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story: Inheritance

Inheritance

"The gods visit the sins of the father upon the children."
Euripides, Fragment 970

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."
Psalm 33, verse 12

7:00am
Seattle, Washington

A soft click echoed from downstairs - the sound of the screen door being closed, very carefully, but still scraping over the metal where the attachment was broken. Catherine, half asleep in the upstairs bedroom, jerked her head up and glanced at the clock. She shook her head, disoriented for a moment; she'd been dreaming of Frank again, and of their wedding, all those years ago .... Jogging - the doctor says that some kind of exercise will help relieve the stress. Oh, right, yes. She'd forgotten. Jogging at six, back at seven to start work: that was the new routine.

Stirring downstairs in the kitchen. Catherine licked her lips; she hadn't realized how hungry she was. What to do today? Clean around the house, maybe go for a walk later on. Put some paperwork in order. Sew the button back on her green blouse. Tidy up ... the basement? No. That wouldn't happen any time soon. Breakfast first, though. Easing out of her bed, Catherine slipped her flannel robe over her shoulders, wincing slightly. Not quite the spring chicken anymore, hon, she thought, rubbing the arthritic joint. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

She wandered down the stairs and into the kitchen, which she found deserted. A pot of warm coffee sat on the countertop, though, and an apple was missing from the bowl of fruit beside the fridge. Like ships in the night, she thought, shuffling over to the basement door. "Hey, you down there?" Catherine yelled down the stairs.

"Yeah, I'm here."

"I heard you come in. Did you get breakfast?"

"I got something to eat. I made coffee, too, if you want any."

"I don't want you starving to death, Jordan."

"For crying out loud, Mom, I'm not going to starve to death." Jordan rolled her eyes and shook her head, her long curls bobbing in her impatience. At least this is one of her saner mornings, Jordan thought, turning back to her desk and studying the screen of her organizer as it read out her schedule for the day. Pretty empty - an appointment with Doctor Lafeyette at 3 in the afternoon, and that was it. No, there was something typed in at the bottom of the display. Jordan squinted. Dinner with Nathan? When had she agreed to that? It must have been one of Peter's endless attempts to try to make up for things by improving her social life. Fixing her up with old Police Chief Giebelhouse's nephew, the beat cop - maybe he thought they'd have some common ground to talk about. She sighed, switching on her computer and tugging several manila folders out of her desk drawer. Complaints about her social life could wait. She had open case files at hand.

Three outstanding cases. That wasn't good; Jordan didn't like to let any one case go unsolved for too long, never mind three. They were the typical Millennium Group fare - ritualistic killings, claims of prophecy: the usual. The latest one unnerved her a bit, though. It looked as though the killer was attempting to recreate ancient Mayan bloodletting rituals, but in the heart of Seattle. Jordan shivered as she remembered touching the ragged bloodless body in the city morgue.


Her fingers brushed over the clammy white flesh, nearly albino due to blood loss. Jordan blinked rapidly, breathing shallow gasps as the visions washed over her.

-- scared -- panicked ** why does he wear that mask * right inbetween my ribs -- blood on my toes -- * * blood on the sacrifice's toes -- I can't see through this mask exactly -- - * calm slashing, have to do this right - * - oh god he's slit the skin on my chest -- * She gripped the edge of the metal table, eyes wide. Somebody grabbed her arm to steady her.

"Jordan, are you all right?"

She jerked her head up, trembling slightly. "I'm okay, Peter. I - I'm just - it's conflicting. The killer and the victim. It happens sometimes." She briefly ran her fingers over her own chest, reassuring the fact that it had been only a vision, that her own skin had not been slashed.

Peter Watts released her arm and stepped back. Just like her father, he thought, grimacing; Frank would always try to shrug off the effects of his gift as well, pretending that the horrifying visions and insights did not affect him at all. The apple certainly doesn't fall far from the tree.

Peter remembered the day that Frank told him about Jordan. Frank had sat on a chair in Peter's living room, recounting his fear's about Jordan's inheritance in a depressed monotone. "And I think - I think it's more than my own," he added, glancing up almost plaintively at Peter, who sat on the couch, listening. "She - she can feel things. I think we're ... connected somehow."

"Connected? How?"

"I don't know. This morning - I cut myself shaving. Just a nick. Then later on I got a phone call from Catherine - Jordan had been in hysterics all morning - she had felt it, as though she'd sliced open her own cheek, but she knew that it was me - that something had happened to me ...," Frank trailed off, shaking his head. He ran his fingers through his hair. "She's only nine years old, Peter. I didn't want this for her - to be drawn into this world that I live in. But I can't make it disappear. I can't change things. I can only guide her through it, pray that she's strong enough to live with it. But if anything happens to me --"

Peter said nothing; he had an idea of where this conversation was going. Frank looked up at him, his eyes intense. "With everything that's happening lately - the millennium almost upon us, the number of cases increasing - there's the possibility - Peter, I need you to promise me something."

"What is it, Frank?"

"If anything - anything at all - happens to me, promise me you'll take care of Jordan."

"And Catherine?"

Frank stared away sadly. When was the last time he had spoken to Catherine before this morning? He couldn't remember. With each day she was growing further and further from the Catherine he knew, the Catherine he had married and whose child he had fathered. This Catherine, with her fear and denial, was like a shadow of the woman in Frank's memory. The advent of the millennium was approaching, and this Catherine was afraid. Afraid of being pulled back into Frank's nightmare world of killers and prophecy, afraid of what her husband and his colleagues were capable of, and now afraid of what her daughter might become.


8:00am

Pushing her chair away from the computer monitor, Jordan stretched for a moment, grimacing as one of the joints in her back popped. Time to get another cup of coffee. Step away from the case for a little while, maybe the answer will suddenly become obvious. She'd spent the last hour recombing the case files, searching the Millennium Group database, comparing the case to numerous files from the past. Nothing seemed to fit.

Jordan trotted up the basement stairs to the kitchen, shaking the kinks out of her joints as she went. How did Daddy ever do it? she wondered. Listening to Peter Watts talk, it sounded like all he had to do was step up to the body, suffer a few visions, and wham! Professor Plum, in the Study, with the Lead Pipe. That easy.

I don't know if I have it better or worse, Jordan thought as she rinsed out her coffee mug. All he ever had to deal with was the killer. She reached for the pot of coffee that she had made earlier and was surprised to find it nearly empty.

"Hey, Mom?"

"What is it?" Jordan whirled around and found her mother sitting at the kitchen table, cup of coffee in hand, staring half-interested at the morning paper.

Jordan strode over to her. "Mom, did you drink all the coffee I made earlier?"

Catherine bit her lip. "I ... uhm, I guess I did. I think."

Scowling, Jordan took in a deep breath. Catherine was going into one of her episodes again. "Mom, you know what the doctor told you about drinking too much coffee. It isn't healthy for you. It'll conflict with your medicine. You know that, Mom."

