Someone is stalking Nick. A teenaged girl and a mysterious
painting are the only warning he's got. But are they enough?
* * * * * * * *
The man stared at the bridge. He was almost there. It had taken him
a very long time to get back. But now he would be able to takecare of
some unfinished business. Business that ate at his soul.They all should
have died together. But one had survived. Now he would take care of
that. So they could all be together. Then maybe he could rest.
* * * * * * * * * *
Philip was in the hallway, waiting for Nick. The two men were
headed into San Francisco for the day. Philip had some business to
take of care at the diocese offices. Nick just wanted to get out
of the house.
The phone rang and Philip answered. "Hello, Luna Foundation. May
There was silence at the other end, then a voice replied, "Is Nick
Boyle there, please?"
"Just a moment," said Philip. "May I ask who's calling?"
"If you could tell him that Brenda Jameison would like to talk
him. It's very important."
"Of course, hold on a minute." He turned and handed the phone
Nick, who had just arrived. "Brenda Jameison."
Nick raised his eyebrows and took the phone. "Hey, kid, what's
up?" He listened for a couple of minutes, then said. "Well,
going to be in that neck of the woods later on today. I'll stop
by. Take care." He hung up the phone.
"Who was that?" asked Philip.
"Hm? Oh, the daughter of a friend. Just calling to say hi. And
remind me that I'm supposed to stop by more often. Well, let's get
Nick dropped off Philip, then headed for the Jameisons' place,
hoping they hadn't moved since he was last there. It had been
awhile. Gregory had been in the SEALs with him, had been the only
one of the unit who really seemed to accept him. In fact, Gregory
had extended a standing invitation to dinner with his family
whenever the unit was in town.
He had enjoyed visiting with them, not just because it gave him an
excuse to be off-base and away from Deavis. Joyce and Gregory were a
kick to be around. They truly loved each other, without being
annoying about it. Brenda was a calm kid, almost abnormally so,
who seemed to like having Nick around.
Nick remembered the last time he had seen Joyce and Brenda. It was
at the funeral. Of course, the bodies had been left behind; he
just couldn't carry them all with him. But there was a funeral
just the same. Joyce had been surrounded by family and friends,
completely devastated by the loss.
Brenda, on the other hand, was more composed. Her eyes were red,
but she had stopped crying. She had come over to Nick and hugged
him. "Don't blame yourself," she had told him. "There
anything you could do." She always had been a calm kid. Which made
her phone call all the more troubling.
Both Brenda and Joyce told Nick that the invitation for dinner was
still open. But he just couldn't bring himself to go over. Not
after everything that had happened. Though he had missed visiting
them. Joyce was a great cook.
He pulled up in front of the house. It still said 'Jameison' on
the mailbox. He rang the doorbell and Brenda answered immediately.
She must have been waiting by the door for him. She let him in the
'She must be about sixteen now,' thought Nick, which made him
suddenly realize something. "Shouldn't you be in school now?"
"Yes, but I stayed home. Mom thinks I'm at school. But I needed
talk to you. So I called around and eventually tracked you down."
"Oh?" asked Nick as they headed up the stairs. "Hey,
where are we
"My room, of course."
Nick was a little uncomfortable with the way things were going.
"Care to tell me what's up?" he asked.
"I'll show you," said Brenda, as she opened the door to what
obviously a teenage girl's room. The only things completely out of
place among the posters of actors and singers was a painting on an
easel in the middle of the room and a naval jacket laying in a
heap on the floor.
"Nice painting," said Nick as he studied it. It was a forest
scene, night-time. "Did you do that?"
"I think so, but I'm not sure," was the reply.
"It wasn't here when I feel asleep last night. It was when I woke
up. I guess I painted it. I mean, it's the sort of stuff I paint
but . . . " Her voice trailed off and she pulled on her ponytail.
"Maybe you'd better have a seat while I explain."
Nick cleared off the chair by the desk and sat down. The day had
suddenly gotten a lot more complicated. He could just tell.
* * * * * * * * * *
The man had been waiting, watching, learning the habits of his
prey. It was nearly time to strike. Nothing had been going right
for him since they had all died. But he knew why. One of them
hadn't died. Now he would fix that little oversight. And then he
could rest again.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Dad probably didn't tell you about my painting, did he?"
