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Unheeded Warnings by TalgoM Unheeded Warnings
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This was a bad idea, he was sure of that. It was stupid to be out taunting things that they didn't understand. Neither of the other boys seemed to believe there was anything out here that they were mocking, though. Maybe it wasn't the long dead spirit the older boys had talked about but there could be something out here in the dark forest. He just didn't like the idea of tempting fate.
"Come on Jason, they said it was just over this hill, you aren't scared are you?" That mocking tone was heavy in Sean's voice and Jason hated himself for giving into it.
"No." He snapped back. "There's no such thing as ghosts."
"Are you sure of that?" Greg jumped on Jason from behind dragging him down to the wet grass.
"Shut up." Jason elbowed the larger boy in the stomach causing him to roll onto his back. Slowly Jason climbed back to his feet and followed along behind Sean. They hiked up the steep and sometimes rocky hill to the top and then got a clear view of the decaying cabin at the bottom by the moonlight. It looked like it was lucky to even be standing and Jason was sure that he saw where part of the roof and wall had caved in on one side. Sean whipped around, holding his flashlight under his chin.
"Are you ready to face the old man. He'll be angry that you've trespassed. What do you think your punishment will be?" He laughed trying to sound evil but it just infuriated Jason.
"Very funny. Not like I'm alone here. Now are you coming?" Jason pressed forward despite the feeling in the pit of his stomach trying to tell him what a bad idea this was. He certainly wasn't going to stand down and seem like a wimp, and all the better if he could seem even braver by being the first to the cabin.
The counselors said that the spirit of the old man haunted the cabin in which he once lived. It was said that he had escaped from the mental institute down in San Francisco and run up here to hide. He died in the cabin years later but never left it. He feared all society and they had said he kidnapped any that dared to tread on his land. The counselors claimed that five years ago one of the camp kids had wandered up here and was never seen again. One of them even claimed to have seen the man when he was a camper but managed to run away before the man had laid his hand on him. They said that was all it took a touch from the man and you would be his. Jason didn't believe the ghost part of the story but he wasn't so sure that the whole thing was nonsense. There could easily be some crazy old man up here waiting for the chance to hurt any who were stupid enough to walk on his land.
By the time they got to the front of the house even his two companions seemed to be showing some trepidation over the idea, but none of the teenagers were willing to back down. They traced paths over the front of the house with their flashlights and through the dusty windows saw boxes and furniture stacked high. The front porch had sunk into the ground and both of the two front doors had holes in them. A few of the windows were broken and the wood was definitely rotted through. But the place was silent.
"They said the best way in is through the back." Sean whispered, the bravado gone from his voice. He was definitely reconsidering this decision. At first it had seemed like fun. Jason had squirmed so much trying to avoid it. Even when he had finally given in to their teasing Sean had been sure that he would back out of the last moment, and he had still seemed so scared. Why the hell was he acting so brave now in the face of this place?
Jason nodded and decided to stay in the lead. He walked along the edge of the house, looking in windows but seeing only more boxes and no movement he began to feel a little better. They were showing fear just as his abandoned him. There was a small porch on the back of the house and the door there stood open a crack. Carefully the boys stepped up and pushed back the door. They did a quick scan of the room and found it empty of life.
"Told you. Nothing's here." Jason stepped over the overturned chair just inside the door. Sean and Greg followed him but he didn't fail to notice that they tried to stay close to the exit. He looked in one of the boxes and began to laugh.
"What is it?" Greg asked anxiously.
"Looky here. For a haunted house belonging to a crazy man it has a lot of brochures on the camp." He dropped them on the dusty table. Greg picked one up and looked it over. "They're using this place as storage, that's probably why they didn't want us here. That and it doesn't look too safe." His voice was confident. They would be in trouble for coming if they were caught but no danger.
"Jace, these are from eighty-one." Greg's voice cracked mid-sentence.
"So? Come on, you wanted to see this place so bad let's look around." He led the way to the front of the house. The room to the left of the stairs had mainly furniture but Jason also noticed an old record player still set up. The other two boys occupied their time looking for anything of interest in the boxes, something to take back to the camp as a prize. All the boxes seemed to contain were old kitchen supplies, broken sports equipment and other miscellaneous items from the camp. They all felt their disappointment begin to settle in. They had risked getting in big trouble by even coming up here and who knew what Gilby would do to them if they got caught.
Jason knew the director would probably be forced to send them home. More then that thought bothered him was the idea of the disappointment that he would be causing for the older man. Gilby had tried so hard to be a friend, not that it seemed to be much of an effort for him. Everyone liked him, including both Sean and Greg. Still he remained an authority figure and therefore was someone to be rebelled against.
"This stinks we can't go back with any of this garbage. No one would believe we'd even come up here. They'll probably just think we raided the kitchen." Sean said dropping a frying pan back into one of the boxes annoyed. The clatter it made against the other steel objects caused both Jason and Greg to jump.
"We're not supposed to be here. I don't think we should go back and brag." Jason tried to be logical; he really just didn't like the idea from stealing from the creepy house.
"Little late for that, Mr. Bigmouth couldn't keep the secret." Greg said spitefully with a glance at his best friend.
"We'll be legends, we'll conquer this place." Sean said without hiding his pride.
