Jonas nodded and took Verity aside. "You stay with the group," he said in a low voice. "I want to check out a few things I read about in the diary, and I don't want any of these turkeys around when I do it."
Verity was startled. "Is this something that might take you into the time corridor? You can't risk that alone. You'll need me."
"Relax. I'm not stupid. I won't risk anything like that alone. I just want to look around."
"Be careful," she whispered anxiously.
He grinned. "You're the one who'd better be careful. Getting elevated to a higher plane of consciousness sounds like dangerous business."
"I don't believe this," Verity muttered. "The only person in the whole group who's actually got some real psychic ability and he's not interested in participating in a genuine psychic-clarity session. Spoilsport."
"I played enough psychic games back in the lab of the Department of Paranormal Research at Vincent College," Jonas said grimly. "I don't like them." He dropped a small kiss on Verity's forehead. "Besides, what makes you think there's only one person with genuine psychic talent here?"
Verity's eyes widened. "You think one of the others in there has real talent?"
He ruffled her coppery curls with an affectionate hand. "I was talking about you, you little idiot. I don't make those trips into the time tunnel alone. Have fun. I'll see you later."
Verity stared after him for a long moment before she walked slowly back into the salon. It was strange, but she'd never thought of herself as having any psychic ability. As far as she was concerned, the talent belonged to Jonas. She just sort of helped him control it.
Jonas walked through the halls of the old villa, flashlight in hand, savoring the freedom of control. Before he had found Verity he would never have been able to take the risk of immersing himself in this four-hundred-year-old mountain of stone. There would have been a threat lying in wait around every corner. Any Renaissance building of this size was all too likely to be imbued with vibrations of ancient bloodshed and murder. Jonas Quarrel was attuned to suggestions of violence, especially violence that took place during the Renaissance.
It would have been far too easy to accidentally step into a room where a man had died on the point of a stiletto, or to pick up a rusty scrap of metal that had once been part of a sword. Such a mistake could have sent him headlong into the psychic tunnel where violent vignettes from the past replayed themselves endlessly, and where the lethal emotional energy that had infused those deadly scenes sought a path to the future through Jonas.
Jonas studied the stone walls around him as he browsed through the dimly lit second floor of the south wing. Hazelhurst had obviously not wanted to spend much money wiring the place. Jonas didn't want to think about the quality of the limited electrical work that had been done.
He concentrated for a few minutes. The faint vibrations he picked up here and there were very subdued, just enough to assure him that the place was genuine. He pulled the diary from his pocket as he turned the corner into the east wing. There was no electricity in this section. He switched on the flashlight.
Most of the doors along the passageway were closed. From the amount of dust on the floor Jonas judged that Maggie Frampton had given up on this wing long ago. He doubted if the west and north wings were in any better shape.
Jonas moved through the dingy hall, turned another corner, and found himself in more darkness. Doug Warwick was right. A man could wander around in here for quite a while. According to Digby Hazelhurst's lousy Latin, the room where he had discovered the crystal was in this passage.
Jonas found the room without too much trouble. It was in the center of the north-wing corridor and had a series of arched windows framing the dark courtyard. When Jonas looked out across the overgrown garden he could see the light he had left on in the bedroom he was sharing with Verity.
He turned back to the small room and swung the flashlight around from wall to wall. The place was bare.
No frayed tapestries or rotting furniture, just plain stone walls and floor.
Jonas flipped open the diary to the page detailing the discovery of the crystal. His Latin was rusty, but he had been able to decipher most of Hazelhurst's scrawl.
South wall. Third stone up from the floor, two over from the left-hand corner. Press firmly on the right portion of the stone. Watch out for the blade. I'm sure the poison tip has long since become ineffective, but the edge is still quite sharp. I was only saved when I first discovered the crystal because the mechanism that triggered the trap was rusted. The design of the trap is quite fascinating. I have since oiled it, of course. Pity not to restore it as far as possible.
"Thanks, Digby, old pal. Why in hell did you have to oil the sucker?"
Jonas hunkered down in front of the designated part of the wall and studied the stonework intently.
Digby did not say which stone concealed the booby trap. The hidden blade could snap out from the wall or the floor—or from the ceiling. Jonas glanced up and dismissed that possibility. It was too unlikely.
He tried to envision the kind of trap he might have set had he been hiding a crystal four hundred years ago.
A man attempting to open a secret hiding place in the floor would be crouching as Jonas was. Jonas trailed his fingertips cautiously along the stone.
Something shimmered in his mind and reality started to bend and stretch into an endless tunnel. Jonas jerked his fingers away from the stone that had caused the sudden reaction.
He didn't dare step into the psychic corridor without Verity nearby—she was his anchor. But just the intimation of ancient violence was enough to warn him that the trap had been sprung once before—by someone who had not been as lucky as Digby Hazelhurst. A long time ago some benighted soul had died in this room while searching for the crystal.
Died clutching his balls in agony.
Jonas sucked in his breath and stood up quickly. He moved back, away from the part of the floor that was sending out the dangerous vibrations. He'd learned enough. The thought of the deadly blade springing from the floor and stabbing him between the legs was enough to make him even more careful.
He got to his feet and prowled the room, looking for something he could use to trigger the trap. He then went back out into the hall and opened a few other doors in the corridor.
When Jonas stepped into the third room down he hit pay dirt. At some point during the past few years Maggie Frampton had obviously tried to keep this wing clean. A long-handled broom stood forlornly in one corner as evidence.