"NO SON OF MINE"
This is part two of a trilogy that
started with "Let The Truth Be Known".
He reached into his pocket and brought out Nick's cell phone, which he had procured earlier. He quickly dialed a number, then pressed the phone against Nick's ear.
"But, I ..."
"Talk!" Hitchcock screamed. Shaking, Nick felt the phone pressed hard against his ear, and listened to the ringing on the other end.
Then someone picked up. "Luna Foundation."
Nick's heart nearly skipped a beat, and he looked at Hitchcock, who just stood by, smirking. "Mmm ... Mitchell?" Nick stammered.
"Nick?" The young man could hear the surprise in the butler's voice. "Where are you, Sir? Dr. Rayne is going out of his mind! You really should come home right away."
"Is Derek there?" Nick felt his words slurring together as he began to lose the fight with whatever Hitchcock had given him.
"Yes, hold on a minute, I'll put you through."
Nick heard the phone ring through to Derek's study and there was a brief pause before Derek picked up.
"Dd ... Derek?" Nick's voice was almost a whisper.
"Nick?! Nick, is that you? Nick ... where are you?" The young man could hear the concern in the Precept's voice. He felt a rush of anger as he remembered Derek's conversation with Rachel; remembered Derek's hurtful Journal entry. In spite of the fear he felt over his present situation, he felt his heart harden against the older man.
"Like yo..... you really care!" Nick snapped, feeling his anger pull him awake. "If you did, then I.... I wouldn't be here!"
"Where are you?" Derek sounded frustrated.
"Doesn't matter," Nick said, simply. "I'm in the mo.... most trouble I have ever been in, and I.... I doubt very seriously if I'm going to se.... see you again. Don't worr ... worry, Derek ... you won't have to deal with tha.... that 'chip' I've got anymore."
Derek's mind reeled ... he thought about the words he had so harshly written in his Journal previously and had subsequently ripped out. 'How could Nick know?!' his thoughts screamed in the back of his mind. 'How could he know the exact words I used?!' Derek pleaded into the phone, "Nick, please come home. I promise you, whatever's happened, we can work it out!'
"Too ... too late, Derek," Nick gave up fighting the drug, and his eyes slid shut as he sank back into the settee.
"Nick? Nick!" Derek yelled.
Hitchcock took the phone out of the young man's limp hands. "Derek?" he called.
Silence greeted him on then he heard the dreaded question '... Randolph?!'
Hitchcock smiled. "The one and only."
"What have you done with Nick?" Derek said, angrily. "I swear if you hurt him ....."
Hitchcock laughed. "Oh, I'm afraid your threats don't carry any weight with me, Derek. I'm finally getting my revenge on you for Alicia's death ... by killing your son."
"My son ... Randolph, Nick is not my son! Please, just let him go, he has nothing to do with ....."
"So you didn't sleep with Miranda?" Hitchcock asked, already knowing the answer.
"How did you know?" Derek's voice was cold and hard.
"I had a look at Miranda's Journals ... Nick did too, by the way. Unfortunately, Jeanette didn't really want to give them up; she had to be persuaded! Such a shame. And Nick ... he was so upset."
"Randolph, please let him go! Don't you think he's suffered enough?"
"Not nearly enough!" was Hitchcock's cold reply. "The only thing I'm unsure of is how to kill him."
"Please don't ....."
"I could sell him," Hitchcock carried on. "There's quite a market in slavery now, you know. He'd be addicted to cocaine in less than a month; dead within a year -- if he's lucky. His life would be a living Hell, desperate for a fix, willing to do anything ...."
"Hitchcock, don't ....."
"Or, how about a more permanent torment? I could offer up his soul to the Dark Side -- eternal torment in Hell, Derek. He'd be taking your punishment for you. Yes, I think that just might be it."
"Randolph," Derek cried. "Please, don't do this! I'll do anything --just don't hurt him!"
"Like you did?" Hitchcock said, quietly. "He's Miranda's son, Derek, and you hurt him more than Jonathan ever could have with your stubborn refusal to accept him."
"'I don't see how Nick could be my son Rachel ... he's nothing like me! No son of mine could have so many traits as Jonathan.'"
"'I'm fed up with this; I don't care if he comes back now or not. I wouldn't want Nick as my son, not for all the wealth in the world.' Sound familiar, Derek? I am quoting you correctly, aren't I?!"
"He knows, Derek," Hitchcock answered. "It doesn't really matter how, but he knows. He couldn't care less about you, Derek. How does that make you feel -- your own son hating your very being?"
"I don't know what you've done," Derek said, "but if you hurt Nick, I'll spend every moment of my life hunting you down!"
"He's such a good-looking kid," Hitchcock ignored Derek. "He has your eyes, you know -- keen and sharp, yet haunted. Maybe I'll have a little fun with him before he has to die."
"No ... Randolph! Don't ...."
But Hitchcock disconnected the phone. He looked down at the unconscious Nick. "Yes ... a little fun," he whispered to the unconscious form.
** ** **
On Angel Island, Derek held the phone in his hands, staring at it in disbelief and horror. He couldn't understand how Hitchcock and Nick would know what he'd said to Rachel, what he'd written in his diary. And now, he would never get the chance to apologize to Nick -- to tell him how wrong he was, how sorry ....
"Sir?" Derek looked up to see Mitchell standing in the doorway. "Sir, I took the liberty of tracing the call."
"Mitchell, you're a genius!" Derek sprang up from his chair. "Where is he?!"
"The call was made from Master Nick's cell phone so I couldn't get an exact fix, but he seems to be in Jersey."
"New Jersey? What's he doing there?"
"No, Sir," Mitchell replied. "The island Jersey ... in the English Channel."
Derek frowned, then quickly dialed a number on the phone he still held. "William? I never thought I'd say this, but I need your help ...."
** ** **
The hallway swam in front of Nick as he was dragged toward the stairs. Swinging in and out of his stupor, he didn't have the strength to struggle against the grip of Hitchcock's bodyguards. He just lay passively in the men's vice-like grip as they traveled up the stairway to a chamber on the next floor up. The room beyond was dank and musty, the only light coming from the grubby windows that were cracked and green with mold.
The furnishings didn't fare any better -- they were covered in dust and many of the stuffed chairs had burst and were growing spores. The lackeys threw Nick down onto the dusty, faded bed, and the young man lay there, too drugged and terrified to move. Again, he could faintly discern the haunting melody that echoed throughout the house. In his drugged state, it began to become a comforting and welcome tune.
Hitchcock followed them in, then waved the men away. He turned, locking the door and leaning against it, simply looking at Nick. Still trying to combat the effects of the drug, the young man had to keep blinking just to stay awake. Then, slowly, Hitchcock walked forward to the bed, and quietly drew the thick curtains closed, shutting the two of them into a cloth cell. Nick struggled to his knees, his bound hands making the job difficult as he tried to keep his balance.
"What do you want from me?" Nick asked hoarsely. "Why don't you just leave me alone?"
Hitchcock stared at him blankly, sinking to his knees beside his captive. "What do I want?" he asked back. "I thought that was obvious, Nick. To hurt you as much as possible. To hurt Derek as much as possible." From his pocket, he pulled a coil of rope and reached out for Nick. The young man moved away, but he came up against the resisting wood bars of the headboard. Hitchcock grabbed his wrists, pulling him forward.
"You aren't going anywhere, Nick." he snarled. "At least, not for a while." Hitchcock jerked Nick's wrists, sending the young man flying onto his back. The older man twisted him around – turning him over -- and slipped the coil of rope through Nick's arms, tying the ends tight around the wooden bars. Trapped on his stomach, Nick went cold as he heard the soft rustle of cloth, and the cold hiss of a zipper. He tried desperately to roll onto his back, but he felt Hitchcock's weight press down on him.
