The Presence

Publisher: Zondervan; First Edition edition (August 20, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0310242363
ISBN-13: 978-0310242369

About the Book

Book 2 of the Soul Tracker series

The first subjects exposed to The Presence went insane. Now a far more terrifying experiment is about to begin…

A diverse group of unusual characters is airlifted to a remote mountain lodge. Here they hope to participate in a seance connecting them to the spirit world. David Kauffman and his teenage son have joined them to debunk a world-class psychic and expose her as a hoax.

But not even David is prepared for what greets them. Still shaken by his daughter’s death and his visits to heaven and hell, he’s swept into a fantastic journey exposing the supernatural souls of men, where unseen thoughts become unimaginable reality.

As the power of The Presence increases, the group must overcome their innermost passions or be destroyed by them. All this as they struggle to break free of their captor—the head of experiment and the murderer of David’s daughter.

Bestselling novelist Bill Myers weaves a supernatural thriller that will keep you turning pages late into the night—and thinking days after you’ve finished

The Presence Reviews

Myers’ gift for the bizarre twist flings the reader on a sublimely bruising ride through horror and ecstasy
Romantic Times Magazine
Readers beware: Picking up this book to read a couple chapters before bed is not a good idea if you hope to actually sleep that night. I was drawn in to this story from the spine-chilling séance on first page and lost all track of time. Even when I put it down, Myers’ brilliant writing branded vivid images in my head that wouldn’t let me sleep. Bill Myers takes the battle between good and evil, as well as the battles that rage within all of us, and weaves them together in this page-turning story. You won’t put it down until you’ve read the last word.
Focus on Fiction
This has to be the best book I have read in my life! Myers has woven a captivating story that provides an action-packed thrill…and brings you closer in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
T. Bell
…It’s no wonder Mr. Myers is a best selling author. His writing is tight and quick, and we identify fully with the characters who could be our family members or our friends. Maybe that is why his books touch the soul: we could imagine ourselves or our loved one’s in the same perilous situation as the characters in the book. He gives us a feel of the fire of hell and that sends us searching for the love of heaven. You won’t be disappointed when you read this book; in fact your life might be forever changed.
Linda Mae Baldwin The Road to Romance
I just finished reading “The Presence”. Wow! Gave me a lot to think about as far as my walk with the Lord is concerned. A summation of the contents of your book would make an absolutely awesome message for Pastors to give their congregations. I mean it, there is a lot of food for thought in this story. I am sure that this story had to be God inspired. I look forward to the next volume of the Soul Tracker series. I know that you will write the story as God inspires you and it will be a success. Thank you.
Joanne Desy
I just finished reading “The Presence” and it was the most amazing book. The way you are able to write brings the characters so alive you feel like you are right there with them. I was unable to put the book down. The book has also made me stop and think about what my own glow and its color would be like if we could truly see. It has caused me to evaluate myself more closely – to look deep within. However you get your ideas for your books, I feel God is using you in a mighty way to reach so many. So no matter how odd a story line may seem, write it. There is someone out there who needs to read about it – to hear a word from God through it.
Tammy K. Colvin
Bestselling novelist Bill Myers pens a supernatural, question-raising thriller . . . How would your soul look to earthly eyes? How would someone else’s soul appear? His writing is vivid and daringly descriptive . . . not wordy for the sake of words but words crafted to open your eyes and heart’s imagination. The action is extremely intense at times, and as usual, Bill Myers’ characters are believable and have great depth. The faith-based concept of forgiveness is explored; how unforgiveness affects you more than it does the other person. I’d highly recommend reading “Soul Tracker” first so you understand the story’s foundation before reading “The Presence.” If you have enjoyed any of Bill Myers’ previous books, you will not be disappointed! If you haven’t read him yet, what are you waiting for? Consider this your personal invitation!
Dale Lewis Hope to Home Publishing

The Presence

(The Soul Tracker Series #2)

Bill Myers

Bestselling Author of Soul Tracker
The Presence
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Myers
Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Myers, Bill, 1953The
presence / Bill Myers.
p. cm.—(Soul tracker series; bk. 2)
ISBN-10: 0-310-24236-3 (softcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-24236-9 (softcover)
I. Title.
PS3563.Y36P74 2005

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version and Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

“How Great Thou Art,” words and music copyright 1953 by S. K. Hine. Assigned to Manna Music, Inc., 35255 Brooten Road, Pacific City, OR 97135. Renewed 1981 by Manna Music, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. (ASCAP)

Interior design by Michelle Espinoza

Printed in the United States of America

0506070809101112/. DCI/10987654321

For Mackenzie . . .
Who makes my heart smile

Author’s note:

This is Book 2 in the Soul Tracker series. If you haven’t read the first, don’t worry—I’ve included enough background information so you won’t be lost. Of course, reading this one ahead of the other might ruin a couple surprises in the first (like who manages to survive and who doesn’t), but that’s about the only problem I can see. And, hopefully, when you’re finished, you’ll be intrigued enough to go back and read the first. With this second book there are a few more characters, so I’ll list them for your reference. Don’t be concerned about them now, but if you get sidetracked and come back to the book later, the list should help jump-start your memory. From the first book we have . . .