"It's a house idiot. You can't beat a house." They began in their banter, playfully fighting as they always did when no one else would take their teasing. Jason tried to tone them out as he studied the old record player. The black disk sitting on it was covered in dust and deeply scratched, he doubted it could even play anymore but he felt drawn to look at it. Other then the furniture it seemed to be the only personal touch left by the owners and not the camp now on the land. He started to reach out to touch it when Greg grabbed his arm forcefully pulling him back to the moment.
"Tell him Jace. Tell him how stupid it was to do it." He continued to shake Jason's arm even, though, he obviously had the smaller boys attention.
"It was. If we're late for dinner or anything else Gilby will get it out of someone where we are." Jason replied without much interest. What did it really matter, none of them would be able to hide their guilt for very long from Gilby? He'd find out what they had done fast enough.
"Maybe we should " Sean began, the fear returning, trying to hide behind fear of the repercussions waiting at the camp. Jason wasn't going to back down now, not when for the first time in the whole summer he felt he belonged.
"Not until we see it all. You two were so desperate to come here, let's do it." He turned to start for the stairs, trying to seem more confident then he felt.
"I don't know Jace, I think we've seen enough." Greg tried to dissuade him. He looked back over his shoulder at his companions, clearly calling them wimps with his eyes as they had done to him for weeks. He wanted to laugh at the look on both their faces but fought that urge back. Just because he was subtlety giving them a lesson in what they put other kids through didn't mean he had to exhibit the same cruelty they always did. He shrugged indifferently, letting them know he didn't care if they came or not and went to the stairs. Suddenly there was shuffling noise from above them.
"What was that?" Sean asked quickly, unable to hide the fear in his voice. Jason wanted to laugh at the fear he heard despite his own he felt swelling.
"Ever heard of rats?" That feeling of dread had returned but for the first time all summer he felt like he was in charge. These two boys had proved better at sports and with the girls, they weren't going to succeed in scaring him. "Let's take a look upstairs." He made his way slowly up the steps, afraid that they could give out at any time. He looked to his left but it was the room in which the roof had caved in so by default decided to go into the room on the right.
"What the hell?" Sean gasped seeing the clothes neatly laid out on the small cot across the room. They didn't have the years of dust attached to them that the rest of the house had still they seemed well worn. They just seemed to fresh to belong in a place where everything else was in such an active state of decay; they stood out due to the fact they looked so out of place.
"Probably just something the counselors left to make it seem creepier in case kids came." He was no longer sure of his own words. No one had been in this house of a while, nothing looked disturbed, not even the dust. Again there was a shuffling noise, this time it seemed to come from behind them. He turned and noticed the gap in the wall that led to a room beyond. It was hardly more then a few inches tall and only a foot long, just below the ceiling level. Depending on how the house had rotted he realized it could provide a view to the attic. He pushed a chair over to it and climbed up. The darkness beyond seemed to swallow the light from his flashlight.
"Hey look more stairs, to the attic." Greg pulled the door open behind him, masking the shuffling sound he felt more then heard. He strained his eyes thinking he had seen something move but unable to penetrate the black. "Should we go up?"
"I don't " Sean didn't get the words out.
The hand shot out from the small hole and Jason felt his heart stop. He flung himself back away from the grim covered hand on instinct alone and lost his balance on the chair, crashing to the floor. By the time he looked back up the hand was gone like it had never been there at all. He turned over to see Greg stepping through the door to the attic just far enough to look up the stairs.
"Don't." He cried the word but it did no good. He saw the hand reach out and cover the top of Greg's light hair, yanking him back through the door. He tried to convince himself it was one of the counselor's playing games with them but knew that there was no way that was possible. None of the counselor's at the camp would dare risk being that rough with one of the campers.
"Oh my God." Sean managed to strangle the weak words out as his eyes watched amazed when his friend vanished from sight.
"Run." Jason spit out the word and pushed himself forward, not really getting to his feet until he was at the stairs, stumbling blindly. He propelled himself down the rotted steps; one cracking beneath his weight but at his speed he was well past it before it gave way. Sean wasn't so lucky. Not realizing what happened his foot fell into the gap and trapped him on the stairs. He tried to fight his way free but was lodged there.
Jason knew he couldn't have stopped moving if he tried. He should have trusted his instinct that told him this was a bad idea rather then let his desire to fit in lead him. He should have done a lot of things he realized. He glanced once over his shoulder to see Sean being torn through the floor of the steps to whatever lie below it, the wood breaking away with the force he was being pulled with. This was definitely not the work of a counselor.
He wanted out and he wanted it quickly. There were two front doors to the house and that route seemed much better then trying to negotiate through the house back the way they came in. He realized suddenly that he had lost his flashlight when he fell upstairs but that didn't matter. Why hadn't he used the good sense he had? Why had he let himself fall into this situation? He cursed himself for his ability to be manipulated by his peers.
He yanked open the door on the left and saw the man for the first time. He stood there a cruel grin on his face covered in mud wearing an outfit very similar to the one that had been laid out upstairs. His filthy hand reached out and Jason stepped back. He turned to go to the other door and pulled it open, hoping the man couldn't move as quickly as his terror was moving him. But he was there, still smiling. Jason realized his only chance would be the back door but when he turned again the man was there just inside the door.
