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AMAZING GRACE by Sherri
|Continued from page one...
"For the time being," Derek replied. "We better keep that one in the database ... just in case it resurfaces."
"Check," Nick agreed.
"What about the other three?"
"Two were in the Canadian area -- one in Ontario and the other in British Columbia. Both of those were disbanded by the Toronto and Montreal Houses," Nick answered. He was felt a sense of relief wash over him as he and Derek continued to keep the conversation on a "business-only" basis; he just hoped it would last!
"And the last one?" Derek inquired, pleased with Nick's research progress.
"Well, that one's a little more tricky," Nick answered. "It was located in the New Orleans area and, unfortunately, that House didn't have a whole lot of information to share. Apparently, all that's known about the cult was that there had been a few animal sacrifices and one attempted human sacrifice. The church was run by a woman, but the New Orleans House was never able to identify her. They were prepared to disband the congregation and sanctify the area, capturing the Leader but, when they arrived, the Temple they were using was already abandoned. The members of the House figure either it broke up on it's own or someone tipped the Leader off to what was going to happen. Either way, it's no longer in existence in that area."
"Hmmm," Derek said, obviously deep in thought. "I think that we should continue to have that one listed in our database ... just in case it should re-appear somewhere else."
"Right," Nick agreed.
"I notified all the appropriate Legacy Houses that we have an accurate and up-to-date database on the Satanic cults and offered our assistance if anyone needs it. Unless or until one surfaces in San Francisco, I think that's about all we can do in this matter."
"Goot job, Nick," Derek said in a very encouraging voice. He watched as the ex-SEAL appeared to get a little restless. Finally, he stated, "I don't know if you've made other plans for tonight or not, but I'd really appreciate your help on the art auction Alex and I will be bidding on tomorrow."
"I didn't make any plans for tonight," Nick answered, stressing the word "tonight".
Derek did pick up on the subtlely stressed word but decided not to inquire about it. It was best to leave Nick alone sometimes, and where this new woman was concerned, it was best if he left Nick alone. "Goot, then I'll count on you helping Alex and I prepare for the auction; we'll meet right after dinner."
Throughout dinner, it wasn't Nick who was the quiet one that night ... it was Philip. Derek decided that he would ask the young Priest about the silence later that night in privacy; he felt so relieved to see that Nick's attitude had seemed to have finally gotten back to normal -- and he didn't want to take any chances of it changing!
Alex had also been aware of Philip's unusual silence throughout dinner and she, too, had planned to talk about it with him. Instead of heading into the Library with Derek and Nick to discuss the art auction, she asked for a few minutes and followed Philip outside into the gardens. "All right," she said as she approached her friend, "what's up?"
Philip turned to Alex and, making sure that no one had followed her, sat down on the bench beside her. "It's about Nick and this woman ... Grace."
"I thought so," Alex replied. "What's wrong? You said last night that you liked her. Are you having second thoughts or something?"
Philip cleared his throat, unsure how to explain his feelings. He wasn't a psychic like she or Derek, but he did have a sense of good and evil ... and somehow he felt that, despite his first impression of Grace being a good one, there was something -- evil -- about her! "I know I said I liked her," he finally answered. "But I can't shake this feelin' that somethin's not right with her. She gave all the right answers t'our questions last night and that makes me a little nervous."
Alex laughed. "Answering correctly makes you nervous?! Sounds a little weird if you ask me, Philip."
"I know, Alex. But think about it. She didn't know we'd be askin' her all those kinda questions ... and we were being a little -- inquisitive ... but she didn't really get upset now, did she?! Most people'll get offended or defensive if strangers acted the way we did last night, askin' all those questions after just meetin' her -- but she didn't!" He sighed and then continued, "I don't know ... she just seemed a little too -- rehearsed -- fer me. And, I guess I'm just in this habit t'be watchin' out fer Nick and I can't seem t'stop."
They both laughed and sat together for several minutes, enjoying the companionship and camaraderie. Then Alex excused herself and went in to meet with Derek and Nick about the art auction. Philip remained in the garden, silently praying to God that he would be wrong about Grace!
Grace had been disappointed to learn that she wouldn't be seeing Nick that night. But, like Ariel said, she had to be patient if she truly want to win Nick's heart -- and she most certainly wanted to win it! She wrapped a cape around her shoulders and headed out along the docks. 'It's not exactly fair t'be expectin' m'flock t'be gatherin' the lost if I ain't willin' t'get out in the night air and do it m'self,' she thought as she walked around looking for any lost or lonely souls.
Just ahead, huddled by a some crates, she saw several young people gathered, bundled up against the night air, trying to stay warm. She grinned to herself and silently thanked Lucifer for His gift. She approached them, still smiling and said, "Hi y'all. Ya look cold an' tired. If yer interested, I could take ya to a place where ya could get yerselves all nice and warm. Ya could even get a bite t'eat, if yer interested!"
"Sure ... why not?!" the oldest of the teens said as he approached Grace. She led them to the Temple across from her apartment. 'My oh my,' she thought to herself as she led the others inside, 'things are surely turnin' m'way after all!'
The "art auction" meeting between Derek, Alex and Nick hadn't lasted long -- as Derek had suspected it wouldn't! -- and the Precept now went in search of Philip as Nick and Alex headed to their rooms for the night. He smiled to himself as he thought of Nick's contributions to the meeting -- or the lack thereof! He could always count on Nick's opinions to temper his and Alex's over-enthusiasm when it came to artwork; and tonight, Nick had done his job very well, convincing Derek and Alex to bid on only four pieces of art instead of their proposed nine.
Philip was sitting in the Library, quietly reading over an old manuscript when Derek approached. He could tell by the look on the young Priest's face that Philip had been expecting him. "That didn't take long, now did it?" Philip observed.
"Nick was in the art meeting," Derek pointed out. "I'm surprised it took this long!" They both laughed heartily, knowing that it wasn't at Nick's expense but their own expectations of him. Finally, Derek clapped the young man's shoulder and inquired, "What's wrong with you tonight? Anything I can do?"
Philip sighed deep and heavy before answering, "Same thing that's botherin' you -- about Nick's new ... friend. I liked her last night, but there's been somethin' about her ... somethin' that's been eatin' away at me all day."
"I know," Derek replied as he sat in a chair across from Philip. "I can't put my finger on what's wrong either, but I do know that something is."
Philip looked up, concern crossing his face. "What do ya mean by that?" he inquired. "I thought ya were just suspicious of 'er ... not that you were actually convinced that somethin' isn't right."
"I wasn't ... convinced last night. But, the more I think about the situation, the more ... uneasy I'm becoming about it," Derek answered, deep in thought. "I can't put my finger on what it is about her that troubles me, but I wish Nick wouldn't spend any more time with her ... at least not until we've had a chance to check her out more thoroughly first."
Hearing the concern in Derek's voice, Philip took a step back from the situation. He didn't want to believe that Nick could really be in any danger from this girl he had just met. He realized that he didn't really want to hear what Derek's feelings or suspicions were because that would make them seem more real. 'Why can't Grace just be a normal, ordinary woman?' his mind wanted to scream. Nick had been through so many hurtful and disappointing relationships; Philip just didn't want to think that his chosen brother was in a similar situation again. "Well," he resolved, "I suppose the smartest thing for us t'do would be t'not let Nick know how we're feelin'. In the meantime, I'll start runnin' a more thorough check o'Miss Grace Montgomery's past." With that, Philip rose to head out of the Library.
"Right now?" Derek asked, a little shock at Philip abruptness. "I mean, it could wait until morning you know."
"I'm not sure that it can, Derek," Philip stated matter-of-factly. "Besides, I assume Nick'll be around in the morning and I don't want him to see what I'm workin' on. It's best if I start right away ... especially if he's gonna be seein' her soon."
"He is," Derek answered the unspoken question. "Tomorrow night!" With that, he watched gratefully as Philip headed out to begin a more thorough investigation into the background of Nick's newest friend. Derek only hoped and prayed that he, Alex and Philip were wrong about her!
Nick was amazed at himself as he approached the House after his 15-mile run. He hardly felt winded at all! In fact, he felt as though he could just possibly run another 3 miles or so!! This was really unusual for him and he immediately thought about Grace. 'It must be because I'm gonna see Grace later tonight,' he mused. 'Oh man, she's really getting to me!' He entered the House and headed up to take a quick shower. He wanted to make sure that he got all his work done early today so that there would be no question about his going out tonight. To his own surprise, he noticed he was actually whistling in the shower!