"You're trembling," Hitchcock whispered.
"Let me go." Nick felt his throat seize up with fear. "Don't do this."
"Just lie back and think about being a hero, Nick," the older man laughed softly. "You're doing your duty to your father. Loyalty can have a terrible price, child."
'But Derek isn't my father!' Nick's mind screamed. But his ability to speak had left him, and he closed his eyes, trying to block out the world. He felt cold hands about his waist, sliding under his sweater, and his mouth opened to cry out, but nothing came. Nick crushed the cloth of the pillow beneath his palm, and let the pain tear through him.
** ** **
Derek ran down the stairs, handing Philip his overnight case. "Put this in the car." Philip nodded and left the House. Derek turned to Rachel and Alex, who stood by the doorway looking anxious. "Did you call Art?" Derek asked.
"He said he'd met you in London," replied Alex. She looked at the Precept uncomfortably. "Look, why do we have to stay here? Surely, it makes sense for us to go with you ...."
Derek interrupted, "No ... I need the two of you here, where you're safe. And if anything should happen to us ... well, I'm relying on you two to finish things here."
Rachel nodded. "Be careful, huh? And try to come back all in one piece."
"You can count on it," Derek promised. Then he gave each of the women a hug, and walked out the door to the car, where Philip was waiting for him.
"Do you really think we'll find him?" Philip asked, quietly.
Derek didn't answer for several moments before replying, "We have to, Philip ... we just have to!"
** ** **
Nick watched the ground spin slowly under him through half-closed eyes. The wire-mesh cage he was suspended in cast intricate patterns on the stone floor, lit by the dim light of the fire in the cave's centre. Every part of him hurt, and he drew his legs as close to his chest as he could without hurting his ribs, as if making himself as small as he could, would somehow protect him.
He had woken briefly earlier, when one of the men was carrying him back down the flight of stairs in the mansion. Mercifully, Nick had blacked out again at that point, but he knew what had happened, could feel it ... and then he had woken here ... in the cave. He felt disoriented and had no idea where he was; all he knew for certain was that he could hear the ocean booming far above him -- apart from that, there was silence.
He wanted to scream -- to cleanse himself of the hurt and shame he felt -- but he couldn't. It was as if the very essence of his being had been ripped out, and now he was completely empty. Nick knew he was going to die sometime soon, and he prayed he would face death with dignity. Waiting here to be killed, like a lamb waiting for slaughter, seemed a lot worse than the quick death of a SEAL by a sniper, or of an initiate by some creature of the night. The waiting only increased the pain, increased the unfamiliar fear he was experiencing. Nick wanted to be back home -- to be held by someone who cared for him.
He wanted to tell the people in his life how sorry he was ... how much he loved them. But now, Aunt Jeanette was dead, his mother was comatose, and there was no way any of the San Francisco House members would ever want to see him again. He wondered if he would be granted a funeral, or if Hitchcock would just throw his body from the cliffs to be dashed on the rocks below. He felt dejected in his heart and soul in a way he never had before.
The sound of footfalls brought Nick out of his thoughts, and he slowly lifted his eyes to see who had arrived. It was Hitchcock, accompanied by two of his men, the former Legacy member carrying a torch while his men bore a large wooden box between them. Hitchcock nudged the dying flames of the fire with a metal poker that lay beside the pyre, and the flickers of light at once jumped higher, illuminating the shadows that had, until now, hidden the majority of the cave from view.
To the side, making the third point in a triangle with Nick and the fire was a pentagram, at least six feet in diameter engraved in the dirt floor with white chalk. Above the pentagram, manacles hung from the ceiling suspended by great chains. The centre of the pentagram -- in a pentagonal shape -- there was a pool filled with dark water. The water gently moved, sometimes spilling onto the triangular points of the pentagram, but never by much. A large, uncomfortable-looking metal chair was half-hidden in the shadows, but it was too dark to see it properly.
Hitchcock's men walked to the pentagram, and placed the box down, before leaving the cave. Hitchcock himself strode forward, until he was in front of Nick's cage. He smiled humorlessly. "If only Derek could see you now," he said softly. "This would be so much sweeter."
Nick ignored him, closing his eyes. Angrily, the older man hit the suspended cage, making it crash and sway crazily. Nick's eyes shot open, and he stared at Hitchcock, fear and defiance written plainly in his face and eyes. "Pay attention!" Hitchcock yelled. "I want you to know exactly what's happening."
"I know," Nick said, quietly. "I know what you're doing ... what you did. I just don't care anymore."
Hitchcock stared at him. "You will, my boy," he promised. "You will."
Abruptly, he turned and stalked over to the pentagram. Opening the box, he took out five large, black candles, their pale wicks shining in stark contrast to the surroundings, and placed them on the very tips of the pentagram's points. Then, he took a dozen red candles, and placed them along the pentagram's outline.
Reaching into the box again, Hitchcock took out an evil-looking knife, sharp and shiny, with a bone handle. For some inexplicable reason, that knife filled Nick with the purest fear he had ever felt before. He could feel the unadulterated evil emanating from that blade, and suddenly, Nick did care about what was going to happen to him -- not about the dying part, but if his life had to end by that knife ......
"What are you doing?" Nick asked, tentatively. His voice came out weak and cracked.
Hitchcock turned to him. "Do you know who Eblis is?" he asked.
Nick nodded. "Chief of Fallen Angels," he remembered. "Greatest of evil spirits."
"Well, he and I have a little pact," Hitchcock explained to the youth. "I'm just setting up the ceremony so we can have a little 'chat'."
"So you can kill me?" guessed Nick somberly.
"Not just yet," was the reply. "That comes later. Keep watching -- it really is quite a spectacular sight."
Hitchcock fell silent, pulling out more black and red candles, and placing them around the cave. Then, he pulled out a cigarette lighter, and went round lighting all the candles. Soon, the whole cave was aglow with small flames. He took out of the chest five bronze dishes, and placed them in the corners created by the adjoining points of the pentagram. Hitchcock poured a powder into each of the bowls, and lit them, creating a pungent, cloying odor, that made Nick want to gag. The young man's head began to pound again and he fought the increasing waves of fear and nausea threatening to overtake him.
Hitchcock stood at the uppermost point of the pentangle, holding out the last thing the chest had contained -- a small vial of dark liquid. He poured this into the pool of water within the pentangle. At once, the water began to froth and boil with black, oily smoke rising from its surface. "Oh, Great Eblis!" Hitchcock said gleefully, "It is I, your faithful servant, Randolph Hitchcock!"
Nick felt the cage jerk and sway, as if something had just grabbed at it, and he pushed himself further into the corner.
"Is this my sacrifice?" a soft voice whispered through the cave.
"Yes," Hitchcock's face lit up at the sound. "But not yet! There will be others coming for him; they must be dealt with!"
"One is in London," the silky voice continued. "Two more are coming from San Francisco; a fourth from Texas." The voice spoke again. "Do you wish them all dead?"
"NOOOOOO!" Nick screamed, leaning forward in the cage. "Leave them alone!"
The voice laughed, a deep chuckle that reverberated around the cave. "And who will stop me ... you?!"
"The one from Texas," Hitchcock answered. "Kill him; leave the others until later."
"As you wish." The cave grew quiet and the waters stilled.
Hitchcock smiled serenely and walked back to Nick's cage. He took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door, reaching inside. Nick shrank from his touch, knowing what was about to happen. But, in the end, he was weak from the loss of blood and the effects of the drug, and could do nothing as Hitchcock grabbed his arm, and pulled him from the cage onto the dirt floor. Nick curled there, not wanting to move his hurt and broken body, as Hitchcock knelt beside him gently stroking his hair. "Yes," he murmured softly. "You do have Derek's eyes."
