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Bettmann shot up from his chair when the woman in the Air Russia flight attendant's uniform entered a second windowless room, this one located in the main terminal of Miami International Airport. He scrutinized the forbidding woman with his spectacled eyes, then raised the file folder to a readable distance as those eyes shifted downward. "Svetlana Korsakova?"

"Da. What can I do for you?"

"Have a seat, please." Bettmann gestured to the single chair on the opposite side of the table as one of the two security guards outside the door closed that portal.

Korsakova didn't so much sit in the chair as slip into it, and cross one leg over another as she brushed her still-glossy long brown hair from the sides of her face. "What is the matter, Agent--"

"Bettmann. But call me Brad, please."

"Agent Bettmann," Korsakova clasped her hands in her lap, "what is the English expression?" Her brow knitted up for only a moment. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Not at all. Quite the contrary. I mean--" Bettmann removed his glasses so that he couldn't make out Korsakova's features. "Your picture doesn't quite match your reality."

Bettmann's latest interviewee reddened. "What picture?"

Bettmann re-donned his glasses, removed a print of the security camera photo of the seductress from the manila folder, and handed that print to Korsakova. "Do you know this woman?"

Korsakova stared at an image of her youth. "That's me. But then--"

"It's not you, I know. This image was taken at a Houston shopping mall just last week."

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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