Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Four

Ghost showed up for their date wearing combat boots and a bomber jacket. Andi wore a circle swing dress with knee socks. They were accidentally a very 50s couple, or a TV’s idea of the 50s.

“Am I overdressed?” she asked, looking down at herself.

“I would usually prefer you to wear less,” he said. She bopped him with her purse. David, who could hear them from his spot on the futon, wolf-whistled.

“Stop being a sitcom,” she demanded through the door before shutting it behind her. “You’ve been a very bad influence on Jesús,” she said as they took the elevator down.

“I’m a bad man,” he agreed. He wrapped his arm around her waist and nuzzled at her hair. “I’ve been enjoying the pictures you sent me,” he murmured.

“Hopefully not in front of Jesús,” she mumbled.

“… I put him in the other room,” he admitted, and she laughed.

“That’s the best,” she said.

“Miss Bravo,” he said, “you should know that I plan on kissing you before the night is over.”

“Oh.” It was the hand-holding all over again, chaste and yet somehow not. “Is that all?” she asked, anxiety pitching her voice higher.

“That’s up to you,” he breathed into her ear, making her knees go all to jelly.

“Cool,” she said, uncoolly. She worried that she was crossing some kind of line by not telling him who she was. A single date on a whim was one thing, but this felt like more. Too much.

He ran his fingers through the seams between hers again, splitting them apart in that unnecessarily evocative way. She pointedly spread her fingers wide and squeezed his hand. He grinned. Her heart was thumping when they left the privacy of the elevator, leading her through streets she already knew.

“Did you ever find the guy you were looking for?” she wondered. “Was it who you thought?”

“Must’ve been mistaken,” he lied, and she pursed her lips but didn’t press the issue. “Sorry you had to walk home without me.”

“I’m over it,” she lied. “Do I get to know where you’re taking me?”

“A Greek place I like,” he said. “You like Greek food?”

“I like most food,” she said.

“You may have been here before,” he warned her.

“I haven’t been with you.”

He stopped and pulled her close to him, the flow of pedestrian traffic passing around them. “I want to take you to all my favorite places,” he said with surprising intensity. “New York and Brazil and Metro City.”

“I don’t think I can go to Metro City,” she reminded him.

“I’ll take you to New York before it’s gone, and Metro City when it comes back.” He squeezed her hands against his chest. “I’ll remember for you, if you forget. We’ll take the bullet train to Panama and catch a zeppelin to Punta Arenas, and I’ll show you the mountains at the end of the world.”

She didn’t have the heart to tell him there wasn’t a bullet train to Panama, let alone any zeppelins. She hated it a little bit when he spoke Spanish, even place names. His accent was better than hers, and it embarrassed her.

“That’s a lot of travel,” she said.

“Say the word, and I’ll take you anywhere.”

Wasn’t that a bit much for a second date?

“Greek food works for now,” she assured him.

He remembered himself and started weaving her through the crowd again, hand-in-hand.

The Greek place was a dive. It might have looked trendy in the 40s, but she had a hunch it had always looked sketchy. The vinyl covering the seat of every booth was cracked and peeling. The tables were covered in stained tablecloths. Most of the decor looked like it didn’t used to be brown, but was now; she could almost guarantee they used to allow smoking and hadn’t done a deep clean since.

“How often do you come here?” she asked, allowing for the possibility that it wasn’t what he remembered.

“When I can,” he said, clarifying nothing. He sat down at a booth without waiting to be seated. “I was in the other week.”

“Okay,” she said, taking that for an answer. She was assuming this meant the food would be spectacular, because that’s what a restaurant that looked like this staying open usually meant. A hunched and grey-haired woman appeared from the back, waddling with stiff hips.

“Ghost!” She shook a scolding finger at him. “Did you bring another woman here?”

Andi was hit like a freight train with the realization that this woman, who could be her great-grandmother, could also be Ghost’s ex.

