Chasing the Shadows / Page 14

Page 14


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I'll try. When Nikki wasn't around to protest. He wasn't up to any more arguments right now. If you give me the names and addresses of the remaining women, I'll visit each of them and impress upon their minds the urgent need to leave.


Good idea. Seline's thoughts touched his more fully, burning the information into his memory. Though it may drive our killer underground again.


Better us chasing him than him chasing these woman. And at least now we have some idea of who his targets are.


True. And instinct tells me it'll end here in San Francisco, anyway. He didn't bother asking which way it would end. If she knew, she would have told him. Listen, have you got a charm or spell or something that will stop this vampire using his clairvoyant abilities to track Nikki? We have to use her skills to find these women quickly, but he basically knows our every move, thanks to the lock he has on her.


Seline's frown was something he felt—a wash of darker light through the link. A tricky one. I think I remember a spell that'll create a sort of dead zone around her. He won't be able to track her psychically, but you may not be able to, either.


I don't think it'll matter. The link we share works on a far deeper level than telepathy. Which only provides more evidence of the merging. Everything I've read on thralls suggests it's a one-way street. The thrall usually only has basic telepathy skills with its master. We had this link before she became a thrall.


Yes, but now it's deepened. She hesitated. You know, you both really should come into headquarters so we can test what's happening. I've got a feeling it could be very interesting. And he had a feeling that if he let Nikki anywhere near the Circle's headquarters, it would be the end of any hope he had of stopping her from joining them. Let's concentrate on getting this case solved first. Do you have a name for this vampire you're meeting?


Farmer.


I'll check through the records and see what we find. I'll also check out that suicide incident. And the charm for Nikki?


I'll work on it this afternoon and have it couriered across. It'll be tomorrow morning before it gets there, so be careful until then.


I will. Thanks Seline.


The link between them died. He glanced up and met Nikki's gaze. She raised an eyebrow, expression annoyed.


Why do you keep locking me out?


Why do you keep listening in on private conversations?


Heat touched her cheeks, and the thunder in the link rumbled closer. I thought we were going to work together on this case?


We are—though if I had any choice in the matter, I would make you, Jake and Mary leave San Francisco so you'd all be away from this madman's grasp.


Don't I know that. Her retort stung his mind. She considered him for a moment, gaze narrowed. Tell me—were you and Seline ever lovers?


The question caught him by surprise. He barely managed to keep his laugh in check, but his amusement echoed down the link, momentarily drowning the sound of thunder. No, we were never lovers. Why do you ask?


She gave a mental shrug. You don't want me to meet her. You don't want me to listen in on your conversations with her. It's the sort of secretive behavior of two lovers, isn't it?


Perhaps it is. But we are not, have never been, and never will be. They were friends. Good friends. He trusted her more than any person on Earth, except Nikki. Yet he had never once felt the slightest bit of sexual interest in her. And it was a disinterest that was shared. Why?


He shrugged. He'd never psychoanalyzed his relationship with Seline. He'd simply enjoyed. After two hundred years of darkness, distrust, and entrenched loneliness, she was the true beginning of his path towards the light. For too many years beforehand he'd walked the knife's edge, not quite falling on either side, yet slowly slipping back into the darkness from which he'd emerged after his years with Elizabeth. He might never have found Nikki had it not been for Seline.


I do not know, and I do not care. But I think the friendship Seline and I share would not have been as strong had we been lovers.


Because lovers cannot remain friends once the relationship falls apart?


There is always an undercurrent of tension in such situations, whether it is acknowledged or not. She bit her lip, expression clearly troubled. He could tell her thoughts without having to read her mind or taste the uncertainty in the link. Her fears were evident enough in her eyes. What hope does that offer us, then? she asked eventually. We are lovers, and we are friends. Are you saying it's inevitable that we'll eventually drift apart?


He sighed. No. We are far more than just lovers, Nikki. We are two minds, two souls, one heart. But—


No buts. Simply trust in the fact that what I feel is every bit as strong as what you feel. Tears washed through her dark amber eyes. She bit her lip, blinking as she looked away. But emotion surged through the link, a wash of love that almost drowned his senses. It was a drowning he could have endured forever.


Jake stepped through the doorway as the police began making moves to leave. “I've arranged for you to be moved back into the other suite. This room won't be useable for a few days yet." Though his words were addressed to Nikki, his gaze sought the shadows still haunting the bedroom. Looking for a vampire, Michael thought with a smile.


She nodded. “And what about Mr. Harris?"


"Expecting us as soon as the police will let you go."


"She can go now,” an officer said. “We know where to find you both if we have any more questions." Nikki glanced his way. How are you going to get out of the room?


I am the wind, remember?


Amusement swam around him. So you're going to fart your way free?


Vampires don't get wind.


Her eyebrows raised. Really?


Really. My diet does not lead to an excess of gases.


And here I was thinking you were simply being polite these past four months. She rose. I'll call the elevator and wait for you there.


Good.


She and Jake left. Michael waited until he heard the ding of the elevator arriving, then pushed away from the wall. He glanced at each of the police officers, focusing their attention on whatever it was they were working on. Then he ran for the door, the room little more than a blur as he moved through.


"We have a problem we have to deal with before we head over to Harris’ place,” he said, reappearing beside Nikki as the elevator doors closed.


Jake jumped. “I wish you wouldn't do that. Not good for the old heart.” He paused, then added, “What problem?"


He hesitated. “Mary. I'm afraid she could be on the killer's list."


"What?" Nikki stared at him, face suddenly pale. “Why would you think that?"


