Part Nine

After concluding his conversation with Alex, Derek quickly made arrangements for himself, Philip, Nick, and Javier Escobar to fly to Peru. According to Alex, the Castner family home was just a few miles inland from the Peruvian coast. Derek gave the necessary information to Escobar, still mulling over what Alex had told him. It seemed that more than five years earlier, slavers had used the Castner home as a base of operations. As Alex had commented, 'white slavery' wasn't even for the term for it, since women of all ethnic backgrounds were abducted.

As the current owner of the house, Matthias Castner had been fully aware of the activities of these slavers. Alex also learned that the ringleaders were all college chums of Castner's. And while her research hadn't provided the tie to Victor Arkady, Derek thought he knew what it was anyway. In addition to his obsession with dark items, Arkady viewed women as his own personal playthings.

They had already lost a great deal of time, so there was much to do in less than an hour. Derek had almost forgotten about Maeve in the ensuing rush, until the girl said quietly, "I'm going with you." Philip, who had just emerged from Sandy's room, started to speak, but Maeve glared at him and said, "I'm going! You can't talk me out of it!"

"Maeve, it's too dangerous. We have no idea what will happen once we reach the compound. It's best if you remain here, with Sandy. Philip, Sandy knows the latest?" Derek asked and the young priest nodded. However, there was an odd expression on his face. Derek turned back to Nick, saying, "I will explain everything on the plane. Teniente Escobar is making the arrangements with the airport."

"I am going!" Maeve repeated. Nick quickly slipped to the elevator and Derek turned his full attention to the girl. Her hands rested on her hips, and her eyes blazed. She looked scared to death, but she also looked determined. Evidently seeing that she had Derek's undivided attention, Maeve said more quietly, "She is still my sister, Derek."

"And if I know Miss Maeve, she'll find a way t' get t' Peru herself. If we take her, Derek, we can at least keep an eye on her," Philip pointed out. Derek looked sharply at his godson. Has he lost his mind? While Philip wasn't clairovoyant, per se, he had the ability to read faces...so Derek wasn't surprised when the young man said with a rueful smile, "I'm quite sane, Derek. I know this girl."

"He's right. I will find a way to get to Peru, no matter what it takes. Please, Derek...I know that Lissa is your daughter, but she's my sister. She's all I have left in the world. Please?" Maeve pleaded. Derek closed his eyes briefly, then nodded. He opened his eyes, wincing as Maeve gave a squeal. The teen danced across the floor to hug him and kiss each cheek. Then she raced lightly to the elevator, following Nick down to the car.

Derek looked at his godson, who said, "I don't like the idea any more than you do, Derek. But knowin' Queen Maeve, she will whatever she deems necessary t' get down t' Peru. The lass is just as determined as Lissa, and we both know what a strong-willed daughter you have." Derek nodded with a rueful smile as he and Philip headed for the elevator, then Philip continued, "I told Sandy the latest...her husband will be here within a few hours. She said t' just find Lissa, and we aren't t' worry about her."

Victor Arkady was in a state. His former ally, Rafe, had turned on him. Oh, Arkady was still alive, no thanks to Rayne's brat...but despite his pleadings after regaining consciousness, Rafe refused to untie him. Slowly, Arkady had worked himself free of his bonds, furiously plotting.

At least, until Rafe pointed out dryly, "You yourself said that Dr. Rayne was on his way here. Do you really want to be around when he arrives, Mr. Arkady?" The man looked at his former ally as he finished untying his ankles. Damn, Arkady thought, he's right!

"And what of you? If the Mexican police...or if the Peruvian police...come with Rayne, it's all over for you," Arkady pointed out, already planning how he could use this man further. At least, until he could slit Rafe's throat and dump him somewhere. However, the other man just looked at him and smiled serenely. That made Arkady very nervous.

"Go, Mr. Arkady. All of your men are dead. Very soon, I will be dead. But before you go, I want you to answer a question for me," Rafe answered with that serene smile. Arkady frowned and the big man continued, "Just before she pushed you down the stairs, Detective Rayne said something very odd. She said something about 'Princess Senephra sends her best.' What did she mean by that?"

Arkady didn't bother answering as he stomped from the room. Damn that brat for not killing Rayne when she had the chance, he thought, ignoring the soft laughter which emerged from Rafe's throat, if I could, I'd kill that little witch myself, make sure she never saw Osiris!

Senephra! No! Anna said sharply as a familiar expression crossed the face of her little companion. Senephra glowered at her, but Anna continued, Do not try that with me, little one...you'll find that my abilities are even more developed than yours!

He used me, Anna...he wanted me to hurt Derek, even more than I did! I'm glad Lissa pushed him down the stairs! Somebody should do it to him again...only this time, I'm not apologizing to him in his dreams! Senephra retorted. Anna tried not to smile at the child's vehemence.

Behave, little one, she said once her facial muscles were under control, I know you're angry with Arkady, and I am as well. Remember, Elizabeth is my granddaughter and he hurt her. But knocking Arkady down the stairs again will do no good to anyone. All right?

Oh, all right! But from now on, I'm taking care of Lissa and Philip. If anyone hurts them, they have to answer to me! Do you think your God will allow that? Senephra asked, a worried frown creasing her face. Anna stifled her smile and just nodded. The little girl relaxed and went on, Anna, I think you should talk to Philip this time. Winston always messes things up...I could have hit him when he mentioned Lissa's daughter! Anna nearly lost control of her laughter, but agreed. She would deal with Philip this time.

Winston was informed of the change in plans as his granddaughter slept. He didn't argue with his wife...he honestly didn't want to leave Lissa. She looked so young as she slept on the floor of the cave. Winston thought back to Derek's childhood, thought back to the nights following his wife's death when he would watch both of his children sleep. I never appreciated it then, he thought, never appreciated the simple pleasure of watching my children sleep. I've learned so much since my death...I wish I could go back and change things. But all I can do now is protect Lissa.

