Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
A/N: I appreciate your reviews
Faye shivered then frowned as she cast a puzzled glance at the thermostat on the wall. "Why is it so cold in here?"
Her small café was well known throughout Wenatchee County for its warm, friendly atmosphere and delicious meals. The quaint little eatery with its tables covered in flowery tablecloths and vases full of fresh orange honeysuckles placed about the room normally projected a cheerful and tranquil atmosphere for her patrons but tonight she, along with her guests, felt ill at ease. She could see it on everyone's faces; there was tightness around their eyes and stiffness to their movements as they nervously glanced around the room. It was as if they all had a sense of foreboding-some strong inner feeling that something unnatural was about to happen but were powerless to prevent it from taking place. Faye's eyes flickered to the sheriff's face; even stalwart Hank, who she had come to believe could handle any situation seemed on edge and vulnerable- it was as if even he was out of his element …and knew it. But then, Faye thought as she shifted nervously in her chair. "It wasn't every night that they spoke with the dead."
Don had been questioning the medium but had gone quiet; mulling over the man's responses while everyone else silently followed their conversation-all eager to hear the agent's conclusions.
Taking advantage of the brief respite she suppressed a shudder and rose quietly from her chair then padded softly over to the wall where the thermostat hung. Much to her surprise the needle was hovering over the 75 degree mark which meant that the room should have been more than comfortable for everyone…and yet there was a distinct chill to the air that she couldn't account for. The dual temperature gauge displayed an outside temperature of 60 degrees which was normal for that time of year so although it was cool outside it wasn't cold enough to warrant raising the inside temperature. Puzzled she tapped at the dial to see if it would move but it remained firmly in place at the 75 degree mark. She glanced out of the large bay window to see if there was a strong wind that might drive the temperature down but it seemed that even the gentle breeze that they had enjoyed earlier in the day had ceased to blow-not even a leaf was stirring. Baffled by the unexplained chill that permeated her café Faye's eyes drifted toward the dark corner where the medium had said an angry and tormented spirit was hiding then shivered again as the hair on her arms seemed to stand on edge. Schiller had convinced her that Tom's spirit was really there so….didn't that mean that she also had to accept the fact that the other ghost was there as well? Was it the source of the unpleasant coldness and the ominous feeling that had infected all of them?
Tearing her eyes from the dark shadows of the corner Faye rubbed her arms briskly then picked up a shawl that had been lying on a stool beneath the thermostat; tossing it around her shoulders she rejoined the others just as Don began to speak again.
"What are you hiding from us, Mr. Schiller?" The agent asked his dark eyes hard and probing. "I've been in law enforcement for a long time now and I totally get why you sought the destruction of the institute and brought those responsible to justice but this," he waved his hand to encompass the whole table, "is a mystery to me. I can't quite figure you out. You drag your family to the other side of the world, put them in uncomfortable positions by seeking out the relatives of your uncles victims, all the while knowing that you'll probably be met with rejection and anger but you do it anyway. "Don leaned forward tapping his fingertips on the table for emphasis. "You say that you're doing this for Tom's spirit but people don't go to this extreme for strangers…even ghostly ones-unless there is something in it for them. So I'll ask you again…what's in it for you."
"Ah…hmm ...what did you say?" Erik asked gracing the agent with a confused look; the medium was still trying to come to terms with the fact that his uncle had caned all of his victims.
"Why are you treating him like this?" Marta cried out angrily. "You…you're treating him like a criminal and all he's done is tried to help you!"
"Shh….shh now daughter." Erik said soothingly while he patted her hand. "He….ah…Agent Eppes is correct. I have not been totally honest with them."
Petra leaned closer to her husband, a look of surprise in her eyes. "Erik, what are you saying?"
The medium let out a heavy sigh then his eyes drifted to the people sitting around the table. "I confess that my motives for seeking you out have not been entirely selfless."
"You lied to me!" Tom cried out angrily, taking up a position behind Don. "You said that you wanted to help me!"
