Chapter One

"I … I don't know what happened to the body."

From behind his desk, Major Julian Fordham looked up at the woman who had just walked unannounced into his office He couldn't help feeling as if he were in a film noir that began with a narrator intoning "Of all the beuatiful dames in all the world to walk though my door, why did it have to be her?" But then he got past the fact that Captain Kelsey O'Roark had suddenly reentered his life and focused not only on her bizarre words, but on her appearance as well.

"My God, what happened to you?" he asked as he rose form his chair and circled his desk. he reached a hand out to her, but dropped it again when he remembered he probably ought to maintain a professional distance At least until heunderstood what had occurred.

"I … I… was working, trying to catch up on some reports after being away for a few says. I have a meeting tomorrow." Her gaze shifted to the window where the sun had just begun to brighten the horizon. "I mean today. And… And I lost the body, Julian. Sir."

"What are you talking about, Kelsey?" he asked, taking note of the smudges of dirt on her face and hands. One sleeve of her uniform was crumpled up past her elbow while the other hung loosely at her wrist without its button, a small tear in the material.

"It's a long story, sir." She stood at rigid attention but sh elooked as if she might keel over any minute. He admired her determination, but he couldn't let her pass out because of it. And her appearance and tone were downright alarming.

"Sit down, before you fall down." He pulled the guest chair around behind her so she could more quickly ease into it. "Can I get you anything? Here, have some water." He reached for the plastic bottle that sat on his desk half finished and put it into her handm then wrapped her cold fingers around it. He hunkered down in front of her with his bigger hand envelping hers for a moment until she felt warmer to his touch. Before his thoughts could wander inappropriately, he released her and eased back.

She looked at the bottle as if she couldn't tell how it had gotten there, then she drank greedily, not caring that he'd sipped from it beofre her. His focus dropped momentarily to her mouth and menories thratened to swamp him. He pried th empty bottle from her clutching grasp.

Possibilities about what might have happened to her began to swim through his mind. Al of them made him want to strangle someone "Let me bring you to the hospital," he urged softly.

"No!" sh enearly shouted, "I have to tell you what happened, You have to hel him. At the warehouse…there was this man and… I heard a noise…" Her voice quavered and she stopped in mid sentence.

He wanted to tak eher into his arms to comfort her. But he had no right to do that. And he felt certain she wouldn't appreciate the gesture. She'd come to him as a professional, not as a friend. She would have no toher use for a man who, only a year ago, had run the instant their friendshp had blossomed into something more

Into Thin Air

"You shouldn't be up there, soldier." Kelsey climbed abord the base of the bucket lift and continued talking. "Who authorized you to be there? I'm going to bringyou down now." She applied pressure to one of the levers on the main control panel.

To her horror, helunged for his own controls, and Kelsey found herself in a fight over the machine.

"Stop that! That's an oder!" The young man did not comply.

Kelsey eyed the key that would turn off the electricity. But she couldn't let go of the levers. She couldn't risk the equipment coming to an abrupt stop. "Ease up on your end, so I can let go on mine!" she called out, but panic seemed to have taken hold of him, and he let go.

The bucket shot downward. With a cry, the man teetered for a moment, his arms flailing wildly. Then he pitched over the side.

"No!" Kelsey watched him plummet headfirst, taking forever to reach the cement, and yet hitting it so suddenly that she hadn't finished the syllable before she saw him sprawled in a widening pool of blood.

She started forward as to many immedicate needs crowded her thinking--call the medics, stop the bleeding, don't move him, check for a pulse, get and ambulance, resuscitate him, save him…

Midstep, she sensed that someone was behind her. On instinct, she bagan to lift her weeping and turn. But before she could confront the second intruder, pain splintered through her skull.

Followed by blackness.
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