only now willing to take a chance.

“We’re both a mess.”

“I know.”

“You really belong with Daniel; that how these things are supposed to work.” His gaze didn’t move even as he continued. “And your father is paying me…paying me to protect you.”

“Are you telling me no?”

Merryman fell silent.

“We’ll be ok, as long as you lay back and don’t try to use that arm.”

___________________

 

 

 

“Ylli is connected you in more ways than one.”

It wasn’t what Jess had wanted to hear from Sydney but she knew it was true. “You are fraternal twins, but sharing a womb and the Gift, has bonded you together in a way few have ever known. Maybe even closer than twins from a single egg.”

“But why don’t I sense him in the way he can me?”

“Before your “gift” awakened, you knew you had a sibling, didn’t you?”

“That’s true. I remember feeling like I had a sister.”

“No doubt Ylli held the same beliefs, in fact it might have been his thoughts that led Celeste to believe she could find and contact you with her power.”

Sydney paused. “And there is the hand of Crawford in all of this too. He has strength of his own, and has managed to wield power both over your mother and your brother. He may have taught Ylli to focus on the part of your consciousness that you share.”

“But I don’t even know what that is.” Sydney could hear Jess’s frustration over the phone. “When I confronted him the 1st time, it was over so quickly.”

“Which was certainly what he had planned, if you’d taken the upper hand.”

“You need to guide your power to help you when you need it. Not only for the manipulation of time, but to look inside yourself, and Ylli. Delve inside your minds, that is where your connection to each other lies. “

“And if I find it?”

“You have to consume it. ”

It was almost too much to think about. Her thoughts went to her family. “How’s my Mom?”

“She’s here with me in the Haven. We’ve spent some time doing a reading, but I’ve sedated her, and she’s resting for now.”

“Can you keep her there until it’s over?”

“She’ll be safe here.”

“Thanks, Sydney. I’ll talk to you soon.”

As soon as she ended the call she started to pace around the apartment. She was anxious and on edge. She spent the better part of the morning purchasing and programming her new cell phone. There was very little she could do now but wait for word from Merryman. Her thoughts drifted to last night, but she quickly banished them. She needed to focus on preparing for Ylli, not summoning up thoughts of what she and Merryman had done the night before.

And as if on cue, his rotary dial phone jangled, pulling her back into reality with a start. She picked up the heavy handset.

“Did you ever think about buying a phone from this century?”

“Your wit is as welcome as always, but what I’ve got for you won’t improve your mood at all.”

“What did you find out?”

“Well, I ransacked his place and found out that they taken them to a safe haven. Safe for Crawford, of course.”

Jess whispered into the phone. “No.”

“So gather up my toothbrush that you used this morning and meet me at the airport. Crawford has a private plane that he transported both of them with, but we’re going commercial. A one way ticket to your favorite destination, Sin City and the Minaret.”

______________________________

 

It was full dark before they reached Las Vegas. While Jess stared at the lights of the city, Merryman hunted down and rented a limo for the night. When they pulled up to the Minuret, they instructed the driver to wait for their return.

Jess climbed out of the limo and stared at the imposing tower before her. She gazed at the ground, knowing that the mother she’d never met perished right there, at her feet. She grasped onto Merryman’s sleeve for strength, and walked up to the staggeringly enormous frosted glass doors.

Unlike the myriad of glittering casinos in Vegas, the lobby was bereft of people save a pair of security guards. Lush red carpetings dampened their footsteps while white marble, and gold decorations decorated the halls. Statues costing millions and priceless artwork hung from the ceiling, and one of the two uniformed security officers spoke quietly into a walkie talkie attached to his shoulder before he approached them.

Merryman seemed to take little notice of any of the lavish decorations, only the available exits, phones, and anything that might give then help in escaping.

The uniformed guard, standing about 6 foot tall, seemed small in Merryman’s presence.

“Excuse me ma’am, but I was ordered to escort you with me as soon as you arrived.”

“I’ m coming with her.” Merryman was resolute.

The guard nodded. “It’s been pre-approved.”

Silently the three of them walked to the shining brass elevator, Jess could make out the faintest wisp of her long slacks brushing the deep pile carpeting. The button summoned the car quickly enough, but instead of pressing any of the numerous floor numbers, he took out a flat pass key and slid it into the slot.

