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Martha’s information about the security in the Swiss Bank was dated. Samuel went through not two metal detectors, but five, and two full-body scans. The guards politely requested he remove his shoes, and they examined them with a machine that had so many warnings printed on its side and made such ominous noises Samuel wanted to cover his balls or step behind a lead wall or something.
He intended to have children someday.
He was contemplating the lineup of shoes from the poor schmucks who didn’t get theirs returned to them when the guards very politely requested his pen, his belt, his tie clip, and his watch. They placed them in a safety-deposit box, had him lock them inside, and gave him the key.
Then they frisked him.
The Swiss took their security very, very seriously.
Don’t make a joke. Don’t mess up now.
He heard the woman so clearly, he turned to see where she stood.
But she wasn’t here. She was in New York, in a hospital, sitting at Irving Shea’s bedside, smelling of cigarettes and passing on Irving’s instructions in that freaking spooky telepathic way of hers. Dina was in her sixties, short, bitter . . . and a mind-speaker, one of the most talented ever born.
She was also one of the Others. She held an old and towering grudge against Irving, and why any of them were trusting her, Samuel didn’t know. Why he was trusting her, he didn’t know. If he got caught trying to pull this off, he’d be the one rotting in a Swiss jail for the rest of his life.
Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it? that rough female voice asked.
“Damn it!” he said.
The guards looked up inquiringly.
“Stubbed my toe,” he explained.
Inside his head, Dina laughed.
He didn’t react to her amusement, but only because he knew cameras followed his every move, and somewhere a computer was analyzing his features, looking for his resemblance to any known criminal.
Not that the Swiss banks didn’t allow known criminals to hold accounts in their hallowed vaults, but they liked to make sure those criminals didn’t have designs on other criminals’ money.
He knew how this operation was supposed to work. They—the Chosen Ones, aided and abetted by Martha, their Gypsy Travel Agency adviser—had set up Samuel’s schedule. He was to go into the bank, talk to the bank president (the bank president and no one else, Martha warned), and convince him to open the Gypsy Travel Agency accounts, frozen since the explosion of the headquarters almost three years before. Because with Irving in the hospital and deemed incompetent by his doctors, the Chosen Ones’ funds had dried up and they were in danger of losing their shirts, not to mention Irving’s mansion and their ability to perform the task for which they had been recruited—rescuing abandoned children from the Others.
Samuel couldn’t carry a wire or have any mechanical way to remain in touch with the Chosen Ones, so he had memorized script after script of what to say, what to do, whom he might meet, plus the Chosen would occasionally give him a surprise setup and have him wing it. He was a natural. As a child, he’d learned to be fast on his feet—it was a matter of survival—and law school had honed his talents.
Mostly, he had been picked for this mission because he was a mind controller.
He found it a useful talent for a lawyer.
He had also used it to destroy his own happiness. Because yes, everyone knew he was blunt to the point of rudeness, abrasive, impatient with fools, and he was fine with all that.
But he was also a monumentally stupid ass.
That hadn’t turned out so well for him.
When all of the Chosen Ones had been satisfied he was as prepared as he could be and he was on the way to the airport to catch his flight to Switzerland, he went to the hospital to say good-bye to Irving . . . and Dina was there.
The old man struggled to communicate in words, but he made himself clear in other ways—through Dina’s interpretation, through the few instructions he could manage aloud, and with gestures that indicated approval or rejection. Irving intended that she help Samuel with little reminders.
Samuel thought it was a bad idea.
Dina thought it was a bad idea.
But for some reason, Irving was intent on getting his way. He was ninety-four. He had fallen down the stairs, broken his hip and his shoulder, started rehab, had a small stroke, spent months in the hospital . . . and he was insistent on this point.
Samuel gave in.
Because it isn’t like you have a choice. If I want to talk in your head, I will. I know the way.
Knock it off.
Samuel accepted his shoes back from the guard, put them on, and walked directly into the elevator. You’re a mind speaker, not a mind reader.
She was quiet for so long, he began to relax, thinking she hadn’t heard him.
Then she said, You’re a strong receptor.
It’s not like I have a choice here, he snapped back.
