June 9, Saturday
A VOLATILE BREW ROILED INSIDE Will's gut as he watched Sara pace his den. Protective instincts tore through him, even stronger than when she'd gone off to college. What loomed before her now was potentially lethal.
Doe-like eyes, so like her mother's, met his own. "What am I going to do, Dad?"
"Don't panic, Sara. I have a few ideas."
His jaw tightened. The last thing she needed to know was how worried he was. It was nothing short of a miracle she was still alive.
"I can't possibly hide from these people for the rest of my life."
"I know, Sara."
Depending on the situation, calling in a favor might not be an option. The last thing clandestine programs wanted was publicity. Her status ultimately depended not only on how much she knew but what it was about.
If the black ops people were professionals they knew his background. That was probably good, and could be why she was still alive. Maybe the best course of action was to convince them she wasn't a threat.
"I have Top Secret clearance. I see things with my job that require it. I have a few connections with people who buy our data. If I hire you as a consultant, there's a chance of getting you similar status. That might be enough for them to leave you alone. The main caveat is need to know."
She cocked her head to the side. "Dad. I already know. Not the details, but that something is going on."
He winced. She'd definitely inherited her mother's dry sense of humor.
"Not exactly how it works. However, plenty of people have seen things they weren't supposed to. The usual protocol, short of killing them outright, is put them under oath to keep quiet. Sometimes for a specific time period, sometimes forever. Violations tend to end badly."
"Jeepers, Daddy, I don't even know what I saw! What would I tell anyone? Who would even care?"
"You'd be surprised. Some people can't get through the day without reporting every move on Facebook. You didn't, I hope."
Her eyes met his, tinged with concern. "Bryan updated his with photos from that trip."
"Did he say or show anything, uh, sensitive?"
"No. Just snow-covered mountains. Generic Rocky Mountain snowscape."
He blew out a breath. "Okay. You need to shut that down. What about that water issue? It could be related and open up a real can of worms. Reporters snooping around can stir up serious problems. Environmental violations are big news."
"Well, there's nothing secret about that. At least one person died as a result, and I suspect another one's a step closer to the Funny Farm, thanks to lead and mercury poisoning. Everyone in my neighborhood knows about that."
"I've been playing Mah Jongg with some local women. They know. Two of them have what I consider influential husbands. One's a semi-retired Federal judge, the other a retired Air Force colonel."
"Bird colonel or light colonel?"
Her squinty-eyed look was one he remembered from her teens. "I don't know, Dad. I've only seen him in a golf shirt and jeans, not dress blues. What difference does it make?"
"C'mon, Sara. Your husband was in the Air Force." He massaged his chin, pondering how either man could work to their advantage. "What's your opinion of them? Are they trustworthy?"
"I don't know them at all, just their wives. I'm friends with the colonel's wife, Liz. She's given me great moral support. In fact, I should call and tell her where I am so she doesn't worry. When I left I forgot we were supposed to go shopping today. I don't know about the judge's wife. She's snooty and standoffish. They're from Texas and seriously loaded. Seriously! You should see their house. I can't imagine what their place in Dallas is like. Probably one of those mansions with the columns out front."
He smirked, picturing the old television show by that name. Right—who killed JR? In this case, who killed BR? "Do you think any of them will say anything?"
"I don't know. There's something about that judge that creeps me out. When Liz has Mah Jongg at her place all I ever say to the colonel is hello or goodbye. He seems okay. Usually he just sits there, glued to CNN or some sports channel. Bryan knew him when they were stationed at Colorado Springs. He never said anything bad about him. I like Liz. I don't think she'd say anything, at least to the news media. She's a bit of a busybody, but I don't think he'd let her go to the press."
"Alright. Good. I think for now, just lay low. Make it clear you're not a threat. It's apparent that someone is watching you, probably listening to everything you say and do. Act innocent. Don't say anything sensitive to anyone, especially online, on the phone, or within earshot of it. Inside your house, either."
Her mouth dropped. "They're spying on me?"
"Assuming they caused the wreck, how do you think they knew where you'd be? We need to figure out what Bryan discovered. He must have known what he was looking for when you went skiing. You were with him so they're going to assume you're an accomplice. That'll determine how much of a threat you represent."
He exhaled. What might lurk inside that potentially deadly can of worms?
"You mentioned before that he was diligent about back-ups," he went on. "Where did he keep them?"
Her face scrunched up in a pensive frown. "His laptop, which is gone. If it's on a flash drive, no telling where it might be. Maybe somewhere in our condo, or even the cabin. Maybe at his work. Or knowing him, all of them, plus some. Who knows?"
"I suppose it's good you don't know. Yet, on the other hand, we need to find out what he knew. How sensitive it really is, and what he intended to do with it, if anything."
She bit her lip, expression clouding. An alarm went off in his head. She was hiding something.
"What?" he prompted.
Her shoulders drooped. "There's something I haven't told you. About when he died. Whatever he knew was bad. Incriminating in some way. To, uh, powerful and important people."
She wrung her hands and stepped over to gaze out the window. He stiffened. Wary, but not surprised.
"When he, uh, well, died, he asked me to do something."
"What did he ask you to do, Sara?"
"He said, 'Don't let them get away with it.'"
When she turned around he lowered his chin and peered over the top of his glasses. "When exactly did he say that, Sara? The coroner's report said he died instantly from multiple blunt force trauma injuries."
Her eyes filled with tears and she started to weep. He got up and took her in his arms. She buried her face in his chest, shoulders trembling. He guided her over to the chair and crouched down in front of her.
"What, Kitten? Did you remember something? When did he say that?"
The sobs diminished, but the tears didn't. "We were both dead, Dad. We were in the air, looking down on our bodies in the truck. He told me not to let them get away with it. Then he left. Forever." She buried her face in her hands, sobbing.
His mind raced. What the hell?
The EMTs stated they'd resuscitated her in the ambulance. Technically, she was dead. The doctor even said they "brought her back."
Both statements collided with everything he believed. Was she crazy or was he missing something?
He patted her knee and got up, taking his turn at the window while she got a handle on her emotions.
Was it an illusion?
On the other hand, she had no reason to lie or make up such a thing.
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