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Chapter 6 -- Mark's Plan
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

Mark arrived quite soon, and I let him in. He looked down at his sleeping ex-wife. "What's wrong with her?"

"Cancer, I assume. I can see it in her aura. I tried the ring, but it was of no help."

"Can you show me?" he asked. I thought about it. I didn't want to use the Tap again, and draw unwanted attention. The Aura Reading I had already cast was still in effect, though, so as I had done before I adapted a prepared Mind Reading spell and gifted Mark with it.

"See through my eyes," I told him, and I concentrated on viewing Valerie's aura. Mark closed his eyes to concentrate. I walked around to get a better view, making Mark sway from the changing perspective. "Watch out," I said, but he had already regained his balance.

We both took a good look at the smoky place in her aura. I noticed then that the roiling grayness did not mix with her bright peachy aura, nor even shade into it, but remained apart like oil on water. I turned to look at Mark, and realized he was looking at his own aura through my eyes. After a moment he opened his eyes.

"Where's Emily?"

"Upstairs. I placed them both under a Sleep spell."

"Tell me about this spell. How long will Valerie be asleep?"

"About five or six hours," I said, struggling slightly in my mind with the modern concept of time. Nothing else in this age has given me so much trouble.

"Can she be awakened?"

"Certainly, at any time... oh, no, sorry, you mean can anyone else wake her? No, only me, or a mage using a counterspell. Otherwise she'll lay comatose for the full duration."

"Good. Now, what about Emily? Can you wake her without waking Valerie?"


"Excellent. Have you touched anything here?"

"The phone," I answered, "and a quilt upstairs, and I guess I must have turned off the television. I don't remember doing it, but it's off now."

"Okay. Here's my plan, then. I'm going to call 911 and tell them that Valerie called me to come here, and when I arrived I found her unconscious. You keep her asleep at all costs, so that they will think she collapsed. The ring would have healed any bruises from falling, right?"

"Yes. I saw some bruises heal."

"Good, that'll remove any suspicions of foul play. You'll need to be invisible; I want to be the only person they see or talk to, and the only person whose presence I have to explain."

"I see," I said. "This will get her taken to a hospital then?"

"Exactly. Then I'll make arrangements for Emily."

"Can't you just take her? Her mother is obviously incompetent to care for her."

"Yeah, but Solo, you have no idea what a can of worms that would open." Mark paused for a moment, reviewing his plan I assumed, then continued. "You need to go with the ambulance, or follow it, or somehow get to the hospital with Valerie. You need to let her wake up only after she has been examined by a doctor, because they need to be convinced something is wrong with her. They'll have to run tests to figure out what it is, and then hopefully they'll find what's really wrong with her."

"I can do that. I'll take care of Valerie, and you deal with Emily and your story." He picked up the phone and wiped it all over with his T-shirt tail. Before he could dial it I asked, "Are you seriously worried about a police investigation?"

"If she can find a reason Valerie would turn me in, so, yes, I'm worried." He hyperventilated for a moment, then dialed the phone. "Hello? Yes, I'm at... yes, that's the address. My ex-wife called me and asked for help, then the line went dead, so I came as fast as I could and found her unconscious. Please send an ambulance right away!" After listening for a moment he continued, "She's on the living room floor, and she seems to be sleeping, but I can't wake her at all. No, there aren't any drugs here, or alcohol, as far as I can see. Our daughter is upstairs sleeping in her bed. No, I didn't try to wake her... should I? Okay, I'll wait right here for the ambulance."

His performance was impressive. He sounded flustered and scared. Next he dialed another, longer number. "Hello, Laura. I'm glad I got you. Yeah, this is Mark. Listen! Valerie called me and said 'help me' and I came to her house and found her on the floor unconscious with the phone laying beside her. I called 911 and they are sending an ambulance, and I'm supposed to stay here. Emily is asleep, but she's okay I think. Can you guys come and get her? Great! I'll be here." He then hung up the phone.

"Okay, Solo, I'm going to check on Emily. You make with the fadeout and kind of stay back, okay?" I nodded, then spoke a word and disappeared.

Mark was upstairs for longer than I expected, but he came back just as I heard the sirens approaching. He opened the door for the paramedics. There were two of them, carrying cases of equipment, and as one knelt beside Valerie the other said "Where's the girl?"

"Up those stairs," answered Mark, pointing, "and to the right." I followed the paramedic, and discovered why Mark had been so long. He had dressed Emily in pajamas and placed her under the covers, with a stuffed animal under her arm. I dismissed the Sleep spell on her as the paramedic began to examine her, and she awakened.

"Aaaaah! Who are you?" she cried, and Mark came into the room. I had to dodge quickly to avoid being run down. "Daddy! Who is he?"

"He's a paramedic like on TV, sweetie. He's just making sure you're okay." The paramedic evidently decided she was and descended the stairs; I followed him as Mark sat down on the bed and began trying to explain to Emily about her mother.

Downstairs the other paramedic was discussing her case by radio with their dispatch. "She's comatose but seems stable. We'll put her on a board and bring her in." One went out carrying some of their equipment back to the ambulance while the other remained with Valerie, apparently observing. Shortly the first paramedic returned with a backboard and stretcher, followed closely by an older man and woman. When one paramedic tried to stop them the man said, "I'm her father, and this is her mother. Where's my granddaughter?"

