TO FANFIC LIBRARY
Prologue: The Boys
The long, sharp rays of the early morning sun were beginning to cut through the Irish fog. But the silvery gray cloud of mist could not disguise the laugher of the parishs small children as they played, running over the lawns of a dozen homes, jumping rocky walls and hiding from each other. The mist lounged lazily on the surface of the lush green grass that had made Ireland famous, teasing it, playing with its long slender leaves. Then a stiff Irish wind, bracing its chilliness, whipped across the land. It flirted dangerously with the little boy, who stood on the ladder as he climbed higher and higher onto the shanty wall, then climbed through the open window.
The rectangular wooden box was small, but it was deceptively heavy. Its delicately carved dogwood surfaces had been inlaid with silver and gold around tiny hand-carved and intricate horses and their even tinier riders so that the little creatures were dark against the light, shiny metallic background. The clasp which held the box closed was firm and refused to budge as the red-haired Michael wriggled it and pried at it.
"Pip! Look at this!" Michaels slender, freckled hands ran the length of the box lid as his voice reverberated through the little shacks attic, where he and his younger had hidden themselves to play earlier that morning.
Dust filled the stale air and caused the thin, dark-haired Philip to cough.
"Michael, I can hear Mum calling us. I think we be needin t head back home now."
Michaels hand rested on the box. "I wish Mum would leave me alone for a little while." He turned to his brother without removing his hand "Mum woont mind id you just look at this. Come on, Philip. Touch it. It is so cool and smooth."
Philip moved his thin body toward the corner spot where his brother and the box were sitting in the tiny attic. He tripped as his foot caught on an old walking stick.
Michael awkwardly reached and caught his younger brother before he struck the ground.
Philip looked anxiously at his big brother. Shudders racked his small frame. "Mike, please, do I have ta?"
"If you dont then Ill haf ta tell Mummy that twas you who broke her favorite vase."
"Michael," Philip whined, but the little boy reached his trembling hand out toward the box anyway and touched the lid.
The wooden box seemed to come alive at his touch. A horrible hissing sound unlike any sound they had ever heard broke the airs stillness and a finger thin trail of ash gray and foul smelling smoke issued from the spot where the boys hand was touching it. Then the boy, Philip, began to scream.
"Pip!" Michael screamed as he knocked his little brothers hand away from the hissing lid just as a deep, menacing voice boomed through t he quiet Irish air.
"Touch the not, boy!"
Philip fell back, his head cracking against a piece of a wooden hat rack in the full attic.
Michael scrambled to his feet and, forgetting his limp brother on the floor, fairly flew out of the open window and landed harshly on his feet a story below. His ankle twisted and the boy fell to his chest on the wet Irish Grass. Tears of fear mingled with those of pain as he laid there gasping for breath on the wet ground and bending to clutch at his wounded limb.
"Michael Peter Callaghan what on earth haf ya done ta yerself?"
Michael recognized the loving, but puzzled voice of his father who had been on his way for the two boys when he saw Michael bail from the window of the widow Dexter's shanty like someone who's seen a ghost.
"Box. Pip. Attic. Daddy, help Pip!" Michael knew he probably didnt make much sense to his father, but the pain shooting through his left leg was almost too much to bear.
"Be still, son," said Mr. Callaghan soothingly as he patted his sons shoulder and stood to climb the ladder into the attic of the small abandoned hut.
Philip lay on the floor, a large knot on the back of his head oozing blood when his father found him. His palm where it had touched the box lid was red and angry with heat. Philip, unconscious, felt nothing of the burn that would disappear days later. The big red-haired Irishman felt hot tears prickle his eyelids as he picked up his fallen son and turned to go down the rungs of the ladder to where his other son lay on the wet grass, wounded as well.
The box sat in the corner of the attic unnoticed. From inside its depths came an eerie guffaw, then a cackle, and even then, a came a strange chuckling. The ominous sound seemed to fade further and further away until it was merely an echo. A single rider on a horse began to move and stretch astride his steed. As he moved his weapon swung around, a scythe, its blade swung dangerously low around the riders head. A high pitched whinny issued from the horse, a horse paler than the others.
Mr. Callaghan laid the still body of his youngest beside Michael whose ankle was showing signs of a very serious sprain. He shook young Philips shoulder until the seven-year-olds head began to twist slightly from side to side on its own. Eleven-year-old Michael laid back on the grass, his ankle throbbing.
"Philip, wake up, son. I have something very important to tell you."
Philips hazel eyes opened slowly and squinted up at his fathers concerned face.
Michael sat up, recognizing the concern in his fathers voice.
"Your mum is very ill. She has to bee seen by Dr. OHenlen, but she may need to go to the hospital. She is very worried about the two of you and wont let the doctor take care of her until I return with you."
The big Irishman didnt see the frightened look that entered the eyes of the eleven-year-old who remembered exactly what he had wished for.
Michael crept quietly through the attic of the Widow Dexters shanty. He remembered what had become of the wish he had made before. He was very lonely because his little brother was on the way to visit Grandfather Donnery in Dublin. Michael found the old box exactly where hed last seen it. He fingered the box top, then placed his hand firmly on it and made his wish.
