January 2005, the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Indonesia

“There must be some explanation,” insisted Sarah.

Terry Gunn said nothing, preferring to focus on the images on the screen of his laptop. When he reached the end of the video he’d filmed, he looked up as if just registering her words. “So what do we know, and what don’t we know?” asked the mobile cadaver as he closed his laptop and turned to where Sarah was sprawled on the bunk in her tiny quarters, deep in the bowels of the giant US Navy aircraft carrier.

Terry had been her cameraman for nearly four years now, so Sarah knew what he was doing and played along. “We know there was a village where we landed. But there’s nothing there now. The whole place must have been washed out to sea. God knows how many people went with it. The intelligence people said more than 300 people should have been living there. We only saw what, a dozen people? More maybe back in the jungle. If not for them, we may have never known.”

“No, we wouldn’t have,” said Terry. “And we know that the ones we saw certainly didn’t look as if they were starving. They looked remarkably healthy and relaxed, not like anyone else we’ve seen on this assignment. It’s as if the tsunami didn’t affect them at all.”

“Except for the loss of the village,” she said. “You saw the look on that young girl’s face as she came into the clearing. Perhaps she was remembering what had once been her home.”

“Could be,” Terry was prompting her rather than thinking aloud. “But she sure got over it quickly, look.” Sarah swung her long legs over the side of the bunk as Terry opened the laptop again, and they both watched their video recording of the girl’s reaction to the village’s disappearance. He replayed it several times, so they could take in the myriad of small details.

“She can’t have let it affect her for more than what, 10 seconds, tops?” he said. Sarah nodded as Terry continued. “If you or I had lost everything, we probably would have spent more than 10 seconds reflecting when we came back to that place. Whatever she wanted to do with you had to be more important in her mind.”

The phone on the wall behind him interrupted. The caricature of a mortician in a B-Grade western movie picked up the handset.  “Terry Gunn” was all he said. After listening for a few seconds, he looked back at Sarah. “It’s Fran. She’s managed to find someone to interpret what the girl said.”

Sarah’s reaction was unexpected. She leapt up from the bunk and almost ripped the phone from his outstretched hand. “Fran!” she almost screamed.

“You’re welcome,” Terry said to no one in particular and without a trace of rancour. Sarah smiled her apology.

“Yes, Sarah, it’s me,” said the dust-dry drawl of her long-time friend and ex-producer Fran Campbell. “I know you’re in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but there’s no need to shout.” Fran was amazing. Who else could find someone to interpret an obscure Indonesian dialect in the middle of the night?

“You seem to be worked up about this girl, Sarah. What’s the big deal?”

“It’s not just the girl, Fran. It’s the whole thing.” Sarah explained, her excitement taking hold. “A village completely demolished weeks ago, and the people who lived there are healthy—not hungry—and generous. Something unusual has happened there, Fran.”

“You’re right about the generous bit, girl. From what we can tell from the film clip you sent, that necklace she gave you is no trinket. According to my tame expert, the inlays look like ivory. He reckons it’s probably some sort of heirloom, and not the sort of thing local tribesmen would allow anyone to give away. What you saw is apparently quite out of character. These people are not known for their welcoming nature. He said they’re typically quite aggressive to outsiders.”

“What about the girl, Fran? Can you tell me what she said?” 

Fran tried to calm her excited friend. “Doctor Taylor reckons she was thanking you for what your friend, the one who came in the boat, did. I’m sorry to tell you that the necklace wasn’t for you, girl.”

“I’m glad I didn’t put it on then,” Sarah muttered.

Fran continued, “Taylor says someone must have been there before you and done something pretty remarkable to have warranted such a gift. He assumes this someone was white because the locals saw some connection with you. But he didn’t have any guesses why they singled you out personally as opposed to any of the others in your group. Perhaps you look like this person, whoever he or she was.”

“Is that it?”

“I’ll get a transcript up to you as soon as I can,” Fran replied.

“Thanks, Fran. You’re a doll.”

“How often have I heard that before?”

