Faith tried to concentrate on her book, but found herself glancing up
at the children every other paragraph or so, and finally laid the tome
aside. She couldn't believe how caught up in their lives she had become
over the past few weeks. They were comfortable for her to be around, their
innocence a welcome respite from the emotional assaults of adults. She
was learning to enjoy herself with them, and Jarod had been making sure
she understood what it was to have fun.
She had gotten used to the peaceful rhythm of life at Sanctuary, enough
that her constant wariness began to recede. Now, she hardly thought about
monitoring the connections she had with her childhood friends. Her internal
radar had been quiet, and for the first time in her life, she began to
understand what "normal" felt like.
But as she bent to pick up a ball that had rolled against her feet and
toss it back into play, a flash of light flared in her eyes and made her
freeze. She could feel it, that jangling of her inner landscape that could
only mean one thing. Someone she loved was in trouble, and when she followed
it back to the source, she could sense Morgan's upset with a blaze of
trembling energy that went straight to her head.
"Oh, boy," she murmured aloud as she sat slowly upright. "Migraine
time again." This sort of thing was happening more and more often;
whenever she used her ability with any degree of focus, the headaches
Raphael and the other children clustered around her, and the boy snuggled
into her lap. "Fay's okay?" he asked worriedly, touching her
face with his hands.
"I'm fine," she assured the children. "Just a headache
coming. You kids go play and we'll read or something later. I'm going
to take some medicine for the headache." She gathered Angelique into
a gentle embrace and kissed her. "Mommy's always with you. Remember
"Lub you, mommy," Angelique answered brightly as Faith got
to her feet.
Reassured, they all scampered off elsewhere in the playroom under the
watchful eyes of their caregivers, and Faith headed for the elevator.
In the quiet of her room, she closed her eyes and went tracking the connection
too long buried, and found it, fresh and raw with pain.
Morgan wasn't in Delaware; she was closer than that, but still far away.
For what seemed like hours Faith paced the floor, monitoring the lead
until she was certain something serious was up. This was pain like she
had never felt coming from her old friend, and she had to help. This needed
more than a phone call or an email. Morgan needed her there in person.
Looking through her things, she located the credit card Jarod had given
her, called Ramona and made arrangements to borrow one of the fleet cars,
and started packing. By the time she was done, Jarod was knocking at her
door, worry in his dark eyes.
"Ramona told me you wanted to borrow one of the cars. I thought
you were staying," he said quietly. "The children need you.
Angelique needs you."
"I know," she shot back, squeezing past him. "I'm not
going for long. Just a short trip, and then I'll be back. A day or two,
tops. I promise. I'm going to see someone."
"What will I tell Angelique?"
She could sense his own disquiet, understanding that her hasty departure
was hurting him. He thought she was running away, and that he had failed
in some way to help her integrate into the community there.
"You don't have to tell her anything unless she asks, Jarod,"
Faith assured him as she looked in her purse to make sure she had her
driver's license. "Annie knows I love her, and that I'll be back."
"You won't tell me what this is about?"
Faith hesitated. If she told him, he would insist on coming with her.
In this case, she didn't think that was wise. Jarod was sometimes a source
of irritation for Morgan, as much as the other woman cared for him. No,
it was best she handle this herself.
A bright shaft of pain made her wince, her fingertips touching her forehead
"Are you all right?" he asked, stepping closer.
"I'm fine and in a hurry, but I'll send you an email when I get
"Then at least tell me where you're going."
She headed down the corridor toward the elevator, ignoring him.
"Are you sure you can drive with that headache?" he asked,
dogging her all the way.
From her purse, she whipped out a packet of Excedrin Migraine Formula
and flashed it in his face as she stepped inside the elevator. "I'll
be fine, Jarod. Quit being such a mother hen." She flexed a smile
that was much braver than she felt. "I'll be back as soon as I can.
You can count on that. If I belong anywhere, it's here."
The doors closed on his hurt, anxious face, and she pushed the ground
floor button with a sigh. She didn't like hurting Jarod, but sometimes
she was left with no choice. It wasn't his place to solve her problems
at every turn. She wasn't always brave when it came to herself, but for
those whom Faith loved, no price was too high to pay to help them.
