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Of All Things, Death, at the County Fair
Through the trees in the distance Mike could see the flashing lights of the County Fair. Running as fast as he could, hunched over from the pain and the cut, his left hand clutched at the hole in his side. He weaved through the dense forest, imagining himself dodging would-be tacklers. He gripped the hole as he might have held a football. He was running for his life now, not the end zone.
Sheriff Bartolo stood near the dunking machine, keeping order, in as much as his mere presence could pervade. His hat sat cockeyed on his head, his fingers sticky from cotton candy. At his feet sat a 10 x 14 picture of Elvis that he’d won earlier throwing cheap darts at small balloons for a buck. All around him the people of Grafton talked about themselves, ate greasy things, and made fantastic predictions about the upcoming football season.
“McMillan’s gonna take em’ all the way to the state’s. Damn kid is just too fucking good.”
“Heard he put on 20 pounds this summer.”
“At least. The boy’s an ox.”
“Different year, different kid,” thought Bartolo, “Long as we beat Phillipi High I could care less.”
Bill Young and Danny Nestor walked by, swaggering as usual. Two former football heroes, turned drunk and mean. The Sheriff tipped his hat and threw them a look that was all business. He placed his hand on his gun, a silent threat he knew they wouldn’t see. He hadn’t shot the gun in 12 years but he oiled it weekly and fancied himself a quick draw.
The perimeter of the Taylor County fair grounds was lined with aluminum trailers that smoked and sizzled. Bright lights, and the smell of steak being grilled with onions, streamed from the trailers, sticking to the people waiting in crowds, rather than lines. The people stared wide-eyed at the hand-written menus hanging above the hot grills and heat lamps. They stretched up on their toes looking over the people in front of them, chewing on their cheeks, wondering what they should try this time and how much they could afford.
Mike approached the trailers from the back. He stumbled towards them trying to harness enough remaining energy to yell for help. His lungs were heavy. His vision was becoming cloudy and he wasn’t sure if he could hear or not.
He slammed into the back of the cotton candy trailer, gripping the door handle for balance. He pulled at the door but was unable to open it. He slid down the wall towards the soda tanks leaving a red stripe of blood on the aluminum. His feet became tangled in the lines running from the soda tanks to the fountain machines. He fell to the ground, unable to brace himself. The impact shoved his hand deeper into the open laceration. A burst of fire shot through his brain. He could see the legs of people waiting in line. He reached out with his hand, waving and grabbing at nothing.
he roar of a tractor preparing to make a run in the distance masked all other sound. Mike closed his eyes and his heart jumped as the engine screamed. He forced himself to try and move further, succeeding only in rolling to his side. A mix of hay and gravel stuck to the blood-soaked lower half of his body.
Tanner Reilly shoved open the back door of the Super Steak and Cheese trailer dying to have a cigarette. He ran his finger through his sweat-soaked bangs, shoving them back underneath the hat he replaced backwards on his head and dropped to the wooden stair. He lit a cigarette a blew a plume of smoke up at the stars, watching it fade into the night, all the while wondering just why the hell he agreed to work this Fair anyway.
“Shit,” he said as he spit on the top of his shoe accidentally. He mashed it into the canvas with the other foot and began to pick at the grease buggers clogging his nose. He scraped one from the inner surface of his nostril and stretched it out slowly. He rolled it several times between his forefinger and thumb, fashioning it into a small rounded ball, and flicked it aimlessly out into the dark.
Bored curiosity forced him to look and see where the bugger might have landed, how much ground he covered. He browsed the trash-littered gravel, scanning the rocky, hay-covered surface, from trailer to trailer, light to dark and back to light. A movement near the soda tanks grabbed his attention. He jumped to his feet ready to scare off a curious raccoon. A body lay tangled in the soda tank lines, one foot kicking uncontrollably. Tanner sat and stared at the foot, his cigarette dangling from his lips. Smoke drifted into his eyes breaking the stare. He jumped from the wooden stair. The cigarette dropped from his lips.
Tanner squeezed between two trailers, knocking soda tanks and trash cans out of the way, screaming for help. The initial reaction he received was nothing. He looked into the faces of the people surrounding the vendors’; blood covered his hands and streaked down his apron. No one looked at him. He grabbed a woman by the shirt and screamed at her, “Help! It’s Mike. Somebody help me.” He looked again to the reactionless people. Suddenly someone grabbed him by the neck and shoved him to the ground. Brown nasty teeth gnashed in his face.
“What the hell you think you are doing boy?”
“Get the fuck off me,” he struggled, “Someone is hurt ba…”
A fist smashed down onto his face. He heard a bone crack in his nose. He rolled into a ball, unable to think of anything but the stinging pain.
Sheriff Bartolo noticed a crowd migrating from the food line towards the unraveling scene. The upper half of his blueberry snow cone fell to the ground as he moved to attention. He marched towards the scuffle prepared to enforce the law, strictly if necessary. He didn’t tolerate trouble and, worse yet, hated to waste a cool snack on a hot night.
He shoved his way through the crowd. “Break it up,” he commanded, “Out of the way.” In the middle of the crowed he found Tanner tucked into a fetal position. Corby McKeen stood above him fist drawn back in anger.
He grabbed Corby by the shirt standing him straight up. “What the hell do you think you are doing boy, looking for a trip to the pokey?” Bartolo looked him in the face. “Jesus Christ Corb, who do the hell do you think you are. You are on probation, son.”
