Title: His Name is John
Summary: Reyes calls on the famous Maine psychic, Johnny Smith, to help solve the case of Luke Doggett's murder, and learns something about her own future.
Author's Notes: This takes place after Season One of The Dead Zone, and before Empedocles in the X-Files universe.
Reverend Purdy says my psychic ability is a gift from God, that what I see when I touch someone is what I'm supposed to see. He would also say it was God's idea for Monica Reyes to call me while I was distracted, when I would pick up the phone without first checking caller I.D. It was exactly the kind of call I'd made a point of avoiding, and the kind Reverend Purdy loved to see me take.
I was sipping my morning coffee, hunched over the Bangor News, but barely giving a thought to the news of the day. Valentine's Day was a few days away, and the newspaper was full of holiday advertising. Rings, flowers, snow-blowers. Everything was on sale. And all of it reminded me of Sarah, of the life I would have shared with her during those six years I'd been in a coma. I tried not to wonder how she and Walt would be celebrating the day, or how they'd celebrated it while I was in the hospital. I suppose that's why I took too quick a sip of my coffee. I burned my tongue, and that made me rush to the sink for cold water, and the phone rang while I was running. I don't see how God's hand was part of that, but it all made me forget to ignore Monica Reyes' call.
As soon as she started in on her sob story I knew I'd made a mistake. Missing child. Cold case. FBI agents and local police stumped. I'd heard a thousand variations of the story since news of my psychic ability got out. It's not that I didn't care. I just wanted a normal life -- the normal life I should have had with Sarah. And if I couldn't have Sarah, I was determined to have a quiet, anonymous, solitude.
But this call was different. Monica Reyes wasn't the grieving mother or the desperate grandmother I expected. She was the lead investigator on the case. I set my coffee on the newspaper, leaving a ring over a bouquet of red roses, and started listening.
Mardi Gras was coming up soon, and nobody questioned me wanting to rest up beforehand. Every field office has its busy season, and for New Orleans it's Mardi Gras. But of course I wasn't resting up. I was going back to the case that kept me up at night, even after all these years. Luke Doggett, the tow-haired boy with the sad blue eyes, haunted me like no other victim ever had. The boy had been an only child, and the couple hadn't been able to have another. That set my biological clock ticking, and from the moment I left that boy's memorial I started looking for Mister Right. And that led to a string of stupid, stupid mistakes, culminating with Brad Follmer. I moved to New Orleans to get away from him, but the case of Luke Doggett followed me. All those years in New York I took some solace in the thought that I might stumble upon some piece of evidence that would lead me to Luke's killer. But now, over a thousand miles away, it was eating away at me. Had I really done everything I could? What if I'd been looking for Luke's killer instead of boinking my supervisor? And what about the other children who might be in the killer's sights? If anything happened to them....
Then, after one particularly sleepless night, I was reviewing some case reports from other field offices when a report from the Boston office caught my eye. A psychic in Maine had solved a serial murder case. Even though the other psychics who'd "solved" cases were really frauds who got lucky, I couldn't help hoping this guy was the real thing. I made a few calls, read a few stories in the Bangor Daily News, and checked a few more field reports. This John Smith guy was the real thing. There were butterflies in my stomach as I made the call. It wasn't very FBI of me, but neither was waking up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. wondering if Luke Doggett's killer was prowling the streets.
Then there were those visions I had. Maybe John Smith could see them too. By the time I landed at JFK I was so nervous I stuffed the barf bag in my briefcase. After all these years, perhaps Luke Doggett could rest in peace.
John Smith, or "Johnny," greeted me at the airport. I'd seen his picture in the newspaper, but it didn't do him justice. His blond hair and piercing blue eyes made me go weak in the knees. I tried to keep my composure, holding out my hand.
"No thanks." He waved me off. "I have a thing about touching."
Nice going, Monica, I scolded myself. He's a fricking psychic and you're asking him to touch you? I stuffed my hand into the pocket of my trench coat and tried to smile. "Sorry, I should have realized..."
"It's okay," he reassured. "It's my problem, not yours." He flashed me a friendly smile. Brad would have said that his friendly demeanor was a sign that he was indeed a fraud. And who knew more about false friendliness than Brad? But there was something about Johnny that I trusted. It was a gut instinct, and my instincts were rarely wrong, at least not my professional instincts.
"Thank you," I muttered. "And thank you for agreeing to do this. You probably get a lot of calls like this."
He snorted. "You have no idea!"
Still without touching me, he escorted me through the airport to the parking lot and his jeep. We talked about my flight and his drive from Maine, keeping everything light and informal. As he pulled his seatbelt across his shoulder he turned to me, flashing his engaging smile, and said, "Ready? I'll need directions."
I gulped. I wasn't sure I *was* ready, but I gave him directions to the park where we'd found Luke's body.
She seemed nervous and I did my best to put her at ease, but I understood her feelings. If I helped, this would give closure to a case that has haunted her for years. But if I didn't see anything, I could ease her conscious at least. It was one more thing to try.
As we drove through the Long Island suburbs we carried on our smalltalk as if this were just another day, but when we arrived at the park all that was over. This was it. "You know, I don't always get a reading," I warned. "Sometimes..."
"You told me. But it's worth a try, right?" She smiled. It was a big, insecure grin that sent my stomach into flip-flops. I couldn't believe this was happening. Things with Dana had fizzled. Then there was that afternoon tryst with Sarah, which should never have happened but somehow had to. It was as if seeing Dana was my futile attempt to put Sarah out of my mind. Then and after saying goodbye to Sarah, making love to her one last time and recapturing a little of what the coma had robbed from me, I just didn't crave Dana's company. I was free, or at least more free. Free to find someone new. Someone like Monica Reyes.
I pulled my coat around me, though I wasn't cold, and said, "Lead the way."
She had a faraway look as she pointed out the parts of the crime scene. Where the boy was. Where she was when she saw it. Where the boy's father was. She choked up when she described the father. "He is a good man," she croaked. "He didn't deserve this."
"Nobody does," I said softly. She was fighting so valiantly to hold back the tears that I wanted to give her a chance to recover, so I asked her to watch my jeep while I went to the spot she had pointed out. I looked over my shoulder, checking for an indication I was going the right way, and that's when I had my first vision.
I saw a man, a cop, standing apart, his face crumpling as he took in the scene. He was standing near where she was. My vision quickly shifted, showing me what he saw. The boy lay on the ground, and police officers stood in a circle over it, as if they didn't know what to do. Then I saw Monica. A younger, more innocent Monica, turning her head to look in my direction. There was so much compassion in that face that I almost forgot my mission.