Ten minutes later, she was on the highway and following the signal northeast,
wondering where the road would end.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle glanced up and down the street, eyeing the quiet neighborhood to
make sure no one saw him. He wore a hat pulled down low over his eyes,
the collar of his coat flipped up to hide as much of his face as possible.
Reaching into the passenger seat, he grabbed the thick bouquet of flowers,
tied with a pure white ribbon, and quietly shut the door on his rented
He knew the way to the grave even in the darkness washed only by the
dim streetlights lining the winding lane. A quarter moon would be rising
soon, and he wanted to say his piece and be gone before then. The annual
pilgrimage was always the same, undertaken in the dark of night on the
same date every year. He had to come. He had no choice. She deserved that
much from him.
Walking briskly in the dark, he trudged up the path and went directly
to the old grave. He counted the years, and was surprised it had been
so many. The memories were still fresh in his mind, and as he placed the
flowers in the brass urn between the headstones, he let them come.
Marnie Radloff had been like a mother to him. Somehow, she had understood
about the nuthouse he called home, and she had buffered little Bobby from
those horrors as much as she could. Bobby loved her, loved that she let
him call her Mom when he visited or slept over with Jimmy. And eventually,
he began to think of her as exactly that, as the mother he had always
wanted and never got.
For years afterward, he had written to her as Jimmy, just to keep in
touch. But the loss of the one person in his life that he had truly loved
ate away at him, and eventually, it became more than he could bear. He
had to see her, to tell her that he was all right, and that he wanted
her to come with him into his new life.
He had paced the floor in that seedy motel as he waited for Marnie
Radloff to arrive. His heart had been so full of expectation, remembering
how he had idolized her and treated her like the mother he had always
His letters had been so full of need and regret, apologizing for leaving
her like he did, and promising to reconnect as soon as he was able. Lyle
had just come from the graves of the two co-eds he had killed in college,
comfortable now with who and what he was. He'd be able to keep that from
Marnie, he was sure. Besides, if she loved him like she said she did,
she'd be able to overlook that hunger in his soul.
Sometimes he forgot when he was writing the letters to her that he
was writing as her son, Jimmy. He'd have to go back and type them all
over again, using the other boy's speech patterns, his way of phrasing
things, so she wouldn't see through the ruse. But the underlying messages
were all his, all honest. He loved her, and he missed her. He wanted her
to be with him, free of her alcoholic husband and the restrictive life
of small-town Nebraska.
And now, at last, she was on the way. He had called her house to make
sure, and her husband said she packed up her things and left early that
morning. She was coming to him, giving up all that lay behind them, and
at last Lyle would have her with him. He would be complete. He would be
His head came up at the sound of a car engine shutting off in the
parking lot outside. He hurried to the door, stepping behind and unlocking
it to allow her to enter. He watched the doorknob turn, saw the door open
and her pretty blonde head enter the room.
"Jimmy?" she called uncertainly. "It's Mama, baby.
Are you here?"
She stepped fully into the room and closed the door quietly behind
Then she gasped as she looked up, right into his eyes.
For a moment, she was frozen, her hand on the doorknob.
"Bobby? Is that you?"
He embraced her and lifted her off her feet in a powerful, joyous
hug. "Yes, it's me, Mom! I'm so glad you came." He kissed her
cheek, his heart overflowing with joy, and set her down right next to
She put her hand to her head. "Forgive me, Bobby. This is all
so much of a shock
" Her eyes flicked up to his.
"Where have you been all these years? We all thought you were--"
Her eyes widened. Her mouth fell open in a small "o" of
Horror etched into her features.
"You wrote me those letters, didn't you?"
He felt his joy fading as he read her expression and knew that the
truth was dawning in her mind. "Yes. I love you, Mom. I couldn't
leave you behind. Don't you see?"
Marnie took a step back and sat down abruptly, unintentionally, on
the mattress. "But Bobby, who was it that your daddy went to prison
for killing, if it wasn't you?"
Lyle got down on his knees and reached for her waist. One little lie
could still save them, if she believed. "Jimmy was standing on the
top of the cliff, Mom. It gave way underneath him, and he fell. I tried
to save him, but I was too far away."
