Reality started to shimmer in a familiar way. Jonas fought the transition and quickly slid the lethally thin stiletto into his jacket pocket. Reality returned to normal as soon as he was no longer touching the stiletto. He would have to be careful not to touch it again until he was ready to use it. He didn't need the added distraction of watching Hazelhurst's murder over and over during the trek to the hidden room.
"Okay, looks like this is as good as it's going to get."
Jonas stood up and kicked one of Hazelhurst's loafers out of the way.
"You finished?" Yarwood called, peering into the gloom.
"Best I can do. If you've got a weak stomach, don't look to the left as you come through the door."
"Let me worry about my stomach," Yarwood snapped. He prodded Verity through the entrance. The blackness of the corridor loomed ahead of him. It was then that Yarwood realized that the one who held the flashlight in this situation was as powerful as the one who held the gun. "Give Verity the light, Quarrel."
Jonas swallowed an oath and put the flashlight in Verity's hand. She looked up at him, her eyes wide. He saw far too much understanding in her gaze. She would try something reckless if he didn't squelch the idea immediately. He knew it as surely as he knew that she had red hair.
But she wouldn't be able to pull it off without getting hurt. Jonas was equally sure of that. Silently he shook his head, the movement barely perceptible. But he knew she got the message, because he saw the disappointment flare in her eyes. Jonas turned and started into the darkness.
"Not so fast, Quarrel." Yarwood urged Verity ahead of him as he started down the corridor. "Stay within the light beam. I want to be able to see you at all times."
"Don't worry. I've got no particular desire to fall down the stairs."
"The ones up ahead. This corridor goes straight down to the bottom of the villa. It ends up on the same level as the torture chamber. Relax, Yarwood. We've got a long walk ahead of us."
Verity gripped the flashlight tightly and wondered frantically what Jonas was planning. She'd felt him retrieve the stiletto, and she knew he was up to something. She could sense it.
But he made no move, gave no signal as the three of them trooped down the narrow staircase and into the bottom level of the corridor. She finally realized that he was actually going to lead Yarwood to the room. Well, why not? There was nothing there to find.
But the warmth of her earrings against her skin and the chill of the green crystal in her pocket whispered another message. The closer they got to the hidden room, the stronger that message became. Verity was constantly aware of the gun pointed at her neck, but she was beginning to worry about other matters. The secrets in the vision were every bit as dangerous as the bullets in Yarwood's gun. Verity had a feeling that Jonas had decided to try something risky in the hidden room.
They reached the end of the corridor. Jonas came to a halt in front of the stone wall that concealed the entrance to the hidden room.
"This is it, Yarwood."
"Where? Show me, dammit. All I see is a blank wall."
"Watch." Jonas went to work on the mechanism.
Yarwood stared in fascination as the wall began to creak and move. He was breathing heavily. Verity could feel the tension in him.
"Fucking hell," Yarwood said in a tone of burning excitement.
The door swung open slowly, revealing the small, cold room behind it. Jonas walked through the entrance. Yarwood pushed Verity inside. Instinctively, Verity pointed the flashlight beam at the heavy black chest.
"I'll be damned," Yarwood said. "What's inside?"
"I told you, Yarwood. There's nothing inside."
"There's got to be something inside. It's a chest. A treasure chest."
"Take a look for yourself." Jonas walked over to where the rusted sword hilt lay on the stone floor. He picked it up.
Verity sucked in her breath, realizing too late what Jonas had just done. He was going to access the vision. But why now?
The room was already twisting around her. Verity struggled to hang on to her awareness of what was happening in real time even as she was pulled into the psychic corridor.
The vision leaped into focus, sharper, stronger, and glowing more malevolently than it ever had before.
The crystal in her pocket was radiating a fierce chill, and her earrings burned.
"Jonas?" she whispered, searching for him in the time tunnel. She knew where he was in real time. He was standing quietly, gazing at the chest. But in the psychic corridor she could speak to him and Yarwood wouldn't hear a thing.
"The crystal may be the key," Jonas said aloud to Yarwood. "But we haven't figured out how to use it."
Inside the psychic corridor he moved up behind Verity. "We need to be able to talk. If I had used the stiletto to get into the corridor, Yarwood would have noticed. He's not paying any attention to this old scrap of metal."
"Look at the way the image is starting to pulse. Jonas, I don't like this."
"You think I do? It's our one chance. Yarwood isn't going to let either of us walk out of here alive."
Verity reached into her pocket and closed her hand around the crystal. Cold shot through her. The crystal sitting on the desk in the vision suddenly flared a brilliant, pulsating green. "Jonas, something's going to happen."
"Damn right. Just as soon as I get an opening. We need another distraction. In a few more seconds Yarwood is going to start to wonder why we're all just standing around here staring at an empty treasure chest."
"The two crystals are tuning to each other," Verity said, as realization dawned. "I can feel it. Oh my God, Jonas, this isn't what we want. It won't do us any good. Everything's going to come apart. This is dangerous."
"Just hang on a second."
Verity set her teeth against the cold. She could feel the vibrations of the two green crystals adjusting to each other, tuning in to each other through the peculiar form of time and space that existed in the psychic corridor.
In real time Yarwood stepped closer to the treasure chest, dragging Verity with him.
The vision glowed.
"I'll be damned," Jonas exclaimed softly, his attention caught by the green glow of the pulsing vision.
"We're going to unlock this sucker." His voice was laced with sudden excitement. "We're finally going to unlock it and find out what the hell is going on in this place."
Inside the corridor, Verity stared at him furiously. " Jonas. Have you forgotten about Yarwood and his gun? I'd appreciate it if you would pay attention to our main problem here."