Catherine looked up sharply, narrowing her eyes. "I don't know if I trust that doctor. They provided her. Who knows what they're coaching her to say?"

"Calm down, Mom. We should be grateful to the Group for sending Doctor McFadden, remember? You don't have health insurance anymore, and Doctor McFadden makes house calls. Remember?" She never remembers, Jordan thought, making a mental note to look into some kind of care home for Catherine; by nightfall, though, she'd forget about it, just like the numerous times before then.

"Mmmm," Catherine nodded, staring back down at the table. Jordan shrugged and walked back into the kitchen to make another pot of coffee. It seemed like her mother was worsening, if only slightly. For the past week or so she'd been apathetic, passing the days reading old novels and endlessly cleaning the house. I wish I could do more for her, Jordan sighed to herself. But what can I do? I can't leave my work. It's what I do. It's what I'm good at.

"Working hard?" Catherine mumbled, turning over a newspaper page. Looking up from the glass coffee pot for a moment, Jordan measured her words. She didn't want to say anything that would upset her mother; Jordan felt protective towards her, just as her father did before her. Maybe that had been his undoing; if he had exposed Catherine to his work, allowed her to understand and perhaps even accept it, maybe she wouldn't have suffered as she had, later on.


It was during the time of the millennium that Jordan's gift really began to show itself. The madness of Frank's world increased at horrific speed, sending him on missions with the Group almost constantly. He spent weeks at a time on cases, somewhere in the country, though nobody ever seemed to know where. And Catherine, frightened by the shadows that crept over Frank's life, withdrew even more, immersing herself in her work during the weekdays and staying cooped up in the yellow house on weekends, trying to shield her daughter and herself from the horrors of the outside world.

But Jordan's nature would not allow her to withdraw completely from her father's world. She could sense what he was feeling through some bizarre link: his fears, his anxiety, and sometimes even his depression over the cruelty of the cases that he studied day after day. From time to time her mother would open Jordan's bedroom door and find Jordan curled on the bed, weeping bitterly, or pacing the room frantically, trying to work out tension and nervousness that wasn't even hers. Helpless, Catherine could only cradle her daughter in her arms, offering empty promises of relief and praying for the madness to die down, for Frank to finish his work and come home to guide his daughter through this period in her life.


9:30am

After giving up and studying one of the other unsolved cases for half an hour, Jordan suddenly heard her pager beeping ominously from across the room. The display read "2000", and with a sinking feeling Jordan reached for the telephone.

Ten minutes later, Jordan stood in an office building in downtown Seattle, facing a grim scene of homicide. As she ducked beneath the yellow police tape that had been plastered over the dark paneled doorway, she nearly walked into Peter Watts, the man responsible for recruiting her as a member of the Millennium Group. No, that wasn't exactly true; Peter had been more of her mentor, a father figure after her own father had been murdered. She'd been a unofficial member of the Millennium Group for years.

"What happened here?" Jordan asked. No obligatory greetings or handshakes; they were beyond that, and there was a murder at hand.

Peter gestured to an outline on the floor, spattered with crusted blood. "Victim was Bradley Stokes, a partner - that is, a former partner of a local investment firm, Meridian Investments."

Sitting on her heels over the outline, Jordan glanced up. "Meridian? You mean the one that went down last year? Wow. I remember all that. Was he one of the ones ...?"

"Who skipped off with the profits? That's him," Peter smiled grimly. "I'm sure that a lot of people will be pretty pleased with tomorrow's headlines. Everyone knew that he was still in town, but I guess nobody checked to see if he was running the same tricks - fly-by-night deals, shady investments. Old habits die hard."

Jordan lightly traced the stained white tape with her fingertips, squeezing her eyes shut and bracing herself for the inevitable visions. They came to her quickly, and she dropped one knee to the ground to keep from toppling over.

*shock - - unexpected * * * who is this man - - anger, vengeance - * cleansing, again, closer to completion - * please don't kill me! * brought so much destruction into my life -- purging - purification? - remove every trace of the sin and darkness - - I don't even know you -- * -

She opened her eyes, surprised and almost nauseated to find her hands crooked in the air, holding a phantom revolver and clenching the memory of a trigger. Worried, Peter nudged her shoulder. "Jordan, don't create too much of a link - you can't let yourself go too far." Dazed, Jordan gulped, drawing in breath to steady herself. That had happened in the past - she had tried to identify too much with the killer and had ended up with a connection that took several days and handfuls of pills to destroy.

"What's our interest in this?" she whispered. Peter produced a plastic evidence bag and handed it to Jordan, who shook her head sadly. Inside the bag was a small card, dotted with dried blood - a Tarot card. The Tower. Like the second of the cases that she had studied that morning, one of the oldest, and the one she least understood. "I was hoping that this one had just gone away," Jordan sighed.

Peter nodded sadly. He ushered Jordan over to a corner of the room, away from the watchful police and media reporters that littered the room. "The detectives were about to write it off as a disgruntled investor until somebody found this wedged underneath the body. The coroner has assigned cause of death to massive head trauma unless something else comes up; Stokes was basically bludgeoned to death. No delicacy involved. I know, it's different from the other cases, but then they're all different, except for those couple of times where the victims died of strangulation. There's no common MO among all the cases, no apparent connection among the victims - just these. Different card, but still from the same deck, apparently. I know the reporting officer - he's keeping it out of his report, or at least underplaying its significance, for now. I don't want the media making a deal out of this."

Jordan stared blankly at the card. "I got mixed signals again. The victim - Mr. Stokes? He didn't know the attacker. He was taken completely by surprise. I doubt he'd ever even met the man who killed him."

"Hmm. If the attacker had been one of the investors that Stokes bilked out of their savings last year, it's possible that he didn't know the man personally. But that's still a large number of people."

"But the killer knew him - or knew of him, knew who he was. I think it did have something to do with the whole investment thing, Peter; the killer held Stokes responsible for destroying his life. But -- but it was . . .," Jordan trailed off, mentally fingering the remains of the connection she had held with the attacker. Vengeance - but more than just that . . . . "Peter, it was more than just revenge. There's something else in the killer's life. This was about - - about purification. He's trying to purge something from his life. He's near finishing it as well. I can feel it deeper this time."

"Don't push it, Jordan," Peter warned. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the remaining policemen were clearing the room, sending people out. "They're making everyone leave. Come on," he said, taking Jordan's hand and leading her from the room.

Once they had left the presence of the police, Jordan yanked her fingers from Peter's hand. "I can make my way through a room on my own, thanks," she snapped. Peter rolled his eyes, pressing a button on the wall to call for the elevator.

"That wasn't my intention, Jordan," he murmured. The elevator arrived, and the two stepped into it.

"You still treat me as though I'm a child," Jordan said. She folded her arms, glaring at Peter. "I'm not a little girl anymore, Peter. You don't need to lord over me like - like some overprotective father."