Tears filled Marnie's cobalt blue eyes, and she grimaced as she tried
not to cry. "You killed him, didn't you, Bobby? You killed my son,
He hung his head and sighed. "Mother's intuition," he moaned.
"I guess it's over, then." He looked up at her, pleading with
his eyes for her to brush all that aside and take the love he offered
her. "I want you with me, Mom. We can have everything we ever wanted!
I'll take good care of you, like a son should. You'll be proud of me,
Fear blossomed in those blue depths as he stared into her eyes. She
nodded, but her body was stiff with terror. "Okay, honey. Whatever
you say... Are you hungry? Would you like to go out and get something
to eat? I saw a Chinese place down the road--"
He struck with the quickness of a snake, his hands wrapping around
her throat, pushing her down against the mattress with his body. She struggled,
unable to scream, scratching at him with her nails, fighting for her life,
but it was useless. He was too well practiced, and too strong. In moments,
she was dead.
Lyle sat up and stared down at her, at the ugly marks on her neck
that his hands had made. Her bloodshot eyes stared up at the ceiling,
and he closed them with his thumbs. He didn't want them to find her like
that, in the middle of that messy bed, so he pulled her up onto the middle
of the mattress, posed her regally, combed her hair, touched up her makeup
from her purse, and smoothed all the wrinkles out of the bedclothes.
She looked so peaceful like that. He bent down and kissed her lightly
on the forehead, and once more on the lips, then turned away and began
to clean the room of fingerprints. Moments later, he was on the road again,
but for the better part of a week, he shadowed Townsend, waiting for her
funeral. He watched it from a distance, and when the crowd dispersed and
darkness had fallen, he brought flowers to her grave, and wept.
Lyle trembled at the power those memories still held over him. Marnie
Radloff had been the only person in his life to hold such sway over him.
No one else had touched him like that, no one except
He stopped pacing. There was a certain resemblance between the two women
-- same hair and eye color, same elfin beauty to their faces. He wondered
why he hadn't seen it before, but answered himself almost immediately.
He didn't want to see a resemblance between Marnie Radloff and Faith Parker.
Was his hatred for Faith driven by his love for Marnie? Was this the
mirror image of one thrust upon the other? Or was the way he felt about
Faith more directly related to their experiences after Eclipse?
It was both, he was sure of that now. But beneath all that was something
else, something he hadn't noticed before. Faith and Marnie were alike
in many ways, different in others, but they both represented the same
thing: an escape from loneliness.
Lung Li was solitary by choice. He preferred to be alone, even at home
with his family. But Lyle -- or Bobby, or whoever he was -- preferred
to be social. He hated solitude, especially the kind his adoptive father
had forced on him. What he had wanted from Marnie and Faith was a soulmate,
someone who could share in every facet of his life, embrace his secrets
and never leave him.
Time and experience had shown that was not possible for someone like
him. The shadow of Lung Li that lived in his soul made commitment impossible.
Solitude was his destiny, and he was going to have to alter that remnant
of Bobby Bowman who clutched so hungrily at the skirts crossing his path.
He had been pretending for years that he could have a happy ending. But
now, his last memory of Marnie returned and brought with it a smile. He
had another answer now, and shook his head at how simply it had been programmed
into his mind.
"Okay, honey. Whatever you say... Are you hungry? Would you like
to go out and get something to eat? I saw a Chinese place down the road--"
Marnie had wakened the hunger in him. Marnie had planted it in a moment
of raw suggestibility, and it had stayed with him ever after. None of
the women Lyle killed before Marnie had any pieces missing, but all of
those who followed her did.
And now his appetite was waking again, brought on by his visit to the
It was strange, he reflected, how the mind worked, how it turned in on
itself and created new fabric out of old quilt pieces.
Lung Li might have been the biggest leap in the process of Bobby Bowman's
evolution, but all the most interesting details belonged exclusively to
Mr. Lyle himself.
He squatted down and let his fingers play across the letters carved into
the marble headstone that formed her name.
"Why couldn't you have been happy to be with me?" he demanded
softly, as he always did. "You said I was your son, too. You said
you knew how I suffered, and that I could always find a safe place with
He drew out his wallet and looked at the picture again, the one taken
just twenty-four hours before he murdered her son. The three of them stood
against a backdrop of blue sky, Bobby Bowman in the middle, the other
boy folded out of view. He looked down at her face, smiling and beautiful,
and remembered how he had loved her.