Winston smiled faintly, remembering the nights when he would float about the Legacy House after Derek reached adulthood. He often enjoyed watching Derek slip into Philip's room late at night...the ghostly father and solid son would watch the little boy sleep. It irked Winston that Philip was a priest, but the boy had to make his own way.

Winston laughed at himself. Yes, I have learned much since my death...I could have never tolerated Philip being a priest when I was alive, he admitted silently. As much as I love that boy, I would have insisted on his remaining with the Legacy full-time...and would have been heart- broken when I drove him away. Yes, Derek is doing well in that area. Lissa stirred slightly in her sleep, and Winston returned his attention to her. Sleep well, little one, he thought, it won't be long now. Not long at all.

Philip ducked back into Sandy's room to check on her one more time before he, Nick, Derek, Maeve, and Teniente Escobar left for Peru. The detective was awake once more, and she said softly, "Come to say good-bye? Or rather, farewell? Because you know you're not getting rid of me."

"I should hope not," Philip answered with a smile, "I need someone t' keep me from gettin' too complacent." Sandy burst out laughing, then gasped in pain. Philip winced, continuing, "I just wanted t' see how you were one more time before we headed out, and if there was any message you wanted me t' pass along t' Lissa once we find her." Sandy shook her head, her dark eyes filling with an emotion which Philip couldn't quite identify. It looked almost like...well, it did look like sadness...as well as regret.

"No, hon...thanks for asking, though. Just find her, and bring her back to San Francisco safely," Sandy replied. Philip nodded and started to leave, but the detective added, "There is one other thing, Philip." The young priest turned back around and Sandy said, "I'm really sorry for bringing up Ellen. I know it still hurts you, Pip."

The use of Lissa's nickname for him, coming from Sandy, had a strange effect on Philip. He felt tears burning the backs of his eyes, but replied in a steady voice, "Apology accepted. I...it's just not somethin' I want t' discuss. Maybe that will change someday, but right now...I just can't talk about her. Wi' anyone."

"I understand that. Listen, I know you wouldn't do this anyhow...but don't mention to Lissa that I brought up Ellen. Our favorite new detective is real protective of you, and if she knew that I had mentioned the demon bimbo, my life would be worthless," Sandy replied. Philip nodded and Sandy added, "Good luck and have a safe trip." With those words still echoing in his mind, Philip left her room.

Nick waiting at the nurse's station with Derek, Maeve, and Teniente Escobar for Philip. Nick felt more than a little guilty for pushing Philip earlier, but dammit, how was he supposed to know that the Legacy's resident priest was on the edge of blowing his stack to kingdom come?

You should have known, Nick thought, and when he did blow up, you should have apologized. But apologizing in a case like this was difficult for Nick, and when it came to apologizing to Philip, it was downright impossible.

It wasn't that he thought that Philip wouldn't forgive him...he knew his friend would forgive him. Nick just couldn't apologize to Philip, especially not on something this big. I mean, Nick thought, I really screwed up big time when I made that crack about him not being useful.

Dammit, what happened to us, he thought unhappily, what happened to the two boys who would sit in each other's rooms and drink and talk? I can't believe that things got so royally messed up! What was even worse was, Nick had no idea of how to get things back on track.

It was a moot point, for the moment at least. Philip emerged from Sandy Horowitz's room and said quietly, "I'm ready t' leave, if you are. Maeve, are you sure you won't change your mind?" The teenager shook her head, her eyes flashing with determination. Big surprise there, Nick thought, as if Maeve would change her mind about this? Philip continued with a half smile, "I didn't think so, but I had t' ask. All right, let's go then." The five filed into the elevator car. They had a long journey ahead of them.

After Philip Callaghan left the hospital room, Sandy lay very still until the pain in her chest eased. What she really wanted was to go home, but she wouldn't be released from the hospital for another few days. And her husband wouldn't be arriving in Mexico City for several hours yet.

Which left the police detective with a lot of time to think. Sandy didn't like having time to think...well, not more than a few minutes at a time. Lissa was the thinker, and Sandy was the one who acted.

That was an oversimplification, of course, but for all intents and purposes, it was the truth. And at the moment, Sandy missed Lissa even more than when the younger woman had been in a coma. Sandy could always go to St. Luke's to see her partner, much as she hated to see Lissa so helpless.

This time, however, Sandy was the one lying helpless in a hospital bed, while God only knew what was happening to her partner. But I'm conscious, Sandy thought, I can still pray for her and for Philip. If Mom and Dad are right, then there's one God for us all. For me, the odd Italian Protestant, for my Jewish husband, and my Catholic partner. As well as Captain Rashid.

While it had been many years since she prayed...many years since she even considered the existence of God likely, Sandy nonetheless decided a prayer would be in order. We haven't talked for a long time, the detective thought, but both Philip and Lissa believe in you. For now, that's good enough for me. So keep an eye on them...I don't want to lose Lissa again, and I don't want her to lose Philip!

Lissa shivered as she woke up. At first, she thought that she was back in her own room in the Legacy House, until she realized that her bed was much softer. After a moment, the young cop remembered what had happened. Her grandfather said softly, "Hello, dear one. How did you sleep?"

"All right, Grandfather. I'm a little cold, and still sleepy, but all right. Listen, I don't have a subdural hematoma or anything like that, do I? I mean, it is all right for me to be going to sleep?" Lissa asked.

"Of course, dear one...I would have never allowed you to fall asleep otherwise. And I make you this promise. You will not sleep in this cave tonight. Your father, Nicholas, and Philip are preparing to leave for Peru. It won't be much longer, child, I promise," Winston said.

Lissa merely nodded and asked, "Grandfather, what's the likelihood that I'll have company other than my father and the boys?" Winston looked at her, shocked, and Lissa continued with a tired smile, "That's more or less what I thought, but I wanted to check. I kept meaning to ask you earlier...but...well...you know."

Lissa floundered, trying to find the right words. Winston grinned unexpectedly and replied, "I understand. You were taken off guard by my reference to Cassandra. Although, that's a polite way to describe your reaction. I shall endeavor to remain on your good side, Elizabeth."

