The central characters of Poltergeist: The Legacy do not belong to me

- they are the property of Trilogy and MGM – I’ve only borrowed them

for a while.  All other characters are created by me.  Hope you enjoy …


This book is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives on September 11 2001














Chapter 1

September 25



          “C’mon!  Sit still.  Look at me.  Let me hold your hand.  Something!”

          Merlin shook her head slowly, her eyes sparkling. 

          “You won’t do it,” she said.  “Try forever, and you still won’t do it.”

          “Yes, I will.”

          She laughed.  “You’ll just give yourself a headache trying.  Give it up.”

          “I haven’t yet found the person I couldn’t read.”

          She sighed but it wasn’t a sad sigh.  The sun shone down over Las Vegas from a sky so blue it hurt the eyes.  Rachel had suggested that she take a few days away from the city to complete her convalescence.  Merlin had said it wasn’t necessary but Rachel had insisted.  Nick wasn’t around .. so what was keeping her in San Francisco?  Put like that – and she could use the time to check up on the Las Vegas .. subsidiary office – Merlin agreed.

          “Beat yourself up,” she invited and held out her hand.  He reached to take it but it got diverted when her cell phone beeped.  “Excuse me,” Merlin smiled.  She opened the phone and frowned slightly at the caller ID.  “Yeah.”


          Merlin sat up, turning away slightly.  Alex’s voice had been low and tense.  “Details.”

          “I can’t give you any.  We don’t know.”

          “Tell me what you can,” she requested calmly.

          There was the slightest pause.  “Derek an’ Nick …  They’ve disappeared.  The police called.  We need you back here, now!”

          “I’m on my way.”  She paused.  “Alex, don’t panic.”

          “Alex?” queried her companion as Merlin shoved the phone back in her purse and rose quickly.  The working vacation was over.  Aquila had just been activated by a Legacy member.

          “I have to go.  You’ll just have to try reading me some other time,” she said, heading briskly away from the pool and toward the house.

          Jack Chivikian had risen too and was hurrying along behind.  “What did Alex want?  You’re going?  She just calls and you leave?  You only got here yesterday.  I was looking forward to getting to know you again .. especially as Nick isn’t with you.  It isn’t that I dislike the guy, I don’t, it’s just .. he scares me somehow.”

          “Nick an’ Derek are on an investigation.  They’ve gone diving.”

          “Diving?” he queried.

          “There’s been historical reports of a .. spectral manifestation along the central coast south of Monterey Bay.  They went to check them out.  Diving to some of the old wrecks.  They left a few days ago.”

          “So why tell Alex not to panic?” Jack wondered, frowning, as they climbed the stairs.

          “They’ve disappeared.”

          “I’ll organize a flight,” he said.




          Alex paused, let out a taut breath, then put down the phone.  She raised her eyes to look across at Rachel.

          “She’s on her way.”

          Rachel nodded.  “You made the right decision, calling her.  I have total faith in our ability to resolve this .. but she’ll make sure all the bases are covered.  And .. in the field, we won’t have Nick – ”

          “Don’t, please,” Alex whispered, closing her eyes.

          “All I mean is .. she’ll be there to protect us so we can get on with finding them.”  Rachel paced away then back.  “At least she’s on her way.  If she can get a flight quickly .. four hours.  Could be longer.”

          “Four hours,” Alex echoed.  “It seems a lifetime.”

          “Alex, don’t panic,” Rachel said firmly.

          “Peri said the same thing.  And I’m not.  I’m just … ”

          “Incredibly worried.  Join the club,” Rachel invited, her voice tense.  “Okay, well, we have four hours to get thru and the best way to get thru a forced wait is to keep busy.  We’ll need to pack our bags, we need to decide how we’re gonna get there.  We can review the research – I know, Derek briefed us and this is Nick’s investigation, but …  I’ll admit, I didn’t really pay great attention to what they were saying.  That was wrong of me, but, on the other hand, who was going?  Derek Rayne an’ Nick Boyle.  If they can’t keep out of trouble, what hope do we have?  I believed they could do it.”

          “So did I,” Alex murmured.

          “So .. we need to go over Nick’s findings.  Familiarize ourselves with where an’ what an’ who.  Any local contacts we can use.”

          Alex nodded, her entire body subdued.

          “Alex .. Derek left you in charge.  You can do this.  You have to get your act together.”

