The Witness(7)

By: Nora Roberts

She knew Mike Dauber, or she’d had a class with him. And he’d passed her a note once. Or he’d passed her a note to pass to someone else, but that was something. It was contact.

AT HOME, she laid all the bags on her bed.

She’d put everything away in plain sight this time. And she’d remove everything she didn’t like—which was nearly all she owned—and box it up for charity. And she’d watch The X-Files if she wanted to, and listen to Christina Aguilera and ’N Sync and Destiny’s Child.

And she’d change her major.

The thought of it had her heart spearing up to her throat. She’d study what she wanted to study. And when she had her degrees in criminology, in computer science, she’d apply to the FBI.

Everything had changed. Today.

Determined, she dug out the hair color. In the bathroom, she arranged everything, performed the recommended spot test. While she waited, she cleaned up the shorn hair, then purged her closet, her dresser, neatly hung or folded her new clothes.

Hungry, she went down to the kitchen, heated one of the prelabeled meals and ate while studying an article on falsifying IDs on her laptop.

After she’d done the dishes, she went back upstairs. With a mix of trepidation and excitement she followed the directions for the hair color, set the timer. While it set, she arranged everything she needed for the identification. She opened the Britney Spears CD Julie had recommended, slid it into her laptop’s CD player.

She turned up the volume so she could hear as she got in the shower to wash the color out of her hair.

It ran so black!

She rinsed and rinsed and rinsed, finally bracing her hands on the shower wall as her stomach began to churn in anticipation and not a little dread. When the water ran clear, she toweled off, wrapped a second towel around her hair.

Women had altered their hair color for centuries, Elizabeth reminded herself. Using berries, herbs, roots. It was a … rite of passage, she decided.

It was a personal choice.

In her robe, she faced the mirror.

“My choice,” she said, and pulled the towel off her hair.

She stared at the girl with pale skin and wide green eyes, the girl with short, spiky raven-black hair that framed her narrow, sharp-boned face. Lifting a hand, she scratched her fingers through it, feeling the texture, watching it move.

Then she stood straighter, and she smiled.

“Hi. I’m Liz.”


CONSIDERING ALL THE HELP JULIE HAD PROVIDED, IT SEEMED only fair to Elizabeth to work on Julie’s driver’s license first. Creating the template was simple enough. Everything she’d researched claimed the quality of the identification depended largely on the quality of the paper and laminate.

That presented no problem, as her mother didn’t believe in cutting corners on supplies.

With scanner and computer she produced a decent enough replica, and through Photoshop she added the digital photo, tweaked it.

The result was good but not good enough.

It took several hours and three attempts before she felt she’d created something that would pass the check-in at a nightclub. Actually, she thought it might very well pass a more rigorous police check. But she hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

She set Julie’s aside.

It was too late to call Julie, Elizabeth noted when she checked the time and found it was nearly one in the morning.

In the morning, then, she thought, and started on her own identification.

Photo first, she decided, and spent the best part of an hour with her new makeup, carefully copying the steps she’d watched Julie take at the mall. Darkening the eyes, brightening the lips, adding color to the cheeks.

She hadn’t known it would be so much fun—and considerable work—to play with all the colors and brushes and pencils.

Liz looks older, she thought, studying the results. Liz looks pretty and confident—and normal.

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