Philip came home from his Grandfather Donnerys home in Dublin weak and had to be carried into the Callaghans cozy home in Belfast. The teenager who carried him was dark and his Dutch accent was thick, as he murmured gentle words of comfort to the little boy. Behind the young man stood another dark man whose hands were callused and hard.
Derek Rayne carried the sick boy into his room and laid him on his bed.
Winston Rayne stood in the living room talking with Joseph Callaghan. He told Joseph when Philip had fallen ill and how the young boy had come into his care.
"Donnery was unable to return with us just now and since Derek and I were vacationing together and heading up this way, he asked me to se that his grandson made it home safely."
"Thank you very much, Dr. Rayne," Mr. Callaghan said as he shook the other mans hand. "Philip is his mothers baby boy and our last child. She would die of grief if anything should happen thim."
"It was my pleasure. He is a precious child, even though he is very ill. Very well behaved."
Joseph was a little surprised. Philip was always getting into trouble around home. He accepted the compliment anyway. "Are you and Derek staying with friends while you are here?"
"No, I am afraid that the people I came to see are occupied in Egypt so my son and I will be heading to South America."
"Listen, mi wife has a former school chum in Connemara who recently inherited an inn. I will give her a call and you can continue your journey in Ireland. For your kindness, in bringing my son home, I would like to pay for your stay in Connemara."
"That is not necessary, Mr. Callaghan. My son and I plan to go home and pack before heading to Peru."
"Please, stay for one day, at least."
Michael left the living room and snuck back to the small bedroom the brothers shared. He touched his younger brothers pale hand. The dark teenager stood in the corner of the room quietly observing the brothers and wishing for a younger brother of his own.
"Pip." Michaels voice was soft as he touched the tapered fingers of his brothers hand. "Im sorry, Pip. I was so lonely."
Dereks dark, full eyebrows raised.
What a curious thing to say, thought Derek.
Philips eyelids raised slightly, fluttering long, curled lashes against his pale cheeks. The dark mole on his cheek was especially dark against the stark whiteness of his skin.
"Pip, promise me. Well always be together. Promise?"
The voice that answered was weak and barely discernible. "I promise, Michael, I promise.
The young boys heavy sleep filled eyes drifted closed.
Chapter 1 Morning Light
The long sharp rays of the early morning sun were beginning to cut through the thick gray San Francisco fog. But the silvery gray cloud of mist could not disguise the distinctive sound of the briny waves of the Bay crashing headlong against the rocky slopes of Angel Island. The mist lounged lazily on the surface of the lush green grass, teasing it, playing with its long lengths. Than a stiff wind, still chilled from the dark shadiness of the night and filled with the smell of the open sea, whipped across the island with unusual force.
The lone visitor to this part of the island had wakened with the curious memories of strange dreams. He walked now, contemplating his future and that of his commitment to the team he now considered part of his family. He sat on the damp grass and thought of home and of his recently lost brother. His cleated feet were planted on the wet grass in front of him and his blue soccer shorts were dampening with the dew that the mist had left on the lush landscape of the manicured lawn. His white, St. Thomas soccer team shirt, pristine and white, hung loosely on his lean shoulder and rested lightly on his lean, muscled chest, and his hair, which was just slightly longer than was fashionable, was damp and darkened from his early morning shower. His hazel eyes was still heavy with sleep and drifted closed every once in a while as he thought of his role in the castle that sat in the middle of the hazy fog and his commitment to the word of God.
"Pip, the promise. Remember the promise."
The voice was familiar to and Philip began to look around, but there was no one standing near enough to him for him to see.
"Michael?" Philip placed the disembodied voice to that of his beloved brother, but that could not possibly be because Michael had been killed two long, lonely years previous.
Philip stood up and turned around in a tight circle. But the fog drew in closer to him, closing off any view beyond the length of his arm. "Michael!" His voice seemed to double back on him, echoing from all sides. He heard the anguish in his own voice as it repeated over and over. Soon it was as though it, too, had a life of its own without his own body.
He headed for the huge castle and for the ear of Alexandra Moreau who he knew would not think him crazy. He found himself uncertain of the path more than once so when he finally reached the castles heavy wooden doors he was glad he had finally reached a place where he could see.
The dark skinned Alex waited patiently at the door to greet him, in her hand a steaming mug of what was probably herbal tea. The friendly smile on her face was genuine and it was a welcome sight to him.
Alex took one look at the bewildered expression on Philips already drawn and pale looking face and deduced that something had happened. "Philip? Are you okay? You look like you have seen a ghost."
"I think I heard one." Philip fell silent and continued into the castle, unthinkingly brushing roughly past the woman he had only moments before been wanting to see, anxious to sit down and think.
"Philip?" Alex followed him into the dimly lit study where he laid on the leather couch careful to leave his wet, grass flecked cleats off the leather.
"I think I heard Michael say something tme. But tis impossible. He has been dead for two years now. How can this be?"
"Philip... your mother is on the phone. She says she has something important to tell you."
Philip got up slowly, more than a little wearily and moved toward Dereks office.
"I am worried about him. It has been nearly three whole years and he still shows signs of grief. I am afraid Philip has not let Michael go."
Alex though for a moment. "Maybe Rachel should talk to him."
"Ill call her in a little while."