** ** **
Art sat back in the plane's seat, trying hard to relax, but being less than successful. From the moment Nick had left his house, Art'd had a terrible feeling of foreboding and, now after Alex's phone-call, he knew his instincts to be correct.
The Texan felt the plane shudder, and the seat-belt lights above him were switched on immediately. 'Great, just what I need.' he thought bitterly. 'A rough ride to cap it all off.'
Suddenly, the plane lurched violently and the whole back of the plane disappeared, ripping dozens of screaming people -- including Art -- out into the freezing air and to their deaths.
** ** **
Derek and Philip arrived at the London House just as night was falling. Sloan was waiting for them on the steps of the old mansion with his butler. "Leave your cases, Derek," Sloan called out. "Matthew will take them for you." The butler walked down to the car, and Derek and Philip followed Sloan into the House.
The Senior Precept led them to the Control Room which was hidden just like the one in San Francisco -- behind a hologram. The room was a hive of activity; all of the London members worked at consoles, studied maps, and spoke on the Vid-Comm to other Houses.
"What is all this?" Philip asked, worriedly.
"Art's plane crashed; everyone on board was killed," Sloan explained, sadly. "And Jeanette's been murdered."
"Damn," Derek said softly.
Philip frowned. "Who's 'Jeanette'?"
"Nick's aunt," Sloan answered. "Nick was staying with her in Boston. Her house has been ransacked. Luckily, it was one of the Boston House who found her; they were checking to see if she was aware of Nick's whereabouts. It appears that all of Miranda's Legacy diaries were in the kitchen."
"Not all of them," Derek corrected. "Randolph must have some."
** ** **
A young woman walked up to the trio. "William, I have that information for you," she said, handing him a printout. "There's no record of a 'Nicholas Boyle' booking a flight to Jersey."
Sloan signed. "Are you sure the call came from Jersey, Derek?"
"Absolutely," Derek nodded.
"Maybe he used an alias," Philip suggested.
The woman shook her head. "No one bought tickets for that flight on that day from Boston; they were all pre-booked."
"Pre-booked?" Philip frowned. "Can I see that printout?"
"Sure," Sloan shrugged, handing the paper to the young Priest.
Philip quickly scanned the page, before giving a triumphant cry. "Look," he said excitedly. "There were six seats booked to Boston by a 'Mark Henley' a week ago, but the return flight was booked for seven seats."
"Could be anything, Philip," Sloan said gently. "Don't get your hopes up."
The young Priest turned to his Precept. "Derek?" Then he frowned. "Derek, you okay?"
Derek was staring off into the distance, a distracted look on his face. He heard Philip's concerned voice, but was incapacitated by the vision that hit him.
"A carnival," Derek turned to Sloan, whispering hoarsely. "Something terrible happened ... there was a shipwreck ..."
Sloan turned to the nearest computer monitor, and began to type furiously. Derek and Philip leaned in, trying to see what he was doing. Finally, Sloan sat back with a sound of triumph. "Just on the coast, there used to be a carnival -- ruined in the 70's, when the area collapsed. There are also seventeen documented shipwrecks on the cliffs they stand on."
"The area collapsed?" Philip frowned. Sloan told them all about the DuPont land, everything from the carnival to the Nazis.
"So, who owns it now?" Philip inquired.
Sloan scanned the page, and his eyes opened wide. "Hitchcock did, until about five years ago! Now, its owned by ..." he laughed "... someone by the name of -- Mark Henley!"
"Then that's where we'll find Nick," Derek said decisively. He looked at Sloan. "How long will it take to get there?"
Sloan shrugged, "If we take the 'copter, about forty minutes -- maybe an hour."
Philip smiled grimly. "Let's go."
** ** **
Nick reached up, trying to grab the chains that suspended the manacles around his wrists; his shoulders felt like they were about to pop out of their sockets. He was also freezing from the biting cold that permeated throughout the cavern. After Hitchcock had finished with him on the cave floor, the older man had barely given Nick time to pull his jeans back on, before hauling him off the floor and suspending him in chains. Nick was glad Hitchcock had allowed him the dignity of keeping his clothing; the caves were at such a low temperature, hypothermia would have been a risk if he had stayed exposed for too many more hours. Not that time would matter much anyway!
Hitchcock had suspended Nick above the water about five minutes ago, and was now watching his captive from the other side of the cave, a bemused look on his sweaty face. "Don't bother struggling," he suggested. "Your arms'll go numb soon, and you won't feel so uncomfortable."
"How about you let me go and I kill you now instead of later."
Hitchcock laughed. "Give me some credit, young man! You think I'd give up now? I've waited twenty years for this!"
"But Derek isn't my father!" Nick again tried to persuade Hitchcock. "As much as I hate the idea ... it's Jonathan! Why won't you listen?!"
The older man strode across the cave, stood on the edge of the water, and hit Nick hard across the face. Suspended like he was, Nick couldn't avoid the strong blow. The youth felt hard knuckles grind into his cheekbone and eye as they flew past. For a moment, Nick thought he was blinded, but the blur of Hitchcock's face gradually cleared to reveal the older man's snarl. "I know what went on! You don't!"
"You slept with her too!" Nick yelled back. "How do you know you aren't killing your own son?!"
"As if you'd be my son -- you're much too ... brutal for that!" Hitchcock snorted derisively. "Believe me, Nick, I want you even less than Derek does."
"You wanted me earlier," Nick hissed.
Hitchcock nodded. "Hurting you is like hurting Derek. It's nothing personal against you, my boy; you just ... happen to be in the wrong place at the right time, so to speak." Hitchcock turned abruptly and left the cave.
Nick tried to swing his body over the land, away from the water, but he was strung up too high to touch the ground. The movement only succeeded in jarring his ribs, and he hissed in pain. Hitchcock was right about one thing -- his arms had gone numb. He felt hot tears sting his eyes as he stared at the dark water beneath him. 'Where are you, Derek?' Nick wondered miserably. 'Please, don't let me die here! Not alone! Please don't let me die alone like this!'
** ** **
Hitchcock walked into the Control Room where his men were sitting by the table, watching the monitors and munching on junk food. "Hey boss," one of them called out gleefully pointing to one of the views on the split screens. "You got yourself a home video!"
Hitchcock looked and smiled as he recognized the view that was of the cave .. that camera caught everything! "Yes, it is a pretty good video, isn't it?" he said, absently. "Too bad you won't be seeing a rerun!"
"Wha ...." The men turned to look at him, confused, just as Hitchcock brought out an automatic pistol from his jacket, and fired at the five men. They looked at each other, dumbfounded at the sudden holes that had appeared in eyes, foreheads, and hearts -- before collapsing to the floor. Hitchcock came and stood over them. He took out a glass bottle from his pant's pocket, then bent and collected up the blood pooling from the death wounds of his men. He grinned down at the looks of shock frozen on their faces.
"Now, that would have made a good home video, too!" he chuckled, licking blood from his fingers. He turned to the screens, watching the view of the front gate, as a car pulled up outside. He smiled nastily, "Show time!"
** ** **
Derek looked up at the big gates, frowning. The sky was darkening with black shadows streaking across the blood-red sunset. "This is the place," he said quietly.
"Great!" Sloan said sarcastically. "Now, how do we get in?"
Derek shrugged. "Over the top, I suppose."
Philip watched bemused as the two older men struggled over the huge gates, eventually landing in an undignified manner on the other side. "Why didn't you just open the gate?" he inquired, doing just that, and joining his colleagues in the grounds.
