Part Seven

Through a haze of tears, Alex read the other letters. There were twenty in all, written over a period of several months. It broke Alex's heart, seeing the hope die in each letter as the author received no reply. She carefully closed the box, then put the letters in her purse. I was wrong, she thought, William Reynolds deserved exactly what he got!

She rose to her feet, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, and walked out of the house. Alex wasn't entirely certain where she would go. . .just that she couldn't return to the hospital. The grief was still too fresh. She returned to her car, trying to decide what to do next. I could always talk with Sergeant Grayson, she thought, and see if there are other people who might have a grudge against Lissa. . .family members of someone she was forced to kill. That seemed like a good place to start.

Shelagh Callaghan stuck as closely to Maeve's side as possible, while the young girl navigated JFK International Airport. They had another thirty minutes before their flight to Chicago left, but both Shelagh and Maeve wanted to be there with time to spare.

At last, they reached the terminal, handed the man their tickets, and collapsed into chairs. Maeve murmured, "You know, Shelagh, if I wasn't ready to kill that moron out in San Francisco earlier, I am now." She looked at Shelagh, and the young matron laughed in spite of herself at Maeve's expression. Maeve laughed as well, continuing, "However, I will be a good little girl and leave the avenging to Nick. He's much better at it. Although, maybe we should have brought Annie along. That would have been a show!"

"Go 'long wi' you! There's no room on a case like this for a nine year old girl, even one who adores her uncle the way my Annie adores Pip. Maeve. . .do you think the two incidents are linked?" Shelagh asked hesitantly. Maeve's smile disappeared as she leaned her head back.

"I don't know, Shelagh. Lissa being shot so soon after the attack on Philip. . .I can't help wondering if the attack took place to get Derek to the cathedral. 'Cept Lissa got in the way. But if the two attacks are linked, God help the moron who planned it. . .because I doubt if Derek will leave enough of him to identify!" the girl said grimly.

"I have no doubt of that," Shelagh replied. She had never met Dr. Derek Rayne, but often heard her young brother- in-law speak of him. While Shelagh didn't have the Gift, the young woman could hear what wasn't being said. . .as well as what was being said in conversation.

Maeve leaned back and Shelagh studied her young companion. . .not yet fifteen years old, and already, Maeve was behaving like a young lady. Not necessarily Mrs. Ryan's idea of a young lady, but a girl who had the patience and humor to deal with five young children was certainly Shelagh's idea of a young lady. The matron said quietly, "Have I told you lately how much I've appreciated your help, Maeve?" The girl looked up with a faint smile, and Maeve continued, "You've been a godsent these last few weeks."

"We do what we can," Maeve replied, blushing, and Shelagh nearly laughed aloud. That sounded so much like her brother-in-law! Maeve closed her eyes and whispered, "Oh, Philip. I'm sorry. I just. . .I know that it's real. I mean, I know that Alex would never make up something like that. But I'm still having a hard time believing it."

Shelagh put her hand on the young girl's shoulder, wishing she could help her friend. She honestly didn't know what she would have done without Maeve. . .it was more than her aid with the children. Shelagh had someone to talk to.

Maeve sighed and murmured, "Sorry about that, Shelagh. I know that you're having a hard time with this as well. . .I shouldn't go off like that. But our flight to Chicago is being called, we should board the plane." Maeve nodded and the pair got up and headed for the tunnel.

As they walked, Shelagh said quietly, "There is no need for you t' apologize t' me, Maeve Reynolds. Two people whom you love have been hurt. You're angry and scared, somethin' I understand. I am the sister-in-law of a priest." This drew a smile from Maeve as they boarded their plane.

Derek couldn't breathe for several moments after Nick told him about Hitchcock's visit the previous night. Hitchcock had been here. . .at the hospital. However, to his surprise, his voice was steady as he said, "We must proceed with extreme caution, Nick. If Randolph suspects that we know. . .what all did my daughter's partner tell you?"

"I'm right here, Dr. Rayne. . .you can ask me," a voice from just behind Derek said. The anthropologist turned to face Sandy Horowitz, who continued, "Mr. Hitchcock approached the nurse's station, to see about Philip's condition. He claimed to be an old friend of Philip's family. Dr. Rayne, Lissa has told me all about Randolph Hitchcock. And I do mean, all. As soon as I saw him, I grabbed Zach."

"What else happened, Alessandria?" Derek asked quietly, though he wanted only to kill Hitchcock with his bare hands. Derek could have forgiven the Scrolls. . .but if Hitchcock was responsible for Philip's brush with death, or for Lissa's wounding, then Derek would make sure he paid dearly.

"Hitchcock told us that he would return at a later date. And believe me, Dr. Rayne, we'll be waiting! Like I just told Nick, the entire fourth floor is crawling with cops. If this guy hurt Philip once, he will try again. We won't let that happen," Sandy replied, her dark eyes flashing.

"I'm grateful, Alessandria. As I said, we must proceed with great caution. The last thing I want is Hitchcock going underground before we can prove anything. Understood?" Derek asked, glancing at Nick. The ex-SEAL nodded grimly. He didn't like it, but he would do as he was told. For now.

Perhaps out of compassion, or even exasperation with the students' inability to concentrate, Sister Antonia authorized an early day. Craig called his mother to let her know what he planned to do, then went to find Father Quinlan. It was the older priest's day at the parish school.

He found the man in the storage room for the various sports teams. Craig caught sight of a soccer ball, and his heart wrenched. Then he saw the look on Father Quinlan's face and the boy asked, "It hurts you, too? To see this? Knowing that he might. . .?" Craig couldn't continue.

Father Luke had jumped a little when Craig spoke, but he replied, "You know, I was just thinking about Philip's arrival. He was just out of the seminary, a twenty-five year old kid with haunted eyes. Until he caught sight of a little girl whom the other children had been teasing. Philip picked her up and cuddled her until she stopped crying. She was no more than five or six years old. . .had never seen Philip before in her life. But she trusted him. Without a doubt."

Craig said around the lump in his throat, "Yeah, I remember that. My dad saw Father C doing that and told my mom that he was gonna like this Father New Priest. Father Quinlan, why is this happening?" The last sentence was spoken in a rush. The priest bounced the soccer ball on the floor, silent for several moments.