Schiller shook his head rapidly in denial, his eyes drifting to the empty space behind Don's chair. "No, Tom I didn't lie to you. My main reason for coming here was…and still is… to help you find the closure that you need so that you can step into the light."
Tom's brow creased in puzzlement. "I don't understand then. What else could you gain from coming here?"
"Care to share?" Don asked coolly, impatiently tapping his fingers on the table.
Erik's eyes dropped to the agents face then flickered around the table. Nervously he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket; removing his glasses he wiped the sweat from his face and slowly put them back on as he began to speak. "You see, Agent Eppes, along with helping Tom I had hoped that I might have a chance to make amends." He sighed heavily then raised his head to meet Don's gaze. "It was my most fervent hope that I could somehow help ease some of the pain that my uncle had inflicted and in doing so perhaps atone a little for his heinous actions."
"Listen to me, Mr. Schiller," Alan said, leaning closer to catch the mediums eye. "You cannot atone for a sin that you didn't commit. This was your uncle's sin not yours and it is too late for him. As I said before, you are not responsible for his actions."
"Yes…yes I know but how would you feel if a relative of yours, albeit one that you had never met, had committed such atrocities?" Schiller argued passionately, his eyes drifting from face to face. "Would you not feel some guilt as well just because you were related and shared the same last name?"
No one spoke and in the silence that followed he folded his hands together on the table in front of him then stared at them with a forlorn look in his eyes. He shook his head slowly and in a hopeless tone continued on. "I had hoped to put an end to the suffering of one of his victims and to help ease the pain of another but after learning the degree of my uncle's depravity I don't see how I can help matters…and I fear that I may have made them worse by inadvertently ripping open the scars that he so violently created." His eyes flickered to Charlie's face and the pained expression he saw in the younger man's eyes laid proof to his words. "I'm so sorry." Erik whispered brokenly
Charlie's emotions were too close to the surface for him to reply so he swallowed hard and merely gave the man a quick nod before looking away.
As Don listened to the medium's confession his remaining doubts began to slip away-his gut telling him that the man was baring it all and telling the truth. If he accepted that fact then that meant that he also had to believe that the ghost of his friend, Thomas Hill, was really there in the room with them. The agent glanced to his right and could tell from the look in Larry's eyes that he'd accepted the man's words as truth. His eyes flitted to meet Robins and he did a double-take; gone was the hard-lined, skeptical district attorney expression that had been so prevalent throughout the evening- in its stead was one of amazement; she had come to the same conclusion that he had.
The expressions on the faces of Faye, Emily and Hank were identical; total unconditional acceptance of everything that Erik Schiller had told them but there was a hint of something else too… fear of the unknown? Don caught his Dad's eye and took a steadying breath; Alan believed-it was as simple as that. Amita's brown eyes were full of compassion and astonishment; the medium had convinced her too.
Finally the agent twisted in his seat to face his brother …and paused; Charlie wasn't convinced yet. Don could see the turmoil in his eyes; there was a war of logic and faith raging within his brother's incredible mind and he couldn't tell which side was winning. Don opened his mouth, hesitated then cleared his throat before saying softly. "I've got to go with my gut, buddy. Go with me on this one?" he asked, his dark eyes pleading silently.
Charlie's head titled sideways, eyebrows drawing tightly together as he searched his brother's face. After a moment he simply nodded and remained silent.
"Thanks," Don whispered gratefully then turned to face the medium. "Where is Tom standing now?"
Schiller's head jerked up instantly a surprised and hopeful gleam in his eyes "You…you believe me now?"
"Yes…yes I do," Don answered raising eyebrows all around the table. "You've told me too many things that only Tom and I could have possibly known and only Robin was aware that I had started having nightmares again." He paused to glance around the room. "Sooo…ah…Mr. Schiller, is his spirit still here?"
"Please call me Erik." The medium pleaded in a voice full of emotion. "I'd…I'd prefer not to hear my last name for a while."