"There's a first time for everything," Lissa cracked and was rewarded with a great shout of laughter from her grandfather. In spite of herself, Lissa grinned impishly and said, "You know, Grandfather, against my better judgment, I'm really starting to like you. But it will take a long time before I can forgive you for hurting my father." Winston's smile died as he nodded sadly.

"Yes, child, I know that. I know you won't believe this, but I do love your father, very much. I love all three of you...I was starting to say, more than you can imagine, but you are a parent. You know how much I love you, and your father, and your daughter," he replied.

"I think maybe I do, Grandfather, I think maybe I do know. I...I wish I could tell you that I love you, Grandfather, but...it's taking me time to just get used to the real person. I mean, I've been using Mama's opinion of you during the last few months, and I know that's not fair, but I can't help it. What would you call our relationship, in that event?" Lissa asked and Winston just smiled.

"There's a lovely song, which you often play while you're in your room. I'm not certain of the title of it, but there's a line about, 'the eyes declare a truce of trust, then draw me away.' That is our relationship for now, child. A truce of trust," Winston answered. Lissa thought about that for a moment, then nodded. A truce of trust it was.

The flight down to Peru was silent. Maeve huddled against Philip's side, her head resting against his shoulder. She had been grimly determined to go along with the men, and Maeve wasn't about to turn back now...but that didn't stop her from being afraid. She knew that Derek was right, that they had no idea what awaited them in Peru. But Maeve couldn't just remain in Mexico City and wait.

"Have faith, Maeve...your sister is one of the most resourceful, most capable women I've ever met. And she loves you very much," Philip said softly. Maeve looked up at her priest...eyeing him not just as a priest, not just as a man, but as her friend. Her sister's friend, and Maeve's. It was a strange feeling, but Maeve liked it. Philip smiled and added, "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong, Philip. I was just realizing how nice it is to be friends with your priest. I mean, real friends. You know, you were the only thing that kept me going after my father was killed and while Lissa was in a coma. When I could bring myself to go to Mass, I mean. Do you think God will ever forgive me for that, Philip? For envying the other parishioners for being alive, when I wasn't sure if my sister would ever wake up?" Maeve asked. Philip cocked his head to one side.

"I don't know, Maeve Philippa. Do you think God forgives a young girl for wishin' that her older sister was awake and takin' part in life? Do you think that God forgives a girl who wants only to see her sister's eyes open and alert? Do you think God forgives...?" Philip replied, but Maeve cut him off, laughing.

"All right, I get the picture! Okay, so I asked a dumb question. I just wonder sometimes if my best is ever good enough, that's all. I mean, Lissa was always the best sister anyone could ever ask for, even before she was shot. But ever since she woke up, and found you, and Derek, and Alex, she's...it's as if she's afraid of losing me as well. And yet, she's encouraging me to go to Ireland. She called me on that, you know. Said that she knows me too well, and that you're incapable of hiding things from her," she said.

Philip laughed softly, hugging her gently against his side, and replied, "That's Lissa for you, Maeve. I know she will miss you somethin' terrible when you're in Ireland, but I also know that she would die before she would hold you back. Look at it this way...you'll be spendin' Christmas wi' us, before headin' t' Ireland." Maeve nodded and took his hand, squeezing it. She would never tell him so, but she still wished he wasn't a priest. She couldn't have asked for a better husband for Lissa than Philip.

Alex sat back, sighing quietly. It had been thirty minutes since Derek hung up to get organized, and by Alex's calculations, the men would be in the air by now. And if I know Miss Maeve, the young woman thought with a grin, then she's going with them. No way will they leave her behind!

Alex's smile faded. Damn, but she hated to wait here! So why do it, she thought, Derek knows everything I do. I've searched the databases over and over. There is nothing more I can tell them. And Rachel is just as capable of using the computer. Alex stood up and said quietly, "I'm going back to the hospital. I'm sure George is getting lonely."

Rachel started to say something, but stopped herself. She looked up at Alex and replied instead, "Okay. I'll stick around, just in case Derek and the others call. Will you be back soon?" Alex nodded and Rachel continued, "I know you still have to work on George's case. Have you come up with anything new, which could help?"

The younger woman shook her head with a sigh, and Rachel continued, "Well, I know you. 'Give up' isn't part of your vocabulary. While you're at the hospital, talking with him, see if you can find out what's going on inside of his head. He won't talk to me." Alex thought back to what George's reactions to the various Legacy members, but simply nodded. She would find out what she could.

It would all be over soon. Mr. Arkady had escaped hours earlier, leaving Rafe alone in this place of death. One didn't need any psychic powers, like Detective Rayne had, to know that this was a place of pain and a place of death. Rafe had no extra abilities, but he could feel it.

Rafe patted his pistol, which had been such a true friend to him during the last few years, since the loss of his daughters. It's sad, he thought, when my truest friend has been, not a human, not an animal, but a gun. All I have to do now, Rafe thought, is wait until Dr. Rayne arrives. I can tell him, one father to another, that his daughter wasn't harmed by Mr. Arkady. And then, I will be free. Rafe smiled to himself, warmed by that idea. Freedom. For the first time in so many years, he would be free. It was an intoxicating thought.

Once Derek and the others arrived in Peru, it was agreed that Maeve and Nick would remain at the hotel, while Derek, Philip, and Escobar would head to the Castner house. This last point was actually a topic of fierce debate, with Nick arguing that he should go with Derek and the teniente, rather than Philip. However, the young priest replied firmly, "I am goin' wi' Derek and the lieutenant. I'll not stay behind, not when Lissa needs me. Period."

Nick had looked at Derek, searching for support, but Derek had said only, "My father used Philip to warn me of a danger to my daughter once. I am certain that he will do the same again. Stay here, Nick. You can keep Maeve under control." The younger man had flinched, but protested no further about remaining behind with Maeve.

Now, the three men were on their way to the Castner home. Alex had provided the location of the town, and the Lima House had provided directions to the House. It seemed that they had taken a keen interest in Matthias Castner when they learned that the late Castner had a connection with Victor Arkady. Javier Escobar was driving, Derek sat beside him, and Philip sat in the very back. Javier said, speaking for the first time since their departure from the hotel, "We're here. Looks like they had some excitement."

