Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Six

Andi was practically singing on the way home from work. There’d been a break in the case—her break—and she was riding the high of success. Carrie had stayed behind to follow up on a few loose ends, but she was pretty sure they had their man.

It wouldn’t be right to say that private investigation was fun, with all the horrors it entailed, but something about it suited her. Some small thing that she could do to feel less powerless. Later she’d drag Carrie with her to the bar for company, and see if she could get lucky twice in one day. Weirder things had happened.

She froze as soon as she’d entered their apartment and closed the door behind her, aware of a presence that didn’t belong. She reached into her purse, but she hadn’t brought her gun. She’d been trying not to keep it on her since that night at the docks the month before.

The sensible thing to do would have been to back out and close the door, instead of taking curious steps forward. She realized this and prepared to retreat. Before she even could, a man came out of her kitchen. She froze.

“Knight’s Tower is missing,” he said, in an accent she didn’t recognize. “I knew this was going to happen, I didn’t think it would be this, but—I don’t even know if you remember.”

She realized that she recognized him, from posters and television and book covers. Andi’s heart beat against her ribs. “Why are you in my apartment?” she demanded.

Ghost Devlin, the Ghost Devlin, in the too-much-flesh, stepped closer. “You don’t remember.” It wasn’t a question. His hair was falling half in front of his face, his eyes wild.

“What am I supposed to remember?” She wanted to keep him talking, try to talk him down. She knew he was supposed to have had a psychotic break at some point, his grip on reality tenuous at best. He had powers, there wasn’t anything she could do in the face of someone with powers except try to talk her way out of it. He was looking her over, her jeans and her boots and her leather jacket.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked, his enunciation careful.

“You’re Ghost Devlin,” she said, “the Last King of Atlantis.” A glimmer of hope passed over his face. “I’ve read some of the books.” His jaw tightened, expression shattering into a worrying nothing.

“Okay,” he said. He took a deep breath, fists clenching and releasing. She took a step back. He looked like a man on the edge, and she didn’t want to be anywhere near it with him. “This will be a strange question, and I need you to answer me honestly, P—please.” His voice broke, but he rallied. “Your thirteenth birthday. What happened on your thirteenth birthday?”

The question felt personal and that made her feel a little sick. “Nothing?” she said, helpless. He listened more carefully than a single word required.

“Your parents?” he asked.

“Dead,” she said, unable to hide that the question upset her, hands balling into fists. It always upset her, but especially now, asked by him and like this. Like it was his business.

Shit.” He dragged his fingers through his hair, pressed his palms to the side of his head and dropped to a crouch with his head between his knees. “Oh, no. No no no.”

He looked like he was having an episode. She didn’t know of what. She only knew that it scared her, the fear of a man acting irrational and unstable. The fear she’d feel even if he weren’t a literal supervillain. “Do you need help?” she asked. She felt like she ought to do something, even if she were being menaced. People didn’t stop needing help just because they terrified her. She leaned a little closer, started to reach out but thought better of it.

“I can fix this,” he said, standing abruptly. She recoiled as he all at once took up all the space in the room. “I’ll fix this.”

“I don’t know what you’re—” He grabbed her wrist faster than she could react, and sheer instinct made her try to pull away.

“How did it happen?” he demanded. She felt hot and cold all over, his fingers digging into her skin. “When? I’m sorry, I really am, but I need you to tell me.”

“Fuck you,” she snapped before she could think better of it. He looked surprised.


Fuck you,” she said with venom, trying to claw his hand from hers with nails all bitten to the quick.

“I’m not complaining,” he said, remarkably conversational for the situation. “I’m not used to it. You’ve never been the type.”

“You don’t know me,” she said, trying to stomp at his leg. It had no apparent effect on him.

“Miss Bravo,” he said, slowly as if with great patience. “I’m sure I could look it up. What happened to your parents?”

She was tearing up, and she rubbed irritably at her eyes with the palm of her free hand. “Someone broke into our house and killed them while I was at school,” she said. “Some serial killer or something. We never—they never caught him.”


“I was eleven,” she spat.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and she almost believed him. “You are friends with Miss Davenport?” he asked.

She stiffened. “Leave her out of it,” she said. “I don’t know what you want, but leave her out of it.”

He held up a staying hand. “Okay. That’s fine. Just checking. Chronofist, you’re friends with Chronofist?”

She frowned. “The superhero?” Of all the heroes to have brought up, that was a random one. She’d never heard anything about Ghost Devlin fighting with Chronofist. They had a much weirder stable of villains, as a rule.

“Shit,” he said again. “No, this is fine. You know of Chronofist. That’s something.”

