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Danger in the Shadows
By Dee Henderson
Walker Large PrintCopyright © 2004 Dee Henderson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe summer storm lit up the night sky in a jagged display of energy, lightning streaking and fragmenting between towering thunderheads. Sara Walsh ignored the storm as best she could, determined not to let it interrupt her train of thought. The desk lamp as well as the overhead light were on in her office as she tried to prevent any shadows from forming. What she was writing was disturbing enough.
The six-year-old boy had been found.... Dead.
Writing longhand on a yellow legal pad of paper, she shaped the twenty-ninth chapter of her mystery novel. Despite the dark specificity of the scene, the flow of words never faltered.
The child had died within hours of his abduction. His family, the Oklahoma law enforcement community, even his kidnapper, did not realize it. Sara didn't pull back from writing the scene even though she knew it would leave a bitter taste of defeat in the mind of the reader. The impact was necessary for the rest of the book.
She crossed out the last sentence, added a new detail, then went on with her description of the farmer who had found the boy.
Thunder cracked directly overhead. Sara flinched. Her office suite on the thirty-fourth floor put her close enough to the storm she could hear the air sizzle in the split second before the boom. She would like to be in the basement parking garage right now instead of her office.
A glance at the clock on her desk showed it was almost eight in the evening. The push to finish a story always took over as she reached the final chapters. This tenth book was no exception.
This was the most difficult chapter in the book to write. It was better to get it done in one long sustained effort. Death always squeezed her heart.
Had her brother been in town, he would have insisted she wrap it up and come home. Her life was restricted enough as it was. He refused to let her spend all her time at the office. He would lean against the doorjamb of her office and give her that look along with his predictable lecture telling her all she should be doing: puttering around the house, cooking, messing with the roses, doing something other than sitting behind that desk.
She did so enjoy taking advantage of Dave's occasional absences.
His flight back to Chicago from the FBI academy at Quantico had been delayed due to the storm front. When he called her from the airport out East, he cautioned her he might not be home until eleven.
It wasn't a problem, she assured him, everything was fine. Code words. Spoken every day. So much a part of their language now that she spoke them instinctively. "Everything is fine"-all clear; "I'm fine"-I've got company; "I'm doing fine"-I'm in danger. She had lived the dance a long time. The tight security around her life was necessary. It was overpowering, obnoxious, annoying ... and comforting.
Sara turned in the black leather chair to watch the display of lightning. The skyline of downtown Chicago glimmered back at her through the rain.
With every book, another fact, another detail, another intense emotion, broke through from her own past. She could literally feel the dry dirt under her hand, feel the oppressive darkness. Reliving what had happened to her twenty-five years ago was terrifying. Necessary, but terrifying.
She sat lost in thought for several minutes, idly walking her pen through her fingers. Her adversary was out there somewhere, still alive, still hunting her. Had he made the association to Chicago yet? After all these years, she was still constantly moving, still working to stay one step ahead of the threat. Her family knew only too well his threat was real.
The man would kill her. Had long ago killed her sister. The threat didn't get more basic than that. She had to trust others and ultimately God for her security. There were days her faith wavered under the intense weight of simply enduring that stress. She was learning by necessity how to roll with events, to trust God's ultimate sovereignty.
The notepad beside her was filled with doodled sketches of faces. One of these days her mind was finally going to stop blocking the one image she longed to sketch. She knew she had seen the man. Whatever the consequences of trying to remember, whatever the cost, it was worth paying in order to try to bring justice for her and her sister.
She couldn't force the image to appear no matter how much she longed to do so. She was the only one who still believed it was possible for her to remember it. The police, the FBI, the doctors had given up hope years ago.
She fingered a worn photo of her sister Kim that sat by a white rose on her desk. She didn't care what the others thought. Until the killer was caught, Sara would never give up hope.
