Shadow game (Chapter Twelve)

ARE you certain you want to go back here, Lily?" John Brimslow asked. He didn't shut off the motor, hoping Lily would tell him to turn around and drive her home.

"I have so much work, John," she said. "I can't fall too far behind. And don't worry about picking me up because I left my car here and I can drive home."

John sighed. "I'm not one to tell you what to do, Lily, but I don't like this. It doesn't feel right to me. I know you've spoken several times with the investigators regarding your father's disappearance…"

"He's dead, John." She said it quietly.

"What did they tell you?"

"I know he's dead. I 'felt' him die. He was murdered. Thrown off a boat into the ocean. He'd been bleeding heavily so he was nearly gone, but he was still alive when he went into the cold sea." She rubbed her hand over her face. "Someone from here"-she waved toward the sprawling complex of buildings-"had something to do with his death."

John's face flushed dark with anger. "That does it, Lily, you can't go back into that place. We have to talk to the police."

"And what are we going to tell them, John? That my father conducted experiments on human beings and opened up a psychic floodgate he couldn't close? That I connected with him as he was dying and he told me before they threw him overboard that someone at Donovans was responsible? Do you think they'll believe me-or lock me up? I'd be the hysterical daughter or, worse, the daughter who inherited a fortune when her father disappeared."

"You already had the fortune," John pointed out, but he was shaking his head sadly, knowing she was right. "What do you mean conducting experiments on human beings? What are you talking about with psychic floodgates?"

Lily let out her breath slowly to regain her normal calm. "I'm sorry, John, I shouldn't have said that. You know Dad did research for the military and he often became involved in projects with a high security clearance. I should never have even mentioned that. Please forget it and never say a single word to anyone about it." It was a measure of her fear and distress that she had made such a blunder. There was a certain innocence, a frailty about John that made her always want to protect him.

"Does Arly know about all this?"

Lily leaned against the seat and looked at the older man, studying his features. Since the disappearance of her father, he seemed older, thinner. "John, you aren't staying up nights, are you?" she asked suspiciously.

His gaze wavered, fell away from hers. "I've been sleeping in the old chair at the bottom of the stairs leading to your wing. I have a gun," he confided.

"John!" She was startled. She couldn't imagine John shooting anybody. He might fence with them, an elegant swordfight. She could see him slapping somebody with a white glove and challenging them to a duel, but she couldn't picture him pulling a trigger and taking a life. "What in the world are you thinking?" She was touched by his devotion. "Arly has that house so secure, spiders are afraid to spin a web. You can't be doing that anymore."

"An intruder got in once, Lily, and I'm not going to lose you. Someone has to look out for you now, and I've been doing it nearly thirty years."

"I love you. John Brimslow, and I'm eternally grateful you're in my life," she told him. "There's absolutely no need to guard me. Truly, Arly went through the house again with all new gadgets. He has a rather large ego and it really upset him that someone made it past all of his little toys." She grinned wickedly. "I had a lovely time pointing it out to him too."

"Not nearly as good a time as Rosa had. She chewed him out in two languages and I believe the word 'incompetent' came up more than once." John managed an answering smile at the memory.

"I almost feel sorry for him, but any man thinner than me deserves to be taken down a peg or two. Wish me luck, John, and stop worrying. I'll be perfectly fine." Hoping it was true, she kissed his cheek, got out of the car, and walked toward the entrance.

Ryland had been furious with her when he'd learned she was coming to Donovans, arguing and threatening to break back into the facility to keep an eye on her. The man had an extraordinary temper, one that smoldered and burst to the surface like a volcano erupting. He could be intimidating if she was silly enough to let him.

Fortunately it was imperative to get Jeff Hollister to Dr. Adams. They all knew it. Hollister's right side was weak, one leg in particular unresponsive. There was some numbness in his face and tremors occasionally in his right hand. She couldn't detect any significant memory problems or speech problems, but she wanted a specialist guiding his therapy. And she wanted to know if the electrodes should be removed or if it was safer to leave them. Jeff needed brain scans and help beyond what she could give him.

