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CHAPTER ONE

A dark red Mustang perched beside the ribbon of highway, alone but for the young man resting against its door. It was an unusual sight for such a place, here where the shallow water of the wetlands reflected moonlight, and endless silvered marsh grasses whispered in the breeze. The cicadas didn't care if the man was there, nor did the night-birds, nor the foxes and raccoons—they were used to the comings-and-goings of men in their loud machines, and would avoid him. There would seem to be no reason for him to be stopped here—no smoke or steam poured from beneath the nostrilled hood, no line of shredded rubber marked a newly departed tire. A highway patrol officer would have been very interested—if there had been one anywhere within twenty miles. And that, too, was unusual; this close to Savannah, there should be police cruising this stretch of road.


"One of these nights," griped Tannim to no one in particular, "I'll have a normal drive, with nothing chasing me, pestering me, shooting at me . . . no breakdowns, no detours, no country-western music, no problems. Peace, quiet, and the road. No place to go, no one to save, no butts to cover except my own."


Tannim pulled himself up onto his old Mach 1, faded black jeans shushing over the hood. Its cooling engine tick-tick-ticked, radiator gurgling softly as it relaxed from its work, the warm old American sheet metal satin-smooth and familiar. He ran a hand through his long brown hair, catching fingers in his uncountable ratty knots of curls, and snorted in cynical amusement. Casting his eyes skyward, scratching at his scalp, he said wistfully, "Man. They keep telling me, `Y'knew the job was dangerous when ya took it.' Thanks for giving me the job description after I've signed the contract, guys."


The cicadas answered him by droning on, unimpressed.


The road was deserted, the air clear, the bright country sky shining off of the curved fenders. Tiny pinpoints of light twisted into sweeping contours only to be swallowed up in the flat black intakes of the hood.


The beauty and peace of the evening softened his mood. No finer job in this world, though. When it works out—wish Kestrel were here to help. He's better at this than me. Tannim thought about his old friend from high school back in Jenks, Oklahoma, with more than a twinge of regret—regret for Derek's curious blend of talents, compassion, and guts. Derek Ray Kestrel was gifted not only with a sexy name but with a knack for magic that just wouldn't quit. Deke spent his time with his cars and guitars, now, and didn't do road work anymore. Guess he didn't have the stomach for it. It can get gross enough to freak a coroner. Damned if he didn't have more than just talent, though. 


He gave up on his hair and adjusted his jacket, a third-hand Battlestar Galactica fatigue he traded a Plymouth carburetor kit for. Both he and the other kid thought they'd gotten the better deal. They were both right. Tannim didn't know from carbs then, and had let go of a rare five-hundred-dollar sixpack. Deke had sure given him a hard time about that! The other kid had no idea how hard the battle-jackets were to get. Live and learn. He dug around in one of the many pockets he'd sewn inside the jacket, and pulled out a cherry pop, whistling along with the Midnight Oil tape on the Mach 1's stereo, occasionally falling into key.


Decent night for a job, though. Not raining like last time, and no lightning to dodge, either. Tannim was a young man, but he was not inclined to die that way, despite the reckless pace he kept up. Better to run toward something than away, he'd always thought, but the scars and aches all over his wiry body testified that even a fiery young mage can be harmed by too much running. Or perhaps, not running hard enough . . . He had been self-trained up to age twenty, and then someone from elsewhen had taken him in and really shown him the ropes of high magic. Their friendship had built before their student/teacher relationship really began, Chinthliss admiring the boy's brazen style, wicked humor, and dedication to the elusive and deadly energy of his world's magic. That was, in fact, the reason Chinthliss had taken Tannim on in the first place; it had not escaped the young mage that he and his mentor were a great deal alike in many ways. There were a lot of words to describe the two of them, the best of which were creative, crafty, adventurous, virtuous—well, maybe not virtuous—but their many critics had other choice adjectives, none flattering. Tannim had a way of taking the simplest lesson and turning it around to befuddle his "master," who in turn would trounce the boy with the next one, and giggle about it for a week. It was Chinthliss who had given Tannim his name—it meant "Son of Dragons." It fit, especially since he thought of Tannim as he would his own offspring.


Eventually, the lessons simply became jam sessions of experimenting, and Tannim began teaching Chinthliss a thing or two. What was about to occur on this lonely stretch of road was something he'd come up with himself years ago—something that had scared the scat out of Chinthliss. It was the kind of "job" he had done a couple of times with Deke Kestrel in tow. He unwrapped the cherry pop and began chewing on it absent-mindedly, humming along with the tunes. He crumpled the wrapper and slipped it into a pocket, and his humming became a chant through clenched teeth.