David Kauffman—Lost his daughter (Emily) as well as a good friend (Gita). Has been asked to disprove the claim that we can contact the dead.

Luke Kauffman—David’s teenage son.
Preacher Man—Street evangelist and friend of David’s.
Nubee—Mentally and physically impaired brother of Gita.
Starr—Young teen living on the streets.
Norman E. Orbolitz—Media tycoon who will do anything to control his fate, even through death.

And the new folks on the block are . . .

Rachel McPherson—A television medium growing in popularity.
Savannah—Ex-model trying to contact her dead husband.
Albert Sinclair—Friend of Savannah’s. A software entrepreneur.
Reverend Wyatt—Savannah’s spiritual advisor.

There you have it. Thanks for beginning or continuing this series. It’s certainly been an interesting journey for me and has caused me to do some thinking along the way. I hope it will do the same for you.


“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

The Presence

Part One

Some presence has joined us. Yes, something has definitely decided to visit us from beyond.”

David Kauffman tried not to smirk at the melodrama. Honestly, the medium sounded like she was out of a bad 1950s movie. The only thing missing were some cheesy special effects. Then, sure enough, right on cue, the table candles flickered as if someone had opened a window. But of course no window had been opened. Nor door. Nor anything else in the lodge’s spacious dining room of pine paneling and hardwood floors. Just the fan or whatever it was the medium had obviously switched on by hidden remote.

Still, it had its desired effect. None of the participants moved; they waited in breathless anticipation. This is what they’d been preparing for. What they’d traveled so many miles to experience.

A chill crept across David’s shoulders. Apparently the medium hadn’t turned on a fan but an air conditioner. He could literally feel the temperature of the room dropping. A neat trick that made an instant believer of the woman to his right.

“Is it . . . him?” Her voice was thick and husky, cured from years of tobacco smoke. Savannah (she used no last name) was an ex-supermodel edging out of her prime—with thick blonde hair, complete with fashionable dark streaks, an indigo butterfly tattooed on her left shoulder, silver and turquoise jewelry, pink capris, and a silk camisole sheer enough to show off her lacy black bra. Nearby was the water bottle she took frequent drags from. In further efforts to kick her nicotine habit, she perpetually clicked and rattled sugarless candy inside her mouth.

“Ashton . . . baby?” She gave a sniff and gripped David’s hand tighter, her fingers damp and cold. “Is that you?”

There was no answer—except for the slapping candles against the air and the rattling of sugarless lemon drops.

Directly across from her sat a young man—Albert Sinclair. He’d barely met David before mentioning he’d sold his first software company at twenty-six, for 2.5 mil, and was working on his second. He sported a shaved head with fuzzy stubble, mandatory goatee, and casual khakis. In an effort to hide his nerdliness, he wore a black T-shirt just tight enough to indicate he’d been working out. He nearly succeeded.

“Man,” he sniffed, “it’s getting cold in here.”

David fought off another shiver. The kid was right. It had dropped a good ten degrees.

“It often happens when one contacts those on the other side.”

David shook his head. He’d written better lines than that in junior high. He turned to the medium, Rachel McPherson. She was in her midthirties and had that handsome sophistication that sometimes follows pretty girls when they grow up. Smart, personable, sensitive—the perfect combination for a con artist who bilks the grieving by “contacting” their dearly departed. Now if she could just do something about that corny dialogue. He had studied her bio on the flight up from LA. She had two books out, a syndicated TV show with a growing audience, and a PSI rating by the National Psychic Board of Level Three—a classification held by only a dozen or so in the country. A classification that to David meant she was simply good at not getting caught.

Ever since they’d started the séance some fifteen minutes earlier, he’d been silently evaluating her performance. Her eyes were closed in concentration, her head tilted to the side as if listening, allowing her shimmering copper hair to brush against some very bare and lovely shoulders. It’s true, he’d been taken by her beauty the moment they’d met—which explained his immediate shifting to a cooler, more professional approach, a curtness that bordered on rudeness. He didn’t enjoy it, not in the least, but it seemed to be necessary if he was to do his job.