"Derek, theres something else, though. When Philip came in, I felt as though he were being followed.
"Hmmm." Now, Derek looked thoughtful. What she felt coincided with what the feeling hed gotten from Philip as well.
Chapter 2: Phone Home
The young priest hung up the phone and put his trembling hand to his chin. He swiped his face and wondered how he could possibly feel so tired. He stood to leave the room, but something made him stand there for more than a moment. Waiting for something, but what?
The answer came soon enough. "Philip, remember your promise."
Philip jerked his head up abruptly. Derek stood in front of the desk, his hands down at his sides.
"Philip, are you all right?" Derek looked worried.
"Why did you say remember your promise?" Philips voice was edgy and laced with uncalled for belligerence.
"I didnt." Derek was firm. His enigmatical and eagle sharp eyes scanned Philips weary and definitely thinner frame. The definite presence of another spirit in the room made Derek uneasy and made him wonder if Philip was being haunted by some spirit.
Philip looked deeply into the soul-filled eyes of the man he felt he had known forever, searching for any hint of betrayal. No lies were hidden there. Suddenly and without warning, Philips knees buckled and the young man sat in the plush executive chair behind him. He marveled that it was actually happening to him at all, because he felt nothing. His eyes closed and his body went limp as he was engulfed in darkness. Into a dark emptiness, a void unmatched sine the miraculous creation of the earth, Philip sank, unable to help himself, helpless to resist the pull of the watery, dense flowing emotion.
"Philip!" Dereks shout came from his heart as he saw the young man fall.
Derek ran around his desk to touch the younger mans forehead and images came, unbidden, another reminder of the Sight he possessed. Stark images flashed through his mind at frightening speeds. A brilliant explosion, a limp body, crying women throwing their hands up to God, begging to know why. A young man crooned as he cradle his mortally wounded brother, weeping as he rocked his brother into Heaven. The limp body of the dying man looked old, yet young, and the strong, firm and living arms that held him were connected to a young face which looked almost dead. Philips face.
Derek slowly became aware of Philips body. He shivered. Philips skin seemed to be freezing, stiffening, like the hard unmalleable flesh of the dead. Derek hit the small black button on his desk that would call Nick in from the computer room, hidden in the library by a holographic wall.
Nick ran into Dereks office. "Whats up?"
"Help me get Philip to his bed. Alex!" Derek shouted as the two men held Philip upright between them.
"Derek?" Alex came into the room. She could sense that something was wrong as she opened the door from the hallway, but she hoped she was wrong.
Philips head lolled forward, dangling on his chest and he was dead weight between the other two men.
"Call Rachel, Alex! Now, Alex, now!"
Alexs hand flew to her mouth as she ran to the desk. Her hand was trembling as she lifted the receiver. Echoes filled her mind.
"Philip, the promise." Philips face floated into her mind on a shimmering ripple of water. A great explosion, a bleeding body, an intense sweep of pain filled her, nearly doubling her over.
"Alex, call her!" Dereks shout from the hallway snapped the young Creole woman out of the vision.
The number to Rachels house in San Francisco connected Alex to Philips friend and fellow team member.
Philip was lying back against the pillows of his bed, looking as pale as the white fabric. His eyes were still closed and his skin had not fully warmed. Kat lay on the bed next to him, here little hand on his heart.
Derek sat in the chair in the corner of Philips sparsely furnished room in the castle. His long fingers pressed together and against his lips. His dark hair, sprinkled liberally with silver, curled over his forehead in uneven, unruly locks. His elbows were locked on the arms of the maroon leather wing backed chair. "Cmon, Philip, wake up."
Rachel glided back into the room with her various medical items. She gently put her hand on his shoulder.
"Derek, its midnight. You need to get some rest yourself. Ill keep an eye on Philip."
"No." Dereks accented, smooth whiskey voice was flat, but firm in its determination.
"Mama?" Kat looked up.
Rachel turned to her little girl who lay beside Philip on his bed. "Hiya, kiddo, wanna go home?"
"No, Philip needs me."
"Oh, baby. Philip just needs to get some rest."
"I want to stay, Mom."
"Okay. Well stay." Derek smiled wryly. Rachel could never resist Kat. Neither could Philip, who loved the little girl like a baby sister.
"Philip need to get to Ireland."
"What makes you say that, sweetie?"
"He told me."
Kat shook her head and then brushed her long sandy gold hair back over her shoulder and swept her growing bangs out of her eyes. "Uh-uh. He said he cant open his eyes or move."
Derek sat up abruptly in the chair he had moved form the east wings guest bedroom. "Rachel, maybe we should get him to the hospital." He knew that little Kat just might be right.
Rachel nodded. "Lets do that. It never hurts to have a second opinion."
Chapter 3: You Only Live Twice
Three hours later, Philip lay in a hospital bed hooked up to several machines that kept their mechanical eyes on his heart rate, brain waves and oxygen intake. No one knew why he had collapsed or when he would awaken.
Nick was on his way to Ireland for Philips parents. Alex was hunting for information about the bomb that had killed Michael Callaghan. Rachel was buried in a different computer looking for a scientific reason for Philips collapse. Kat was encased in Dereks castlekeepers care.