He pulled his shoulders back and stretched, neck and back popping from road fatigue, and let in the rush of energy that heralded a major spell. Around him, the cicadas rose in pitch, to harmonize with Peter Garrett and the young man's chanting. Harmonizing with Garrett was no small feat, and he noted it as a good omen. He kept his arms raised toward the crescent moon overhead, and his eyes perceived a subtle change in the starlight as he entered his familiar trance.


His body went rigid, as if rigor mortis had suddenly frozen him in place.


To say that Tannim died then would be misleading—although he was not precisely alive anymore either. The trance he entered was protected well, and he was being monitored by otherworldly allies, but the young mage's soul was now connected to his body by the thinnest of threads—much more tenuous than anything most mages ever depended on during out-of-body work. Most of them would have been terrified at the notion of trusting their lives to so fragile a bond. But most mages weren't Tannim. He had been trusting his life and more to far more fragile bonds than this for a long time now.


As he stabilized his spirit-form, there was the sensation of everything being well-lit and dark at once, and of infinite visibility—the dizzying effect of mage-sight in the now-and-then hereafter.


He "felt" completely normal, right down to the candy tucked in his cheek and the feel of the Mach 1 beneath him. He tapped his worn black high-tops against the chrome, focusing his thoughts and getting comfortable, teeth gnawing on the pop's soggy stem as he drew energy up from the earth through the frame of the Mach 1, tempering it through the sheet metal, grounding the wild-magic resonances into the engine block, radiating the excess through the window glass.


Good so far; now to find him. 


With that, he pulled his spirit away from his body, his shadow-image standing upright, stretching, and adjusting its jacket while his body remained seated on the hood, connected to it by a shimmering field of gossamer threads, the only traces of the spell visible to the trained eye. He stepped away from his anchor, and crossed the gravel shoulder.


A figure wavered and coalesced before him, a fortyish man in a plaid workshirt and chinos, standing with his hands in his pockets, looking away from the road. There was a half-smoked cigarette hanging slackly from his lips. He was an ordinary man, the kind you'd see at any truckstop, any feed store in the southern belt, lines etched into his face by hard work, bright sun, and pain endured. The only thing that set him apart now was that he was edged by a soft yellowish glow, which seemed to fill in every shadow and crease in that face, and followed him as he stepped towards Tannim.


His brows furrowed, as if trying to remember something. He took a drag off the cigarette. It glowed, but did not burn down. Smoke curled up around his face, a bright blue and violet. "Haven't seen you here before," the man said. "Hiya. Canfield, Ross Canfield. . . ." The man stepped forward, reflexively offered a hand. Tannim bit his lip, stepped forward again, and grasped his hand. Well, I've got him. Oh God, I thought this was going to be easier. He doesn't know. 


"Hello, Ross," he said. "I'm Tannim."


Ross nodded; he seemed distracted, as if he wasn't entirely focusing on the moment at hand. "Tannim? Good ta meetcha. That a first name or a last name?"


"Only name," Tannim replied cautiously. "Just Tannim. How are you? I mean, you look a little stressed, Ross; are you all right? How do you feel . . . ?"


If Canfield was surprised about this atypical show of concern from a stranger, he didn't show it. "Been better. Strange night." Ross took a pull off of his cigarette. Its tip glowed again, but still didn't shorten. Its smoke wisped up violet and vanished above his head, and he blew smoke from his nostrils in a wash of reddish-purple.


"Mmm. As strange as usual." Tannim smiled inwardly at the oxymoron. "Where you from, Ross?"


Canfield focused a little more on him as the question caught his attention. "Louisiana. Metairie. You?"


Tannim moved a little farther away, unobtrusively testing the energies coming from Canfield. "Tulsa."


Now Canfield's attention was entirely focused on the young mage. "Why you ask?"


"Just curious; I wondered if you were local." It was time to change the subject "You know, Ross, you seem like a friendly fella, laid back, able to handle 'bout anything. Got something kinda serious to talk to you about."


"Uh huh." Ross Canfield set his jaw, and the glow around him turned a rich orange. Not a good sign. Red would be worse, much worse, but orange was not a good sign.


"Ah, look, Ross, I have some bad news for you, so don't get mad at me. . . ." They always blame the messenger don't they? 


"Bad news?" Another drag on the cigarette, which now glowed a fierce red—echoing the glow of energy swirling around him. "My wife just left me, kid, and you say you've got bad news?"