During that time, Craig thought once more about his father. . .killed in a plane crash two years earlier, the year after Father C arrived at St. Bart's. His father had always gotten along well with Father Quinlan, but they went to school together. The bishop was another matter. . .Craig thought he was okay, as oldheads went, but his dad actively disliked Bishop Douglas. The teenager had never understood why, and maybe it didn't matter. Especially since Father Quinlan seemed ready to speak.

"I wish I could give you a good answer, Craig. There is suffering in the world. Bad people seem to get away with the evil they do, while good people like Philip are harmed. Truthfully, son, I'm having a hard time reconciling this whole situation with the God of mercy I've always believed in," Father Luke finally answered.

Craig was silent briefly, then said, "You know, he was really nice to me after my dad died. . .staying after soccer practice when I asked. He must have had a thousand things to do, but he just sat there and listened. Didn't give me any of that b.s. about Dad being in a better place. I knew my dad wasn't suffering any more, but that didn't make me hurt any less. All Father C told me was that he knew how much it hurt, 'cause he lost his parents when he was a little kid."

"Thomas and Maeve Callaghan. I knew them. Not well, of course, but I'd met them a few times while they were in town. I met Philip when he was just a little boy. . .Craig, I could tell you stories about that child which you wouldn't believe!" Father Luke said with a laugh. The teenager laughed as well, and Father Luke asked, "How about if I tell you those stories on the way to the hospital?"

Craig straightened up and nodded, replying, "I'd really like that. You really knew Father C when he was a little kid?" Father Luke nodded with a grin as they left the room, and Craig continued, "Wow. . .Father Quinlan, tell me this. Was he quiet, like he is now?"

Father Luke responded with a shocked look, then shook his head, laughing, "Quiet? That seven year old Philip Callaghan? Not on your life! I never met a more. . .well, for lack of a better word, a more high-spirited child. I'll tell you all about him." And that's exactly what he did.

After Nick left for Philip's room, Lissa tried to rest, but the wound in her shoulder was making that very difficult. She wasn't due to have more medication for a few hours. . .I can handle it, she thought, trying to ignore the nagging pain, I've been hurt worse, I can deal with this.

She tried to deal with the pain by thinking about what she would do once she was out of the hospital. There would be the necessary test for returning injured cops. Lissa hated the things, but knew they were necessary. Each of us does what she must, Lissa thought, smiling at her father's words. The telephone rang, startling her. Lissa leaned over carefully and picked up the receiver. Thank God the phone was on the right hand side of the bed! She said, settling the phone against the side of her face, "Hello?"

"Lis, it's me," a familiar, feminine voice said. Lissa's heart skipped a beat. Aunt Molly! Molly Summers continued, "Lissa, your friend Alex called me earlier. . .are you okay? Sorry, dumb question. . .will you be okay?"

Lissa began laughing helplessly, but managed to say around the laughter, "Oh, bless her heart! Yes, Aunt Molly, I will be fine. I just took a bullet in the shoulder, that's all. Adrian Tyler wants to keep me here for a few days, to make sure no complications set in."

"Thank God! My heart nearly stopped when Alex told me that you had been shot. Lissa, is this the Alexandra Moreau from college? Did I speak with Xan earlier?" Aunt Molly asked. Lissa nearly started laughing again, but restrained herself. It hurt when she laughed.

"Yes, ma'am! How's Cassie taking this?" Lissa asked and heard her aunt sigh. Lissa's police work had always been a touchy subject between the two women. Lissa knew her aunt was proud of her, but Molly Summers had lost her two older sisters violently. She didn't want to lose Lissa at all.

"I told her that you were shot while protecting your dad. Lissa, honey. . .you don't have to work any more. You've got a father who loves you dearly, you're with the Luna Foundation. Why don't you get out before you get yourself killed?" Aunt Molly asked pleadingly.

Lissa sighed very quietly. She loved her aunt just as much as she loved Derek, and she had known that this topic would come up. But that didn't make it any easier to deal with. Four years ago, after Kerry Hamilton's death, they had this argument. At least, Molly had argued, while Lissa reclined in bed, too weak to respond. Which didn't stop her from returning to work once she recovered. Lissa said now, "I don't have to work, Aunt Molly. . .but I want to."

Lissa paused, then continued in a much softer voice, "Look. . .being a cop is a part of me. I know what the risks are, I went into this with my eyes wide open. But asking me to leave the force is like asking Derek to leave the Legacy, or asking Philip to leave the priesthood. It's part of us. It's the way we define ourselves. I love you so much, Aunt Molly. . .but I can't give up being a cop, not even for you."

"Not even for Cassie?" her aunt inquired softly and Lissa flinched. That was something else she had expected, but it always hurt when she came up. Aunt Molly said, "Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry. But your daughter loves you. . . she doesn't know that you're her mother, but she loves you. Lissa. . .does Derek know? Does he know about Cassie?"

Lissa smiled in spite of herself and replied, "No, Aunt Molly. I'm not ready to tell him. Please. . .promise that you'll let me tell him in my own time? Derek is still getting used to having an adult daughter. . .having a six year old granddaughter might be too much for him."

Her aunt laughed outright and replied, "If you think that, honey, then you don't know your father very well! He can handle it. But if you're not ready to tell him, then I'll respect your wishes. Oops. . .I think I hear Natalie and Cassie. I know Cassie will want to talk to you."

"How is Natalie working out? Does she still have nightmares?" Lissa asked, inquiring about the newest member of the Toronto Legacy House. She had never met Natalie, but heard a lot about her. In the background, Lissa heard her daughter's piping voice and pain shot through her heart. Cassie, Lissa thought, my sweet, sweet baby.

"Nat is fine. . .the last time she had a nightmare, Cassie crawled into bed with her. She's a lot like you, Lis. I remember you doing the same thing when I had nightmares. Hey, do you remember one night when you were about seven? Fiona was out of town with Jonathan Boyle on a case, and she asked Derek to look after you?" Molly asked.

Lissa grinned and replied, "I remember. . .c'mon, Aunt Molly, how could I forget!" Her aunt laughed, but Lissa obliged the older woman by saying, "I had a nightmare, and since Mama had told me that I couldn't crawl into bed with Philip when I was scared, I went to Derek's room instead. I couldn't understand why I couldn't crawl into bed with Philip at the time. . .now I do, of course."