Peter kept his mouth shut, staring instead at the lights of the elevator, blinking as the car descended. It was true; he had known Jordan since she had been born, and he had often thought of her almost as one of his own set of daughters. And after Frank's death, he had felt an obligation towards her - he had promised that to Frank. It was difficult to look at her and see a full member of the Millennium Group rather than the small, curly-haired cherub whom Frank wanted to protect from the outside world.

The elevator opened. "Jordan - " Peter began, but he sensed a change in Jordan's mood. She had withdrawn, grown colder and more distant, just as her father had often done when things became unpleasant.

"I'd like to go over this one - see what I can find," she remarked, almost in a monotone. "The Tarot cards are a connection, but I can't tell just yet how they are. Something in the meaning, maybe."

Nodding, Peter held open the door that led outside the building and onto the grim Seattle streets. "I'll walk you to your car."


11:15am

"I knew I should have started with that one first," Jordan said aloud. Then again, until that morning's gruesome discovery, the connection hadn't been quite as obvious. Tarot cards hadn't exactly been among Jordan's specialities, either, which was why on the ride home she had stopped off at the public library to borrow one of their books on the subject.

She had assumed that the killer had been using the cards to mark his victims, like territory or works of art. It was his signature style. And, to be honest, she hadn't thoroughly pursued a connection with this killer; the past month or so had been abnormally busy, and this particular case had festered at the bottom of the pile. But with the stronger link from that morning (perhaps too strong; she grimaced as remaining twinges of despair and anger gnawed at her system from an outside source), she could better sense the killer's motivation, and perhaps even his warped logic.

The Tower. Jordan slipped her glasses from her nose, folding them gingerly and closing the book in her lap. It was the card symbolizing destruction, suffering, the unfairness of things. She closed her eyes, thinking back to what she had felt in Stokes' office.

*destruction into my life*

The killer had blamed Stokes for bringing suffering and destruction into his life. He identified Stokes with the card associated with destruction, and had murdered him. But why? And what relation did this murder have to the others, different bodies marked by Tarot cards? How did they compare to the cards found at their respective crime scenes?

Jordan shuffled through the folder, past grisly photographs of corpses and accompanying biographical sheets. She couldn't find any listing of the cards discovered with the bodies. "Shit," she muttered. "I must've left that sheet with Peter." She reached for the telephone, quickly fingering the number she knew by heart. The ringing seemed distant in her ear, and she absently stroked her fingers over the blue casing of the telephone.


"I know I can do it, Daddy. You do too. Think of a color. Please?" She had been ten, nearing eleven at the time. It was one of her favorite games to play when her father was around, to try and sense what was on his mind at the time. She had been so innocent; everything had been just a game to her.

"I don't know, honey, we're going to be getting home in just a minute." Frank smiled sadly, staring out through the rain-spattered windshield as he drove Jordan back to the yellow house. It had been one of his few weekends away from the work of the Millennium Group - they had insisted that he take some personal time off, despite the casework that piled up consistently at his desk. He had spent it with Jordan, taking her hiking in the woods and questioning her, trying to find out how much the development of her gift had increased. It had come further than he had expected, beyond the simple empathy that she had displayed in earlier years. Now she seemed to have progressed to some sort of basic telepathy with him, to the point where she could sense his thoughts and emotions. He was startled to discover that occasionally, if he focused hard enough, the connection ran in reverse, and he could almost hear what his daughter was thinking.

"Oh, c'mon. Just one last time?"

"Okay, okay. I've got one." Frank steered around a corner, onto the street where he and Catherine had once lived. He was not anticipating leaving to return to work, especially with Jordan at this stage. Several times during their trip, she had questioned him about scenes from his visions and darkest nightmares; he had nearly broken down in tears. There was no keeping her from his dark world, no matter how hard he tried. He wondered briefly if it had been a mistake telling Peter about Jordan's inheritance, but then thought the better of it. There had been some difficult situations recently, and if for some reason Frank could not be there for her, who better to guide her than Peter Watts?

"Daddy? Hello?"

"Hmm? What?" How long had he been lost in thought?

"It's blue, isn't it?" Jordan announced triumphantly.

Frank nodded, forcing a smile. It had been blue.


12:45pm

Lunch had been light. Catherine had insisted on cooking; it gave her something to do, and that couldn't hurt. Jordan hadn't been very hungry - some of the cases had a tendency to scare off her appetite - but had gladly accepted a salad and some chicken soup. After that, Catherine had started rambling again, rattling off stories and memories from her youth and nearly bursting into tears when she recanted how she had met Frank, many years ago. Jordan gave her a sedative and told her to lie down for a while. She was glad that Doctor McFadden was scheduled to visit the following day. Catherine's memory was lapsing again; the stories that she had told, the ones that Jordan nearly knew by heart, had been more muddled this time, the details more vague and in some cases, completely false.

Doctor McFadden. Jordan frowned, remembering - remembering what? Returning to her desk, she paused, glancing at her day calendar. Damn, Doctor Lafeyette today, she thought, grimacing. Another session of therapy - as if I need it. Still, it was at Peter's insistence that she attend meetings with the Group-sponsored psychiatrist; he feared for her mental balance, what with all that she had experienced over the past few years. It would be rude and ungrateful to turn it down, and sometimes, when the nightmares became too much to bear or when her mother had her fits and attacks, it was kind of reassuring to know that she could unburden her troubles with Doctor Lafeyette.

Absently skimming over the small stack of files beside her computer, Jordan decided to do something with the third unsolved case, the thin one at the bottom of the stack. It had come in rather recently, and she still needed to create a profile for it. Her mind wandered as she laid out photographs of the victims side by side, hoping to find some common thread besides the obvious: all young women between fifteen and twenty, each one strangled and branded with some cryptic insignia. It looked like something in Hebrew, but nothing that any of her contacts could identify.


How long had she been doing this? Since - since when? Since the first time? That wasn't a fond memory. She'd been only twelve at the time; it had nearly wrecked her hold on sanity. Fortunately, her father had still been alive at the time and had come quickly to rescue and comfort her. If he hadn't been there . . . . The possibility wasn't something that Jordan liked to speculate.

It had been during one of the seemingly endless trials that she and her mother had suffered simply because they were the loved ones of Frank. They - the plotters, the schemers, the killers - often tried to reach Frank through them. Peculiar men approaching Jordan at school, or Catherine at the office; bizarre messages and threats sent through the mail or over her computer; as the millennium turned, Jordan had found her life and her mother's life being upset on an almost regular basis. In some places the Millennium Group had even gained some sort of notoriety, which only served to draw further attention to Catherine and Jordan as those who attacked the Group tried to do so through outside channels.

Their kidnapper had been a short man, kind of stocky, with thick hair sprouting from the backs of his hands. That was all that Jordan could remember about him, really. He'd posed as some kind of salesman, trying to lure mother and child away. Catherine's paranoia hadn't truly surfaced at the time; she and her daughter were easy prey, and tempting bait to lure the Group.