"Dr. Whitney!"

She spun around, a chill going down her spine as Colonel Higgens hurried to catch up with her. "Let me walk you to your office."

Lily smiled at him. Polite. Ice princess. For some reason Ryland's teasing words comforted her. She didn't mind in the least being haughty or an ice princess around Higgens. "Thank you, Colonel. I'm surprised to see you here. I had an image of colonels always off doing military inspections and generally shaking everybody up." She went through the heightened security checks with some impatience. "Isn't this annoying? Just like Thornton to beef up security after the chickens have flown the coop."

"Thornton and I have been talking about the situation, Dr. Whitney, and he'd like to see you first thing in his office."

"I'm sorry?" She continued walking briskly through the halls toward her office. "What situation are you referring to?"

"The men who escaped."

"Did you find them?" She stopped walking to face him. "Were they able to function outside the protected environment of the laboratory?" Even with her barriers and her shields in place, she could feel the waves of dislike emanating from Higgens. It was more than dislike. Violence and avarice clung to him. He even smelled like rotten eggs to her. Her stomach rolled in protest.

"No one's found them. Why weren't you at work yesterday?"

Lily remained silent, her gaze steady on his face, one eyebrow arched perfectly. She waited until he squirmed visibly. "I'm not in the habit of explaining myself to anyone, Colonel Higgens, least of all a man who does not have any connection whatsoever to my work. The moment those men were allowed to escape, I no longer had anything to do with that project. I was called in as a consultant, which I did as a favor to my father and Phillip Thornton. I'm extraordinarily busy and have no time to devote to a project that is basically defunct." She gave him a polite, fake smile and swept into her office.

Higgens followed her, a dark scowl on his face. "Thornton's on his way here now. We think you could be in danger."

Lily slipped into her white jacket. "I'm in danger of not getting my work done, Colonel. If you don't have anything of great importance to impart, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. I appreciate your concern, I really do, but I have a very good security man."

Phillip Thornton burst into her office. She felt waves of fear, and realized he was terrified of Higgens. "Lily! I was worried. I called your house yesterday but your housekeeper refused to get you on the phone."

"I'm sorry, Phillip, Rosa doesn't want me to come to work anymore. She's been afraid for me ever since my father's disappearance. I often work at home, you know that. It didn't occur to me that you would worry about me. I'm trying to ease Rosa's mind and still get my work done."

"Rosa isn't the only one worried about you, Lily. Colonel Higgens and I both feel the danger is very real that Captain Miller and his team may decide to kidnap you."

Lily leaned her hip against the edge of her desk and folded her arms in annoyance. "Oh, for heaven's sake. I expect Rosa to become hysterical but not you, Phillip. Why would Miller want to kidnap me? I don't know anything about this project; I came in late and know less than both of you. I would think he'd want one of you."

"I still think we should put a team on you," Phillip said.

"A team?" Lily's eyebrow rose even higher. "My family would have been happy with a bodyguard. What do you mean 'a team'?"

"Captain Miller is the leader of an elite group of soldiers, all with backgrounds in Special Forces," Colonel Higgens said. "A single bodyguard isn't going to be able to protect you from them. I have a team of soldiers, highly trained, ready and available to help out."

"This doesn't make sense to me. Why would Miller come after me? He knows I don't know anything, I couldn't possibly help him in any way. And it isn't as if I'm in the military, I'm a civilian. You can't possibly justify the use of soldiers in guarding me. I think we're all overreacting to my father's disappearance. We're all a little on edge but I think asking soldiers to guard me is a bit much. Phillip, if you're really worried, to ease your mind, I'll ask Arly to find me someone. But I have to go through all the security here and having someone with me will be a major hassle."

"I can find you someone with security clearance," Thornton offered.

