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"Forget it, Mr. Boyle, I'm in this for the long haul!" Joe Dawkins said firmly. Lissa reclined against her pillows, smiling faintly, though her heart was heavy. Someone had tried to kill Philip again, a teenaged boy. Alex was outside talking with Father Quinlan, the boy's companion.
"You'll need all the help you can get, Nicholas. Stop arguing with him," Lissa said. Nick sighed, but desisted, and Lissa continued, "Thanks for letting me know the most recent stuff. If I know Zach, he'll have someone here yesterday...he will not be a happy camper."
"Lotta good that will do us," Nick said bitterly. Lissa glared at him. She knew he was angry about the second attempt on Philip's life, but dammit, this was not the time for recriminations! After a moment, Nick said more calmly, "Artie, Pete, I'll ask Alex to take the two of you back to the school. She needs something to do right now."
The two boys nodded, looking relieved that Nick had decided not to include them in his investigation. It annoyed Lissa, but there was nothing she could do. Besides, they now knew who had tried to kill Philip. The question now was, why? Lissa knew the boy in question, Craig Hughes. He was on the soccer team, had always been nice to Maeve. Philip had been a solid support for the kid after Galen Hughes' death. There was no reason for Craig to attack him.
And after what she had been told about Hitchcock's visit the previous night, well... Lissa said, "Like I said, Zach will get right on this. Guards will be posted at Philip's room, twenty-four hours a day. Thanks to Father Quinlan, we know the identity of Philip's attacker."
"Okay...okay. Artie, Pete, why don't you wait outside? Alex will be driving you back to the school. Joe, do you want to hang around?" Nick asked, glancing at the boy. Joe nodded, his eyes glittering, and the ex-SEAL continued, "Okay, why don't you go down and see Philip, then? Derek won't mind sharing him with you."
Lissa laughed, in spite of herself, and winced at the pain that shot through her shoulder. She said, "I'll be nice and refrain from commenting." Nick frowned, puzzled, then rolled his eyes. Lissa continued, "Hey, Rachel...would you mind doing something for me?"
The psychiatrist, who had been silently sitting on the heater, nodded and answered, "Sure, honey, whatever I can do, I will." Rachel looked as shaken as they all felt, Lissa noted. She had every reason to be shaken...her daughter had nearly watched Philip die today.
"Could you go with Joe, and make sure my father is all right?" Lissa requested. There was a method to her madness, and as Rachel frowned, Lissa glanced over at Nick. After a moment, understanding dawned in the other woman's eyes. However, Lissa continued, "I'm a little worried about him."
"Understandably so," Rachel replied, nodding. She glanced at the remaining teenager...Artie and Pete had obediently left with Alex...and said, "Come along, Joseph, we need to make sure Derek is behaving himself."
The boy nodded solemnly, following Rachel from the room. Lissa turned her attention to Nick and said quietly, "Tell me what's going through your mind, Nicholas. I know that look, and if you don't let go, you're gonna explode. That's one mess I don't wanna clean up."
Nick began pacing back and forth restlessly. Lissa waited patiently, and at last, Nick blurted out, "It's my fault, dammit! My gut told me not to leave the room, that Philip was in danger from the kid, and I ignored it! That's the second time my stupidity nearly got Philip killed!"
"Excuse me, but what the hell are you talking about?" Lissa retorted. Nick didn't answer... .he just resumed his pacing. After a moment, Lissa continued, "Come on, Nicholas, you don't make a statement like that, and expect me to let it pass. Explain yourself, Nicholas!"
The ex-SEAL turned to face her and explained, "I pulled him into my arms when I got to his side, Lis! I should have known that he had internal injuries, so moving him would be a bad idea!" Nick sighed, leaning against the door to the bathroom, and said, "Lis, what if that caused his coma?"
Lissa didn't know what to say. It was true, moving Philip hadn't been the best idea. However, that was beside the point. At last, she said quietly, "It wasn't your best idea, no. But Nick...what if your presence, your touch, gave him something to hold onto?"
"I...I don't understand," Nick admitted. Lissa wasn't sure if she did, either. When she had remembered the dreams which re-established her childhood bond with Philip, she remembered other things...Derek holding her hand, telling her that he wouldn't let her down, Kat's fingers on her wrist as she reassured Lissa that Philip hadn't forgotten her.
At last, she took a deep breath and said, "Nick, you remember when I was in a coma, right? You know how Philip and Alex and Derek would come into my room, and talk to me?" Nick nodded, and Lissa said, "It's something like that."
"You're talking...you mean, sort of a...a spiritual beacon? Philip, and Derek, and Alex were sort of guides home for you?" Nick asked and Lissa nodded. Yes, that was a good way of putting it. The young man continued, "And you think I might have been something similar for Philip?"
"Ummm...sort of. Okay, it's like this. Philip, Derek, and Alex were lighthouses on a shore, guiding me home. You were a life-jacket, which kept Philip from slipping away until the ambulance got there," Lissa explained. She sighed and asked, "I'm not explaining this very well, am I?"
For the first time, Nick smiled, and said, "You did fine. Thanks. Lis, how do you do it? I mean, you're just lying here...all you can do is worry about Philip, and listen to us. How do you deal with the frustration?"
Lissa sighed again, replying, "I'm not sure that I do. There are times when I'm so angry, I want to start screaming and never stop. Other times, I feel like my heart is being ripped from my chest. I try to concentrate on you and the others, and pray that our combined love is enough."
Nick sat down on the bed beside her, saying quietly, "Funny that you should say that. I was talking to Sandy when I came back from the school, and she...she told me that she could tell I really loved...that I..." Nick fumbled with the words, and Lissa smiled at him fondly.
"Yes, dear heart, I understand," she replied, "Sandy put a name to your relationship with Philip, when you two aren't at each other's throats." Nick flashed her a grateful smile, and Lissa continued, "Not that you've been at each other's throats since I joined the Legacy...at least, you haven't been around me. But continue."
"That's part of what I'm trying to tell you," Nick said softly, "when we nearly lost Philip a few minutes ago...it hit me. I said it to him before, but this time it was real. I mean, really real. I didn't want to lose my brother. And the things I said to him while you were missing...oh God, Lissa. 'Cruel' doesn't even come close."
"Listen...I didn't know about what happened while you were searching for me...but Grandfather told me about the tribunal. I know it isn't much of a comfort...while you think about what you said to him at the tribunal, after Julia's death, in Mexico City, I think about the way I treated him after Andreas triggered the memories of the dreams," Lissa answered quietly.
There. She had finally said it. She felt guilty about being so cold to Philip. Funny thing was, it didn't make Lissa feel any better. Nick said, his eyes widening, "My God, Lissa! Philip sure as hell didn't hold that against you!" The cop smiled without much mirth and Nick continued after a moment, "But that's what you're getting at."
"Yes. It is. Nick, listen to me. Philip has been a rock for me during the last few months. He listened when I wanted to talk, he comforted me when I cried...he's been there for me, no matter what. And I've been a lousy friend to him, I'm sorry to say," Lissa replied.
"During...during the tribunal, Philip told me that I should have listened to my gut. I said yeah...it told me that he never really fit in with the rest of us. He responded that it told me to forgive him for being what he is," Nick said quietly. He looked at Lissa, his eyes filled with misery, and added, "God help me, Lissa, he was right. He was right, and I should have listened to my gut today! We nearly lost him again because I didn't!"
Once more, Lissa had no idea what to say...what to do. However, after only a moment, she put her hand on Nick's forearm and drew him against her body. Nick wrapped his arms around her waist, burying his face against her good shoulder. Lissa held him as tightly as she could, ignoring the pain that shot through her left shoulder. Nick needed her now.
While Alex drove Artie and Pete back to St. Athanasius, Rachel and Joe went to Philip's hospital room. Dr. Murray had taken Kat to Dr. Mackintosh's office, to explain the extraordinary events in Philip's room. Rachel and Joe found Derek sitting quietly beside Philip's bed.
"Derek? How is he...any complications?" Rachel asked, approaching the bed. Derek didn't answer, and the psychiatrist looked at the sleeping young man. His head was turned to one side, toward Rachel, Derek, and Joe.