Abruptly, Tannim was no longer the focus of Canfield's anger. "That sonuvabitch Marty Lear tore the hell outta my lawn with her in that goddamn Jap pickup of his and—and—took her away—"


So; there was the reason for it all. Uh oh. Fast work, boy, you hit it right the first time. 


Tannim's eyes narrowed, and he took the mangled pop stick out of his mouth. Power fluctuated around them, silent and subtle, but there. Tannim noted their patterns, setting up buffer fields with a mental call. He saw a fan of lines spread around them both, channels waiting to be filled if needed.


"What did you do?"


Canfield did not take offense at what should have been considered a very personal question. "Went after 'em. We was fightin' and she'd already called the bastard; he showed up and she jumped in. Caught up to 'em. Have this old 'Cuda, hot as hell . . ."


"Had." 


Tannim was the focus of Canfield's attention again; he felt the hot glare of Ross's stare. "What?" Canfield asked.


He isn't going to like this. "You had a Barracuda. I'm sorry, Ross, but . . . that's the bad news I have for you."


"What you talkin' 'bout, son?" Ross Canfield looked pale for a moment, then his glow pulsed cherry red and his face began to twist into anger. He exhaled bright red smoke from his nostrils, jaw set, threads of energy coalescing around his feet and fists.


Now a quick deflection. "Ross, walk with me a minute, will you?" Tannim started along the roadbed toward the overpass a hundred feet away. "How long would you say you've been standing out here, Ross? An hour, maybe? A couple?"


Ross hesitated, then followed Tannim. The tiny traces of reddish energy crackled and followed his steps.


"Ross, you remember stopping here? Getting out of that car? Lighting that cig?"


Ross absently pulled the cigarette from his mouth and looked at it, brow knotted in concentration.


Tannim stood next to the overpass abutment. It was gray concrete, scarred and cracked, with patches of cement covering half its surface. Bits of glass and plastic glittered in the starlight. Tannim picked up a razor-edged sliver of safety-glass an inch long. Barrier's in place; might as well tell him straight up. He hasn't taken the hints. 


"Ross . . . this is all that's left of your 'Cuda. You hit this bridge doin' one-forty, and you never walked away from it."


The cigarette slipped from Ross' fingers and rested in the dry grass. It smoldered, but didn't set fire to the grass it landed in. The energy field around Ross Canfield crackled like a miniature thunderstorm, apparently invisible to him.


"Ross, look over there." Tannim pointed at the Mustang, and at the man still sitting on the hood. "That's me."


Ross took a deep breath, stooped to pick up his cigarette, and returned it in his mouth.


Here's where it hits. I can handle it; he's not too powerful . . . I hope. Tannim built up his defenses, preparing for a mental scream of rage. . . . Or worse. Sometimes they don't just blame the messenger, they kill the messenger. I hate this part. 


Ross bit his lip, shock plain on his face as he realized the meaning of Tannim's words.


"Never . . . walked . . . away. . . ."


Tannim nodded, ready to strike back if Ross broke and gave in to the rage building in him. "So I'm dead, huh?"


Tannim could feel the energies arcing between them, screaming for focus. . . .


Hoo boy. Now so am I. 


"That's right, Ross. You died three years ago, right here. I'm sorry, really. . . ."


Ross Canfield pulled himself up to his full height, towering over Tannim by almost a foot, eyes glowing red with fury as he seethed. His fists clenched tighter, then relaxed slowly and finally opened. His broad shoulders slouched as his aura dimmed to orange, red tinges slithering away into the ground. He inhaled one massive breath, pulled a hand back through his hair and said—


"Well, shit."


Tannim heard mental giggles from his guardians, felt them skitter away to other business, pulling his borrowed energy reserves with them. He heaved a sigh of relief and lowered his guard against a strike.


Ross swayed as if drunk, then stared at Tannim's spirit-form like he was trying out newly bought eyes.


* * *

"So, this is what it's like to be a goddamn ghost," Ross said to Tannim as they stood beside the Mustang. "Just my damn luck. I should've expected something like this to happen to me. What the hell do I do now?"


Tannim stood at the hood, beside himself. "I'll tell you in a second." He drew up the Walking spell's reserve energy and stepped back into his body, trusting his instincts that Ross was not going to disturb his transfer. Back at home, he opened his eyes, stretched and stood, rubbing the ever-present kink in his left leg.