You’re a strong sender, too, probably part of your gift. And I don’t know why, but . . . if I listen, I can hear your thoughts. Sometimes. Lately my abilities seem to have expanded.
Samuel knew what was going on, and that comprehension made him want to thump his head against the stainless-steel walls of the elevator. He would have, too, except he knew the guards who observed him on the cameras would flag that behavior and escort him back down to the lobby and out the door.
Dina was not only one of the Others, the enemy of the Chosen Ones. She also shared a past with Irving. A pretty intense past, if the way those two acted proved anything. So she might be wicked. She might be cruel. She might have been stalking every single Chosen for the past two and a half years, delivering cryptic warnings into their minds and scaring the crap out of them. But because of the prophecy that affected the Chosen Ones—when a Chosen sacrificed his or her greatest fear for true love, that love expanded his or her gifts in ways no one could have foreseen—her talents had expanded.
Not that she was Chosen. Quite the opposite. But the Chosen Ones and the Others were flip sides of the same coin. All had been abandoned as infants. All had been given gifts. Some used them for good. Some for evil.
If Samuel needed proof that Dina loved Irving, this assistance was it.
But still it didn’t mean she wasn’t going to betray Samuel. Women had a history of betraying him.
Or rather . . . one woman.
Never mind her, Dina said in his mind. You can worry about her later.
If I live through this.
There is that.
If Dina wasn’t a lying, cheating, treacherous minion of the devil, he would almost like her.
She reminded him of himself: rude, conflicted . . . and tainted. Tainted by birth, tainted by living, tainted by dark blemishes on their souls.
No matter what they did, no matter what reparations they made, how honorably they behaved . . . they could never escape themselves.
The elevator doors opened and a man stood there, six-foot-six, fit, fair and blond, with long arms, broad shoulders, and no neck. Adelbrecht Wagner, bank president, looked like a billboard advertising the Aryan Nations.
Two guards stood behind him.
Samuel didn’t know what purpose they accomplished. He wasn’t going to attack Wagner. The guy looked like he could crush Samuel with one fist.
Wagner extended his hand. In precise, German-accented English, he said, “Mr. Faa, how good to meet you. I’m Adelbrecht Wagner. We haven’t seen anyone from the Gypsy Travel Agency for several years. In fact, we had heard reports that an explosion at their headquarters had killed everyone on their board.”
Samuel shook hands, did the male dominance thing by squeezing too hard and making sure his hand remained on top, and put on his solemn face. “Did you? The explosion was a tragedy that deeply affected our organization.” It was a nonanswer, one worked out ahead of time and given Irving’s nod of approval.
Samuel had learned a few things about one-upmanship, and he understood Irving’s position about this operation.
Just in case he didn’t remember, Dina repeated the instructions. Say as little as possible. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t defend yourself. Make it clear from the beginning you are the man in charge.
Samuel strode beside Wagner down the short corridor to his office and was ushered inside. The place was immense, luxurious, and windowless.
The guards took up their positions at the sides of the entrance. Wagner closed the doors, and they gave a thunk that all too clearly proved they were reinforced with metal.
Wagner’s office was a vault, protecting the bank president, everything he represented and everything he knew.
Samuel would either succeed here or die in prison.
Samuel didn’t even know who thought it first.
Pulling a two-by-two slip of yellow paper out of his inside pocket, he placed it on the desk in front of Wagner. “I need you to transfer control of the Gypsy Travel Agency accounts to this address.”
Wagner didn’t bother to glance down. “Without the necessary legal documents, I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
Which was exactly what Samuel expected him to say. So he removed the formidable set of papers from his manila envelope and placed them beside the slip with the address for Wagner’s perusal. “The originals of the documents we sent ahead.”
“Without the signatures of at least three of the Gypsy Travel Agency board members, I’m afraid this is impossible.”
“As you know, the whole board is deceased. As a former board member and former CEO, Irving Shea—”
“Has been declared incompetent and is therefore not a legal signer.”
Crap. Wagner knew it all.
They were getting nowhere.
So Samuel used his mind to take control of Wagner’s thoughts.
To his surprise, his intention skidded off as if Wagner’s mind were Teflon protected.