“Not often enough from me. Bless you, Fran. And love to Tony.”

“Say hi to Gunn for me, and tell him to behave. Bye, Sarah.”

Terry replaced the phone on the bracket behind him and said, “Well?”

Sarah showed all the signs of coming down from a high as she collapsed back onto the bunk. “The girl was probably giving us a thank you gift for someone who was there before us,” she said in a voice that matched her state of exhaustion. “That person apparently arrived in a boat. Perhaps it was the boat we saw on the beach when we first arrived. But if he or she arrived in that one, how did he leave? That person can’t still be there. Why would the girl give us the necklace if that person was still there?”

“And why would she give it to you?” Terry asked.

“I have no idea. Fran said I might look like this person, so it might be a female.”

Sarah leaned back against the grey metal bulkhead and rested her eyes. “I think something amazing, perhaps even miraculous, happened on that island,” she said in a distant, almost hypnotic way. “But no one apart from the locals knows. This appears to be a story desperate to be told.”

“Can’t argue with that,” he replied. “But I can’t see how we can do much more, especially when we’re flying back to Singapore tomorrow.”

Sarah opened her eyes and sat forward again as if she’d made an important decision. “Well, one thing you can do for me is to make sure I have a copy of that video. Can you burn it onto a DVD or something for me?”

“Sure, that’s easy.” He reached for his laptop on the desk behind him. “I’ve still got what I sent Fran. I can toast a copy for you now.” He put a re-writable into the CD drive and entered the necessary directions to operate the machine. Then he asked, “What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know yet, Terry. I just know we haven’t heard the end of this story. And I don’t want to miss out if there’s any chance of us finding out what really happened back there. Can I still go online while that’s burning my CD?”

“Sure, no problem. I’ll leave you to it.” Terry uncoiled his body length off the chair and stepped across to open the quarters’ door. He paused there to add, “I’ll see you for breakfast. Sleep well.” He turned and pushed the handle, and disappeared into the companionway beyond.

She was focused on the screen, but managed to get out a “Night, Terry” before the door closed behind him.

Sarah began to scan the news sites for any mention of unexplained or miraculous events in the area. After half an hour she gave up, deciding her search was far too narrow. Before long she rubbed her eyes and yawned once too often. Sleep was calling her, and tomorrow was another day. Or was it today already?

As she contemplated getting ready for bed, there was a knock on the door. “Sarah. It’s me, Terry.”

“Come in. I’m still up.”

“Sorry to disturb you,” he said as he leaned against the door frame. “I’ve just seen breaking news from Sri Lanka. Apparently, all 70 patients in a makeshift hospital on the northeast coast suddenly got up and walked out. Some guy no one knew just walked into the place and started talking to people. Next thing they’re ‘cured’. The doctors have records of all their injuries, but all those people are now even better than they were before the tsunami.”

Sarah listened carefully, not allowing the unusual nature of his story to stop her critical analysis of it. “And there’s no doubt that it’s genuine?” she asked.

Terry appeared cool and relaxed, but she picked up the little signals he tried to avoid sending. “Apparently not,” he said. “But it’s all second hand. The story came back with one of the relief choppers. They took photos of all the records. Could they be phoney? I guess so.  But why would they be?”

Sarah felt herself becoming drawn into the story as he was unwrapping it. Waving at Terry to take the only seat, she assumed her thoughtful position leaning against the bulkhead and tried to remain detached from what she could feel rising up inside her.

Terry said, “And one of the volunteer doctors who worked there said she had worn glasses since her time in college, and now her vision is perfect without them.”

Sarah still maintained the pretence of her outward composure. “So where is this guy who walked through the place talking to people?”

“That’s the point. No one knows,” said Terry. “He just disappeared. The locals say he must have been an angel. What do you reckon, girl?” Terry allowed time for the question to take root, but not enough for her to dig it up and deal with it before he added, “How about a connection with what we saw on the island today?”