No one else could have hurt him like she did. When she betrayed him,
she took away the last bit of vulnerability in his soul. He had wanted
her to be with him always, especially after Eclipse. But he was different
now, stronger in ways he couldn't have imagined back then.
"You could have had everything," he told her stiffly, resentment
pushing him to his feet. "I wanted to give you back what you lost.
I wanted to be your son. But you were afraid." His toe nudged the
neatly trimmed grass at the base of the headstone. "You shouldn't
have been afraid of me."
He tucked his wallet away, the memory of her face, slack and peaceful
in death, bringing him a kind of resolution.
Strolling back to his car, head down, he remembered how she had fought
him for her life. He had been so tempted, wondering if he might lock her
up in a shed somewhere, and keep her all to himself. That idea had appealed
to him momentarily, but there was too much sexual power tied up in that
image. That wasn't how he wanted to remember her, though she had been
attractive for an older woman.
"Too bad we didn't have Aurora then," he mused softly. "I
should have been more patient, I suppose." Then he started the car
and pulled away, heading toward Lincoln and his flight back to Wilmington.
* * * * * * * * *
Odd, how the sensations shifted so abruptly between joy and pain, Faith
mused. She was close, she knew, but those leaps confused her, and made
it hard to follow Morgan's emotional trail. Faith had left her car downtown
in a parking lot and started walking the sidewalk, her sensory net cast
out for blocks all around her. For several minutes she just stood still,
pretending to look into a store window while she traced the connection
and waited for it to settle and strengthen again.
There, dipping into depression again. Agony resurfaced, piercing
her soul, making her gasp. She bent slightly, pressing her forehead against
the cool glass for a moment to absorb the anguish and diffuse it enough
to make sense of direction. Her head hurt, the migraine she'd had since
leaving Texas merciless in its persistence.
Taking a deep breath, she straightened and lifted her chin, starting
resolutely down the sidewalk.
She didn't see the van pull out from the curb as she stepped into the
alley. The vehicle stopped, the door slid open and two men in dark suits
bolted out, seizing her by the arms and hauling her inside with them before
she could draw a breath and let loose a scream. She had been concentrating
so hard on Morgan that she had screened out the potential danger of others
who might be hunting her, and too late did she realize her error.
It was a trap, and she had fallen right into it.
The door closed on the outside world just as a hand closed over her mouth
and nose, the pungent smell of chloroform carrying her speedily into darkness
before she could fight them off.
Faith slumped onto the floor of the van, and the vehicle motored off
down the street just as a light rain began to fall.
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan walked into the dress shop and held out the photograph, flashing
it at everyone who looked as though they worked there.
"Have you seen this woman?" she demanded. "I know she
The store manager came up to her with a false, polite smile. "Miss,
we told you everything we knew when you came in the first time. The lady
hasn't been back."
With a sigh of frustration, Morgan bowed her head, fighting back tears.
For two days she had been chasing after the enigmatic woman who looked
like her mother, always just a few steps behind, making no progress at
all. The stress was beginning to get to her, and she could feel her hold
on reality slipping.
She started to cry, and covered her face with her hands.
"Come with me, dear," Sydney murmured into her ear, putting
his arm around her shoulders and guiding her out onto the sidewalk. "We'll
find her, Morgan. I promise you that."
Suddenly, he stepped away from her, lifting his cane and making a dash
toward the street, head up, eyes forward. "There! There she is!"
He stumbled, still unsteady from the stroke, but Morgan had caught a
glimpse of the woman in a car, driving past them on the street.
She stepped out of her high heels and raced barefoot down the sidewalk,
calling out for the car to stop, but the vehicle disappeared into traffic
and the woman never glanced in her direction.
Morgan jogged to a stop, staring down the street after the car, memorizing
the license plate number. Whipping out her cell phone, she dialed Broots
and gave him the plate number and everything else she could recall about
the car. It was a lead, and hopefully it would be a good one.
She didn't dare get her hopes up, but she was already exhilarated from
"So close," she breathed as Sydney caught up to her, leaning
heavily on his cane.
