Kyle Reynolds opened his eyes long enough to realize he was probably still alive, not the most pleasant realization for him to have given that he had tried to kill himself and had done so in such a way that, at least in his mind, there was no way he would survive. Who could survive taking that many pain killers? It was unthinkable. But, here he was in a hospital room, with a beautiful brunette nurse hovering over him saying, “Good morning, Mr. Reynolds. How are you feeling?”
Kyle opened his eyes a second time and tried to speak, but found he could not do that. He made whatever sound he could in his impaired state and waited for a response.
“Do you know what day it is?” said the nurse. Kyle noticed her uniform looked a little dated. Was it something from the fifties? What kind of hospital was this?
Kyle grunted something and waited.
“Today is May twenty-ninth. It is nine AM.”
When had he tried to kill himself? It was the twenty-sixth he thought. That sounded right, but he wasn’t sure. Maybe the nurse would shed some light on things.
“You have been asleep for five days. You know, you flat lined three times. You’re lucky to be alive.”
So he had done it on the twenty-fourth. That was it. He ignored the part about flat lining, not knowing what it meant, and unable to ask for clarification.
“Kyle, I’m Rebecca and I’m going to be by your side while you recover. You and I are going to have such a happy life together.”
Kyle felt dizzy, unaware of what Rebecca had just said. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
He woke later that day. The nurse was still there, looking at him with a pleasant smile on her face.
“Oh, there you are, Kyle. How are you feeling?”
Kyle managed to say, “Like death.”
“Well, given what you did, you are probably going to feel pretty out of sorts for a while. Are you hungry?”
“No. What’s your name?”
“I’m Rebecca, my true love.”
Kyle wondered if she talked this way with all of the patients. “Where am I?”
“You’re at Bellevue.”
So, he was close to home. But, how did he get here? He had been alone in his apartment when he took all the pills. How did someone get into his apartment?
“Who found me?” said Kyle.
“You found me in my apartment? How did you get in?” said Kyle, confused, wondering if this was a dream.
“Let’s not worry about that right now. The important thing is you are alive,” she said.
“I don’t want to be alive.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that, and I am going to do everything I can to make you want to live again,” she said.
A doctor walked in the room and Rebecca quietly excused herself. The doctor looked at Kyle, nodded and said, “So, you had a really close call Mr. Reynolds. I’m going to assume you intentionally took all of that medication.”
“I did,” said Kyle.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really. Look, when can I get out of here?”
“Mr. Reynolds, I’m not sure what is going on in your life, but I think it would be really good for you to go into an inpatient program for a couple of weeks.”
“Do you mean a mental ward?”
“We don’t call it that these days. Anyway, you wouldn’t be with people with more severe impairments. Of course, I can’t force you to go, but I highly recommend it. Clearly, you have some serious issues to deal with and I fear that if you go out on your own without any help you might do the same thing.”
Kyle paused before saying, “Can I leave if I don’t like it?”
“You can check out any time you like, Mr. Reynolds.”
“I’ll think about it. Can I get up?”
“Here, let me help you.” The doctor put down his notepad and helped Kyle get out of bed. Kyle took a couple of steps then returned to the bed, realizing he was not yet ready to move around.
“The nurse said I died three times,” said Kyle, remembering what Rebecca had said and finally understanding it.
“Yes. To be honest, I don’t know how you survived. I’ve been practicing medicine for thirty years and in that time I’ve never seen anyone come back from an overdose that severe. You must have wanted to live.”
“Hardly,” said Kyle. “I thought I had ensured that I would not live. How did my nurse find me?”
“Nurse? I don’t understand.”
“Rebecca said she was the one who found me.”
“Who is Rebecca?”
“I don’t know Rebecca. She must be new, but she must have meant she found you here. The reason you were found is that someone called 911 at your apartment and left the phone off the hook. Everyone assumed it was you. Are you saying you didn’t call?”
“I definitely didn’t call.”
“That is strange. Perhaps a friend came to your house.”
“I don’t have any friends.”
“Well, I’m sure there is a good explanation. Why don’t you lie back down. You’ll be back on your feet in a couple of days. Do think about the inpatient program. I’ll check in on you later today.”
Kyle lay back down and pulled the covers over himself. The doctor left. Immediately after the doctor left, Rebecca returned.
“Why did you tell me that you were the one who found me?” said Kyle.
“Because I was the one who found you,” said Rebecca.
“The doctor said that someone just dialed 911 and left the phone off the hook.”
