It was silent. The trees swayed softly in a slight wind, and the grass rippled in the breeze. In the sky above there was no movement. Not so much as an aeroplane disturbed the gentle peace, and the moon alone shone from the heavens. All was dark. All was quiet.

It was midnight, and the lights in the distant houses had all been put out. One lone light marked the position of the Sheriff's office, but everyone else, it seemed, was asleep. All except one.

Paul Fairburn, drunk from a late night's session with his friends in the next town, made his way quietly down the road leading towards the houses. He swayed as he walked, and tried not to giggle. Noise travelled easily at this time of night, and he didn't want to wake anybody up. If his parents caught him coming home so late, he would be grounded for the next six months.

An owl hooted, and Paul jumped, then giggled softly. "Ssshh," he whispered in the general direction of the noise. "Gotta be quiet." The owl was sitting in a tree above his head and glared down at him, then flew off suddenly, as if startled by something. Paul wandered on. It was growing colder, and the light of the moon was fading, as though clouds were moving across its face. He frowned into the darkness. He should have accepted that lift; would have done if the others hadn't been just as drunk as he was. He hadn't fancied a drive in that car. It was his friend David's eighteenth birthday, and everybody had drunk more in one night than they would usually have got through in a month.

"Paul…" The name sounded like no more than a whisper from the wind, and Paul stopped, wondering if he had misheard.

"Is there somebody there?" he asked, but the only answer was his name, called again by the soft whisperings of the trees and the wind. It was louder this time, more insistent.

"Who's there?" He turned around, almost losing his footing as he swung about. "Who is it?"

"Paul…" The name came again, and he frowned. "This isn't funny, guys."

"It's not supposed to be." He froze. The voice was unfamiliar, and it came from close by, but when he turned around there was nobody there.

"Who are you?" Angry and afraid, Paul headed into the trees at the side of the road. "Where are you?"

"Everywhere." The word came from directly in front of him, but he could see nobody. Cold fingers ran down his back.

"What do you want?" He was startled by how small his voice sounded, how young.


It sounded like a judgement. Paul swung around. He was suddenly terrified. He had to get out of the trees, back to the town. He wanted to lock his door behind him and find protection with his parents. Yet somehow he knew that he wouldn't be safe there either.

Something struck him on the back. He tried to turn around, but the pain hit him in the same second. It was an intense, violent pain, such as nothing he had ever experienced before, or had ever imagined. He was on fire. He knew it instinctively, but when he tried to drag his coat off he found that it had melted onto his back. He couldn't get rid of it. The fire was growing, engulfing him.

"Help!" He tried to call out, tried to make somebody hear him, but his voice could not rise above a thick whisper. The smell of his own burning flesh choked him. He fell to the ground.

"Help me." His voice was small and weak, and it came from the depths of the fire and the pain. He lay on the ground, no longer able to comprehend the agony that had consumed him. Who had done this? Why? He heard footsteps and looked up, trying to see who was there. The last sight that Paul Fairburn ever saw was the face of a nine year old girl, staring at him through the flames.


"Derek?" Heading downstairs at a run, Nick Boyle came to an abrupt stop as he nearly ran headlong into the Legacy House Precept. "Oh, there you are."

"Here I am," Derek agreed. "Is there some reason for your extra enthusiasm this morning, or are you not well?"

"I'm fine." Nick said, slightly embarrassed. "There's a phone call for you. I was looking for you everywhere."

"That's why there's a butler." Derek smiled teasingly. "Thankyou. Is it anybody interesting?"

"Somebody called Harry Sullivan." Nick seemed to have lost interest in the whole affair, the smell of breakfast waiting in the dining room catching his attention far more readily than the subject of business. Derek left him to get on, and headed for a phone. He was still talking earnestly when Alex came down for breakfast, and she glanced at him in interest.

"Business?" her expression asked. He nodded, his eyes telling her to wait until he had finished the call. She watched him as he rounded it up, and thanked the man on the other end of the line.

"Okay… Fine, thankyou Harry… Yes, of course. Goodbye." Derek hung up.

"Well?" Alex asked.

"I don't know. That was a man named Harry Sullivan. I met him a few years back when I was collecting antiques for the Hall. He comes from a little town further on round the coast; Foster's Ridge."

"I've never heard of it."

"No, I wouldn't expect you to. I only passed through it myself. Didn't speak to anyone except Harry." He smiled. "Actually he helped me out when my car broke down, and I wound up staying the night at his place. He has an interest in the unexplained."

"Naturally," Alex gave her friend a wry smile. Wherever Derek was, and whatever he was supposed to be doing, it was guaranteed that the 'Unexplained' would come into it sooner or later. "So what did he want?"

"There was a peculiar death last night. A boy from a neighbouring town - Little Washbourne - was killed in a fire."

"That's not so peculiar." Alex shrugged. "Probably having a cigarette on the sly."

"No. Harry Sullivan is a fireman. He said this one was odd. The boy was burnt to death, but the ground around him hadn't been touched; wasn't even blackened. I think I'm going to go down and take a look. Do you want to come?"

"Sure, I've got nothing else to do. When do we leave?"

"Right after you've had some breakfast." He smiled. "Hurry up, before Nick eats everything."

"Good point." She hurried off towards the dining room, while Derek headed up to his office. Strange deaths were not an unheard of occurrence, and it always paid to check for a little background information before starting out on an investigation.


It was bright and sunny. The light danced across the calm surface of the sea, and the small white tipped waves rushed up the beach, dragging the sand into soft, wet ripples. Four teenagers lay together on the sand, still wet after a recent swim. They were all aged about eighteen or nineteen, and were taking a day out of college to enjoy the heat.

"Hey James. Fancy another swim?" One of the teenagers, a boy of nineteen, sat up and looked across at his friend.

"Mmmm," was his only reply, somewhat less affirmative than he would have liked.

"Well what's that supposed to mean?"

"Relax, can't you?" Another of the party, a girl of eighteen, yawned and stretched. "It's hot, and we're tired. Do you always have to be so active?"

"Yeah." The boy stood up. "I'm going to go for a walk, okay? I'll meet you back here a little later on."

"Sure Tony." The fourth member of the group nodded into the sand. "Later." Tony walked away.

He walked for some time, kicking at the sand and investigating rock pools. The tide had washed in some foreign seaweed, and he picked it up, toying with it idly. It was a beautiful day, and he was in such beautiful surroundings. It was a shame that there was nothing to do.

"Tony?" He heard his name being called, and turned around, relieved. The others had come to join him after all. Nobody was there. He frowned.

"James? Rachel?" There was no answer, and he was puzzled. Could he have imagined it? Perhaps he had been out in the sun too long. He decided to turn back, and pick up his hat from where he had left it with his friends.

"To-ny…" Somebody was calling him, in an odd, sing-song voice which seemed to echo about the empty beach. He looked about, but there was nobody there.

"Where are you?" he asked. The surf mocked him, catching at his feet, and offering him no answer. The sunlight was growing weaker, and he began to feel cold.

"Tony." This time the voice was right behind him, and he turned towards it. Nobody was in sight, but a clear pair of footprints were in the sand. He frowned. Somebody had to have made those marks. They couldn't have appeared on their own. He took a step towards them, but was brought up short by a hand which grabbed his shoulder. He whirled around, but again there was nobody there. A cold shiver ran down his spine, and he began to run.

"To-ny…" The sing-song voice echoed around him again, and no matter how fast he ran he didn't seem able to outpace it. He stopped, swinging around, and shouting at the emptiness.

"Who the hell are you? What do you want?"

"Nothing you can give us…" the wind seemed to say. He shivered, and began to run again, back to where he had left the others. They would get into their car and drive away, back to the town and safety. Somehow he didn't feel as though it would be all that easy, but he had to try.

"Tony!" He heard the others calling him, and waving to him in the distance. He began to run faster, the voices of his pursuers echoing in his ears.

"Where are you going, Tony? Where are you going?"

