Part Five

Alex was as good as her word, updating Derek on Philip's condition while he ate. At last, she concluded, "Anyhow, we thought we'd go to the hospital before Nick heads over to the parish school and starts poking around about the beating. Lissa told me that she would give him something that would help with the principal, Sister Antonia."

Derek smiled, remembering Maeve's comments about the nun in question. He replied, "I think that will probably be helpful. From what Maeve has said, Sister Antonia is extremely protective of her young charges. That reminds me, we need to call Maeve sometime today...and Molly."

"I've already called Maeve. The poor kid wanted to come home, but I convinced her to stay put. Shelagh needs her help, and Lissa would only feel guilty if Maeve came home. I promised to buy her airline tickets if Philip took a turn for the worse," Alex replied and Derek nodded, relaxing. The researcher continued, "I also talked with Shelagh...she was utterly devastated by what happened to Philip."

"I imagine so...Philip isn't exactly close with his sister-in-law, but he does think well of her. And this happening so soon after Michael's death, it can't be easy for Shelagh. Now, I have a question," Derek said. Alex raised an eyebrow and Derek continued, "How did you get me here without waking me?" For the first time, Nick smiled.

"Very, very carefully, Derek. Now, I would guess you want to get cleaned up. Alex and I have work to do, so we'll meet you downstairs in fifteen minutes. Is that all right?" the young man asked. Derek nodded with a smile, and the pair departed. Once he was alone, his smile faded. He looked at his clothes...which were stained with Lissa's blood.

Derek frowned, wondering how that had happened, then remembered cradling her in his arms in the Range Rover as Sergeant Grayson drove them to the hospital. His vision blurred, but he told himself sternly, <No tears, they won't help Lissa or Philip!>

He was angry with himself for breaking down earlier, especially since Kat was with him. <But...dear God, to see Philip so helpless like that!> Derek had recalled a time, over fifteen years earlier, when his godson fell ill after playing in the rain. Derek had cradled the feverish little boy, assuring him that even when he didn't do as he was told, he wouldn't be sent back to his grandparents. Derek had nearly lost Philip, all those years earlier, and he had nearly forgotten what that terror felt like. The precept sighed and returned his attention to dressing. It was almost time to head to the hospital.

Craig Hughes stumbled out of bed at six am and headed to the kitchen. His mother was watching tv as she fixed breakfast. Craig blinked...they never watched tv while they ate. His mother looked up, her face ashen, and Craig's blood ran cold. He hadn't seen that look on his mother's face in two years, not since his father's death. The boy asked gently, "Mom, what is it? Was the president killed?"

"No, honey," she said softly, "no, something happened at St. Bart's yesterday morning. I'm surprised you haven't heard about it." Craig frowned. St. Bart's? He had planned to head over and play soccer with Father Callaghan and some of the boys in the parish, but... The boy shook his head, and his mother continued, "Father Callaghan is in the hospital. They're not sure if he's going to make it."

It took a few minutes for his mother's words to penetrate Craig's sleepy brain. Father Callaghan was fairly young, as adults went, and a lot more interesting than old Bishop Douglas. And then it hit the teenager.

Once it did, Craig had to grab the back of a chair as he whispered, "Father C? Did he get sick or something?" His mother motioned him to sit down, which the boy did, then she sat down beside him. She took his hands and Craig asked, his voice trembling, "What happened to Father C? I never got to the cathedral yesterday morning."

"No," his mother replied, "he didn't get sick. He was beaten." Craig gasped and his mother continued, "A man named 'Nick Boyle,' a friend of Father Callaghan's, found him in the office, unconscious. Father Callaghan lapsed into a coma before the ambulance arrived at the cathedral."

"Oh, no!" Craig whispered, trembling. His mother squeezed his hands, and Craig continued, "I don't understand, why would anyone do such a thing? I mean, yeah, some of the parishioners have a problem with Father C because he spends a lot of time with us kids, and because he helps out the Luna Foundation...you remember when the graveyard was torn up a few months ago, right? But to do that to him?"

"I know, baby," Craig's mother answered with a sigh, "I know. Then, to top it all off, Lissa Rayne was shot again. She and her father were at the cathedral when the ambulance took Father Callaghan to the hospital...someone fired at Dr. Rayne, and she took the bullet in the back of her left shoulder. She's in serious but stable condition."

Craig flinched. Father C had once told him that Lissa Rayne was a childhood friend, who had brought him out of his shell following the deaths of *his* parents in a plane crash. The boy said, "So they think that Detective Rayne is gonna be all right? But they aren't sure about Father C?"

"Yes, the bishop was on tv a few minutes ago, strongly condemning the attacks," Craig's mother said, shaking her head. She flicked the tv off with the remote and sighed, "Well, for now, all we can do is pray for them both. Father Callaghan would do that for us. But for right now, you should get ready for school, sweetheart."

Craig nodded numbly. Yes, he would pray for his parish priest, and for Pippa Reynolds' older sister (she would always be 'Pippa' to him, even if she did go by 'Maeve' now). Father C had been good to him, helping him through the guilt and grief after the loss of Craig's father. A prayer was the least he could do for the gentle priest.

Derek, Alex, and Nick arrived at the hospital about an hour after leaving the castle. They headed immediately for Lissa's room, since they were told that Adrian Tyler was there as well. This information was proven correct...the sandy-haired doctor was arguing with Lissa about something.

"Dammit, Lis, how many times do I have to tell you? That bullet could have hit your heart or your lung, and you're going nowhere until I'm satisfied that the danger has passed! Dr. Rayne, I'm glad you're here...maybe you can talk some sense into this stubborn female!" Adrian exclaimed.

"Where do you think I got my stubbornness? However, I will behave myself, at least for the moment...I'll do Philip more good if I'm here in the hospital as well," Lissa replied, her dark hazel eyes flashing. Adrian threw his hands up in exasperation, and Lissa looked at Derek, Alex, and Nick with a mischievous smile.

"Elizabeth," Adrian said through tightly gritted teeth, "for once, would you stop worrying about Philip Callaghan, and worry about yourself? I'm a damn good doctor, in case you have forgotten! I will take care of him, that's my job! Your job, for the moment, is to heal." Lissa simply looked at him and Adrian left the room, swearing under his breath.