"Just let me get to work." Lily smiled to take the sting out of her words. "You know I appreciate your concern, I really do, but Captain Miller only saw me a couple of times. I doubt if I made any impression on him whatsoever."

Thornton knew when he was defeated. "I still want you to do your best with this thing, Lily, look through anything your father had and try to figure out what the heck he did. It's important."

"Everything is important. All right," Lily conceded with a sigh. "In my spare time, as if I have any, I'll poke around and see if I can come up with anything."

Thornton ushered Higgens out of the office ahead of him, then turned back abruptly. "Oh, Lily, I totally forgot. The annual black tie fundraiser is Thursday night. Your father was going to give a speech."

Lily was looking at him, her face very still, her heart suddenly pounding hard. In that moment she knew for certain Phillip Thornton had been involved in her father's death. It was in the guilt swamping him. It was in the way his gaze slid away from hers. In the sudden smell of sweat on his body. Her fingers tightened around the back of her chair, holding her in place. She was afraid to move, afraid to speak, certain she would say something to give her sudden knowledge away. She had been suspicious, but now she knew. She had known Phillip Thornton most of her life. Lily managed a brief nod.

"You know how important this event is to our company and the individual researchers. More than sixty percent of our funding can come from this one event. We'll have some very important people and several generals there, including McEntire and Ranier, and I'll need you to help out. You know the drill, you've been to so many."

"I completely forgot about the entire thing, Phillip."

"It's understandable, Lily," he said, "and I wouldn't ask if it wasn't necessary. Everyone will expect you to be there."

She nodded. She'd been flooded with condolences, from the president to lab technicians. She knew she would be expected at such a public event. "I'll go, Phillip, of course I'll go."

"And you'll give a speech?" They both knew with her father's disappearance, her plea would bring in even more money than usual. Everyone was searching for a way to show support to Lily and she knew it would happen at the fundraiser.

"Sure, Phillip." She waved him out of her office. General Ranier would be there and he always asked her to dance. The fundraiser would give her the perfect opportunity to read the general and find out if he, like his colleague General McEntire, was involved. Lily had completely forgotten about Donovans's most important event of the year. It would be the first time she ever attended such a huge function without her father. The thought saddened her. She sat for a moment at her desk, mourning him, missing him.

Lily put her grief aside, not wanting to broadcast too loudly and risk making a connection with Ryland. If he thought she was upset or in danger, he would find a way to get to her. It surprised her that she was that certain of him, that she knew he would come.

She spent several hours working in her laboratory, losing herself in formulas and patterns. When she finally realized how much time had gone by, Lily was annoyed with herself. She hastily tidied up her notes and hurried through the halls to the elevator until she was on ground level. The hospital was small but had equipment that would make any hospital or trauma center weep with envy. Lily signed in, going through the security checks to access the records she needed. She read through every entry she could find pertaining to Ryland and his men. Then she began researching the staff, checking entries to find who had been on duty when each man was brought in, looking for a pattern. Lily always saw the patterns and there certainly was one. She scanned the pertinent entries, noting names, and hurried back down to the lower laboratories, this time heading for her father's office.

Lily could still smell her father's pipe just like in his office at home. No one had cleaned his desk, although his papers had obviously been gone through. She went directly to his desk and turned on his computer. As she drew the keyboard out she knocked the mouse onto the floor beneath the desk.

Hissing her annoyance, Lily felt under the desk with her foot, her gaze glued to the screen in front of her. Her toes hit a cement block hard enough to send a jolt of pain up her leg. Lily peered under the desk. The mouse was all the way to the back, close to the wall. She crawled under the desk to retrieve the item, dragging it toward her by the cord. Lily had started to inch out from under the desk when the corner of the cement block caught her eye. It wasn't flush with the wall.

Lily sat on the floor staring at it for a moment. She had to duck her head beneath the desktop as she crawled in deeper. It wasn't easy to pull out the cement block; it appeared to be wedged in tight, but she took her time, working it loose. When she finally managed to pull it free, she saw at once her father had hollowed out an area behind the block to create a small space. There was a miniature voice-activated recorder lying against the wall.

