Tarnished Image

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Book: Tarnished Image by Alton L. Gansky Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alton L. Gansky
event over one more time—one more agonizing, soul-shredding time. And he was powerless to stop it.

    Words ricocheted in David’s mind as he gazed out the window of his office. Fragments of sentences and pieces of paragraphs bounced about with no loss of energy, never settling. Osborn’s answer to David’s question would not go away. How do you help everyone? “You don’t,” he had replied. “You have to make choices. Some you will save; others you will be forced to lose.”
    David shook his head. Those were unsettling words he did not want to hear. He knew that no matter how large Barringston Relief became, there would be people out of reach of its help. The pending hurricane was bearing down on Cuba and other areas like a medieval dragon swooping down from the sky on a English village, and the monster wave churning hundreds of miles of coastland into a mass of twisted debris only made matters worse.
    Many would send help. Countries would mobilize food and medical aid, but no matter how fast things happened, people would die or be left homeless.
    Pictures as clear as any taken by a camera flashed in his mind. David could see the carnage, sense the pain. He was thankful to be a part of an organization dedicated to helping others, but he knew that it wouldn’t be enough. Still, they would do their best. Lives would be saved, and families sheltered and fed. He wished he could do more, and he prayed that nothing else would go wrong.
    “Nice office,” a male voice said behind him.
    David turned and saw two men in suits standing in the doorway to his office. One was an African American whostood about David’s height but was more stoutly built. He wore a dark blue suit with an equally blue paisley tie. His face was pleasant and adorned with a slight smile that elevated a thick mustache.
    Standing next to him was a man in a light gray suit. His face reflected no emotion at all.
    “Thank you,” David said with uncertainty.
    “Did you have this designed for you?”
    David glanced around the room. It was a good-sized office, simply adorned and furnished with a glass-topped desk, matching conference table, and walnut credenza. Several leather chairs were opposite the desk.
    “No,” David replied. “I inherited it when I became head of Barringston Relief. May I ask who you are?”
    “The head of Barringston Relief?” the man said with a tone that showed he was dutifully impressed. “Then you are, indeed, Dr. David O’Neal?”
    “I am,” David answered. “What can I do for you?”
    The man reached into the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a small leather wallet, opened it, and showed his identification to David. The man in the gray suit mirrored the act.
    “I’m Agent Bennett Hall of the FBI, and this is Detective Wilson of the San Diego Police Department. The first thing you can do for us is to step away from the window and stand in front of the desk.”
    “I don’t understand.” David was perplexed.
    “I’ll be happy to explain things in a moment, sir, but first do as I say, and step away from the window and stand in front of the desk.”
    “But,” David began, “I don’t—”
    “I understand that,” Hall said firmly. “Just do as I ask.”
    David complied and stepped to the center of the room.
    “Please turn around and place your hands on the top of your head.”
    “What?” David responded loudly. “You’re not serious.”
    “I am serious, sir. Turn around and put your hands on your head and interlace your fingers.”
    Again David complied. His heart raced and he felt his face flush. “There must be some mistake.” David felt a hand seize his own. A second later, David felt something cold, smooth, and metallic touch his right wrist. He heard a small click and a muted ratcheting sound. He was being handcuffed.
    “What is going on?” David demanded in a voice louder than he intended. As he spoke, the FBI agent turned the cuff so that it dug into David’s wrist and smoothly guided

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