"Leave me alone." He was close enough now to see the faces of his friends; to see the details in Rachel's swim suit, and to see the expression of surprise on Susanne's face.

"Tony?" she asked, stepping forwards. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Get away." He was almost collapsing from exhaustion, and his face was drawn and pale, but he began to grab some of the things that they had brought with them; clothes, bags, the box with the beer in it. "We have to leave."

"What's got into you?" James looked up at the sky, suddenly drawn to the strange sight of a large black cloud appearing from nowhere and blotting out the sunlight. "What the…?"

"Run!" Pushing the girls ahead of him, Tony began to head for the path beside the beach, and the place where they had left their car. He had nearly reached it when he felt something hit him in the stomach. He looked down. Blood was pouring from his body, coming from the small, round hole he could see, just above the waistband of his swimming shorts. He staggered backwards a few steps. It looked like a bullet hole, but he had not heard a shot, and there was nobody who could have fired a gun. There was nowhere for anyone to hide. He stumbled.

"Tony!" Rachel was calling his name, and he tried to turn to her, but as he did so something struck him in the back, then in the chest. Suddenly he was being hit all over, and he felt his body dance under the force of the silent bullets, coming from the invisible guns. He collapsed onto the ground, lying in a twitching heap. His body didn't seem to be working anymore. He heard sobbing; strange, terrified sobbing, and saw blood before his eyes. Rachel was crying. At least that meant that she must be okay.

"Run…" He whispered, although his voice was so weak that he doubted anyone could hear it. He heard the sound of frantic footsteps; they were running, although he could only hear two people moving away. Where was the third?

"Tony?" It was James' voice, coming from somewhere close by. He sounded terrified, and in great pain. "Tony? Help…"

The older boy tried to turn his head to see his companion. James lay a few feet away, his body a mass of blood. "Hang on, little brother," Tony tried to say, but his throat was full of blood, and the words came out as a choked jumble.

"Tony…?" James' voice was fading away, but Tony was too far gone to care anymore. He felt a shadow fall over his face, and looked up. Through the mists that clouded his vision, he stared up at a teenage boy, blinking down at him with an expression of deep interest. Then the shadows came.


"So where is this Foster's Ridge?"

"About another ten miles drive." Derek looked about for a place to park, and slowed the car to a halt. "But we're stopping here. This is Little Washbourne."

"Cute name." Alex climbed from the car and looked around. "Cute place. Not the kind of place you expect to hear about bizarre and violent deaths."

Derek shot her a teacher-pupil type look which made her smile.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I can't expect places to look creepy, just because creepy things are going on there."

"That's better." He began to lead her across the street to the Fire Station. "Harry said he'd meet us here, and try to get us access to the body." They walked into the station and up to the front desk. Alex watched her colleague ask for Harry Sullivan. He looked so ordinary, she thought with a smile; just what he so often claimed to be. She knew him too well to be taken in by the rambling doctor act, but it was definitely a convincing cover.

"Derek!" They had been waiting for no more than a few minutes before Harry Sullivan arrived, and greeted them warmly. He was a huge man, taller than Derek and a few years older, with broad, bear-like shoulders. His voice was deep and friendly, and Alex took to him at once. He seemed troubled, although that was only to be expected under the circumstances, and she saw why the usually reserved and distant Derek had taken to him so readily.

"Hello Harry. This is my colleague, Alex Moreau. Alex, Harry Sullivan. The best mechanic this side of San Francisco."

Harry laughed. "You wouldn't have said that if somebody else had found you that night, Derek. Anybody could have fixed that engine."

"Well I couldn't." Derek went smoothly into business mode. "Can we talk?"

"Of course." The big fireman led them through into an office, and closed the door behind them. He gestured to it. "I don't want anybody to over hear us," he said. "This is a close community. People don't like to have strangers interfering, and they're already on edge about this."

"You mean about the death?" Derek asked, and Harry nodded.

"The family is very well respected locally. The father runs the town newspaper. I'm afraid they've closed ranks, and there's no way I can get you a look at the body. I've got these pictures though." He opened his desk drawer and took out an A4 file. "These aren't pretty."

"No matter." Derek took the files and leafed through the photographs inside. They were in colour, and left nothing to the imagination. The boy had been burned badly, with little left that could provide means of identification. He handed the pictures to Alex and she made a face at the sight.


"Yes." Derek pointed to the grass around the body. "But look at this. Nothing on the ground to indicate that there was ever a fire at all."

"Could the body have been moved from the murder site?" Alex asked. Harry shook his head.

"Apparently not. I'm no expert, but I'd say that that kid died where he fell. Right there. He sighed and shook his head. "I see a lot of burnt bodies in my job, Derek, Miss Moreau; but this one…"

"How much do you know about the victim?" Alex asked. Harry shrugged.

"Not a whole lot. Enough to know that he wasn't involved in anything untoward. Nothing that could have given anybody any reason to kill him; especially not like that. And I can't see it being suicide either. He'd just won a place at UCLA. Not exactly an outstanding student from what I hear, but certainly one with plenty of promise." He shook his head. "His name was Paul Fairburn. His eighteenth birthday is in two weeks time. Sorry - would have been in two weeks time."

Derek winced. Seventeen was too young to die by anyone's reckoning. Even when you had seen as much as Derek there was always time to regret the ones that couldn't be saved. He looked thoughtful.

"What is the official word on the death?"

"The police are treating it as accidental. They think he probably had a smoke, lost control of the cigarette. Apparently his blood alcohol level was way up. It seems he was out celebrating with friends. They offered him a lift home, but he wanted to walk because he thought it would be safer." He looked sad. "Poor kid. Try to do the sensible thing and look what happens."

"Accidental?" Derek took another look at the photographs. "How can this be accidental? There is almost nothing left. That's not a cigarette that got out of control. There would have been signs of burning on the ground."

"Exactly." Harry shrugged. "I tried saying as much, but nobody wants the boat rocked just now. Like I said, it's a close knit community." He looked at one of the pictures, then at Derek and Alex. "Thing is, I've seen burns like this before."

"The same as this?" Derek was interested. "Where?"

Harry frowned. It looked as though he was not sure whether he should have spoken. "Vietnam," he said finally. "I did a tour of duty there in '70. Fact is, I'd swear my life that those there are napalm injuries."

"Napalm?!" Alex looked astounded. Harry nodded slowly.

"That's right. See, napalm sticks to the body. It burns like nothing you ever saw, but you can't get it off. It just carries on burning, and there's very little you can do about it."

"You're sure Harry?" Derek fixed his friend with one of his most searching looks. "You're absolutely sure?"

"I'd stake my reputation on it." Harry looked relieved. "It sure feels good to tell somebody about all this. It's been bothering me all day." He was suddenly serious again. "Actually Derek…"

"What?" Staring intently at one particularly gory blow-up, Derek did not look up.

"This isn't the first." Harry stood up suddenly and marched to the window, staring out at the quiet streets of Little Washbourne. "About a fortnight ago I was called to a similar incident, and then again a few days after that. Both kids were trouble makers from out of town. Real rough types. Nobody thought much of it." He sighed. "I should have called you then, but I didn't think about it until it was too late. Poor Paul."

"Two more identical deaths?" Derek leaned back in his chair. "Both napalm?"

"Yeah, I'd say so."

"I see…" Derek glanced at Alex. "What do you think?"

"I think we need to look into this." She stood up and began to pace. "We need to find out if there have been any other deaths like these three. Anything violent and unexplained. I'll call the others and tell them to check the computer."

"No." Derek stood up as well. "We're going back there. I want to read up on some possible background." He shook hands with Harry, and the fireman led them back out to the front of the building.

"Thanks for coming, Derek." Harry looked grateful. "I feel a lot better knowing that you're in on this."

"No problem Harry." Derek led Alex back to the car, and she looked at him in surprise.

"Why are we going home so soon?" she asked. "You do believe him, don't you?"

"Yes." Derek stared at her thoughtfully over the roof of the car. "I just don't think that we can do anything here right now. You heard what he said. We're not allowed to look at the body. The Sheriff wants to pass it off as an accident. We're not going to get any questions answered here."