From the very back, Philip said in a hushed voice, "She was here. She's gone now. That's why the gates are open like that." Derek turned in his seat to look at Philip. There was no distant expression in his godson's pale eyes, just a thoughtful look on his face.

Escobar didn't question Philip...merely said, "I didn't think Lissa would wait around for us to rescue her. I don't know your daughter very well, Dr. Rayne, but Lissa doesn't strike me as the helpless female type." Derek laughed, surprised by this comment, and Escobar added with a grin, "Alex taught me that phrase."

"That sounds like our Alex," Philip said with a smile of his own, "sometimes when you talk, Teniente, I hear her influence. She's not a lady whom one wants t' anger. At least, no one wi' any degree of sense." Escobar roared with laughter, and Derek just glared at the younger man.

However, he had no time to chastise Philip. Escobar pulled up in front of the house, and the men went inside. Philip's body jerked, and after a moment, Derek could see why. Dead bodies littered the ground...all men. A soft voice said, "The ones you seek are no longer here. Detective Rayne made her escape many, many hours ago. Mr. Arkady has also escaped. I'm the only one who remains."

Derek turned his attention to the man who had spoken. He looked to be several years older than Derek, perhaps in his early fifties, with salt and pepper hair, with a beard and mustache to match. The man continued, "I am Rafe. I was Mr. Arkady's...associate. However, that tie was severed when I aided Detective Rayne in her escape."

"I thank you for that. I'm Lissa's father, Derek Rayne. Do you have any idea where my daughter is, Rafe?" Derek asked, walking to the man's side. He was vaguely aware of Philip wandering away...however, for the moment, this man had his undivided attention. If Rafe knew anything about Lissa, anything at all...

No, Dr. Rayne. The last I saw of your daughter, she was driving out of here in a Jeep. But, perhaps you can answer a question for me," the man requested. Derek nodded and Rafe continued, "When Detective Rayne pushed Mr. Arkady down the stairs, she said something very odd...'Princess Senephra sends her best.' She also mentioned something about a 'Philip Callaghan.' Does this mean anything to you?"

Lissa? Pushed Arkady down a flight of stairs? Involuntarily, Derek looked up at the staircase. It was between the first and second floors, spiral in design. Just like the staircase in the library at the Legacy House! However, he said gently, "Mr. Arkady was responsible for a similar event in my home, which involved my godson, Philip. This was several months ago, I'm not certain how..." Derek stopped. Of course, he thought, Dad did say that he would look after Lissa! He told her of Arkady's involvement!

"Dr. Rayne? I think you should come look at this," Javier Escobar said unsteadily. Derek glanced over his shoulder at the police lieutenant, then looked at Rafe worriedly...the man was very pale, and the anthropologist wasn't certain if leaving him alone was particularly smart. However, Javier repeated anxiously, "Dr. Rayne, something is wrong with Philip. He won't answer me."

That got Derek's attention. He turned away from Rafe and walked to Philip's side. The young man was busy scribbling something, but Derek couldn't tell what that something was. Philip's body prevented him from seeing much of anything. He lay a gentle hand on Philip's shoulder, murmuring his godson's name. The young priest didn't react at all. It was as if Philip wasn't even hearing him.

Derek's blood ran cold. For the first time, he understood Philip's reaction months earlier, when Lissa had temporarily lost herself while the pair was in the Hendricks crypt, investigating the urn. When she came out of her trance, she hadn't remembered anything...she hadn't remembered what she had said, or what she had done.

Derek repeated, "Philip...can you hear me? Are you here?" Still nothing, and Derek's heart felt as though a hand of ice was squeezing it. He was prepared to call Philip's name one more time, but the young man gave a soft moan. He started to collapse, but Javier caught him, and for the first time, Derek could read what Philip had written.

What had happened in the rectory when Winston Rayne used him to write the warning to Derek had been scary enough. However, Philip was even more frightened when the spiritual presence took over his body in the Castner house...for the simple fact that he wasn't sure what spiritual force wanted control of him. Or what it wanted.

He could hear Derek calling his name with growing urgency, and Philip had wanted to respond, but the presence needed all of his energy in order to write its own message to Derek. Thus, when it finally released him, Philip had almost no energy...barely enough to stand, even with Javier Escobar's support. Philip closed his eyes, still swaying on his feet. I hope that's the last time this happens, he thought, please God, let it be the last time!

Derek read aloud, "My beloved son. I have little time to write, and there is much I need to say. Please forgive me for the use of your godson's body...I don't mean to frighten either of you. But he's young and strong, and he listens without realizing it. Now you must listen, my son. Your daughter, my sweet granddaughter Lissa, is safe. We helped her to escape, and now, she awaits you. What was a place of death, of body and of innocence, is now a place of sanctuary. Go to her, my son. Go to your child."

It took Philip a few moments to realize that Winston Rayne was not the spiritual force who had used him this time. The wording was all wrong. Rather, it was Anna Rayne. Which explains the wordin', Philip thought wearily, as well as the force wi' which she drained my energy while that was bein' written. She's been dead for more than forty years, as opposed t' Winston's twenty-seven. Almost as long as Lissa has been alive, Winston has been dead. There was a curious harmony to that, but Philip didn't want to think about it. Not right now, at any rate.

However, all of that was driven from Philip's mind when Derek said softly, "I know where she is! Philip, Teniente Escobar, I know where Lissa went after she left here. And if we hurry, we can reach her hideout before sunset." Philip stared at the older man, then it hit him. Of course, he thought, where else would Winston take her to keep her safe, but the very cave where he died?

Part Ten

"I don't understand...what happened to Philip?" Javier Escobar asked anxiously, looking from the young priest to the older Dutchman. Neither spoke immediately, but Javier didn't expect an answer from the young man still swaying in his grasp. Dios mio, he scared me when he collapsed!

