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The Crypto sirens were blaring. Strathmore had no idea how long Susan had been gone. He sat alone in the shadows, the drone of TRANSLTR calling to him. You’re a survivor . . . you’re a survivor . . .

Yes, he thought. I’m a survivor‑but survival is nothing without honor. I’d rather die than live in the shadow of disgrace.

And disgrace was what was waiting for him. He had kept information from the director. He had sent a virus into the nation’s most secure computer. There was no doubt he would be hung out to dry. His intentions had been patriotic, but nothing had gone as he’d planned. There had been death and treachery. There would be trials, accusations, public outrage. He had served his country with honor and integrity for so many years, he couldn’t allow it to end this way.

I’m a survivor, he thought.

You’re a liar, his own thoughts replied.

It was true. He was a liar. There were people he hadn’t been honest with. Susan Fletcher was one of them. There were so many things he hadn’t told her‑things he was now desperately ashamed of. For years she’d been his illusion, his living fantasy. He dreamed of her at night; he cried out for her in his sleep. He couldn’t help it. She was as brilliant and as beautiful as any woman he could imagine. His wife had tried to be patient, but when she finally met Susan, she immediately lost hope. Bev Strathmore never blamed her husband for his feelings. She tried to endure the pain as long as possible, but recently it had become too much. She’d told him their marriage was ending; another woman’s shadow was no place to spend the rest of her life.

Gradually the sirens lifted Strathmore from his daze. His analytical powers searched for any way out. His mind reluctantly confirmed what his heart had suspected. There was only one true escape, only one solution.

Strathmore gazed down at the keyboard and began typing. He didn’t bother to turn the monitor so he could see it. His fingers pecked out the words slowly and decisively.

Dearest friends, I am taking my life today . . .

This way, no one would ever wonder. There would be no questions. There would be no accusations. He would spell out for the world what had happened. Many had died . . . but there was still one life to take.