The burning pain was gone from her head but now she felt the heat rush to her cheeks as her pulse raced. Her chest rose and fell in quick spurts as the heavy breaths escaped her nose. Her mouth was tense as she glanced to Witt, like he might have some explanation.
“Adie?” Witt asked, “You okay?”
The students all seems to go blurry, the entire auditorium seemingly spinning. She locked in on the one face that wasn’t fuzzy, the dreadlock man, his face was crystal clear. He winked at her and smiled with perfect teeth.
Adie jumped from her seat and busted through the back auditorium door.
Adie felt her feet moving quickly, as she scurried across the University of Colorado campus, across patches of snow and concrete, between dorm halls and classroom buildings. She crossed a basketball court where a lone basketball sat just at midcourt. She sprinted toward it and imagined herself on a soccer field, state championships, craving that feel of safety and success.
Before this all happened, soccer had made her life comfortable, it gave her direction, strength to be who she was because she was damn good at being a star athlete. She didn’t have to pretend to be anything else, or let down her guard to find out who she really was.
As she reached the ball she stretched that long leg of hers back and turned her foot to the side to position it for a solid connection with the basketball. She felt that amazing feeling as her foot struck the ball and the ball went sailing through the air, at waist height it traveled thirty or so yards, stopped and rolled another twenty.
Adie stopped, caught her breath and placed her hands on her hips. The chill in the air nipped at her moist hairline and sent a chill down her neck.
Adie turned and saw Witt running after her.
“Nice kick,” he said as he caught up to her. “Feel better?”
Adie smiled. “Yeah, I guess I kind of do. Nailing the crap out of a soccer ball always did make me feel like I was back on top, you know?”
Witt tossed those bangs out of his eyes and shook his head, “No, not really. But when a patient proves a theory of mine, I kind of get a good buzz.”
“Right,” Adie said, and crossed her arms, looking over Witt’s shoulder, making sure he wasn’t being followed.
Witt placed a hand on her shoulder, which sent some strangely pleasurable electric current down her arm and into her chest. “What happened in there, Adie?”
“You tell me.” Adie shrugged. “All I know is suddenly everyone was staring at me.”
“That couldn’t have been all you know about this, Adie. You screamed at the top of your lungs something like ‘Who are they?’ and had a terrified expression on your face. You know you can’t tell Jeff or he will make you go back to IPA this very second. So if you want a few more days of vacation, looks like I’m your only option.”
“Or I could just keep it to myself.”
“You Dad is going to ask questions, Adie. We need to talk this through.”
Adie sighed deep. He was right. Her dad would be on top of that like a hog on mud and if her mother caught wind of it, getting back to ‘Puerto Rico’ would be ridiculously hard.
“Okay, so you know that guy, the one that kept challenging you with the questions?”
“Yeah,” Witt said smugly, “had some ego, didn’t he?”
Adie shrugged. Until dreadlock man went all wizardy on her, she was thinking he actually had some really good points. “Well, he did this thing to me.”
“What do you mean? He was no where near you.”
“I know. When I looked at him, he literally locked my eyes to his. Like superglue. I couldn’t move my eyes away from his, and it sent this raging burning sensation through my head. After a few minutes of this, he sent these little white sparkles of light from his eyes to mine. Like a ray of them or something. And then I saw the black figures, like I did back in Montana. I saw them again back at IPA in the mirror in my bedroom, but the figures were different, and I was just ready to come home for a visit, so I didn’t tell anyone.”
Adie watched Witt’s eyes stare into hers, but she knew his mind was somewhere else. He did this sometimes, as if looking right through her. She got a little bored of his spacing off. “So, I’m cancelling dinner with the parents—then I’m calling Bethie.”
Witt seemed to perk at Bethie’s name, then paused and placed a finger at his lips. “One thing, Adie. Are you sure you weren’t dreaming? Like, fell asleep for moment in the auditorium. Just dreamed that this guy in our class locked in your stare and shot you some sparkly light and visions?”
Adie paused. She hadn’t even considered that possibility. It could have been a dream. When she woke up with everyone staring at her, the dreadlock man could have just been smiling at her because the daughter of the Doctorate level professor of psychology—a professor that dreadlock man had just challengened on several theories of inherited psychological traits—woke up screaming from some dream, disrupted her father’s big presentation, and gave dreadlock man some kind of personal satisfaction.
“Maybe it was. I guess it could have been a dream. It just seemed so real.”
Witt tilted his head toward her. “Don’t they all seem so real?”
Adie nodded. “God, I hate this sometimes. It can just be so confusing—what’s real, what’s not real.”
Witt grabbed her hand and placed it on his heart. “Well, I can tell you one thing. This,” he pressed her hand deeper into his chest, “is real.”
A vision raced through Adie’s mind. A dream she had had when Witt was being held hostage in the last case. She had entered the door where he was lying on the floor, a knife in his side, and she had thought nothing to lean down and kiss him. It had been the best kiss she had ever had with anyone. But that wasn’t real. That had been a dream. She yanked her hand away.
“That’s enough, Witt. Go call Jago. You two figure out if it was my dream or not, if you’re so damn smart. I’ll hold off on Bethie. See you at dinner.”
Witt turned to walk back toward the auditorium. Adie just watched him. Even the back of him—shirt half-untucked, some paper sticking out of back pockets, his old shoes probably from some thrift store—was handsome in a way Jeff wasn’t. Where Jeff had every hair in place, Witt had none. Where Jeff had clothes that showed off his lean muscles and perfect anatomy, Witt preferred loose t-shirts and baggy Levis jeans. No two men more different could be tugging at opposite sides of her heart without anyone but her knowing it.
She turned toward the other end of campus, definitely not going back to the auditorium, and figured she’d catch the bus back to the side of town where her parents lived. As she turned, her foot stumbled into something. The basketball she had kicked only moments earlier sat at her foot.
Her breath caught as she quickly darted her eyes around her. How could that be? She had nailed that ball and watched it roll for several yards.
Nearly blending in with one of the dorm buildings, dreadlock man was leaning against the old brick. He stared directly at Adie, smoking a cigarette. What was with this guy? What did he want?
She tried to monitor how brave she actually felt at the moment. Maybe if she approached him, she’d know. Surely she wasn’t dreaming at that moment, and if he did the crazy white light thing again with his eyes, she’d know that what happened in the auditorium wasn’t a dream either. But would it be safe?
The campus was suddenly like a ghost town, no one in sight. Where were all the students? She’d done braver things in her life than approach a stranger. She took a deep breath and started to walk toward him. He watched every step as she closed in on him. Twenty yards away. Fifteen. Ten. Five. She stopped.
“That stuff’ll kill you, you know.” She said, pointing toward the pack of cigarettes in his hand.
Dreadlock man smiled and threw the cigarette to the ground, squishing it out with his Vann’s sneakers. “Yep, I know,” he answered. “You that professor’s daughter?”
Adie’s chest tightened, but she made the now seemingly super stupid decision to be standing in front of him, and now she’d have to follow through. She looked around, still no one strolling the grounds. “Yeah, that’s me. Why?”
“I could just tell. You act just like him.”
“What do you mean, I act like him? You don’t even know him. Or me.” She could feel herself removing eye contact with dreadlock man every few seconds, hoping he wouldn’t lock her into some trance again.
“Sure about that?” He asked. Then he smirked and walked away.
“Wait. Yes. I’m sure. Do I know you? Wait, please.” She started to run toward him, but he turned his head over his shoulder and put a hand up.
“We’re done for today, Adie,” he said. “Just go home.”