After she had served their sandwiches, Catherine slipped over to the door, locked it and put up the closed sign while they ate. Lydia couldn’t help eyeing her quizzically when she returned.
â€œWell, I’m guessing that you won’t want any customers disturbing us while we’re talking.â€ She pulled a chair up to the table. â€œSo tell me the worst. What’s he done this time? I’m guessing it worse than his usual stunts to bring you down here to see me.â€
“You’d be right, as well,” Matthias said as he poured her a cup of tea. “But for this to make sense I need to start at the beginning.” He looked down at the pretty check table cloth and actually chewed on his lip. “You know I’ve been lying to you, right?”
“About that crazy idea of yours,” she asked. “Well, I suspected. It’s just too dumb. If there is a group of super-psychics out there I think they’re probably hiding.”
“Oh, she’s good.” Lucas sounded amused as Matt spluttered,
“Super-psychic? What have you been reading?”
“Hey, it’s as good a term as any,” Lucas said.
Other than a brief smirk Catherine ignored that. “So, yeah, I knew you weren’t being entirely truthful with me, but I’m not sure why you’re telling me now.”
“Because to explain what he’s done I’m going to have to tell you the truth.” Matthias paused and frowned. “Which you will probably find just as unlikely my previous story.”
Catherine sipped her tea and frowned at him. When he didn’t immediately continue, she added, “Go on, then.”
“Well, it might be easier to show you.” Matthias glanced at Lucas who sighed.
“You want me to do it?” he asked, then sighed again as Matthias nodded. He turned his attention back to Catherine and held out his hand to her. “Take my hand.”
“What?” She looked at him nervously.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he promised. “It’s just like Matt said, it’s easier to show you and skin contact makes it simpler.”
“Matt?” Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “You’ve even been lying about your name? That I didn’t suspect.” She eyed Lucas’s hand suspiciously then studied his eyes for a moment before grasping it tentatively.
“Thank you,” he said. “You might want to brace yourself. This will likely be quite startling for you.”
“Wha-” she broke off as her eyes flew wide. She leapt to her feet, nearly tripping and falling over herself. “What the hell! How-” She jerked her hand loose and sat back down. She’d gone pale and was shaking. “Bloody hell.” She shook her head a few times and took a few noticeably deep breaths. “I-”
â€œI’m sorry. It does tend to be a bit jarring the first time,â€ Lucas said soothing. â€œAnd I did rather shake up your world as well.â€ Calming vibes seemed to flow off him towards the trembling woman. No, Lydia realised after a moment. There was no seemed about it â€“ he was deliberately broadcasting calming emotions at Catherine.
“Are you okay, Cat?” Matthias asked.
â€œI- Y-yes.â€ Catherine shook her head and pulled in another breath. “N-no, not really. But I think I will be. Just let me pull myself together.” She sat there, breathing deeply as the shivers slowly subsided. “You know, if I hadn’t seen examples of how stupidly strong you and Jayden are before, I probably wouldn’t have believed you about these Astrals existing in any numbers even with it being put straight in my head. But I was right; you are keeping your heads down. I’m not sure how much longer you’ll be able to do that. I’ve been having bad dreams.”
“About Jayden?” Matthias asked. “Did Lucas show you what he’s done?”
“Yes, about him,” she said then shook her head. “And no, he just showed me a little bit about your kind and your history and about-” she broke off and looked at Alban curiously. “Are you really not a human?”
Alban regarded Catherine for a long moment before nodding. “No, I’m not.” He studied the windows of the tea room for a moment – checking for curious tourists, no doubt – then pulled off his baseball cap to reveal his pointed ears.
Catherine stared at him for a moment then chuckled. “That explains why you’re so slim as well. I was thinking you might be anorexic but I guess I just don’t have anything that’s edible for you on the menu?”
“Not really.” He shook his head. “All Speakers are carnivorous and everything came with salad.”
“Hmm,” she said. “I’m sure I can rustle something with no vegetables in it if you’re hungry. Once we’re done here, anyway.” She turned her attention back to Matthias. “So are you ever going to tell me what Jayden’s done?”
“He-” Matthias began then hesitated. “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this. He’s kidnapped my son Andrew.”
“What!” She shot to her feet, knocking her chair over and sending it clattering to the floor as she did. “Why? Did he finally figure out you were lying?”
“No… well not exactly. It seems he’s known for a while. He’s kidnapped Drew because his mental signature is similar to mine and he can use him to mimic me.”
“Why-” Catherine broke off and frowned. “The answer’s going to be long and complicated isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so, mostly because of the things I’d have to explain in order to explain, if you catch my drift.”
“I do.” She bent down and righted up her fallen chair. “Could you show me it the way he showed me your people’s history?” She nodded towards Lucas.
â€œI can,â€ he said. â€œBut I’m not as good at that sort of thing as he is. It may be a little rough.â€ He offered her his hand.
â€œHow rough?â€ she asked.
â€œNot too bad. My mind affinity is strong enough but I lack Lucas’s finesse. You may have a touch of a headache after. Nothing that Kaz can’t easily fix if you do.â€
Catherine made a tutting sound and stared into space as she considered this. â€œI hate headaches, but I think I can live with that to save time in the circumstances.â€ She reached out and took his hand.