TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 2005

11:29 GMT-3

VICKI CHURCH

THE MERIDIAN CINEMA | MERIDIA FALLS

I move across to the windows and watch Logan and Marilyn below. Pressing my face to the cool glass, I watch them walk at a fast pace down Main Street. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to slow down my racing heartbeat. Ever since I swapped minds with Logan, his anger has sat inside me like a coiled spring ready to explode. My hands shake as the rage clouds my senses.

“How are you feeling?” Dad asks, pressing his hand to my forehead.

Opening my eyes, I glance at Penny’s shimmering blue ghost, standing next to Four in the corner of the room. “The anger still burns. I fear Logan can’t control his Affinity.”

“If he’s got Affinity… true Affinity,” Dad says, his words trailing off as he turns his attention to the monitor on the desk. He suddenly spins around, glancing at what he sees as the empty space by the living room door. “Can you control his anger?”

I clench my fists and take another deep breath. “Yes… this time. I think it’s fading now.”

Steph joins us at the windows. “We need to be careful around him.”

“Have you both been practicing your memory control?” Dad taps his finger gently on the glass. “If Mr. Collins has got any resemblance of true Affinity, then he will be able to synchronize to our thoughts.” He turns, placing his warm hands on my shoulders. “We can only let him see what we need him to.”

I focus through the window at Logan and Marilyn in the distance. “Why don’t we just tell him?”

“He can’t help us until he can control his magic,” Dad says, shaking his head. He glances at Steph. “If Mr. Collins is going to help us, then we need to find Miss Summers. We need true Affinity on our side.”

“If they have it,” Steph says, narrowing her eyes. “We still need to sort out this Extraction Vault.” She shakes her head. “I still can’t believe a group of kids found it before us.”

Dad runs his fingers through his hair, the way he always does when too many thoughts occupy his mind. “I made the necessary calls. We just need to concentrate on finding the rest of the vaults — and Miss Summers.” He takes Steph’s arm and leads her over to the bedroom door. “I need a quiet word with Stephanie.”

I shake my head and turn back to the window. Pressing my face to the glass, I search for any sign of Logan and Marilyn. But they are long gone.

“Victoria,” Dad says. His eyes flick to the red filing cabinets next to me. “Can you check for any active Auris Notams? I deactivated the ones on the documents I sent to Miss Summers…” He pauses, glancing at the notice board leaning against the desk. “But she is a resourceful young woman… She could have acquired more information.”

“Okay,” I say, hiding my sigh.

Dad smiles and returns to his whispered conversation with Steph.

I pull on the first drawer; it doesn’t move. Locked. I check the other two cabinets. All locked. Typical. I move to the desk and search for the keys. “They’re all locked.”

Dad half-smiles and nods at Four.

“Let me help you with that, Miss Church,” Four says, flexing his muscular arms.

“What are you going to do?” I ask. “Smash them open?”

Four smiles… the first time I’ve seen him smile. He takes a deep breath, and his dark brown eyes begin to sparkle. He quietly chants while pressing his finger to the locks on all three filing cabinets, unlocking them with magic.

“Thank you… Four.” I shake my head. “I hate using these outdated designations. What’s your name… your real name?”

Four glances at Dad and then leans in close. “Jerome,” he whispers.

“Nice to meet you, Jerome.”

I open the first drawer and pull out a handful of different colored files. An Auris Notam shines at me from the top corner of the first file. I hold my breath as I turn the file in the light from the window; the hologram effect on the silver triangle doesn’t move. I breathe again. The Notam is deactivated.

“Do you need any help with them, Miss Church?” Jerome asks.

“No, it’s okay… Jerome. And call me Vicki.”

His eyes flick across to Dad. “You know I can’t do that, Miss Church.”

“I don’t know how you do it, Jerome,” I say, as I sort through the files. “Answering every beck and call. It’s almost like—”

“It’s fine,” Jerome says, cutting me off before I can finish. He lowers his voice. “It’s only for one day.” Placing his palm on the window, he smiles. “One day of this, and my family is taken care of for the whole year.”

I shake my head. “I still don’t like it… Just so they don’t have to use their precious Magic Releases.”

“It really is fine, Miss.”

Dad coughs, interrupting our conversation. “Four, I need to return to London. Open the Traverse.”

Jerome nods. “Yes, Mr. Church.” He walks into the center of the room and holds out a black door handle.

Dad kisses my forehead. “Stephanie is in charge while I’m away.” He pauses and narrows his eyes, letting it sink it. “Understood?”

He still doesn’t trust me. The remnants of Logan’s anger mix with my own inside my stomach. A potentially lethal cocktail. I take another deep breath and press my head back to the window. The cool glass helps ease my anger.

Normal people walk through their normal lives below. I want to be normal. That anything-but-normal morning at school tugs at my mind. Three days lost. No memories. What happened to me? I press my hands to my stomach.

A cold draft blows against my ears, dragging my mind back from the engulfing despair. I spin around. Dad and Jerome are gone, just leaving Steph standing in front of the desk. Her eyes fall on my stomach and she half-smiles. “Right then, Victoria,” she says, holding out her hands. “Let’s hurry through these files.” She glances at her watch. “We’ve got a lot to do this afternoon.”

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