Jasmine's Husband Sam
Sam tried to pass the car in front of him, but the next lane was blocked. The Ford that had been chasing him pulled alongside and tried again to force him into the concrete barrier on his right. He swerved back to his left, glanced off his pursuers’ fender, and squeezed between the old T-Bird and the car ahead of him.
As he passed an entrance ramp he caught sight of Hadley’s BMW racing onto the expressway. It shot across three lanes and accelerated to catch the dueling cars. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Sam wondered if Hadley would let the man and woman in the Ford live.
Emil gripped the wheel of the T-Bird and got ready for another attack on Sam. He hoped to force him off the highway and take him alive, but if Sam died in the attempt it really didn’t matter. Either way Jasmine would come and Emil would have accomplished the wishes of the Ones. They would take him as one of them. And if he himself died in this effort, they would say his name with respect, as they did the names of others who had tried and perished. The Ones were the reason he came to America, the reason for his life, and he would give it gladly.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a BMW on his left. He turned and saw the passenger, an older man with gray hair and mustache, raise his sunglasses to look back at him.
In another moment, Emil would have recognized Hadley. Now their eyes met and Emil no longer cared about Sam, or the Ones, or his life. There was nothing left but Hadley’s terrible and wonderful eyes, and a far away voice he strained to hear. He didn’t hear Angela’s screams, or feel her fighting for control of his car. He didn’t notice their seat belts pop free as if alive, or feel the impact of the side of his skull against the windshield as the car rocketed into the back of a suddenly stalled semi.
Later, police and EMTs would find Emil still staring wide eyed, his lifeless head and shoulders on the crumpled hood of the Ford. And that night, a veteran ambulance driver would awaken screaming and sweating from a dream of Emil’s eyes and the voice that he almost heard in his sleep.
Carmann-Ghia convertibles are getting hard to come by, and right now Sam’s looked pretty rough. Both sides were scraped and dented, with one tail light broken. As he walked around it, he started wondering if he shouldn’t invest in a bigger, heavier car. Maybe bulletproof, and filled up by the biggest, baddest, ugliest bodyguard he could find. The scare on the freeway was the worst attack on him, but it wasn’t the first. Things were getting scary. If not for Hadley he’d have been toast months ago.
He would thank God for Hadley, but he wasn’t sure he’d be talking to the right guy.
He had parked in front of an old brownstone that at one time had been upscale apartments. Now it housed some not so upscale offices. On the first floor were a Realtor and an empty unit. Upstairs were a CPA and the offices of Sam Melody, Private Investigator. Yes, he was a private detective named Sam. A funny cliché to the friends he used to have.
Unlocking the door to his outer office, he noticed his hands were still shaking from the chase. Once inside, he tossed his jacket on a chair in the corner and walked past his desk into the inner office, which served as a combination living and sleeping room. One unit on each floor of this building still had a tiny kitchen and a tinier bath, making it, in essence, a small and somewhat bleak apartment. Now that Jasmine was gone, he had been spending most of his time here, rather than driving home every evening to a house that was just too lonely.
After washing up and grabbing a bottled water, he headed back into the outer office, and jumped when he found both Hadley and his driver sitting in the two chairs in front of the desk.
“God! Hadley, you scared the hell out of me! My nerves are shot! Didn’t I lock the door?”
“I didn’t notice. John and I just wanted to make sure you were all right. Terrible experience, Sam, just terrible. I’m forever discouraged by the type of people who are running around loose out there.”
Sam dropped into the chair behind his desk. “Don’t get too caught up in your own very proper Victorian British manners, Sir Hadley. You just killed two people.”
“Your lovely wife charged me with your safety, Sam – a job you make none too easy with your recklessness and choice of profession. I’m not looking for eternal gratitude, but you wouldn’t embarrass me with a little courtesy.”
“Sorry if I’m a little testy. My life only sucks lately. What about this thing today?”
