It took nearly four hours of giving statements to the police, fire department officials, and finally a check out by the EMT’s before the two women were able to leave the scene.  The first hour was the worst, until the police were able to confirm their ID’s with the DEA and Pentagon; after that, things went much more smoothly.  Bill and Dirk had arrived at the scene to pick up the twosome and arrange for alternate transportation for Katie.  As they left the scene, a police flatbed and tow truck was picking up the pieces of what was left of Katie’s Chevy to transport it to their impound lot.  Samples would be sent to the State Police lab to determine the materials used in the incendiary device.  They had already been able to determine that it was a remote detonator that had set it off.


“I can’t believe this has happened,” Katie murmured as she watched them load the wreckage.  “Who would want to blow up my car?”


“I don’t know, love, but trust me, we’ll find out.”  Dean hugged the smaller woman before leading her over to Dirks vehicle.  Bill held open the back door to the Ford Taurus, waiting for them to get situated in the back seat, before closing it and sliding into the front passenger seat.


“Where to, ladies?” Dirk asked looking over the backseat.


“There’s a Hertz Rental off of US 1 in Woodbridge.  We can pick up a car there for now,” Dean looked over at Katie, who nodded her head in agreement.


“US 1, Woodbridge.  Be there in a flash… um, sorry.  Didn’t mean for it to come out that way,” Dirk’s eyes apologetically met Katie’s eyes in the rear view mirror.


“Don’t worry about it, Dirk.” She smiled weakly at his reflection.  “I’m okay.  I’m just glad we weren’t in the car when it blew.”


Dean reached out and found Katie’s hand, pulling it into hers and giving it a gentle squeeze.  “I don’t think the bomb was meant to kill us.  I think whoever planted it, was somewhere in the parking lot and detonated it before we got in range of being hurt.”


Intrigued, Bill turned in his seat to face his CO, “Why do you think that?”


“Because, I saw a small flash just before it blew.  I think whoever planted the device was in a hurry.  There may have been a slightly loose connection that wasn’t caught during the installation.”  Pausing, Dean considered a few more ideas before continuing.  “With so many holiday shoppers in the area, I’m sure it was a rushed job.  And I don’t think our perp wanted to hurt anyone else, otherwise a different type of detonation device would have been used.”


“Makes sense.  But was he after you, or Katie?” Bill interjected.


“Good question.  We both have made enemies through our jobs, but with the recent events, I’d have to say I’m the probable target since I’ve received the messages.  I think someone is trying to get to me through my friends, so it would be a good idea if everyone was a bit more cautious from here on out.”  Heads nodded in agreement as they silently considered the implications of Dean’s words.  “The police took the surveillance films from the mall security office.  Maybe they’ll be able to spot something on them.”


* * * * *


Dirk and Bill waited until they were sure a car would be available for Katie to rent.  Knowing how unpredictable the holidays could be, it was interesting to see what kind of vehicles were left.  Pulling out of the Hertz lot, they couldn’t help but grin at the look on Katie’s face as she stepped up to the sleek red Porsche that was waiting for her.


“Wow, that’s not what I’d call a modest upgrade, would you?” She looked over at her partner and spotted the devilish grin on her face.  She immediately realized that something must have transpired between her lover and the rental agent while she made that quick trip to the restroom.


“Ah, well.  This happens sometimes when they don’t have the car you want,” Dean lied terribly, and was caught by the knowing smirk on the blonde’s face.  “Um, want me to drive?” she added eagerly.


“Oh, no.  When we left the house, you said I had to drive, and drive I will!”  She tossed a smile at the dejected woman and slid behind the steering wheel while Dean slipped into the passenger seat.  “Ohh, leather seats.  Nice.”  Katie placed her hands on the wheel and checked out the dash and set the mirrors.  “Hmm, even a CD player.  I think I could get used to something like this.”


“I think you’ll find a button on the dash that will turn on the heaters in these seats,” Dean suggested as she felt the cold leather through her jeans and shivered.


“Ah, there,” Katie found the button, turning it on after she started the ignition.  The back seat, what there was of it, was packed with their shopping bags--which had managed to escape without much damage.  “Thank you, Dean,” Katie supplied as she pulled out of the lot.


“For what?” There was an innocent twinkle in Dean’s sapphire eyes as she faced Katie.


“For upgrading to this car,” came the grateful response.


“Well, I just figured that a Chevy Cavalier was not going to lift your spirits , but this might-- at least until you get a new car.  Then the sticker shock is liable to put you into a tail spin.”


“Oh, I don’t know,” Katie grinned back.  “That Chevy wasn’t the only thing my Aunt left me.”


“Really?  You have another car stashed somewhere?” Dean asked, now curious.


“Nope.  But I do have a sizable trust fund stashed away, and I just might buy me one of these with this year’s interest dividend.”  Ah, what the heck, she thought, she might as well know.  “I, um, could even get you one with the change … if you want one?”


Dean was totally shocked by this little revelation.  In the year she had known Katie, they had never really talked about her family.  Dean figured that Katie would broach the subject whenever she was ready, so she never pushed for information--besides, it really didn’t matter to Dean.  She loved Katie for who she was, not who her family was.  “Ah, so you’re not only intelligent, talented, sexy, and beautiful… you’re rich too?”


“I guess you could say that.  I’m just not into flaunting it.  I much prefer a low profile.”


“Well, in that case, next time you offer to buy me a sundae, I’m going to order a triple dip!” Dean teased as the two women broke out in relaxed laughter.


Katie skillfully drove the shiny Porsche through the traffic and down the back roads to their home.  As she approached the driveway, she realized that her garage door opener was on the visor of the Chevy.  “Oh, poop!  The garage door opener was on the visor.”


