TO FANFIC LIBRARY
The woman's face was a mixture of flickering shadows and light from the raging inferno that had once been a beautiful sprawling white villa. Her shoulder length blond hair danced in the false breeze created by the fire.
The villa was ruined. There would be no recovering from this fire. It had been helped along to ensure that there would be no resurrection.
Inside the main house she could make out the faint sounds of agony and terror. They had probably discovered that all the doors were chained shut from the outside.
The smile that started on her lips turned to giggles and laughter. She tossed aside the can that was in her hand, then spun around in an impromptu dance. She put her arms over her head in a "V".
Her cold blue eyes studied the bonfire once last time, then she turned and walked down the road. Another Legacy House gone up in smoke, so to speak, but still so many left to go. She had a mission.
Nick opened the double doors and stepped out on the balcony. The late afternoon had turned breezy, but still pleasant. There was the person that he had been looking for watching the sun set over the bay. The fading light turned her blond hair a crimson gold.
"So there you are," Nick said as he walked over and leaned back against the rail to look at her.
Mikey smiled back. "I didn't know I was lost," she answered.
"Not lost, just a little inaccessible. You've been back a week only to shut yourself away in your room. What's the big secret?" Nick asked curiously.
She shook her head, then brushed her bangs back from her forehead. "No secrets. I was rushing to meet a deadline for some drawings. In fact, I have to fly out tomorrow to deliver then to the publisher. I was hoping to impose upon you to take me to the airport."
Nick frowned. "Does Derek know you're leaving?"
Mikey nodded. "I told him."
"He nodded and kept writing on some papers." Mikey said as she looked at Nick. "Maybe coming back was a mistake."
"No! Don't think that," Nick ordered as he put his hands on her shoulders and tried to conjure up his best stern look. He knew he had failed when she fought back a smile. "Derek just needs a little time to adjust to your return. It has been ten years, you know?"
"I guess," she replied as she started to touch his face, then abruptly lowered her hand and turned so his hands fell from her shoulders.
Nick hesitated as he struggled with what he wanted to say, then, "I wanted you to know that I'm sorry."
She raised one eyebrow in curiosity. "What for?"
"For not being there when you needed me," he replied. "I didn't even know until-"
She covered his lips with her fingers. "It's past. You have nothing to be sorry for."
Nick took her hands in his, then gently turned her palms over. The scars had faded with time, but it was enough to raise the skin on her wrists. Nick looked from her wrists to her blue eyes, old pain showing in his hazel eyes.
"This shouldn't have happened," he growled.
Mikey raised a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. "I'm no longer that person. Did you know that when we were kids . . . well, I guess I was more so than you . . . three years is like a lifetime to kids, anyway, did you know that I had an awful crush on you?"
Realizing that she was steering away from the subject, he smiled at the change of topic. "I thought you were hot after Philip," he teased.
She pretended to search her memory. "Well, he was kinda cute in a drop dead gorgeous kind of way," she grinned as she pushed at his chest, then danced away out of reached.
"Hey!" Nick exclaimed. "What do you mean by that?!"
She laughed as she dodged Nick's attempt to catch her. "Oooh, I've made Nicky jealous!"
"Arrgh! Don't call me that!" Nick growled as he made a feint to the left, then spun and caught her around the waist. Her back was to his chest and he could smell the faint scent of roses in her hair.
"I never had a crush on Philip, only on you," she said as she leaned back against him. She turned in his arms and looked up into his eyes. "And I still do."
She brushed her lips to his, then stepped out of his arms and went back into the house. Nick, caught off guard, stupidly watched her go.
He hurried through the doors, but Mikey wasn't in the room. Rachel looked up from the book she was reading.
"Mikey?" Nick asked Rachel.
"She said something about changing for dinner. You two looked cute together out there," Rachel said nodding to the terrace.
Nick looked away in embarrassment. "She . . . grew up."
Rachel chuckled. "You know, I noticed that you'd noticed that."
Nick smiled as he glanced at Rachel. "You're right, I did. Maybe I'd better clean up for dinner, too." He left the room.
Rachel was grinning as she looked back at her book.
Nick and Mikey sat beside each other at the table talking to each other in low murmurs. Alex and Rachel took a seat as Derek wandered in and sat at the head of the table.
Dinner was delicious. Derek sipped from his wine goblet as the plates were cleared. He studied the prodigal Legacy member returned.
"Michelle, where exactly are you off to tomorrow?" Derek asked.
Mikey lowered the water goblet from her lips. She had a young life growing inside her and didn't want to take the chance of harming it with even one glass of wine. Soon she was going to have to tell her "family" about her pregnancy, but not yet. Not until she was sure she was staying.
"London," she answered. "The publishing house I've contracted with is there. I've cut the deadline very close on this one."
"Oh, are you still illustrating books like the ones upstairs in the library?" Rachel asked.
Mikey shook her head, then pushed her bangs back from her forehead. "Actually this is the first book I've sort of illustrated since I left this house. I'm not so sure I like the deadlines imposed."
"What's the book about?" Alex asked.
"Something about Scotland's Inland Seas, I think. I had to go around and draw all the Lochs. It was interesting, but I'm glad it's over," she answered.
"So what are you doing for a living?" Derek asked.
"A little painting . . . some drawing. I work on an individual contract basis," Mikey answered, then sipped her water.
"I can't recall hearing of any of your work," Derek said. "Are any of your paintings being exhibited now?"
Rachel, Alex, and Nick looked from Derek to Mikey. The tension in the room had grown with each new question until it was stifling. Only Mikey seemed unaffected.
She chuckled. "Enough beating the bush. What exactly do you want to know?"
Derek considered, then nodded. "Very well. Where have you been hiding for the last 10 years?"