“Well, I’m sure in all the confusion they forgot what happened.”
“Oh. Why would you just leave the phone off the hook?”
“Because I had to take care of you,” said Rebecca.
“Why were you in my apartment?”
“Because I knew you were in trouble.”
“But, I didn’t see you there.”
“You didn’t see much of anything.”
Kyle felt dizzy and closed his eyes. He could get to the bottom of why Rebecca had been in his apartment later. Now he needed rest.
“So, you’ve been stalking me?” said Kyle.
“Stalking? No, absolutely not, but I have been looking after you. I’ve known for some time that you were in trouble,” said Rebecca.
“How could you possibly know I was in trouble? You don’t even know me. Who are you?”
“How did you get in my apartment?”
“Through the door, of course.”
“I always keep the door locked. Did you pick the lock? You know that’s illegal. Anyway, I wanted to die. Why did you screw things up for me?”
“Kyle, you might think you wanted to die, but that is only because you do not know what death would bring. I saved you. I know you don’t appreciate that right now, but you will.”
“So, how do you know me?” said Kyle.
“Well, I first saw you going into your office. You were on the phone and appeared to be having a rather unpleasant conversation. I think it was your ex-wife.”
“You know about my ex? How do you know that?”
“Well, after that call you told Peter about the conversation,” said Rebecca.
“How do you know who Peter is? And how could you have heard that conversation. We were in my office. The door was closed. I know you weren’t in there with us. Were you?”
“Suffices to say, I did hear the conversation and I knew that you were in an awful place.”
“What else do you know about me?”
“Is that really so important, Kyle. The important thing is that you’re alive and we are together finally.”
“What do you mean, together?”
“Kyle, I’m in love with you,” said Rebecca.
“See, you are a stalker. What the hell? And, why the hell would you want to stalk me? I am divorced, have no friends, and no job. I’m not terribly good looking, am not even in the least bit interesting. I might as well not exist. I mean, yeah, I have a lot of money, but that doesn’t wash away my utter boringness.”
“Well, you give to charity. That is good. And you always give Sam twenty dollars when you see him.” Sam was a homeless man who roamed the streets around Kyle’s home.
“You know, I’m not going to ask how you know any of that because I am absolutely certain you aren’t going to tell me.”
Kyle looked at Rebecca, seeing her calm expression, her eyes. He had never seen a person with eyes like hers. They were gray, the palest shade of gray. She was a beautiful woman, a woman that could easily be a model, someone unattainable for someone like Kyle, or so Kyle thought.
“Kyle, I fully intend to tell you everything when the time is right. First, you have to get better. I am going to help you get better, if you will let me.”
“How do you plan on doing that?”
“By showing you love, of course. What other way is there?”
Kyle sighed and Rebecca placed her hand on his arm. Kyle felt something he couldn’t describe, something like energy passing between them, physical in nature but somehow beyond that. In that instant he wondered what it would be like to have this woman love him. Perhaps it was because he had lost hope, because he couldn’t find any good in himself, because he desperately wanted to be loved that he stopped asking questions.
“That’s much better,” said Rebecca, leaning over to kiss Kyle. The sensation he had felt when she touched his arm could not even remotely come close to the one he felt when their lips touched. Quite suddenly, he discovered he did not want to die. There was a strange and beautiful woman who he wanted to know better. Still, he had no choice but to wonder how she knew so much about him. He still wondered how she had gotten into his apartment. Maybe he would ask again at some distant point in the future. Maybe.
Two days later, Kyle left the hospital, having refused to go into an inpatient program. Rebecca was by his side. They returned to Kyle’s apartment and settled in.
“So, where do you live? We should get your things,” said Kyle. He had asked Rebecca to move in with him, perhaps an impulsive move, but he had a feeling about this strange woman, a feeling that had been made quite powerful by a late night sexual encounter in the hospital.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I don’t have much, so I’ll just get everything myself.”
“You sure? I’m happy to help. Anyway, I’d kind of like to see where you live. I don’t know anything about you.”
“Well, you know I love you,” said Rebecca, kissing him. Her kiss and touch made Kyle shiver.
“You know, I don’t have any food. Maybe I can order something for us.”
“I’m not hungry, but feel free to get something for yourself.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t eat,” said Kyle, laughing, but at the same time wondering if it was true.
“You have a beautiful place,” said Rebecca, looking around Kyle’s apartment. “I love the paintings.”
