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The Walls Have Teeth (1/18/1998)
by Patti (email address unknown)
The members of the San Francisco Legacy House investigate the grisly
murder of a young girl which occurred within
Author's Note: The following prologue is essential to future stories, but has no significant bearing on this one. However, since it re-introduces the character of Briony Murphy, and she is a part of this tale, I felt that it was appropriate. Forgive the confusion…all should be made clear in the not too distant future.
Derek and Philip stared at the computer screen with mixed emotions. The vortex of negative energy that they had only recently discovered had grown exponentially, and it had taken them literally hours to pinpoint the exact location for the source of the readings. However, now they had it. The precept nodded to the younger man, and both left the room as one. It was up to the two of them to investigate. The other three team members were completely out of reach, Derek having sent them off on another mission to a remote area in Utah.
After driving for what seemed like hours, Philip pulled the Range Rover up into the driveway of an apparently abandoned farmhouse near Napa.
"Do you really think this is it, Derek?"
The Dutchman nodded. "It's the place, Philip. I can feel the negative energy. The sensation has been getting quite strong for some time now. Let's see what's causing it."
As the two men walked cautiously up the steps and tried the door they heard a very familiar sounding scream of rage.
"Damn you RAYNE!!!"
They turned to look at each other in complete astonishment.
"Hitchcock?" they asked each other in unison.
Derek burst in through the unlocked front door of the farmhouse, with Philip close on his heels. They immediately took in the scene before them. The vortex was getting smaller by the minute, which relieved Derek no end. There was a man on his knees, pounding his fists on the dusty floor in fury. A short way from him lay the prone body of a young woman, either unconscious or dead. As the two men entered the room, Randolph Hitchcock looked up. His face showed no less surprise than theirs had a few scant seconds before, but it immediately changed into a mask of pure hatred.
"YOU!!!!" he spat with loathing, and got to his feet, pointing at Derek.
As the furious man reached the standing position he swayed, but quickly gained control of his senses again.
"Yes. Me. What have you done this time Randolph?"
"Done? DONE? It's YOU who've DONE, Derek!"
The man was ranting. Philip noticed the rise and fall of the girl's chest and realized that she wasn't dead as he had thought. He moved to kneel beside her. As he brushed the long dark hair from her face, his heart stopped in his chest and he turned white as a sheet.
"Brie???? What the…how…?" he stammered, his thoughts incoherent, and he dropped gracefully to the floor beside the unconscious woman in a dead faint, just as the vortex closed for good.
Seeing the closure, Randolph Hitchcock let out a pitiful moan and the two old friends, now turned combatants continued to wage a war of words.
"It's your fault Rayne…all your fault! Damn you to HELL!"
"What is my fault Randolph? Alicia's death? I'll admit that I blamed myself for years, however, I've finally figured out that what happened to your fiancée was tragic, but that I was in no way responsible. Why can't you see that?"
"Her death? I'm talking about her life now Derek! How DARE you try to sidestep this? Here I am, working furiously against time to open the doorway to another dimension so that I can finally live in peace with my precious Alicia, and what do I find when I get there? YOU!"
"Yes you! The two of you…living in total harmony! You bastard! She was MINE! Not yours…MINE Derek! And you stole her from me!"
"Randolph! I…" he got no further when he heard the girl moan softly in her unconscious state, and noticed Philip passed out on the floor beside her. Hitchcock laughed menacingly.
"Ah yes…the girl. Well, I couldn't bring myself to harm my beloved Alicia, but I found a way to hurt you and she both without actually harming her. It seems that in that other dimension, these two were like the children you and Alicia were never able to have Derek…and so I've stolen the girl away…away from you all! Imagine your grief Derek…and his…" he pointed to the prone Philip, "…when you wake up today, and both realize she's gone."
"Oh my GOT! What have you done?"
The older man was lost in his own world, however, and continued on as if Derek hadn't spoken at all.
"I can see it now! You'll spend months, possibly years, hunting…searching…waiting. You'll never be able to understand why you don't receive a ransom demand. He'll never be able to sleep soundly again. You'll BOTH suffer Derek. And Alicia…she'll suffer along side of you."
"Randolph! I don't know how you opened that doorway, but you've got to do it again! I'm sorry for what you found in that other world, but in this reality Alicia WAS your fiancée…she loved YOU Randolph, not me! She was going to marry YOU! Don't do this to them…" Derek also gestured towards the pair on the floor, "…they've got nothing to do with this. Open the doorway again Randolph…Please!"
"It's too late. It was a one-time shot. Only once in 20 years are the elements in perfect alignment for such an event! I couldn't do it even if I wanted to…which I don't, by the way! Sorry Rayne. Well, okay…I'm not really sorry at all."
The emotionally unhinged and laughing man dashed through the open front door, but as Derek moved to follow him, he heard Philip's weak voice behind him. It seemed that once again Randolph Hitchcock would escape unscathed. The precept knelt beside his dazed young friend, helping him into a sitting position.
"Derek? Wha's happenin'? Where are we…?"
The confused priest looked around and finally his eyes rested on the girl beside him. His breath escaped on a sob.
"Oh Lord! It can't really be her, can it Derek? Tell me I'm dreamin'! Please!" he said the last word in a deep, pleading yet insistent voice.
"I'm sorry my friend. Hitchcock has surpassed himself this time I'm afraid. It is indeed Briony…however, now is not the time or the place for explanations. I think it would be best if we got her back to the island without delay."
Philip nodded. Derek thought he looked as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and that's just how the young priest felt. He couldn't understand why it saddened him so to actually have her back again, but it just felt wrong.
Philip knew that however Randolph Hitchcock had managed to bring Briony into their world, it was causing pain to someone. He knew it was this, which was at the heart of his discomfort…the thought that somewhere he himself was having to go through the grief of losing her all over again.
Derek carried the still unconscious girl, who they finally realized had been drugged by Hitchcock, to the car. The two men placed her gently in the back seat of the Rover, and climbed in.
Upon Briony's regaining consciousness, the two men explained the situation to her, in minute detail. She was horrified, and cried for hours. Philip had taken it upon himself to comfort her as much as he could, and eventually she began to accept what had happened to her. However, for months after waking up in the house on Angel Island, Briony was wracked with feelings of loneliness and despair.
Everyone in the house tried to make her feel welcome, but she still felt very much the outsider in this new world. Eventually, she decided to make an extended visit to her "sister-in-law" Eileen in Ireland.
As for the people left in the house on Angel Island, life continued on in the normal way for quite some time after her departure. All this was about to change, however, and evil would pervade their lives once again…
The Crime (Three months later)
As she walked slowly through the empty halls, Gabrielle St. Cloud could hear the distant sounds of The City, but here in this abandoned house on California Avenue in San Francisco, everything seemed very far away.
She felt as if hundreds of eyes followed her and sighed in relief. She got this feeling every time she visited the house. It was an exciting feeling, yet contained great sadness as well. For nearly two years since her husband died, she had been inconsolable. Some unknown force had led her to this place and now it seemed as if he was with her again.
She was unable to stay away from the empty building. The feelings and memories evoked were bittersweet, but they held her captive even so. As she walked up the staircase, she began to hear the whispered voices echoing through the house.
"Gabrielle, we have missed you."
"Where have you been?" they said.
They always came to her now. They had begun as murmured sounds during her second visit to the house. By the time she'd come every day for a week, they were recognizable as voices. For some reason, they were comforting instead of frightening. She heard nuances in the voices that touched a chord within her soul. Today there was one voice missing. She tried to detect it among the others, but it wasn't there. She felt as if she'd been kicked in the stomach.