"Good point." Alex climbed into the car. "Those were pretty incredible burns though Derek. What could do that to a kid?"

"I don't know yet. But it's our job to find out." He began to drive the car back through the town. "What do you know about napalm?"

"Only what I learned in school. It was used in Vietnam against civilians. There are all those pictures of the kids…" She shook her head. "As far as I know it's never been used since. I don't think they could have got away with it again."

"Exactly. Ask anybody; napalm means Vietnam." Derek drummed on the steering wheel as he drove, leading Alex to wonder for the hundredth time whether it was really safe for him to drive when he was in thoughtful mode.

"So what does that mean?"

"It means, Alex, that when we get back to the House, you are going to find out everything you can about the Vietnam War. That has to be the connection."

"Not necessarily." She was playing devil's advocate and he knew it.

"Based on your experience, can you give me any other suggestions?"


"Well then." He stared off into the middle distance, and nearly missed their turning onto the freeway. "You know I hardly even remember Vietnam? I was… about sixteen I think, when they started to pull the troops out in '72. My father hadn't long died. I don't think I spent much time in the States back then. Not when the war was on."

"I remember it, a little. I was pretty small when it ended though." She shivered. "I'm glad I don't remember it very well. Not if that's the sort of thing to come out of it." She indicated the photographs which she held on her lap.

"True." Derek's mind had wandered away again, and she left him to his musings. Whatever he was thinking about, he would let his friends in on it eventually. She only hoped that he could think up a few answers, because she had none at all.


The lower level of the Legacy House was silent. Dominic and the other members of staff were not privy to the true work of the Luna Foundation, but they knew that the team had a case to work on, and that that meant silence. The members of the House worked in their secret laboratory, pouring over old records, photocopies of old journals, and any other reference works that were available. Alex was studying some books about the Vietnam War, yawning as she did so. It was some hours since her return from Little Washbourne, and her eyes were aching. She felt in serious need of some coffee. She stretched, trying to work some of the kinks out of her muscles, and looked around. Rachel was reading through some old Legacy reports, looking for any similar cases which might have been reported in the past. Nick was working from the powerful computer, scanning for anything that might prove to be useful. Derek was sitting at a table nearby. The photographs of Paul Fairburn lay in front of him, and he seemed to be writing something.

"Derek?" He looked up. "Do you want a drink? Tea, coffee?"

"Some tea would be wonderful, thankyou." He stretched. "I can't find anything of use. How is everybody else doing?"

"Not good." Rachel nodded enthusiastically at Alex's suggestion of coffee. "Nothing that I've read even mentions napalm."

"Nothing here either." Nick turned away from the computer screen. "There are plenty of unexplained deaths; more than we could ever hope to look into, but none of the ones I can find mention of are even remotely similar to the cases that Harry Sullivan told you about."

"Well I can't think anymore without caffeine." Alex headed for the exit. "I'll be back in a minute." She vanished through the hologram in search of coffee, and the others relaxed, glad of the excuse for a break. Nick stared at the computer screen, willing something to appear. In the Legacy, hardly anything was without precedent. Something caught his eye, and he frowned, then glanced up at Derek.

"This could be it," he said, then nodded. "Hey, yeah. Take a look at this." He tapped a few keys and his finding appeared on the large screen on the wall. "This is an E-mail that was sent to a district coroner in Little Washbourne, from a colleague in a place called…" he laughed without humour. "Serendipity. Get that name. Anyway, it seems that two boys were shot to death there earlier today, and I don't just mean a bullet each. The report says they were riddled with holes, but listen to this. At the time of the shooting the boys were with a couple of girlfriends. The girls were standing right by them when they were killed, and they didn't hear a thing. Not a shot. They didn't see anybody either."

"Are the girls suspects?" Derek asked, wandering closer to the screen.

"No." Nick turned to face the Precept. "The coroner's report mentions extensive trauma; major tissue damage; but when they opened these kids up, there were no bullets. Nothing."

"And nothing at the scene either I take it?"

"Exactly. Nada; not even so much as a spent shell." Nick shook his head. "Pretty weird, huh?"

"Pretty weird," Derek agreed. He glanced up as Alex came in, carrying a tray with four mugs.

"Look," she said, rather as though she had come bearing the Holy Grail. "A present from Dominic."

"Very good of him." Derek was already hurrying towards the exit. "Come on Alex."

"Where are we going?" She put the tray down and took a sip of coffee, hoping to be given time to finish her drink.

"Serendipity," was all she caught before the Precept vanished through the hologram. Alex sighed, and exchanged a long suffering look with her two colleagues.

"Whatever it is Dominic is putting in his food," she muttered as she followed Derek out of the room, "I want some."


They drove back towards Little Washbourne, then on through to Serendipity. It was very late when they arrived, and they checked straight into a hotel. Derek could not leave his questions unanswered for the night, and led the way over to the coroner's office as soon as they had dumped their bags in their rooms. It was standard procedure to keep a bag packed and ready at all times, and Alex had become used to living out of hotel rooms since she had taken up with Derek and the Legacy. She had also become used to charging around the countryside at odd hours, and chasing stubborn leads in strange places. She followed the Precept into the coroner's office, and watched him make short work of the night orderly. The coroner was still on duty as it turned out, and he came out to greet them. He looked tired; haggard even, and Alex felt for him. This was the sort of case that nightmares were made of, and the poor man was hardly equipped to deal with it.

"Good evening," Derek said, completely oblivious of the fact that the evening had ended some hours previously. "I am Doctor Derek Rayne, this is my colleague Alex Moreau. We are here about the two boys who were killed earlier today."

"Are you from the government?" The coroner looked hopeful, but Derek shook his head.

"No. We specialise in unusual cases such as this. I think we can help you."

"You do, huh?" The coroner looked from the tall, intense looking man to his equally intense and rather attractive associate. Neither of them looked dangerous. He sighed. "Okay, you're welcome to take a look. To be honest I'm at my wits end. I don't know what to make of this."

"Well perhaps we can find some answers." Alex smiled reassuringly, and the coroner nodded.

"Yeah, well like I said, you're welcome to try." He looked flustered. "Er, my name is Leo, Leo Waites. I'm in charge around here." He smiled. "Most of the time. Come this way please." He led them down a corridor.

"Okay. Everything's through here. Can I help you at all?"

"If you have somewhere else you'd rather be, feel free to leave." Derek vanished straight into the indicated room, and Alex smiled at Waites, who looked more flustered than ever.

"Don't mind him," she said. "He gets a little carried away."

"In a case like this don't we all." Waites ran a hand through his hair. "Why don't I go and try to rustle us up some coffee?"

"You just said the magic word." Alex smiled gratefully at the coroner, trying to put him at his ease, then went to join Derek. He was already studying the two bodies.

"What do you think?" she asked him. He glanced up at her, distracted.

"I beg your pardon? Oh…" He shook his head, searching for an explanation. "I don't know… The aura here is very bad. I feel…" He shook his head again. "I don't know. Anger. Fear. Hatred. Something bad."

"Really?" Alex came closer, but she could not detect the undercurrents that Derek spoke of. She trusted his abilities fully however. "So what do we do?"

"I don't know." He gazed at the bodies. "I want to know a little more about them before I make a decision. They are very young."

"Tony was nineteen. His brother James was eighteen." Waites had appeared in the doorway, another man in tow. "They were very young." He glanced at his companion. "Oh, er… this is the Sheriff, er… Sheriff Gates. Sheriff these people are Doctor Derek Rayne and Alex Moreau, from…?" He broke off, looking confused.

"From the Luna Foundation based in San Francisco." Alex stepped forward to shake the Sheriff's hand, but he ignored her and strode into the room.

"San Francisco? What do you want here?"

"To help." Derek looked up from examining the smaller of the two bodies. "We specialise in giving assistance when…"

"When it's not wanted," the Sheriff butted in. "I think you people better leave."