Her aunt laughed, saying, "Yes, I'm sure. Listen, here's Cassie. I'll talk to you later, honey. . .I love you." There was a brief silence, and the young cop could hear her aunt admonish Cassie, "Now remember, Lissa has been hurt, so don't talk for a long time. She needs to rest."

"Okay, Mummy, I promise. Hi, Lissa! Mummy says that someone tried to hurt your daddy, but you were hurt instead. Are you okay now?" Cassie asked in her usual rush of words. Six years old and smart as a whip, Lissa's daughter was a more outgoing, more talkative version of Lissa at that age. No cruel words were allowed to hurt this child.

The young cop blinked back her tears and replied, "I'm doing a lot better, honey. I'm just really worried about my friend Philip. . he was hurt a lot worse than I was. Remember when your mother told you that I was in a coma? Well, that's what happened to Philip. But I don't want to talk about that right now. Tell me about school. . or better yet, tell me about Natalie! Aunt Molly says that you crawled into bed with her, and made her nightmares go away. . ."

If the situation hadn't been so tense, Michael would have laughed at the expression on Philip's face as they listened to the conversation between Lissa and her daughter. I should have realized he would react like this, Michael thought, but I can't tell the boy everything!

That simply wasn't permitted. . .Philip had to learn certain things on his own, and the existence of Fiona Cassandra Summers was one such thing. Michael had his problems with Philip even knowing, but. . .

Lissa. . .Lissa has a daughter, Philip asked, she has a little girl? His pale eyes were very wide, and he seemed to be having a very difficult time swallowing. Michael nodded, and the young priest continued, How? The archangel just looked at Philip with some disgust, and the boy shook his head. He said, Never mind. . .forget I asked that.

I'll do that, Michael answered dryly. Philip, Elizabeth has never told you, or the others, about her child, because she's not ready to face the questions. Many years ago, shortly after starting college, Molly Summers learned that she could never have children. So, when Elizabeth found out that she was pregnant with Cassandra, she asked her aunt to raise the child. It was the only way Elizabeth could protect her daughter from her step-father's abuse.

Oh, sweet heaven. . .poor Lissa! And I wasn't there, Michael. I wasn't there t' help her when she needed me the most, Philip murmured, obviously heart-sick over the revelation. Michael controlled his desire to smack the young man. In this case, violence would do no good.

There was only one solution. Michael didn't much care for the idea, but that was irrelevant. There were many things in the mortal world for which Michael didn't care, but it wasn't within his power to change them. If Philip remembered this conversation once he regained consciousness, his guilt would impede his recovery. I cannot allow that, Michael thought, the Father has special plans for Philip, and he can't fulfill that part of his destiny if he's still recuperating from the beating.

With that in mind, Michael placed his hand against Philip's forehead. . .almost against the boy's will, his eyes closed. Michael smiled in spite of himself. . .yes, Philip was strong-willed, but Michael's will was stronger. The archangel said firmly, Enough of this guilt. . .it will impede your recovery. You didn't hear that. You didn't hear that Lissa has a daughter, whom she had to give up. When your body is healed, then you may remember.

Don't. . .remember, Philip sighed, his speech slurred the way a sleepy child slurs his words before dropping off. Michael again smiled, and removed his hand from the young man's forehead. Philip's eyes opened and he started to collapse. Michael quickly grabbed him by the waist.

Are you all right? the archangel asked and the boy nodded weakly. Michael continued, Good. . .you worried me for a moment. Now, answer another question for me, child. Did you hear Lissa's response, when her aunt urged her to give up her career as a police detective?

Of course I did. . .and it didn't tell me anythin' I didn't already know about Lissa. Rachel once asked her, about a month after we found out that Lissa was Derek's daughter, if she would give up bein' a police officer. She told Rachel the same thin' she told Molly, Philip replied.

Good. Very good, Michael said with a nod. The boy was still looking distracted, and the archangel wondered if he should make Philip forget about Cassie Summers altogether. After a moment, Michael rejected that idea. Lissa would need Philip's support when the time came to tell the others about her child. It really wasn't Derek who worried Michael. . .it was Rachel Corrigan, who was a bit of a loose cannon. But the children would be all right. Michael would see to that.

After telling Derek about Hitchcock's visit, Sandy wandered off. . .she was probably heading back to Lissa's room, Nick figured. He turned to his precept and said, "There are some other things which you need to know. Lissa has suggested that I go to St. Athanasius School for help."

"Your investigation at the parish school turned up nothing?" Derek asked and Nick shook his head. Derek continued as they stood just outside Philip's room, "For some reason, I saw my daughter's hand in this. Did she suggest asking Monsignor Gray's help?"

"Not Monsignor Gray, Derek," Nick refuted quietly. At his mentor's puzzled look, Nick continued, "The boys. . .Joe, Artie, and Pete. Lissa did suggest that, but she has a point. Sometimes, you'll tell an outsider something you wouldn't tell a schoolmate."

"Of course," Derek said thoughtfully, "and Monsignor Gray has said several times that if there was anything he could do for us. . .are you going over this afternoon?" Nick nodded, glancing back into Philip's room. What should he do first? After a moment, he made his decision, and hoped that Philip would understand.

"Yeah, I'm gonna head over there now. The sooner I do that. . .well, you understand, I think. Tell Lis that I'll be back later to talk to her, okay?" Nick asked. Derek nodded and Nick gently thwacked his precept's shoulder, adding, "There is one thing you can do for me. . .call ahead and let the Monsignor know I'm coming." Derek nodded and Nick headed for the elevator. He had a lot of work to do.

After leaving the Reynolds house, the letters stashed in her purse, Alex headed over to the precinct. Sergeant Grayson was in court, she was told, but Police Chief Markham was here. She agreed to see the latter, if he had time, and only a few minutes later, was ushered into his office.

Markham rose to his feet as Alex entered his office and shook her hand, asking, "How is she? Zach said she would probably pull through." Alex nodded, tears once more burning the backs of her eyes, and Markham continued, "I would suspect that you're here about possible enemies."