“What do you mean he just disappeared?” she asked. Sarah hadn’t quite kept pace with what Terry had been saying. “People don’t just disappear. I mean did he drive away or walk off into the sunset? Did he sprout wings and fly? Come on, Terry. People don’t just disappear.”

She had swallowed the bait. Now he just needed to reel her in. He raised his hands to placate her while denying any responsibility. “Don’t ask me; I’m just the messenger. They said no one knew who the guy was or where he is now. The roads and bridges were wrecked by the tsunami, so he couldn’t drive out. And there were no other helicopters in or out. But you can bet that’s about to change!”

Now she was fully engaged again—the eyes, the posture, the hands. Yes, Sarah was back on the job. “You’re not wrong. And we have a problem. Sri Lanka is more than a thousand miles from here. And we’re not in Sri Lanka; we’re here.”

“An astute observation if I may say so, Miss Long.”

She ignored his jibe in favour of thinking about the implications of what she had heard.

“This could be a bigger story than the tsunami, Terry. Miracle cures, people healed, angels in disguise? And we’re stuck on this bloody tin can out here in the middle of nowhere.” Sarah’s statement of the obvious came out well laced with impatience and disappointment. “We won’t even touch dry land until late morning, so we won’t be on one of those choppers going to a would-be hospital on the northeast coast of tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka.”

Terry gently morphed from reluctant messenger to pragmatic comforter. “You’re right,” he said. “But he did his thing three days ago. No one knew until the relief chopper arrived with no journos on board. The crew weren’t trained to investigate; they simply brought the story back with them. No one has pictures of the guy. He came at night and the place had a few lanterns only. How many of them would recognise him again?  Sure, we may learn more when those poor people get grilled by the media, but do you think anyone will find their angel there now?  I suspect they’re not much further ahead on this story than we are.”

She sat quietly, shaking her head, not wanting to believe what she was hearing.

Terry paused and focused his eyes on hers. “Think about it, Sarah. Could this be a variation of what we saw earlier today? Someone has been there and done something miraculous. And just like in Sri Lanka, he’s now gone again, and no one knows how. The bird has flown.”

Was Terry right? Had he seen something everyone else had missed? Talk about a newsgirl’s dream. And she might have at least part of the story. She had it ‘in the can’ so to speak.

But what did she really have? Not a whole lot—a necklace and the memory of a young girl’s smile. No—there had to be more. There had to be a reason why the girl gave her a necklace for the miracle worker. What was the connection? What had the girl seen in her?

“What time is it back home?” asked Sarah.

Terry looked at his watch. “It’s three in the morning,” he answered. “Don’t tell me you plan to get the boss out of bed at this hour?”

“You’re right; it’s not such a good idea. I mean we can’t do anything until tomorrow, so we may as well let him sleep. That way he may be more agreeable.” And then as if to justify her inaction, she added, “I just hate being cooped up here unable to do anything.”

“What do you want to do?”

Sarah didn’t hesitate. “I want to go after this guy,” she said, “if he exists. I mean if he’s not an angel because I’m not in a great hurry to head into the hereafter.”

“But where would you go?” Terry was doing his job, making her think. “To Sri Lanka? We’ll see whatever they dig up. If there are pictures, then you can bet your life and mine they’ll be on every front page around the world tomorrow.”

Sarah allowed disappointment, frustration and gravity to pull her back onto her bunk again. “You’re right again, Big Fella,” she admitted. “There’s no point in racing off to pick over the remains of a carcass that a thousand vultures have already stripped clean.” Then she paused for a minute as if another thought had just arrived and needed to be dealt with. “What do you think we should do with what we got today? Air it?”

“You mean in the light of what’s happened in Sri Lanka?”

Sarah’s new thoughts and options were becoming clearer. “I know we agreed not to before, but hasn’t everything changed now?”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Terry said quietly. “If what we saw was the same sort of thing that happened in Sri Lanka, then can you imagine the effect of a thousand people like you and me chasing your little 12-year-old? Will that help them or anyone else?”

