Bryant and Margo sat across from each other in a booth at an upscale diner in Scottsdale. Since it was in Scottsdale, the land was so valuable the décor needed to be trendy to survive. The interior was surrounded with chrome railings and flush with gleaming, white-tiled floors. They both stared out the crystal window next to them, watching the sun go down behind the growing cloud cover.
“He’s going to find us,” Margo said absently.
“I know,” Bryant said, wondering if Margo knew something he didn’t.
“He’s not going to stop,” Margo said, facing him. “Ever.”
Bryant’s left hand gripped a cup of coffee while his right hand pushed the last piece of strawberry cheesecake toward Margo. “I know,” he said. “But why?”
Margo ignored the gesture, instead she slurped a spoonful of her hot chocolate and shrugged. “Somehow, you scare him.”
“We both do.”
They remained inside their thoughts, stirring and sipping their drinks. Finally, in a small voice, Margo said, “Doctor Bryant, you never told me your theory on why I can’t die?”
Bryant looked down at his drink and came out with his best explanation. “Neuroplasticity,” he said.
“It’s basically the ability for the brain to heal itself. And in your case, your brain
is so well developed, it’s actually able to heal other parts of your body as well.”
Margo seemed to brighten. “So you think I’m just . . . um . . .”
“Special,” Bryant finished for her. “I think you’re a normal kid with a special brain. It’s the reason you can hear other people’s thoughts. If we get the time, I could prove it.”
“Why don’t we have the time?”
Bryant looked out the window at the parking lot, the two of them looking for the same thing.
“Because,” Bryant said, “I don’t think your friend is going to allow us the time to get our answers.”
“What does your detective friend say?”
“He wants us to come back to his office so he can protect us.”
“Maybe that’s what we should do.”
“Maybe,” Bryant said. He considered telling Margo the truth. He looked over at her and wondered if she was reading his mind.
“What?” she said.
“I’m hoping you’re keeping your promise about my thoughts.”
Margo swirled her spoon in her cup; she watched the blended brown mixture like a chemist waiting for a reaction to occur.
“I’m trying,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll get a whiff of something I shouldn’t have, but it’s not on purpose, I promise.”
Bryant let it go. He glanced at the clock on the wall, then pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He turned it on.
“What are you doing?” Margo asked.
“I’m expecting a call in one minute.”
“But why was your phone off?”
He smiled. “You weren’t reading my mind, were you?”
She tilted her head, confused.
“Because, your friend is with the FBI and he has the ability to track my cell phone if I leave it on too long.”
A moment later his phone vibrated. “Hey, Scott,” Bryant said.
“What’s up, Michael?” Dr. Scott Lipson said. “Haven’t heard from you in years. How are you?”
“Listen, I only have a minute. Are you still doing research on neuroplasticity?”
“Good,” Bryant said looking directly at Margo, “because I have a patient who can accelerate your progress by a decade or two. She’s extremely special.”
Margo frowned, then folded her arms.
Lipson was quiet for a moment. “You serious?”
“More than you know.”
“Bring her over.”
“Michael, you have someone special to show me, but you expect me to wait?”
“You still working at the lab on Third Street?”
“Give me forty-five minutes.” Bryant shut off his phone and put it back in his pocket.
“We’ve got to go,” he said, dropping a couple of singles on the table and glancing at the parking lot.
“I thought you didn’t want people testing me,” she said, disappointment in her tone.
“This is different,” Bryant said, grabbing Margo’s arm and gently leading her out the door. “I need to prove something to you.”
* * *
As soon as Meltzer entered the church, the incense hit him hard. He found Father
Joe sitting in the second pew, cradling the Bible like he was holding an infant.
“Joe?” Meltzer said, sliding next to the priest. “Are you okay?”
Father Joe nodded, but said nothing.
“What’s going on?”
The priest put a hand to his forehead. “It’s been a day of miracles,” he said. “But I fear for Margo’s life.”
“A man,” Father Joe pointed over his right shoulder without looking. “He came into the confessional and . . . well . . .”
“It’s okay,” Meltzer said. “You can tell me. I’m never going to repeat it.”
The priest turned to face Meltzer. “Someone is going to kill Margo. A man came to confess his sin before he killed a friend of mine. He said she deserves it for what she’s doing with the aliens.”
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see his face.”
“Where is Michael now?”
Father Joe flipped the back of his hand. “He went off with Margo somewhere. That FBI agent was chasing them.”
Meltzer froze. “What do you mean with Margo? Isn’t she in the hospital?”
Father Joe’s eyes brightened. “It’s a miracle, Sam. She’s all healed.”
Meltzer stared off at Christ on the cross, looking down at him from behind the altar. He nodded at Jesus, “You having fun with me down here?”
“Huh?” Father Joe asked.
Meltzer thought about the rescue worker who shot Margo and his prediction she would be healed by the end of the day. Then another thought came to him. He took out his phone and pressed Michael Bryant’s contact button.
“He’s not answering his calls,” Father Joe said, smoothing out the Bible’s cover in his lap. “I get the feeling that FBI agent hired someone to kill her.”
Once Meltzer got Bryant’s voicemail, he snapped his phone shut. “Listen, Joe, I need to find him. Do you have any idea where he went?”
“He said, he’s going to see a friend. Something about proving a point. But he wouldn’t tell me anything more.”
Meltzer stood and took a couple of steps, then returned. “If you hear from that FBI agent, Turkle, call me. He’s a rogue cop. The FBI is trying to track him as well.”
Father Joe squeezed Meltzer’s arm. “Please, Sam, find them.”
“I will,” Meltzer said, his fists clenched. But he was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. He genuflected next to the pew and made the sign of the cross as he looked up at Christ. “I could use a little help,” he whispered.