She had offered her hand at the lodge’s front door when he and his son had been dropped off by the chopper less than an hour earlier. “Good morning, Mr. Kauffman. We were beginning to wonder if you would make it.” It was a good-natured barb, softened by kind eyes and the slightest flirt to her smile.

He nodded, glancing at the hand-carved beaver near the entrance, the beamed cathedral ceiling, the stuffed bobcat crouching on the table—anywhere but to her green, low- swooping, cowl-neck sweater. It was a clumsy defense, one he knew she saw through, but it was the best he could come up with on such short notice. He kept his answer simple and to the point: “Then let’s not waste any more time, shall we.”

“Don’t you want to see your room? Get unpacked and settled?”

He shook his head. “The sooner we get on with this, the better.”

That was it. No pleasantries. No apologies for missing the first day. Just his attempt at trying to be direct and professional.

The woman’s smile remained, but it grew a few degrees cooler. Just as well. He may have been taken in by her looks and winning personality—but he would not be taken in by her scam.

Initially, David had declined the request to fly up to Washington State and take part in the séances. He was an author, for crying out loud—not some psychic ghost buster. But Savannah, widow of the famous rock and roller, Ashton Hawkins, had been very persistent . . . the twenty-five thousand dollars she’d offered hadn’t hurt, either. All she asked was that he attend the gathering with a couple close friends and the acclaimed psychic, Rachel McPherson. Savannah insisted that they had made several contacts with her dead husband over the past few months. And it was during those contacts that his spirit claimed again and again that David had seen him in hell. More importantly, he insisted that David could actually help him escape from it.

Far-fetched to say the least. And David would have written Savannah off as a nutcase—except for the gold pendant. The swirling gold pendant he had seen around the neck of an individual suffering and burning when he had visited the Lake of Fire. The very pendant Savannah had later sent him as proof that he had actually seen her dead husband during those awful minutes he’d spent in hell.

Even then, David had declined. Although a relatively new believer, he’d read the Bible’s warnings against contacting the dead. Besides, according to his research, most were merely hoaxes and con jobs. A good friend of his, Dr. Gita Patekar, had made a career exposing just such frauds . . . until she gave up her life to save him in a very different type of supernatural encounter, one that was anything but fake.

Unfortunately, it was this last argument that the widow turned on him and successfully used in one of her later phone calls. “If you’re so sure it’s not true, then you’d be doing me a favor by coming up here and proving it.”

“I really don’t—”

“You wouldn’t believe the money I’m pouring down the drain on these people.”

“I can appreciate—”

“Not to mention my emotional instability.”

“I’m sure it’s very diffi—”

“I’m a wreck, David—I can call you David, right?”

“Certainly, but—”

“I got this cool place all rented up in the Cascades. So deep in the mountains you have to charter a helicopter. You can bring the family. You got family?”

“I have a son.”

“Perfect. Bring him up. Three days is all I’m asking. Make a vacation out of it.”

“I’m afraid you don’t—”

“Just think it over, please? ‘Cause for me it’s a real life or death thing. Not to mention for Ashton.”


“Just think it over.”

It took a few more calls to finally wear him down, though it was the offer to bring his son that had clinched it. Who knew, maybe a little father/son bonding in the wilderness would help heal their ever-widening rift.

The chandelier above their heads, the one made of intertwined deer antlers, started to rattle. All eyes shot up to it.

“Just a little tremor,” Reverend Wyatt assured them. He was the last of the party—an elderly denominational pastor in his seventies. Savannah had brought him along as her “spiritual advisor.” He was not at all the type David figured for someone of her lifestyle. Then again, by the way he constantly scrutinized and corrected her, maybe she felt the man was exactly what she needed. Although he was a definite stuffed shirt, David felt the closest to him. Probably because they shared equal skepticism about the proceedings.

The shaking grew harder, accompanied by a low rumble.

“We are located upon some unstable geological plates,” the Reverend calmly explained. “The same ones that created all that activity with Mount Saint Helens and are currently creating the steam vents you may have witnessed while flying over Mount Baker.”

David threw a look to his son. He was alert but showed little concern. And why not? After all, Luke was California born and bred. A little tremor now and then was only natural.

What was not natural was the icy blast of wind that exploded from the center of the table. It burst out in all directions, striking their faces, blowing their hair, their clothes. David squinted into the wind, searching the table for a vent, for some sort of opening. He saw none. He looked up at the ceiling, around the chandelier. Nothing.

“Rachel?” Savannah cried.

“We’re okay,” the medium shouted. “Everything’s all right.”