She grew introspective, then "All right. For the first couple of years since I left the . . . hospital, I wandered around aimlessly thinking hateful thoughts about you and the Legacy. I drew a little and my first benefactor saw my paintings on a street corner and hired me to paint his portrait. Word of mouth got me more work until I was finding I was having to turn down more than half the requests. I also discovered that people not only expected artists to be eccentric, but wanted them to be so. I could be as reclusive as I wanted. I changed my name. Then somewhere in the last 10 years it dawned on me that I could see that whole . . . episode from your point of view. I don't know if I could have acted differently, but I know you had no choice. And I know I wish things could have gone differently . . . that it hadn't taken me so long to come back and say I'm sorry."
Nick reached under the table and squeezed her hand in reassurance. The other two women waited expectantly.
Derek pursed his lips, then, "How long is your business in London going to take?"
"I made my ticket round trip to come back Tuesday," Mikey replied. "If that . . . is all right?"
Derek nodded. "That will work. Have you kept up with your languages?" To her silent nod, he smiled. "We have several Japanese scrolls being sent over from Walter's Gallery in Baltimore that need translating. Feel up to it?"
"I think . . . that I look forward to the challenge," she answered.
"That's great," Alex said. "just out of curiosity, what pseudonym do you go by?"
Heads turned in Mikey's direction so they missed the strange far away look that came to Derek's face. He rubbed his temples as the vision left him.
Mikey hesitated. Once told she was committed. There would be no going back into hiding. "Phoenix Dumas," Mikey answered.
"No! It can't be! " Alex exclaimed in amazement.
Mikey shrugged and smiled. She took another swallow of water.
"I heard Phoenix Dumas was a man," Alex said.
Mikey shook her head. "A woman the last time I looked."
"But it's just . . . I don't," Alex stammered, then shrugged. "I'm speechless."
Mikey laughed as Nick looked in confusion from Alex to Mikey.
"So who's Phoenix Dumas?" Nick asked.
Alex gave Nick a pained expression. "You really don't know art, do you Nick? Phoenix Dumas is just the most sought after artist in Europe at the moment. His, sorry, her paintings typically sell from twenty to fifty thousand dollars. It's the current status symbol to own a Dumas portrait."
Nick raised his eyebrows as he looked at Mikey. "Doing 'some painting', huh?"
She shrugged. "I keep busy."
"So it seems," Derek said as he stood. "Alex, could I talk with you?"
"Sure," Alex said as she stood and followed Derek from the room.
"Looks like we've got kitchen duty," Rachel said standing and reaching for the last of the dishes from the table.
"So, what's up?" Alex said as she entered the office behind Derek.
When Derek turned around she saw the worry lines creasing his forehead. A worried Derek Rayne had a way of frightening Alex. She forced down her fears and waited for Derek to speak.
"I'd like you to see what you can find out about Phoenix Dumas," Derek said.
"What's wrong?" Alex asked. "Do you think she's lying?"
Derek gave the faintest shake of his head. "I don't know. While you were talking to Michelle I got a flash of . . . something. Just check it out."
Alex nodded. "All right. I'll get on it right away."
Derek entered the control room sipping from his coffee cup. Alex saw him, then sank back into her chair.
"I was just coming to get you," Alex said as she nodded toward the screen on the far wall.
Derek raised his eyes, then said, "Hello, William. To what do we owe the honor?"
"Good morning to you, Derek," William Sloan, precept of London Ruling House, replied.
"What can we do for you, William, or is this a social call?" Derek asked.
Sloan shook his head. "Far from it. It has come to our attention here that you are inquiring about Phoenix Dumas. Why is that, Derek? Do you know where Dumas is?"
Derek sipped his coffee. "What is your interest, William? Are you looking for a good portrait artist?"
"Oh, Phoenix Dumas does more than just paint, he has been responsible for the destruction of four Legacy Houses that we know of, probably more. Do you know where we can find Dumas?"
Alex shook her head in disbelief. In only a week she had come to see Mikey as a friend and kindred spirit, someone who intimately understood the psychic side of life without belittling or trivializing it. "No, it's not possible!"
Derek motioned Alex to silence. "What proof do you have?"
"Instead let me show you some pictures," Sloan said.
Pictures of devastation flashed on the screen. A smoking ruin, a chard corpse, on one smoky stone wall was the drawing of a stylized bird with the name Phoenix Dumas scrawled over it. Other pictures followed with the equally horrid signatures over the dead walls of destroyed Legacy's Houses.
"Where's Michelle?" Derek asked softly, never taking his eyes off the screen.
"Nick took her to the airport about half an hour ago," Alex answered so only Derek would hear.
Sloan replaced the macabre pictures with his image. There was a tautness to his features that spoke of controlled fury.
"Phoenix Dumas is the artistic pseudonym for Michelle de Custine," Derek said. He ignored Alex's aghast look.
"de Custine. I haven't heard that name in awhile. Hasn't she been missing for what, nine years?" Sloan asked.
"Ten," Derek corrected. "She returned last week."
Sloan leaned forward. "You need to take action on this!"
"She taking a plane this morning to London," Derek answered.
Sloan nodded. "Send me her flight info and a current picture. We'll handle it from this end."
"What are you going to do?" Derek asked.
"Whatever is necessary. Send the info," Sloan said as he signed off.
"Derek!" Alex exclaimed as she turned in her chair and looked up at the Precept.
Derek's face was unreadable. "Send Sloan what he asked for and let me know when Nick gets back. I'll be in my office."
Derek left the computer room, forgetting his cold coffee.
Mikey clutched the clumsy portfolio under her arm as she tried to make the backpack and shoulder strap of her drawing pad sit comfortably on her shoulder. People jostled her, shoved her, screaming children flailed about as they were dragged by. She hated Gatwick airport. None of the signs were easily visible and the crowds disturbed her.