"That's right. . .I didn't find any leads at the old house, and Sergeant Grayson told me that all of Lissa's collars are still behind bars. I was wondering, Chief, about the family members of anyone Lissa has killed. Had to kill in the line of duty," Alex explained.

"Ms. Moreau, didn't Lissa tell you? In five years on the force, she only had to kill twice. . .gang members, who had killed her partner and would have killed Lissa as well," the police chief replied. Alex made a face. . .that didn't mean anything. Gang members had families as well. The chief explained, "One of the guys had no family. . .the other one, when he joined the gang, was disowned by his mother. Musta broken her heart. . .he was her only son."

"Oh," Alex said, nonplussed. After a moment, she continued, "Well, what about after he was killed? Didn't the mother. . .?" The chief shook his head, and Alex said, "But you said yourself that he was her only son. What about sisters? Or was he also her only child?"

"After it happened, Ms. Moreau, the mother did go a little crazy with grief. She came to the police station, demanding to see the bitch who had killed her son. So I did just that. . .I took her to see Lissa in the hospital. You have to understand, Ms. Moreau, that Lissa's survival was unexpected. She was shot up really bad. When I took her into Lissa's room, Lis was asleep. The woman was speechless. Didn't want to wake her up," the chief explained.

He was silent for several moments, then continued, "Outside Lissa's room, the mother said 'but she's just a little girl. Just a child. How old is she? Twenty-two, twenty-three?' I told her that Lissa was twenty-two.

"She couldn't believe it. Lissa was. . .well, she was on life support. And she isn't very big to begin with. So yeah, she did look like a little girl, lying in that bed. The mother asked me about Lissa's family. I didn't lie to her. Told her exactly what kind of a man her step-father was. . .told her that Lissa's mother had died when Lis was a kid," the chief said.

Alex's mouth twisted. Oh, you have no idea what kind of a man her step-father was, she thought, no idea at all! Alex wanted to resurrect William Reynolds, so she could have the pleasure of killing him again. Lissa had faced down her demons, faced down the horror of what he had done to her when she returned Andreas to the urn which contained his essence. But Alex wanted revenge. Pure, simple, sweet revenge.

However, she said only, "So, this woman wouldn't be interested in revenge against Lissa?" The chief shook his head and Alex continued, "Could I have her name anyhow? I need to follow this as far as I can." The chief hesitated, then wrote the woman's name down, as well as her address. Alex thanked her friend's boss, then left the precinct. She glanced at the name on the paper. Vanessa Holloway. Mrs. Holloway's son died four years ago, Alex thought, but I think I should pay her a visit anyhow. What she couldn't admit was that she wasn't ready to face Lissa yet.

Monsignor Gray was waiting on the front steps of St. Athanasius High School when Nick got out of the Range Rover. The older man smiled wanly when he saw Nick, and shook the young ex-SEAL's hand, saying, "Good to see you again, Nick, though I don't much like the circumstances."

"I know, Monsignor. Do the boys know what happened?" Nick asked. The older man flinched and Nick cursed himself for his insensitivity. Of course they knew. . .how could they not, with the story running constantly! Nick continued, "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"It's all right, Nick, you have a lot on your mind. After I received the phone call from Derek, I called the boys into my office. . .they're there now," Monsignor Gray replied. Nick nodded as they headed into the building and up the stairs to the monsignor's office.

Inside, they found the three boys, all of whom looked nervous. Joe Dawkins rose to his feet as Nick entered and said, "We heard about what happened to Father Callaghan, Mr. Boyle. Is there anything we can do to help?" Nick smiled as he shook the boy's hand.

"That's why I'm here. I was wondering if the three of you would be interested in helping me find out who is behind the attack against Philip," Nick replied. Joe merely smiled, a cold expression appearing in his eyes, and Nick added, "I think I should take that as a yes."

"Point me in the right direction, Mr. Boyle, and the three of us will do the rest. The way I figure it, Father Callaghan saved our lives, our souls, and God only knows what else. We owe him big time," Joe replied. He had grown up a lot in the last few months. God, has it been almost a year? Nick thought, Time sure flies past!

"I'm really glad you said that, Joe, because I do need your help. The first thing I need for you to do is come to the hospital with me. You have a right to see Philip's condition, and to know what you're letting yourself in for. Because I don't think. . .well, you'll see. Monsignor Gray, if I have your permission. . ." Nick replied. Even before the words were out of his mouth, the older priest was nodding. Nick hadn't figured on it being a problem, but it never hurt to check. Just to be on the safe side.

"You do. Tell Derek that we're all praying for Philip," Monsignor Gray answered. He added with a smile, "And Lissa of course." Nick nodded with a smile, shaking the priest's hand once more. Then he led the boys out of the school.

As they walked to the Range Rover, Pete spoke for the first time, asking, "Mr. Boyle, who is 'Lissa?' Monsignor Gray has mentioned her twice within the last few months, when he was talking about Father Callaghan." Nick smiled as he opened the passenger doors for the boys.

"You'll meet her when we get to the hospital. . .'Lissa' is 'Lissa Rayne.' She was Philip's best friend when they were kids. . .she's also Derek Rayne's daughter. That's all I can tell you for right now," Nick explained. He didn't want to say any more. . .that might spoil the surprise.

As expected, the visit with Vanessa Holloway yielded no results. The woman was obviously shocked by what had happened to Lissa, but she could shed no light on the incident at the cathedral. Alex returned to the hospital with a heavy heart. What am I missing?

However, there was no help for it right now. Her meeting with Lissa couldn't be put off any longer. Derek was still in Philip's room, she discovered, so Alex slipped into Lissa's room without difficulty. Good, the researcher thought, that's an added complication I didn't need. Her former roommate was finishing up a conversation on the telephone, but she said as Alex entered the room, "I'll talk to you later, honey. Yes, I love you, too. Hey, Xan! Did you find out something?"

Alex had planned to put a cheerful face for her friend, but for some reason, that innocent question destroyed those plans. Alex couldn't hold back her emotions any longer. She nodded and said softly as she sat down, "I found the letters, Lissa. I found the letters which you sent to me." Her former roommate's eyes widened and Alex whispered, "Oh, Lissa, I'm sorry! I am so sorry!"

