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The athlete moved through the cathedral, his stride swift and confident. The boy has been here before, the entity thought...so much the better! At last, he reached the cathedral office and peered through the winow of the door. A cold smile that could not be called human crossed the youngster's face...inside the office, he could see a slim, dark-haired young man sitting at the desk.
It was the young priest, Father Callaghan, and the smile grew even colder, if that was possible. Very good...just the person I wanted to see. He opened the door silently. In the corner stood two aluminum baseball bats, and the being in control of the athlete's body picked up a bat. He glided silently across the room...a little too silently, because the priest never even knew what hit him.
The soul of the teen briefly reasserted control, and the first blow knocked the priest unconscious. He slumped in his chair, blood trickling from a cut on his forehead. Enraged by the child's impudence, the entity began beating the priest savagely, more blood appearing on the bat with each blow.
"Hey, kid, have you seen Father Callaghan?" Nick Boyle called to a dark-haired boy, maybe sixteen years old. The teenager shook his head as Nick joined him. The ex-SEAL fought back his irritation...dammit, Philip, he thought, where are you? You're fifteen minutes late!
The teenager approached Nick, eyeing the ex-Seal warily, but said, "No, he said he had some paperwork, but would be out to play soccer. That was a half hour ago. We're worried...this isn't like Father C."
The kid looked worried as well, and Nick's annoyance vanished, giving way to concern. It was true...that really wasn't like Philip. The teenager added, looking at five other boys, "I'm 'Julio,' by the way. We're going to look for him. Will you come?"
"Yeah. I'm 'Nick Boyle.' I..." Nick began, then his voice trailed off. How exactly did he explain his relationship with Philip? After a moment, he finished, "I'm a friend. I understand you guys know another friend of mine, Lissa." Six pairs of eyes lit up.
"Detective Lissa is way cool," another boy said as they headed inside, "she plays soccer with us sometimes. Julio always plays badly when she does. He looks at her legs and her..." Nick glared at the boy, who gulped and continued, "Here's the office...but where's Father C?"
There was blood on the door handle, Nick discovered... fresh blood. The door was ajar, and Nick drew his gun, moving slowly into the office. His eyes focused on a still form beside the desk, and his gut clenched. No, he thought, no! He put his gun away and ran to Philip's limp body, dropping to his knees. He checked for a pulse...it was there, but weak. The ex-SEAL cried out, "Call 911, Julio! Use a cloth to hold the phone, and dial with a pen."
The boy nodded and peered over the desk, his eyes widening. He whispered, "Dios mio, not Father C! How could this happen to him?" Nick glared at him...call the damn ambulance, while there's still a chance to save him! The boy got the message and began dialing the number. Nick carefully lifted Philip into his arms, near tears.
He whispered, cradling his friend very gently, "Hang on, Philip. Help's on the way, but I need you to be strong. You can't leave us, okay? I lost Julia...dammit, I can't lose my brother, too!" Philip made no answer...his head lolled in the crook of Nick's elbow, his breathing shallow. Nick hadn't prayed in a long time, but he began praying then.
Another boy entered the office and said, "Mr. Boyle, I found something outside. I was real careful." Nick looked up...the boy was gingerly holding a baseball bat covered with blood. Nick glanced at Philip, then back at the bat in the youngster's hand.
He said huskily, fighting his rage, "Good job. When the police arrive, give it to them, and tell them exactly what you told me. Julio, they're sending both an ambulance and the police?" The boy nodded and Nick continued, remembering the cell phone in his pocket for the first time, "I have another call to make. Julio, I want you and your friend with the bat to go wait for the ambulance and the cops. The rest of you, spread out and search the grounds. Be careful!"
The boys nodded and dispersed, leaving Nick alone with his unconscious friend. The former SEAL blinked back tears, wishing that he could heal Philip. Since that wasn't possible, he reached into his pocket for his cell phone.
Derek, he thought, he should know what happened. So with trembling fingers, Nick dialed Derek Rayne's cell phone.
Miranda Blake had been informed by the curator of the Winston Rayne Hall of Antiquities that Derek Rayne and his daughter Elizabeth would be visiting that afternoon, and so the Hall, which was funded by the Luna Foundation, was in perfect shape. The display cases were clean, and the sun shone on the artifacts. Lissa Rayne wandered through the exhibit, touching this case and smiling at that display. She wished her sister was with her, but Maeve was enjoying her time in Ireland. In the four weeks since Maeve's departure, the ache in Lissa's heart had slowly eased.
She heard her father's soft laughter and Lissa turned to him with a rueful smile. She said, "Sorry...I'm just seeing these things through different eyes. I'm not Jean Q. Public now, but Winston Rayne's granddaughter. I hadn't expected to feel like this."
"Don't be sorry, Lissa. You're enjoying your first visit to the Collection as Winston Rayne's granddaughter?"
Derek asked and Lissa nodded. Her father continued, "Good. I..." Derek's cell phone rang, and he answered, sighing, "Derek Rayne. Nick, slow down, I can't understand you!" Lissa frowned...what gives? Derek's eyes glazed over as he said, "Oh my God. All right, we're on our way. 'Bye."
He flicked the phone off, and Lissa asked anxiously, "What is it, Derek? Is Kat all right?" Then she remembered that Nick had planned to go to the cathedral today for a translation, and her heart dropped. Lissa looked back at her father, asking in a low voice, "It's Philip, isn't it?"
"Yes. We must get there, Lissa, they both need us. I am so sorry..." Derek began, but Lissa shook her head, trembling. Derek put his hands on her arms and said, "When we get to the Rover, I need you to call Rachel and Alex."
Lissa brought her fear under control and nodded determinedly. She would not let her family down.
By the time Derek and Lissa arrived at the cathedral, the building was crawling with police and medics. Lissa got out of the Range Rover and headed for a very tall, sandy- haired man. Derek started to follow her, but the medics were bringing out Philip on a gurney. Nick was at his side.
Derek walked to the gurney, gasping when he saw Philip. His godson was unconscious, with blood seeping through a bandage on his forehead. From behind Derek, Lissa said, "Guys, take real good care of him. Father Philip is a friend." Derek turned to his daughter, and the medics both nodded. Lissa added, "Thanks, Todd...thanks, Jori."