Sarah didn’t like her enthusiasm being dampened. “Are you telling me that we should drop this?” she exclaimed. “We could be onto something big here. This could lead anywhere—everywhere—in the world.”

Terry absorbed her response with ease and grace. “Yes, it could. But you have a clue no one else has in the hunt for our friendly angel. And there may be more miracles to come or more we don’t yet know about. Right now, you’re one step ahead of the pack in the race to track him down. Surely that’s a much bigger story?”

Sarah got it. She relaxed into as much comfort as the bunk could provide and said, “You know something? You’re a real party pooper. You’re also one clever old son of a Mrs. Gunn, aren’t you?”

He shrugged. “Sometimes,” he admitted with no modesty at all.

“Yeah, sometimes,” she agreed as she looked at his fissured face and smiled. “Thanks. Thanks for keeping me from my ego. I’ll talk to Dan in the morning and take a night to sleep on what I’ll say to him.”

He leaned across and grasped the door handle without leaving his seat. “See you then,” he said as he opened it and then stood up with his head bowed in anticipation of his exit. He paused there for barely a moment to add, “Sleep tight, girl.” And a second or two later, he was gone, and she was left staring at the closed door.

Sleep tight. Yeah, right. Sarah knew that was a big ask.

* * * * * * *

The first call came a few hours later. Not enough hours later for Sarah, but it’s hard to tell your boss to ring back, even if you desperately need the sleep.

“Do you know what time it is, Dan?” Sarah asked, not too pleased.

“I’ve no idea. And I don’t really care.” Sarah wasn’t surprised or offended. Dan Williams was old school. He liked to make a lot of noise and to intimidate those who couldn’t stand up to him. She’d learned to accept the man for his many good points, but still could have done without his predictable histrionics.

“What’s this I’m hearing about you and Gunn in the middle of where these miracles have happened? What the hell’s going on, Sarah?”

Sarah lay back in the darkness and took a deep breath before answering. “We don’t know if that’s what happened, Dan.”

Williams’ frustration was no less obvious, even when his delivery was toning down. “Don’t play coy with me, Long. I’ve been around too long for that. What are you up to? Why didn’t you send the details through?”

Yes, why didn’t I? Oh, good grief. I’m still half asleep. “Slow down, Dan. I didn’t know anything about the miracles in Sri Lanka until a few hours ago, just before I went to bed. There’s no guarantee of any connection to what we saw, so Terry and I agreed it deserved an hour or so for us to think it through.” She paused before she felt entitled to add, “I did actually think of calling you, but Terry said it was three in the morning back home. We felt you might like to sleep at night, like I do.” She yawned again, none too subtly.

Her boss slowly moderated both his attitude and his volume, although Sarah knew he could change in an instant. “It’s not just Sri Lanka, Sarah. He’s done his thing in Thailand and on the coast of India as well. The same MO: out of the way location, no communications. The guy mysteriously arrives and talks to people in their language. Then he just walks off and disappears. As soon as he’s gone, people are suddenly cured of all diseases and injuries.”

Sarah didn’t know that, but she didn’t let on. She was more interested in what it might mean for her and Terry. “There’s not a lot we can do out here in the middle of the ocean, Dan,” she said.

“Really? I hear you went to a place yesterday where he’s been?”

“But we didn’t know that then, Dan. And to be fair, we still don’t know. We landed for repairs to the helicopter when we met another group of local people. Terry only saw a possible connection late last night, after he heard about Sri Lanka.”

Dan seemed to finally get what she was saying and began speaking more rationally. “Look, Sarah, if you have something fresh on this, then I want to get it out. I thought you would too. It’ll go worldwide. I’ve never seen such a hunger for more information. People are desperate for answers.”

“Well, they won’t find any among a small tribe of natives on a tiny island that rarely ever sees strangers, let alone a plague of reporters. It would destroy any good this angel of mercy may have done. Hardly a soul even knows the language, Dan. Think of the damage they could do.”

“Have you got a better answer?” her boss demanded.