Part Eight

That was the last thing Lissa had expected to hear from her former roommate. Alex said once the initial words were out, "I went to your old house, to see if I could find any leads on the shooting. While we're pretty sure that Derek was the actual target, I figured that it would be smart to see if there were people who want you dead."

"Very smart," Lissa said around the tightness in her throat. The letters. After all these years. Lissa allowed her right hand to tighten into a fist. Damn him, he had kept them! Careful, Lis, she cautioned herself, careful, it's not Xan you're mad at here. It's not her fault.

"Of course, I didn't find anything. . .but for some reason, I felt drawn to your step-father's room. I went in and nearly tripped over this cigar box lying on the floor, underneath his dresser. That's where I found them. . .in that cigar box. The. . .the most important one was on top. I don't know why he did that. . .but who knows why a monster like that does things?" Alex asked, her voice breaking.

"Oh, I know exactly why he did that," Lissa replied, her rage threatening to overwhelm her, "to prove his superiority. Again. My God, he was such a little man, Alex! Proving his superiority over me gave him power. . .a girl half his weight. He would have never lasted against Derek or Nick, or even Philip." She closed her eyes, willing back the tears.

Alex took Lissa's hand and said softly, "I am so sorry, Lissa. I should have. . .I don't know what I should have done, but there must have been something I could have done to protect you from that monster! You were my roommate, like my own little sister."

Lissa opened her eyes and whispered, "You're not to blame, Xan. . .you aren't. I won't deny that I was hurt when I didn't receive any letters from you. But I thought you were just disgusted and repulsed by what I had told you. I didn't blame you. No, I didn't blame you in the least." Alex's eyes narrowed and her grip on Lissa's hand tightened.

"Oh, I was disgusted, and I was repulsed. . .but not by you. Never think that! And if I had known about this then, Lissa, no force would have kept me from being there for you," Alex vowed quietly. Lissa squeezed her friend's hand, and after a moment, Alex continued, "I found a clipping, too. He found out that I was with the Luna Foundation."

"I thought as much. Xan, please don't blame yourself. I'm not angry with you any more. . .I'm angry with that monster. He tried to rob me of three people whom I loved, and who loved me. I could have borne anything else, if he hadn't tried to do that. But now he's dead, and he can't hurt anyone anymore. Xan, I want you to do something for me. Please. . .don't tell my father about those letters. Or Maeve. Let me tell Dad, in my own time," Lissa requested.

"It's our secret. . .I won't tell him. Or Philip, or Nick, or Rachel. But. . .Maeve has to know, sometime. Maybe not today, or this year. But sometime," Alex replied. Lissa bit her lower lip, and Alex continued, "You have plenty of time to decide that. Who was on the phone?"

"Aunt Molly called me. . .thanks for calling her, Xan. You know, she actually asked me if you were the same Alex Moreau from college?" Lissa asked, her heart lightening when she told her friend about the phone call from her aunt. Alex smiled and Lissa continued, "We did argue, though."

"About your being a police officer?" Alex guessed and Lissa nodded, and Alex continued, "I figured it had to be something like that. She pretty much went ballistic when I told her that you had been shot. . .didn't take the news about Philip particularly well, either."

Lissa made a face, replying, "No, I don't imagine she did. He. . .Aunt Molly has always sort of considered Philip to be as much her godchild as Dad's. Never mind that she was just a munchkin when he was born. . .she still sees him as her godchild. And Aunt Molly is like you. . .where she loves, she protects. God help anyone who stands in her way."

"Yes," Alex said wryly, "I received that impression quite distinctly!" Lissa laughed, wincing at the pain in her shoulder, and Alex continued, "I also talked to Cassie. She's a pretty special little girl. And she obviously adores you." Lissa smiled sadly.

"She is very special, Alex. . .and I love her even more than she loves me. That's who I was talking to when you came in. She was worried about me, but I think I eased her mind. I guess she was constantly asking Aunt Molly during the last year why she couldn't talk to me. Comas are hard for a little girl that age to understand," the detective remarked.

Alex nodded and replied, "I'll be back later, hon. . .I want to see about Philip. I just. . .I wanted you to know how sorry I was. I wish I could have been there for you." Lissa smiled and gave Alex's hand a gentle squeeze. Alex continued after a moment, "It seems I'm more of a help to you than I am to Derek and Nick. Derek's pretending that he's all right, but he's not." Lissa nodded once more and Alex leaned forward to kiss her forehead, saying, "Back soon."

Derek was still in Philip's room when Alex entered a few minutes later. She didn't announce her presence immediately. Derek sat in the chair beside Philip's bed, gently stroking his godson's hair and singing something in Dutch. Alex blinked back her tears and whispered, "How is he?"

"The same. Did you find anything?" Derek asked and Alex started to reply in the affirmative, then remembered her promise to Lissa. She shook her head, and her precept continued, "Nick and I learned something."

"What?" Alex asked, sitting down on the bed beside Philip. His hands rested lightly on the top sheet, and Alex took one pale, limp hand and held it. Derek's hand continued to caress Philip's hair, and Alex waited patiently for her precept to tell her what he and Nick had learned.

"Randolph Hitchcock was here last night, Alex, after the three of us left. To see about Philip's condition, he said, but I don't believe that," Derek replied at last, and Alex caught her breath. Derek looked up at her and continued, "I think Nick was right. . .Hitchcock is responsible."

In the elevator up to the fourth floor, Joe noticed his two friends looked at him apprehensively. The boy had the sinking feeling that Pete and Artie would back out of this deal. Joe was in for the long-haul, but he didn't know how he would tell Mr. Boyle about the other two.

Artie and Pete had spent the last several months trying to forget their encounter with the Warden, but Joe couldn't forget. He couldn't forget the horror of watching Mr. Klein die. . .nor could he forget the sight of a solitary figure in black coming down the center aisle of the gymnasium, reciting the chant which would free Joe and his friends.

Father Philip Callaghan had saved their lives, returned their souls to them, and it wasn't until the end that they learned he was a priest. God knew he hadn't looked like a priest at first, dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket. He looked like a young professor at one of the local colleges. But a priest he was, a priest whom Joseph Dawkins owed in a big way. And Joe paid his debts.

