"You mean your talent might be getting stronger?" Verity asked uneasily.
There was silence in the kitchen as they both considered the ramifications of that. Emerson looked curiously from one to the other. "Trouble?"
"Jonas considers his ability a mixed blessing," Verity explained quietly. "But at least up until now it's been limited to a certain era of the past. If he's getting stronger in terms of range, he's going to run into more and more objects that will trigger his trips into the corridor."
"I get it," Emerson drawled. "Could get to be a real nuisance, couldn't it?"
"To put it mildly," Jonas agreed. "Damn." He crumpled the beer can in his hand. "I could have done without this added complication."
Verity felt a cold chill. She was the cause of this "added complication" in his life. Her fingers clenched tightly around the bowl in her hand. Jonas had been drawn to her originally because of her connection with his psychic ability. Maybe that was the very thing that would drive him away from her.
"The psychometry still seems to be limited to objects associated strongly with violence, though," Jonas said thoughtfully. "I'm not picking up on just any old emotion, thank God."
"What do you think that scene in the corridor was all about?" Emerson asked curiously.
"I don't know," Jonas said. "That's the problem with these corridor scenes. I never get more than a few seconds of information. It's like looking at a few frames on a reel of film. Probably the frames that show the single most violent moment associated with the object I'm holding. It's the one image that's most clearly captured, for some reason. Sometimes I feel like I'm part of the image. I know what's going on around me for those few seconds. But other times, it's like looking at a photograph of people I don't know. That's the way it was yesterday."
"Don't you have any theories about why that dagger elicited that particular image of a man bleeding into a plate of linguini?" Emerson persisted.
Jonas shrugged. "If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say we were probably looking at the former owner of the dagger at the moment when he lost possession of it to someone else. Or we could have been looking at someone who had just been stabbed with it."
Verity was startled. "That's funny. For some reason, I assumed the man had been shot."
Jonas gave her a thoughtful glance. "Did you? It's possible."
Emerson shook his head. "This is incredible. I didn't know what to think the night you tried that first test with the pistols and 1 still don't. I tell myself I have an open mind, but Christ, this is stretching the limits of it, I'll tell you. You do realize how bizarre this whole thing is, don't you?"
"It's been pointed out to me," Jonas said dryly.
Emerson shook his head. "It's one thing to think you might have a touch of psychic talent. Hell, lots of people are convinced they've had a psychic experience of one kind or another. Telepathy, a bit of precognition, whatever. It's damn common, in fact. But this business of both of you seeing the same images in some mental corridor is downright spooky. I'd swear you were both lying except that I know my daughter too well. Verity doesn't lie. And I don't think you'd bother with this kind of elaborate fiction, Jonas. Too much work involved."
"That's the truth." Jonas spoke with great feeling. He tossed his crunched beer can into a trash basket in the corner. "But if you think this whole thing is weird, imagine what it's like for me. I've been assuming for years that I'm the only one on the face of the planet who sees these damned visions when I'm handling old junk." He looked at Verity, his eyes molten gold. "It's one hell of a relief to find someone who can share the experience with me. At least I can be relatively certain that if I'm slowly going insane, I'm not going there alone."
Emerson looked at both of them. "Neither of you is crazy and neither of you is a liar. We're stuck with the only other conclusion—there really is some kind of mental weirdness going on between the two of you.
Tell me more about the guy who was bleeding into the linguini."
"There's not much to tell," Verity said. "I had just turned around and spotted the image when Jonas came up behind me and said we were getting out of there."
"But he was definitely connected with the dagger?"
"Probably," Jonas said slowly. "I've always had the impression that the people who show up in the corridor images are directly connected with the object I'm holding at the time. But I don't always understand the connection."
Verity wiped her hands on her apron. "The clothes the man was wearing looked a little out-of-date. Maybe ten or fifteen years old."
"You were very observant," Jonas remarked, eyeing her curiously. "You didn't mention the age of his clothes when we talked this over last night. Did you notice anything else?"
"No, except maybe a feeling that the guy knew who it was who had just killed him. The poor man looked so astonished, as if he wasn't expecting anything like that to happen. Almost as if the other person was a friend."
"I think you're right," Jonas said reflectively. "Although I guess it's equally possible a stranger walked into the room and shot him. A man caught unawares like that could have the same expression of astonishment on his face."
"What about Kincaid?" Emerson asked shrewdly. "Do you think he knows anything about the history of the dagger on his wall?"
Jonas lifted one shoulder in a negligent gesture. "Who knows? He thought the dagger was a genuine sixteenth-century piece, I do know that. He was furious when I told him it was a reproduction. He probably paid a fortune for it. But most collectors like him don't ask too many questions about the recent past of an object they want to buy. The less they know, the better, as far as they're concerned.
If someone shot and killed a man to get hold of that dagger and sell it at huge profit to a fanatic collector like himself, Kincaid wouldn't want to know about it. Just as Haggerty didn't push too hard to know the recent history of those pistols. It was enough for him that they were genuine."
"I can understand that line of thinking, although I've always thought it was better to be informed than take a chance on being hung out to dry. Ignorance is not bliss. But I guess we can assume that Kincaid doesn't know too much about the dagger," Emerson concluded.
"He didn't even know it was fake," Verity scoffed. She shoved a pan of pasta into Jonas's hand. "Here, put this on the counter behind you."