"He'll be back later," Lissa observed, "once he's had a chance to cool down. I shouldn't do that to him, I know, but..." She sighed, leaning her head against the pillows, and said, "I guess you got some sleep last night, Dad. That's good...I don't need you collapsing from exhaustion."

"Adrian's right," Nick said, "you need to stop worrying so much about other people. Alex and I will make sure Derek gets enough rest...Adrian and Dr. Mackintosh will look after Philip. You just rest and let yourself heal." Lissa responded with a rather annoyed look, but she said nothing. <Very unlike Lis,> Nick thought, <very much unlike her!>

Alex interposed quietly, "Nick, Lissa is fine. She needs someone to worry over and fuss at, so just be quiet and leave her alone. How are you feeling this morning, Lis?" The younger woman shrugged, wincing, and Alex continued, "About the same as yesterday, only with a little less agony and a little more soreness. Am I close?" Lissa bobbed her head with a faint smile, and Alex sat down beside her.

"Close enough. My shoulder aches, but I'll be all right. I've dealt with gunshot wounds before...I just have to be careful how I move," Lissa replied as she shook the hair from her eyes. She took a deep breath, then continued, "Besides, Nick, hassling Adrian is the only entertainment I have at the moment. Watching tv doesn't count."

"Yeah, I hear you," Nick grunted, "if I had to listen to the news on the radio one more time, I probably would have ripped out the damn stereo. By the way, we called Maeve... she's devastated, but we convinced her to remain with Shelagh and the children. After she finished threatening to disembowel your attackers." Lissa looked at Nick, then threw back her head and laughed. Actually *laughed.*

"Oooh, that hurts," she gasped, "but oh, I can just hear my little sister saying that! Did she have any other interesting ideas for punishment in mind, Nicholas?" The young man cocked his head to one side, smiling ruefully.

"Mainly disembowelment and fire ants and honey. Maeve told me that the kids had far more interesting ideas. I wouldn't want any of those munchkins angry with me!" Nick replied with a shudder. Lissa responded with another peal of laughter. The ex-SEAL said, "Well, it's true! Maeve told me about Joseph's ideas, but those were nothing compared to the girls' ideas. Especially Anne...that girl is fierce!"

"You don't want to mess with Annie's uncle Pip," Lissa observed with a wry grin, "I've spoken with her on the phone a few times, and she is real protective of Philip. I dunno, Nick, maybe we should fly her over!" The ex-SEAL rolled his eyes, trying not to smile, and Lissa continued, "All right, enough of this...you have my sincere thanks for calling Maeve. I appreciate it greatly."

"No thanks necessary...if it's one less thing you'll worry about," Nick replied and Lissa just smiled. Nick was certain that she would have shaken her head, but she was being careful of how she moved. The young man continued, "You're feeling a little better, then?" Lissa nodded, though there were dark circles under her eyes, and Nick asked, "So why does it look like you haven't slept?"

"Because I slept for maybe three hours last night. I guess it was because I slept so much after surgery," Lissa replied. She yawned sleepily, covering her mouth with the back of her hand, and added, "And because I didn't have anyone to talk to. I thought Adrian would come back last night, but he didn't. Probably had other patients."

"Are you more sleepy now?" Alex asked and Lissa nodded, her eyes drooping. <I might have known,> Nick thought, <all she wanted was someone to talk to. I should have come back last night, after we got Derek home.> Alex gently settled her former roommate more comfortably into the bed, her actions almost maternal, and continued, "Well, then Derek and I will wait outside. Nick has to get going to the school. Can you think of anything else he should know about the parish before he heads over there, Lis?"

Lissa shook her head sleepily and murmured, "No, not off the top of my head. Just be careful, Nick. Come back this afternoon and let me know what you find out, okay?" Nick nodded and leaned forward to kiss her cheek, then walked out of the room. Derek followed him reluctantly, and Alex remained with her friend for a few minutes longer.

Before Nick left for the school, he paid another visit to Philip's hospital room. There were things still unsaid. A young female doctor looked up as Nick entered and said softly, "He's holding steady. If your friend's determination is any indication, I think he'll live."

"Thanks. I'm 'Nick Boyle,' by the way. I work with the Luna Foundation," the ex-SEAL said quietly. The young woman nodded and Nick continued, "What can you tell me about his condition? I know that he's stable, but I...I was a SEAL once. I know a little something about medical care."

"Well, Father Callaghan is stable and he does seem to be determined to live. Those two factors can only help, as well as his good health prior to the beating," the woman replied, shaking a lock of honey-colored hair from her eyes. She smiled, adding, "And my name is 'Theresa Murray,' Mr. Boyle."

"I've already heard all that from Dr. Mackintosh. I want to know about his injuries...I'm looking into the beating. Now, if the kids at St. Bart's know exactly what was done to Philip, they might be more willing to cooperate," Nick replied. Theresa Murray stared at him for several moments, and Nick returned the gaze. She glanced at Philip, then motioned Nick to follow her into the corridor.

"Father Callaghan was beaten savagely, Mr. Boyle," she said bluntly, "It's a miracle that he survived surgery! Between the baseball bat and someone's boot, a lot of damage was inflicted...broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys, to say nothing of his head injuries. And because of that internal bleeding, it's possible that a strain was placed on his heart...so that's a factor."

Nick's vision turned red as the woman spoke. However, he said calmly, "Do you have pictures?" Theresa Murray looked at Nick as if he had gone crazy, and the young man repeated, "Do you have pictures, or do I need to go to the police department for those? I don't think I've made myself clear, Dr. Murray. I will find whoever did that to Philip, no matter what it takes!"

"What about a videotape of the surgery?" Dr. Murray inquired sarcastically. Nick's eyes blazed, and the resident said, "Look, Mr. Boyle...I'd like to see the animal pay for what was done to Father Callaghan. But more than that, I want to make sure he lives! I know that Dr. Rayne's daughter is a police officer...you might want to ask her about those photos. Right now, I have work to do."