I can’t reach him. In a reasonable tone of voice, Samuel said, “But surely you’re not saying you intend to keep these not-inconsiderable accounts in your bank forever?” He reached out again, this time with more force.
Wagner appeared to be oblivious. “Perhaps you’re not aware, but we have hundreds of unclaimed accounts which will never be opened because the owners have lost their minds, forgotten their passwords, or died. There are fortunes that haven’t been touched for over a hundred years.”
Samuel took a breath, looked straight into Wagner’s eyes, and concentrated.
Wagner stared at him. “Will there be anything else?”
Samuel couldn’t believe it. This had never happened before. He had never failed.
Dina snapped, What is this? Mind-control dysfunction?
Is he one of you? Samuel snapped back.
Sarcastically: I don’t know. I’m not personally acquainted with every miscreant in the organization.
He knew it. He knew Dina would betray them.
But I don’t think so. Samuel could almost hear her tapping her fingers on the table. He could be an undiscovered talent, hired for exactly this capacity.
“Mr. Faa?” Wagner stood. “I believe we’ve concluded our business.”
Samuel sent another shot at Wagner’s mind.
The mind was locked tight as a vacuum cylinder.
Wagner said, “In fact, I believe the Swiss police are waiting for you in the lobby below. They want to question you about your knowledge of and intentions for these particular accounts.”
A cold sweat trickled down Samuel’s spine.
Urgently, Dina said, I can distract him. Touch him. Touch him!
Samuel stood, extended his hand, and when his flesh touched Wagner’s, he heard Dina’s voice say, Look out!
Somehow the contact of their hands opened Wagner’s brain to Dina, and Wagner heard her voice, too.
His surprise gave Samuel his chance.
Samuel slammed a command into Wagner’s head. Do what I tell you.
Wagner blinked at him. “I apologize. I thought I heard a woman’s voice.”
“A woman?” Samuel raised his eyebrows as if amazed.
“A deep woman’s voice, hoarse, a smoker’s voice . . .”
“You’ve been working too hard,” Samuel said sympathetically.
“Yes. A temporary distraction.” Wagner blinked again, his defenses broken, his mind bending to Samuel’s will. “What was it you wanted?”
Samuel instructed him without words. Transfer control of the Gypsy Travel Agency funds to the account on that paper.
“I remember. You wanted me to transfer the Gypsy Travel Agency funds to this account.” Wagner indicated the yellow paper and sat down at his desk.
Samuel stood, barely breathing, as Wagner typed on his computer, checked the numbers on the paper, then pushed SEND.
Wagner looked up. “That’s that. Is there anything else you require?”
“Call off the police downstairs.”
Samuel heard Dina say, It is done.
Control of the funds had been transferred into the control of John Powell, the trustworthy leader of the Chosen Ones.
Samuel wanted to laugh in triumph. How he had enjoyed this!
Instead he spoke with cool composure. “There’s nothing more I require.”
Maybe a good stiff drink, Dina suggested.
“Very good. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.” Wagner stood again.
Samuel walked toward the door. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, also.”
“I trust now that your business is concluded, you’ll have a chance to experience our magnificent skiing. It has been a record year for snow.” Wagner pressed the button on the wall. The doors swung open. “I’ve lived here twenty years, and I’ve never seen powder this deep.”
They walked into the corridor and toward the elevator. The guards fell in behind them.
“Tonight I’m going to Monastère for the party benefitting the World Children’s Literacy Foundation; then, alas, tomorrow I must return to New York,” Samuel said.
“Probably just as well. There’s a storm coming in. Just wind, they’re saying, but that always makes the slopes dangerous. Avalanche weather, you know.”
Samuel didn’t know, but he smiled and nodded, wanting nothing more than to clear out of here before Wagner realized what had been done and why. “That’s it, then.”
They shook hands.
The guard punched the elevator button.
The doors opened and Samuel stepped in.
The doors started to close—and right before they snapped shut, Wagner stuck his arm in.
The doors reopened.
“We should probably clarify one matter.” Wagner frowned.
Samuel’s heart stopped.
Wagner asked, “Will someone else return to claim the contents of the safety-deposit box?”
Samuel stepped back out of the elevator. “The safety-deposit box?”