Chapter Five: Voices and Mayhem
In killing her, his hunters had completely immobilized Matt. His drunkenness would provide them with as easy a murder as had Danny Chuster's feigned overdose. They might kill him with his own weapon, letting him be known as a suicide; they might set up some patsy junkie bum who would allegedly follow a drunk home and kill him for the cash in his pocket.
She could station herself in his doorway, and try to protect him. That was her first impulse.
But she could not prevent him from leaving the apartment, and some echo of righteousness, like a symbol that framed the sleeping Matt as a portrait, whispered to her that you can't stop people from doing what they will do, unless you are their judge and master and they are your slave. "God, please protect Matt," she prayed.
A voice near her said, "God? What have you to do with God?"
"God watches over us," she said, in fear. "Who are you?"
"I am one of His."
"You belong to God?"
Roj looked around the apartment and tried to find the source of the voice, unsuccessfully. "Where are you?"
"Funny, I thought you were here, where I could hear you."
"So God is here, too."
"God, please watch over Matt." Roj said into the quiet room.
"What have you to do with God?" asked the voice again.
Roj was sure that if she had been in her physical body again, she would have begun to sweat with irritation. "Why do you ask?"
"You invoke the name of God, but you do not know Him."
"No, I don't, not really, but I know God is there, and what difference does it make if I'm asking for someone else to be helped or protected?"
"If you do not know God, why would you think that you would be heard by God?"
"I seriously doubt that God is stone deaf, and you still haven't told me who you are. You got something to hide?" Figuratively speaking, Roj crossed her arms and tapped a foot.
"There is no hiding in the Eye of God."
"You must be right. So there's no need for you to conceal your name from me. I'm Roj. Who are you?"
"I am the Voice of the Eternal Truth."
Roj fidgeted, feeling as though Time were getting away from her. "You won't tell me your name, and you're telling me that what I want to do to help is useless. Sounds like the same crap I heard from the thing down at the steps to the second floor. Are you its brother, or am I being bored senseless by the same ignorant, lying shred of ghost shit?"
There was no answer.
Shouting with all her spirit, Roj sounded, "GOD, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE PROTECT MATT!!!"
The so-called Voice of the Eternal Truth was silent, and she could not feel its presence at all. Roj shook what might have been her head. Who knew there were assholes to deal with after you're dead, too? Very disappointing.
She 'sat down' beside Matt's sleeping body, placing herself on the floor by his head. It was almost enough just to watch him sleeping; watching him, perhaps riding on his shoulder as he went about his daily business, nestling invisibly beside him while he slept -- she could have done that for eternity, or what she thought was eternity. But her goal was to stop him from being killed, and for that, she needed a plan of action.
Danny Chuster had said that Garrison was controlling the corridor of drugs through the Modesto area, and that their precinct was crooked. Matt had also said that, though he hadn't thought Garrison was the source of the corruption. Where do I start? With Garrison? How do I figure out who his little minions are, and who owned those thugs that killed me?
Calling up the power of will and intention, Roj made a hand real enough to lock and chain and deadlock Matt's door before she floated out through the walls of his apartment. At the bottom of the building, she asided to the Voice beside the steps, "You're an idiot."
Her elation at getting Matt home safely lent her elevation, and she soared to the rooftops in the dark, back to the precinct, down through the building walls to Garrison's office. It was a good enough place to start.
Thomas L. Garrison, Chief of Police, Mr. Upright and Totally Well-Dressed And Having All The Right Words All The Time. Mr. Handsome, Mr. Suave, Mr. Serious Mien. Roj dropped through his ceiling primed for mischief. Fine as he was in the newspapers, Garrison couldn't have run for any major public office; he had too many ticks he carried, who could testify to his habit of taking loose women, or apparently looking the other way when drug-runners carried their groceries up and down the Valley.
Roj looked around Garrison's office carefully, inspecting every corner. There were no video cameras, no spy eyes. The place reeked of the same exudate of the thug who had killed her, however, so she went over the office inch by inch, moving furniture with ease and tossing framed pieces of art or commendation off the wall. If they made glass shards when they fell, she was pleased. If they only had plastic in front of their contents, she sneered at his penury. There was no pleasing her, which was understandable, because this was the man who had ordered men to kill her lover, men who had decided, for their own reasons, to kill her and leave Matt a basket case.
Garrison was at the top. No one held the strings like he did. Matt had thought that Garrison was clean, that someone below him was pulling strings, and had a connection to Pablo el Forte in Mexico City. He'd been wrong, according to the information from Danny Chuster. Garrison was in charge of the area, and Garrison was what was making it bleed.
She began with his desk.