But things were not all right. The concern in the woman’s voice made that clear. So did the shaking of her hands. The gold Tiffany bracelet on her right wrist, the one Savannah had ogled earlier, banged loudly on the table.

There was also the matter of the computer geek’s chair. It started to move.

“What—what’s happening?” Albert cried.

David dropped his head to look at the chair’s legs just as it began rising from the floor . . . with the kid in it!

Albert screamed, immediately trying to climb off, but the wind pressed against him with such force that he could barely move. “Make it stop!” he shouted as he continued rising. Soon his ankles were level with the top of the table. “Put me down! Put me down!”

“Jump!” Rachel yelled.

“I can’t!” He struggled, but it was no use. “I can’t move!”

Savannah shrieked and David spun around to see her chair also rising. Eyes bulging in terror, she continued screaming, “Rachel! Rachel!” She tried moving, but like Albert she was pressed into the chair, her hair flying in all directions.

“Noooo!” Rachel cried.

David turned to see her screaming directly into the wind.

“They are innocent! I am the one who disturbed you! I am the one you—”

Her chair also began to rise, her eyes growing as big as Savannah’s. If this was a hoax, it was more elaborate than anything David had ever seen or read about. And Rachel McPherson was a far better actress than he’d given her credit for.

With sudden concern he turned to his son . . . just as the table between them exploded! The air filled with wood. “Luke!”

If the boy answered, David didn’t hear—not over the roar of the wind and the crashing debris. He leaped from his chair and tried lunging into the swirling vortex of wood and splinters. Pieces stung his cheeks, cut his forehead. He threw his arm across his face, squinting into the wind as he stepped forward, but the power and force drove him back.

And then he heard him. “DAD!”

He caught a glimpse of his boy beside the Reverend, peering through the wind.

Another scream. He whirled around to see Savannah’s chair blow apart, throwing her ten, twelve feet across the room. Then Albert’s chair disintegrated, flinging the young man in the opposite direction—just as Rachel’s chair exploded, tossing her hard into the far wall.


He spun back to Luke. The boy had left the Reverend’s side and was stepping into the swirl of wind and wood.


But his son did not listen. He fought through the whirlwind toward his father. David lunged forward, doing likewise. Each struggled toward the other, barely staying on their feet, until they finally arrived and David wrapped his arms around his son to protect him. Only then did he notice the wind decreasing, the roar lessening. Swirling bits of wood began to clatter to the ground around them. Soon there were only sputtering gusts, then uneven wisps. Then, nothing at all.


He turned to see Reverend Wyatt stumbling through the clutter toward the supermodel. She lay crumpled on the floor. There was no blood, and though she was stunned, she was struggling to sit up.

A groan brought David’s attention to Albert on the other side of the room. Like Savannah, he had no blood on him, though he was definitely bruised and battered as he fought to get back to his feet.

Only Rachel McPherson did not rise. Instead, she sat curled in a ball against the far wall. She gripped her knees tightly, her eyes wild and unblinking. And she shivered. So fiercely her entire body shook.

Flashes of light?” Norman E. Orbolitz shouted. He turned to his division head, Dr. Lisa Stanton. She was in her late thirties, a nervous, rail-thin researcher whose wardrobe showed she had no concept of her gender and whose shoes squeaked annoyingly every second or third step. It was difficult moving his head with the heavy goggles on, not to mention the bulky cable that attached his goggles to the control console. “Sixty-five million dollars and you give me flashes of light!”

“Sir, that’s at our lowest setting. We wanted your system to have a moment to adjust. Remember what happened when we exposed—”

“Forget my system, girl. We’re on a deadline! Now crank this baby up and let’s see what she’s got.”

Through his goggles he watched the glowing image of the woman as she turned to her two assistants behind the console. “Increase the power, Charles. On my count.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

She turned back to Orbolitz. “We’re at Level Two. I’ll call off each level as—”

“Just do it! Quit wastin’ my time and do it!” Orbolitz had every right to be angry. He’d been assured the goggles would be up and running by now. In fact, their completion determined the start-up date of the entire project. A project that had cut sizably into the assets of his multibillion-dollar communication empire. But a project that would be worth every penny . . . if it worked.

“Bring us to Level Three, Charles.”

The hum from the headgear increased as Orbolitz continued staring through the goggles. In some ways they reminded him of the night vision gear used by the military, though they required far more power. And instead of green and white images that registered the body’s heat, these images registered something much more substantial.

There was another fleeting smudge of light, off to his left—four, five feet wide, traveling less than a yard before disappearing. Then another, over by the console. Orbolitz sighed impatiently.

“Level Four, please, Charles.”

