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The Envelope

Envelope Series 4


By: Ronnee

Jim Ellison stared at the two files with loathing. He hated the idea that he had no choice but to read them. Even worse, he had the feeling that the information was going to be the kind that hurt -- and he didn't want to hurt Blair. Every time he touched the worn manila files he instinctively pulled back. It was almost as if the card stock pricked his fingertips-- not quite as strong as static electricity but definitely there.

Dialing up his sight, Jim studied the folder. Then he glanced at his fingertips, rubbing them together thoughtfully. As a Sentinel, his ability to adjust the focus of his senses almost always amazed him. After five years he still hadn't quite gotten used to them. Slowly, he let his eyes focus past the obvious, seeing the dust motes clinging to the file and his fingers. Using them as a reference, he turned his attention to his sense of smell. Dust, aged paper, faded ink, the vague scent that reminded him of libraries and the faded scent of old blood all came from the folders. Nothing to explain his reaction to the files.

With a quick glance around the loft, Jim picked up the heavier of the two file folders. He may as well begin with it, he decided warily. Still uneasy, he carefully untied the heavy string that bound the bulging file. After several frustrating minutes, the tight knot came undone. Very carefully, Jim unwrapped the twine holding the mass of papers together. Unconsciously holding his breath, he opened the file.

A picture stared up at him. Naomi, a very young Naomi, wearing a very prim, dark uniform stared up at him. Jim could feel the misery in her eyes, begging for help. There was none of the light he associated with Blair's mother's smile and laughter in her. The smile was gone and so was the free-spirited joy that flowed from her. Behind her a dark, brooding building rose like a prison, crowding out the blue sky. For a moment, Jim thought he recognized the building, but he shook off the vague memory.

A slim, leather bound journal lay under the picture. He opened it, as cautiously as if it were a letter bomb. He didn't think he was going to like this... not at all. The faint scent of perfume floated up towards him as the pages rustled. Naomi's handwriting was stiff, angry, uncertain.


Jan 1 1968.

They did it. They sent me away to a boarding school. Father just wants me to his perfect little princess and doesn't want me to be different. This school is supposed to be one of the best for molding girls into debutantes. I wish Mother was alive. She would have stopped him. Stopped him cold. I hate him. Elizabeth Anne Marston-Winthrope.


Jim shook his head, remembering his own father's threats to send Jim away if he didn't shape up. Maybe Naomi's background was closer to his than he'd thought. Elizabeth Anne Marston-Winthrope? He knew that name. He knew he'd heard it before, and it hadn't been good. Restless, he dropped the old journal onto the coffee table and went to the kitchen.

Grabbing a beer, he noticed Blair's laptop. Turning it on, Jim concentrated on remembering Blair's password. Within a few minutes, he was on-line and getting answers to the puzzle pieces of his memory. Elizabeth Anne Marston-Winthrope, one of the south's wealthiest little girls until her death in March 1968. Jim skimmed the news articles, his shock and his disbelief carefully tamped down. He grabbed a blank disk from the new box Blair'd bought earlier in the week and began rapidly saving the articles. Then he disconnected from the Internet and closed down the laptop.

Almost one hundred kids had died in the fire that had burned the boarding school to the ground. But if Naomi had survived it, how many others were still alive? Were they living under assumed names, going from place to place, afraid to settle down? Jim mentally took back some of the harsh things he had thought about Naomi. Maybe she had a damned good reason for her flightiness. He took a swig of the beer, grabbed the disk, and returned to the sofa. After a long moment of staring at the journal, he opened it up again.


Feb. 1, 1968

All day tests! Weird tests too! Lights, noises, scents, touch, and taste. Some kind of test to see how well our nerves process things. Well, I didn't like them. I think I failed that part of the tests. They had another test... with cards and patterns. That one I know I passed. I could feel the man's excitement as I passed the tests. It was soo easy. At least it was until the two bigwigs came in. The one is afraid of the other and of what their doing. He doesn't agree with something about it. The other, the man who smokes like a chimney. His eyes are dead. It was like no one was in there, just those merciless eyes. I started screaming and fainted. When I woke up I was in the infirmary. I could hear them talking, asking the nurse if I had woken up yet, my name, my father's name. The dead one, he told the nurse to give me something so I would calm down. I am NOT taking any drugs from him. I must have made a noise because they came in the room. I refused to let them know I heard. I lied and said I didn't remember what happened. Why was I in here? I think they bought it. Diary, I'm going to hide you from now on. Hide you where no one will find you. I'm scared. I want to go home.


Feb. 28, 1968

I know I saw him. I'm not crazy. I know I'm not. This wasn't one of my dreams. I know it's real. I'm moving my diary because of I saw him too close to its hiding place. Why do I keep dreaming of him? Diary, do you want to know why I know I saw him? I found a cigarette stub where I saw him. I'm putting it here to prove it.


Jim stared at the ancient cigarette butt. It was faded, the scent washed away by the same wetness that had smeared the last entry. Wherever Naomi had hidden the diary, it had gotten wet. The final entry was almost too smeared to be legible. Slowly, he pieced together the words... Naomi had watched the unnamed men placing something against one of the old stone fireplaces. She noted down the place and time and hid the diary again, saying she was going for the headmistress. It was the last entry in the journal.

Small scraps of paper, each one numbered, but none dated, sat on the top of the pile of items. Setting aside the journal, Jim picked up the first note, focusing his eyes on the tiny letters. Unnoticed, his free hand rested on a dark, furred back. The long, twitching tail was the only sign of the increased tension in the room.

The girl carefully looked around before bringing out her pilfered piece of paper. Checking again, she slid the tiny scrap onto her notebook and began writing. She had to keep it all written down. She was going to need it... as proof of what was going on. Elizabeth Anne was a Marston and a Winthrope, the best of both families and she was not going to give up. Not ever. They might say she was dead and had nowhere to turn, but that didn't matter.

"From today on, you are your number." The man in front of the group growled at them. "You will continue your regular studies as well as those we provide you..."

She focused her eyes on him and then let them unfocus, just like her grandmother had taught her to do. The man, now outlined by the dark, oily aura kept talking. Elizabeth Anne turned her eyes to the rest of the group. They were all classmates, all taken from the boarding school during the fire. All of them were supposedly dead. Most of their auras were dimmed from fear, Tammy's tinged red by her broken arm, but otherwise they were normal. She let herself fall back into the real world.

"What is your number?" A tall man stood before her. When had he moved there?