"Not so's I remember," said Nick.
Brenda gave a little half-smile. "It's not a hobby. My painting,
mean. Now this is going to sound a little weird, but you'll just
have to trust me." She waited for Nick to nod. "If I hold
something that belongs to someone else, I can paint what they're
seeing. It's kinda useful for finding lost kids, that sort of
thing. You know, I hold onto their coat or their favorite toy and
then paint where they are and the police or whoever can go get
"It's not the weirdest thing I've ever heard of," said Nick
slowly. "And I do believe you can do what you say. I know other
people with similar . . . talents. But your dad didn't ever
mention it to me."
"Well, sometimes he told people, sometimes he didn't. Both he and
Mom were cool with it. Though until they figured out what was
going on, things were a little tense. They would find me spaced
out, painting these strange scenes. But once we knew why, well, we
just made sure that I didn't get any hand-me-downs."
"Okay, that explains this painting. But why did you call me?
Wouldn't your mother be a better person. Since she already knows
Brenda sat down on the bed, hugging a stuffed bear. "Last night,
Mom was working late. It's not a big deal, her working late, I
mean. There's this big project at work, then she'll be done and
we're going away on vacation for two weeks. After school gets out.
Anyway, I was home alone, feeling kinda . . . oh, I don't know. So
I put on Dad's old jacket. When I woke up this morning, there was
Nick looked at her. "So you skipped school and called me?"
"How do I explain to Mom that I painted what Dad's seeing when
Dad's dead?" whispered Brenda.
Nick just stared at the girl, then at the painting. Yup, his day
had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.
* * * * * * * * * *
He stayed in the woods, using the trees as cover. He liked being
among the trees, amid the peace and quiet. It reminded him of
where they had died. His prey was not there, not just yet. But he
would be back, the man knew. He had waited a long time for this.
He could wait a little longer. Boyle was a dead man. Just like the
* * * * * * * * * *
"Okay, Brenda, let's start all over again. Tell me what happens
when you paint one of these."
"I hold something or wear something or . . . well, just somehow
touch something that belongs to the person I'm trying to find.
Sometimes I don't get anything at all. But sometimes I'll see
exactly what they see. I think their eyes need to be open, but I'm
not real sure 'bout that part. And I paint whatever it is that
they're seeing. It's kinda like being almost awake. You know, if
you open your eyes, you'll be awake; otherwise, you're still
asleep. But you know what's going on around you."
"Yeah, like any minute you'll be fast asleep again. If the alarm
doesn't ring first."
"Exactly. Anyway, I'm aware that I'm painting, but the painting's
the most important thing to me. I keep trying to get it perfect,
but I can't"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the painting is the only way to find the person. And so
it's real important to be as accurate as possible. And it's always
changing, always in motion. Especially if the person's moving. But
since it's not a photograph, I can't be perfect but I keep trying.
Then I try to stop myself but I can't and I start shaking 'cause
I'm real cold. That's when Mom or Dad have to physically stop me
from painting. By taking the brush out of my hand or taking the
item away from me. Or both."
"And with this painting? What happened?"
"I don't know. I don't even remember painting it. But I always
remember the actual work even if I don't remember the picture. And
this one's more . . . finished than I usually get." She looked
Nick, then added, "One more thing. Once I was asked to find some
kid. I tried and tried but couldn't get anything from any of his
stuff. And I tried several things: clothes, toys, books,
everything. The police later found him, dead. I can't pick up
images from dead people. So how come I painted this while wearing
Dad's jacket?" She sounded close to tears.
Nick thought about the whole problem, then came to a decision.
"Your mom still work at the same place?"
"Yes, but -- "
"And she's working on some big project at work, right? Gonna be
busy all weekend?"
"Yeah . . . "
"Great. Where's the phone?"
Brenda handed Nick the phone. He fished a piece of paper out of
his wallet and dialed it. "Hello, can I please speak to Mrs.
Jameison? Yes, I'll hold. Hello, Joyce? It's Nick Boyle. Yeah,
long time, no see. Anyway, I thought I'd see if the dinner invite
was still open. Ah, sorry to hear that. Well, how about you call
me when you're less busy. Great, look forward to it." Nick winked
at Brenda. "Hey, I just thought of something. If you're going to
busy all weekend, how about if I stop by and check up on Brenda.