Derek, himself, sat loosely in the chair next to Philips hospital bed. His legs stretched out in front of him. He concentrated on Philip, wherever he was.
It was the faint grasp on the mentally outstretched hand that told Derek hed finally found and reached the young priest.
"Derek, Im tired." The image of Philip was wavering in and out of focus as Derek tried to see how well the younger man was holding on.
"Hang on, Philip. Dont let go."
Then a sudden force, unseen and unbidden, slapped at the tenuous connection between the young man and his mentor.
A rough voice growled at Derek. "Hes mine."
Derek was startled. It was momentary, but it was all the other force needed.
Philip was encompassed by a huge dark shadow hand.
Derek was hit squarely in the chest by a unseen force that shoved him back.
"Get away!" the voice growled.
As he was pushed further and further away from Philip, Derek could see the priest dangling limply in the hand of this other force.
A shriek pierced the air. Dereks concentration was broken by a fierce movement and his eyes snapped open. Doctors and nurses were scrambling to the room. They circled the bed, like bees around a hive, never stopping.
"Philip." Dereks voice was tear-filled and husky with pain. "Oh, Philip."
Someone turned down the machines volume. Doctors pumped up and down on Philips chest. The figures spoke as they buzzed around, their words and statements blurring, allowing no identification of the speaker.
"Cmon. Cmon. Got it."
"Pulse thready, but stabilizing. We have normal sinus rhythm."
Dereks breath came out of his lungs in a rush. His sparkling green-brown eyes averted to God, Derek murmured, "Thank you." He stood and left the room before he was overcome by emotion.
As he walked out of the room the cell phone in his pocket began to vibrate. "Rayne."
"Derek, its Alex. The bomb that killed Michael Peter Callaghan was not an IRA bomb as it was reported. The bomb was aimed at a religious delegation who were scheduled to attend a conference on the return of a religious artifact to Irish soil."
"Alex..." Derek couldnt say it. The shock of almost losing the young fellow hed seen grow into the Legacy took his breath away.
"Derek?" Alex could feel the tension through the phone. "Whats wrong? Philip?"
"We almost lost him. I let him slip away." A tear, something unseen by any Legacy member since the death of Alicia Summers, threatened to slide down Dereks cheek. "It could have been my fault."
"Derek , sit down. Its not your fault. Philip is on the edge."
"Call Rachel to the phone, Alex. Please."
"Derek?" Rachels voice was husky. Alex had told her.
"Something has Philip. I almost got him killed. Rachel, I almost killed him. I did kill him."
"Derek, youre babbling." That wasnt what he wanted to hear.
"Tell Alex to pick up the phone," he said.
"Okay, but Im on my way."
"Derek?" Alex still sounded worried.
"Philip said something about a promise in my office. See what you can dig up."
"Okay. Derek, Nick checked in. Rachel says he is three hours from Ireland. Coming home."
"My Gott, what time is it?"
"Philips been in the hospital for almost two days. Its almost seven in the morning now."
"Derek? Whats wrong?"
"It must have taken me hours to find him. I need your help. Bring young Kat with you when you come."
"Will do. We are on our way."
Chapter 4: I had a Dream
When Nick came into the room, Philips parents following closely on his heels, he found that young Kat was once again laying next to her friends and holding Philips limp hand. Derek and Alex, too, were close at Philips side.
"Rachel," whispered Nick carefully so that his anxious voice wouldnt break their concentration. "You have to hear this. Mrs. Callaghan, this Dr. Rachel Corrigan. You can tell her what you told me."
An old woman, only slightly wrinkled despite the silver color of her hair, stepped forward. Rachel was struck by her beauty. She could see now how Philip looked so much younger than his age.
"I had a dream, a dream in which my two sons came to me. They were tied together by a dark bond and Philip was reachin out ta me, but I could nothing to protect mi son fro this thing that held him. Michael was broken and limp. He hung from his bonds like a dead thing and I could feel Philips fear that he too would soon be a dead thing. I woke up crying for mi sons."
Mr. Callaghan came forward slowly and majestically and put his arm around his wife. "I know it sounds strange, bu when they were younger Michael and Philip were always together. Somehow I fear that there was more to that than simple brotherly love."
Dereks head snapped around. "I remember. The promise. When my father and I brought Philip home from Donnerys. I was fourteen. I stood in the corner of the boys room and watched as Michael asked his brother to promise that they would also be together. Together forever." His eyes glazed slightly.
"Theres more. My sons were the only children that the Widow Dexter liked. She loved them as she loved her sons and when she died she left something to each of them. Michael was given a box that Philip was never to touch. She told me on her deathbed that it was a magic box that would bring Michael to his destiny. It was decorated with tiny horses and their riders. It had been inlaid with silver and gold. Really, it was too expensive for a little boy to have so I left it in her attic aboot tree years agoo. Just before he was killed, I gave Michael this box."
"What did she leave Philip?"
"A book. It was written in a language similar to Erse, but different, too. I have brought that book with me, but I am not certain I want Philip to have it."
"Why not Mr. Callaghan?" Dereks voice was somewhat dazed and a little bewildered by this information.
"I believe that it is a grimoire."
Alex parroted the big Irishman. "A grimoire. A witchs book of spells."
"Do you have the box?"
