"SOMEBODY PLEASE help me! Somebody please! Can anybody
Max's screams pierced the clear mountain air. Her throat and
lungs were beginning to hurt, to burn.
The eleven-year-old girl was running as fast as she could
from the hateful, despicable School. She was strong, but she
was beginning to tire. As she ran, her long blond hair flared behind
her like a beautiful silk scarf. She was pretty, even though
there were dark, plum-colored circles under her eyes.
She knew the men were coming to kill her. She could hear
them hurrying through the woods behind her.
She glanced over her right shoulder, painfully twisting her
neck. She flashed a mental picture of her little brother, Matthew.
Where was he? The two of them had separated just outside
the School, both running and screaming.
She was afraid Matthew was already dead. Uncle Thomas
probably got him. Thomas had betrayed them and that hurt so
much she couldn't stand to think about it.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. The hunters were closing in.
She could feel their heavy footsteps thumping hard and fast
against the crust of the earth.
A throbbing, orange and red ball of sun was sinking below
the horizon. Soon it would be pitch-black and cold out here in
the Front Range of the Rockies. All she wore was a simple tube
of white cotton, sleeveless, loosely drawn together at the neck-line
and waist. Her feet were wrapped in thin-soled ballet slippers.
Move. She urged her aching, tired body on. She could go
faster than this. She knew she could.
The twisting path narrowed, then wound around a great,
mossy-green shoulder of rock. She clawed and struggled forward
through more thick tangles of branches and brush.
The girl suddenly stopped. She could go no further.
A huge, high fence loomed above the bushes. It was easily
ten feet. Rows of razor-sharp concertina wire were tangled and
coiled across the top.
A metal sign warned: EXTREME DANGER! ELECTRIFIED FENCE.
Max bent over and cupped her hands over her bare knees.
She was blowing out air, wheezing hard, trying to keep from
The hunters were almost there. She could hear, smell, sense
their awful presence.
With a sudden flourish, she unfurled her wings. They were
white and silver-tipped and appeared to have been unhinged.
The wings sailed to a point above her head, seemingly of their
own accord. Their span was nine feet. The sun glinted off the
full array of her plumage.
Max started to run again, flapping her wings hard and fast.
Her slippered feet lifted off the hardscrabble.
She flew over the high barbed wire like a bird.
FIVE ARMED MEN ran quietly and easily through the ageless
boulders and towering aspens and ponderosa pines. They didn't
see her yet, but they knew it wouldn't be long before they
caught up with the girl.
They were jogging rapidly, but every so often the man in
front picked up the pace a significant notch or two. All of them
were competent trackers, good at this, but he was the best, a
natural leader. He was more focused, more controlled, the best
The men appeared calm on the outside, but inside it was a
different story. This was a critical time. The girl had to be captured,
and brought back. She shouldn't have gotten out here in
the first place. Discretion was critical; it always had been, but
never more than right now.
The girl was only eleven, but she had "gifts," and that could
present a formidable problem outdoors. Her senses were acute;
she was incredibly strong for her size, her age, her gender; and
of course, there was the possibility that she might try to fly.
Suddenly, they could see her up ahead: she was clearly visible
against the deep blue background of the sky.
"Tinkerbell. Northwest, fifty degrees," the group leader
She was called Tinkerbell, but he knew she hated the name.
The only name she answered to was Max, which wasn't short
for Maxine, or Maximillian, but for Maximum. Maybe because
she always gave her all. She always went for it. Just as she was
doing right now.
There she was, in all her glory! She was running at full
speed, and she was very close to the perimeter fence. She had
no way of knowing that. She'd never been this far from home
Every eye was on her. None of them could look away, not for
an instant. Her long hair streamed behind her, and she seemed
to flow up the steep, rocky hillside. She was in great shape; she
could really move for such a young girl. She was a force to
reckon with out here in the open.
The man running in front suddenly pulled up. Harding
Thomas stopped short. He threw up his arm to halt the others.
They didn't understand at first, because they thought they had
Then, almost as if he'd known she would -- she took off.
She flew. She was going over the concertina wire of the ten-foot-high
The men watched in complete silence and awe. Their eyes
widened. Blood rushed to their brains and made a pounding
sound in their ears.
She opened to a full wingspan and the movement seemed effortless.
She was a beautiful, natural flyer. She flapped her white
and silver wings up and down, up and down. The air actually
seemed to carry her along, like a leaf on the wind.
"I knew she'd try to go over." Thomas turned to the others
and spit out the words. "Too bad."
He lifted his rifle to his shoulder. The girl was about to disappear
over the nearest edge of the canyon wall. Another second
or two and she'd be gone from sight.
He pulled the trigger.
KIT HARRISON was headed to Denver from Boston. He was
good-looking enough to draw looks on the airplane: trim, six
foot two, sandy-blond hair. He was a graduate of NYU Law
School. And yet he felt like such a loser.
He was perspiring badly in the cramped and claustrophobic
middle-aisle airplane seat of an American Airlines 747. He was
so obviously pathetic that the pleasant and accommodating
flight attendant stopped and asked if he was feeling all right.
Was he ill?
Kit told her that he was just fine, but it was another lie, the
mother of all lies. His condition was called post-traumatic
stress disorder and sometimes featured nasty anxiety attacks
that left him feeling he could die right there. He'd been suffering
from the disorder for close to four years.
So yeah, I am ill, Madame Flight Attendant. Only it's a little
worse than that.
See, I'm not supposed to be going to Colorado. I'm supposed
to be on vacation in Nantucket. Actually, I'm supposed to be
taking some time off, getting my head screwed on straight, getting
used to maybe being fired from my job of twelve years.
Getting used to not being an FBI agent anymore, not being
on the fast track at the Bureau, not being much of anything.
The name computer-printed on his plane ticket read Kit
Harrison, but it wasn't his real name. His name was Thomas
Anthony Brennan. He had been Senior FBI Agent Brennan, a
shooting star at one time. He was thirty-eight, and lately, he felt
he was feeling his age for the first time in his life.
From this moment on, he would forget the old name. Forget
his old job, too.
I'm Kit Harrison. I'm going to Colorado to hunt and fish in the
Rockies. I'll keep to that simple story. That simple lie.
Kit, Tom, whoever the hell he was, hadn't been up in an airplane
in nearly four years. Not since August 9, 1994. He didn't
want to think about that now.
So Kit pretended he was asleep as the sweat continued to
trickle down his face and neck, as the fear inside him built way
past the danger level. He couldn't get his mind to rest, even for
just a few minutes. He had to be on this plane.
He had to travel to Colorado.
It was all connected to August 9, wasn't it? Sure it was. That
was when the stress disorder had begun. This was for Kim and
for Tommy and for Michael -- little Mike the Tyke.
And oh yeah, it also happened to be hugely beneficial for
just about everybody else on the planet. Very strange -- but
that last outrageous bit was absolutely true, scarily true. In his
opinion, nothing in history was more important than what he'd
come here to investigate.
Unless he was crazy.
Which was a distinct possibility.