She still had nightmares about it, occasionally: the basement of the man's house, and being trapped inside it, with the remains of some of his other victims. She was separated from her mother, and, naive as she had been, she had thought that the woman in the corner was only sleeping. The woman's eyes had been shut, and it was dark in there; she couldn't have seen the bruises around her neck, or the impossible angle of the tilt of the woman's head.

One touch, and her inheritance revealed itself in full. Jordan dropped to her knees as her mind flooded with images and emotions - the woman's death, and the calm, almost methodical manner in which the killer destroyed her. She could almost feel the woman's throat in her small hands; then she shook her head, and the connection changed, linking her to the victim. Years later she would realize that her own gift surpassed that of her father's, forcing her to identify not only with the killer but with the victim as well, and allowing her to reach out, to probe the emotions and thoughts of the killer, however vaguely. Coughing violently, Jordan struggled against the grasp on her own throat, living through the death that the woman had suffered. Overwhelmed, she screamed and passed out on the musty floor.

Halfway across the country, in the middle of an investigation, Frank Black paused and looked up from his work. He had sensed something, but it had been fleeting. Fearing the worst, he dialed the number of the yellow house in Seattle, and when he received no response, somehow knew that the worst had actually come to pass.


3:17pm

"Shit I can't believe I'm running so late!" Gulping down the remains of a breath mint that she had found in the glove compartment, Jordan sped down the highway, hoping that any policemen were off doing something useful, like helping old women to cross the street, or (with her luck) finding more serially murdered folks to photograph and file in manila folders.

Somehow she managed to tug a comb through her hair and stumble up to Doctor Lafeyette's office, where the psychiatrist sat, eying her watch and casting a chiding glare at Jordan.

"I'm really sorry I'm late," Jordan wheezed, tumbling into a nearby chair. "I was really wrapped up in this one case, and I didn't even notice what time it was."

"How wrapped up is 'really wrapped up,' Jordan?" Lafeyette asked, a concerned look passing over her face.

Jordan caught the hidden meaning to her question. "Oh, no, not like that. I told you, I'm careful not to go that deep anymore. I meant that I was really onto a lead, I think. I finally found a connection among all these girls who were killed recently -- they can all be traced back somehow to the same battered women's shelter in town. It's a start, and it's more than I had yesterday. And I think I figured out some kind of motive for this other case I've been working on. The killer was marking his victims with Tarot cards, and for a while I didn't get why, but I think I understand it now, from what I got through the link - he's not marking them, he's - he's destroying them, eradicating them. It's like he's going through a list and picking off everyone who he identifies with a certain Tarot card. But I still don't get why. I mean, is he killing them because he doesn't like them, or maybe - maybe it's because they remind him of the Tarot cards themselves? Maybe it's not about the victims at all - maybe it's about the cards?"

Lafeyette nodded, listening. It was the same old story. The members of the Millennium Group came to her for support and relief, but more often than not they only wanted to vent their feelings about current cases. She was a sounding board for their ideas, away from colleagues who might nitpick at the details. It was often like that with Jordan Black, the little girl who had been groomed for work in the Group as soon as her gift had been discovered. Lafeyette had only met the girl's father once or twice, but she could still sense the similarity between the two: a reluctance to open up and express their emotions, and a preoccupation with their work, almost to the point of obsession. She broke in, trying to steer the conversation in another direction.

"It's been a while since I've seen you, Jordan. How are things at home?"

Jordan frowned. "Umm. They're okay. Mom hasn't had any severe episodes in a while, so that's a good sign. And the doctor's coming tomorrow to see her, which is a good thing too. So I can't complain."

Mm-hmm. I've heard that one before, Lafeyette thought. "And how is work? Are you doing all right with the cases you're given?" Peter Watts had asked her to slip that one in; he was worried that Jordan might be falling behind, becoming distracted somehow, though by outward appearance and conversation there didn't seem to be very much to distract her. Still ....

Drawing her knees in, Jordan curled up in the chair, a gesture Lafeyette had often seen during the ten years that she had known the girl. "Well, they found another body today - the Tarot killer. It was about destruction; the card left behind was the Tower, which symbolizes that sort of thing. The killer, though, it's weird - sometimes if I'm focusing on the link - it's like - I'm not sure, some kind of obsession, I think with the occult - like the dark side in his life. I'm not sure." Jordan began to stare off, thinking aloud. "And it ties in with the other cards through meaning, I know it - like the couple who was killed, and their card, the Lovers, and that lawyer - Justice; did you know that he was a retired judge who oversaw the Meridian group bankruptcy proceedings? I didn't know until I called a local law firm this afternoon."

"Jordan - I mean, how are you doing with the work? Do you still have nightmares?"

Biting her lip, Jordan nodded. Lafeyette made a note of this. "How often?"

"Sometimes every night, sometimes not. It depends. Lately just a couple of times a week. Mostly about the killings. Sometimes about the things that used to happen to me and Mom, around the turn of the Millennium. Sometimes about Daddy."

Lafeyette expected this. The last had been one of Jordan's recurring nightmares for years now, and there seemed to be no way to exorcise it. "And how are relations with your colleagues?"

Obviously a subject on Jordan's mind - she immediately straightened in the chair and thinned her lips. "Well, there's Peter. He's still treating me as though I'm a child."

"Jordan, he's known you since you were tiny. It's natural for him to think of you that way."

"Funny, they never seemed to think of me as a child when I was a child. I'm just their tool, like a hammer, or a heat-seeking missile. And Peter never stopped them from treating me that way. Pretty ironic."

"Aren't you at all worried that I might pass all this information on to ... them? They are the ones who fund these sessions, after all."

Jordan scowled. "They know how I feel. I'll never forgive them - for me, for Daddy, for any of it."

Careful, Lafeyette told herself, broaching the subject that the Group had specifically asked her to check from time to time. "Jordan? Why do you continue to work for them?" She held her breath and waited for Jordan's response.

Jordan brushed a stray hair out of her face, staring at the floor and refusing to meet Lafeyette's eyes. She'd often asked herself that question, after the doctor had brought it up many times before. What could she say? She did like the feeling that she was on the side of good, bringing these monsters down. Hard to argue with that, even if she did have to work with the Group to achieve it. And they had paid her way through a degree in psychology, and though her classmates were hunting through job listings, she had a steady job with the Group and medical care for her mother, as she'd pointed out to Lafeyette in the past. But there were secrets in the corners of the Group's hierarchy, and even after all these years she still found herself being kept in the dark from time to time.

And as for her father . . . . She had no proof about any of the things for which she held the Group responsible - just flashbacks and biased emotions. Even if she could get her hands on solid proof, they'd find a way to thwart any attempt to act on it. Mostly, though, it was the question of the alternative. She'd spent all these years honing her talent and working under the Group; at this point in her life, what else could she do?