"It's a long story. Teniente, do you believe in... things you can't see?" Derek Rayne asked, obviously choosing his words very carefully. Javier frowned thoughtfully and nodded, prompting the older man to continue, "My daughter and I both have the Sight...the ability to see things which others cannot. Philip was used, twice, by the spirits of my parents to warn me of danger to Lissa."

Javier recalled the older man's statement about warning Lissa of danger, just before Javier threw him into the wall. The police lieutenant said slowly, "So, your father warned you, through Philip? Is that what's happened this time?" Derek looked back at the sheet of paper in his hand, frowning thoughtfully. After a moment, he shook his head.

"No," he replied, "no, this message came from my mother. That's why Philip had no energy when he returned to himself. She required all of his energy in order to write this message to me. It would seem that my father and mother guided Lissa to safety...my father died in a mine accident not far from here. He took Lissa to that cave for safety."

Javier shuddered, recalling what he had been told about the mine in question by the local police. They had said that it was haunted. Philip said quietly, "Derek, while your mother was usin' me t' write that message, I could hear your conversation wi' Rafe. Did your father tell Lissa...?"

"About Arkady's part in Senephra's appearance at the Legacy House? Yes, I think so. Which would explain why she shoved him down the stairs. My daughter has her own sense of justice," Derek said with a faint smile. Javier looked from the still-recovering priest to the older man, completely at a loss. What were they discussing? And who was Senephra?

"Speaking of Rafe," Derek said, turning around. Javier turned with him, as did Philip...but no one was sitting on the step. Derek frowned, walking toward the step where Rafe had been reclining, and said, "What happened to him? Where did he go?" The words were barely out of his mouth, when they heard the gunshot. All three men ran upstairs.

Derek was the first to reach Rafe after the report echoed through the empty house. He lay on a cot in a second floor room, his eyes closed. He looked very peaceful... aside from the missing part of Rafe's head, and the gun lying on the ground. Sickened, Derek looked away. Philip was turned to the wall, his shoulders heaving as he quietly retched. As Javier started toward him, Philip turned to face both men. His face was ashen, but the young priest went to the dead man. He said, "I need t' perform the Last Rites. He helped Lissa t' escape, that's the least I can do."

"Dr. Rayne," Javier said quietly. He stood at the window, holding something in his right hand. Derek joined him and Javier said, "I think this will answer our questions about our late friend Rafe."

It was a letter...telling the story of Rafe's murdered daughters. How Rafe had taken revenge on their killer, and went to jail...his meeting with Victor Arkady, and later, with Matthias Castner. It told of his part in the abduction of Lissa Rayne, and in her later escape. After finishing the letter, Derek said quietly, "There is no need for anyone to know that Rafe pulled the trigger to end his own life. Teniente, perhaps you should help Philip. What I'm about to do is against the law, but this man has suffered enough."

"I will help you, Dr. Rayne. Will you be all right, Philip?" Escobar asked quietly. The young priest nodded as he performed the necessary rituals, and Escobar turned back to Derek. He asked, "What is it that you have in mind, Dr. Rayne?" Derek merely smiled and quietly outlined his plan to his new partner in crime.

"I'll make a deal with you, Grandfather," Lissa said. Winston looked at the girl in amusement. She had fallen silent after they agreed upon their relationship, and he had thought she was asleep. By Winston's count, his son and Philip should be leaving for the cave by now. He hoped.

"And what are the terms of this deal, Elizabeth Marie Anne?" he teased gently. He loved the way she smiled when he called her that. Lissa rolled her eyes, a smile playing about the corners of her lips.

"I will ease up on myself...and try to get Philip to do the same," Lissa began. Winston nodded in approval. Good girl! Lissa continued, a glint appearing in her hazel eyes, "What I want from you is equally simple. But just as difficult, I think." Winston frowned and Lissa elaborated with an impish smile, "I want you to ease up on Rachel."

Winston made a disgusted sound and Lissa continued, "Look, I know that you're upset with her about the Cantwell thing. I'm not real pleased with her either. If I ever find out who killed my mother...well, I sure as hell won't blame their fifteen year old kid!" Winston held his tongue. It wasn't his place to tell Lissa the truth about Fiona's death. After a moment, Lissa added, "Just cut her some slack, okay?"

Winston took a deep breath, then replied, "All right. We have a deal. I will try to be more fair to Dr. Corrigan, if you will ease up on yourself and get Philip to do the same. But the next time she blames Derek for one of my misdeeds, the next time she patronizes you or Alexandra, the next time she dismisses a statement of Philip's about a case just because she finds it inconvenient to accept..."

Lissa laughed, "You'll do what? Grandfather, you know you can do nothing to Rachel! Alex and I can take care of ourselves, Philip is more than a match for her...it's bimbos like Ellen who worry me. But if Rachel does blame my father for your screw-up again, then I will zap her!"

Winston scowled at his granddaughter's utter lack of respect, then smiled. He asked, "Oh, so Philip can handle bimbos like Rachel better than he can handle bimbos like Ellen?" Lissa glared at him, her eyes narrowing. He backed down immediately, recognizing that expression from nights of watching her with Nick, and said, "I'm sorry, that was rude."

"Apology accepted, and yes, it was," Lissa replied. Winston was grateful that the girl couldn't read his mind-he didn't think he would care for her reaction. Laughing at a woman when she's dead serious isn't a wise idea, he thought, especially not when you're trying to make amends!

"Thank you for that, dear heart. Now, can we discuss something other than Dr. Rachel Corrigan? Tell me about this George whom Alexandra has been investigating. I know that he's from England, that he battled dragons, and that he was born a millenia ago, when there were still dragons. But I know little of him, other than that," Winston said.

"George is a decent sort," Lissa said, "I was angry with him at first, because of his reaction to Alex...but she pointed out that he had probably never seen a dark person before. It was a knee jerk reaction, because of what happened in college. But George isn't like that bigot. I can't imagine him throwing someone half his size around."

"Not when that someone is defending the honor of a friend...not from what I've seen, at least. In fact, if Alexandra were to tell him about that," Winston said, "I'm certain that he would go to Louisiana to defend your honor!" Lissa burst out laughing once more, a sound which warmed Winston and gave him hope for forgiveness.