And then I felt her hand on my arm, shaking me gently. "John? Did you see something?"
Her touch sent me into another vision, looking from the sad man to the blue-skinned boy lying motionless on the green grass. It was her point of view, and I even *felt* what she felt. Then a cold chill passed through me. In my vision the boy's body was suddenly charred, a dark thoroughly burned black. I blinked my eyes and it returned to normal.
Being back there for the first time in so many years was almost too much for me. It all came back -- Luke's violated body, John's desolation, my supervisor trying to get me to implicate John, and then there was the memorial. I couldn't face Barb or John but they insisted on speaking to me afterward. They'd appreciated my compassion and they knew I was supposed to investigate John. They'd expected it. I didn't see how they could talk at all. I myself could barely utter my thanks. All I could think of was that we hadn't yet found the killer. They needed justice more than they needed my compassion! It seemed like a poor substitute. I didn't deserve their thanks, but I eked out a "you're welcome" somehow.
When I got back to the field office headquarters, I was already late for the briefing with my boss, but I couldn't face him right away. I ducked into the ladies' room and had a good cry, letting out all the emotion I'd been pushing aside for the Doggetts' sakes. I tried to keep it quiet, but from my stall I could hear the door opening and closing as other women decided to use a different bathroom. I'd never felt more alone.
I was lost in thought as Johnny walked over that sacred ground. But I snapped to when I realized he'd seen something on the spot where Luke had lain. He looked back at me, but it wasn't him staring at me, it was me. And just like John Doggett had done that day, I rushed to him, or rather, me... and grabbed his arm. "Johnny? Did you see something?"
His eyes had a faraway look, something different from all the fake psychics I'd seen in my life. It sent a chill through me but I knew I had to be strong if I wanted his help. Gradually, he returned to normal and realized I was there. "That was strange," he said, looking confused.
"What was strange? What did you see?" I could hear the pitiful, pleading sound of my voice but I couldn't help it. I was desperate for answers. And maybe validation.
"I saw him, little Luke." As I stared into his eyes I could see that the vision had had the same effect on him as it had on me years earlier. The whites turned just a bit pink and a layer of tears welled up. It reminded me of another John's eyes as they looked on the body of his little boy lost.
"Where I said he'd be?" I prodded.
"Yeah, just like you described, only..." He looked at me questioningly. "Was his body cremated?"
I gulped. He'd seen it too. Luke's body looked charred to me, for just an instant that day. And when the boy's daddy looked at him he'd seen it too. I was sure of it. But I didn't want to give anything away, just in case Johnny really was a fake, doing the classic "cold reading" technique of fishing for clues. "Yes, a few months later."
"That must be it." He shook his head, as if shaking off the vision. "For an instant I saw his body burnt, thoroughly burnt. But only for an instant."
Okay, now I had to tell him. I was afraid that he'd be angry with me for hiding this detail, but what else could I have done? "I have a confession to make. The same thing happened to me when I looked at Luke's body. It happened to his father, too."
"You're psychic?" Johnny leaned forward, peering deeply into my eyes.
The scrutiny was unbearable but I stared right back at him. "No, I don't think so. It was only this one time."
He didn't seem at all angry, just curious. He squatted with some difficulty, leaning heavily on his cane, then put the palm of his free hand on the grass.
Putting my hand on the grass, I saw the little boy's body being taken from a house, then being put into a car, but I couldn't see the face of the man doing it. I tried to focus, but the image of his charred remains flashed to the surface. I held that image in my mind as long as I could, then studied the faces of the people at the scene. In my vision I turned 360 degrees and when I looked down again the boy's body was intact. This just didn't make sense to me. I moved my hand toward the road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the murderer as he carried the body.
I was about to give up, when I saw two men exchanging money. I couldn't see the boy, but perhaps in my vision I *was* the boy. The exchange was fast, as if they knew they were doing something wrong. But I didn't see drugs or anything being bought. Just the money.
When I came out of it, Monica had her hand on my shoulder. She was trying to pull me out of it because people were watching. As we walked back toward my jeep, I whispered, "I saw something else."
"Yeah?" She stopped in her tracks but I urged her on.
"A man, giving money to another man... Quick motions, like they didn't want anyone to see, but someone saw it," I continued, hoping she'd know what it was about.
She shook it off. "That was something from *my* life you saw. I shouldn't have touched you." By then we were at the jeep. Her shoulders slumped forward and I could tell there was something else on her mind, but she wouldn't give. "I've ruined it."
I looked around at the small crowd gathering. You didn't have to be psychic to know that they knew exactly what had happened in that park. But did they want us to stay or did they want us to go away so they could forget their tragedy. "Don't say that," I said to Monica, but I kept an eye on the curious neighbors. "Let's get some dinner then come back after dark, when the only extra eye will be my third one."
It was a lame attempt at humor, but she appreciated it. Well, she appreciated the attempt anyway. Psychic jokes aren't everyone's cup of tea.
After a glance backward at the crime scene and to the sides where the prying neighbors were pretending not to be watching us, she said, "I know a good Chinese restaurant near here."
I took him to the Chinese restaurant where I'd gone while working on the case. Amazingly, it was still there, all these years later.
"This is something of a Long Island landmark," I explained. "People come here from miles around on Sunday for dim sum."
"So maybe we should stay an extra day?" he joked. His jokes were lame, but he was trying at least. He seemed like a decent guy. Not a charlatan at all.
After we ordered, we talked small talk for awhile until he asked the question I knew he'd ask. "Why this case? There must be a few other unsolved cases that have gone cold."
I nodded and sipped the hot tea. It was their own blend of Jasmine, a specialty there and one of my few fond memories of that case. "I don't know. There were so many things wrong about it."
"But not wrong in the bad-guy-did-something-bad sense?" he guessed. "The charred body?"
"There's something else, something that doesn't add up." Just then our food came and we busied ourselves arranging our napkins and spooning out our rice for a few moments. It was just enough time for me to collect my thoughts, decide how much to tell him. Or whether I should tell him anything else at all.
But before I could decide he asked me for the duck sauce, and I handed it to him. For just an instant we were both touching the plastic bottle, which apparently was enough contact to give him a vision. I could feel that same cold sense of being probed but it was over as soon as it started. I put my hands in my lap, as if that could keep me from giving away more of my thoughts. He noticed, gave a reassuring smile, then looked away as he squirted out his sauce. Then he set it back in its place, smiling that same smile to me as he did so, and took his first bite of food.
"Well?" I asked.
After swallowing that first bite, he smiled broadly and said, "Excellent, just as you promised."
"I meant, what did you see?"