Dean reached into her pocket and produced a key chain version of the door opener, handing it to Katie.  “Picked this up in Sears today.  I was going to give it to you at Christmas, but I guess now’s as good a time as any.”


“Hey, cool.  I thought about getting one after I saw yours.  Thanks, love.”  Katie took the opener and pushed the button, waiting for the door to finish rising before pulling in and cutting the engine.  As they gathered their bags, they agreed that the sports car was not a vehicle to use for shopping trips, deciding that the SUV was much easier to load and unload.


When they opened the front door, they were greeted by a very insistent Spice, yowling at the top of her lungs, which brought the other two felines out from their hiding places.  “Oh, so you think you’ve had a bad day just because your dinner is a little late?  Well, I’ve got news for you.”  Katie removed her coat, hanging it in the closet before grabbing her shopping bags and heading for the kitchen with her three charges racing before her.  Dean watched the group leave, relieved that her lover was able to bounce back from the loss of her treasured vehicle.  She hung up her jacket neatly, picking up her bags to follow when she noticed the message light blinking on the answering machine.  Stopping by the table, she set her purchases down and hit the play button.  She wasn’t completely surprised when she heard the mechanically disguised voice on the tape.


“Hello, Colonel.  Glad to see you finally made it home.  It was a real shame to have to destroy that beautiful old car, but better the car than Katie.  Oh well, maybe next time.”


“Damn it all to Hades!” Dean bellowed.  “I don’t know who you are, but when I find you, you’re gonna pay for this… for everything!  Why don’t you show your face, you little coward!  Let’s settle this now.”


Katie rushed into the room having heard Dean’s raised voice from the kitchen.  She found her staring out the window, fists clenched in a tight ball.  “What’s wrong, Dean?”  Katie carefully approached the angry woman, gently placing her hand on Dean’s back.

Dean turned stiffly, nearly frightening Katie with the look of anger in the deep blue pools of her friend's eyes, and pointed at the answering machine.  Katie hit the play button and listened to the message.


“Dean, don’t let this person get to you.  You’re playing right into his hand.  You’re smarter than him.”  She gently rubbed Dean’s arm, urging her to sit down in the love seat by the fireplace.  “Let’s hope he made a mistake today and is on that surveillance video.”  Katie reached up with her left hand, gently pulling Dean’s chin toward her, smiling as she softly continued, “I know we’ll find him, and I know you won’t let any harm come to me.  We’ll get this sicko, Dean, just don’t let him get to you.”


Dean’s expression softened and she unclenched her fists, flexing her fingers before taking hold of Katie’s left hand and kissing it.  “You’re right, love.  He, or she, is getting to me, and he knows my weakness is you.  If anything happens to you, I won’t rest until the SOB is torn apart by my own hands.”  Her eyes turned dark again. “And that’s a promise.”


* * * * *



Chapter 6

6 December, 1057 Hours


Dean entered her office to the sound of a ringing phone.  Walking quickly to her desk, she set down the cup of tea she had just purchased in the cafeteria and picked up the receiver, hoping she had made it in time.  “Colonel Peterson.”


“Hello, Colonel.  This is Lieutenant Ted Green at the Woodbridge PD.  I’ve been assigned your case… the bombing at the mall.  I was told that I could contact you since Agent O’Malley is unavailable.”


“Yes, Lieutenant.  I was hoping to hear from someone soon.”


“Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he began, as he outlined the results of the security camera video review.  “It seems that on one of the sweeps, we were able to pick out you and Agent O’Malley walking away from the Chevy and into the mall complex.”


“And were there any suspicious looking vehicles or persons in that scan?”  Dean walked around her desk and sat down as she focused her attention on the caller.


“No, nothing jumped out at us on the first look through.  However, when we fast-forwarded to the time of the explosion, we picked up something unusual.  After looking at the freeze frames from the before and after scenes, we noted that there was one car that had an occupant in it at both times.”


“Well, that may not be too unusual, but go ahead.”  Dean picked up a pencil and started doodling.


“Yeah, well, that’s what we thought too, but we rechecked each sweep, and the occupant was in the car the entire time, except for one sweep.  You see, the camera makes a 180 degree sweep of that portion of the parking lot every three minutes.”


Dean was now listening carefully to what the Lieutenant was revealing.  “Are you saying you caught this individual outside of the car?”


“Ah, no.  Not really.  At least we don’t think we have.  It just seemed strange that this car would be occupied for two plus hours, except for a three-minute interval.  I mean, that’s not even long enough to run inside to, uh, use the restroom.”


“Okay.  So, you think that this vehicle is perhaps suspicious, then?” Dean concluded correctly.


“Yes, ma’am.  That’s exactly what we thought, so we looked for it in the sweeps after the explosion, and found it slowly exiting, when the fire trucks arrived.  Now, what makes that interesting to me, is that no one, and I mean no one else, was exiting at that time.  Human nature as it is, had everyone else in the vicinity moving to see what was happening, not moving away from it.  Anyway, we were able to get the plate number and run it.”  Dean suspected that this was where the bad news was coming in and she was correct again.  “Well, here’s the bad news.  That vehicle was probably the one involved in the detonation, but when we ran the plates, they didn’t match with the vehicle--and we found the vehicle abandoned yesterday by the riverfront.  We ran a check on the Vehicle Identification Number from the engine, and it was reported stolen in New York City on November 20th.  It was dusted for prints, but turned out to be cleaner than the day it left the showroom floor.”


“Have there been any reports of stolen vehicles since yesterday?” 


“Not in this area.  He could have walked to a taxi, bus, or train station from there.  But, we’ll keep an eye on the reports.” 


Dean thought for a minute, then decided to do a little sleuthing of her own.  “Lieutenant, is there a possibility I can get a copy of the surveillance video?  I’d like the lab here to take a look at it.  We may be able to enhance the visuals better with our equipment and maybe I’ll be able to recognize someone.”