That wasn't possible, nothing could move that fast. His mind fought for control over the situation.
Only the stairwell stood between them now and without thought the teenager ran for it. He only made it to the foot of the stairs before seeing the man again. Standing at the top. There had to be more then one. Please God let it be a game, his mind begged. No matter where he looked, though, the man was there, just smiling at him.
The record player started a scratchy tune just before the hand reached out.
Derek Rayne was sure that the worst part of his job would always be the paperwork that seemed to build up from nowhere. It would be enough if he only had to keep on top of the work for one organization, but between the Winston Rayne Hall of Antiquities, the Luna Foundation and finally the Legacy he wasn't sure if he would ever find his way out from under the stack of papers. He couldn't thank Alex enough for getting so much of it prepared but he still had to look everything over before signing it. At least the house was quiet and he could concentrate.
Nick had taken Tangye to the University for class, and mentioned staying over for dinner. Philip had gone to the church to handle his own buildup of paperwork, though, he had been sure to say he'd be back. After the argument with Nick, which he had told Derek about, he just didn't feel comfortable leaving yet and risking more anger from Nick. Rachel was at the hospital seeing to some of her patients, while Kat was in school. Finally Alex was off in the city running some personnel errands and stopping by the social services office she still worked at occasionally. Even the servants were leaving him to his work in peace.
While he read over the papers in front of him he absently thought about the events of the past two and a half weeks. Since the moment he had gotten the letter he had been swept up in a sense of urgency that he didn't understand, and that he was glad had finally fallen away. Tangye Gaarlihn was safe, or as safe as one could be who chose involvement in the Legacy. He had watched her change a great deal in the seventeen days since she had first come to Angel Island. He behavior was no longer guarded and she wasn't as on edge as she had been. She was sticking to her statement on the beach, that she put her pain where it belonged and wasn't going to live in the past anymore. She was now taking three classes in San Francisco two days a week, that Nick had taken it upon himself to chauffeur her to and from. It had taken a little work but Derek had finally convinced the admissions board to allow her to attend and count the credits her aptitude tests had earned her. She made no illusion that a degree would be hard to obtain if she didn't go full time, but she seemed to accept the years it would take rather then sacrifice other things to go to school full time. The legal issues with her inheritance were almost complete as well, due to the team of lawyers Derek had set to work on the project; they would have the papers drawn up by the end of the week.
Most important to the precept was the conversation he had with Jackson Parker from the Ruling house. After explaining all the details he had finally gotten Jackson to agree to Tangye's membership in the Legacy, whenever Derek decided the time was right. As he watched her come out of her shell he knew that time would come sooner then he initially expected. She was an intelligent young woman, caring, dedicated and strong. The only trait he had seen to concern him was her impulsive side, the side that seemed to act first and think later. He couldn't really critique that since he had been accused of it often enough, as he had done to Nick. He decided to give it another week or two and see how she did, then make the official offer he knew she'd accept.
Just as he was finishing up the last reports from the Luna Foundation the phone rang beside him breaking into his thoughts. "Derek Rayne." He answered.
"Dr. Rayne? My name is Gilbert Mayhew, it was suggested by the police department that I give you a call." The voice of a young man came over the line, his agitation not able to be disguised. "I'm not really sure what they expect you to do but I have to try everything."
Derek knew that was a common enough opinion when it was recommended to people that they contact the Luna Foundation. There had been enough press about the Foundation that most people knew what it typically did, and sometimes when the police suggested they get involved it just seemed outside their scope of work. Of course none of those people realized whom they were really calling on for help.
"Why don't you explain to me why you called the police in the first place, and I'll see what we can do." Derek kept his tone even, sure to sound very professional.
"Alright. I own a summer camp outside the city, kids from seven to fifteen. Two days ago three of the boys vanished. At first I thought they were just playing pranks, trying to scare everyone, but when they didn't come back for dinner, well, I got worried. I questioned everyone and finally got it out of some of them that they had heard the boys talking about checking out this abandoned old cabin on the property. There have always been ghost stories attached to the place, urban legend type stuff. I don't even know what the real story about it is except that it's dangerous. All I know is that the boys went and never came back." Gilbert sighed heavily reaching the end of his hasty story. Derek could tell how deeply this bothered the man, how helpless he felt. He also knew that Gibert's whole livelihood rested on finding the three boys. His camp would be shut down and he could be up on criminal charges of negligence if the boys were not located, if that already hadn't happened.
"What was the story about the house?" Derek asked, pulling a pad of paper in front of him to make quick notes on.
"Supposedly there was a man who escaped from a mental institute and came there to live. I've heard various versions since buying this place. That he died and his ghost haunts the place, that he still lives there, that it happened a hundred years ago, fifty, twenty. The only thing that seems to remain the same is that if he touches you, you'll never escape from him. I really never believed any of it. It was just a story the older kids used to scare the younger ones, but " His voice trailed off at the end, making it clear to Derek this young man would be able to accept any explanation as long as it found the missing children.
"Mr. Mayhew if it wouldn't be too much trouble I would like to come up and have a look at this house. Hopefully we can help find whatever has the children, or find them if they are playing games." Derek's mind was already running, planning the trip to the camp and how they might handle whatever they found there, figuring out who to take and who to leave to handle the research end of the job.