"We'll do our best, Lis, but he's in bad shape. It's only fair to warn you, honey...he was comatose by the time we got here. It doesn't look good," the woman, Jori, said. Lissa inhaled sharply, then looked at Philip. She leaned down and very gently kissed his hair, then straightened.
"Nick, ride with him. Talk to him...let him know you're there. It does make a difference," Lissa said. Nick nodded, barely controlling his emotions, and Lissa backed away from the gurney just long to embrace the former SEAL. Nick buried his face in Lissa's dark brown hair, returning the hug. Lissa pulled away and said, "Be strong, Nick. Philip needs your strength, not your guilt."
Nick nodded and the medics wheeled Philip away, the ex-GI trailing behind them. Lissa and Derek looked at each other, then the young cop turned to the sandy-haired man, who had followed them to the gurney. She said, "What do you have, Zach?" The man looked at her, then his eyes widened.
"I'll be damned, if it isn't the girl wonder! What are you doing here?" the man replied, giving Lissa a bear hug. She laughed, and the man held his hand out to Derek, saying, "I'm Sergeant Zach Grayson. You're Derek Rayne?" Derek nodded and Grayson added, "Thought so."
"Philip Callaghan is a childhood friend of mine, Zach, and my foster brother in a sense. My father raised him after Philip's parents were killed in a plane crash. So. What do we have? Any clues at all?" Lissa asked briskly. Derek flinched, recognizing his daughter's tone. She's barely holding herself together, he thought, not that I'm doing a very good job of it myself.
Grayson closed his eyes, his mouth tightening, and said, "God, Lis, I'm so sorry! Look, we'll do our damnedest to solve this. One of the kids found an aluminum baseball bat, covered with blood. Forensics is checking for prints, and we're checking the blood with Father Callaghan's blood type. It's almost sure to be a match, but procedure is procedure."
"Can I see the bat? I'd like to see if I can pick up anything," Lissa requested and Grayson hesitated, then nodded. Derek understood how the man felt...while it might help them catch Philip's assailant, both men feared how contact with the bat would affect Lissa.
"Sure, kid," Grayson replied, "it's over here. It's been dusted, so you'll know where not to touch." Lissa responded with a dirty look, and Grayson laughed uneasily as he led Derek and Lissa to the van, saying, "Sorry, Lis."
"Behave, Zachary," Lissa replied evenly. She studied the bat carefully for several minutes, and Derek wondered how she could do that. Just looking at it filled the older psychic's mind with horrifying images. Lissa closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then lightly touched a clear part of the bat. She began shivering and whispered, "I'm not getting anything. I don't understand, I'm getting nothing at all!"
Derek put his arm around her, stunned by her trembling. Lissa's fingers touched the sticky red substance and she stiffened. Frightened, Derek tightened his grip, but Lissa didn't cry out. She sighed, murmuring, "The only thing I felt came from Philip...the first blow knocked him out, so he won't be able to identify his attacker once he awakens."
"That's what fingerprinting is for, kid. I told you, we will find whoever did this," Grayson replied and Lissa nodded, reclining in Derek's arms. The older cop touched her shoulder and said, "I'll let you go. You gonna look around some more, kiddo?" Lissa nodded and Grayson said, "I thought as much. You never were one for giving up. You should be proud of your daughter, Dr. Rayne."
"I am...very proud," Derek replied quietly. Lissa blushed, Grayson laughed, and the pair moved away from the cop. Derek continued, "Are you all right? I know that was difficult for you." He said nothing about his suspicion that Lissa had picked up more from the bat than she realized.
"I'm fine. Zach was one of my instructors at the academy. He always said that with the other cadets, he had to push them...but with me, he had to urge me to ease up. I suppose I was driven," Lissa replied as they walked around the cathedral. She cast a rueful look at Derek, adding with a half smile, "Runs in the family, huh?"
"Something like that," Derek admitted, then continued, "Don't underestimate Philip, Lissa. He's stronger than even he knows. And remember what you told Nick before the ambulance left...Philip needs your strength, not your guilt." Lissa rolled her eyes, but nodded. Satisfied, Derek continued, "Then we should walk around the cathedral, and see if the police missed anything. Rachel and Alex are probably at the hospital by now, so Nick won't be alone."
In the ambulance, the medics worked quickly to stabilize Philip's condition. Nick sat beside his friend, whispering words of encouragement to the unconscious priest. He tried to forget about the cruel words and the angry thoughts, tried instead to concentrate on the laughter.
He whispered, "Hey, do you remember the night before Ellen killed herself? It was about a week before you were ordained as a priest, and you were scared. You could never admit it to Derek, but you admitted it to me."
Nick paused, then continued, "I've never told you how much that meant to me, Philip...that you trusted me enough to tell me how scared you really were. I suppose that's why your departure from the Legacy hurt so damn much. Despite your trust in me, I still couldn't help you when you needed me...us...the most. But I won't let you down again."
Every few minutes, a teenager stopped Derek and Lissa as they looked around the cathedral, asking anxiously what he or she could do to help 'Father C.' Unfortunately, the kids could tell the father and daughter nothing new about the attack on Philip. At last, they headed back to the Range Rover. Both were silent until they reached Zach Grayson, who was getting ready to leave with the police van.
It was while they were standing at the curb, talking with Zach, that Lissa sensed the danger. It wasn't just her Sight, it wasn't just her instincts as a cop...no, there was something more which warned Lissa that she and her father were in danger. Ignoring the danger to herself, Lissa grabbed her father's forearms and swung him away from the line of fire. Just a second later, a shot rang out and Lissa felt a burning sensation in the back of her left shoulder.
The burning turned to overwhelming agony, and Lissa collapsed against her father, dizziness threatening to send her into oblivion. Derek held her close, whispering her name like a mantra. From what seemed like a great distance, Lissa could hear Zach screaming, "Dammit, we've got an officer down, search the grounds! I want to know who fired that shot! Dr. Rayne, there's a chance that bullet is close to her heart or a lung...we need to get her to the hospital."
"Yes, I know!" Lissa's father retorted impatiently, and the young cop managed a weak smile. Derek continued, "We don't have time to wait for another ambulance. I'm driving my daughter to the hospital." Derek scooped Lissa into his arms, and the young woman struggled to stay conscious.
