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travel to get to Everett. Finally he pulled a quarter from his pocket
and flipped it into the air. He caught it deftly. Heads, I go to the
right; tails, I go to the left. Heads won and he started off toward the
right, the stiffness and the weariness dragging at him like a weight
tied to his legs.
While he walked he studied the pictures in his wallet, noting happily
that it also contained twenty dollars in bills. That was comforting.
In the daylight, the picture of Beth that had looked pretty in the flame
of the lighter, became beautiful. Although it was a black and white
photo, Nick decided that her hair was brown. It swept about a soft,
heart shaped face like a cloud. The image was smiling at him and he felt
that if she was not his wife, he hoped that she was his girl.
It was late in the morning when he found the service station. It was a
small, lonely, isolated place that sported two pumps and cramped looking
lube rack. Through the open door of the washroom, Nick could see the
shoes and coverall legs of the attendant as they stuck out from under a
Ford. Nick found a dime in his pocket and treated himself to a cold
drink, while he tried to figure out where he was.
Across the highway a marker told him that he was on Route 87. He pulled
a Pennsylvania map - not entirely sure he was in Pennsylvania - from the
rack inside the door and, unfolding it, found Everett. The route 87 ran
through the town, but it was difficult to puzzle out whether he was
north or south of the place. He refolded the map and stuffed it into his
pocket for further reference, and glanced around. On the far side of the
office was a door marked "MEN", that was just what he wanted. His
clothes, his hair and his face needed a few emergency repairs before he
could confront the population of Everett.
He went in.
In a mirror, with most of the backing peeling away, he discovered that
Nick Danson was rather good looking, if you overlooked the damage. His
blocky, rugged face was smeared with dirt and dried blood, with a slight
stubble shadowing his lean cheeks. The mop of tangled black hair had a
lot of red splotches in it from the blood he'd lost. He filled the bowl
with tepid water and began soaping his face and hands vigorously, even
though it hurt. After washing most of the blood from his hair, he found
a comb in a pocket and whipped some order into the matted, dark mass.
The attendant was standing at the counter when Nick came out of the
restroom. He was an elderly man with receding grey hair, a hawk nose and
grizzled features set firmly into a face that looked like a dried apple.
He grinned and the gold cap on an eye tooth flashed dully.
"Thought I heard someone in here," he said around the chew that pouched
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