The can moved quickly and smoothly. Both Merryman and herself saw the floor numbers rush up alarmingly fast, and there was a few moments when there was nothing at all on the display. They glanced at each other, and the car gently slid to a halt. The only thing on the display was the letter P.

“You ready?” Merryman asked her, at a whisper.

She squeezed his hand quickly and released it.

“As I’ll ever be.”

 

The floor was immense, and ominous. The floor to ceiling plate glass windows to her left were unadorned, and the lights of the city spellbound her. The room seemed to go on forever. Lavish couches were littered here and there, teak bookshelves and display boxes held hundreds of leather bound volumes and countless treasures. But the most precious treasures her heart desired were close by, enclosed in their own glass box.

Daniel and Ben scrambled to their feet. Set into the wall, their cell was about 500 feet square, encased in glass on three sides. It was richly but simply furnished, beds, a small table with two chairs, a screened off area where she guessed a toilet hid. The door was glass but the lock was electric, instead of a keyhole and key, a magnetic strip card reader would need to unlock and free them.

“Jess, what the hell are you doing here!” Her father bellowed from his cell. He scrambled up to the glass, and Jess ran to him, to both her father and Daniel, held captive.

“Merryman, I told you not to get her anywhere near this place, that was the agreement.” He pounded the glass, furious at the PI for bringing his daughter to such a dangerous place.

“I’m sorry Mr. Silloway, but Jess made a convincing argument for your rescuing. You can’t write me anymore checks if you’re dead.”

Jess stared at her father behind the glass. “Dad, please don’t be mad at me. I can’t just let him kill the both of you.”

“Jess honey, I’m old, I’ve had my shot, I want you to be safe.”

Jess was furious, she shook her head, pounding at the glass with her fist.

“You know there’s nowhere that I can be safe forever. And I was wouldn’t want to go on, knowing it was because of me that I lost both of you.”

She turned to Daniel.

“And sweetie, I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be, it’s my own stupid fault that I got suckered in like this. I could have fought him off, and I should have been there to protect you.”

Jess lowered her head against the glass.

“I’m so sorry this happened. But Daniel, I need to tell you. Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you. I was a fool and waited way too long. I don’t know what my problem was, but I know that I want to be with you.” And she whispered, “I’m going to get you out of this.”

A voice reverberated from behind the three of them. “Touching Jess, very touching. But we have business to take care of first.”

Crawford summoned the guard. “Check our private investigator for any weapons.” He tapped down Merryman, and found no gun.

“Nothing.”

Crawford waved him away. “Leave us.”

Jess waited until the guard had left and finally spoke, seething at him. “Crawford, you are a bastard.” She backed away from their prison and walked towards him.

“Your words mean very little to me. There’s something else from you that I want.” Jess couldn’t see his eyes from behind his glasses, but he loomed over her. She stood her ground.

 

“Setareh.”

Her scarred and twisted brother steered his custom wheelchair over to her.

Jess sat on a chair beside Ylli. Her feelings of anger and pity stirred inside her, and she didn’t try to hide them from her misshapen and tortured sibling.

“I want to talk to you.”

Crawford chimed in. “But he’s right there beside you.”

But Crawford didn’t hear her next words.

“I want to talk to you brother, in my mind.”

Ylli did hear her, and she could sense his surprise behind his pale white mask, where he hid his true face from the world.

“Of course, sister.”

Crawford and Merryman watched on in silence as Ylli and Jess continued their telepathic dialogue.

“So, you are strong.”

“Yes. But I never wanted this power. I think you know that. You can look inside of me and see that. I want to have a melding of minds. But I want Crawford out of the picture, I don’t want him threatening me.”

Jess could feel his doubts. “I do not think I’m strong enough to hold him back Seterah.”

“I know, but together, if we joined our minds, we could overpower him. It only needs to be for a minute, till Merryman can subdue him.”

Ylli pondered it. “And then?”

“My mind and my powers are open to you.”

Jess knew that Ylli would accept. His own powers were twisted, not as strong as her own. But to have them both was a prize she knew he could not refuse.

And they both joined themselves in the inner plane where they traveled always alone, for the first time with each other. Their world became only the two of them, and together, they halted time around Crawford.

In the span of a moment that it took to blink an eye, Jess popped back, startling Merryman. “Get your handcuffs and subdue Crawford. Gag him too. I don’t want him summoning the guards.”