There was always the possibility that large crowds pressing against her could trigger her gift, her curse. For several years she had worked hard to achieve the ability of controlling all, but the most forceful Seeings. For those she needed her drawing pad to keep her sane.
Time to find the "Way Out" sign and to London. Hands grabbed her arms, jarring her and causing her to drop her portfolio. She looked down in alarm before she looked to see who was pinning her arms.
"Hey, let go!" She tried to jerk her arms free.
She looked at the two large men on either side of her. Both had that no nonsense, hard, cold look that told her she had no chance against them.
"Michelle de Custine," the man in the dark suit to her left said.
"Come with us," the other dark suit said.
She looked from one to the other. "Look, you've got the wrong person. If you don't release me, I'm shouting for the cops."
The man on her left twisted her arm until Mikey hissed in pain. She angrily glared at him.
The other man picked up her portfolio and together they steered Mikey out to the car. He threw the portfolio in the British version of a trunk, the boot, then got behind the wheel.
The man who had twisted Mikey's arm shoved her in the rear seat, then slid in beside her. She glared at the man as her other hand reached for the door beside her.
"Don't" the dark suited man warned.
The car pulled away from the curb and into traffic. Mikey sighed and sat back.
"Legacy," she murmured to herself. She saw a flash of surprise in the eyes of the man sitting beside her. She sighed again as she tried to understand why Derek had done this to her.
The silence in the car was oppressive even before they had gotten to London. By the time they were driving down the close London streets with its massive buildings looming over them, Mikey's claustrophobia was beginning to get the best of her. She was fidgeting, twisting in her seat.
The stoic man sitting beside her hissed, "Enough! Sit still!"
She glared at him. "It's not going to happen," she said between clenched teeth.
The buildings covered entire blocks in this section of London. The car turned into a parking garage.
They led Mikey from the parking garage through a door, a corridor, another door, another corridor, twists, turns, more doors, more corridors until they opened a door on a small room that held a tiny wooden table and two hard wooden chairs.
The door shut leaving Mikey alone in the room. She shook her head in disbelief.
"Terrific," she muttered. "All the comforts of home . . . for a closet."
She looked around the room. In the left corner facing the door was a video camera. Smiling, Mikey waved to her audience, then sat facing the camera, her back to the door.
The door opened behind her, but Mikey didn't react. The man walked around the table and sat on the empty chair. "Hello, Michelle."
Mikey frowned as she searched her memory, then, "Mr. Sloan. Why have I been kidnapped?"
"Well, Michelle or should I call you Phoenix Dumas, I was hoping you could answer several questions for me."
"If I'm able, sure, but don't you think you could have found another way to ask me," Mikey answered.
Sloan shook his head in disbelief. "You're good . . . so cool. I have some pictures for you to look at." He laid a manila envelope on the table before her.
Mikey hesitated, then opened the envelope and removed five 8X10 photographs. She visibly flinched as she looked at the photos. Finally, she glanced up at Sloan.
"What's going on?" Mikey asked.
"Actually, Ms de Custine, I was going to ask you that question. Give me the names of your accomplices," William Sloan ordered.
"Accomplices? What are you talking about?!" Mikey demanded.
"Going to play dumb, huh? Well, it'll just be that harder for you," Sloan said. "Let's begin then, state your name for the record."
Several hours later Sloan was relieved by another Legacy member and the questions started again. Twenty-four hours turned into forty-eight, then seventy-two.
Mikey tried to put her head down, but there were always new well-rest questioners and demanding questions. Even for a confirmed insomniac, Mikey had reached her limit.
Day four brought Sloan back. Mikey blearily stared beyond him at the blank wall. Sloan asked "the questions", but to all appearances Mikey had withdrawn into herself. He leaned forward and waved his hand in front of her face, but she didn't even blink.
He sat back and sighed. If he added her reactions to the pictures and questions she appeared innocent. Despite all appearances to the contrary, he also wanted her to be innocent. Her father had been one of his few trusted friends. Jacque de Custine had left the guardianship of his daughter to both William and Derek.
Sloan hadn't had the time so he gave Derek full guardian rights. He ran a hand through this hair as he relived the guilt when Derek had called him with the news that Michelle had tried to kill herself. He had agreed with Derek about placing her in a hospital that could effectively deal with her problems. And then later Derek had called him with the news that Michelle had managed to escape the hospital and had somehow disappeared. So much time had passed from then to now. Had Michelle become a serial killer?
The door opened and a young, well-dressed woman stuck her head in. "Sir," she said, her accent proper, the inflection precise. "We have something that needs your attention."
Sloan frowned at the interruption, but stood and followed his assistant from the interrogation room.
"What's the problem?" Sloan asked the woman.
"We've lost contact with San Francisco House," she replied. "There's no answer at any contact number. Their computers are down . . . nothing."
"Send a remote crew out there to see . . . well," Sloan said worry and anger starting to build in him.
"I already anticipated that and they are on their way. It'll still be several hours before we know anything," she answered.
Sloan nodded. "Keep me informed. Keep trying all our contacts out there."
"Yes sir." She hurried away. She felt sorry for the woman in the interrogation room after she saw the look in her Precept's eyes. Well, maybe not too sorry. She'd seen the pictures also.
Sloan reentered the room and slammed the door behind him. "All right, Ms. de Custine, enough playing around. It wasn't enough destroying those other Houses now you've set your sights on San Francisco House too! Enough! Talk, damn it!"
Mikey blinked and life came back into her eyes. "What's . . . what's happened?" she stammered.
"As if you didn't know!" He leaned over the table and came nose to nose with her. He was angry with himself for falling for her act and now Derek and the others were going to pay for his slip.
"What are you talking about?" she whispered fearfully.