God was just. She held on to that knowledge and the hope that the day of justice would eventually arrive. Until it did, she carried guilt inside that remained wrapped around her heart. In losing her twin, she had literally lost part of herself.
Turning her attention back to her desk, she debated for a moment whether or not she wanted to do any more work tonight. She didn't.
She slipped the pad of paper with her draft of the book chapter into the folder beside her computer keyboard. When it had begun to rain, she turned off her computer, not willing to risk possible damage from a building electrical surge should lightning hit a transformer or even the building itself.
As she put the folder away, the framed picture on the corner of her desk caught her attention. Her best friend was getting married. Sara envied her. She could feel the sense of rebellion rising again. The need to break free of the security blanket around her rose and fell with time. Ellen had freedom and a life. She was getting married to a wonderful man. Sara longed to one day have that same choice. Without freedom, it wasn't possible, and that hurt. Her dream was being sacrificed with every passing day.
She opened her desk drawer, retrieved her purse, then picked up her briefcase.
Her office had plush forest green carpet and ivory walls. The furniture, European; the bookcases, mahogany. This was the office where H. Q. Victor, the internationally known British author, worked.
She lifted her raincoat from the stand by the door. With the London Fog coat, she even looked British.
As she stepped into the outer office, the room lights automatically turned on. They illuminated a massive receptionist area where the walls displayed children's books-thirty-five of them-by Sara J. Walsh. Sara reached back and turned off the interior office lights.
There was a second office twenty feet away, where the name Sara Walsh had been stenciled in gold on the nameplate. She wrote the children's books there, illustrated them, had fun. The office behind her had no nameplate. When she locked the suite door, an electronic beam triggered behind her, securing the office.
Her suite was in the east tower of the business complex. Rising forty-five stories, the two recently built towers added to the already impressive downtown skyline. Sara liked the modern building and the shopping available on the ground floor. She disliked the elevator ride for she didn't like closed spaces, but she considered the view worth the price.
The elevator that responded tonight came from two floors below. There were two connecting walkways between the east and west towers, one on the sixth floor and another in the lobby. She chose the sixth floor concourse tonight, walking through it to the west tower with a confident but fast pace.
She was alone in the wide corridor. Travis sometimes accompanied her, but she had waved off his company tonight and told him to go get dinner. If she needed him, she would page him. The click of her heels echoed off the marble floor. There was parking under each tower, but if she parked under the tower where she worked, she would be forced to pull out onto a one-way street no matter which exit she took. It was a pattern someone could observe and predict. Changing her route and time of day across one of the two corridors was a better compromise. Hopefully she could see any danger coming.
Adam Black dropped the pen he held onto the white legal pad and got up to walk over to the window, watching the lightning storm flare around the building. He felt like that inside. Storming, churning.
He had lost more than his dad-he had lost his confidant, his best friend. Trying to cope with the grief by drowning himself in work was only adding to the turmoil.
The passage in Mark chapter 4 of the storm-tossed sea and Jesus asleep in the boat crossed his mind and drew a smile. What had Jesus said? "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" Appropriate for tonight.
He rubbed the back of his neck. His current commercial contracts expired in three months. A feeding frenzy was forming-which ones would he be willing to renew? Which new ones would he consider? What kind of money would it cost for people to get use of his name and image?
The tentative dollar figures being passed by his brother-in-law Jordan were astronomical.
The stack of proposals had been winnowed out, but the remaining pile still threatened to slide onto the floor.
All he needed to do was make a decision.
God, what should I do?
The decisions he made would set his schedule for the next five years of his life. If he said yes, he was by default saying no to something else. Was it that he didn't want to make a decision or that he didn't want to be tied down?
It was hard to define what he wanted to accomplish anymore. He was restless. He had been doing basically the same thing for three years: keeping his image in the public eye and building his business. It had become routine. He hated routine.
His dad would have laughed and told him that when the work stopped being fun, it was time to find a new line of work.