"I am not a number." She was so NOT going to give in. The blow was swift, sharp, and very painful.

"You are what we tell you you are." Pale gray eyes glared at her as the man stood in front of her. "What is your number?"

"132647." She heard the number tumble from her lips in dismay. Her hand cradled her throbbing cheek, trying to soothe away the pain. No one had ever hit her before. Not even her father... she forced herself not to cry. She was not going to let that man see tears.

"Good. You don't try to 'see' unless you are asked to do so." The man's voice was even. "We'll know when you do."

She nodded, forcing herself to look away from him. Her note! She listened to him walk away before looking at her notebook. It was still there, tucked between a couple of pages. Behind it was another, one she hadn't written. Elizabeth Anne looked around warily but didn't see anyone close enough to have slipped it into her notebook.

"Be patient. Don't stir up trouble. When it's safe we'll come to you." The words on the paper were faint, barely a smear of ink on the paper. She nodded, hoping that whoever it was would show up soon.

After nearly a month of being in the research facility, she was about to go nuts. Like all of the new subjects, Elizabeth Anne was kept separate from the others there. Armed guards strode down the halls, escorting young people to and from classes. More guards stood impassively at attention during her thirty minute 'fresh air' break, watching as she walked around the fenced outdoor area. Only during her school classes did she see the others. They didn't dare speak to each other then, they only shared lost, frightened looks.

Elizabeth Anne froze upon entering the room. Her guard pushed her the rest of the way inside and closed the door.

"Hello. I'm called Holly."

Elizabeth Anne looked around, eyes wide. Four girls sat in the room, none of them girls she knew. The one who had spoken smiled and motioned her to come and join them. She was older than the others, but not old enough to be one of their keepers. Her eyes were sad, worn, and aged by the center.


"No real names." Holly spoke quickly, her eyes darting to the side table. "Choose a new name, just for here."

"Choose a plant name." Another girl spoke up. "I'm Ivy, this is Daisy and over there is Rose."


"We're what They call earthers. We can't make things fly or burn or change." Holly answered. "We can see what the cards in Their hands are, sometimes we can see what They've done without being there, and we can always feel what They've contaminated."

Elizabeth nodded. She could hear the capital letters in Holly's speech and it made sense. In the past month she had learned to avoid certain guards, certain researchers, certain teachers. The people running the center had noticed and when she flinched away from those individuals she was always pulled away to discuss what caused her reactions. She noticed that those people no longer worked with her, nor were they part of her group classes.

"How about Willow?" One of the other girls asked. "We don't have a Willow."

Holly looked at Elizabeth Anne and slowly nodded. "It would be good to have a Willow again."

"Again?" Elizabeth Anne whispered.

"She was part of the test group that died." Holly closed her eyes. "We were part of the control group."

"Where are we? Who--?"

"No! Don't ask!" Ivy cried out, her eyes staring at the side table. "You don't break the rules. You don't ask questions. You don't fight them."

"I'm sorry Ivy." Elizabeth Anne whispered, horror dawning in her eyes. Of course they were being monitored.

"It's okay, Willow. You're new. You don't know all the rules, yet." Holly answered. "The first one, is that if you ask questions you get hurt. The second one is that the bracelet on your arm tells Them if you try to read them. It's an alarm. When it glows, like it does during your tests, it tells Them you're working your abilities. If you try to take it off, they know. So don't."

Elizabeth Anne nodded. Now that she knew how the men knew. Maybe she could work around it.

She leaned on the fence, fighting off the dizziness. A gentle hand gripped her shoulder and she turned her head to face her friend.

"Willow? Willow, what's wrong?" Holly whispered, her face frightened.

"Dizzy. I've having dizzy spells since they took me to the labs last week."

"Labs? When did they take you to the labs?" Holly's pale face grew paler, her green eyes staring at her in shock. "They aren't supposed to be taking you to the labs... not you. You're a control. Not a test subject."

"You need to tell them that." Elizabeth Anne's words were bitter. "I saw you there too. But you were asleep."

"I was?"

"Do you eat any of the cake we have on Wednesdays?" Holly nodded and Elizabeth Anne shook her head. "It feels funny when I touch it. I don't eat it, I pretend to and throw it away."

"Oh, my God." Holly whispered. "I usually save some to give to Alexander."

"Who's Alexander?" Elizabeth Anne knew some of the boys, but she'd never heard of Alexander.

"My son." The fear in her eyes was contagious and Elizabeth Anne shuddered. Everyone in the group knew that once a week Holly was taken away from the main area of the center after lunch. For an entire day she was gone, only to return the next day at lunch. Now, Elizabeth Anne knew why and it scared her. She knew how long Holly had been at the center.

"He was born here?"

Holly nodded, and her face grew calm. "Can you reach the vent in your room? Without being seen by the camera?"

"I think so."

"Tonight, after final head count, go straight past the first three openings. I'll meet you at the T." Holly whispered as the guards blew the whistle. Their free time was over, time for class again. As Elizabeth Anne watched, her friend's face grew calm, serene, until only her eyes showed her anger.

Elizabeth Anne followed the older teenager into to the main hall. Without speaking, they joined the line of patiently waiting people. It was normally a mindless procession as they were marched away from the cafeteria to the classrooms.

Today, sudden shouts and the bitter sound of fighting broke out as they passed an anteroom. A slim form barreled into Holly, knocking her into Elizabeth Anne. As she fell, Elizabeth Anne caught sight of the pale blue eyes of the young man murmuring something to her friend. She whispered something back. Then the guards were there. A guard rapped the man's head with his heavy nightstick and the man's full weight pinned the girls to the floor. A pair of the guards grabbed his arms and dragged him away. Around them, the others were watching wide-eyed, some of them with a dawning recognition in their eyes.

Elizabeth Anne and Holly were escorted to the medical office. They were shoved into adjoining cubicles, guards standing watch over them. Neither girl said a word.

"Did he say anything to you?" The cold voice made Elizabeth Anne shiver. She hadn't seen the smoking man since the day he'd deposited her at the center.

"No, sir." She whispered.

"Others said he spoke to you. What did he say?" The voice was relentless as were the impassive eyes that watched as the doctor examined her.

"I didn't understand him." Elizabeth Anne could feel the desperation in her friend. "I only speak English and French. I don't know what 'bosshy-moi' means."

The smoking man smiled, a grimly happy smile. "That's all he said?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you?" The man turned to Holly.

"I don't know what it means." She responded softly.