In fact, if you'd like, I can take her for the weekend. No, no
trouble at all. When does she get off school? Great, I'll stop by
your place, see if she wants to spend the weekend out on the
island. Yup, that's the one. I call you after Brenda decides what
she wants to do. Same to you."
Brenda watched him as he hung up the phone. "You're good,"
said in an awed voice. "Not a word of it was true but you never
"It's a talent. So, care to come out to the Luna Foundation for
"What did you have in mind?" asked Brenda.
"Getting to the bottom of this." Nick pointed to the painting.
"Without worrying your mom. I have some friends at the Luna
Foundation who might be able to help us out."
Philip spotted Nick's car pulling into the diocese parking lot
from the office window. Nick parked and got out, followed by a
teenaged girl. Philip was very curious about this latest
development. He finished up his conversation and went to find out what
was going on.
"Hey, Philip," said Nick. "Come meet Brenda Jameison.
is a friend of mine. Father Philip Callaghan."
"Pleased to meet you, sir. Or is it 'Father'?"
"Just Philip." He held out his hand.
"Philip it is, then," replied Brenda as she took it.
"Brenda will be joining us for the weekend. You 'bout ready?"
"Yes, but should we call Derek first?"
"Why? We'll be there soon enough."
Philip wasn't sure that Derek would like the surprise. But might
as well let Nick handle it the way he wanted.
Rachel was in the study, talking to Derek, when she heard a car
pull up outside. Looking out, she saw it was the Mustang. "Nick
and Philip are back," she remarked. "With a guest."
"A guest?" asked Derek, slightly surprised.
"A girl. Mid-teens, I should guess. I think she's with Nick."
"Well, he's carrying a bag for her."
"Maybe we'd better go see what Nick's up to. This can wait until
later." Derek indicated the papers on his desk.
"You really live here? This is such a neat place," said Brenda
they came in.
"Glad you like it. Hey, guys, I want you to meet Brenda Jameison,"
said Nick. He was carrying a large bundle under one arm and a
duffle bag in one hand. "Her father and I served together in the
SEALs. She's going to be spending the weekend with us. Brenda,
this Dr. Derek Rayne and Dr. Rachel Corrigan. A couple of the
people whom I told you about."
"Pleased to meet you, sir, ma'am."
Derek smiled at her. "Call me Derek."
"And I'm Rachel."
"Right, let's put this in the study," said Nick.
Derek looked at Philip, who shrugged helplessly. They followed
Nick into the study where he set up an easel with a painting.
"Planning on taking up a new hobby?" asked Alex as she came
"Not really. Brenda, Alexandra Moreau. Alex, Brenda Jameison."
"Let me guess, you don't use a last name either," said Brenda.
"Only on formal occasions. I wouldn't want to wear it out. I'm
"Okay, Nick. What's going on?" asked Derek.
"Um, maybe I'd better explain," said Brenda. "I mean,
sorta more my story anyway. And it's a little strange. But Nick
says you won't think I'm weird or lying or anything."
Derek and the others looked mystified. They all sat down, prepared
to listen to what the girl had to say.
* * * * * * * * * *
Boyle was inside the house. It wouldn't be much longer now.
Darkness was falling; and he was at his best in the dark. Soon
Boyle would join his unit. Make it complete once more. It was only
a matter of time.
* * * * * * * * * *
Derek leaned back in his chair after Brenda was done, steepling
his hands under his chin. "Very interesting. Would you mind
answering a few questions?"
"I'm not lying about this. You can call a couple of police chiefs.
To confirm anything I've said."
"I never said I didn't believe you. In fact, I do. I -- all of
-- have had some experience with such talents as yours. Do you
ever get feelings or just images?"
"Just images. It's sorta like I'm along for the ride. I can see
where we are but nothing else."
"And you only see the present? Not the future or the past?"
"Only what the person is seeing. Of course, by the time the
painting's done, it's not present-present but past-present. If you
know what I mean."
"Actually, I understand completely. So what seems to be the
"The problem is that Gregory is dead. But Brenda says she can't
read anything on people who are dead."
