Colby Agency's Patrick O'Brien knew only two things for sure: Sande Williams was a complete mystery and a woman in serious trouble. She was also gorgeous, but he wasn't about to put that in his internal report.She'd woken up in a morgue--with toe tag and all! How could that happen, and why didn't she know who she was or where she'd come from? One by one the people associated with her were turning up dead. Was she an unwilling participant in an identity scheme or an accomplice? It was just the kind of case the Colby Agency took on--and just the kind of woman who could worm her way into Patrick's closed-off heart. But would he be next in line for termination...?
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Identity Unknown by Debra Webb
Goose bumps rushed over her flesh. God, she was so cold. She hugged the sheet more closely, then wrinkled her nose. Why was the sheet covering her face?
Her eyes opened.
The sheet was over her face!
She snatched it away. Gasped for air, as if the cotton were plastic, and had deprived her of much needed oxygen...
Okay, she was okay.
A frown furrowed her forehead. Where was she?
A hall or corridor. Glaring fluorescent lights hummed overhead. A nasty smell lingered in the air. Something pungent and unfamiliar.
She sat up and blinked, looked around and blinked again. Dingy white walls...long corridor. A white sheet draped her nude body.
Where were her clothes?
She stared at her breasts...at her flat belly.
A gurney. She was sitting on a gurney. Like in a hospital.
Had she been in an accident?
She looked at her arms and hands, touched her face, ran her fingers through her hair... She didn't feel different. She wasn't in pain. There were no lumps or bumps. No wet sticky spots.
Where the hell was she?
She looked around again. Then she saw the door directly across from where her gurney stood.
A plaque on the door marked it as... She squinted. It was...the morgue.
Her heart missed a beat.
She stared down at herself once more. No blood. No bruises.
She jerked free of the sheet, stumbled off the gurney and staggered as if she hadn't stood in a long time. Her legs felt weak and rubbery.
What was wrong with her?
Voices. Someone was coming.
She snatched the sheet from the gurney and wrapped it around her naked body. She had to hide.
If they found her... Her mind couldn't grasp the concept of why the unfamiliar voices terrified her, but instinct warned that she should be afraid.
She had to run!
She half stumbled, half fell down the corridor, grabbed the knob of the first door she encountered and yanked it open.
She threw herself inside, closed the door soundlessly and struggled to catch her breath.
Just breathe. Deep breaths. Slow...steady.
You're okay. You're okay.
The stench of cleansers and damp mops assaulted her nostrils. She ignored it. She had to think!
What had happened to her?
Why would she be on a gurney in front of a door marked Morgue?
She wasn't dead.
She took a step back from the door and stared down at her foot. A white tag was attached to her big toe.
Panic closed her throat.
She crouched down and reached with trembling hands to remove the tag. Slowly straightening once more, she read the information written there. Sande Williams. Female. Twenty-eight years old. Sixty-four inches tall. One hundred ten pounds.
Why didn't the name ring a bell?
There was no address or telephone number.
What did this mean?
She started to shake, and found she had to brace herself against the closed door in order to remain vertical.
What was wrong with her?
Could she be dead and not know it?
No, that wasn't possible.
As if to deny her assertion, she touched her wrist and counted the beats.
She had a pulse.
She pressed her palm against the center of her chest to feel the frantic pounding there.
She had a heartbeat.
She was alive.
But why didn't she remember how she got here? Was she sick? What had happened to cause her to be in this place? There had to be something wrong with her.
Why didn't the name on the tag feel like her name?
Fear snaked around her chest and squeezed, sending panic searing through her veins.
She couldn't find any answers in this janitor's closet.
She had to get out of here.
Had to find help.
But what if they wouldn't let her go?
Didn't they institutionalize people who couldn't remember their names? Who woke up wearing toe tags for no apparent reason?
Breathe again. Deep. Hold it. Release.
Calm down. Just calm down.
She needed help.
She had to move.
Slowly, her palms sweating with the fear mounting inside her, she opened the door a crack. She peeked into the corridor. Still deserted. Still quiet.
Someone had taken off her clothes and placed her on that gurney, had put a toe tag on her. Someone thought she was dead.
How was that possible?
Hadn't she seen a movie like that once?
She had to get out of here.
There was something wrong with this place. People who had heartbeats weren't sent to the morgue. There had to be a mistake.
She couldn't stay here.
She ran. Holding the sheet tightly around her, the toe tag clutched in one hand, she ran as fast as she could to escape.
Don't take the elevator.
She would be trapped there.
Take the stairs.
Up was the only option. She rushed up the steps two at a time. Reached the first floor and burst out of the stairwell.
A massive lobby with a bubbling fountain and towering green plants. People...lots of people.
They stopped and stared at her.
She was naked save for the sheet. Naked and barefoot. What must they think?
A woman wearing a white uniform approached her.