Hadley fished out a long, expensive cigar which he lit while answering. “I’m sure we’ll hear no more about it. If I know our enemies, and I do, the two people killed had no documented identities. No one will miss them, Sam. I’ve already established that nothing links us to the accident. I believe the issue is closed. I am sorry to hear that your life sucks, though. What can I do to help?”
“Can you get me my wife back?”
“Jasmine is as close to you as she can be, Sam. Not even she can change what or who she’s become. Things are as they must be. We can only make the best of it.”
Sam spent most of the next day getting repair estimates for his car. He grabbed a late dinner at Cosmos, and settled in at home with his mail and a Bud. Happily a check arrived for the last job he had done, and a letter confirming his services on the next case. Not a bad day. At one time he would have lit up a cigarette about now, but he had mentioned to Jasmine when they met that he would like to quit, and never smoked again. He really enjoyed smoking, and almost wished that he would at least miss it sometimes, but she was pretty thorough.
He was reading the paper when he began dozing off. He forgot how the dream started, but soon he heard a voice that could only have been Jasmine’s. It was too far off to make out the words, so he followed it through the park. Children were playing, among them a missing little boy he had found some months earlier. Near a lake the voice became clearer, and he thought he could see a faint figure floating several feet off the ground. As he got closer, he could make out Jasmine’s smiling features, and he said her name. She was still talking, looking right at him as she hovered there.
“...hoping you’d doze off soon,” she was saying. “I couldn’t quite get to you earlier, but now...well, here you are.”
“Jasmine, where have you been? It‘s been weeks since you’ve come.”
“I’m sorry, Sam.” she answered gently. “I’m not always so sure of time. Are you okay? I got a faint feeling from Hadley that something had happened.”
“I’m not injured, if that’s what you mean. Some people tried to run me off the expressway yesterday. Hadley and John showed up and Hadley did something to the driver. Looked at him, or something...it caused them to crash. You know what I’m saying? ”
“I know. He has a powerful gaze. Did he kill them?”
“Yeah. He did.”
“That’s a shame. I’m glad you’re all right, though. But there‘s something...” She trailed off, struggling for words.
“Well, I should have felt your danger. I didn’t.”
“What’s that mean? Are you getting farther away?”
“I don’t know. If not farther, maybe different. I don’t understand all of it...sometimes it’s different.”
“I don’t understand any of it.” As he spoke he walked around the chair to be nearer to her, and realized he was awake now. She was in the room, closer to the floor but still gave the impression of floating, her gown waving ever so slightly around her body. He could almost make out the room through her. “I just want it to end, and for you to be back like before.”
“I know. I miss you too.” She put her hand to his cheek, and he thought he felt it. A strange sensation like a touch of air.
“As my powers grow, I require the physical world less and less,” she went on. “But sometimes I still miss things so much. Mostly you. You’re always a little there, but other things...”
“Can’t you stop it?”
“I guess not. I don’t know. It’s new ground. I don’t think any of us have ever reached this point before. I can guide it a little, and maybe I’m getting better at that, but mostly it’s just sort of happening. Mostly, it’s so beautiful and exciting. If not for you, I might let it go as it will. But there is you. What if I couldn’t feel you at all?”
“Can that happen?” Sam suddenly felt a cold fear. He was always worrying about that, but had never heard her say it.
She looked hard at him, and he could see her resolve. “No, Sam. I will never let that happen. There will always be some kind of Us, I swear it.”
“At least try, Jasmine. If you lose us, don’t let it be because you wanted to.”
“Never. Now listen to me, Sam. I’m starting to drift. Something is coming. Another danger. One that might be distant, but that I can already feel.” She was growing fainter. “Be careful, and listen to Hadley. He’ll do his best, but you have to help him take care of you. My enemies are powerful. They want to learn what I know, and the only way they can get to me is through you.”
He could hardly see her now. “I’ll be careful. Will you be back soon? I miss you, Jasmine.”
“Oh, Sam,” she answered with a poignant sadness. “I miss you too.”
Her voice faded with her. Sam was looking at an empty room. He was alone again.