Without warning, alarms shrieked throughout the buildings. Startled, she half sat, bumping her head on the edge of the desktop. She could hear the guards running in the hall outside the office. Lily listened to the alarm for a moment but there was no announcement of danger so she ignored the commotion to pry the recorder away from the wall.

She let her breath out slowly as she curled her fingers around it. It was very dark beneath the desk but she felt a tiny disk, so small she nearly missed it. There was no covering, nothing to protect it from dust or grime. She could see a disk was in the machine already and Lily dropped the second small diskette into the pocket of her white coat as she crawled out from under the desk.

Lily's hands were shaking as she sat in her father's desk and bent close to the small recorder. Nothing happened when she tried to play back the disk. Muttering curses under her breath, she rummaged through the drawers for batteries. There were no batteries of any size in the top drawers. Lily clutched the recorder in one hand and bent to search the lower drawers.

She knew even before she turned, half rising to meet the impending threat, already knowing it was too late. She'd been so caught up in wanting to hear her father's voice, hoping for evidence against his murderers, that she hadn't paid attention to her own warning system. She swung her head, caught a blurred glimpse of a man. Waves of violence, of evil washed over her just before everything exploded. A large fist smashed squarely into the side of her temple. Everything went black and tiny shooting stars burst behind her eyes. Lily caught at her attacker, raking her fingernails across his face, tearing at his shirt as she went down. She couldn't see him, but she heard his vicious curse and felt the second blow snap her head back and then she collapsed on the floor.

RYLAND was uncomfortable with the plan. He'd been pacing most of the day, wearing a hole in the expensive carpets. He should never have allowed Lily to go back to the laboratories.

Her safety was more important than any illusion of normalcy she was attempting to create. He had to persuade her to take a leave of absence. Her father had disappeared and that was enough of an excuse for her to take time off work.

Darkness had fallen and it was their chance to move Jeff Hollister. Ryland didn't like taking him out of the house but Lily insisted her friend Dr. Adams had more advanced equipment set up in his home. She had a van and two cars left for them just inside the entrance to the woods and outside the estate itself. Arly assured Ryland the doctor would keep silent. Ryland wasn't about to take any chances with Hollister's life. They were going to proceed as if they were in enemy territory.

"Nico, I need you to scout for us. Use the tunnel near the woods. We don't want to travel too far a distance with Jeff. Pinpoint every possible position of the enemy."

"And if the enemy is found, sir?" The voice was quiet.

"Do not engage. We don't want any evidence we were anywhere near Lily's house, Nico."

Nicolas nodded in understanding. He bent close to Hollister. "I'm working damned hard for those surfing lessons you promised me."

Jeff lifted a trembling hand, clasped Nicolas's hand in his. "You'll be a great surfer, Nico, whether I teach you or not."

"I only learn from the best, Hollister, so you need to get on your feet." Nicolas gripped Jeff's hand hard, then just as abruptly slipped silently from the room.

Ryland signaled Ian McGillicuddy and they both went out into the hall. "We'll need two men guarding Jeff at the doc's place. I want you and Nico to see to his safety. We don't know anything about this doc. If Lily's paying him off, it means he can be bought. One of you stays awake at all times."

Ian nodded his assent. "Do you have any ideas how we're going to get out of this mess, Captain?"

"I want everyone working on the series of exercises Lily gave us. She says if we learn them all we have a good chance of being able to live in the world under fairly normal conditions. She thinks the experiment wasn't a failure, that it could have been very successful had we learned the things we were supposed to have learned."

"Does she think Higgens killed the others?" Ian asked bluntly. There was ice in his voice, a merciless sheen to his eyes.