At last, Derek answered softly, "Hitchcock was behind this, Rachel...now I'm certain of it. Twice now, he has tried to kill my godson. He will not get a third opportunity." Derek turned his eyes to Rachel, and the psychiatrist was shaken by the cold fury she saw there.
"Derek, let the police handle this...if Hitchcock is responsible for the attacks on Philip, then let the police deal with it. That's what they're trained for! Philip needs you...and you can't be strong for him when you're playing avenger," Rachel said. Derek's expression didn't change.
"He tried to kill Philip, Rachel. This man is not of my blood, but he is the child of my heart, just as Katherine is. And Hitchcock will pay for what he did to my godson. I swear it on my father's grave!" Derek answered coldly.
The time had come to go underground...once more, the demon had failed in his task. It was only a matter of time before the police...and Derek Rayne...came looking for him. Randolph Hitchcock knew what Rayne would do to him, to say nothing of that hot-headed young SEAL.
No, Hitchcock didn't want to think what would happen if the boy, Nick, got anywhere near him. He knew his death would be slow and painful. Hitchcock had no intention of dying any time soon, much less at the hands of Jonathan Boyle's son! Hitchcock still hadn't avenged Alicia's death, or the insult which the remaining Summers had dealt him by refusing to accept him as a member of their family. Molly Summers was irrelevant...but Lissa Rayne still had to finish paying for what her mother had done to him.
As for his accomplice, the demon was on its own. The longer it remained in the world, the more the boy would be able to control it, at least until another priest performed an exorcism. Randolph wasn't worried. No, it was time for him to disappear, at least for now. However, there was one more thing which needed to be done...
Once Nick felt stronger, he left with Joe. Father Quinlan had returned to the parish, shaking by the events of the last few hours. Lissa was exhausted, but unable to sleep. <<Big surprise there,>> she thought, <<it's a good thing Adrian hasn't been around much today!>>
At six, she turned on the evening news, and was greeted with yet another violent story...a teenaged boy had been beaten up. However, it was the boy's name which really caught Lissa's attention...'Alan Webster.' The name of the boy who had been caught pawing young Sabine Johnson. <<Oh, dear,>> Lissa thought, <<this is not good!>>
"So you are watching this," Alex commented, entering the room. Lissa nodded, and her friend continued, "I was just coming back from St. A's when they brought the kid in. He looks bad, but he'll be all right. More of a warning than anything else. Those boys are gonna feel really stupid when they find out that Alan Webster never went near Philip."
"Mmm, I know. Is my father still with Philip?" Lissa asked and Alex nodded, sighing wearily. Lissa yawned, and murmured, "I think I'm finally starting to run out of steam. If I fall asleep, wake me before you all head back to the castle, okay?" Alex shifted herself onto the bed.
"I'm on my way home...Rachel and Kat have left. I'll have Derek stop in before he leaves, okay?" she asked and Lissa nodded sleepily. Alex gently hugged her and said, "Then get some sleep, Elizabeth Marie. I'll see you in the morning, sweetheart." Lissa nodded sleepily as Alex tucked the covers around her, then dropped off to sleep.
Before heading home, Derek checked on his daughter one last time for the night. She was dozing in her room, rousing long enough to murmur, "Love you, too, Dad," when Derek kissed her good night. Then she fell asleep, seeming to be a child once more as Derek gazed at her.
As he left her room, he passed Adrian Tyler and murmured, "Take good care of my daughter, Dr. Tyler. I will return tomorrow." The young man nodded solemnly. He had been informed of the events in Philip's room that day. Then Derek went home. There was much to do.
After two flight changes, and God only knew how many hours in the air, Maeve Reynolds and Shelagh Callaghan at last set down in San Francisco, California. By this time, Shelagh was fully prepared to kiss the ground...however, Maeve wanted to reach the hospital, so there was no time.
The young matron hurried along after her companion, whose stride was quick and sure. She seemed to know exactly where she was going, and what she was doing. Shelagh smiled to herself ruefully, understanding Maeve's lost look upon arriving in Ireland. They collected their luggage, then headed outside. There were several taxies waiting at the curb, but only one driver beside his taxi. Maeve burst out laughing and called, "Brad Nguyen, just my luck!"
"Maeve Reynolds, what brings you home? Never mind, forget I asked that. The entire parish is praying for Father Callaghan's recovery, and your sister's, too," the man said, opening the back passenger with one hand, while he deftly took the big duffel bag from Maeve with the other. The man continued, "You want to head to the hospital straightaway?"
"If you don't mind...how's the baby? How's Diana?" Maeve asked. The man didn't answer immediately as he loaded the luggage into the trunk of his taxi. Maeve turned to the confused Shelagh and explained, "Brad's daughter Sabrina nearly died...he and his wife Diana are members of St. Bart. Brad, this is Shelagh Callaghan."
"Father C's sister? No, you would have to be his sister-in-law...sorry about that," Brad said as he got into the cab, adding, "Then to the hospital we go, ladies!"
"Dr. Rayne...this was just delivered," Duncan advised quietly, handing Derek a small parcel. The butler looked serious, as the entire staff had during the last few days. Derek accepted the package, frowning slightly...and his blood ran cold. He recognized the handwriting.
"Thank you, Duncan. Are the others awake?" the anthropologist asked, and the butler nodded quickly. He had recognized the handwriting as well. Derek continued, "Excellent. Phone Dr. Corrigan and ask her to come to the castle immediately. Tell her that it's urgent."
"At once, Dr. Rayne. Shall I tell Miss Alex and Master Nick to meet you in the conference room?" the butler asked. Derek nodded and Duncan went off to perform his duties. The anthropologist went into the control room, wishing his daughter was here to help him with the VCR.
However, only a few minutes later, Nick entered the control room. He said, "Alex said she'll be down in a minute or two. When you weren't in the conference room, I figured that you were here. What gives? How is Lissa?"
"Lissa is fine. This arrived just a few minutes ago, from Randolph Hitchcock, Nick," Derek replied, showing Nick the videotape. The young man's eyes widened and Derek continued, "Would you mind setting up the player? Rachel is on her way here from the mainland."
"You got it," Nick replied and popped the videotape into the VCR. Within a few minutes, the VCR was set up and ready for use. Once Rachel arrived, they could begin.
Alex joined the two men in the control room a few minutes later, and about forty-five minutes after that, Rachel arrived. She had obviously been asleep, and wasn't particularly happy with Derek, saying, "All right, so what was so urgent that I had to come out tonight, Derek?"
Nick spared his mentor the need to reply, saying, "This." He hit the 'play' button and the tape began. There were a few moments of blackness, and Nick used that time to get comfortable, glancing at his friends. Derek and Alex were both tense, while Rachel only looked annoyed.
Nick's attention was drawn back to the tape when Randolph Hitchcock said, "Hello, Derek. By the time you see this, I will be out of town, and most likely out of the country. But, I couldn't leave without sending you a message, of course. An explanation.
"As you've probably realized by now, I did order the attack on Philip Callaghan. I called forth a spirit from the netherworlds and it took possession of a teenaged boy. However, the child asserted control of his own body long enough to ensure that the first blow knocked your godson unconscious...and to prevent my ally from killing the priest altogether." <<Well,>> Nick thought, <<I guess I can't let Joe kill Craig Hughes when we find him!>>
However, all thoughts of Craig Hughes were driven from Nick's mind as Hitchcock continued, "You may be wondering why I chose the priest. I could have just as easily taken out Alexandra, or Nick, or the lady doctor. But none of them would have been nearly as painful. And I'm too smart to bring the police down on my head by attacking one of theirs.
"And perhaps you're asking yourself why...what did Philip Callaghan do to deserve this? Oh, the answer is simple, Derek, quite simple. You love him. That's what he did to deserve this. You did this to him, Derek, by loving him and giving him a home after his parents died. You."
Nick's fists were clenched at his sides, and more than anything right now, he wanted to make that madman pay. However, a quick glance at Derek forced Nick to calm down. The older man was trembling with rage, his hazel eyes flashing with hatred. <<Hitchcock has crossed the final line with Derek,>> Nick thought, <<and no quarter will be given.>>
"Oh yes, there's also the matter of your daughter's wounding. Amazing...twice now, a woman has taken a bullet meant for you. Like mother, like daughter...perhaps in more ways than one. Fiona really should have flipped her hair back when she put on your jacket...she might be alive today. Then again, she might not," Hitchcock said.