"Alright, Erik," Don conceded feeling sorry for the man. "Tom is still here, right?"
"Oh, yes indeed. Thomas was standing beside of your chair a moment ago but has now moved to this side of the table so that he can face you." Schiller answered excitedly as he watched the ghost come to a halt by his chair.
"Tom," the agent said staring at the empty space behind the mediums chair. "You're right. As much as I hate to admit it I have been pushing Charlie away."
"Don?" Charlie said suddenly gripping his brother by the wrist. Was he really admitting that he didn't want to be around him? "Are you saying that you've been deliberately avoiding me?"
"Not deliberately, Charlie," Don said quietly, his voice cracking with emotion from the hurt look on his brother's face. "I don't think that I even realized that I was doing it until Tom brought it up… it was more on a subconscious level." Frustrated the agent scrubbed a hand through his hair as he tried to explain. "You see a few months ago an LAPD officer accidentally shot his sister in a similar hostage situation and that's when the nightmares began again and as they continued to get worse I worried about bringing you in on any of our cases." Robins hand found its way into his and he squeezed it tightly, savoring her support. "Then I started hearing the chimes again….every morning just before dawn and now it doesn't matter whether I am awake or asleep I relive those last five minutes all over again." His eyes darted across the table. "That was one reason why I reacted so strongly when you played the watch this afternoon Erik- I thought that somehow my nightmares were coming true." Don turned to his brother. "I'm sorry, buddy…I didn't mean to hurt you."
"That's...ah…that's okay, Don," Charlie quickly replied releasing his hold on the agent. "I…I understand now."
Don regarded him thoughtfully then briefly faced the medium again before lifting his eyes to the empty space behind the man's chair. "Thank you, Tom," he said earnestly, his lips turning upward in a sad smile. "I think I get it now and you don't have to worry about anything coming between Charlie and me anymore."
A look of immense relief crossed Tom's features and he smiled for the first time that evening. "Could you please tell Don that I know he'll always be there for Charlie and that I doubt that I could have ever been as good a brother to him as he has become."
While Erik relayed his message Tom stared at the mathematician then sighed heavily when he still saw doubt reflecting in his brown eyes. Charlie wasn't as confident as he was before but Tom could tell that his friend still wasn't ready to fully accept something that he couldn't see or prove mathematically.
"That is sooo like you, Charlie" he murmured fondly then casually crossed his arms and grinned as he remembered how stubborn his friend had been at times then chuckled loudly. "Oh, Charlie, you always could be a pain in the ass if something couldn't be proven scientifically."
"You've got that right," Don chortled good-naturedly reaching over to ruffle his brother's curls. The agent's unexpected reaction relieved some of the tension and quiet chuckles echoed around the room.
Tom looked down at Erik in surprise."I didn't mean for you to repeat that last remark.
The medium flushed with embarrassment. "Ah…sorry. I guess I got carried away."
Noting Charlie's silence Don's grin faded then he squeezed his brother's shoulder worriedly. "You okay, buddy?"
Wide-eyed and speechless Charlie stared at Schiller then cast a slow glance around the table; lips suddenly dry. "Ah," he coughed to clear his throat then rubbed his chin nervously. "Tom used to tell me that whenever he…ah…thought that I was being extremely stubborn."
Surprised looks and low murmurs' erupted around the table as all but one of them began to discuss this latest revelation. While the others talked something or someone else had caught the mathematician's attention.
The color drained from Charlie's face as he stared at the empty space behind Erik's chair. He leaned further over the table then abruptly rubbed at his eyes as if to clear them. "Am I imagining it? "he thought to himself and was amazed that no one else seemed to notice the barely discernible figure standing behind the mediums chair. Was it possible? Perhaps it was just a shadow of something in the room or maybe it was the way the moonlight played through the glass of the bay window that cast the illusion of someone standing there. He let out a slow breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding and continued to stare at the faint vision.
Charlie couldn't explain it but he could almost swear that Tom was standing across from him… just as he had in life.