“How about you?” Jordan asked Brad.
“I’m trying to keep an open mind. You’ve got to add up the coincidences, or what appear to be coincidences. You and I own those paintings. We’re all back in the Valley, and so are they. Flynn’s involved, personally involved with two of the women who were invited to Warrior’s Peak. Jordan and Dana used to be an item. And I bought the painting because I was caught by that face—Zoe’s face. It just about knocked me on my ass. And let’s keep that little tidbit among the three of us.”
“You’re interested in Zoe?” Flynn asked.
“Yeah, which is dandy, since she appears to have taken an instant dislike to me. Which I don’t get,” he added with some heat. “Women don’t dislike me right off the bat.”
“No, it usually takes a little time,” Jordan agreed. “Then they dislike you.”
“On the contrary. I’m a very smooth operator. Usually.”
“Yeah, I remember how smooth you were with Marsha Kent.”
“I was seventeen,” Brad argued. “Fuck you.”
“Do you still have her footprint on your ass?” Jordan wanted to know.
“You still got Dana’s on your balls?”
Jordan winced. “Tit for tat there. Question. Does that painting look as much like the other two as it does like Dana?”
“Oh, yeah,” Flynn told him. “Different dos, but the faces are dead on.”
“No question as to the age on it, Brad?”
Jordan sat silent a moment, nursing his drink, studying Dana’s face. So still, so pale, so empty. “Okay, I’ll take a side step out of logic and into the zone. There are six of us and three keys. And what, just over two weeks left to find the first one?” He reached for the bottle again. “It’ll be a snap.”
BEYOND the puzzle to be solved, Flynn thought, it was good to have his friends back. Good to know even as he crawled into bed in the early hours of the morning that Jordan was crawling onto the mattress in the spare room. And Brad was already zonked out on the sofa downstairs, guarded by Moe.
It had always seemed to him that there’d been nothing they couldn’t do together. Whether it had been fighting off imaginary alien invaders, learning how to unhook a girl’s bra one-handed, or driving cross-country in a secondhand Buick. They’d always come through for each other.
When Jordan’s mother had died, both he and Brad had been there, holding vigil during those endless nights at the hospital.
When Lily had dumped him, the one constant Flynn had been sure of was his friends.
Through good times and not so good times, he thought sentimentally, they’d been there for each other. Physical distance never meant a damn.
But it was better, a hell of a lot better, to have them here. Since they were, the first key was practically in the lock.
He closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep.
THE house was dark, and bitterly cold. He could see his breath puff out in thin white vapors as he wandered aimlessly down dark corridors that turned, that twisted. There was a storm blasting, a crash and boom that shook the air and shot out fast, angry light, zigzagging in the dark.
In the dream he knew he walked the halls of Warrior’s Peak. Though he could barely see, he recognized it and knew the turn of the corridor, the feel of the wall under his trailing fingers. Though he had never walked there before.
He could see the rain whipping outside the second-story window, could see the way it glowed blue in the lightning strikes. And he saw the ghost of his own face blurry in the glass.
He called out, and his voice echoed. On and on, like a rolling wave. There was no one to answer. And yet he knew he wasn’t alone.
Something walked those halls with him. Lurking just behind. Out of sight, out of reach. Something dark that pushed him on, up the stairs.
Fear tripped into his heart.
Doors lined the corridor, but all of them were locked. He tried each one, turning, tugging the knob with fingers gone stiff with cold.
Whatever stalked him cre