Nick answered, "I'm sorry, Dr. Murray, but Lissa and Philip are part of my family! I understand where you're coming from, but you gotta understand my position. I'm not a healer...all I can do is stand back, and hope to God that Philip won't leave us. But I can make sure whoever tried to kill him pays dearly. Thank you for your straight answers. Now, I'm going to talk to Philip...don't worry, I won't upset him." With that, he walked back into Philip's room.

Philip looked slightly better this morning, but seeing him so helpless still hurt. Nick sat down and murmured, "Hey, I'm back. It's a little later than I thought it would be, but Derek slept through the night. Didn't think you would mind. Lissa is being a pain in the ass, but that's a good sign. I talked to Maeve earlier. Damn, Philip, you never told me that your nieces and nephews were so fierce!"

Nick laughed softly, then grew serious. He continued, "You know, I've been picturing you in this celestial waiting room. You can probably see everything I do. Try not to be angry with me, Philip. There's nothing I can do here...Dr. Mackintosh and Adrian will look after you. And don't worry about Lissa...Derek and Alex are keeping an eye on her. So just concentrate on coming back to us, okay?"

Nick slowly rose to his feet and put his hand on Philip's wrist. He wished he could say what was in his heart...wished that he could tell Philip just how much he meant to Nick, to the entire Legacy. Instead, he told his unconscious friend gruffly, "I'm outta here...behave yourself until I get back, okay? I'll see you later." He gave Philip's wrist a gentle squeeze, then headed for the door before he broke down completely.

<Is it time for me t' go back?> Philip asked Michael, tears streaming down his face. The archangel shook his head and Philip looked back at the sleeping Lissa, then at Alex and Derek in the waiting room. He looked at anything besides Nick walking alone through the corridors of the hospital.

<Not yet, lad, it isn't time yet. I know, you want to comfort your family and friends, but it isn't time yet. Your body needs more time to heal...the good doctor was quite right when she told Nicholas that you were savagely beaten. It sickened me to behold it,> Michael answered. He hesitated, then added, <Besides, we have yet to be joined by another.> Philip looked back at the archangel quickly, his insides turning to ice with fear. Another would join them? Oh, no, he didn't like this idea, not one bit!

<A...another?> he stammered. Michael nodded and Philip whispered, <Is it God? Or our Saviour, Jesus Christ?> Michael shook his head, comprehension dawning in his eyes. Despite himself, Philip found himself relaxing and didn't know why at first. Then he realized...if he was to be confronted by two halves of the Trinity, then he was dead.

<No, lad...this other comes not to judge you. And don't be ashamed of your relief. Although, if Christ Jesus did join us, He would be telling you what I am. Do not fear Him, Philip, or our Father,> Michael replied gently. He put a tender hand on Philip's shoulder and said, <Come, this next act shall prove interesting, I think.>

Philip didn't even bother asking what Michael meant. By now, he had realized that asking certain questions was just plain futile. He focused his attention on Nick. In spite of himself, he was looking forward to the confrontation between his blunt, outspoken friend and the strong-willed, equally blunt Sister Antonia. Philip got along fairly well with the nun, but he knew she had a reputation as a dragon lady.

After Nick left Philip's room, he walked the length of the corridor, passing in front of Lissa's room several times. At last, he walked inside. Lissa lay on her back, her eyes closed. However, she wasn't asleep...he could tell that by her breathing. Nick said, "You can't pretend with me, Lis."

Lissa opened her eyes and turned her head toward him, with a rueful smile. Nick returned the smile gently and moved forward into her room. He took the seat which had been previously occupied by Alex, studying Lissa's face.

"Sorry," his 'sister' said, arranging herself more comfortably, "I'm still learning the difference between your footsteps and my father's. I was only pretending to get some sleep, so he wouldn't fuss at me so much. I know, he's my father and that's his job, but it can get irritating."

"Yeah, I know the feeling. Listen, I need a favor," Nick said. Lissa cocked her head to one side as she pushed herself into a sitting position. Her lips tightened ever so slightly with the motion, and Nick continued, "Can you get photos for me? You know the ones I mean."

Lissa nodded and answered, "I'll do what I can, Nick. You think seeing Philip's condition will be an incentive for the kids to open up?" Nick nodded and Lissa continued, "Like I said, I'll see what I can do...but no promises. And Nick, be careful...teenagers tend to stand together against adults. You're my age, but you're still an adult."

"I'll keep that in mind. I'll stop back this afternoon and let you know how things went," Nick said. Lissa nodded this time and Nick brushed her cheek gently. He said, "Until then, you take care, little sister. I take care of my own- that means Derek, that means Alex, that means Philip, that means Rachel, that means Kat, and it means you." Lissa smiled, which Nick returned, then he left the room.

"It's time I saw Philip," Alex said quietly, resolutely. Derek looked at her, startled, and the researcher continued, "I haven't been in to see him, Derek...you have, Kat has, Rachel has. Nick is practically camping out there. I'm the only one who hasn't seen him. He has to know that I'm here."

"He knows, Alex...but do what you must," Derek said. Alex nodded and rose to her feet, walking down the hall to Philip's room. She hesitated once she reached the room, then pushed the door open. There was no one else there. She slipped quietly across the room to sit down in the chair beside his bed. Tears burned her eyes, as she remembered another time when she sat beside Philip's bed.

"Hey, little brother," she whispered, reaching out to smooth his hair back, "I'm finally here. I know, it took me a long time, but the thought of seeing you so helpless was more than I could bear. I'm here now, though. We've been here before, haven't we? You lying so still and quiet, me in a chair beside you. But this is different. I'm afraid of touching you...afraid that I'll hurt you. But you are alive...I can see your chest rise and fall. I can hear your breathing...I think that scares me more."

She fell silent again, tears blurring her vision. Alex murmured, "I want so much to give some of my strength to you, Philip, but I don't know how. All I can do is tell you how very much I love you. And I do, you know. I tease you and Nick about being macho males who keep everything inside, but I'm just as bad. I love all of you so much, but I never tell you. So I'm telling you now, and I hope that's enough to keep you with us. Please...let it be enough."

Even an insensitive soul would have been moved by Alexandra Moreau's quiet declaration...and Michael knew that his young companion was far from insensitive. It had been the seraph's original plan to watch Nick do battle with the inestimable Sister Antonia, but that was derailed.

