I wrote this about 10 years ago. Must have watched a lot of Magnum back then. The "little voice" by the way, is based on a real person, my friend Sandi. I still can't read this without hearing her speak the lines. Since she was responsible for getting me into fandom in the first place, I guess it's fitting that she be so honored. (Take that anyway you want it, Sandi.) The story was originally published in The Osiris Files, No. 2, edited by Joy Harrison, a really nice 'zine, if you ask me. Joy is a great editor to work with. She really made me look good! There may even be a few copies of this 'zine floating around somewhere. I'd recommend giving it a look.

At the end of the 1986/1987 television season, Thomas Magnum lay dying. He'd said his good-byes, and turned his back on life. His friend Mac was dead, and had convinced him that he was too. Mortally wounded, how could he possibly survive?

Limbo and Little Voices

by Kathie Hughes

"Magnum, I thought this might be of some interest to you," the voice droned on as the private investigator drifted farther and farther from his hospital room. The bullets that had put him there seemed less real than the clouds that surrounded him. What was Higgins going on about? A pint of stout? Wearily Thomas Magnum tried to focus on the sounds. Other voices floated around him. My mother? When did she come? Nurses? He couldn't tell.

Frankly, he didn't care.

"Keep trying," someone said. " In cases like this we have no idea how much the patient can hear or understand. What you say may be enough to keep him with us."

Magnum grinned to himself. Why bother. He felt perfectly comfortable where he was.

"Magnum! I demand that you come back immediately!"

Higgins again, giving orders as usual -- but he seemed so far away. With a shrug, Magnum sauntered deeper into the clouds. With Mac's help, he had set his life in order and said his farewells as best he could.

Now it was time to go...

With a last glance, and a wry smile, he was gone.




All alone, Magnum continued through the clouds, surveying the narrow path stretching before him. It seemed solid enough, although he couldn't quite identify the material from which it was made. Curious, he looked around. Little was visible in the cloudbank except the path, and that for only a short distance.

So this was heaven. Heaven or limbo, or whatever it was.

Suddenly, he stopped short. With a momentary flash of instinct, the same intuition that had guarded him so well all his life, he knew that he was no longer alone. With a start, he turned to face his new companion who stood a few paces away.

"Hi!"

The greeting was friendly enough, but its source was hardly what he might have expected. A woman stood facing him, short and round, a motherly version of Mac, sporting a shock of thick, dark hair and even thicker glasses, dressed in a sweater and a plaid skirt that looked as if she'd lived in them. As she smiled up at him, Magnum felt that any minute she might start to giggle.

The detective in him immediately analyzed the situation. After all, what did I expect? Angels with golden haloes? God with a long, white beard? The absurdity of it suddenly struck him, and he grinned in spite of himself. "Hi," he answered.

"So, you're really going through with it?" The woman smiled again and crossed her arms over her chest.

He looked down into brown eyes that twinkled with laughter. For some strange reason, he resisted questioning who she was or why she was there. With a wave of his hand he indicated the path before him. "Yeah, well, I guess so. I don't have much choice, do I?"

She shrugged. "I suppose you don't, if you've already made up your mind."

He studied her for a moment, then turned away perplexed. Hands on his hips, he stared down the path, his bristly moustache twitching as his mind worked on this revelation.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked at last, turning back to her. "I'm dying, right? Or dead? I just have to go down this path, atone for my wayward life, and get on with whatever else there is."

This time, the woman actually did giggle, and shrugged again; it seemed to be her favorite gesture. "If that's what you want to do." She absentmindedly brushed at a remnant of lunch sticking to the front of her sweater.

"I didn't realize I had any choice in the matter," he snapped sarcastically.

"Sure you do. We all have free will."

The private detective snorted and swivelled away from her, cramming his hands into his pockets, then turned back suddenly. "Hey, what are you anyway? Some kind of angel?"

This time she smiled wryly. "I guess you could call me that. It's as good a tag as any. By the way, my name's Judi."

"Judi? What kind of name is that for an angel? It should be Gabriel, or Hepzibah or something like that!"

"Sorry, just Judi." She shrugged again. "Take it or leave it."

"Can't even get an angel with a decent name," he muttered to himself. "All right, I think I'll leave it," he said aloud. "Nice talking to you." Determinedly, he started off again. About twenty yards down the path, he stopped. "Are you going to follow me all the way?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"It's my job.""Oh, I get it. You're my source of comfort, like the priest on the prisoner's last walk. Is that it?"

