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Falling Into Fate-Chapter 1

Chapter One
“Where the hell is Stark?” Brian Johnson bellowed as several heads shook while others hid behind their work cubes. They knew too well that Johnson, the managing editor of the Daily Post, wasn’t a nice man to be around if he was upset. Right now, his double chin hung low and determined. A full day’s stubble was evident, although it was barely eight in the morning. His piercing dark blue eyes gave everyone in the vicinity a glare as he hunted for his quarry.
He made a full circuit of the floor area, then back to a cubical that was empty. A half-empty coffee cup was on the desk and the computer powered up and ready to go. A brown leather jacket hung on the back of the chair and keys were next to the computer console. Johnson leaned over the barrier that separated each work area and snarled at the man there. “George, where has she disappeared to now? And don’t give me that guff that you don’t know because I know you two are attached at the hip.”
George Irons frowned in consternation. He pulled at his bow tie covered in tiny daisies and gave his boss a smile through thin lips. “She was tracking down Daryl. How’s the ulcer, boss? Giving you a hard time today?”
“My ulcer hasn’t anything to do with you, Irons. Why the hell is she chasing down Daryl? Hasn’t she been putting in her expenses properly again? God, give me strength. If it wasn’t that she had talent, I’d fire her ass.” Johnson grimaced. “When she gets back,” he said, lifting his eyebrows, “tell her my office, pronto.” He stormed back to his office and slammed the door so hard that the glass in the window shook.
George didn’t say anything but sighed heavily, then picked up the phone and called his boyfriend. Once he heard Danny’s voice, he began a long conversation about the interior design of their new apartment.
Ten minutes later, Susan Stark returned to her desk and sank heavily in her chair, muttering inaudibly.
George, still chatting amiably with his friend, peeked over the cubical and waved at the well-built woman who was taller than he was. He guessed her height to be around six feet. Her Titian hair was held in check by a ponytail.
“What is it, George? I’m not happy. That fraud Luke Daryl is trying to screw me over again in more ways than one.” Her hazel eyes focused on her good-looking associate. He at least was harmless, and she didn’t have to be anything other than who she was with him.
“Tell that to the boss. He wants to see you. His word was pronto, and he wasn’t happy, Suzy. I think he’s having trouble with his ulcer again. He’s way grouchy today.”
“Shit, as if my day wasn’t bad enough.” Susan frowned. “Did he give any indication about why he wanted to see me?” She knew that her last serialized articles had been good, even better than good. There was talk of a possible merit award later in the year, but that could change with the next good story out there.
“Sorry, Suzy.” George gave her an apologetic smile, then wailed, “Oh, no, not purple, Danny!”
Susan shrugged, knowing that George was lost in a conversation that definitely wasn’t part of her life settling down. Opening the desk drawer, she pulled out her purse, then applied more of what the cosmetic company called dashing red to her lips. She flicked her ponytail for moral support and strode confidently to Johnson’s office.
When he gruffly said, “Come in,” she breezed in.
“Sorry I wasn’t around earlier, boss. I had to see Daryl. There was a little mistake about my last expense account.”
Johnson glared at her and shook his head. “If I hadn’t promised your father… What have you done wrong this time with your expenses?”
Susan felt like shouting, “Nothing as usual,” but having done that in the early days, she knew her explanation would be ignored. Luke Daryl was the nephew of the newspaper’s owner, and that said it all. For the past five years, she’d put up with the man’s sleazy passes. When he wouldn’t take no for an answer, she’d appropriated a football jock as a trophy boyfriend to help her cause. It hadn’t. All it had done was make the man more meticulous when it came to her expenses. One day soon, she was going to deck the guy and say to hell with the job.
“Are you listening to me?” Johnson bellowed, and Susan winced. At times like this, he could use a voice suppressor.
Susan answered quickly, “Always, boss. What can I do for you?”
The man snorted. “I’ve a new assignment for you. Occasionally, someone interesting is released from the sanatorium. Have you ever heard of Lorna Hirste?”
Susan contemplated the name, and it didn’t ring any bells. “Sorry, I can’t say I have. What exactly did she do to end up there and warrant a news feature?”
Johnson flipped over a folder. “She’s an interesting case.”
Susan picked up the folder and ran a quick glance over the contents. The word that hit her first was manslaughter. Then she noted that the case was fifteen years old. “What angle do you want?”
“You decide.”
Susan flashed her boss a quizzical look. He sounded different. She couldn’t put a finger on what it was, but it was definitely different. “Okay.”
“Good. In exactly two hours, she’ll be released. What are you waiting for?”
“Apparently nothing.” Susan left the room with the file under her arm.
Lorna Hirste impatiently walked as fast as her feet would take her up and down the corridor that led to the locked door leading to the reception area and her freedom. As far as she was concerned, it couldn’t come fast enough. Her pale grey eyes hooked magnetically to the locked inner door, certain that the next person to open it would allow her to fly from her enforcement into a new world. One that her lawyer had assured her would be more willing to understand her gift.
A buzzing caught her attention, and her gaze shot to the man in white overalls opening the door. He closed it immediately behind him.
“How long now?”