“Sure thing, Colonel.  I’ll have a copy made right now.  Do you want me to drop it by?”


“No.  I’ll pick it up.”  Dean checked her watch.  “Will you be there in about thirty minutes?”


“I will be now, ma’am.  Just ask for me at the front desk.  I’ll tell them you’ll be coming.”


“Thank you, Lieutenant.  I’ll be there shortly.”  After disconnecting, Dean punched in the extension for the surveillance technology lab.  The corporal who answered the phone confirmed that the equipment Dean wanted to use would be available that afternoon and slotted her in for its use.  Next, she dialed Captain Jarvis, requesting his assistance at 1300 in the lab.  Finally, Dean grabbed her trench coat and hat and headed for the parking lot.


She arrived at the precinct station in Woodbridge three minutes early, and headed to the front desk, fully conscious of the stares of the patrolmen she passed along the way.  Obviously, it wasn’t every day that an Army colonel entered their domain.  Add to that that she was a strikingly beautiful woman, and she turned quite a few heads as she entered the main office.  Upon reaching the front desk, the desk sergeant was so caught off guard, the he stood and nearly saluted before catching himself and inquiring as to her needs.  Stifling a chuckle, Dean smiled graciously, and asked to see Lieutenant Green.  Sergeant Mills first started to give her directions, but then thought it would be better if he led her to Lieutenant Green’s office.  As they walked back, Dean removed her head cover and trench coat, swinging the latter over her arm, while carrying her hat in the same hand.


Sergeant Mills knocked on the Lieutenant’s door, then opened it to usher Colonel Peterson into the small office.  Lieutenant Green was a handsome man in his late forties, who obviously took very good care of himself.  He was at least as tall as Dean, well-proportioned, with wavy black hair that was graying at the temples, a trim mustache, and soulful brown eyes.  As he stood and came around his desk to greet her, Dean noted his clothes were meticulous in appearance, neatly pressed slacks and creases from the iron still prominent in his shirt.  Even his shoes were well polished.  His holster was attached to his belt rather than the usual shoulder holster rig many plain-clothes officers preferred.  As she appraised him, he in turn was appraising her, taking in her appearance, command stature, and her surprisingly good looks.  She was definitely not what he had pictured in his mind from their earlier conversation; he decided he liked her.


He reached over to shake her hand as the desk sergeant left.  “Colonel Peterson.  It’s good to meet you.  Please have a seat.”  He indicated the wooden chair next to his desk and pulled up an identical chair to sit across from her.


“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Dean replied as she sat in the chair folding her coat into her lap. Her initial appraisal of this officer was positive. 


“Excuse me,” he began somewhat hesitantly, “but you certainly don’t look like any of the command officers I knew when I was in the Army.  That’s quite a complement of ribbons you have, and you do look awfully young to be a full colonel.”  He blushed a bit, realizing that his comments may have been a bit too personal, but very impressed with the woman before him. 


“I’ll take that as a compliment, Lieutenant, and I’m certain I’m not like most command officers.”  Dean smiled broadly at him before continuing.  “I’d guess you were a career soldier in the military police?”


“Yes, ma’am.  Twenty-five years.  Last five at Fort McClellan’s MP school.  Came up through the ranks, retired as a major.  Decided retirement wasn’t for me, so I came into this job.  Been here for five years now.  Excuse me, ma’am.  I’ll go see if your tape is ready.”  He stood and left his office, leaving Dean to take in her surroundings.  Lieutenant Green’s office was as squared away as he was.  Everything was neat and orderly.  The police officer returned in five minutes carrying the tape.  He handed it over to Dean and sat across from her once more.  Reaching across his desk, he picked up a manila file folder and opened it.


“Mind if I ask you a few more questions before you leave?  I wasn’t present when the incident happened, and I’d like to get a first hand account from you on the event.”


Dean agreed and reviewed the incident from the time they arrived until the time they left.  As she recounted her story, Lieutenant Green jotted down a few notes and asked a few questions before closing the file folder. 


“Ma’am, I realize that you’re attached to the Intelligence section.  Do you suppose this incident has anything to do with what you may be currently working on?”


“Not that I’m aware of, Lieutenant.”


“How about Agent O’Malley.  Could it be tied in with one of her cases?”


“It’s always possible that it could be tied to one of us professionally, but we think it’s more personal than that,” Dean confided, deciding that having the help of this man might prove to be beneficial.


“What brings you to that conclusion, Colonel?”


Dean went into an explanation of the events that had occurred since returning from their vacation, including the probability that the attack on Tom may have been related in some way.


“May I ask why you didn’t include this in the report on the bombing?” the Lieutenant inquired, somewhat offended.


Sensing the police officers censure, Dean went on to explain that she had no real basis to connect the incidents; it was just her ‘gut’ telling her there was a connection.  “Lieutenant, may I be frank?” Dean queried.


“By all means, please.”


“I’ve been working Intelligence for most of my career, and I have not had much opportunity to work with civilian authorities, therefore, I have a tendency to play things close to the chest.  Especially since this seems to be a personal vendetta of some sort.”


“So why disclose this to me?” The Lieutenant seemed genuinely interested in her answer.


“Let’s just say it’s another one of my gut feelings, and I’ve been batting a thousand on those to date.”


Accepting her words for the compliment they were, the ex-MP commander smiled in return, as he was all too familiar with gut instinct himself.  “Well, then.  I guess I can deal with that.  If anything new comes up, I’ll be certain to inform you.”


“And I will inform you of any developments too,” Dean echoed as she stood to leave.  “Thank you for the copy of the tape.  I’ll dissect it frame by frame this afternoon.”