Grace smiled to herself as she rose out of bed in the morning. She knew that she would be seeing Nick tonight and the thought made her heart race. 'Yes, indeed,' she thought with glee as she made herself a pot of coffee. 'Last night, I got me three more recruits fer the Church, an' tonight I'm gonna be seein' the man o'my dreams.' "Ariel was right," she said aloud. "Ever'thin' is gonna work out just fine. Glory be!" She jumped in the shower, humming to herself, hardly able to contain her anticipation for that evening!
"My don't you look happy today," Alex observed as Nick walked into the kitchen for breakfast. "Looking forward to working on the computer all day?!"
Nick laughed at Alex's casual question. "No," he replied with a mischievous smirk on his face. "I've got plans later tonight."
"With Grace?" she asked, without anything implicational in her tone.
Nick, however, felt that there was something there and turned sharply towards her. "Yeah, with Grace," he replied abruptly. "Something wrong with that?!"
Alex could immediately see that Nick was ready to take the defensive and wondered what had "set him off" by such a simple question. She tried her best to dismiss her concern and keep her voice even as she answered, "Nothing's wrong with that. I was just making conversation; you don't have to bite my head off!"
Nick realized from the expression on Alex's face and the tone of her words that he had over-reacted. 'God, what's wrong with me lately?!' he wondered to himself. "Sorry," he said as he sat next to his friend and associate. "It's just ... well, Derek's got me being a little 'defensive' about my personal life. I didn't mean t'take it out on you."
"That's all right," Alex assured Nick. "No harm done. Just ... chill out a little, okay? You've been through a lot where women are concerned -- first losing Julia like that and then that situation with Karen. It's just ... well, we care about you, Nick. That's all. So just ... take it easy, okay?!"
Nick smiled at Alex's summation of the situation. "Yeah," he assured her. "I'll be careful ... promise." With that, Nick left the kitchen, taking only a cup of coffee with him, having lost his appetite during his and Alex's conversation.
Ariel stayed trapped in her mirrored world, awaiting Grace's presence to release her. She now understood that the time was ripe for Grace to get the man of her dreams as well as give Satan an opportunity to destroy one of the most successful Legacy Houses in existence -- the one here in San Francisco! She had communicated with the Almighty One and understood now that, if Grace were ever to be able to influence Nick away from the others, Lucifer had ordained that now was that time! She must convince Grace ... it was time to move things forward in a more swift and steadfast manner. They must begin tonight!
Kat knocked firmly on Nick's bedroom door. Her mother had told her that she could come out to Angel Island today and play at the House while the rest of the Legacy members worked. Noting Nick's absence in the Library and Control Room, she had finally tracked him down in his bedroom. "Come in," she heard him call through the door.
"Hi!" she shouted as she bounded in his room and pounced onto his bed. She noticed that he was standing in front of the mirror, taking a long, hard look at himself. "Whatcha doin'?" she asked, clearly curious as Nick's behavior.
He smiled at her through the reflection in the mirror and adjusted his pullover until it fit just perfectly across his broad shoulders. "Gettin' ready for a date," he told her. He was amused at the shocked expression on her face and turned to look at her. "What's wrong? Don't I look all right?!"
"Yeah," she answered, cautiously. "It's just ... well, I didn't know you ... went out on dates. That's all."
Nick couldn't help but laugh out loud. He saw that the laughter seemed to upset Kat and he immediately stopped. He went over to the bed and sat down beside his special friend. "Hey," he started, "I was just teasing. It just ... sounded funny that you didn't think I went out on dates. 'That's all'."
She looked up into his smiling face and returned the grin. "Well, you don't go on 'em very much ... do you," she noted. "I was just surprised."
Nick smiled broader and leaned down close to Kat's ear. "I'll let ya in on a secret, Kiddo ... I am too!" Noting that she appeared fine, Nick walked back over to the mirror to finish getting ready. He watched her in the reflection as he said, "So, what do you think? I look okay?!"
Kat walked over to the dresser and grinned up at him as she replied, "You look great!" She noticed one of Nick's guns sitting on top of the dresser and asked, "You're not gonna take that on your date, are you?!"
Nick noticed the gun and immediately moved it out of Kat's reach. He hadn't thought about the fact that he did indeed plan to place it near the small of his back where he usually wore it; however, he quickly dismissed any wonderings why by remembering that he had worn it two nights ago -- the night he had spent with Grace -- and Grace hadn't either realized it or commented about it. "I don't know," he answered Kat honestly. "I didn't really think about it too much; I just usually make sure I have it handy."
"But on a date?!" Kat pressed. "Sounds weird t'me," she finished as she headed for the door. "Have a good time, Nick. See ya later."
"See ya," Nick responded as he finished his preparations for his evening with Grace. Unconsciously, he picked up the revolver and placed it where he usually did -- at the small of his back and always within reach!
Grace was surprised to note how anxious Ariel acted when she approached the antique mirror. Instead of waiting for Grace to stand full in front of it, Ariel had already began her manifestation as Grace was approaching it. "My oh my, aren't we anxious and excited today," Grace observed playfully. "Ya know what I did last night ...."
"I know all about the recruits you gathered last night, Grace," Ariel cut her off, disappointing her human counterpart. "Listen," she said, more gently this time, "There's a lot we need to discuss ... about Nick and the people he works with. It's going to be time to bring him into the fold ... soon, Grace!"
"Hear me," Ariel forcefully snapped. "There's much to do! It's time to start organizing and utilizing the disciples we've gathered. It's time that they begin to do His bidding. Start today with a small sacrifice; that'll weed out any non-believers." The reddish glow began to surround Ariel as she inquired, "You're seeing Nick tonight, aren't you?"
"Yes," Grace stammered. "He's suppose t'be comin' by later this evenin' t'go t'dinner."
"Excellent," Ariel exclaimed. "Prepare dinner for him instead. And, Grace," she starred long and hard at her counterpart as their souls started to intermingle. "Use that special 'herb' we have from back home; the one I taught you about. It's time the Master and I ... help you acquire the man that you love." As the Grace-Ariel figure now stood before the mirror, the two spirits in the one body, she completed her statement, "And it's time to destroy The Legacy ... for once and for all!"
Grace watched as some of her flock ... a very few ... had exited the temple when she had ordered her following to bring forth an animal sacrifice and place it on the alter. 'So be it,' she thought as she watched them go. 'Lucifer will deal with you in His own time!' She was pleased to note that the majority of the congregation had stayed and watched as several of the stronger members brought forth a small dog and laid it on the alter, holding it's feet and head.
She raised the knife high above her head, shouting, "May this blood be a welcome sacrifice to our Lord and Master. May he find this offering pleasing and bless us for it!" Chants of "Glory be to Satan ... glory be!" began to rise from the believers still kneeling by the pews. As a fierce wind began to blow around her, Grace continued, "Accept the blood of this innocent animal," she shouted up at the growing wind. "And give us the strength to defeat your enemies." As she plunged down with the knife, tearing through the heart of the whining animal, she exclaimed, "GLORY BE TO SATAN ... GLORY BE!"
Derek, Alex and Rachel sat in the Library going over their successes -- and failures -- in the art auction they had just finished. Kat walked in and sat quietly next to her mother. Rachel observed how solemn Kat seemed and asked, "Is something wrong, Sweetheart? You look upset."
"No," Kat answered in a quiet and meek voice. "I was just hoping that Nick could go for a walk or somethin' with me later. But he's getting ready to go out on a date." She noticed that Derek and Alex had both looked up at her at the moment. "Is anything wrong?" Kat asked.
"Not at all," Derek assured the young lady, noting the nervousness that was beginning to come over here. "We just didn't know that Nick was going out for sure. He told you about it?"
"He just said that he had a date with some lady he met," answered Kat. "He sure is trying to look good for her, though."
Rachel laughed at the innocent comment. "What do you mean, Katherine?" she asked simply.
"Well, he's making sure his shirt fits just right and he kept asking me how he looked. I told him he looked great, but he just kept fussing with his hair and stuff anyway." Kat noticed the silence among the adults in the room and figured that everything must just be over her head about dating. "Where's Philip?" she asked, changing the subject. "Maybe he'll go for a walk with me."
Alex quickly stepped up saying, "Philip is busy working on a research project for Derek, but I'd be happy to go for a nice long walk with you ... if you want." She took Kat's hand and, with a glance back at Derek and Rachel, headed outside.