“I did,” Ghost said, chewing on a toothpick he’d grabbed out of the holder. “This is Andi—Andi, this is Betty. She’s my best girl.” He waggled his eyebrows.

“He’s been saying that for forty years now,” Betty said, “trying to scam free baklava out of me.”

“And it works,” he said, looking pleased with himself. She smacked Ghost on the shoulder.

“You want the usual?” Betty asked. She had not bothered bringing out menus. Andi felt adrift.

“Iced tea and a gyro for her,” Ghost said without asking. She thought about kicking him under the table. “Does that sound good?”

“Sure!” she said cheerfully because that felt polite. It was even true. She still would have preferred to choose something herself.

“I’ll get that right out,” Betty said, heading back into the kitchen.

“She won’t,” Ghost mouthed. “I usually get dolmades and moussaka,” he explained. “But the gyro is good. Greek coffee is terrible, but I like it.”

“Forty years, huh?” she teased. “I thought you would have been coming here since the 50s.”

“I didn’t last long in the 50s,” Ghost shrugged. “Not after I decked McCarthy.”

“You did not.”

“I remember doing it,” he said. “It’s why I finally went running off to Atlantis. It was a good plan, until time broke. Why’d you think I ran off?”

She frowned. “I guess I don’t know. Because you were in love?”

“I loved a lot of people I didn’t marry.”

Andi smiled as Betty brought out their tea. Ghost immediately started pouring sugar packets into his.

“I don’t really have any cool stories,” Andi said. She did, but they were all Coatimundi stories. Ghost didn’t have a secret identity. All his stories were his. Andi Bravo was who she was while staying home playing video games. She liked herself fine, but she didn’t have a lot to contribute to stories about punching anti-Communist crusaders and marrying into underwater royalty. “I can burp the alphabet,” she suggested. “I’m not gonna, so you have to take my word for it, but I can.”

“I believe you,” he said, propping his chin up on his hands to watch her. “What does a normal girl do for fun?” he wondered.

Not fight crime. “Um.” Definitely not fight crime. “I listen to a lot of podcasts,” she said.

“No going out on the town for drinking and dancing?”

“Sometimes,” she said, stirring less sugar into her tea than he had. “I like bonfires,” she said. “And camping. The kind of camping with a river and a cooler that has its own float. I like rollercoasters. Parties are okay but I mostly like watching other people have fun. That sounds like a terrible introvert meme, sorry.”

Ghost pulled a battered leather notebook out of the pocket of his jacket, a pencil tucked into the spine. It was the one he’d been drawing slugs in, before. He was still chewing his toothpick. She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Are you taking notes?”

“Something like that,” he said, flipping his notebook open.

“Now I feel like I’m being interviewed,” she said.

“I might have to remind you later,” he said, pencil scratching against paper. “Don’t you like to have your own fun?” he wondered.

“I do,” she said defensively. “I’m lots of fun. I do all sorts of fun stuff.” She swirled her straw through her tea and watched the ice cubes. “I don’t like being the center of attention,” she said finally. “I like to observe and… pick my moments.” She looked at him, his attention split between her and his busy pencil. “I guess you can relate?”

“A bit,” he agreed. “Is it because you know you’re better?”

She blinked. “Better at what?”

“Everything,” he said. “Pretty, funny, smart. If they paid you too much attention, they’d notice. They might start to resent you for being better than they are.”

She sipped at her tea. “I think you’re overestimating me,” she managed finally. “I’m not even the smartest person in my apartment.”

“You’re creative,” he said. “You’re good at creative solutions.”

“Says who?”

He paused. “I can tell,” he said. He flipped the page, pencil moving again. “My intuition is good.”

“Is that why you asked me out?” she asked. He grinned.

“You’re pretty,” he said plainly. “You smell nice.”

“That’s a weird thing to notice about someone you just met,” she protested, ignoring that she’d done the same thing.

“You’re extremely normal,” he continued, “but not too normal to go on a date with me.”