“You’re welcome, Colonel.  Here’s my card with my home number in case you need to reach me when I’m off duty.”  Dean pulled out one of her cards, exchanging it for the one proffered, shook the Lieutenant’s hand, and left to return to the Pentagon.


* * * * * 


By the time Colonel Peterson returned to her office, she had just enough time to grab a sandwich and head to the surveillance technology lab to meet Captain Jarvis.  When she walked into the lab, Bill was already there.


“That the video?”  Bill pointed at the cassette in her hand.


“Yep,” she tossed it over and took the seat next to him. 


For the next three hours, they dissected the video frame by frame.  The equipment they were using was much more sophisticated than what the Woodbridge PD had available, and they were able to get crisp photos of the car, and a rough side view of the occupant.  Unfortunately, the video was in black and white, so they were not able to distinguish hair color, but agreed that the individual was most likely female by the shape of the nose and petite chin.   A large brimmed hat worn by the woman made a positive ID impossible, as it mostly obliterated the occupant’s face.  They were also able to freeze a blurred frame of this same individual slipping behind a group of shoppers as they passed Katie’s Chevy, using them for cover, as she made her way back to the car.  They got the good side view, minus her face, as she re-entered the vehicle.  Dean estimated that the woman was about five foot ten inches tall, approximately one hundred and fifty pounds, and seemed to be very fluid, almost cat-like in her movements.  She was wearing a full-length leather trench coat and a matching large brimmed hat that continued to obscure her face from view.


“So,” Bill began, “anyone you know?” 


Dean studied the printed picture and shook her head.  “Doesn’t ring any bells at the moment.  The profile is niggling at me, but I can’t put a finger on it.”


“Maybe it’s someone Katie knows?” he commented as he studied his copy of the photo.


“Well, we’ll find out tonight when she gets home from Quantico.”  Dean stood and held the photo in her right hand, gently tapping it on her opened left hand.  “Have a dozen of these made up for me and bring them up to my office.  Oh, and put the photo out on our network, maybe someone will spot her when she surfaces again.”


“What about the tape?”


“Send that up too, after it’s rewound.”


“Yes, Ma’am,” the captain replied as he hit the rewind button. 


Checking her watch, Dean was surprised to see that it was already 1745 hours.  “I’ll fax this photo over to Lieutenant Green in Woodbridge, then I’m heading home.”  As she exited the lab before heading back to her office, she thanked the corporal for setting up the equipment for her.


* * * * *


Chapter 7

Same day, Same time


Reverend Martha Lewistan was sitting at her meager desk, going over the bills for the month.  Good thing we've got that grant money coming, or I’m not sure where the money would come from to pay for these bills.  God is certainly watching out for us.  A soft knock at the door interrupted her thoughts.  Glad for the break, she gathered the bills, slipped them back into the folder, and placed them in the inbox before answering the knock.


“Come in,” she called softly, as she folded her hands together on the neat desktop.  Reverend Lewistan was in her early fifties, about five foot five, with dark graying hair that was neatly cut in a short, but soft style.  Her hazel eyes sparkled with intelligence and compassion beneath large oval glasses.  Her warm smile and gentle ways had always been an asset to her stressful position at the Interfaith City Mission, where she ministered to the poor, the disheartened and frightened, the alcoholic and addict, the runaways, and lost souls.  Like most big cities, Kansas City, Missouri had plenty of people in need of Reverend Martha’s ministry, including the tall man that quietly entered her office and took the seat across from her.


“Good afternoon, Joshua.  How are the sessions going?” she asked softly as Joshua Peterson took his seat.


“Pretty good, Martha.  I can see a lot of improvement in Chester today.  Tim’s still not opening up, but Carolyn and Henry are doing much better.”  Joshua Peterson hesitated, swallowing hard before he began again.  “I was wondering if you would be able to do me a favor when you go to DC tomorrow for your grant meeting?”


Martha smiled at Joshua, having a pretty good idea what that favor might be.  Joshua Peterson had come to her mission at the request of Reverend Samuel Samms, from the state penitentiary in Wichita, Kansas.  Joshua had been a Baptist minister prior to his fall, serving a total of twelve years of a twenty-year sentence.   During his incarceration, Joshua Peterson had learned to cope with his actions and failings, complete certification programs in alcoholism counseling and anger control, and worked with Reverend Samms and the social work staff at the prison.  His rehabilitation had been deemed a success, and the parole board offered an early release pending his acceptance at the city mission in Kansas City.  From her talks with the ex-minister prior to accepting him, Reverend Lewistan found a soul yearning to make amends for his past transgressions, and to try to help others deal with their anger and alcoholism.  His remorse over taking the life of his only son and the estrangement of his only daughter, along with the death of his dear wife, Sarah, led Martha to believe that his was a case she was willing to accept.  In the eighteen months since he had come to the mission, she hadn't been disappointed with her decision.  She attended to the spiritual needs of her charges, while he handled the alcohol abuse and anger control issues.  Along with the HIV and addiction counselors, her city mission was doing a commendable job in turning around the lives of the individuals in their care.  So much so, that the mission had received a sizeable grant from the Interfaith Community Services Office in Washington, DC.


“A favor?  Certainly, Joshua, what can I do for you?”  Martha leaned forward, encouraging the man to continue.


“I was wondering if you could stop by and visit my daughter,” Joshua confided.  “I…” he hung his head as he continued, “I haven’t been able to reach her.”


“The number I found for you was inaccurate?” Martha asked a bit surprised.


“No.  It’s the right number.  I…she didn’t want to speak to me,” he acknowledged sadly.


“Oh.  I see.”  Reverend Lewistan stood and circled around her desk and sat in the chair next to Joshua.  “Now, Joshua,” she spoke softly, “we talked about that possibility.  That she would be hesitant to talk to you.  It’s quite understandable.”