          “Why?  I just called Aquila – ”

          “Listen to me,” Rachel cut in, crossing the room and hunkering down so she was at eye level.  She took Alex’s hands in hers.  “As far as we know, there is no evil involved.  If there is, sure, Aquila will take control of the situation.  But there might not be.  You activated Aquila because you need to feel safe.  Protected.  You want her there as back up in the field.  She won’t take control, Alex, not if it isn’t evil.  She’ll want orders.  You have to be ready to give them to her.”

          Alex nodded.  “You’re right.  I .. just feel so helpless.”  She shook herself.  “Derek left me in charge .. and now I have to find him.”

          Rachel squeezed her hands and released them.  “What did the police say again?”

          It shunted Alex’s brain into movement.  “They didn’t return their boat at the appointed time.  The alarm was raised after another hour had passed.  A search party went out and they found the boat drifting, apparently abandoned.  All their belongings were still on board and are now with the local police.”  She paused, considering the facts they had.  “It looks bad, Rachel.”

          “Yes, it does.  But appearances can be deceiving.  Just because something looks bad doesn’t mean it is.”

          Alex smiled wanly.  “And that sounds like someone clutching at straws.”

          “So what if it does?” Rachel retorted.  “I choose to be optimistic an’ to keep busy.  If I gave up on them .. I’d go to pieces.  How many times have Derek and Nick put themselves on the line for us?  Too many to count.  I mean .. Derek’s the heart of this house an’ Nick is the backbone.  Me an’ you, we’re the head and the soul.  Together, we’re one body.  No one can function with half their body missing.  And having new additions grafted on .. it isn’t ever the same.”  She took a deep breath and swallowed her own fear.  “You did the good thing, calling Peri back.  It gives us more options.  But you activated Aquila, Alex, and she’s all business.  When she gets here, she’ll expect us to be packed an’ ready to move.  She’ll want detailed information as well as orders.  We can’t afford to waste one minute.”

          Alex rose.  “We’ll pack first.  We can always take the laptop an’ check out the research later, on site if we have to.”

          “Okay,” Rachel nodded.  “Let’s get to it.  Keep ourselves occupied.”

          “It won’t stop me thinking and worrying,” Alex muttered.

          “I never said it would,” Rachel commented.




          “Disappeared .. how?” Jack asked, frowning.  “Your car keys can disappear,” he went on, watching her throw things into her bag.  “Vacation time can certainly disappear.  People don’t.”

          Merlin zipped the bag and slung it over one shoulder.  She was ready to head out to McCarran.  “You know that isn’t true.  People disappear all the time, often by choice.  Ready?”

          “I booked two seats,” Jack announced.  “I’m coming with you.”

          “And do what?” Merlin asked bluntly as she headed downstairs again.

          He thought quickly.  “Whatever I can.  Look, I’m not a member of the San Francisco Legacy house – ”

          “Neither am I.  What’s your point?”

          You’re going,” he responded.

          “I was called in,” Merlin returned.  “I have certain skills which Alex needs.”

          “Well .. I have certain skills too.”  Jack shrugged and picked up his own bag from where he’d left it in the hall.  “If nothing else, I can look after the store while everyone else goes hunting.”

          “Andrew can do that.  That’s his job.”

          Jack fidgeted.  “Then I’ll help him.  Peri, please.  Let me do something.”

          “Jack, it isn’t up to me to say yes or no.  I think you’re in for a wasted trip but .. it’s your life.  Alex is in charge, she’ll decide.”

          “Then it’s settled,” he declared.  “Alex an’ me .. we’re tight.  We get along really well.  Like a house on fire.”

          Merlin gave a quick smile.  “You mean people run away from you, screaming loudly?”

          “Why did I agree to let you stay at my place?  I should’ve made you stay in one of the big hotels on the Strip.  The ones which cost serious money,” he muttered, opening the door.  “But, no, I had to open my mouth and agree to you staying under my roof.  Okay, I didn’t have to agree, but I have always seen you as a friend.  Someone I could rely on.  Why is that?”

          Merlin followed him out to his sedan.  “Could be because I drove all the way to San Francisco with you sitting beside me and I never once punched you in the mouth an’ told you to shut up.”

          Jack looked across the roof at her.  “Did you want to?”