Grace placed her ceremonial garb into a tub of ice-cold water to remove the blood stains around the sleeves. She dressed and then pulled a chair over in front of her antique mirror. "They" had much to discuss, she knew! As a reddish glow came over Grace and her image in the mirror, Ariel's presence once again appeared in the mirror -- at it's rightful place. Grace sat in the chair, awaiting further instruction from her friend and spiritual guide.
"Well done!" Ariel exclaimed. "That was a very successful meeting. In a day or two, He will be wanting a 'human' sacrifice -- the blood of an innocent child." Grace nodded her head in understanding. All she really wanted to hear about was Nick! "Listen to me!" Ariel interrupted Grace's wandering thoughts. "You must heed our Master!"
"I'm sorry," apologized Grace. Very rarely did Ariel ever get upset with Grace, but when she did, it really frightened the young woman. "I know I should be payin' more attention," she explained. "But I'm just so confused."
"About what?" Ariel asked, trying to withhold her impatience.
"Well, about whatcha were sayin' about makin' Nick the 'special' dinner ... ya know ... with the 'herb'?! It's just ... the other day, ya warned me that I gotta be patient with 'im and now here yer ....."
"I know what I said," snapped Ariel, interrupting Grace's explanation. "But the Master has informed me that we don't have much time. Apparently, the Legacy is investigating cults even as we speak. It's only a matter of time before they track ours here to San Francisco. Remember the trouble we had with the New Orleans' group?!" She watched as Grace nodded her head. "Well, this group of people ... Nick included! ... are far more dangerous then they were! So, if you truly want Nick ..." she watched as Grace nodded her head more firmly. "... then we have to act now!!"
As Nick was heading to the door to leave, he heard Rachel calling him. He turned to see her hurrying up. "Well," she commented playfully, "Kat was right ... you do look great!" She smiled as Nick seemed to almost blush from the compliment. "So you're going out with Grace again tonight?"
"Don't start, Rach," warned Nick. "I've had just about enough of everyone around here telling me who I can and cannot see. I'm not twelve years old anymore, and I'm really starting to resent ....."
"Now hold on a minute," Rachel interrupted. "I wasn't going to say anything about Grace. I was only asking if that's who you were taking out." She watched as Nick's expression softened. Stepping up closer to him, adjusting his jacket collar, she quietly commented, "Ya know, Nick, you're acting very defensive about this whole thing." Seeing he was about to protest, she pressed on, "Listen ... just hear me out. This isn't you, Nick. It's almost as though you're looking for reasons to argue with us or keep us at arms reach. And, I think that Grace is just another tool that you're using."
"I care about her," Nick protested. "Do you honestly think I'd just use a woman like that?!"
"No," Rachel explained, "that's not what I'm saying. But you have to admit, Nick, that you've been behaving really ... moody ... lately -- even before you met Grace."
Rachel had zoned in on Nick's own thoughts earlier; and this bothered the ex-SEAL even more because it gave weight and substance to them. He looked in her eyes, seeing the caring and concern there and quickly looked away. Finally, he admitted, "I know I've been ... 'moody' ... lately and to be honest with you, Rach, I don't know why. Ya know, everyone gets bored and restless from time to time ... I just seem to get that way more often than other people. I just get ... antsy ... like this sometimes; it's not a big deal."
"It is a big deal if it influences your course of action in a rash or thoughtless manner," Rachel said, gently. "I'd really like it if we could sit down tomorrow and discuss this. Will you do that for me?"
Nick looked long and hard at the psychiatrist. She was always wanting to get in -- to figure him out. He knew that it was because she cared, but he just wasn't ready to share that much of himself ... not yet at least. "I don't think so," he answered honestly. "I think it's best if I deal with this myself. But thanks ... thanks for offering."
"Well, I'm always here ... if you need me, Nick." With that, she watched as her friend headed out the door.
Nick could smell the food cooking long before he knocked on Grace's apartment door. 'What's she up to?' he wondered. 'I thought I told her I'd take her out tonight.' A part of him -- that part that would now and always be a trained Naval SEAL commando -- felt suspicious and ill-at-ease, but he quickly dismissed those feelings when Grace opened the door.
She looked beautiful! She was dressed in a white flowing top that buttoned in back -- very sexy and seductive! -- and a tight pair of black jeans. Her golden hair was tied back into a loose and flowing ponytail and he loved how it was falling and gently framing her face. Grace smiled broadly and happily at Nick and escorted him, taking his jacket and hanging it in the nearby closet.
"I hope ya don't mind," Grace explained, noting Nick's glance toward her kitchen. "I just thought I'd cook us supper tonight. I'm a pretty fair cook ... lucky fer you. Besides, I sorta wanted t'keep ya all fer m'self this evenin'. I hope ya didn't have yer heart set on goin' out."
"No," Nick answered, walking into the apartment, "I'm just surprised, that's all." He could feel that part inside him -- that part that now and always would be a Naval SEAL commando -- become suspicious of Grace's real motives for keeping him at the apartment. He promptly dismissed these thoughts as he gazed into her eyes and smiled back. "So, what're we having?"
Grace, relieved that she would have to try no other tactics in order to convince Nick to stay in, smiled broader as she replied, "I'm makin' my specialty -- it's a baked chicken covered with my own blend o'herbs and spices. Nearly a blue-ribbon winner at the local fair back home! An' o'course we're having a freshly tossed salad, an' green vegetables ... a real, down-home kinda meal."
"Sounds great," Nick responded enthusiastically. 'And smells pretty great, too,' he thought, relieved. It has been a long time since a woman had prepared a meal for him and he remembered how hard it was sometimes to choke down -- literally -- someone's cooking at times. He didn't think he'd have that problem with Grace's, though.
"Good," Grace replied, as she headed into the kitchen. "I'm just gonna check on the chicken ... see how long we've got before it'll be ready."
Nick walked to the window, looking down in the street. He was amazed at how suddenly happy and content he felt -- almost as though he were at peace with himself and the world. 'Grace is really something special,' he thought to himself as he stared at an object below him. His thoughts faded as he took a closer look at the building across the street. He never heard Grace approach and jumped when she touched his shoulder.
"Hey there," she said, suddenly alarmed. "You okay?! I didn't mean t'spook ya." She noticed he was staring with a ponderous look on his face at the building below. "Somethin' wrong?"
"It's that old church down there," Nick replied absently. "It's been boarded up for years."
"So, it looks like it's open now," Nick responded, still lost in his thoughts. "I didn't notice that last night. I wonder how long it's been open."
"I think it was open when I got here," Grace replied, a little nervous at Nick's tone of voice. "Does it matter?"
"I don't know," Nick responded, still staring at the building, watching for any activity. "I guess not."
"Good," returned Grace, as she wrapped her arms firmly around Nick, turning him towards her. "Because I had other things in mind rather than starin' down at some musty ol' church all night."
"Oh yeah," Nick smiled, wrapping his own arms around Grace's tender frame. "Such as?"
"Well now, the chicken's gonna be bakin' at least another hour an' so I figured we could spend the time workin' up a little ... appetite." Grace locked her lips to Nick's, pressing with all the passion she had been keeping bottled up inside. She could feel his excitement rising as their tongues explored each other's mouths.
Nick felt a course of electricity flow through his body at her passionate and sensual kiss. 'I can't believe this happening,' his mind screamed at him. He could feel himself being torn in so many different directions and he closed his eyes tighter, refusing to focus on anything but Grace and the intensity that they shared.
She slowly broke the kiss, took Nick's hand and led him to the bedroom. As she closed the door behind them, she said, "I surely do want ya, Nick ... something fierce." With that, she leaped into his arms, knocking them both back onto the bed. Grace knew what would happen after Nick ate the chicken with 'the herb' on it -- that he would be in a catatonic state, susceptible to suggestion -- and she wanted their next session of lovemaking to be free and full of reckless abandon. Then ... then ... she would do as Ariel had directed her -- and Nick would be hers ... forever!
Philip rushed into the dining room, spotting only Derek, Alex, Rachel and Kat seated around the table. "Where's Nick?" he inquired, without bothering to acknowledge Kat's or Rachel's presence.
"He went out," Derek explained. "He had another date with Grace for this evening. Why?" Derek had noted the anxious look on Philip's face and felt his own heart skip a beat. Philip had learned something about Grace ... Derek was certain of that!
