*For disclaimers, see Prologue. Made some corrections/additions in earlier chapters -my fault for posting while fuzzy-headed so if you reread hopefully it will be better. Thanks to all who have enjoyed this and more will be coming soon :) *

Treason and Old Lace-Epilogue

Red Onion State Prison, Wise County, VA

Thursday, January 28, 2005

1:30 PM

"I don't believe this." Faisal Shahad stared at the prison guard in disbelief. "This is where I get to exercise?"

"For now," the guard replied. "If you earn more privileges you may be able to exercise outdoors."

Faisal gazed around the small concrete room. Sunlight poured in through a single small window high above—more sunlight than his cell provided, at any rate. "What sort of exercise am I supposed to do in here, exactly?"

The guard shrugged. "Whatever you want." He pointed. "You got a mat over there, pull up bar on the far wall and a couple of small weights—no weight machines allowed, of course. I lock you in, wait about an hour and then let you out again."

"But it's completely inadequate."

Another shrug. "Not my problem. I can always take you back to your cell if you like."

His cell—a small dark square with concrete furniture and a single slot in the door that they pushed his food through. Frankly, he'd rather die than go back there. "No thank you," he told the guard. "I'll be fine."

"I'll be back in an hour." The guard left—the door closed behind him with a clang.

Finally alone—he let out his breath in a whoosh, feeling a little of the tension subside. At that moment his eyes fastened on the camera on the corner of the ceiling—CCTV. You were never really alone, he thought—not in this place. And the way things were looking, he wouldn't be out of here anytime soon.

The black eye of the camera lens continued to stare down at him—if he didn't do something soon they might start to wonder. Faisal knelt down on the mat and started a series of push-ups. His mind went back to the conversation he'd had with his lawyer yesterday:

"The evidence the Department of Justice has against you and your network is quite substantial," he'd said to Faisal—barely meeting his gaze as he'd flipped through the huge mound paperwork in front of him. "I don't think the death penalty is going to come up in your case, but I think you're definitely looking at life imprisonment here." Faisal had almost asked the man if there was any point to having a defender if they weren't actually going to defend you but decided against it—the way things were shaping up it would be an exercise in futility.

Life imprisonment in a Supermax facility—this wasn't how he'd envisioned his future, not at all. Lying on his back he started a set of crunches.

Alice Murphy.

He could see still picture her when she'd come to his home to deliver the information she'd gathered. Every week at the same time—he had admired her promptness. And usually she'd bring a little goodie or two; brownies, cookies—and of course her tea—that wonderful sweet tea.

Had she been planning to sell them out all that time? Faisal wondered. Or had she simply done it to save herself? And how had she retrieved the information to bring the entire network down? So many questions and no answers.

He would get some answers, though, he thought. No matter what he had to do or how long it took to do it. Somehow he would figure it out and find Mrs. Murphy, Faisal vowed—and when he did, she would pay dearly.


Soldier's Relief Fund Headquarters, Washington DC

2:15 PM

"I really must thank you," Blair Foster said. "Now that you've closed that ring down maybe we can get back to the actual work we do." She shook her head. "Though I'm still finding all of this so hard to believe. Mrs. Maxwell and her volunteers always seemed so dedicated and caring. To think that they would do a thing like this—" her voice trailed off. "Mother would've been so ashamed."

"You really shouldn't feel bad," Amanda reassured the younger woman. "She fooled a lot of people."

"And you're sure that you caught everyone? Everyone who was involved?" Blair asked.

"Yes," Lee said. "There were about seven in all. A smaller ring has less chance of discovery."

Blair nodded. "Yes that does make sense. I'm just glad that you were able to stop it and save our organization's good name," she paused. "Have you had any luck in locating her? Mrs. Maxwell?"

"Not yet," Amanda said. "But we'll keep looking."

"Good," Blair replied. "It will make me happy to know that she's behind bars for good."

"Believe me," Lee said. "We feel the same way—we're not giving up."


Carnival Cruise Ship

Monday, February 1, 2005

5:30 PM

Where to go from here?

Alice Murphy sat at her table on the deck of the cruise ship, looking over the clear blue waters of the Pacific while she sipped her tea. She had taken this vacation on a whim—boarded her cat, Mr. Whiskers, at a very nice kennel—promising lots of extra toys and attention later to make up for her absence. But as much as she missed him it had been worth it—after all the trouble she'd been through making her getaway and establishing a new identity, she felt that she deserved a little treat. A seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera had seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

The only problem was that she couldn't stay on vacation forever—sooner or later she had to make a decision about what to do with her life.

More soldiers' organizations? Probably not—there was nothing more to be gained in that field and besides too many people were looking for her. She could retire of course, but she wasn't ready for that—at least not yet.

There had to be something.

"Excuse me, but is this seat taken?"

The man's voice broke into her thoughts. Mrs. Murphy looked up to see a tall man with grey hair and very blue eyes, smiling down at her.

"This seat is definitely not taken," she told him.

"You're sure?"

"Yes, I'm very sure."

His smile widened. "Much obliged—the name's George Carey." He extended his hand.

"Ali—I mean, Esther Pyne." She gave an inward wince as she stumbled over the name—she'd chosen something very different this time and she had to admit that she was still having trouble with it. "Well my first name is Allison but I go by Esther—I always have. It's lovely to meet you, Mr. Carey."

"Well I like the name Allison," George said. "But I like Esther too. Very nice to meet you." He took the seat beside her. For a few moments they sat in companionable silence, looking out over the deck—the blue waters of the Pacific almost seemed to sparkle in the sunlight— the seagulls circled and dived in the water.

"Tell me, is this your first cruise?" he asked her, breaking the silence.

Mrs. Murphy nodded. "First of many, at least I hope," she replied. "Though I have to say that I was a bit nervous—I really wasn't sure what to expect." She glanced over at him. "Is this your first as well, Mr. Carey?"

"Please, call me George," he told her. "And yeah, this is my first one. My sister recommended it—she said with all the hours that I work I deserved to take some time off." He stretched his arms over his head. "I have to say that I'm beginning to think she was right."

"Well that's a coincidence—you could say that I'm here because of my sister as well." He looked at her in surprise and she rushed to explain. "My younger sister Estelle—she'd always wanted to go on one of these cruises, but unfortunately she passed away last—last month." She let her voice falter slightly towards the end of the sentence—tears filling her eyes. "It was a very sudden illness—I miss her very much."

"I'm so sorry," he said, touching her hand briefly.

"Thank you," she sniffled. "I'm taking this cruise as a sort of homage to her—it's the least I can do. But enough about me—what about you? What do you do?"

"I work for a small pharmaceutical company out of Seattle."

"In sales?"

He shook his head. "That's what everybody thinks. What I actually work in is research—helping to develop new drugs to be put out on the market. I'm semi-retired—though my sister would like me to retire for good. I hope I'm not boring you."

"No, you're not boring me at all." Developing drugs, Esther thought—all this time she'd been looking for something she could do and now something had practically fallen into her lap. She'd have to work out the particulars, of course—but this could work out very well indeed. "Actually, I'd like to hear more about you and your work. Could we perhaps meet later this evening—perhaps for dinner?"

"I'd like that very much, Esther," George said. "I'm glad to have met you."

Mrs. Murphy smiled. "Likewise."