"San Francisco House. Gone! Destroyed!"
She shook her head. This had become one long bad dream that had just become worse. "No. It can't be."
"Your friends are there right now doing the job without you. Do they have orders to sign your name on the wall or do you come behind them and do that?" Sloan growled.
She narrowed her blood-shot eyes as she stared at William Sloan. "Stop pestering me and go catch the real killers. Do you know what your problem is, William Sloan? You see me as Michelle as do Derek as did my father. We take our cute little Michelle doll out of the box and we tell her what to do knowing she wouldn't dare do any differently. Never once did any of you think to ask cute little Michelle if she really wanted to deal with any of the nasties that you threw at her. Give her a crayon and some paper, point her at the big ugly nasty of the day and poof it's gone. Pat Michelle on the head, give her a book, and send her off to play. Sorry William, but you, Derek, and my father were all living in a fantasy world. I'm not your secret weapon . . . I'm no one's weapon! I'm my own realized person, don't you like that psych. language. GO AWAY!"
Sloan ground his teeth together as he flung the tiny table aside. Mikey flinched, but all he did was stomp out of the room. Sloan entered the viewing room. The man studying the monitors looked up.
"What now, sir?"
Sloan did not answer, but studied the image of the lone woman staring at the wall on the monitor.
Mikey ran her hand through her hair. It felt greasy. She felt dirty and oh so confused. Something had happened in San Francisco. Even though she felt angry at Derek's betrayal, she understood it too. If he had seen the same pictures that Sloan had shown her, she would have done the same thing.
They were wrong though. She hadn't killed anyone, but while they had her here, they weren't looking for the real killer. And that killer was probably in San Francisco at this moment. And she was stuck here in this little room!!!
She needed help. She needed someone that would believe her, a friend. Most of all she needed to get to San Francisco, now! She knew how to have both together.
"Philip," she murmured to herself as she leaned over and pulled a tiny penknife out of the top of her sock.
She used the knife to keep her pencils sharpened. She found that she lost it a lot less when she kept it in her sock than when she had it in her pocket.
Once upon a time a sixteen year old girl sat in a sterile white room imprisoned in a straitjacket. Without the freedom to draw, Sight and reality blended into one long string of crazed images and the doctors at the asylum thought her rather mad.
She had figured how to dislocate her shoulder and slip out of the straightjacket. She then had cut her hands up on a piece of metal from the underside of her bed and had begun drawing.
One of her drawings had been a bloody door complete with doorknob. Already thought crazy, it hadn't been strange to turn the doorknob, open the door, and step through. She had walked through an imaginary door in Northern California and had ended up in Germany along the Rhine River. The reality of the picture postcard she saw everyday that was tacked to the wall in the nurses' station.
Mikey opened the pen knife and jabbed the tips of the first two fingers of her right hand. She watched the blood well up and before it could coagulate she stood and sketched out a door on the blank white wall. She had to jab her fingers a couple more times to complete the door with its doorknob.
She felt the press of time. Any moment now Sloan was going to come back and her chance to escape would be gone.
All the while she drew she thought of her desperate need of help . . . of how she needed to get to Philip. He had always been willing to believe her stories no matter how bizarre. And together they could save Derek and the others.
"What the 'ell is she doing?" the man sitting before the video monitor asked the room in general.
Sloan glanced at the monitor, then rushed out of the room. He opened the door just as Mikey opened her own door.
"Stop!" Sloan shouted.
Mikey glanced over her shoulder, then stepped into blackness. Sloan was across the room in three strides, but by the time he touched the wall that was all that it was - a white wall with a bloody rectangle on it. A make believe door.
Philip cocked his head to the side. Did he hear something coming from the confessional? The box was empty today . . . or it was supposed to be.
The young priest went to investigate. The curtain fluttered and someone stumbled out right into Philip's arms.
Philip looked down at the delicate elfin features of the woman in his arms. She looked at him, then her eyes rolled up and she fainted.
Something cool brushed her forehead. Mikey slowly opened her eyes to concerned face of her friend.
"Good to have you back," Philip said with his Irish brogue.
"Philip!" Mikey exclaimed as she sat up and flung her arms around his shoulders, hugging him.
"Sshh," Philip hissed. "You're in my room."
Mikey let go of her friend and looked around the small sparse room. There were a couple of chairs, a small table near the only window, a book shelf that was over-flowing with books, and, of course, the bed she was lying on.
"Sorry," she said. "I don't want to get you in trouble."
Philip smiled. "No trouble. What are you doing here? I haven't seen you for . . . five years."
"I wrote," she replied.
He nodded. "True. Lots of postcards. I always wondered how you knew where I was to send those cards."
She grinned and tapped her temple with her right index finger. "The curse, remember. How long have I been . . . asleep?"
"About three hours," he answered as he looked at the clock by the bed.
She swung her feet around to the floor. "Oh no! We have to go. We have to go now!"
"Go where? What are you talking about?!" Philip asked.
"Angel Island. Something has happened!"
"What?!" he demanded as he grabbed her shoulders.
"I don't know," she said worriedly. "Apparently some Houses have been destroyed. William Sloan thinks I'm responsible."
Philip looked perplexed. "Why would he think that? I thought you'd distanced yourself from the Legacy."
Mikey shrugged. "I sorta came back home a little over a week ago. We have to get to Angel Island. Sloan thinks something has happened to Derek and the others."
Philip let go of her shoulders. "Have you Seen anything?"
She shook her head. "I've been without paper and pencil since Sloan had me abducted at the airport. Also I've tamed the Curse down to a dull roar. I don't get . . . images like I used to."
"You've learned to control it," Philip said in surprise.
She waggled her right hand. "So-so."
Philip stood and walked over to the table. He picked up a yellow legal pad and pen and brought them back to Mikey.