          She didn’t want to debate it here or now.  “Can we go?  I have to get back to the city.”

          He smirked.  The change of subject told him he’d won the first round.  The way Merlin raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips once he was behind the wheel gave warning that the fight hadn’t even started and if he thought that was a victory .. he didn’t know what war really was.




          Rachel’s cell phone beeped.  She halted in her hasty packing and opened her purse.  “Rachel Corrigan.  Oh, hello, Mrs Maguire … ”  She listened, her mouth opening slightly.  Rachel sat down on the bed.  “Well .. okay.  If it’s been decided, I can’t argue with you or the school board.”  She listened some more.  “Yes, I understand.”  She nodded.  “Okay, yes.  I’ll come straight over.”

          She closed the phone and sighed heavily.  “Damn.”

          Alex came to her door.  “News?”

          “That was Kat’s school,” Rachel replied, rising again.  She threw her belongings into the bag and zipped it.  “They’re having to close for a week.  Something about .. a boiler being replaced before the winter hits.  Why they couldn’t have scheduled the work during summer recess, your guess is as good as mine.  All the children are being sent home with assignments.  I have to go pick her up.”


          “Yes, now.  She’ll have to come with us.  I can’t go an’ leave her behind, Alex.”  Rachel picked up her purse and her car keys.  “Kat’s fourteen now, and one night away .. yes, she can cope.  We could be gone a lot longer.  She comes with us.”  Rachel headed down the hall toward the stairs.  “Never rains but it pours.  Alex, I’ll be back as soon as I can.  Don’t leave without me!”

          Alex was alone now and prey to a whole host of fears.  She wasn’t afraid of being in charge.  Alex had been left on her own here many times before.  It wasn’t fear of  being branded incompetent.  It wasn’t fear of taking responsibility.  She wasn’t afraid for herself at all, but it was her personal fears which rose suddenly to ambush her.

          She wandered back to her own room and sat on the bed.

          To open your heart to true feeling, you risked getting hurt.  Derek and Nick were family and she loved them.  If they were dead …

          It was that fear which paralyzed her.  She knew she should be preparing for the trip, packing her bag.  She knew there was a lot of things which required her attention before she left.  Things which had to be done.  She just sat there, unable to do anything as she stared that one potentiality square in the face and she let it turn her limbs to stone.

          If they were dead .. who would take over?  Would London appoint a new Precept?  Would Alex be promoted?  That was a fear in its own right.  Alex didn’t want to be Precept.  Alex wanted Derek to be Precept.  But if he were dead …

          Had he drowned?  They say drowning is a peaceful way to die.  Once the lungs fill with water, there’s an interval before the brain is starved of oxygen and death occurs, and that interval is supposed to be very tranquil.  But maybe his air had run out on a dive and he’d suffocated.  Panic would have set in.  A terrible urge to drag the regulator from his mouth, to burst up to the surface to suck in one gasping breath …  From that deep, he would’ve gotten the bends.  Bubbles in the bloodstream.  Agonizing pain, a slow death.

          It was no use at all Alex telling herself that, while Derek might only be a recreational diver, Nick was very experienced.  Nick wouldn’t have let the air run out.  He would’ve made sure everything was safe.  Alex tried telling herself all this, but it made no difference.

          She closed her eyes, trying to banish the images which rose, one after the other, and always ended with the same one – a dead, white, bloated corpse floating somewhere, lost, and no one there to find him.

          “Please, God,” she whispered, “let him be all right.  Let it all be a horrible mistake … ”




          The jet climbed and leveled off.  As soon as the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign went off, Merlin got up to visit the lavatory.

          “So soon?” Jack commented.  “Are you a nervous passenger or something?”

          She smiled at him but said nothing.  Once she was in the lavatory, however, Merlin did say something.  She looked at herself in the mirror and said it quite clearly. 

          “I’m gonna bust his chops if he keeps on, I really am.”

          Feel better now?

          “I just wanted to get it out in the open.  Aquila, I want you to go on ahead.”

          I won’t be able to return.  I won’t be able to find you.

          “Not a problem.  I’ll find you.  It isn’t as if I’m on a flight from the other side of the world.  This is an hour.  Go on, wait for me at the island.  I’ll be fine.  I’m with Jack and we should both get there in one piece .. though I have got my doubts about him.  Alex will need you,” she went on softly.  “If I know her, she’ll be scared.  Derek left her in charge .. and him disappearing is a big deal.  Especially after Sloan dying.  It’s pressure she doesn’t need.  Alex could use some firm but gentle guidance right now.  A friend.  Go!”

