Ephraim sped to the back entrance to the old distillery, shifting Suzi in his arms as he fumbled with the lock. Inside, he made his way to the kitchen, where he attempted to pry her arms from around his neck. “Meghan? Meghan, it’s okay. We’re back at the cabin. You’re safe now.”
Suzi’s breathing calmed. She loosened her hold on Ephraim, unwrapped her legs from around his waist, and tested her feet on the floor. Her knees gave out. Ephraim caught her. He grabbed a blanket from the back of the sofa, wrapped it around her, pulled out a dining chair, and sat her down. Her eyes were glazed. She was in shock. He stepped back into the kitchen, returned with a tumbler filled with ice and a liberal amount of bourbon, and held it to her lips. She took a tentative sip, then grabbed the glass around his hands, and guzzled. The blanket slid off her shoulders, puddling around her waist. “Easy!” He pulled the glass back. Suzi swallowed, gasped, and blinked.
“Where…?” She looked around the room. Then she glanced down at her naked, blood-stained torso. Her gaze flew up to meet Ephraim’s. In her eyes he saw the traces of Meghan recede to the background. “How did I get here?”
“I brought you after you ported into my arms. Had you been in the cave?”
Suzi nodded. “Melissa was going to…!” She choked on the last word and reached for the bourbon. The ice clinked against the sides of the glass as she brought her shaking hand up and took a sip.
“Melissa was there? Is that her blood?”
Suzi shook her head and set down the glass. “Raj’s,” she whispered. “He strapped me to one of the tables, like… before….” Ephraim nodded, feeling Suzi’s dread. He remembered all too well what it felt like to be strapped to those tables. “But then he was going to… to….” Her eyes widened with fear, and she clutched the blanket back up around her nakedness. Ephraim suddenly understood that part of his vision: the lust in Raj’s mad eyes, the smirk on his face. Ephraim’s hands curled into fists. Anger simmered in his core. He didn’t know if he could handle hearing what Raj had done next, but he had to know whatever details Suzi could give him. Years of training in law enforcement kicked in. He kept his voice steady.
“Then Melissa came,” Suzi said. “She killed him.”
“Melissa killed Raj?” Ephraim repeated. “But Melissa loved….” No, that part of his vision made sense, too. He’d felt the overwhelming jealousy and rage. It must have come from Melissa. But Melissa also hated Suzi. “Did she free you from the straps?” he asked suspiciously. There was no way Suzi would have been able to port out of those special-made bindings.
“No. I did it myself. I didn’t think I’d be able to… and she had the knife raised, and I thought I’d be dead… and then suddenly I was able to draw energy from… from….” Her jaw dropped and she gasped. Her gaze became distant, deep in thought.
“You drew energy from where?” he prompted.
“I remember,” she breathed.
“What do you remember?”
“Everything!” Her eyes locked on Ephraim. “I have a daughter! Daniel and I have a daughter!”
Now it was Ephraim’s turn to be shocked. Suzi kept talking, explaining.
“Early-on, I’d figured out how to port out of the rooms.”
Ephraim nodded. Meghan could have escaped the orphanage long before she actually did. But she wouldn’t leave any of them behind. Instead, she’d stayed and would sneak out to comfort whoever had received the worst of that week’s “experiments.” That is, unless the victim-du-jour had been Meghan. They all knew that those times she’d had to suffer alone. Sometimes he could still hear the echoes of her heartbreaking sobs in his mind. He, Daniel, and Raj had all loved her for it. But over the years, while it had solidified his friendship with her, he’d always known there was something deeper, more powerful between her and Daniel. It had driven Raj insane. Raj had turned his attentions to Melissa.
But Ephraim had had no idea that Meghan and Daniel had created life.
“Do you remember the night we escaped?” Suzi asked.
“Yes…?” he thought back. “Raj and Melissa had torched the orphanage and killed everyone else. Daniel and I were stuck in the cave. I had a vision, and Daniel could see my thoughts, so we knew Raj and Melissa were headed for us. We didn’t think we could make it out of our straps in time. Then you rushed in. I remember thinking it was strange that you hadn’t ported in. We told you to go. But you wouldn’t leave until we were both freed. And even then you wouldn’t port away to safety.”
“First of all, you know I would never have left you,” she said. “But I couldn’t port then, and I knew I couldn’t, but I didn’t realize why until later. I was already pregnant.”
“You can’t port when you’re pregnant?”
“Apparently not. Meanwhile, after we’d escaped Kentucky, Raj and Melissa were still coming after us. You split off from us first, and later Daniel and I split up.”
Ephraim nodded. “Because we knew we’d be too easy to find as a group. And we agreed not to use our powers, because it would have made us that-much-easier for them to track.”
“Yes. I wound up having my daughter and raising her alone until she was eight. But by then, Raj had tracked me to Miami. So I did the only thing I could. I placed her for adoption. Then, at the last second, just before Raj captured me, I did a memory wipe.”
Suzi’s face contorted with pain. “Yes,” she breathed. Then she straightened her shoulders and set her jaw. “It was the only way I could protect her from Raj. He never knew of her existence. I’d forgotten about her… until tonight. There was something about that power I was able to draw-on… I wonder if — ?”
Ephraim interrupted with his own thought that had been bothering him. “What I never understood is why Raj and Melissa pursued us for so long.”
Suzi’s eyes dropped. “Because of the map. After I freed you two, I swiped it from the safe.”
“You have the map? You have that map?”
Suzi nodded sheepishly.
“How did you get it out of the safe? That thing was locked! And why didn’t you tell me? Or Sam — does Sam know?”
“No. I didn’t want to compromise either of you. I’m the one who had to go back and take care of what the map leads to.”
“You don’t have to be so secretive. I know what it leads to, also. And you’re not doing it. I’ll take care of it.”
“No! I don’t want you getting hurt! You or Sam! Where is he, anyway?”
“He went to check on the cave, and — .”
“The cave? That’s where Melissa was! We have to go help him! He’s in danger!”
Ephraim exploded. “At this point, good! I can’t believe you’re sticking up for him, Suzi! You were always there for us. Always! I can’t believe Daniel left you, and then never came back. Especially in your condition! You should never have had to go through that alone! If I’d known you were pregnant, I’d have never left your side, even if it wasn’t my kid.”
“But he never did know,” she said quietly.
“He never knew I was pregnant. Sam doesn’t know he’s a dad.”
Okay, Hasty, your turn!