“I don’t know Chronofist,” she stressed. “If you want to fight Chronofist, there’s no reason to involve me. I’m a private investigator, I don’t do hero stuff.”

His hold on her loosened, and she dared to hope.

The front door opened, and Carrie froze when she saw them.

“Hello,” Ghost said.

Carrie started fumbling through her bag for her gun.

“Shit,” Ghost said, grabbing Andi by the waist and throwing her over his shoulder. She yelped in protest before all the air was knocked out of her. “Sorry,” he said, before running to the balcony, sliding the door open, and leaping down to the street.

“Put me down,” she shouted, hitting her fist against his spine.


“I don’t get involved with hero stuff!” She was breathless as she watched the ground beneath them move, jamming her eyes shut before she could get motion sick. The bouncing of her stomach against his shoulder didn’t help, his arm around her legs and holding on to one of her thighs. “I’m not going to be any use as a hostage.”

“Maybe I like the pleasure of your company,” he suggested.

Why?” That was the thing she didn’t understand, the why of it. It felt completely random. She’d have understood if they’d been investigating him, if he’d been a suspect, if she’d done anything at all that involved him.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said, which didn’t surprise her. She opened her eyes, glimpsed how far they’d gotten from the ground, and jammed her eyes shut again. “If this works, you never will.”

“What could killing me possibly accomplish?” she asked. She didn’t want to be pleading, but she was. Everything about this was bad, but the worst part was how senseless it all felt.

He set her down, and her legs almost gave out as she took in the rooftop on which they stood. Wind was whipping at her jacket. Her heart stopped with the certainty that his hands were about to wrap around her throat to choke her, but he held her face instead, green eyes bright with what could only be madness. “You will not die while I live,” he said, solemn.

“Bullshit,” she said, pulling away enough that she could rub at her eyes again.

“You don’t have to believe me.” He pulled out his phone, and she was tempted to slap it out of his hand. He was so casual about it, taking her hostage and then getting his phone out to text. This was just another day for him, she was sure. A day job as boring as any other.

“Can you at least try to explain this to me?” she asked. “All I want to know is why I’m here.” He ignored her, still on his phone. She swallowed. “I’m scared,” she tried, and it was true. At that, he looked up and put his phone away. He grabbed her hands and started kissing her knuckles. She shivered and didn’t know what she was feeling.

“So am I,” he said. It hardened her certainty that he was having some kind of episode. “Chronofist will be here to save you soon,” he said.

“You don’t have to do this,” she tried.

“I really do,” he said.

“I’m not anyone.”

“You’re a normal girl,” he agreed hoarsely. “Extremely normal.” He squeezed her hands, and the intimacy felt wrong. He was looking at her like she knew something she didn’t, something she didn’t want to know. He pulled her close, and she went rigid as he spun her around to hold her back against his chest, grabbing her neck. She pulled at his hand.

Chronofist was wearing what might have once been a leather motorcycle riding suit, which was now covered in too many buckles. Instead of a mask, they wore a reflective chrome band over their eyes.

“This is super weird,” Chronofist said, which felt anticlimactic. They spread their hands in confusion. “I don’t know either of you people.”

“You want to save her?” Ghost asked, his voice booming in Andi’s ear.

“On principle, sure,” Chronofist said.

“How much control do you have?” he asked. “If I need a specific time, can you do that?”

“Give or take a couple months,” Chronofist said with a shrug. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not gonna work. The timeline’s got an equilibrium, or I’d have punched someone back to kill Hitler by now.”

“I’m counting on it. Left fist to go back, yes?”

Chronofist flicked their left hand with their right, and flickered out of existence for a second. “That’s the idea.”

Ghost splayed his fingers out over Andi’s neck, tilted her head back and brushed his lips against her ear. “Give me the date.”


“You were eleven, that’s a year. I need a month.”

She still didn’t understand what was happening. She only knew that she was upset, that she felt sick and she hated everything about this. “September,” she said, angry with herself for the tears running down her face. “The first day of school.”

“I’ll fix it,” he said, and she was shaking with fury and confusion. How dare he. What gave him the right?

“Fuck off,” she croaked, and her whole body shuddered when he pressed a kiss to her temple.

“You heard her,” he called. “Fifteen years ago, let’s err on the side of early. I let her go, and you send me back.”

“Why should I?” they asked.

“Because you want to see what will happen,” Ghost said, sounding almost amused. “Because I cannot die, and if you miss, I can wait as long as it takes to come back.”

“Fair points,” they shrugged.

“I’ll see you again,” he murmured, and then he all but tossed Andi aside, onto the roof and out of the way.

She watched as Chronofist got a running start, left fist cocked.