The elevator stopped and Nick Boyle said, "We're going to Lissa's room first. . .my boss, Derek, is probably in Philip's room. He's Philip's godfather. I think you'll like Lissa. . .she and Philip are a lot alike." Joe smiled at that, but said nothing as Mr. Boyle led them to a hospital room not far from the nurse's station.

He pushed open the door and said, "Hey, Miss Liss. . . you have more visitors. Joe, Artie, and Pete, this is Detective Elizabeth Marie Anne Rayne. . .'Lissa' to those who know and love her. Lissa, this is Joe, Artie, and Pete, from St. Athansius High School."

Joe peeked inside. . .a young woman sat up in bed. She was around the same age as Father Callaghan and Mr. Boyle, with long, curly dark brown hair and fair skin. She smiled warmly at the three teenagers and said, "Hello, boys, it's a pleasure to meet you. Please, call me 'Lissa.' I'm still getting used to being a detective." Joe returned the smile, liking the young woman immediately.

"Hi, Lissa. Mr. Boyle says that you're a good friend of Father Callaghan's," the boy replied and Lissa nodded, gesturing them to sit down wherever they pleased. Joe continued, "How long have you known him? And how were you injured?" Lissa's smile faltered, but only a little.

"I met Philip for the first time when I was just a year old. . .in fact, it was he who gave me the nickname 'Lissa.' He was only three years old, and he couldn't quite say 'Elizabeth.' 'Lissa' was the best he could do, and I've been 'Lissa' ever since," she replied.

"I'll go check in with Derek. . .let him know that I'm back. Has he gotten anything to eat?" Mr. Boyle asked. Lissa gestured helplessly with one hand, and Mr. Boyle sighed, "Probably not. I'll stay with Philip, and convince Alex to take Derek downstairs to the cafeteria. Use emotional blackmail on him, if I have to. I'll let you all get acquainted, before I take the boys to see Philip."

"Okay. . .thanks, Nick," Lissa replied. Mr. Boyle kissed her cheek, then left the room. Lissa turned her attention back to the boys and continued, "You asked how long I've known Philip. Well, for five years, from the time I was five until I was about ten and a half, Philip was my best friend. But when I was ten, my mother was killed. . ."

Craig listened raptly to Father Quinlan's stories about the little boy whom Philip Callaghan was once. As they approached the hospital, Craig said, "I. . .you know, if you hadn't told me these stories yourself, I would have never believed them. That little boy sounds nothing at all like the Father C whom I know."

"Well, the loss of his parents completely devastated him, Craig. He was only seven years old, and from what I understand, Philip blamed himself for the plane crash. That's a heavy burden for a little boy to carry. Perhaps now you can understand his patience with you," Father Quinlan replied as he pulled into a parking place.

"God, yes! Sorry. But yeah, I can definitely understand a lot better. Father C told me that his friend Lissa helped him to come out of his shell after his mom and dad died, but I never really believed him. I mean, like I said, that little boy is so different from Father C. . .it's like they are two totally different people!" Craig said.

"Well, they are, Craig. Philip isn't seven years old anymore. . .he'll be twenty-nine in just a few weeks. That's nearly twenty-two years of changes. The initial trauma aside, Philip has changed a lot," Father Quinlan commented.

"Mmm," Craig said softly as the priest beside him killed the engine. Father Quinlan pulled the key from the ignition and got out of the car. Craig followed suit, easily keeping up with the older man. He continued to be worried by what had happened the previous morning. Things were a blank for several hours. . .but he hadn't attacked Father C. Had he?

After Nick left the high school, the news spread like wildfire. It was established that Father C had been attacked by a teenager. And Mr. Boyle, who had found Father C in the cathedral office, had been asking questions about Alan Webster, the dipshit who was caught feeling up a freshman. It took little intelligence to figure out why.

There were in the school some rather volatile personalities. And Father C was a favorite among the students. Alan Webster had been caught feeling up a freshman. And if Nick Boyle thought he had a motive for hurting Father C, well. . .

Several of the senior boys knew where Alan worked. They knew where he lived, and what time he got home from work. With the early day which Sister Antonia had given them (maybe she wasn't such a dragon lady after all), these volatile youngsters would have plenty of time to go home, change into casual clothes, then head over to Webster's house. Have a little talk with someone who had cause to hurt Father C.

The youngsters in question kept their plans to themselves. . .letting something slip to members of the faculty was out of the question. That simply was not an option for these five eighteen year old boys.

Telling the girls in the senior class was also not an option. For obvious reasons, the girls adored Father C, and the boys knew that they wouldn't leave anything of Webster for the senior boys. The girls would rip him apart limb by limb by limb. So the boys kept silent and made their plans, until it was time to implement those plans.

Randolph Hitchcock was not happy. He had planned to finish Philip Callaghan the night before, but those two cops had stopped him. Worse, the cops would have spread the word, and Hitchcock would be closely watched. There was only one thing to do. He had to summon the demon again.

It wasn't something Hitchcock really wanted to do. . .he had been looking forward to snuffing out the life of Rayne's beloved godson himself. However, there was no help for it now. Hitchcock began lighting the candles once more, preparing himself for the ritual which was to come.

He had no idea where the demon's host body was. . .it mattered little. Within a few hours, Philip Callaghan would be dead. . .the last of a family Hitchcock despised. . .and his death would shatter Derek Rayne into a thousand pieces. Then it would be Lissa Rayne's turn.

Hitchcock silently fumed, thinking of the one person whom Alicia had loved more than him. Her precious niece! How he hated her. . .that sullen child who only smiled for Derek! I might have known the little bitch would take the bullet for Derek, Hitchcock thought, she's so much like Alicia. And Fiona, damn that bitch to hell! Fiona Reynolds was the only person he hated more than Derek Rayne.

She never thought I was good enough for Alicia, Hitchcock thought, but I showed her, yes, I did! And before too much longer, I'll be sending both her daughter and her precious godson to hell, and won't that be a happy reunion! Hitchcock smiled coldly, then began to chant the words which would return the demon to the world.

Free once more! And if that bastard Hitchcock ever does such a thing to me again, I'll see that he finds out first-hand the kind of pain I inflicted on Father Philip Joseph Callaghan, of the San Francisco Legacy House, the demon thought as it returned to its host body.