“Yeah,” she agreed weakly.

“There is something about you,” he said, “that called to me. Something familiar.”

“Oh.” She felt awkward about lying to him all over again.

Betty finally brought out their dolmades before disappearing into the back again.

“She was never quick,” Ghost confided, setting his journal aside. Andi wanted to snatch it away to look at it but thought that might be too personal. She didn’t want to be nosy. Except that she did.

“What do you do for fun?” she asked.

“Drugs,” he said, and she choked. “Lots of drugs.”

“Neat,” she squeaked. “You seem… lucid.” She clamped her mouth shut.

“That’s the drugs,” he agreed with a slow nod.

“Like… prescription?” she asked hopefully.

“I have been self-medicating since before most of these doctors were alive,” Ghost scoffed, picking up a grape leaf. “I’ve discovered more drugs than they’ve taken,” he said, popping it into his mouth.

“Cool,” she said, feeling like the nerd in an after-school special about peer pressure. “That sounds like something that’s definitely under control.”

He licked his fingers. “I have a system,” he shrugged. “And I can’t die,” he reminded her.

“That’s true,” she said warily.

“There is a specific fungus,” he said, “that grows only on a particular carnivorous plant, the Dragon’s Mouth. If you’re attentive, Dragon’s Mouth gets big enough that you can feed it a poisonous tree frog. The leaves of the Dragon’s Mouth become toxic, but the fungus, small amounts in strong coffee will make you believe that you can see the underlying framework of the cosmos. You feel enlightened. You aren’t. You’re very stupid. Everything you write in this state is childishly wrong. But you become very sure that you’re correct. There are scientists now using some of my samples to try and create a new medicine for anxiety, they tell me. Mostly they are killing mice. They’re working on it.”

“That’s really cool,” she said softly, and she meant it this time. He’d grown animated while he spoke, gesturing and making little puppet motions with his hands. It was rare to see this kind of enthusiasm from him. Intensity or aggression, but not the way he lit up trying to explain a fungus. “How’d you learn about it?”

“In Guyana—there’s still Guyana?” She nodded confirmation that they hadn’t misplaced a country. “There was a tribe, they would feed it spiders. Small spiders. I wanted to see what would happen. I had already been licking frogs, recreationally.”


“I was immortal by then, so the poison ones only made me seize, usually.”

“… right.”

“I thought there might be some useful information in how it felt, but it turns out that when you’re immortal and something shuts your body down, it all just turns into seizures. Interesting, but not useful. It shuts down the nerves, though! That happens to everyone. I had thought, filtered through the plant and then the fungus, it might make a painkiller. I’m always looking for painkillers.”


“Instead it only—it did something to inhibitors. I don’t know, the details are a little…” He wiggled his hand in the air to indicate a general fuzziness. “I don’t do it often, it’s fun at the time but when you see your notes afterward it makes you feel bad. Emotionally. Once I’d gone through all my newspapers circling all the bits about dogs. Dogs are the key! I’d written it all over. I thought dogs were interdimensional beings, that was why we could talk to them. We can’t, I know that now, but at the time I was—you call it ‘tripping balls’ now, I was absolutely tripping balls.”

She giggled despite herself. Ghost grabbed his notebook and pencil again. She didn’t want to giggle, even though he thought this was a funny story. She also didn’t want to be a prude about it by pointing out that this all sounded harmful. It couldn’t have been pure curiosity driving him to lick toxic frogs and feel his body struggling not to shut down. He’d called it recreational.

Whatever people thought about her—wholesome, they were always using the word wholesome—she wasn’t any kind of just-say-no crusader. She’d smoked weed before and hadn’t cared for it. She knew addicts of all kinds, only one or two of them supervillains.

It was the dying. The almost dying. The cavalier way he treated his own body, his own pain. Drugs as the first thing he’d gone to when asked about fun, not art or books or his botanical experiments. He hadn’t said ‘gardening’. Just drugs, some of them not even drugs. Some of them poison. His body as a receptacle for new and interesting kinds of pain, hurting himself as a hobby.