"Why?" Alex was surprised by his heavy handed attitude. "This is hardly a run-of-the-mill case, Sheriff. We have experience in…"

"I don't care about your experience, Miss Moreau," the Sheriff cut in. "We don't need your help here. In Serendipity we handle our own affairs, and we don't need any help from outsiders."

"I think in this case that's up to the coroner, don't you?" Wandering over, Derek regarded the Sheriff with one of his best stares. Alex smiled to herself. Leave it to Derek to bring the big ones down to size, she thought. The Sheriff regarded him thoughtfully.

"Leo here is a little confused at the moment," he said finally. "On account of how he's a friend of the family." He gestured at the two bodies, as if their was some doubt as to which family he meant. "Now you don't need these peoples' help, do you Leo?"

"Er…" Leo looked as though he very much wanted their help, but he shook his head dutifully. "I can manage on my own, thankyou, Doctor Rayne."

"Very well." Derek took one last look at the bodies. "If you change your mind, we will be in the hotel tonight. Rooms 12 and 14. Okay?"

"Okay." Waites smiled nervously and moved aside to let them pass. Derek purposely brushed past the Sheriff on his way out, and frowned to himself. Alex glanced up at him as they left the building.

"Did you pick anything up from the Sheriff?" she asked. He glanced over at her.

"Not much. Fear mostly, and sadness. Nothing else."

"Then you don't think he's involved?"

"I don't think he can be. His aura was totally different to the one around those bodies." He shrugged. "I guess he is just protecting his territory. Harry said that Little Washbourne was a close knit community; Serendipity is probably the same."

"Was there ever a town with a less fitting name." Alex sighed. "I'm tired. We seem to have spent the whole day dashing about between gruesome murders."

"All in a day's work." He smiled as they reached the hotel. "Time for you to get that coffee you've been wanting. I'm going to get some sleep. See you in the morning."

"Okay. Good night." She watched him heading upstairs, and smiled to herself. Some coffee definitely sounded like a good idea, followed by a long, hot shower and a comfortable bed. She had brought along some books about the Vietnam War, but she decided that they could wait. She had seen enough blood and gore for one day.

The hotel room was warm and comfortable. Alex curled up on the bed with her coffee, and yawned. There was a light breeze coming through the window, and she stirred herself to get up and look out onto Serendipity. It looked small and innocent, restful in the inactivity of the late hour. The lights all seemed to be off. She frowned. That was odd. Where were the places were the teenagers hung out? After all, it was a Saturday night. Surely they didn't all go out of town for their entertainment? Even in the smallest of towns, that was never the case.

She yawned again. That shower was beginning to look increasingly attractive. She finished the coffee and headed for the bathroom, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door. She groaned inwardly. Not now Derek, she muttered, and went to open the door. Sure enough, Derek stood in the corridor outside. He looked preoccupied.

"Ah, Alex. Good that you're still awake."

"I'm not," she told him, but he carried on as if she hadn't spoken.

"I just got a call from Leo Waites. While the Sheriff was with him another incident came up. Another boy has been attacked. This one is still alive. He's in the hospital."

"Right." Alex hurried out and locked her door. "Where is it?"

"Just down the street." He was pulling ahead, and she doubled her speed to keep pace.



"Have you noticed anything strange about this town?" He raised his eyebrows at her and she smiled.

"Aside from the attacks."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, where are all the kids? The teenagers, that is."

He shrugged. "Asleep?"

"Derek… What were you doing at this time on a Saturday night when you were eighteen?" He shrugged.

"I don't know. Working on Legacy business, maybe?" She rolled her eyes.

"Well take it from me; the place should be crawling with kids. There's nobody. The lights are all off, the streets are empty."

"Yes." He nodded. "When I had Leo on the 'phone I managed to get him talking. He told me that this isn't the first case they've had of a bizarre death. There was another so-called shooting a fortnight ago, and they've also had a death by severe burning, just like in Little Washbourne. All teenage boys."

"Curiouser and curiouser." She smiled without humour. "I guess that's where all the kids are tonight. Hiding indoors."

"Whatever is going on here, hiding inside will not help." He was pulling ahead again, and reached the hospital before she did. "The Sheriff is more than likely inside. We'll have to play it by ear."

"Right with you boss." She followed him into the building and they went in search of some assistance. A receptionist suggested that they find a nurse, and a nurse suggested that they find a doctor, but they eventually found themselves on the second floor, outside an Intensive Therapy ward. A boy of about seventeen lay on a bed, tubes and wires seeming to grow from him, as if he were being consumed by the technology in the room. A man and a woman, presumably his parents, stood beside the bed. They looked stunned.

"Can I help you?" a voice asked. Alex turned around. A doctor had come up behind them. "Are you relatives?"

"No, we're… investigators." She gestured at the boy. "What happened?"

"Search me. Some guy found him just outside town. His legs have been shattered. We'll have to amputate, but the surgeon doesn't think he's strong enough just yet. Both his feet are gone, most of the material from his trousers has just ceased to exist. Atomised."

"Like from an explosion?" Derek asked. He sounded as though he already knew the answer, and was working on a theory.

"Yeah, exactly." The doctor moved closer to them and glanced around. "Hey, don't tell anybody I said this, but I worked overseas a few years back; out east, you know? I saw a lot of injuries similar to this, caused by land mines."

"You think he stepped on one?" Alex asked.

"It sure looks that way." He frowned. "There just aren't any round here though, that's the thing. The paramedics said there was nothing at the scene to indicate that that's what happened. I just know what I've seen." He shrugged. "Make of it what you will."

"Thankyou." Derek watched him as he hurried away on other business, then glanced at Alex. "Well; what do you think?"

"I think it's high time you got out of my town, unless you want to spend the night in jail." The Sheriff, his face showing extreme displeasure, strode towards them down the corridor. "Just how the hell did you find out about this?"

"Sheriff, I really think we have to talk…" Derek stepped forwards to greet the man, but found himself staring down the barrel of the policeman's service weapon. "That's not necessary, I assure you."

"Isn't it?" The Sheriff obviously disagreed. "Look, I know your kind. You turn up here looking for glory when we get a few unusual deaths. Fact is, people like you turn my stomach. You come along trying to make out that things aren't what they seem. Well maybe these are just statistics to you San Fran people, but to us they're friends." He gestured at the boy in the IT room. "That kid in there; his name is Sam Gerard. He sits next to my kid in French class. My wife and I used to baby sit when his parents wanted to go out. That mean anything to you?"

"Sheriff…" Alex stepped forward, trying to inject a little rationality into the proceedings, but the gun turned to point at her instead. "We aren't what you think we are, I assure you. I can give you several numbers to call if you want to check us out."

"No deal." The Sheriff holstered his gun. "Get moving, the pair of you. I want you out of this hospital right away. You can stay at the hotel tonight, but in the morning you're out of here, and if you ever come back I'll lock you up and throw away the key. Understand?"

"Perfectly." Derek looked distinctly disapproving, but he moved as indicated, heading back down the corridor. Alex walked ahead with the Sheriff, trying not to give in to her desire to argue with him. She could see his point, but surely he had to understand that there was something going on here that he could not hope to handle alone?

"Hurry up," the Sheriff muttered gruffly as they reached the first flight of stairs. "I want you out of here. I have statements to take."

"We're coming." Alex did not look back at Derek, who she knew was trailing some distance behind. He hated hospitals, and she sympathised entirely. Usually she was alright provided that she kept her gloves on, and did not touch anything, but for Derek it was not nearly as simple as that. As a psychic he was extremely powerful, and a hospital was a breeding ground for some of the most powerful of human emotions. Anger, grief, guilt, pain, rage - all flowed through the corridors in raging torrents, and all were attracted to the tall man who moved through them, picking them up like a walking radio receiver.

"What's with him?" the Sheriff asked, jerking his head back towards Derek. Alex smiled.

"He doesn't like hospitals," she explained. "Bad vibes."