"Yes, I had a very strange feeling that this box, too, is tied up in this evilness that has bound my sons as captives. The box is in the Explorer as we speak."
"Nick, run down to the truck and bring the box here. I need to see it."
As Nick swiftly turned and ran down the hall, Rachel stepped closer to Derek. "Do you seriously believe that this box has anything to do with Philips collapse?"
Before Derek could answer, Kat gave tongue from Philips bed. "Derek," Kats voice was tiny and, like the child she was, innocent. "Philip is so weak.. He needs to go home."
"Derek," said Alex, who had been watching the machines as she listened to the conversation taking place behind her twist and turn, as she turned to face the Dutch precept. "His vital signs are showing a decrease. We are going to lose him if we dont hurry."
"Rachel, I think the answer lays within that box. We have to examine it.
Nick returned with the box in record time. He was cursing the rectangular object he had wrapped in the heavy, dark Navy-issue wool blanket that had resided in the farthest reaches of the vehicle.
"Darn thing almost burned my hand off," he complained as he showed Rachel his still stinging hand.
"Derek, this is a bad burn. Nick needs this to be treated," Rachel said, as she began to physically pull the former Navy SEAL out the door by the wrist of his uninjured hand.
"Well be here."
Chapter 5: Revelations
After Nicks departure, Alex unwrapped the box and slid her hand over the cool dogwood surface.
"If this burned him, Im a cucumber."
She squeaked with shock as Derek placed his hand on the box, which jumped and hissed, but did not burn his hand.
"How strange," she muttered as she pulled out her laptop.
"What?" Derek asked.
"Carved into the wood are seven horsemen atop their horses."
"There are eight horses."
Dereks eyebrows raised. "Hmmm."
"Im pulling up an item from a research team in Dublin. The Box of the Return was lost in the collapse of the mission at Connemara. The foundation has been tied up with the search since the Box was lost almost fifty-six years ago when the St. Johns Cathedral in Connemara burned nearly to the ground. The Box was a box of dogwood and precious metal which was carried from Jerusalem to the Vatican to London and, eventually to St. Johns for an exhibition of religious artifacts found by a certain Irishman. While at St. Johns for an exhibition the church was burned. The exhibits were completely destroyed and the only two that were in the only part of the church that didnt collapse were the body of a saint and the Box. Both were missing. Six years ago the body of the saint was discovered in the basement of some cult members home in Essex. The saint was Irish and as a sign of good faith, pardon the pun, the body was to be returned to Irelands Metropolitan Museum in Dublin. Michael Callaghan was one of the men who were listed as those at a conference where the details were to be worked out. But before it could finalized, the conference center was bombed and all the men inside, including Michael, died," said Alex. "The body was returned anyway, but without fanfare and the IRA was blamed for the bombing. The conclusion that the IRA committed the crime was never really verified, but they got the blame anyway."
"The Box was never found?" asked Mr. Callaghan.
"When my father and I were in Ireland we went from Philips home to Connemara where my father with the head of Lunas Dublin House. The Dublin House had spent the better part of the two weeks of my fathers vacation time in Cairo, following a lead that placed the Box in Egypt. Unfortunately, the lead dead-ended and the Box was never recovered," Derek explained.
"Until now..." Rachel stood in he doorway of the hospital room. Nick, his hand bandaged, stood behind her.
"The Box of the Return collected the souls of the clergy for safekeeping until the Return. Eight horses and seven men are carved into the dogwood. Seven are written of in the last book of the Bible. The eighth is the Son of God."
Mr. Callaghan had been sitting in one of the five chairs in the room, but now he stood. "What does it want from Philip?"
Derek looked up. "I believe that Michael wants Philip to keep his promise to stay with him forever by getting Philip to cross to the other side, but Philip is resisting."
"Why did the Box burn Nicks hand?" Alex asked.
"Philip says that when he was little boy the Box burned his hand, too," Kat said.
"Ask him why," said Nick who was messing with the bandage on his hand.
To Kat, the answer was simple and a bit obvious. Her voice was exasperated. "It didnt want him to touch it."
Derek realized that Philip, as a child about Kats age, had probably thought the same thing.
"The Box of the Return has latent powers that call out to its keepers, according to this article, but nothing here say anything about burning," said Rachel as she leaned over Alexs shoulder and read the screen.
"Maybe the Box has the flu," said Nick, sarcastically. He managed to get his fingers under the bandage and was about to pull it off when Alex snapped his uninjured wrist.
"Nick," she admonished.
Derek clicked onto something. "No, perhaps Nick has something. It is not unthinkable that Box absorbed the energy of the burning Church and is using the heat of the fire to protect itself."
"But why?" asked Mr. Callaghan.
"The church was the place of an exhibition. An exhibition with very priceless religious artifacts," said Nick.
Alex read her computer screen. "Two bodies were discovered in the remains of the church. Both were in the worst section of the collapse. Both were burned recognition. It is suspected that they were there to steal one of the artifacts."
"Religious artifacts, about to be stolen. Was the fire set by the two as a diversion?" Rachel asked.
"No, arson was ruled out. The authorities blamed it on a candle, but there was no candelabra near the spot where the fire broke out," read Alex. "One of the monks of the nearest monastery was found to be missing the day after the fire."