The demon found itself in a place of white. . .it recoiled from the overwhelming whiteness. Walls were white, and the lights were bright. Everything was white. . .except the clothes of the man in front of him. Those were black. And as the man turned to face him, the demon understood why. His companion was a priest.

The demon recoiled once more, but the man said softly, "You stay here, son, I'll see what I can find out from the nurses." The priest walked away swiftly, seemingly unaware of the presence within the boy's body. Good, the demon thought, clenching the boy's hands, it would seem that this priest lacks the young one's ability to sense evil when staring into its eyes. That will prove useful.

The demon knew all about Philip Callaghan. . .knew how he had returned the Warden to Hell, when the latter was on the verge of setting the rest of their brethren free. For that, the young priest would pay with his life.

But even after the boy was dead, the demon knew that he had more work to do. Derek Rayne, the boy's godfather, would be completely shattered by Philip Callaghan's death. And when that happened, the demon and Randolph Hitchcock would destroy the San Francisco Legacy House. After that happy day. . .Randolph Hitchcock would get his as well.

"Nick!" Kat cried out and the ex-SEAL turned to face her as he headed down the hall to Philip's room. He caught her easily, spinning her around in circles. Kat giggled, but her laughter died as she asked anxiously, "Is Philip. . .is he. . .?" The little girl couldn't find the words to continue and Nick hugged her tightly.

"He's holding on, sweetness. That's the important thing. I've gotta go convince Derek to get something to eat. Will you help me?" he asked and Kat bobbed her head. Nick continued, "I'm glad, because I don't think I can do it alone. You know Derek." He sighed and Kat giggled again.

"Alex will make him get something to eat. Nick, who were those boys who were with you? I saw you taking them into Lissa's room. . .are they from St. Barth'mews?" Kat asked, unable to get her tongue around 'Bartholomew.' Nick grinned, kissing the side of her head.

"No, honey, they're not. . .they're from St. Athansius. I know, that's even harder to say. Their names are Joe, Artie, and Pete, and a long time ago, Philip helped them. I asked if they could help me find out who hurt Philip so badly," the former SEAL replied. Kat cocked her head to one side as they entered Philip's hospital room.

"I'm glad. Hi Derek, hi Alex!" Kat said. Nick set the child on her feet, and Kat ran to Alex first. She hugged the head researcher, then Derek, then wriggled close to Philip's bed. She said, in a much softer voice, "Hi, Philip. I came back, just like I said I would." She rested her cheek against his shoulder, wrapping her arms around him carefully.

"I think it's time you got something to eat, Derek. Alex, you haven't eaten anything recently either, have you?" Nick asked and the young woman shook her head. Derek seemed unwilling to leave Philip's side, and Nick continued, making his voice as gentle as possible, "Derek. . .you have to eat. Do it for Philip, if not for us."

Derek glared at him and said, "That's emotional blackmail, Nick." The younger man just smiled mischievously and Derek continued, glancing at the little girl who snuggled against Philip, "Katherine, I suppose you're also ganging up against me?" The child lifted her head and made a face at Derek. It was all Nick could do to keep from laughing.

"Derek. . .go. Or I'll tell Lissa and Mom on you," Kat replied, putting her hands on her hips. That settled it. . . Nick began shaking with laughter. Alex covered her mouth, but her shoulders shook with the spasms as well. Derek looked at the three of them, then shook his head.

"It would seem that I'm out-numbered. And knowing Philip, he would tell me that you're right. Very well, then. Alexandra, you know where the cafeteria is in this place. . . lead the way. Nick, Katherine. . .I leave my only godson in your hands," the precept said. With a bow to Kat, Derek departed from the room behind Alex.

"I didn't know that Derek was Philip's godfather," Kat remarked, returning her attention to the young priest. Nick didn't reply, unsure of what to say, and Kat continued, "I call my godmother and godfather 'aunt and uncle,' but Philip never calls him 'Uncle Derek.' It's always just 'Derek.' Is it because Philip is a grown-up, like Derek?"

"I suppose it must be because Philip's a grown-up," Nick agreed, though he honestly had no idea. He and Philip never discussed Philip's relationship with Derek. Nor did they discuss Nick's relationship with Julia Walker, whose death had nearly shattered Nick's own relationship with Derek.

"Excuse me. . .oh, hello, Mr. Boyle," a voice said from the doorway. Nick turned to face Father Luke Quinlan, one of the other priests at St. Bartholomew's. The older man said, "The gentleman on duty at the nurse's station told me that Philip was allowed two visitors. . .we'll come back later."

A teenaged boy stood just behind Father Quinlan. Nick looked at Kat, then looked back at the pair. There was something about the boy which made Nick nervous. What was it? Oh, for God's sake, Nick, he thought, he's with a priest! Nick replied, "It's all right, Father Quinlan. Kat and I need to look in on Lissa."

"Thank you, Mr. Boyle," Father Quinlan said and Nick took Kat's hand, leading her from the room. The child was squeezing his hand, and Nick wondered what was troubling her. Maybe the same thing troubling you? Once more, Nick brushed off his unease. . .Philip would be safe with another priest, if only for a few minutes. This case is starting to addle my brain, he thought.

After gaining access to the priest's room, it was hideously easy. The demon had a few bad moments, especially with that little brat staring at him. She had sensed something, even if the ex-SEAL (another one responsible for the Warden's failure) had not.

The older priest talked of inconsquential things for a few moments. . .things dealing with the parish school, and how the children were all praying for his recovery (how sweet!). Then the old man said a soft prayer, and it was then that the demon said, using the boy's voice, "Might I have a few moments alone with him, Father?"

The older priest looked at him, startled, then smiled. He replied, "Of course. I'll be right outside the door." He gently touched the young priest's shoulder, murmuring, "God be with you, Philip." Then he slipped from the room. The demon worked quickly. He removed the priest's oxygen mask, then pulled the pillow out from under his head. Using that as his weapon, he placed it over the priest's face and held it there. There were immediately sounds which he didn't recognize, but the demon didn't falter.

"Code Red in Room 420!" a man called out as Nick left Lissa's room with Kat and Joe. Room 420? That's Philip's room! A teenaged boy darted from Philip's room and ran down the hall. There was a whoosh of air, then Nick saw Joe running after the other boy. Nick didn't even think. . .he just swept Kat up into his arms and ran down the hall.