"Do you know him?" The man's voice was smug, enjoying the moment. "Did you recognize him?"

Holly nodded. "You brought Nick back."

"If you misbehave, we have two choices. Alexander or Nick. Which do you prefer?"

"I'll behave, sir." Holly's voice broke.

"I know you will, Holly." The man smiled, his hand gently rubbing on her shoulder. It was all Elizabeth Anne could do to hold in her scream as she watched him escort her friend away.

She glanced back into her room, critically. The bed seemed to be occupied. It should hold up. Satisfied, Elizabeth Anne began crawling though the air vents. One. Two. Three. Okay, past three cross vents, and then to the T. Now, would Holly show up or would she be a good little guinea pig for the smoking man? Elizabeth Anne settled in to wait.

"Willow?" A deep voice woke her. "I'm Daniel. Holly sent me. Come on."

With only a moment's hesitation, Elizabeth Anne followed him. They crawled down long passageways, moving as quickly as they could. Finally, the young man slid out through a grilled opening. He held open the grating and extended a hand to her.

"I won't let you fall, Willow." His voice echoed in her bones and she placed her hand in his. Lightning raced through her nerves, and Daniel's breath caught. He pulled her close, letting her slide down his chest until her feet touched the ground.

His eyes were blank, staring at her and through her. Then he whispered, eyes still unfocused. "Naomi is a fitting name, much better than Elizabeth Anne."

"What?" Elizabeth Anne's sharp whisper brought Daniel's eyes back into focus.

"What's wrong?" He asked as he returned the grate to its original position. She shook her head, not understanding what had just happened. "Come on, the others are waiting."

She followed him down a deserted corridor and into a small room. Holly was curled in a chair, tears streaming down her face as she spoke.

"I found where they're keeping Nick. It's bad. I don't know if they're trying to get information or slowly kill him. He knew I was there. He looked right at me and I could hear him wishing me to get away."

Holly's green eyes were red-rimmed and she shook. "I don't think he'll be alive tomorrow."

A stack of folders was dropped onto the chair beside her and a dark skinned boy began speaking. "I found the labs. They're packing up all the sensitive equipment. Looks like they're planning of evacuating the area. From the sounds of it, the good doctors aren't happy with the idea. Nick's return threw them and they're scared of whoever he works for now." He tapped a file folder. "I grabbed all the files on us, including the medical ones."

"What about the computers? Would they have us on the computers?" Daniel spoke up as he helped Elizabeth Anne settle into a chair.

"I couldn't get to the tape drives. They're packing that stuff up now. I grabbed everything else I could find." The boy smiled grimly. "If we get away with this, where will we go?"

"Join the gypsies?" Another joked before sobering abruptly. "I know there are places we can disappear. Nick did it. They couldn't find him... for two years."

"But they found him." The first boy replied.

"No, I overheard an escort saying he walked in of his own free will." Ivy spoke softly. "The escorts were surprised by his arrival. He didn't try to talk to anyone until he saw Holly. That's when he started fighting them."

The group began to smile, cheered immensely by that information.

"He came back for us." Holly whispered. "He promised he would find us again."

"I'll get to Alexander and the other kids. Holly, you lead Daniel to Nick. Ivy, I want you to find something we can cut the bracelets off with." The tall dark skinned boy grinned. "I think it's time to break out of here."

"Willow, stay with Benjamin." Daniel whispered. "We'll be together again in a little while."

Before she could argue, a toothy grin speared her and Daniel was slithering out the air vent on Holly's heels. "Um... I guess you're Benjamin?"

The brown eyed young man nodded and gestured to the file folders he was placing into bags. Seeing one with her id number on it, Elizabeth Anne reached for it. Her fingers trembled as she opened it and found her journal. They had known. Benjamin's hand gently closed the file.

"We don't have time for you to read this now." His voice was soft, the remnants of a British accent making the words lilt. "Are you going to run or will you stay here?"

"I want to be free." Elizabeth Anne whispered, "I want to never have to look back and see them coming."

Benjamin nodded and placed the file in a bag before handing it to her. "Don't lose this. Thomas will try to destroy Their computers just in case they put anything about us there. As long as you hold onto your own file... well, They can't trace what They can't prove exists."

She nodded. "Has anyone else escaped?"

"Nick did. Everyone else has been caught before getting to the outer fences. They all died." Benjamin's voice was hard. His eyes watched her, saying things he didn't say aloud. "I'd rather die than stay here any more."

"I can't stay here. I won't." She answered his unspoken question. He nodded.

A noise made them look up. Daniel jumped down and reached up to help a battered man into the room. The blond quickly glanced around the room, his eyes calculating and then his face went still. He turned to help Holly down from the air vent, and it was all Elizabeth Anne could do to suppress her gasp at the sight of his back. Bruises and cuts marred every inch of the bare skin.

"Nick! My god, they --" Benjamin's words froze at the chilly glare the man threw at him.

"Benjamin." Pale blue eyes skimmed the younger man and a faint smile crossed his face. "I'd say it's good to see you, but not here."

"We're making a run for it." Benjamin spoke up softly.

"Good. Can you get us out of here?" Nick's voice was pained as he perched himself on a table. "I have supplies just off the grounds. And if I don't show up by dawn, my friends will be coming, hunting trouble."

"As soon as the others get back here, we can head out." Benjamin answered. "Nick, I'm not going to fail. Not this time. I'm going to be free again."

Nick nodded, his eyes on Elizabeth Anne. "She's not one of us... Holly?"

"She's the new Willow. She's been here about three months." Holly answered, her hand wrapped in his. "Just like Daniel said."

A noise in the hallway brought Nick to his feet. His movements were silent and gentle as he pushed Holly behind him and faced the door. Every muscle in his body seemed to tense as he waited for the door to open.

The dark skinned young man entered, his arms filled by the two sleepy toddlers he carried. Behind him Rose carried two more. He smiled at the sight of Nick.

"Nick! Take Alexander." He shoved a child into the startled man's arms. "It's about time you took him."

Shock and awe reflected across the man's face as he took the boy. The trust in the child's acceptance of him had him instinctively cradle the small body. Then the boy lay his white blond head on Nick's shoulder and closed his eyes.

"We don't have time for explanations." Benjamin spoke before the questions Elizabeth Anne could see in Nick's eyes got past his lips. "We need to leave before they realize we're making a break for it. Ivy's late."

"I'm here, but the guards are starting to pull people from their rooms and load them into the vans." Ivy's words were breathless. "I have the key."