"Just for the record, you could have hurt me pretty bad back there, Ross. Just now, I mean. Stepping into and out of a body is a vulnerable time. I trusted you that you wouldn't—thanks."


"Uh huh. What was I gonna do, rattle my chains at ya?" Ross snorted. "And, uh, if it's not too much trouble, what the hell good is this gonna do me? What am I s'posed to do? If I'm dead, where are the angels?"


Tannim paused, and walked to the door of the car. "Get in; I'll tell you."


Ross reached for the door-handle, and his hand passed through it, a tracing of fire around the point of entry. "That's lesson one, Ross. You're only partially in this land of the physical. You can choose whether or not to interact with it. Lotta advantages to being a ghost; I don't get the option of deciding if I want to be hit by a bullet or not." Tannim grinned. "You do. Or rather, you will. You're not up to that yet."


"That's spooky as shit," Ross observed, watching his forearm disappear completely into the door.


"Normally you wouldn't be able to do that to this particular car. As a ghost, that is. It has some powerful defenses. I'm lowering the ones against spirits for you, keyed to you and you only. Otherwise, you couldn't get within a foot of that door. Also, another thing: if you get near my tape collection, I'll kill you." Tannim smiled. "You can fry magnetics with a touch—tapes, computer disks, that sorta thing. The tapes are in that red box there. Please don't touch it."


Ross looked through the window at the red fabric case, and read "NO GHOSTS OR POSSESSIONS WITHIN 10 FEET" embroidered into a panel on its lid. The caution was surrounded by arcane symbols. "Yeah, I see. What are those, spells or something?"


Tannim chuckled and leaned against the roof. "The runes? They're from the back of Led Zeppelin Four. Scares most of the ghosts bigtime, except the metal-heads, they just give me a high-sign and say `Duuuude!' "


Ross laughed, and pulled his arm free of the door. He shoved his other hand in his pockets, and dragged on his ever-present cigarette. The smoke wisped away, disappearing as blue this time.


"That's another advantage, you can see things living people can't, like that warning. It's for spirits only. Your vision should be changing soon, now that you've realized . . . ah, what you are now. Things'll start getting pretty weird . . . people will have funny glows around them, colors that show how they feel emotionally, the brighter they are the more intense they are. I see that way all the time, it's called `mage-sight'—that's how I can see you now. Watch out for blind spots, they mean trouble every time. They stand for something you can't see, something someone won't let you see, or something you don't want to see."


Ross appeared grim for a second, then turned his head to face the overpass.


He looks like he's seen a . . . 


Well, he turned very pale.


"I can't see . . . I never noticed that before. That's where I died, and I can't see it at all." Ross looked visibly shaken, and began walking towards the overpass.


Would he be able to see it? Should Tannim even encourage him to try? But he seemed ready. "The trick is to look past it, and bring your field of focus into it. Concentrate on seeing the road past it, then pull back until it appears; the more you want it, the sooner it will come."


Tannim watched him walk up to the place where he'd died, and stop.


"Ross . . ." he said softly, "you don't have to do this, if it's making you uncomfortable, at least not right away. There are ghosts in this world who haven't been able to come to grips with their own deaths for centuries. It's not easy."


"How th' hell would you know?" Ross snapped, and then immediately looked embarrassed.


"I've helped almost a hundred move on to their next destination," Tannim said. "Not always willingly, but . . . it's for the better."


Ross faced him, skepticism warring with a touch of awe. "You're not—an angel, are you?"


"Me?" Tannim laughed. More often, he was mistaken for something else entirely. "Not hardly. Not even close. I'm just a man who can tell you a thing or two about magic, about dying, and what comes after it. Angels live far cleaner lives, and have cleaner consciences."


"There are angels, then? And Heaven?" Ross pulled a long drag on his cigarette.


"I guess." Tannim shrugged. "Hell, I don't know what your definition of Heaven is, so I can't say. But I will tell you that not everyone who dies waltzes through the `Pearly Gates' of their choice; they still have things to do. A lot of 'em love this world, and don't want to leave. They don't have to, at least, not right away."


"They don't?" Canfield looked surprised—and bemused.


"Nope. Not if they still have things to do, things on their minds." Tannim leaned up against the Mustang. "Most move on to whatever suits them, pretty much right off. But some, it takes a while to find out what it is they want. You're probably that way. It's a whole different ball game when you're dead; conflicts that were big guns when you were alive don't count for much. You meet all kinds of people from all times. Plenty to talk about. Hell, the drone of sports talk at Candlestick Park from a hundred thousand dead fans is enough to put you over the edge!"


