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She hurried up to the two of them, anxious to hear what was being said.

“Kelsey Donovan, Dr. Lee,” Liam told her. “Kelsey is Avery’s business partner and best friend. He was staying with her.”

“He’s going to be all right? Has he come to yet?” Kelsey asked.

“We’ve done scans, and we’re not seeing anything worrisome. His brain activity is functioning well by all our standards, so we don’t believe that he was deprived of oxygen long enough to cause damage. We’re concerned that he hasn’t come to yet, but such an injury to the head can, naturally, cause a coma. We’re still hoping that in a few hours, he’ll be doing much better.”

“Thank you. May I go in and sit with him?”

“Yes, and go ahead and talk to him. Don’t upset him, but talk to him. Maybe your presence will help.”

He pointed to a room. She hurried through the door.

Avery looked much better than he had when she and Jonas had first fished him from the water. His color was back. There was an IV needle in his arm, and he was attached to a monitor with waving lines. Kelsey had spent enough time with her dad in the hospital to know which monitored his respiratory function and his heart, and both seemed to be functioning at an even keel.

She sat by his side and took his hand in hers. “Avery, I’m here. I’m so sorry! I wish I knew what happened. I shouldn’t have left you out there alone. I’m so sorry. I love you. You’re my best friend.”

She thought that his hand twitched. She could swear that there was movement behind his closed eyelids.

But he remained silent.

Liam felt as if a hand were constricting around his heart; it was horrible to watch Kelsey sit next to Avery and be powerless to lessen her worry and her pain. He thought about her life, her mother gone when she was so young, her father passing when she was young as well, and then the news about Cutter Merlin.

And a friend, who had nearly died, in her house, as her guest.

But he couldn’t do anything except watch her sit there.

He called down to the station and was glad that Ricky Long didn’t seem to mind working overtime at all. Apparently Ricky’s experience at the house had made him determined to stay out of it himself while doggedly pursuing every task Liam handed to him.

“The crime-scene unit combed the property. They looked for prints on the beach, but by the time everyone had come and worked on the victim and headed out, the beach was a mess. They couldn’t get anything. They tried the dock, but there wasn’t really anything to dust.” He was quiet for a minute. “Lieutenant, I have to tell you, some of the crew were grumbling. They’re not sure that there was a crime. They think that Kelsey’s friend just fell off the dock and bumped his head.” Ricky cleared his throat. “And they didn’t find a large black shadow in the water.”

“Thanks, Ricky. I didn’t think that they’d find anything.”


“There was no trace, no clues, no leads, after a man was murdered. We know that he was murdered. Franklin Valaski verified that fact. Something is going on at the Merlin place, and I will find out what it is.”

“I believe you, Lieutenant,” Ricky said. He was quiet again for a minute. “Do you believe in ghosts?” he asked.


“I still swear that armor moved the night I was there with you.”

Liam paused for a minute. Did he believe in ghosts? It wasn’t a matter of belief. He knew that they existed. But he didn’t believe that the Merlin house was cursed. He believed in a very live culprit, influenced by a belief that words on a page and incantations could help him achieve what he desired. Killing people who got in the way was simply a way to get what he wanted.

“There’s a human being out there who murdered Gary White,” he said at last. “I believe the same person might have tried to murder Avery Slater. We’re going to get him, Ricky. That’s that.”

“He’s good,” Ricky said. “He has to be really good. The Merlin house is on a little peninsula. One way on, one way off.”

He walked the street, aware of the people around him. Always, there were people. It was quiet, though. Late Tuesday night.

He walked, and he closed into himself, and he thought of all the years gone by, all that he had done, how he had waited, waited and watched, believing that if he was patient, the reward would be his in the end.

He felt sorry for himself.

He’d looked, and he’d looked, and he’d looked, but he hadn’t found it. He’d been careful, then careless. Then he’d tried to return everything as it had been.

He’d had the house to himself again. All to himself. For hours. He had searched, but he was back to where he had begun.

The book was gone.

The bastard cop must have taken it.

And he couldn’t find the reliquary.

He still needed Kelsey Donovan for that.

