Decades ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, The Incident occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases. The residents slept for two days. When they woke up they discovered that things had changed—they had changed. Some started having visions. Others heard ominous voices. And then, scientists from a mysterious government agency arrived. Determined not to become research subjects of strange experiments, the residents of Fogg Lake blamed their “hallucinations” on food poisoning, and the story worked. But now it has become apparent that the eerie effects of The Incident are showing up in the descendants of Fogg Lake.…
Catalina Lark and Olivia LeClair, best friends and co-owners of an investigation firm in Seattle, use what they call their “other sight” to help solve cases. When Olivia suddenly vanishes one night, Cat frantically begins the search for her friend. No one takes the disappearance seriously except Slater Arganbright, an agent from a shadowy organization known only as the Foundation, who shows up at her firm with a cryptic warning.
A ruthless killer is hunting the only witnesses to a murder that occurred in the Fogg Lake caves fifteen years ago—Catalina and Olivia. And someone intends to make both women vanish.
About the Author
Place of Birth:San Diego, CA
Education:BA in History, University of California at Santa Cruz, MA in Librarianship from San Jose State University (California)
Read an Excerpt
Fogg Lake, fifteen years earlier . . .
Catalina Lark saw the murder take place about four seconds before it happened. Maybe five seconds. She was still getting used to the ominous visions. They always caught her off guard.
She'd had flashes of bizarre scenes for the past couple of years, but a few months ago, shortly after her sixteenth birthday, they had started occurring more frequently. She was trying to convince herself that the visions were merely hallucinations. Tonight, at least, she had a reasonable explanation for the murky vision. She and her best friend, Olivia LeClair, were deep inside the vast cave system surrounding Fogg Lake. Everyone in town knew that those who went into the Fogg Lake caverns often experienced hallucinations and other inexplicable sensations. That was, of course, why every self-respecting teen in the small community made it a point to sneak out of the house and spend a night in the caves at least once before graduating from the one-room high school. The adults didn't approve, but Catalina had heard some of them refer to it as a local "rite of passage." Most of them had done the same thing when they were in their teens.
Tonight was the night that she and Olivia had decided to brave the caves. They had brought sleeping bags, a camp lantern and a couple of flashlights. Their day packs were crammed with bottled water and snacks. An underground river ran through the caves, surfacing in various caverns before it vanished again into the rocky depths. The water was clear and safe to drink, but it was dangerous to get too close to the edge. The wet, slippery rocks were treacherous and the current in the river was strong.
They had heard the two men arrive just as they were trying to decide where to set up camp.
The sounds of footsteps and low voices had echoed in the underground labyrinth. She and Olivia had turned off the camp lantern, grabbed their sleeping bags and rushed to hide in one of the many side tunnels.
They had been startled when the two men-strangers-showed up with a camp lantern and a large black case.
The small community of Fogg Lake didn't get a lot of visitors, nor did it welcome the few who did manage to find their way into town. Most kids are taught to be wary of strangers, but in Fogg Lake, parents took that instruction to extremes. Catalina and Olivia had been raised with a degree of caution that bordered on paranoia, which was why it did not occur to either of them to reveal their presence to the two men. Instead, acting on their ingrained training, they had retreated deeper into the narrow side tunnel. Once safely concealed in the darkness, they had gone very still, hardly daring to breathe. Like baby rabbits confronted by a snake, Catalina thought. The analogy was annoying.
The two men had not quarreled. There had been no demands, no violent threats; just some tense, muffled conversation. The shorter of the pair was middle-aged and a little overweight. He wore black-framed glasses and looked like an engineer or a scientist.
His companion was younger-midtwenties, Catalina decided-lean and fit. His head was shaved. He was the one who had carried the black case into the cavern.
Both men were dressed for a trek in the woods.
A short time ago the man with the glasses had opened the case and removed what appeared to be a sophisticated lab instrument. Catalina could have told him he was wasting his time. Computers, cell phones and other high-tech devices did not work well in the vicinity of Fogg Lake, if they worked at all.
The man with the glasses was clearly frustrated by whatever he saw on the screen of his fancy instrument. He leaned over the device to tap some keys. That was when Catalina got a dark vision of Shaved Head reaching into a zippered pocket on the side of his pack. She saw him take out a syringe, yank off the plastic cap and plunge the needle into the other man's neck.