"Uh huh." Ross pulled the butt from his mouth. "So I'm gonna be this way for a while?"


"Yeah, probably." He looked up at the clear night sky for a moment. "Since you didn't—go on, when you really understood what had happened to you. I guess you must have some things to do. The way you are—it's kind of a way to live again, with your senses enhanced and a new way of looking at things. Kind of gives you a second chance."


"I guess it isn't all bad," Ross observed after a moment of thought. "Guy could do a lot, see a lot, like this. Things he never got a chance to."


Tannim nodded. "There's a big tradeoff to it; if there's something you need to take care of, that tie will hold you to a place. Even without that, there's ties to your family. Most ghosts build up a sort of `monitoring' of their families and loved ones, so they know what they are doing, and can be there to lend support from beyond if they can, while they're still ghosts. Native Americans in particular have a strong tie with their ancestors, and their spirits fill everything around them. If I were you, I'd travel a bit and reconcile your feelings about everyone you've ever loved or hated. Then visit your gravesite. After that, it's up to you whether to stay or to move on."


"Well, ain't this a helluva turn. Life after death is just as big a pain in the ass as living." Ross planted his hands on his hips, and stared towards the bridge. "I can kinda see it now, Tannim. And I can see . . . my 'Cuda. Holy shit . . . I really did buy it good." Ross shuddered, and swore again. "Damn. I loved that car."


Tannim nodded. "Yeah, I can relate. I've lost a couple of good ones myself . . . Thank it for its services and offer it its own afterlife. Even cars can develop spirits, believe me. Honor everything you knew, Ross, then you'll be happy again."


Ross looked down at his feet. "I . . . I loved her too, more than the car, more . . ." he said, and Tannim didn't have to ask to know who he was talking about. "I cried like a goddamn baby every time I couldn't tell her how I felt. It was easier to drink the booze than to find the words. And I chased after her drunk . . . hell, I didn't even know what road she was on. I couldn't even get dying right. . . ."


Better intervene before he starts getting caught in a downward spiral. "Uhhh, Ross, I've met a lot of spirits in my day, and there've been a lot of them who died `good deaths,' real `blaze of glory' stuff. Every one of 'em mentioned how stupid it was after all, you know, big picture stuff. I don't know if there is a right way to die. But, they all have had regrets about their lives . . . the real heroes and the regular joes."


"Hmm. Yeah, well, I guess I have a lot to think about, and a lot of time to do it." Ross turned, and pulled the cigarette from his lips. "So now I get the chance to change things, huh? Fix what I shouldn't have been in at all. Fine." He threw the cigarette down and ground it out. "I've wanted to quit smoking for twenty years now, and never could. I'll be damned if I'll do it when I'm dead. Don't start drinking or smoking, boy."


Tannim smiled and said, "Yeah, the stuff'll kill you."


Ross bent down before the concrete pillar, and reached a translucent hand towards a sparkling shard of glass. He crouched there a moment longer and smoothed the dirt over it, then strode towards the Mustang, leaving his death behind him.


* * *

The Alan Parsons Project's "Don't Answer Me" played on the tape deck as the wind rushed past the Mach 1, its engine thrumming in mechanical symphony. The breeze from the open windows made the young driver's hair stream back against the seat-covers, and that same breeze blew right through his passenger.


Ross Canfield put his hand to his chin, shifted to lean his arm against the sill, and put his arm through it. He withdrew and tried again, this time successfully resting his arm against the vinyl. "Shit, this is gonna be hard to get used to."


Tannim chuckled and leaned forward to tap a sticking gauge. "You're doing fine, Ross. Just remember, things in my world may or may not affect you. It's mostly a matter of what you want to be influenced by; for instance, you could, if you wanted to, fall right out of this car doing seventy now by simply deciding that seat won't affect you. Then, you may choose for the road not to affect you, and you wouldn't be hurt by the fall. But you missed the armrest just now because you forgot to `want' it to affect you. Tricky, huh?"


"Kinda like—what'd they used to say? Mind over matter?"


"Exactly." He nodded with approval. "Now, until you learn spirit-traveling, you're limited by your old human abilities. One day, you may be able to fly cross-country by will alone, but for now, if you fell out of the car, I'd have to stop and pick you up, 'cause you couldn't run fast enough to keep up with me."


Ross chuckled. "Yeah, but I can run faster now that I'm dead. No wheezy lungs from smoking, no beer gut."


"Yeah, and you can play tennis with dead pros to keep in shape."