More lights, wider now, growing brighter, more distracting. “Lisa, this is not what we—”

“Implement the filters, please, and take us to Level Six.”

The room grew several shades darker and the darting lights all but disappeared. Now he could clearly see the glow coming from the doctor and her colleagues. This was the focus of their studies. The light smudges were only a distraction, unwanted interference to what they were really after.

Orbolitz smiled. “Now we’re cookin’.”

“And Seven, please.”

The glow from the doctor grew brighter, radiating two or three inches from her body, except for the glow around her head, which was slightly larger, reminding Orbolitz of the halos in old religious paintings. He knew that the holistic crowd would mistake the glow as some type of aura photography— a technique developed in the 1890s and made popular in the 1970s by Kirlian Photography. But the team had quickly debunked that myth. Instead, what they discovered and what he now witnessed came from hard, scientific research—most of it from his Life After Life division, a department devoted to the study of death—more precisely, how to control one’s life after death. At eighty-seven, controlling his afterlife was just about all Norman E. Orbolitz cared about these days. Forget increasing his empire, forget any philanthropic outreaches—what good would they do him once he was gone? Instead, he invested his sizable wealth into making sure he could maintain control even after he’d left.

“Level Eight, please.”

The glows shimmered, growing brighter. He could see colors now—oranges and reds, swirling and folding into one another—all encased in a thin, much darker, violet-blue shell.

Orbolitz grinned. “Oh, yeah.”

They’d first noticed the glow when visiting the virtual reality lab down on the third floor. By entering the chamber, participants could experience the first few minutes of death recorded from the dying brains of over thirteen hundred volunteers. This data was then processed and assembled into a virtual reality program that allowed the participants to experience heaven, hell, and everything in between. It was a fascinating study, but soon opened the doors to much more important research . . . research that focused upon the glow.

They found it to be the strongest on the other side of the tunnel, in what they called the Garden. Here people, animals, even plants seemed to radiate it. And by isolating the information and studying it, the Life After Life team had been able to develop special and complex opticals to capture glimmers of it in our world. Glimmers that were amplified several thousand times, allowing the wearer of the goggles to see what Orbolitz now saw.

“We’re at Level Nine, sir.”

The faint flashes of light reappeared. He frowned. “I’m gettin’ them light things again.”

“Double the filtering, please.”

“Doubling now.”

The room dimmed again. The interfering lights disappeared and the doctor’s glow increased. He turned to her assistants. The first had a glow similar to the doctor’s, though tinged with a bit more red. And the second? Orbolitz squinted. His shell was much thicker, the purples and violets starting to encroach upon the warmer colors underneath. Orbolitz mused. He’d have to ask for the background on the kid—his psychological profile. Because, as their research continued, Life After Life had discovered a clear pattern between a person’s interior life and their glow. More importantly, the pattern between the person’s glow and their final destination after death . . . which, of course, was the whole purpose of the little quarter-billion-dollar event they were about to stage.

“Mr. Orbolitz?”

He turned back to Stanton. By now her glow was so vivid it was nearly impossible to see her physical body.

“We’re at maximum power now.”

He nodded, examining each of the three glowing figures. “It’s still not like the implants.”

“No, sir, you’ll never see what our subjects will see, but it should definitely give you the idea. And, as we increase the power, as they experience more and more of the Presence, you’ll be able to see and evaluate their various reactions.”

Again he nodded. If it was the best they could do, it was the best they could do. “Well, then,” he sighed, “let’s get our heinies down to the screening room and see what we got.”

David in trouble. We go see David.” Once again Nubee Patekar grabbed his pillow, rolled his wheelchair backwards to the foot of his bed, and dropped the pillow into the suitcase.

“Nubee . . .” Once again Starr patiently reached into the suitcase and removed it. “David’s up in Washington State with Luke.”

“We go see David—we go see God.”

Starr raked her fingers through her greasy blonde hair. The two of them had been stuck in this rut ever since she’d entered his room at the nursing home twenty minutes ago.

“We go see God. You’ll like God.” He started for the pillow again.

“Yeah,” Starr sighed, “I’m sure he’s a cool dude.”

Nubee giggled as he grabbed the pillow. “Cool dude. God’s cool. Cool God dude.”

She shook her head. “Don’t you ever think of anything but God?”

He turned to her, breaking into that lopsided grin of his. “I think of you.”

She smiled in spite of herself. He could be quite the charmer when he wanted to be. Not that she ever felt any attraction to him or anything. At least not that kind. Honestly, how gross would that be. ‘Sides, he was in his thirties and she was only fifteen. Well, fifteen in a few months. No, Starr began hanging out with Nubee ’cause she liked his sister, Gita Patekar. More specifically, she liked the fame his dead sister had earned by shutting down the Freak Shop—that place where they experimented on street kids near Hollywood Boulevard.