Catalina was still struggling with the vision when reality struck, disorienting and shocking all her senses.
Shaved Head took the syringe out of his pack, removed the cap and stabbed the needle into his companion's neck.
The doomed man cried out and sank to his knees. His aura weakened rapidly. He gazed up at his assailant in disbelief and confusion.
"What?" he managed. Then understanding descended. "You stupid bastard. You don't understand how my invention works. It's tuned to my frequencies and only mine. I'm the only one who can activate it. You'll never find what you're looking for without me."
The killer waited. His aura did not blaze with rage or with the spikes that indicated mental instability. The energy around him was hot but all Catalina could detect was satisfaction and maybe a sense of anticipation. She wasn't sure of her reading, though. Olivia was better at interpreting auras.
The man who had set up the odd instrument grunted and collapsed on the floor of the cavern. Shaved Head crouched beside him and began to search the dying man's pockets.
"Why?" the victim managed in a voice that was thick with the effects of whatever had been in the syringe.
"You served your purpose," the killer said. "You're no longer needed."
"Stupid, stupid fool," the victim muttered.
In the next second his failing aura sputtered and died.
Catalina blinked a few times in a desperate attempt to suppress the images-she was getting better at it, even though the visions were becoming stronger-but the horrible scene did not disappear. The man who had fallen to the floor of the cavern was very real and very dead. His attacker casually checked for a pulse.
Catalina looked at Olivia, who was trying to shrink into the shadows on the opposite side of the narrow tunnel. Olivia's aura was ablaze with shock and panic. So much for the faint hope that what had just gone down in the cavern was nothing more than a particularly powerful hallucination. They had both witnessed a murder.
The sound of movement in the cavern made Catalina turn her attention to Shaved Head. He was on his feet now. The body of his companion was draped over one shoulder. He walked to the edge of the river and dropped his victim into the water.
He watched for a moment, probably making certain that the current carried off the evidence of his crime. When he was satisfied, he went back to the device the victim had set up and started to tap the keys.
He stopped suddenly, his attention caught by something he saw in the shadows of a nearby boulder. His aura flared.
A terrifying vision began to unfold but Catalina did not need it to warn her that she and Olivia were in mortal danger. Common sense was more than enough to kick off a wave of panic.
For a beat, an unnerving hush gripped the cavern. In the echoing stillness only the soft murmur of the underground river could be heard. Catalina held her breath. She knew Olivia was doing the same. She also knew they had both just realized that in their hurry to hide they had left the lantern behind.
Shaved Head saw the lantern, grabbed it and spun around on his heel, searching the shadows of the cavern. Catalina knew he couldn't see them from where he presently stood, but if he began a methodical search it was only a matter of time before he found them.
Shaved Head dropped the lantern and once again reached into his pack. This time he took out a gun.
With a flashlight gripped in one hand and the pistol in the other, he started to examine the side tunnels one by one. Catalina knew that if she and Olivia did not move, they would be doomed.
She looked at Olivia again and sensed that her friend had come to the same conclusion. They had no choice but to retreat deeper into the tunnel in which they were hiding.
The man with the gun continued to prowl the vast cavern, pausing to spear the beam of his flashlight into every side passage.
Catalina switched on her own flashlight. The killer would surely see the glare, but he was still on the far side of the cavern. It would take him a couple of minutes to cross the big chamber to the tunnel where she and Olivia were hiding because of the curve in the underground river. He would have to circle around it. If they moved fast they could be out of sight in seconds. He would hear their footsteps for some time because the cavern was an echo chamber, but it would take him a while to locate the right tunnel.
"Stop," Shaved Head shouted. "Police. I won't hurt you. I'm an undercover cop working for the Feds. I'm here to protect you. That man was a killer, a danger to your community. I was sent to stop him."
A couple of kids from a town on the outside might have bought that story, Catalina thought. But Shaved Head had picked the wrong teens to try to fool. Fogg Lake youth were raised to be suspicious of outsiders in general. It seemed like a good idea to double down on that concept when you had just watched one stranger kill another stranger.
