Computer whiz Michael Anthony Sorenson kept his thick, brown hair cropped short and wore gold-rimmed glasses. As soon as the air crane was away, he darted inside the first mobile home, sat down at a counter and turned to face six monitors. Three were blank, while the others used the computer-aged image of Christina as a screen saver.
Along the far wall of the modified air crane body, Jackie Harlan sat in a plush chair securely bolted to the floor. A pretty, brown eyed woman in her late thirties, she was surrounded by still more computer equipment and watched an identical set of six wall-mounted monitors. In the tail section, four empty chairs faced front, with a narrow hallway between them and full-length windows on each side. On the outside, just below the passenger windows, one-by-four foot panels contained hundreds of tiny light bulbs flashing the chopper’s 'HDA1' identification.
Jackie was smartly dressed in blue high heels, nylons, a white blouse and a royal blue suit, with strands of long auburn hair resting on the shoulders of her jacket. She entered her password and watched her exclusively designed software program light up three of the monitors with different images -- an aerial map of Seattle, a recent picture of Evan Cole and the computer-aged likeness of Christina. Along the bottom of Christina’s picture ran a grid that normally displayed her heart beat, but just now it was flat-lined.
She spoke to Carl through her headset microphone, typed commands on her keyboard and waited for the air crane to begin its flight over the wide Olympic Peninsula. Mounted on the under-carriage, three oddly shaped video cameras with high tech antennas and telescope lenses, clicked into action. Instantly, her remaining monitors lit up. Just then, a small red light flashed in the lower, right-hand corner of the first monitor. She quickly hit a hot key at the top of her keyboard, opening the line so both Carl in the pilot's seat and Michael on the ground could listen. She took the call, "Good afternoon, sir."
Thousands of miles away, the mature man's English was sprinkled with an Irish accent, "I cannot bear the suspense. Is this the one? Have you found her?"
Jackie directed her answer toward Evan Cole's photograph on her far left screen, "I wish I could say yes and be sure of it. Our subject has dark hair, is the right height, has the right blood type, and closely resembles the computer-aged picture. She's old enough and her medical records mention a scar matching a childhood appendectomy. But she wears long sleeves even in summer, and we have yet to get a picture of anything resembling a birthmark on her arm. Without that, I can't be positive."
"I see. It is a small birthmark, less than...”
"I know, sir."
"Of course you do." Evan Cole stood near a large office window with an exceptional view of the Statue of Liberty. A touch of gray along the sides of his neatly trimmed dark hair made him look distinguished and his Irish eyes glistened. He wore an expensive, charcoal suit with a pristine white shirt open at the collar, and highly polished black shoes. "Forgive me, I do not think straight where she is concerned. What's happening now?"
"Well, right now we're off to see if we can get a closer look. She lives in an apartment with large picture windows facing the Bay and we're hoping to catch a glimpse of her without long sleeves. We've hidden a camera in the fire alarm across the hall from her front door and we've tapped her phone. I've also become good friends with her over the Internet. She thinks it is a chance meeting in an art chat room."
"An art chat room?"
"She's taken up painting and she's really quite good at it. Mister Cole, the woman has a daughter."
"Yes, sir. Her daughter is married with two daughters of her own. She was born five months and four days after the day your wife was reported missing at sea."
Evan did not speak. Instead, he aimlessly stared at the rose-colored carpet on the floor of his expensively decorated office, "A daughter? Christina hid a daughter from me? Is she mine?" He paused to think for a moment, "Five months … she must be mine. Does she look like me?"
"Sir, I don't think you should get excited just yet. Thousands of women fit Christina's profile and without your wife's dental records, only the birthmark can give us a positive identification."
"You're right, of course. I've been disappointed too many times to get out of hand now. Anything else?"
Jackie hesitated, lightly biting her lip, "Well, we have stumbled across something unusual. Our subject has two bank accounts. She works in an office, deposits her paycheck and pays all her bills with one account. The other has a balance of exactly $10,000.00 in checking with nothing in savings."
"You mean it does not draw interest?"
"Not a cent. She hasn't touched the account for a long time. It appears she drew out large sums to pay for her daughter's college education, and then left it alone. The odd thing is, no matter how much she spent, the balance remained at exactly $10,000.00."
Evan Cole turned away from the window and stared at the five-foot painting of his young wife hanging on a far wall. Christina wore a satin blue, strapless gown the exact color of her eyes with a delicate diamond-and-ruby necklace and tiny white diamonds in her long, dark hair. Her eyes were filled with love and her smile was adoring. "But Christina had no money of her own and nothing was missing. How old is this account?"
"We're checking into that now. I'll call when we have something more definite."
In the mobile home, Michael studied his upper, middle screen. The mock figure of a woman was lying on a bed in a three-dimensional composite of an apartment, and in this screen as well, the still flat-lined graph at the bottom was supposed to be monitoring her heartbeat. In a second screen, he replaced Evan's picture with an image generated by the hallway camera. As soon as Evan Cole hung up, he spoke into his headset, "You didn't tell him about her heart condition."
"I see no reason to just yet. Michael, she hasn't moved in more than an hour. Are you sure the equipment is working?"