Orderly Arnold Dawson shook his head. “As long as it takes for the formalities to be taken care of, Lorna. Don’t worry, you’ll be having a steak with your folks in no time.”
Lorna didn’t appreciate the man’s cheery grin that accompanied his remark. He didn’t have to endure what she had over the last fifteen years. She was innocent of the claim that she was a mental time bomb. It was that false accusation that committed her to the Llewellyn Sanatorium. Over the years, she’d watched people come and go. Some walked out voluntarily while others had to die to taste freedom.
“What’s it like out there these days, Arnold?”
The man frowned slightly, then smiled. “Probably much the same as it was when you were last out.” He shrugged. “Faster maybe.” He moved away towards the administration office. “You take care out there. We’ll miss you.”
“Miss me? Well, I won’t miss this place,” Lorna muttered under her breath as the door buzzed again.
“I see you’re impatient to leave us, Lorna.” Dr. Isla Gerardo smiled, making her oval face become beautiful. Her small mouth seemed to bring her countenance alive. 
Lorna drew in a deep breath, suddenly nervous about what was to happen next. Then she walked towards the woman and nodded.
The doctor gave Lorna an assessing look. “You know why I wasn’t sure about this, don’t you? You’ve never fully faced what happened to you with that young man. I still feel that we could help you.”
Lorna gave a cynical smile. “Thankfully, my lawyer doesn’t have your doubts, nor did the judge at the codicil hearing.”
Resolutely, the doctor said, “If ever you find you need to talk, you know where I am. Promise me that if things begin to get on top of you, you’ll call.”
“I’ll call.” Lorna gave lip service to the doctor. No matter how many times she insisted that her version was the truth, Dr. Gerardo hadn’t believed her and thought her delusional. Everyone thought she was mad, and perhaps after all the time of living with the mentally unstable, she was a little.
“Good. Now let’s get you out of here, shall we? Your lawyer is waiting for you.”
Lorna walked through the normally locked door and felt her body heave a sigh of relief. At last, I can go home.
Lorna’s lawyer, Jenny Price, had signed all the necessary forms to have Lorna released into her custody and waited much as her client did, impatiently. Her blond hair, like a golden sheen around her head, had bangs that partially covered the deep blue eyes, which focused on the door of Dr. Gerardo’s office. She’d taken the case two years earlier. At first, because her boss had insisted, and later, because she felt an injustice had been done to Lorna.
The woman wasn’t delusional. Whenever they met, she was perfectly lucid. Other than a silly notion about protecting gravestones, nothing appeared amiss. Over her years as a lawyer, Jenny had come across far more people who had escaped a term as long as Lorna’s for worse crimes. It galled Jenny that Lorna had remained in this place for the full fifteen-year term the courts had imposed after the original trial.
The trial, as far as she was concerned, had so many big holes in it that someone could drive a truck through them. To her standards, the Hirste family was relatively poor, having enough to get through each week with no extras. She speculated that was why Lorna had to suffer incarceration. If her parents had been financially able and had a reasonably competent lawyer on their case initially, Lorna would probably have served no more than five years.
Sam, the senior partner in her legal firm, considered it his duty as a fellow human being to help others from time to time. Everything they did legally for Lorna was pro bono.
As she thought about Lorna’s family life, Jenny’s family too demanded attention. Her father was a noted judge, her mother a celebrated society charity organizer, with the added power of being part of one of the founding families in the area. Jenny was the eldest of three. Her sister was married to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and had two kids. They rarely came back to the States except for special celebrations. Her younger brother was a professor of physics at Merit University. They lived a comfortable lifestyle in Merit, never going short of anything, which she suspected was unlike her client.
Jenny’s aspirations of becoming a prima ballerina ended when she suffered a permanent ligament injury to her calf. Her parents were supportive of any career choice she made, and when she took up the family legal profession, her father was pleased. At thirty-eight, she could have had partnership in the family’s prestigious firm but opted instead to carve her own way through the profession. Eventually, through hard work and staying power, she had convinced Sam Wallis, a noted legal eagle for the downtrodden, to take her on. She’d been there for eight years, and a year earlier, Sam took her on as his partner.
Jenny was pretty sure that Sam’s heart attack was the reason he finally allowed someone else to take the reins of his firm. Plus Jackie, Sam’s wife, had been delighted since she looked on Jenny as the daughter she never had.
Her thoughts, interrupted by the door opening, had Jenny focusing on Dr. Gerardo and Lorna, who were walking into the room.
Jenny smiled warmly at Lorna. “Hi, Lorna, how are you? It’s a big day for you.”
Lorna blew out a heavy breath and returned the smile. “I’m good, all the better for being on this side of the building.”
Jenny reached out and squeezed Lorna’s shoulder. “Well, in a few minutes, you’ll see more than this side of the building.” Jenny looked at Dr. Gerardo. “Right, Doctor?”
Dr. Gerardo nodded curtly and reluctantly said, “If you’ll sign these papers, Lorna, your lawyer can take you home.”
Jenny saw Lorna’s face change to one of wonder. She knew why. In that word, home, there was hope.
Lorna moved to the desk and with a shaking hand, reached for the pen. Seconds later, she watched as ink drew out her name.
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