          Aquila went.  Merlin returned to her seat.

          “Feel better now?” Jack inquired, echoing Aquila’s words.

          “Actually .. yeah.  I do.”




          Alex jumped as Aquila appeared from nothing.  “I wasn’t .. expecting you just yet.”

          “I can see that.  Peri sent me on ahead.  She thought you could use a friend.”

          “And she sent you?” Alex remarked before she could stop it.  She held up a hand.  “I’m sorry.”

          “It’s accepted.  I understand.  Events have not happened as they should.  It’s either bad planning or not every variable was taken into consideration because, at the time, it was unknown.  I don’t believe it was the first possibility.”

          Alex stared at her.  “How can you be so calm?  Nick is missing too .. and you’re talking as if it’s just another day in the office for you.”

          Aquila thought over her response.  “Would it help anyone if I ran around and gave in to any fears?”

          Are you worried about him?  Even just a little?”

          “Concerned.  But I am Aquila.  My function is to assess the facts and choose a course of action.  What information can you give me, Alex?”

          The bluntly delivered question, albeit asked in a not particularly demanding voice, shook Alex from her living nightmare.

          “They’ve disappeared.”

          “You’ve told me this.”

          Alex glared at her.  “I’m in charge – ”

          “Then act like it,” Aquila stated, her eyes cold.  “There is work to be done.  Leads to be followed.  A trail which is still presently warm.  Once we have exhausted all possibilities and determined the truth, then, if the circumstances warrant it, you can curl up and give in to your misery.  That time is not now.”

          That shook Alex from her paralysis.  “You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I’m very worried about them .. but too much is at stake to roll over and give up.  Okay, the facts as we know them – the local police at Morro Bay called to say that Derek and Nick are missing.  They didn’t return their boat at the appointed time.  The boat’s owner waited another hour, just in case, then reported it to the police who sent out a search party.  They found the boat drifting, apparently abandoned, all their possessions still on board.  No signs of violence or a struggle.  They’ve literally vanished.  The police haven’t officially said they’re missing, presumed dead, and they are continuing to search but .. it was in his voice.  I get the feeling they’re not going to search very hard.”

          “Then we’ll have to do it properly for them,” Aquila declared.  “When Peri arrives, we must be ready to leave.  Start putting the bags and equipment in the foyer, whatever you feel must be taken with us.  You should brief Andrew.  Take the laptop in case we need to find additional information, plus all the data Nick had amassed before he and Derek left.  By the time we get there, we all have to be up to speed so no time is wasted.”  She paused.  “At least, that’s what I’d do, if I were in charge.”

          Alex smiled quickly.  “Aquila, the reason I called you is so I could rely on your advice as well as feeling safe in the field.”

          Aquila nodded.  “Where’s Rachel?  Does she know of these developments?”

          “Yeah, but she’s had to go pick up Kat from school,” Alex related.  “Kat’s coming with us and Rachel did say we weren’t to leave without her.”

          “We wouldn’t.  When we find them, they’ll need a doctor.  We need to prepare a medical kit.”

          Alex swallowed.  A doctor, yes, to render first aid .. or sign death certificates.  She shoved it away, refusing to start down that path again.

          “Are you finished packing?” Aquila inquired.


          “Then finish.  Make a plan, Alex, and stick to it.”





          The laptop was placed next to Alex’s holdall in the foyer.  Aquila had packed a bag for Merlin.  There was a briefcase with all Nick’s research, both hard copies printed from the computer, plus copies of the clippings he’d made and the books he’d used.  Alex wished she’d paid more attention during the briefing.  She’d been more attentive to the instructions Derek had left her regarding the house and his work during his absence.  She was aware of Aquila watching everything, arms folded, standing still, like some kind of guard.  Alex felt she was being judged in some way, and the verdict was coming in as ‘found wanting’.

          I can’t help the way I feel.  My emotions .. especially when it’s Derek and Nick .. make me who I am.  We can’t all be cold and heartless, so focused that nothing else matters.  Maybe asking for Aquila was a mistake.  Maybe I should just have called Peri and told her.  I can deal with Peri.  She’s human.  Aquila .. it’s like talking with a robot or a cyborg.  There’s nothing I can reach out and touch.