"No, of course it's no trouble. I have to do everything I can." Gilbert said gratefully. Derek was pleased to think even his small reassurance was such a help to his agitated state.
"I'll bring some of my associates along, we should be there first thing tomorrow morning." Derek said.
"I'll be expecting you. And Dr. Rayne, thank you." His voice was sincere and slightly relieved to find that someone was willing to help him and not merely accuse him.
"I hope I can earn your thanks." Derek wrote down the directions to the camp and hung up the phone. Well at least he wouldn't have to do anymore paperwork for a few days.
Alex heard the laughter while it was still on the other side of the door, and recognized it instantly. She was glad to hear him laughing, it happened so rarely but she was getting used to it. The younger man had been through so much in twenty-eight years and too often he had nothing to fall back on but his anger. He had held onto his humor, but rarely let it go with abandon. His companion was bringing out the best in him.
Nick opened the front door and Tangye stepped through, immediately seeing Alex there stacking up luggage and equipment. She stifled the laughter as Nick came in behind her. He put one hand on Tangye's shoulder and looked at the stack Alex had created. "What's going on?"
"New case. Derek, Rachel and I are leaving in the morning." She saw the flash in Nick's eyes of suspicion. "Derek wants to talk to you Nick."
"Why didn't he call?" Tangye bit down on her bottom lip, feeling the sense of Nick's tension flood over her. Derek had been working with her to help to better control her talents but she often still felt the intensity of others emotions. She was mainly focusing on learning how to keep her own from seeping out and effecting others for now. It was one thing to for her to deal with their emotions, another for everyone in the house to be forced to face hers.
"He wants to talk to you." Alex merely repeated, not wanting to get in the middle.
"Fine, he in his office?" Alex nodded and Nick went to the stairs, taking them two at a time. Tangye smiled quickly at Alex, shifting somewhat uncomfortably.
"Don't worry about it. Did you have a nice dinner?" Alex asked with her intense kindness.
"Yeah, he took me to this little restaurant on the pier, it was beautiful, great seafood." There was something about her tone that made Alex suspicious and looking at her she knew why.
"You'd been there before?" Tangye chuckled with the conspiracy.
"Several times. But he really seemed to want to show me the place, like it was some find of his. I didn't want to ruin that for him." Her eyes flickered wickedly. "But the company was new." Alex had been watching them closely over the past two weeks. She had watched Nick's attempts to spend as much time with the woman as possible, yet not wanting to seem too forward. He always had an excuse for his efforts. Driving her to class because she hadn't yet gotten a new license, helping her rearrange the furniture in the room because she couldn't possibly do it herself, even, though, the servants would have seen to it. Taking her to dinner or lunch because they wouldn't make it back to the island in time. Working in the library the same time as her, jogging with her. Alex doubted that Tangye had failed to notice these efforts, and knew she reciprocated in her own way. Volunteering activities that Nick would casually step into and perform for her.
It almost seemed like a game to them. They danced around ever daring to state anything too outright our to some undue concern on both of their parts. They tried to deny the attraction, neither wanting to push but they couldn't seem to stay apart for long. Alex was sure that the denial wouldn't go on much longer and that brought a pleased smile to her face.
"Derek, you wanted to see me?" Nick stepped into the office and snapped off the question. Derek looked up slowly, not missing the irritation in his colleague's voice but not giving into it either.
"Yes. Alex, Rachel and I will be leaving in the morning to work on a case. Some boys went missing at a camp and there have been rumors of there being a haunted house on the grounds. Supposedly that was where they were headed when they vanished." Derek pushed aside the preliminary report he had been working on for the London House. He knew the look in Nick's eyes well enough.
"I can have my stuff ready ." Nick began with his assumption, refusing to acknowledge that Derek had already clearly stated he would not be coming.
"No Nick, you'll be staying here." Derek cut him short.
"What? Why Derek?" Nick asked incredulously.
"Because there will be things to be done here. Research on the house, on the land, on the man if we can get a name." Derek answered evenly.
"That's Alex's department usually." Nick pointed out; sure that he had Derek there.
"And there are other reasons. I spoke with my lawyers today; they will have the papers ready in a day or two for the transfer of funds to Tangye's new accounts. She'll need to sign them and that's bound to be hard on her. I'd like you to accompany her into the city to get that done." Derek saw the conflict in Nick's stance. He wanted to go with them because he always felt he was best equipped to protect his friends, but he did want to be there for Tangye. Derek knew it too, knew how torn the man would be but he was sure he had made the right choice. Nick had proven most able to get through to Tangye, to get her at ease and that would be just what she needed.
"Fine, but the first sign things get out of control I expect you to call." Nick issued the order and left no room for argument. "What about Philip?"
"He'll be staying as well. He still has duties at the church and I don't want to take him away from those." Derek prepared himself for the familiar conflict.
"Of course not." Nick remarked with spite. "Derek this is out of hand. Is he in or out? The London house has to be getting tired of this. You know the rules." Derek wondered how many times he would be forced to engage in this conversation? If Nick would ever find it within himself to move past his anger at Philip's imagined betrayal? Did he just need someone to be mad at in his life?