“Yeah, my ex picked those out. But, they are nice, aren’t they? I got them in the divorce to stick it to her for cheating on me.”
“Why would anyone cheat on you?” said Rebecca.
“I hate to break it to you, but I’m not exactly the best person on the planet. I can be a royal pain in the ass,” said Kyle.
“Why? Because you go into yourself and don’t let anybody in?”
How did she know that? How did she know anything? “Something like that,” said Kyle.
Kyle grabbed to phone and ordered a pizza, having a strong desire for something unhealthy after all that horrible hospital food. He and Rebecca sat on the couch.
“I used to work for a VC fund, as you probably already know. Anyway, on the day you overheard my call with my ex and somehow magically overheard my conversation with Peter, they fired me. I had screwed something up royally. Doesn’t usually happen, but this was big, and word spread throughout the VC community. I’ll never get another job,” said Kyle.
“Well, you are rich, so why does it matter?” said Rebecca.
“Because I like what I do. I just can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake.”
“Well, it wasn’t entirely your fault, Kyle. After all, Bernard did forge all of those signatures and created all the false statements. How were you to know?”
“You know I desperately want to ask you how you know that, but I’m not going to ask. Anyway, you’re right, but I still should have done more due diligence. I thought it was going to be my biggest win and went to fast. They were right to fire me. I lost the company over twenty-eight million dollars. Meanwhile, Bernard disappeared with all the money and is probably on some tropical island kicking back and having a good laugh,” said Kyle.
“Actually, Bernard is dead, Kyle,” said Rebecca. “He died yesterday in Connecticut.”
“Okay. How do you know that?”
“I’m not sure, but I know. I also know where the money is.”
“It is in an off-shore account in Bermuda.”
“Oh. Probably impossible to retrieve.”
“Maybe. Tell you what. I’m going to go get my things. You can eat your pizza, but don’t eat the whole thing. Not healthy. I need you fit. Anyway, I’ll be back.”
“Oh, okay. Do you need money for a cab?” said Kyle.
“No. I have plenty.”
Rebecca kissed Kyle and left.
Twenty minutes later, the pizza arrived. Kyle ate three slices and then wrapped the rest up and put it in the fridge. Ten minutes after that, Rebecca returned with a suitcase, an ancient looking suitcase that had clearly been abused.
“That’s all you have?” said Kyle.
“I don’t need much,” said Rebecca.
“Well, at least you can get out of your uniform. By the way, how old is that uniform?” Kyle had noticed that none of the other nurses in the hospital wore clothes like that and had wondered why Rebecca wore such a thing.
“I’ll do that,” said Rebecca, walking around the couch and standing in front of Kyle. She slowly removed her uniform in front of him.
Kyle could barely speak. He had never seen Rebecca naked.
“Do you want to help me find something to wear in the bedroom?” said Rebecca.
“Absolutely,” said Kyle.
The next day, Kyle received a call from Peter, one of the partners at his old company. Peter told Kyle that someone had left the twenty-eight million dollars in Barry Williams’ office in a neat pile, all hundreds. He said there was a note on the money that read, “Thought I’d get this back for you,” with no signature.
Kyle immediately thought of Rebecca, but didn’t see how she could possibly have done it. She had been with him all night.
Peter went on to say the firm was considering bringing Kyle back. Kyle paused for a while before he told Peter he was retiring.
Kyle asked Rebecca about it, but she claimed she knew nothing about it, but added that she was happy it happened. Kyle thought about pressing the matter, but decided he should just be happy the money had been returned.
“Let’s take a walk in the park,” said Kyle.
“I don’t know, Kyle. I think you should take it easy for a while.”
“I’m fine. Come on. It’s nice out and I’m sick of being inside.”
“Maybe just around here then,” said Rebecca.
“No way. This is no place to walk. It’s nice in the park. We can sit out on the grass and watch all the people. Maybe we can have a picnic. Anyway, we’ll take a cab there.”
“Okay, we can go to the park, but not for long, and no picnic.”
“What? Don’t you like doing romantic things?”
“I love romance, just not in the park. You know, now that you’re retired, maybe we could move somewhere outside the city. It’s so busy here and there is so much noise and pollution,” said Rebecca.
Kyle had two thoughts. First, Rebecca didn’t want to go to the park and probably had a very good reason why she didn’t want to go to the park. Second, Rebecca wanted out of the city. Kyle suspected she wanted to leave the city for the same reason she didn’t want to go to the park.
“You’re not telling me something,” said Kyle.