"Damn Philip! If he hadn't needed me to fill in for Sydney, this wouldn't have happened. Oh God, I can't lose him again…" Gabrielle thought, truly frightened.
She said with a sob, "I am sorry. I was unable to come back for a time, but I am here again. My love, please forgive me."
"Of course my darling…as if I could blame you. I understand, we all do. You would never willingly leave me…as I would never willing leave you." This was said by one specific voice, a voice she knew as well as her own and another sob escaped her lips.
"Valere." She whispered a name aloud.
As she watched, a figure began to form before her. He was tall, with auburn hair and green eyes. His features were classically designed, chiseled. It was a face that was etched into her very soul. Never before had he been so real to her. When the man was no longer transparent she ran and threw herself into his arms, raising her face to receive his kisses.
"Oh how I've missed you, mon cher." She said breathlessly, between kisses.
"Good Morning, Luna Foundation. May I help you?"
"Hello Dominick. Frank Karmak here. Is your boss around? I need to speak with him urgently." A male voice on the other end of the telephone instrument said.
"Oh hello Lieutenant. Yes, Dr. Rayne is here. Will you hold for just a moment, he is currently engaged in his morning staff meeting. I will let him know you are waiting to speak with him." The domestic said, and upon receiving the policeman's assent, he pushed a button and replaced the receiver, then walked across the foyer to the Library.
"Alright Philip, keep trying. I'll have Alex pitch in when she gets back. She arrives from Bogota this evening…" Derek was saying as Dominick entered the room.
The majordomo cleared his throat and said, "Excuse me. Dr. Rayne, Lieutenant Karmak is on line one for you. He says it's urgent."
"Thank you Dominick." The precept said and rose to answer the phone.
The other three occupants of the room looked at each other in concern. Frank only called when some crime had been committed which had no earthly explanation.
Nick sighed. He was exhausted from a recent bout of the flu, which then had turned into bronchitis. He hadn't been sleeping well and had been glad that things had been very quiet around the Legacy for a while. All that was really happening was Philip's unsuccessful attempts at translation of a 3rd century Druidic manuscript. It looked like that was going to change.
"Hello Frank. To what do I owe the honor of this call?" Derek said, trying to lighten the mood with his tone of voice.
"Uh, hi Derek. Sorry to interrupt your meeting, but I've got something I'd like you to take a look at. The body of a young woman was found in a house over on California. She looks…well, actually I'd like you to take a look for yourself, and then tell me what you think. I don't know what it is, but there's something really strange about this." The Lieutenant explained and then asked, "Can you come?"
Derek smiled grimly. "Of course Frank. What's the address? Uh huh. Oh Got! That's the Windwood house. I know that house. We've done some research on it…however; nothing violent has ever happened there that I can remember. Not like this. It's practically abandoned. As far as I know, only students and researchers have been interested in the place for some time now. How horrible. Nick and I will meet you there in about an hour and a half. Will that do?" he asked.
Frank said, "Actually, I think you'd better bring Father Callaghan this time Derek. I tried to reach him at the parish, and his assistant told me he was engaged in business with you. The girl was one of his parishioners…a Gabrielle St. Cloud. Derek…she was only 26 years old."
The precept's face fell. "Oh no. All right, I'll bring him, and explain the situation on the drive over. Actually, I think Nick can use the rest. Philip and I will see you soon."
Philip, Nick and Rachel had been following their leader's conversation with interest. At the look on Derek's face when he said 'Oh no', the priest's heart sank. Something had happened that was going to affect him personally. He could hear it in his friend's voice. When he heard the precept say that the two of them would meet Frank, his feeling was verified.
He was startled by Rachel's hand grasping his from across the table. She squeezed his hand and he squeezed hers back, then smiled at her in reassurance that he was all right.
The doctor had been unaccountably worried about his state of mind since his return from Ireland. She hadn't been there, but obviously Alex or Derek had filled the psychiatrist in on everything that had happened. Rachel had been keeping a firm eye on him ever since.
Nick heard Derek say that he could use a rest, and silently thanked him. The ex-SEAL couldn't remember the last night of complete sleep he'd had, and he hadn't seen Sydney in over two weeks. The young man didn't get sick often, but when he did it was major. He had been hoping to get a short vacation…maybe a couple of days off somewhere alone with his girlfriend.
Derek hung up the phone, and turned to face his colleagues. He sighed in resignation at the fact that he had to be the one to inform Philip of the girl's demise. The precept decided that it would be best to get it over with, and let the priest begin dealing with it before they reached the crime scene, so he took the bull by the horns.
"Philip, I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, but it would seem that Gabrielle St. Cloud has been murdered." He said sympathetically.
"What? Oh no." he said, and his face fell. It was worse than he expected. "Not Gabrielle! She is…was so young! I saw her just yesterday, before I left t'come out here. Does Frank know how or why she was murdered? When do we leave?" The priest asked, running his questions together in his obvious distress at the thought of his young parishioner's death.
"Frank has no explanation for the death, which is why he called us. We leave in five minutes. Can you be ready?" Derek asked his young friend.
"O'course I can. I'll just go upstairs and get my bag." Philip replied.
As the priest left the room, Derek turned to the other two occupants.
"Nick, you heard what I told Frank. I want you to rest. We never know when or where you might be needed, and I don't want you sicker than you already are. You go back to bed and get some sleep. I want you to stay there until Rachel here has said you're well enough to get out of it. Understand?" his tone was that of a stern father.
Both the ex-SEAL and Rachel were smiling inwardly, though no evidence of their feelings shown on their faces. Nick was amused, and secretly touched that Derek was so concerned for his health. He thought that he really did sound like a father…a good one.
"Understood. I can really use the break, thanks Derek." He replied, seriously. Nick stood, smiled his goodbye to Rachel and left the room smothering a hacking cough.
"Goot." The precept said and turned to his papers, the discussion over.
Rachel smiled and said, "Well, if there's nothing more for me to do here Derek, I have patients to see."
The handsome Dutchman looked up from the table and smiled at her. "Of course. I'm sorry to have kept you so much longer than normal Rachel. Thank you." He rose to follow her out of the room.
When they reached the foyer, he took her arm gently. "Rachel? I was wondering if you would have a few minutes later in the day to check back in. I have a feeling Philip might need someone to talk to, and he's been less than communicative with me lately."
"Sure! I was planning to anyway, Derek. Between you and me, I'm more concerned about Philip's mental health than I am about Nick's physical health. I've been concerned about him ever since you told me what happened in Ireland. He seems okay, but I just don't know how much more grief that poor man can take." The doctor sighed. "I'll tell you this, he's got reserves that I never even began to imagine."
Derek smiled. "Yes Rachel, he does. Philip has always been far stronger than even he believes he is. That's part of his charm, I think. He actually sees himself as the weak link, when in fact I believe that it's his very soul, which keeps us from becoming hardened."
The psychiatrist was nodding. "I think you're right about that Derek.
Well, I guess I'd better go. Good luck."
The black Range Rover was awaiting the two men at the door. Derek stood in the open doorway, tapping his fingers on the foyer table and glancing at his watch impatiently. At a sharp sound at the top of the stairs, he looked up.
Philip was struggling to hurry down the staircase. He was dressed in his clerical garb, carrying a black bag in one hand and rubbing his thigh with the other. The young priest was mumbling and his face was a mask of pain.