Within minutes the bracelets were unlocked and piled onto the table. Benjamin handed each person a bag containing his or her file and a few supplies. Then they were splitting up.

"Come on, Willow. You're with us." Holly grabbed Elizabeth Anne's hand and dragged her along. Daniel and Nick led the way down a long corridor.

As they stepped out into the night, alarms began to ring. Daniel stepped back to the two girls and grabbed Elizabeth Anne's arm.

"She's with me! You stay with Nick and Alexander." He yelled before taking off at a run. Elizabeth Anne fought to keep up with him. Behind them lights were springing on throughout the center and men yelled. After several minutes, the sounds of guns being fired echoed through the trees.

They ran most of the night. Barely pausing to catch their breath before plunging on through the trees. As dawn began to tinge the forest with light, a man stepped out of the trees. He raised a rifle and pointed it towards them.

"That's far enough, Daniel." The guard smiled as they stumbled to a halt. "Hands above your heads, step away from each other."

Daniel didn't move and neither did Elizabeth Anne. The guard fired a single shot, dropping Daniel to the ground.

"Next shot will kill him, girl." He said with another cruel grin. "They don't care if he comes back dead or alive. You, well, you're wanted alive and unharmed. But that leaves me a lot of options with your boyfriend."

She let her hands rise into the air as she watched the red stain grow, spreading down Daniel's pants leg. A movement behind the guard made her eyes flicker up. Nick brought his hand up, reaching for the guard's head. The pale blue eyes glanced at her before he reached out and twisted. There was a grizzly sound as the guard tried to breath and couldn't followed by silence.

"You..." she couldn't say the word. Instead she crouched near Daniel, hands trying to stop the bleeding. She flinched when Nick joined her.

"It was him or Daniel." The cold words belied the gentle way he quickly bandaged Daniel's wound. "I'll carry him. Can you keep up?"

"Yes." Elizabeth Anne might not know the man next to her, but he was definitely safer than the ones hunting her.

"Good." With that, the blond man lifted Daniel to his shoulder. As soon as he was standing, he broke into a jog.

"You won't stay?" Daniel's voice was worn, his face pale. He lay on a hospital bed, surrounded by tubes and machines. The dark brown curls that rested against his white pillow were the only color in the room. Even Daniel's blue eyes seemed washed out by his ordeal.

"I don't care if they're good people and a good agency, Daniel." Elizabeth Anne looked away from the pleading eyes. "I can't stay. They work for the same government who did this to us."

"Willow, please." Daniel struggled against the pain. "I don't want you to just vanish."

"You are going to take their offer, aren't you?" She fought against the tears in her eyes.

"Someone has to help keep those bastards under control."

"I can't be a part of that. I won't be a part of that." Elizabeth Anne turned away from the young man in the bed and walked out of the room.

"Willow?" Nick's voice caught her by surprise. He'd disappeared amidst the agents who had swarmed through the woods trying to rescue as many of the center's unwilling students as possible. "What are you doing?"

"I'm leaving. I want to be free. No more cages." She whispered, not looking at him. "Benjamin, did he make it?"

"We haven't found him. Dead or alive." Nick answered quietly as he turned with her. He kept pace with her. The guards and agents on the floor took one look at him and backed away, letting them pass in silence.

"I want to disappear. Can you make that happen?"

"I have friends... but you can't disappear, Willow. Have you read your medical file from the center?" Nick replied, still keeping his voice calm. His eyes, they flared angrily as they looked away from her.

"No. I didn't understand the first page."

"We need to talk." Nick's hand was warm on her arm as he led her to an elevator she'd never seen before. Inside, he used an unmarked badge to start their ascent. "I have an office where we can talk."

Elizabeth Anne looked at him with new interest. She added together the information she knew and the things she'd noticed. The obviously well respected way he was treated by the others. The deference most people here gave him. The instant obedience he had received on the night of the escape. The way she was allowed to accompany him beyond the hospital ward. The silent guards who discretely stepped away at his small hand motion. "You aren't just a new recruit are you? You're a lot older than Holly and the others."

A wry smile crossed his face as he led her into a small office. Three men were quietly arguing over a piece of paper. They looked up at their entrance and froze. At Nick's motion, they quickly dropped the paper into a file and placed the file in a safe. The lock was spun, securing the information and the three men slipped out of the room without saying a word.

"You are very observant, Willow." He sat on the edge of a desk and pointed to the chair near it.

"My name is Elizabeth Anne." She sat down gingerly.

"If you reappear, telling your story... they'll come for you and your sisters. Not even your father's money would be able to protect you." Nick kept his eyes on her as he pulled a pair of glasses from a desk drawer. He reached down and pulled up a bottle of Coca-Cola. "Thirsty?"

"Yes, please." She answered, watching his movements with the fascination of a bird watching a snake. Something was coming, she could feel it in her bones. "What about Holly and the others?"

"Rose vanished. We think she and Benjamin got away but we don't know for sure. He wasn't about to be recaptured. Nor was he going to leave his sister behind." Nick poured the soda into a glass and handed it to her. "If they had been recaptured, I think Benjamin would have made sure both were dead first."

Elizabeth Anne shuddered, wondering why Nick was being so frank with her. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Daniel is worried about you. And so am I."

"What did they do to me? What are you so worried about?" She shivered again.

"Drink your pop. You need the sugar." Nick's voice was sharp, catching her attention. With a sigh, she sipped, wondering idly how he had kept it cold.

"The doctor in charge of your group was practicing with genetics. Specifically, trying to figure out which genes do what, how they can be recombined, can drugs affect the process."

"What does that mean? What did they do?" Fear laced through her. Suddenly the dizzy spells, the odd sense of something being not quite right, her inability to stand the taste of orange juice... it all made sense. "No! I can't be!"

She stood, wanting to run away. To escape this nightmare but the room faded away even as Nick yelled for someone. Hands touched her but she couldn't see them. The voices faded.

"Willow? Willow?" Holly's voice whispered to her. She turned away, letting the darkness surge higher.

"Willow!" Daniel's voice was hoarse, she could feel his hand, his fingers meshed with hers. "Don't you dare! Get your stubborn self back here."

"She's willing herself away." A new voice, a woman's voice. "She's dying. She can't recover here…"

"I know a place. She'll be safe there. My friends are good at healing people, helping them vanish." Nick's voice echoed in the darkness. It sounded defeated. "They'll help her regain her freedom."