“Yes, I know.  I just was hoping she’d see how much I’ve changed.  I know I can’t bring Thad back, or change what’s happened over the years, but I need to try.  I can sense the anger in her still.”  Looking up into Martha’s face, he pleaded, “That anger will destroy her, just like it destroyed me.  I want to help her before it’s too late.  Please, help me to reach her… please.  I don’t have much time left, and I’d like to know I did my best before I go.”


Sighing, Martha reached over and took Joshua’s hands in hers.  As soon as she touched Joshua, she reeled with the images that assaulted her mind.  Vivid scenes of the interior of a barn, a young boy huddled in a pile of hay that had turned red with the fluids oozing from his torn body, the sound of crying in the background.  Then the scenes changed quickly to a young girl tied in her bed, empty alcohol bottles, dirty alleys and cardboard box homes, a cemetery plot, flashing red lights and finally the bars of a jail cell.  The sounds and smells were all there too.  The whimpering of the boy, the crashing of glass, the wails and sobs and the smells of the alleys, were all there in her mind.  As she released Joshua’s hands and opened her eyes, she saw Joshua staring at her with deep concern. 


“Another vision?” he asked softly.  Reverend Martha nodded, then shut her eyes and inhaled deeply, cognizant of the glimpse she just had into Joshua’s past.  “Is there anything I can do?”


“No, Joshua.  But I’ll do what I can for you.”  Martha was accustomed to these visions into the lives of the people she met.  Some visions were worse than the one she just had seen and some were better, but each took a toll on the caring woman, leaving her exhausted, but determined to do what she could.  She accepted them as the hand of God, helping her to see the pain in the people she tried to help.  “God works in mysterious ways, Joshua.  I can’t make any promises, but I will try to get in to see her.”  Joshua’s desire for forgiveness was complicated by the fact he had been diagnosed with a non-operable tumor, and was given six months to put his affairs in order.


“Thank you, Martha, that’s all I ask.”  Joshua Peterson stood. Walking towards the door, he stopped and turned back to Reverend Lewistan, “Tell her I love her … and ask her to forgive me.”


Watching the tall man leave, Martha whispered after him, “I will, Joshua.  I will.”


* * * * *



Chapter 8

7 December, 0800 Hours


Katie was seated in the first row of the small amphitheater, along with her fellow instructor trainees.  On the dais in front of them were a long table and lectern, with three men and two women seated behind the table.  She recognized the men and one of the women from her days as a DEA recruit, but the second woman must have been new to the organization.  Special Agent Morley Smith stood and walked to the lectern.  As he began to address the small group of new instructors, one of Katie’s fellow classmates, Ken Devon, leaned toward her and whispered, “Hey, Katie.  Got any idea who the brunette is?”


“Nope.  Must be someone new since we came through here.”  Agent Smith continued his address on the Agency's regulations regarding sexual harassment and the implications of such actions while an instructor at the school.  Yadda, yadda, yadda, Katie thought, as she remembered a brief encounter with her hand-to-hand instructor the first time through.  Guess Agent Deaver didn’t pay attention to this class when he went through instructor training.  Wonder what ever happened to him?  She was pulled out of her thoughts when Agent Smith began introducing the new female on the dais.


“…and along with those credentials, we were very lucky to have secured Dr. Meisha Prokov to head our Psychology classes for the next tour of incoming recruits.  Dr. Prokov…”


Dr. Meisha Prokov stood and walked confidently to the lectern, opened her notes, and began a presentation on criminal profiling.  Katie found herself totally focused on the doctor’s presentation, including new research on the criminal mind, on which she took copious notes.  As the presentation continued, Katie began wondering about the person that could possibly be responsible for the latest series of events.  What would the motive be for her actions toward Dean and her friends …And why her friends?

To hurt Dean even more?  Or were they somehow involved with this person at one point too?  But, then how did the attack on Tom fit in?  Dean was certain that attack was part of this madwoman’s plot.  Was she acting alone?  Did she have conspirators, or was she taking orders from someone else? Too bad the surveillance pictures from the mall weren’t more conclusive.  All they knew for sure was that the person in the Miata was female.   Katie jotted these questions down as she continued to listen to the lecture. 


By 1200 hours, all five of the presenters had finished their lectures and the group broke for lunch.  Katie and Ken walked through the cafeteria line together, adding their selections to their trays.


“Katie, I just don’t know how you do it,” Ken commented and shook his head.


“Do what?” Katie replied as she picked up a piece of carrot cake to add to her numerous selections already on her tray.


“Eat like you do, and still manage to look so good.”  Ken shook his head again as he opted for jello as his dessert.


Katie merely blushed as she accepted his round about compliment and chose skim milk as her beverage.  “Hey, I work hard to be able to eat all this stuff.  Besides, it’s all healthy stuff.  Look,” she teased as she held up the milk carton, “skim milk.  How healthy can you get?”


“Um, so you want to explain how healthy that side of macaroni and cheese is?  Or the three slices of French bread with butter?  Or the cheeseburger and fries… and of course the carrot cake!” he chuckled as they took their trays towards an empty table.  As they walked, Ken asked what she thought of the new Psychologist.


“I found her lecture very interesting.  Especially the new research,” Katie commented as she placed her tray on the table.  “What did you think of her?”


“I thought she was a bit spooky, but then most shrinks are a bit out there.”  Ken waved his hand off into the air to indicate outer space, then leaned in a bit closer and spoke a little softer.  “How do you think she messed up her hand?”


Katie snapped her head up and looked at Ken.  “What about her hand?”


“Didn’t you notice how mangled her right hand was?” he asked incredulously.


“No, I guess I was just paying more attention to what she was saying and not studying her in detail.”  Katie was embarrassed that she could have missed something so obvious, but she had been listening intently to what the doctor was saying, and not trying to memorize her statistics as though she was a potential criminal.


