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his cheek. "Car break down on ye?"
"I'm walking," Nick told him.
"Yer a long way from any kind 'o town, son ... say," he said suddenly
noticing the scratch marks. "Y' been fightin' a bobcat?"
Nick shook his head and fished for a lie. "Got drunk last night and into
a brawl. My friends pitched me out of the car in a moment of
playfulness." He hoped he had put enough bitterness into the explanation
to make it ring true.
The old man chuckled softly. "Durned shame, son. Y'from around here?"
"New York," Nick lied. "I'm stayin' in Everett."
"Everett," the old man cackled. "Hell, that's fifteen miles south
o'here, or better." He paused, swiveled his bird-like head and spat a
jet of brown juice through the open door. "Tell y'what, son, seein's how
you'll have t'walk it down there. Ain't no one goin' that way, I know
of. S'pose y'could thumb it, but it'd be hard. Lonely road, y'see. If
y'don't mind waitin' till after supper, I'll run y'down to town. Drop
y'off where y'want to go."
"Hadn't thought of waiting so long," Nick told him. "What would I do?
Just sit here?"
"Hell no! In th' back room there's a cot. Been sleepin' there myself
sometimes, since m'wife passed along back in '53. December of '53 it
was. I'll wake ye, come supper."
With the hunger gnawing at his stomach, Nick took a cellophane wrapped
pie from the counter and began eating it. He handed the old man a
"S'funny," the old man said, ringing up the sale, "ye don't smell like a
drunk. Ought t'be some likker smell to y'son."
"I was drinking vodka," Nick countered, wondering how he had pulled that
from a mind that could not remember his past. He took another bite of
the pie as the old man gave him his change.
"Bad stuff, vodka. That's th' slop them Russian hassocks drink, ain't
"I think so."
"Well, it ain't for Andy Hocum. Them hassocks can have it."
Nick was saved from further conversation by a new station wagon pulling
into the pumps. A young woman, dressed in a suit, cut the engine and
honked the horn briefly. Andy waved and headed for the door.
"Get some shut eye, son. I'll wake y' later."
He finished the last of the pie and watched Andy stick a hose into the
wagon's gas tank, then go around front to wipe off the windshield.
Nick cleared the pie wrapper off the small counter and tossed it into a
box as he headed for the backroom. After closing the door, he fell onto
the bed and a moment later into the well of sleep.
Detective Lieutenant Nolan Brice braked the Fairlane at 2312 Weisman
Drive and got out quickly. For a moment, he wasn't sure whether Beth
Danson would be awake, but it was a long drive into headquarters and he
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