Merryman looked at Crawford, frozen, unable to move or speak. We walked over to him and touched him. He was a still as stone, his face locked in a questioning glance. “What the hell did you do?”

Jess snapped angrily at him. “There’s no time to explain, just slap the cuffs on him and get him out of the way. HURRY! I don’t know how long this will last.”

Merryman quickly gathered Crawford’s arm behind him and with a metallic snap, locked him in.

Not finding a suitable gag, he took off his own tie and snaked it between Crawford’s lips. “That was my favorite tie you ass. But worth losing it to see you like this. “

Merryman turned to Jess, but she was already back in her trance with Ylli. Their bodies seemed to be still grounded, but their consciousness traveled back to the ethereal plane.

Nothing but darkness surrounded then both of them. Ylli floated, no longer confined to his chair, and Jess was beside him. Their eyes were level and Jess could feel Ylli slip inside her mind, looking through her memories and experiences.

While that was going on, Jess focused on her brother’s mind. She slid into his head, the curls and contours of his brain laid open to her. She instinctively searched deep, looking for the place that they were joined. Sydney’s advice whirled in her head, but she swept it away quickly before Ylli could notice. While he was locked in on her memories, replaying her first awkward sexual encounter in his mind, she pinpointed a throbbing mass in the front of his mind. She could see the rapidly firing synapses, neurons, all coming to a very small portion of his frontal lobe, the place where their link resided. It throbbed a deep purple. Once last time Sydney’s voice rang in her head.

“You need to guide your power to help you when you need it. Not only for the manipulation of time, but to look inside yourself, and Ylli. Delve inside your minds, that is where your connection to each other lies.“

“And if I find it?”

“You have to consume it. ”

Ylli pulled back, sensing something amiss. “Where are your powers? Give them to me.”

“Find them Ylli, I know they’re someplace for the taking.”

And while he searched, she did the only thing she could do in this etheral plane without weapons or objects. She bit into his brain, trying to tear the link free. The taste of spinal fluid and the texture of grey matter flew into her mouth, and every basic animal instinct screamed for her to pull away. But she held on, jaw working furiously, and she could feel Ylli’s howl of pain and betrayal in her mind. He thrashed around, but Jess held him still, her own powers rushing to her aid. She knew that if she could finish, and keep it down, that their link would be gone forever. Ylli might still live, but their bond, one he exploited to destroy her family, would sever forever. She swallowed the last few bits, making sure every trace of the purple mass was obliterated. His screams went on and on.

 

She pulled out of the trance, and snapped back to Merryman. He had just finished tying the gag, when she turned to him. Crawford was still out, thankfully.

“Check Crawford for the key. Hurry!” She had no idea how long Ylli would be out of commission. She felt the rage seep through him in waves, and figured he might return to full strength and more soon.

Merryman tapped at all of his pockets. “Nothing.”

“All right. Stop looking, we’re getting out of here.”

Jess ran over to the glass cage where Daniel and Ben were held trapped, watching it all. When she approached the cage, she bent down and pulled Merryman’s gun from a holster strapped to her own leg.

Ben waved frantically. “Jess, that’s bullet proof glass, it won’t work, it might ricochet back at you, don’t do it.”

“It’s not the glass I’m aiming for.”

Squeezing off two shots, she shattered the locking device. Daniel slammed into the doorjamb full force and it swung free. He swept her up and kissed her.

“We’ve got to go, NOW.”

She tossed the gun back to Merryman and the four of them ran down to the elevator. They had escaped detection, only one security guard remained at his station. It took Merryman only a minute to take him out, and they ran to the waiting limousine, escaping into the rush of Vegas traffic. Free.

 

Epilogue

A few months later.

“Oh jeez, that is cold!” Jess drew her breath in sharply as the cool clear gel coated her belly. The medical office lights were bright in her eyes so she turned her gaze from the ceiling to Daniel. The thin paper that crinkled but mostly covered her let in a chill. But with his firm grasp of her hand, she stayed comfortable. Her simple gold wedding band bit into her fingers within his clasp, but it was comforting. Daniel sat on a hard plastic chair beside her, while the nurse stood on the other side of the table, positioning the ultra sound. The smooth head of the wand rolled over her damp skin and the soft hum of the machine calmed her. All eyes focused on the screen.

“So this is your first prenatal visit?”

Jess blushed a little. “Daniel figured it out before I did. We were all on my Dad’s boat out to sea, and we had just got over a very stressful situation. I’ve missed periods before, so I really hadn’t paid that much attention. By the time we thought I might be pregnant, we were far from home.”