“What happened?” the precept asked, slightly amused at Philip's pained and exasperated expression.
“Stupid table…I thought it saw me comin'!” the priest replied, with a small smile on his face which grew as a look of utter astonishment came over the face of his friend, then he sobered. “Sorry. Just a wee bit of humor t'try and take my mind off this tragedy.”
Derek smiled a sad yet comforting smile.
“Of course. Well, let’s go see what happened.”
"Windwood House is well known in psychic circles for it's excessively strong aura. I have never actually been there, but I know from the research of a former student of mine, that it is quite 'active'. A sort of doorway to the other side." Derek was explaining the history of the house to his companion as they drove.
"So, you think it might be one o'the spirits inhabitin' th'place that killed Gabrielle?" Philip asked, trying to understand his precept's thinking.
"Actually, I would be greatly surprised. None of the stories I have heard about the house are violent in nature. Some are very sad, but not violent. It's just a place where ghosts can cross over, so to speak. They can actually become visible to the general public there. However, the documentation suggests that the ghosts of people who have passed on can only be seen by their loved ones still living in this world…and even then it doesn't follow that if you have deceased loved ones, that you will see them. There's no rhyme or reason to the visitations."
Philip nodded in understanding, without taking his eyes from the road.
The precept sighed. "I'm truly at a loss to understand what happened. I hope we'll know more after we actually see the crime scene."
Due to the number of emergency vehicles still at the scene of the crime, Philip had to park the Range Rover in another family's driveway, more than a block away from the house. He went up to the owner who was working in her garden at the side of the house, and asked if it was all right for them to leave the vehicle there for a short while. He explained that they were there on parish and police business. The woman assented readily, happy to help.
As the two men walked toward the busy scene, the priest was reminded of other times he and Derek had fulfilled a similar mission together. It was good to be back in the Legacy, yet it had its drawbacks…this being one of them. Death. Always death. It seemed to follow them everywhere they turned.
Other priests dealt with death, but not like he was forced to. He knew it was a fact of life, and his childhood in Belfast should have hardened him. However, instead he felt an unutterable sadness at the waste of life that he had witnessed in his time with his friends.
Derek placed a hand on his friend's shoulder and said, "These are the bad ones, aren't they. I mean the cases where someone has actually died. Dealing with forms of evil in writings and artifacts, which have caused death centuries before, is one thing. Dealing with the evil murder of a young woman is something else entirely."
The handsome Irishman nodded his assent.
Walking up the path to the house, Derek suddenly cried out in pain, grabbed Philip’s arm and crumpled like a piece of paper…just as white.
“Derek!” he cried as he vainly attempted to catch the larger man when he fell…he was dead weight.
He looked around in panic, and saw two paramedics leaving the premises. “Help me!!!” he shouted to them before they could get out of earshot.
They rushed toward him with the stretcher they had been pushing. It was obvious he was ready to give out under the strain of trying to hold the other man upright. Derek had passed out cold. When the two EMTs took over, Philip could do nothing but stand back and watch as they worked. It seemed that the precept was alive, but his breathing was very shallow and rapid.
The medical men said that they needed to get him to the hospital quickly. The taller of the two men said that he was lucky they were there at all. When the call came in, the dispatcher had included the EMTs as a precaution, not knowing that the victim was already dead.
Philip said a quick prayer of thankfulness for their presence, and then nodded in mute agreement to their suggestion that Derek be hospitalized. He started to follow, but then remembered what had brought them to the house. He was torn.
Finally he asked the medics if they would call the Luna Foundation and notify Nick Boyle about their friend’s collapse. He said to tell the man that he would meet him at the hospital when he was through with Lt. Karmak. The smaller of the two EMTs nodded as he climbed into the back of the ambulance with Derek, and said he would be glad to do so.
Philip sighed and turned to the house with a heavy heart.
Pain for Alex (Bogota, Columbia )
Alex was feeling the heat and the humidity as they climbed the rocky mountain trail. When MaryAlice Davis, the precept of the Dallas House had called Derek and asked for her help in excavating an ancient burial site in the remote mountains outside Bogota, she had been elated.
They were a great bunch of people. MaryAlice and her husband Rob, who was also her right hand when it came to the running of the Legacy house, were wonderfully open and intelligent. Julia was bubbly and effervescent, if slightly nutty. And Randy was just a doll. All had gone out of their way to make her feel like part of their team, albeit a temporary part. To top it off, the dig had gone far better than planned.
However, right at this minute she was hot, tired and would have paid a kings ransom to be anywhere other than where she was. She just wanted to get home. Alex was thrilled that they were almost done, and would be leaving that evening.
Suddenly the tall beauty was overwhelmed by feelings of nausea, and her head felt like it wanted to explode. She cried out softly and sat down on the ground holding her head in her hands.
"Lexa!" Randy Summers shouted as he saw her collapse a short way ahead of him. He hurried to her side, and knelt beside her on the ground.
"What is it? Are you in pain?" he asked, concernedly.
Alex was moaning in agony, but as suddenly as the feelings started, they stopped. She looked around in surprise. It was as if the pain had never existed. She looked up into Randy's worried eyes and shook her head.
"I don't know what happened. I was climbing, then suddenly I felt extremely nauseous and I thought my head would burst. Now there's nothing again. How weird." She said, standing up and brushing herself off.
Her companion continued to look at her worriedly. "Sounds like a psychic episode Lexa. I don't like it. What if it's got something to do with this stuff we're gathering? I think we should go back down to camp and tell MaryAlice what happened. The others can finish up here."
"No! I'm fine Randy. Really. I don't feel that it's got anything to do with this dig. I don't know what it does have to do with, but the sensations are far more distant. I'm just glad that I'm going back home tonight."
"You sure Lexa? I know Ju and Rob can take care of things here." He said, still unconvinced. He had grown quite fond of the beautiful dark-skinned woman in their two weeks together.
She smiled at him and gave him a hug. He was a great guy, and she liked him almost as much as he liked her. She decided that she just had to figure a way to introduce him to Rachel. They would be perfect for each other.
"Positive. Let's get this done so we can go home." She said, and started climbing to catch up to the other two.
Last Rites (San Francisco, California )
Philip caught sight of Detective Karmak before he'd been spotted, and was filled with dismay. He suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable…remembering the last time he'd come face to face with this particular police officer. The young priest was extremely embarrassed by the thought that Frank had seen him incarcerated and practically tried for murder. He sighed. Obviously, there was no help for it, but Philip realized that his duty called, and so he moved toward the group of officers near the front door.
“Philip!” Frank Karmak came forward, his hand outstretched to shake the priest’s. “Where’s Derek? I thought he was coming with you.” He said, looking around questioningly.
Father Philip Callaghan was extremely relieved and filled with feelings of gratitude toward the taller man. Obviously, Frank had put that particular episode behind them…filed it away in the recesses of his brain as irrelevant and not worth mentioning.
The young Irishman looked up into the detective’s eyes and smiled grimly. “Sorry Frank, but Derek collapsed right outside. The paramedics took him t’the hospital. I think he’ll be fine, but they needed t’be sure. I wanted t’go too, but I knew I had work here…so I stayed. They’re gonna notify Nick, so somebody will be at the hospital when he wakes up, at least.”
"My God! What caused it? Do you know?" the policeman asked, concerned.
"I don't have the first clue. He just cried out and fainted dead away. It was astonishin'!" Philip replied. "Look, can we get this over quickly? I'd like t'get t'the hospital as soon as possible."