"No, they found im," said Mr. Callaghan. "His body was one of the two found in the cathedrals rooins."
"Derek?" said Rachels daughter, turning to him.
"Yes, Little One?" replied the precept.
"Philip said for you to hurry. Hes getting weaker and weaker. I barely feel him now," Kat said.
Derek felt her growing desperation and, knowing that her connection to Philip could be compromised by her distracting emotion, he put his hand on her shoulder.
The connection to Philip came immediately and was in vivid, sharp detail.
Chapter 6: Meeting Michael
He and Kat stood at a great distance from where Philip stood along side another man. A man whose red-hair was vaguely familiar to Derek. Philip looked much thinner than he had before. His hazel eyes were dull and sunk far back into his forehead and his once lustrous and thick brown hair was limp and without its usual shine. What tatters of clothes he wore were rags and hung loosely on his thin grotesque body.
Dereks eyes sparkled with tears and pain as he looked at his friend.
Behind Philip, a deep growling began. It was an evil sound like the straining of stone and metal, grinding past one another. It was the ominous approach of a growing storm, dark, hateful and black with rage.
"Hello, Philip," Derek said, his voice calmer and smoother than he felt on the inside.
"Derek," replied Philip, his voice rolling like a wave to Dereks ear and away again.
Philips hand reached out to his mentor. "Save me."
Derek reached out drawing himself and the young Kate closer to Philip, but he could not fully reach the young priest, could not grasp the gaunt outstretched hand.
The red-haired stepped between them.
"I can not let you go, my brother," the man said, but his lips did to move. The thoughts were loud and clear for Derek and Kat.
The little girl winced at the voice, not understanding why she could hear him. "Who is person, Philip?"
"This is my brother, Michael."
"Michael, why are you taking Philip away from me?" The child looked directly at the pale white man whose red hair was beginning to glow, to move in a ghostly wind.
"He promised to stay wit me forever," the being said.
"Please, let him stay with me for a little longer. I dont have a brother anymore and I would miss Philip too much if you took him away from me."
Philip knelt down and though he could not touch the little girl looked at her firmly and smiled a little bit of his usual smile. "I made a promise, Kitty Kat. I haf ta keep it."
"Philip. You are not destined for this. This is Michaels fate," Derek said.
"Be silent!" shouted the man who stood beside Philip.
"Ill do no such thing," Derek shot back. "You can not take Philip now. He has work to do with us."
"Find another," the voice insisted.
"I can not. There is no other to replace Philip. He is the only one chosen to fight the war he fights. Understand, Michael."
"No!" Michael threw out his hands. Then the world began to crumble.
The hospital room went dark, leaving the others in utter darkness.
Rachel stumbled into Nick and then into the equally dark hallway. The building began to shake and rock from side to side, throwing the psychiatrist from one side of the hall to the other. She ran into a gurney that had been left along the hallway. Her breath left her in a whoosh and as she gasped in another breath to replace it, Philips attending physician, ran into her.
"My God, we are being hit by an earthquake!" he yelled to her over the din being made by metal pans as they fell off shelves and carts.
Screaming nurses, baffled patients and frightened visitors were struggling to get out into the halls. The flashing lights of the hall and nurses station made them caricatures of pitiful proportions.
Chapter 7: Fire with Fire
"Michael!" Derek yelled to the other man. "Stop this!"
Derek was struggling hard to remain upright as a stiff wind shifted again, coming at him from every angle, trying to drive him off balance.
Kat was on her hands and knees and tears were streaming down her upturned face.
"Let go of Philip, Kat!" yelled Derek over the rushing wind. "Let go!"
"No!" the little girl shot back, determined to stay with her friend when he needed her.
"Katherine Corrigan, let go!"
"No!" With that Derek felt the childs mental grasp on the young priest tighten. Her connection bolstered she looked up at the precept as if to say "make me."
"Michael!" Derek tried a different line of attack. "Michael, you will take this little girl and me with you! She does not deserve this!"
The wind stopped, the shaking stopped. Everything stopped.
Suddenly, all was quiet on the hospital floor. As suddenly as it had struck the shaking was gone leaving in its wake a trail of destruction the length of the hallway. Rachel gasped. "Katherine!"
She raced back into Philips hospital room. He daughter was still beside Philip, her hand on his. Her eyes were closed and tears were tracking their way down her cheeks. Nick stopped her hand just as she was about o touch the little girls shoulder.
"Dont. Shes hanging with them."
Alex stood behind Rachel. "She was shaking her head and moaning no, but she wont let go of Philip. She is very stubborn."
"Philip promised ta be wit me forever."
Derek looked at the ghost brother. "You are dead, Michael. Philip isnt."
"Doncha tink I knoo that?" The angry Irish spirit shot back vehemently.
Kat took a step toward the other two men. She looked up at the red-haired man. "You go where ever Philip goes. He carries you in his heart, like I carry my brother, Connor, in mine."
Michael scowled. He didnt want to be just a memory.
"You have to share Philip with us. Hes like a brother to me. I couldnt bear to lose him now," the little girl said.
"Me either," said Michael.
"Michael, ya cant lose me. Im ye brother. Yoo and me. Well be connected forever. I luv ye. Yoo know that." Philip shook his head at his brother, facing the tortured soul of a man who had been taken from his children and loving wife.