“Not right now, Dan. I was hoping to sleep on it and ring you in the morning, but something seems to be limiting that option. I could always try again,” she added hopefully.

“Alright,” he relented. “Go back to bed. Talk to Terry in the morning and ring me back.”

“Good night, Dan. I’ll ring you back about 2 p.m. your time. Now would you please let me get some sleep?”

She leaned across in the darkness and hung up before he could answer. It probably wasn’t a smart thing to do, but she wanted some sleep—badly. She dropped back onto her bunk, pulled the sheet over her, and assumed the foetal position in expectation of a return to the land of nod. A moment later the phone rang again.

Surely he’s not that miserable. I know I was a bit short, but any reasonable boss would understand. She slowly removed the bunk sheet once more and reached out again in the darkness to the phone. Understanding? Yeah, right. We’re talking about Dan Williams! You know how to deal with him, girl. Why not try pleading. She did. “Look, I’m sorry, Dan. I know I was a bit short, but it’s three fifteen in the morning. Let it go, will you?”

“Sarah Long?” Sarah usually recognised voices, even on the ship’s phones, but she couldn’t place the caller who had a strong American accent. Sarah didn’t know many Americans.

Sarah lay back in the darkness and thought for a moment or two about how she might respond. She could always hang up. But something told her that would only delay the inevitable. This woman would ring again and again. “Yes,” she answered in her best professional voice, “who is this?”

“Good Morning, Miss Long. I’m calling from CBS News in Singapore. Would you hold the line please?” It wasn’t really a question; it was more like a command. And worse still, the one giving it didn’t even wait for an answer. The line remained dead for perhaps 90 seconds.

Sarah knew the routine. She had done it herself or Fran had on her behalf. Get someone on the phone and then juggle the calls to get people on air. But Sarah waited to see what would happen, well aware they would be recording her, no matter what anyone might say. One of the perks of being in the game is knowing how the game is played. And some of the big boys can play rough—or so she’d heard.

Sarah reached up and turned the light on and began to count the rivets along the ceiling. It helped her pass the time and keep her blood pressure in check. Finally, the voice returned. “Are you there, Miss Long. Hello?” Sarah waited. “Miss Long? Are you there?”

Sarah left it as long as she thought she could get away with it. Then she spoke quietly and clearly. “Yes, I’m here.”

The woman on the other end was relieved, but probably not impressed. “Please hold for…”

“No, lady.” Sarah spoke in nicely measured tones. “I will not wait. It is nearly 3:30 in the morning, and I do not have to wait for you or anyone else. Is there something you want, apart from keeping me standing here just waiting for you?” There was a pause. Sarah doubted the woman on the other end got too many answers like that. “If not, I’m going back to bed. Good night.” 

“Wait. Please. Miss Long. I apologize for my rudeness just now.” The voice became more conciliatory. “I’m sure you know how it is.”

Sarah didn’t buy it for a moment. “Yes, I do know,” she said. “I also know it’s your problem, not mine. I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those girls who still needs her beauty sleep. Right now I’m missing it. Do you have a good reason why that should continue?”

“And the navy will cut it short soon enough.” A new voice—male. He seemed to be laughing at her, and Sarah did not appreciate the thought. “Hello, Sarah. I’m Joel Cunningham. I’m with the local South East Asia office of CBS News.”

Sarah let her polite and professional voice slip. “Bully for you, Mr. Cunningham. Pardon me if I don’t curtsey. You can’t see, but I’m not really dressed for it. What can I do for you instead of enjoying the rest of my sleep?”

The man’s voice didn’t change. He continued talking down to her. “We understand you visited a place on one of the outer islands yesterday—a place where the angel of mercy has been.”

Who talked? Not Terry. It had to be one of the crew, or maybe Arif, their local liaison officer, in his report back to the suits in his department.

Sarah knew the routine. He was leaving space for her to fill. But she wasn’t in the mood for playing games. So she simply said, “And…”

The voice wasn’t quite so super confident and slick now. “We understand you may have some film footage of what you saw.”