          “Andrew, I need to speak with you,” Alex began.

          “Yes, Miss Alex.”

          Andrew really was a find.  He had fit into their routine, their lives, their work, as if he was Joseph reincarnated.

          “Rachel and I have to leave for a while and you’ll be here alone.  We’re not expecting any visitors to arrive so, if any do, they can’t be allowed in.  It’s a security issue.”

          “I understand.  They are to go to Paradise Drive and stay there until collected.”

          “Right,” Alex nodded.

          “Shall I remain here until you return, Miss Alex?”

          “That would be useful, yes.”

          “No problem,” Andrew replied.  “The usual procedure – take messages and leave them on the desk in the study.”

          “That’s correct,” Alex confirmed.  “And I’ll leave you my cell phone number, in case there’s an emergency.”  Though what could be more important than why I’m going away …

          “How long will you be absent?”

          Alex hesitated.  “I don’t know.  Derek and Nick .. are missing.”

          Andrew looked at her.  “And you’ll only return when you’ve found them,” he declared.  “Good luck in your search.”

          “Thank you, Andrew.”

          “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know,” he added quietly.

          “I will,” Alex promised.

          She headed back to the foyer, running thru a mental checklist.  Rachel arrived with Kat just as Alex was crossing to the stairs.

          “Rachel, I’m glad you’re back,” she said briskly.  “We need a med kit prepared.  And, if you haven’t finished packing, do it now.”

          Rachel blinked.  Alex had grasped the reins of command in a tight hold.

          “Right.  Kat, run upstairs, pack a bag.  Be quick.  We don’t have much time.  Alex, is Peri here yet?”

          “Not yet, but it can’t be much longer,” Alex replied.

          “Can’t I stay here with Andrew?” Kat asked.

          “No,” Aquila responded.  “Spectral entities require people with sight.  We have Alex on the team.  Your job will be to assist.”

          “Now wait just a second!” Rachel began hotly.

          “It’s okay, Mom.  I wanna help,” Kat interrupted.

          Rachel regarded her and wasn’t exactly overjoyed at what she saw.  Kat had, despite everything Rachel had said, put Peri on some kind of pedestal.  Kat admired her, wanted to be like her, liked to be near her.  If Nick was an older brother, Peri was the wilder, older sister.  And, while Rachel knew Peri would never do anything to hurt Kat or to encourage her, and would go out of her way to protect her, she couldn’t help feel a little uneasy at the way Aquila had just ordered her daughter into the field and Kat had leaped at the chance.

          “Okay, but I want you to be careful, Katherine.”

          “Peri won’t let anything happen to me,” Kat said with calm confidence.  “She’s my friend.”

          “Rachel, we need to move,” Alex urged.

          Rachel felt things slipping from her control.  She sighed and hurried for the stairs.




          By the time Merlin got to the island, she was struggling to hold onto her patience.  Any other time, it wouldn’t have gotten to her.  But this wasn’t any other time, it was this time.

          Jack had talked thru the entire flight.  And all thru the airport.  And the drive to Angel Island.  He was upbeat and excited at the prospect of seeing Alex again.  Merlin was worried about Nick.  She wanted some quiet to think.  Jack was innocently and ignorantly determined not to give that to her.

          She wasn’t sure if Jack being here was good or bad.  He’d divert Alex’s mind from her worries, and that was good, but maybe Alex needed that to keep her focused.  On the other hand, Jack Chivikian, in a tough situation, always found the guts to come thru.  He would never quit.  And he was another mind, providing another viewpoint, offering different experience.

          He’d offered his views all the way from Las Vegas.  Merlin was slightly sick of hearing his voice.

          She pulled up outside the house.  “Jack – ”

          “Oh, you’re not ignoring me.  I’d started to think you were.”

          “Jack, shut up.”

          “Yes, Peri.”

          “Remember, it’s Alex’s choice.  If she says you stay here, you stay here.  You do not argue it out with her.  If she says you go home, you go home.”

          “And if she says I can come with you – ”

          “If she says that .. I’ll live with it,” Merlin ground out.

          “I really wish you could’ve stayed longer in Vegas,” he said suddenly, surprising her.