"Yes I do. But Philip never really left. You know that. He's just confused." Nick shook his head, frustrated. "Where is he by the way?"
"What? I don't know." Nick asked irritably.
"Nick, you were supposed to pick him up from the church on your way back." Derek knew immediately that Nick had forgotten. He wasn't really surprised either. Nick was usually very responsible but tended to let himself forget things where Philip was concerned. "I'll go get him." Derek stood up but Nick clamped down his jaw and murmured.
"No I will. I said I would." He started to turn out of the room, digging out his keys.
"Nick, maybe it's better if I " Derek could tell Nick was angry and didn't want to force the priest to be in a car with Nick when he was in this sort of mood.
"No, I forgot, I'll get him." Nick snapped angrily.
"Neither of you need to." Philip's light Irish lilt came from the door. "I caught a cab."
"How very industrious of you." Nick threw out the remark with both sarcasm and animosity. Philip chose to ignore both. "I should get to work on that research."
Derek handed Nick the information he had so far and watched as he stalked out of the room, brushing his shoulder against Philip roughly. As soon as he was gone Derek found Philip's agonized blue eyes on him. "Will he ever be able to forgive me? To let me back in?"
"I don't think it's completely one-sided Philip." Derek sat back down.
"Wha's tha' supposed to mean?" Philip responded to the accusation in Derek's voice.
"If I remember correctly the last time Nick did try to make some type of amends you pushed him away. Remember when you came back three years ago after Michael's death?" Philip suddenly was hit by the memory. Of opening his bedroom door to find Nick standing there actually looking shy holding two bottles of stout. He also remembered how he had told Nick that he didn't want to talk, that he was tired and wanted to be left alone. Was that the one chance he would be given? Had he thrown it away without even knowing its importance? He was faced with his own guilt in the difficulties their relationship. "You two just need some time. Nick's not good at forgiveness; it wasn't something he was taught. And you need to understand how hard it is for him to let people into his life. He wants to but too often it has caused him pain. I'm sure that eventually you'll work everything out."
"I hope you're right." Philip sighed.
Derek hated not knowing what explosion he had left boiling back at the house. A part of him wanted to see if by forcing the two men to stay in close quarters they would be able to begin to make some amends. At the same time he had to admit that he was worried about the sensitive young priest. Nick could hurt him so easily and thoughtlessly; it was a skill the younger man had cultivated since the first time Philip had left the Legacy. In fact it was probably something he had learned much younger then that.
Robert Boyle had spent years hurting his son both physically and emotionally. Nick had told Derek once that his father always seemed to know what the last thing that Nick needed to hear at a particular moment was and inevitably blurted it out. He seemed, in Nick's eyes, to revel in the pain he could cause. When words weren't enough he would fall back on hitting. For all of his childhood Nick had lived with that in agonized silence and even as an adult had never let go of the pain delivered to him then.
Derek had hoped in some small way that Nick's encounter with his father's spirit would bring some of the harsh memories to peace. It didn't seem to work, though. His father had come back with excuses for his behavior, justifications for the fear he brought forth in his child. He told Nick that his grandfather had been an even harder man, claimed he never could have done as much to Nick as his own father did to him. Did any of that make it any easier on Nick, Derek wondered? Nick knew all through his childhood that his father dedicated his life to fighting evil with the Legacy while cultivating it in his home. Why should he forgive him for that sin? Even if some of the bridges between them had managed to be repaired would there ever be a time when Nick would forget the childhood he was trapped in or the monster that kept him there? Probably the first and last thing that Nick had ever allowed himself to really fear.
Derek thought about the young man that had first entered his life with a shield of stubbornness and bravado. He had liked something about him from the first time that Julia had brought him to the house, despite the nearly countless clashes they engaged in during the early years. To this day they still saw many things from completely different perspectives, and sometimes those viewpoints lead to fights but any real annoyance he felt towards Nick's behavior was always overshadowed. It had been years ago that he first realized what Nick had become to him yet to this day he had still never told Nick. There just didn't seem the right moment to explain it properly, or for the words just to be heard.
He suddenly recalled the moment standing on the back lawn of the house, just past the gardens. He had found Nick and the demon claiming to be his son fighting. As he had looked between their two faces he was struck by how torn he was. One said he was his son, the other had become just that. He looked between them and saw the hint of, was it jealousy? It was there in them both. How must it have hurt Nick when he chose the false son. Derek cursed himself for the thoughtless choice; he could have at least offered some bit of explanation.
Then he remembered all the other times when he had reached out to protect Nick with nothing but reflex guiding him. When his hand shot out to support him as he climbed out of the hospital bed after Alex attacked him. When he didn't even have to consider the implications of entering an induced coma to bring Nick back, it was just something he had to do. He wondered if Robert would have ever found any of those actions in himself, would he have agonized over any moment that Nick was in even the slightest danger the way Derek found that he did?
Derek hated to admit it but he understood exactly where Nick's ability to hurt Philip had come from. It was probably the lesson most reinforced from his boyhood. He wondered if the man he considered the younger of his two sons even recognized the patterns he was repeating. He wondered if Philip understood why Nick did so many cruel things on reflex even when they contradicted with his more true nature. Derek just hoped he did, perhaps if that understanding could be reached they would finally move past what kept them apart.