"Higgens is involved, yes, and General McEntire. It looks as if Ranier may be, too, but we have no proof. As soon as we master the shields we'll be able to hunt down the men responsible. Not only are they murderers, but they're traitors to our country," Ryland pointed out. "They have to kill us now. They have no other choice. Don't take your eyes off of Jeff, even for a moment. I'm not losing another man."

"You won't, Captain, not on my watch," Ian said. "And Nico never misses."

"Stay on Jeff, Ian."

"I'm all over him, Captain."

They went back into Hollister's room where the others waited expectantly. "As soon as Nico gives us the go-ahead, we're taking Jeff out," Ryland said. "Tucker, you're the strongest. I want you to carry, Jeff out."

Tucker's teeth were very white as he grinned at Jeff. "Don't worry, I'll handle you like a newborn babe."

Jeff groaned. "I can't believe he's going to make you carry me."

Sam poked him good-naturedly. "I'll make sure he doesn't drop you more than once, surfer boy, although it might fix you right up if you landed on your head."

"You'll take their backs, Sam. I don't want a single hair harmed on that surfer boy's head. I'd have to face his mama." Ryland shuddered.

"We wouldn't be getting cookies anymore, that's for sure," Gator complained. "Nobody makes cookies like Jeff's ma."

"Not to mention"-Jonas Harper looked up from where he was sharpening a four-inch blade with loving care-"he's a chick magnet. Pretty boy Hollister walks down the street and we don't need to look for women, they just follow him around."

Kyle Forbes stretched out his legs and burst out laughing. "That's because he isn't always fondling a knife, Jonas. Women run when you walk into the room."

Sam hooted and jabbed at Jonas with his foot. "Throwing knives doesn't really impress women, Jonas."

"It did when I worked in the circus," Jonas said. "They thought it was sexy."

Jeff tossed his pillow at Jonas. "You wish they thought you were sexy. Didn't your last girlfriend dump beer over your head?"

Laughter erupted. Jonas held up his hand. "That didn't count. She caught me with the Nelson twins sitting on my lap. She totally had the wrong idea."

Tucker retrieved the pillow, incidentally bashing Gator over the head with it as he did so. "That's not what I heard, Jonas. I heard she caught you in bed with the twins."

"That's the way I heard it too," Kyle said, "except the twins were hiding under your bed."

More hoots greeted Kyle's comment. Jonas took it in stride, grinning sheepishly. "You all are full of it. Gator has that hot Cajun blood and Jeff just stands there looking like a doofus and the women faint at their feet."

"I know you didn't just call me a doofus," Jeff said. "You're feeling your oats, Jonas, because I'm stuck in this bed."

Jonas grinned wickedly. "I've been giving it some thought, Hollister. With you out of the way, I might just have a shot at those Nelson twins. Tucker, drop him on his ass out there in the woods, you'll be doing us all a favor."

Kyle raised an eyebrow. Normally an extremely quiet man, a genius with explosives, he entered into the fun to keep Jeff Hollister's spirits high. "Jonas, aren't you forgetting his sisters? You swiped his sister's pictures out of his wallet and you kiss them every damn night. You think either one of those girls is going to look at you if you don't deliver their darling baby brother home safe and sound?"

The pillow came sailing through the air again, smacking Jonas in the back of his head. "You're the one who swiped my sisters' pictures, you perverted knife-wielding nutcase. Don't you even look at my sisters. They're both going to be nuns." Jeff crossed himself, kissed his thumb.

We've got watchers, Rye. And they aren't civilians. Nicolas always spoke in the same low tone. No one had ever seen him excited or nervous.

Is it a go? Can we get Jeff past them? Ryland had complete faith in Nicolas's judgment. We can't put Lily at risk. It had been his decision to use telepathic communication in spite of Cowlings. The man had little telepathic ability and Ryland judged the risk of his being close enough to pick it up was minimal.

They aren't taking their assignment seriously. My best guess, Rye, they're here to watch the woman. They have no idea we're here and they sure don't think we're coming.

