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Headlights glared from in front, but no traffic showed behind. The truck handled well, responsive to a touch on the steering, the brakes and tires in good shape, the rear wheels sufficiently loaded by his tools and clothing.

Not by the VCR, though. How would Charly handle that little problem—fling it out?

She'll be happy to overlook her scruples.

As miles swept by the hills became more rolling, the curves less sharp. Traveling westward brought an increase in snow—the flakes larger and falling more thickly. He braked, speedometer dropping below forty-five as he approached curves and intersections. Near the state line he slowed further, curiously hesitant to rush despite the road flattening and running straighter.

Shouldn't be much more than an hour now before a major interrogation covering his obscure life this past half-year. He only hoped the new material would make them drop the Karen question—hoped he need never hear her name again. But as to the more recent stuff…

No doubt the glaring lights and rubber hoses were ready.

* * *

Charly sat on the bed until Frankie called up the stairway.

"Mo-omm! You comin' down? Are we gonna eat, Mom? Mommy!"

One good long sigh and Charly was on her feet. Out the door and down the stairs she went, assuring the girl all was well, life would resume its ordered pace, some kind of supper would soon be on the table. She herself felt no appetite, but the act of preparing food might stir up juices.

"What do you want, Honey?"

"Momma!" Frankie was aggrieved. Had her mother forgot they were supposed to eat chicken fingers?

"Oh, Honey! I can't make those tonight—we'll starve before they're done. I forgot all about it." Would fried baloney do? Hamburgers? French toast? Nothing excited the child. Now they were both down in the mouth. "Want to make cookies after we eat?"

That brought a reaction, thank goodness, though Charly's own level of enthusiasm drifted even lower.

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