Or perhaps, Derek thought with dread, too much time had passed for those solutions to be found.
'I'll have to thank Derek for leaving me alone with these two.' Tangye thought to herself for about the twentieth time in the two hours since the others had left that morning. The silence in the house was imposing, and the angry stares Nick constantly directed at Philip had her on edge. She just wasn't sure that he wouldn't suddenly go off with the slightest provocation. Philip for the most part seemed content to steer clear of Nick and his anger. Tangye still had no idea what had caused the tension in the first place but she made a promise to herself to find out somehow.
Nick had proved entirely unwilling to talk about it so she figured that maybe Philip would give her some answers. Just some, she reminded herself. Just enough that she would begin to feel she had a clue as to why Nick tried to be so opposed to Philip's presence when he clearly wanted him to stay. She didn't necessarily want to get involved; she just felt she needed to understand. She remembered the way Philip had rushed to Nick's side outside her house with such anxiety, and how Nick had accepted his comforting gestures so willingly. She had been so sure that was how they were supposed to be.
She gave one more check over her shoulder and found the hall empty. She was sure Nick wasn't going to come anywhere near this room so long as he thought it was where Philip was so her privacy was ensured. She stepped into the dining room and found Philip sitting at the table reading some papers and finishing the last of his cup of coffee. There was still a pot out so she got herself a cup and sat down across from the priest. She let the silence reign for a few moments then finally decided to just dive right in.
"Philip, can I talk to you?" He looked up, meeting her eyes for the first time that day. He had watched the evolving relationship between this woman and his best friend and was fearful that Nick had managed to sway her opinion of him. When he looked at her striking blue gold eyes he saw only compassion looking back at him. She wasn't going to let anyone else's opinions form hers for her, she liked Philip and no one would manage to change that.
"Of course. Is everythin' alrigh'?" He put the papers aside.
"I'm fine. I'm not going to be keeping you from anything am I?" She glanced at the papers.
"Nothin' I couldn' use a break from." He smiled at her kindly. He wanted to remind her that she didn't have to constantly act like she was interfering in their lives, but wasn't sure what reaction such a statement might illicit from her. She seemed more comfortable since the incident at the church but still was attempting to stay out of the way so not to overstep any boundaries.
"Good, because I wanted to talk to you about Nick." She saw him flinch but refused to back down. She had blurted the words out quickly so as not to let herself hesitate. This would nag at her until she had some answers and already she felt it causing problems with the comfortable relationship she was forming with Nick. He knew she liked Philip and that seemed to bother him, but more so did the questions she asked him about their problems.
"Tangye, tha's a verra complicated matter." Philip answered his voice low.
"I hope so. I wouldn't want to think that kind of tension exists because of something inconsequential. So it's not petty, what is it?" She pushed, hating the discomfort she was causing.
"It's probably best you don't get involved, I wouldn't want you caught in the crossfire." He picked his papers back up but was surprised by the conviction she had to find out some sort of answer. Even if it had to be vague she would accept it, she just needed something.
"I'm not volunteering to be, Philip. But Derek did leave the three of us alone here, and I am caught in the middle. I like both of you, and that may not bother you but it bothers him. I just want to understand." She paused, trying to find a way to convince him that she could be trusted. "Sometimes you two seem so close, like brothers, but that's only when he's not thinking about whatever it is that keeps him angry. Then other times well, I just can't forget the fight I walked in on last week, or the way he looks at you sometimes. Nick's eating in the kitchen right now because you were in here." She hated the desperation in her voice but the more she thought about it the more it bothered her.
"There have jus' been some things we have disagreed on." Philip answered lamely.
"Don't do that. This isn't really a two-way thing; the anger is his, not yours. I see how much it hurts you. Please just tell me, I promise I won't get involved, I won't even tell him I know." She didn't want to lie to Nick but she was willing to keep this secret if it could provide her a way to help them mend their friendship.
Philip wasn't sure that he should say anything but when he looked at her he didn't seem able to stop himself, the words pouring out in a rush. And there was no point in denying that he was glad to be given the chance to unload some of the things he had been carrying around for so long.
"Dr. Rayne?" The young man stepped out of the small cabin at the bottom of the hill. He looked about the same age as Nick, with straight sandy blonde hair that he wore in a shaggy fashion, and dark blue eyes. He wore hiking boots, jeans and a flannel shirt. He was a good looking man, just a bit taller then Derek, and well built. Clearly he was very athletic.
"Yes, these are my associates. Dr. Rachel Corrigan and Alex Moreau." He indicated the two women climbing out of the Range Rover behind him.
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Gilby Mayhew, owner of this ghost town." He indicated the cabins at the top of the hill. "I'm amazed how quickly the parents managed to get here once word got out." He looked up at the place with sadness. It was clear to some of them gathered that this place and the children that came here were his life. It hurt him deeply to have everything fall apart around him.
"Hopefully we'll be able to find the boys." Derek offered the small bit of hope, knowing that it was trite.
"I know you must be thinking this is just some prank they're playing, and if it is trust me I'll kill them myself." He ruefully grinned. "If this is a joke they've taken it too far. But for some reason I don't think it is. One of the boys, Jason, he'd know better then let it go on this long. He'd know what was happening down here, or at least guess." Gilby finished with an exhausted shake of his head.