This might have been a poor choice of direction, Lafeyette thought, watching Jordan turn her gaze away. The girl had never answered this question directly in the past; why would she have any reason to answer it today? With time, perhaps, but not any moment soon. It had been a risky topic to bring up. Discussing her father and her relationship with the Group almost always sent Jordan into a distant mood.

"Could we finish this another time?" Jordan asked, her voice small and cold. "I have work to do."

Lafeyette paused before speaking, tempted to push the conversation. Pointless, she admitted to herself. "Do you want me to prescribe something to help you sleep? Just in case?"

"I don't think it would help," Jordan sighed, easing herself out of the chair and fumbling for her car keys. Another wasted session. Sometimes the two women clicked and talked for ages, and other times it just wasn't worth the effort. She probably still thought of Jordan as Frank's little daughter; she was surprised that the doctor hadn't offered her milk and cookies or something. Flashing an assuring smile at the doctor and waving goodbye, she trotted back down to her car, eager to return home. The Tarot idea was definitely one worth following; the idea that the killer was focusing on the cards themselves rather than the victims was definitely a thought worth researching. Absorbed in the possibility, Jordan slid into her car and drove away, not even noticing the familiar car parked at the rear of the lot.

Lafeyette heard the expected knock at the door. "Come in," she called out, glancing up from her handheld computer as Peter Watts quietly walked into the room. "Sorry, Peter - no change. There's nothing you can do about it."

Peter sighed, closing his eyes. "It's been a while since she's seen you. I was hoping that maybe some of the bitterness had gone away."

Lafeyette looked up sharply, narrowing her eyes at the man. "Peter, we stole her childhood. You did. I did. Everyone in the Group is guilty of it. You can't expect her not to harbor any bitterness. I think we're all lucky that she hasn't given up entirely and suffered some kind of breakdown."

"Maybe I should try to cut back on her work - see what I can do about getting her some personal time or something."

Snapping the computer cover shut, Lafeyette shook her head. "That's the last thing she needs right now, Peter. Her work is all that keeps her going. We never gave her the chance to have a normal life, to learn to do anything besides work for the Group. We made her this way. If you tried to take it away from her now, what would she have left?"

"I wish I could go back and change it all - that I'd never told anyone about her gift," said Peter mournfully, repeating the same lament that Lafeyette had heard from him many times. He had been the one to alert the officials of the Group of Jordan's gift, and when they decided that it should not go to waste, that at only fourteen years old she should actually assist on cases, he never objected, only offering to serve as mentor over her. "But you weren't with us back then, Janet. You don't know what it was like, during the turn of the Millennium. It was utter madness, pandemonium. After . . . after what happened to her father, she was the only one with his talent that we could turn to. We needed her, even if she was only a young girl at the time. And after it had all died down, when we were back to routine casework, we couldn't just abandon her, leaving her drifting and aimless." He looked over at Lafeyette, a plaintive, almost begging look in his eyes. "What could we do?"

"I'm sure you did what you thought was right at the time," the doctor responded, her tone reassuring but cool. "What else could you have done?"


6:45pm

She had it. Jordan had spent what seemed like ages studying the color plates of the Tarot reference book, comparing biographical information from the victims, and even reestablishing a faint link between herself and the killer to further probe his motives (okay, Peter wouldn't have approved, but she wasn't about to tell him about it, and it wasn't as though she went in very deep this time, right?).

The clue was the second victim, a local priest of a large congregation. He had been marked with the Judgment card, which hadn't made any sense until Jordan focused on the killer a little harder. The priest hadn't been judged by the victim, as Jordan had assumed; he had passed judgment, perhaps over the killer himself. Frantically typing away at her computer, Jordan nearly grinned at how obvious the connection was.

"The perpetrator," she wrote, reaching out along the connection for a moment, "finds himself obsessed with the occult, much to his dismay and the contradiction of his upbringing. The obsession is dark and secretive, like a fetish." (But how did he get involved in this, Jordan wondered. Probably not through coercion. Through a friend, or a loved one? Maybe.) "He wants to remove this compulsion, to purge it from his life." (Jordan shivered, remembering the awful feelings of determination and the drive to cleanse, back in Bradley Stokes' office. She rubbed her hands for a moment, as if to remove some kind of stain left there by the murder.) "His method of cleansing involves removing from his life any reminder of his occult fascination. If his residence is discovered, it may sport bare bookshelves and empty containers, which probably held objects of his obsession until he destroyed them. This purification also involves eliminating certain persons who remind him of his fetish. For example, the victim Bradley Stokes, an investment swindler, was chosen because he reminded the perpetrator of the Tarot card the Tower, symbolizing destruction; this may be because the perpetrator was a victim himself of Stokes' schemes, or because the perpetrator had heard of Stokes through the media and associated Stokes with the ruin of many investors' lives --"

Something beeped. What was that? Jordan glanced around and found the source of the distraction: her electronic planner, its screen blinking and squealing a noisy alarm. "What is it now?" she sighed, reading the display. "Shit! Nathan!"

Ten minutes later, she scrunched up her face in the bathroom mirror, trying to paint lipstick with shaky hands. Stupid Nate Giebelhouse, stupid date - she'd been on a roll! At least her mother had been able to find a half-decent dress in her closet - a denim-blue thing, spotted with tiny flowers; most of Jordan's clothes were scuffed jeans and blouses, not exactly appropriate. The lipstick smudged, and Jordan closed her eyes for a moment, trying to calm down. If she wasn't ready when Nathan got there, well, he could wait. There was no point in panicking. It wasn't like she was trying to impress him. It was a one-shot deal, a favor for Peter to get him off her back.

Deep breath - count to ten: one . . . two . . . a faint twinge of anger and desperation ran through her system, sending a chill up her back. Her eyes popped open, and Jordan's lip trembled as she stared at her reflection, frightened and wide-eyed. What was that? Remnants of the connection with the killer? "But I closed that off," she whispered, her voice weak. It had happened before, though, however seldom. There was nothing she could do. "Roll with it, honey," she grinned bleakly at the mirror, scraping the rogue lipstick from the side of her mouth.

The doorbell rang. Jordan scurried downstairs to answer it, her steps awkward in high heels. Grabbing her purse, she threw open the front door, beaming as she recognized the thin, slightly stooped frame of Nate Giebelhouse, nephew of one of her father's old colleagues, lingering shyly on her doorstop. He nervously passed a hand over his cropped dark hair and grinned.

"Hi . . . Jordan?" Nathan squinted, trying to see though the netting of the screen door. He had only met Jordan Black a couple of times, at crime scenes where he had been the officer who'd found the body. He was grateful, though, to his uncle's old friend Peter for fixing this whole thing up. The girl wasn't a knockout, but she was certainly pretty, and smart, from what he'd heard, though he'd heard plenty of other things about her as well, not all of them flattering.