Philip looked again at the table, this time realizing that Kat and Rachel were present. He smiled and sat down, casually so as not to alarm Kat. He poured himself a cup of coffee from the pitcher on the table and looked both to Alex and then Derek. "Well," he replied, trying to sound as relaxed as he was trying to look. "Whenever you've got a minute, Derek, I'd like t'update you on that research I was doin'."
Derek rose, placing his napkin across his half-eaten plate. "If you'll excuse me," he said, glancing at the three "women". "This can't wait." He and Philip immediately headed into his office, closing the door behind them. "What'd you find out, Philip? It can't be good judging from the look on your face."
"It isn't," Philip replied sincerely. "I told you the other day that all I could do was verify Grace's story about working in a dress shop in Mobile an' that I couldn't find anythin' else on 'er." Derek nodded in agreement. "I still couldn't find anythin' in the computer, so I went back to the original information and made some phone calls to Alabama."
"And?" asked Derek, a sense of dread and foreboding take possession of his soul. "What did you find out?"
"For one thing, Grace didn't come straight t'San Francisco from Alabama if she really only got here a few days ago," he answered.
"What do you mean?"
"I was able to track down some past employees from that dress shop an' they told me that Grace had left Mobile about two years ago." He locked eyes with Derek as he stated, "An' their reaction was 'good riddance to nothin' but trouble.'"
Derek sat silently for a few minutes, absorbing what the young Priest had told him. He tried to rationalize the situation, thinking that that still wasn't any proof that Nick was in any kind of danger from this woman. "Go on," he finally commented. "Did they say why they made that comment?"
"I asked 'em an' they said that the woman was ... in their exact words -- EVIL! They told me that she caused nothin' but trouble and that most folks stayed away from her. They also said that she was the reason the dress shop had ended up closing -- because nobody wanted t'do business where she worked."
"Did they say why people thought she was ... evil?"
"No," Philip answered. "Just that most folks were afraid of 'er. Derek, I know that this doesn't sound like much but I'm really worried about Nick. I think that we should tell 'im what we've learned ... maybe have him talk to these people himself so that ...."
"And exactly how do we explain to him that we've been checking up on her?!" Derek pointed out. He shook his head. "No, unless we can show Nick something concrete, I'm afraid we can't risk mentioning any of this to him. The only thing we can do is try to keep him away from her by any legitimate means we can find. Did anyone you talk to know where Grace went when she left Mobile?"
Philip shrugged, "Only one of 'em ... they said they thought she had headed toward New Orleans."
Nick was amazed that the force of passion between he and Grace was even stronger than it had been a few days ago. He marveled at her excitement and eagerness, so use to taking it slowly and cautiously with others. As they tore the clothes off themselves and one another, he could feel the heat of his own excitement and could barely contain himself.
As the came together, the intensity exploded between them. Nick's burning desire for Grace was unleashed and their passion was uncontrollable! With each pulsing beat of their bodies, they became more and more animalistic -- violent and urgent in their needs, not caring about the others. Nick had never experienced such a total abandonment before and found that he was enjoying it thoroughly. The stamina and eroticism that Grace brought to her sexual style only made her more desirable to the ex-SEAL. It didn't matter if their relationship was only physical for now ... that was enough!
Grace rose her head, cocking it toward the doorway. "Did ya hear that?" she asked, slightly out of breath from all her physical exertion. Nick shook his head that he hadn't. She started to rise off her lover and was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was holding her in place. "I think that was the timer," she explained, slapping at his hands. "The chicken's probably ready." She rose, covering herself with her nearby kimono.
She turned at the doorway, noting that Nick was still lying in bed. "Well, c'mon Nick," she said, "aren't ya comin'?"
"That's what I was trying to do!" Nick exclaimed with a mischievous grin on his face. He rose, tossing on his jeans, astonished at the fact that he was really so happy. "But I suppose I did work up quite an appetite," he acknowledged, walking with her to the kitchen. "You are truly an amazing woman, Grace."
As she began to prepare plates for herself and Nick -- making sure to give him the chicken breast with the special 'herb' on it -- she replied, "An' don't you go fergettin' that fact, Mr. Boyle!"
"So, what'd ya think?" Grace anxiously asked after Nick's fourth bite of her baked chicken. "Do ya like it?"
"Yeah," he answered enthusiastically after he had swallowed the bite he was eating. And he really did like it. In fact, he barely touched the white wine she had poured with dinner to wash it down with. "It's really good," he reinforced. "I can see why it'd win ribbons for you. Where'd you learn to cook like this?"
"Well, my Momma died when I was very young, so my Daddy brought in a Negro woman from one o'the poorer parts o'town. She taught me how t'cook an' ... well, she taught me all kinds o'things. She was like a momma t'me an' I just hated it when she moved away. But she left me the most beautiful antique mirror. I've had it all m'life ... it's m'most prized possession."
Nick glanced around the room, noting it's absence. He hadn't taken a very close look at anything in the bedroom besides the bed, so it was possible that the mirror was in there, but he didn't think so. "Where is it?" he asked, taking another bite of chicken.
"It's around," Grace answered nonchalantly. "I'll show it t'ya sometime ... maybe even later t'night." She, too, took another bite of her chicken. 'My oh my,' she thought, 'I truly hope his tastes as good as mine does.' She began feeling a bit nervous about the dosage of the herb she had placed on Nick's chicken. The last time she had used it -- on a member of the New Orleans Legacy House to be exact! -- she had measured it just right. But Nick was a very strong-willed person and she had added a bit more to the mixture. She only hoped she had gotten it right and that the amount wouldn't hurt him!
Nick sat on Grace's couch with his head between his knees. He had begun feeling woosy during the last portion of their dinner and had refused any desert. His mind had felt fuzzy and he did his best to fight the feeling. But, as time wore on, he found it more and more difficult to think straight. Finally, he had gotten up and made it -- with Grace's help -- over to her sofa where he was trying to gather his thoughts. Somehow, he knew he was losing the fight.
"You okay?" Grace asked for sixth time. She was genuinely concerned at how pale Nick had looked when he first tried to walk over to the couch. She had quickly rushed to his side and helped him sit, knowing that soon, the drug would take full effect. Grace could only hope that she hadn't overdone it and that there would be no ill side effects after it wore off. She leaned down and tried to help Nick lift his head. "Nick ... I said ... are you okay?"
When his eyes met hers, she recognized the blank stare in them. She quickly checked his pulse and found that it was beating at a normal pace. Relieved, she went and got both their jackets out of the closet. Grace placed his leather coat beside him and said, "Put this on, Nick. We're gonna go fer a walk." She smiled as he rose and did as she had told him too. 'Ariel was right ... ever'thin's gonna be workin' out just fine,' she assured herself as she led Nick down the stairs and across to her Temple.
"So this is your Nick!" exclaimed Ariel as the reddish glow around her burned brightly. "He is all you said he was," she observed with a smile. "Turning him to the dark side and having him help bring down the all-powerful San Francisco Legacy House will truly please our Master, Grace."
Grace smiled at Ariel's approval. "What does he command?" she asked her counterpart, eager to please Him; after all, she was getting the man she had been promised -- the man of her dreams! -- the least she could do was whatever he directed.
"He wishes to have a sacrifice ... a child of innocence, purity and strength ... by tomorrow. Later, I will give you the name and location of the child so that our flock can ... acquire her. For now," Ariel continued, glancing over at Nick. "We must begin to ... inspire him to join us." With that said, the reddish glow surrounded Grace and the combining and transferring of souls was once again complete.
"Nick," Grace whispered in the young man's ear. "Can you hear me?"
"Yes," he answered simply and robotically.
"Good," she stated. "Listen very carefully and answer when I prompt you to. Is that understood?"
"Yes," he repeated.
"I know that you want to be with me, Nick; but I want that desire to overwhelm and grow even stronger within you. I also know that you've been ... unhappy ... lately -- with your position and responsibilities at The Legacy. That, too, will grow within you. Your discontent will lead you quit the organization ... tomorrow. Is that understood?"
A perplexed look crossed Nick's face as he stammered, "But, I ....."
"You will quit the organization tomorrow!" the Grace-Ariel being stated more forcefully. "There is no choice for you now, Nick. You will join us." In a softer tone she asked, "You do want to be with me, don't you, Nick?"
"Yes," he answered, once again surely and robotically.
"Then you know what you must do!" was the simple command.
