The three of them sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, absorbing the faint sound of the murmuring trees and the sight of the lake in sunshine. Neither Jonas nor Emerson seemed inclined to start a conversation so Verity waited until she'd fortified herself with a few swallows of beer before she took the initiative.
"Well, Jonas, have you told Dad about the test you want to run with the pistols?"
Jonas shrugged. "I told him."
Verity looked at her father. "What do you think, Dad?"
Emerson rubbed the back of his neck. "About what?"
"About this psychometry business," she said bluntly, not looking at Jonas. "Do you believe in it?"
"Red, I believe in a lot of things I can't see or taste or touch. Things like black holes in the heart of the universe, and the Theory of Relativity. I'm willing to keep an open mind toward this psychic stuff. If Jonas says he's got some kind of talent for it, I'm willing to wait and see."
"Do you know anything about psychometry?" Verity demanded.
Emerson raised a heavy brow. "I know that any really good collector, antique dealer, or museum director will tell you he's heard stories of people in his line of work who just seem to 'know' when an object is genuine. It's usually passed off as some kind of intuition based on extensive experience, a gut feel for what's real and what's not. But who knows? It could be the rudiments of psychometry. And if it is, it makes sense to think that a few people might have been born with more than just some rudimentary talent. A few might have gotten the full-blown power. Like I said, I'm keeping an open mind. What about you?"
Verity glanced at Jonas, who had his dark head resting against the post. His eyes were closed and he seemed not to be paying any attention to the conversation.
"I'm keeping an open mind, too," Verity said.
Jonas spoke without opening his eyes. "If you believe that, Emerson, I've got some oceanfront property down in Arizona I'd like to sell you."
Emerson chuckled. "I guess we'll find out a little more about all this when you two run this test, huh?
If nothing else, it should be amusing. I always enjoy a good party trick."
"Did Jonas tell you that the last time he practiced his party trick someone almost got killed?" Verity sensed Jonas's sudden, deep stillness.
"Just a lab tech, from what I hear." Emerson was unconcerned. "In this day and age lab techs are as common as white mice. What's one more or less?"
Emerson grinned. "Just teasing, Red." He reached for a fresh can of beer. "When are you planning to do your stuff, Jonas? I want to be around. Wouldn't want anything to happen to those pistols."
"The pistols will be safe enough," Jonas said calmly.
"Do I get the same guarantee about Verity?" Emerson asked blandly.
"Verity will be perfectly safe," Jonas said quietly.
"Of course I'll be safe," she tossed back, irritated. "What can possibly happen to me, even if Jonas is right about having this weird power?"
Jonas opened one eye and regarded her thoughtfully. "I'll tell you what might happen to you, little tyrant.
One of these days I'm going to catch you in that corridor and I might not let you go again. When we're in that corridor, I'm the one in charge. You work for me there."
Verity swallowed too much beer and nearly choked. By the time she had recovered, Jonas and Emerson had casually decided when to run the test.
"Tonight after Verity closes the restaurant will be a good time," Jonas said. "She's usually exhausted after the evening cleanup. With any luck she'll be too tired to fight me when I try to make the connection."
Verity shot him a quick, repressive glare. He was talking about a psychic connection, but it struck her for the first time that the only occasions she had ever actually wound up in bed with Jonas were after she had seen him in that mysterious corridor.
She spent the rest of the evening wondering if there was some link between the psychic events Jonas claimed to experience and his passion afterward.
It was an unsettling thought.
* * *
The No Bull Cafe closed a half-hour early on Tuesday night. Business had been light during the evening and Jonas and Emerson got the cleanup work done in record time. Verity found herself loitering behind them, double-checking lists and going over small details she already knew by heart.
She jumped as Jonas approached her from behind. She glanced back over her shoulder and met his steady gaze. "I guess so. As ready as I'll ever be."
His expression hardened slightly. "You don't have to look as though I've just invited you to a funeral.
This will only take a few minutes. When it's over maybe I'll have some answers to some questions I've been living with for a long time."
Verity's resentment flickered and died. Jonas believed in this mysterious talent he claimed he had. Right or wrong, it was eating at him and had been for years. Apparently it had shaped a good portion of his adult life. She couldn't deny him her help in this small test.
Impulsively she reached out and took his hand. "Okay, let's go see what happens."
Jonas's eyes lightened and his strong fingers clamped fiercely around hers. "Thanks, Verity. One of these days I'll repay you for the favor, I promise."
"Forget it. Consider it a job perk. Given the low wages I pay, I suppose you deserve one or two." Such as sleeping with the boss and playing strange psychic games with her. "Ready, Dad?"
Emerson, who was leaning against a counter, his arms folded across his broad chest, nodded briefly.
Teeth flashed somewhere in his beard. "Let's go see what happens."
They locked the restaurant and walked along the path to the small cabin. When they filed inside and closed the door, Emerson reached under the sagging bed to pull out the pistol case. He opened it and set it down on a table. Verity thought the old guns looked sinister in the harsh light of the ancient bulb overhead. But then, she always thought guns of any kind or any age appeared sinister and quite repugnant.
"What do we do next, Jonas?" she asked calmly.
"You don't have to do anything except sit down in that chair and try not to fight me or run from me."
He indicated one of the straight-back chairs at the table.
Verity frowned as she slipped onto the seat. "I'm not going to fight you. I agreed to do this, remember?"
He nodded, sitting down across from her. "I know, but your instincts may take a different viewpoint when they sense what's happening. On the other two occasions when I tried to connect with you in that corridor, you were terrified."