“Imagine how I must feel.”
He stared at her then. She knew exactly what was going through his mind. As much as he wanted to deny it, he was thinking about the possibility. Wondering. And so was she. When Sam had first told her what his friend at Scotland Yard had discovered, she hadn’t wanted to think about it. The idea of being descended from a serial killer, a monster like Jack the Ripper, wasn’t something she’d wanted to dwell on.
He didn’t look too thrilled about it, either. He was rattled. The knife hung loose from his hand. That was exactly what she wanted. But where was Max? For a moment, as she held the Ripper’s gaze, she concentrated all her attention on reaching Max psychically.
“CAN’T YOU GO any faster?” It was the third time Max had asked the question.
“I don’t recall you being such a whiner,” Deirdre commented. She was driving since she knew where his sailboat was docked. Lance sat beside her. Max had been relegated to the backseat. He had the distinct impression that his two superiors were humoring him. Since he’d been in and out of consciousness while his arm had been worked on, he supposed he hadn’t been in his most persuasive form. But Lance had insisted that they all suit up in body armor. It wouldn’t be one hundred percent effective against a knife. But they’d all be better off than he’d been in Renquist’s Manhattan hotel suite.
Glancing at his watch, he said, “It’s five after five. I told her to shoot for 5:00 p.m.”
Lance glanced back at him then. “She’s new at psychic time travel, she’s attempting something we don’t think is even possible—traveling into the future—and you expect her to hit the time perfectly?”
“Yeah.” She was here. He could feel it. “She may not have had a lot of practice, but her powers are very strong. Her imagination is highly developed.” He’d tried to explain how he and Neely had taken a mental trip to his sailboat and how he’d seen the image flash into her mind while Renquist was inching that blade toward her throat. Deirdre and Lance had listened with no comment. To be fair, if he’d been in their shoes, he would have been skeptical, too. “We’re almost there,” Deirdre said.
Max noted that Deirdre had flown south and circled wide over the Pacific so that she could approach the sailboat from the land. It was a smart move. It was just taking too long.
Deep in his gut, he knew that time was running out. They’d wasted so much of it getting his arm fixed. Though they hadn’t taken him to a hospital, Deirdre had called in a medic unit from the TGS offices. They’d put in twenty stitches and pumped blood into him before they’d let him go.
As Deirdre landed the car, Max felt his mental connection with Neely strengthen suddenly, and he got a very clear picture of her standing in his bedroom. Renquist, knife in hand, was walking toward her. Max had to ignore the fear knotted tight in his gut as he pushed out of the backseat. “They’re both there, but we may be too late.”
As they hurried down to the dock, Lance said, “You’re in charge, Gale. Let us know what you need.”
“SHE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN pregnant. I handled the birth control.”
“You admitted that you made the mistake of getting emotionally involved with her. It could have slipped your mind.”
He thought about that, and Neely saw doubt appear in his eyes.
“I don’t make mistakes.”
“You allowed yourself to become involved with Elena Sheffield and Suzanna Gale. And if Max and I hadn’t interfered in that alley, you would have killed your own son.”
“Enough.” He moved toward her then. “None of this makes any difference.”
“I’m from your blood.”
“So was my mother. But she had to be punished, too.”
Neely’s eyes widened. “You killed her?” For the first time she saw regret and a trace of anguish in his eyes.
“She had to be punished. You all do.” Stepping forward, he pressed her more tightly against the side of the bed and brought the edge of the knife to her throat.
Neely felt Max one instant before she saw him step into the doorway of the bedroom. The Ripper was already drawing the blade across her throat, but he seemed to sense Max’s presence. The next thing she knew, he’d slipped the knife to her shoulder and she felt it slice into her flesh.
He whirled and threw the knife the instant before Max shot his weapon. The Ripper fell. And Neely saw that the knife had pierced Max’s shoulder right where it was bandaged. Blood was pouring down his arm. She raced toward him as he slid to the floor.