"Maybe he isn't dead," said Alex slowly.
"Not possible. I know he's dead; I saw the body. People
that many bullet holes in them don't just get up and wander off."
Nick reached over and patted Brenda on the shoulder. "Sorry,
kiddo, but I want everyone to be real clear on this. If you want
to go someplace else while we discuss this?" But Brenda just shook
"He might have died. But there's nothing that says he's still
Brenda looked at Alex. "What do you mean?"
"When someone dies a violent death," said Philip gently, "as
father apparently did, their spirit comes back and walks the earth
until it is laid to rest."
"But why would he come back? And why here?"
"There's just no telling. To make sure his family is okay. To get
revenge. Any number of reasons."
"But the bastard responsible isn't around here," muttered
Rachel heard him, but the others didn't.
"Are you sure he's here? And not where he died?" asked Derek.
Nick shook his head. "Look at the painting, Derek. That's not a
South American jungle. Not even close. But it looks an awful lot
like the woods you find around here."
"So now what?"
"Now Brenda does another painting. This time, with us as an
audience." Nick knelt down by Brenda. "It's the only way to
sure what's going on."
"I know," she said quietly. "But I'm scared."
"Don't worry, Bren. Between the five of us, you'll be fine."
"Bren's a gun."
"What?" Nick was slightly taken aback by the non-sequitur.
"A bren is a gun used by the British during World War II. My
name is Brenda." She grinned at Nick. "Dad used to make the
mistake. Mom eventually got tired of correcting him."
"You're all right, kiddo. Now, do you want to have dinner first?"
"No, that would be a really bad idea. First off, I wouldn't enjoy
the meal. Secondly, doing a painting takes a lot out of me. I'd
prefer not to work on a full stomach."
"Hey, you're the expert. What do you need?"
"Um, the easel and my paints and brushes and stuff. Some water.
clean off the paints. Dad's jacket. Oh, and some hot chocolate."
At their mystified looks, she explained, "For afterwards. The
sugar helps. And I get real cold. Oh, yeah, I get real cold.
That's normal, so don't panic. But when I start shaking so much
that the brush isn't steady, that's when you have to stop me."
"And how do we do that?" asked Rachel.
"You can try asking real nice. That hasn't worked yet, but it
could. I mean, I know what's going on around me, I just don't
care. So asking is always a good first step. When that doesn't
work, take the brush away from me. When that doesn't work, take
off Dad's jacket. Um, I might struggle with you. To keep working
on the painting. That's normal, too. So just ignore me. And I'll
try not to hurt anybody."
Derek looked at her with concern. "Is the process always like
"Yep. That's why I'm real careful not to wear other people's stuff
or sleep in other people's beds. When we go away, Mom and me, we
take sheets along for me to use. Or a sleeping bag. Like I did
today." Brenda shrugged. "I only do this when it's real important.
I mean, if some kid's run away or been kidnapped or whatever, I
can put up with some brief discomfort to help them. It doesn't
last for long. And I don't really remember how bad it is. Other
than in a general sense."
Rachel nodded. "It's a defense mechanism. If you remembered it
clearly, you might freeze up when you were most needed." She
smiled briefly. "In a way, it's like childbirth. If you remembered
the pain, you wouldn't go through it again."
"Uh, right," said Nick. "I'll, uh, take your word on
shall we get this show on the road?"
A few minutes later, everything was ready. Brenda took a deep
breath, then put on her father's jacket. She almost zipped it up,
but shook her head and stopped. She gave them all a lopsided
smile. Then she stepped up to the blank canvas on the easel.
At first, nothing happened. Then her hand, slowly, carefully,
reached for the brush. The moment she touched the brush, she
seemed possessed by some kind of manic energy. She quickly and
effortless sketched out a scene, then began filling it in.
Derek walked around the easel to look at her. Her eyes were
looking straight ahead, not blinking, not even really seeing. Even
as used as he was to psychic talents, it was unnerving. He walked
back around to check out the painting.
It was uncanny. She was talented. Or at least when under the
influence, she was. He could see the scene taking form right
before his eyes. Again, it was a forest scene, like the first one.
And again, it was night. Which made sense. "He's moving,"
Nick slowly. "At a pretty good clip, too."