Lieutenant Karmak nodded sadly, and led the way to an upstairs room. The house looked like it hadn't seen the light of day in years. Dust was thick on the floor and every fixture was covered with cobwebs. It reminded the men of pictures of the "haunted" houses of their youths.
"Mary, Mother of God!" Philip gasped aloud at his first view of the dead woman. "What in the Lord's name happened to her Frank?"
The detective sighed. "I was hoping that's what the Legacy could tell me, Philip. I've never seen anything like this…outside the things you all deal with." He whispered to the young priest.
Philip looked up at him sharply and asked if he could perform last rites for the dead girl, and Frank nodded. "They're done in here, I believe."
The priest walked over to where the girl lay and was even more horrified at the state of her body when he reached her. It got more gruesome the closer he got. She looked like she had been torn apart by some wild animal, but there was no evidence that such an animal had ever been inside the house. The room, aside from the carefully laid paths created especially for the forensic team, was pristine. Untouched. There had been tracks in the dust from human feet in other parts of the house, but not in here. To top it off, she had been laid out as if saying a final prayer, hands crossed across her breast.
He knelt beside her and began to pray. He couldn't bear to look upon her devastated remains, and so closed his eyes.
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, take the soul of Gabrielle Josephine St. Cloud, your worthy servant, into your keeping…"
Nick in Action
"Mr. Boyle! Wake up sir. It's important." Dominick's nerves were becoming frayed by his attempts to waken the young man sleeping soundly in his bed.
"What? Dominick? Whasup?" Nick's voice was barely awake.
The majordomo was relieved to see signs of life finally. "It's Dr. Rayne. He's in the hospital. Had a collapse or something."
The ex-SEAL sat up in bed, fully awake when he heard those words. "What? Is Philip with him? What sort of collapse?" he was full of questions, but Dominick could only shake his head.
"Father Callaghan is still with Lieutenant Karmak at Windwood House. He asked that they contact us. I don't know what sort of collapse, sir. They couldn't say over the phone. The medic did suggest you come to the hospital right away."
Nick Boyle needed no further urging, as he jumped out of bed. He grabbed his clothes off the back of the chair at his desk, and proceeded to get dressed before the domestic had a chance to leave the room. While he dressed, he told Dominick to track down Rachel and to try to contact Alex. The older man nodded.
As Nick started for the door, he heard a voice behind him. Dominick sounded years older suddenly.
He turned and faced the older man, and was shocked by the look on the man's face. He realized that the domestic was worried beyond belief. Derek had been his employer for 15 years, and they were like family in a way. He reached out and clapped Dominick on the shoulder.
"Don't worry 'D'. I'll call you as soon as I know anything. I'm sure he's gonna be all right. Just hang in there, you hear?"
The majordomo tried to smile, but it was a wan effort. He nodded his head emphatically, however.
Nick walked purposefully from his room, down the stairs and opened the front door. He had planned on walking to the garage to retrieve the Mustang, but there at the foot of the steps was the shiny black Lincoln Town Car. He turned to look at Dominick coming down the stairs at his usual stately pace.
"Dr. Rayne would never countenance your driving yourself in your state of nerves and health, young man. I took the liberty of ordering the car, and Robert is prepared to drive you. If you use the private launch, you can pick up one of the cars at the terminal end."
Nick started to utter a sharp retort about his own driving abilities, but he stopped. He knew that Dominick was right. Not about what Derek would or wouldn't countenance, but about his state of mind and health. The ex-SEAL also knew that Robert was a former formula racecar driver, and so he relented. Not to mention the fact that the private launch would save them about 20 minutes.
As he got in the front seat, he was shocked by the wink that Dominick threw him. It was then that he realized it was Robert's scheduled day off. Nick finally understood that the majordomo knew how important it was that he reach the hospital with all-possible speed, and safety.
Gabrielle and Valere
"…In the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen."
When Philip had finished, Frank heard him whisper softly, "Valere, she's with you again now my son. Take care of her."
"Valere?" the detective asked curiously.
The priest started, having forgotten that he was observed. He rose and walked out of the room, needing to get away from the image of the dead woman on the floor. Frank followed him out and nodded at two men from the Medical Examiner's office that they could now clear away the body.
Philip took a deep breath, and turned to the detective. He began to explain. "Valere St. Cloud was Gabrielle's husband. He died unexpectedly almost two years ago. He was all of 25 at the time. She took it very hard, only being 24 herself. I have worked with her closely for the past two years helping her to understand and to deal with her grief. In the last few weeks she seemed to be making real progress."
He sighed deeply, and then continued, "She and Valere had moved here to San Francisco when her parents were murdered in France shortly after the two were married. They had been here less than two years when he was killed during an armed robbery in the bank where he worked."
Lieutenant Karmak shook his head sadly as the M.E. people pushed a gurney past the two men. The gurney carrying the last mortal remains of Gabrielle St. Cloud. "So much tragedy for one so young."
Philip put his hand on the taller man's shoulder and said, "Some of us are burdened with more than our fair share, Frank. However, God never gives us more than we can handle."
The detective turned to the priest and nodded, then he asked as if struck by a sudden inspiration, "Is there anything familiar about this to you Philip? I swear, I have a vague feeling of unease and something seems…I don't know…like a feeling of déjà vu."
Philip's eyes had gone wide and he was staring into space. He whispered, more to himself than to the man at his side, "Brie? What the devil are you doin' here? I thought you were in Ireland!" he said, sharply. When the vision disappeared suddenly he started. "What the…?"
"Philip! What is it?" Frank asked sharply, grabbing the other man's arm.
The priest jumped like he had been burned, and turned to look up at the detective, a sheepish look on his face.
"I take it you didn't see 'er?" he asked, sounding like he already knew the answer.
Karmak's eyebrows rose. "Her? Who her? Who is 'Brie'? Philip, what are you talking about? There hasn't been another living soul in this house with us since the M.E. left."
Father Philip Callaghan laughed mirthlessly. He suddenly remembered what Derek had told him about the house, and the thought that the ghost of his late fiancée could be in the same room with them yet not be seen, unnerved him slightly. "Livin'? Uh no, not livin'. Ah well, I guess the strain of the mornin' has my eyes playin' tricks on me. Never mind Frank. What was it you were askin'?"
The detective didn't look like he wanted to drop the subject, but he realized that Philip could be stubborn as a mule, and as close as a clam when he wanted to be. So he repeated his question about something feeling familiar.
"Not familiar exactly. I don't know what it is Frank, but I sense somethin' strange…evil…here in this house. Derek mentioned that the house was haunted. I think you're right about her death not bein' caused by human hands, but at whose…that I'm not sure."
He was wryly amused to see the relieved look come over his companion's face. Frank Karmak was the only police detective that he knew who would even consider, let alone welcome, a supernatural explanation in cases he felt were unsolvable.
"So tell me Frank, how'd you manage t'find out about Gabrielle so quickly? I mean, it's not like this is th'sorta place that people are constantly in and out of."
The detective nodded. "You're right. We got a call from the man who lives across the street. He told us that he'd seen a girl coming and going from this house for weeks, and one day he saw her come in, but she never came out. He also said that he'd heard some strange noises. When we got here and found the body, we checked with the other neighbors. They admitted to hearing the same noises, but hadn't called in because the place was supposed to be deserted. They said that they'd just figured some indigents had moved in."
The priest sighed. "Well, we should be thankful for one observant neighbor at least. Did he tell ya anythin' else that might be useful? Like any other visitors?"