"Sorry it's not drawing paper, but maybe you can use this," he said as he handed them over. "Also the bathroom is down the hall, second door on the left."
Philip headed for the door. Mikey stood, swaying slightly. She felt exhausted, groggy. Whether it was staying awake six days straight or using the Curse to fling herself several thousand miles she didn't know.
"What are you going to do?" Mikey asked.
Philip looked over his shoulder as he opened the door. "I'm going to call Derek. I'll be right back." He left.
Philip worriedly hurried back toward his room after unsuccessfully trying to get anyone at Luna House on the phone. He paused to watch Mikey walking down the hall toward him. She was pushing her wet hair back behind her ears.
"What's wrong?" she softly asked.
Philip motioned her into his room, then followed closing the door behind them. "I was just thinking that you looked different."
"Different? How?" she asked as she shook her head, flinging droplets of water around the room.
Philip put up his hands to protect himself from the impromptu shower. "You look . . . calmer, at peace. You don't have that . . . 'on the edge' look in your eyes anymore."
Despite the seriousness of her situation, she smiled. "I took your advice and exorcised my inner demons. So did you get Derek?"
Philip shook his head. "No answer. Have you drawn anything?"
She shook her head. "All's quiet in my head."
"Then I think we should go. Bring the paper. Maybe you'll see something," he said as he opened his closet and took out both his leather jacket and long coat. He handed the leather jacket to Mikey. "You aren't exactly dressed for a trip across the Bay."
She looked from herself to Philip in mock effrontery . "I was dressed very well four days ago." She took the jacket and put it on.
Philip sniffed and gave the barest nod. "Maybe."
She playfully pushed against his shoulder. "Stop picking on me. Let's go."
Philip held the door open. "After you milady."
She stuck her tongue out as she walked past him and out into the hall. He took the lead and she followed him through the rectory and out to the garage.
The two car garage held a beat up station wagon and an equally, if not in worse shape, pickup truck.
Philip motioned Mikey to the wagon, then opened the garage door. He opened the driver's door and slid behind the wheel.
"Buckle up," Philip ordered as he started the car and put it in gear.
"Won't they notice that the car's gone?" Mikey asked.
"I left a note," he replied.
She watched him silently navigate the streets. Determined, withdrawn. He could be just as worried as she was she told herself, but she didn't think that was the whole problem. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples as images, 'insights into others' as she called it briefly flickered through her mind like one of those old time motion picture projectors. Why couldn't she have normal empathy like other people?! She paused, smiling to herself. What exactly was normal empathy?
"Where are we headed?" she asked
"The Luna Foundation has connections at the docks. It's faster than waiting for the ferry," he answered.
She nodded, then slid over and put her arm around Philip's shoulders. "I am very sorry about Michael. If I could have done something . . . well, you know."
Philip quickly glanced at Mikey in surprise, then back at the road. "How . . . how did you know?"
She felt the muscles bunch along his shoulders and neck. Leaning closer, she kissed his cheek, then sat back with her hands in her lap.
"I drew a picture, but one street in Ireland looks like most others." She closed her eyes, remembering the feeling of helplessness she had felt at the time. "If I'm going to be cursed with this Sight, I should at least get all the information so I can change things!" she said angrily.
"I understand," Philip said, his voice edged with pain.
"Then you are doing better than me," she replied. "I was sort of at the funeral . . . hiding in the background . . . I really liked your brother. He made me very welcome the few times I stayed with your family in Ireland. I wasn't either a tool or a freak."
Philip nodded stiffly. "Michael was special. I know he liked that portrait you did of the family. And sending it in my name," he gave a strained laugh. "I had a lot of explaining of how I could afford a Dumas original."
"The church pays better now-adays . . . Philip, I don't know if anyone has said this to you and, if I insult you, I apologize. My people skills were never the best. You are special too. Also, my friend, you are only human." She held up her hand to stop the argument she saw forming in his eyes. "Yes, you are a priest. That doesn't make you superhuman and that doesn't mean you gave up human feelings with your vows. You don't look well. You look . . . fragile. Like your nerves have reached their limit," she said softly. She gently rubbed at her right temple.
Philip snorted. "So you've taken up psychiatry now?"
"I've had experience," she said dryly. "I . . . See only a couple of options on the path you've chosen. Remember that inner demon sermon you gave me several years ago? Well, you're getting it back. They are destroying you inside and you are using your calling, your vows to keep anyone and everything from touching you. You are shutting your feelings off. You're a piss poor priest if you have no feelings."
"'Piss poor priest'," Philip said and gave a tight laugh. "You and your strange turns of language."
She sighed. "Ever since I first met you I could see that you had a calling. I can't say that I really understood it, but I knew it. And you did too. It was your foundation. That is what you need to remember, to feel. Don't use your faith as a weapon to keep everyone away from you."
Philip chewed on his lip. "I've been thinking about my role in the church. I'm . . . not sure."
She put her hand against Philip's chest. "I feel your heart beating. Do you think it will be beating tomorrow?"
Philip frowned. "Mikey, you're going strange again."
"Not this time. Answer my question," she said.
"I hope so," Philip replied.
She gave Philip a sly grin. "Does that mean that you have faith it will be? Through all the anger you feel, the guilt, probably betrayal that God would take Michael like that, you still have faith in life. In a heartbeat."
Philip slowly shook his head and gave a soft laugh. His eyes misted and he blinked back the tears. "When did you become so wise?"
"I borrowed it from my friends."
"All right, I'll think on it. How about you? Are you taking your own advice?" he asked.
She nodded. "Oh yeah. The past hurts, but I've come to accept it and forgive it. It's either that or go crazy cause I can't change it. And I've been there, done that, and got the straight jacket to prove it. Now it's time to come back home . . . and find out who is killing people in my name."