"Then let me drive you, Dr. Rayne! The others can meet us at the hospital," Zach answered. Lissa felt herself being carried, and through a haze of pain and dizziness, saw the Range Rover a few yards away. Oh no, Lissa thought, I'll bleed all over Derek's Range Rover! And yet, when she tried to protest, nothing would come out.
The door opened and Derek placed her in the seat, then crawled in behind her. He said, "There are clean cloths in the first aid kit. I want to slow the bleeding, Sergeant." Derek drew her into his arms once more, murmuring, "You'll be all right, my little one. You could have cried a warning."
"No time, Derek. 'Sides, you didn't do what you were supposed to," Lissa mumbled. She gasped as Derek pressed a handful of cloths to the back of her shoulder with one hand. He stroked her hair with his free hand, and underneath them both, the Rover roared to life. Odd, Lissa thought, it sounds so strong...so alive. I must be hurt pretty badly for a car to sound like that.
"She's not delirious, Dr. Rayne. Usually when Lissa pulls that...spins someone around...it throws the other person so off-guard, they both fall to the ground. Then again, most of the time, the people Lissa does that to are her height or shorter. I don't think she's ever tried that on a man before," Zach observed from the front seat.
"I'm sorry, my little one. You startled me, but it would appear I wasn't startled enough," Derek said and Lissa smiled sleepily. Oh, this is no good, Elizabeth Marie Anne, she thought, you can't allow yourself to pass out!
Her father kissed her hair and murmured, "Don't leave us, Lissa. We all need you far too much."
Lissa tried to speak, but she lacked the energy to tell him she had no intention of checking out now, when she was needed most. The young cop knew what the days and weeks ahead held, depending on how long Philip was comatose...knew how much her father and Nick would need her especially. Alex and Rachel, too, though to a lesser degree.
Alex Moreau was still in shock. The phone call from Lissa had shattered Alex's normal serenity...Philip had been badly injured. The researcher had left the House immediately, and met Rachel at the hospital. The ambulance arrived only a few minutes later.
One look at Nick's face told Alex that Philip's injuries were life-threatening. The former SEAL was running behind the gurney carrying Philip, and both Rachel and Alex grabbed him as he tried to follow the gurney into the OR. Rachel said, "Nick, let the doctors do their job! What happened?"
"Some kid took a baseball bat to Philip. He was unconscious when I found him...the medics say he's lapsed into a coma. He's got internal injuries. Lissa and Derek are on their way," Nick replied in a rush. Alex's heart nearly stopped...Philip had internal injuries? He was in a coma? Alex didn't like the sound of this. Nick collapsed into a chair, shaking, and Rachel sat down beside him. He whispered, "He can't die. Dammit, Philip can't die!"
Alex knelt beside Nick and took his hands, for her own comfort as much as for his. Philip. He had helped her so much after Julia's death. Alex recalled the first time she saw him, over five years earlier...
Alexandra Moreau glanced around the enormous castle nervously. Ever since going to work for the Luna Foundation, Alex had heard about this house from Derek Rayne, the Foundation chairman. She was startled when a soft voice said, "Amazin', isn't it? I've lived here for years, and it still takes my breath away." Alex turned and saw a boy descending the stairs. He smiled shyly and said, "Hello."
Up close, Alex could see he was older than she thought, perhaps twenty-two...twenty-three at the most. He had longish, dark brown hair, blue-gray eyes, and a shy smile. Dressed in a gray t-shirt, an open plaid flannel shirt, and blue jeans, he seemed to be a grad student. Alex returned the smile and said, "Hello, I'm 'Alexandra Moreau.' Yes, this is very impressive. How long have you lived here?"
"I thought so...Derek mentioned that you would be arrivin' t'day. I'm 'Philip Callaghan,' Miss Moreau," the oung man replied, extending his hand to Alex. She accepted it with a smile, as Philip continued, "I've lived here for over fifteen years, since I was a small boy."
"And it will always be your home, Philip," a voice from just behind Alex said. The young woman turned to see Derek Rayne. The scientist smiled at Alex and continued, "Welcome to my home, Alexandra, I'm so glad you were able to come today. You've met my godson Philip?"
"Yes, Philip was kind enough to welcome me when I arrived," Alex replied, feeling more than a little nervous.
She caught Philip's eye and he smiled at her. That eased Alex's anxiety, and she returned the smile broadly. We're going to be very good friends, she thought...
Alex returned to the present, barely able to suppress her tears. Rachel was saying urgently, her hands on Nick's shoulders, "Now you listen to me, Nick Boyle! I'll grant you that I don't know Philip that well. But I do know this. He will not give up without a fight. Remember that! No matter how great the odds, Philip will not give up!"
"You've never seen Philip when the chips are down, have you? For someone else, at least...for Derek or whoever.
He doesn't give up, Rachel. But you see, Philip has this problem. He doesn't think he's worth the fight," Nick replied. The young man shook his head wearily and added, "If it was someone else in that room, then Philip wouldn't back down, he'd keep encouraging whoever to fight."
"Then that's what we need to do for him," Rachel said firmly, her brown eyes flashing, and Alex nodded. Yes, that was exactly right. I will not let you die, Philip, she thought, that won't happen! Rachel continued, "Philip needs for us to be strong, and to have faith in him. I don't care what it takes, but we will pull him through this. Count on it, Nick. We will not allow Philip to give up on himself! And we'll be there for each other, all of us."
Rachel could tell that her words had reached Nick, for he nodded wearily. The psychiatrist drew in a deep breath, but before she could continue, a voice boomed through the halls of the hospital, "Make way, we've got an injured cop here!" Rachel turned to see Derek carrying a slight figure, followed by a very tall man with sandy hair.
It took Rachel only a moment to realize that the person in Derek's arms was Lissa, and she bounded to her feet, even as the Legacy precept gently settled his daughter on a gurney. Rachel gasped, "My God, Derek, what happened?" He didn't answer immediately, as a young doctor joined the small group around the gurney. Rachel barely paid attention to him, however. . her concern was only for Lissa. Blood soaked the beige sweater she wore, and Rachel flinched.
"Get her into ER number three...gunshot wound to the left shoulder, possible trauma to her heart and left lung.