Ghost had already known where Andi’s parents lived, in the suburbs outside Midton. He’d looked it up as a precaution. Didn’t want to risk accidentally running into her parents. It seemed like something he might do. He’d written it down, along with other notes he’d taken about her.

Social media changed as much as anything else. His journals didn’t. Writing down details about important people kept him from losing them. It was a rational series of decisions that had led to keeping a journal filled with things like her addresses and birthday and hobbies, the way she got her powers and her grandmother’s maiden name. Sketches of her face and the way her nose crinkled when she was irritated.

This whole situation proved he’d been justified. He was sitting in an old oak tree because most people didn’t notice someone sitting in a tree. That was a mistake. He was proving it by sitting here, chain-smoking cigarettes and staring intently at the Bravo family home.

He’d been waiting weeks for this day, living the way he had in the old days, odd jobs and small robberies. It was fine. As far as anyone here knew, he was still doing time for the Reagan debacle. He felt unpleasantly sober. He’d had a headache for two weeks before time changed, and there’d only been a brief window before a new headache had returned. This one, at least, signified nothing but his body’s rebellion at a loss of self-medication. It felt like years of stifled pain returning all at once, like it had been hiding under the surface this entire time. His only comfort was that it wasn’t too far in the past, and he’d figure out a way to score sooner than later.

It was a suburb. Someone around here had some oxy, at the very least. He was old, not stupid.

It was a relief to see someone he recognized. Someone who didn’t belong.

Ghost dropped out of his tree, and stalked toward his target. He held out his hands in the universal sign for ‘what the fuck’.

“Really, Mr. Paul?” he called.

The man in question froze.

“I felt bad for you, Mr. Paul,” he said, pulling a knife off his belt. “I felt guilty about killing you! Did you know that?” He threw it in time to catch the man’s hand, eliciting a scream as he dropped his gun.

“I liked you!” Ghost added, still moving closer as the other man backed away. He kicked the gun away as he unsheathed his machete. “I thought you were a good neighbor.” He slashed toward his stomach, but the erstwhile assassin managed to dodge it, bolting sideways to start running. Ghost started to run after him, machete still in hand. His focus was singular, leaping after him over fences and through backyards.

Mr. Paul seemed to realize that he wouldn’t win in a test of agility. He started running through a cul-de-sac, an empty stretch of road. He didn’t win a test of speed, either. Ghost might have been a loser, but these weren’t the things he lost. He kept his head; Mr. Paul didn’t. Adrenaline and super-strength and a sharp almost-sword all conspired to slice straight through the man’s neck, barely hesitating at the spine.

Ghost caught the head, and threw it at the ground in a fit of pique. It didn’t make him feel better when he kicked it, either. He kicked the headless body in the ribs and broke a few of them. He yanked the knife out of the corpse’s hand.

He was going to need to clean this up.

He circled back to the Bravo house first. He couldn’t bring himself to put the machete away. He might need it. Walking through a suburb with a bloody machete was going to get attention. Maybe that was better. Cops around on high alert, no faux serial killers lurking to change the timeline again. Ghost would be able to get away. They wouldn’t even be able to prove it was him. He had the airtight alibi of being in prison.

Crouching in the grass, he looked in the kitchen window. Andi’s father was cooking something; nothing amiss there. He crept around and peered in another window, found Andi’s mother in an office typing on an old computer. A new computer. Whatever.

The next room had posters of musicians and superheroes on the wall. Ghost sheathed his machete. He wiped the blood off the knife against his thigh, then used it to lever the screen out of the window. He jimmied the latch, and it clicked open without incident. Carefully, he pulled himself inside.

He was scouting. Making sure no one was lurking under her bed, was all.

There was nothing under her bed but shoes. Her desk was covered in homework. There was a Chilean rose tarantula in a terrarium on her desk. It made him smile. She’d never mentioned it. Why would she? It was cute. A little girl with a pet spider. Of course she was.

He checked her bookshelf. It was mostly Japanese comics and books with dragons on the cover. He opened a shoebox and found a copy of 100% True Tales of Terror. The version of him on the cover had shorter hair and no earrings. It only barely resembled him, with a dimple in his chin and perfect teeth.

He reached into the saddlebag strapped to his thigh and found a pen. He opened to his story, near the middle of the issue, and held the pen cap in his teeth as he signed it.

Stupid. An absolute, grade-A moron.

He felt lighter as he slipped back out the window, shut it, and put back the screen. He was almost whistling as he retrieved Mr. Paul’s head, and started dragging his body into the decorative woods surrounding a culvert near the houses.

… fifteen years. He had to relive fifteen years. What could he even do, without threatening the future he’d known? People would die, and he would see it coming. What could he do? Who could he save? What were his obligations, being here and wanting someday to go home?

How did a person go about investing when they were supposed to be in prison?