"You know, this reminds me of another dinner I had only a few weeks ago." He picked up his chopsticks and motioned for me to eat. "With a journalist. She was supposed to be asking me questions about me, but I asked most of the questions."
"So you can't tell me what you saw because you don't understand it?" I asked. Now I was really intrigued.
"Bingo," he said, pointing at me with his chopsticks. "When you were here before, you were with a cop. He'd been crying."
Considering the circumstances, I should have seen that one coming, but it took me off-guard. "Yes," I answered after an awkward pause on my part. He was looking at me with a mixture of concern and "See? I told ya!" smugness. "He was the boy's father. We came here every day for weeks. I filled him in on our progress."
"Secretly," he suggested.
I don't know what he'd seen to indicate that, but he was right. "Yes," I admitted, for the first time ever. "The agent in charge of the unit didn't want me getting too involved.
"But you got too involved anyway," he concluded. "And you still are."
Eating dinner with Monica reminded me of my date with Dana weeks earlier. Dana Bright, journalist and town slut, my "first" since coming out of my coma. Being with her wreaked havoc with my dead zone, sending me a flood of images of her with other men. The same thing was happening now. First it was the cop, the father of the murdered boy. Though she swore it was never about more than the case, I could see she had special feelings for this man. Perhaps still did.
Then there was another man, a tall, slim, urbane man with a dimpled smile and engaging eyes. I saw him when I took Monica's elbow to lead her toward my jeep. Somehow being with her made me forget my no-touching rule. But I got punished for it. That man adored her. Through her eyes I could see him in a series of flashes. It was no crush. They'd been together awhile. Perhaps still were.
When we got to my jeep she just stood there, lost in thought. I wondered if she were thinking of her handsome boyfriend. It made me a little jealous, which in turn made me feel a little foolish. I decided to break the spell with a patented Johnny Smith joke.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
She looked into my eyes as if seeing me for the first time. "Oh, sorry, it's just that..."
"This brings back memories for you," I finished for her.
"Not good ones, either," she admitted.
As I helped her into the jeep I said, "You're in a depressing line of work."
"Not always." She smiled up at me, and I went weak in the knees. Was she enjoying being with me too? It was too much to hope for. I shut the door then ran around to my side.
It wasn't enough to derail her line of thought. "Did you see something? Just now?"
I shook my head. "Not now, but in the parking lot. You were with a man. Tall, very good-looking, like a "Ken" doll. Your boyfriend?"
"Ex-boyfriend," she said, blushing. "I wasn't thinking of him. I don't know how..."
"Listen, my visions don't work that way. They're random," I explained. "I might see something from your past, present *or* future."
"Well, Brad is very *much* in my past," she said. "And there's nobody in the present."
Suddenly I very much wanted to be the man in her future, but I bit my tongue. We had business to do. I hoped that I could hold my vision long enough to see the face of the man carrying the boy to the park.
As I backed the jeep out of the parking space I put my arm around the back of her seat to help me turn in my seat. Even with the leverage from my hand, my bum leg let me know it didn't like being twisted just then. I winced, and she noticed it.
She put a hand on my thigh. "Your bad leg. I wasn't even thinking... Want me to drive?"
Her touch sent me a series of visions. First, a wreck. She was broadsided while driving an SUV. Then, she was in a coma being monitored by the same machines that had so recently monitored my coma. But unlike my coma, she seemed to have a second reality, in the same hospital, with only a candy- striper for company. I could hear the candy-striper saying "Your friend, he loves you very much." Then the vision that took my breath away: Monica saying "John? You've seen John?"
I moved my hand away from his thigh as soon as I realized what I'd done. Thank goodness we were just in a parking lot and not out on the road when I touched him. He was clearly on another plane, seeing god-knows-what from my past, present or future.
"I'm sorry," I gushed. But he didn't hear me. I shook his shoulder, saying, "John? John? What have you seen, John?"
When he came out of it he hit the brake and looked around, clearly panicked at losing control.
"Want me to drive?" I offered.
"Uh, no..," he said. Something he'd seen seemed to have made him nervous and he looked at me strangely. "I'll drive, but do you mind, um..." He nodded to my hand and I pulled it off of his shoulder.
"Of course," I muttered. "I'm so sorry. It's just a habit." I put my hands in my lap and they took turns holding each other down.
"Nothing wrong with being affectionate," he said. He was doing it again -- putting me at ease when I was the one who'd goofed. I was beginning to wonder whether I *would* be able to keep my hands off of him!
When we returned to the park it looked like a completely different place. The shrubs and trees cast menacing shadows over the playground area, and what wasn't in shadow was lit only by the bluish glow of the full moon above us. It was much colder than it had been earlier, too. I pulled my coat tighter around myself and shuddered. Johnny noticed, and I could only say, "Two winters in Louisiana and already I'm spoiled!"
"Why don't you stay in the jeep?" He turned up the heat a bit then got out. As he was about to shut the door he leaned in and asked, "Anything I should keep my third eye out for?"
I chuckled at the joke, which seemed to please him. "I don't want to put any suggestions in your mind. I want you to see what you see."
He looked at me with admiration that I didn't quite believe I deserved, then shut the door and went back to where Luke's body had been. As I watched him limping toward the crime scene I realized what a sacrifice he was making. He was the one who deserved to be admired, not me.
For what seemed like hours, he went over the ground, following his visions like a bloodhound following a scent. When he was finished he hobbled back to the jeep. I was so anxious for news I got out and met him half-way.
"Did you see anything new?" I asked, being careful not to touch him.
He shook his head. "He was sexually assaulted, wasn't he?" he asked.
"Yes," I whispered. "You saw that?" When I'd called him to help me find Luke's killer, it hadn't even occurred to me that he'd see that.
"But he was killed by somebody different."
"Our only suspect had an alibi. Can you describe either the killer or the rapist?" I asked.
"I'm afraid I saw it through Luke's eyes, and he tried not to see much," Johnny reported.
Suddenly I felt for Luke all over again, the pain, the humiliation... It was becoming too much. I blinked back tears and said, "I'm so sorry you had to see that."
We were walking back toward the jeep when suddenly I felt Johnny's arm around my shoulders. "Trust me. I've seen worse."
I knew I shouldn't have touched her, but my heart went out to her for all her years of thinking about this violated little boy. Only a very special agent could hold that boy's memory in her heart without going crazy or leaving the bureau. In my short experience helping law enforcement I'd found they always kept a professional distance, even with special cases. Monica was violating protocol and principles, but not out of disobedience. It was out of compassion, and who could fault a person for that?