Michael glanced at Philip, who was standing just to his left. Tears were pouring down the young man's face, and his hands were outstretched, as if he wanted to touch Alex... reassure her. Michael said gently, placing his right hand on the boy's shoulder, <I'm sorry, Philip. Your body isn't strong enough even to respond to her presence.>

<I have t' tell her,> Philip whispered brokenly, <I have t' tell her that I know, that I love her, too! Why did I never tell her?> The young man was sobbing now, and Michael tried to find the words to comfort the boy. But he was the warrior angel, and had little practice with comforting. For the first time, Michael wished his old friend Raphael was here as well...Raphael was a healer. Philip looked up at Michael, his pale blue eyes filled with misery, and whispered, <I have t' go back, Michael. I have t' tell them all that I love them as well.>

Michael put both hands on the boy's shoulders and replied, <It's not time yet, Philip! There is far too much which has to be done yet. I know this is hurting you terribly, seeing your friends in such pain, but you must be strong! I have known you from the moment of your conception, Philip. You are far stronger than you realize. Your mother knew that, as did your father.>

Philip wiped away his tears with the back of his hand and he whispered, <Mum? Da? You've spoken wi' them?> Michael nodded and Philip continued, <Are they all right?> There were more questions which the boy wanted to ask, but Michael knew he couldn't bring himself to speak them aloud.

<Yes, they are quite well...the reunion with Michael was both joyful and sad. Your parents were overjoyed to be with him, but sad that he had died at such a young age. Thomas and Maeve asked me to tell you that they both love you very much...and that they're very proud of you. I believe Maeve's exact words were, 'no mother has ever been prouder of her sons than I.' And my namesake talks often of his 'little brother, the priest.' They love you deeply,> Michael said.

<I miss them all so much. I've never stopped missin' Mum and Da,> Philip admitted quietly, and Michael nodded. The young man paused, then added, <But I miss Derek and Lissa and the others as well. Do Mum and Da and Michael understand that...?> Michael nodded.

<Yes, they do. You're not to worry, Philip. Your parents and brother wanted to be here, but our Father said it wasn't for the best. So your mother asked me to give you a message...be strong, and remember that she loves you,> the archangel replied. Philip hesitated, then nodded.

Craig had been devastated to learn of Father C's injuries, but so was everyone else. The normally boisterous halls of the high school was silent, and many students were quietly crying as they settled in the gymnasium. Before the opening prayer, Sister Antonia said, "I know that everyone is upset about what happened to Father Callaghan yesterday. If anyone saw anything suspicious, please, tell the police!"

"Sister, have you heard anything from the hospital about Father C's condition?" Craig heard Kim Ramsey ask. She was a freshman, and Craig appreciated the courage it took for the girl to speak up. Sister Antonia shook her head and Craig thought about what the nun had said. He hadn't seen anything suspicious, but he still couldn't remember anything about the previous day. And he wasn't about to tell the police that!

"No, nothing new has been reported to us. Father Quinlan will be going over later, to see if Father Callaghan has improved. I know he is very special to many of you, so we will say an extra prayer for him," the nun replied.

Craig surprised himself (and probably every one else) when he rose to his feet, asking, "Sister Antonia, would it be permissible for one or two of us to go over to the hospital after school? I mean, would that be all right? To see him, and let him know that we're all praying for him?"

"I don't imagine that will be a problem, Craig. Father Callaghan is only allowed a few visitors at a time...even though he's in a coma, the doctors don't want to overwhelm him. But if you're careful, I'm sure you'll be allowed to visit with him for a few moments," Sister Antonia replied. She paused, then said very quietly, "Now, we will all bow our heads and ask God to heal Father Callaghan. But you must be the instruments of God's will, and help the police to catch whoever hurt him so terribly." Craig bowed his head, still trembling. <What in God's name happened yesterday?>

After the morning convocation, Sister Antonia LaVoie returned to her office. She took off her glasses and buried her face in her hands. The entire parish was shaken by what had happened to the young priest...and the high school students were all devastated. Philip Callaghan was almost one of them...not quite, but almost.

A gentle rap on the door alerted Antonia to a visitor. She put her glasses back on and straightened in her chair, calling, "Come in!" The door opened, revealing a young man in his middle twenties. Antonia recognized him immediately- Nick Boyle, one of Father Philip's friends, and the man who had found Father Philip lying in the cathedral office the previous day. She asked briskly, "Yes, Mr. Boyle, how may I help you this morning?"

"I know this is a difficult time, but I wonder if I could ask the kids a few questions about yesterday. I'm here at the request of Philip's godfather, Derek Rayne," Nick Boyle said and Antonia smiled thinly at her young visitor. She wasn't surprised by the visit...in fact, she had been expecting it the previous day.

However, that was irrelevant at the moment. Antonia replied, "You have my permission to speak with them, Mr. Boyle. However, I cannot guarantee that they will cooperate. Word has spread that Father Callaghan was the only adult at the cathedral yesterday...which means that his assailant was a teenager. And teens protect their own."

"I know that, Sister," the young man replied respectfully, "but I'm not a cop. I just want information. I brought an...incentive with me. It's not something I want to use, understand...I truly don't. With the aid of Detective Lissa Rayne, I obtained photos that were taken of Philip after the beating, and during surgery."

Against her will, Antonia asked hoarsely, "May...may I see those photos?" Nick Boyle hesitated, then placed a folder on her desk. Antonia steeled herself, then flipped open the folder. What she saw in those photos horrified her. A strangled cry emerged from her throat, and she whispered as she crossed herself, "God in heaven, how could anyone do that to another human being? How did he survive?"

"Philip is a lot tougher than he looks, Sister Antonia. He's very strong-willed, even though he underestimates himself sometimes. I showed these to you because you are the principal. What should I do with them?" Nick asked. Antonia didn't answer immediately...she was looking at the dark bruises which covered most of the young man's torso. Antonia had been a medic in the Marines before becoming a nun. But the longer she stared at those bruises, the sicker she felt. None of 'her' kids had done this...but she wouldn't stand in the way of Boyle's investigation.