Get her clothes cut away, too. I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to wait out here. Dammit, Lis, I thought this would be a nice quiet day!" the doctor said as two orderlies wheeled Lissa into the designated emergency room.
Rachel heard Lissa answer, "Well, forget about me, I'll be all right! I've been shot before, Adrian, I'll survive this! You expect cops to get shot, but you don't expect nice young priests to get beaten senseless with a baseball bat.
So go make sure Philip is gonna be all right! He's one of my best friends." Then the door to the ER swung shut.
"What happened?" Alex exclaimed and Derek collapsed against the wall. Rachel took his arm and led him to a chair. She had never see him so vulnerable...not when he had told her about Alicia Summers, not even when he told her the truth about her mother's death. Alex continued, "Lissa said something about being shot."
"Someone fired at us while we were at the cathedral. Lissa...sensed something. She grabbed me and spun me around, taking the bullet herself. I didn't want to wait for an ambulance, so Sergeant Grayson drove us here," Derek replied, indicating the tall, sandy-haired man. Rachel rose to her feet and offered her hand to the man.
"I'm Rachel Corrigan...thank you. Lissa is very dear to all of us," she said. The man shook her hand, and Rachel continued, looking back at Derek, "What about you, are you all right?" He nodded and the psychiatrist said, "We don't know anything about Philip...as soon as the ambulance got here, they wheeled him into surgery. If he has internal injuries, it will be several hours before we know anything."
"He was so still in the ambulance...the medics said it was normal, but it seemed so un-natural. I knew it was Philip lying there, but it didn't seem like him," Nick said softly, and Alex put her hand on his shoulder.
"Dr. Rayne, I know you're really worried about Father Callaghan and Lissa, but Lis has been shot in the past and her injuries have been far more severe, so she will be all right. She's one tough little gal," Sergeant Grayson said and Derek nodded, looking unbearably tired.
"I know. Lissa takes great pleasure in reminding me," he replied. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, then opened his eyes once more. He continued, "Thank you again, Sergeant Grayson. Will you be returning to the precinct, or returning to the cathedral to continue the investigation?"
"I have to go back to the cathedral," Grayson replied, then added, "An officer will be here all day, so I'll know what's going on with Lissa and Father Callaghan. When they get him settled in a room, let me know and I'll post a few guards. Whoever did this may go after him again."
Rachel could tell that Derek hadn't even considered this, but he nodded. Sergeant Grayson shook each hand, then walked away swiftly. Nick was shaking his head, and he said, "I don't get it. First Philip, now Lissa? What the hell is going on? Is Bannion's curse coming true?"
Derek replied, "Bannion was a vampire, Nick, not a sorceror. Anything is possible, but I don't think his spirit is responsible for the attacks. Why a baseball bat and why a gun?" He was starting to regain his composure now. For the first time, Rachel realized how much she depended on Derek for his strength during times of crisis. Perhaps too much.
But now he needs me to be strong, the psychiatrist thought, his daughter has been shot and his godson may die because some idiot took a baseball bat to him. As she had said, Rachel didn't know Philip very well, and she really had little to do with him...but the idea of someone beating that gentle, soft-spoken young man, particularly with a baseball bat, made Rachel sick. She had only to think of the times when Philip put himself at risk for Kat's sake, and the anger intensified. No one deserved this!
"Derek's right," Alex said, breaking into Rachel's thoughts, "we should let the police deal with this. We need to concentrate on Philip and Lissa's recovery." Nick shook his head, which didn't surprise Rachel. No, she didn't think he could just sit around the hospital. That wasn't Nick.
"I can't do that, Alex. You weren't there, you didn't see how still he was! When I first found him, I thought he was dead!" Nick retorted. Rachel saw the glance that passed between Derek and Alex as Nick shook his head and continued angrily, "No, I gotta do something! I've gotta find whoever did this to Philip, and then I'm gonna make them pay!"
Derek replied softly, "I know you feel useless, Nick. We all do. But right now, you're needed here at the hospital. We need you...Lissa needs you...and most of all, Philip needs you. If something were to happen while you were gone, you would never forgive yourself." What he didn't say...though all of them knew it was true...was that Nick wouldn't forgive Derek, either.
For a moment, Rachel feared that Nick would bring up the past. His green eyes flashed, and every muscle in his body was rigid. Please, Nick, Rachel thought, Julia's death wasn't Derek's fault, and neither is this. He loves Philip,
too. At last, however, Nick closed his eyes and took a deep breath, saying, "You're right. I'll stay until Philip is out of surgery and Lissa is settled."
"That's all I ask. Just stay until we know that Philip came through surgery, then do what you must," Derek replied.
That haunted look was back in his eyes, and Rachel wondered if the others heard him whisper, "If I've done something to offend God, then why is He punishing my daughter and Philip? Those children have only sought to serve God, as have I."
"If God is punishing you through Lissa and Philip," Alex said bitterly, "then I want nothing to do with Him! That's not the God Philip believes in and serves." Rachel put one hand on the younger woman's arm, trying to comfort her.
She kept her other hand on Derek's shoulder, as the four settled in to wait. Rachel thought of Kat. I should tell her that Philip has been badly injured, she thought, and that Lissa was shot. She loves them both so much, but Philip has always been so special to her. How do I tell her that she might lose another older brother?
Rachel glanced at Derek, and her heart nearly broke for him. She silently prayed that her daughter wouldn't choose to become a police officer. Rachel didn't think she could bear to endure what Derek was feeling right now.
"You were supposed to kill the damn priest...what the hell stopped you?" the man rasped. The demon hissed at him, motioning at his body. The human who had summoned him laughed, replying, "Well, well...it seems the boy you chose as your host is a little more strong-willed than you imagined. He stopped you, did he?"
"The priest is still alive, though not by much. Derek Rayne is quite healthy, however...I must say that you botched your part quite thoroughly," the demon shot back. He had a moment's satisfaction, as the other's eyes burned with hatred, then the demon continued, "Don't bother sending me back...you need my help in order to win."
"Not for now, I don't! Begone, mindless demon, until I summon you again!" the man retorted, his mouth twisting with contempt. The human's hand tightened into a fist, then flew open. The demon had no time to even cry out, as it went spinning into oblivion.