"Well, not exactly. Actually, I've been with you a long time."

Magnum pulled his hands out of his pockets and faced her. "A guardian angel?"

"Sort of. People call us lots of different things -- women's intuition, a hunch a 'little voice'..."

"Wait a minute!" He looked at her more closely, his hands reaching out to grab her shoulders. At the last minute, he drew back. "Judi, are you telling me you're my little voice?"

She smiled sadly. "We've known each other a long time, Thomas. I'm glad I can finally meet you face to face."

He shook his head. "Does everyone have a guardian angel?"

"No, of course not."

"Well, then, why me?"

"You seem to need one more than most people. You have to admit, I've helped you out some pretty tight scrapes in my time."

He stared at her, trying to sort the truth from what she was saying. "But, if you're really my... what you said you are... why didn't you warn me about?" He paused, the memory of the shooting still fresh.

"About the last time?" she finished gently. Her smile disappeared. "I tried, but you didn't listen to me."

"I always listen," he answered weakly. "I just don't always pay attention."

"You certainly didn't this time. At least, you might have taken the spare clips I suggested."

He shook his head, as if to dislodge the memory of the shooting that was replaying in his mind. He could see the dingy warehouse, smell the smoke from the guns, and -- worst of all -- feel the bullets as they hit. "Why didn't I listen?" he muttered, half to himself.

The expected shrug didn't come. Instead, Judi looked him straight in the eye. "Maybe that's the way you wanted it."

The private investigator stiffened. "Now wait a minute. Are you saying I wanted to die?"

"Not exactly." She held his gaze. "You're just not doing anything to keep it from happening."

The switch in tenses was not lost on him. He took a deep breath. Can it be true? Do I really have the power to change what's happening here?

Wearily, he closed his eyes and sank down on a bench that had materialized from somewhere on his right. He never questioned its appearance. Mac had taught him that much.

For a few moments, he sat on the bench, his fingers working on the ache between his eyes. This is the last straw. Even dying's turned into a major problem.

Judi watched him, concerned but silent, her arms folded across her chest.

"What you're saying is that I can go back," he said finally.

"What I'm saying is that you have a choice. You can go back, or you can go on." She waved her hand at the path. "It's your decision, Thomas."

He dropped his head into his hands. The lighthearted mood in which he had left his life was gone. All his problems were still with him, even in death, and there were still decisions to be made. I'm so tired of it all...

The last few years had not been easy ones. Middle age was creeping up on him, and with it, the responsibilities involved in laying out the rest of his life.

He was tired of being responsible -- for his own life, and for the lives of others as well. He was tired of being brave, and wise, and strong. Going back meant facing all those responsibilities he thought he'd left behind forever, and planning for a future he thought was all settled.

It meant changing his life.

He groaned. It would be so easy to turn my back and go down this path...

And yet, something nagged at the back of his mind, something that wasn't quite right. Shaking his head, Magnum knew he couldn't make this decision, not now. "Help me," he said softly.

Judi sat down on the bench beside him and laid a sympathetic hand on his arm. "Okay."

"Tell me what to do."

"I can't do that. I could never make that kind of decision for you."

"Can you tell me what you would do?" His eyes met hers, and found understanding.

She shrugged again. "I can only tell you what I did." Magnum sat up straighter. "I went down the path." She looked away.

"And you regret it?"

Silently, she stared at her hands for a moment. "I left a lot of happiness behind me, and a lot of people who cared about me. There were things I wish I could have finished."

He nodded. "I know. I have this feeling there's something I should have done. I just can't seem to put my finger on it." He rubbed the back of his neck. "What's down there?" He lifted his chin, indicating the path.

"In your case, I don't know. It's different for different people. But once you decide, Thomas, there's no going back, so if you've left something unfinished..."

"I know, I know," he answered irritably. "You're a big help."

With a sad smile, Judi patted his shoulder. "You're a P.I., Thomas. Work it out."

"Private Investigator!" he retorted through clenched teeth, then grinned at the twinkle in her eyes. "Okay, how?"

"It's a problem. Treat it like one. Figure out why you might want to go back, weigh it against what might be ahead, and make the best decision you can. You did that sort of thing everyday back there." She pointed back the way they'd come. "Nothing's changed. Why wouldn't you go back?"

Magnum stiffened, not wanting to answer. But it be easier if he just admitted it. She was his guardian angel, after all. She probably knew everything he was thinking. "I don't know. I guess I'm scared."

She nodded. "That's a good start. Of what?"