Rachel looked puzzled, and Alex gasped, "Oh my God. Hitchcock killed Fiona?" Nick swallowed the bile which rose in his throat. That was his understanding as well, and he looked at Derek. By this time, his mentor was a statue. His face could have been carved in stone.
The tape concluded as Hitchcock said, "Treasure your daughter well, Derek. Because the next time we meet, I'll send her straight to hell to join her mother, and your precious Philip." And then the screen went blank. There was silence in the control room for several moments, as the remainder of the Legacy organized their emotions and their thoughts. But Nick had only one thought...payback.
However, it was Rachel who said into the silence, "We need to show this to the police. Even if Hitchcock has left the country, they should see it. They can trace it...can trace him." Derek was slowly shaking his head, and Rachel asked, "What is it, Derek, why won't you show the police?"
"Oh, I will tell the police, Rachel...but this is also a Legacy matter. Hitchcock left more than twenty years ago, so there is nothing a tribunal can do. However, Hitchcock harmed a member of my House...twice. The Mother House in London will not look kindly on that," Derek replied.
Nick explained, "It's likely that Sir Edmund, or whoever is precept of the London House at that time, will look the other way. Derek, when you finally take that son of a bitch down, I want to be there. Nobody does that to my brother and sister without paying...nobody!" Across the room, Alex was nodding, her brown eyes filled with hatred. Nick wondered at that, but was glad of her support.
Rachel started to speak, but Derek looked at the three of them, saying, "That is in the future. We must deal with Craig Hughes yet. He must be the primary focus of our investigation. Nick, have you spoken with Father Quinlan or Sister Antonia since returning to the castle?"
"Yeah...he hasn't been found. His mother is frantic with worry. I'm gonna pick up Joe the first thing tomorrow morning, and we'll see what we can find. The kid has to be scared, Derek...with this demon popping in and out of his body, the kid has to be terrified," Nick answered.
"We can't do anything more about this tonight," Rachel said, "so I suggest that we all head to bed, get some sleep, and maybe we'll all be thinking more clearly in the morning. Good night." With that, she departed from the control room and the castle. Derek and Alex returned to their rooms, while Nick removed the tape from the VCR. After the VCR was put to bed, he would go to the gym. More than anything else right now, Nick had the overwhelming desire to kick the shit out of someone. But a punching bag would do just as well.
Technically, visiting hours were over...but no one who knew Lissa Rayne stood in the way of the determined young girl striding down the hall of the hospital. Least of all Adrian Tyler, who said, "I'm glad you came home, Maeve."
"I had to. Where is she, Dr. Tyler? Where's my sister?" Maeve Reynolds demanded, trembling. Adrian looked from the girl to her auburn-haired companion, and Maeve said, "Sorry. Dr. Tyler, this is Shelagh Callaghan. Shelagh, this is Dr. Adrian Tyler. My sister's room, Dr. Tyler?"
Adrian sighed and answered, "Come on. There are guards posted outside Father Callaghan's hospital room, so I'll take you there as well." Maeve looked at him quickly and Adrian continued, kicking himself for even mentioning it, "There was another attempt made on his life. He was resuscitated."
Maeve looked at him, her eyes growing wide with a mixture of horror and fury. Adrian didn't have long to wait for the explosion, as the girl blurted out, "Someone tried to kill Philip again? Where the hell were the police...why wasn't he protected?" She began swearing.
Once Maeve ran out of steam, Adrian replied, "Ask Lissa. She's been asleep for about six hours, so she's probably awake. Don't get her excited." He held the door open, and Maeve swept inside. Adrian smiled, shaking his head.
Lissa heard voices outside her room as she drifted back to reality. Something else had awakened her however, a memory of her conversation with Nick that afternoon. The door opened and a familiar dark head poked into Lissa's room. She gasped, "Maeve?" That was all her sister needed to hear, as she raced across the room and threw her arms around Lissa. The cop grimaced, but held the girl close, whispering, "I'm so glad to see you."
Maeve didn't speak, just clung to her, and for the first time, Lissa saw the second figure, another young woman. Long red hair framed an exquisitely lovely face, and Lissa frowned. The woman, who seemed to be Alex's age, smiled and said with a soft Irish lilt, "You must be 'Lissa.' I'm Shelagh Callaghan...it's a pleasure t' finally meet you."
Lissa smiled wryly and answered, "Thank you, same here. Please don't tell me you left those children with Nuala Ryan!" The two looked at each other and laughed. Lissa relaxed, sighing, "Thank God! I'm glad you're here...we need all the help we can get. Philip is still in a coma."
"That's what Dr. Tyler said. You think Shelagh might be Philip's lifeline home?" Maeve inquired. It was a totally innocent question, but Lissa stiffened. Once more, she heard her earlier conversation with Nick inside her head. And Lissa Rayne knew exactly what she had to do.
"Sweetheart, I have an idea. I'll need help from both of you. And the time isn't right, not right now. But I'll tell you what I'm thinking," Lissa said once her thoughts settled down. Maeve and Shelagh looked at her expectantly, and Lissa quickly explained her idea.
"I'm not so sure it's a good idea, Detective," Shelagh observed, "but I'm in. Just tell us when and where, and what you want us t' do. I'll do whatever I can t' help." Maeve nodded and Lissa smiled gratefullly.
"Great. We can't do it now...I need more rest, so do you. Have Adrian set up cots for you. Okay?" she asked and her visitors nodded. It was settled.
The blows were fast and furious, the kicks aimed with deadly accuracy at Hitchcock's ribs, chest, groin... anywhere Nick could kick him, he did. <<Mess with my brother and sister, will you,>> Nick thought savagely as he stepped back, <<we'll just see about that, you bastard!>>
For the first time, he heard Kat screaming. But what was she doing here? The little girl sobbed, "Stop it, Nick, you're hurting him!" Nick stared at the child, puzzled by her terror. Didn't Kat know that Hitchcock was responsible for Philip's injuries, hadn't Rachel told her? Then Nick looked down, and gasped. Lying at his feet was...Philip.
Nick dropped to his knees, devastated, and drew Philip into his arms. The ex-SEAL moaned as he cradled his brother's broken body, "I'm sorry, Philip, I'm sorry, I didn't know it was you. I didn't know it was you!"
Nick sat straight up in bed, sobbing. His lungs ached for air, his heart hammered wildly in his chest. He looked around, searching for Philip and Kat. But he was alone... in his own room. He was at the castle. It had just been a terrible, terrible nightmare.
He buried his face in his hands, taking deep breaths to calm down. Just a dream...just a bad dream. He would never hurt Philip like that: never, never, never. Once he felt calmer, Nick glanced at the digital alarm clock sitting beside his bed...six am. He sighed, running his hand over his face. His hand came away wet...a mixture of sweat and tears. Nick was grateful there was no one else in the room.
There was a gentle knock on the door and Nick called, "Yeah, be right there." He got out of bed and stumbled to the door, stubbing his toe on the dresser. He swore under his breath, then opened the door to see Alex standing there.
She smiled at him anxiously, asking, "Are you all right, Nick? I heard you scream when I came down the hall, and wanted to make sure you were all right." Nick tried to smile, and Alex touched his face. She murmured, "Nick...is this sweat, or have you been crying?" The young man didn't want to get into this right now.
"I'm all right...just had a bad dream. A really bad dream. I'll get a shower, then meet you and Derek in the control room. Has he called Sergeant Grayson yet?" Nick asked and Alex nodded, still looking concerned. The ex-SEAL continued, "Good, they need to see that confession, and get it to Scotland Yard, Interpol, whoever." Alex grinned and Nick sighed, "Let me guess. You've made copies to send to the other Legacy Houses?" Alex nodded and Nick continued, "I should have known. See you in a few."