"Mr. Mayhew " Derek began.
"Gilby. You know the old saying, 'Mr. Mayhew is my father.'" He grinned again; still unable to hide the pain the situation was causing him.
"Gilby, I'd like to speak with you, while Rachel and Alex look around." Derek kept his voice even and professional.
"Sure, we can use my office. The cook and a few of the counselors are still hanging around, so don't get scared if you see anyone. Not everyone jumped ship once things went sour." He led Derek into his cabin leaving Rachel and Alex out on the dirt road.
"God, imagine what he must be going through." Alex whispered.
"I'd rather not." Rachel answered starting up the hill. Alex saw the deliberate stride Rachel walked with and knew something was up.
"What's that mean?" She caught up with the doctor. Alex knew the look on Rachel's face well enough; the set expression that clearly stated the psychiatrist had already made up her mind.
"I'm sorry Alex but I can't forget what the parents must be going through. Their children are missing and the man who was supposed to be responsible for them failed. I'm sure it's hard on him but " Rachel surprised Alex with her resentment.
"But what? No child has ever wondered off before? These aren't little boys Rachel, they're teenagers. If they decided to sneak off they would have done it no matter what he tried to do. Don't tell me you never sneaked out of your house when you were younger. You can't watch them every second." Alex tried to defend the man they just met, always jumping to the protection of the victim, which is exactly what Alex saw the camp owner as.
"He choose to. That's his job." Alex decided to let the subject drop. Rachel frequently got this way when children were involved, hardheaded and obstinate. She knew she could have pointed out that frequently enough Rachel's own daughter had been put in danger because she wandered off or someone wasn't watching her every second but knew that comment would only evoke anger. Why did everything always have to be so complicated?
Gilby sat at his desk rubbing his neck wearily, his light hair hanging down into his eyes. Derek noticed the photos lining the walls of various groups of kids, all campers that had come and gone over the years. There were papers scattered on the desk that obviously he had been trying to use to occupy his mind and Derek flashed back to his own load waiting for him at the house. Relieved he had put some distance between himself and that work. The man's face in front of him was strained, and it was clear that he did deeply care for everyone that came to this place.
"The woman, Rachel, she has a kid?" Gilby asked suddenly. Derek looked at him shocked by the statement, nodding. "Instinct. I saw that look on her face. I never had before two days ago but after two hundred and fifty sets of parents came and got their kids I learned it. That look that says 'you failed, Mayhew, you let people down and failed children.' Just like my old man thought I would." He sighed shaking his head. "Like their kids never wandered off in a mall."
"It's different here." Derek pointed out, but he understood the point.
"I know that. Just frustrated. And feeling sorry for myself, and guilty. I know this place is done for now, but I want to find those kids. Nothing is going to stop me, crazy guy in a cabin or not." His eyes flashed.
"I have people back in San Francisco looking into the existence of the man, we should know in a matter of hours if such a person ever existed. Or if anything like this ever happened before." Derek explained.
"You think it has?" Derek wasn't left a chance to answer. "I just bought this place four years ago but wouldn't that be something they should have told me? 'Oh yeah, and the cabin, it's haunted and kids vanish from there.' That should have been in the bill of sale." He flexed his fist. It was obvious he was looking for someone to blame for the current situation, or at least someone to share the blame with. This didn't seem like the type of man who denied his own responsibilities.
"We have to check all angles. I want to see the cabin soon, but first I have some questions about the boys. Have you spoken with their parents?" Derek hated feeling that he was adding to the problems the man was facing but there were things he would have to be prepared for. Right now Gilby was the most likely to be able to help them find answers and having him arrested would definitely cause their investigation to slow.
"Oh yeah. They're holding off on pressing charges just to keep me out of jail. I know the land up here like the back of my hand, better then anyone else. If the kids are up here they know I'm their best chance at finding them. Minute I find them I'm pretty sure I'll be brought in." Derek was impressed by the man's calm. He seemed focused on the goal at hand, not thinking about the fate that would come at the end of this situation even, though, he knew what it was.
"Hopefully they won't have reason to. I'll help you when the time comes. Now about the boys? There are three?" Derek asked.
"Yes. Jason, Sean and Greg. Sean's fourteen, Greg and Jason are thirteen. Greg and Sean are classic troublemakers. Always picking on the younger kids, or anyone who shows any weakness. They push around a lot of the kids, I wasn't planning on letting them come back next year, it's just not worth the bother to deal with that when they're ruining the fun for everyone else. But I wasn't going to kick them out either, should have, could have avoided this whole thing." Gilby shook his head in regret that he hadn't foreseen the trouble the two boys could cause.
"You think they're responsible?" Derek asked surprised.
"I'm sure of it. When I talked to the kids after they went missing they said that Sean and Greg were pressuring Jason into going up to the cabin. Calling him a baby, saying he was scared of nothing. Jason isn't exactly athletic, which is a lot of what goes on here. He's smaller then most of the kids, which doesn't really matter. I've seen the smallest kids show the most strength." Derek thought about Nick for a moment. Nick was small in height but had an abundance of both internal and physical strength. "He never felt like he fit in, and was looking for approval. He talked to me the day before, said he wasn't happy here. I told him to just ignore them, that he was good at things that they would never excel at, which is true. Jason's a smart kid; he wins with his head not speed or strength. I guess he didn't listen because he gave into their taunts and went along. If he had told me what they were trying to get him to do I could have stopped this." Derek didn't fail to notice the way Gilby kept mentioning ways this whole situation could have been avoided. Things that were impossible to know should have been done in advance.