          “Why’s that?” she asked, opening the car door.

          Jack shrugged.  “You can do things .. with your head.”

          Merlin slowed.  “What d’you mean?  Things with my head.”

          “Y’know .. manipulate things.”

          She halted.  “You mean .. cheat in the casinos.”

          “Not exactly cheat,” he responded.  “More .. an exercise in the application of TK.”

          “Get inside,” Merlin ordered, pointing at the house.  “And never let me hear you suggest such a thing again.”

          “Yes, Peri,” Jack said quietly.

          She followed him into the foyer and immediately saw the bags and equipment ready to be loaded for the journey.

          “Wait here,” she instructed.

          Jack put his bag with the others and smiled at her.  “Trust me.  Alex an’ me .. we’re tight.”  And he winked.

          Merlin headed upstairs and met Aquila in the gallery.  They rejoined and went to the control room.

          “You’re back ..?” Alex asked, her voice hesitant.

          “Yeah, and I brought someone with me.  Remember, Alex, you’re in charge – ”

          “I know.  You don’t have to keep on telling me.”

          Merlin blinked.  “I don’t.  I’ve only just gotten here.  Are we ready to move?”

          “Just one second.”  Alex typed quickly, updating the journal for San Francisco, then locked the computer.  “Now we’re ready.”

          “Where’s Rachel?”

          “I’m here,” Rachel said, bringing the med kit in from the lab.  “Did I hear you say you’ve brought someone with you?”

          “It’s more that .. I came back and I couldn’t shake him.”

          “Can we go?” Alex pressed.

          “Sure.  You can brief me on the way.”

          They went downstairs and Alex froze when she saw him.  “Jack ..?”

          “I wanna help, Alex.  I can do this.  Just .. let me come with you.”

          Rachel held her breath.  So did Merlin.  Rachel wanted Alex to say yes and for purely selfish reasons.  Jack had the sight too.  If he came, Kat could take a back seat.

          Alex nodded.  “Okay, but – ”

          “You’re in charge.  Believe me, that has been pointed out to me more than once.”

          “You do what you’re told, Jack.  No getting ideas an’ acting on them,” Alex insisted.

          “Absolutely,” he agreed.  “We’d better make a move.”

          “We’ll take the chopper,” Merlin decided.  “It’s quicker.”

          “Okay,” Alex nodded.

          “Kat!  C’mon, we’re going!” Rachel called.

          Kat hurried downstairs, bringing her bag.  “I’m here.”

          Thirty minutes later, the Legacy chopper was loaded up and everyone was secured inside.  Merlin checked the doors were closed then climbed in next to Alex up front.  She spent a minute or so studying a map while the rotors reached working speed.

          “There,” she said, pointing.  “There’s nowhere near Morro Bay.  Nearest airport is another fifty miles farther south.  I’ll drop you off at Morro Bay then go onto the airport for refueling and to leave the chopper.  I’ll rent a vehicle and bring all the gear with me.”

          Alex nodded her agreement.

          Merlin put the map to one side.  “Okay.  Everyone set?”

          “Okay back here,” Rachel confirmed.

          The chopper lifted off and banked leisurely over the trees.  Merlin kept it low to avoid jets in and out of the airport.  Soon the city was behind them.

          “I didn’t know you’d gotten your license,” Alex remarked.

          Merlin shrugged tightly.  “Technicality.  We’re in a hurry.  This is the quickest way.”  She glanced round into Alex’s wide eyes.  “I won’t tell if you don’t.  And I’m doing all right.  I’ve had lessons with a really great teacher.”

          “How many lessons?” Alex asked, sounding slightly choked.

          “Haven’t crashed yet, have I?”

          “I guess not,” Alex faintly replied.

          Merlin grinned.  “You just gotta have faith, Alex.”

          “Right … ” Alex agreed, praying silently.




          Merlin landed on the beach – it was the only place to land.  As she didn’t have permission to do that, everyone scrambled out and got away from the rotor wash as quickly as possible.  Her last words to Alex were that she’d call from the airport in Santa Maria to find out where they were planning to stay and get directions.  Then she was gone.  Alex still couldn’t believe she’d done it, flown them all this way.  Well .. Merlin had looked like she knew what she was doing and Nick was a great teacher so that had to be enough.

          It was early evening in Morro Bay and that meant there was still time to do something.  Alex decided to split the team into two.