Grace smiled, cruel and maliciously. "You will join me in doing Satan's work ... you are long overdue in serving Him, Nick. Tomorrow, you will resign your position with The Legacy and, by the afternoon, shall stand by my side at the alter where we will make our pact together to serve Lucifer. Do you understand?"
Nick stood silent, but only for a moment. He reluctantly answered, "Yes."
"Anything I can do?" Alex asked, as she walked into Derek's office. Philip had left Derek alone with his thoughts, himself retiring to his room to think over the situation. "Here," Alex continued, "I brought you some coffee."
"Thank you," Derek replied, solemnly.
"Was it about Grace and Nick?" she asked. Derek looked up at his young protégé once again pleased at her intuitiveness. He nodded his head. "What're we going to do?"
"I don't know," answered Derek, again sounding very distraught. Then, looking up and realizing that he had never finished dinner, he asked, "Are Rachel and Kat still here?"
"No," Alex responded. "Kat has a gymnastics class tomorrow and Rachel figured -- with everything going on around here with Nick and all -- that she better take Kat home for the rest of the weekend. She did say that if we needed her help with anything to call. So, what'd Philip find out?"
"Not very much, but enough to be disturbing. It seems that Grace left the Mobile, Alabama area over a year ago."
"A year ago?" Alex inquired, clearly shocked. "The way she talked, I thought she had come straight from there."
"Yes," Derek commented, "that's how she made it sound. But Philip called some of her former associates at that dress shop she worked in and they stated that she had left more than a year ago."
"Where did she go?"
"Someone told Philip that they thought she was headed to New Orleans. Philip's going to try checking on that. But most of the facts surrounding Miss Grace Montgomery seem sketchy at best."
Alex thought long and hard and then inquired, "Was that it?"
"No," Derek answered. "The people Philip talked to also claimed that there was something ... evil ... about Grace and that that was the reason the dress shop ended up closing; for lack of business."
"Evil?" Alex repeated the word. "They actually said the word ... evil?"
"What're we gonna do, Derek? We've got to find a way to warn Nick." Then she added more thoughtfully, "But how are we going to do it without upsetting him?!"
"That's the problem," Derek replied slowly. "That's the problem!"
Nick was surprised to find himself in Grace's bed when he awoke. The last thing he had remembered, was sitting at the table enjoying that delicious dinner Grace had prepared. As he started to rise, he realized that he had a tremendous headache.
"Well, good mornin', sleepy head," Grace greeted Nick cheerfully. "I's beginnin' t'wonder if ya were ever gonna wake up!" This had been true. During the evening Grace was very concerned at how "out of it" Nick had appeared after their little "session" at the Church. "Ya got time fer some breakfast or do ya need t'be headin' back t'work."
Nick glanced at the clock, stunned to note that it was already 8:30. Usually he had been for a 15-mile-run, showered and had breakfast by now! He started to rise again, and once again was hit by the force of the headache.
"Yer not lookin' t'good there, Nick," Grace noted with concern lacing her voice. "Would ya like some aspirin or somethin'?"
"Yeah," he answered curtly. "And then I gotta go. I'm late already." Noting the look of disappointment on her face, he added, "But, I'll call ya later! Maybe we could get together again tonight."
'Oh we will be m'love,' she thought gleefully to herself. "I's just disappointed that I can't make ya some breakfast ... that's all," Grace replied. "I make a mean ham 'n cheese omelet."
"I just bet you do!" Nick stated, thinking of that scrumptious meal from the previous night. But, a part of him, also felt repulsed at the thought of food right now. "I really do gotta go. Call ya later," he shouted over his shoulder as he headed out of the apartment and back to The Legacy.
"Glory be to Satan ..." the congregation shouted as Grace took her place at the alter. "Glory be!" The multitude then took their seats, anxiously awaiting the word.
"Our Master has a command for us," she stated with enthusiasm and excitement. "We are to offer Him another gift; this time, a more meaningful sacrifice ... that of an innocent child."
The followers in the congregation ... no longer appalled at Satan's requests ... answered this statement with their continued incantation of "Glory be to Satan ... Glory be!" They chanted ceaselessly until Grace rose her hands for silence.
"My brothers and sisters. He has provided the name and location of the child He wishes us to present to Him. Her name is ... Katherine Corrigan!"
"Glory be to Katherine ... glory be!" shouted the congregational mass.
"Yes, my disciples! He has ordained and blessed this child as His chosen gift!! You can find Katherine Corrigan at the Bay Area Civic Center. She will be there taking a gymnastics class. She was to go to a friend's house after the class. When you take her, you must not make others suspicious. It is not yet time to reveal ourselves to the City ... or its residents. Go now! And bring the child back here by 3:00. We shall then proceed with the ceremonial sacrifice. GLORY BE TO SATAN!" she shouted in conclusion.
"Glory be!" they answered, as they headed out to kidnap Kat.
Nick was relieved to see that neither Derek, Alex nor Philip were near the entryway of the House when he returned. He quietly went to his room, took a quick shower -- and a few more aspirins for his splitting headache! -- changed and then headed to the Control Room to see what kind of work he could do. He found that he dreaded going in there for some reason; he was just so tired of being relegated to mindless research when he had so many other skills to offer! Entering the Control Room, Nick felt angry and out-of-sorts.
And his anger was about to increase! As he headed over to one of the computer terminals, he spied a pad of paper lying near the phone. Very rarely did any of the Legacy members leave their notes behind and he was intrigued on what might have been so recklessly abandoned. He picked up the pad of paper and immediately recognized Philip's handwriting.
As Nick studied the page, he could feel the rage growing within him. There, scattered all over the sheet of paper, were telephone numbers -- with the Alabama area code! 'They're checking up on Grace,' his mind screamed at him. 'They don't trust her and they don't trust you!' He threw the pad across the room and headed out to find Derek and Philip, knowing that it was the two of them behind this!
Finding all three of his associates -- Alex, Derek and Philip -- in the kitchen, Nick burst in and demanded, "Just what the Hell did you think you were doing?!" All three Legacy members looked up at Nick, shock clearly written on their faces. This, however, did not sway Nick's anger. A part of him -- deep inside -- knew that he was acting irrationally and tried to stop himself; but that part was losing it's struggle.
"What're you talking about?" Derek asked, overcoming his shock and himself getting angry at Nick's tone of voice.
"You know damn well what I'm talking about!" Nick countered. "You and Philip have been checking up on Grace! I saw Philip's notepad in the Control Room with all the Alabama numbers on it. What give you the right to be checking up on her?!"
Derek could tell that Nick's anger was raging out of control and he immediately became concerned for the young man. In a gentler tone, he stated, "Nick, if you just calm down, we can explain this to you. Philip and I ...."
"Were prying into my life ... as usual," Nick spit. "An' I'm sick of it, Derek! Ya know, my father always was prying into my life ... never letting me do anything on my own -- always wanting to control me. And now, you're trying to do the same thing he did!"
Derek resented Nick's comparing him to Jonathan Boyle after having learned of how his former friend had abused both Miranda and Nick. He pushed down his own anger, however, in order to try to reach the troubled young man. "Listen to me," he said, firmly but without any threat in his tone, "I realize you're upset about this, but no one is trying to control you, Nick. We're only trying to look out for you. There's something ... wrong ... with Grace ...."
"Only because you want there to be!" Nick responded. He could feel the resentment and anger blowing itself out of proportion within him, but he was powerless to stop what he was doing or saying.
"Nick," Alex called, trying to get her partner's attention, "Nobody wanted there to be anything wrong with Grace; but the truth of the matter is, she hasn't been honest about where she came from."
"What to do you mean?" questioned Nick, suddenly directing his anger toward his female associate. "Are you trying to tell me that she isn't from Alabama?!"
"That's not what I'm saying," Alex gently countered. "I'm just saying that she led us to believe she came here straight from Alabama and she didn't. She spent about a year or more in New Orleans first."
"So what!" Nick shouted, feeling the blind rage overcome him. "That still doesn't give any of you the right to interfere in my life!" Sensing that he was about to explode if he didn't end this soon, Nick spat back, "That's it ... I've had it! I don't belong here. I've been restless and unhappy for a long time and now I realize why -- I just don't belong here!"
Realizing what Nick was implying, Derek became even more concerned. "Now wait a minute, Nick," he tried to assure the ex-SEAL. "I understand that your angry and confused right now, but that's no reason to quit. You are a part of the Legacy, Nick. It's where you belong!"