“Look, she’s sitting with Agent Smith by the window.  Check out her right hand,” Ken advised as he calmly ate his sandwich.


Katie took a discreet look in the direction Ken suggested, and gasped when she caught sight of the woman staring straight back at her.  She blushed and smiled, then stood and walked over to their table. 


“Excuse me, Doctor Prokov.  My name is…”


“Special Agent Katherine O’Malley,” the woman responded with a smile.  “Please have a seat.   Morley and I were just talking about you.  You have quite a reputation for such a young agent,” she winked at Katie as she noticed the blush creep up her neck.


“Thank you.  I guess I’ve just been lucky with my assignments,” Katie offered in a soft voice.


“Nonsense,” Morley replied.  “You are one of the best agents to have graduated from this training center.  You’re bright, inquisitive, pay attention to detail, and always get your man.”


“Or… woman,” Meisha interjected with a sly smile.


“Uh, well, I haven’t had to bring in any female suspects yet,” Katie offered, a bit surprised at the comment.


“Oh?  I thought there was a woman involved in that New York case.”


“Yes, I guess you’re right.  She wasn’t our main target, but she was one of Kasimov’s thugs.”


“Well, even the ‘thugs’ count,” Morley commented as he gave Katie a gentle clap on the shoulder.  “The more of these guys, um, and gals, we can get off our streets, the better.”


Katie nodded at Agent Smith in return before turning back to Doctor Prokov.  “I just wanted to come over and tell you how much I enjoyed your lecture this morning.  I find the criminal mind very interesting, and the current research you presented is very enlightening.”  She stood and started to leave when the psychologist reached out with her good hand and gently touched Katie’s arm.


“Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to chat again?  Maybe you would like to drop by my office, and we could talk more about the new research.” She offered her right hand to Katie, who shook it, consciously aware of the gnarled appendage in her hand.


“Yes, I’d like that,” Katie smiled and turned to go back to her table, thinking, Well, I guess she’s not embarrassed about her hand.  Maybe next time I’ll ask her what happened to it.  She does seem a bit strange, though.  That comment about women took me by surprise.  Maybe Ken’s right, that was a little spooky.


When she reached the table, Ken was eagerly waiting to hear about their conversation.  Katie explained that the doctor seemed to be a very nice person, and did not seem to be inhibited at all about her deformed appendage.  She added that the psychologist suggested that she could drop by and discuss criminal profiling in more detail at another time.


“Yeah, right.  Like that’s what’s she’s got in mind for you,” Ken chuckled as he gave Katie a knowing look.


“You think she’s interested in me?” Katie laughed at the thought.  “No way, Ken!”


“Yeah, then why does she keep looking over here at you?”


That comment silenced Katie, and she quickly took a sip of her water to keep herself from looking back at Doctor Prokov’s table.  “Maybe she’s interested in you?” Katie replied as she put her water glass down, but mentally she was hoping that Ken’s instinct wasn’t on target this time.  I sure don’t need any more complications in my life right now.  Just getting through the trainer’s orientation and studies, and of course, the current investigation, are going to tax me enough.  She didn’t need anything else to divide her attention.  Doctor Prokov is a very attractive woman, even with her deformed hand.  She’s tall, well, taller than I am, with an athletic build, auburn hair and brown eyes.  She does have some tiny scars near her ears, perhaps an indication of a little facelift.  And her speech was clearly indicative of an Oxford education.  She didn’t seem the type to be drawn to women, though.  Surely, Ken was way off target this time.


* * * * *


Chapter 9

7 December, 2030 Hours


Katie was flipping through her notes at the kitchen table while Dean finished up the dishes from the evening meal.  Over dinner, they had compared their days and discussed the questions that Katie had jotted down during the profiling lecture by Dr. Prokov.  They were in agreement that the woman was definitely after Dean. 


“She’s just trying to get to you by these attacks on your friends,” Katie surmised. 


“Yeah, I know.  I just wish I could get a handle on just who this woman is.  She’s bound to make another mistake soon, and I’ll be there to jump on it.”  Dean was attacking the dishes in the sink with as much vigor as if she had the woman in her hands.


“Easy, love.  We only have one set of dishes right now,” Katie cautioned as she looked up to see her partner begin on the pans.  “What mistake has she made so far?”


“She got caught on the surveillance video.  At least now we know we’re dealing with a woman.”


“Ah.  Not much of a mistake, but, hopefully, she’ll make a bigger one.”  Katie looked up from her studies once more.  “What if she’s just a minion and not the brains?  It could be a ploy to distract us from the real person behind the attacks.” 


“It could be…but my bet’s on the woman.” 


Just as Dean finished the last pan, the phone rang.  Katie stood and walked over to the phone on the wall, picking it up to answer, while Dean checked the caller ID and smiled  when she saw it was coming from Freeport.


“Hello?  Hey, Tiny.  How’s Tom doing?”  Her face turned very solemn as she listened to Tiny's information about Tom having to be put on a respirator. “I’m really sorry to hear that.  Keep us informed, okay?”  As Dean wiped her hands and walked over to Katie's side, she motioned that she wanted to talk to Tiny.  “Wait a minute, Dean wants to talk to you.”


Taking the phone from her partner, Dean inquired about the investigation into the assault on Tom.  “Have there been any developments in finding his attacker?” Dean asked as she put the phone to her ear.  “What kind of bullet was used in the attack?  Yeah, a 9mm round is not unusual.  Okay, well, if anything develops, let us know.  Yeah, you too.”  She replaced the phone into the wall cradle and sighed.  “Damn.  I just know this is all tied in somehow.”  She threw the dishtowel she was still holding onto the kitchen counter, then leaned her tall frame against it.