Alex bobbed her head, then continued down the hall. Nick rested his head against the doorframe, sighing. The dream had been brought on by his savage work-out the previous night. That was the only explanation which made sense. <<I might talk to Lissa about this at some point,>> he thought, <<but later. Not right away.>>
Nick closed the door and walked to his dresser, carefully keeping his feet away from the edges. <<Gotta get my shower and get dressed,>> he thought, <<I have a feeling this is going to be a very, very long day!>> He smiled without much humor...he didn't even need to be psychic in order to figure that out!
At Alex's suggestion, the VCR was set up in the conference room...showing Sgt. Grayson the tape in the control room would have been asking for trouble. It was in the conference room where they waited...Nick, Derek, and Alex. Once Duncan entered with Zachary Grayson, Nick said, "This arrived last night, Sergeant Grayson. We thought you should see it as well."
The young man hit the 'play' button, and once more, Randolph Hitchcock delivered his message of hate. Zach watched the tape in silence, his eyes narrowing. At last, he said, "That sick bastard. Dr. Rayne, with your permission, I'd like to make copies of this and distribute it."
"You have it...I would imagine that you would like to send copies to Scotland Yard and Interpol, among others?" Derek asked and the police sergeant nodded, his eyes blazing. The anthropologist was gratified to see the other man's fury. He knew that Grayson was also a father, but it wasn't a father's rage he saw in the other man's eyes. It was rage that anyone would do this to a human being, for such reasons.
"You're damn right! We know he's responsible for the death of Mrs. Reynolds, and the attempted murders of you and Father Callaghan. God only knows what other crimes he's committed," the sergeant replied. Derek smiled grimly...he had a good idea. The sergeant repeated, "Thanks again for showing me this tape, Dr. Rayne."
"Thank you for coming so quickly," Derek replied as Rachel entered the room. The psychiatrist looked from the police sergeant to Derek, who said, "Sgt. Grayson was here to collect the videotape which Mr. Hitchcock had delivered." Rachel flushed, lowering her eyes.
"Good...Mr. Hitchcock has hurt many people," she said. As she spoke, she looked apologetically at Derek, then went on, "I called the hospital...Philip is stable. Oh, and Maeve has arrived from Ireland with Shelagh Callaghan. They spent the night at the hospital."
"I have some errands to run...I'll pick you up at the hospital, Derek. I know there are things you need to do," Nick commented and Derek nodded. He had been spending too little time on Legacy business lately, and this was the perfect opportunity to remedy that. Nick continued, "Sgt. Grayson, I'll walk you out."
The officer nodded, inclining his head to Alex and to Rachel. Once they left, Rachel looked at Derek and said very softly, "I'm sorry for being rude last night. I allowed my annoyance at being awakened, and my anger with Hitchcock, to get the better of me. Derek, how could he? How could he brag about killing Fiona?"
"Because he knew how it would affect us...he knew it would anger us all. And, Lissa has said that Fiona didn't want Alicia to marry Hitchcock. I'm sure he never forgave her for that. As John Harper once told me, Hitchcock never forgives anyone, for anything. How is Katherine? Did she have any nightmares last night?" Derek asked.
"No...no, she didn't, thank God. Derek, what are you going to do about Hitchcock? I know that the entire police community in San Francisco will know about that tape by noon time...but I also know that you won't sit idly by. You have other plans, don't you?" Rachel asked.
"Yes, I do. I've had copies made of the tape, and will send them to the various Legacy Houses around the world. The Legacy has resources which not even the police have...he will be watched, Rachel. And when he is found, the other precepts have given me their word that he will not be harmed. I will deal with him myself," Derek stated.
Rachel swallowed hard and said, "You would, wouldn't you? And tell the police something about how Hitchcock died." Derek nodded grimly. Yes, he had a few ideas about that already...but would wait until the time came. Rachel continued, "Derek, I know you're angry...but you aren't a murderer. Let the justice system deal with him."
"We can't afford to do that, Rachel," Alex said, speaking up for the first time, "if we allow the justice system to deal with Hitchcock, the Legacy is finished. No, Derek is right...this House will deal with Randolph Hitchcock." Derek started to speak, but Alex silenced him with a look, adding, "No! We are in this together."
Derek looked at his protegee for several minutes, then nodded. He replied, "Of course...it was wrong of me. I am sorry, Alex." The young woman inclined her head, then Derek continued, "Are you ready to leave for the hospital?" Both women nodded, and Derek continued, "Then we should go. I have a feeling that Shelagh Callaghan might have a few things to say to me, and we don't want to keep her waiting."
Alex and Rachel nodded, and the trio departed for the hospital. <<I don't know when,>> Derek thought, <<and I don't know how, but one day, I will make you pay for this, Randolph. I forgave you for the Scroll, because I knew you acted out of grief. But for killing Fiona, for injuring my daughter, and for trying to kill Philip...never!>>
When Alex, Derek, and Rachel arrived at the hospital about an hour and a half later, they discovered Maeve in Lissa's room with a slim, red-haired young woman. Alex estimated her at about thirty-one or thirty-two, slightly older than Alex herself. Maeve bounded from her seat to hug the new arrivals. Lissa said, "Hi, all. I'd like you to meet Shelagh Callaghan, Philip's sister-in-law. Shelagh, this is my father, Dr. Derek Rayne...my former roommate and dear friend, Alexandra Moreau...and Dr. Rachel Corrigan, a consulting psychiatrist for the Luna Foundation."
Greetings were exchanged, and Shelagh said, "I wish I could say I was happy t' meet you, but nothin' about this situation is happy. But what I really want t' know, Dr. Derek Rayne, is where you were while Philip was bein' beaten half t' death." Her eyes flashed with rage as she spoke.
Alex started to protest that this wasn't Derek's fault, but Derek held up his hand and replied quietly, "I was in the hall of the museum dedicated to my late father's memory. I don't know if I ever forgive myself failing to protect Philip. I certainly don't expect you to forgive me."
Shelagh closed her eyes and sighed, "I am sorry, Dr. Rayne. Sure, and I should not be after takin' out my anger wi' the amadan on you. Although, 'amadan' is bein' too kind t' the whoreson who tried to kill my Michael's baby brother."
"Apology accepted, Mrs. Callaghan, though un-necessary. I have bad news, though not about Philip. Alex, do you have the tape?" Derek asked and Alex nodded. Lissa frowned, and Derek continued, "This was delivered last night."
Joe Dawkins was silent as Nick Boyle explained the current situation to him. If not for his experience with the Warden, Joe would have never believed Nick's story ('Mr. Boyle' had given way to 'Nick,' at the former SEAL's request). But he believed Nick...oh, he certainly did.
"So this guy summoned a demon and sent it after Father Callaghan to hurt Dr. Rayne? He is seriously messed up!" Joe said after Nick finished the story. The boy shook his head, adding, "This kid Craig has no idea of what he did? At all?"
"I doubt if he remembers what happened, Joe. Although, if he does start having flashbacks, he's going to be one seriously scared kid. Personally, I'm glad I won't be in the room when Derek tells Lissa that Hitchcock murdered her mother," Nick said with a shudder. Joe nodded.
"Yeah, I got the impression that I don't wanna get her mad. She was really nice to us last night, but...I dunno. I would rather have her as a friend than an enemy. Maybe it's 'cause she's a cop, but Father Callaghan is a priest, and I wouldn't want him as an enemy, either," the boy stated.
"Nope," Nick admitted with a grin, "you certainly don't. We're here...let's go see if any new information has come in, and if the hospital is still in one piece." Joe rolled his eyes, but followed his friend into the hospital.
While they waited for Adrian to bring in the VCR, Rachel excused herself, saying that she needed to see to some patients. Lissa was sure that was true...but she was also sure that Rachel had checked on those patients earlier. Alex also made herself scarce, admitting that she wanted to look in on Philip. Shelagh went with her, while Maeve remained with Derek and Lissa.
Derek wasted no time once the VCR was set up. The tape was placed in the VCR, and Lissa hit 'play.' Over the next few minutes, she was grateful that only her father and sister were with her as she finally learned the whole truth about her mother's death. After it concluded, Lissa said quietly, "So Hitchcock murdered my mother. He was aiming for you, Dad, but he didn't exactly cry over hitting Mama instead."