Somehow my Dead Zone decided to leave me alone while we walked back to the jeep even though I had my free arm around her shoulders. Then, when we got to the passenger side door, she suddenly turned and buried her face against my shoulder and began sobbing. I dropped my cane and held her in both arms, stroking her and whispering words of encouragement close to her ear. It was all I could do to fight the urge to kiss the top of her head. It would have been a friendly gesture, part of me reasoned, but the other part wasn't fooled. I was falling for this woman, and it wouldn't be right to take advantage of her grief that way. So I just held her until she'd cried herself out.
She pulled away just enough to look into my eyes, and as I looked into her watery brown eyes I suddenly saw her face framed by a bridal veil. My heart was pounding so hard I couldn't hear anything, but I could make out the words on her lips... "I take thee, John... to be my husband..."
The next thing I knew, I was breathless, pulling away from a kiss. But was it real or in a vision?
When he kissed me I should have felt insulted, but in the short time I'd known him I'd already become very fond of this psychic John person. He was so kind, and had gone so far out of his way to help a total stranger. On instinct, I kissed him back. He seemed surprised, as if he weren't sure whether this was all happening, then I realized he might not have been kissing me intentionally. When I pulled back I could see his puzzled expression, and I felt like an idiot. Of course! He'd been touching me. Was he even in the here-and-now?
"I *was* going to apologize for that," he explained.
"You were having a vision," I said. It was a simple statement, telling him that I understood, but that I'd figured it out too late. "I'm sorry I..."
"I'm not sorry now, though," he grinned.
Boy, how I wanted to kiss him again! But "No?" was all I could think of to answer.
"But you're sorry," he said, as if convincing himself that it had all been a mistake. "It won't happen again, I promise."
This was a turning point, but which way? My body answered for me. I grabbed his head and drew it toward mine for another kiss. I wasn't going to let this opportunity get away from me, not after these two long years since breaking up with Brad. I've been waiting for an honorable, decent man to come along, and John was such a man. I'd be a fool not to let him know how I felt. I might not get another chance.
All apologies flew away on the winter wind as we wrapped our arms around each other and left the case of Luke Doggett far behind us.
I'd reserved two hotel rooms, and I was willing to pay for both, but things heated up so quickly I never gave that second room a thought. At first I felt guilty for kissing her when she'd been crying. I didn't want to take advantage of a vulnerable moment, but she didn't seem to mind. In fact she turned out to be as hungry for me as I was for her. And miraculously, my dead zone didn't distract me at all. For the first time since coming out of my coma I experienced a few hours of serene, vision-less bliss. It all seemed so right even though we barely knew each other.
Afterward, we lay together, completely spent, just gazing into each other's' eyes. I stroked her hair with one hand as the other ran up and down her arm. No visions. Just her. It was such a relief. And she could tell, too.
"You didn't see anything? No men from my past?" she asked.
"Nope," I said, feeling giddy. "All I saw was you, and how beautiful you are."
She blushed when I said that. I couldn't believe she didn't hear that every day, that's how smitten I was. "John, I..."
Uh-oh, I thought. Here it comes. It's just a one-night stand for her, she's not looking for a relationship, she's sorry she let things get out of hand. I steeled myself against the hurt, but she surprised me.
"I've been looking for someone like you for a long time," she said, sighing into my embrace.
Just then my dead zone decided to make me a liar. It fast- forwarded me to a wedding reception, and I could see Monica, her glowing face framed by a veil, looking up at a bald man giving a speech. He said, "When Monica told me she wanted me to give her away, I felt honored. Her father's untimely death didn't put a halt on any of these plans, because everyone knew that there was nothing he wanted more than for Monica to marry the love of her life." He held up a champagne glass then said, "To Monica and John."
She pulled herself up onto one elbow. "You saw something again, didn't you?"
"Nothing important," I said, pulling my hand away.
"So when you go away, I'm not allowed to go along?"
The question dumbfounded me. It was such a lonely question, for both of us. "Well, I'm not really there in the first place," I said.
She wasn't fooled. "But you're not really *here* either."
"True." I studied her face for a long moment, impressed but a little intimidated by her resolve. I could well imagine how she gets answers from a suspect. "But sometimes I see things that I probably shouldn't."
"Well, now that you've seen them, care to share them?" She reached out as if to touch me but let her hand fall on the sheets between us.
"Okay... your father's going to die," I said. It was selfish of me to drop that piece of news without the rest, but it drove home the point. "Suddenly, I think."
Almost immediately, tears came to her eyes. "You saw that? Was I there?"
Now I regretted what I'd said. I'd made it seem worse than it was, and the only way to correct it was to tell the truth. "No, someone else, a bald man, was talking about him."
"His funeral?" she sniffled.
I shook my head. "Your wedding. He was making a toast."
Now she was even more surprised. I looked down and realized it was her left hand laying between us. I picked it up and rubbed my thumb over her ring finger. "He said your father was delighted about your wedding."
"That's my future?" I asked in disbelief.
"A *potential* future," he stressed. "Nothing's written in stone."
I could see that his vision had shaken him a bit too. "See?" I said, stroking his hand as he rubbed the area where I'd one day have a wedding ring. "Aren't you glad you shared it?"
"Truthfully? I'm not sure."
For the first time, he seemed a little uncomfortable. After the way he'd tried to put me at ease, I felt obligated to return the favor. "Well, why keep it all to yourself? Doesn't that get lonely?" Throwing touch-caution to the wind, I wrapped my arm around his ribcage and moved toward him.
"Yes, yes it does," he whispered. He draped an arm over my back, drawing me even closer.
"I understand, you know." Being close to him was having an effect on me! I drew my leg up over his thigh and stroked up and down with it. "I'm not psychic, but in the bureau even believing in psychics sets me apart." I reached up and stroked his face. He was watching me with something like awe. Before, that look embarrassed me. Now I found it encouraging. "Waaaaaay apart," I chuckled.
"Nobody knows you're here, do they?" he asked.
"Just my mom," I admitted. "And my dad."
At the mention of my dad, he felt guilty all over again. "You're very close, aren't you?"
"He's in Mexico, but we stay in touch." Mentioning Mexico made me realize what bothered me about Johnny's visions: they controlled what he learned about me and when. I decided to take control and tell him what *I* wanted him to know. "I was born in Texas and then adopted by Mexican parents. I never felt like I belonged in Mexico, even though I loved my parents. All my life I dreamed of living in the U.S. and being a citizen."
"And now you are?"
I nodded proudly. "And what about your parents? Are they alive?"
"They died while I was in my coma," he said. "Waking up was a real shock..."