All the chatter was cut silent by the gentle, whooshing sound from the machine’s speakers. Daniel leaned over.

“There it is, baby’s heartbeat.”

The nurse technician clicked a few buttons and held the wand steady. “Everything looks pretty normal here, I’d peg you at about 19 weeks.”

Daniel and Jess both nodded. “Sounds about right.” Their voices spoke over each other, and they laughed quietly.

The nurse hit another button and a small black and white image spit out from the machine.

“Want to know the sex?”

Jess nodded.

The nurse trailed her finger over the screen and focused on a small blur. “Usually at this age, seeing or not seeing a penis is our best guess, but baby is cooperating very well. It’s just a little unofficial term, but she’s showing hamburger sign.”

“Hamburger sign?” Daniel laughed out loud.

“Bizarre, but true.” The nurse pointed at a precise spot. “The folds of the labia. Right there. My best estimate is a baby girl.”

Jess gazed at the screen herself.

“All I see is a bunch of white blobs, but I’ll take your word for it.” Jess let out a huge sigh of relief and squeezed Daniel’s hand tightly.

“Can we name her after my mother?” Daniel asked.

“Of course honey.” Jess felt her eyes sting with held back tears. She was going to be a mother. Daniel reached over and kissed her tenderly, and pushed back a loose tendril of her hair.

The nurse furrowed her brow for a second, and Daniel jumped on it immediately.

“You’re frowning, what’s the frown for?”

The nurse waved her hand.

“Ok, both of you just listen for a second.”

They all listened to the gentle liquid whooshing sound from the machine.

“It’s almost like there’s a small echo.” Daniel spoke.

“Which could mean a heart valve problem, but I think I’d like to try something. Jess, I’m going to shift your abdomen for a moment. Let me know if you get uncomfortable.” She placed her hands gently on her belly, shifting with one hand, the wand moving in the other.

Comfort went to panic for a minute, until the wand stilled, and the nurse reached over and hit another button on the machine.

“Well, hello there, little hider.”

Jess was overwhelmed with emotion. With a flash, she dropped out of her body and into a trance. When she opened her eyes again she was back at the fountain, the warm rush of sunshine and the young woman with the unruly reddish brown hair beside her.

Dre reached out and gently touched her hand.

“Thank you.”

“Oh my God. I have been here before. It felt comforting, but I never truly understood.”

Dre turned towards her, and they sat on that warm bench in the sun and watched each other. “There are other worlds than this. And I know for a certainty that I don’t exist in them all. The future and past is fluid for us. You, myself and Emily.”

Jess bowed her head. “Do I ever tell you what happened? The truth about you your father?”

Dre shook her head. “Not while he was alive. “

Dre pointed off into the distance.

“I have to go. But I wanted to thank you. One night can change the world.”

Jess wrapped her arms tight around her, a rush of feelings hit, love and shame, remorse and hope.

In the distance she could see them all running towards her. Daniel was holding onto one hand of each little girl, no more than 6. They both had bright pink bathing suits on, and they struggled to run and skip with their flip flops on. The hand that wasn’t holding their fathers held prized fluffy cotton candy stuck on a paper cone. They both came up no farther on than Daniel waist. He was decked out in crazy surfboard shorts and a grin that ran from one ear to the other. Emily, the spitting image of Daniel, with flashing bright green eyes and matching hair was on his left and beautiful Andrea, with Ben’s deep blue eyes and the unruly locks of Merryman on the right.

“Mommy, Mommy!” They both clamored to her, and Daniel plopped down beside her on the bench.

“Man those girls wear me out!” He laughed and took his sunglasses off his head and folded them into his aloha shirt pocket. “Go ahead, go on to the fountain. I’ve get you two rascals in a minute.”

He chased them off giggling towards the fountains’ spray, cotton candy still in hand and set back, his eyes on Jess.

“Those girls are sharp. I swear, it’s hard to believe that they won’t get their gift till they turn 30.”

Jess scoffed, but Daniel noticed the far away look in her eyes.

“Been traveling?”

Jess leaned over, and tucked her head into his chest, hugging him close.

“Yes. But I’m home now, with my family. Where I was meant to be.”

Daniel kissed the top of her head and they watched their babies play in the afternoon sun.

 

THE END.

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