"We'll have to give her a new identity. Make sure she has enough money to live." An old man's voice. "They did a number on her, didn't they?"

"We weren't much help, sir." Nick's voice was bitter. "I wanted to prevent this from happening. Instead, it took too long to find them after they escaped last time. She's just a kid. Too young."

"We'll repair the damage, young man." The old man's voice was close enough that Naomi thought he was in the darkness with her. "Sleep, child. It will all be better soon."

"Melvin Frohike! Quit peaking into Naomi's room. Leave the child in peace." A woman softly scolded.

She opened her eyes. Bright sunlight danced on a pale pink bedspread. A huge stuffed bunny lay beside her. Vaguely she remembered a pair of pained cerulean blue eyes fighting off tears as the bunny was placed in her arms. A voice whispered, "Heal, Willow. Heal for all of us."

"You're awake?" The woman smiled as she entered the room. "Are you hungry?"

She shook her head, bewildered.

"Do you remember getting here?" The woman's voice was gentle as was the hand that smoothed her bangs from her forehead.


"I'm Sara Frohike. My cousin brought you here. You're staying until you recover from that dreadful accident." The woman kept her eyes on Elizabeth's. "Daniel said your name is Naomi, after his grandmother. Is that right?"

She nodded. It was another memory, one where she was given a new identity. She had chosen Naomi because Daniel liked it and Sandburg because her mother's mother's real name had been Sandburg before they came to America. It was a secret her mother had told her. "Naomi Sandburg."

"That's good, sweetie." Sara tucked the blanket up close to Naomi's chin. "My son, Melvin, can get you anything you need. The doctor doesn't want you moving around too much."

"I need..." She felt herself blush as she tried to explain.

"The bathroom is the door on the left." Sara smiled. "You're not the first convalescent we've taken in. I'm a nurse and my husband is an analyst in the city. You're safe here. The sheriff checks on us regularly and so does Nick.

"How... when...?" She didn't know how to ask her questions.

"There's a new toothbrush waiting for you. I'll be right out here if you need anything, sweetie." Sara shooed her into the bathroom. "Everything's going to be okay."

It only took a few minutes for her to become worn out again. When she opened the door to the room, Sara took one look at her and called for Melvin. The young man -- he couldn't be much older than Elizabeth Anne -- supported her to the bed and helped his mother tuck her in. Before she could protest, she was asleep again.

"Well, Nick?" Daniel's voice woke her. She let her eyes drift open to see the two young men sitting near her window, comparing notes from a pair of files. "Why is she reacting so badly?"

"We're not sure. At this point all the doctors can do is give her massive amounts of vitamins and pray." Nick looked up and smiled at her. "Hi, Willow."

"Willow?" Daniel spun around. When his eyes met hers, he smiled and it warmed her even from across the room. With a slight limp, he crossed the room to sit beside her. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired." She let her hand reach for his. "What's wrong with me, Daniel? Why is do I keep passing out?"

Daniel looked over at Nick and frowned. "What do you remember?"

"Nick was telling me about genetic studies. I'm pregnant, aren't I?" She looked away. "Who?"

"We haven't figured that out yet." Daniel gently pulled her chin up to face him. "It doesn't matter. Not to me, not to any of us."

"It matters to me." Her voice broke. "How long have I been drifting?"

"A few weeks," Nick moved closer, peering over Daniel's shoulder. "It's been touch and go, Willow."

"How long before I can leave?" She refused to look at Daniel, so she focused her eyes on Nick.

He frowned. "Not until after the baby's born. You both nearly died. Here, Sara can take care of you and you have as much freedom as I can get you."

She nodded slowly. Daniel held a glass to her lips. "You need to drink, Willow."

"I'm Naomi now." She whispered before drinking the bitter draught.

"Rest, Naomi." Both men whispered.

"Naomi, this is my friend, Em. Emerald, this is Naomi." Sara introduced the long-haired woman with a smile. "She's someone you can trust. With everything."

"So how are you and your little shadow today, Naomi?" The jet black eyes sparkled at her as the woman pulled Naomi into a warm hug. For a moment, all the girl could feel was love and warmth and joy. "Oh, you have had a hard time. And the doctors aren't sure how to help?"

"It's been hard, Em. Very hard. The dark ones had her for quite some time." Sara spoke softly.

Em nodded, her arms still around Naomi. "They want this one back, don't they?"

"We're afraid they do." Nick's voice cut through the warmth and Naomi opened her eyes. Nick wore a bandage around his arm, his pale face was mottled with bruises. "We need a new safe house for her."

"Jay and I will take her. We'll take her west, to my people. No one will find her or the little one until he is walking age. Of that you have my word." Em's voice was decisive.

"We need to make her look different." Sara worried. "We can't hide the baby, and that red hair... well, it stands out."

"Mom, I have the stuff you wanted." Melvin stumbled to a stop, eyes wide as he took in the number of people in the room. "Is Naomi leaving?"

"Yes, dear."

The young man screwed up his courage and slipped through the group. With a nervous glance at Nick, he took Naomi's hand and raised it to his lips. "If you ever need anything, you call me. Anytime. I'll be there."

No one laughed or even smiled as the boy turned and left. The solemnity of his promise made them look at each other and nod in understanding. Within minutes, all of Naomi's things were packed and she was in an unmarked van, leaving the bright sunlight room behind her.

They didn't make it to the city. The first warning came when the front tire was shot out. Even though he fought the steering wheel, the driver lost control of the van and it plunged into the trees. Naomi didn't have a chance to react before Daniel had her out of the disabled vehicle and racing away. Behind them, the rest of the group fanned out, giving them cover from the shooters.

She ran, afraid that behind every tree they would find an enemy. Daniel, his arm wrapped around her waist, kept her moving when she would have stopped. When she began to stumble over her own feet, he picked her up and kept going. The grim look on his face made her swallow her questions. The occasional muffled rifle shot that echoed through the trees only spurred on his determination and her fear.

When they broke through the trees, the sight of a police car waiting for them brought Daniel to a halt.

"Well, well, well. It looks like the fed was right. The two runaways didn't get too far." The man walking towards them smiled, eyes delighted by their appearance. "Just put her down, son. There's no need for you to keep running. Your folks are pretty worried about you."

The second officer spread his hands wide as he began trying to circle them. "We know you two feel real strong for each other, but this is not the way to show it."

"You don't understand," Naomi began, but she stopped at Daniel's hiss. She turned her attention back to the policemen as he gently set her on her feet.