He drifted off again, but this time it was into his memories, not visions. "I'm so sorry," I said, pulling away slightly.
"My parents were dead, and my fiance was married to another man. I wasn't sure I wanted to go on," he said. I gave him an awkward grin, and then suddenly he remembered something. "Want to know why I took this case?"
"Sure," I said, wondering what the connection was.
He rolled over and fished his wallet out of his pants, which we'd carelessly thrown onto the floor. He flipped open the photo section and showed me a picture of a little boy. It was hard to make out in the darkness, and when he saw me squinting, he put on the bedside lamp. The picture took my breath away. The little boy looked like Luke!
She gasped when she saw J.J.'s picture, as I thought she might. "Who is he?" she asked.
"My son," I said simply. It was such a relief to be able to say that out loud. As much as I loved living in small-town Maine, being here in New York, with this total stranger, was oddly liberating.
"He looks like you," she said, running her fingers over his features. "He looks like Luke, too."
She handed me my wallet then settled comfortably on her pillow, willing me to tell the story just by her body language. "He doesn't know I'm his father."
"Ahhh," she said. "Let me guess... born while you were in the coma?"
I nodded. "Sarah married a wonderful man, and he's a great father for J.J."
"And you? Does he know you?"
"I'm that weird guy that Mom always wants to invite along," I said, trying to make it sound like a self-effacing joke. But I could see by Monica's face that it wouldn't be easy hiding the hurt from her. Perhaps any hurt. She just seemed like the kind of person you'd *have* to confide in. "He'll come around," I said, as much to convince myself as her.
"So he'll have an 'Uncle John' in his life and a loving father? He's a lucky little boy." She snuggled a little deeper into her pillow, then she said something that really surprised me: "I asked for Luke's case because I'd read that some Satanic rituals require a young, blond-haired, boy. Ritualistic crime is my specialty." She blushed at the admission. It was indeed an odd specialty.
"I worked a case that turned out to be ritualistic abuse, but it was a girl, not a boy," I said. We stared at each other for a long moment, as we both realized how much alike we were. I added, "I almost wound up being burned at the stake, but it was worth it to save that little girl."
That was the final test. She wasn't frightened. She wasn't awed. She didn't think I was stupid. I could tell this woman anything.
After his revelation, I felt I should tell him more about myself and my "weird" interests, and we wound up talking about ritual abuse, then paranormal experiences, his "gift," and all the other things that neither of us could talk about most of the time. He never seemed shocked by what I told him, only sympathetic toward the victims, and toward me for having to see what I did. I don't remember which of us fell asleep first, but it must have been past four in the morning.
I woke up to the smell of fresh coffee and when I opened my eyes, he was sitting up in bed next to me, blowing gently over the top of his coffee cup. "Room service," he whispered.
I looked over at a cart topped with carafes, pastries, and the classic room-service metal covers for hot dishes. "How much did you order?" I asked.
He was grinning, his eyes dancing with mischief. "I wasn't sure what you'd want, so I ordered some of everything."
What could I say? I was dumb-founded. I looked from him to the cart once more then back again.
"I was expecting at least a thank you." He took a sip of his coffee to give me the opportunity, and I took it.
"Thank you," I whispered. "But it'll cost a fortune!"
He set the coffee down on the night stand then leaned forward to kiss me. "You're welcome, and don't worry about the money. Just enjoy it. I have a big day planned for us."
"Yeah?" How long had he been awake?
"Yeah. I remembered something. Don't the police keep the evidence from unsolved cases in an Evidence Room?"
I smiled and nodded. For a moment I was expecting some romantic adventure, but this was even better. "That can be arranged."
"Good." He seemed pleased with himself. "But first, breakfast."
He stood up then held out his hand for me to join him. As he guided me toward the cart then pulled out a chair for me at the tiny hotel table, I felt like a princess. Daddy would be pleased.
I wanted to spoil her, but she seemed a little stunned by it all. After I told her that I'd ordered everything on the menu she worried that I'd spent too much money. Time to cop to the other big secret: "I have a trust fund. A big one."
She took it in stride, finishing her poached egg then copping to her big secret: She had a big trust fund, too.
"I'm an only child, and so was my father. He's running the business now, and when he dies it will belong to me." She took a sip of her coffee, then added, "When my grandfather died, I inherited everything *other* than the business."
"You don't really have to work, then, do you?" I asked. She shook her head then started in on a cheese Danish, signaling that she didn't want to say more about it. "I never really had to work, either," I confessed. "I became a science teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the world. After I recovered, I tried teaching again but it didn't work out. Nobody wants their kid's teacher to be a psychic."
She set down the danish then pushed her plate away. "But you're still making a difference in the world." She stood up then leaned over and kissed me on the lips. "I almost forgot why we're here." I was a little confused until she went to the phone and arranged to see the evidence.
Yes, I *was* making a difference in the world. Sometimes. Reverend Purdy would have said that God had a plan for me, and that I was following it. But I hadn't helped with this case at all yet. So far I'd only told her what she already knew.
"They'll have it ready for us at two o'clock," she announced. After returning the phone to its cradle, she came toward me then sat in my lap and nuzzled my neck. "What should we do until then?" she purred.
It may have been dubious theology, but it looked to me as if God's plan for me was sitting in my lap.
He responded instantly when I sat in his lap. It was such a girlish, flirtatious thing for me to do, but when I saw the look in his eyes I couldn't help myself. After that things heated up quickly, leading to another glorious love-making session, this time in the shower. Johnny was a tender yet passionate lover, leaving me spent but delirious in a way that no man had ever done before. Whether it was because of his psychic gift, or just his pent-up sexual frustrations, I didn't really care. He was special and he made everything that happened before I met him fade into a hazy, gray memory.
But the effect didn't last. Walking into the field office headquarters took me back to my New York days, as if my two years in New Orleans or my morning with Johnny had never happened. The guard at the entrance remembered me, as did several of the people we saw in the halls. Johnny seemed out of his element, and it was all I could do to resist holding his hand for reassurance. He made a point of not touching anything, not even doorknobs, until we got to the interrogation room that my old friend Carla had set up.
Carla looked different somehow. From the corner of my eye I studied her hair, her glasses, everything, and then I realized... It was her body. It was more filled out in just a few places. "Carla," I whispered when Johnny started touching Luke's bicycle. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
Carla nodded then moved one hand over her abdomen in a gesture only I could see. "Just twelve weeks so far. I didn't think it showed."