Part Six

Over the last several months, ever since Derek had learned that Lissa was his daughter, Nick had thanked God many times over that Lissa was a cop. Her contacts on the police department, her interest in the doings of other cops, had helped them in more than one case.

Now, Nick was once more thanking God that Lissa was a cop. With her help, Nick had obtained several police photos of Philip's external injuries. Though Nick was once a SEAL, he was still nauseous when he saw those pictures...but he considered his health irrelevant.

Finding out who had attacked Philip was Nick's first priority and with these pictures, Nick hoped to shock the students of St. Bart's into opening up. As Sister Antonia looked at the pictures, Nick said very softly, "I thought you should see these first. Before I talk to the kids, can you think of any student who has a grudge against Philip?"

The nun closed the folder, whispering, "No. None of the students. He's had disagreements with parishioners, but never with the students who remain here. They...they all regard him as one of theirs. Or as close to one of theirs as someone over twenty can get." Nick frowned, suddenly realizing that he had missed something the previous day.

"Sister Antonia," he said carefully, kicking himself for not seeing it sooner, "you said that Philip had no problems with the students remaining here. What about kids who were suspended or kicked out, or have graduated? Would any of them have a grudge against him?"

"Well...not that I know of. You must understand, that as the principal, I'm an authority figure. I do hear things, but if there was a problem with Father Callaghan, I wouldn't know about it. However, there was a bit of unpleasantness last year, when Father Callaghan discovered one of the senior boys pawing a freshman girl," Sister Antonia replied, obviously uncomfortable with the subject. Nick could just about imagine his friend's reaction to that.

"Ohhh...was the boy suspended? Or anything like that?" the ex-SEAL asked and Sister Antonia shook her head. Nick continued, "But, if any of the teenagers in the parish would have a grudge against Philip, it would be this kid?" This time, the nun nodded and Nick asked, "Could I have his name? Would that be a breach of confidence?"

"Not at all. In fact, some of his friends are still here. The girl is also still here...if you'd like to talk to her, I can also tell you her name," Sister Antonia replied. Nick hesitated, then nodded. Yes, it was probably a good idea. The more he knew about Philip's interactions with these kids, the better chance he had of learning the truth. Sister Antonia pulled a piece of paper from a notepad and began writing the information down. Nick waited patiently, though his excitement was building.

"Sabine Johnson?" a soft male voice asked as Sabine opened her locker door. The sophomore gave a little start and turned to face the man standing at her side. She immediately recognized him as Nick Boyle, the man who had found Father C the previous morning in the cathedral. Sabine hadn't been there, but she had seen him on the television, and Julio had told her about what happened.

"Yes, Mr. Boyle? You wanted to ask me something?" she asked. She didn't bother asking him how he had learned her name. She knew better than that. In spite of herself, in spite of her concern for Father C, Sabine laughed at his surprised expression and said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Boyle, I didn't mean to startle you. It's just that we've seen you on TV so many times since yesterday morning..."

Her voice trailed off as her throat seemed to close. She blinked back tears and Mr. Boyle said softly, "That's why I'm here. Sabine, I have reason to believe that a student, or a former student, attacked Philip yesterday morning at the cathedral. I was hoping you could help me."

Sabine blinked back her tears, staring at Mr. Boyle in shock. She replied, "A student? Hurt Father C? That's nuts!" Then she remembered standing behind the gym bleachers at the spring dance the previous year, remembered Alan Webster's hand on her breast. She said softly, "You think Alan did this? You think Alan hurt Father C?

"I'm not accusing anyone, Sabine. I just want to know who tried to kill Philip...and right now, anyone who had arguments with him has a motive," the man replied. Sabine swallowed hard, trembling. Nick Boyle continued, "Sabine, if you have any information at all, please tell me!"

Sabine looked at the folder in his hands and took it from him. He didn't stop her...and Sabine gasped as she looked at the pictures. However, she said as she returned the folder, "I can't tell you anything. I'm sorry." The man eyed her thoughtfully, then nodded. He gave her a card and walked away. Sabine collapsed against her locker...how could anyone do something like that to another person? How?

It took Nick only two hours to realize that with the pictures or without, he would get no cooperation from the students of St. Bart's. It didn't matter that he wasn't the police, it didn't matter that he was just a friend of Philip's...they weren't going to tell him anything.

As Nick left the school, Maeve's best friend Kim approached. He slowed down and the girl said, "Mr. Boyle, did you find anything out?" Nick shook his head and Kim sighed. She continued, "Could you tell Father C that we're all thinking about him, and praying for him?"

"I sure will, honey. Maeve asked me to tell you 'hello.' I talked to her...figured she should know about what happened to Philip and Lissa," Nick replied. Kim nodded sadly and Nick continued, "I'm not giving up, kiddo...and neither should you. I'll see you later."

"Okay. Mr. Boyle...we really do love Father C. If I knew anything, I would tell you," Kim said. Nick nodded, smiling at the girl. Kim turned and headed in the opposite direction. Nick's smile died and he exhaled sharply. <I need to head back to the hospital,> he thought, <and see about Philip. And then I need to talk with Lissa, see if she has any ideas about what I should do next. Maybe she'll know where to find this Alan Webster.> Nick nodded as he started his motorcycle...yes, that was a reasonable idea.

"Derek...I want to try another angle," Alex said once she returned from Philip's room. Derek looked up at his researcher, who said, "I've been going under the assumption that the sniper was aiming for you...but Lissa is a cop. She would have enemies of her own."

"Yes, she would," Derek replied, immediately seeing where Alex's thoughts had led her. He continued after a moment, "Where do you want to start, Alex? I can arrange a meeting with Sergeant Grayson, if you like."

"I checked that out before you got up...Lissa's arrests are all behind bars. I want to head over to her old house...see what I can dig up there. It makes no sense, I know, but something tells me that that house still holds clues that I don't know about," Alex replied.

"Trust your instincts, Alex," Derek replied, "and let me know what you find out. How is Philip?" Alex sighed, closing her eyes briefly, and Derek continued, "I thought as much. I'll go in later, when Rachel gets here. She has to drop Kat off at school. Good luck." Alex nodded, squeezed his shoulder briefly, then headed to the elevator.