"Come on," Derek said embarrassed. "We're wasting time!" He started towards the mansion with the other two following.
Philip stared about him in wonder. "Look at this place," he breathed. "It must've been so magnificent!"
"It's evil," Derek stated, curtly. Philip fell silent, and the trio quickly came to the mansion.
Sloan pointed to the french windows that faced them, and the broken glass that littered the walkway. "Look," he whispered, quietly. Derek looked at him, and then strode forward through the shattered pane into the room beyond.
The Dutchman stared about him in the deserted room. Someone had definitely been here -- dust sheets had been removed from the furniture and mugs lay on the dusty floor.
"Hey!" Philip called out from the opposite side of the room where he had gone after following Derek. The Priest held up a black leather overnight bag. "This is Nick's."
"Are you sure?" Sloan asked. Philip nodded. "So, he's here," the older man continued.
"Or was," Derek put in. "We have to search the rest of the house. I'm sure he's got to still be here -- somewhere!"
The three traipsed out of the room into the hallway. Derek felt an odd sensation -- almost as though he heard words speaking to him through the sounds of a mysterious melody ... "end it now ... it's the only way you'll ever find peace". He shook his head to clear it and then stated, "Philip, you check upstairs; William, come with me."
The rescuers split up, Philip climbing the great stairs to the next floor, while the other two checked the ground floor. Unfortunately, they found each room as empty and deserted as the last. Finally, Derek paused outside the last room. "Can you smell that?" he asked Sloan. The other man nodded, crinkling his nose.
Cautiously, Derek pushed open the door. "Oh, Gott," he mumbled. Five bodies lay sprawled in front of a bank of dead TV screens. The corpses were pale and smeared with blood.
Sloan edged forward, so he could see more clearly. "None of them are Nick," he said, with a note of relief.
"Well, that's something," Derek sighed. He was about to leave the room to call for Philip when the screens flickered to life.
Hitchcock's head and shoulders appeared, spread out over all the screens and back-dropped by dark stone with firelight illuminating the features. "Hello, Derek," the man smiled. "Nice to see you again. Do forgive me for not greeting you in person, but I'm a little tied up at the moment." He chuckled at his own demented wit. "Well, I'm not the one who's literally tied up, but never mind."
The small eyes hardened, becoming cold and distant as he continued, "This is a long time in coming, Derek. You should have just left Alicia and I alone. Now, I've lost Alicia ... and you're losing your son. I've enjoyed hurting him, Derek; I've pretended it's you who's hurting, making atonement for Alicia's death." Hitchcock smiled humorlessly. "Just think, Nick's last moments in this world will be spent in terror and agony. Remember that, Derek."
The screen flickered and changed, showing a view of a fire-lit cave. On the screens, Derek and Sloan watched Hitchcock approach a caged Nick, pulling him roughly out onto the dirt floor, stroking his hair, and .... the sound of Nick's screams reverberated throughout the small room. Derek stared -- pale-faced and shocked. Sloan looked away, covering his eyes with his hand. Philip, hearing the noise, came running and stopped abruptly when he saw the images on the monitor.
"The sick bastard!" he screamed, startling the two men. The young Priest looked around wildly, his gaze landing on a coffee pot on the table. Mindless of the scattered corpses surrounding it, Philip picked up the pot and hurled it at the screens. Several shattered and cracked as the others winked off. Philip looked at the two silent men. None of them could think of a word to say. They were numbed by what they had seen on the screen, feeling empty, unable to offer any words of comfort to each other. Finally, Derek uttered one word, soft and low, ".... Cave."
"What?" Philip frowned.
"They were in a cave," he replied as he turned to Sloan. "Are there any in the area?"
"There's the catacombs," Sloan offered, "But the entrance collapsed with much of the rest of the area."
"There has to be another way in," Derek exclaimed, eyes shining hopefully. "There has to be some way in!"
"There was a rumor ....." Sloan started, and then shook his head. "No, it's ridiculous."
Sloan looked uncomfortable. "Well, there was supposedly a way in through the ghost house."
"How adequate," Philip quipped coldly. "C'mon, then."
"Philip, he may not be down there!" Sloan protested. "We could be walking right into a trap!"
"Well, what are we suppose t'do?!" Philip yelled. "Leave Nick down there with that demented bastard?! You can stay here if ya like, but I'm going!"
"I'm with Philip," Derek said. "He's here somewhere, William. I can feel it."
Sloan looked at the other two and sighed. "Okay," he said. "But if it gets too dangerous down there, we get out, okay? I'm not having all of us killed for the sake of one ... whoever they might be."
Philip looked about to argue, but Derek cut him off with a glare. "Agreed. Let's go ... we've wasted enough time."
** ** **
Down in the cave, the water from the pool was once more bubbling and smoking; the greasy clouds rose in dancing twists that wound their way round Nick's body like a spirit lover. The young man flinched from the touch, feeling it glide over his torn clothing and bare skin. The feeling had returned to his arms, an agonizing, burning sensation that flowed through his back and shoulders.
Hitchcock, leaning against the wall of the cave, played with the knife ... twisting it slowly, testing the blade. Finally, he stood up and walked toward Nick. "Enough waiting," he decided. "It's time."
"They've entered the ghost house," the voice that Nick had heard before slunk through the cave, almost as oily as the smoke, stated. "What do you wish me to do?"
"Nothing," Hitchcock replied.
"But they'll find the way in!" the voice hissed. "They'll stop the ritual!"
"If I've timed this right," Hitchcock assured Eblis, "then they'll appear just in time to see the boy die. Then, we'll both have what we want. Besides, you'll protect me, of course, when they arrive. Don't worry, I have everything under control."
Eblis chuckled. "Then begin the ritual!"
Hitchcock took the blood-filled glass bottle from the floor where he had placed it and put it in his suitcoat pocket. Then he reached out, and held the tip of the knife gently against Nick's throat.
"You know," he said softly, "thisreally is quite an honor for you. You should be touched." Nick glared at him, then angrily spit in the older man's face. Hitchcock closed his eyes, wiping away the spit. Then, calmly, he hit Nick hard across the face. "God, I'll be glad to get rid of you! You're far to ... vulgar ... for my tastes," he continued, disgustedly.
Nick didn't say anything, just hanging there helpless -- and this was the worst feeling of all ... to be completely powerless against this madman. He knew that Derek and the others were nearby and he desperately wanted to see them again -- if only for one last time. But another part of him couldn't face seeing them; he couldn't stand to let them see him weak like this ... to see the sympathy that would undoubtedly be in their eyes.
Hitchcock took out a glass bottle from his pants pocket -- the one he had filled with the blood from his men -- and stared at it. He made a face, and then looked at Nick.
"It isn't nearly full enough. Fancy making a donation?'"
Nick glared at the man, but didn't say anything. Hitchcock seemed annoyed by the silence, and turned his back on Nick. Walking over to the wooden chest, he took out a card folder. He held it up for Nick to see, and the young man was slightly shocked to see the Legacy's emblem on the front with his own name written underneath.
"It's your psychological profile, Nick," Hitchcock enlightened him. "There's one on every Legacy member. They're meant to be private, but with a little persuasion, theyare available." He chuckled. "Even the Legacy isn't free from corrupt little weasels!" Hitchcock flipped open the file and began flipping through the pages. "Let's just see what this has to say about you, shall we?"
Hitchcock smiled as he read through the reports, and Nick grew increasingly nervous. Finally, the older man threw down the file and walked over to Nick, stopping only a few inches away.
"It seems you have a little problem, my dear boy. You have a very real fear of being avictim." Hitchcock chuckled dryly. "Hmmm, then I suppose all of this must just be killing you!" The sadistic man's eyes narrowed. "Say, let's play a little game, shall we?! It's called 'Make or Break'."