What could I say? I always knew when a woman was pregnant. It was my own special gift, one that tortured me as much as John's gift tortured him. When would it be my turn? "Congratulations," I whispered, resting my own hand hopefully over my uterus. It was silly, but I hoped that touching myself that way, with Carla right there, could help Johnny's seed find its way. Neither one of us had come to New York prepared for what happened, but all my life I'd been secretly hoping for an "accident." As Johnny went into a trance on one side of the room I stayed where I was, shoulder to shoulder with Carla, trying to calculate the odds of going back to New Orleans in her condition.
The evidence room was grim, with musty-smelling boxes lining the walls and a vintage linoleum floor showing through to the concrete foundation in places. There was another, larger, room, apparently, but this one had a table and a few chairs, an overhead lamp and a few tools of the trade for reviewing evidence. Monica's old friend, Carla, led us to the room as if we were guests of honor in a five-star hotel. It was all very surreal, even stranger than some of my visions, but Monica felt right at home.
I was a little nervous, expecting Carla to leave us alone after leading us to the room, but she stayed. Protocol, she explained. I didn't like being distrusted, but I understood. I approached the table, where a little boy's clothes, carefully laid out on sterile paper, stood as testimony to the reason for my visit. They were so tiny, especially the underpants. I hesitated, not sure I was really ready for what I might see.
"John? Are you okay with this?" Monica's soothing voice behind me told me that I could change my mind if I wanted to, and part of me did want to. But I thought about J.J. again. This monster might still be out there somewhere, fantasizing about the next little boy with little underpants. For J.J. and all the other J.J.'s I had to put my feelings aside and touch something. I decided to start with the bicycle.
From the first, the bicycle connected me only to happy memories. I could feel a salty breeze on my face as my vision brought me into the boy's life. And there was something more. Love. The boy loved the bicycle and the man who'd taught him to ride it. I could feel the man's strong guidance, one hand taking the seat and the other the handlebars as the little Luke learned to ride, at first wobbly, but soon with efficient control. The little guy was rather athletic, and something of a daredevil. It wasn't just the bike he loved, it was the freedom it represented. Breezing over the suburban sidewalks, waving to friends, sliding to a dramatic stop to impress his mom, his dad congratulating him on each new move he mastered.... All happy memories, which I was reluctant to leave behind.
Monica's hand on my shoulder brought me out of it. I had a brief flash of the boy's father's face when she touched me, which made me instantly regret the vicarious pleasure the bicycle had brought me. As pleasurable as the experience had been for me through Luke's eyes, it must be a precious memory for his father. And a very private one. I pulled my hand away from the bike and rendered my verdict: "It wasn't the father. They had a very good relationship."
Carla and Monica exchanged glances, and then Monica gulped and said, "Yes, I know."
"You investigated him?" I asked, stupidly, I realized later.
Monica nodded. "He was a suspect, but I ruled him out almost immediately."
I smiled. "Luke loved his bike, and he loved his dad. That's all I got from the bike. He was a happy child."
Oops. Wrong thing to say. Both Monica and Carla started to tear up, so I cleared my throat and moved closer to the table. "I'll try the shirt next."
I was prepared to hear the worst, but Johnny told us how happy Luke had been. Somehow that was harder to bear. It wasn't that Johnny was telling me anything new -- witnesses had said pretty much the same thing -- it was the joy in his face as he said it. It was like getting a glimpse of Luke in life instead of in death. It made me more sensitive to what his parents had lost.
Johnny's next attempt was with Luke's shirt, and this time he was successful. He could see where the knife had punctured Luke's little body. The hole, surrounded by a bloody stain, was pretty obvious. But he started with the shoulder, the only part of a boy's body that an adult should be able to touch. Johnny's touch was gentle, respectful, almost worshipful. For a moment I forgot about why we were here and just watched Johnny's hand, which just that morning had caressed me in ways nobody ever had. Johnny said that he wondered why *him* sometimes, why he had been given this life, but I had no doubts. The same power in the universe that could give someone such a power could also see into the soul, and it would have liked what it saw in Johnny. I know I did.
"The man..." Johnny's voice broke through my dreamlike admiration. His eyes were closed but I could see them moving around, looking at the crime from whatever angles he could see. "The man ... raping me... I mean Luke... from behind, has his hand over Luke's mouth. He has a low voice. They're in a room, with all the drapes closed. It's dark. Luke's trying to keep his eyes closed. He's crying."
I felt faint and grabbed the table for support. I suddenly realized that I hadn't been breathing and gasped for breath. Johnny opened his eyes to check on me. "Are you okay with this?"
I nodded. "Go on. I'll be fine," I promised. Carla put a hand on my shoulder, letting Johnny know that she was here for me. "This is important, Johnny. Do you see a knife?"
Johnny moved his hand closer to the tiny blood-stained hole. "No, not yet. The rapist's apartment, or maybe it's a house. There's a kitchen but it's not close to where..."
"Okay," I said, taking a gulp. "Just tell us what you do see, then."
"Nothing," he said shaking his head. "That was it."
"Try touching his blood," I suggested, then I looked to Carla. "If that's okay with you."
"We already took a sample, but just in case..." She held out latex gloves for Johnny and helped him on with them. "I hope that doesn't interfere."
"We'll find out, won't we?" Johnny said with a smile that sent butterflies through my tummy.
With his hand over the hole, Johnny continued, "I see light. A bright light.... a door is opening and Luke is blinded. His eyes go wide like this..." He paused to demonstrate for us, then closed his eyes again to go back into Luke's world. "He's blinded. He can't see anything. But there's someone there. I think it's a man... yes, a man... he moves quick, though, like an athlete, and then... ugh!" Johnny groaned in sympathy with Luke as he felt the impact of the knife. "Luke never saw it coming, didn't even see the man's face," he announced finally. "I can't see who it was because Luke couldn't see who it was. All he saw was a silhouette against a bright light."
Afterwards, I was a little nauseous, but I didn't want the women to see how it affected me. After the way they reacted to the bicycle visions, I didn't think they'd react too well to this. It was grisly. The boy didn't understand what was happening to him, or why. His attacker was alternately forceful and loving, which was the more nauseating part. After all was said and done, I hadn't seen anything through Luke's eyes except that another man was involved. This was news to Monica and Carla, but without knowing anything about him it didn't help the case at all. Disappointed, we all left, leaving Luke's earthly possessions and any chance of breaking the case far behind us.
"I'm sorry I couldn't give you any answers," I said numbly. "Sometimes I get something, sometimes nothing."
Monica put her hands around mine and looked into my eyes. "Thank you for trying."
"And that second person," Carla reminded us. "We hadn't considered that. We'll go back over the evidence to see if there are any hairs that don't match with the ones we found in..." she caught herself before saying the obvious. "The ones that seem consistent with a single perp."