“Look, there is this man named Willem who goes to the park. He is an awful man and I hate to be around him. Anyway, he is in the park a lot, but he also travels around the city. I see him from time to time, and each time is worse than the last.”
“Oh. Is he an ex boyfriend?”
“God, no. But he is dangerous. If he sees you with me I don’t know what he’ll do.”
“Dangerous in what way? Violent? I can defend myself, you know. I have a black belt in Hapkido.”
“I don’t think that would save you from him, Kyle. Just trust me. Let’s just take a walk around the block. That should be safe. He doesn’t usually come down here.”
“Rebecca, I think you have to explain this further. What is it about seeing me with you that will set him off?”
“Oh, if he sees you on your own he will attack you too.”
“That’s just how he is. He attacks people like you.”
“Define people like me.”
“Let’s just take a walk. I’ll explain it to you later. Okay?”
Kyle didn’t press the issue further. “Okay, let’s go.”
They left Kyle’s apartment and walked down the block. Kyle could tell Rebecca was nervous. She kept looking around, presumably looking for this Willem character. As they were walking back to the apartment, Kyle heard someone say, “Hey, Kyle.” Kyle turned and saw a man he recognized, but couldn’t name.
“Holy, shit, man. When did you die?” said the man.
“I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name,” said Kyle.
“It’s me, Brian Wilcox. Remember? You funded my start-up.”
Suddenly, Kyle remembered, and when he did, he almost passed out. Brian Wilcox was dead.
“You’re dead,” said Kyle, mostly to himself.
“Yeah, well you’re half dead, pal, so I wouldn’t talk,” laughed Brian.
Kyle looked at Rebecca and noticed a horrified expression on her face.
“So, when did you die?” said Brian.
“Well, I didn’t die, technically, but it was about a week ago. Brian, tell me you’re not dead and that my memory is all screwed up,” said Kyle.
“Sorry. I am dead, and you’re a halfer now. That’s why you can see me. You know, you really shouldn’t be roaming around. I saw Willem about five blocks from here not long ago.”
Kyle took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Two questions. What the hell is a halfer and who the hell is this Willem guy?”
Brian looked at Rebecca and said, “You didn’t tell him?”
“Well, I told him Willem is dangerous and not to go to the park, but I didn’t say anything about him being a halfer,” said Rebecca.
“Do you two know each other?” said Kyle.
“Wow. You didn’t tell him, did you?” said Brian to Rebecca.
“Tell me what? What on earth is going on?”
Rebecca took Kyle’s hand and said, “I was going to tell you. I really was, and I am sorry you have to find out this way.”
“I’m listening,” said Kyle.
“I’m dead,” said Rebecca.
Kyle opened his eyes, finding himself in his apartment. Brian and Rebecca were standing beside the bed looking at him.
“We’re going to explain everything,” said Rebecca.
“So, I’m a halfer because I died and was revived. Both of you are dead. Willem is also dead and he kills halfers. Do I have that right? Oh, and you two do not know each other although you have seen each other before. I think that sums it up,” said Kyle, now sitting on the couch between Brian and Rebecca..
“Yes,” said Brian. “To be completely frank, you should leave the city. If Willem and his followers find you, they will drag you to their lair and kill you.”
“Lair? Followers? How many followers? Also, how can you tell that I’m a halfer?”
“Okay,” said Rebecca. “Willem and his five followers, all men, have a lair underground. You get to it through the subway tunnels. As for knowing you are a halfer, you have an aura. It’s violet and pretty strong, but only the dead and some of the more gifted living can see it. You’re aura is particularly strong because you died multiple times. We don’t see that often. Anyway, it means you are closer to the world of the dead than other halfers. That is why you can touch me. If you had only died once you would be able to see me, but not touch me.”
“Look, Kyle. If you stay in the city for any length of time, he or one of his followers are going to find you and they are going to hunt you down. I don’t think there is anything Rebecca or I can do to stop them. They are strong. Each time they kill a halfer, they grow stronger. They have killed many halfers. You see, Willem thinks that if he kills enough halfers he will be set free. I’m sure if he sees you, a halfer who has died three times, he will think that killing you alone will be enough to set him free. So, when I say you are in danger, I mean it. You are in grave danger.”
“Well, if I move somewhere won’t I run into other psychopathic ghosts?” said Kyle.