Her father nodded, and Lissa clenched her right hand, suppressing her desire to scream out loud. Derek said, "I'm sorry, sweeting, but you have the right to know the truth. Nick will arrive with Joe in the next few minutes...I'll go outside and wait for him."
"Okay," Lissa agreed as her father leaned over to gently hug her. Derek kissed her forehead, squeezed Maeve's hand, then left the hospital room. The two sisters sat in silence for several moments...Lissa because she was thinking, and Maeve because she probably didn't know what to say.
At last, Maeve asked in a soft voice, "Lissa, do we want to implement the plan as soon as Derek and Nick leave? Rachel is off doing rounds...Alex probably won't stand in the way." Lissa didn't answer immediately...she was trying to figure out how to include Xan.
"Yeah," she said finally, "yeah, I think so. Go to Philip's room, and tell Alex the plan. Ask her to keep Adrian busy for about a half hour. Dr. Mackintosh isn't on call today, and Dr. Murray...well, after yesterday, she would be the last one to interfere."
That had been her instinct after talking with the young doctor the previous night. Theresa Murray was severely shaken by Kat's participation in Philip's resucitation. Lissa had no idea why...she was no doctor, but she had read of similar cases. Perhaps it wasn't as dramatic, but Lissa was no stranger to the power of love.
"Got it. Lissa, do you really think this is going to work?" Maeve asked and Lissa raised her right hand helplessly, then allowed it to fall to the sheet again. Maeve continued, "And you really think that...?" This time, Lissa smiled at her sister's unasked question. <<Poor kid,>> the young cop thought, <<she doesn't know what to think, or what to do. I'll try not to let her down. Again.>> Lissa had never totally forgiven herself for lying in a coma while her little sister needed her.
"I'm supposed to do this, kiddo. I did a lot of thinking about it last night, and this is the way it's supposed to play out," the young woman replied. Maeve hesitated, then nodded. She blew a kiss to Lissa, then left the room. Alone, Lissa murmured, "I don't know the how or why, but this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing."
Derek met Nick in the hallway...the younger man clicked his cellular phone off as Derek approached, and said, "Derek, that was Father Quinlan. Craig Hughes has been found at the scene of the crime. Apparently, the demon keeps popping in and out, the poor kid is scared to death."
"Then let's go," Derek said quietly. Nick and Joe both nodded, and the trio headed for the elevator. As they walked, Derek glanced at Joe. The boy's eyes were focused ahead, his mouth a grimly determined line. Joe's presence might make all the difference in the world in this fight.
Maeve explained their plan to Alex and Sandy. Both women agreed to help without hesitation, and once the plan was outlined, Alex strode toward Dr. Tyler's office. Sandy said, "Shelagh, get Lissa. Maeve, go to the nurse's station, and tell them that your sister is visiting Philip's room."
"I'm on my way. Thanks, Sandy," the teenager said and the detective just smiled. Shelagh headed for Lissa's room, while Maeve walked to the nurse's station. An older lady, whom Maeve didn't recognize, smiled as Maeve approached. The teen returned the smile nervously and said, "Hi, I'm Maeve Reynolds...Lissa Rayne's step-sister. She asked me to let you know that she's visiting her friend, Father Callaghan."
"Thanks for letting me know, hon. Just make sure she doesn't exert herself too much," the nurse replied and Maeve bobbed her head. She thanked the nurse again, then walked to her sister's room. Shelagh was helping Lissa out of bed... actually, she was almost lifting the younger woman. Maeve hurried to the pair and added her own support.
"Thanks...damn, I never thought about how weak I would be!" Lissa muttered. Even with Shelagh and Maeve's support, she was swaying on her feet. Maeve kept her arm around her sister's waist, careful not to jostle Lissa's left arm. The young cop closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and murmured, "Okay, you two, let's get this show on the road."
Even though her instructions to Maeve hadn't included Sandy, Lissa was pleased to see her partner rise as the three approached. Sandy winked at Lissa, then pushed the door open for them. The three women slipped inside the room silently.
"Maeve, honey, I need you to hold my IV bag. Help me to Philip's bed...I don't have the strength to stand alone," Lissa told her younger sister. Maeve nodded, and she and Shelagh helped Lissa to Philip's bed. The young cop sat down gratefully, careful not to Philip's broken arm.
"There's another hook, I can hang your IV bag from that," Maeve whispered. Lissa nodded and her sister carefully looped the bag onto the hook, then stepped back. She looked at Shelagh, who began drawing the curtain around Philip's bed closed. Maeve stepped on the other side of the curtain, peeking around just long enough to whisper, "We'll stand guard, Lissa. I love you."
"I love you, too, honey," Lissa replied and Maeve smiled before closing the curtain. Lissa looked at her comatose friend, murmuring, "And I love you, Philip." She kissed his hair, then took his hand. What followed totally stunned her. Images flashed through her head, and Lissa dimly realized she was receiving Philip's memories. She gasped, her hand clenching his reflexively, then as the memory of the attack in the office flashed through her mind, Lissa blacked out.
At the cathedral, Derek, Nick, and Joe found Father Quinlan pounding on the door of the office, crying out, "Craig, for the love of God, let me in! Let me help you!" He stopped when he saw the three newcomers and said hoarsely, "Thank God you're here. He's locked himself in the office."
"The scene of the crime," Derek observed and Father Quinlan nodded. Derek looked through the window...a teenaged boy was sitting beside the desk, rocking himself back and forth. Nick flinched and Derek realized that the boy was sitting in the spot where Nick found Philip. <<Craig probably doesn't even realize that,>> Derek thought, <<but I'm certain the demon does.>> Fury threatened to overwhelm him, fury at the malevolent spirit which had tried to kill the child of his heart, and now imprisoned an innocent boy.
"Father Santiago has gone to the bishop to get a spare key, but I'm not sure if he'll be back in time. I'm really concerned that Craig might try to harm himself. My God, Dr. Rayne, when he realized what happened...Craig was shattered," Father Quinlan said.
"I'm sure he was. Is that Father Santiago?" Derek asked, indicating a little cleric hurrying toward them. Luke Quinlan nodded as the priest approached. Father Santiago pressed the key into Father Quinlan's hand, glanced inside the office, crossed himself, and hurried away. One less bystander to concern Derek.
"Let me go in first," Joe said quietly as Father Quinlan unlocked the door. Derek looked at the boy, a protest already forming, and Joe explained, "I'm another kid, Mr. Rayne...no threat to Craig. He may feel threatened by you or Nick." A quick glance told Derek that Nick agreed.
"All right...you can go in first. But we'll be right outside the door if you need us," Derek replied. Joe nodded. He was obviously frightened, but wasn't backing out now. <<Good lad>>, Derek thought, <<just stay calm and you'll be fine.>> Joe started through the door...and Craig's head snapped up. A malevolent smile crossed the boy's face. The demon had returned to the youngster's body.
Lissa hit the ground with a thud. Slowly, she lifted her head...obviously, she wasn't in Philip's hospital room. Mists swirled about her, and the young woman frowned. A voice she recognized as well as her own asked incredulously, <Lissa? What are *you* doin' here?>
For the first time, Lissa saw Philip...he was standing a few yards away with an older man. He was a dark man, but his apparel was of the purest white...as were his wings. It hit Lissa, then, where she was. She stood up slowly, even as Philip's companion said, <Welcome, Elizabeth. I must say, it took you long enough to figure out what to do. I am Michael. Who is like God.>
Lissa slowly picked herself up, staring around, and asked, <We're not dead...but somewhere between. I know, I know...but I'm a mere mortal. I'm slow on the uptake sometimes.> She slapped her hand over her mouth, realizing for the first time that she was sassing the warrior angel.
However, the man roared with laughter, the shockwaves of which knocked Lissa to her knees. He replied, still chuckling, <Very true, Elizabeth Rayne, very true. However, the time for jokes is over. It's time you knew why you are here.> Lissa nodded, and the archangel went on, <I know what Nicholas would do to ensure Philip's survival...I know what Alexandra would do...I know what Derek would do. But what about you, Elizabeth? How far would you go to save Philip?>
<Whatever I must...I know, that sounds like something my father would say, but it's true. Is that what this is about? You want something from me, in exchange for Philip's survival?> Lissa asked, once more wincing at the tone in her voice. She was speaking to an archangel, not the chief.