It was four hours later when the young doctor whom Lissa had called 'Adrian' came out and said, "We removed the bullet from Lissa's shoulder...she's in her room and resting comfortably. I'd like her to stay for a few days, in case complications arise. That slug was un-nervingly close to her heart. She should be all right, but..."
"Can we see her?" Derek asked anxiously. He had been silent during the last four hours, an unbearable time for Nick. He had recalled every cruel word he had hurled at Philip...particularly his bitter insults from six weeks earlier, while Lissa was missing.
"Yeah...in fact, I think that's probably the only thing that will shut her up. She hasn't stopped yacking since she woke up. The only way she'll heal completely is if she rests," the young doctor answered. For the first time, Derek smiled and the doctor continued, "Meanwhile, I'll see about the surgery on Father Callaghan. Lissa is terribly concerned about him."
"Lissa and Philip were very close when they were small," Derek replied in a husky voice. Nick looked at his feet.
'Close' wasn't quite the word he would use, given what he had read in Fiona Reynolds' journal. Derek added, "Thank you for telling us about my daughter's condition, Doctor...?"
"Tyler. Adrian Tyler. And you're quite welcome, Dr. Rayne. I've known Lissa for several years...you should get her to tell you a few of her stories. The kid should have been a teacher or something...she has an amazing gift for storytelling," Tyler replied. She comes by it honestly, Nick thought, her mother was quite a storyteller!
"Lissa only talks about her childhood, Dr. Tyler, about her time with Philip when she was a small girl," Rachel said, "she never talks about her work. I think it's too painful for her. She lives it...so she doesn't want to talk about it. I'm Rachel Corrigan, by the way. That's Nick Boyle and Alex Moreau. We're very grateful to you."
"I didn't do anything, Dr. Corrigan...just made sure she didn't lose any more blood and took the bullet out. Of course, Lissa told me several times to take it elsewhere before she went under. You know Lissa...she doesn't like to admit when she's in pain," the doctor replied.
"Oh yeah," Nick replied, speaking for the first time, "that's Lissa to a 'T.' Likes to fool everyone, including herself, into thinking she's as tough as nails. You know better, I take it?" Adrian Tyler responded with a rueful smile, though Nick saw the weariness in his eyes.
"Lissa has fooled most people into thinking she's granite. Not me. I guess she learned early that most people couldn't be trusted. The trouble is, she also shuts out the people who can be trusted," the doctor said, adding, "Lissa is in Room 431. I should check on Father Callaghan. My daughter is gonna come unglued when she hears about this."
"So will mine," Rachel muttered as Dr. Tyler walked away. Nick looked at the psychiatrist with a start. He had been so concerned with Philip and Lissa, he hadn't even thought about Kat's reaction! Rachel continued, "I should pick up Kat from school. God, how do I tell her about what has happened to Philip and Lissa?"
"Just tell her the truth, Rachel," Derek advised wearily, "Kat is far stronger than you realize, and you cannot keep Philip's condition from her, or Lissa's injury. Even without her Sight, she will know that something is wrong. And children like Kat...trying to protect them from unpleasant truths often backfires."
"I know," Rachel sighed, "the trouble will be in telling her. Listen, I'll see you later. You'll look after each other until I get back?" Alex and Nick both nodded, and Rachel put her hand on Derek's shoulder, saying, "Lissa will be fine, you know. You heard what Sergeant Grayson said. And have faith that Philip will be all right as well.
They're both strong, determined young people Derek nodded and Rachel looked at him helplessly. She looked back at Alex, who mouthed, 'we'll look after him.'
Rachel nodded and hugged first Alex, then Nick. As she pulled away, the psychiatrist said, "Remember what I said, Nick. We will pull Philip through this."
Nick nodded, trying to focus on Rachel's promise, instead of the terrible fear gnawing away at his soul. He said, "I know that. And if Lissa has anything to say about it, Philip won't even consider giving up." Rachel smiled, then walked to the exit at the end of the corridor.
"Speaking of Lissa, we should see her, before she decides that we don't love her anymore. Dr. Tyler said Room 431, didn't he?" Alex asked and Nick nodded. Yeah, that was right. Derek rose slowly to his feet, and for the first time since Nick had known his friend, Derek seemed older than his actual years. The trio headed for the elevator, which would take them to the fourth floor. All three were silent...Nick was willing to bet that neither Alex nor Derek really knew what to say. Just as Nick didn't know what to say.
Lissa was reclining in bed, her dark hair falling to her shoulders. Before she and Derek had left for the museum, Lissa's hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. For some reason, she looked younger. Or maybe it was just the sad, lost look in her eyes. Lissa was obviously still groggy from the anesthesia, but that didn't prevent her from smiling sleepily as Alex, Derek, and Nick entered her hospital room. She held out her right hand and murmured plaintively, "Adrian finally got you? It figures. I've been waiting for nearly a half hour, and he promised to get you immediately."
Lissa sounded almost like a little girl who had feared being denied a promised treat. Alex took her friend's hand and replied, "They had to get you settled, Lis. And Dr. Tyler is checking on Philip now, so it's time for you to behave yourself. How do you feel?"
Lissa giggled, still sounding like a little girl, and replied, "I never behave myself, Xan, you know that! It takes all the fun out of life when you behave. I'm glad that Adrian is finally seeing about Philip's condition...he can be terribly stubborn when he wants to be."
"Oh, and you're not, of course!" Alex teased her friend gently. Lissa smiled sleepily and the researcher gave her hand to Lissa's father. Alex continued, "Rachel had to pick Kat up from school, but she'll be back before long. Now, tell me...what on earth were you thinking, Elizabeth Marie Anne? Why weren't you wearing a vest?"
"Sorry, Mother," Lissa replied, "I don't wear Kevlar vests when I go to the museum. Even I have more fashion sense than that." Alex couldn't help herself...she started laughing. Lissa grinned impishly and continued, "Much better. Now, do you know anything about Philip?"
"He's still in surgery, Lis. The doctors are taking care of him right now, so you worry about yourself. Dr. Tyler said that you need your rest. Get some sleep, and let yourself heal properly," Nick replied and Alex nodded.
Lissa's response was a roll of her dark hazel eyes. Nick continued wryly, "Has anyone ever told you that you can be a pain in the ass when you decide to be stubborn?" Lissa was obviously sleepy, but she fired off one last volley.