“After listening to Dr. Prokov today, I’m sure this assailant is doing this to get at you.  Tom, the email, the car bombing, even the house bugging.  I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop,” Katie admitted as she wrapped her arms around Dean’s neck.


“Don’t forget the flowers she sent to the office,” Dean added with a frown.  As she looked down into the emerald eyes before her, she could read the questions in Katie’s eyes, but was at a loss to answer them, so she did the next best thing… she kissed her.  She put every fiber of her being into that kiss in an effort to convey her love, her concern, and her promise to protect the woman she loved, although she questioned whether she would be strong enough to defeat this unknown enemy and keep that promise.


As she pulled back from the kiss, Katie’s eyes remained closed, but a small contented smile played on her lips.  “Mmm, I do believe you,” Katie disclosed without opening her eyes.


A bit confused, Dean asked, “Believe what?”


“That you love me, are concerned about something happening to me, and that you will do everything you can to protect me.”


Dean’s eyebrow rose in amazement. “You got all that from one kiss?” 


“Umhm.  And…” she pulled her hands down across Dean’s chest, resting them lightly on her breasts, “…if you follow me to the bedroom, I’ll answer you.”  Dean smiled in amazement at the connection they had, tailing her young lover toward the bedroom.


“What about your studies?” the tall woman asked as they passed the pile of notes and books on the kitchen table.


“Piece of cake,” the blonde responded with a dismissing wave of her hand, intent on her current topic of interest.


Dean had already turned on the opaque mode for the windows in the house, but Katie didn’t even bother to turn on the lights.  As soon as they entered the bedroom, Katie turned towards her taller partner and allowed her hands to trail over her tall muscular frame.  She gently tugged open the buttons on Dean’s flannel shirt while she let her lips begin a sensual caress, starting at the collarbone and working south.  With each button opened, she garnered soft moans from her partner as her lips touched newly exposed skin.


“Mmm, no bra tonight.”  Kiss--moan.  “Good plan.”  Another kiss followed by a moan.  “Makes my job that much easier.”  By now, she was at Dean’s waist and had lowered herself to her knees, parting the buttons on Dean’s 501 jeans.  As she reached into Dean’s pants with both hands, she slipped the jeans and the bikini underpants off in the same motion and helped her lover step out of the clothes pooled at her feet.  Still on her knees, she trailed her hands up the right leg, veering toward the center as she reached Dean’s mound of curly black hair, then trailed down the left leg.  Circling her arms around Dean’s legs as she looked up into her lover’s eyes, caressing her buttocks with both hands before burying her face in her lover’s abdomen.


Dean inhaled quickly at the heat rising from her center, as Katie continued to caress and tease.  As Dean’s breaths became more rapid, she looked up to see if her ministrations were having the reaction she was seeking.  “Umm, I think I’ve hit my mark,” Katie cooed softly.


“Umhm,” Dean growled as she reached down and pulled Katie up to her full five foot six inch height.  This maneuver put Katie’s lips, with a slight dip of her head, right in contact with Dean’s firm breasts.  Taking advantage of her position, Katie raised her right hand to cup the left breast while her lips paid homage to the right one.  Dean moaned again and began pulling up Katie’s T-shirt to expose a naked upper torso.


A raised eyebrow and smile noted that Katie had also removed her bra earlier.  “Good,” came the growled acknowledgement as she bent towards Katie’s waist and broke contact long enough to pull the blonde’s sweat pants off.  “Ooo, no panties either,” she crooned, helping Katie step out of the gray sweats with the large DEA initials down the right leg.  Stooping, she lifted the lithe woman into her arms and carried her quickly to the bed where they spent the next two hours in mutual pleasuring that left no patch of skin unattended and no desire unfulfilled.  As their lovemaking peaked and finally ebbed, the two women fell into a comfortable embrace allowing their bodies to return to within normal bounds.


Eyes closed, Katie murmured a need to go to the bathroom and received a concurring nod from Dean.  They rose and walked to the bathroom, deciding to shower while they were there.  Not wanting to waste natural resources, they took their shower together and never heard the phone ring, or the answering machine pick up.  When they came out of the bathroom, Katie went to the kitchen to give Shug her seizure medication and turn off the lights, while Dean checked the security system, insuring all was well for the night.  On her way back to the bedroom, she noticed the blinking light on the answering machine.  Anticipating another message from the mystery woman, she called to Katie to join her before hitting the play button.


“Hello.  This message is for Deanna Peterson.  My name is Martha Lewistan.  I was hoping to catch you at home, but I guess you must be out.  I’ll try you tomorrow at your office.”


“Who is Martha Lewistan?”  Katie’s brows furrowed as she asked the question.


“Got me,” Dean replied shrugging her shoulders.  “Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.”  She checked the caller ID, and noted that the call came at 2247 hours, and originated from the Hilton Towers in Arlington, Virginia.


* * * * *


Chapter 10

8 December, 0624 Hours

The morning began, much as the night before had ended.  Their dalliance between the sheets made for a hectic dash in the shower and a quick feeding of the felines, tean in their travel mugs, and a bagel to go.  Katie envied Dean’s limited choices of work attire as she finally opted for her field outfit of tan slacks, blue button down blouse and Navy blazer.  She chose tan chukka boots instead of her normal loafers after noticing a dusting of snow on the ground outside.  As they exited the house and Dean set the security system, Katie tabbed the button to raise the garage door.


“Good thing the cars are garaged each night.  I think we’d be late if we had to scrape the snow off.” 


“Nah, the way I drive, it’d get blown right off,” Dean grinned at her partner as she closed the back door to the garage.  “Be careful on the interstate.  Some folks get real crazy when they see that white stuff on the ground.”


Katie nodded her head in agreement as she slipped behind the wheel of her rented Porsche.  “Yes, Mom.”  Her reply got her a faux evil look from her partner.  “Don’t forget we’re going car shopping tonight, so be home on time,” she called as she started her ignition.