"Ahh," I mumbled. "I hope that leads you to the killer."
"It's worth a shot." Carla walked us to the exit, and I let Monica hold my hand. It wasn't that I wanted to be indiscreet. I just wasn't thinking. Carla noticed but she didn't say anything until we were outside the building. "I wish you would visit more often, Monica. You and Johnny could come over for dinner..."
I flushed and pulled free from Monica's hand. "Thank you for the offer," I said, starting to apologize, but Monica interrupted.
"I'd love to visit, Carla." She gave her friend a kiss on the cheek then added, "I promise the next time I see you it won't be to ask a favor."
"Don't worry about it," Carla replied. "You're doing *us* the favor. And you're welcome to come back anytime. You too," she nodded to me. "I've heard about the cases in Maine. If you ever move to New York..."
I held up my hands. "No thanks! Too many people. Too many stories!"
"Of course." Carla seemed confused by our mixed signals, but she took it in stride, as if something in Monica's relationship history was happening again. It made me a little nervous.
Not that my history was all that good.
I offered to drive back to the hotel, and Johnny agreed. He seemed tired and a little distracted. When we got back he flopped onto the bed, spread-eagle on his stomach, and didn't say a word. I thought he was sleeping, so I turned off the lights and began to tip-toe out. And then he said "Don't go."
Except for asking me to stay, he didn't say a thing. He didn't move, either, except to pat my side of the bed.
I sat down next to him, but he didn't look up. I wasn't sure what to do or say. Not that I knew him that well, but it seemed odd for him. "Tired?" I asked tentatively.
"Hmmm," was his only answer. He reached around my waist and started pulling me down. "That was a bad vision. I need a good one to erase it."
I snuggled next to him and whispered, "See anything good?"
"No." His voice was muffled by the pillow but I was so tuned in to him it didn't matter. I could hear everything he said. "But I feel something pretty good," he added, pulling me closer.
"I thought you were tired," I laughed and put my arm over his back and kissed what little of his cheek showed over the pillow. Despite his prone position, he was stiff as a board. "You could use a back rub," I suggested.
"That sounds good. I haven't had a back rub since I woke up, except in physical therapy." He settled himself more fully into the mattress as I positioned myself to help him relax.
After helping him off with his shirt I started with his neck, which was one large knot. "Are you always this tense?" I asked. "Or was it the case?" If he was going to need help putting his vision behind him, he needed to talk about it, I thought.
"I'm always tense," he said in a rather relaxed-sounding voice. "I never know when the next vision will come or what it'll be."
"The case didn't bother you?"
I could feel his neck stiffen in response. "Sure, it bothered me," he admitted. I smoothed the muscles of his neck then moved to his shoulders. My hands seemed to be helping a little more there, and he seemed more willing to talk as I continued to work his tired muscles. "Luke was a sweet boy. He didn't deserve that."
"No boy does," I said, pausing momentarily. "And no adult should have to see it." I leaned close to his ear and whispered, "Thank you."
"Wish I could have helped more," he mumbled.
"You were a big help," I assured him, then I straddled his waist and started massaging his back muscles. "And anyway, I added. "Maybe you weren't meant to find the killer."
I felt his body sigh deeply under my hands and then he suddenly rolled onto his back, grabbed my hands and pulled them to his chest. "Maybe I was meant to find you."
I grabbed her hands and saw that wedding vision again. This time, I was holding her hands and looking through a wedding veil as she said her vows. When I heard her say, "I take thee, John..." my heart skipped a beat. It was time to tell her. "Maybe I was meant to find you," I suggested.
She blushed but didn't argue. . Finding Luke's killer wasn't in the cards, but what was? She wanted to make some sense of this as much as I did. I brought her knuckles to my lips, then kissed them, making her flop forward onto my chest.
After an awkward moment, she rolled onto her side then said, "You saw something, didn't you?"
People could sometimes sense when I was having a vision, but so far she hadn't said anything. Had she known all those other times too? "Yes," I admitted. "But it's nothing bad."
"Something from my past?"
She seemed a little anxious, and I wondered what she was hiding. I realized then how little I really knew about her. "I'm not sure. Have you ever been married?"
"Married?" Her forehead crinkled with both relief and surprise. "You saw me married?"
"The marriage ceremony and the reception actually," I said. "Not the whole thing. I couldn't see who you were marrying."
"I've never been married." She smoothed the bedspread although it wasn't wrinkled. "It must be the future you saw."
"I didn't see the man but I heard his name. His name is John."
Suddenly she bolted to her feet and began pacing. "John? His name is John?"
I brought myself to my elbows and watched her frantic motions. "I shouldn't have told you."
"No... I mean.... yes, I'm glad you did," she stammered. "I hate secrets. There's nothing I hate more than secrets..." Her hand found a hotel brochure and started flipping through the pages absently. "But John...." She paused, letting her tongue linger on the "n" of my name. "This is too much... I mean, too sudden.... too soon after...."
I've never felt so powerless. I wanted to hug her, but that might have made things worse for both of us. "I only see potential futures," I explained. "If you don't want to see me again..."
"But I do!" she whined. "I just can't think about the future, you know? It's just too soon.... I don't want to be disappointed again."
I got up and went to her, holding her shoulders and looking into her eyes. "This is what being with me is like. I'm not always ready for what I see, believe me. I don't want to think about the future -- the distant, maybe-possible-future-- either, except that I want to see you again."
She pulled away, and I could see tears gathering in her eyes. "But what if you see something you shouldn't see? What if something you see puts you in danger?"
"You have a dangerous job. I won't get involved unless you ask me," I promised. "But there's more." I studied her eyes as they shifted under my scrutiny.
"John, it's not that I don't trust you..." she stammered.
I took her by the hand and pulled her down next to me as I sat at the foot of the bed. Still holding her hand, I said, "You're very special, Monica. You deserve a man who won't be scared off by your worst secrets. I think I'm that man, but if you disagree, I'll understand."
I wanted to tell him everything -- about sleeping with Brad, and about the reason I had to end it. His big blue eyes searched mine with such sincerity and trust that I almost broke down, but I just couldn't tell him about Brad taking a bribe from a known mobster. I couldn't tell anyone. "John, there are some things that I need to keep secret."
"I thought you hated secrets," he said, justifiably confused.
"I do... but there are some..." I stood up and began pacing again. "This just can't work. You live in Maine. I live in New Orleans. What was I thinking?"
"I'm beginning to wonder that myself," he said.
"John, you're decent, honest, caring..."
"Witty, charming, good-looking," he added.
"Yes," I laughed. "All those things. But I... I have baggage."