Betty dropped off Ghost’s moussaka and Andi’s gyro. Most of the plate was full of rice.

“Would you want to go hiking with me?” she asked. “There’s a national park not far out of the city, and… maybe we could go. If you want.”

He grinned at her as he dug into his food. “Worried about me?” he teased.

“It’s—you make it sound like you sit at home getting high all day. Wow, that sounded judgey. I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, if you’re getting high all day and playing video games, that’s cool, actually. I know a lot of people who do that. But if you’re staring at the wall, that seems like a problem.” She tried a bite of gyro and rice.

It was good. Not transcendent or anything. About what you would expect from gyro. It was a difficult food to make taste bad. This left her trying to parse whether Ghost thought this food was transcendent, or if he was only loyal. There was something cute about that, if so. If he’d once been a supervillain trying to wheedle free baklava out of the local Greek place and then kept it up for another forty years.

“I get out,” he assured her. “I eat. I read.”

“I know,” she said, feeling defensive about her own assumptions.

“I’d like to go hiking with you,” he said, “if that’s an invitation.”

She crossed her ankles under the table. “It is.”


“Do you bring a lot of dates here?” she asked. She immediately felt like she was being too obvious.

“I don’t go on many dates,” he said with a rakish smile.


“We usually skip this part.”

“Oh.” She turned her attention to her food, turning pink. “You’re more into hookups, then,” she said. For some reason she felt like saying it would make her seem more worldly, as if he might otherwise assume she didn’t know that hookups existed.

“I don’t have a lot to talk about with most people,” he said, which wasn’t at all what she’d expected.

She toyed with her fork. “Is it that you thought we’d have something to talk about, or is it that you thought you could bluff your way through to get to the good part?” She braved a glance upward, but he didn’t look offended. He was watching her, the way he so often seemed to be watching her. A man used to watching things and committing them to memory.

“There is something about you,” he said again, “that called to me.”

“I wish I knew what it was,” she murmured.

“Maybe it was your heart.”

She snorted, then covered her mouth. “Sorry,” she said. “That was. It seemed like a cheesy line. Sorry.”

“It was,” he agreed. “I meant it. You’re clever, but you’re kind. You see something in me. I don’t know what it is, but I like that you see it. It feels important.”

“I think you’re better than you think you are,” she said. She thought that about most people, but especially about him. She couldn’t believe that Ghost Devlin was ever supposed to be the bad guy. That wasn’t who he was.

“I think you’re smart enough to know better,” he said.

“You might have a blind spot,” she said.

There was a growing sound of panic and screaming from down the street. Andi dropped her fork and looked up, ready to leap out of the booth. Ghost noticed at the same time that she did, but he reached across the table to grab her hand.

“Wait here,” he said.

Oh, no, she thought as she watched him stand and run out of the door. She was supposed to be normal.

No. This had gone too far. She slid out of the booth to run after him, before realizing he hadn’t paid for lunch yet. She hesitated, then dug into her purse to find a credit card. She left it behind on the table and hoped for the best as she ran into the street.

Pedestrians were running down the sidewalks, drivers leaving their cars to flee on foot. There was a great red cloud descending.

Andi squinted.

Were those… butterflies?

“Andi!” Ghost grabbed her by the wrist, and pulled her into the little space between the Greek place and the shop next to it. “I told you to wait where it was safe,” he said, taking her face in his hands. “You are very normal. Remember?”

She held his arms. “I’m not, though,” she admitted, gently pushing his hands away. “You should close your eyes, don’t touch me, it’s dangerous.” She clapped her hands in front of her chest, and he let her go as warmth and light all wrapped around her. She bit her lip as she waited for his reaction when his eyes opened, her ears pinned back against her hair.

His smile was rueful. “So soon, Pizote?”