"I dona want ya to forget me."
"Michael, I couldnt if I tried." Philips voice was heavy and loaded with grief. He was being forced to say good-bye again.
Michael looked into his brothers eyes and saw something there that he knew would be, but really didnt want to face. Philips resolve to live.
"Meet ye in Heven, when ye come on yer own."
"No!" A different voice responded. "He cannot leave."
Kat tugged on Dereks long black sweater. "Whats that?"
"I think its the Box." The dark haired precept looked over at the red-headed brother. "Did you ever open the Box?"
"No, I only saw it once or twice when I was a small child. I tried but nvever got it open."
"Then whatever has been trapped in there has been there for looooong time." said Philip.
Chapter 8: An Old Friend
Dereks eye shot open. Philip and Kat were still trapped in there with that thing.
"Derek!" Rachel saw him shake his head to clear it of the cobwebs. "Why is Kat like that?"
Nick grabbed the older man as he began to crash backward. He helped Derek to a chair.
"Thats twice that thing has done that to me. Hows Philip?"
Rachel answered. "Hes hanging in there. Now, Kat..."
"Shes still with him. Wont let him go. Stubborn, like her mother." Derek tried to laugh but he was too tired to get it all out. "Im too old for this."
"You left my daughter off somewhere with a DEMON!" Rachel screamed.
"I didnt leave her on purpose, Rachel!" Derek snarled. He would never do anything to hurt the girl.. Everyone else knew that, why didnt Rachel?
"Rachel, youll distract her and the demon may get her completely," warned Nick, who took both her shoulders in his hands and held her back.
Rachel waved him off with a wave of her hand as she tried to recollect her composure.
"Its too late to do anything but try to get her out, guys," said Alex.
Nick picked up Alexs computer where it had fallen when the hospital had been shaking. The monitor was cracked all the way down the middle, but it still came up when he turned it on.
Alex looked at the Box where it had fallen on the floor. A huge crack ran up the side of dogwood panel on the back. All that held it together was the metal engraving of the horsemen.
Derek sat in the chair rigid and clearly upset at what had happened to him. Rachel checked his heart and his pupils to make sure he was all right.
"Nick..." Nick was sure he had heard a woman voice whispering his name, He looked around for whoever was calling him, but Rachel was peering deeply into Dereks brown-green eagle eyes and Alex was fingering the box and he certainly wasnt going to touch that thing again. Mrs. Callaghan was looking extremely exhausted and her head was turned into her husbands shoulder. Except for Philips attending doctor, who was looking strangely at the little girl and the priest she stood guard over, there was no one else in the room.
"Nick..." It was Julias voice. As it occurred to him who was calling his name, Nick looked to the open door of the hospital room. A young woman stood there looking at him. Her long dark hair pooled around her shoulders and her face shown with a beauteous white light. She smiled at him and raised one slender, white arm. "Come to me. We must talk, you and I."
Chapter 9: Box of the Return
Rachel looked up as Nick walked out the door. He looked as though he were in a trance. His right arm was outstretched before him and his hand was curled loosely around the air in his palm. "Nick."
But the young man did not respond as he walked blindly out into the hall. As he stepped to turn the corner he collapsed in a heap on the tiled hospital floor.
Derek shouted his name and shot out of the chair for the door outside where the boy lay, but Nick was too far under to hear Dereks voice. He, like Philip, had stepped into the void after the ghost of a loved one.
Derek touched Nicks shoulder an image of a familiar young woman came into his mind. "Nick. Come to me. We must talk, you and I." Julia!
He now realized the danger the Box placed them in. What scared the most was that all of them could do the same thing. Both he and Kat had followed Philip. It was only a matter of time until they all crossed the line.
The Box. It sat in the corner of the room, where Alex was looking at it. The large crack in the panel seemed to grin evilly up at him.
The Box began to move by itself. It inched closer and closer to where the young ex-Navy man lay on the floor. Slowly, as if time had begun to slow down, a long green tentacle grew out o the crack in the dogwood and then another and another. Derek stood up and stomped on the long green limbs as they began to wrap around Nicks legs. The Box howled in pain. the tentacles pulled back as Derek let his weight off his foot, but they werent gone for long and they returned to their task, thicker and thicker, until Derek was jumping up and down on them to no avail.
Philips attending doctor screamed in fear as one of the tentacles wrapped around his ankle and pulled him to the floor. It pulled him along the floor until his feet were near the Box.
"Dammit! I cant stop them!" Derek shouted as he jumped a final time before grabbing the unconscious Nicks arm and dragging him down the hall. "Rachel! I need help here!"
"Im not leaving Kat!" Rachel screamed from the hospital room.
Alex ran out of the room, grabbed Nicks other arm and helped Derek pull Nick away from the growing tentacles. "Rachel! Help!"
A final scream came from the room. The strong Irish accent of Joseph Callaghans curses and the sobbing of his wife filtered out into the hall.
"Oh, my God! Derek!" Rachel screamed.
Derek dropped Nicks arm and ran back to the hospital room door. He swore a soft, but distinctive blue streak.