"Well, half of the musketeers to the rescue," Philip said and he saw Mikey's determined nod.
Philip and Mikey jumped from the boat onto the Luna Foundation's dock. Philip thanked the boat captain and sent him on his way. He turned to Mikey to ask what she thought they should do next, but paused.
Mikey was pressing the palms of her hands to her eyes and shuddering. She looked like she was in pain.
"Mikey, what do you See?" Philip asked. He stepped close, but kept from touching her.
"Layers of images," she muttered tensely.
"Choose one," he said. "Concentrate on it."
She lowered her hands. Her blue eyes had a strange, faraway look as she slowly turned toward the distant castle. She glanced at Philip and he saw fear and anger crawl across her eyes.
"It's Nick," she hissed as she brushed past Philip and took off running toward the house. "He's hurt!"
Philip raced to catch up. He grabbed her hand just as she was about to open the door.
"Might I suggest caution," Philip said.
She nodded. "Sure, suggest it." Mikey turned the knob and shoved the door open. She entered the house, noticing the absolute quiet. "Power's off," she said over her shoulder.
Philip came in beside Mikey. He saw Nick propped against the stairs a fraction of a second behind Mikey.
"Nick!" Mikey rushed across the room to the stairs, but stopped when Nick pointed at her and tried to struggle to his feet.
"Get away from me!" Nick hissed angrily as his hand kept slipping on the banister. "Philip, get away from her!"
Philip went to Nick and slid his arm around his friend's waist and helped him to his feet. "Nick, this is Mikey. She's our friend."
Nick started to shake his head, but thought better of it. Blood covered almost half his face and dried his hair into spikes. "Don't let her fool you."
Philip looked at Mikey. "Do you know where the med. kit is? Come on, Nick, let's go sit in the other room."
Mikey nodded and started up the stairs. Her foot hit against something and sent it clunking down the stairs. She looked. There was Nick's Louisville Slugger lying at the bottom of the steps its end covered in dried blood. Her eyes narrowed and her hand clenched at her side. Somebody was going to pay for hurting Nick. She turned and dashed up the stairs.
Philip eased Nick down on the couch in the sitting room. He went and opened the curtains so the late afternoon sun could shed some light on Nick's injuries. He returned to Nick's side and sat.
"What happened?" Philip asked.
"Why don't you ask her!" Nick growled as Mikey dashed into the room carrying the med. kit and a damp cloth.
She handed Philip the kit and started to touch the cloth to Nick's head. He swatted her hand away. She passed the cloth to Philip.
"Nick, whatever happened it wasn't me," Mikey said softly.
"Looked like you, talked like you . . . smelled like you," he said between clinched teeth as Philip scrubbed away the dried blood.
"She's been with me, Nick," Philip said.
"And before that I was William Sloan's guest for the last four days at London House," she said.
Nick frowned, then flinched. "Ow! Damn it, Philip! No, Mikey was here. She hit me over the head with my bat."
Mikey sat on the floor and watched the two men. She had a thought and it wasn't a very pleasant one. She had believed she was innocent, but maybe that wasn't entirely so.
"Do you remember that horse I wanted for my birthday?" she asked softly.
Philip shook his head, but Nick gave a careful nod. "It was before you came, Philip. I remember. You got in trouble for going and getting a horse without permission. No one was quite sure how you did it?"
"I wanted one so bad I drew it. My drawing came to life," she said as she turned her palms up and studied her hands.
"To life?" Philip asked. "Isn't that wishful thinking? Couldn't you have imagined it?"
One side of her mouth turned up. "Just because I see and hear things that other people don't, does not mean that I am crazy. No matter what the psychiatrists say. I drew a horse and it came to life . . . five years ago, after talking with you, Philip, I drew a self portrait."
"Oh come on, Mikey!" Nick groaned. "Can't you come up with a better alibi than that?"
"Five years ago I was going through another depression," she said. "I went and talked with Philip and we spoke about exorcising my inner demons. So in typical artist fashion I drew a picture of all the things I hated about myself, then I used my palate knife and ripped it to shreds. What if, like that horse, I gave it life. Now I have an evil twin, Skippy if you will, running around killing people."
"Nice theory," Nick said, turning his head while Philip put on the bandage.
She climbed to her feet and started to pace. "No, it feels right. Where are they though? Where would Skippy have taken them? The house is empty."
Nick shoved Philip's hand away and leaned forward. "If . . . Skippy is running around killing Legacy members, why didn't she kill me?"
Mikey ran her hands through her hair. "Where would Skippy take them? It wouldn't be far."
"Mikey," Nick said in exasperation.
She paused and looked at the injured man. Again she felt her anger rise. With effort she forced it back. "I wouldn't be able to kill you, that's why. Now ideas, please."
Nick and Philip exchanged glances, then looked back at Mikey. Nick started to say something, but Philip beat him to it.
"That begs the question, could you have killed all those others? Could you kill Derek, Alex, Rachel, and Kat?" Philip asked.
Mikey became introspective, then slowly shook her head. "No."
"You had to think about it though," Nick said.
She gave a slow nod. "A serious question deserves careful consideration. To be angry isn't reason enough to kill someone. When I get angry, I fling paint at a canvas. When I cool off, I sell it for an exorbitant sum. Now help me think. We are looking for somebody my build who just happens to look like me. I could carry Kat, maybe drag Rachel or Alex, but Derek . . . if it were me, he would have to walk on his own."
"Are you sure the house is empty?" Nick asked.
Mikey nodded an affirmative. "It feels empty."
"That isn't the same as a thorough search," Nick stated. "You take the upstairs. We'll look down here."
Mikey sighed. "Nick, I stepped through an imaginary door from London to San Francisco. My drawing has come to life. Trust me when I tell you when I say I don't sense anyone in the house, all right?!" Mikey said in exasperation.