Is this guy for real? Talk about playing games. Don’t let him play you, Sarah. Stay cool. “Mr. Cunningham, as you well know, any such footage remains the property of my network. I suggest you talk to my people back home if you want access to that.”

It had no effect. The bulldozer pushed it aside and continued to advance. “Sure, I have people working on that as we speak.” Then a change of direction. “I was hoping you might be willing to give us a voiceover piece to go with it. You know the sort of thing: “This is Sarah Long reporting for CBS News.”

Who does the great JC think I am? Some weak-kneed virgin ready to fall at the feet of anyone who’s part of CBS. But why should he know? I’m not exactly known by anyone outside New Zealand. I suppose it was worth a try on his part.

“Thank you for the offer, Mr. Cunningham,” she replied, perhaps a little too sweetly. Stay cool. Don’t let this turkey get to you.  You know what he’s up to. He’s trying to provoke you. It’s what we do. “But I have nothing to say right now. If you want anything more, I suggest you talk to my boss. His name is Dan Williams. I’m sure your very efficient producer will track him down. Good night to you!”

She hung up and smiled to herself. Twice in one night. Feels great. I could get to like it. She then picked up the receiver again and deliberately left it off the hook. No more calls, thank you very much. Sarah dragged herself back across to the rumpled excuse for a bed. Now, can I please get back to sleep?

The answer came much sooner than she expected. Barely 10 minutes had passed before there was a knock at the door to her quarters.

“Miss Long. Miss Long. Press Liaison Officer, ma’am,” said a familiar voice.

“What?” she mumbled from somewhere on the very edge of sleep.

“Your phone doesn’t seem to be working, ma’am. Perhaps it’s off the hook.”

Suddenly, Sarah was in full flight. “Yes, I took the bloody thing off the hook.” She wrenched open the door and confronted the bespectacled media minder on the other side. “I took it off because I believe there’s a conspiracy to keep me from getting any sleep tonight.” Aware she was making a spectacle of herself and possibly waking those in adjoining quarters, she turned down the volume. But she made up for that by turning up the heat on her quarry, who was unwillingly impersonating a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming freight train. “Tell me something, Lieutenant,” she almost hissed at him. “Are you a part of that conspiracy?”

The man struggled to respond. “No, ma’am. I mean yes, ma’am.”

“Why are you waking me at this hour, Lieutenant?” she demanded.

“Your phone is off the hook, ma’am. I’m sorry, but that’s against regulations. It’s a safety thing, ma’am.”

Sarah wasn’t in a hurry to let him off the hook. “Why, when the world is determined to call me, does your communications centre seem determined to help it do so?”

But the man held his ground. “Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry. It’s a safety thing, ma’am.”

She could see no way out. “Right. I’ll hang it up again. Happy?”

“Yes, ma’am. I mean no, ma’am. I mean yes, I’m happy the safety regulations are being met. But no, I’m not happy you’re getting…”

The press liaison officer suddenly found out what it was like to be a door-to-door salesman who just had a door slammed in his face.

He turned and walked quietly down the companionway, but he stopped before getting more than a few paces. The door to Sarah’s quarters opened again, and she stepped out wrapped in a jacket and a blanket.

“See, I told you,” she said, clearly not happy. “As soon as I hung it up, the bloody thing rang again. Now, you’re here to help the press, right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he gasped out.

“Then help me now. Find me a place where I can at least try to get some uninterrupted rest before you people wake the whole damn ship up again. Where can I go, short of holing up in the women’s head? Even the brig would be better than this.”

“Well, ma’am,” he said, “the media briefing lounge was empty when I left it. Perhaps you could rest there.”

Sarah had pinioned him into a corner of the companionway. The rabbit had nowhere to go. “Good,” she acknowledged. “I know where that is. Can you lock me in and disconnect any phones?”

She got the answer she expected. “No ma’am; I can’t do that. It’s…”

“Don’t tell me,” Sarah interrupted him. “It’s a safety thing, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is when you’re on a warship.”

