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Warning and disclaimer in Chapter 1

CHAPTER 28

        Eberts sat on Claire's couch, staring at Pavlov. The small white dog was perched on the easy chair, watching Eberts anxiously. Eberts smiled and said, "Hello, doggy."

        Pavlov barked once.

        Eberts jerked, adjusted his suit jacket and cleared his throat. "Very well. You don't bother me, I don't bother you. Agreed?"

        Pavlov made a noise that sounded like 'Har-umph'.

        Eberts sighed and moved to cross his legs. The motion caused a stack of magazines and letters to tumble to the floor. "Aw..." He stopped himself before he said 'crap'. The last thing he wanted was to become more like Fawkes.

        He knelt and began to replace the magazines, glancing at the covers as he did. He picked up a simple, folded sheet of paper and frowned at it. Unfolding it, he read the first line.

        "Aw, crap."

        *Dearest Alexandra,

        I have absolutely no idea how to begin this letter. But fate... or destiny... God... whatever you want to believe in has intervened in our relationship. This tears me apart to say, but I think it would be for the best if our relationship returned to the way it was before. We cannot constantly worry about Eberts or the Official seeing us together or picking up small signals. It wouldn't be fair to either of us. The only other option we have is to quit and I don't believe this would be for the best. I love you more than words can tell. It breaks my heart to write these words, but I must. You have to underst*

        The letter ended abruptly. In the final few lines, the handwriting went from structured and even to shaky and jerky. Whoever had written it - and Eberts had a pretty good idea who it had been - had probably been either shaking or crying or both.

        Eberts folded the note slowly and put it in his pocket. He finished cleaning up the mess he had made, then sat on the couch.

        After a bit of thinking, he stood and made his way up the stairs.

---

        Darien sighed as he slipped into Claire's car. "Where do we go? Any idea?"

        Claire shook her head. "Not a clue. You're the one who's been to Chrysalis before."

        "Once... and we sorta blew that place apart."

        Claire chewed on her lower lip, then said, "Mail!"

        Darien, Rubyn and Lucien all said, "Huh?"

        Claire turned to face them. "The mail! We find out where Chrysalis had it's mail forwarded. We get a fake package, try to deliver it to the old building and ask for the new address!"

        Darien smiled. "Have I told you lately that I'm glad you're a genius?"

        "I don't think you've ever told me that."

        "Well... now I have. Drive."

---

        Eberts entered Claire's bedroom nervously, looking over the unmade bed and at the clothing that littered the floor. He stepped inside, feeling like a common thief. He walked to the dresser and looked at several photos tucked into the side of the mirror.

        One was of Claire and Alex at some sort of bar with a karaoke sign displayed behind them. Alex had her arm around Claire's neck and was laughing into the camera. Claire had a deep blush on her face and was trying to avoid the lens.

        The next was of the two women lounging on a beach somewhere. Alex was looking out to sea and Claire was asleep on the towel next to her.

        He continued to look at the photos; pictures of them walking, on the beach, at a concert, dining in a restaurant... In every photo, the two were no more than three inches apart. He looked closer. In every photo, they were holding hands, their fingers interlaced. In every last picture.

        Eberts blinked, then turned and looked at the bed. Reaching into his pocket, he re-read Claire's note. Pavlov was sitting in the doorway, watching the intruder carefully. Eberts held the note up for the dog to see. "This," he said slowly, "is enough to prove an affair that goes against every regulation we have."

        Pavlov sneezed, then shook his head.

        "This note could destroy," he looked over the room, his eyes locking on the photos. "Love."

        Eberts looked down at the note once more before wading it into a ball. He stuck the crumpled note into his pocket to dispose of later. He headed down the stairs, Pavlov hot on his heels. He opened the door and turned, glaring at the tiny pup. "I was never here."

        Pavlov barked in response.

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