There was a green baize blotter, with leather corners, perfectly clean, and perfectly open. I'll take care of that later, she decided. On the corners of the executive desk, there were stacks of affidavits, which Roj perused and shoved to the floor. She opened the file drawer of the desk, and looked through his personal files, skating each across the floor as she read and found no pertinence. For sheer playfulness, she emptied the top two drawers into the empty file drawer, staples, post-its, paperclips, stapler, staple remover, pens, notepads, everything, everything, everything. Including the half-cup of coffee he'd left on the sideboard.
Aside from the sideboard, the desk and some comfortable, expensive-looking furniture were all that were in the office. He had no file cabinet, not even a safe. The man was as clean as a car on a showroom floor, outwardly.
There wasn't even a computer in the room. How had Danny managed to get copies of the email and Matt's hiring agreement? Danny was not available to be asked, and Roj was out of ideas for the time being. Except for ideas to torment Garrison and make him angry, maybe angry enough to make some mistakes.
Roj took the bottles from the sideboard. A bottle of Tanguerey, a bottle of Chivas Regal, a bottle of Glenlivet. Cheerfully, she emptied them into the toilet in Garrison's private bathroom and flushed them away, replacing the bottles in the cabinet. He's going to be so mad he'll about shit. Another fit of inspiration surged in Roj's mind. She unrolled wad after wad of toilet paper into the commode, and flushed it a few times, until it backed up nearly to the rim. Then she dropped two rolls of toilet paper into the water. There you go, Mr. Perfect Crime. Wipe your ass on one of your own socks.
She returned to the roof top to look at the stars some more, and allow her anger to drift away. The stars were healing, somehow -- something beyond the human grasp and imagination. Science and technology made stars and galaxies beyond human eyeballs visible, but it was the stars themselves that drew mankind away from the clods of dirt, the ache of tired muscles, the arguments with neighbors. There was no point in fighting when the sky was full of stars and men and women were willing to elevate their eyes to them and wonder what lay beyond the soil they plowed and walked upon. Until dawn, Roj could relax. There was nothing more she could do tonight.
"That was really wrong for you to do, you know," said a voice near her.
Had she had eyes, they would have narrowed grumpily. Here we go again with Mr. NoName the depressing whisperer. "Yeah, yeah, sure."
"Your investigation is understandable, although unnecessary, but the destruction was pointless."
"That's not true at all," Roj rejoined. "I had a point. The point was to mess up his office behind a locked door so he gets angry and has to use the common men's room."
"That's a point without a point. It was a goal, but without a reasonable purpose."
"Well, I guess the lack of a reasonable purpose in blowing my brains out all over my boyfriend must have been a bad influence."
"Those sort of things make no difference in the long run."
"Who are you and where are you?" Roj demanded angrily.
"I'm right here, by you. I'm Desai. I carried your plea to the Presence."
Roj looked around her on the dark rooftop, and made out a person sitting on an air conditioning unit.
"My plea ... "
"About protecting Matt. It was a loud plea, you love him very much."
"Yes. Yes, I do. He's a good man."
"His drunken wanderings could prove his undoing, though he has tried to be a good man."
"I know, Desai. I'm worried about that."
Calling the voice by name made the form on the air conditioner more visible. Pale desert clothes appeared, a tunic belted at the waist. "Don't worry about it, Roj. Let it take care of itself. You will do what you can, and so will your friend Matt, and so will the Power of the Most High."
"Really?" she cried. "God will help us?"
"God is always with you, you know that, or at least you did when you were a little girl."
"Then we'll win, and everything will be all right! Great!"
"What does it mean to win? And what if everything being all right doesn't happen for fifty years, or a thousand?" Desai's voice almost sounded as though it was framed around a smile.
"I just don't want those goons to kill Matt," she retorted hotly, wondering if she could kick Desai in the shins.
"Why not? If he dies, will you not be able to be with him more quickly?"
"Sounds like a trick question to me."
"Not at all. Just something for you to think about."
"You look like a Jedi Knight. Who are you really?"
This time there was a definite feel of smile to the voice. "I am Desai. Would you prefer me to dress differently?"
"No. I always thought their outfits were cute, anyway. Why are you talking to me anyway, and are you a boy or a girl?"
"We were created complete in our myriads, and so have no need of genders. I speak to you because I have concern for your well-being, and you were, at this time, ready to listen."
"Huh. Do you know the star songs at all?"
Roj began to sing, and Desai, after a handful of notes, joined her. For a time, Roj forgot her anger at Garrison's conniving, Matt's drunken foolishness, the evil stench of the man with the gun who had killed her. The song was simple, but soothing, and full of joy without any preconceived ideas of what the end of the song would say. There were harmonies and counterpoint, melody and long stretches of what were not hum but were sung steadily with the whispers of the stars joining in from their great distance.
As dawn began to lighten the eastern horizon, and the stars faded in the magnificence of the morning sky, Roj found her voice alone. She rested, and when the sun came up, she listened, and sang with it to start the day.