"Why do you say that?" asked Philip.
Nick pointed at the other painting, "For that one, he was standing
still, watching something. You can almost make it out in the
background, just there." He pointed to the easel. "This one's
blurry, less, I don't know -- "
"Exactly. Like that blob off to the side. The yellowish one. I'm
not sure what it is. Some kind of light. A campfire, maybe. Or a
car's headlight. Difficult to be sure."
By this time, the picture was substantial complete. It was clearly
a forest, and the viewpoint was clearly shifting. Brenda put in
some trees, then moved them, then removed them entirely. She
started to fill in one area in detail, then ignored it and started
on another area. Derek realized that she was trembling like a
leaf. But her painting hand was as steady as a rock.
Eventually it was clear that the painting was as finished as it
ever would be. Brenda was making minor changes, changes that
didn't seem to make any difference. But she seemed to think that
they were important. Then the brush starting shaking.
"Okay, kiddo," said Nick as he moved next to her. "Time
Come on, Bren, that's enough." She didn't respond so he reached
for the brush.
Brenda spun around and back away from him, clutching the brush to
her. Her eyes were wild, though they weren't quite seeing Nick.
Derek suddenly knew exactly how she felt. She was seeing two
scenes at once. He had had that same disorienting feeling himself,
when he Saw one of his visions.
Nick reached out to her, gently, afraid to hurt her. She raised up
the brush, wielding it like a knife. He grabbed it from her. She
ran back to the easel and, grabbing another brush, continued to
work on the painting.
"Derek," said Nick quietly, "Chase her over here again."
"Chase her over here. Distract her so I can get behind her and
take off that damned jacket." Nick's voice was low and intense.
Derek nodded, seeing the wisdom of the plan. Rachel was already
pouring a cup of hot chocolate for Brenda. He approached her,
softly saying her name. Like before, she backed away. But this
time, Nick was behind her. He grabbed at the jacket. She struggled
with him, trying to keep it on and to get back to the easel. Derek
and Philip stood in front of the easel, blocking her.
Nick got the jacket off and threw it in the corner. Brenda clung
to him, weak and sobbing. She was still trembling, but much less
violently. Nick sat down, with her on his lap. He rocked her back
and forth until she calmed down.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I hope I didn't scare
you. But I
did warn you."
"Only to death," said Nick. "But it's over now."
He reached out to
Rachel for the hot chocolate, which he gave to Brenda.
Meanwhile Derek, Philip, and Alex were examining the painting.
"Maybe we should have tried this during the daytime," said
"I can't make out any landmarks."
"We are not putting Brenda through this again," said
"Let me take a look. I mean, I'm the one who painted it. Sometimes
I can make out the details."
Derek looked at her. "Do you remember anything about painting it?"
"Sort of. I mean, I remember painting it but not what I was seeing
when I was painting it. But I usually don't. Unless there was
something really significant. Like a flashing neon sign or a
distinctive rock formation."
"Not many neon signs in the woods. And it's too dark to make out
any rock formations. In fact, the only thing that stands out is
this yellow blob with the black marks in it. Any ideas?"
Brenda came over and stared at the painting. Her face went pale
and she dropped the cup. She backed away from the painting, right
"What is it, Brenda? What do you see?"
She pointed at the yellow spot Alex had mentioned. "It's the
window," she whispered hoarsely.
"What window? Where?"
"That window." She pointed at the study window. "That's
me and the
easel. From outside. He's here. He's right here."
* * * * * * * * * *
Boyle wasn't coming outside like he usually did about now. He
couldn't have changed his routine, could he? No, that would
require Boyle to know he was here. And there was no way he could
know that. He was just late, that was all. The man smiled
humorlessly at the joke. The late Nick Boyle. What a lovely ring
to it. A death knell, one might say. He shook his head. Had to
concentrate. He hadn't come this far to fail. He could wait. He
had all the time in the world to tie up loose ends.
* * * * * * * * * *
"She's right," said Nick, staring at the painting over Brenda's
head. "That's this window."
"So now what."
"Do you feel up to an exorcism, Philip?"
"Do I have a choice? Let me go get my things."
