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Jane wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, or how she got to this place. The last thing she remembered was finishing off a fifth of Jack Daniels with her younger brother, Mike. It was around 1:00 A.M. and they were still at her house after a three-day bender over the President’s Day holiday weekend. As she recalled, she’d sucked the last drag of nicotine from her cigarette, crushed the empty pack and attempted a bank shot into the wastebasket across the room. But that was her last memory before she awoke into this odd scene.
There she was &ndash sitting alone in a high-back wicker chair on a pristine, wraparound porch that extended out from what appeared to be one of those ancient Colorado sanitariums where people went to recuperate from TB or pneumonia. She looked down at her clothes, expecting to see a hospital gown to go along with the clinical setting. Instead, she wore her standard blue jeans, poplin shirt, leather jacket, and roughout cowboy boots. She could feel the butt of her Glock biting into her rib cage. She swore she’d been clad in her Denver Broncos sweatshirt and sweatpants just minutes before catapulting into this unsettling shift in scenery.
Good God. In all her years of heavy drinking, Jane had never hallucinated. And now, here she was &ndash right in the middle of one hell of a disturbing delusion that felt a little too real.
She noted how heavy her hands felt against the wicker armrests. Her feet, in turn, hung like lead on the white-planked porch. As she gazed forward, she suddenly noticed the exquisite expanse of trimmed grass that seemed to roll for miles into the aqua sky. The air smelled sweet, like spring when life in Colorado comes alive after months of winter’s death and dormancy. The scent of blooming lilacs and sweet daffodils created an intoxicating perfume that calmed and caressed her senses.
Not 40 feet in front of Jane, a lone East Indian in his mid-forties unexpectedly appeared in the middle of the grass. He stared at her for a minute before cocking his head to the side and waving. She told her body to stand up, but somehow the message didn’t reach the correct part of her brain because she stayed inexplicably frozen to the wicker chair. The man climbed the seven steps that led to the porch and rested his lean body against the railing in front of her. The persistent woody scent of sandalwood enveloped him, an outward signature that seemed to herald his appearance. His smile was warm and genuine, his demeanor gentle and kind.
“Jane &hellip Jane Perry?” he stated, almost as if he was reading her name on an invisible card that floated above her head.
Jane nodded. For some reason, speaking was difficult. The heaviness grew more profound in her body. What in the hell is happening?
He extended his hand. “Devinder Bashir.” Jane lifted her leaden hand off the armrest and shook his hand. He held onto it, his grasp reading her thoughts. “How very odd,” Devinder said in a faraway tone.
Jane tensed. She struggled to force out two words. “What’s odd?”
“You still have the weight of the world.” His eyebrows furrowed. “You’re not dead yet.”
Jane slammed back into her thirty five-year-old, aching body. She opened her eyes and sat up in bed. “Holy Shit!” she sputtered, her heart racing. Her Denver Broncos shirt was soaked in acrid sweat. Pressing her palm to her forehead, she attempted to assuage the relentless throbbing that bore into her skull. Jane felt halfway outside of herself, as she rolled off her bed and stumbled down the hallway to the living room. She found her brother, Mike, on the couch. He was right where she had left him just five minutes before. But a quick glance of the clock showed that five hours had passed. This makes no damn sense. Jane steadied herself on the kitchen counter, while another wave of excruciating pain rippled across her temples. This was unlike any hangover she’d ever experienced.
“You’re not dead yet,” the Indian man who called himself Devinder Bashir told her.
“Yet,” Jane whispered, as an uneasy shock traversed her spine.
Is this even real? she questioned herself. Or is this a freakish extension of the dream?
She lunged toward her sleeping brother, impatiently tugging on his shirt. He stirred briefly before starting to turn away, but Jane pulled him back toward her. “Mike! Wake up! Goddamnit! Wake up!”
Mike grimaced. He unhinged one eye to focus. “What the fuck time is it, Janie?”
“Fuck me. Wake me up at 11:00.”
Jane grabbed his shoulders with urgency, shaking him. “Mike! Wake the fuck up!”
Now, he was pissed. Well, as pissed as Mike Perry could be &ndash which was more like what bothered looked like with most people. “What, Janie?”
“I don’t wanna slap you.”
“Mike, I’m not kidding. I need you to slap me.” Mike made a weak attempt that resembled brushing a hair off his sister’s face rather than a smack. “Fuck,” Jane mumbled, still feeling outside of her body. “Mike, I mean it, if you don’t slap me hard, I’m cutting off your beer!”
That got his attention. He landed a good cuff across his sister’s left cheek.
Jane shook off the sting and let out a satisfied breath. “Okay. I’m not dead.”
“You’re not dead?” Mike sat up. “Jesus, Janie. If you’re geeked up on meth, at least cut me in on some.”
“I’m not doing meth, Mike! It interferes with my job description.”
“Could’ve fooled me, Detective. What time is it again?”
Jane sensed the unfinished seam of another reality that was still wide open.
“Time for a drink.”