Trials of the Innocent, Chapter 1

Lynne sat quietly behind her massive mahogany desk, back rigid, face expressionless and ears deaf to the tears that surrounded her.

            "He's dead," she whispered, her voice monotonous and empty.

            The shock of his sudden death was still fresh in her mind. She saw him lying on the ground in a dark pool of his own blood that spilt from the wounds that she was convinced she could have prevented. The acrid smell of his life pouring from him in rivers of the dark red, viscous liquid still assaulted her delicate nose, even in the safety of her office.

            "You couldn't have done anything more than you did, Lynne," a fellow agent, Margaret, said as she wiped her own tears from her cheeks, placing a comforting hand on Lynne's uninjured arm.

            "I know," she replied hollowly, not even making the effort to glance up at her friend. In reality, she blamed herself for her partner's death. If she hadn't been so oblivious to the situation, her gun arm wouldn't have been incapacitated by the bullet she should have seen and she would have been able to stop and apprehend David's killer.

            Margaret sighed as she watched her friend suffer. It was obvious that behind those brilliant green eyes, there was an emotional war occurring and that guilt was winning. With one last comforting pat on the shoulder, Margaret left her friend in peace, hoping she would cry and release her pain, but knowing that Lynne was too stubborn. Crying is for the weak, Lynne had once told her and apparently she'd abided by that saying well, for Margaret had never seen her shed a single tear.

            Almost as soon as Margaret had quit the room, another person came in. He was a tall, large, rather beefy man with kind eyes and a friendly smile.

            "Agent Harris," he began in a rumbling bass leaning on her desk with a strong hand as his thick fingers drummed an indiscernible rhythm on her desktop.

            Lynne's head jerked up and her fiery red curls bounced with the sudden motion. She stood to great her boss, Agent Stanley Bryant.

"Yes sir," she answered respectfully.

            "I know this is a bit soon, but I've already found a replacement for David McDermount," Stanley Bryant said as a sadness crossed his kind brown eyes and he studied her for her reaction.

He worried about her. She was his best agent, but she had such a tight reign on her emotions, he was certain that she would break down one day when they burst free. He couldn't blame her reasoning after reading her files, but he hoped that someday, someone would make her open up or she'd dig herself an early grave.

            Lynne's heart sped up at his announcement but she kept her face still, putting up a façade of impartiality and emotional apathy. Nodding she asked stiffly, "Who?"

            Bryant inwardly sighed at her refusal to react to his statement. He thought of Lynne Harris as his daughter and he'd never been able to express how badly he felt that she thought she was alone in the world. He didn't know how to broach the subject with her and explain that she really wasn't.

            "A very talented young man by the name of Jason Masterson. He's just come from training, but he was the best in his class and his training group was one of the few to actually go on a few missions. You will be the senior agent, but this kid's a smart one," Bryant warned her, knowing that she valued her pride above almost anything, because it was the one thing she believed she had left.

            "When will I meet him?" Lynne asked as her anger flared.

            'How can he just replace David like it was nothing? As though he'd just quit his job. He's dead, dammit!' she thought as her eyes flashed. Her insides ached as the image of his dead body, lying prone on the broken concrete of the alley haunted her. But she instantly berated herself. She knew Bryant didn't mean it that way, but it was hard to accept that her friend and partner wasn't coming back. That, plus the guilt she felt for not being able to save his life, nearly brought her to tears.

            "In an hour at the staff meeting. We will be giving out assignments, then and afterwards you can go to school. You're still going after those Ph.Ds right?" Bryant asked with an incredulous shake of his head.

            "Yes I am, sir," Lynne replied with a nod in the affirmative.

            She'd graduated high school early at the tender age of sixteen, despite all the barriers that her home life had posed and finished in two years. By the time she was eighteen, she'd acquired a Bachelor's degree in clinical psychology at the local college and quickly landed a job at the Agency: a low key version of the C.I.A. Now, the Agency paid for her graduate studies and she'd spent the last three years acquiring a Ph.D in criminal psychology and in forensic sciences.

            "You are something else, kid," Bryant murmured not entirely referring to her more than adequate intelligence. "It's in staffing room sixteen at 1400 hours sharp."

            Lynne merely nodded and watched silently as the large, bear of the man slipped from her office more quietly than she believed a man of his size could. She slowly sank into her leather swivel chair and stared blankly at the state-of-the-art computer screen on her desk.

            Then, shaking her head violently, so her thick mass of flaming curls whirled about her pale face that, surprisingly, wasn't dotted with freckles, she booted up her computer and waited impatiently, tapping her foot as it whirred and hummed. For the next hour, she drowned herself in the clean-up paperwork of the case that had taken David's life.