Hitchcock then walked out of the pentagram to where the chain that held Nick was tethered, and let it loose. Nick immediately fell to the floor, crumpling in a heap. Quickly, the ex-SEAL tried to pull himself to his knees, but found himself barely able to move. The older man grabbed Nick by the arms, removed the manacles, and pulled him over to the metal chair that the young man had forgotten about until that moment. Nick felt himself pushed roughly into the seat as heavy leather straps were fastened tightly around his wrists and ankles. Hitchcock smiled down at the helpless prisoner and began to laugh.
Nick twisted against the straps, but they were securely bound. Something about them felt odd and Nick dreaded what it might be. He got his answer soon enough as Hitchcock took a small metal box from behind the chair. It was roughly the size of a TV remote control with a few buttons and a dial on it. Hitchcock pressed one of the buttons and began adjusting the dial.
At first, Nick could feel nothing. Presently, he felt a slight tingling begin in his wrists and ankles. It was at that point that he realized -- with horror -- that the leather straps were wired up to an electric current. The young man turned pale and began twisting against the bindings ... again to no avail. Hitchcock continued to slowly turn the dial, increasing the voltage coming from the small generator behind the chair; soon, the current became extremely painful.
Nick clamped his jaw shut, determined not to cry out and give his tormentor any pleasure, but he couldn't resist for long. As Hitchcock turned the dial further and further, the current proceeded to climb. Sweat began to bead on Nick's forehead as the electricity shot through him, and his nerves endings began screaming for some sort of release. The voltage climbed still higher and higher until Nick couldn't stand it any longer and he began to scream. Hitchcock smiled and turned the dial one notch higher.
Nick opened his eyes as consciousness returned to him and immediately regretted leaving the safe, black haven of his subconscious. Every fiber of his being screamed and jangled, and he could feel his skin blistering where the wires had touched. Nick looked around the cave, moving only his eyes, as it was too painful to do anything else. Hitchcock sat across from the youth, holding a green plastic box.
The man smiled. "You're awake." Hitchcock stood up and began to walk over to his victim. Nick attempted to evade his captor, but the movement caused his body to scream in protest and he forced himself to stay still. Hitchcock held up the half-empty glass bottle for Nick to see.
"I need to fill this up," he explained. "Do you mind?" Nick tried to answer, but found that he couldn't move his mouth. In a panic, he realized that he couldn't move his hands either; in fact, the rest of his body felt as if it were becoming sluggish and limp. Hitchcock read the fear in Nick's eyes.
"Don't fret, my dear boy ... it's a muscle relaxant," Hitchcock told him. "It'll wear off presently. I just need to do a few things first, and it would be so much easier for me if you didn't protest. Seems there still an incredible amount of fight in you after all. So like, Derek ... no sense to know when you're defeated."
Hitchcock opened the green box, taking out a small surgical knife. He inspected it in the firelight and nodded as it met his approval. Nick felt a sick sensation in the pit of his stomach as Hitchcock reached out to him and quickly slashed at Nick's forearm with the knife. The pain shot through Nick's arm like fire, but he couldn't cry out -- or even move. He just sat limply in the chair, now unable to move even his eyes, as Hitchcock slashed at him again and again ... pouring the young man's life blood into the glass vial.
After what seemed like an eternity, Nick blacked out again. When he came to, he was once again suspended above the pentangle. His body felt numb, but was beginning to recover from the relaxant. Hitchcock was directly in front of him, holding the curved knife he had been playing with previously. Now, however, the blade was only a few centimeters from Nick's face. Without saying a word, Hitchcock hacked through the front of Nick's cable-knit sweater until it lay open. Nick felt the cold, clammy air of the cave hit his skin that refused to be warmed by the blazing fire. Hitchcock stuck the knife into the waistband of his pants, took off his suitcoat, and rolled up his sleeves.
Then, taking out the blood-filled glass bottle, he popped the cork, tipping some of the liquid into his cupped hands. Ever so gently, he began to smear the blood over Nick's torso -- slicked hands gliding over the smooth skin. Nick flinched away, but couldn't escape the exploring hands as they spread the blood of Hitchcock's dead men -- not to mention the young man's own blood –all over his body. The older man stepped back, admiring his handiwork. "Just a little seasoning," he smiled maliciously.
Nick knew then that he didn't want to see his rescuers. He never wanted to be touched again -- never wanted to feel the shame and humiliation he felt now. He just wanted to die ... to slip into sweet oblivion and blessed darkness.
** ** **
Philip flicked the switch just inside the control booth of the ghost house. As expected, nothing happened. "Regular lights don't work," he said, stepping outside the booth again. "Anyone see a torch an'where?"
"Nothing works?" Derek asked.
Philip shrugged, "I guess not. Derek, this place has been deserted fer nearly thirty years; I doubt if an'thing works."
"Just try it all anyway," Derek insisted.
Resignedly, Philip went back into the booth, pressing every button and flicking every switch. "Derek, nothing's happening!" Philip yelled, slamming his hand angrily against the console. With a groan, it shuddered and sputtered to life. The doors to the ride swung open as a car gently glided out.
"Someone up there must really love you, Philip," Sloan grinned, starting for the entrance. The other two followed, and they walked through the mouth-shaped doors into the dark beyond.
** ** **
The passageway in front of them seemed to stretch endlessly, lined with dusty mirrors. Car tracks were embedded in the floor, following the line of the passageway. Slowly, the trio began to move forward. Sloan looked into one of the mirrors, wiping away the grime, and stepped back, startled. His face seemed to have aged about forty years -- wizened and cracked -- and turned yellow like old paper.
"What is it?" Derek asked, noticing his friend had stopped.
Sloan turned to Derek. "My reflection ....." He looked back; his face was just as it always was every time he looked in the mirror at home.
"William?" Derek frowned.
"It's nothing," Sloan replied, laughing nervously. "Guess this place is starting to affect me a little."
Philip laughed. "It's just a ride! It's plaster and wood -- nothing else!"
"No," Derek said, quietly. "This place is evil. Can't you feel it? It's like a deep pulse, coming from all around us."
The other two were quiet a moment. "No, this place just feels deserted t'me," Philip said, and began to walk down the hallway.
Sloan stepped closer to Derek. "Maybe we're just getting old," he said softly, "But I feel something too. This place is bad."
"I know," Derek said, under his breath. "But we have to find Nick. We can't leave him here." The two began walking after Philip, but stopped suddenly. "Where'd he go?" Derek asked, looking around frantically. The corridor stretched out before them, long and empty.
"Philip!" Sloan called out, worried; but there was no answer ... just a dead, oppressive silence.
** ** **
Philip groaned, shaking his head, and wondered where the heck he was. The last thing he remembered was the ground dropping away beneath him, and he had hurtled down some sort of chute, banging his head at the bottom and blacking out. "Derek!" he yelled, suddenly feeling very frightened. "Derek, where are you?!" He received no answer -- only the echo of his own voice.
"Oh, great," he muttered darkly, stumbling to his feet. His head swam, and he felt nauseous. Philip felt blood run down the side of his face from a gash just by his hairline, and he swore softly. He steadied himself before looking around, his eyes adjusting to the dim blue lighting. He was in a mock-up of a cave on the beach; a fake ocean stood in front of him. A ship appeared to be floundering on the rocks in front of him as rain and wind pelted the unfortunate sailors. Suddenly, an inhuman shriek echoed throughout the cave, making Philip jump violently.
"Who's there?" he yelled, his voice wavering as he turned around.
