"Yarwood." Jonas considered that for a moment. "I still don't believe it. If he did have some talent, why would he have the Warwicks pay me to check out this villa? He could have done it himself."
"Doug wanted someone with genuine academic credentials, remember? Besides, Preston doesn't claim any talent for psychometry, just a little precognitive ability. That wouldn't have helped in a treasure hunt, let alone in authenticating the villa. Elyssa and Preston felt they needed you."
Jonas shook his head. "I can't believe Yarwood's got any real psychic ability. The man's a con artist, pure and simple."
"One who apparently believes in his own con."
"They're the most dangerous kind."
Verity looked at Jonas. "Are we going into that hidden tunnel tonight?"
"I'm going in. But I think you ought to stay here."
"We've already been through this, Jonas. I insist on coming with you. I'm warning you, I'll follow you if I have to."
"I don't like it, Verity." But it was obvious that he had no real hope of talking her out of it.
"We'll both be very careful." She rose to her feet. "Ready when you are."
She was already at the tapestry, moving it aside. "I'm afraid you're stuck with me, Jonas."
"For better or for worse?" he asked softly.
She saw the intensity in his golden eyes. She looked away again nervously. "We'd better hurry if we want to get any sleep tonight."
"Little coward," he muttered. He picked up the flashlight and switched it on. "You stay two paces behind me at all times, and you don't touch anything or step anywhere I haven't already touched or stepped."
"Yes, O Great Psychic Hunter of the Night."
"Give my any lip and I'll tie you to the bed and leave you there while I explore this tunnel."
Verity shut up and smiled her most dazzling smile. Jonas sighed and picked up her discarded cane. He hefted it experimentally and stepped into the stone passage.
"Is it still there?" Verity asked as she followed him into the tunnel.
"Is what still here?" His voice was a soft echo in the passageway.
"Of course it's still here. Where did you think it might go?"
She refused to glance behind the stone door. "I was just checking. What are you going to use the cane for?"
"As a probe for booby traps."
"Thank you," he replied sarcastically. "I don't know how much good it will do. I think I'm better of!
relying on my psychic ability and these footprints that Digby or his buddy left behind. As long as we step where someone else has already stepped, we should be safe."
They prowled slowly along the hidden passage, following the old footprints in the dust. Jonas said little as he led the way.
After following the angling corridor for some distance Jonas stopped and crouched in the dust, examining a series of steps that led downward abruptly. ' "The tunnel continues down between the walls to the lower level." He glanced back over his shoulder. "Be careful on these steps. They're narrow."
"Don't worry, I don't intend to twist this ankle again. Do the footprints come from that direction?"
"Yeah. Digby must have come up these steps a few times. It looks like someone else might have, also.
It's hard to tell with ail this dust, but I'd swear there are at least two different sets of shoe prints here."
"Digby and whoever killed him." Verity shuddered.
"Probably." Jonas straightened and started down the steps. "I think these stairs bypass the first floor.
Looks like we're going down farther than one level."
"Did Renaissance homes have basements?"
"This one did. It was a combination storage facility and dungeon. I was going to check it out tomorrow."
"Maggie Frampton did mention a torture chamber, didn't she?"
The stairs led down into what seemed an endless darkness. Jonas's flashlight cut a brave swath of light, but it left a great deal of darkness untouched. Verity told herself that she was not claustrophobic and was not afraid of the dark. But she had to admit that something was sending uncomfortable chills down her spine.
The stairs stopped abruptly. Jonas halted on the last step and shone the flashlight along a new passageway. "The way this corridor is designed, it could wander all over the whole villa," he complained.
"We could spend weeks exploring it."
"We don't have weeks, we've only got a few days." Verity glanced ahead into the eerie shadows. "Why build a hidden corridor that just wanders around the house? There must be other exits besides the one in our room."
"Looks like Digby or his friend found one." Jonas was studying the footprints in the dust.
"What do you mean?" Verity moved closer.
"One set of prints seems to come straight out of this section of wall. Probably another hidden door. The others come from farther down the passageway."
"Let's see if we can find the mechanism that activates this tunnel door. I wouldn't mind having an alternate route out of this damn passageway."
Jonas played the flashlight over the stone walls. "With any luck the design will be the same one used on the door that opens into our room. Ah, here we go," he added with sudden satisfaction. "Another testimonial to the Renaissance love of harmonic proportion and symmetry. The mechanism for this door is in exactly the same position as the one at the other end of the corridor. Stand back."
"Be careful, Jonas."
"I will, but I don't think this exit is booby-trapped. The other one wasn't." He traced a path between stones, pausing at various spots to push carefully. He was finally rewarded by a groaning sound that was almost human. A seam appeared in the stone, and then a heavy stone door swung slowly inward.
Verity gasped in shock as Jonas shone the flashlight into a room that looked like a wax museum's chamber of horrors.
"This is the love nest Maggie shared with Digby?" Verity asked in stunned amazement.
"And you called me kinky," Jonas chided as he stepped into the room. It was full of grim machines, chains, manacles, and other assorted implements of terror. He aimed the beam of the flashlight at one wail. "Nice collection of whips."
"Jonas, how can you stand this place?" Verity followed slowly. "If these horrible things are really left over from the Renaissance, then some of them must carry some terrible vibrations."