"Don't argue with them, Willow." The young man's voice was flat as he whispered. "They won't listen. I've tried it before. The cops belong to the government creeps who held us at the center. Nick will find me, as long they keep us close to each other, he'll find us both."

Her eyes widened in understanding and she nodded. Then she gasped as she recognized the doctor getting out of the back of the police car. "I'm scared."

"I hear that, Willow. I am too." Daniel's words were almost too soft for her to hear.

"Willow. Daniel. How wonderful it is to find you." The man's smile filled her with dread. He reached out and took her arm. "You've worried everyone with this stunt."

Numbly, Naomi felt her hope slip away. Behind them, the woods filled with the sound of gunshots.

"Those hunters must have found themselves quite a deer." One of the officers commented as he helped Naomi into the car. He didn't say a word about the tears that streaked down the girl's face.

Naomi stared at the plain white wall, her mind busy. The past twenty-four hours had yeilded an amazing amount of information, even if she didn't understand most of it. She doubted the doctors realized how much she could hear from her little room. Somehow she was going to get out of here, she was going to be free again.

"So which subject is this one?" The muted voice came through the crack in the wall and Naomi turned her attention to it.

"132647. Call her Willow if you must use a name." The familiar voice of the head doctor spoke. "Moderate to high ESP rating, low genius level IQ, healthy family, strong genetic markers of the secondary type."

"What kind of results so far?"

"Everything checks out, even if she was loose for almost a month. Her body overcame the dependence on the serum and she didn't lose the child." The doctor sounded almost gleeful. With a shudder, Naomi rubbed her belly, wondering again what exactly they had done. "If everything continues like it has, the baby will develop one of the top minds in the country."

"What about the father?"

"When Willow and the other members of the test groups disappeared, their medical files were stolen as well. I've recreated as much as I can, but everything was coded." The doctor sighed. "There are three possibilities, one is dead, one is missing, the third is in our custody. Once the baby is born, we can determine if we have the paternal parent."

"I want to be kept abreast of every details of this. She's the only one left, there can be no more problems." A door opened and Naomi could hear footsteps approaching her door. She looked up to see cold gray eyes appear in the small window there. "Take very good care of her, Doctor. If anything happens to her, you are no longer of any value to me."

Naomi felt a chill creep up her spine as the man stared at her. He smiled, lighting a cigarette and taking a deep pull on it before nodded to her and leaving. It was only after he left that she realized he'd given her an idea. One that might just end up freeing her. A wide smile crossed her face.

"I want to see Daniel. I have to see him." Naomi sat back on the medical bed, her arms crossed over her belly protectively.

The orderly stared at her for a long moment before leaving the room. A moment later, he returned with the doctor.

"What's wrong, Willow? T-- The orderly says you refuse to eat?" The doctor scanned her chart before approaching. Grabbing her arm, he took her pulse. "Are you feeling alright?"

"I want to see Daniel. I need to see him." Naomi pouted. "He's the only one who can help."

"What do you mean?" Intense curiosity crossed the doctor's face and his eyes lit up.

"When I don't feel well, Daniel makes me feel better." She explained simply. "He just lays his hands on me and all the pain and sickness go away. He's taken good care of me."

The doctor smiled, his thoughts evident on his face. "He can do that? Did he help any of the others?"

"I don't know." Naomi pulled her legs up, wrapping her arms around them. She just couldn't keep warm in this place. "I need him."

"Bring him here. I trust you can do that successfully?" The doctor growled at the orderly as he quickly jotted down some notes. "And be quick about it! Until he gets back with Daniel, how about we work on the cards again?"

"Willow!" Daniel's voice made Naomi look up from the cards spread on the table. "You're alright?"

She smiled up at him, trying to keep her joy from showing too much. Ignoring the doctor and the orderly, she stood and went into his hug, luxuriating in it. As his hand centered on the small of her back, she wondered if the orderly had told him why he was here.

"You've been having dizzy spells again, haven't you? You should have told them how cold you were." The words almost made her look up, but Naomi managed to hide her start of surprise, barely. Before she could reply to the comment, Daniel had her up on the medical bed and was tucking her under the covers. He turned his attention on the doctor. "You'd better get some more blankets or warmer clothes before they get sick. Did you try getting her some vegetarian soup? She can't seem to keep down anything with meat in it."

To Naomi's amazement the doctor only smiled before leaving the room to arrange for the items Daniel had requested.

"Didn't you know why they had me at the center?" Daniel's eyes laughed down at her as he settled himself comfortably beside her. "I'm the best bullshitter ever."

"I told them that you--" Naomi began to explain in a tight whisper.

Daniel placed his fingers over her lips and winked. "You and the boy need to rest."

"Boy?" Her eyes widened as she felt the warmth pouring off the hand he let slide over her stomach. Daniel nodded. "You can feel... him?"

"Yep." Daniel smiled grimly. "And he's going to born safe, far away from here. I promise." He took her hand and placed it on his arm, letting her feel a hard lump under his skin. "Nick is coming for us. You need all the rest you can get."

"Tell me a story? About the future?" Naomi found herself pleading.

"We'll travel. Just you and me and our son. We'll raise him to be free, not afraid of anything. He'll know the world is a good place. He won't be like the rest because he'll know that everyone deserves to be free... to live their own life, at peace with everyone else. No more fighting, no more running for our lives." Daniel whispered, telling her his most fleeting and secret wishes.

The sheriff looked at his passengers and frowned. It wasn't often that he was woken in the middle of the night to escort people onto the res. Not that he had any problem with it. If old Tom wanted him to transport some people so he could heal them, Sanders had no problem with it. yes">

Except these people were loaded for bear and twice as touchy as a nest of angry rattlesnakes. A mechanic dropped a wrench in the hanger, weapons, some looking like nothing he'd ever seen had appeared, in just about every hand. Even Em and Jay were carrying, and that was a major revelation to him. He'd always thought they were peaceniks.

Only the slip of a girl sleeping in the middle of the pack of men seemed calm. Too calm, if anyone asked him. He wondered briefly what they'd given her to make her so quiet. But he knew better than to ask about it. He had a family: a wife, two sons and another on the way. Something told him that this time questions could cause problems... the kind that killed.

"Do you have any water up there?" The softly spoken words from the group leader, brought the sheriff's head around. He didn't quite recognize the accent. Pale eyes stared at him as he nodded.

"In the cooler, water and juice. Take your pick." He answered as he turned his heavy duty truck onto a back road heading deep into the reservation.