"Huh." He dismissed her comment, and continued leading the way out of the building. At the entrance he stopped. "Okay. You got tonight, then I want you gone, understand? I'm not just saying that. Get out of town and don't come back."

"Sure Sheriff. I just hope you don't have cause to regret it." Alex could tell that Derek was close to snapping, for his accent sounded stronger than normal. "Think about it? This is - what - the fifth boy to be attacked in a fortnight. Doesn't it strike you as being a little odd?"

"How do you know about the other cases?" The Sheriff looked enraged. "You want to tell me what you know, Doctor Rayne?"

"Derek…" Alex caught her colleague's arm and began to pull him away. "This is not the time."

"Maybe it is," the Sheriff told her. "There a reason how come you two know so much about this? Should I be calling you a lawyer?"

"No." Alex succeeded in leading Derek away from a further confrontation. "We'll be out of here in the morning, Sheriff. Come on Derek."

He did not argue with her, but allowed himself to be led away from the hospital, and back to the hotel. They were almost there when he stumbled and grabbed his head.

"Derek?" Recognising the symptoms of a strong vision, Alex pulled him out of view of the street, just in case the Sheriff was following them. "Are you okay?"

"Yes." He took a deep breath. "Sorry."

"It's alright. What did you see?"

"I'm not sure. Something… twisted. I feel anger, pain. Then darkness. Lots of anger." He shook his head sadly. "The Sheriff has no idea what he's dealing with, Alex.. And the worst of it is that neither do I."


"Derek, Alex." Rachel came to greet the pair as they drew up outside the House. "We weren't expecting you back so soon."

"Neither were we." Alex sighed, and stretched. So much time spent in cars wasn't agreeing with her. "They weren't exactly welcoming in Serendipity."

"That's a shame." Rachel took their bags. "We were just about to give you a call. Nick has been going through everything; scanning E-mails; even listening in on 'phone calls coming from that area. He's found out about another five cases; all phantom shootings."

"All teenage boys?" Alex asked. Rachel nodded.

"The oldest was nineteen, the youngest was seventeen."

"Add that to the cases we've heard about so far…" Derek shook his head. "Damn. If only they were a little more co-operative in these places. They won't talk to us."

"It's as if they don't want our help," Alex agreed, as they began to walk into the House. "It looked like you had a theory though Derek, back at the hospital."

"Sort of." He wandered into the living room and sat down on one of the settees. "I was thinking…"

"Yes?" Nick had come in, and was looking as attentive as the other two. Derek smiled at them all.

"Well, think about it. These attacks have all featured some form of weaponry. There's been the napalm that Harry told us about, the shootings in Serendipity and elsewhere; where were they Nick?"

"Place called Harpersville, a few miles from Serendipity," his associate told him. Derek nodded.

"Okay… Then there's the most recent attack. A boy apparently steps on a mine, but there is no sign of any damage to the surrounding area. His legs were practically blown off, and yet we're told that the ground was undisturbed."

"Spooky," Rachel said. Derek frowned.

"Exactly. Now we could find no mention of napalm outside of Vietnam. Mines are used everywhere of course, but they were also used in Vietnam. And everybody knows that they use bullets in wars."

"So what are you saying?" Alex sat down next to Derek. He glanced at her and looked thoughtful for a few moments before answering.

"I think you can guess," he said finally. "I believe that what we are experiencing is some kind of attack by something connected to the Vietnam War. What I don't know. Dead veterans most probably." He frowned and shook his head. "What I can't figure out is why."

"The average age of the soldiers out there was nineteen," Rachel said. "So far it's been teenagers who have been the victims of these attacks. Could it be some kind of revenge?"

Derek looked up at her, seeming almost surprised that she should be the one to offer support to his theory.

"I think so. Young men who were sent away, were killed before they got a chance to get any older. They are angry, upset. I felt all those emotions in Serendipity. In Little Washbourne too. The teenagers who were attacked were all living normal, peacetime lives. There was never any chance of them going through anything like Vietnam. So these spirits, or whatever, they want revenge perhaps? They want these other kids to go through the same experience. They want them to die too. Otherwise it's not fair."

"It's pretty damn unfair which ever way you look at it." Rachel clearly did not want to believe the Precept's theory.

"Very true, Rachel." Derek stood up and wandered over to the window. "But what we are dealing with here. I don't think it's as simple as dead soldiers looking for revenge. Why would they want to kill other kids? What could they hope to gain?"

"And why wait so long?" Nick put in. "It's been - what - twenty-five years since 'Nam. Why go so crazy now?"

"Exactly." Derek began to pace about, looking deep in thought. "Okay. Nick, I want you to go through the Missing and Killed In Action files. You can access them through the computer. Try and link some of those names to the towns we've been dealing with. Rachel, I want you to get on the 'phone to the Legacy House in Hanoi. They may be able to help us with this."

"Okay." They both strode away on their respective missions, and Alex frowned up at Derek.

"You alright?" she asked him. He nodded.

"Yes. I just can't shake the feeling that there is something else going on here. Something beneath the surface."

"You may be right. Our work is hardly straightforward, is it." She stood up. "Come on. I'm going to find us something to eat. I don't know about you, but I sure need it."


"Well?" Rachel had set the receiver down and was looking thoughtful. Derek waited expectantly for her report and she glanced around at her friends.

"That was the Legacy House Precept," she told them. "He told me that just over a fortnight ago a construction crew began to clear a section of jungle. They uncovered a mass grave."

"Dating from the war?" Alex asked. Rachel nodded, and looked down at the notes she had made during her call.

"Certainly looks like it. There were nine bodies in all. Preliminary examinations show that they were all those of young people. About five were American soldiers, not one above twenty from what the doctors can tell. The other four were Vietnamese citizens, judging by what's left of their clothing. All children. They think that three were girls, and one was a boy. Ages ranging between nine and fourteen." She shook her head. "The bones of the Vietnamese children showed signs of blackening, and cause of death has been attributed to severe burning, probably napalm. One of the soldiers was apparently killed by a mine, the experts reckon that the others were probably shot." She looked pale. The others exchanged looks.

"The Hanoi House is faxing us some further information," Rachel continued, still looking a little the worse for wear. "Two of the soldiers were wearing dog tags, and they've managed to get hold of pictures of them. Any other information isn't easy to get hold of just yet. Nobody wants to rake up old war wounds again now. It's all pretty hush hush anyway; two teenage boys were killed the day the grave was uncovered. Both were phantom shootings."

"Here's the stuff." Nick pulled two sheets from the fax machine and began to read aloud. "We've got James Barrett, born August eighteenth, 1953 and Sherman Foster, born October ninth, 1951." He glanced up. "Think these are our boys Derek?"

"More than likely." The Precept frowned deeply. "A group of young people, all experiencing violent, painful deaths, suddenly released from wherever by the excavation of their grave. Several of them are American, and so they come home. They are angry… No, it still doesn't feel right. There has to be something else."

"Not necessarily. We're dealing with war deaths here, remember. Think of all that violence, anger, hatred; there's no telling what that did to the minds of those kids." Rachel was back to being a psychiatrist. "They could well be mad enough to look for revenge, in what seems to them to be the most logical way. They want to make others suffer the way they did."

"Maybe." Derek glanced at Nick. "Wait a minute. Did you say Sherman Foster?"

"Yes. So?"

"Sherman Foster. Foster's Ridge. It's the town where Harry Sullivan lives. It's nearby all of the towns we've heard about so far." He hurried to find a map. "Here, look. Serendipity, Harpersville, Little Washbourne; all just a few miles from Foster's Ridge. That place has to be the key. Come on."

"We going to Foster's Ridge?" Nick asked. Derek nodded.

"Yes, we are. And quickly. We have to stop this before it goes any further."