In the Castner compound, Philip listened intently as Derek explained his plan to Javier. After a moment, he said quietly, "There's only one flaw, Derek. When a gun fires, it leaves a residue on a person's hand. None of the dead men downstairs have that residue on their hands." The young priest smiled ruefully at the shocked look Derek sent in his direction, adding, "I do listen when Nick and Lissa discuss weapons, Derek. However, I also have a solution to that particular weakness in your idea." Philip proceeded to explain his idea to Derek and Javier.

At last, Javier said, "You're a priest, Philip, a protector of the innocent and a seeker of the truth...and yet, you are helping us with this subterfuge. Why?" There was no malice in the question, no hidden meanings. Philip understood exactly what the police officer was asking.

"I was listening when Derek read that letter, Teniente. This man," he said, gesturing to Rafe, "has suffered enough. First, he lost his wife, then he lost his daughters...yes, suicide is a mortal sin, but it's not up to us humans to judge Rafe." Philip paused, then added, "Besides, he helped Lissa...he took care of her and protected her from Arkady until the time was right for her escape, and then he aided her in that escape. That's why."

There was another long silence, then Javier said, "I'll bring up one of the dead man, and I'll pull the trigger. Your addition will work, Philip, because Rafe put the gun to the side of his head. I shall return soon." He departed from the room, leaving Derek staring at Philip in amazement. The young man blushed and covered up Rafe's lifeless body.

In all, it took no more than ten minutes for them to do what had to be done. The three men agreed that Javier Escobar would wait at the compond, while Derek and Philip went to the cave. After twenty-seven years, the anthropologist remembered that cave vividly.

"I don't like the idea of you and Philip going alone, Dr. Rayne," Javier said as he finished his phone call to the local police, "but your daughter needs you. I'll wait for the three of you here, and keep in touch with Nick and Maeve. You'll call in on your cellular when you find her...let us know that she's safe?"

"Of course...if I know my daughter as well as I think I do, she'll insist on it! Good luck to you, Teniente. It's been a pleasure working with you. I hope your men can find Arkady, but it would be best not to count on it," Derek replied, shaking the police lieutenant's hand.

Javier smiled ruefully, answering, "I told them as much, Dr. Rayne, but I'm not sure if they believed me. We can make the attempt, at the very least. I owe it to Cecilia, and to Rafe, to try to find that man. Good luck to you as well." He turned to Philip, shaking the younger man's hand and said, "Father Philip, vaya con Dios. That means..."

"Go with God," Philip interrupted with a mischievous smile, "I guess Alex didn't tell you that I speak some Spanish." Javier Escobar laughed and squeezed the young man's shoulder, then Philip added more seriously, "Vaya con Dios, Teniente. We'll see you in a few hours." With that gentle blessing, Derek and Philip left the compound.

After concluding his conversation with Derek, Nick gently rapped on the door to the bathroom. Maeve had decided to take a shower after Derek, Philip, and Teniente Escobar left for the compound. From the other side of the door, he heard her ask, "Is there word, Nick?"

"Sort of, honey. Lissa escaped several hours ago. They know where she is...Teniente Escobar is staying at the compound, and Derek and Philip are going to get her. It's almost over, kiddo," Nick said. The bathroom door opened and Maeve emerged, still towelling her hair dry.

"Lissa escaped? That's my sister...never wait around on a man to save you, if you can save yourself," she said with a weak smile. Nick put his hands on her shoulders, trying to comfort her, and Maeve continued, "Thanks for letting me know, Nick. I need to get dressed...is there room service here? I'm starving all of a sudden." Nick grinned. Typical teenager.

He had checked out the bathroom when they first arrived, a few hours earlier...there was no way out, at least not for a five foot three inch fourteen year old. Mice or cockroaches, yes, but not Maeve. Nick replied, "Sure thing, kiddo...with the Luna Foundation, anything is possible."

That weak smile grew a little stronger, and Maeve joked, "Yeah, that's what I keep telling Lissa, but she doesn't seem to understand. I think before I leave for Ireland, Alex and I should take Lissa shopping for some new clothes. She still thinks that she has to dress like a pauper."

"Your sister is a very strong-willed lady, Maeve. Just like you, but she's had even more practice. Besides, Lissa has a point about the way she dresses. She starts dressing nicer at work, some of the other detectives might start resenting her," Nick replied. Maeve nodded with a sigh, and the ex-SEAL continued, "Now, why don't you get dressed, and I'll see what I can do about that room service?"

This time, Maeve responded with a genuine smile as she bounded back into the bathroom. Nick sat down on the bed, still regretting his harsh words to Philip. He makes 'being there' look so damn easy, Nick thought, but it's not! Hell, I'm a soldier, not a priest! I should have never opened my big mouth, but I did. And much as I want to, I can't take it back. I can't change the past.

Alex was disappointed to find George sleeping once she arrived at the hospital. She really didn't want to wake him up, so instead, she headed back to her car. Her cellular phone hadn't rung, so Alex decided that there had been no word from Derek about Lissa. No news is good news, she thought as she slipped into her car and rested her head against the steering wheel, yeah, right! She hadn't allowed herself to think about Julia since the men left for Mexico. Yet, the grief was still there...it wasn't as fresh, but Alex knew it would always be a part of her.

Everything happens for a reason, Alex thought, and losing Julia brought Philip back to us. But I refuse to accept that we'll lose Lissa now. That's not an option! She sighed and started her car, backing out of her parking space with ease. Back to the House, then, she thought, I'm not going to get anything accomplished here.

The drive to the cave where Winston Rayne had died so many years earlier was silent. Derek glanced over at his godson out of the corner of his eye several times, un-nerved by Philip's silence. The boy was quiet, yes, but this was strange even for him.

At last, Derek asked softly, "Are you all right, Philip?" The young man looked up, his expression unguarded. Derek caught several emotions before a veil dropped over his godson's eyes once more...fear, sadness, regret, and another. This last was gone so quickly, Derek had no time to determine what else was bothering Philip.