"Only us," a soft voice whispered from behind him. Philip whirled back to face the bogus sea. Standing in front of him were approximately two dozen people, dressed in clothing ranging from 17th Century to the early 20th Century. Their faces were pale and their eyes were dark and shadowed. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they disappeared, as did the light, plunging Philip into darkness.
'Dear Father,' Philip thought, his heart hammering within the confines of his chest. This place was really beginning to spook him. He turned slowly in the dark, trying to find a wall -- and from there --a way out. Abruptly, a light flicked on, barely a foot from his face, and he was staring into the under-lit face of a long-dead sailor, eyes red and glowing. Philip started to scream and couldn't stop as the ancient mariner reached out toward him.
** ** **
Derek and Sloan had followed the tracks along the corridor and through the doors at the end, looking for any hidden doorways or anything that Philip might have slipped through but found nothing. Ultimately, they found themselves in a smallish area, made up to look like a World War II German bunker. The place was deserted with Nazi memorabilia scattered on tables and bunks, while flags and pictures adorned the walls.
"Philip, are you in here?" Derek called. He received no answer, and he swore softly. "Where the Hellis he?"
"I don't know," Sloan replied, "But don't youdare disappear on me, too!"
"Not a chance," Derek said, wryly.
"Guten tag," a voice whispered from beside them. The men hurriedly turned just in time to see the transparent form of a soldier lounging on a bed, bloody bandages swathed about his head and limbs. "Willkommen."
"Bloody holograms," Sloan muttered.
The soldier smiled, and began to fade from sight. "Vergissmeinnicht," he whispered.
Sloan turned to Derek. "I didn't know holograms were used in these places; you learn something new every day." He frowned at Derek's pale face. "What is it?"
"Thatwasn't a hologram," Derek said, hoarsely. "I ... I felt him, William! He was the real thing!" Sloan's eyes widened but before he could say anything, Philip's screams rang throughout the ride.
** ** **
Derek and Sloan ran into a dimly lit room that looked like a cave. Philip stood in the middle, pale and trembling. He stared blankly ahead, clutching at the wooden cross he wore underneath his flannel shirt. The young Priest looked terrible as blood coated the side of his face and soaked through the shoulder of his shirt. Derek grabbed Philip's shoulders, shaking him gently. "Philip! What happened?"
"He ... he ...." Philip stammered. "He wasthere... the eyes..."
"Here, sit down," Derek said gently, guiding the shaking Priest to the floor. The Precept looked up at Sloan, concerned. "He's in shock, William. I think he has a concussion. Can you take him out of here if I go on?"
"Not on your life!"Sloan shot back. "And leave you here to end up like this?!"
"Wecan't leave Nick down here!"
"At what cost?! All our deaths?!"
Derek sighed; he looked Philip in the eyes. "Philip, can you hear me?" The young Priest nodded. "Philip, I need you to do something for me," Derek continued. "Can you remember why we're here?"
"To ... to find Nnn ... Nick."
"Yes, to find Nick. We need you with us, Philip. Can you handle it?"
"The eyes ..." Philip began.
"I promise you, whatever it was you saw is gone."
Philip looked at him doubtfully, then a determined look settled over his face. "I'm okay," he stated as he rose unsteadily to his feet; however, he was still trembling and his eyes looked dull in the blue light. He shrugged Derek's hand from his shoulder. Giving Philip something to focus on seemed to snap him out of his shock a little, but not enough to stem Derek and Sloan's concern for him. The older men's eyes met, and each read their own silent thoughts mirrored in the other. The prospect of finding Nick was becoming smaller by the minutes, and now they had to wonder if they would leave this place with their bodies and sanity intact.
** ** **
Hitchcock was standing before the pentagram, his eyes closed as he chanted in an ancient language that wasn't even vaguely familiar to the ex-SEAL. The young man, however, didn't care anymore. He hung listlessly above the water -- eyes half-closed -- every part of his body battered, bruised and violated. A terrible lethargy had settled over him, and he couldn't even muster the strength to try and talk his way out of the situation.
In Nick's fevered mind, a familiar childhood tune -- combined with the previous haunting melody he had heard throughout the Jersey complex -- echoed as he retreated farther and farther into his subconscious. He recalled when he was a child and his "father" had beaten him brutally; his mother had sat with him for hours, rocking him as she sang a gentle lullaby to ease her son's undeserved pain ......
"Close your eyes little one, it's okay to dream. Sleep until your pain has gone, angels are near.
I know it's hard for you to dream, all you know is fear.
Don't worry about the pain, angels are near.
In the morning when it starts again, it's okay to cry; Because there's an angel standing there, right by your side.
Close your eyes little one, it's okay to dream.
Sleep until your pain is gone, angels are near."
Hitchcock looked up from the leather-bound book he was reading the chants from and smiled nastily. It was a shame that Nick was too far gone to care anymore, and a great pity that Derek hadn't arrived in time to see his son die, but Eblis was becoming restless; the ceremony was dragging on longer than it should be. Hitchcock picked up the knife from the dirt floor where it lay, and began to advance on his victim.
** ** **
"Damn, this isunbelievable!" Sloan yelled. "We've been nearly all over this bloody place, and were no closer to finding Nick now then we were before!"
"Wehave to keep looking," Derek snapped back. "We can't stop now!"
"Derek, we aren't getting anywhere ... and Philip needs help!" Sloan's voice softened. "I know it's difficult, butjust let go. There's nothing more we can do."
"No, listen to me. Iknow you love Nick -- whether he's your son or not -- but we lose people all the time, no matter who they are."
"William, will you listen to me ....."
"Can't you listen to me for a change?! Look, when we get out of here, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to track Hitchcock down, but ..."
"William, shut up a moment!" Derek thundered, shocking the other man into silence. The Dutchman pointed to a section of wall just behind the London House Precept. He turned and saw what Derek was looking at ... faintly visible was the outline of a door, through which shafts of light shone. Derek grinned. "I think we just found our way in."
** ** **
Sloan pushed open the door. Derek followed, leading Philip, who hung behind cautiously. They stole down a passageway, hewn roughly out of rock. Firelight glinted at the end of the corridor casting the trio's shadows behind them, tall and dark. At the end of the tunnel, it branched out into a cave.
Derek stopped a few feet away. "Philip," he whispered, "Stay here, okay? Just wait for us here." Philip nodded and slowly sat down in a large niche in the rock wall. Sloan and Derek crept into the cave, but pulled up short.
"Ah, you're just in time," Hitchcock smiled at them. "I didn't think you'd get here to watch it at all, but I guess I was wrong." Hitchcock turned to Nick, and elbowed him sharply in the ribs. "Wake up! Daddy's here!"
Nick slowly lifted his head, and gazed at Derek and Sloan through clouded eyes. He felt a sense of panic run through him -- he didn't want them to see him here ... not like this! Then he found that he really didn't care anymore -- not about this ... not aboutanything! To Nick, death was a certain fact now. He closed his eyes and his head lolled back down onto his chest.
"Nick!"called Derek, highly alarmed and shocked at the young man's state. It was apparent ... even from this distance ... that Nick had given up; the former SEAL remained still.
Hitchcock chuckled. "Too late, Derek!"
"Get away from him, you bastard," Derek said, coldly.
"Not a chance," Hitchcock smirked. "I've waited for this for twenty years, Derek. I'm not backing down now."
"I thought you loved Miranda," Sloan cut in. "Do you really think she'd ever forgive you if you killed her son?"
"I've already lost one woman I loved; another will make no difference to me."
"Even if Nick may be your son?" continued Sloan as he and Derek made subtle attempts to advance on the man.
"Heisn't mine!" Hitchcock screamed. He looked back at the pool of water, which was bubbling and smoking. "Enough of this ... it's time!" he snarled.