<Very to the point. Yes,> Michael answered. Lissa swallowed hard, but squared her shoulders. The archangel said, "Well enough. Tell me then, young Elizabeth, what you would do to save Philip. Would you give up your life...say good-bye to your family, and never see them again?>
<If it was necessary...if my death meant life for Philip, if the price of Philip's survival was my self-imposed exile from the Legacy, from the father I've come to love... I might never forgive you, or God, for forcing me to that choice, but yes, I would do that,> Lissa replied.
Michael circled Lissa, and the young woman tried to maintain his gaze. It wasn't always easy...he seemed to fade in and out of focus. At last, however, the archangel said, <I have received instructions from the Father. You have a choice to make, Elizabeth Rayne. And your choice will mean the difference between life and death for Philip.>
Lissa inclined her head and Michael went on, <In order for Philip to return to the living, in order for him to recuperate fully from his injuries, the Father wants something from you. He wants you to turn in your detective's badge, and leave the police force. Henceforth, you will not be a detective, or an officer of the law of any kind. That is what the Father wishes to be your sacrifice.>
Philip started to speak, his pale blue eyes widening with horror, but Michael waved him to silence, saying, <Your father has made his sacrifice...Nicholas has made his... Alexandra and Rachel have made theirs. Now, Elizabeth... it is your time to choose. Will Philip live among men once more, or will he remain with us?>
"It's about time you showed up, Rayne...I was beginning to think you didn't love your godson after all," the demon taunted. Derek grasped Joe's shoulder, glaring at his adversary. The demon simply laughed and added, "What, no incantations, no spells to return me to hell?"
"I doubt if the chant Philip used on the Warden would have much effect on you," Nick said coldly, drawing his pistol. The demon looked at Nick for the first time, narrowing Craig's eyes coldly.
"The Warden should have killed you both when he had the chance...you and that priest! Better yet, that whining princess should have finished the job instead of allowing the brat to talk her out of it. By the devil, how I hate that priest! Don't you hate him as well?" the demon taunted.
"No," Nick said around the lump in his throat. He swallowed hard, then continued fiercely, "I don't hate him. I hate you...I hate you for imprisoning an innocent boy, I hate you for taking an aluminum baseball bat to my best friend. Who are you, what are you?"
"You don't think I'm really that stupid, do you? If I tell you my name, you really can return me to hell... although, I will still have my hand. Such a silly young priest, to make that part of the ritual up. I do despise him, you know. However, if you wish to call me something, 'Ka'Neff' works quite well," the demon-Craig replied.
"Yeah, but Philip's addition to that ritual worked, didn't it? The Warden was sent back to hell, where he belongs. Where you belong, Ka'Neff. And that's what you really hate about Philip, isn't it? Not that he's a priest, but his power. You're terrified of his power, of what he represents...of him," Nick spat contemptuously.
"Me? Afraid of some simpering, goody-goody priest like that stupid boy? Never!" Ka'Neff snarled. However, Nick could tell that his words had reached the boy who struggled for control within his own body. His words had given Craig hope...there was something Ka'Neff feared.
Joe said, "Yes, you are...you're afraid of him! You're afraid of the love he inspires, of the love that he has. You're afraid of the bond of loyalty which brought me here today, because Philip Callaghan saved me from the Warden. It's that same loyalty which allowed Craig to protect Philip from your initial attack...it was only Craig's loyalty, only his memory of what Philip did for him after the death of Craig's father, which kept him alive."
Now, Father Quinlan spoke, "Craig, listen to me! Remember your first meeting with Father Callaghan...how your father said he would like this Father New Priest. Remember the little girl snuggling in his arms, the little girl whom other children had been teasing. You are strong, Craig, you're strong enough to fight this demon and win!"
The boy's body convulsed, his eyes rolled up in his head, and Craig cried out, "You can't have me! I won't let you hurt anyone ever again! Go away!" Nick clicked the safety on and ran to the boy's side. He put his arms around Craig from one side, while Joe did the same from the other.
The boy moaned something...the name of the demon. Nick looked up at Father Quinlan, who nodded. The priest had also heard the boy's soft moan, and began chanting in Latin. A savage scream was torn from the boy's throat and Craig began flopping about, but Nick and Joe held him fast. Father Quinlan continued praying, his voice growing in power, and the demon's cries gave way to whimpers. Then the boy lay still, and the world seemed to hold its breath.
Lissa had been stunned when she heard Michael's edict. Give up being a police officer. That was the price which had to be paid in order to save Philip. Give up what had defined her for so many years, give up what had kept her spirit alive through the darkest days. How could she do that?
<<How can I not? Philip's life depends on this. Can I really let him die? Can I face myself in the mirror every morning, knowing that I had the ability to save my best friend's life...and didn't?>>
There was only one answer...there was no choice to be made. Lissa Rayne looked at the archangel directly in the eye and replied quietly, <So be it. If that is the price to be paid for Philip's life, then I will pay it. I will turn in my badge, I will leave the San Francisco Police Department. Nor will I aid them as a consultant.>
Michael raised his hand and said, <That part is un- necessary. But you are a consultant...not a police officer. You must give up your badge, and your rank as detective. Those are the terms. There is one other part to this...exchange, Elizabeth.>
<Wa...wait! Michael, you can't ask Lissa t' give up bein' a police officer! It's the only thin' which kept her from goin' insane for five years. There has t' be another way,> Philip pleaded. He turned to Lissa and said, <You can't do this for me, Lissa. It's not right!>
<Shut up, Philip, this isn't your call. The choice is mine to make. I've made it. What's the other term, Michael? You said there was another part to this,> Lissa said evenly. Philip stared at her, trembling. Michael wasn't smiling, the young woman noted...there was absolutly no triumph in his expression. If anything, he looked sad.
<If you accept this, I must know the reason why. The Father wishes to hear why you would willingly give up your future as a police officer for the life of this man. Do not lie to me, Elizabeth...the Father will know it, and I will know it. And it will mean Philip's death,> Michael said.
Lissa felt herself go pale. She whispered, <Please, Michael, don't ask this of me. I will give up my career as a police officer, I will give up my life, I will give up my family...but please, don't ask me to answer this question.> She didn't dare look at Philip...she knew if she did, she would be unable to tear her eyes away from him. And Lissa couldn't bear to see the hatred in his eyes when she answered the question...as she knew she had to.
<It is not my place, child...the Father has instructed me to ask you this question. He...He wishes you to regard it as part of your sacrifice. I am sorry,> Michael replied. Lissa closed her eyes, willing back the tears. She knew Philip might never forgive her for what she would say.
<Because I love him,> she whispered, <I have loved him since I was five years old, and I will most likely love him until the day I die. Is that good enough?> She raised her head to look at Michael, the grief nearly choking her. Michael nodded sadly and Lissa continued, <Now, I'm sure I'll spend a lifetime in hell for loving a priest.>
<No, child...you will not go to hell for loving Philip. The choice has been made, and accepted. Elizabeth, look inside your soul...you will see the fate of she whose death nearly destroyed Philip,> Michael told her. Lissa closed her eyes and did as she was told. She gasped to see Ellen chained to a burning rock, screaming. The more Ellen struggled, the hotter the rock became.
Lissa opened her eyes...Philip was already fading from her vision, and Michael said, <Go with him, Elizabeth. He will have need of you in the days ahead. And one day, you will understand exactly why such a terrible sacrifice was asked of you. God be with you, young Elizabeth.>
It was over. The demon had been banished, Craig Hughes had been freed. Beside the desk, Nick slowly pushed himself to his feet. He smiled at Joe wearily, who was also rising, and said, "Good work. I couldn't have done it without you." Joe smiled, exchanging a high-five with the ex-SEAL.
Derek smiled, nearly laughing in his relief. There had been a few moments when it looked like the demon would win, but as he had suspected, Joe's presence turned the tide of the battle. <<I would say his debt to Philip has been paid,>> Derek thought. His smile died as the familiar dizziness swept over him, his vision graying at the edges. He Saw, and Heard...