"Sure, but you love me anyhow," she mumbled. Alex and Nick didn't reply...it wasn't necessary. Lissa's eyes were starting to drift shut now, and she squeezed Derek's hand, asking, "You'll stay with me while I sleep, won't you, Dad?"
Both Alex and Nick gasped when Lissa spoke the last word...she had never before called Derek that. Derek lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed it, replying, "I won't leave you, Lissa. I promise. Now rest, little one...you must rest." The young woman sighed deeply, allowing her eyes to close. Nick and Alex exchanged a look, then left the hospital room together, leaving Derek with the child of his blood.
"Starting to feel better?" Alex asked Nick in the hall. He shrugged and Alex continued, "I wish they would bring us news about Philip. This is taking way too long." The ex-SEAL sat down, resting his head against the wall of the hospital waiting room. Alex sat down beside him.
"It will take time, Alex. They have to stop the internal bleeding caused by the beating, and that takes time. A simple operation to set a broken arm takes an hour and a half to two hours. Philip will be in surgery for at least another hour, if not longer," Nick answered.
Alex shuddered and said softly, "I don't get it, Nick. Why did this happen to Philip? He would never hurt anyone who didn't pose a danger to an innocent or to someone he loves. And he's dedicated so much of his life to helping people. So why him?" Nick sighed deeply, wishing he had answers. But he didn't. Not for himself and not for Alex.
"It didn't have to be Philip, you know. It could have been any one of us in that hospital room, and we'd still be saying 'why,' Alex," he replied and Alex nodded, sitting down in a chair. Nick sat down beside her and continued, "But it does make you wonder...God in heaven, the kids in that parish love Philip! They would do anything for him!"
"What makes it so sure that it was a kid who did this, Nick? You said that when they first brought Philip in. You said a kid hurt him. What makes you think that?" Alex asked with a thoughtful frown. Nick rose to his feet once more and began pacing in front of the chairs.
"Something one of the boys said when the police first got there. They said that Philip was the only adult around the cathedral...everyone else was a teenager. Alex, Philip's attacker must be someone who is a regular around the cathedral, because the boys also said that they saw no one suspicious," the former SEAL replied.
"I've seen Philip with those kids, Nick...so has Lissa. There is no way one of them would take a baseball bat to him. As infuriating as Philip can be at times, they would no more take a baseball bat to him than you would," Alex replied. Nick paused from his pacing long enough to grin at her, and the young woman continued, "There's something else. What's the connection to the shooting?"
"I don't know," Nick admitted, "but that has me worried as well, to tell you the truth. It's not exactly a secret that Philip is Derek's godson. I mean, for all we know, Randolph Hitchcock could have engineered the attack on Philip in order to lure Derek out into the open."
"He did go to rather extreme measures to destroy Derek last time, didn't he?" Alex admitted, frowning. She was silent for several moments, then continued, "And he, of all people, would know how much Philip means to Derek. Nick, if this is even close to being true, then someone would have to have known that you planned to go to the cathedral this morning." Nick shook his head slowly.
"No. If it was Hitchcock, he would know that any attack on Philip would send Derek rushing to the cathedral. My participation was a lucky break which got Derek and Lissa there quicker. But if the boys from Philip's soccer team do know the coward, there is one other possibility," he said.
Alex frowned and the former SEAL explained, "Remember, Hitchcock used Cain's confession to destroy Derek last time. I'm not entirely certain that Cain's restless spirit didn't try to warn Derek. But, if Hitchcock did that once, what's to stop him from summoning a demon from hell itself? A demon which took possession of a teenage boy?"
"That's kind of reaching, Nick. I mean, why have this demon attack Philip? Why so indirect?" Alex asked, shaking her head dubiously. Nick sat down beside the young woman once more, struggling to explain what he meant. Hitchcock was so very dangerous, because he didn't do what was obvious.
"Because if he just sent the demon after Derek, it would be over too quickly. Hitchcock wants Derek to suffer because of Hitchcock's grief after Alicia was killed. I don't think Hitchcock knows how much Rachel is coming to mean to Derek, but he does know what Philip means to him. That's something else. Lissa has said all along that Hitchcock was responsible for her aunt's death. Alex, what if she's more right than she knows?" Nick asked.
Alex said slowly, "Then we need to be extremely careful. But still, he could have gone after any of us, not just Philip. Nick, if you're right...if Hitchcock is behind the attacks against Philip, Lissa, and Derek, and if this is his revenge for Alicia's death, then..."
"More to the point, how do we prove that Hitchcock is responsible? Alex, if I'm right, then we need to find a way to prove that Hitchcock is also responsible for Alicia's death!" Nick replied passionately. He composed himself, then continued, "And Hitchcock would go after Philip because that was easier than going after Lissa."
"Since Lissa is a cop. Hitchcock is too smart to bring down the police department on his head. So, since he can't harm the child of Derek's blood, Hitchcock goes after the child of his heart instead," Alex guessed, nodding, and Nick responded with a thumb's up sign.
"Bingo. Unfortunately, this is all speculation and we have no way of proving it. But it would all make so much sense! Lissa once said that Hitchcock's jealousy of anyone whom Alicia loved led to her death. But I'm wondering if there's more to it than that," the young man replied.
"Nick, you know that both Lissa and Philip are still in danger...if you're right, if Hitchcock is responsible for what happened to them, how do we protect them from another attack?" Alex questioned. Nick sighed. That, he thought, is a very good question! Alex said, rubbing her temples, "Listen, I need a cup of coffee. Would you like something?" Nick shook his head and the young woman touched his shoulder, then headed for the elevator.
Nick was left alone with his thoughts, and he immediately regretted staying behind. Once more, past words returned to haunt him, angry words thrown at Philip after Julia's death and since. Nick closed his eyes, burying his face in his hands as his own voice echoed in his mind...
"Still fightin' fire wi' fire, huh?" a soft voice with an Irish lilt observed from the door and Nick looked up from his work on the fifth sepulchre. Philip looked at him with a shy smile, and Nick angrily squashed the burst of affection toward the man whom he once considered a brother.