"You never could do this before," Nick replied.
She shrugged. "I probably could have if I had had more control back then. I pick up the emotions of people around me or people I have a connection to and turn these into images. So I have learned to block the images, mostly. If I remove those blocks-"
"You get images," Philip finished.
Mikey nodded. "A simple explanation for something hard to do. The only mind noise I'm getting is from you two."
"So you know what we're thinking?" Philip asked not entirely comfortable with the idea.
"No, not exactly. And I don't really know how to explain it . . . except that it's not worth the effort and it makes me crazy, no pun intended. So where are Derek and the others?"
Philip considered. "Someplace close, convenient."
"I didn't see a gun, but we should assume she has one," Nick said. "Is there any aspirin in that box?"
Mikey found and handed the painkillers who promptly swallowed them. They stared at one another as they silently thought out the problem.
"I think-" Mikey began.
"I know," Nick finished.
Philip smiled. "The team is back."
Mikey exchanged looks with Nick both thinking of Julia, then shook her head. "Not quite, but it'll have to do."
"The cave," Nick said.
"Smuggler's Cave," Mikey replied. "And there's an entrance in the cellar."
Philip shook his head. "Derek had it closed up."
Mikey abruptly stood and left the room. Slowly, painfully Nick stood, Philip followed.
"Mikey, what are you doing?" Nick called.
She appeared in the doorway with Nick's bat propped on her shoulder. "You don't mind if I borrow this, do you?" She turned and walked away.
"What are you going to do with that bat?" Philip called after her.
The voice was fainter. "Bash Skippy's head into a bloody pulp! Then maybe I'll throw turpentine at her."
"The cool-headed, cautious one has gone to bash heads in," Philip said incredulously.
Nick sighed. "I need to go get my gun," he said as he staggered across the room.
Philip shook his head. "You're in no shape to go anywhere. I'll go after Mikey."
Nick glared at his friend. "And do what? Mikey needs backup. Help me get to my room."
Nick studied the opening torn in the wall. The boards Derek had had nailed over the old entrance to the tunnels that led to Smuggler's Cave.
"Looks like we guessed right," Nick muttered as he held onto a broken board as he ducked through the opening.
Philip handed Nick a flashlight, then turned his own on. Together they entered the dark tunnel.
The last time either of them had been in this tunnel was fifteen years ago. Neither said anything, but the memory was strong.
The four of them, Nick, Julia, Philip, and Mikey had found the tunnel that led to the cave that they had called 'Smuggler's Cave'. Apparently during the early days of San Francisco less than honest traders used the cave to smuggle in contraband and illegal immigrants. And there had always been a house on this sight to hide the comings and goings of the less than reputable ship captains.
The men walked until they saw diffuse light. They clicked off their flashlights and proceeded cautiously. There was a shadow lurking in the deeper shadows at the mouth of the tunnel. The shadow turned and Nick recognized Mikey.
She bent down, pulled something out of her sock and palmed it. With a final glance over her shoulder at the approaching men, she stepped out into the large cavern.
The woman casually sitting with her legs crossed on an old wooden crate looked in Mikey's direction and smiled. Mikey felt a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the cavern. She clutched the grip of the bat more tightly.
"You took your own sweet time getting here," the woman who looked like Michelle de Custine said. "What kept you?"
Mikey raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You knew I was coming?"
"Oh, get real, girl," the impostor said.
Mikey snorted. "Actually doesn't that apply to you."
Mikey turned her attention to the captives. Rachel, Kat, Alex were sitting on the floor, tied and gagged with duct tape. Standing on a rickety box with a rope around his neck, and also gagged and tied with duct tape, was Derek.
Mikey walked over to stare up at Derek. He stared at her intently. She felt the strength of his thoughts intruding on her mind. He wanted her to leave. She saw the images in her mind. With effort she blocked out the images.
"I thought you might like this sacrifice," the false Michelle said nodding to Derek. "It. Feels. Right. Doesn't it? Just like our dad."
Mikey glanced over her shoulder. "You have no father."
The woman angrily jumped to her feet. "I had a father and because of this man and the Legacy he's dead," she shrieked.
"Having mental problems, Skippy?" Mikey asked as she slowly began to walk around Derek.
"I'm Phoenix Dumas! You'd better call me that or-"
Mikey snorted. "Or what? You couldn't even come up with an original name. You're a pale copy."
The impostor pulled a gun from some hidden pocket and pointed it at Mikey. "Get over here!"
Mikey shrugged as she pressed her penknife into Derek's hand and walked over to face Skippy. She swung the bat off her shoulder and tapped it against her ankle.
"I see you found Nick."
"Bashing his head in with a baseball bat doesn't seem too sporting. And didn't my father die in a barn by hanging himself with a chain?" Mikey said as she studied the obviously mad woman by the flickering light of a kerosene lantern.
"Semantics," she answered.
"All right, Phoenix. I understand why Derek and Nick, but these people," Mikey pointed to Alex, Rachel, and Kat. "What did the child ever do to you?"
"She's Legacy too. Come sister, we're of like minds. You can't say this doesn't excite you," Phoenix said as she lowered the gun to her side.
Mikey raised her shoulder. She took another step closer to her mad double. She had to be closer if she intended to use the bat as a weapon. She also needed some sort of diversion. Where was Nick when she needed him?!
"Or maybe not," the woman said sneering. "Maybe you have gotten too weak to do our job! I thought we could be a team, but you know I don't really need you." She again pointed the gun at Mikey.
Mikey's eyes flickered to the gun, then back to the woman's face. She took another step closer.
"Hey, Skippy. Aren't you forgetting something," Nick stepped into the light and pointed his own gun. He hoped that she couldn't see that his hand was shaking or that he couldn't focus very well on her. The weak and flickering light should hide all.