"Almost caught her," he wheezed. "My God, Morgan, did
you see her?"
"Yes, Daddy. I did." She beamed at him. "We'll find her.
I'm sure of it now."
But mixed with that wild joy was an undercurrent of wilder pain, afraid
this was just some terrible coincidence. She couldn't grasp that thought.
It was typical of Centre protocol for secrets not to stay buried, and
glimmers of truth to come to light, but this was out of range of the possible,
without some kind of confirmation from Raines.
Only Raines was dead. She had made certain of that personally, standing
by while the autopsy was performed and the pieces of his body were stuffed
back inside, the skin sewn up in ugly, careless stitches that further
marred the old man's scarred skin. His corpse had gone to the labs for
some kind of experimentation after that, but there was no doubt this time
that Raines would not be coming back.
Without him, she'd simply have to find out the truth in her own way.
* * * * * * * * *
Highway out of Lincoln, NE
Canceling his flight had been a last-minute decision, but Lyle knew it
was time he fully explored the memories from his past that called to him,
kept him tethered to the place where he grew up. He wanted to put it behind
him, cease those stealthy return trips and banish Marnie's ghost forever.
That would take a little soul-searching, and for Lyle, that was unfamiliar
He needed some solitude, and road trips were good for that.
Stopping at a gas station to fill up his rented car, he changed into
a flannel shirt and jeans to get comfortable for the long trip home. Purchasing
enough drinks and snacks to keep himself sated while driving, he climbed
behind the wheel and headed onto the interstate, letting his mind drift
back to the place where his life took such a drastic turn. So much of
his early life was hazy now, but his first sight of Raines was still clear
Bobby walked into the kitchen, and there he was. The creepy-looking
man sat at the dinner table with a cup of coffee near his wrist. Martha
Bowman sat bolt upright, her eyes wide and blank, staring at the wall
beside him, mumbling incoherently to herself. She often did that, and
Bobby ignored her.
"Who are you?" the teenager asked, crossing his arms over
his chest defiantly.
"My name is William Raines," the old man said, his watery
blue eyes staring. "And I hold the key to your future."
That irritated him. "What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
Raines' eyes shifted lazily to Martha's face, then back to make eye
contact with him. "You want out of here?" the old man offered
silkily. "You want power beyond your wildest dreams? I can give you
Bobby had sneered at him. "So, like, you're the devil? Is that
"Something like that." He reached under the table and picked
up a briefcase. It was silver, and gleamed dully in the light from the
bare overhead bulb. "Come watch this." He opened the case to
reveal a small machine with a screen on it, like a tiny television set.
There were several tiny silver discs sitting in racks in the case, and
he picked one up and put it into place. The machine started up, and in
a moment the screen came to life.
Bobby saw the image of a teenage girl, pretty and blonde. She sat
in a wooden chair, her hands bound in her lap. A man stood over her, though
his face wasn't in the picture. His voice was recognizable, though.
It belonged to the man sitting at the table.
"This is Faith," he told Bobby. "Do you like her?"
The picture stopped on a close-up of the girl's face.
Bobby knew a babe when he saw one. He nodded his head, and wondered
what it would be like to kiss that girl. But the memory of her hands made
him wonder what was wrong with her, if she had committed some crime. Or,
perhaps, if she was a prisoner of this man. That made him wary, unwilling
to get himself into a similar position of helplessness.
"I can do anything I want with her," Raines told him. "And
if you wanted, you could, too."
That thought shocked the youth. What, exactly, did this man want from
him? Was he hurting that girl? Did he like to hurt teenage boys, too?
Raines chuckled. "I know what you're thinking, but I have no
intention of hurting you. I need you, if I'm going to carry out my plan,
Bobby. I can promise you power, money, girls like this
your heart desires. And in return, I'll want your loyalty. That's not
too high a price, now, is it?"
Bobby took a step back and let his hands drop down to his sides. He
wanted to be ready in case this freak came after him. And he knew that,
two steps away, was a rack of knives that he could use to cut the guy
"I know you know you're adopted," Raines went on, glancing
at Mrs. Bowman.
Bobby couldn't help looking, too.
