believe again," Dimitris said. He glanced sideways, Liz frowned, and he smiled at her. She liked that. He had a nice smile, and it made her feel good. "What I mean is, I'm old enough to be able to accept that things aren't all that they seem, and that there are mysteries in the world. I'm still talking to you after you conjured fire. Proof enough? I have accepted you and what you can do. I'm old enough to accept that. Once mysteries are revealed, they're no longer mysteries. A monster is only a monster when it can't be categorized or photographed."
"You think science can explain everything?" she said.
Dimitris shrugged, sending the car clunking over the gravel beside the road. "I'm sure it can say why you make fire. Somethings only supernatural if it isn't explained. Ghosts, for instance. If they really exist, then they aren't supernatural, because nature allows them to exist. See?"
"I see exactly what you re saying," Liz said. She plucked a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it with her finger. "But even in the short time I've been around, I've seen things that nature does not allow. And they still exist. And nature abhors that."
Dimitris stared wide-eyed at her cigarette. Accept it he might, but he was still amazed. And probably scared. Liz nudged his arm and pointed ahead, and the policeman turned just in time to save them from a long, long drop.
"Eyes front," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I don't want to end up as fish bait when you drive us off this mountain."
"No, Miss Sherman, what do you mean when you say — "
"Call me Liz." She rested her arm through the open window and looked up the gently sloping mountain. She'd been rude, cutting off the conversation like that. Especially as she liked Dimitris. His naïveté was appealing, and there was a certain innocence about him that actually made her jealous. Liz had been innocent once, but it had come to an abrupt end back in '73 when she burned her family to death. Ever since then, she had craved a return of innocence, but she knew that finding it again was about as likely as becoming a virgin.
She glanced at Dimitris, but he was staring ahead with grim determination. Maybe she'd already ruined this potential friendship even before it had begun. The British had a saying for it: she'd pissed on her chips.
The policeman drove them higher. Dust swirled through the car, the road became rougher, and he started to mutter under his breath. Liz thought he was praying, and she wished that she could, too.
"I told you so," Dimitris said a few minutes later. He stopped the car, and Liz nodded a silent admission that, yes, he had told her.
The building had been white once, but fire had scorched it black. Tiles had shattered from the heat, and charred roof timbers sat exposed to the sun. They were still smoking gently, as though fire were hiding in their depths just waiting for the right moment to erupt again. Masonry had cracked, one wall had tumbled to the ground, and a blackened mass lay twenty feet from the ruined building, buzzed by flies. It had no discernible human features, but Liz knew a burned corpse when she saw one.
"You need to leave me here and go back down the mountain," she said very slowly.
"Not now that I've come so far," Dimitris said.
"Dimitris, you really need to go. A phoenix is no dragon; there's no reason for it to be doing this. Fire accompanies its death and rebirth."
"You believe me? Well, then, I can't just leave — "
"Dimitris!" Liz looked at him and saw that perhaps he did care. "Please ... I've handled worse than this. Go back down, and when I come down later, how about I buy you a drink?" She gave him her best smile, the one that made her eyes look as though they were aflame.
"Miss Sherman, if you're sure ... ?"
"I'm fireproof. Usually."
Dimitris uttered a short bark of a laugh, reached out to touch her hand, and then the phoenix landed on the car and started to prove Liz right.
Now she was hot.
The roar of the fire was