A few minutes after her departure, Rachel arrived. She said with a sigh, "Katherine wasn't happy about going to school today, but I convinced her that it was the best thing for everyone. Has there been any change in Philip's condition since last night?" Derek shook his head with a sigh, and Rachel continued, "I didn't think so...you would have called me if there was. What about Lissa?"

"She's sleeping at the moment. Would you...would you mind staying with Lissa while I see to Philip?" Derek asked. Rachel shook her head and Derek smiled wanly, adding, "Thank you. You've been very helpful. I'll be back soon." Then he headed down the hall to his godson's hospital room.

As Derek walked to Philip's room, Rachel slipped inside Lissa's hospital room. The young woman was very still and at first, Rachel believed Lissa was sleeping, but the cop said softly, "I'm awake. Just resting my eyes, as my mother used to say." Lissa turned her head to look at Rachel.

"How are you feeling? I'm sorry I haven't been in to visit you sooner, but..." Rachel said, her voice trailing off. The corner of Lissa's mouth quirked and Rachel realized that there was no need for her to apologize. The young cop knew quite well what was going on.

"I've been better...my shoulder hurts like hell... but I've also been worse. What about my father? How is he holding up?" Lissa asked. Rachel sat down in the chair beside her bed, sighing deeply as she figured out what to tell the younger woman. <Nothing less than the truth.>

"He's doing all right, I think. You know your father," Rachel answered. Lissa nodded with a quiet sigh, and the psychiatrist continued, "Listen, honey...I know things have been crazy for the last few weeks, ever since you returned home from Peru and since Maeve left for Ireland. But...we haven't talked that much. Is there something wrong?"

Lissa didn't respond immediately, then she said, "Dad told you that my grandfather helped me to escape from Arkady, didn't he?" Rachel nodded...she had a difficult time accepting that, but Lissa swore that Winston Rayne had helped her in her escape. Rachel hadn't been there, so who was she to say otherwise? Lissa continued, "We did a lot of talking, my grandfather and I, while we waited for Philip and Derek."

Rachel nodded and Lissa said quietly, "My grandfather told me that you blamed Dad for your mother's death. Even though he was only fifteen years old at the time, and he had no way of knowing, you blamed Dad for what my grandfather did." Rachel looked away from the dark hazel eyes, which were so much like Derek's. Now she understood why Lissa had barely spoken to her during the last few weeks.

"It's true. I said some things in haste...things which I didn't really mean. Including the part about never forgiving Derek for what your grandfather did...that was a very stupid thing to say. Especially since he has saved Kat's life so many times," Rachel replied quietly.

"Yes. He has. I wasn't going to say anything about it, because it's really not my business. I don't interfere in your relationships with anyone," Lissa replied, a steely glint appearing in her eyes, "but you asked. I love my father, Rachel, and I will do whatever is necessary to protect him, from Victor Arkady, Randolph Hitchcock, or you."

"I wouldn't expect anything less, Lissa. Would it help if I told you that I would never do anything to hurt Derek again?" Rachel asked in an equally quiet voice. Lissa looked at her in silence for several moments. The younger woman seemed almost amused by Rachel's vow. . and that worried the psychiatrist. Lissa didn't take such things lightly.

"You can't make that promise, Rachel, you know that! You won't mean to hurt my father, but it will happen. Of all people, you should realize that. I love my father, but I've hurt him in the past. Philip is my very dearest friend, but I hurt him deeply when I remembered the dreams which brought us together again. Don't you understand, Rachel? We always hurt those we care for," Lissa replied.

What the young woman didn't say...although Rachel was certain that she was thinking it...was that Fiona Summers Reynolds had loved Lissa as well, but out of all the people in Lissa's world, it was Fiona who had hurt Lissa the most. The mother who had borne Lissa, given her life and love for ten years, had hurt her most of all.

Rachel replied, "I suppose so. I'm sorry, honey." Lissa responded with a half smile and the doctor asked, "Friends again?" Lissa took Rachel's hand with a weary smile. The doctor squeezed Lissa's hand, saying, "Good."

The two women sat in silence for several minutes, then Lissa asked softly, "How is Kat doing? Did she have nightmares about seeing Philip last night?" Rachel shook her head and Lissa sighed, "Thank God for that. I think out of all of us, he needs her the most. Kat doesn't hold back her love. Derek and Nick don't know how to show theirs."

"At least, not in the way Philip needs to hear it," Rachel agreed, then made a face. Philip wasn't hearing much of anything, not at the moment. Rachel thought of her last glimpse of Philip, while he was in the recovery room, and she flinched. Lissa just looked at her, smiling faintly, and Rachel continued, "Oh, now you're a mind reader? All right, he can hear us...he can hear every word!"

"I have talents you don't know about, Rachel," Lissa announced with a mischievous smile. Rachel rolled her eyes, and Lissa continued more seriously, "Philip can hear every word. Make no mistake of that. He heard every word Nick said in the ambulance and he can hear every word spoken at his bedside. And I have more confidence in my father... Kat told me that he was crying in Philip's room last night." Rachel nodded. Yes, she had heard about that.

Thousands of miles away, in a plane crossing the Atlantic Ocean, a young girl leaned back into her seat. <First New York, then Chicago, then home,> she thought. <I'm glad I convinced Shelagh to leave the munchkins with her sister, and not the battleax!> Maeve Reynolds glanced at her companion, who gripped the armrests tightly. She said, "It will be all right, Shelagh. I've flown many times, we'll be fine. Just concentrate on Philip...that should help."

"I'm tryin' t' do that, Maeve. But it's hard when I'm not even sure if we'll survive the landin' in New York. For that matter, I'm not sure if I'll survive even bein' in New York," Shelagh Callaghan answered through gritted teeth. Maeve took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly, trying not to wince at the returning pressure from Shelagh.

Instead of replying to her friend's concern, however, Maeve said softly, "I hope Lissa will be pleased to see us once we reach San Francisco. You know the first words out of her mouth will be, 'please don't tell me that you left those children with Nuala Ryan!' Although, she would be real proud of me...I haven't mouthed off to Philip's grandmother yet!"