"Hi, Nathan," Jordan smiled, squeezing through the screen door carefully. "Great to see you again." She closed the door behind her. "I'd invite you in, but my mother isn't feeling well today and I don't want to disturb her, if that's okay with you." It was almost true; Catherine wasn't well most of the time, and explaining who Nathan was to her might dredge up some bad memories. Jordan really didn't feel like spending her evening calming her mother down.

Nathan had chosen the restaurant well. It was a cozy little Italian place on the other side of the city, a mom-and-pop venture wedged in on a crowded street. After being seated and ordering drinks and meals, the two sat uncomfortably silent, unsure of what to talk about.

"So, um, are you still a beat cop?" Jordan asked.

"Yeah. I might get promoted soon, though. I'm waiting to hear back on that." Nathan took a sip of his drink, shifting uneasily in his seat. Jordan wasn't like most of the other girls he knew. She seemed distant, as though she wasn't used to company or - worse still - just didn't like it. He'd been told by a couple of the other policemen who'd worked with her that she could be preoccupied, almost antisocial, but he'd always assumed that she'd turned them down in the past and they were bitter. Now he wasn't so sure about it.

"Hey, good luck on that, then. Do you know when you're supposed to hear back?" Jordan replied. This is ridiculous, she thought, forcing a smile. I was really rolling with the Tarot killer, and I have to put it on hold for this? Small talk on an almost a blind date? She curled her toes, nodding as Nathan talked and trying not to spit out some frustrated curse.

*going to take her out tonight*

Jordan blinked. What was that? She shivered, suddenly very cold. "Are you all right?" Nathan asked her, noticing her change.

"Oh, no, I'm fine. I thought I just . . . remembered something for a second there. Please, go on." It was the link from that afternoon, or whatever was left of it. Not now! Jordan screamed inside her head. It hadn't even been all that deep. Maybe something was happening at the other end. What was the killer planning? Take who out?

Nathan picked up where he had stopped, with tales of life out on the Seattle streets. Jordan feigned attention, digging her nails into her thighs to keep from crying out. Something was happening out there. The killer's mood was changing. He's going to kill again tonight, she thought, and I'm stuck here. I can't leave. What would I say? Where would I go?

*despair* - * she did this to me * - - *I've been the fool*

"Jordan? Are you sure you're okay?" Nathan had stopped his story a few seconds back and had stared at Jordan, waiting for her to respond, or at least notice. She seemed to be transfixed by something just over his shoulder; that's where her gaze was directed. Nathan even peeked behind himself to see what was so interesting. "Uhm. Jordan?"

"Hmm?" Shit! It was strong now; she had to clear her throat to keep from sobbing out loud. The taste of the man's anguish was clear in her system. He'd given up. There were no more pleas for redemption, no goal of purification tingling from the connection. He'd abandoned it. And he blamed her, whoever "her" was. She had lured him in, and fool as he was --

"Um, Nathan? Could you excuse me for a moment? I'm - I've been kind of sick lately - I just need to get some cold water, and a tissue - I'm sorry," Jordan apologized, struggling from her seat and heading off in the direction of the ladies' room. "Fool as he was" -- wasn't the Fool a card in the Tarot deck? She staggered into the restroom, happily finding a lounge area just beyond the door. Collapsing onto a padded chair, she closed her eyes, allowing the link to take over, flooding her with alien emotions and visions.

* pagan goddess, luring me in * * -- * surrender * - I loved her once, and it was my ruin - - * no hope * take us both * - - * can't stay in a state of sin * - *cards for us both* --

Opening her eyes, Jordan shook her head, clearing her mind of the visions. She was startled to find that she had been crying, moist trails of mascara dirtying her cheeks. I know where he is, she thought. She had recognized the streets and buildings in the images that had passed through her mind; they weren't very far from the restaurant. And the killer --

She stood, groping for the tiled wall. Finding a sink, she ran cold water over her hands, splashing it to her face and washing away the streaked makeup. "Tonight's the end," she whispered to her reflection. It fit the unfinished profile she had at home, on her computer. The man had realized the futility of his quest for redemption; he had given up, deciding to give it a twisted sense of closure by murdering those who had begun his descent into occult obsession: his "pagan goddess," the woman who had introduced him to that world; and the Fool - himself.

Nathan ran an idle finger over his napkin. This had been a bad idea. Good looks, intelligence - none of that would help a lost cause. It was obvious that the girl hadn't wanted to be there in the first place; she'd spent most of the night distracted, and now she had concocted some story about being sick. Ten to one she comes out saying she's sorry but wants to go home, Nathan thought, sighing. What better plans did she have waiting there? More work? Glancing up, Nathan spotted Jordan hurrying out of the ladies' room, a hollow look to her face.

"Nathan?" Jordan murmured, standing beside the table, "I'm really sorry about this, but I - I've just been paged and - and I really need to go." (Can't you lie better than that? Jordan thought, wincing.)

I knew it, Nathan thought glumly. "Can I offer you a ride anywhere?" No point in not being civil about it.

"Could you? Only if you don't mind, though." Another pang stirred in Jordan's gut, from across the connection; the killer had gained his resolve, was gathering his supplies.

Nathan escorted her out to his car, following Jordan's sketchy directions as she told him where to drive. Pulling up to a street corner, he watched as the girl hopped out of the car, scurrying around to his window and gesturing to roll it down. "I'm really sorry about this, Nate," Jordan said, leaning in to give him a small peck on the cheek. "Maybe we can get together again sometime later?" Both knew, however, that the offer was only courtesy, not a serious request at all. Nathan's car sped off, leaving Jordan alone on the sidewalk, under the glare of a yellow streetlight.


7:48pm

Don't do this stupidly, Jordan told herself, tugging a small phone from her pocketbook. Dialing the number of the local police department, she explained the situation as well as she could, asking for some kind of response and giving the name of the Millennium Group's police contact for any questions they might have. The woman at the other end of the line promised immediate action and investigation, telling Jordan to stay away from the situation herself.

"Yeah, right," Jordan snorted, pocketing the telephone. The aches in her system were bordering on cramps, and alternating chills of disgust and despair tingled inside her mind. The killer was closing in, moving towards his prey. The police would never get there in time. She couldn't just stand by and wait.

Go, then. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying both to still the connection pains and lock onto the killer's sight, trying to view what he was seeing to get a better idea of what he was up to. He was nearly there, palms damp as he passed through a doorway, closer to the apartment where she lived, his former lover --

Shaking herself free of the vision, Jordan scrambled towards the location she had seen in the images, a bookseller's shop with a few floors' worth of apartments stacked above it. She reached the store and goggled as she read the gilt lettering in the display window: "Moon Rising - New Age texts and supplies." "Jesus, if that doesn't fit the profile --," Jordan said to herself, not even bothering to finish the sentence as she leaned against the front window. Cupping her hands over her eyes, she peered inside, hunting for any trace of the killer or his "pagan goddess," whom Jordan quickly deduced either owned or worked for the bookshop. The shadows inside remained still. Jordan stepped back, craning her neck to look up at the windows above. All were dark and empty, save one on the second floor, whose thin lace curtain had been drawn. Another shiver ran down Jordan's back. "Chance it," she whispered to herself.

