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Page 77

Verity spoke up. "Slade kept tabs on what was happening to the villa. He even got involved in Preston Yarwood's psychic-development seminars so he could watch Elyssa. When he found out the Warwicks were going to hire someone to look the place over, he decided he had to come along and make certain no one found out about poor Digby. He was the prowler I surprised that night in Sequence Springs. He was trying to find out information about you."

"He's been a mental wreck for nearly two years," Crump volunteered. "He was scared to death you'd figure out who he was. He even followed you and Verity to the other island two nights ago to see what you were up to. He was watching your room at the inn when Verity happened to go down the hall to the bathroom."

"That bastard," Jonas muttered. "What was he going to do with her?"

"I'm not sure he had a plan," Crump said slowly. "He just seized what he saw as an opportunity to frighten her. He thought that if he scared her badly enough, the two of you might decide to give up the treasure hunt and leave."

"And that, incidentally, is what Maggie Frampton had in mind the first night here when she closed the corridor door on us," Verity put in cheerfully. "She hoped to scare us off. She planned to reopen it the next day. That's why she was so surprised to see us bright and early in the kitchen the following morning.

She hadn't yet reopened the door."

Jonas stared at her. "Maggie closed that door on us? She knew about the hidden passageway?"

"Oh, yes, she knew about it, but she had never gone into it. She was frightened of it."

"So she never found Digby's bones," Jonas concluded.

"The only entrance to the tunnel that Slade knew about, on the other hand, was the one in the torture chamber," Verity continued. "He didn't realize the night he killed Hazelhurst that Digby had been trying to escape through a second entrance. That's why, when he broke the lock on the torture-chamber entrance door, he thought he'd sealed Maggie and me away for good."

"What a mess," Jonas said.

"One you seem to have cleaned up," Crump observed. "If you'll excuse me, I'll get something for that headache." He vanished through the bathroom door.

Jonas wanted to lie quietly and enjoy the feel of Verity's fingers easing the tension in his head, but the questions wouldn't let him relax. "What did they do with Spencer?"

"Doug took him away with the others."

Jonas sucked in a deep breath and caught her wrist. "I almost got you killed."

"That's a debatable point," she said with a hint of mischief in her smile. "An unbiased soul might say that I almost got you killed. I was the one who nagged you into taking this job in the first place, remember?"

He ignored that. "If anything had happened to you, I wouldn't have wanted to wake up. My God, Verity, when I think of how dangerous the whole thing was for you I get cold all over." He shook his head in awe. "You shouldn't have stayed after I told you to get out of the room. You shouldn't have taken the risk."

She framed his head between her delicate hands. "You big idiot. There's no way I could have left you behind in that room. No more than you could have left me. You should know that by now."

Jonas closed his eyes briefly. She was right. Neither one of them could have abandoned the other. There was no point in yelling at her now for the risks she had taken. "Those red crystal earrings of yours worked somehow, didn't they?"

"Yes. Don't ask me how, though. I don't really understand it."

"There was fire. I followed it out of the cold." Jonas moved his head restlessly on the pillow, unable to remember exactly how he had used the fire to hang on to his sanity. "He almost got us, you know."

"Who? That awful man in the vision?" Verity shuddered.

"His name was Giovanni Marino. I learned at least that, but not much else about him when I grabbed the ribbons."

"What in the word was going on in there, Jonas? He came alive, didn't he?"

Jonas started to shake his head but discovered that it hurt more when he did. "No. We were dealing with a corridor image, not a real person. But the image had been created by a genius who happened to have the same kind of psychic ability I've got. Christ, Verity, it was spooky. That Marino bastard was light-years ahead of me. He understood so much more about that corridor than I do."

"Maybe because he was a lot older than you," Verity pointed out. "He'd had more time to study his power. You're probably going to understand your talent much better by the time you're his age."

Jonas smiled faintly. He could always count on Verity to say something bracing and reassuring when he needed it. "I'm not so sure. Marino had the key to understanding exactly how the images get caught in that tunnel. He understood the science behind it."

"We saw those books of mathematics and astrology on his desk. Maybe he had discovered the physical laws that govern the way it all works."

"I may have made a mistake majoring in Renaissance history," Jonas confessed wryly. "Should have stuck to the hard sciences. People always warned me about the dangers of getting a degree in a liberal-arts subject."

Verity waved that aside. "Okay, so this Marino creep knew something about the logistics of the thing.

What's the rest of the story?"

"It's simple. I figured out most of what was going on when the vision finally started to cycle. He had found a way to freeze an image of impending violence and store it in the time corridor. He picked a vision he wanted to preserve, and deliberately anchored it."

Verity's eyes widened in awe. "That is pretty impressive when you think about it."

"Impressive is right. Apparently when Marino recorded the image we saw he also managed to leave behind a subtle sense of threat, a kind of warning. He wanted to scare off any other time tunnel adventurer who might happen along in search of his treasure."

"You told me that the first time you saw the image you felt you were being warned off."

"That was exactly what was happening. But, being the fearless, macho guy I am, I ignored the warning."

Jonas grimaced with self-disgust. He had been obsessed with unlocking the image from the first moment he'd seen it.

"It wasn't your fault, Jonas. Stop blaming yourself." Verity gave his head a slight, admonishing shake.

Jonas inhaled sharply as pain stabbed through his temples.

"Oh, dear," Verity said, instantly contrite. "Did I hurt you?"

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