Whoever Quarrel was, it was plain he knew too much. There was no question about it. Kincaid didn't understand how or why, but he didn't question his instincts. He had survived on those instincts for years and he trusted them implicitly. Better to be safe than sorry.
There were too many factors coming together lately, he reflected. Coincidence was acceptable up to a point, but one too many made a man nervous. The appearance of Quarrel, with his mysterious ability, was too much to swallow in addition to this business of having to go back to the house on the cliffs.
Something dangerous was afoot. The more Kincaid thought about it, the more everything seemed to be slowly focusing around Jonas Quarrel.
It was very disquieting that Quarrel had picked out that single dagger from all the blades on the wall.
It gave Kincaid a strange, hunted feeling.
Rumors stayed alive for years in the world of collecting. Eventually some of them became legends.
Kincaid did not like the notion that his dagger might be the basis of some unfortunate rumors that led back to him.
It was definitely time to get rid of Jonas Quarrel.
And when he was finished with Quarrel, Kincaid decided, he just might make it a point to get to know the little redhead better. Something about her smile had revived the old thrilling lust, the kind he had once indulged in Sandquist's house on the cliffs. He hadn't been able to luxuriate in that side of his nature for a long while.
A deal for the dueling pistols was made with one Phillip J. Haggerty late Monday afternoon. Jonas presented the buyer's check to Emerson Ames on Tuesday morning when he and Verity arrived back in Sequence Springs. Emerson kissed the check.
"I do believe you've saved my hind end, Jonas, old pal," Emerson chortled. "Here, have a beer and tell me all about it."
They were standing in Verity's kitchen as she tried to set up for the luncheon crowd. Verity's hands were full with a stack of stainless steel salad-mixing bowls. She glared at both men as she was forced to maneuver sideways to get around them. "Jonas can't have a beer now. He has to help me with lunch."
"Don't pay any attention to her." Jonas popped the top off the can and tipped back his head to take a long, thirsty swallow. "The Tuesday lunch crowd is the lightest of the week. She just needs something to complain about. You know how it is. Besides, I can wash dishes just as well drunk as sober."
Her father chuckled richly, but Verity felt herself flushing as Jonas proceeded to give Emerson the tale of their visit to the city. She turned away to take a potato and pea salad out of the refrigerator. Normally she responded to Jonas's cracks about her shrewishness with equanimity, but today, she discovered, his words hurt. Maybe she really was turning into a mean-spirited, fussy spinster.
Or maybe she was frequently sharp with Jonas because a part of her was trying to protect herself from the uncertain future she saw awaiting her. It was easier and far safer to yell at Jonas than to let herself fail in love with him.
But Verity was very much afraid her tactics weren't working. She was scared to death that she had already fallen in love with Jonas. That knowledge seemed only to whet the edge of her tongue.
Jonas finished the tale of their trip to San Francisco, elaborating cheerfully on his brilliant handling of the negotiations.
"So that was that," he concluded triumphantly. "After getting the price up another three thousand, I accepted Haggerty's offer. After that, Verity and I went shopping for costumes for that damned Renaissance ball Evanger's planning. Verity went crazy in the costume store, by the way. I had to forcibly restrain her at times. You should have seen the gown she wanted to rent. Scarlet and gold, and it was cut to her navel."
"It was a beautiful gown. And very authentic. They wore lots of low-cut gowns during the Renaissance,"
Verity defended herself as she added stone-ground mustard to her potato and pea salad.
"Who's the authority on the Renaissance around here, anyway?" Jonas retorted. "That dress you wanted looked like it was designed for an expensive call girl."
"I wanted to go as a Renaissance courtesan."
Jonas smiled grimly. "Be grateful I didn't rent the nun's outfit for you."
Verity raised her eyebrows as she looked at her father. "He was in a terrible mood when we went into the costume shop, even though he'd made that great deal for the pistols. He'd been annoyed with me ever since we left Kincaid's office."
"She kept smiling at the bastard," Jonas muttered,
"I was only following orders. Your orders, Jonas," Verity said pointedly. "You're the one who told me to smile at the man, remember? I was supposed to play the part of a fluff-brained redhead."
"You didn't have to go overboard, dammit. He was looking at you the way a shark looks at a swimmer's feet."
Emerson held up a palm, seeking peace. "Children, children, that's enough squabbling for now.
This is too grand a day to ruin with bickering. Save your fighting for later."
"Good idea," Verity said. "I'm too busy to fight now anyway. But you haven't heard the whole story of our little adventure, Dad. Jonas didn't tell you that he tested himself again on a dagger that was hanging on the wall of Kincaid's office."
Emerson cocked a bushy brow. "Is that right? Same thing as when you handled the gun? A mental image in a long corridor?"
"The corridor seemed different this time," Verity answered. "Vaguer, somehow. Less clear and defined.
But there was a scene in it. A horrible one. It was an image of a man sprawled on a dinner table. Blood all over the linguini."
Jonas studied the small print on his beer can. "I've been thinking about the lack of definition in the corridor itself," he said slowly. "I wonder if it's got something to do with the fact that the dagger and the scene we encountered were only a few years old. Maybe the psychic energy they generate is still coalescing and shaping itself. The thing is, I shouldn't have been able to pick up on anything that recent."
"Did you know the dagger was twentieth century when you asked Kincaid to let you handle it?" Verity asked.
Jonas nodded. "I was almost certain it was a reproduction. There was something about the look of the steel. The instant I touched it I knew it was contemporary, but at the same time it was giving off vibrations like crazy." He shook his head. "I don't understand it, unless..."
Verity bit her lip. "Unless what?"
He gave her a disturbingly direct look. "Unless being around you is having the same effect all that testing back at Vincent College did."