Sounding more rational and calmer than he felt, Nick slowly answered Derek, stating, "No ... it's where I tried to belong, Derek." The sadness and dejection in his tone, made the others ache for their troubled partner. Nick continued, stating, "I wanted to belong with the Legacy, but I don't. I guess I'm more like my old man than I wanted to be. He belonged in Hell ... and so do I!" With that, Nick quickly exited the House that had been his home for nearly four years, certain that he'd never return again!
The young woman walked up to the mother the teacher had pointed out to her. "Hello," she said in a warm and friendly voice. "I'm Katherine's babysitter. I'm afraid she won't be able to go home with your daughter after gymnastics class because an emergency has come up and I have to take her straight home."
"Oh dear," the young mother exclaimed, "I hope it's nothing too serious."
"Not at all," the woman assured the anxious mother. "I just need to take Katherine home now. I'll have her call your little girl in a day or two and I'm sure they can get together then."
"All right," the young mother said, sounding calmer. "Please tell Dr. Corrigan to call me if she needs anything."
"I'll do that," the young stranger stated, as she walked into the gymnasium area in search of Kat. She spotted the child -- having had her pointed out to her earlier by another little girl -- and walked over to her. "Hello Katherine," the young woman said, happily. "My name is Rhonda and I'm a friend of your Mommy's. She wanted me to pick you up and bring you right home. I'm afraid you're going to have to miss your gymnastics class today."
Kat looked up at the stranger, confused. Her mother had dropped her off only a half-hour earlier ... why would she have sent this stranger to pick her up? Concerned, she asked, "Is Mommy all right? Has something happened?"
"Your Mommy is just fine," Rhonda assured Kat. "But there's a problem with another friend of hers whose in trouble. She's gone to help them and wanted me to make sure you got home safe and sound. Shall we go?"
"It's Nick, isn't it?!" Kat exclaimed, thinking of how she had been feeling worried about her friend. "Is he in trouble?"
Rhonda, not sure how else to get the child to go with her, answered, "Yes, he is. And your Mommy has gone off to help him. If you're good and leave with me right now, I'll take you to where they are ... all right?" With that, Kat placed her hand trustingly in the young lady's and proceeded out of the Civic Center.
As they approached the van that Rhonda had arrived in, Kat began to get nervous. Something about this woman didn't feel right to her and she began to struggle out of the stranger's grip. At that moment, two men jumped out of the van and picked the little girl up. As she struggled and tried to scream for help, they placed a cloth over her face and Katherine quickly lost consciousness. The van tore away, carrying it's precious cargo.
Nick knew that he was heading to the old Church across from Grace's apartment, but he wasn't sure why. He felt an inner struggle taking place within him, but it was one he continually lost. As he parked his Mustang in front of the Church, he was surprised to find himself heading around to the back. 'It's as if I've been here before,' he thought to himself. 'What's happening to me?!' his mind wanted to scream.
As he entered the back of the building, he saw Grace, donning a beautiful, flowing white robe. His heart leapt at the sight of her, feeling that he was once again safe and at home where he belonged. All thoughts and doubts about what he had done -- about quitting his work for The Legacy -- escaped his mind as he stared at the breathtaking vision.
Grace turned and smiled at her lover. She could see the effects of the herbs he had eaten still prominent within him and her smile broadened. Today would she have everything she ever wanted ... the man of her dreams and the ability to serve Satan in a tremendous way. 'My oh my,' she thought to herself, 'this is gonna be a very special day!' She approached Nick, taking his hand in hers and led him to the antique mirror.
"I'm so glad yer here, my Darlin'," Grace said to Nick as she uncovered the mirror. "I've been so anxious t'show ya m'most prized possession. This is the mirror that I've had ever since I was a little girl. It's very precious t'me, Nick ... just like you are!" She stood before it and her mirrored image began to transform to that of Ariel. Behind the woman in the mirror was a reddish glow.
Nick stood back, stunned by what he was witnessing. Both Grace and Ariel noticed the young man's reaction and Ariel spoke out at him. "Don't be afraid," she assured her human counterpart's friend and lover. "I would never hurt you, Nick. You're very special to Grace -- which means you're very special to me!" Nick moved closer to the mirror, still shocked but also a little intrigued at what he was seeing.
"Who ... are ... you?" he stammered. He could feel a portion of himself trying to break free, but he also felt the other half of him being held by this mysterious creature. "What do you want?"
Ariel smiled maliciously at the young man. "Why I only want Grace's happiness, of course!" She replied, smiling at Grace. "And the two things that would make Grace happiest is to have you always by her side, and to do our Master's bidding. So, I am here to help her accomplish these goals!"
Nick felt his blood turn cold when he heard the words "our Master's bidding". He turned to Grace, hurt, confusion and anger crossing his face. "You're part of a Satanic cult ... aren't you?!" he exclaimed. He found that he would've been laughing had the situation not been so precarious. Here he had been -- complaining about updating the Satanic cult database back at The Legacy, when he was dating one of it's members!
"I'm not a part of a cult," Grace explained, moving closer to Nick, wrapping her arms around him in comfort. "I'm a leader of a cult! I'm known in the 'cult' circle as 'Amazing Grace'!" She could feel the young man recoil at her touch, but she also knew that the herb was still strongly at work within him. Soon, he would be hers completely ... just as soon as they could perform the ritual! She kissed him, gently at first and then with more urgency. She felt him give way to the passion still locked within him. "Ya see, Nick," she stated, "it doesn't have t'be all bad now, does it?!"
"Besides," Ariel added, gaining the ex-SEAL's attention. "you said it yourself to your former Legacy associates. You are like your father, Nick -- and you belong in Satan's service -- just as he did!" These words ... and the potential truth behind them ... cut Nick to the bone. He could not find the strength within himself to fight the allegations he had feared all his life; not against them and the power of the drug they had given him.
Nick had no doubt now that he had been drugged as the same fog began to overtake his mind as it had previous night. He felt Grace wrap her arms around him tightly and felt the pressure of her lips against his. 'Oh my God,' he had time to think before he was once again completely overcome by the effects of the drug. 'What've I done!' "Now," Grace-Ariel said to the young man, "let's go out and complete our pact for the Master."
Nick silently followed Grace out and stood beside her in front of the congregation. She turned to her lover and whispered, "Soon, Nick ... soon you will be with us -- forever!"
"Yes," he answered softly, unable to fight the stupor he was in. "Yes," he repeated, sadness lacing his voice.
"I can't believe how Nick over-reacted," Philip exclaimed for the third time. "I just can't believe it!" He had gone into the Control Room and picked up his notepad of paper, silently cursing himself out for his thoughtlessness at leaving it out in the open. He returned to the dining area to find a still-stunned Alex and Derek sitting quietly at the table. "We've got t'do something!" Philip cried, feeling frustrated and guilty. "We've got t'make 'im understand ...."
"We can't," Derek replied, slowly. "That wasn't Nick earlier. Something's happened to him." He had felt some kind of inner struggle taking place in the ex-SEAL when they had had their confrontation, but now, Derek was more convinced than ever that Nick was not operating under his own authority or power when he had been there earlier.
"What'd you mean -- 'it wasn't Nick'," inquired Alex.
"I mean, Nick wasn't in control of his actions," Derek explained. "I couldn't figure out what was bothering me so much about his behavior, but now I realize ... he wasn't in control!"
"Grace was," Philip correctly assumed.
"Or someone like Grace," Derek agreed. "We just don't know enough about her. Did you try contacting the New Orleans House about her," he asked suddenly. "Perhaps ....." His conversation diminished at that point as a vision came upon him -- Kat was in danger ... held somewhere against her will and unconscious; he saw himself holding one of Nick's guns ... on Nick!! The vision faded as quickly as it had appeared and he looked up to see Alex and Philip staring at him with concern.
"That's it!" Derek cried out. "New Orleans! That has to be the connection."
Philip was worried about the Precept and stepped closer to Derek, placing a comforting hand on the older man's shoulder. "What're ya talkin' about, Derek? What about New Orleans?"
"It's about the cults ... the Satanic database that you and Nick had entered. Remember when I had him research the worst of the lot." He watched as his two associates nodded their head. Quickly, he continued, "Well, Nick discovered that one of the cults -- one that had been located in the New Orleans area -- had mysteriously disappeared from that area."
Dawning came upon both Alex and Philip at the same time. "And Grace left Mobile, Alabama for New Orleans over a year ago!" Alex exclaimed. "You think she's a member of that cult?!"