He snorted. "Like I don't? My fiance married someone else while I was in a coma, and my son calls him 'Dad.' My mother died while I was in that coma too. I can't work in my field. And I don't just see dead people -- I see them dying before it happens and I can't always stop it."
"Oh, John, I'm so sorry." I went to his side and touched him despite myself. This time I didn't get that strange feeling that by now I realized meant he was having a vision, so I went further and wrapped my arms around him.
"I don't want your pity," he said softly, though he let me stay where I was.
I laid my head on his shoulder. "Sorry," I whispered.
"So this baggage of yours," he said as he wrapped an arm around me. "I take it you've been dragging it around for awhile."
"Not long," I said, snuggling against him. Part of me wanted to pull away and tell him it was all over, but the rest of me felt so comfortable with him that I just couldn't do it.
"Maybe you're the one who needs a back rub," he suggested.
Before I could answer, I felt him gently pushing me backward onto the bed.
"I made some mistakes... Well, one *big* mistake," I admitted. His eyebrows questioned me but he didn't say anything. He just waited for more. "I slept with my supervisor," I admitted. "And now I wish I hadn't."
"Ahhh," he said, rubbing my stomach in lazy circles. "We all make mistakes."
"I don't want to make more."
"And my friends say *I'm* afraid to take risks." Now he was the one with pity in his voice. "What I saw, it's the ultimate risk. Do you think either of us would rush into it?"
His kind eyes seemed almost to glow as he brought me back from my panicked mood. He had a point. After breaking it off with Brad, I had resolved to look for a good, honest, decent -- and appropriate -- man next time, and to take time to be sure he's what he seems. "No, we wouldn't. *I* wouldn't."
"I don't mind taking things slow," he said. To prove it, he started kissing the small of my neck, moving very slowly to more sensitive zones.
"Slow is good," I sighed, then gave in to his slow, sensuous moves.
After we'd bared our secrets, at least some of them, things had changed. We made love slowly, as if we had all the time in the world even though she had a flight to catch. I felt comfortable with her. I trusted her. I could see myself being the "John" she married, but we would take things slowly, the way we were taking our love-making.
Afterward, I fell asleep. When I woke up she was packing her suitcase. "Hey," I croaked.
"Hi." She seemed a little flustered, as if she'd considered sneaking out.
"Do you have to leave today? I promise not to ravage you again," I joked. "Unless you want me to."
She folded a blouse I hadn't seen her wear, then laid it carefully on top of the others. "Oh, John... I'd love to, but I can't."
"I can pay the fee to change your flight," I offered.
"That's not it," she said, smiling. "My boss would kill me if I missed tomorrow morning's meeting." She sat on the bed then ran her hand along my chest. "Mardi gras is coming up. This was my last chance to take some free time."
Even though her words said she had to go, her body was saying something different. Her back slumped against my hip, begging me to grab her around the waist. So of course I did.
And then I had that vision again. Her wedding. Not ours. *Hers* I managed to freeze the image this time, taking it in from several angles. Unless I was going to undergo drastic cosmetic surgery, I wasn't the "John" she would be marrying. This man was older, with piercing blue eyes -- much lighter than mine -- and brown hair.
He was happy, as any groom would be, but there was something different about him. Behind his shining eyes and giddy smile was a man who had suffered before finding happiness. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket then read his vows. I didn't want to hear it, but I couldn't pull out of this vision.
"Monica," he read. "If it weren't for you, I would have died a thousand deaths, in body and soul. You've been my lifeline and my life for so many years, and you waited so patiently for me to realize it. I can never repay you for all you've done for me, but I promise to try my best. I will be there for you in every way, for as long as I live." At the end, his voice threatened to give out, and his lower lip trembled as he refolded the paper.
Then it was Monica's turn. "John," she said, looking fearlessly into his eyes. "John..."
"John..." I heard her voice again, this time in my ear, directed to me. "John, are you okay?"
I blinked and then I was back in the motel room, with Monica next to me, shaking my shoulder. "Oh... yeah," I stammered. "Just had another..."
"A vision?" she asked.
"Yeah." I pulled away from her, and she let her hand drop. "Nothing new, though." I tried to keep a poker face, but she was too observant. She knew I'd seen something important. "Are you sure you want to know?"
She nodded. "This is part of being with you, remember?"
"Well, that's just it." Geeze, how could I tell her this? I agonized over several options, but her gentle yet courageous eyes looked at me the same way she'd looked at her future husband. I could see how he would rely on her to get through tough times. "This time I saw the man you marry. His name is John, but it's not me."
"Oh..." Her lips pulled together into a tight line. Who gave her strength to handle difficult news, I wondered. She was trying so hard to be brave. "But it's just a possible future, right?"
"A good future, from what I could see." I didn't want to give too much away. That other John needed her so much, I hoped what I said wouldn't affect their future.
"How far in the future?"
I shook my head. "I never know. I mean, it could be a year, five years...." Man, I hated to do this. She was so anxious that I wanted to hold her and promise she'd never meet any other "John," but I could still hear his words ringing in my ears, so I went on. "You look young, though, not much different from today. And he's so happy. He needs you, and you adore him."
"But he's not you," she said, now thoughtful. "So what does that mean about us?"
"It means we were meant to be together, but only for a few days, only long enough for me to tell you about him." I was fishing but I thought it sounded good. "I wish it were different. Believe me."
As he drove me to the airport I kept thinking how surreal it was, being with someone who had seen my future and opted not to be part of it for my own good. It made me love him more, and made leaving him that much harder. He seemed so confident that he was making the right decision, but I wasn't so sure. He'd only seen my wedding day. If my track record was any guide, there would probably also be a divorce, I thought.
On the plane I tried to distract myself by reviewing Luke Doggett's file. He was the reason I'd made the trip, after all. Like I had many other times, I reviewed every page in the hope that I'd see something I hadn't noticed before. This time one word leapt off the page: John. In the space for next-of- kin, the name John.
After eight years, my friendship with John Doggett had seen its ups and downs, especially when I was dating Brad. John thought it was a big mistake, and he was delighted when I broke it off. Had he been jealous? I found myself hoping that he had been, and then I remembered the other John's words: "He needs you, and you adore him." Our friendship was very much like that. With more time, it could deepen, but only if we were both unattached. John Doggett was very much like John Smith that way. He wouldn't touch another man's woman.
Years later I told John about the other John, and his vision of us together. I expected him to laugh at my foolishness at calling in a psychic on Luke's case and for believing his visions were real. But instead, he thanked me for going the extra mile on Luke's behalf and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket.
The first person I invited to the wedding was John Smith.