Lissa seated on a bed, nearly curled into a ball. His daughter's voice echoed in his mind, "So be it." And a man whom Derek didn't recognize, a dark man, said, "The final, and greatest, sacrifice is yet to come." And then, Derek returned to the cathedral office, dread settling over him.
He said hoarsely, "Nick...we must get to the hospital. Lissa needs us." That was all that needed to be said. Nick's own smile disappeared. He stood up straight, as did Joe. Then the two young men ran from the room, Derek only a few steps behind. Derek's daughter needed him...he wasn't sure what was wrong, but he didn't care. Lissa needed him, and this time, he would not fail her.
"Goddammit, what the hell was she thinking?" Adrian Tyler stormed as he left Lissa Rayne's hospital room. Alex Moreau was just behind him, and Adrian was ready to kill her as well. Not that she seemed particularly concerned by this fact. In fact, she seemed angry with *him.*
"She is trying to save her best friend's life, Dr. Tyler. I don't expect you to understand that, but there's more to healing than technology and medicine. Dr. Murray understands that, even if you don't," the young woman snapped and Adrian reminded himself that he didn't hit women, not under any circumstance. Not even if he wanted to kill them.
"What's happening?" Derek Rayne demanded, emerging from the elevator. He wasn't alone...the ex-SEAL, Nick, was with him, and a teenaged boy. Adrian groaned under his breath...things couldn't possibly get any worse! The older man repeated, "What's happening? Alex, can you tell me?"
"Lissa is in Philip's room...she asked Sandy, Shelagh, Maeve, and myself to help. She was afraid that Dr. Tyler would attempt to interfere, and she was right," Alex replied. The small party had reached Philip Callaghan's room, and Sandy Horowitz stood up. She folded her arms over her chest, and Alex said, "Game's up, Sandy. 'Sides, Derek is here."
Sandy paused briefly, then nodded. She opened the door, and Adrian stomped into the room. He stopped short. The curtain was closed, and both Shelagh Callaghan and Maeve Reynolds stood in front of it protectively. Adrian's surprise didn't last long...he strode past them, and flung the curtain open with one quick movement.
On the other side was Lissa sitting on Philip's bed. She held his hand, her head rested against his shoulder. Adrian stared in silence for a moment, then started forward. This time, Nick grabbed him and threw him into the wall. The ex-SEAL asked, "Do you want them both to die?" Adrian shook his head mutely, and Nick continued, "Then don't interfere! Lissa knows exactly what she's doing."
"I hope," Sandy Horowitz muttered. Adrian looked back. She, Alex, Shelagh, and Maeve stood together in a huddled group with the teenaged boy whose name Adrian still didn't know. Rachel Corrigan had entered the room, and Sandy said, "Don't interfere, Dr. Corrigan. Let Lissa play this out. She knows the rules...we don't."
Only a few minutes after they all entered Philip's room, Lissa gave a soft moan. Derek's entire body tensed, but it wasn't until his daughter lifted her head that he raced to her side. Lissa released Philip's hand and attempted to stand. Her legs promptly gave way, and Derek caught her.
He cradled his daughter against his body, whispering her name. Lissa looked up at him and smiled sleepily. She murmured, "I knew it." Derek tenderly lifted her up, ignoring the doctor who had flown to Philip's side once Nick released him. Adrian Tyler was unimportant.
"What did you know, sweeting...what did you know?" Derek asked, holding his daughter close. He knew what the first vision meant...the second and third remained a mystery, but for the moment, Derek Rayne was simply content to cradle his daughter in his arms.
That sleepy smile widened and Lissa replied, "I knew you'd be here to catch me, Daddy. Silly." She rested her head against his shoulder, and Derek just held her even tighter. Tears burned his eyes. He murmured that she was right, that he would always be there to catch her. After a moment, Lissa sighed and murmured, "I'll be okay now, Dad. Look after Philip...he needs you."
For the first time, Derek noticed that his godson's eyes were open. Not only open, but roaming around the room. Derek nearly wept from sheer joy...both of his children had been returned to him. Nick murmured, "I'll take Lissa, Derek...you see to Philip." Derek nodded and Nick swung the young woman up into his arms, carrying her to a nearby chair. He said, "Joe, I need a blanket."
The boy nodded and ran from the room, Maeve on his heels, though she obviously wanted to stay with her sister. Derek sank to his knees beside Philip, marvelling that the child of his heart was awake, would survive. He ignored Adrian Tyler, who kept muttering, "This is impossible!"
Tenderly, Derek removed the oxygen mask from Philip's face, and the young man whispered, "She shouldn't have done it...price too high." Tears were trickling down his cheeks, and Derek gently brushed the tears away with his thumb. Philip repeated, growing agitated, "The price was too high, Derek, too high!"
"Shhh...rest, Philip, we nearly lost you. Don't try to talk. What does he mean, the price was too high?" Derek asked no one in particular. Joe and Maeve had returned to the room with a blanket, which Nick and Alex gently settled around Lissa's trembling body.
As he placed the blanket over Lissa, Nick was startled when a cold hand touched his. Lissa looked at him, murmuring, "I need you to do something for me, Nick. I need you to call Chief Markham, and set up a day when I can turn in my badge and clean out my desk."
Nick stared at his little sister, confused. Lissa was leaving the force? Why? Then he remembered Philip's hoarse statement about the price being too high, and Nick suddenly understood everything. He sank to his knees, staring at Lissa, who just smiled sadly and told him, "A price had to be paid. And so, I paid it. Will you do this for me?"
"I will," Sandy said. Evidently, she understood as well, for she kissed the top of Lissa's head and murmured, "You're something else, Rayne, you really are. I'll tell the chief that you'll do that when you're released from the hospital." Then Sandy ran from the room. This time, Shelagh followed her, tears streaming down her face. There was silence in the room for several moments, then Nick drew his younger sister into his arms and held her. He didn't know what to say...and so he did the only thing he could do.
Still stunned by his daughter's quiet announcement, Derek was startled when he felt a hand on his wrist. The precept looked down and Philip whispered, "Forgive me, Derek? I tried t' stop her. I tried..." Derek hushed his godson, slipping his arms around Philip's body. He wasn't as fragile as that twelve year old boy who had fallen so ill, but he seemed fragile enough to Derek.
"Shhhh...there's nothing to forgive. It wasn't your choice to make. It was Lissa's, and she made it. Shhh. Don't try to talk. Rest, Pip...just rest," Derek replied. He hadn't called Philip that in nearly twenty years, and his godson smiled faintly. Derek replaced the oxygen mask, still holding his godson tightly. He had both of his children back, yes...but oh, at such a high price!
Philip Callaghan was sitting up in bed, playing tic-tac- toe on a piece of paper which Alex Moreau left for him before returning to the House. It was something that kept him busy, and prevented him from moving around too much. Not that he really wanted to do the latter...the pain was incredible.
"Hey...aren't you supposed to be resting?" Nick asked from the doorway, and Philip looked up with a smile. Nick had been here every day for the last week with books, magazines, cards from the kids at the parish school, and other things to keep Philip's attention occupied.
"I am. Playin' tic-tac-toe wi' myself doesn't qualify as strenuous activity. Even Dr. Tyler agrees on that one, and you know what he's like," Philip replied and Nick grinned, sitting down in the chair beside Philip's bed. The young priest continued, "So, how is everythin' at the House?"
"Chaotic...but fun. I've enjoyed having Maeve around, and believe me, so has Kat! Derek has taken Lissa over to the police station. They should be back before too much longer. Before you ask, Lissa is okay...kinda quiet, but she's okay," Nick said.
"I'm glad...I've been worried about her. I did try t' stop her, Nick. She wouldn't listen," Philip sighed. Even that hurt his ribs, and a spasm of pain shot through his torso. Philip grimaced and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. He sensed Nick drawing closer, and the young priest murmured, "I'll be all right in just a minute."
"You really scared the hell out of us, Philip. Especially when your heart stopped beating...I haven't been that scared in a long time. So stay away from baseball- wielding demons, will you?" Nick scolded. Philip grinned, not daring to laugh. That would hurt more than just his ribs. Philip had been doubled over in pain for nearly an hour the last time he laughed. He didn't want to repeat that. Nick continued more seriously, "Listen, there's a lot of things which I need to tell you."
