Home > Mind Game (GhostWalkers #2)

Mind Game (GhostWalkers #2)
Author: Christine Feehan

CHAPTER ONE

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“She’s obviously not cooperating again,” Dr. Whitney grumbled and scribbled fiercely in his notebook, clearly somewhere between total exasperation and frustration. “Don’t let her have her toys again until she decides to work. I’ve had enough of her nonsense.”

The nurse hesitated. “Doctor, that isn’t a good idea with Dahlia. She can be very…” She paused, clearly searching for the right word. “Difficult.”

That caught his attention. He looked up from his papers, the impatience on his face changing to interest. “You’re afraid of her, Milly. She’s four years old, and you’re afraid of her. Why?” There was more than scientific interest in his tone. There was eagerness.

The nurse continued to watch the child through the glass window. The little girl had shiny black hair, thick and long and falling down her back in an unkempt, untidy mass. She sat on the floor rocking back and forth, clutching a small blanket to her and moaning softly. Her eyes were enormous, as black as midnight and as penetrating as steel.

Milly Duboune winced visibly and looked away when the child turned those black, ancient eyes in her direction.

“She can’t see us through the glass,” Dr. Whitney pointed out.

“She knows we’re here.” The nurse dropped her voice to a whisper. “She’s dangerous, Doctor. No one wants to work with her. She won’t let us brush her hair or tell her to go to bed, and we can’t punish her.”

Dr. Whitney lifted an eyebrow, sheer arrogance crossing his face. “You’re all that afraid of this child? Why wasn’t I informed?”

Milly hesitated, fear etched on her face. “We knew you’d demand more from her. You have no idea what you’d unleash. You don’t pay any attention to them after you make your demands. She’s in terrible pain. We don’t blame her when she throws her tantrums. Ever since you insisted we separate the children, many are showing signs of extreme discomfort or, as in Dahlia’s case, a high level of pain. She can’t eat or sleep properly. She’s too sensitive to light and sound. She’s losing weight. Her pulse is too rapid, her heart rate up all the time. She cries even in her sleep. Not a child’s cry, but a cry of pain. Nothing we’ve tried has helped.”

“There’s no reason for her to be in pain,” Dr. Whitney snapped. “All of you coddle those children. They have a purpose, a much bigger purpose than you can imagine. Go back in there and tell her if she doesn’t cooperate, I’ll take all of the toys and her blanket away from her.”

“Not her blanket, Dr. Whitney, it’s all she clings to. It’s all the comfort she has.” The nurse shook her head forcefully and stepped back from the window. “If you want that blanket, you go take it away from her yourself.”

Dr. Whitney studied the desperation in the woman’s eyes with clinical detachment. He indicated for the nurse to reenter the room. “See if you can coax her to cooperate. What does she want the most?”

“To be put back in the same room with either Lily or Flame.”

“Iris. The child’s name is Iris, not Flame. Don’t indulge her personality simply because she has red hair. She already is more trouble than she’s worth with that temper of hers. The last thing we want is for Iris and this one,” he indicated the dark-haired little girl, “to get together. Go tell her she can spend time with Lily if what she does pleases me.”

Milly took a deep breath and pushed open the door to the small room. The doctor flicked a switch so he could hear the conversation between the nurse and the little girl.

“Dahlia? Look at me, honey,” Milly wheedled. “I have a surprise for you. Dr. Whitney said if you do something really good for him, you can spend time with Lily. Would you like that? To spend the rest of the evening with Lily?”

Dahlia clutched the raggedy blanket to her and nodded her head, her eyes solemn. The nurse knelt beside her and reached out her hand to smooth Dahlia’s hair away from her face. Immediately the little girl ducked, clearly unafraid, simply avoiding physical contact with her. Milly sighed and dropped her hand. “Okay, Dahlia. Try something with one of the balls. See if you can do something with them.”

Dahlia turned her head and looked directly at the doctor through the one-way glass. “Why does that man stare at us all the time? What does he want?” She sounded more adult than child.

“He wants to see if you can do anything special,” the nurse answered.

“I don’t like him.”

“You don’t have to like him, Dahlia. You just have to show him what you can do. You know you have all sorts of wonderful tricks you can do.”

“It hurts when I do them.”

“Where does it hurt?” The nurse glanced at the glass too, a small frown beginning to form.

“In my head. It hurts all the time in my head and I can’t make it go away. Lily and Flame make it go away.”

“Just do something for the doctor and you can spend all evening with Lily.”

Dahlia sat silent for a moment, still rocking, her fingers curled tightly in the blanket. Behind the one-way glass, Dr. Whitney sucked in his breath and scribbled across the page of his notebook hastily, intrigued by the child’s demeanor. She seemed to be weighing the advantages and disadvantages and making a judgment call. Finally she nodded, as if bestowing a great favor on the nurse.

Without further argument, Dahlia placed her tiny hand over one ball and began to make small circles above it. Dr. Whitney leaned close to the glass to study the lines of concentration on her face. The ball began to spin on the floor then rose beneath her palm. She moved the ball along her index finger, keeping it spinning a few inches above the floor in an amazing display of her phenomenal ability to control it with her mind. A second sphere joined the first in the air beneath her hand, both balls spinning madly like tops. The task appeared almost effortless. Dahlia seemed to be concentrating, but not wholly. She glanced at the nurse and then at the glass, looking nearly bored. She held the balls spinning in the air for a minute or two.

Abruptly she let her hand fall, clapping both hands against her head, pressing her palms tightly against her temples. The balls fell to the ground. Her face was pale, white lines around her mouth.

Dr. Whitney swore softly and flicked a second switch. “Have her do it again. This time with as many balls as she can handle. I want the action sustained this time so I can time her.”

“She can’t, Doctor, she’s in pain,” Milly protested. “We have to take her to Lily. It’s the only thing that will help her.”

“She’s only saying that so she can get her way. How could Lily or Iris take her pain away? That’s just ridiculous, they’re children. If she wants to see Lily she can repeat the experiment and try a little harder.”

There was a small silence. The little girl’s face darkened. Her eyes grew pitch-black. She stared fiercely at the glass. “He’s a bad man,” she told the nurse. “A very bad man.” The glass began to fracture into a fine spider’s web. There were at least ten balls of varying size on the floor near the child. All of them began to spin madly in the air before slamming again and again against the window. Glass fragments broke off and rained onto the floor. Chips flew wildly in the air, until it appeared to be snowing glass.

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