Mark called down from the top of the stairs, "She's up here, Art. Would both of you come here please?" I saw a look of worry on the woman's face; I assumed (correctly) that she was the Laura that Mark had called. Art looked worried, but also angry, and I was torn between following them and going with Valerie.

No. My friend asked me to go with his ex-wife, and I would not fail him. I followed the paramedics out the door, and saw that there would be no way I could ride in the ambulance with them and remain undiscovered. I carefully released my Flight spell, not wanting to break my Invisibility, for it was still daylight for perhaps an hour or so.

At the hospital Valerie was rushed into the emergency room and seen with surprising speed by a doctor. Though young, she seemed competent as she examined Valerie. "I don't understand it," she finally said to one of the nurses, "she should be awake. There is nothing wrong with her otherwise. Is that tox screen back yet?"

"Yes, Doctor," answered another nurse, "and it's clean. Not even any alcohol."

"Well, we'll keep her for observation. Does anyone know her regular physician?"

"According to the info her ex gave John, it's Doctor Harper. I think he's in the hospital tonight... didn't his son just have surgery?"

"Yeah, Friday," said another nurse, "but the boy's okay. It'd probably be alright to call Doctor Harper down here."

They did so, and Doctor Harper was as puzzled as anyone. He instructed that she be admitted and assigned a room, then as she was being taken there he went to the front desk and began scheduling tests.

About this point Mark approached Doctor Harper, and again I had to dodge. "Doc!" said Mark, "How's Valerie?"

"Comatose but stable. I've ordered tests for tomorrow. It's too soon to say, but I am thinking perhaps it's neurological. I don't really know yet."

"What kind of tests?" asked Mark.

"Oh, the usual, blood work, a CT scan; I may do an MRI also." I saw visible relief on Mark's face as he heard this.

"Thanks, Doc." I decided it was time to make an appearance, so I slunk off to the men's room and slipped in after another man went out. The room was empty, so I let the spell go and became visible again.

I met Mark in the hallway and we went to the room assigned to Valerie. Doctor Harper was there; evidently he was fascinated by her case.

As we were about to enter the room, Mark leaned toward me and said, "Hopefully she'll wake up soon." I glanced at him and caught him in a wink, so I took that as a signal and dismissed the Sleep spell.

At first she stirred slightly, and Doctor Harper practically jumped to the head of the bed. "Can you hear me, Valerie?" he asked. Her eyes opened, and for a moment she looked around in surprise.

What I expected to happen, I don't know, but I do know that I was surprised as she threw back the covers and leapt out of bed, screaming obscenities at Mark and then at all present. I decided Paralysis was called for, so I silently formed the word and made the gesture, hoping that all eyes would be on her.

Well, it failed. Casting spells silently requires more concentration than the normal way, and it is possible that I was a bit distracted by the screaming.

Valerie ran from the room, straight to the nurses station, and began screaming something about calling the police. Doctor Harper and Mark followed her, with me trailing. I had another Paralysis spell, so this time I took a moment to concentrate fully, and released it silently.

Valerie fell suddenly, but was caught by an older man I recognized as Art. He must have approached just as I was releasing the spell. Doctor Harper helped Art to carry her back to her bed. Her eyes were open, and she was drooling a little. The doctor examined her eye responses with a light, then said "She appears to be paralyzed, but her autonomous functions are working normally. I think more tests may be required. Valerie, if you can hear me, please try to stay calm. You are very sick, but we are doing all we can for you."

Art took a tissue from a box on the nightstand and wiped away the drool from her face. I could see terrible sadness in his eyes, but then he turned to Mark and his expression changed.

"Get out of here, you idiot! She divorced you for good reason! Why are you hanging around?"

"She called me, Art. I had to come," my friend answered. Mark then turned and walked out the door, and I followed.

"You need a ride home?" he asked when we were away from Art.

"No, I think I need to stay a while. I'll have to dismiss that Paralysis spell; otherwise it will last half a day or longer. I'll make my own way home when I'm ready."

"Okay, then. I guess I'll see you in the morning."

Valerie was calmer when I dismissed the spell. I waited, hovering invisibly outside the window of her room, until it appeared that Doctor Harper was about to leave, then I dismissed it. I wanted someone there for her to talk to when she was released, but on the other hand I wanted her to feel the effects of the Paralysis as long as possible. Even though it wasn't caused by her sickness, she would naturally assume it was, and I wanted her to believe she needed to stay in the hospital.

It was well after midnight when I returned home. I told Mara of all the events of the evening. When I was through she put her arm around me and said, "Why do you sound so sad? You did great! Emily is safe with her grandparents, and Valerie is in the hospital where she needs to be."

"It's just such a foul situation. Art hates Mark for things I'm sure he didn't do, and Valerie has what must be a terrible disease, and Emily has been abused by her sick mother for possibly years."

"You were a statue for most of that time. You couldn't have helped."

I kept repeating that to myself until I fell asleep.

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005