Joe had disappeared from sight, but he wasn't Nick's concern right now. In Philip's room, he discovered a team already there. The conversation, terse and staccato, between the members of the unit frightened Nick. Dr. Theresa Murray cried out, "Come on, dammit, don't you quit on me now! When is that charge going to be ready?" Nick almost collapsed. For the second time in two days, the probability that he might lose his best friend was all too likely.

The paddles were pressed against Philip's chest, and his friend's body jerked with the electrical jolt. Still nothing. Nick held Kat tightly as the doctors continued the fight to save Philip's life. The motions became both quicker and slower at the same time, and Nick moaned, "No. . ."

Kat screamed, "PHILIP!!" There was a barest pause, as if the world was holding its breath, and then. . .beep. Nick looked at the source of the noise, and saw a rhythm there. Philip's heart was beating again. And for the first time, Nick realized that for just a few seconds, he had lost his friend. His legs threatened to give way.

"I. . .I don't understand it," Theresa Murray said as the other members of the team began relaxing. For the first time, she looked at Nick and Kat. The young doctor was trembling, and she said, "I want his condition monitored very closely. I also plan to speak to Sgt. Grayson. . .no unauthorized people come in or go out of this room." The others nodded and Dr. Murray walked over to Kat and Nick.

The little girl was trembling in Nick's arms, her eyes locked on Philip's still body. The doctor said, her voice very gentle, "Sweetheart, I don't know what you did, or what just happened. . .and really, I don't care. All I care about. . .the sound of your voice caused Father Callaghan to rally. So anytime you want to come in and see him, you're more than welcome. If anyone gives you a hard time, tell them to see me, or Dr. Tyler, or Dr. Mackintosh. Okay?" Kat nodded, tears streaming down her face.

"Kiddo, why don't you go with Dr. Murray? I'm sure she'll want to tell Derek what just happened," Nick said. Kat looked at Philip, then looked back at Nick, who continued, "I promise, sweetness, that I will guard him with my very life. No one will ever hurt Philip again, all right?" Kat nodded and Nick set her on her feet. But instead of going with Dr. Murray immediately, Kat ran back to Philip's bed and kissed his oxygen mask, then his forehead. She whispered something, then ran back to Dr. Murray.

Once the little girl and the doctor were gone, Nick staggered over to his friend's bedside and collapsed into the chair. They had nearly lost Philip. . .for good. Nick took the priest's hand and said, "Don't you ever do that to me again, Philip. Do you understand, don't you ever, ever scare me like that!" By this time, Nick was sobbing like a child.

He pressed Philip's pallid hand to his wet cheek, forgetting about machismo, forgetting all he had been taught about being a man. He just held his friend's hand against his wet cheek, sobbing. Once he could catch his breath, Nick whispered, "I'm sorry. . .I'm so sorry. Sandy was right. . . what she said was right. I'm sorry, Philip. . .I'm sorry for blaming you for Julia's death, I'm sorry for the tribunal, I'm sorry for it all!" He rested his forehead against his friend's shoulder, still sobbing.

During that brief time when his heart had stopped, Philip experienced the most agonizing pain imaginable. He didn't even see Kat and Nick standing in the doorway of his hospital room. . .he was doubled over, curled into a little ball. Michael cradled him in his strong arms, until the pain began easing. . .little by little.

When the last of the pain disappeared, Philip gasped, still woozy, Wha. . .what happened? Michael helped him straighten up, keeping a supportive arm around him, and Philip continued, I heard Kat screamin' my name, but that's all I remember. For the first time, Philip looked back at his hospital room. Nick was at his side, sobbing like an abandoned little one. Philip turned horrified eyes to the archangel and whispered, Am I dead?

No, child, you are still alive. Nicholas is weeping from relief and terror. You came very close to dying. . .but the time hasn't come for you to approach our Father. Tell me, Philip, can you hear what Nicholas is saying? Michael asked. Philip bit his lower lip, concentrating.

After a moment, he could hear the words and Philip looked at the archangel, asking, What does he mean, Sandy was right? Did I miss somethin' earlier, Michael, when I was watchin' the others? Michael laughed. . .but this time, he was already supporting Philip, so the sound didn't throw the young priest to the ground.

Not exactly, lad. Alessandria merely remarked that Nicholas loves you very much. Being the proud, macho former sailor that he is, Nicholas refused to answer. However, Alessandria is a wise lady. . .she knew that his refusal to answer meant only that she was right. Now, Nicholas is saying it aloud, the archangel replied. He paused, and his next words confused Philip. Michael said, The final. . .and greatest. . .sacrifice is yet to come.

Joseph Dawkins returned to the main lobby of the fourth floor, gasping for breath. The boy whom he had seen running from Philip Callaghan's room had disappeared, and Joe had no idea where he could have gone. Joe didn't care right now. All he cared about was Father Callaghan.

The tall, older man whom Joe had seen at St. A's after the Warden was banished appeared at the end of the hall. He was running, a dark woman right behind him, and yelling, "Philip!" One of the doctors grabbed him.

"This is a hospital, Mr. Rayne, lower your voice!" the young woman said, putting both hands on the man's shoulders. Joe slowed to a walk as the doctor continued, "Father Callaghan has been stabilized. I've contacted the police department, and a guard will be posted at the door. If you promise to behave yourself, you can go in and see him."

The man nodded, trembling, and went inside the hospital room. The doctor turned her attention to Joe, who said breathlessly, "He got away. . .I'm sorry. What you told Mr. Rayne. . .Father Callaghan is all right? I mean, he didn't die?" The woman shook her head.

"No, we resucitated him. He's not all right, but he's alive. Mr. Boyle, I don't make it a practice to allow family members in a patient's hospital room after a close call like that, but this is turning into an unusual case," the doctor said as Mr. Boyle left Father Callaghan's room.

The barest hint of a smile touched the corners of the man's mouth, as he replied, "You have no idea, Dr. Murray. Come on, Joseph. . .we need to go see Lissa again." Joe nodded and they headed down the hall toward the detective's hospital room.

to be continued on next page

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