Philips attending physician lay on the floor, his legs disappearing into the Box. It was as though the Box had eaten his feet and calves. But it was the rest of the doctors body that concerned Derek. The screaming doctors body appeared to have been carved in dogwood. He bent down to touch it and the body fell to the ground and shattered.
Philips parents and Rachel, too, stood on chairs out of reach of the tentacles. Kat lay on Philips bed out of reach as well.
"It pulled him into it and then he turned into..." Rachel stammered.
"Wood," Derek confirmed.
For now the tentacles abated, the Boxs hunger sated. The box stopped moving.
"Derek?" Alex asked from the hallway. "Rachel? Help me, I think somethings wrong with Nick."
Derek went out to where he had left Alex and Nick. He knelt down and touched the jugular vein in Nicks neck.
"Rachel!" he shouted. He laid his head down on Nicks chest and checked for breathing. Finding nothing he swung a leg over Nicks prone body and began chest compressions.
Rachel dropped to her knees and began breathing into Nicks mouth. Philips parents stood in the hall and comforted Alex who could not stand by and watch another friend die.
Derek checked Nicks wrist. "Pulse," he said.
"Is he breathing on his own?" asked Rachel.
"Yes," was the terse reply.
Alex ran down the hall. "We need a doctor!"
Chapter 10: On the Edge of Good-bye
Nick sat at a golden table at the edge of a cliff that melted into a hazy gray cloud at the bottom.
Across from him, his first love sat.
"Nick, I love you. If you love me, then you must love another."
"Julia, I dont know if I can."
"Nick, you will. She will come in time. But, this is not why I am here. I bring a message from our Father, who has decided the Box of the Return must be destroyed in order for all to live. An evil darkness has descended onto this Box."
"It doesnt matter. But it must be destroyed. It is the only way to save Philip."
Julia began to fade before his very eyes. Nick reached out to her, almost unable to let her leave him again. His hand slid through like his body did when he stepped through the hologram. "Julia...," he moaned, but his first love was lost to him again. "Good-bye."
Nicks eyed fluttered open. He looked up at the tiles of the hospital ceiling, a coolness seeped into his back. He turned his head and looked into the faces of his friends.
"Destroy the Box," he croaked. "Only way...to save...Philip."
Derek ran into the hospital room.
The Box continued to grin evilly up at him.
He knew that if he stopped to think about it he might not be able to do it. He grabbed the Box, hefted it over his head by the handles and slammed it down onto the hospital floor, yelling for the spirit to release the souls of the innocent.
The Box shattered sending splinters of wood in all directions. A large piece of wood pierced Dereks thigh and he howled in pain. Another piece flew by his ear, whistling as it stabbed through the hospital room wall.
Rachel came into the room. She screamed and ran past Derek to the chair nearest Philips bed where Kat sat, a piece of dogwood pinning her to the chair shed apparently moved to while everyone was out in the hall.
Mr. and Mrs. Callaghan moved from the hospital room door to Philips side. Philips mother caressed her sons cheek as she murmured in Gaelic. Philips hazel eyes opened. He smile weakly. His mother collapsed into tears.
Alex helped Nick into a chair in the room and then did the same for Derek.
"What were you thinking? Kat could have been killed!" Rachel screamed at him.
Derek said nothing. He could say nothing. It was his fault the child was hurt. He closed his eyes.
Sunlight poured through the open castle window. Derek linked at the brightness of it. Within the light, he saw a familiar shape, a familiar face. Julia.
"Hello, Derek. I came to bring you a message. From God. He loves you very much and He wants you to know that you are doing what He planned for you. I wanted to bring this message to you so that I could give you another message as well. From me. I forgave you, Derek, for sending me to Ireland. You were doing your job. Its a hard battle and I wanted to make sure you forgave yourself."
"Julia," Derek whispered, but the girl was gone. "I miss you."
"Good-bye, Derek." The whisper of her voice was soft in his ear.
"Derek!" Kats little voice was jubilant. The little girl sat gingerly on his bed. Her nightgown could not disguise the thick gauze around her middle. Derek winced at seeing it.
"Hello, Kat," he said, his eyes sparkling.
After the little girl ran off to find Philip, Rachel stepped closer to Dereks bed. "I... apologize for my behavior. I know you wouldnt purposely do anything to hurt her, but..." Tears threatened to choke her. Derek started to say something, but she raised a single shaking hand. "I just dont want to lose her."
The injured man nodded. "Me, either."
One by one, Derek was visited by them all. Nick, Philip, the Callaghans and, finally, Alex. His team, his family, had survived yet another brush with the other side.
"Nick," Derek said as the two men walked through the hologram into the computer room. "I saw her."
"Yeah, me, too." The SEAL replied. "Man, my arms and chest sure are sore. I wish I could remember what I was doing for them to hurt so bad."
Derek flushed. "Believe me, you dont want to know."
They smiled. Both men felt a little better as they walked together into the light of the room.
At the kitchen table, far away from the sounds of Kat and Philip playing Kats new video game, "Killer Katz from Kryton" or Rachel playing the bag pipes and Derek and Nicks new battle of chess, Alex sat and smiled as she felt a little of the old magic fill the aura of the castle.
"Julia, I gotta tell you. You wouldnt believe what happened."
For the San Francisco House, things were looking up.
To Be Continued.......