The Ethereal World
“Fritz? Fritz!” I called out.
“Whatssup? Who iz dat?” Fritz said, his voice a bit lethargic.
“It's me, Sabrina.”
“Oh, hi, Sabrina. This is weird. We don't have any bodies.”
It was true, and that puzzled me for the moment, but wasn't my biggest concern. Yes. I was floating around near the ceiling, feeling weirdly detached from my physical body. But I figured out quickly what was going on. At least, I hope I had figured it correctly.
“Look down,” I said.
“Whoa! Is that me in the hospital bed?” Fritz said.
“Yes. I'm pretty sure that's you.”
We both looked down at a hospital bed where Fritz was hooked up to several tubes and wires. A constant beeping came from down there. I was pretty sure that was a heart monitor on him.
“Why 'm I up here, above my body?” Fritz asked.
“My best guess is we're unconscious. In a coma,” I said.
“Wait. You too?” he said.
“Yes. I'm pretty certain that I'm somewhere in a hospital, too. I left it to find someone I know. And, here you are. I found you! I guess I was thinking about you, suddenly.”
“But… how? I mean are we dead?” his voice sounded panicked.
“No. See? You're hooked up to things, and I'm pretty sure that beeping is your heart monitor.” I added, “Our auras have left our bodies. I think we're—like—floating around aimlessly.”
“That sounds strange, but I believe you. Hmmm. Never done that before.”
I tried to shrug, but couldn't feel myself shrugging—weird.
“Why are we doing this?” he wondered.
“We were both hurt. Remember? You and Quist got ambushed by vampires.”
“Oh, yeah. I sort of forgot. What about you?”
“I'm trying to remember it. Can't quite remember things. I think I bumped my head or something.”
“Bummer. But it's totally nice here. Isn't it?”
“Well, sure, it's nice. But I want to go back,” I said.
“Because, I'm not ready to check out of here, yet. And you aren't either.”
“Oh, I don't know about that. I got pretty badly beat up back there. Those vampires—yikes!”
“The vampires are gone, now. You don't have to worry about them. You're safe.”
“But it's painful.”
“My body. Life. The whole deal. I just like it here better.”
“You can't stay here forever, you know,” I said.
“No? Why not?”
“Because, you're in a coma. You and I both are, and we have to return to our bodies at some point.”
“Maybe you do, but I don't have to,” Fritz said sounding defiant, which seemed so unlike him.
“Well, I can't make you do anything, but I want to go back. Besides, I still have things to take care of, and do. I'm trying to figure things out. I remember some things but not all of it.”
“I remember pain. No love life to speak of…” Fritz sighed.
“Oh, come on, Fritz. You've got a whole life ahead of you. Weren't you going to school for something?”
“Right. You said you wanted to build cars.”
“Not build them. I want to design them.”
“Right. See? That's your goal. You really seemed excited about doing that when we talked once about it.”
“Yeah. I guess. I need to get into ITT, but it's really hard. And, I don't have the money.”
“Maybe you'll get a scholarship. You have to go back, Fritz.”
“Why? Give me a good reason.”
“Well, because you have people who love and care about you and will miss you if you die. And, because if you don't go back to your body soon, you'll die eventually. They can't keep you hooked up forever to the machines. It's costly.”
“Well, there's that, I suppose. What else?”
“Hmm. Yeah. I guess. I did ask for a new iPhone from my parents. I think they were going to get it for me.”
“There you go. But if you don't go back soon, they won't be able to afford that phone or give it to you, for that matter. Doctor and hospital bills pile up. You don't want that, do you?”
“I won't have to worry about it, if I'm dead.”
“Fritz! Come on!” I felt a tug. “Oh, darn. I wish I could stay and talk with you some more, Fritz. But I'm being called back. Sorry.”
“No big. You go on ahead. I'll be here thinking about what you said.”
“Think real hard on it, Fritz. Remember, I'll miss you lots, and so will everyone else. Quist is feeling guilty as hell, too.”
He chuckled. “Well, he should!”
“Sorry. Gotta go.”
With a sudden jerk, I returned to my own body. I barely noticed it, except for a sensation of falling. I might have made a sound, like a grunt. But I was back, and glad of it.
6:05 pm, Chicago Ill. (en route)
“Sabrina is in the hospital,” Stefan Capella said into his cell phone. He twisted around to gaze out the back window of the limo, watching the headlights and tail lights of traffic move slowly around him.
“Why? What happened?” The baritone voice in his ear became frighteningly stern.
He turned back around in his seat. “I'm on my way to the hospital now, sire, to learn exactly that. I only know she's in a coma,” Stefan said, bracing for his father's rebuke.
“Oh, Christ,” Bjorn Tremayne said softly. Stefan flinched at the word. Not that the invocation had rattled him (he had been a devout Roman Catholic while a human), but more that his father, who was a Viking and pagan in his lifetime, had never before uttered His name in his presence before. This wasn't like him at all. It struck Stefan as odd how his father had breathed the word, almost like a prayer. But then, given the circumstances of his relationship with the sibyl, he shouldn't really be surprised.
“Who notified you?” Tremayne asked, bringing Stefan back to the problem at hand.
“Someone named Bill Gannon. You ever hear of him?” Stefan fidgeted with his tie and flicked his wrist to glance at his watch out of habit.
“Did you say Bill Gannon?” The question hung between them.
“Yes. That's the name he gave. I don't know him, but—”
“I know who he is.” Tremayne sounded slightly exasperated. There came a pause of ten seconds. “What does he have to do with it?”