But, gradually, over the months as the fame faded, Starr still found herself coming to visit Nubee. Not that she was crazy about the facilities. The smell of old people and disinfectant still creeped her out. And the rooms were way too similar to McLaren Hall—the juvee center she’d escaped from a couple times. The point is, she liked hanging with Nubee—though she couldn’t exactly figure it out. It’s not like he was a novelty or anything. She’d seen retards before, plenty of them. On the streets, in the parks, tucked up in the crannies of freeway overpasses. No, the best she figured, it was probably ’cause he was safe. He was still a man, an older man, but unlike her stepdad (the reason she hit the Boulevard in the first place), this guy had absolutely no interest in sex. Zero. Nada. That meant she could have the best of both worlds—enjoy the pleasure of hanging with an older guy . . . without having to do any of that other junk to earn it.

Course the bus ride out of the city every Saturday wasn’t bad, either. If you called Encino “out of the city.” That had been Preacher Man’s idea. Again Starr smiled. When it came to haranguing you about the Gospel, the big, black old-timer never let up. It was kind of cute the way he’d lock in on the new kids that came to the shelter. I mean, once he got you on his radar, look out. And when he heard that Nubee liked having the Bible read to him and that she had visited him once or twice, he got it in his head to cough up the $4.85 every week for bus fare to send her out.

“If I can’t get you to church, I’ll leas’ expose you to the cleansin’ power o’ God’s Holy Word.”

She shook her head. Good ol’ Preacher Man. Another piece of work. But another safe port from the storms of the street.

She glanced over to see Nubee sitting in his wheelchair, his pillow resting in his suitcase, patiently waiting. Realizing it was her turn, that it was one of those patterns he loved so much, she reached for the pillow and tossed it back to the head of the bed. But, even then, she sensed this was more than just a game to him. There was something about his insistence. The guy really was serious about leaving.

Once again he rolled to the pillow.

“Hey, Nubes, I got an idea.”

He was too focused upon retrieving the pillow to answer.

“What say I read you some Revelation? We haven’t read Revelation yet.”

Without looking up, he recited, “I like the angels, I like the monsters.”

“I know you do.” She reached for the worn Bible on his nightstand. “Let’s read about them angels and monsters.”

Nubee slowed to a stop, holding the pillow midair. He tilted his head, thinking a moment. Then, tossing the pillow back into the suitcase, he repeated, “We go see David.”

“Nubee . . .”

“We go see God.”

Rachel McPherson caught the badminton birdie on the edge of her racket. It gave a clunk and shot out of bounds near the front steps of the lodge.

“That’s okay, we’re all right!” Albert yelled from her side of the net. “We’ve got ’em right where we want ’em. Their defenses are down; now we’ll go in for the kill!”

Rachel grinned and shook her head. At 0–5, she seriously questioned her teammate’s tactics. She crossed to the shuttle and picked it up with a suppressed groan. Thanks to this morning’s encounter, her body ached in more places than she could count.

“Okay, Savannah,” David called to his own teammate from across the net. “Let’s put them out of their misery.”

Rachel discretely rubbed her back, musing, If he only knew …

“Two points and it’s a skunk game!” Savannah beamed.

The badminton game had been Rachel’s idea. “To help everyone relax,” she had said. “To attune themselves to the forces of nature around them.” And rightfully so. The morning’s events had been frightening. And dangerous. Fortunately, she’d sustained most of the injuries. And that was fine, that’s how it should be. After all, she was the expert, the professional. Professional . . . how she’d begun to hate that word. More and more she found herself longing for those earlier days, back when she donated her services for free. Granted, it had meant macaroni and cheese a couple nights a week, yet wasn’t that why she’d been given her gift in the first place—not to get rich, but to assist others? But now, over the last two years, as her books became best sellers, as her popularity grew, as her TV audience rose, so did her wealth . . . and her overhead. Now she had offices to rent, producers to pay, corporate sponsors to please, and staff members with families to feed. Suddenly she had become Rachel McPherson, acclaimed psychic, national celebrity, woman of the world. And yet, ironically, as each month passed, she thought more and more of their tiny little apartment on Capitol Hill in Seattle, of being the wife to Mr. Jerry McPherson, of being a good and loving mother. Sadly though, some things were never meant to be.