* * * * *


The morning drive was uneventful, as the highway crews had done a commendable job of sanding the roadways.  Dean reached her parking slot right on time and was in her office at precisely 0700.  She wasn’t expected to be at her desk until 0730, but preferred the half hour of quiet time to get a lot of work done before the phone calls, meetings, operation reviews, and general intelligence operations took up her time.  Today she was intent on reviewing the surveillance pictures one more time before her day began.


“There has got to be something in these pictures,” she mumbled to herself as she pulled out the file and picked up her magnifying glass.  She studied the photos one by one, inch by inch, several times over, until her neck was tense and a headache began to develop at her temples.  She was just about to put away the photos when something caught her eye in the last photo.  It was a blow up of the Miata when it was unoccupied for that short three-minute interval.  “Gotcha, you bitch!” Dean croaked savagely.  She circled the area of the photo with a highlighter then picked it up, grabbed the video, and walked purposefully to the door. 


It took her ten minutes to get to the lab, having to wait for what seemed an eternity for the elevator to carry her from her floor to sub-level four where the technology lab was housed.  Upon entering the lab, she asked the technician to roll the video to the selected frame, and to enlarge and focus it as best as possible.  As the corporal followed her directions, Dean watched the video screen, blur then focus several times until she told the tech to stop. 


“Print that and make five copies for me,” she ordered as a feral smile crossed her face.


“Yes, Ma’am.”


Two minutes later, Dean had the new photos in hand.  She retrieved the video and original photo before thanking the tech.  “Good work, Corporal.” 


“Thank you, Ma’am,” replied the young media technician as he reset the equipment.  “If you need anything else, Colonel, just let me know.”


Dean nodded in response before heading out of the lab.


* * * * *


Once back in her office, Dean checked her watch, noting that it was 0800 as she dialed the number for the Woodbridge Police Department.  When the operator picked up, she requested Lieutenant Green.  The desk sergeant told her he was in his car on the way to DC’s 3rd Precinct to pick up a suspect, but he’d be able to patch her through.  She didn’t have to wait long before he answered on his end. 


“Lieutenant, this is Colonel Peterson.  I think I have something from the surveillance video that may be worth checking out.”  Lieutenant Green informed her that he was just turning onto the interstate and would be arriving in DC in approximately twenty-five minutes.  He suggested that he could swing by the Pentagon before he went to the 3rd Precinct.  “Great.  I’ll leave word at the security check-in to have a visitor’s pass ready for you.  One of the MP's on duty will escort you up to my office.” Hanging up with Lieutenant Green, she placed a call to the security detail, giving the sergeant on duty the information needed to have the police officer escorted to her office.  Next, she called Sergeant Major Tibbits to make arrangements to fill-in General Carlton.  As it turned out, General Carlton was available at the time, so Dean grabbed the video and photos, and headed to the general’s office.  It was now, 0805 hours and she would have just enough time to fill in the general before Lieutenant Green arrived.


Colonel Peterson was in the hall walking to her office, when the MP escorted Lieutenant Green from the elevator.  Recognizing the men walking towards her, she waited at her door, observing them as they conversed amiably while walking down the hall.  Reaching her office the MP assumed attention and formally reported to the colonel.  She thanked him for the escort, and opened her office door. Before he entered Dean’s office, Lieutenant Green paused to shake the MP’s hand, promising to get in touch.


“I take it you know Sergeant Riker?”


“Yes.  He was in the last class I worked with at McClellan.  Glad to see he’s done so well.”


“I’m certain it’s a tribute to the good leadership he had during his training.  A soldier’s success can often be traced back to the training he received.”


“I’ll take that as a compliment, Colonel.  I did pride myself on the job I did, and was proud of each class that went through my command.” The ex-officer smiled as he took the seat Dean indicated.


“Well, after looking at your records jacket, I confirmed my original instinct that you were a top notch soldier.” She returned the smile as she picked up the photo from her desk.  The police lieutenant was not surprised that his military record had been reviewed.  He would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed. 


“So, what were you able to pull out of the video, Colonel?  I’m assuming it’s a lead of some sort.”


Dean handed him a copy of the photo she had blown up that morning.  She pointed to the set of keys dangling from the ignition in the Miata.  “I was going over the photos we had made of the surveillance video and found this.”


“Hmm, interesting.  I know the place.  As soon as I get the suspect I’m picking up at 3rd into a cell, I’ll go check it out.”


“I was hoping you’d say that.”  She picked up one of the photos with the side views of the female suspect.  “I know these aren’t much to go on, but maybe someone at the motel will recognize her.  It would be too much to expect her to still be there … but … I figured it would be worth checking out.  It’s the best lead we have right now.”


“Well if she had the Miata with her at the motel, someone is bound to remember her.  That’s not the type of car the clientele of that establishment usually drive.  It’s not a flea bag, but it’s not the Ritz either.  Most tourists use a higher class joint when they come to the area.”  Looking up at Dean, he asked, “You want to join me?”


“I wish I could, but I have to go to a Joint Chiefs meeting this afternoon with my general.  I’d appreciate an update though.”


“You’ll get it,” he replied as he stood to leave.  “Anything else show up in the video?”


“Nothing of any help.  We missed this one on the first review, but I found it this morning and had our lab pull out the motel name on the room tag.”


“Well, sometimes it pays to be persistent.”  He took the photo, smiling at Dean.  “We’ll get this woman, Colonel.  Sooner or later, we’ll get her.”


“The sooner the better, Lieutenant.”  She shook his hand as he turned towards the door.

“I’ll be tied up all afternoon in meetings, but you can leave a message here or at my home.”


Nodding, the police officer left her office photo in hand.


* * * * *



Return to The Bard's Corner