"Because the kidnapped women all had one thing in common—everyone but Dale were in the same year at Boston High."


Jake punched the button for the sixth floor. “So were a couple of hundred other people.” Though his voice was flat, the acrid smell of his fear hung heavy in the air. He believed, even if he didn't want to.


"True. But there is no other link among these women."


"Who says these attacks aren't random?” Jake said. “This guy obviously isn't sane. He may not have—or need—a motive."


"But he has got a motive—revenge.” Nikki's gaze was thoughtful, distant. “For what they did to him in school. For what they did to him at the prom. Dale was one of those who taunted, even though she wasn't in the same year as the other ladies."


A chill ran through Michael. She was reading the killer's mind—or at least, his memories—as easily as she breathed. He touched her back, and she jumped, her gaze leaping to his.


"It's getting stronger,” she said.


"It is.” Both her clairvoyant abilities, and this odd link between the killer and her. “Seline's making a charm, which she'll courier over by morning. It'll stop him using the connection between you to track us." Her eyes widened as the implications of his words sunk in. “Meaning, when we go down to rescue Harris’ wife, he'll know?"


"And more than likely be waiting. Which is why—"


"No,” she cut in. “Don't say it. Don't even think it."


"What about Mary?” Jake cut in harshly. “What are we going to do with her? We can't protect her twenty-four hours a day—not from this madman, and not if we want to save the other woman."


"No. Which is why I suggest you send her away. She's one of four other women currently living or visiting San Francisco who attended the same year of school as the first four kidnap victims. If Mary disappears, the killer will simply turn his attention to the remaining three.” And if Seline was right—and she usually was—it was all going to end here in San Francisco, anyway. Mary should be safe just about anywhere else in the country.


Jake swore softly. “She's going to assume this is some sort of scheme I've come up with to get her out of San Francisco."


"I'll talk to her,” Michael said.


Nikki's glance was sharp. “Just talk?"


He hesitated again. “No."


"Damn it, you know—"


"And you know,” Michael cut in, anger touching his voice, “That it could be the fastest and easiest way of discovering what is going on."


"Would someone like to tell me what the hell is going on?” Jake cut in impatiently. “There's a whole level of conversation I'm missing out on here."


"Michael's intending to probe Mary's memories,” Nikki said. Jake's gaze met his. “You can do that? To anyone?"


"Anyone I choose. And most times, they're not even aware of it." Jake's gaze widened a little. “Would Mary be aware?"


"No."


"Then do it.” Jake glanced at Nikki. “If Mary's in the firing line, then we need to do everything we can." The elevator doors slid open. Jake strode down the corridor and swiped his key card through the slot at the last of the half dozen doors.


Mary turned around as they entered, relief etched on her drawn features. “Nikki, Michael, are you all right?"


Nikki walked over and gave the older woman a hug. “Just a little wet,” she said softly. Jake took his wife's hand and led her toward the sofa. “We need to ask you a few questions." Mary's gaze jumped from person to person, finally coming to rest on Michael. “Something's wrong." He nodded and sat down on the coffee table beside Nikki. “You remember when we were talking earlier, you mentioned Boston?"


Mary nodded. “What has that got to do with what happened this morning?" He touched her thoughts, pushing deep into her memories. Controlling, but not intruding any more than necessary. “You were telling me about the prom where the two girls died."


"Yes.” Mary's voice was flat, remote.


Jake, who'd never really seen him in action like this before, stared at him, a touch of fear in his eyes.


"Did you know them?” Michael said softly.


"Yes."


"They were your friends?"


"Yes."


"Did you see them drinking alcohol anytime during the night?"


"No."


"Was anyone else drinking alcohol?"


"Not that I know of."


"Did anything unusual happen during the night?” He'd asked that question before, but this time his control was deeper.


She hesitated. “No."


The mere fact she hesitated suggested something had happened. “So what did you do that night?"


"We teased Billie."


"Billie?” He glanced at Jake, wondering if it was a name he knew. Jake shrugged. “Who's Billie?"


"Local nerd, and a bit of a loner. He turned up in his dad's blue suit." "And you taunted him?"


"Yes."


"Is it something you often did?"


"Yes."


"How many of you were there in this group?"


"Twelve."


No real surprise there. “Who were the main instigators?"


"Rachel and Monica."


"And they were the two who jumped off the roof?"


"Yes."


"What was Billie doing at the time?"


"I don't know. I never saw him again after he ran off."


"Did anyone see him again that night?"


"The police interviewed him, apparently, but nothing came of it."


"Does Billie have a last name?"


"Farmer."


"The name of the guy who attacked us last night,” Nikki murmured, glancing at Jake. “Lord, how bad could their teasing have been for him to seek revenge forty years later?"


"Just think back to your own teenager years,” Jake said, voice grim. “And multiply that by twelve."


"I never had a normal teenage life."


"No, but you were certainly a normal teenager, just carrying a bit more angst than usual. Just ask our favorite police detective."


"Never thought I'd say this, but I wish we had MacEwan with us now. The man has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.” She hesitated and nodded towards Mary. “What are we going to do?"


"I can put a compulsion on her.” Michael ignored the rush of irritation through the link and held Jake's gaze. Not quite compelling. “Make her leave right immediately, without fighting."


"Will she remember it?"


"You can't do this, Jake,” Nikki said. “It's wrong to control another's behavior like this.” Damn it, Michael, don't do this to her.


Stop letting your own fears override common sense. You agree Mary has to leave San Francisco, don't you?


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