"Not just a member," Derek answered, "but the leader. I'm sure of it ... I'd stake my life on it."
"Well," Philip pointed out as he got his coat, preparing to leave with Derek, "it sounds like we're gonna be stakin' Nick's life on it as well!" The two men rushed out, hoping to find Grace ... and Nick ... before it was too late.
Grace raised her arms high above her head and grinned as her congregation began their chanting ... "Glory be to Satan ... glory be!" She gazed over at the young man at her side, knowing that soon, she would have everything she had ever wanted. "Silence," she commanded of the crowd. "Today is a glorious day for our new Church ... for today, we will give a precious gift to our Lord and Master." The murmurrings of "Glory be to Satan ... glory be!" began again in a low, droning hum.
"Bring forth the child," Grace demanded as she moved back from the alter, causing Nick to also step backward. She glanced at the young man by her side, wondering if he would have any reaction; the "Ariel" part of her knew that Nick knew this child ... 'but would he recognize her,' she wondered. She stepped closer to the ex-SEAL and again whispered, "Soon, my love ... soon we will be eternally bonded and forever together."
"Yes," he responded, absently.
The still form of Kat was laid upon the ceremonial alter. Her hands and feet were bound at either end of the alter and Grace stepped forward, picking up the knife. "Today, Lucifer will bond my chosen love -- Nicholas Boyle ... the man beside me now -- and I for all eternity. When the blood of this child is spilled on this alter, our Master shall rise within my beloved and destroy His enemies on this Earth ... starting in our own City. Then, my children, we shall receive the riches and power, the fame and the glory, long denied to our kind!"
"Glory be to Satan ..." the congregation shouted, lifting their voices in excitement. "Glory be!"
Nick had heard all that had been said around him, but found himself powerless to do anything about it. He wanted to scream -- to run -- to somehow stop Grace from hurting this child. He looked down at the innocent, sleeping face and something within him stirred. 'Do I know her?' he wondered. 'Who is she?!'
Grace raised the instrument of Kat's doom high above her head. As a fierce wind began to blow within the temple, Grace shouted, "Hear me, oh Lord and Master. We offer you this child ... this chosen one ... as a gift of our devotion. We ask you to rise now ... within my beloved ... and take vengeance on your sworn enemies. Destroy them so that your power can reign supreme in this City ... and in the World!"
Nick looked again into the face of the child stretched out before him. 'Oh my God,' his mind shouted through the density of the fog and stupor of the drugged herb ... 'it's Kat!" He turned to face Grace -- almost as though seeing her for the first time -- as she concluded her ritual by crying, "GLORY BE TO SATAN ...."
Just as she was plunging the knife down toward Kat's tender chest, Nick reached out his hands and grabbed her, stopping her descent. "NOOOOO ...." he shouted into the raging wind. "I won't let you hurt her!" He held tight and fast to Grace's struggling arms, applying pressure to her wrist in order to force her to drop the knife. As she did so, Nick was vaguely conscious of pandemonium breaking out all around him, within the congregation. 'I have t'get Kat outta here,' his mind screamed, not caring or thinking of anything else -- not even Grace. 'I have t'get her outta here ... before it's too late!'
Both Derek and Philip hurried into the bar that Nick had mentioned meeting Grace in. They could only hope and pray that someone in the bar would know where Grace lived ... where she worked ... anything! Derek approached the bartender, trying to sound and act much calmer than he felt. "Excuse me," he called, "I'm looking for a young lady."
"Aren't we all, Pal," the bartender replied, semi-sarcastically, as he poured another customer his drink. "I ain't in that kinda service, Bud," he concluded.
"No," Philip interceded, "you don't understand. A friend of ours met a young woman in here the other night; her name is Grace. We were just wonderin' if ya might know where she lives or where she works."
"You guys cops?" the bartender inquired, suspiciously. "'cause I don't want no trouble here. My customers come and go and I don't know nothin' about 'em, see. They prefer it that way and it suits me just fine."
Derek pulled out a twenty dollar bill. He carefully folded it in plain view of the bartender, catching his eye. He slipped to the elderly man in a firm handshake, stating, "We're only trying to help our friend. Could you tell us where this ... Grace ... lives?"
The bartender pocketed the money. 'What the Hell,' he thought. 'She's probably not gonna stick in town anyway.' "Sure," he answered gruffly. "She's living in that apartment complex just down the road on Canal Street. That's all I know."
"Thank you," Derek replied as he and Philip headed out the door. Before getting into the Range Rover, Derek noted the look of panic spreading across Philip's face. "What is it?" he asked, concerned.
"The church," the young Priest replied in a whisper. "There's a church right across from that apartment complex, Derek. C'mon ... we've got t'hurry!"
Still holding Grace tightly with one arm against her constant struggles, Nick gently, but firmly leaned over the sleeping child and slapped her face, trying to revive her. Slowly, Kat began to turn her head and blink her eyes as consciousness returned. She looked up into the face of her friend -- Nick -- but with a cloud and shadow of panic spread across her face.
The young man smiled as reassuringly as he could muster at his young friend and said, "It's all right, Kiddo ... everything's gonna be all right. You just need to listen t'me now, Kat. I want you to run ... run and hide somewhere; and don't come out -- no matter what you hear. Understand?!"
Kat started to protest and Nick quickly reiterated, "Kat! You've got to listen to me!! RUN ... NOW!!!" As Kat rose to do as Nick told her, she saw the people in the congregation move to block her path. She heard a click and turned to see that Nick was now holding a gun to the struggling young woman's head. "It's okay, Kitty Kat," he assured her in a calm and encouraging tone. "Do what I told you ... they won't bother you; I promise!"
"You're not going to shoot me, Nick," Grace told the ex-SEAL, trying to convince both herself and him of that fact. "Why don't you put your gun down and we'll work this all out?!"
"Don't push me," Nick answered, watching Kat make her way through the church, making sure that no one touched or bothered the young girl while she made her exit. "Just don't push me, Grace!" he reiterated, breathing a sigh of relief as he watched the young girl disappear out the door.
Knowing that Kat was safe now -- and that that was all that really mattered to him! -- Nick released his hold on Grace and slowly began to lower his weapon. As he did so, the members of the congregation began to advance toward him. Grace swiftly held her arms up, stopping the mob. "No," she called out. "Leave him to me!" She turned and faced the young man who had just interrupted one of the most important ceremonies of her life. Yet, all she could still feel in her heart was love for him. She would make him understand ... somehow.
Derek and Philip were just about to exit the Range Rover when they spied Kat running out of the church door and headed down the road. They called out to her several times before she heard and responded. Seeing Derek and Philip beside the car, she ran at them now, tears overflowing her swollen eyes. "Nick ..." she sobbed, falling into Derek's open arms. "Nick ... saved me! He's ... they're ... gonna kill 'im." She stammered.
"It's all right, Kat," Derek tried to assure the young child as he placed her in the back seat of the car. "You wait here. Stay down so that no one can see you. We'll be right back." With that, the Precept turned and began to cross the street.
"But Nick ...." Kat cried, still overwhelmed by fear and emotion. "What about Nick?!"
"He'll be all right, Kat," Philip stated. "I promise." He and Derek looked at one another, hoping that they would be able to keep that promise, as they headed into the church, and the waiting congregation of Satan worshipers.
As they walked in, they noted the precarious situation Nick was in. He was standing at the alter -- beside Grace -- with a mob surrounding him. Both Derek and Philip noted the weapon hanging loosely in Nick's hand to his side. 'Why doesn't he shoot them?' Philip wondered, staring at his chosen brother in awe; he had never seen Nick back down from a fight before -- no matter what the odds were!
Derek pulled out the gun he had taken from Nick's arsenal in his room and held it awkwardly in his hand. He prayed that it wouldn't become necessary to the use the weapon, but he feared that it might! Philip donned the last of his Priestly ceremonial garb and the two men walked to the center of the church, prepared to fight for their friend's life; they could only hope now that he would help them!
"Everyone clear out of here," Derek called out, raising the gun.
"I disband this Church in the name of the Holy Father ...." Philip began as a fierce wind once again began to pick up in intensity. The members of the congregation now became panicked and the majority of them fled in fear of their lives and their souls. As they were exiting the temple, they could feel the ground shaking with the energy of the battle taking place -- the eternal struggle of good versus evil!
