"Under control, boss," Jonas assured her a little too nonchalantly. In real time he said to Yarwood, "Go ahead, Yarwood, take a good look. See? Nothing in there, although the chest itself is valuable. You'd have to figure out a way to get it out of here before Warwick gets back, though. He might not take too kindly to arriving home to see the family furniture being carted off by a fake psychic."
"I'm not a fake, you bastard." Yarwood stepped forward impatiently. "Hold the lid open, Verity. Give me the flashlight."
Inside the psychic corridor, where they could communicate unheard, Verity looked at Jonas. "Should I give it to him?"
"Hand it over slowly. He's mesmerized now. He's not thinking about you or me. His mind's on treasure, and fame and fortune as a proven psychic. He's ail mine."
In real time Verity started to hand the flashlight to Yarwood, who made a grab for it. She let it go, aware that the gun was no longer centered on her neck. Yarwood was leaning over the chest, playing the beam of light around the interior.
Jonas moved in real time, gliding toward Yarwood with the swiftness of an uncoiling whip. Verity could not see exactly what happened because the only light in the room was aimed down into the chest. But she sensed a second image appearing briefly in the psychic corridor. This was the familiar one of poor Digby Hazelhurst being stabbed in the back. The scene vanished instantly as Jonas released the stiletto.
The next sound she heard was a strangled scream from Yarwood as he crumpled forward into the chest.
The flashlight dropped to the floor, as did the gun Yarwood had been holding.
It was difficult even under ideal circumstances to keep track of two parallel realities simultaneously.
Before Verity could fully register the fact that Jonas had driven the stiletto into Yarwood, the green crystal in the corridor vision suddenly blazed violently. The two crystals had completed the tuning process—the vision had been unlocked.
"Jonas, the man in the image. He's alive!"
In real time, Jonas froze just as he was about to pick up the gun and the flashlight. "He can't be alive.
Nobody survives four hundred years in this corridor. It's a trick, part of the trap that was set to protect the treasure."
"The man in the vision is moving. He's never moved before," Verity said hoarsely. It was true. The man behind the desk was rising to his feet. He lifted a large sheet of paper off his desk and held it up as if inviting his guests to read what he had written. The page was filled with an ancient scrawl that looked clear and fresh.
As if drawn by an invisible chain, Jonas stepped forward to stare at the page. A sudden snarl of rage crossed the apparition's features. He dropped the paper and seized the hilt of his sword.
"Jonas, what's happening?"
"I don't know," Jonas muttered. "But this is getting too damned real."
"Get back," Verity shouted. "Let go of the sword hilt."
"I can't," Jonas said grimly. "My fingers are frozen around it."
"Oh my God. Now what?"
"I don't know. Stay out of my way."
"Jonas, something terrible is going to happen. I can feel it."
"I know," Jonas said softly. "I can feel it too."
Verity clutched the green crystal and wondered what his words meant. She was terribly afraid she would soon learn the truth. Then she saw the poisonous green, squirming ribbons of emotion that were unfurling from the heart of the image. "There they are, Jonas. We always wondered why there were no tendrils of emotion in this image, but there they are. They've been locked inside the vision all along."
"They'll head for you," Jonas said as he moved closer to the image. "Chain them, Verity. You have to chain them or we're both dead."
"I don't know if I can hold them," Verity whispered as the dark green ribbons struggled in vain to curl themselves around Jonas, then headed reluctantly toward her. The cold radiating from the green crystal grew painful in her hand. The only warmth she could feel came from her earrings.
She needed fire, not the cold green vibrations of the old crystal.
Verity acted on impulse. In real time she reached up and quickly removed her fire-colored crystal earrings. They nestled in her palm, emitting a reassuring heat that seemed to counter the cold in her other hand.
Then she saw that the man in the vision had his sword clear of its scabbard. He held it aloft, preparing for a powerful swing. His eyes seemed to focus directly on Jonas.
"Are you sure he can't see you?" Verity asked desperately. The green ribbons whirled and spun around her feet.
"I think he designed the image to make it look as real as possible," Jonas said. He was standing directly in front of the vision, the broken sword hilt still locked in his hand. "He found a way to lock this scene here in time. He did it deliberately. This is no accidental image caught in the time corridor."
"It's so real," she said. "More real than anything we've ever seen in here."
"Optical illusion. It's got to be."
"You've said that before. But this time you can't convince me." The green crystal suddenly vibrated violently in her hand. The green glow of the vision began to expand outward, making the image appear larger. The man in the vision raised the sword higher. His fierce eyes glittered with rage. The cloak fell back to reveal powerful shoulders.
The green light from the crystal was filling the entire room now. Verity opened her mouth to scream but it was too late.
"Jonas, this is real. We're inside the vision itself.'"
She was a part of it, she realized with horror. The fury of the man in the vision was palpable now. It was real. As if he had suddenly spotted her, he swung toward her and began to bring his sword down in an arc that would take off her head. He was going to kill her.
There was no response. Verity tried to drop the green crystal and discovered she couldn't release it. She tried to move and found that she was rooted to the spot. She looked up in stunned terror as the sword began its lethal descent. She was going to die! She was caught in the vision, and she was going to be killed by a man who had waited four hundred years to do the job. Verity couldn't even close her eyes.
"Touch her and you die!" Jonas suddenly shouted at the apparition. "She's mine." Without any warning, he was there beside Verity in the vision. He held a sword in his hand, a whole sword, not just a rusted hilt. Green ribbons were coiled around one of his arms. He leaped to put himself between Verity and the man who threatened her.