It was dark by the time they reached the sign which welcomed them to Foster's Ridge. The two cars slowed and all four occupants were instantly on the alert, although they had no idea what for. The houses were small and close together, the town was not large. It all seemed highly unlikely as the source of all the violence. As they drove onwards, looking for somewhere to park, Derek suddenly slammed the brakes on, his eyes misty. All at once he was no longer in the car, but was standing in a garden. It should have been peaceful but there was a feeling of dreadful uncertainty. He shivered. Something felt bad. Up ahead he saw four children playing, and as he drew closer he saw that they were Vietnamese. One by one they burst into flame. He cried out, and tried to reach them, but something held him back. He turned to see what it was. A boy stood, his hand on Derek's shoulder. His hair was short and brown, his eyes were large and very blue. He looked young; very young. Even his uniform seemed too big. He gazed at Derek for a few moments, his mouth moving soundlessly, before he finally spoke in a small, young voice.

"Help me. Help us."

"Help us…" The voices echoed around. All of a sudden the boy jumped as if shouted at. His eyes glowed. Suddenly they were no longer blue, but red, bright and insane. He began to move backwards, heading into the distance. Confused, Derek tried to follow him, but found that he couldn't. The boy reached out his arms in a plaintive gesture and then vanished.

"Derek, are you okay?" Alex sounded concerned, and he nodded, focusing on her again.


"Derek? Alex?" It was Nick, appearing beside the car. "Everything alright?"

"Yes, Nick, everything is fine." Derek turned the engine off, and Alex smiled.

"Yeah, we're okay. Fortunately he has the presence of mind to put the brakes on when he feels a vision coming." Derek grinned.

"Maybe I should let you drive," he told her. "Although you aren't much better." They all laughed. Rachel joined them as they began to look around.

"Where do we start?" she asked.

"With Harry Sullivan," Derek said. "He lives here and works in Little Washbourne, so he has links with both towns. He may have heard more than we have. I also want to find out about the Foster family. The town must have been named after them. I think that's why the spirits have come here."

"Makes sense." Nick glanced around at the shadowy, unlit houses. "Which is his?"

"That one." Derek pointed, and began to lead the way forward. "Stick close. I don't think we are in any danger, but I want to know where everybody is at all times."

"Hey, I ain't going anywhere," Nick told him, sounding fervent. "You think I'm nuts?"

"No comment," Derek shot back, and knocked on the door of Sullivan's house. It opened slowly. Harry looked older than he had done the previous day, thought Alex.. He seemed to have lost some of his colour and vitality.

"Derek…" He sounded surprised, and concerned. "Damn. You shouldn't have come here."

"Why not?" The Legacy Precept was concerned at the change which had come over his friend. "What's wrong, Harry?"

"I…" He shook his head. "Leave, Derek. Please. I'm sorry I called you."

"There have been more deaths," Derek said, with all the certainty that his experience gave him.

"Yes. A lot more." Harry looked very tired. "You have to go. You must. I thought you could help us, but now I know I was wrong. It's all getting out of control."

"There have been deaths here too?"

"Yes." The fireman sighed heavily. "Sixteen kids are dead, Derek. At first it was just one or two. I thought it would stop…" He shuddered. "We all agreed not to say anything. We didn't want outsiders coming here… Then last night ten kids were killed. A whole group of them. They were in one of the houses, hiding out together; probably too scared to go out. They all caught fire; the lot of them. There wasn't a mark in the house to show how it happened." He began to shake. "I don't know what to do, Derek. I thought it would sort itself out. What are we going to do?"

"Tell me where the Fosters live," Derek ordered him. Harry frowned at the mention of the name.

"Mr and Mrs Foster? They live at number fourteen." He looked worried, and suddenly scared. "Don't give them a hard time, Derek. They've never been the same since their son was reported missing in Vietnam, back in '71."

"Their son being Sherman Foster?" Nick asked, beginning to feel a little uncomfortable standing out in the street. He felt somewhat exposed.

"That's him. You know something?"

"Perhaps." Derek turned away, then glanced back at Harry. "Next time, Harry, tell me everything straight away. This is my job."

"I hope you know what you're doing."

Derek smiled and walked away. He heard Harry lock his door behind them, and shook his head.

"Locks and bolts won't keep the spirits out," he murmured softly, then looked around at his team. "Okay. We have work to do."

"What are we planning?" Nick asked. "Exorcism? I could dial 911 and ask for the Priesthood."

"Not quite what I had in mind." Derek quickened his step. "This is number fourteen. It's my guess that this is where the manifestation is centred. It may be that Foster's spirit is the most powerful of the group, and that is why the attacks have been centred around his home town."

"It's been dark for some time. They may have arrived already." Alex glanced up and down the street. She could feel nothing, but that did not necessarily mean that there was nothing present.

"True, but it's not midnight yet." Derek consulted his watch. "Come on. We have five minutes." He knocked on the door of the house, and an old man answered. He stared at the four people on his doorstep and frowned.

"You selling something?"

"Nothing that you want to buy." Derek pushed past the old man and raced through the house. His instincts led him to the garden at the back, which he knew immediately was the one from his vision.

"Hey." The old man had kept pace with him well, despite his age. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Trying to save your town." Derek stared around. He could feel… what exactly? Something here was cold; very cold. It chilled his blood and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

"Who are you?" The old man asked. Derek turned to face him.

"It's about your son, Mr Foster," he said sharply. Foster's face crumpled.

"No… Not Sherman. You're here to send him away, and I won't let you do it. He's only just come back."

"You know about this?!" Derek grabbed the old man by the shoulders. "Are you crazy? He's killed at least sixteen people in this town alone."

"He doesn't mean it." Foster's voice sounded sad and distant. "He came to me. He's my little boy. He needed my help."

"Your little boy is a ghost, Foster. A vengeful, dangerous spirit. You've been helping him?" Derek glanced up as the rest of his team joined them. There seemed to be an extra person with them, but he had no time to worry about that now. His watch was ticking closer to midnight.

"Foster, listen to me. Your son has to be stopped." He tried to find the right words. "You must tell me what you have been doing to help him."

"He finds it hard." Foster was gazing into the middle distance. "He has to be strong. He needs my strength."

"You're helping him manifest himself?" Derek was angry and confused. "Why? How could you do this?" He tried to get through to the old man. "You must leave, Mr Foster. Your son is using this place as his focus, and you're helping him. You must go somewhere else."

"No." The voice was loud and forceful, and Derek swung around. Another man was in the garden; the same man who had arrived with the rest of the Legacy team. He was a few years younger than Foster, and a good deal stronger, and he held a large rifle in his hands. "You're the ones who are leaving."

"Who are you?" Derek asked, even more confused than before. The man took a few steps forward, his gun pointed directly at the Legacy leader.

"My name is John Barrett. My boy was Sherman Foster's best friend." His eyes narrowed. "He joined up too; lied about his age. He was only seventeen when he was killed." He was shouting now, partly through anger and partly because of the growing wind. It was beginning to hurl dust into the air around them. "His spirit is here too. I need Foster to help make the link. So he's not leaving."

Derek tensed. He could feel the spirits coming, and he knew it would not be long before they arrived. Barrett was obviously another part of the link, but there was usually a third. Three foci to complete the circle. Mrs Foster? Not likely. If it was her, then why was she not already in the garden?

"You don't know what you're doing," he shouted back at Barrett. "Your sons have become killers. They are murdering innocent people."

"No!" Barrett was shaking. "No, you don't understand. How can you? You don't know what it was like! They showed us. Showed us the fear, the noise, the madness." His eyes had become pleading. "The mud, the heat, the darkness, the confusion. You can't know what that was like. They want to be understood…"

"They want to kill!" Derek took a few steps towards Barrett, but stopped when the gun touched his chest. "You have to listen to me. This thing that you are helping to manifest itself is no longer your son. He is dead. He has not come back to you."

"Liar!" Barrett raised his gun, intending to strike at Derek with it, but Nick beat him to it, knocking the man to the ground with a flying tackle. They sprawled together on the grass, the older man struggling desperately against the greater strength of the ex-SEAL.

"There has to be a third person." Derek was looking around for somebody else. "If they are using themselves to help the spirits manifest themselves, there has to be a third to complete the circle."