"Get the juice." Em's voice was soft as she shifted the girl leaning against her. "Open your eyes, child. You need to drink."

In the mirror, Sheriff Sanders saw the girl stir and the pale eyed man slowly fed her the juice. His eyes met those pale eyes and he had to look away. It wasn't often he looked Death in the face, but he suddenly realized that was on the real identity of at least one of his passengers. And this time Death and his companions all bore the marks of a long, hard night. The bits of white bandages that peeked from torn clothing attested to that. Firmly, he forced himself to focus on his driving. He wanted this ride to be the smoothest it could be. No reason to irritated an already upset group of predators and that was exactly what he had in his truck.

A line of lights met him just inside the res. Warily, he slowed, listening to the sound of rounds being chambered. All he needed to do was hit one bad rut and a war would break out. He swallowed thickly as Jay jumped out of the back of the truck, rifle in hand and went over to the lights. Within moments he was back, leading a group of unarmed young men. They grabbed equipment and luggage before disappearing into the night.

"Nick? She can't walk that far." Em's voice cut through the silently dismounting men. Instantly two of them handed their weapons to their companions and stepped over to where the girl leaned against her.

"Naomi?" A teen asked, a world of worry in his voice. She moaned softly and curled against the young woman. His hand went to her head and he frowned. His next words galvanized the others. "We're losing her again. We need to move."

The girl was scooped up with a gentleness the sheriff would never have associated with such a deadly looking person. The blond head turned toward him, eyes meeting his for a moment before nodding in appreciation to the help. Then the man turned and sprinted for the line of lights, his companions fanning out behind him.

Sanders grabbed Jay's arm and spoke quickly, "If you or that girl need anything... you radio me. You hear?"

"Thanks, cous. We will." Jay answered before racing after the others.

He watched them reach the safety of the other vehicles before shoving the truck in gear and heading back into town.

Naomi woke, feeling better than she had in a long time. She looked around, curious about her new surroundings. Everything was in shades of brown and gold and tan. Earth tones that soothed her, making her feel at home. She smiled as she sat up. This place welcomed her, she could feel its welcome to her bones.

The sound of voices drew her attention. Suddenly she decided she wanted company. Slowly, cautiously, she stood. Leaning her weight against the wall just in case the dizziness came back, she pulled a thin blanket around herself. When the dizziness didn't show up, she stepped away from the bed and carefully crossed the room.

The short hallway was plain stone and mortar with nothing to distract her eyes. Nor were there rugs to trip her, only well worn wood planks that were gentle against her bare feet. At the doorway to the main room she paused.

An old man with stark white hair reaching his waist stood at a window, drinking from a steaming mug. Sitting in a chair nearby, Nick looked dejected as he finished speaking to the old man. He looked gaunt, almost pared down to the bone. She must have made a sound because with the suddenness of a wild animal, his move, turning to face her.

"Naomi?" Nick's voice broke as a smile crossed his face. "You're up?"

"She is healing." The old man's voice curled around her, dredging up memories of him singing to her sleep, telling stories to keep the nightmares away. "Come, sit, join us."

Unsteadily, but refusing the young man's offer of assistance, Naomi cross the big room and sank onto the sofa. As she curled up in it, trying to get comfortable, Nick draped a light afghan over her.

"How do you feel?" He asked, pale eyes flitting over her face. "You are much too thin."

"Me?" Naomi wrapped her fingers around the thin wrist that was smoothing down the blanket. "You look like a scarecrow."

Two thick pottery mugs of soup appeared, as the old medicine man joined them. "Both of you should eat."

Naomi took a sip of her soup, eyes on Nick as she thought of the question that was burning through her mind. "Daniel?"

Nick met her eyes and she knew. The vague memories, the feeling of loss, the reason it had taken so long for her to heal. "He made it out of the complex but not off the grounds."

She closed her eyes. "Where is...?"

"He was brought to the tribal cemetery and buried among my people." The old shaman answered for Nick.

Naomi nodded. She thought of the story Daniel had told her. She knew exactly how she was going to raise their little boy. He was going to be the most precious child ever born and she was going to do everything in her power to make sure he was a free spirit, unchained by any of the conventions and powers that had haunted his father.

Jim closed the file, settling back into the sofa thoughtfully. Naomi's notes were thorough, but didn't give him any clue as to why Krycek and Brackett were hunting her. Nor did it explain what was so important that they would try to force Blair to reveal her whereabouts. With a tired sigh, he stood, rubbing the tension from his forehead as he headed for the kitchen. He was not giving up without an answer. He grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to the files on the coffee table. He wanted to get this done before Simon and the Major Crimes guys brought Blair back to the loft.

He looked from one file to the other. He decided the slim medical file might have more information and picked it up. Thanks to all of the times he and Blair had been in Cascade General, he thought he could make sense of most of medical file. He hoped.

He opened it, staring down at the old, faded papers. The medical notes were, for the main part, normal. Statistics and vitals, blood work and test results, exam notes, and cross-references. Then came the odd pages of the file, all with a patient number but no name. The notes on those pages were far beyond Jim's understanding. He quickly scanned them, trying to make sense of the information and failing. After a few minutes, he gave up and went to the end of the file.

The birth certificate made Jim smile. It figured that Blair was born at the shaman's home and not in the hospital. As he studied the old blue and cream document, several things jumped out at him. The signatures of the witnesses weren't in quite right. The more he studied them, the more they looked... foreign, non-English. Then there was the little 'x' in the wrong box... marking Blair Jacob Sandburg as second born.

Still confused after staring at it, Jim moved it aside. The next paper made a lump form in his throat. It was a death certificate in the name of Daniel Nicholas Sandburg. Blair's older brother had died during their birth, never even drawing breath before passing to the next world. The dry, bare bones medical report burned and grated as he considered how close he'd come to losing his guide before ever finding him. He didn't even notice how badly his hand shook as he turned the tear stained paper over. Even after all the years, he could still smell the scent of the tears that had soaked the old certificate.

A handwritten note stared at him. Jim scanned it, reading the words and as he did so, a sparkle caught his eye. Automatically, he turned his attention to it, raising the dials as he did so. The tiny, almost invisible markings rapidly drew him in and he fell, ever deeper into the maelstrom.

"JIM! Come on, man. This is starting to really freak me out here." Blair's voice tugged at Jim's awareness. "I need you to get back here."