After the morning’s attack, she had offered to end the retreat. There were too many variables, too many unknowns. But to her surprise, no one had taken her up on the offer. Whether it was their devotion to Savannah or just morbid curiosity, she didn’t know. Nor did she know if she was particularly pleased with their decision. In all of her years she had never experienced anything close to what had happened this morning. She had read nothing remotely similar in any Book of Shadows—those personal journals she and all Wiccans kept to record spells, incantations, and such. What she’d sensed, the raging hatred and violence, went against everything she’d ever learned. There were no evil entities, no evil gods. At least that’s what her spirit guides had taught her. Ever since childhood.

Spirit guides . . . She’d met her first in fifth grade, back when Sister Elizabeth Thompson taught them to relax on the classroom floor using yoga and meditation techniques.

“Breathe in . . . ,” the nun’s airy voice had encouraged them, “. . . and out. Good, good. And in . . . make believe the floor is sun-warmed sand and let your body melt into it . . . and out. Good. In . . . listen only to your breathing, there is only your breath . . . and out. Push all thoughts from your mind. Melting, melting, becoming one with the earth.”

Always wanting to be the good student, Rachel did her best to obey—lying on her back, smelling the waxed linoleum, melting into the floor … and clearing her mind.

“Good, good. No thoughts of your own. Push them aside. And in . . . become empty vessels . . . and out. One with the earth. No will. No self. In . . . you are totally empty, totally open . . .”

Mr. Sparks was her first guide. Later, she realized his real name was Osiris, but because of the way he glowed and shimmered, Mr. Sparks seemed a better fit. He had appeared to her at the end of the first week—a glimmering, sparkling presence who stood just outside her consciousness, waiting to be invited inside.

“And in … no will … no resistance …”

And with Sister Elizabeth’s careful tutelage, Rachel had made the invitation.

“. . . and out.”

Others followed. Friends of Mr. Sparks. They were distinct personalities whose voices she learned to recognize. Often, they gave her insights that kids her age never had. It was only when she reached puberty that situations occasionally grew unpleasant. That’s when one voice in particular asked her to do things with boys she knew were wrong. When she resisted, it began teasing her, taunting her. But what it wanted was not right and she continued resisting. This led to the name-calling—awful, mean names, some she didn’t even understand. That’s when she finally asked them to leave. All of them. But they argued, promising to control their friend and insisting they had no other place to go. More importantly, they promised they would use their powers to help her do good, to serve others. And, though they occasionally frightened her and made her uneasy, it was that promise, to help and serve others, that finally convinced her to let them stay.

“Hey, Rach, you playing or what?”

“Sorry.” Coming to, Rachel popped the birdie over the net to Savannah, who caught it and prepared to serve.

“Five–zero. Ready or not, here it comes!” Savannah hit the shuttle. It sailed high over the net, heading out of bounds.

“Let it go!” Albert shouted. “Let it go!”

Rachel obeyed, resisting the urge to swing. Unfortunately a light gust pushed the shuttle back, dropping it on the line.

“All right!” Albert shouted. “It’s out, it’s out!”

“No way,” Savannah argued.

“It’s out by a mile!”

“You’re crazy, I can see it from here!”

“Reverend?” Rachel motioned him over.

Reverend Wyatt, who claimed to be too old for the game but agreed to referee, sauntered over to take a look.

“It’s in!” Savannah shouted.

“Out! Out!”

The Reverend carefully studied the shuttle.

“It’s out, right, Reverend?”

He moved, looking at it from another angle.

Rachel watched, amused at his thoroughness. Anybody else would simply call “do-overs,” but not this man. He was a stickler for detail. And after surveying it from yet a third angle, he made the call. “It is in bounds.”

“All right!” Savannah cheered.

Albert swore good-naturedly.

The Reverend scowled briefly at the profanity, then called, “The score is 6–0. It is once again Savannah’s serve.”

“We’ve been robbed!” Albert complained. “Robbed!”

Rachel threw another look over to David, who chuckled quietly at the antics. He still avoided her, doing his best not to look at her, which she found both challenging and endearing . . . not to mention a bit refreshing—particularly given Albert’s full-court leers. The younger computer geek was too smart to make a full-on pass at her, but he’d definitely developed the less-than-subtle art of sneak- a-peek lust.

Even at that, he was less obvious than Savannah. Originally she had appeared decked out in suede knee-high boots, red, pleated miniskirt, and an ultrasnug bustier with lacing up the front—until she caught the Reverend’s frown and shaking head. Taking her cue, she excused herself and returned wearing something a bit more modest. But only a bit. Poor Savannah. Rachel wondered if people like her wore such things intentionally or if they’d been advertising so long they simply weren’t aware of it.