"Well, he did mention a couple that he used to see around here quite a bit, but he said he hadn't seen them in months. We're checking it out."
"Good. Well, I don't think there's anythin' else I can do here right now. I've got t'think on this for a while and right now I want t'get t'the hospital t'see how Derek's farin'. I'll call you and let you know, Frank."
The detective grasped Philip's outstretched hand and shook it. He smiled and said that he really appreciated the priest's, and the Legacy's, help with the case.
"Thanks, Philip. I'm sorry you had to see her like that, but it couldn't be helped. Oh, and tell Derek that I'll try to stop in to see him once my shift is over."
The two men parted company at the curb, and soon Philip was on his way to the hospital, the vision of Gabrielle as he'd last seen her forgotten in his worry for his friend.
At the Hospital
Robert drove like the award winning racecar driver he had once been. He dodged trucks laden with merchandise, and wove in and out of traffic on the Embarcadero like the other cars were standing still. Nick was glad that he was aware of the other man's driving abilities, otherwise he realized he'd be panic stricken. As it was, he was thoroughly enjoying the ride, the reason for it notwithstanding. It wasn't everyday he got to play "Ricky Racer" through the streets of San Francisco.
Soon they came to the University Medical Center, where Derek had been admitted. Nick thanked Robert for getting him there so quickly and raced up the stairs. The driver didn't even have a chance to reply that it had been his pleasure before the electric doors at the entrance to the Emergency Room swallowed the young man.
Nick walked directly over to the desk and asked the nurse about Dr. Derek Rayne.
"Are you family, sir?" she asked haughtily.
Nick's temper, which had been tried by the long drive to the hospital, snapped. "Lady, I'm almost the closest thing he has to a son. No I'm not 'family' in the official sense, but I'm damn well going to see him. Got it?!"
The nurse nodded, looking very astonished at his outburst. She called for the floor nurse to discover the patient's condition and ascertain whether he could have visitors yet, and he realized that she had just been doing her job.
"Sorry. I guess I'm still in shock from the news of his collapse." He muttered.
The nurse smiled, and he noticed she was cute…and young. "That's alright. I guess I could have been a little more sensitive." She replied, smiling flirtatiously, obviously attracted to him.
He smiled at her in return, then cringed at the thought of what Syd would say to his flirting with another woman. However, he realized that he might just be able to get the information he needed more quickly if he played along, so he turned on the charm.
"Well, you were just doing your job, right? You know…you're one of the youngest nurses I think I've seen at this desk, and I'm here a lot, I can tell you. Are you new here?"
He cringed at the sound of his own smooth sounding voice, but the young R.N. didn't seem to be disgusted with his tone…quite the reverse actually.
"Oh yes. I just started about two weeks ago. I'd been in orthopedics until then. So does this mean that I'll probably get to see you often, Mr…um…?"
"Boyle. Nick Boyle. Oh, I bet we'll be seeing each other around from time to time. So, any news about my friend?" he asked, dropping his voice conspiratorially.
She smiled and winked at him. "Well, I just found his chart and the doctor wanted to see you immediately. In fact, I think that's him right there." She indicated a tall, white-coated man walking toward them.
With a sigh of relief, he turned away to greet the physician.
"Are you Nicholas Boyle?" the doctor asked, and continued at Nick's nod. "Good, I'm Doctor Andrew Grant. I treated Dr. Rayne when they brought him in."
"How is he doc? Is he gonna be okay?" he asked, still very worried.
The doctor nodded. "Derek Rayne suffered some sort of fainting attack. He has regained consciousness, but his head hurts so badly that we've had to give him something very strong for the pain. I would like to keep him here for observation overnight. Since I cannot explain the reasons for his condition, I am still concerned."
Suddenly a small whirlwind of blonde hair and leather coat came rushing up to them, and began to breathlessly demand answers.
"Nick, what's going on? Where's Philip? What happened to Derek? Has someone contacted Alex yet? Doctor…uh…Grant, I'm Dr. Rachel Corrigan, a colleague of Dr. Rayne's and Mr. Boyle's. How is he?"
Dr. Andrew Grant smiled at the newcomer, and held out his hand. "Dr. Corrigan. I've heard much about you. It's a pleasure. Actually, I was just telling Mr. Boyle that while I cannot explain why the attack occurred, and while he still has one heck of a headache, Dr. Rayne appears to be fine. The EEG came back normal, as did the CAT scan. I think he'll recover fully, but I still plan to keep him overnight for observation, just to be safe."
Rachel reached out for the chart in his hands, and he gave it up freely. Nick stood by amazed at the difference in attitude doctors in general took with each other. He smiled when he realized that Rachel's miniskirt and blonde hair probably had everything to do with the fatuous look on the young resident's face.
"Ah, you've given him Morphine for the pain. Isn't that a bit strong for a headache?" she asked, concerned, and handed him back the chart.
"Well doctor, it seems to be one hell of a headache. We'll take him down to Vicodin after a few hours and see if that will control it." He replied, and smiled broadly. "You two are free to go in to see him now. We'll be moving him up to a private room as soon as one of our orderlies comes back from lunch."
"Can I help you Father?" the young nurse at the desk asked loud enough that the group in the corner heard her.
"Philip, over here." Nick called softly yet loudly enough that his friend heard him and moved toward the group.
As the priest walked up, the doctor looked at him and asked, "Are you the priest who was with him when he collapsed? The medics said you'd been delayed. I have some questions for you if you don't mind."
Philip looked like a trapped animal, and Rachel realized that no one had told him yet how Derek was. She put her arm through his and gave it a squeeze, then leaned over and told him that their friend would be fine.
"Dr. Grant just has no idea why his attack occurred. I think he's hoping something you might have to tell him will shed some light on the situation." She added.
The handsome young Irishman just shook his head. "I don't know what happened. He was walkin' beside me, sayin' how tragic it was. Then in the next breath, he cried out, grabbed my arm and fainted dead away. It happened that quick."
Doctor Grant shook his head as if to say, 'I give up'. "Well, I guess that's that. I have no explanation, and I don't hold out for much hope of one. If you folks will excuse me."
When the resident had passed out of earshot, Philip drew Rachel and Nick close and said, "If you ask me, it was that house. I don't know how or why, but I think Derek sensed somethin'. However, that's not somethin' that a man of medicine would understand, is it Rachel?"
The psychiatrist smiled at him and agreed. The less said about Derek's psychic capabilities at this point the better. She was worried though that they might have some link to his fainting fit.
When the trio walked into Derek's temporary 'room', they were all taken with how wan and fragile he still looked.
"God Derek, you look like Hell." Nick said, grasping the older man's hand.
"Well, it's hard not to look it when you feel it." The older man said,
chuckling a little, then winced in pain. "Ooooh, I guess I had better
not do that."
Fear (Bogota, Columbia)
As the group came down off of the mountain, Alex was filled with a sense of foreboding. The episode on the mountain track had been forgotten until that moment. Suddenly, she began to wonder if perhaps it did have something to do with their excavation after all.
When they entered the camp, MaryAlice walked out of her tent with a tense look on her face. Rob walked over to her and kissed her lightly, but she only looked at him briefly, and moved to stand in front of Alex. She motioned for the others to go on in to supper.
When they were alone she began "Alex, my dear, I have some bad news…" However, she got no further because the young woman dropped to her knees sobbing.
"Derek! No! Not Derek! Please God, don't let him die!" she was crying in earnest, having sensed some part of the news MaryAlice intended to relay to her.