THE HOSPITAL was totally constructed of steel and glass. The waiting area offered a panoramic view of all of San Diego Bay, and there was a large screen in the room that played twenty-four-hour news coverage. But Neely’s eyes were glued to the room three glass walls away where Max lay pale as death. He was hooked up to machines whose lights blinked, transferring data to a nurses’ station.No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite rid herself of the scene in Max’s bedroom. It had all happened so quickly. Even now the images seemed to blur and run into one another. One second the knife was moving along her throat while she stared into the killer’s eyes. She felt it breaking her skin. Then his concentration wavered and the blade sliced into her shoulder instead. The next second the knife was flying through the air at Max. She watched it enter his upper arm, saw him jerk back against the doorjamb. He slid all the way to the floor before she reached him, and he blacked out.
It was Deirdre who’d administered first aid to both of them until the medic unit had arrived. Lance had seen to the Ripper—Thomas Renquist, she was told. Then they’d taken Max away in a separate ambulance.
Pressing fingers to her eyes, she willed the memory away and then replaced it with the scene that was unfolding in Max’s hospital room. For the past hour, a man she’d been briefly introduced to as TGS Director Lance Shaw had been talking to Max. If Max was strong enough to be grilled, that was a good sign, right?
Neely raised a hand to touch the bandage on her shoulder. The doctor had put ten stitches in. The two cuts on her throat hadn’t been deep enough to require any. Lucky, was what the young doctor had called it. A few more inches and her carotid artery would have been at least nicked. Max had saved her life for the second time. And for the second time, he’d nearly lost his own.
Impatience mixed with the steady, numbing fear that had hardened in her stomach. The doctor who’d treated her hadn’t been able to give her any information about Max’s condition. He’d merely escorted her to the waiting area and told her she’d probably hear something soon. When she’d tried to leave to find out more information, a man wearing a black uniform with TGS on his lapel had stopped her.
“How are you doing?”
Neely whirled to see that Deirdre Mason had stepped into the waiting area.
“I need to see Max. How is he? No one will tell me anything.”
“The knife hit him in the arm where Renquist had sliced him before. There was no permanent damage, but the additional loss of blood has the doctors concerned. They want to keep him overnight for observation.”
“He’s going to be all right?”
At Deirdre’s nod, Neely’s knees gave out and she sank onto a bench.
Deirdre sat down next to her and took her hand. “I’m sorry. I would have come sooner, but I had to see to Renquist.”
Neely could feel herself begin to tremble and she fought against the tears of relief pricking at the back of her eyes.
“If it’s any comfort, Max is whining and complaining, which is a good sign he’s getting back to normal.”
Neely couldn’t manage a smile, but she got the tears under control. “When can I see him?”
“Lance is almost finished debriefing him. You know, when Max first tried to tell us about you, we weren’t sure what to make of his story. You shouldn’t be here.”
Neely lifted her chin. “Well, I am.” And if she had her way, it wasn’t going to be temporary.
“Your unusual abilities make more sense if it’s true that you’re Thomas Renquist’s great-great-great-granddaughter. We’re checking out the DNA, but Max doesn’t seem to have any doubt about it.”
Neely frowned. “I’m still struggling with that. I don’t like to think that I have the Ripper’s blood in my veins.”
Deirdre squeezed her hand. “If it’s any consolation, Lance and I found records as well as diaries in Renquist’s apartment. We discovered that after his father died, his mother arranged an illegal and highly experimental operation when he was still a small boy in an attempt to implant a gene that would make him capable of psychic time travel. Her research required a lot of time travel, often to London and New York City, and she wanted to take him with her. Not only was the surgery unsuccessful, but there’s a strong possibility that it permanently damaged a part of his brain. Very likely it’s what led to his psychopathic behavior.”
“His mother was responsible?”
“Her intentions were good—she didn’t want to leave him behind. I’ve only had time to skim a few of the diaries, but they suggest that as he grew older he deeply resented being left behind. He kept a running count of the trips she took without him—one hundred and twenty.”