"I'm fine. Just prayin' for Rafe...hopin' that I'm right about him. Hopin' that what he did right in this life won't be negated by what he did wrong. Thinkin' that we're all in that situation. Worried about Lissa, though not as much as I was before. Winston helped her t' escape, you realize. It was in nothin' Rafe said, but I know he helped her. Perhaps even Anna did," Philip answered at last.

"He told me that he would try to protect Lissa. I don't doubt that you're right," Derek answered. Philip nodded and fell silent once more. This time, he was silent for a long time, and Derek concentrated on driving.

A few yards ahead was a bright red Jeep...and just beyond that was the mine. Derek eased the rental car to a halt, staring at the mine. It seemed as if Derek and Philip had stepped into a time warp...little had changed in the last twenty-seven years. There was still the torches, and the bridge. Philip asked softly, "Do you want t' look around? She might be hidin' elsewhere, and not in the mine itself." This was said with a shudder.

Derek had only to look at the mine to agree. While there was more than enough room for a petite young woman to fit through the boards which pronounced the mine as dangerous, the idea of his daughter hiding in that place sent shivers down Derek's spine. His father had died there... Derek wouldn't lose Lissa here, too. He nodded and the two men split up, each calling Lissa's name.

They're here, my love! Our son and grandson are here, they've come for our Lissa! Anna cried out joyfully. Winston had only to turn his vision outward to see that his wife was correct. He looked back at Lissa, who slept on the floor of the cave. His heart turned over, but it was time she returned to her father and the others who loved her.

"Lissa! Lissa, where are you? Lissa, it's all right! It's me, it's Pip! Lissa!" Winston heard Philip call. Lissa began stirring, whimpering a little, as her friend's voice penetrated her sleep. Call her name again, young one, Winston thought, only louder this time! He knew he wasn't projecting his thoughts, but nonetheless, a moment later, Philip called again, "Lissa! Keep callin', Derek, she has t' be around here somewhere. Lissa!"

A second later, Derek called, "Lissa, it's just the two of us. Come, sweeting, it's time to go home." Now Lissa was sitting up, a puzzled look on her face. Winston heard his son say, "I don't want to think about her in that mine. See if you can find any other hiding places, Philip."

Lissa's eyes were very wide. She whispered, "My father and Philip...they're here?" Winston nodded and Lissa jumped up, but her face paled and her knees gave way. She muttered, "That was brilliant, Elizabeth, real brilliant!" This time, she eased herself up. She headed for the mine entrance, but turned back to look at Winston. She said very softly, "I'm sorry, Grandfather. I'm sorry for judging you so harshly." Winston smiled at the girl, wanting nothing more than to touch her, just once.

However, he said only, "There is no need to apologize, little one. I hurt your father deeply, a wound that may never heal. But know this, Elizabeth...your grandmother and I love you more than you can know. We love you, and your father...Philip, Nicholas, Alexandra, Katherine...and of course, Cassandra. More than that, I cannot give you."

Lissa smiled, answering, "Grandfather, I asked you to be fair to Rachel...you don't have to love her. Is there a message you want me to pass along?" Winston was very still. He searched the girl's face and tried to speak. It was just as well Derek called Lissa's name again...Winston didn't know what he would have said. He mutely shook his head and Lissa said, "Then I'll bid you farewell...and thank you."

"No, granddaughter, I owe you my thanks. Be well, Elizabeth, and take care of your father. It's a pity that other things are destined for you...you would have made an excellent precept," Winston replied. A look of pure horror crossed his granddaughter's face, and Winston burst out laughing. He smiled and said, "Go now, little one. Be careful how you exit, I don't think you want to land face- first at my son's feet." Lissa hesitated and Winston sighed, "Go, Elizabeth! Your father and Philip await you."

There was the barest hesitation, then Lissa flashed him that brilliant smile he loved, and she carefully manuevered around the boards. Winston watched her go, a lump in his throat. Anna said gently, That was the most loving thing I've ever seen you do, my dearest. Letting her go.

There was no other choice, Anna. I couldn't keep her with me...the others need her too much. There are dark times ahead for our son and those he loves...she will be needed. But that won't stop me from missing her, Winston replied and he heard Anna's soft laughter.

Oh, but we will never be without her, dear heart! We can always watch her, Anna said. Winston walked to the cave entrance. Lissa was standing just on the other side of the boards, the setting sun dancing off her hair. The setting sun made the dark locks look almost red.

Then Winston heard his son's shout, and Lissa was gone. We will always be here for you, Elizabeth, when you need us most. Be well, child...be well and be happy.

Lissa stood just outside the cave for a few moments, drinking in the sight of her father and best friend as they searched the area around the cave. She didn't call out... she just wanted to look at these two men whom she loved so much. Philip turned...and his entire face lit up. Derek turned as well. His eyes widened and Lissa mouthed her father's name. Derek cried out, "Lissa!" That was all the young cop needed. She raced across the bridge and flew into her father's arms. He caught her, twirling her around and around, as he had when she was a child.

"Derek...oh, God, I didn't think I would ever see you again! I was so afraid I'd never get a chance to tell you," Lissa wept as she buried her face against her father's jacket. She sounded like a blubbering idiot, but at the moment, it didn't really matter to her. Not with her father's arms around her, strong and reassuring.

"Tell me what, little one...what do you need to tell me?" Derek asked as he at last set her on her feet. He released her to cup her face in his hands. Lissa didn't mind...she wanted to look at him as well. She took note of the worry lines around his eyes, and if she wasn't totally mistaken, there were a few more gray hairs.

But he was her father, and he was here...he had come for her. Lissa responded with a watery smile and replied, "I never thought I'd get a chance to tell you how very much I love you. I was afraid I'd die, and you'd never know." What appeared to be moisture appeared at the corners of her father's eyes, but Lissa was sure she was mistaken.

"I knew, silly one...I knew," Derek replied roughly, then pulled her back into his arms. Lissa didn't pull away, but tightened her own embrace. Unexpectedly, her father laughed and Lissa looked up at him with a confused frown. He said, "I think someone feels left out."