Her brow furrowed. “You’re not—” She froze. “Did you know?” she accused, voice small.

He shrugged.

“Wh… when? When did you know?”

“You think that I would ever not know you?”

That felt like getting stabbed in the heart. Her face burned with mortification.

He must have thought she was a moron.

She blinked away any upset she might have felt because there was a situation to be dealt with and that meant feelings could wait.

“We’ll talk about this later,” she said, pushing away from him.


“Don’t call me that,” she snapped, running into the street. She still wasn’t clear why everyone was running.

“My eyes!” someone screamed, falling to his knees with a cloud of butterflies around his head. She managed to chase them away, swatting at butterflies with her hands.

“Why are you getting out of your cars?” she yelled at someone running by.

“Because everyone was running and I didn’t understand what was happening!” they yelled back, not slowing down.

“That’s fair,” Coatimundi said.

“They’re drinking tears,” Ghost said, observing the mass of fluttering red wings.

“That’s a really weird assumption to go to first!” she called, trying not to bristle at his very presence.

“I’ve only ever seen it with turtles,” he continued. His mess of an accent, which she had realized now was actually three accents stacked on top of each other under a trenchcoat, managed to go all over the place in the word ‘turtle’. She wanted him to say it again, except that she wanted him to shut up because she was angry with him. “Not usually so aggressive, butterflies.”

“Yeah! I know!” She batted more of them away from her face before realizing she looked too much like a housecat. “I don’t suppose you know any cool gardening tricks to get rid of these?”

“Butterflies aren’t pests,” he shrugged apologetically.

“Shoot.” She wanted to be angry at him for being unhelpful, but her heart wasn’t in it. “Maybe we can wait for them to disperse.” There was a sharp pain in her hand, and she squeaked in alarm, waving the butterfly off of it. “It bit me!”

Ghost stood straighter. “Really? I’ve never heard of that.”

“Okay, I can’t wait for the tear-drinking vampire butterflies to disperse,” she decided. “But I can’t take them out one at a time, either.”

Ghost made a small gesture with both hands that she briefly thought was meant to indicate waving a flag. He corrected her by saying, “Net?”

“Oh my gosh.” She looked down at her hands. “Video games have been training me my whole life for this moment.” She clenched her fists. “Where do you even buy a butterfly net?”

It was not until after a great deal of tedious butterfly netting that Coatimundi was finally able to sit down and fume. She needed to go back to the restaurant and get her credit card, but the thought of returning to the site of their date was too much to bear. She sat on a big blue mailbox and thought about texting David. David would understand. She’d never hear the end of it from Carrie.

Ghost Devlin did her the second indignity of approaching on foot, at street level, so that she could see him coming. The decent thing to do would have been to surprise her. This way she had to think about what she was going to say, none of it adequate. He had the gall to lean against the mailbox, and she turned her knees away from him.

“You must think I’m really stupid,” she said finally.

You are the one who lied about yourself, remember.”

“You started it!” she argued. “You acted like you didn’t recognize me. You flirted with me.”

“I wanted to see what you’d do,” he said. “You lied.”

“It isn’t like that,” she insisted, feeling ready to burst into tears. She was the wronged party, here, and he was turning it all around and making it her fault with facts. “I thought you liked me.” She grabbed her tail, trying to stroke the fur flat. “You swept me off my feet and I thought—were you making fun of me?”

“Little bit,” he said, like a fist in her chest. He left one hand on the mailbox and moved to put the other on the other side of her hips so that she couldn’t turn away from him entirely. She kept her head aggressively leftward to compensate. “My life is yours, Pizote,” he said, which he’d said before but which she resented now.

“That was mean,” she said feebly.

“I’m not nice,” he agreed. He leaned closer, looking up at her, and it was hard not to look back. The sun was getting low, not low enough for the street lights yet. “A pretty girl fell into my arms, and I saw a chance to have a little fun.”