"Get away from 'im," came a voice from behind Derek and Sloan. Derek turned around, and his eyes widened when he saw Philip standing in the mouth of the cave, training a gun on Hitchcock. He wondered briefly where the gentle Priest had gotten a gun in the first place, but then recognized it as one of Nick's. It dawned on him that Philip must have procured it before leaving San Francisco.
"I said, get away from 'im," Philip spoke again, his voice cold and hard. "I'll shoot ya ... I swear I will."
Hitchcock grinned nervously. "No, you won't."
Philip cocked the gun's hammer. "Try me." Hitchcock licked his lips nervously, and began to edge closer to Nick, meaning to take shelter behind the young man's body. "You're goin' in the wrong direction," Philip warned.
"No, you'll find that this way is quite adequate," Hitchcock replied with a smile. He was now standing right behind Nick. "You see, to shootme, you'll have to shoot Nick -- and I don't think you'll do that. You wouldn't kill him just to get to me."
"He's right, Philip," Sloan warned. "If you hit Nick ... in his current state ... you could kill him. It's not worth the risk!"
Philip looked at the bruised and bloodied form of his friend, hanging in the air, seeming so small and fragile. Then he looked at Hitchcock knowing what the man had done to his young friend ... and heknew what Nick would want. He aimed the gun right at Nick's stomach. The young man came out of his stupor slightly and he saw his friend aiming the gun at him. He closed his eyes and nodded subtly.
"Forgive me," Philip whispered and fired. The bullet sliced through Nick's abdomen and out his back, catching Hitchcock full in the chest. The man screamed out in surprised pain and his knees buckled as he slumped forward, his body rolling to the floor and over the edge of the pool.
"NOOOO!" Derek gave a cry of anguish and ran to Nick. Blood ran from the corner of the young man's mouth and his breathing was labored. "Help me!" Derek cried. "Give me a hand!"
Sloan ran over, holding out a bunch of keys which had lain beside the fire. He released the chain which held the manacles to the ceiling. Derek reached out and gently caught Nick around the waist, easing him to the ground. Sloan used the keys to release the young man's wrists from their iron prison and knelt in the dirt beside him. Philip still stood by the cave entrance -- holding the gun out -- staring at the scene before him. Sloan shrugged off his sweater, tying it around the hole in Nick's abdomen, while Derek cradled the youth's head on his chest.
"Derek?" Nick's voice came out cracked and sore, filled with pain. His eyes had glazed over and his skin was pale and slicked with sweat.
"Shhhh," Derek tried to soothe him. "You'll be okay. Just hang on ... we'll get you out of here."
"No, yo ... you won't," Nick attempted a laugh, but the effort made him grimace in pain. "Derek ... Derek, I'm sss ... sorry."
"For what?" Derek whispered, feeling his eyes smart with tears as he cradled his friend. "You didn't do anything wrong. It'smy fault ... I drove you away. You got caught in the middle of a vendetta that I should have dealt with a long time ago."
"Can't argue wi.... with that," Nick smiled. "Hey, you fin .... finally won an argument."
"For once," Nick grimaced. "But I ..... I wouldn't have minded win..... winning this one. It's not ... not the way I wan..... wanted to go out."
"When you're better," Derek promised, "We can have all the arguments you like. You can even win them all ... well,most of them ... okay, some of them."
Nick looked up at the older man knowing that he was trying to get Nick to continue the playful joking that comprised the root of their relationship, but the fight and spirit had escaped the ex-SEAL. "No. I..... I'm not getting out ... of this one. Truth is, I...... I'm not sure I wan.... want to!"
"Don't be ridiculous," Derek said gently. "We'll get you out of here, get you to a hospital ......"
"The way .... my luck's run..... runnin', we'll probably be in a ..... a car crash or somethin'."
"Nick, please, just be quiet, okay? We're going to get you out of here. I won't let you die here,do you hear me? You won't die here ... not now ... not like this."
Nick coughed. "Derek, I ... I want to tell you som ... something ...."
"You can tell me later," Derek silenced him. "Save your strength."
"No! Ihave ta ... to tell you ... about what Jonathan said ...." Nick's voice was becoming fainter as he struggled to hold on to consciousness. "I ... I don't care ... who my biological fa ... fa ... father is ... You'll always be the father figure in ..... in my life; you always hav..... have been. If it wer..... weren't for you, I'd have ... have ended up a monster -- like Jonathan. I ... I just wan ... wanted to say ... thank you." Nick's eyes closed and his body went limp in Derek's arms. The older man felt tears well in his eyes as he lay his forehead on Nick's.
"I love you ...son," he whispered.
A terrible peace settled over the cave, as no one dared speak. Sloan had no clue as to what he should do. Philip sat was slumped on his knees, eyes staring vacantly at nothing while Derek seemed incapable of doing anything but clutching Nick's body.
The London House Precept whirled as a voice close to his ear whispered to him. He felt his heart jump as a pale-faced sailor stared back at him, his body almost transparent.
"Sloan, don't let the child die. Eblis' power is still powerful within this cave. If you lose him here, his immortal soul will be damned for all eternity."
"Who are ......" Sloan started, but the sailor shimmered, and disappeared before his eyes. Sloan stared blankly for a moment, then grabbed at Derek.
"We have to get him out of here ... now!"
Derek's eyes were red and filled with tears. He stared at his friend in disbelief. "What?!"
"Just trust me! We have to get out of here ... right now! Nick doesn't have much time!" Sloan turned away from Derek and grabbed Philip's arm, gently disentangling the Priest's hands from the gun and putting it in his own jacket pocket. He turned back to Derek. "Now ... move!"
** ** **
A month later, Nick stood staring out the window of his bedroom on Angel Island. The events in Jersey already seemed a million years away.Somehow, Derek and the other two had kept him alive all the way to the hospital on the other side of the island. But Nick constantly wished that they hadn't. He hadn't spoken more than a few words to anybody during his recovery -- not even since his release from the hospital two days ago. The bullet Philip had sent through him had gone in at enough of an angle to miss anything vital, but had caused a great deal of internal bleeding as it had ripped through veins and muscles.
The physical wounds had nearly healed, but the psychological ones were still open and bleeding. His days and dreams were haunted by what had happened on Jersey ... everything Hitchcock had done to him. Nick hated for anyone to touch him, despite the fact that he also longed for a caring hand to reach out and hug him. Every time someone came close, Nick closed himself off. He couldn't help it; it was the only way he could deal with the past events in his life. Hitchcock's little game really had did its job -- "Make or Break" -- and Nick was truly broken ... body and spirit!
The worst part occurred last week, when Derek had told him the awful news about his mother ... she had died – alone -- just a few days after Jeanette's murder. From that point on, Nick shut himself away from everyone -- even Kat -- blaming himself totally for the death of his mother and Aunt. Guilt, grief and emptiness overtook him, and he wasn't sure which one he preferred ... which one he could cope with best.
Nick turned away from the window, turning on the radio as he sat down on the edge of his bed. He desperately wanted to talk to someone -- to share what he felt before the feelings completely overwhelmed him -- but he knew that he couldn't. He felt just like when he was a kid and was being bullied at school. All he had wanted was for his mother to come and take him home; he would wait and wait by the school gate for hours, but she never came.
The young man leaned back on his bed reaching out and hugging his pillow tightly to his chest, listening to the deejay. He was chatting on about the latest baseball scores, election results and current public scandals; but none of that interested Nick ... that was theoutside world -- and it no longer held any significance to him.