"Still pretending to be a priest?" Nick returned, and wondered why he felt no triumph over the pain that flickered in Philip's pale eyes. Why Philip's expression inspired guilt, rather than satisfaction. He turned his back on us, Nick had thought, and no matter what Derek says, he should have stayed out. He's not one of us any more!
Except, as Nick realized so many months later, he had never stopped being a member of the Legacy. In Derek's heart, in Nick's own heart, the shy young priest had never stopped being one of them. Tears filled Nick's green eyes, and despite Lissa earlier admonition, he whispered, "I didn't mean it, Philip. I didn't mean any of it, please don't die!"
"Have faith that he won't, Nick...have faith that he'll find the strength to stay with us," Derek said quietly and Nick turned to face his mentor. The older man sat down and added, "Lissa is asleep and I wanted to see how you were. Philip knows you didn't mean the things you said to him."
"Does he?" Nick asked hoarsely, folding his arms across his chest as he stared at Derek. The other man nodded and Nick continued, "How can you be sure of that? I've never told him that I was sorry, that I only spoke from pain and anger and frustration. God, Derek, that man in surgery right now is like my brother! And I was so damn impatient with him this morning, when I went to the cathedral."
"Philip often knows things without being told, Nick. You know that. And you have told him, haven't you? On the way to the hospital, while you were in the ambulance? And before? He was unconscious, but he did hear you. Philip knows how much you care, Nick," Derek said quietly.
Nick closed his eyes and whispered, "Yeah, I did. I kept telling him over and over that he couldn't die, that we needed him too much. But he was so still, so...lifeless. I told him that I lost Julia, and I couldn't lose my brother as well. And I just sat there, trying to let him know that I wasn't going to leave him...that I wouldn't let him down."
Nick sat down beside Derek, barely able to suppress his tears, and buried his face in his hands. After a moment, he looked at his mentor, saw the pain in Derek's eyes. The young man whispered, "Now Philip's in surgery and none of us can reach him. None of us can talk to him. You can't go to him and tell him that you love him like your own son."
"No," Derek answered, his own voice barely audible. He rose to his feet and said, "When Philip first came to live with me, my nightmares often woke him up. I placed him a few doors down from my room, so he wouldn't feel so alone. The castle is huge, but to a child of seven, it seems ominously large...and Philip was already traumatized."
Derek paused, then continued, "The night Fiona and Lissa arrived for their weekend at Angel Island, I had a nightmare about the night Alicia was killed, and awoke screaming. I wasn't alone...Philip was at my side. This little boy, who should have been asleep, was standing beside my bed. And he touched my hand. The child I had been trying to comfort for more than a month was trying to comfort me."
Nick could visualize the scene in his mind's eye, even as Derek said, "I gathered him in my arms and told him what a good boy he was, over and over. His grandmother...she did to Philip what Lissa's step-father did to her. Told him that he was worthless, a terrible little boy. I can't tell you how long it took me to get him to believe otherwise. What she did to him was a form of abuse, Nick."
The young man nodded, trying to swallow and failing. He was spared the necessity of a reply when Alex returned with coffee. She sat down between them, murmuring, "I hope you don't mind, Derek, I brought you back a cup as well." Derek smiled wearily and took the cup from Alex's hands. Silence fell for a few moments, then Alex murmured something under her breath. Nick leaned forward, unable to understand what his friend was saying. It took him only a few seconds to realize that she was praying. Nick hesitated, then began praying as well. God knew it couldn't hurt.
Katherine Corrigan knew, just as soon as she saw her mother's expression, that something terrible had happened.
Mom had tried to smile, but Kat could see the truth in her mother's eyes. The little girl swallowed hard as she hugged her mother, whispering, "Is it Derek?"
"No, baby...no, it's not Derek. Philip has been hurt very, very badly," Mom answered in a husky voice. Kat felt as she had when her father and brother were killed, an incandescent pain which made it hard to breathe. Mom went on, "Nick found him when he went to the cathedral, and he's in surgery. The doctors are trying to make him all better."
"Philip could die too, couldn't he?" Kat asked once the pain eased a little. Not Philip, she thought, please, not Philip! You have Daddy and Connor, God, don't take Philip away from me, please! Mom was silent as they walked to the car together. Kat repeated, "Philip might die."
"I hope not, baby, I hope not. But yes. He might die, too. But Derek and Alex and Nick are at the hospital, and Lissa..." Mom began as they buckled their seatbelts, then stopped. Kat looked at her mother quickly, hearing the catch in Mom's voice, and began trembling. Oh no, she thought, not both of them! Mom said steadily, "Lissa was shot, honey, protecting Derek. But the doctor says she'll be ok."
"I want to go to the hospital, Mommy," Kat whispered, her eyes filling with tears. Mom started to protest, but Kat repeated, "I have to go to the hospital! Philip and Lissa need me!" Mom closed her eyes, then nodded. She started the car and Kat stared out the window, trying not to cry.
"Dammit, we're losing him!" Adrian Tyler heard the surgeon exclaim, and the young doctor's heart clenched. He had heard the truth of Lissa's feelings for the man on the table in her voice. Never mind that he was a priest, Lissa Rayne was in love with Philip Callaghan.
Don't die, dammit, he thought, willing the younger man to fight, don't do this to her! Even if she can't have you, Lissa wants you alive and in this world. It seemed that his words reached the young priest, for in the next instance, the surgeon said with more than a small degree of relief, "Whew! I thought the kid was a goner for sure."
"Don't say things like that, Colby," advised the supervising surgeon, "you don't want to give the kid any ideas. All right, we got a reprieve...let's not waste it. We have little more cleaning to do before we can close the kid up." Adrian nodded and slipped out of the observation room. He wanted to check on Lissa, and let her father know that Father Callaghan was still alive. Hopefully, Adrian thought, my favorite detective is asleep...but I won't hold out much hope of that happening.
As soon as Kat and Rachel reached the hospital, reached the waiting area outside Lissa's room, Kat pulled away from her mother. The little girl ran straight into Derek's arms. He held her tightly, whispering, "You must have faith in Philip, Kat. He needs you to believe in him."