They plunged deeper into the tunnel and rounded a corner, and suddenly the passageway was transformed into a hall of mirrors. At least, Catalina thought, thatÕs how I see them. She blinked hard but her vision didnÕt change. She did not know exactly how things appeared to Olivia, but judging from the way her friend clutched her hand, the visions were just as frightening.
"You'll get lost," the killer shouted. His voice echoed down the tunnel. "You'll die in there. Come out. I promise you'll be safe. Trust me. I'm a cop."
Catalina and Olivia kept going. They rounded another curve in the cramped passageway and scrambled to a halt at the sight of the storm of energy-intense swirls of light that Catalina could both sense and see-that barred their way.
"What is it?" Olivia whispered.
"I don't know," Catalina said. "But he's still coming. We've got no choice. We're going to have to go through it."
"You might as well come out," the killer said. "Just a matter of time before I find you."
His voice was more distant now but he had not given up the chase.
Catalina studied the strange storm. "It looks like one of those pictures of giant hurricanes taken from a satellite. There's sort of an eye in the center."
"We'll aim for that," Olivia said. "Ready?"
They tightened their grip on each other's hands and hurtled forward, straight into the core of the vortex of fierce energy. They dove through it.
Catalina struggled to deal with the onslaught of visions, but she was overwhelmed. She fell into the darkness.
She opened her eyes some time later to find herself sprawled on the floor of a cavern that was illuminated in an eerie ultraviolet radiance. Beside her, Olivia stirred and levered herself to a sitting position. She looked around, dazed.
"Where are we?" she whispered.
"I don't know."
Catalina sat up and surveyed their surroundings. Wonder and dread welled up inside her. She had never seen anything like the cavern chamber in which she and Olivia found themselves. She knew Olivia was just as mystified as she was.
The violent energy storm still seethed at the entrance. The chamber was filled with currents, too, but they were not nearly as violent as those that formed the gate. Hallucinations danced in the paranormal shadows, but they were manageable. Catalina could not entirely suppress them but they did not overwhelm her senses.
She listened closely. There was no sound from the tunnel on the other side. Either the killer had abandoned the hunt or else he had become disoriented and lost. For the moment, it seemed she and Olivia were safe.
The ultraviolet light seeping out of the cavern walls sparked and flashed on shards of some reflective material scattered around the chamber. Olivia picked up one of the jagged slivers and cautiously wiped off the grime.
"It looks like a piece of a mirror," she said.
Portions of the walls were paneled in the same material. Large rocky formations projected down from the ceiling and thrust up out of the floor.
"Stalactites and stalagmites," Catalina said.
She got to her feet and went to the nearest formation jutting upward from the mirrored floor. She wiped away a thick accumulation of dirt, exposing a small area of the crystal underneath. The gem-like stone sparked with the colors of dark fire.
"I think the creep with the gun gave up," Olivia whispered.
"He may have decided that he couldn't follow us, but what if he decides that all he has to do is go back to the main cavern and wait for us to come out?" Catalina said in the same low tones.
"In that case I guess we're stuck in here until morning," Olivia said.
"If he waits that long he'll be in for a shock, because if we're not home before breakfast, the whole town will be out searching for us. The caves are the first place they'll look."
"It's going to be a long night," Olivia said. "But I think we're safe in here. It's weird, though, isn't it? The rocky things hanging down from the ceiling look like crystal chandeliers that someone hasn't dusted in a very long time."
Catalina touched one of the broken mirrors on the walls. "Like a ballroom that was once lit up with paranormal light and music."
Olivia shuddered. "The devil's ballroom."
Their low-tech, old-fashioned mechanical watches were not affected by the energy in the atmosphere. The night seemed endless but eventually they realized that dawn had arrived.
"He'll be gone now," Catalina said. "The whole town will be out searching for us. He won't dare hang around. We have to go back the way we came, though. That means another trip through that miniature hurricane."
Olivia studied the energy gate with a thoughtful expression. Catalina knew that she was viewing it with her new senses.
"Hmm," Olivia said. She went forward cautiously. Her hair lifted in response to the energy in the atmosphere. "I don't think it's going to be as scary to get through from this side."
"I don't know. It's as if it was made to keep people out but not lock them inside."
Olivia held out her hand. Catalina grabbed it. Together they hurled themselves into the storm-and emerged without incident on the other side.