It's a go then. Signal when you have a clear. I'm sending Tucker out with Jeff. Sam's got their back. Ian's the driver. The rest of us will control the watchers.

They're susceptible. They're bored and not on high alert. I don't think we'll have too much trouble. Tell Tuck to come a-running.

"We're good to go, Jeff," Ryland said gently. He nodded toward Tucker. "Kyle and Jonas will go out ahead of you. Nico's waiting. We know they're out there, we know they're watching, but they can't know we're here. This is the real thing. Walk like the ghosts you are and get through their lines. We'll meet up at the doc's house. You stand fast until we check it out once we're there. Your only responsibility is to keep Jeff and yourselves alive. If the place is hot, pull out immediately and come back here. Watch your back trail."

He stood looking at them for a long moment. "Remember, all of these people, soldiers, civilians, all of them, think we're escapees, that we've committed crimes. Unless your life or the lives of this team are in danger, do not use maximum force."

Ryland gestured and signaled Kyle and Jonas. Both gripped Hollister's shoulder hard then followed Ryland from the room, heading quickly for the tunnel. It had been a long day, watching over Jeff, worrying about him, seeing the damage to his right side, but unable to do anything to help him. They had waited for the sun to go down and the darkness to spread. Their time. When ghosts were able to walk. At last they could actively do something.

Once the day staff was gone, they were able to move more freely without fear of discovery. They had all the technology available to them, but it would never take the place of their belief in themselves.

Ryland went out of the tunnel first, moving quickly, silently, slipping through the darkness, keeping to the shadows. He could feel the surge of energy building as the men began to project, whispering into the night, telling the guards to look at the stars, to see the beauty of the night. To be blind to movement and sound. To look the other way as Ryland signaled Tucker and Sam to bring Jeff Hollister out.

Tucker was as large as a tree trunk, carrying Jeff protectively cradled against his massive chest. Jeff was no small man, but he looked a child beside Tucker's bulging muscles. For a big man, Tucker Addison moved like the ghost he was, gliding over the uneven terrain without a sound. Sam kept pace behind them, his eyes moving restlessly, constantly, seeking out the watchers, his weapon in his fist.

Ryland directed the guards away from the path in the woods Tucker needed to take in order to rendezvous with Ian and the car. Ryland led the way, shifting toward the most resistant of the guards. He concentrated on "pushing" the man harder, planting the urgent need to converse with his partner. Ryland dropped to his belly and scooted closer to the guard. He was reacting to the mental push by rubbing his head, shaking it as if his head needed clearing. The guard began to pace restlessly back and forth, pressing his fingers to his eyes.

Ryland held up his hand, signaling Tucker to melt into the shadows with his burden.

I'm dropping back to cover you, Nicolas reported.

You get them away safely, Ryland ordered. Stay on Jeff. He closed the distance to the guard so that he lay only a scant few feet from the man. He gathered his energy, his strength. It had to look like an accident, a believable accident. Ryland whispered a prayer asking for forgiveness if anything went wrong.

Two kids coming. Teenagers, Nicolas informed him.

Ryland let his breath out slowly, relief spreading. Allowed his muscles to relax. Use them. Send them this way, right up to the guard. They can create our diversion. He concentrated on the connection, building the bridge to the young boys sneaking through the woods with a flashlight and pellet guns. They changed direction immediately, highly susceptible to the waves of energy prodding them.

The guard swung around alertly as the boys laughed loudly together at a joke one of them told. His light blasted the two boys in the face, temporarily blinding them. The guard's back was to Tucker and the others. Ryland signaled them forward as he began his own retreat, moving cautiously away from the guard, staying low and using the bursts of conversation as cover.

Tucker moved through the woods quickly, staying to the shadows, deep in the trees, somehow even in the darkest sections, avoiding twigs and leaves that would give him away. Sam ran parallel with Tucker and Jeff, keeping his body between the two of them and the guards.