The other woman grasped Alex by the arms and pulled her up into a standing position before her. She had no idea that the girl was going to react so badly. That she was empathic, MaryAlice knew. That Alex might guess what she planned to say, she had been prepared for. However, that she could be so devastated by the news of Derek's injury took the precept completely by surprise. Obviously, there was more between this woman and the leader of the San Francisco house than anyone knew, or even suspected.
Alex had gone to pieces at the possibility that Derek might be seriously injured, or possibly even dead. She knew in the instant when MaryAlice had begun to speak that it was Derek's pain she felt on the mountain, and that fact bothered her more than the simple fact that he was in trouble. She knew and did nothing about it. The fact that she'd had no idea at the time where the pain had come from was forgotten. Suddenly, she felt her face slapped hard.
"Alex, get a grip! He will need you now more than ever. You must pull yourself together." The precept said, not unkindly.
MaryAlice herself, could relate to the feelings Alex was experiencing. She thought about what she would feel if something happened to Rob, and knew that the girl was doing better than she would under similar circumstances.
The tall dark-skinned beauty gathered her resolve, brushed away the tears on her cheeks, and nodded.
"You're right MaryAlice. I'm sorry. It's just that I felt it happen to him, and I didn't know." She said, a haunted look in her eyes.
"What do you mean 'felt' it happen?" the other woman asked, perplexed.
Alex sighed deeply. "When we were on our way up to the burial mound, I was overcome with pain and nausea. I knew it was from an outside source, but I didn't know from where. I still can't believe it was Derek all those miles away, but I know it was."
MaryAlice hugged her and said, "Well, be that as it may, I've ordered the chopper to pick you up in half an hour. The rest of us can wait to return until tomorrow night. You'll be taken directly to San Francisco in our Legacy jet. Our prayers go with you."
"Ahem." A masculine voice sounded behind them.
The two women turned to see Randy standing in the open flap of the dining tent. "I don't think Lexa should go alone. MaryAlice, I'd like to accompany her to San Francisco, if that's all right with you?"
"I think that's a wonderful suggestion Randy. How thoughtful. Alex? Do you mind the company?" the precept asked.
Alex smiled at her new friend and said, "I think I need company right
now. Thanks Randy."
What Next? (San Francisco, California)
Sydney was sitting at the piano in the study, plunking out a tune she had learned as a child, when the exhausted trio came dragging in.
"Nick! Philip! Thank God! Is Derek all right? Hi Rachel. Oh man, I've been waiting here for hours for you guys to get home! What happened?" her words were tumbling out over themselves as she led Nick to the sofa, and the others dropped into chairs.
"He's fine. Just has a headache. They want to keep him for observation, but don't think there's anything seriously wrong. Nothing they can find, anyway." Rachel replied, with a yawn.
"Wow. I'm sleepier than I thought. I had better get going. Are you guys okay?" she asked, looking specifically at Philip, who smiled wanly at her in acknowledgement of her concern.
"Fine Rachel. You go on home and be with Katherine. She'll need you. Remember, she loves Derek too." He said, sounding very much like the priest he was.
"Oh my God! Kat! She doesn't know what's happening! What if she hears something? I have to go! See you guys tomorrow!" the doctor said and rushed out of the room.
The group in the study spoke softly of what had happened to Derek, and the situation at the Windwood house. There was a heated discussion of whether or not to continue with the investigation in Derek's absence. Nick had told Sydney before he went back to sleep that morning that Derek had given him orders to get some rest and recover before he was needed again.
As Nick and Sydney argued over his becoming involved in the situation, against Derek's orders, Philip grew more and more silent. He began to remember scenes from the house. Something had felt definitely wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
Sydney noticed their friend's morose state and realized that he'd had the worst of it that day. He'd been with Derek when he collapsed, yet couldn't accompany him to the hospital. He'd also had to administer last rites for a girl barely out of her teens, and a close personal friend at that. The young assistant hushed her lover, got up and walked over to Philip. She crouched down and put her arms around him.
"I'm so sorry Philip. I know how much you liked Gabrielle. Was it very horrible?" she asked, kindly.
The hug startled the priest and he chuckled softly. "Thanks Sydney. Yes it was pretty horrible, but that's not what I was thinkin' about. She's with Valere now, and maybe that's what God intended all along. No, I was thinkin' about the atmosphere o'that house."
"What about it?" Nick asked, wrapping his arms around Sydney, who had returned to sit in his lap on the sofa.
Philip sighed deeply. "I'm not sure. Nick, you remember that case at St. A's? When I sensed The Warden's evil nature even before we knew who he was?"
The ex-SEAL nodded, already ahead of him. "There's some sort of demon at work in that house isn't there?"
Philip nodded grimly. "I'd bet my life on it. And there's somethin' else." He paused, uncertain of whether to tell them or not.
Then the tired young man remembered the Legacy Motto 'Faith Has Need Of The Whole Truth'. He said bluntly, "I saw Briony there."
"What?! She's in Ireland right now, isn't she? How could she possibly be at that house?" Nick asked, sounding very shocked. Then he began to cough harshly.
Philip waited until the young man's coughing fit subsided then said, "She wasn’t. I called Eileen while you and Rachel were seeing to Derek, and she's actually there. I spoke t'her."
Philip knew that if they were going to solve the case, he'd have to share the history of the house with them, as Derek did with him. The priest knew instinctively that Derek would be unable to go near that house even when he returned to normal. Something told him it was one or more of the spirits in the house that had affected their precept so drastically. He told Nick and Sydney word for word what Derek had told him earlier that day.
When he was done, the ex-Navy SEAL had a couple of questions for him. "Why? Philip, you know that Briony's spirit knows you don't 'need' her anymore. I mean she's here in the flesh now, so why would the ghost of the old Briony feel it necessary to contact you now?"
"That's what bothers me Nick. I don't know." The priest said, worriedly.
The Long Flight Home
Alex slept fitfully during most of the flight. When she was awake, Randy kept her mind occupied by discussing the artifacts that they had uncovered. At one point, she had called the hospital. She had been reassured by the sound of Derek's own voice on the other end of the phone briefly before it was commandeered by Philip, who explained to her what had happened.
When the plane landed at the private strip adjacent to San Francisco International, Randy spoke of getting a room at a hotel near the airport, but she vetoed the idea and dragged him off to Angel Island. She assured him that Derek would insist and so did she.
Randy had never been to San Francisco and was awestruck with the beauty of the city at night.
"Oh you ain't seen nothin' yet." Alex said with a smile at his rapturous look.
They boarded the private launch at the ferry terminal building, and headed for home. Half way out to the island, Alex told Randy to look back, and he actually gasped in wonder at the glorious view.
"Wow! You get to see this every day? Now I'm really jealous!" he said, laughing. "You don't suppose that Derek would consider a transfer from the Dallas House, do you?" he joked.
Soon they were at the house, and Alex breathed a sigh of relief. Jason, the under-butler, opened the front door for them and proceeded to gather their bags.
Philip, Nick and Sydney came out of the study to greet the newcomers.
"Alex! Welcome home! And you must be Randy Summers. Alex told us you were coming. Thanks for accompanying her. I'm Philip Callaghan, and this is Nick Boyle and Sydney Halliday. Sydney is my assistant, as well as Nick's…uh, what are you calling yourselves? Oh well, I guess 'significant other' will do." He said, smiling broadly at the girl, who was blushing furiously.
