The story given to the sheriff's men had been truthful up to a point. No outright lies had been told, but two of the six people who had been intimately involved in the evening's drama were dead. The other four had stuck to their story.
It was a simple, straightforward tale. Kincaid had apparently planned to steal Bloodlust and had hired the mysterious Tresslar to help him do it. For whatever reason, Kincaid had decided he didn't stand a chance in the coming auction. Jonas had interrupted the theft and nearly gotten himself killed. He had gone back to the house in time to find Kincaid trying to kidnap Verity, possibly because he knew she would be suspicious of his involvement when it was discovered that Jonas had gone over the cliff.
Startled in the act of trying to subdue Verity, Kincaid had lost his gun and had gone for the nearest weapon, an old rapier hanging on the wall. Caitlin had quickly supplied Jonas with a blade of his own.
Kincaid had been defeated but had made one last bid to escape. He had flung himself at Caitlin, who was holding one of the rapiers. She had instinctively brought the blade up to ward him off, and the rest was history.
So to speak.
Simple and straightforward. The sheriff's men might not have liked certain parts of it, but it was a cinch they weren't going to get any other answers. Every eyewitness told basically the same tale.
"What do you want to know?" Caitlin asked quietly.
Jonas took a swallow of whiskey. "The little plan for revenge you outlined to Verity and me this morning was a complete lie, wasn't it? You never did intend to humiliate Kincaid in public. You intended to have him killed in private. By me. Let's start with how much you know about me." He felt Verity's tension as she put one arm on his leg. She was watching Caitlin closely.
Caitlin nodded slowly. "You have a right to know, I suppose."
"That's putting it mildly," Jonas remarked. "You said you heard me lecture at Vincent College a few years back?"
"I attended the lectures because I had already heard about the experiments," Caitlin said. She paused and then added gently, "I was a close friend of Elihu Wright. A very close friend."
Tavi shifted slightly and put her hand on Caitlin's. She said nothing.
Verity frowned thoughtfully. "Elihu Wright. Wasn't he the old man you said gave Vincent College the money to start the Department of Paranormal Research, Jonas?"
It was Caitlin who answered. "Elihu believed passionately in the existence of psychic phenomena of all kinds. He was determined to prove their existence and he gave millions to Vincent. In return he demanded to be kept thoroughly briefed on all research progress. When Jonas started testing, Elihu got very excited. He said that at last they had found a solid experimental subject. He was surprised at the type of psychic ability you had, Jonas. Elihu had been expecting to encounter telepathy or something more familiar. But there was no doubt about your talent."
"How much did he know?" Jonas asked.
"Everything." Caitlin looked at him. "Including what happened the day you went wild in the lab and nearly killed the technician. You never knew it, Jonas, but a great deal of data was recorded from that experiment. The research people went over it thoroughly and put together some theories. Those theories were all turned over to Elihu. The information was kept very secret but more tests were planned."
Jonas swore softly, feelingly. The bastards had intended to put him through that hell all over again.
"Tests which never got carried out because I packed up and left the country."
Caitlin nodded again. "Elihu died shortly after you left. And the department itself was permanently closed. Psychic research was not deemed a respectable field of study for a classy college like Vincent. As Elihu's heir, I got possession of all the research reports that had been done."
"You were his heir?" Verity asked.
"I loved Elihu, not as a lover but as a friend. I met him in the hospital where I spent so much time after the accident. He was recovering from a heart attack. He became my friend and my mentor. He was the one who encouraged me to go back to painting. At that point in my life I didn't want to do anything, not even paint. But Elihu kept pushing me. We became very close. He had no family. His only passion was psychic research. When he died he left everything to me. He was extremely wealthy."
"It was his money you eventually used to buy this house?" Verity prodded.
"In part. But by the time Sandquist died, I was already becoming very successful on my own." She shrugged eloquently. "Money has not been a problem for me. Revenge was what I wanted. I spent hours, days, months, years thinking of ways to punish Sandquist and Kincaid. But they were always too powerful, too wealthy, and infinitely out of reach. Then Kincaid began collecting my paintings. I was stunned. At first I worried that he would recognize my style. I should have known better. My style changed drastically after what happened to me here in this house. And Kincaid had never been all that interested in my art before the rape."
"Besides, he thought you were dead," Verity said slowly. "Why was he so sure of that?"
"There was another woman in the car with me that night he ran me off the cliff. A hitchhiker I had picked up earlier. She was asleep in the backseat and never knew what happened. But I was conscious after the accident and I knew it was Kincaid who had tried to kill me. I knew I would never be safe.
So I switched identities with the poor, dead woman before the authorities arrived. In the confusion, no one ever asked any questions."
"When you knew Kincaid had begun collecting your work, you saw the beginning of what might be a chance to get at him, right?" Jonas hazarded.
"Yes. Finally I had a hold, however tenuous, on him. I was wondering how to involve Sandquist, too, but then he went over that cliff one night."
Jonas's mouth twisted grimly as he remembered the muddy battle for survival he had waged at the broken fence.
"The same way I almost went over it tonight. Kincaid knew all about that particular spot at the edge of the cliff. My guess is he had used it previously. Probably to get rid of Sandquist." Broken flashes of impressions and images flickered through his mind again as they had when he grabbed the fence post to keep himself from falling. Another man besides Tresslar had gone, screaming, over those cliffs.
Tavi spoke up for the first time. "You think Kincaid killed Sandquist? But why?"
Verity glanced at her. "It's not unlikely that a couple of bastards such as those two might have had a falling-out. They might have been partners in crime but that doesn't mean they were best friends."