"So they were using this as a game to show Jason that he was weaker?" Derek questioned him further.
"I think it probably backfired. Jason is the type who thrives under stress, he's a leader just doesn't know it. If things got rough he would have taken over. He'd also know the game had gone too far by now. Like I said, he's a smart kid, he'd have to at least guess the effect this would have on the camp. Whatever happened up at the cabin they can't get back for some reason." Gilby averted his eyes, and Derek noticed his clinched fists on the desk.
"Heard anything from Derek?" Tangye walked into the control room with a tray of coffee and some cookies given to her by cook. Nick had kept himself holed up in here for the past few hours and it had finally gotten to her. She had managed to get the story out of Philip, learning much more then she ever thought he would be willing to tell her, but was glad she did so. He had told her about how Nick felt betrayed when Philip had chosen the church over the Legacy. How he felt that Philip was really leaving them not the organization. But more importantly to the young woman he had told her about Julia and her death in Ireland over three years ago. He explained that Nick had blamed Derek for causing it, and Philip for not being there when it happened. How Nick had never really forgiven himself for leaving so many things left unsaid between them. She understood all too well what he was going through, and the blame he was heaping on anyone he could. But she also knew he was probably being hardest on himself for letting her down in his mind.
She set the coffee down and rested her hand on his shoulder. She intended to make good on her promise to Philip and keep it to herself that she had learned anything despite her desire to reach out to Nick and try and comfort him. She was sure his silence about these things would only last so long. After everything he had already told her it only made sense that eventually he would get to this information. Until that time she could remain quiet.
"Yeah, he talked to the owner and will be checking out the cabin where the kids are thought to have vanished from. The parents have come and gotten all the other kids. Evidently the guy's really hurt by all this, his life is slipping away from him and he can't control it. There's still a chance it's just a prank, though, Derek doesn't seem to think so. Unfortunately there's not much on the cabin in our databases. Rachel and Alex are going to go to the local library and see if there's anything there." Tangye nodded. "I had something I wanted to show you."
He tapped at the computer keyboard and the reports he was scrolling through were replaced by a picture on the main screen. Tangye cocked her head to one side, not sure why he wanted to show her this but unable not to whisper, "she's beautiful." She had dark brown hair that hung around her smooth face. Her features were nearly perfect, and her bright blue eyes seemed alive in the photo. She wore a white lace shirt with a high collar, and clasped by an intricate broach. "Who is it?"
"Maille Conway-Gaarlihn." Nick answered with a self-satisfied grin.
"My great-grandmother? Nick where did you find this?" She moved around the terminal to study the picture closer. She had a face that was the type all men who ever met her probably never forgot, she was that beautiful
"Legacy database. They try to keep tabs on family of Legacy members; she was bound to be in there somewhere since she was married to a member. Took some searching but " He trailed off.
"Thanks." Nick smiled at her and she was even more certain she was falling for him. She sat on the table and looked back and forth between Nick and the picture; amazed he had even thought to do this. "You know it's strange, until Derek told me about Charles I hadn't ever really thought about him. Or my grandfather for that matter. They all died before I was born and my father never talked about them really. The only thing he ever said about his father was that he was an angry man. Now, though, I want to learn all I can about the life he lead, everything. Not Eric, but Charles." She didn't mention the fact that she knew the man had also served a very important role in her life, watching over her but never being seen.
Nick stood up and crossed to her, leaning beside her against the table. "What about your mother's family, didn't you know them?" He asked genuinely curious, noticing that she seemed to rarely speak of that side of her family. He could tell that she wasn't really interested in talking about her parents directly, and he understood that, but she didn't seem to mind the topic of her great-grandfather. It almost seemed to bring her some pleasure in fact.
"No, her parents died when she was five. She was raised by friends of theirs. Other then my parents I never had much along the line of family." Nick knew just how much that simple statement must have hurt her. She had lost her parents in more then just death, and felt adrift without a family to hold onto. She had been raised in a close knit family where they were a constant support structure, to lose that must have caused her more pain then she even admitted.
Nick had spent years hating his own father but clung desperately to his mother. He hardly ever saw her, and avoided talking to her because of the painful memories it evoked but she still meant the world to him. "My father was the only child of an only child so there weren't even aunts and uncles. My mother was an only child but her mother did have a brother, he died in Korea though. By the time I was born there was no one but my parents. I know Charles and Maille are dead, but they were good people from everything I read. I'd like to hold onto that." She grinned slightly, grateful that he had been so thoughtful.
"You should. Listen, I know this is all hard on you but you aren't as alone as you think." Nick reassured.
"I never managed to be alone Nick." She reached up and gently touched his face. "Someone saw to that." She barely whispered. She was sure it had been her great-grandfather that had been watching over her since she was a child. She wasn't sure how she knew but there was no doubt about the truth to her.