He tried to tell himself that it was fine; Kelsey might need the book to find the reliquary. She didn’t know where it was. If she did, he would know it. But Cutter Merlin had left her the clues. She would find it. He had to make sure that he was ready when she did.

He looked up at the moon. He had the book that would explain what had been done. He had the book that had the Crowley rites in it.

The moon was full. Tonight, there would be another rite.

Liam went in to sit quietly next to Kelsey for a few minutes. She looked at him, and she appeared to be angry. “You know, I’ve known Avery a long time. We met in college. We’ve worked together ever since.”

“Kelsey, I’m so sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for—you’ve tried to talk me out of staying at the house.”

“The house isn’t cursed, Kelsey.”

“Oh, I know that. My family was a loving family, and the house itself was always filled with warmth and caring. It was a bit crazy, completely eclectic and fun. And I’m more determined than ever now. I am going to find out what’s going on.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t stay there—”

“Oh, when I’m there from now on, I’ll make absolutely sure that I’m locked in safely until there are a number of others around.” She smiled, and her smile was anguished but still tender. “I have you with me. When you’re with me…the world is right,” she said softly.

The world is right, he thought. And he wondered if, when it was all over, she would still feel the same way. He wondered if she remembered that she wanted to go back to California, that she had built a life there.

“Kelsey, I’ll never stop. I will find out what’s going on.”

She nodded.

He had his briefcase with him, and he reached into it. He produced the book, and she was surprised, and then she smiled deeply.

“You brought it with you! I’m so glad.”

He nodded. “I knew you’d stay here with Avery, and I’m going to fly back tonight. I’m going back to work tomorrow morning, so I thought you should have this.”

“I forgot!” Kelsey said excitedly. “Liam, I forgot all about the notes I found in the book.”

“The notes?”

“Yes! Thank you so much for thinking about it. Cutter left little notes to himself in the book, or maybe he intended for me to find them. Cutter definitely knew that there were two reliquaries, and he knew that someone was after the one with the diamond.”

“I wonder why, after your mother died, he didn’t produce the real reliquary and sell the diamond or give it to someone,” Liam said.

“Because he believed that my mother was murdered. That something caused her to fall down the stairway. He intended to spend the rest of his life waiting patiently to force whoever had killed his daughter to show his hand. It finally happened. That’s why he had the fake—he was probably going to try to convince whoever broke in that the reliquary in his hands was the only one—the book, because he thought the person believed in Satanic power and might believe that Cutter was protected by it—and the shotgun, so he could shoot the son of a bitch.”

“Well, it makes sense,” Liam said softly.

“He has a note about Peter Edwards and the Abel Crowley connection. Edwards must have believed in the end, especially after he met the Crowley fellow, that he had practiced evil and would go to hell.”

“I agree with that,” Liam told her. “But Aleister Crowley wasn’t even born until 1875. Pete Edwards must have had another source that gave him whatever Satanic rites he was practicing during the Civil War.”

She nodded. “I’ll bet there’s reference to it in the book that disappeared from the library.”

“Maybe. Jaden is doing a book search for me. It’s out there somewhere. We’ll get a copy.”

She was sitting back, her attention all on him. He took her hand and idly stroked her fingers. “I think that we have a murderer and a thief who began it all with one obsession—stealing the diamond. He did what he felt he had to do in order to find the diamond. But he also knew Cutter, and he seemed to know some island history. He had to have a life in the Keys as well, because he spent so many years believing that he would get the diamond from Cutter. I have to ask you one question. I believe that your mother may have had a hallucinogen in her system. Did she use any drugs?”

“I told you she was on pills for pain,” Kelsey said.

He nodded.

“There was an autopsy when my mother died, you know,” she said.

“But they didn’t test for everything so we can’t be sure,” he told her.


He looked into her eyes. “Kelsey, I have to ask you this. Are you absolutely certain that Jonas was just ahead of you?”

“I saw him, Liam. I saw him racing by the window toward the back. That’s why I went out.”

He nodded. “All right. Thanks. I’m going to get going. Keep in touch with me by the cell phone, please. Let me know the minute that Avery wakes.”