Nick helped Brenda over to the sofa. He instinctively reached for
the blanket to put around her, but stopped. Derek found the bag
Brenda had been carrying earlier and up-ended it on the desk. In
it were several articles of clothing, including a sweater. He gave
it to Nick. Rachel poured another cup of hot chocolate for Brenda.
She brought it over to the girl and gave it to her.
"Okay, Brenda, everything's under control. Derek, Philip, and I
are going to go out and find your -- the ghost. And lay him to
rest. Alex and Rachel are going to stay with you while we're gone.
It's almost over. Just relax."
By the time Philip had returned, Brenda was much calmer. She was
on her third cup of hot chocolate. Alex had even gotten some
crackers for her, so she at least had something to eat.
"When this is all done," said Nick, "we'll have dinner.
here is great. Which reminds me. What would you like for dinner?"
"I dunno. Whatever."
"Hey, that's my favorite, too. I'll let the cook know." Brenda
smiled at Nick wanely. He stood up and motioned to the other two
men that it was time to finish this.
* * * * * * * * * *
There he was. A little behind schedule, but there nonetheless. The
man narrowed his eyes. Boyle wasn't alone. There were two men with
him. Damn. He would have to change his plans slightly. But he
would not be denied.
* * * * * * * * * *
Rachel and Alex sat with Brenda in the study. She was staring at
the painting, an odd expression on her face. Rachel decided to
talk with her, to keep her mind off the painting.
"Were you and your father very close?" she asked.
"Hm? Oh, yes, very much so. He used to take me everywhere. When
he could, I mean. He wasn't around a lot, of course. But when he was,
we did a lot together."
"Then maybe he came back to check up on you. To make sure you were
"Maybe." Brenda was staring at the picture again, trying to
out some detail. She walked over to it, looking at it from
different angles, covering up parts with her hand, squinting at
"How did you meet Nick?" asked Alex.
"Dad brought him home for dinner. I mean, to have dinner with us.
He had just joined the unit. I think Dad felt sorry for him.
'Cause of the way -- "
Her voice broke off in mid-sentence. She mouthed something, then
ran from the room, calling for Nick. Alex and Rachel ran after
her, but Brenda was out the front door before either of them could
reach her. They stood at the door, calling her name. But to no
"What happened?" demanded Nick as the three men came running
back. "Where's Brenda?"
"She took off. She was staring at the painting, then she just ran
out the door."
"It may have been my fault," said Rachel. "I was asking
her father. I think she just realized how much she loves and
misses him. So she wants him to stay."
"Damn. Let's take another look at the painting. Maybe we'll see
what she did."
Nick lead the way back into the study. He stared at the painting,
willing it to become clear. Alex pointed to the section Brenda had
been most interested in.
"She was looking over there, trying all kinds of things to change
the perspective. Rachel had just asked her how she had met you,
"Gregory -- that's her dad -- invited me to his place for dinner.
Mostly to get me off base, for some slack time."
"Because of Deavis?" asked Rachel. The others were feeling
out of the conversation. Rachel realized that Nick hadn't
mentioned Deavis or the SEALs to anyone else. Or maybe they just
hadn't asked yet.
"Yeah, the bastard. He was forever making my life . . ." Nick's
voice trailed off, then he began swearing a blue streak.
Rachel waited for him to run down, but he just kept on going. She
was reasonably impressed by his vocabulary, though the others were
somewhat taken aback. Eventually Rachel decided he had vented
enough. "I think you used that one already, Nick," she said
Nick feel silent, then pointed at the painting. "There he is."
Once it had been pointed out, it was obvious that there was a man
in the painting. He was lurking behind some trees. In fact, he was
lurking behind several trees, almost as if the painting were
following him from place to place.
"Who is it?"
"Deavis. Come back. No wonder Gregory's here. He's trying to get
his revenge on the guy who killed him."
Rachel said slowly, "And that guy's here to kill you. To get the
last surviving member of the unit. You're what drew him -- both of
them -- here."
"And Brenda's gone out there. Alone."
* * * * * * * * * *
Brenda was running through the woods, desperate to find Nick. She
only hoped that she wasn't too late. Suddenly, she ran straight
into someone. And it wasn't Nick.