"Me." The voice was Harry Sullivan's and Derek knew it before he turned around to face the man.

"No!" he shouted. "Get out of the garden!" It was too late. As Harry moved forwards he came into formation with the other two men. Nick felt a powerful, unseen force grab at him and tear him away from Barrett.

"Get away from my father," a deep voice whispered in his ear, and then he was flying through the air. He crashed into a tree and fell to the ground, unable to move.

The wind had whipped itself up into a maelstrom, and the moon had vanished. Derek stood his ground, feeling the strange forces whirl about him, tearing at his hair and his clothes. He saw Rachel thrown to the ground. He saw the spirits materialise, walking out of nothingness to stand before him, their eyes red and their arms outstretched. He recognised the boy from his vision.

"Go away!" he shouted, with as much authority as he could muster. "You're not wanted here."

"On the contrary." The tallest of the figures stepped forward. Derek assumed that he was Sherman Foster. His eyes scanned the rest of the group. The children looked as insane as the older ones. One was a girl even smaller than Kat, but her eyes were as deranged as any he had ever seen. For a second he felt his resolve weaken. Sherman Foster laughed, as if he felt his adversary's uncertainty.

"This is not right." Derek stepped in front of Foster, trying to look into the spirit's eyes. "You cannot do this. You are killing people."

"Of course." Foster's eyes seemed less red all of a sudden, and Derek saw the hazel beneath. "It's what we were told to do."


"By the men who sent us away." Foster stared deep into Derek's eyes. "They took me away from my family. They sent me to kill people. They taught me to hate. Do you know how much it hurts to die? I was shot three times in the stomach. I bled to death in a pool of mud. The rain tried to drown me." He breathed heavily, his eyes just a few inches from Derek's own. "There were guns firing all around. Shells going off. People were shooting, screaming. I heard them long after I knew I was dead. I heard them for months. Then it all went quiet. They forgot I was there. They left me in my hole for twenty-five years. I gave my life, and they forgot about me."

"That is no reason to kill now." Derek stared back at Foster. He could feel the spirit's anger, feel his pain. "Why do this to people who have done you no harm?"

"Because it is the only way." Foster raised an arm, and Derek felt an unseen fist hit him. His feet lost contact with the ground and he flew through the air. The ground came up to meet him.

"You can't do this." He tried to struggle to his feet, and saw Alex run forward, trying to stop Foster just as he had done. She was thrown aside too.

"Alex!" Derek stumbled over to her, then seemed to notice Rachel and Nick for the first time. He stood in the middle of the garden, wobbling but determined. "Why did you not kill us? Why?"

"Because you are not part of the pattern." Foster gestured to his companion spirits and they moved forwards as one. "Stay out of our way, Doctor Rayne. You cannot save everyone." He raised his hands and the wind reached a whirling crescendo, tearing leaves from the trees, hurling branches to the ground. Derek felt something strike him on the head, and he staggered. When he straightened up the spirits were gone and the wind had ceased. The garden looked as though nothing had happened.

"Nick? Rachel? Alex?" Derek checked his friends over and helped Rachel to her feet. The other stood up, looking shaky.

"What the hell was that?" Nick asked, rubbing his head. "I feel like I just got kicked by a mule."

"Not exactly." Derek rubbed his head, feeling very tired and somewhat dazed. "Harry, where will they go?"

"I don't know." Harry looked pale. The manifestation had evidently taken a lot out of him. "They want blood…"

"I had noticed." The Legacy Precept tried to pull his thoughts into line. "They want teenage boys. They have to kill them. Where is the most likely place for them to look?"

"I don't know!" Harry sat down heavily on a stone urn. "It could be anywhere. Any of the local towns. They don't care." He was close to tears. "We've all been helping them, all of us who are old enough to remember. We all thought we owed it to them." He looked up at Derek. "I'm sorry Derek. The first time I didn't even know what I was doing, and then afterwards… I had to do it! I was there, Derek. I was in Foster's unit. I was supposed to be covering his back the day he got shot. I wasn't there for him. Don't you see? It's my fault."

"No. I don't see." Derek pushed past him. He was going to have to rely on his instincts to help him find the spirits. He began to run, heading out of the garden. He hardly even noticed Barrett standing in his way.

"You're not going to stop them," the old man said. Derek knocked him aside, not even bothering to close his fist.

"Alright Derek!" Nick shouted. As they ran back to the street the younger man had a hard time keeping pace with the Precept. "Where are we going?"

"After them." Derek skidded to a halt in the middle of the road, and turned in a circle, staring at the sky. "This way."

"Hey, check out the spirit detector." Nick ran off after his leader. "Wait for us!"

They ran on. The town was not a large one, and they had reached the edge of it before Derek stopped again. He headed straight towards a large house, the last one in Foster's Ridge. The door had been torn from its hinges, and he ran straight inside. The others followed him, unquestioning of his instincts if somewhat uncertain about his tactics. They stopped.

Inside the house three teenagers had been playing cards and drinking beer. The cards and cans were undisturbed, but the teenagers were dead. The Legacy members recognised the marks of a phantom shooting.

"Too late." Derek's shoulders slumped. "Damn you! Why are you doing this?"

"Help me…" He heard the voice inside his head and swung around.

"Where are you?"

"Help me…" It was a young voice, pleading, desperate. In the middle of the room a figure appeared. He was dressed in an American army uniform, and his boots were splattered with mud. "Help me…"

"How? Who are you? What is going on?" Derek took a step forward, but the figure vanished. Almost immediately there were others, all standing in a circle around the edge of the room, cutting off the exits.

"You wouldn't leave." Sherman Foster stepped forwards, his face showing his anger. "We warned you, but you wouldn't listen."

"You called me." Derek looked past Foster to another of the spirits; the same one that had just spoken to him, and the same one from his vision earlier in the night. "You don't want to do this."

The boy stared through him, and Derek swung around, addressing all of the spirits.

"You don't want this. You're letting Foster's madness contaminate you all. Leave here. This is not necessary."

"Yes it is." Sherman Foster's voice had changed, and Derek turned back to face him. He stared back at the madness which had inhabited the boy, and smiled.

"So you're showing your true self."

"Are you surprised?" Foster's body laughed, but the sound was too deep and too loud to have come from him. "I promised them all their freedom if they gave me blood, and they were happy to oblige. They see no reason why others should not suffer as they have done."

"You're mad." Derek glanced back towards his comrades. "You see? I told you there had to be something else. Those children wouldn't become killers like that without a reason." He turned back to the spirit. "What are you, and what do you gain from this?"

"What am I?" The presence laughed. "Whatever you want me to be." The figure changed into one which Derek knew only too well. "I can be your father, or…" he changed again. "I can be her husband…" Derek heard Rachel gasp, and recognised the face from the picture Kat kept beside her bed. "I am nothing, and I am everything."

"What do you want from these kids?" Nick asked, stepping forwards. The full force of the insane red eyes swung round to face him, and he began to wish he hadn't asked.

"I want strength." The creature laughed. "I was imprisoned beneath the earth for a long time. Then I felt the rage of the war above my head. I drank the blood that came down to my lair. It made me hungry for more. They sent me bodies, and spirits to torment, but I needed more. Then it all ended. The war stopped. The rage ceased. There was no more. But then, one day, the machines came. They dug up the ground and they let me out. It had been a thousand years since I last walked the Earth, but in the blink of an eye I was free." It laughed, and the Legacy members saw its outline, distinct from Foster's. It was a shadowy creature, fangs dripping blood. "I took my children, the spirits that the war had given me, and I let two of them lead me to this place. 'Home' they said, and I followed. I wanted blood. The spirits gave me blood. I have a taste for blood like theirs, like the blood of the soldiers who fought above my head, and they were easy to convince. I told them I would release them if they did as I asked."

"But you're not planning to let them go." Surprised by her bravery, and sickened by the creature which stood before her, Rachel stepped forward. Foster swung around to look at her.