In her mind Sarah started to lift her foot ever so slightly off his throat. “I’ve got an idea. How about a sign that reads, ‘Restricted Area – Temporarily off limits’? Would that break any regulations? What do you think?”

What did he think? He was busy figuring out what he had to do to escape this feisty creature that had obviously taken a dislike to him. “Probably not, ma’am. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“You’re welcome, ma’am.” Man, I wouldn’t want to cross her, the young officer thought to himself as he walked off. He could imagine her answering his thought with her own. Hold that thought, Lieutenant. And he did.

Sarah made her way to the big room that had been set aside for media briefings.

She curled up on a couch and prayed for a couple of uninterrupted hours. If the media locusts could do that to her, what would they do to those people on their pristine island or to any government naïve enough to think it could stop them? She could see how easily the ‘angel phenomenon’ might take on a momentum no one could resist.

But even in sleep, she was not left alone. She kept dreaming about a place she had visited a couple of years ago. A wonderful romantic beach, well off the beaten track, on the west coast of Thailand. Two years ago, just her and Hamish for two whole weeks.

Damn. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about. Hamish. Beautiful, wonderful Hamish. God, how I loved him. Where was the Angel of Mercy when his number came up nearly 18 months ago? And yes, it still hurt. It hurt like hell.

She lay there in the half darkness, half asleep and half wrapped in a blanket. Sooner or later they would need to open up the room to prepare for the regular 7:30 briefing that would inform everyone of what had happened overnight and lay out the plans for the day. She may as well go back to her quarters before then. At least it would save her some embarrassment. And she also needed to thank the poor media minder. She didn’t know what he had done, but he certainly hadn’t come near her again.

She left just before 6 a.m.—zero six hundred as the navy kept saying. And sure enough, her room was quiet. She stumbled in and crashed onto the bunk, even if only for a few precious minutes. Then, right on time, the world awoke once more.

Sarah looked at herself in the mirror. Oh, dear. Not a good look, but it’s a new day, and I‘d better do the best I can. I have a feeling it’s going to be busy.

She reached down to get her makeup out of her carry bag.

Then she stopped. Someone had moved Terry’s laptop. Not far, but someone has moved it. Why would they? If they wanted to steal it, then they would have done so. I must be dreaming. No. I remember I left the CD and two zips at the left-hand end. I always do; it’s a habit thing. Someone definitely had it out. What could they possibly want? The footage we shot yesterday? Why steal it? Dan would release it, for a fee of course. But that’s normal. No, it has to be something else. But what?

Sarah wasn’t really concentrating on her makeup or anything else when she heard knuckles meet with the door at 6:25. Terry, on his way to breakfast.

“Hi, Terry.”

“Good morning, Sarah. Sleep well?”

“I’ve had better, thanks,” she answered evasively. “Let’s go. I’m starving.”

“Sure,” Terry agreed. But he wasn’t at all when he saw the look on her face.

Sarah stepped out into the corridor, leaving Terry to lean in and close the door behind her before following. He wasn’t even a little surprised when she didn’t take the turn towards the mess hall, but instead headed out towards the open deck area.

“What’s up?” he asked innocently as they stooped over the rail and looked at the sun rising over the otherwise empty horizon.

She leaned on the guardrail for quite a while before answering. “Maybe I’m getting paranoid in my old age, Terry. But I’m sure there’s something fishy going on.”

Terry remained silent as she described the things that had happened the previous night, including the probability that his computer had been interfered with.

“Well,” he said in reply, “there’s not much we can do about it now, and I doubt anyone will own up to it. It might be an interesting exercise to see if there really is a Joel Cunningham who works for CBS, and if so, whether or not he rang you. I’m wondering if the whole thing could be a put-up job. But by whom and for what?”

“Good questions,” she agreed with him. “In the meantime, let’s act normally, but keep our antennae up and working. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” he answered. “And we might be wise to stick together. We each pick up on different signals, so four eyes are definitely better than two.” She nodded again and continued to do so when he added, “Now, let’s go and get one last navy breakfast.”

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