"You know you're too smart and good-looking to have come from
these people." Raines smiled. "You were sent here, to be raised
by these nut jobs. And I know who put you in this home. I can help you
pay him back, if you want."
That deep, gravelly voice got his attention now. Bobby knew he wasn't
supposed to be there, that it had been some terrible cosmic mistake for
him to grow up in that asylum. He wanted very much to know who was responsible,
and if this man could give him that
"Who is he?"
"His name is Parker, and he works at a place called the Centre."
Bobby needed to put a face to the name. He needed to look that man
in the eye, and hurt him the way he had been hurt, every day of his young
life. The tiny spark of retribution that burned constantly in his soul
flared up into a conflagration. He wanted revenge for what had been done
"What do I have to do?"
"You'll tell people I'm your Uncle Billy," he said, looking
at the woman. "Your mother is my sister, and I'll be taking you with
me on a few weekend trips, starting next week. I'll pay for your college
tuition, and we'll groom you for an administrative position at the Centre.
Through me, you'll rise in power until you can look down on Mr. Parker,
and when you've gotten to that point, nothing will be out of your reach.
You can do whatever you want with him. But it's going to take time. You'll
have to be patient."
"Why? Why can't I just go after him now?" Bobby felt his
hands clenching so hard they hurt.
"Because you're just a boy," Raines explained patiently.
"You need training. He's got an army of bodyguards who would cut
you down in an instant, if you looked like you meant to hurt him. So you
have to learn how the system works in order to beat it. You have to have
more power than Parker if you want to hurt him. And the more power you
have, the longer you can make him suffer."
Bobby smiled, thinking of that faceless man suffering at his hands.
"When do we start?"
"I'll send a car for you next Friday, after school. You'll be
driven to the airport, and spend the weekend in Delaware, at the Centre.
After that, I'll send for you when I need you, until the time is right
to make your move."
The teenager nodded. "Okay. My parents -- I mean the Bowmans
-- they know about this, right?"
Raines gazed at Martha, and placed his hand on hers as it lay on the
table before her. "Martha knows. Lyle won't care, as long as he's
rid of you for a while. She knows what to do. Isn't that right, Martha?"
Her eyes shifted to the table, to his hand on hers. Slowly, she withdrew
herself from his grasp and laid both hands into her lap. "Yes, Billy,"
she replied woodenly. "Whatever you say."
The old man rose, packed up the briefcase and placed it into his left
hand. He patted the woman on her shoulder, then bent down to kiss her
She flinched away from him.
"Goodbye, Martha," he growled. "I'll see you soon."
Martha bolted from the room, down the hall to her bedroom, and shut
"Wish I could make her do that," Bobby murmured to himself.
"I can teach you," Raines assured him.
Bobby reached out and took the man's hand. It was cold, like death.
"Bye, Uncle Billy," he said warily, and watched the man put
on his Fedora and leave through the back door.
* * * * * * * * *
Starlight Carnival Supplies
Outskirts of Frankfort, KY
The van pulled up to the gate, and the sweepers inside dumped the unconscious
woman -- neatly tied in a body bag up to her neck -- on the doorstep of
the abandoned warehouse. The door opened, and the man inside handed out
patches to each of the men before sending them on their way. Once the
van was out of sight and the rusting gate padlocked closed, Valentine
lifted the body bag and carried it into the building.
It had taken him days to set this up, finding just the right place for
his rendezvous with the hyper-empath. Fantasies of what he would do to
her danced in his head, and he welcomed the chance to pit himself against
her, one on one. She was special, and deserved careful handling. He respected
her talent, though he was all but certain she couldn't hurt him.
Still, he was taking no chances. Checking his watch, he knew that she
would be coming around within a half hour or so. Already she was beginning
to stir slightly, to react to his touch as he moved her into place, and
once she roused he needed to be out of her sight, making it more difficult
to manipulate him.
From his pocket he withdrew a small syringe and injected it into her
arm. Then he left the room, locked the door behind himself, and threw
the key into the tall grass past a derelict Ferris wheel so that even
he couldn't find it. Valentine jogged through the drizzle toward the next
building and fired up the surveillance equipment he had installed the
previous day. There was only one way out of that warehouse, and he was
going to enjoy watching Faith try to find it.