"Who are you, girl?" demanded a raspy voice, as someone grabbed
her by the arm. "Wait a minute. I know you. You're Jameison's
brat, aren't you?" When she didn't answer, he tightened his grip
on her arm, bruising it.
"Yes," she finally gasped, hoping he would let go. But he
"So what are you doing here? Visiting Boyle, aren't you? This is
perfect. This gives me the edge I was looking for."
* * * * * * * * * *
"We stay together until we find them," Nick ordered as he
downstairs from his room. He wasn't even bothering with a holster
for the gun. Not much point. He pointed at Alex and Rachel. "And
you two are staying here."
"Now wait just a minute," said Alex hotly.
"If Deavis is out there somewhere, I don't want one of you coming
across him. He's as likely to kill you as use you as bait for a
"Who is this guy?" asked Philip. "And why does he hate
Nick took a deep breath. This was not a conversation he wanted to
have. Not now and not like this. But they had the right to know.
And he had already told Rachel. "He was my CO. In the SEALs. Until
he betrayed the entire unit. Deliberately led us into a death
trap. I was the only one who survived. Now he apparently wants to
tie up loose ends. Which is fine by me. I've wanted this bastard
for a very long time."
"Which is why Jameison is here. To kill him."
"Or to protect me. Could be either one, Derek. But right now, all
I care about is finding Brenda."
* * * * * * * * * *
He had the girl by the arm, using her as partial cover. It would
be a shame to lose her, though. She was a lot older than he
remembered. She was even older than he was used to, where he had
been recently. Then he heard Boyle calling his name. Endgame had
"Over here, Boyle," he called. "And I've got the girl."
Boyle came into the clearing, followed by two other men. They
didn't look like a threat. Hell, one of them was even a priest.
Didn't surprise him that Boyle would hang out with a crowd like
this. Boyle looked at the girl. She looked back at him but didn't
say a word. There wasn't anything to say.
* * * * * * * * * *
Nick had passed beyond angry to ice calm. He had waited a long
time for this moment. Brenda looked scared but mostly unhurt.
Though she was being held pretty tight. He gave her a smile, to
let her know that everything was under control.
He looked at Deavis. He looked terrible, like he hadn't sleep or
eaten well in months. It made Nick's heart soar to think that he
had suffered. "Keeping yourself at the peak of physical
perfection, I see, Deavis. Just like they always taught us."
Deavis snarled at him, "It's all your fault, Boyle."
"How do you figure that?"
"You know what I mean. And now I'm here to put an end to it."
"So, now what, Deavis?" Nick asked, keeping his gun in the
"You and I have unsettled business, Boyle."
"You're right, we do. So let the kid go."
"I don't think so. She's my edge in this little encounter. You
remember what I taught you about having an edge." Deavis reached
out with the gun, tracing Brenda's cheek. "Besides, she's grown
a bit since I last saw her."
Nick felt Philip tense next to him and heard Derek's teeth grind.
But he forced himself to remain calm. "I said, let her go."
"You always were soft, Boyle. A real liability to the unit, I
always thought. It came as a complete surprise when I learned you
had survived. I didn't think you had it in you to make it back
without someone else to cover for you."
"Maybe you never really knew me," said Nick softly. "And
best let the girl go now. It's your last warning."
The other man laughed. "And what are you going to do about it,
Boyle?" He tightened his grip on Brenda's arm. She tried not to
react, but tears trickled down her cheek from the pain.
"He's not going to do anything, you bastard," said a voice
the darkness. "But I am." A man came out of the gloom, fully
dressed in combat gear.
"Jameison!" gasped Deavis. "But you're dead! I killed
"And I swore to follow you to the gates of Hell and beyond to make
you pay for what you did to us. And I did. Everywhere you went,
there I was. All those noises in the dead of the night, all the
times you felt like someone was watching you, that was all me. I
wanted you to suffer for what you did to us."
"This has got to be some kind of trick," said Deavis, though
face was pale.
"No, Deavis, no trick. And Boyle was right. You should have let
daughter go. Now it's too late." He looked at Brenda. "Don't
worry, princess, everything's going to be just fine."