“Again, I'm not sure how deeply he was involved. He called me. Also I'm told Andrew Morkel and, I believe, another person I've never heard of, was present when she disappeared—”
“Disappeared? What do you mean? I thought you said she was in the hospital!”
“Disappeared how? Where to?”
“Actually, Gannon said she'd been abducted,” Stefan said, bracing again for the voice in his ear to boom. Vampire hearing is super sensitive. He decided to put it on speaker, to help lessen the chance of going deaf.
“Abducted! By whom?” Tremayne's words filled the back of the limo, and Stefan had to pull the cell phone an arm's length away, but it was like a sonic boom.
“I've been trying to piece this together, sire. Andrew Morkel filled me in that they were all on the fifth floor trying to speak to a witch who they had realized was summoning these demons. She's apparently the one who broke across our strong wards. Anyway, somehow Sabrina was attacked, and abducted.”
“Fuck!” There was a pause and Stefan waited. “Go on.”
“When they finally got to the witch's room, something happened there. While Sabrina, and three of the others were trying to capture the witch, some other demon must have taken Sabrina away.”
“I'm not certain.” Stefan looked out the smoky window of the limo. His driver, Ian, turned onto an off-ramp heading out of the city. “I'm on my way to the hospital where she is. I'm meeting with this Gannon. Morkel is driving himself. I'll know more within the hour, and will call you back.”
“How bad is she, if she's in a coma?”
“I only know that she has a bad concussion, head trauma. Everything is stable, the coma is because of the fall when she hit her head, I think he said she hit it on a rock.”
“A cliff—wherever she was—that's all I know. This Gannon said he'd rather meet with all of us and give the whole story at once, instead of calling us individually. Which makes sense. In any case, I would have gone to the hospital, no matter what.”
“Kinship Memorial in St. Charles.”
“I see. Stefan?”
“You'll call me as soon as you know anything. I want to know her condition. What's security like at the Towers, now?”
“Everything is good to excellent. The witch has been locked up in a warded cell so that she can't call any more demons, and guarded by a small army of alpha elves.”
“Good job. Call me when you have the full story on Sabrina.”
“I will, sire.” The connection was cut and Stefan slipped his cell phone into his jacket pocket. He reached for the bottle of Real Read, took a sip and found it inferior as usual. He preferred to have his own live donor, but there simply was no time. Not after he received that disturbing phone call from Gannon.
He pressed the intercom button. “Ian, how far is the hospital?”
“About ten or fifteen miles,” came Ian's deep voice.
“How's traffic?” Stefan had noticed the car slowing down repeatedly.
“Horrible.” They were moving at a snail's pace.
“Is there another way? A short cut so we can get off this fucking road?” Stefan asked.
“Let me see, sir. I'm bringing up the GPS now. Ah. Yes. I can turn off up ahead, and take some blacktop roads.”
“That would be great.”
“It might be further in miles.”
“I don't care. This Christmas shopping traffic is insane.” Stefan huffed his frustration. “Oh, for the good old days,” he added in a withering tone and rubbed his forehead.
“Right. We've got about two miles before I can turn off,” Ian said.
“Fine. Get us the hell to the hospital within the hour and I'll throw in a small Christmas bonus on top of your usual.”
“Thank you sir. I'll see what I can do.”
“I knew I should have just flown,” Stefan said to himself.
Stefan drew his hand away from the intercom and took another sip of the slightly warmed bottled blood. Ian was a good driver, knew his way around Chicago, as well as New York (and everyone knew New York was a bitch to learn, and then maneuver around in). Ian, who was human, had a good attitude; knowing his boss was a vampire hadn't bothered him one bit, and Stefan had not had to bite him to make him accept and work for him.
The hand holding the bottle lowered and he settled it into a holder by his seat. Sabrina had better make a full recovery, or this Bill Gannon would suffer greatly.
* * *
Kinship Memorial Hospital, St. Charles
Bill Gannon paced in the waiting room, his nerves were on a razor's edge. Looking at the clock on the wall for the umpteenth time. Six twenty-four. He hoped they would be here soon. He had told all three men to meet him here at Kinship Memorial Hospital at 6:30. After explaining about Sabrina Strong's condition, he had given them directions to this hospital. All three men were in Sabrina's life, and two of the three had been there, in that hotel room, when Sabrina was abducted by the demon.
Senses tingling, he turned expectantly. The Were who had been with them that day to find the witch, now walked into the waiting room. Black leather, bluejeans, tattoos, unshaven; he looked typical of his ilk.
“Hobart,” Bill said, recalling that was all the man went by. He didn't know if this was his last name or first. He extended a hand to him. The man's hand was rough, like a person who worked with them, such as a carpenter, or laborer of some sort. “Glad you could make it.”
“We were worried when she disappeared, and then you after. Your call was a big relief, actually. How is she now?” Hobart's eyes looked red, like he hadn't had much sleep.
“The doctor is with her, now. We're hopeful she comes out of the coma soon,” Bill said.
“Oh, hi,” a woman with dark hair and similar features as Sabrina, flounced into the room breathless. “I had to stop in the lady's room. What did I miss?” She stopped and looked at Bill who dropped his gaze to her. Her mouth went open and no sound came out.
“Hi, I'm Bill Gannon,” Bill said, extending his hand to her.
“This is Lindee Strong, Sabrina's cousin. I called her, since I knew she'd be worried,” Hobart said, taking in her quiet gape. “She usually isn't at a loss for words.”
When Lindee recovered, she said, “Damn, it figures that Sabrina would know someone so gorgeous.”
Both Bill and Hobart chuckled. “I'm just a friend.”