"Of course not. I take the spirits of all I desire. I keep them locked up inside. The people of this town were easy to coerce. They had their guilt and their righteous anger, and they helped me to give my spirits form, powers I could not have given them alone. Now your spirits will join my collection." He raised his fist and Rachel flew through the air. Nick gave a shout of rage as she crashed to the floor on the other side of the room, but when he tried to run forward he felt a hand grab him and hurl him after her. They lay slumped together on the floor, unmoving.

"Is this supposed to impress us?" Derek asked. The creature laughed.

"You don't need to be impressed," it said, and raised its hand. Derek fell backwards, crashing to the ground. Alex ran forwards, but was knocked back. She smashed into the wall and lay still. Derek struggled to his feet.

"Fight it," he said, turning around to address the spirits at the sides of the room. "You have to fight it. It's lying to you. It won't let you go." He swung round to face the boy from his vision. "You asked me to help you. First you must help yourself. You have to fight this thing. Don't help it."

"Silence!" The creature spun round and raised its hand, but Derek ducked aside, playing for time and hoping that one of the others would awaken soon, preferably Nick. "You can't hope to win."

"Why not? Because I don't have a crowd of children to help me?" The Precept was struggling to focus his mind, hoping that he could use it to get through to the spirits surrounding him. If he could reach just one of them…

"So. You have a strong mind." The creature smiled. "So do I, Doctor Rayne. So do I." Immediately Derek felt the creature attack him, felt its mind reach into his. Pain ran through him. He felt the raw power of its madness inside him, and he staggered beneath the force of its assault. He stumbled, and began to sink to the ground.

"Derek!" He heard Nick's voice, but sensed rather than saw his associate launch himself at the creature. They collided and rolled across the ground together. Derek struggled to regain his balance, and ran to help Nick. He helped his friend hold Foster's arms, and slowly the creature was forced to pull free of its host. It straightened up before them, it's eyes wide and red.

"I don't need that spirit to hold me," it screamed, and Derek felt the power of its attack on his mind once again. He rolled across the ground, trying to fight the pain. Nick grabbed a chair and smashed it across the creature's back, but it spun around and sent him flying. He fought to get back on his feet.

"What are you doing?" Derek heard Foster's voice, but thought little of it. He had no idea who the boy was addressing, until he felt the pain in his mind lessen.

"What are you doing? You told us these were the last ones." Foster had climbed to his feet. "You told us we would be free when we had killed these three for you. Why do you want these others? Free us now."

"Fool." The creature pointed at Foster and he sunk to the ground, writhing in obvious agony, his shape distorting and flickering in and out of vision. "You can't question me."

"Yes you can." His voice weak, Derek called out to the others. "You can question him. You can fight him if you all join together."

"Be silent!" The creature turned to its collection of captive spirits. "Kill him!" It ordered. "Kill them all."

"No." One of the spirits, the boy from Derek's vision, stepped forwards. "No. You promised we would be free."

"You will be. Just kill these people!" The creature pointed at the boy and he faltered, then gained resolution.

"No. You lied to us."

"Do not defy me, boy. You will suffer for all of eternity. Only I can free you!" The creature, facing the most serious threat to its power yet, abandoned its attack on Derek and turned to face its slaves. "You will do as I say."

Derek took the opportunity to climb to his feet and run to his friends. He helped them to sit up, then turned back to watch the battle.

"Don't listen to it," he called as encouragement. "If you fight it you can free yourselves."

The creature spun around again, flame spitting from its mouth. One by one the four small children caught fire, and began to roll around the floor, crying in pain. Rachel tried to run to them, but Derek held her back.

"Fight him," he shouted. "Keep fighting him. You can do this!"

"No-o-o-ooo!" The creature's voice became louder and louder as it struggled against the sudden defiance. Its fury unleashed itself on the room, and the wallpaper tore free, the lights smashed and the carpet raised itself up at the corners. The windows shattered.

Plunged into darkness the Legacy members saw the room lit suddenly by momentary flashes of flame which tore up the walls, before vanishing almost immediately into nothingness. They crowded together, watching the creature as it fought for its survival. A raging wind tore through the room, and Derek walked forward.

"Fight it," he intoned, his voice clear and calm despite the noise and the confusion. "You can do it. Fight it!"

"No…" The creature had sunk to its knees. "No…" With a last desperate moan it blinked out of existence. Silence reigned.

"What in Heaven's name was that thing?" Rachel asked. "Has it gone?"

"Yes. It's gone." Derek grinned, looking breathless. "It's gone." He glanced about at the room. The windows were whole again, the wallpaper was neat. One by one the lights came back on. Only the three bodies in the centre of the room showed that something was still very wrong. The nine spirits stepped forwards.

"I'm sorry." Foster stood before Derek and lowered his head. "We have done such terrible things."

"It was not your fault." Derek reached out a hand, and put it on the shoulder of the smallest of the children. The child looked so young, and yet so old. She should be nearly his age by now, with children of her own. It was all so damned unfair.

"It was somebody's fault." Foster knelt beside the three bodies. "They were so young. We were so young. I've forgotten how it feels."

"You are free now," Derek told him. "Whatever that creature made you do, it was not your fault."

"And my father?" Foster asked him. "And Mr Barrett, and Harry. All the others who helped us to come here. What about them?"

Derek shrugged. "It's not as if we can involve the police in this, so it is something they will have to sort out for themselves," he said grimly. "At first they might have had no choice, but later they chose to help you."

"Perhaps." Touching one of the bodies with an odd tenderness, Foster sighed. "But now we have to leave. It seems that we will never get the chance to say goodbye to those who waited for us." He stood up. "I still mean what I said, Derek. It still hurts. They sent us out there and they forgot about us. They didn't care. We were alone, and nobody came back for us."

"I know. I'm sorry." Derek glanced around at the little group. "But they have found you now."

"And what about all of the others who are still out there?" Foster asked him. "Some have found peace. Many others haven't. We were young. We were afraid. We were abandoned."

"Lost." Derek nodded. "And now?"

"Now we leave." Foster clearly had some command over the others, for they joined him instantly.

"Good luck," Derek told him. Foster smiled. It was the smile of a boy who should have been older than Derek; at least as old as Harry Sullivan. Instead he was still only nineteen.

"Goodbye." Foster looked around at the others. "I hope this is the end of it." He vanished, and the others were gone too.

"What did he mean, he hoped it was the end of it?" Rachel asked. Derek sighed.

"You heard what he said. There are many bitter and angry spirits in search of fulfilment. That is what war creates." He strode towards the door.

"You think there could be other creatures like that one?" Nick asked. The Precept paused and nodded.

"It's a possibility. Who knows? When you tear up ancient forests who can tell what you will unleash? I only hope that Sherman Foster and the others will find the peace they have been looking for. There are many others who are probably not so lucky."

We left Foster's Ridge as we had found it, with no one wanting to claim responsibility for what had happened. I had believed that Harry Sullivan was a rational man, but I did not imagine what guilt could do. He believed himself responsible for the death of a friend. That is a feeling I have known, and I only hope that it is never used against me in the same way. Derek stopped writing and gazed at the wall, thinking back over the events he had witnessed recently.

Foster and the others were buried together in a cemetery in Vietnam. Their families wanted it that way. All of the bodies were identified. They are the lucky ones. Just as Foster said, there are many others, not just in Vietnam, who are lying out there somewhere. Many will probably never be found, or named. How do they feel, knowing that they have given their lives, their youth, for a cause they were told to believe in, and then were abandoned? How do they feel as life goes on without them? We think of them maybe once a year, when we are told to remember, but we never know their names, or see their faces. How does it feel to be so alone and lost? In the last few weeks I have seen fury unleashed on the living by some of those who died. I have seen good people embittered by forces I cannot describe. Can anyone truly appreciate just what we may be creating as we continue to go to war? As we continue to send others out to die? Can we really blame those people if they choose to come looking for revenge? They are out there somewhere, and one day they may decide to return. They come from many nations, but at the end of the day they are a part of all of us.