Deavis started to raise his gun, but couldn't decide on a target:
Nick or Jameison. Then, Jameison advanced towards him. As he did
so, his body began to come apart. First his arm spouted blood and
went limp. Then his chest gaped wide open. Finally, his face
became a bloody ruin. But he kept on walking, slowly, inexorably
Deavis aimed at Jameison. his hand trembling, scarely able to
believe his eyes. He fired twice in reflex. The bullets were
completely ineffective. But he did let go of Brenda.
As soon as he did, Nick grabbed her out of the way. Jameison
reached out for the man's throat. Nick cradled Brenda's head in
his shoulder. She was in shock at seeing her father's ghost come
apart at the seams. There was no reason to push her further over
the edge by having her watch her father kill a man. Even if it was
Jameison dropped the dead body and came towards the Legacy
members. His body reconstituted itself, the wounds healed and the
blood stopped flowing. He stopped in front of Nick and Brenda.
"Hi, princess," he said gently. "Are you okay?"
He waited for her
to say something, but she only nodded. "And how about you, Boyle?"
"Um, just fine." Nick wasn't sure what to say. "More
"So why is my daughter here?" Jameison's voice was cool.
"She, um, painted a picture last night. While wearing your
jacket," said Nick.
Jameison looked at his daughter. "Oh, princess, I'm sorry. I
didn't mean to hurt you."
"You didn't, Dad. I was just a little scared. 'Cause I didn't
remember painting it. I just woke up and there it was. So I called
"Don't you remember the painting, though?" He sounded concerned.
"I thought you always remembered doing the painting."
"Has she ever been asleep when she picked up a mental image
before?" asked Derek.
Jameison turned to him. "Pardon me?"
"She fell asleep with your jacket on. Maybe that's the
Jameison nodded his head. "Could be. Actually, that would explain
a lot. About when she was little." He knelt down next to Brenda
and gave her a hug. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to drag you into
"So what were you planning?" asked Nick.
"I was planning on killing that bastard, if you must know."
Nick shrugged. "Fine by me. Though I would have liked to be in
"I had more right."
Nick looked down at the ground, unable to look Jameison in the
eyes. Jameison reached out and punched him lightly on the
shoulder. "You did what you could, Boyle. More than anyone could
have expected you to do. Hell, getting back alive was a minor
"Thanks. Your saying that means a lot to me."
Jameison touched Brenda gently on the shoulder. "I have to say
goodbye now, Brenda."
"Do you have to go?" she whispered.
"I'm afraid so, sweetie. I don't belong here. Not any more. You
keep an eye on your mom for me, okay?" Brenda nodded. "And
Boyle, you'll keep an eye on Bren, right?"
"I'll keep an eye on both Joyce and Brenda." The
emphasis he put
on her full name was unmistakable.
Jameison laughed. "You're all right, kid. I always said you were
the best of us." He stood up and stepped away from them. Brenda
reached out her hand to him, but he just faded into the mist. She
buried her head in Nick's shoulder and sobbed aloud. He just let
he cry herself out.
Joyce Jameison came up the front stairs and knocked at the door.
She was impressed by the house, though she wasn't as vocal as
Brenda had been. She was ushered into the study, where Nick and
Brenda were looking at some photos.
"Showing off the family album?" she asked with a smile.
"No, actually. Just some picture of deer. From the deer shoot."
"The deer shoot?"
Brenda looked at her mom, excitement in her eyes. "We went out
shooting deer. With a camera. You should have seen how close we
got. Nick's gonna let me have copies of them. It was great."
"I'm glad you had a good time, dear. Now go get your things."
She watched as Brenda left, then turned back to Nick. "Thanks for
taking her for the weekend, Nick. She's seems to have really
"It was no problem, Joyce. She's a good kid. Let me know if you
want a weekend off sometime. She's always welcome here."
Joyce said softly, "Thank you, Nick. It really means a lot to me.
That you, well, you know." She paused, then added, "Gregory
thought highly of you. I don't know if he ever mentioned it to
"Yeah," said Nick with a slight smile, "he did."
Brenda came down with her stuff. "Thanks, Nick. For everything.
had a real nice time visiting." She gave him a hug, and whispered
so only he could hear, "Dad was right, you know. You are the best
Nick just hugged her back, then helped her take her stuff out to
the car. He waved as they pulled away, then went back into the
house, whistling as he went.
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