“Maybe not if you move somewhere remote,” said Brian. “I wouldn’t move to a big city. Look, Rebecca and I can do things that the living can’t do. We can go places with a thought. We can both obey or defy the laws of physics. We are immune to fire, electricity, and cold. As a halfer, you can do some things you couldn’t do when you were living, but nothing compared to us.”
“What can I do?” said Kyle.
“Well, you can make yourself invisible to the living and you can in some circumstances control the dead, but that power is very limited. You would stand no chance against Willem and his followers,” said Rebecca.
“Is there anything else?” said Kyle.
“If you are killed by one of the dead, you will become like us, stuck in this world. There might not be a way out. You see not all of the dead become what we are. Most move on. I don’t know where they go or why they are chosen to move on though. But, I know that halfers who are killed by the dead stay here. All of Willem’s followers were killed by Willem. Of course, Willem and his followers have killed many and all of them have chosen not to follow Willem. I should know. Willem killed me,” said Brian.
“He killed me too,” said Rebecca.
“He probably killed most of the dead who roam around this city,” said Brian.
“So, he is really powerful then. Can he hurt either of you?”
“No. He can’t touch us. We can’t touch him. So, we can’t protect you,” said Brian.
“So, I have to move,” said Kyle.
“Yes,” said Rebecca. “Somewhere remote.”
Kyle sighed. “Well, I’ve been thinking about getting a place in Montana. I guess that’s as good a place as any.”
“You know, I met a halfer from Montana a few weeks ago,” said Brian. “He talked about a small town—I mean a really small town—called Baker. It’s on the edge of the mountains. He owns a ranch there.”
“How small?” said Kyle.
“About fifty people.”
“I have a question. Why can’t I tell you two are dead?” said Kyle.
“You can if you try. I’ve had halfers figure it out before, but I don’t know how they did,” said Rebecca.
“Baker, Montana, huh? Well, let’s look it up,” said Kyle.
After a couple of hours on the computer and a call to a real estate agent who happened to be the sheriff of Baker, Kyle found a ranch that was on the western edge of the town. The owner and his wife had died in a plane crash. Kyle was surprise to learn that the owner was none other than Harvey Bernstein, a well known investor. Kyle hadn’t heard about his death. The Bernsteins had a son, Nathan who Kyle had met at a party some time back. The realtor/sheriff, Gary Teely, told Kyle that Nathan had never been a fan of the ranch and wanted to unload it.
The ranch, called The Lost Retreat, had over five thousand acres of land, a lake, a large log house with over eight thousand square feet, including an indoor pool, library, a shooting range in the basement, chef’s kitchen, a safe room, a fallout shelter behind the house that had over one thousand square feet of underground space. There were two other, smaller homes on the property, set away from the main house. One was occupied by the ranch hand, Ted Brockman. The other served as a guest house. Finally, there was a large barn. The Bernsteins owned three horses. They came with the property. The price? Fourteen million dollars and change.
Kyle made the offer sight unseen over the phone, offering twelve point six million. An hour later, Nathan accepted the offer and then called Kyle. The two caught up for a while. Nathan gave Kyle a pretty good description of life in Baker, not even the least bit reluctant to admit that he thought the place was boring beyond belief. He said the one interesting thing about the town was this guy named Larry Porter. Larry owned a bar in the center of town, if you could even call it a town. Nathan said Larry was certifiably insane and that he was always going on and on about seeing dead people, and was even more fond of claiming one of the local ranchers, Bert Sommers, was a ghost. Nathan said it wasn’t unusual for Larry to go on a drinking binge, take off all his clothes and run around screaming about ghosts. Despite that, Nathan said Larry was a pretty decent guy.
“Sounds interesting,” said Kyle after getting off the phone with Nathan, wondering what he was getting himself into. “You know, you should come, Brian. It would be good to have the company.”
“That’s a great idea,” said Rebecca. “The more dead the better,” she laughed.
Kyle thought about that for a second. His new girlfriend was dead. However, she was indistinguishable from a living person, so what did it matter?
“You know,” said Brian. “I’d be happy to visit from time to time. However, I travel a lot. There are many things I want to see. Hopefully I can get to everything before I move on. Well, yeah, you know, I think I am going to move on, so before I move on.”
“Too bad I can’t just teleport there,” said Kyle.
“Yeah,” said Rebecca. “But, we should be safe. Just get a cab to pick us up here and go to the airport. I doubt Willem will see us. When do we go?”“Well, I’m going to wire the money over today and then we can go pretty much any time. The place comes furnished. Nathan doesn’t want to keep anything, so we’re pretty much set.”