The woman's eyes went wide as she swung her gun around in Nick's direction. "You tricked me!"
Mikey rushed forward swinging the bat. "Oh no you don't!"
The gun was knocked from the impostor's hand. She cursed and leaped at Mikey. Together the two tumbled to the ground each fighting for the upper hand.
Nick and Philip hurried across the cavern. Philip went to help Rachel, Alex, and Kat while Nick went to Derek. Derek was already pulling the noose from his neck by the time Nick weaved his way to him.
"We have to pull them apart," Derek said as he hurried to the fighting women. Nick staggered after him.
Derek grabbed one arm and pulled the woman away. Blood ran from her obviously broken nose. Nick wrapped his arms around the other woman, pinning her arms to her sides. The woman struggled, but finally relaxed in Nick's arms.
"Mikey or Skippy?" Nick growled into her ear.
"'All for one and one for all'," she answered weakly. She glanced over her shoulder. "You're kinda squeezing me in half, Nicky, and I don't think it's good for the baby to squeeze him so."
"What?!" Nick exclaimed as he turned her around, studying her face. She grinned.
"Later. Derek needs our help," she said as she pushed away from Nick.
The impostor scrambled away from Derek and grabbed her gun. Nick felt he was moving very slowly as he pulled his gun from where he had tucked it in his pants. His hand shook; his aim was off. The sound reverberated in the cave deafening them. Luckily the pain in her bloody, broken nose made her aim just as bad.
The image of Nick lying dead, shot through the heart flooded her mind. She moaned as she pressed her clenched fists to her temples.
"No, no, no," Mikey hissed, forcing the image away. She took hold of Nick's hand, steadying it, and pressed her finger down on his finger.
Again the bone shaking sound hit them all. The impostor was flung off her feet flat on her back. Derek looked at Nick and Mikey, then knelt beside the woman. Her eyes were staring up at the ceiling, not blinking, not moving. A slender stream of blood ran from the corner of her mouth and mingled with the rest of the damage to her face.
"She's dead," Derek said looking up at the others.
Mikey let go of Nick's hand and stepped away. She hugged herself, shivering. "What did that doctor say, suicidal with possible schizophrenic and homicidal tendencies," she muttered. "I've finally become what you thought I would." She looked at Derek. She felt lost, empty.
Philip crossed himself as he came near and said a brief prayer. He looked at Mikey."Are you all right?" he asked.
He saw her eyes misting over even as she nodded. Philip stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. He looked at Nick over her head.
"She's tired," Philip said and knew the explanation was weak.
"She's pregnant," Nick answered. He wasn't sure how he felt. His head felt as if falling off would actually make it feel better, but Mikey's bombshell hit him harder than the bat had. She was a childhood friend. Friends you played tag with and skinned your knees with didn't get pregnant. He was . . . jealous and he didn't know who of.
"What?!" Philip looked down at Mikey, then at Nick.
"Oh, don't look at me like that," Nick said. "I didn't do anything."
"Come on. Let's go back to the house," Derek said as he went and picked up the lantern and headed back up the tunnel. The others followed behind and Smuggler's Cave was engulfed in darkness.
Mikey was grinning as she fairly skipped down the stairs to greet the morning. Her wet hair was tucked behind her ears and dripped down her Universite de Paris Sorbonne T-shirt. She felt great, well-rested for the first time in over a weak, and there was no morning sickness. Though that usually hit her in the afternoon anyway.
She breezed through the kitchen snagging an apple from the bowl on the counter on her way to find Derek. There were draw backs to living in a house full of psychics and this was one of those. She had been lying in bed debating whether she really wanted to get up and face the day when she had felt the mental summons from Derek. He had sent her a mental picture of her standing before his desk in his office. Psychics!
Well, if she was going to have to face the price for her deeds she would do it clean and fed. Even though she'd made Derek wait, guilt kept her from dragging out the inevitable. The door slid back and she entered his office. Derek looked up from his desk.
"You look better," Derek said.
"A little sleep and voila," she said. "I stopped and looked in at Nick. He's very . . . colorful and grumpy." She'd spent a little more time with Nick than that, but Derek didn't need to know all the details of everything.
After Rachel had done her doctoring and the house had quieted down, she had snuck into Nick's room. Just like old times. They had talked, argued, and Nick had vented his feelings for hours. In the end, well, she hoped Derek wasn't as good at picking up pictures as she was. She fought the blush that was creeping to her cheeks.
"A baseball bat will do that," Derek said either not noticing or ignoring Mikey's sudden color. "I've been talking with Sloan." He watched her face to see her reaction. He was surprised when she just nodded her acceptance of the inevitable.
"I expect that he probably wants me back. Further study and all that," she said with a shrug.
Derek smiled faintly. "Actually he did say something to that effect, but I told him no. My Goddaughter isn't a bug to study under a microscope. You are free and clear."
She raised a curious eyebrow. "I am free to leave and resume my career?"
Derek nodded. "If that's your wish. Or you may stay. Either way, Mikey, I want you to know I support whatever you do."
She smiled. "Thank you. I . . . I've wanted to hear that for years. Do you think you could get Sloan to send my pictures on to the publisher? My agent has probably had a heart attack by now."
Derek nodded. "Sure. Then you are going back to. . ."
"My studio is in Paris and no, I thought I'd stay and translate that Japanese scroll you were mentioning last week. If I may?" she asked.
Derek grinned. "Yes, you may." He stood and walked around his desk and looked down on Mikey. "One more question . . . Nick said you're pregnant?"
She gave Derek her most innocent look. "Funny you should mention that. I have this really interesting story to tell you."
Derek leaned back against his desk and looked at her patiently. "I'm all ears."