"And now," the deejay's cheery voice broke through Nick's thoughts. "We have a request for a song with a special message. It's fromMiranda and it's going out to Nick. She says that she's sorry for everything, and that she wishes she could be with you now, Nick ... but she can't. She also says she loves you and knows how much your hurting right now, but that you've gotta be brave. She says for you to just hold on and you'll be together real soon."
The deejay paused momentarily. "Nick, if you're listening, this lady loves you more than life itself. I hope you two find each other again. Here's that song ... just for you! And remember, Nick, even if Miranda isn't there with you inbody ... she's there in spirit."
The tune started up -- slow and mournful -- and Nick recognized the haunting melody immediately ... it was Celine Dion'sMy Heart Will Go On. This song was very popular right now, but it also had a familiar, eerie memory connected with it as well. His head began to pound with a sudden, throbbing headache and he rolled over onto his side, tears forming in his eyes as the words began ......
Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on.
Far across the distance and spaces between us,
You have come to show you go on.
Near, far, wherever you are,
I believe that the heart does go on.
Once more, you open the door
And you're here in my heart,
And my heart will go on and on.
"Nick," a voice whispered, soft and low. The young man looked up at the figure standing at the end of his bed. His eyes widened when he saw who it was.
Miranda smiled. "I see you got my message, Sweetheart."
"Oh God, Mom ... I've missed you!" Nick stood up and ran to his mother, who enveloped him in her arms. The young man could feel the hot tears stinging his eyes. "Mom, I'mso sorry ....."
"Hey, it's okay," she whispered. "It's okay. My poor son ... things have always been so hard for you, haven't they?! But I'll never let anyone hurt you again, Nick ... I promise." She began to stroke his head, swaying her body in time to the music as she comforted her son in the way only a mother can.
Love can touch us one time, and last for a lifetime
And never let go until we're gone.
Love was when I loved you, that one time I hold to,
In my life we'll always go on.
Miranda broke away from Nick. "I have to go now, honey."
"Wait ... please, don't go!" Nick pleaded. "Ican't do this without you! Please don't leave me!"
"This is the land of the living, Nick. I don't belong here."
"Then, I'll come with you!"
"You can't, Nick, not unless ... well, not unlessyou were dead!" The corners of her mouth curved into a sort-of smile.
"Then that's what I'll do," Nick whispered. "Ican't go on living here, Mom ... not after everything that's happened."
Miranda gently kissed Nick atop his head. "It's your choice, Sweetheart." She stepped back and faded from sight.
You're here, there's nothing I fear,
And I know that my heart will go on.
We'll stay forever this way, You are safe in my heart,
And my heart will go on and on.
Nick turned to his gun drawer, rummaging around in it until he found what he wanted. He picked up the hunting knife and sat back down on the edge of his bed, thinking about the past few years of his life. Scenes unfolded in his mind -- some warm and pleasant, others terrifying .......
...Predators kill for flesh, not blood.
Not the kind I'm thinking of.
You're gonna say vampire, aren't you?...
...When this is all over, I want some of whatever you gave sleeping beauty here!...
..."Return to Hell without thy hand"?!
I made that bit up. But I believed it...
...On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love
gave to me...
Seven minutes of peace and quiet!...
...As I remember it, I saved your ass!
Oh, is that how it was?...
...I thought you believed in Santa Claus, Nick!...
...Why the Hell are we whispering? Everyone else in here is dead, except us!...
...I don't see how Nick could be my son! He's nothing like me, Rachel!...
...I wish you would have trusted her, Nicky...
Nick pulled back the sleeves of his sweater and stared at the fading chain marks on his wrists. He edged the knife closer to the healing skin. Somewhere, in the deepest reaches of his mind, he knew that this was wrong, but there was an overwhelming "rightness" about it also. The words --"end it now ... it's the only way you'll ever find peace" -- echoed over and over in forefront his brain.
** ** **
Philip gently knocked at Nick's bedroom door. An odd feeling had hit the young Priest in the pit of his stomach and he felt an overwhelming desire to check on his young friend; Nick hadn't appeared for supper, and so the Priest had thought he'd bring him something to eat. Balancing the covered tray on his hip, he knocked again.
"Nick, are ya in there?" he called. He could hear the radio playing and saw the light shining through the chinks in the frame. Philip pushed open the door and called again, "Nick ... it's Philip. Are ya okay?!"
The sight that greeted him chilled him ... he saw blood pooling over the wooden floor and a hunting knife lying discarded in the middle of the mess. Philip began screaming for Derek, all the while searching through Nick's room -- then throughout all the upstairs rooms -- for the young man. But, he found nothing ... Nick was gone!
Nick stood in the waters of the bay, feeling light-headed and dizzy. The waves lapped around his chest, nearly reaching up to his shoulders. Nick tipped his head back, looking at the stars far above him. He felt incredibly insignificant as he stared at the balls of light and stretched his bleeding arms out to his sides until he was standing in a crucifixion position.
He closed his eyes as the cold water surrounded him, feeling the chilly wind blow against his face and ruffle his hair. The young man again heard the voice whispering through his head ..."end it now ... it's the only way you'll ever find peace" ... and he leaned back. The waves rushed over his head, engulfing him in their freezing womb. He slowly began to drift downwards -- falling into blackness -- not even feeling the gentle hands that reached out to catch him.
** ** **
Derek sat outside the Emergency Room waiting for Nick to be moved to an isolation ward. There had been no way to disguise Nick's attempted suicide to the doctors and now the ex-SEAL was going to have a police record due to the attempt he made on his own life. This, Derek was certain, would not help Nick's already-depressed and repressed feelings.
Philip, Rachel and Alex had arrived and left several times during the long wait for Nick to be deemed "out of immediate danger". During that time, Philip was kind enough to bring Derek his Legacy Journal to occupy the Precept's time. The Dutchman re-opened it now as he sat waiting for any further word on Nick's condition. The young man had lost a great deal of blood, butmiraculously was still alive. Despite Nick's feelings on the matter, Derek was extremely grateful for that fact.
He re-read what he had just written in his Journal and then added to it:
I phoned William and he is on his way once again to San Francisco and Nick's side. I must say that I am impressed with my former colleague's dedication to Miranda's son. Unfortunately, one of his reasons for the trip is that he believes that this attempt at suicide is a sign that Nick doesn't not belong in the Legacy ... that he can't emotionally handle the pressure of this job any longer. However, I suspect that the attempt has far more to do with Hitchcock than anything else that has happened.
I keep thinking about the haunting melody I heard on Jersey Island and am convinced that Nick was subjected to a subliminal message of some sort to commit suicide -- Hitchcock's ultimate revenge should the rest of his horrid plan fail ... which thankfully, it did! Until Nick wakes up and can confirm my theory, however, I am afraid I might have a tough time convincing William -- or Rachel for that matter! -- that Nick didn't truly wish to die.
** ** **
The doctors let me into the Emergency Room for a few short minutes to sit with Nick. I looked at him lying for the second time in a hospital bed so pale and helpless and ... God help me ... I'm beginning to wonder myself -- could Nick bemy son?!
THE END -- FOR NOW!
INFORMATION, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND THANKS: The conclusion of this trilogy will appear in "Sweet Child of Mine". Both Alyssa and Sherri would like to acknowledge and thank the following individuals who have supplied information and been supportive of our efforts during the writing of this second part of the trilogy. To Jody, Dave and Sal: a very heart-felt thanks for helping with little odds-and-ends that made a difficult part of the story come together! You added a special touch to an already-creepy tale. To our respective friends, "fans", and critics: we would like to say thanks for reading our work and for all your kind (and constructive) words of encouragement and advice! Finally, we would like to acknowledge and thank TPTB, the writers and the performers of the show that inspire us to write -- and you to read -- PTL fanfic! THANK YOU, ALL!!