Ross and Tannim both laughed. "You know, I never thought being dead would be so damned entertaining. And it seems like I should be more upset about it."


Tannim kept his eyes on the road, but he smiled to himself. Ross Canfield was coming along very well—a lot faster than Tannim would have thought. "Well, seriously, Ross, there are a lot of ways to deal with it, but you're running on instinct. Your subconscious was aware you were dead, but your superconscious wasn't ready to accept it, so you stood there sucking a butt for a couple of years. Now, it's kind of a relief that it's out in the open, and you're able to get to the decisions you've been building towards all this time. And as for it being entertaining, kissing a bridge at lightspeed drunk off your ass is a grim thing, but there are a lot of things about being a ghost that are damn funny, no matter what the circumstances are."


"Like fallin' through doors," Ross supplied.


"Uh huh. So, deal with it now with a laugh, because there are plenty of things in the future that'll make you cry, make you scream—" now he turned to look at Canfield out of the corner of his eye "—make you wish you were more dead than you are."


"Huh. As you can tell by the two-year wait, I don't spook easily." His face cracked with a smirk.


"Ross! I'd never picked you for a punster!"


"Yeah, well, that's why I'm not in Heaven right now."


Tannim grinned and thought about the turn of a friendly card. Maybe they were both lucky they'd met.


"Seriously . . . what do I do now? How'm I supposed to learn all these ghost things, and how do I get outta bein' one? This shit's gonna get old eventually." Now Ross looked uncertain. "I don't suppose you'd teach me—"


Tannim shook his head. "I can't, Ross. The best I can do is what I just did—break you out of the stalemate you were in and get you started. Like most things, Ross, you have to get out and practice. Learn by doing. Talk to other ghosts, pick up the tricks. I can't show you what you need to know; I've got too many other irons in the fire, and I've got problems enough with people trying to make me into a ghost."


At first Ross snorted; then he looked around, and squinted. His eyes widened, and Tannim figured he had started to see some of the protections on the Mustang. It was enough to impress him—even if he wasn't seeing more than a fraction of the magics Tannim had infused the Mach 1 with. "There are a couple of other things I can tell you: just like you can let the rest of the world affect you, with practice, you can influence what happens in the physical world—or; more accurately, the world I'm in right now. Like back there, when you touched that piece of glass, buried it . . . there's a lotta different kinds of `physical.' Making a change in this one means discovering how to make yours interact with it. That thing with the magnetics is an example of one you can't control; there are others you'll pick up soon enough."


"Got some simple tips?"


"Sure. Stay away from things that make you tired, don't fiddle with walls that won't let you pass, and if anything tries to eat you, hurt it."


"Tries to—eat me?" Ross's eyes widened again.


"There's a lot of unfriendly things out there, including some that used to be human. Remember, don't attack first. Until you have the experience to tell friend from foe, be cautious. It's always easier to hold a defensive position anyway. And there are a lot of things out there that aren't human at all; treat them fairly, they can become very close friends. My best friend isn't human. Pretty simple. Otherwise, things are similar to living. You can have sex as a ghost, ride in an F-15. Fly on the Space Shuttle if you want, if you can find room. It's very popular. Enjoy it, and learn. That's the key to moving on—knowledge and maturity are important."


"But, what about moving on? How—"


Tannim shook his head. "I can't tell you; it's different for everyone. You'll know when. If you didn't know how, you'd have never seen the bridge back there; that was an important move. It shows you're finally ready to accept what you are."


Ross was silent for a while, and the miles ticked away as the skyline of Savannah came into view. Finally he spoke. "Tannim . . . thanks."


"No thanks needed, friend," Tannim said, slowing as he approached the city limit. "You ready to take off on your own?"


Ross nodded. "If you need anything, call. I'll find a way to get there. I guess this is dangerous work you're doing, and I owe you for this," he said through teary spectral eyes. "I'd better get out there. I lost enough time getting shit-faced before, and I want to see what I missed."


Tannim looked sideways at Ross Canfield, nodded, and turned his eyes back towards the highway, pulled to the shoulder and stopped. The city lights illuminated the car, the driver, and the empty seat beside him.


"Be sure to visit River Street while you're here, Ross. Always a party. Good luck. Here's your exit."


The ghost stepped through the door onto the shoulder, and Tannim watched him in the rearview mirror, an ordinary enough guy, watching the Mach 1's taillights recede into the night. Ordinary—except that only Tannim could see him.


And only Tannim could hear him, as clearly as if Ross still sat beside him.


"You need me, you call."


 


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