Bryant heard the faint voice interrupting his sleep. He was in that dreamlike state just before awakening and wanted to prolong the dream as long as possible.
Bryant could see Kate hugging Megan out in a field. Megan is pulling away, playful, too old to be hugged outdoors by her mother, but it was obvious she loved the affection. They’re both smiling. Megan broke loose and is running away while Kate chased her. Megan jumped and danced with excitement while Kate pretended to be annoyed, but busting up at the same time.
“Michael, please,” Father Joe said.
Bryant opened his eyes to find the priest hovering over him in Margo’s hospital room. He was disoriented. His family disappeared and the hardship of reality hit him like a wrecking ball. Bryant had fallen asleep in a chair while waiting for Margo to wake up.
“What?” Bryant said, rubbing the stiffness from his neck.
“You signed papers as her guardian when Margo was admitted,” Father Joe said. “Now they need you to sign a form to allow her to have a test done.”
Behind Father Joe was a nurse holding a clipboard. She seemed anxious to leave.
“What test?”Bryant asked, wiping the sleep from his face.
Father Joe crouched down and looked over his shoulder. Margo was awake, watching television from her bed. “Michael,” he said in a low but enthusiastic voice, “there’s been a miracle of sorts.”
The nurse kept holding out her clipboard, impatience on her face.
“What happened?” Bryant asked.
Father Joe leaned even closer and whispered, “They came in to change Margo’s bandages and,” he glanced over at Margo who was intently watching something on the television. There were no longer IV tubes in her arm. “And . . . the gunshot wound had disappeared.”
“Sir?” the nurse said, holding out the paperwork for Bryant to sign.
Bryant took a moment to acknowledge Father Joe’s enthusiasm by tapping the priest on the shoulder.
“What test are they scheduling?” he asked.
The nurse looked down at the clipboard. “EEG.”
“Why are they doing an EEG on someone after a gunshot wound to the chest?”
The nurse was clearly agitated now, not wanting to add any extra time to her chore. “I’m not sure, sir. Dr. Sanford requested it be done right away.”
“Michael,” Father Joe said. “Did you hear what I said? The wounds disappeared.”
Bryant nodded. “Yes, I know.”
Tests were going to lead to more questions, then more tests. It would only be days, maybe hours before Margo would become a circus act for the new illiterate pop culture. It would also leave her vulnerable to someone like Agent Turkle, who would use the results to suit his own purposes. It’s possible that Turkle even had something to do with the request. The FBI agent’s threat still rang in his ears: “She’s mine, Doctor.”
Turkle’s authority must have been limited, otherwise Margo would be gone already. Bryant needed to use his knowledge of the healthcare system to his advantage.
“No,” Bryant said. “She’s not having an EEG.”
“Excuse me?” the nurse seemed appalled at the denial.
Bryant got to his feet and walked around the priest and nurse. “I said no,” he repeated. “Tell Dr. Sanford to see me if he wants any more tests done.”
The nurse shook her head in disgust and left. Father Joe followed Bryant as he approached Margo. She turned down the volume on the TV, then looked up at him with a smile.
“Hi,” she said with the sweet innocence of youth.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Okay, I guess.”
Bryant brushed a loose hair from her face, his fingers lingering on her forehead.
“She’s our little miracle girl,” Father Joe said.
Margo turned her head slightly, embarrassed. Bryant could tell there was something on her mind.
“What’s the matter?” Bryant asked.
Her expression changed. She was somber. “I don’t know.”
“Miracle,” Father Joe murmured behind him.
Bryant rolled his eyes. “Joe, please?”
“What? You have a better explanation for what happened?”
Bryant looked down at Margo and sighed. “You know about the wounds healing?”
Margo nodded. “Everyone thinks I’m some kind of freak,” she said.
“Yes,” he said. “They do.”
“Dr. Bryant.” She looked up at him with wrinkled eyebrows. “Am I real?”
Bryant took her hand into his and gave a gentle squeeze. “Feel that?”
“Good.” He smiled. “That’s as real as it gets.”
Father Joe just kept grinning.
“Can I ask you something?” Bryant said.
“Did you ever have a wound that didn’t heal right away?”
Margo seemed to consider the question, looking up at the ceiling. “Not really. I always carried Band-Aids with me when I was younger. I was sort of a klutz.”
Bryant nodded, but this wasn’t the time to go into her personal recollections. Especially when the past held so many landmines.
Bryant wandered over to the window and looked down at the parking lot.
Agent Turkle stood there, cell phone to his ear, staring directly at Margo’s hospital window. By the glare in Turkle’s eyes, Bryant knew he was standing at a crossroads. He needed to decide quickly. He could walk out of the hospital and let nature take its course. Go back to being a brooding widower searching for something that no longer existed. Or he could find a purpose to his involvement. Find out why all these incidents seemed to surround him like a circling shark, nudging its head against Bryant, taunting him into action. He sensed a force pushing him, guiding him toward a decision. That force exposed itself in the smile that grew across Agent Turkle’s face.
Bryant turned to Margo and said, “We have to get you out of here.”