Shelagh laughed, as she was meant to and replied, "Well, Michael always insisted on leavin' the wee ones wi' my sister and her family when we went off on our weekends t'gether." Her voice wobbled a little when she spoke her late husband's name, then Shelagh asked, "Maeve, d'ye know why Philip won't speak t' Mrs. Ryan? Michael would never tell me."

"All I know is what Lissa told me...that when Philip was a child, his grandmother emotionally abused him and told him that his parents' deaths were his fault. Lissa never forgave your grandmother-in-law for that, and neither did Fiona, Lissa's mom," Maeve replied. She could tell this news shocked her companion, and added, "You can get the full story when we see Lissa. We're getting ready to land at JFK."

Down the hall from his daughter's room, Derek sat in the chair beside Philip's bed. As soon as he sat down, he had taken Philip's hand and held it close to his chest for a moment, willing strength into his godson's body. He said softly, placing Philip's limp hand on the sheet, "I told you that I would come back...told you that I would return. I will always return, Philip. . .I will never abandon you." He began stroking the dark brown hair away from Philip's temples with infinite tenderness. He smiled in spite of himself...Philip seemed a child again while he slept.

After a moment, Derek said, "I keep remembering when you were twelve...for five years, after your parents were killed, you were the best-behaved child I had ever seen. If I hadn't been so busy with the Legacy and the Foundation, it would have worried me. I was so foolish...I nearly lost you as well as Fiona and Lissa during those weeks."

Once more, Derek fell silent as he studied the still features of his godson. If he closed his eyes, he could see Maeve Callaghan's sweet smile as Derek cradled her youngest son in his arms. And for several moments, he could *not* speak around the lump in his throat. So many images flashed through his mind...he heard Philip's delighted laughter in his head, after playing that prank which had brought through Derek's grief. The precept laughed to himself. He couldn't even remember what the prank had been...but he did remember the warmth that had spread through him when he laughed.

When Derek finally spoke, it was in a very soft voice. He said, "Philip, I love you as much as any man could love his son...and I am so very proud of you. I can never tell you when you're awake. You know, Philip, when you were a little boy, I would watch you sleeping. And I would whisper into your room, 'I love you.' You slept so deeply, you never heard. But that didn't matter. But I wish you could hear me now...I wish you were awake now."

<I can hear you, Derek, I can hear every word!> Philip cried out, growing more and more frustrated with the situation. Michael placed a gentle hand on the young priest's shoulder and Philip turned to face the archangel, saying, <I have t' go back, Michael! They need me!>

<You aren't strong enough, Philip! Weren't you listening when I told you about your injuries? Listen to me, my son...in order for you to recover completely, you must rest. And you won't be able to do that if you're conscious and trying to comfort your friends. I know you hate seeing them in such pain...this gives me no joy, either,> Michael replied. Philip looked away.

<My mother said that I had t' be strong...I am tryin' t' be strong, Michael, truly I am. But seeing them in such pain...I don't know if I'm strong enough t' wait. Who is t' join us, if not our Father or our Saviour? I know it isn't either of my parents, or my brother...then who?> the young man asked desperately, trying to understand. For the sake of his own sanity, Philip didn't look at Derek.

<You are stronger than you believe, Philip. The boy who defended a little girl against her step-father was strong, just as the young man who overcame his own pain and doubt to learn the name of a demon after having a past failing come back to haunt him was strong...you are not weak. Yes, you fall, but all mortals do. Just as angels do,> Michael replied. He paused, then added, <Waiting is praying, dear boy. Nicholas waited until you had survived surgery to start his investigation...now, you must wait until we are joined by the other. It won't be long now.>

By the time Nick arrived back at the hospital, he was in a thoroughly foul mood. <Lissa was right,> he thought, <she tried to tell me...Sister Antonia tried to tell me, but I wouldn't listen.> He put the kickstand on his motorcycle down, then went into the hospital.

He nodded to the receptionist at the desk, then headed for the elevator. A voice hailed him and Nick turned to face Sandy Horowitz. He smiled at the young woman and said, "Hey, lady...how are you doing?" Sandy shrugged with a grin of her own, looking none the worse for wear despite being shot in the chest in Mexico City more than a month earlier.

"Not bad. Not on active duty...but not bad either. I'm here for show, actually. Listen, I don't know if Zach got a chance to tell you earlier when he gave you the photos, but Randolph Hitchcock was here last night," Sandy replied. Nick stopped and stared at her, his eyes widening. Sandy continued, "He said that he was seeing how Philip was... Nick, Lis has told me all about Randolph Hitchcock. And I don't know about you, but him poking around, asking questions about Philip's condition makes me real nervous."

"It makes me damn suspicious! Thanks for letting me know, Sandy. So, you're feeling better?" Nick asked and Sandy nodded with a grin. Nick continued, "I'm glad to hear that. Have you seen Lis yet this afternoon? Have you seen her at all since this whole thing started?"

"Yeah, but just for a few minutes earlier. You should know...the fourth floor is crawling with undercover cops. If Hitchcock was behind what happened to Lis and Philip, then he won't succeed a second time. If you think it will ease Dr. Rayne's mind, feel free to tell him as well," Sandy replied as they entered the elevator together. Nick nodded, feeling a little less nervous.

"I will, thanks. I must admit, you are looking better than the last time I saw you. You know we held off on the Mayan cup reception until you were out of the hospital and ambulatory," the ex-SEAL replied. Sandy laughed, her dark eyes lighting up, and Nick continued, "I didn't think that had escaped your notice. Lissa was quite insistent...she has this thing about bringing things full circle. I said once that she was half-mystic and half-warrior. Sometimes, I think she's a lot more than just half mystic."

"Duh, Nick! Lissa is a helluva lot more than just half- mystic! She had a mystic streak when we first became partners, but ever since she regained consciousness...well, Lissa is different now. More of a mystic, but she's still focused. Maybe she's more focused than before. And I guess you guys have something to do with that," Sandy admitted.

"She's always belonged with us, Sandy," Nick said. He paused, then added quietly, "I guess you know that my relationship with Philip has been strained." Sandy nodded gravely and Nick went on, "I was so angry with him for a lot of reasons...but mostly for having divided loyalties."