They're away. Ian's got them. Clear out, Rye. Ian had removed the dome light from the truck so Tucker and Sam could put Jeff in carefully without the glow of the overhead light to give them away.

Nicolas slid into a car beside Kaden, who pulled away from the curb before the door was closed. We're away. We're away.

Ryland signaled Kyle and Jonas ahead of him, and dropped back to protect his men as they hurried out of the wooded area. Behind them, the guard was still haranguing the two teenage boys, firing questions at them with the deliberate intention of scaring them.

Ryland was the last man in the third vehicle, urging Kyle to get moving even before he was fully in the car. They were careful to obey every traffic law, not wanting to take the chance of a police officer pulling them over. Dr. Brandon Adams's house was several miles from the Whitney estate. It was a large beautiful house surrounded by manicured lawns and wrought-iron fences.

Kyle cruised by, went nearly a mile down the road, turned around, and drove past the estate again. He slowed enough to allow Ryland and Jonas to slip out before cruising past a second time. He found a small turnout just beyond the house and parked the car beneath the sweeping tree branches. Ryland and Jonas were already scouting, spreading out to cover more ground. Nicolas and Kaden circled the estate from the other side.

Ian? You have any bad feelings you'd like to tell us about?

No. I say it's a go.

Ryland made the sweep with the same thoroughness he applied to every task. They circled the house, taking their time, checking every position where someone could be lying in wait to ambush them. No one was anywhere near the house. Kaden and Nicolas went up and over the high railing surrounding the wide porch. Kaden continued up the side of the house, gaining entrance through a second-story window. Nicolas went in on the bottom floor through the back. Ryland went in through a sliding glass door. The lock was a joke.

He moved through the rooms, getting a feel for the house. It was empty, just as Adams had told Lily it would be. He could hear the doctor moving around upstairs.

Clear. Kaden reported.

Clear. Nicolas added.

Bring him in. Ryland moved into position behind the stairs. The doorbell pealed melodiously. A tall, thin man hurried down the stairs. He was dressed in charcoal slacks and a white shirt, both of which screamed money. He opened the door without hesitation. Tucker didn't wait for an invitation, but carried Jeff inside. Sam and Ian followed, closing the door behind them and casually locking it.

"Bring him into the back. I recently closed my small clinic so I have all the equipment we need on hand." The doctor led the way through the spacious rooms. "I've prepared a room at the very back of the house and I gave my staff a few days off. Lily said to get him back to her as soon as possible."

"Did she tell you we'd be staying?" Ian asked. "We'll take turns sitting up with him."

"Suit yourself, but I doubt if that will be necessary. I think he'll do fine."

The room was large and airy with a tremendous view. Ian walked over and pulled the heavy drapes. Sam opened the closets and all adjoining doors. "It's very necessary, Doc, but don't worry, we won't get in your way. We're self-sufficient," Ian said as he put his pack on the table. "We brought our own rations."

Lily had made certain to send along more than enough food when she heard the men were going to be staying. She had also insisted they keep working on their exercises.

"We'd like to secure the house," Ian said. The doctor's eyebrows shot up. "I don't know what that means."

"Your locks are standard issue," Sam pointed out. "A child could break in."

"I have a dead bolt on the front and back doors." The doctor was not really paying attention to the conversation. He bent over Jeff Hollister, leaning close to peer into his eyes. His voice was unconcerned. Dr. Adams had no interest at all in the subject of security.

"You don't mind if we beef up your security, do you, Doc?" Sam asked.

Adams waved his hand vaguely. "Do whatever you feel you need to."

The knots in Ryland's stomach loosened. Dr. Brandon Adams had a mind similar to Lily's. She understood him. He was interested only in his subject. Not Jeff Hollister, only his brain and what it could reveal to him.

It's all yours, Nico. We're clearing out.

Ryland gave the signal to the others and they left the house with the same stealth they'd used when entering. The doctor never knew they had even been there.