“Mean,” she repeated.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Andi Bravo, Coatimundi. Would Coatimundi join me at the waterfront? Win me prizes, hold my hand, steal my shirt? No. I would not insult her with the offer. If Andi Bravo wishes to pretend she doesn’t know me, who am I to contradict her? If it means I can be close to you, I’ll swallow whatever lie you see fit to serve me.”

She was still avoiding eye contact, turning pink. “I wanted you to like me.”

“I do like you.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You think you owe me. You know me, at least a little. I thought you didn’t know me. I thought you just saw me and… you liked me.”

He tilted his head with a sideways lean closer to the center of her vision, getting a good look at her face. “You want me to tell you you’re pretty?”

“Don’t make fun of me,” she said, gripping her tail with her shoulders hunched.

“You think I don’t like your little skirts? Didn’t save those pictures you sent me?” His left hand touched the top of one of her stockings, fingers lightly stroking behind the bend in her knee. She shivered, trying to take a deep and calming breath.

“It’s a thing villains do, you know,” she said, finally meeting his eyes. “Not all of them. They—it isn’t really flirting. We fight, and they try to make these implications. They think it’ll scare me. Or it’s a joke, that they’re these worldly villains and I’m me. Which sucks, but it’s also… they flirt with Helen. You know? It’s still menacing, but they mean it, because she’s hot. Everyone knows she’s hot. I don’t get to do that. If anyone thought I did, that would be funny.” She let her tail go to pat at her cutesy skirt, kick her cutesy shoes.

His hand curled under her knee and made her breath stop. She pressed her fists down on her skirt as he ran his hand down her calf, lifted it so it stuck straight out with her toes pointed and his grip on her ankle.

He pressed a kiss to the thin stocking over her ankle bone.

“I plan on kissing you before the night is over,” he reminded her.

“I’m still angry with you,” she said shakily.

“Wanna fight about it?”

“I’d win.” That wasn’t bragging. She always won. People liked to pretend it only counted when it was punching, but she always won when it came to punching, too. Everyone liked to forget that part, it seemed like.

“If you wanted,” he agreed. He’d dropped her ankle, and somehow his hips had made their way between her knees, his hands on her thighs. “Unless I make you want to be a loser like me.”

“You’re not,” she protested.

“Honey, I’ve lost more lifetimes than you’ve got years,” he said. “I drag everybody down who’s dumb enough to keep me. You doing the smart thing, or are you letting me make you worse?” His nose was nearly touching hers, his crooked hook next to her dainty button. She didn’t know how she was supposed to respond.

“It’s really funny when you say turtle.”

That wasn’t how she was supposed to respond.

He grinned. “Turtle.”

She giggled, and he caught the sound of it with his mouth. His hands framed her face, callouses against her cheeks, holding her hair back against her temples. She gripped the lapels of his jacket. Her legs wrapped around his waist, and he made a muffled sound of alarm as she squeezed a little too tight. When they broke apart, he pressed his forehead to hers.

“Is this you?” he wondered, pulling back enough to run a finger down her nose, over her eyebrows.

“Yeah,” she said. “The costume’s extra—I don’t always have the costume. The tail and everything are normal, though. I have to hide those, except when I’m home. We shouldn’t be doing this in the street.”

“And what is it that we’re doing in the street?”

She unwrapped her legs, though there were no demure options when he was pressed up between her thighs and pinning her to a mailbox. “Kissing? Necking. Making out. We’re not—it felt like this was going somewhere.”

“Would you like it to?”

“Now you’re giving me time to think about it, which complicates things.”

He gave her a quick kiss. “I can wait,” he assured her.

“I don’t know if I want to wait.”

“Then I do,” he shrugged, making her pout. “Your wish is my command, Pizote. You need only say the word.”

Saying words was hard.

“I meant it,” she said. “About hiking.”

“I know.” He laced his fingers with hers, less an insinuation in his touch this time. “Lead, and I will follow.”