Philip continued his blessing of the ground as Grace began screaming, shouting and ordering the Priest to stop. The remainder of the followers fled, leaving their leader to face her enemy. Slowly, Derek and Philip advanced on the alter ... and the only two remaining individuals standing there: Grace and Nick! As they confronted the pair, Nick slowly raised his gun ... and aimed it at his "former" associates.
"Nick," Derek called out to his junior partner. "Put your gun down. It's over now."
"No," Nick answered, sounding almost robotic and too calm. "Leave 'er alone, Derek. I won't let you hurt her ... I can't let you hurt her!"
Both Derek and Philip could see the struggle taking place within Nick's heart and soul and they felt for their friend. But, they could not allow much more time to pass ... not if they wanted to save him. "Put your gun down, Nick," Derek stressed again, moving closer to his friend. "Nobody is going to get hurt if you just put your gun down, my friend."
Nick positioned himself between his approaching companions and the lady who had stolen his heart. A part of him knew what he was doing was wrong, but he was afraid for her life and would do anything he could to defend her. "Get outta here," he shouted at the Legacy members. "Just leave 'er alone. I swear she won't hurt anyone, Derek. I ...."
"No," Derek replied sharply, trying to snap Nick out of his stupor. "Think about what she almost did to Kat, Nick! She almost killed her. Think with your head and not your heart, Nick. She's a killer and must be stopped!"
Nick turned slowly toward Grace, realizing the truth behind Derek's words -- she had almost killed Kat ... if he hadn't been there to stop her! What had he been thinking! 'She almost killed Kat!' he reminded himself. Overcoming his emotions, he slowly lowered the gun and reached out to grab the woman he loved. Quickly and without warning, she avoided his grip, running toward the back of the church and her own sanctuary -- back to her antique mirror; this time, with Nick, Derek and Philip in hot pursuit.
"My Gott," Derek exclaimed as he watched the reddish glow that was overcoming the physical image of Grace as well as the mirrored image. "They're two spirits in one ... living in the world created by the mirror and in reality." Philip quickly crossed himself, amazed at the sight before him. Nick watched in helplessness as Grace was slowly fading into the world of the mirror, beside her spirit guide, Ariel.
"We must destroy the mirror," Philip shouted, sensing it's evil. "It's the only way to end this!"
"No!" Nick cried out. "You'll kill 'er if you destroy it now! Don't you see, she's trapped inside!" Nick looked at his two associates, trying to plead his case for Grace's life.
Derek walked over to his young friend and placed a hand on his shoulder. "She's gone already, Nick," he explained. "She's been gone for a long time. Every since she sold her soul to that cursed mirror."
"NO ...." Nick shouted, blocking Derek and Philip's approach to the mirror. "I won't let you kill her!"
"Step aside," Derek ordered, raising the gun in his hand toward the fragile mirror.
"Don't let them kill me, Nick!" the Grace-Ariel dual called out to the young man. "Don't let them do it!"
Seeing that Nick wasn't going to move, Derek nodded toward Philip. Quickly, the Priest rushed toward the young man, knocking him to the ground. He held the struggling ex-SEAL there, as Derek took aim and shot at the mirror.
As the object shattered into a million different fragments, the cries and screams of both Ariel and Grace could be heard. Nick held his hands tightly around his ears, trying to block out their agonized howling. It was a sound -- he knew -- that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Once more, the wind that had surrounded Grace, whipped through the room as the frame of the mirror burst into flames and then disappeared into a puff of smoke. All that remained of the mirror, Ariel or Grace, were the few shattered elements of glass on the church floor.
Philip slowly rose off his friend, offering him a hand up. Nick refused it, struggling to his feet alone. He stared at the place where Grace had once stood and his heart ached for her loss. He turned to his two associates with a look of both shame and hatred in his eyes. "There had to've been another way," he stated simply to Derek. "There had to've been."
The Precept placed a comforting arm around Nick, feeling it quickly brushed off, and led him out to the car. As Kat spied the three men exiting the church, she rushed out of the vehicle and into Nick's arms. "You're okay!" she shouted with glee. "I was so worried about you! But you're okay now ... right?!"
"Sure," Nick answered solemnly, not believing the word as he spoke it. "I'm fine, Honey," he reassured her as he got into the car beside her. "I'll be just fine."
Derek had insisted on Nick having a few psychiatric counseling sessions with Rachel before he would allow the young man to return to any kind of duty for The Legacy. Nick had pointed out that he had quit "The Legacy", which Derek promptly ignored. During Nick and Rachel's third "session", he began to open up to his friend -- the first two sessions had been clouded with Nick's own guilt at what had happened to Kat. Now, getting past that, he began to open up to the psychiatrist.
"Part of me feels like a complete idiot," he admitted, out of the blue. "You know, really stupid for falling for Grace without checking her out. But the other part me just doesn't want to believe that every single person ... every woman I meet has to be some demon from Hell or something. Is that unreasonable?!"
"No," Rachel assured Nick, "that's not unreasonable. And you shouldn't blame yourself for falling in love with her. She seemed like a very friendly person and she had her 'act' down by the time you met her, Nick. After all, she'd been a leader of a cult for a long time and she knew how to fool people."
Nick shook his head in disbelief. "But all of you saw through her. I was the only one that fell for her ... games!"
Rachel placed a comforting hand on Nick's arm. "That's because you want to see the good in people, Nick." She watched as he started to protest and she continued, "C'mon, Nick ... I know you, remember. You do want to see the good in people or you wouldn't be here ... fighting for what was right and what you believed in. So, you got 'taken in' by her ... that only makes you human, Nick."
The ex-SEAL rose and paced around the room. Finally, his eyes met Rachel's as he said, "Then why ... why do I feel like I'm never gonna forgive Philip or Derek for what they did -- for killing her." He sat in the chair opposite the psychiatrist, his head hanging dejectedly.
"Because you loved her," she answered, simply. "You loved her and it's hard to forgive them for destroying her. So, even though you know they did the right thing in your head, your heart just doesn't agree." Nick looked up with her, nodding his head in silent agreement. She could tell that their session for today was over.
Several weeks had passed since Derek and Philip had destroyed the antique mirror with Grace and Ariel's souls trapped inside. The relationship between Nick and Derek and Nick and Philip was still somewhat strained despite Nick's sessions with Rachel. As the Legacy members began to gear up for their next assignment -- that of a haunted artifact due to arrive any time from the West Indies! -- Derek pulled Nick aside for a few minutes of private conversation.
Derek escorted the young man into his office and waited while Nick took a seat on top of Derek's desk before he approached the young man. Standing beside him, Derek gently commented, "I know that this is still difficult for you, Nick and I'm truly sorry about how things turned out with Grace." He watched as the young man shifted uncomfortably. He continued, "I know how you felt about her, Nick, but she was evil before you met her; there was nothing you could've done to help her."
"Sometimes I wonder if I can ever really help anyone," Nick stated. "Seems like everyone I get involved with ends up dying."
The Precept placed his hand on Nick's shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. "I know it must seem like that's true, Nick, but it isn't. You still have us ... and we are your family now. But the time has come for you to move past your own anger and pain about this situation in order to continue your work for The Legacy. Do you think you can do that?"
Nick sat, contemplating Derek's words. A part of him was ready to leave The Legacy -- forever; and yet the majority of him knew that this is where he belonged. Lost, he looked up into the Precept's face, unable to express what he was feeling. Derek read the story in the young man's eyes and once again placed his hand on Nick's shoulder in understanding and compassion.
"All right," Derek stated. "Then I know I can count on you to do whatever it takes on this next investigation. It's going to require a bit of computer work -- and I know how much you dislike that, so I'll give as much of it as I can to Alex and Philip -- but I'm going to need you to help in the research area as well, Nick. Think you're up to it?"
"Sure," Nick stated, ready to rise off Derek's desk and begin the next case. Derek nodded and walked around to the back of the desk, taking his seat. He was surprised to see the young man stop and turn back toward him before exiting the office. "Thanks," Nick said, quietly. "Thanks for what you did."
"Any time, my friend," Derek replied, hiding the smile he felt. "Any time." With that, he watched as the ex-SEAL exited his office, knowing that the young man truly would be all right.
I would like to thank TPTB for creating and bringing us Poltergeist: The Legacy. Also, I'd like to extend a very special "thank you" to my beta readers: Alyssa, Christopher, Steph and Tracy!! Last, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read and respond to my fanfic writing -- I appreciate your continued comments and encouragement!!