"Can I get one of those, too?" Philip asked in a mock- plaintive voice. He was grinning broadly, however. Derek released her, and Lissa threw her arms around her best friend, hugging him tightly. She drew a soft gasp of pain from him, but Philip returned the hug, murmuring, "Are you ready t' go home then, Lissy?"

"Oh, yes!" Lissa replied fervently. Philip and Derek both laughed. She laughed with them, and kept her arms around the waists of both men as they walked back to the Jeep. Over her shoulder, she saw her grandfather standing at the entrance of the cave, smiling both sadly and tenderly. She nodded to him, and then he was gone.

"I know a certain young lady who will be very glad t' see you," Philip said as they walked to the Jeep, and Lissa looked at him curiously. Philip continued ruefully, "Maeve came with us to Peru. I figured it was the best way t' keep her out of trouble. Nick is with her at the hotel."

Lissa grinned impishly and said, "I know my sister, Philip. It was the only way." Then she gasped, "Sandy... is she all right?" Philip nodded and Lissa relaxed. She hugged her father again as they got into the Jeep. She continued, "Well, that's a load off my mind. Can we fly straight home, once we collect Maeve and Nick? Or do I need to make a statement?"

"No, sweeting...that's all taken care of. Arkady escaped, and the man who abducted you is dead. We only need to pick up Teniente Escobar at the compound," Derek replied. Philip swung into the back of the Jeep, allowing Lissa to sit up front with her father. Derek looked at the mine and started to say something else, then shook his head. Instead, he took Lissa's hand and said, "We're going home."

While Nick kept a look-out from one of the chairs in the motel room, Maeve read. It was nearly eight pm, and there was still no word from Derek and Philip. I wish someone would let me know what the hell is going on! the former SEAL thought, frustrated by the silence. There was a knock at the door, and Nick slipped to his feet, drawing his gun. He peered through the peephole, and what he saw on the other side sent him scrambling to open the door. Once it was, Lissa flew into his arms, laughing. Nick hugged her tightly, repeating her name over and over.

Then Maeve joined them, and all three of them were laughing and crying. Out of the corner of his eye, Nick saw Philip and Derek in the doorway, both grinning broadly. He returned the smile as Derek said, "We're going home. The flight arrangements have been made...the flight leaves in two hours. We'll be home by tomorrow morning."

"Meanwhile," Lissa said plaintively, still holding Maeve, "do you think I can get a shower? And maybe some food? I'm starving, and I must be absolutely rank!" Nick laughed and headed for the phone, while Maeve took her sister into the bathroom. They had a lot to tell each other.

"I suppose this will be a long story?" Nick asked and Philip nodded. Nick sighed and continued, "Well, I suppose I should wait until we're home to hear it. I know Rachel and Alex will want to hear it as well. So...everything is all right?" Philip nodded and that was good enough for Nick. He turned his attention to the phone. He knew exactly what he would request for Lissa. She wouldn't want anything big, not when they would eat on the plane.

Alex and Rachel hadn't heard from Derek in several hours and since she couldn't sleep, Alex decided to do some research. It was five thirty when she heard it...what sounded like the thwap-thwap of the helicopter. Alex listened intently, frowning at the sound. She thought at first that she was imagining things, until Kat ran into the library and blurted out, "They're home, Alex!" The researcher quickly abandoned her work and ran downstairs with Kat. They ran outside just as the blades stopped spinning. The door opened and the first to emerge was...Lissa.

"Xan!" her friend called. Alex broke into a run, and only a second later, Lissa was in her arms. Safe. Alex stroked her friend's hair, sobbing with joy, as Lissa whispered, "It's okay, Xan. I'm home." Alex didn't speak- just held Lissa tightly. After a moment, she looked up to see Philip smiling at her. He had kept his promise.

Two weeks later, Derek, Philip, Lissa, and Maeve stood in the San Francisco Airport. In another few minutes, Maeve would board an airplane that would begin her journey to Ireland. Lissa kept her arm around her sister's shoulders. Maeve whispered, "I'm scared, Lissa. What if I mess up?"

"You'll be fine, baby. Just remember, Shelagh will be in Dublin to pick you up. You have the picture Philip gave you?" Lissa asked. Maeve nodded with a wobbly smile and Lissa continued, "That's my girl. You'll be fine, and you'll have such fun while you're in Ireland."

"I know. It's just that...I'll miss you so much!" Maeve admitted softly. Lissa hugged her, and the girl continued, "I know that Derek and Philip will take care of you, but I still don't like leaving you. Not so soon after getting you back!" Lissa brushed a lock of hair back from Maeve's eyes as the girl's flight was called.

"Oh, princess...I'll miss you, too. Call us as soon as you get in, forget the time difference," she replied. Maeve nodded and Lissa hugged her fiercely. Maeve returned the hug with equal ferocity, then moved along to Philip, then Derek. Lissa didn't hear what was said to either man, or by either man...it wasn't her business.

Then Maeve broke away and headed for the tunnel, her carry-on bag slung over one shoulder. As she reached the tunnel, she turned back, looking uncertain. Lissa blew a kiss, and Maeve caught it with one hand, then waved. She boarded the plane and Derek put his arm around her. Lissa murmured, "I will miss her."

"We all will, sweeting. But it's her time to fly free. I know how difficult it is to let go. She's only fourteen, and you have been both mother and sister to her," Derek said. He held her close and Lissa rested her cheek against the back of his hand. Yes, she thought, and I've already let go of my daughter. This shouldn't be as hard. But it is. The trio was silent until the plane took off. Then Derek said, "Come, little one...it's time to go."

From Lissa's other side, Philip said softly, "Give her a few more minutes, Derek." Lissa smiled at her friend. She didn't want to think about the House without her sister. But Maeve had wanted this so much and after everything she had been through in the last year, Lissa thought Maeve should go.

Finally, when Lissa could no longer see her sister's plane, she murmured, "We can go now." Oh, my sweet, sweet sister...I will miss you!

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