Greetings were said all around, and Philip took Alex off to fill her
in on the events of the day, over a cup of hot tea, while Nick and Sydney
showed Randy to his room. After showing him to a nice room in Philip's
wing of the house, the other two exhausted young people retired to Nick's.
The Best Laid Plan
In the kitchen, there was a lull in the conversation after Philip had described the events of the day, as exactly as he could remember them. Alex rose, moved to the sideboard, and refilled her cup with steaming hot tea. She looked over her shoulder at the pensive young priest at the table.
"You think it's got something to do with that house, don't you Philip"
Her companion stirred from his contemplative state and looked up as she sat back down. He sighed.
"Yes, I guess I do. I don't know why, but I'm convinced that somethin' in that house caused Derek t'faint."
He smiled sweetly and squeezed her hand, which was resting on the top of the table.
"Sorry we had t'scare you like that Alex. At the time, we didn't know what was wrong, but I knew you'd want t'know as soon as we did."
"Oh, don't worry about it Philip. I'm glad you guys let me know. It wouldn't have mattered if you'd told me he was fine from the outset…I knew different. In fact, he's not as 'well' as the doctors think even now." She said distractedly.
The man at the table sat up straight in his chair and looked at her sharply. "What? What do you mean Alex? I don't understand."
"He's in great pain Philip. Whatever it was, hurt him badly…I know…there's no physical evidence, but he's been injured all the same." She said when he looked like he was going to speak.
When he seemed to accept her statement, she continued. "I'm guessing it's got to do with his psychic abilities. I don't think he can 'feel' anything but the pain even yet."
The young woman smiled to herself at the sight of her friend almost wringing his hands with worry over their precept. She reached out and grasped his hands, and he looked deeply into her eyes. Philip sighed again.
"I just wish I knew what t'do next. I'm convinced there's somethin' t'be learned from that house, but I don't know how to find out what that is."
At the scheming look that came into his companion's face, he said sternly, "Oh No! I won’t put you at risk too, by takin' you there."
"I am going to that house Philip…with or without you. Let's face it, I'm the only other one that could possibly sense this 'presence' you mentioned. Well, the only one besides Sydney, but she's too untrained still. Besides, I have to go…I owe it to Derek." She said softly.
"Alex…" the priest began, but was interrupted by her flashing eyes.
"Don't argue with me about this laddie. I know that Derek's being incapacitated puts you in charge as the senior member of this house, but I won't be stopped…not by you or ANYONE!"
He smiled at her wryly. "Oh, don'tcha worry, I'm not plannin' t'try! Unlike Derek, I know better. However, I insist on comin' with you. If it starts t'happen t'you, I want t'get you out o'there before you collapse. Derek and I were caught unawares. Now hopefully we know a bit what t'feel for."
Alex smiled and nodded. "Yes, I believe we do. Well, I need to get some sleep if we're gonna tackle that house in the morning."
A yawning Philip seconded her motion for sleep. As they rose a thought occurred to her.
"I think we should keep this plan to ourselves for the time being. I mean, Derek's liable to veto the whole scheme, and then where would we be?"
Alex was surprised at the conspiratorial gleam that had entered her companion's eye when he heard her first words. As usual, they appeared to be on the same wave length.
"Oh…absolutely! I don't think Nick or Rachel even need t'know yet. Do you?"
The tall young woman hugged her friend and said, "Nope. Just us two."
As they left the kitchen, Philip stopped to turn off the light and he heard Alex whisper softly, "We do make a good team, don't we Philip?"
"Oh you betcha!" he replied in the same whispered tones, and grinned.
"Sweet Dreams, Alex." and he leaned over and kissed her cheek lightly.
The morning dawned unusually bright and cheerful. Unfortunately for Rachel, due to the extreme length and tiring nature of the previous day, no one was awake and abroad when she was let into the house. The psychiatrist said "Good morning" to Dominick, and assured him that his employer had passed a quiet night, and would be released later that morning.
"Oh thank you for mentioning that Dr. Corrigan. I've been quite worried. Will you want breakfast, or simply juice and toast this morning?"
Rachel thought about her choices for a moment before replying that a full breakfast would be nice. She hadn't had the chance to eat the day before, and her stomach was already complaining about the two cups of coffee she'd downed before leaving her house for the hospital that morning.
"Very good ma'am. If you'll give me just five minutes to get things ready for you in the Morning Room?"
"Of course Dominick. Thank you. I'll just pop into the Library for a few minutes."
The domestic nodded and hustled off to prepare the Morning Room for occupants, after giving orders to the cook for an early breakfast. Even as Dominick left the hall, a noise from the upper landing caught the doctor's attention, and she looked up to see a very sleepy Philip coming down the stairs.
"Philip! Well, good morning! Decided to sleep in today, huh?" she asked, fighting a grin at his disheveled looks.
"Really! He looks like he just rolled out of bed and threw on…wait a minute, he did just throw on his clothes! He's missed three buttons!" she thought with great amusement, and had to concentrate on his response.
"Oh, mornin' Rachel. Sleep in? I hardly slept at all! Couldn't get that scene from the Windwood House outta my mind. I finally gave in and got up. Whatcha doin' here so early?"
The young priest ran his hands through his hair to settle it down, but the effect it had was quite the opposite. Rachel thought he'd rarely looked more charming and boyish than he did now with his shirt mis-buttoned and his hair disheveled.
"Uh Philip, its half past nine!"
Just at that moment the grandfather clock in the hall chimed the half-hour and a wide-eyed Philip gazed at the clock's face in dismay.
"Sweet Heavenly Days! I can't believe it's so late! Where is everybody, then?"
Rachel smiled. "You're the first one up. I think you've set a record today! By the way, I think you might want to check the buttons on your shirt."
"Huh? Oh. Wow, I guess I wasn't completely awake when I got dressed, was I?"
Dominick came back into the hall, and was shocked to see Philip looking like he had dressed in the dark, and hadn't bothered to brush his hair.
"Uh…breakfast is served." He said quickly and hustled off again before he betrayed his reaction to the sensitive young man.
Rachel took the young priest's arm and began to walk toward the Morning Room. She grinned at him and said, "See, your appearance even surprised Dom. What's up with you this morning Philip? You never come down looking like…"
"Like…?" he began to bristle at her tone.
"Oh c'mon, you know. Like…this. Like you didn't even look when you got dressed, and obviously haven't even run a comb through your hair!"
"Well the truth is, I thought it was far earlier than it is. I didn't think anybody would be up. I was just comin' down t'grab a book t'read for a bit, and then there you were standing in th'foyer."
"Ah. Well, that explains it quite well. Sorry Philip, it was just too funny when Dominick had to rush out so he wouldn't offend you by letting you see how shocked he was!" and she giggled at the memory of the domestic's face.
The priest just looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "Well, happy t'be a source of amusement t'ya, I'm sure!"
Before the laughing woman could respond, Alex and Randy joined them.
"Good mornin' Alex. Randy. I hope you won't be offended if I just grab some coffee and toast, and take it back t'my room. I need t'do a couple o'thin's before we go t'get Derek."
Alex shook her head as she took her first sip of tea.
"Nope. Not at all Philip. Are we all going to pick up Derek?" she asked, her gaze holding an unspoken message for the priest.
He picked up on her meaning and spoke before either of the other two occupants had a chance.
"Well, now that you mention it, I could use your help with a problem I have concernin' that house Alex. Would you mind not bein' part of the party that comes back here with him? We could go t'the hospital and then let Rachel, Nick and Randy bring him home. Whatdya think?"