They'd had eight days together between the first heart attack and his death. Eight good days despite the pain-Adam sitting at his dad's hospital bedside and talking about everything under the sun. They had both known that time was short.
"I'll be walking in glory soon, son," his dad would quip as they ended each evening, never knowing if it would be their last visit. And Adam would squeeze his hand and reply, "When you get there, you can just save me a seat."
"I'll save two," his dad would reply with a twinkle in his eye that would make Adam laugh.
Adam glanced at the red folder he had placed between the picture of his father and the glass-encased football on the credenza. No, he wasn't reading the list in the folder again tonight. He already knew it by heart.
It was time to go home. Time to feed his dog, if not himself.
* * *
Sara decided to take the elevator down to the west tower parking garage rather than walk the six flights. She could grit her teeth for a few flights to save time. She pushed the button to go down and watched the four elevators to see which would respond first. The one to her left, coming down from the tenth floor.
When it stopped she reached inside and pushed the garage-floor parking button but didn't step inside. Tonight she would take the second elevator.
It came down from the twenty-fifth floor.
Sara shifted her raincoat over her arm and moved her briefcase to her other hand. The elevator stopped and the doors slid open.
A man was in the elevator.
He was leaning against the back of the elevator, looking as if he had put in a long day at work, a briefcase in one hand and a sports magazine in the other, his blue eyes gazing back at her. She saw a brief look of admiration in his eyes.
Get in and take a risk; step back and take a risk.
She knew him. His face was as familiar as any sports figure in the country, even if he'd been out of the game of football for three years. His commercial endorsements and charity work had continued without pause.
Adam Black worked in this building? This was a nightmare come true. The last thing she needed was to be near someone who attracted media attention.
She hesitated, then stepped in, her hand tightening on the briefcase handle. A glance at the board of lights showed he had already selected the parking garage.
"Working late tonight?" His voice was low, a trace of a northeastern accent still present, his smile a pleasant one.
Her answer was a noncommittal nod.
The elevator began to silently descend.
She had spent too much time in European finishing schools to slouch. Her posture was straight, her spine relaxed, even if she was nervous. She hated elevators. She should have taken the stairs.
"Quite a storm out there tonight."
The heels of her patent leather shoes sank into the jade carpet as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Yes."
Three more floors to go.
There was a slight flicker to the lights, and then the elevator jolted to a halt.
"What?" Sara felt adrenaline flicker in her system like the lights.
He pushed away from the back wall. "A lightning hit must have blown a circuit."
The next second, the elevator went black.
Ten seconds clicked by. Twenty. Sara's adrenaline sent her heart rate soaring. Pitch black. Closed space.
Lord, no. It's dark. Get me out of this box!
"How long before they fix it?" She tried to keep her words level and steady. She had spent years learning the control, but this was beyond something she could control.
"It may take a few minutes, but they will find the circuit breaker and the elevator will be moving again."
Sounds amplified in the closed space as he moved. He set down his briefcase? She couldn't remember if there was a phone in the elevator panel or not. How could she have ridden in these elevators for three months and not looked for something so simple?
"No phone, and what I think is the emergency pull button seems to have no effect."
Sara took deep breaths, trying to slow down her heart rate. Neither her cellular phone nor her signaling beeper would work inside this elevator.
"You're very quiet," he said eventually.
"I want out of here," she replied slowly to hide the fact her teeth were trying to chatter.
"There's nothing to be afraid of."
She wanted to reply, "You've never been locked in a pitch-black root cellar and left to die before," but the memories and the panic were already overwhelming her. Her coping skills were failing when she needed them most. Her hand clenched in the darkness, nails digging into her palm. She could do this. She had no choice. It was only darkness.
"Consider it from my viewpoint. I'm stuck in the dark with a beautiful woman. There could be worse fates."
She barely heard him. Lord, why tonight? Please, not this.]
Excerpted from Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson Copyright © 2004 by Dee Henderson. Excerpted by permission.
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