Behind her, Eric staggered out of the vortex and the portal collapsed in on itself.
“Ready?” Carmen asked.
He nodded. She opened the door to the morgue. The smell of death and chemicals wafted out. Inside, a Middle Eastern woman with greying dark hair stood next to an autopsy table with a body bag on it. She didn’t look happy.
“After all these years, I was starting to think you were never going to call in that favor,” she said.
“Oh, Maryam, I always collect my debts,” Carmen said, and nodded at the body bag. “Is that it?”
“Him,” Maryam replied. “Not ‘it’. If you’re going to make me do this, you can at least show a little respect.”
“I’m very sorry, dear,” Carmen replied. “I know I’m putting you in a difficult position. But trust me, I wouldn’t be asking this of you if it weren’t a matter of utmost importance. Can I see him, please?”
Maryam hesitated a moment, then unzipped the bag, revealing a middle-aged man with thinning blond hair. Maryam placed two gloved fingers on his chest and her eyes glowed.
“He died of a heart attack,” she said. “He was living on the streets at the time. No next of kin. He’s scheduled for cremation in the morning, so please be quick about… whatever it is you’re going to do.”
She headed for the door. As she passed by Angela, their eyes met. Maryam’s face suddenly melted away, and Angela could see her skull, her brain, the wall behind her, the city beyond that, and finally the void of space.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Memories flitted around in her head; sitting on Carmen’s lap as a child, learning how to control her abilities. Angela opened her eyes. Everything was back to normal. Maryam was gone.
“You finished?” Carmen asked.
“Uh, yeah,” Angela replied.
She joined Eric and Carmen by the table. She angled her body slightly away from them so didn’t have to look too closely at the body. Carmen set her book on the table and it flipped open.