Jonas tangled his fingers in her hair. "True," he murmured. "Given the past they shared, the situation could have been ripe for blackmail, or it's possible Kincaid just decided Sandquist was a liability. After all, Sandquist knew a hell of a lot about Kincaid's doings here in this house. Drugs, sex, and violence.
Plenty of motives." That fit, he decided. It made sense. He could easily envision Kincaid killing Sandquist.
He sensed Verity's small shudder and his hand tightened reassuringly in her hair.
"At any rate," Caitlin continued softly, "when I realized Kincaid was avidly collecting Caitiin Evanger paintings, I began thinking of ways to use one of the paintings as bait. I had always dreamed of seeing Kincaid killed with the rapier he had used on me. I dreamed about it constantly, night after night." She touched the side of her face, then dropped her hand. "It was an obsession with me. But I didn't know how to use a rapier, and with this weak leg of mine, there was little chance I could become proficient."
Jonas took another mouthful of whiskey and thought that even with two good legs few people could have become skilled enough to take Kincaid in a fencing match. The man had been a brilliant fencer.
"But somewhere along the line you remembered that you had once seen me use a rapier," he said musingly. "In fact, I had nearly killed a man with it. Would have killed him if half a dozen lab workers hadn't found a way to knock me unconscious."
Caitlin looked at him. "I knew more about that experiment than you did, Jonas, because I read all the final reports. You didn't stick around to see what the analysis was."
"I knew what had happened," he told her harshly. "I didn't need any scientific analysis to tell me I'd nearly lost whatever passes for my soul that day in the lab."
Caitlin closed her eyes. "I'm sure you didn't. It must have been quite a terrifying experience."
"One I planned never to repeat," he assured her coldly. Verity shivered again under his hand.
"What you didn't learn that day in the lab was the conclusion the researchers came to afterward,"
Caitlin went on as if he hadn't spoken. "They decided their hypothesis was correct—that the more closely related your current environment or experience was to the past experience connected to the object you were holding, the more likely you were to be overwhelmed by those past emotions. That day in the lab, you nearly killed the lab tech because he was coming toward you with a hypodermic needle. It was only a sedative. You seemed very agitated that day when you picked up the rapier you were using for the tests. He wanted to calm you down."
"Those damn lab techs were always trying to use drugs to manipulate my responses," Jonas growled.
"They knew I didn't want anything. I'd told them a thousand times I refused to mess up an already complicated situation with their medications. The lab tech made a mistake coming at me with that needle. I was already trying to handle a whole tunnel full of emotions left over from a time when men routinely worried about being poisoned."
Verity looked up from her position at his knee, her eyes full of understanding. "So when you saw the needle the lab tech was holding, you responded as if you were about to be poisoned by him. You reacted as the man who originally used that rapier would have reacted."
Jonas nodded grimly, his attention on Caitlin. "But you learned something else from those reports, didn't you? You discovered the real secret buried in them. You found out that in some cases, I don't just sense the emotions of the past, I can pick up other things as well."
Verity's fingers tightened on his leg. "What are you talking about?"
Caitlin looked at her. "I knew that he could not only tap in to the emotions of the man who had originally used that rapier, but that he could also tap that other man's skill with it."
Verity searched Jonas's face. "What does she mean, Jonas?"'
Jonas finished the last of the whiskey. "I don't know much about fencing, Verity."
"Oh, my God," she whispered. The full impact of what he was saying widened her eyes.
"I know a few basic positions and moves, stuff I picked up because of my interest in old weaponry, but that's all. I've learned to use a knife over the years and I can handle a gun if I have to, but let's face it, a man doesn't have a lot of use for a sword or a rapier in this day and age. My interest in them was purely academic."
"You fought like an expert tonight," she whispered.
"As he did that day in the lab when he nearly killed the technician," Caitlin added. "That was the most significant conclusion the final lab report held. Somehow you have the capability of picking up the skills as well as the emotions connected with the man who used whatever object of violence you're handling."
Jonas lifted his head to look at Caitlin. "It's not that simple, Caitlin. It never was. That's what I tried to explain to the researchers. They wouldn't listen to me. They didn't understand what could happen in a situation where I deliberately tried to do that. I'm not sure I knew myself. I only know I didn't want to find out. Until tonight, that is, when I had no choice."
"You could have died." Verity clutched his leg so tightly that Jonas thought she would leave marks.
"I sensed it. That's why I wouldn't let you kill Kincaid. I knew that if you took that final step, whatever lay in the past would somehow gain control of you. No one could survive that kind of takeover."
She knew, he realized. She understood all of what had happened back there in that corridor.
Caitlin frowned. "Why would he have died? All he was doing was tapping in to skills in addition to emotions. What's the difference?"
Verity shook her head. "You don't know what you asked of him when you set him up to kill Kincaid for you. If Jonas had killed a man while under the influence of those powerful ..."
Jonas tugged warningly at the fistful of red hair he had been toying with. "Never mind, Verity," he said softly. "She doesn't understand. No one understands except you and me. No one else knows what happens when we're together in that corridor."
Caitlin stared from one to the other. "What are you saying? That Verity is somehow involved in the process? Does she have a talent for psychometry, too?"
Jonas shook his head, annoyed with the woman. "No. She has another kind of talent altogether. One I'm not going to try to explain to you. It doesn't concern you."
Caitlin read the cold dismissal in his eyes and sighed. She looked at Verity. "I want you to know something, Verity. I never meant for you to be in any real danger tonight. Please believe me. I had a plan, but everything went wrong. Kincaid must have second-guessed me somehow and come up with his own plan."