"Oh sure. I think that once I see Derek, I'll be able to leave him in Rachel's tender care!" she said, with a wink at the psychiatrist…who grinned.
"And speaking of tender care…Rachel, I don't think you have met Randy Summers yet. He came with me up from Bogota. Randy, this is Dr. Rachel Corrigan."
The young Southerner felt as if someone had just kicked him in the stomach, and he found his mouth dry when he took the psychiatrist's proffered hand. Randy thought that she was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, and he used every ounce of will power to force himself to act naturally when he responded that it was nice to meet her.
Alex was amused at the bemused look on his face, but Rachel and Philip didn't seem to know the young man well enough to recognize it for what it was. Immediate infatuation. As she watched, her new-found friend got his emotions under control, and he began to behave normally once again.
As the two strangers became acquainted, Philip left the room. Soon Nick and Sydney entered the Morning Room and a lively party ensued, bolstered by the good news that Rachel had brought from the hospital.
After breakfast was over, Philip re-joined the group, looking more like his normal self. He'd actually showered, shaved and changed his clothes. Rachel was amused all over again thinking about earlier that morning, but she remained silent.
Nick said that he'd see Sydney to St. Patrick's, and then meet up with everyone at the hospital. It was agreed that Philip and Alex would leave Derek's transport back to the island in the capable hands of Rachel, Nick and Randy. There was no discussion of the other two's actual destination, only that it concerned the Windwood House.
Sydney sensed what they were planning to do, but she kept her mouth shut. She knew that Philip would not appreciate her interference in his plans, and she trusted him enough to know he would not willfully subject Alex to danger of any sort.
The young assistant realized that his reason for accompanying their independent friend was to safeguard her. Even Sydney knew Alex well enough to know that she'd go off and do whatever she was planning to do by herself, if Philip hadn't agreed to go along with her.
They divided into two groups. Nick and Sydney would take his Mustang and the rest would travel in the Land Rover. They had decided that it would be best if they switched cars at the hospital…Nick reluctantly agreeing to let Philip commandeer his precious Mustang, while he would drive the rest back to the island in the Rover.
On the ferry ride across the bay, Philip slipped off long enough to call
Frank Karmak and ask him to meet he and Alex at the Windwood house in
approximately two hours. The detective was intrigued, but assented readily.
Once inside the hospital, Rachel took charge. She spoke briefly with Dr. Grant, who gave his blessing for them to take their friend home, with the understanding that he was to have complete rest, and that if any symptoms should return or his headache become worse, he would be brought back immediately. Rachel agreed, and the group marched off to see their precept.
Philip and Rachel spoke briefly with Derek, and introduced Randy to him, who received the precept's gracious thanks for accompanying Alex from Bogota with his customary good-natured humility. Rachel left to see to the arrangements for his release, while Philip and Randy moved off into a corner of the room in an attempt to allow the other two as much privacy as the small suite would allow.
When Alex caught sight of her friend, lover and mentor, she felt like crying. She could sense that he couldn't "feel" anything, and was confused about it. The concerned young woman rushed to the bed and threw her arms around him.
"Derek! I was so worried! You really scared me this time!"
Alex leaned back in his arms and asked laughingly, "What did you say?"
The handsome Dutchman grinned up at her and said, "I said, I'm okay!"
"Yeah, well…we'll just see about that, won't we?" she whispered for him alone to hear.
Derek's eyes met hers and held her gaze. He suddenly understood that she knew what he was going through…that he didn't have to hide it from her. Couldn't hide it in fact.
"Alex…" he began, but was interrupted by Nick's entrance.
"Sorry I'm late boss! Traffic was nasty today. We ready to get you out of here?"
"I think Rachel has gone to make the arrangements. How's your bronchitis, Nick? You should have stayed home…Philip could have handled things."
"Philip??? Did I hear you right Derek? You think Philip can handle things?" Nick answered the last part of the precept's statement with a big grin at his clerical friend. "Hey, if you ask Sydney, she'd tell you he can hardly remember his own name, when it comes to it!"
Alex piped up with a laugh in her voice.
"And what about Alex and Rachel, might I ask…oh wise one? I'd be willing to bet that we'd do a far sight better 'handling' things than either of these…ahem…gentlemen! What do you think, Randy?"
She winked at the other young man, and Nick, Philip and Derek all laughed out loud at the dumbfounded look on his face.
The still laughing man in the hospital bed said, "Oh, I think you'd better plead the fifth there Randy!"
Rachel came back into the room, and asked what all the laughter was about. When she'd been filled in, she said that they would be well advised to leave poor Randy out of it, because he could only get into trouble taking sides. Everyone laughed again, and she said that they were just waiting on the orderly. As if on cue, an orderly appeared, pushing a wheelchair. Derek looked at the chair with distaste.
"Hey now! I don't need one of those! I can walk out of here on my own two feet!"
"Oh no you don't Derek Rayne. It's hospital policy! Everybody leaves either in a wheelchair or a casket!" she said, and giggled when only the orderly laughed, and everybody's eyes went round. "It's a joke, people!"
"Seriously though, you have to use the wheelchair Derek. It is a hospital policy…and a good one, too. So get in, sit down, shut up and enjoy the ride…uh 'sir'!"
Derek looked surprised, and then grinned when he noticed the twinkle in her eye. "Oh alright then. If you insist, but I'll feel every inch the fool in this contraption! Goot thing nobody I know is staying here!"
Everybody laughed at his slight joke, and they all headed for the entrance of the hospital, Nick bolting on ahead to retrieve the Rover from the parking lot.
When they had finished packing Derek into the car, he noticed Nick handing Philip the keys to the mustang. Philip then grabbed his clerical bag from the front seat, and both Alex and he started off across the parking lot.
"Alex? Where are you two going?" he shouted.
"Oh Philip and I just have some things to take care of Derek. Don't worry, we'll be back at the island shortly. You're in great hands!" she said, and turned to bolt for the red car.
"ALEX! PHILIP! DON'T YOU EVEN THINK…oh, why do I even bother?" he asked himself, when it was obvious that the two miscreants were bound and determined to ignore him.
The precept was fully aware of what they planned to do, even without his ESP. He knew the two individuals in question, better than he knew himself. He even understood their passion to find out what had caused his collapse and quite possibly a young girl's death. However, he was extremely concerned for Alex's well being.
"Derek? Is something wrong?" Rachel asked from the seat next to him. She gazed thoughtfully after the two retreating figures.
He looked over at her and said acidly, "Oh nothing that a good beating wouldn't take care of! Unfortunately, I don't seem to be in any condition to administer it, so I guess I'll just have to pray to Got that Philip knows what the Hell he's doing!"
Rachel grinned, finally understanding the heat behind his words.
"He usually does Derek…and you know he'd never intentionally place Alex in danger. He treats her with kid gloves even more than you seem to!" The doctor looked at him sideways, and continued in a pensive tone, "…personally, I think it's entirely due to his priestly inclination…you know, to put women on pedestals whether they deserve it or not." She said with a devilish grin.
What the precept would have replied was never to be known, as Nick and Randy climbed into the front seats and slammed their doors. The young man behind the wheel coughed for a minute then started the engine. Soon the four were on their way back to the island.
Nick was forced to concentrate on his driving since traffic was unusually heavy for the time of day. After a particularly nasty driver cut Nick off in mid lane change, Rachel and Randy began discussing the varying merits of different psychological theories concerning the 'angry man at the wheel' syndrome, each satisfied that the other shared his or her view. This left Derek to worry and stew inwardly about what was going on at Windwood House.