Jim drew in a deep breath, suddenly realizing that he was cold. As he shuddered, a blanket was tucked around his shoulders. He blinked and looked up at Blair curiously. "What are you doing back? I thought--"

"It's after 1 am, Jim." Blair explained, his hands gripping Jim's shoulders much too tightly. "You zoned, man."

Jim nodded in understanding. He'd zoned for a couple of hours. He glanced over at the file; it was closed now, resting innocently on the coffee table. A hand appeared over Blair's shoulders, offering him a mug of hot tea. The guide held it up to Jim's lips. Jim began to refuse it.

"Drink it," Blair's voice was slightly hoarse. Jim let his gaze rest on the younger man. Traces of fear and worry still marked his features. His guide was not going to back down, not this time. He knew all the signs, and they were all present. "You need something to cut your headache down to a manageable size and you need to raise your core temperature. This tea will do it."

Jim nodded and began reaching for the cup. A slim, warm hand latched onto his wrist, holding it firmly. For the first time, Jim realized that he was curled between a pair of warm bodies. He dialed up his senses, as he looked away from Blair's worried eyes to see who else was in the loft.

Blair's normal mixture of products came from in front of him. Megan Connor's perfume and Simon's cigars flooded the area. Rafe's bio-friendly after shave and AJ's subtle stuff were both tinged with something he couldn't quite filter. Henri Brown's heavy cologne, toned down because of the lateness of the night still overpowered Felicia Jean Sanders' new floral perfume. The loft was crowded.

"Easy, Enqueri. We're all friends." AJ's voice whispered in his ear. "You're safe."

"Whoa, Jim." Blair's hand rested on his shoulder, keeping him from moving. "It's okay. Finish waking up."

"When did everyone get here?" Jim forced himself to speak in between taking sips of the tea Blair was forcing into him.

"Well, let's just say when Blair and AJ bolted from the theater, Rafe and I followed them." Simon's gruff voice answered. "We picked up the others on the way back to Cascade."

"Chief?" Jim couldn't quite believe that his zone had pulled Blair home. "How did you know?"

Blair's eyes cut over to AJ's and Jim could see him trying to figure out how to explain it without giving away things to the others. Sure, Simon and Rafe knew a lot about the sentinel stuff, but the others knew little about it and less about the spiritual aspect.

"I felt the need." AJ answered quickly. "When I told Blair we had to get back to Cascade, he brought us here."

Blair tilted his head slightly, thanking her for the cover-up. "I didn't ask how she knew. I just followed instinct at that point. What made you zone?"

Jim looked around the group, cautiously. He trusted them all, but this was Blair's history. He shrugged. "Something in the file, nothing important."

"Jim." Blair's voice cut through Jim's avoidance. "Whatever it is, these are my friends. I won't hide from them."

"Give me the medical file." Jim knew better than to fight when Blair was like this. He flipped through the file and realized that someone in the room couldn't be trusted. Stopping at the death certificate, he pulled it out. "This surprised me."

Silence flooded the room as the people recognized the form and contemplated its meaning. AJ moved suddenly, her breath catching, as she blindly headed for Rafe. The tall detective quickly folded her into his arms, letting her bury her face in his chest.

"Oh, Sandy." Megan's whisper brought Blair's shocked face up. "You didn't know?"

Blair shook his head, his confusion and surprise showing for all of them to see. "I never knew about him. Naomi never told me."

"I think I'd better be getting home before Sherri calls dispatch trying to find out why I'm late." Henri broke the quiet. One by one, the others quietly said their good-byes. Blair nodded, his attention on the thick worn certificate he was reading over and over.

Jim stood, his senses back on-line and his body firmly under his control. The tension he'd felt on noticing the missing item only getting worse as he escorted people to the door. He nodded to both Felicia and Megan, thanking them for their sympathy. With a forced smile, he let them out, wondering if it was one of them.

"Jim, if you or Hairboy need anything, call me. I'm serious, anytime, anywhere -- call me." Henri's quiet words brought a real smile to Jim's face. He knew Henri was trustworthy.

Then the detective was gone and Rafe stood in his place with AJ plastered to his side. Jim frowned, the woman was shaking – tiny little tremors that raced along her skin. He let his senses dial up and after a moment it all clicked. The silent communication between Rafe and AJ seemed even closer than ever and it wasn't just because of Krycek and Brackett's actions.

"Come here, Kitten." He kept his voice gentle and after a slight hesitation. AJ stepped into his hug. Keeping his eyes on Rafe's amused grin, Jim whispered into the woman's ear. "Have you talked to him yet?" She nodded against his chest. "Good girl. You two okay?" She nodded again. He let his voice return to normal levels. "You'll be fine. Rafe will make sure of that. If you need me, call. Okay?"

"I hear you." She grinned as she answered. Then she backed up to stand at Rafe's side. As his hand slid around her waist, AJ leaned into him. "Take care of Blair and yourself."

"Is she this bossy at home, Rafe?" Jim found himself asking.

"You have no idea." Brian Rafe laughed as she lightly pounded her cast into his side. Still chuckling at her response, he led her down the hallway toward the elevator.

Jim shut the door and flipped the bolt before Simon reached it. His voice was cold as he spoke to his captain. "Who moved the file Simon?"

Across the room, the guide's head came up, hearing the menace in the sentinel's voice.

"It was on the coffee table the whole time." Simon's voice was puzzled.

"Who took it from me?" Jim's voice was still cold as he led the way back to the sofa. He sat, flipping through the file quickly.

"I don't know. AJ and Sandburg were hovering over you when I got here." Simon answered.

"I took it from you and handed it to AJ." Blair's voice was curious as he looked down at the file. "I heard her tell someone to put it on the table, but I don't know who that was."

Jim turned to the end of the file and brought out the hand written note. He let his finger rest just below the thing that had made him zone. "This is what made me zone, Chief. Not the death certificate."

"What is it?" Blair stared at the signature. Then he let himself read the brief note. "My father?"

"He used a microdot in his name. It has to be what Krycek and Brackett are after." Jim heard the shocked inhalation from his guide.

"Then why are you so upset that the file was moved?" Simon Banks asked, reading the note over Blair's shoulder.

"There were three business cards stapled to the next page, Simon." Jim held up a paper. Stapled to the bottom were two old business cards. A discolored rectangle showed where another had been attached. The staple was all that remained. "Someone took it."

The three men looked at each other, wondering who had taken it. They knew all the people who'd been there. They thought they could trust them all. Obviously they were wrong.

The End