He stood up, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his baggy shorts again, and took a few steps away from her. "Of getting old. Of being alone. Of not having any purpose in life. I don't know. Of winding up like Higgins, I guess -- alone and living in the past."

"And Michelle?"

He closed his eyes. "She's not my problem anymore. She's got someone who'll love her, and see that she's not hurt again."

"And she's safe?"

"Of course, she's safe."

Judi nodded again, accepting his answer. "Okay. Now what's good about going back?"

This time he smiled. "Oh, there are lots of things. There's the challenge of making it through the day, and the satisfaction of knowing you've won when you made it. There's being out on the beach with the sun on your face. There's my daughter, watching her grow up." His voice caught in his throat, be he smiled fondly at the memory of her last goodbye.

"And there are your friends."

"Them, too." He grinned. "I'm really going to miss them."

"They'll miss you, too. Have you thought of that?

"Of course," he answered softly.

"And what about Michelle?"

"I thought we'd settled that."

"Have we? Are you so sure there's not something you want to do, something you need to say to her?"

"No." He paused. "I'm not sure. How can I be completely sure of anything? I can't even die right. Nothing's certain, not even death and taxes." He smiled at his own joke, but the smile faded, and he suddenly turned to face her again, his eyes narrowing. "Nothing is certain, is it? Is that what you're trying to tell me? That Michelle's not safe?

"I'm still you little voice. So what's the word, Thomas?" She regarded him intently, her expression a mixture of hope and concern. "There's the path. It leads both ways." Angrily, the private investigator turned away from her. "Going down the path is an answer, too. It may not be a very good one, but it's an answer."

"You're running away."

"I am not!" He paused, considering. "Yeah, well, maybe I am. I've been running all my life." He slumped back down onto the bench. "Help me, Judi," he pleaded.

She shook her head. "I wish I knew how. I've done all I can. You have to make the decision. I can't do it for you." Suddenly she looked up. "And you time's running out."

Magnum chuckled bleakly. "I know. Time and how it relates to infinity and jelly doughnuts. I guess you have deadlines here too." He raised his hands in a gesture of futility, then let them fall.

"Decide, Thomas."

Longingly, he gazed down the path to his right. His eyes tried to penetrate the fog, but without success. To his left, the path stretched back the way he'd come. In the distance he could hear voices, but he couldn't make out the words. Higgins? His mother again? He squinted, trying to focus. Damn, that's not fair...

"That's not fair, Judi," he repeated out loud. She only shrugged.

Frustrated he jumped to his feet, and began pacing back and forth in front of the bench. The resignation he'd felt at his death had turned to rage. "That's not fair! You're stacking the deck against me. First my friends, and Michelle. And now Higgins, and my mother. It's just not fair!"

His companion grinned. "I never claimed to play fair, Thomas."

"Okay, okay. I'm going. This time. I'll go right back there and straighten out my life, get a real job, get married, have two or three kids, do whatever it is you guys think I should do. But the next time I get killed, you better be prepared to let me die, because I'm not going through this again!" Red-faced and winded from his tirade, he glared at her. "Well, don't you have something to say?"

"As a matter of fact..."

He turned in frustration. "What now?"

"You're going to be a little disoriented when you get back. I just wanted to warn you."

"What do you mean disoriented?"

"It's hard to tell. You might be a little foggy, depressed, have some loss of memory. It's different each time. Just expect it to be a little bumpy, that's all."

"Oh great! I should have known there'd be a catch."

"Nothing's easy, Thomas."

Yeah? Well, I can vouch for that." In a huff, he turned and stalked down the path toward life.

Suddenly, he stopped and called over his shoulder. "Well, are you coming?"

"Of course." She giggled behind him.




"That's it, record the time of death." An unfamiliar man's voice drifted to him through the fog. Magnum followed it, coming at last to the threshold between where he was and where he was going.

Funny, I don't remember going through a door...

With a shrug, he stopped and once again gazed longingly back down the path. It would be so easy, after all, to go ahead and die...

But then, he'd never taken the easy way out. Why start now?

"Judi?" he called experimentally.

From somewhere deep inside him, his little voice stirred reassuringly. "I'm here. I'll always be here."

With a sigh, Magnum smiled and stepped through the doorway, back into life.




All pages and graphics in this website are Copyright © 1998 by Katherine H. Courtney. All Rights Reserved. The various publications cited herein are copyrighted and owned by their respective authors and/or publishers.

Back to The Main Page
| login to post comments