PROLOGUE

"Is there anyone you'd like us to call?"

Room 142, in the cardiac unit of Cilldargan Civic Hospital, was abuzz with various medical professionals floundering about in an effort to look like they knew what they were doing. A handful of the more clever ones simply stood against the wall and intently observed the figure at the centre of the chaos, who lay quietly on the stiff hospital bed. It wasn't until the patient had been plugged with various tubes here and there, and poked and prodded everywhere else, that Dr. Sullivan - a young lad just hired out of his internship - had finally had the novel idea to speak to her.

"Miss, uh..." he glanced down at her bracelet, "Miss Fitzgerald. Please. Is there anyone you'd like us to call?"

She stared at him for a moment, brows furrowed. Her cheeks had only just begun to regain their usual flush, and her dry, cracked lips still bore a shadow of that horrible purple shade. He fixed his eyes on them as they slowly began to work out a name - but no sound came out. She huffed, and the furrow in her brow deepened as she made another attempt. Dr. Sullivan leaned in closer as his colleagues called out comparatively insignificant details about her vitals approaching normalcy. This time, she managed a frail little whisper - the voice of a ghost, he chuckled darkly to himself.

"One more time, please?" he pleaded gently, taking her cold hand in his, feeling her pulse race as her blood rushed to return to her fingers. She ran her tongue over her lips, pursed them, and took a deep breath. He readied his clipboard.

"Peter."

He gave her hand a squeeze and smiled at her before jotting down the name. He then raced over to Nurse McAllister, who was untangling some of the hurried IV cords.

"Amy, do we have anyone by the name of Peter on her file?"

"Well, yeah, there was the priest who came to identify her - one Father Peter Clifford, I believe. Nice man."

"Thank you, Amy!" he exclaimed, hurrying to the back of the room, where he dug through the file cabinet in search of the one marked "Fitzgerald, Assumpta." He whipped it out, with no amount of grace, and bolted out of the room towards the reception desk, nearly colliding with several of his colleagues along the way.

He ducked behind the desk, and grabbed the nearest available telephone. He set down the file, and flipped impatiently through it - laughing to himself in disbelief as he stumbled across where Dr. Ryan had marked her as "deceased" - until he found the contacts page. His finger trailed past various names - Leo McGarvey, husband, Brendan Kearney, guardian - ah, there. Scribbled hurriedly into the miscellaneous section was Father Peter Clifford. Perhaps she was a religious woman.

He pounded out the digits, and his heart pounded as he listened to each ring. He suddenly realized that he had no idea what he should say. He knew the protocol for informing loved ones of someone who'd passed away - he knew it all too well. But to even attempt to inform them of the reverse, well, who's to say they'd even believe him? What if they thought it to be some sort of sick joke - a bit of salt thrown onto an open wound? He told himself that he didn't care, that all that mattered was the truth - Assumpta Fitzgerald was dead, and now she lives. And whoever this priest was, he deserved to know.

That was when the ringing stopped, and he heard nothing but one solid, hopeless tone. He tried again. Five rings, and then nothing. Once more - the same thing. Wonderful time to have gone for a stroll, Father. He massaged his forehead, and punched in the number one more time. He even began to pray.

One ring.

Two rings.

Three rings.

"Brian Quigley speaking. What's your business?"

"Yes, hello, ehm, this is Dr. Sullivan from the Cilldargan Civic Hospital. I was actually after one Father Peter Clifford. Is he around?"

A heavy sigh seemed to echo from the other end of the line.

"I'm afraid not. Can I take a message?"