          “Jack, you and Kat go find us somewhere to stay.  We’ll need three rooms at least, four if they’re available.  One night, maybe two.  Rachel, you and I will go speak with the police, get the latest information.”

          “Should I track down a boatyard?” Jack inquired.  “If you’re going searching .. won’t you need a boat?”

          “Good idea,” Alex agreed.  “Here’s my cell phone number.  Call me.”

          He nodded.  “C’mon, Kat,” he said cheerfully.  “I’m Jack.  I live in Las Vegas.”

          Rachel watched them go.  “I’m beginning to think bringing Kat was a mistake.”

          Alex walked up the beach.  “I don’t think you had any choice.”

          “You noticed, huh?”

          “It’s one reason why I let Jack come along.  His gift is powerful.  Between us, we could see enough that Kat won’t need to be involved at all.  I’ll try to keep her on the .. administrative side as much as I can.”

          “Good,” Rachel commented.  “I’d hate for you an’ me to get into a fight over it.  I think Kat and I are gonna be fighting enough as it is.”

          “Aquila will do what she’s told,” Alex responded.  “She doesn’t give the orders, Rachel, I do.  I decide who does what task.  And I will keep Jack on a very tight leash.”

          Rachel angled her head.  “Kat thinks Aquila is the best thing in the whole world.”

          “I’ll try to keep them apart.”

          They found the sheriff’s office and went in to the desk.  “I’m Alex Moreau from the Luna Foundation in San Francisco.  A Deputy Matheson called me earlier to report two of my colleagues as missing.  Is he here?  Dr Corrigan and I want to talk with him.”

          “One moment, ma’am.  I’ll check for you.”

          Rachel leaned an elbow on the desk.  “What was the other reason?”

          Alex frowned as she glanced at her.

          “Jack.  His gift is one reason.  What’s the other?”

          “He’s a guy.”  Alex’s shoulders fell.  “That sounds wrong.  I mean .. we’re three women and a teenager, looking for two guys, and, while we don’t need a guy to give us credibility, it can’t hurt.  Plus .. I do enjoy his company.”

          “You sure this isn’t a rebound reaction after Mark?” Rachel asked softly.  “I could understand it if it were.”

          “I don’t think so.  I’m not looking for romance, Rachel, I want to find Derek and Nick.  Jack .. can be a total pain in the ass.  He talks way too much about nothing at all but he is a great way to relieve stress.  He’ll help keep me focused and, at the same time, keep me grounded.  He’s a good friend.”

          Rachel nodded.  “Okay.”

          A black man in uniform came to the desk.  “Ms Moreau ..?”

          “That’s me,” Alex replied, straightening.  “This is my colleague Dr Corrigan.  We’re both with the Luna Foundation.”

          “What can you tell us?” Rachel asked.  “Is there any more news?”

          “Come on thru,” he invited, lifting the barrier.  “We have the two gentlemen’s belongings.  We need you to positively identify them, just so we’re sure we know who we’re looking for.”

          “Where did you find the boat?” Alex asked.

          “A couple of miles north of here.  Apparently, according to Zeke Jordan, they’d rented the Shamrock yesterday morning and were due back at six yesterday evening.  When they hadn’t come in by a quarter after seven, Zeke called us. We sent out a launch an’ we found the Shamrock abandoned a couple of miles north of the bay.”

          He pushed open a door and Alex felt her chest tighten.  Derek’s billfold.  Nick’s sweater.  The car keys to the Range Rover.

          “No other clothes?” Rachel queried.


          “We thought they were going diving,” she explained.

          “There were a few charts – we weren’t sure if they belonged to Zeke or not.  A Thermos of coffee.  Food wrappings.  Blankets.  No clothes.  They told Zeke they were just going out on the water.  No one said anything about diving and they took no diving gear with them.”

          “And no signs of .. the Shamrock having been boarded?” Rachel pressed.

          “No, ma’am.  No struggle, no violence.  No nothing.  We are still searching the area in case they went overboard but .. at this stage, they could’ve been snatched by a flying saucer for all we know.  We’ve looked in all the usual places where bodies tend to get washed up.”

          “You’ve found nothing,” Alex said.

          “No, ma’am.  Your friends have simply .. disappeared into thin air.”  He shrugged.  “It’s a real mystery.”




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