"Can I see him?" Kat asked, holding on to Derek for dear life. Behind Derek, Nick shook his head and Kat continued, "Why not? Is he still in surgery?" This time, it was Alex who nodded, and Kat looked from Derek to Nick and Alex. Nick looked like he was barely holding back his tears. Kat touched his cheek with her free hand, and Nick kissed her palm. Kat returned her attention to Derek...he looked so sad and so afraid. The little girl continued, "What about Lissa? Can I see her? Mom told me that she was hurt, too."
"She's asleep right now, Kat, but I think she'd like very much to see you when she wakes up. Your mother is right, Lissa will be fine," Derek answered in a husky voice. Kat rested her head against his shoulder, snuggling close, and Derek repeated, "We must believe in him, Kat. Philip needs our love and our faith and our strength."
"He always has," Nick added and Kat looked at him. There was a sad, lost look in Nick's eyes, and the little girl remembered that sometimes Philip and Nick didn't get along. She didn't understand that, but she loved them both.
Nick continued, "I need some coffee. Anyone else want some?"
Everyone else said they were all right, though Kat could tell that they weren't. Alex was on the verge of tears, and Derek... Kat shuddered when she looked into Derek's eyes. She whispered, "Derek?" He looked at her, and the child continued, "We can't tell Philip that we love him, can we?" Derek shook his head and Kat added, "But we can tell God, right? We can tell God that we love Philip and need him?"
For the first time since her arrival, Derek smiled and answered, "Yes, Katherine...we can tell God that we love Philip and need him. Maybe then he'll let Philip come home to us." Kat hugged him hard and began praying that she wouldn't lose someone else whom she loved.
In the cafeteria, Nick sat alone with a cup of coffee. A soft voice greeted, "I thought that was you."
Nick looked up to discover his former girlfriend, Liz Barrows, standing at his side. Nick smiled in surprise, and Liz sat down beside him, "I was here for my check-up...what about you?"
"I'm here for a friend...he was beaten up pretty badly. The doctors don't know if he's going to make it. He's comatose, with internal injuries," Nick replied and Liz flinched. Nick sat back in his chair and continued, "He's like my own brother, Lizzie...all I can think about is all the cruel things I've said to him. Blindly striking out."
"But he knows you care about him, Nick...I know what your temper can be like, but I also know how much you care for your friends. And if he knows you at all, he knows, too," Liz replied, covering his hand with her own. She paused, then asked very gently, "It's Philip, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I went to the cathedral this morning. We were supposed to meet out on the steps...he knows how I feel about churches in general. When he didn't show up fifteen minutes after our designated meeting time, some of the boys in his parish and I went looking for him. We found him in the office, unconscious," Nick replied. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and continued, "Then another friend of mine, Lissa...she was shot protecting her father."
"You've been through the ringer today," Liz said gently. She paused, then added, "Lissa...is this the girl I saw in the newspaper, the one who was in a coma for more than a year?" Nick nodded and Liz commented, "She's another one who's been through the ringer. She must be an amazing lady."
"She is," Nick admitted with a smile, "she really is. You know what she was doing when Derek and Sergeant Grayson brought her in? She was pestering the doctor to go check on Philip. She said she had been shot before, she would survive. That's just how she is."
Liz smiled and said, "She sounds like a really terrific person, and a very good friend. And, I would really love to meet her sometime. But for right now, I should leave. My wedding rehearsal is tonight, and I need to get ready for that." Nick nodded with a smile, and Liz added hesitantly, "Nick...if I sent you an invitation, would you come?"
Nick smiled and answered, "Of course, Lizzie. Tell Kevin that I said 'hello.' And thanks for listening." The young woman smiled again as she rose to her feet and gently kissed his cheek, then left the cafeteria. Nick sat back, his smile fading. It was time to head back upstairs and rejoin his friends. Time to see about Philip.
Eventually, Derek returned to Lissa's room. Kat went to Alex and tried to help her, at Derek's request. The Legacy precept went into his daughter's room...she was still sleeping, he was relieved to see, and Derek sat down beside Lissa's bed. He gently brushed a lock of dark brown hair back and tenderly kissed her forehead.
"Philip is still in surgery, little one," he said very softly, "Dr. Tyler came into the waiting room shortly after Kat arrived, and told us that Philip is hanging on. Yes, Kat is here...Rachel told me that she insisted upon coming to the hospital when she learned that you and Philip had been injured. Kat's exact words were 'Philip and Lissa need me.'
She is a very special little girl, and she loves you both very much. She was trying to comfort Alex when I came back in here. I think she needed Alex, too."
"How's Nick?" Lissa murmured and Derek started. His daughter opened her eyes and smiled at him sleepily. As ever, that smile turned Derek's heart inside out. She had become so firmly entrenched in his heart and in his life, Derek couldn't imagine life without her. And God willing, he would never have to live his life without Lissa in the world. She said, "I woke up when you came back into the room, Dad. I was just gathering my bearings, that's all."
"A likely story!" Derek accused affectionately and Lissa just smiled. He continued, growing serious, "Nick isn't doing very well. He seems to blame himself for what happened to Philip, and keeps saying that he didn't mean some of the things he has said to Philip in the past."
"The cruel things, you mean," Lissa commented and Derek nodded. The young woman continued with a sigh, "I was afraid of that. I'll have to give him some extra attention, then. I take it you're keeping Nick here until Philip is out of surgery and we know what's going on with his condition."
"Yes...I hated doing it, but I knew he would have never forgiven himself if Philip had...if things went badly and Nick wasn't here. I overheard him and Alex talking earlier...they don't think there was anything natural about the attack on Philip," Derek replied. He paused, then added, "I agree. Especially after hearing what Nick had to say."
He repeated the conversation to his daughter. Lissa nodded thoughtfully and replied, "You know, it makes sense. Put Nick on the investigation once Philip is out of surgery. He needs to be doing something. I should have a talk with him before he starts the investigation...I have a few ideas that might help him."
"Elizabeth Marie Anne Rayne, you're to rest! Those are the doctor's orders!" Derek scolded and Lissa rolled her eyes. The precept hesitated, then continued, "But you won't rest, will you? Until Philip is stable and we know what happened, you can't rest, can you?"
"Of course not," Lissa replied calmly, "I am your daughter, after all. And if you were in my place, you would do the same." Derek looked away and Lissa covered his hand, continuing, "I love you, Dad. But you know I'm right." Derek nodded and squeezed her hand.
to be continued on next page
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