After a moment's searching, she finally found a door that led to the upper storeys, but it was locked, secured by an electronic card swiper. Damned paranoid city dwellers.

"Come on, come on, I don't have the time," she growled, fumbling through her pocketbook for her wallet. Inside she found one of the odd devices that the Group's technical consultants had created just for situations like this: a card that acted like a skeleton key, jamming the sensors of nearly all such passcard devices. "Thank God." Snapping the card through the slot, she waited for the door to slide open, barreling into the foyer as it did.

He was there; she could feel it. Jordan stumbled up half a flight of stairs before kicking off the clumsy high heels left over from dinner. "Stupid useless shoes."

Wait. Was that a scream? Storming into the corridor, Jordan crammed her hand into her pocketbook again, frantically searching for the handgun she kept for emergencies, loaded with nerve-disruptor bullets, one of the newer developments in chemical weaponry. Another scream. Red streaks flashed before her eyes, jarring her thoughts for a moment. One door at the end of the hallway stood pushed ajar.

Hands trembling, she clutched her gun, inching into the doorway. No sign of the police yet; she'd have to handle this one herself. More visions, almost matching the shadowed rooms she had entered. Jordan blinked, spotting a pool of light spilling from one of the far rooms. She crept towards it.

"Freeze! Put down your weapon!" She raised the handgun to eye level, trying desperately to remain calm. The scene was eerily still for a split-second: the killer, knife lodged under the collarbone of his victim, halted in mid-action; his clothes and the furniture in the room, probably the woman's bedroom, were spattered in blood, some of which was congealing in a puddle on the floor around the man's shoes. The woman gaped at Jordan, trying to speak but producing only a moist rattle from her throat. Jordan clung to her handgun, which for an instant felt like a slick kitchen knife in her hands. Cut the link, she told herself, keeping her gaze on the killer.

"I'm not going to tell you again - put down the weapon --" She was cut off as the killer, kicking the woman's dying body to the side, shrieked loudly, heaving the knife from her flesh and charging towards Jordan. Gasping, Jordan slid to the side, falling onto one knee and firing the handgun twice at the man. Damn - only a graze. He swung a fist at her, connecting with her nose. She felt a hot gush across her lips and smeared it away with her sleeve. Struggling to get away from him, she kicked at his kneecap, almost dislodging it; the man howled in agony, jabbing the knife in her direction but wedging it into the plaster wall instead.

He's hurt, and despondent, Jordan thought, scrambling to her feet. He's not thinking straight. Now's your chance to take control. Blood was running from her face across her clothes, and her knee twinged in empathy with the man. She aimed the handgun and fired, catching the killer's shoulder. Would the nerve disruptor take hold? No luck - the man twitched for a moment, shaken, and then turned on Jordan again, a frenzied look in his eyes. She stepped backwards and stumbled over the body of the victim, who groaned slightly.

"Ow!" Jordan hissed, tumbling to the floor and wrenching her ankle. The man leaped upon her, thrusting his good knee into her stomach and knocking the breath from her. Before she could wriggle away, he had closed his hands around her throat, pressing both thumbs into her windpipe. Squirming in his grasp, Jordan coughed and wheezed, trying to reach her handgun, which had been knocked from her grip. Just an inch away - only an inch --

"Police! Drop your weapons!" A yell sounded from out in the corridor, where the front door was still open. The man was distracted for a crucial moment and relaxed his grip. Seizing her handgun, Jordan tugged the trigger, sending a bullet into the man's chest, just under his shoulder. Shreds of skin and blood spurted across her face as the man tumbled backwards, writhing as the nerve-jamming chemicals in the bullet sent his system into panic and confusion. Jordan staggered to her feet, shaking and clenching her fists to keep from suffering anything via their connection.

"In here," she cried out. Several policemen poured into the room, halting in their steps as they reached the pool of blood on the floor. Just outside the doorway Jordan spotted a familiar face. She steeled herself and edged around the sticky puddle, over to the door where Peter Watts stood, arms folded, scowling.

"I didn't get here in time, Peter. The woman's gone. But the killer's been taken down. I got him with nerve disruptors."

"Jordan, what were you thinking?" Peter Watts hissed, keeping his voice quiet. "Nathan Giebelhouse called me after dropping you off. You take off leaving him in the dark, you come up here after a dangerous perp without any kind of backup except for a phone call - a phone call! - to the police, and then you shoot him with nerve disrupting bullets! You were obviously still connected to him - do you know what that could have done to you? Do you - do you even understand what you tried to do tonight?"

Glaring, Jordan gazed back coldly. "He was the Tarot killer, Peter. I finished the profile and all the details fell into place. Tonight was his last kill - the woman, and then himself," she added quietly. "I felt it. I tried to stop it. Isn't that what we do?"

Peter stared down at Jordan, her dinner dress rumpled, her feet bare, her face crusted with blood, both the killer's and her own. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it again, sensing that any kind of lecture would be pointless. Shaking his head, he left his cellphone number with one of the reporting officers for any further information. A homicide detective appeared on the scene, asking Jordan to accompany him back to the precinct for questioning; Peter followed them, waiting on a bench at the police station as Jordan answered all of the detective's questions. She finally emerged hours later, weary but scrubbed clean and dressed in a pair of slacks and a sweatshirt.

"They're going to call me if there are any more questions. They took my mother's dress, though, and whatever was left of the blood on my face. For evidence. These belong to one of the detectives," Jordan said, absently picking at a thread on the cuff of her sleeve.

"Do you need a ride home?" Peter asked. Jordan glanced up at him.

"Yeah. Please." After his outburst earlier, she probably wouldn't be talking very much on the way there. Peter shrugged it off; he'd seen the same reaction from both Jordan and her father in the past. Give her a few days, he thought. I doubt she'll learn from experience, but at least she'll get over it.

"I got a call from one of the officers on the scene," Peter said, breaking the silence. The two reached his car, parked out in front of the station. "They managed to save the woman. It was mostly superficial wounds, maybe as a form of torture; you probably interrupted him before he could inflict any real damage."

"That's good."

"And they found these in his back pocket. The detectives faxed them to my pager as soon as they found them." He unfolded a small printout that had been stuffed in his pocket and handed it to Jordan. She stared at the black and white print of the two Tarot cards discovered on the victim: the Papess and, as she had expected, the Fool.

"The Papess - the female Pope. It means a wise woman," she said in a small voice, gazing at the windshield. "Or it means being manipulated by an evil woman. It depends."

"Does that fit your profile?" Peter asked quietly. He glanced over at Jordan, who still stared absently out the window. She was probably in some minor state of shock, or depression after the rush of finishing a case. Let her go on, he told himself. It's her work. It's all she's got.