"I heard every word you said while I was unconscious, Nick. You don't have t' say it again, not if you feel uncomfortable," Philip said earnestly. Nick looked at him suspiciously and the young priest continued, "I heard you in the ambulance...I heard you arguin' wi' Dr. Murray. I heard every word you said, brother."
Nich exhaled slowly and replied quietly, "I meant every word I said, Philip. I'm not gonna go back on anything I told you, now that you're awake. You are my brother, and I would have never forgiven myself for the nasty comments I made if we had lost you. I am so sorry, Philip."
"I forgave you, Nick, as soon as the words were out. Well, almost. Now you have t' forgive yourself. I didn't hold any of it against you. Although, I never did apologize for throwin' you int' the wall in Mexico. I am sorry for that," Philip admitted ruefully. Nick grinned and shook his head. The young priest added, "It really is okay, Nick."
"Speaking of forgiveness...there's a teenaged boy outside, who desperately needs to talk to his parish priest about acts he committed under the influence of a demon. You up to hear a confession?" Nick asked. Philip's eyes widened and he straightened up in bed. The movement jostled his ribs, and Philip closed his eyes from the pain. Nick said anxiously, "Dammit, Philip, be more careful!"
Once the pain had eased, Philip replied, "I'm up t' it. Send him. And Nick...thanks." Nick just smiled and left the room, returning a few minutes later with a very subdued Craig Hughes. He gave Philip a half-salute, then left the hospital room. The young priest turned his attention to Craig and said, "Hello there...I'm sorry for not wearin' my collar, but I'm afraid that's against hospital policy."
As Philip had hoped, the remark made Craig laugh. Philip began relaxing, and the boy said, "Mr. Boyle and Dr. Rayne said that you're going to be all right. I wanted to see for myself, Father C. I needed..." The boy's voice trailed off, and he closed his eyes.
"Absolution? Forgiveness? You have both, Craig, even though you, Craig Hughes, did nothin' wrong. It wasn't you who attacked me...it was the demon. It may have been your hands which held the bat, but it wasn't your soul. From what I've been told by Father Quinlan, it was you who saved my life. You kept the demon from killin' me, after you made sure I wouldn't suffer," Philip replied.
"I couldn't stop him! I wanted to stop him, I saw him putting that pillow over your face, and I couldn't stop him!" the boy cried out. Tears were streaming down his face as he added, "Because of me, you nearly died!"
"No...because of you, I'm alive!" Philip retorted. That was half-true...because of Craig, and because of Lissa, he was alive, but Philip wasn't about to tell that to this anguished boy. He winced...though he hadn't raised his voice, pain shot through his ribs. More quietly, Philip said, "Do you want me t' say that I forgive you? Is that what you need from me, Craig?"
"I don't know...all I know is that after my father died, only one person said what I needed to hear, only one person was willing to listen. And I hurt that one person. I hurt you," Craig replied. Philip fell silent. Perhaps that was what the boy needed now. Craig continued, "My mother was locked up in her own grief, all the other priests and the bishop kept mouthing platitudes to me...but you listened, and you told me about the deaths of your parents.
"And so, what do I do when a demon decides to take over my body? Do I fight back when he decides to beat the hell out of you with a baseball bat? Oh, I fight back for maybe two seconds at first, then there's nothing. Don't you understand? Out of all the people in the parish, that demon made me hurt the one person who was really there for me when I needed someone the most!"
Philip noticed that slowly, the boy was coming to accept that the demon had imposed his will against Craig. He was silent for several moments, then said, "That's right, Craig. The demon *made* you hurt me...it made you do things against your will. It was not your choice t' use that baseball bat against me...you fought it as much as you could. And when you realized that you couldn't protect me, you forced the demon t' hold back. You wanted t' make sure I suffered as little as possible, so you made sure that first blow knocked me unconscious."
"I remembered everything, after Joe, Mr. Boyle, and Dr. Rayne left the office, you know. I remembered the first attack...I remember screaming inside as that thing kept hitting yon...not just with the baseball bat, but with my own shoe. I heard your ribs break...and there was nothing I could do about it," Craig whispered.
"I know. Craig Hughes, are you repentant for what you did while that demon controlled your body?" Philip asked. The boy nodded, and Philip made the sign of the Cross on the sheet. Craig laughed in spite of himself, and Philip continued, "I forgive you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Go now and sin no more."
"Thank you, Father," Craig said in a barely audible voice, bowing his head. Philip relaxed against his pillows, exhausted even by that small effort. Craig asked softly, "What will my penance be?"
<<Oh...I forgot about that,>> Philip thought. He leaned his head back wearily, then smiled. He looked at his young companion, replying, "You have t' carry the balls inside at soccer practice for the next three months. Offer to clean the windows for Sister Antonia's office. But before you do any of that, I want you t' tell me about soccer practice. How has it be goin' this last week?"
Craig rolled his eyes, saying, "Father C, when are you gonna come back? I mean, Father Quinlan really tries, but he has no idea what he's doing? He needs to stick with baseball...at least there, he knows what he's doing! You're not gonna believe what he did this morning!" Philip smiled, listening intently as Craig proceeded to explain what the older priest had done wrong as soccer coach.
Across town, Derek Rayne waited patiently as his daughter finished cleaning out her desk. She moved slowly, since her shoulder was still healing, but she had refused all offers of help. This was something she had to do herself. Derek respected that desire, and instead, talked with the other officers. There was a quietness in the precinct, a subdued attitude on the part of the officers.
At last, Lissa called, "Dad...I'm ready. I just need to turn in my badge, then we can go back to the hospital. I know you want to see Philip." Derek smiled at his daughter, though he was worried about the awkwardness which had developed between his godson and Lissa during the last week. It went beyond Lissa's decision to leave the police force, Derek suspected...but neither would discuss it.
"I'll be waiting," Derek promised and Lissa smiled. Derek returned the smile, and Lissa headed into her boss's office. Once the door was closed, Derek's smile disappeared. <<Oh, my sweet Lissa,>> he thought, <<I don't know why you were asked to do this...why this was made a condition of Philip's survival. But I find myself feeling relieved than you will no longer have to dodge bullets.>>
He walked to his daughter's desk, smiling at the things Lissa had accumulated during her time on the force. Her room at the old house had been spartan in its neatness...no clutter, nothing which reflected the warmth of her personality. But here, where Lissa had been liked and accepted, there were pictures and postcards.
"Hitchcock has totally disappeared off the face of the planet...but you were expecting that," Zach Grayson observed. Derek nodded, placing a postcard which Adrian Tyler had sent to her from New Zealand back inside the box. Zach picked up a golden object, rectangular in shape, and said, "You know, for the last week, I've been wracking my brain, trying to understand the reason for this."
Derek didn't reply. What could he say? How could he tell this no-nonsense cop that his daughter had chosen to give up her future as a police detective, in order to save the life of her childhood friend? How could he tell Zach Grayson about the choice his daughter was given by an archangel of God, without seeming insane?
However, there was no need for him to say anything. Zach continued, opening the object in his hand, "Then, last night before I left, I saw this. And all of a sudden, I understood. I don't know the particulars, but I do know Lissa. There's more to this world than we realize, Dr. Rayne. And if Lissa believes that giving up her career was the only way to save Father Callaghan's life, then it was."
Grayson handed Derek the object...it was actually two pictures which faced each other. Derek blinked moisture from his eyes...the picture on the left showed Philip and Lissa when they were about six and eight. Lissa was leaning forward, sharing a secret with Philip, whose eyes were wide with glee. The picture on the right was a recent one, taken the day after Christmas. Philip had been in the library, translating a document at Maeve's request, and Lissa had taken some hot tea to him. Grayson said quietly, "I wanted to know why Lissa would give up her career, Dr. Rayne. The answer was right there in front of me all along."
Derek looked back at the pictures in his hands. In the right-hand picture, Lissa stood just behind Philip, reading over his shoulder. Alex had snapped the photo, calling their names before taking the picture. Lissa was looking at the camera through a curtain of dark brown hair...both young people looked startled. Derek Rayne smiled and said very quietly, "Yes...the answer was right here all along."
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