Rachel scooped up the shuttle, trying not to wince in pain. She popped it under the net only to have it hit David’s thigh. “Sorry,” she called.

He nodded without looking, and bent down to toss it to Savannah.

Rachel had to admit she was attracted to the man, despite his initial rudeness. He was modest, smart, with a gentle, self-effacing humor. And then, of course, there was his thoughtfulness. That’s why he was up here in the first place. He had no interest in being her adversary, she knew that. He was simply committed to helping a grieving widow. Commitment. A vanishing trait among the men of her world. At least those she’d met since reentering the singles scene. Not that she entertained thoughts of him. Heaven forbid. Still, he wasn’t hard on the eyes—six foot, dark hair, and just muscular enough to avoid being lanky. She’d heard he was a recent convert to Christianity, which was fine, particularly since he didn’t seem inclined to shove it down people’s throats. After all, one of Wicca’s greatest attributes was its tolerance.

And what did her voices say about him? Just as they remained strangely silent over the morning’s attack, they remained quiet about the man. In fact, Osiris had spoken only two words all morning, back when she’d first greeted David in the entry hall. Only two words, but they were clear and unmistakable.

Be careful.

That was it. And now, to be honest, she wasn’t sure if he’d been referring to David or if he knew what would happen an hour later at the séance.

Be careful. That was all he said.

“Six–zero,” Savannah boasted as she prepared to serve. But underneath her shouting, Rachel heard the sound of something else. Crying. A baby. She glanced at the lodge. There were no babies here. Couldn’t be. They had the entire place to themselves.

The crying grew louder.

“Ready or not, here comes the skunk point.”

It grew more difficult to hear her over the baby. Rachel glanced at the others, but no one else seemed to notice.

Savannah served the shuttle. Once again it flew over the net. Only this time, instead of falling, it continued to rise. And, as it soared higher and higher, the baby’s crying grew louder and more urgent. It finally slowed, reaching its apex, and started down. But as it fell, it changed shape. At first Rachel thought it was a trick of the sun. But this was no trick. The thing was growing wings! The cry became a scream—shrill, deafening. The shuttle had become a bird. No, it was too big for a bird. But those were wings, she even saw the feathers. Yet it wasn’t a bird, it was . . . human! A baby! Falling. Diving straight at her. Screaming, shrieking. A newborn. No, younger than newborn.

Rachel raised her arms to cover her face as it rushed at her, screeching. She closed her eyes and screamed, no longer able to hear her own voice . . . until it brushed past, so close, so powerful, that it knocked her to the ground.

“Rachel!” Savannah yelled.

Others ran toward her. “Rachel, are you all right? Rachel?”

The crying had stopped. Now there were only their voices and her own ragged breathing.

“Rachel . . .”

Cautiously, she pulled back her arms. Only the faces stared down at her. There was no bird, no baby. Just the worried, concerned faces.

It’s on the blink again!”

“Mr. Orbolitz . . .”

“One minute it’s on, the next off!”

“It’s the video link, sir.”


“Look around the room.”

Orbolitz turned from the large projection screen before him to Dr. Lisa Stanton, who sat in the next row. As before she was surrounded in color.

“You see all of the images correctly in here, don’t you?”

He craned his neck past her to see the mixing board where the two associates sat, their colors equally as vivid.

“It’s in the video link, sir. Not the goggles. The images aren’t being picked up by the video feed at the mountain.”

Orbolitz made no attempt to hide his anger. “And that’s s’pose to make me feel better!”

“Well, no, sir, but—”

“The whole purpose of this little endeavor is to see what happens!”

“Yes, I understand—”

“Every one of them folks has been handpicked. No expense spared!” He turned back to the screen to watch the group helping Rachel McPherson up the steps and into the lodge. “And now you’re telling me I won’t be able to see their reactions?”

“No, sir, that’s not what I—”

“Then what are you saying?”

She swallowed and threw a nervous look to her colleagues. “Let me bring in the video team. Let me see if we—”

“If?” Orbolitz was suddenly on his feet, ripping the goggles from his head. “There ain’t no if, missy! I’ve invested a ton on this here thing.”

“I can appreciate—”

“Now I don’t care what you do, or how you do it. Bring in a hundred video teams if you got to, but I want this thing up and runnin’!”


“You got till noon tomorrow!”


“That’s nineteen hours!” He threw the goggles at her, crossed to the aisle, and stormed up it. No one spoke. It would have been suicide if they tried. He reached the door and yanked it open, the soundproof seal popping and scraping. Turning back he shouted one last time, “It’s already started, girl! The curtain’s up! Now just make sure I get to see the show!”