"Mm-hmm. He blamed her for dragging him into it, the occult and all. And he - the killer, he blamed himself, too - he saw himself as the Fool. He was trying to purge it, removing all the reminders of the Tarot from his life. Bradley Stokes was destruction, like the Tower, and you know that one priest? He probably chastised the killer at one time in his obsession - like Judgment. I bet we could find the same kind of association if we checked every victim against their cards. It was all in my profile - the one I almost finished." She turned to Peter, her distant mood disturbed for a moment by an almost pleading look in her eyes. "I can show you. Later on. It was nearly finished."

"That sounds like a good idea. Maybe you can put it in your report to the Group." Peter sighed, turning around a corner and pulling up in front of the old yellow house.

"And I've almost got something with the other two cases I'm working on," Jordan added as she opened the door. "I think I came up with a common thread today." She stepped out of the car and turned to thank Peter when he suddenly spoke.

"Jordan?" He had to say something, to do something. Give her time off. Set up another date for her - not with Nathan, though, who had told Peter to leave him out of any plans involving Jordan in the future. Anything to brighten the girl's life, to lift the guilt that weighed upon him as he looked over at the girl who was essentially his creation, whose life he and the Group had taken away.

She blinked. "Yes?"

Peter sighed. "You did good work tonight."

Almost a smile in response. Jordan shut the car door, fingering inside her pocketbook for her keys and bracing herself for some kind of hysterics from her mother, whose face she could see frantically pressed to the upstairs window. Hey, that's life in the Group, she told herself, shaking her head wearily but grinning just a bit as she eased open the creaking screen door, trying not to hit the metal part where it always caught.


Epilogue

2:47am

The knife - she'd found it in her own kitchen, wedged in a pie - was greasy with blood in her hands. The pagan witch was struggling, slipping from her grasp, making things difficult. "Stay still, woman!" She wasn't very good with knives, which was why she hadn't used one with any of the others. Her own hands had produced some of the best results; they were deft and easy to use, and couldn't be knocked out of her reach, and couldn't be turned against her - all sorts of reasons. Who had it been - The Lovers? Yes, she'd used her hands for them, and for Justice, too. Maybe she should have finished it by doing the same for the Papess. Too late now, she thought, clamping a hand over the mouth of the writhing woman before her.

Red leaked from the cuts, onto her shoes, staining her shoelaces. That'd be tough to get out later. Oh, no, wait. No point. Right. Overhead light gleaming in her face; she blinked away the afterimage, regaining focus. Forcing the woman's head to the floor with one hand, she slipped the other into her pocket, checking to make sure that the cards were there. It'd be silly to come this far and not have them ready at the end. That would take away the whole point.

"Freeze! Put down your weapon!" Who was that? She whirled around to look. Another woman in the room, armed. Silly woman, almost a girl. The young woman was scared, though, an easy target, but still a threat. She couldn't let anyone stop her, not after coming this far. A sharp noise rang out from the girl's handgun - Jordan winced as the young woman - as she fired upon - upon herself?, the bullet scraping her shoulder, lodging in the wall behind her.

In her sleep, Jordan flinched, twitching. She could almost feel the bullet grazing her shoulder, even though it was just part of the dream, another of the endless visions that haunted her nights. The connection she had shared with the Tarot killer had been deeper than she had assumed; she would have nightmares about his killings for weeks. Suddenly, the dream shifted out of focus, and without warning she found herself dreaming of her own bedroom but many years in the past. She lay on her bed, feeling small and vulnerable, surrounded by stuffed animals and old books. Where had she been - was it school, or maybe the library? She remembered sensing something odd; she had run straight home and collapsed on her bed, but all the details were vague. Intense cramps burned inside her stomach. She doubled over, eyes watering and body shaking in shock.

It had been a trap. The Group had known all along where the killer could be found, but they had had no means of luring him out. Jordan gagged, coughing spittle onto her bedspread while her father, hundreds of miles away, was choking on his own warm blood. Frank Black himself - alluring bait to any of the Group's opponents. The Group had let Frank investigate, unaware, and he had gone to confront the man alone, just as they had planned. As soon as Frank had caught him, the Group would take control of the situation. But the plan had backfired --

Flashes inside her head. A dark cellar, God knows where, and blood - her father's? Her own? - oozing in streams from stomach wounds, onto the musty floor. She could feel him reaching out to her, however unintentionally, and his thoughts flickered in her mind. They knew what had happened, and had done nothing. The Group had abandoned him.

"Daddy?" Jordan whimpered, her palms flat against her stomach, straining against phantom wounds. Nobody would find him, nobody knew where he was, except the Group, and they wouldn't help; too much of a risk, too big a compromise --

With a jolt, Jordan's felt the pain fade away as suddenly as it had begun. Running her fingers over her belly, she found it intact, unwounded. A sense of dread slowly crept over her as she closed her eyes, probing the connection with her father that she had enjoyed for years. Nothing. It had been severed. As she realized what had happened, the young girl began to cry, softly at first, but slowly raising her voice in a ghastly and mournful wail that echoed throughout the house . . . .

Catherine rubbed her eyes, her sleep disturbed by shrieks from her daughter's room. Like clockwork, she thought, tugging her robe over her shoulders. With those cases she works on, it's surprising that she can get enough sleep to even have any nightmares. I wonder if that therapist she sees or even Doctor McFadden could give the girl something to help her sleep in peace?

She found Jordan thrashing in her bed, moaning and screeching, her eyes shut but streaming tears. Shaking the girl's shoulders, she called to her softly. "Jordan! Jordan, wake up, honey. You're having a nightmare again. Please wake up."

Jordan's eyes popped open and she lay frozen for a moment, gasping and trembling. Easing herself up carefully, she stared at her mother for a moment, bringing her eyes into focus and shaking off the wooziness left behind by the dream. "He's dead," she moaned, running her pyjama sleeve underneath her eyes. "I felt it - somebody killed him. It was all those years ago and I still dream it. Why?"

"I don't know, honey. I don't know." Catherine stroked her daughter's hair as she clung to her mother, shivering and gulping back sobs. "It's gonna be okay," whispered Catherine, wincing as she repeated what wasn't the truth but the usual routine, what she always said to coax Jordan back to sleep, night after night. Tucking the weeping girl back under the sheets, Catherine gave her daughter a light kiss on the cheek and left the room, shaking her head sadly as she walked back to bed.


DISCLAIMER: All MILLENNIUM characters are copyrighted under FOX Broadcasting. This story is not authorized by, organized by, or otherwise associated with Ten Thirteen Productions or any other group involved in the production of MILLENNIUM. This story has not been written for sale or other means of profit; please archive it only with the expressed permission of the author. Any reproductions of this story must include this disclaimer and credit given to the author who claims legal rights over the story ideas contained within it.

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