They were outside Lissa's room and Nick continued, running his hand over his eyes, "But all of a sudden, I don't give a shit about that stuff any more. He's lying helpless in a hospital room, comatose. And the only thing that matters to me anymore is Philip coming back to us. Sandy, I don't know if I could ever forgive myself if Philip died, after the things I've said to him."

"You really love him, don't you?" Sandy asked, but it wasn't really a question. Nick looked away, tears blurring the edge of his vision. Sandy smiled faintly and continued, "You macho males! I know you love him, he's your brother! I'm a married woman, Nick, very straight...but I love my partner. There's no shame in admitting it."

"You're a woman!" Nick retorted. Sandy shrugged and Nick continued, "After you." The woman smiled as they went into Lissa's room. They found her sitting up in bed, talking with Rachel. Nick went to the bed and kissed Lissa's forehead, saying, "Hey, kiddo, you're looking better."

"I'm not as sore, and I told you about calling me 'kiddo.' Hey, Sandy...glad you could come by today," Lissa replied as Sandy leaned forward to hug her gently. Nick saw her grimace slightly in pain, but she didn't cry out. His 'sister' continued after a moment, "How did things go, Nick? Uh...judging from your expression, not well."

"No," Nick admitted, "but we can talk about that later. Is Derek with Philip?" Both Rachel and Lissa nodded, and Nick continued, "I thought as much. How is Philip? Has there been any change since this morning?" This time, it was Rachel who shook her head, sighing.

"No, Philip is stable...no improvements, no deterioration. He's being closely monitored. Listen, I need to head over to the school to pick up Kat. I'll see you two later. Sandy, it was nice to see you again," the doctor replied. The detective nodded.

"I'll walk out with you, Dr. Corrigan. Lis, I'll be back later. There are a few things we need to discuss," she replied. Lissa nodded and Nick wondered if he was the only one who noticed her eyes glinting. A quick glance at Sandy told him otherwise...she was smiling wickedly. <What are those two planning,> Nick wondered, <or do I want to know?>

Rachel squeezed Lissa's right hand, then followed Sandy from the room. Once the two women were gone, Nick sat down beside Lissa, who said, "Okay, let's hear the whole story. The photos didn't help? At all?" Nick shook his head with a deep sigh and Lissa continued, "Damn...I was afraid of that. Did you get any information at all?"

"The trip wasn't a total waste. While talking with Sister Antonia, I found out that Philip had a run-in with a student named 'Alan Webster' last year. He's graduated since, but at the time, Philip caught him pawing a freshman. But when I tried to follow up that lead, I hit a brick wall. The freshman...now a sophomore...is terrified of him," Nick replied. Lissa nodded, chewing her lower lip.

"I'll talk with Sandy and Zach about this guy. Wish Maeve was here...she could help you out. I was thinking about something else, however. Nick, those three boys from St. A's...do you think they could help?" she asked. Nick looked at her, startled by the question. He hadn't even been thinking about asking other teens to help, however...

"That's a good idea," he replied thoughtfully, "Joe, Pete, and Artie...they're outsiders, but sometimes you tell outsiders things you wouldn't tell a schoolmate. After I see Philip, I'll head over to St. A's and talk with Monsignor Gray. Joe would be the one to approach."

"More than likely, from what Philip told me," Lissa replied, but her voice broke on Philip's name. Nick looked at her compassionately, and Lissa added fiercely, "Get whoever did that to him, Nick...get them and make them pay!" Nick nodded, putting his hand on her good shoulder.

"I will, Lissa...I promise, I will," he replied quietly. He drew Lissa into his arms, allowing her to take strength from him. For a long time, they sat there in silence...Nick's arms around Lissa's body, her head resting on his shoulder. At last, Nick asked softly, "Will you be all right? I need to see Philip." Lissa nodded and Nick continued, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Lissa smiled weakly and replied, "I'll be fine, Nick, take as long as you need. I have some things which I need to work out in my head. Give Philip my love." Nick nodded and slipped quietly from the room. He glanced through the pane of glass in the door, and saw Lissa cover her face with one hand. Shaken by her tears, Nick headed down the hall.

It had been nearly six months since Alex was last in the Reynolds home...to her dismay, it was as cold as ever. <I have to find out what happened here,> she thought, <because Lis won't tell me. She's decided that no one can change the past, so there's no need for us to know about it. Wrong!>

She wandered around the house, before heading into the bedroom which had belonged to William Reynolds while he was alive. Alex wasn't entirely sure why she was drawn to that particular room...just that there was something in the room of Lissa's step-father that she had to see.

As she walked into the room, she nearly tripped over a box sticking out from underneath the dresser. Curious, Alex dropped to her knees and pulled the box out to investigate. She opened the lid and a cold hand seized her heart. There were envelopes in the box...with Lissa's handwriting.

<The missing letters,> Alex thought, <I knew it!> She didn't even hesitate...those letters were addressed to her. She opened one letter and began reading it. It took her only a few lines to understand why William Reynolds had intercepted these letters. Alex covered her mouth, tears burning her eyes as she read Lissa's long-ago words.

<Oh no,> she thought, <oh dear God, Lissa, no!> Despite her best efforts, tears rolled down Alex's cheeks as she read the letters which her former roommate had sent as a desperate cry for help, nearly seven years earlier. The researcher wept as she read through that first letter. <Oh, Lissa, Lissa, Lissa...forgive me, please? Forgive me for not being there when you needed me.>

Nick met Derek coming out of Philip's room. His friend looked exhausted, and Nick hated himself for adding to Derek's burden. But the precept had to know. Nick said quietly, "I just talked with Sandy. Randolph Hitchcock was here at the hospital last night, after we left."

Derek's eyes narrowed and Nick continued, "Supposedly, he was here to check on Philip's condition. It made both Sandy and Sergeant Grayson real suspicious, so they've got cops all over the fourth floor. Derek, five will get you ten that Hitchcock *is* the bastard responsible for the attack on Philip." Derek said nothing, and Nick waited silently... though not patiently...for his precept's decision.

to be continued on next page

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