Corby backed off, his body remaining tense. “Son of a bitch grabbed my woman Sheriff,” he spit on the ground, “Grabbed her by the neck.” He jerked himself free of the Sheriff’s grip, throwing his arms in the air trying to drop his tee shirt over the bare skin of his lower back.
Bartolo pushed him aside, moving towards the boy lying on the ground. He immediately noticed the blood on his hands and apron. He looked at the girl now clutching at Corby’s side. A few spots of blood dotted her blouse, but clearly the results of being grabbed by an already bloodied hand. He grabbed at the CB microphone hanging from his shoulder.
“Trudy-Trudy get an ambulance…” He looked at the microphone and laid his other hand on the boy, “It’s Tanner Reilly, get a Goddamn ambulance, Trudy. This is real.
And get Lawrence out of bed. Tell him to get his ass down here.”
“Tanner. Can you hear me.” The sheriff put his hand on Tanner’s shoulder.
“Tanner, it’s Sheriff Bartolo, son. Can you get up?” Tanner rolled onto his back, his hands clutching at his broken nose. He sat up and pointed towards Mike, lying motionless on the ground, between the trailers.
“What?” asked the Sheriff.
Tanner pointed again, this time much more aggressively. The Sheriff pulled the flashlight from his belt and started, cautiously, between the trailers. He looked from side to side, passing between the trailers. He shined the light high and low. Then it stopped and remained focused on the body of Mike Haddox. The Sheriff stood frozen. Suddenly the light jumped back to life and shot randomly over the trees lining the fairgrounds. He unlatched his pistol and crouched down, taking long low steps. Behind him the crowd was creeping ever so slowly, crowding the tight area between the trailers.
Sheriff Bartolo turned back around to find himself and Mike being swallowed by a crowd of wide-eyed disbelievers.
“All right, everybody back off,” the Sheriff yelled. Corby stood near the front, staring at the Sheriff, shaking his head, his way of saying, “I didn’t do it.”
“Don’t just stand there Corby,” said the Sheriff, “Go get Mr. Kelly and tell him to shut the place down. Now!” He pushed the crowd back, then turned toward Mike.
“Larry, make sure that Reilly boy stays put.” He bent down and placed his hands on Mike. Blood quickly seeped under his nails, turning the dried mustard that had gathered there maroon.
The crowd slowly started to thin out around Tanner and the Sheriff as the medics lifted Mike into the ambulance. Tanner had failed to provide any interesting information. The second Mrs. George, the cashier in Tanner’s steak shack, testified that he had, in fact, been cooking and could not possibly have stabbed Mike. The people began to lose interest. So did the Sheriff.
Tanner stared blankly over the crowd at the red glow illuminating the dusty sky. His nose still hurt like hell. He rubbed at it with the paper towel the Sheriff had given him. A group of men with flashlights and rifles began to gather near the woods. Someone was shouting directions. The adults were breaking off in small groups, exchanging ideas, and creating theories. Teen girls stood in circles hugging each other, crying on each other’s shoulders. Most off the boys took off running long ago.
He began walking towards the road. It was somehow better to be alone. He examined the blood on the towel and threw it at a trashcan. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke at the moon. He was glad to be done. He hated to see anyone hurt but he disliked cooking at the fair even more.
Passing by a group of talkers, he could not help but overhear, “…Kevin McMillian and Sandy Poling. That’s who he told the Sheriff he was with.”
“Are they dead? Did they see who did this?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what they are going up the Point to find out.”
“Probably some crazy Philippi son of a bitch. Always knew one day they’d go to far.”
“For Christ’s sake. Shut the hell up.”
“You think so, well in 82, these bastards…” He tossed his cigarette on the ground behind the group as he passed out of hearing range. He picked a bloody bugger from his nose and wiped it on the thigh of his greasy jeans. For the first time Tanner was able to reflect about what happened. Mike was stabbed, no one knows why, and he had found him. If he hadn’t decided to have a smoke, well, who knows? There certainly were a lot of crazy assholes in this town but nobody had ever gone far enough to try and really kill somebody, particularly a star ball player. And top it all off with a shot to the nose from some cock-strong dickhead.
Two miles up the road on Route 119 the lights and houses started to become increasingly sparse. Somehow it always seemed spooky to Tanner how he could hear more efficiently in the dark. Listening to the night, he could hear the tobacco burning at the tip of his cigarette. He thought about how distinct his footsteps must sound to things listening close by in the woods. For the first time it occurred to him that the individual who did Mike might still be out there looking for someone else. He immediately flushed him mind with alternate possibilities. “It was probably just,” he began to speak aloud, feeling as though it made the thoughts more true, “some dude who had enough of Mike fucking with his girlfriend. It was bound to happen sooner or later.” He looked over both shoulders, as if by chance, someone had been listening to agree with him. A shiver shot down his spine. Ahead he could see the trail to the Rivershack. He quickened his pace and walked intently trying not to seem overly rushed.
He stood at the head of the trail and squinted his eyes, looking down through the brush to the riverbank. He had already made up his mind that nothing was out there and the only way to prove it was to just keep on moving like nothing ever happened. He walked down the trail, moving quickly through the occasional overhang. He reached into the change pocket of his jeans and pulled out a wooden pipe. In his sock he had a small bag of grass to go with it. He held both items tightly in his hand as made the last turn and walked out onto the riverbank. Sitting on the log bench in front of the Rivershack sat a person, head hanging down into folded arms. Tanner froze in his tracks and held his breath.
He could see the persons head bobbing. He appeared to be crying. He sat up straight and picked a rock from the ground. He threw the rock out over the river and yelled in anguish. “Fuck. Ah fuck.”
Tanner immediately recognized the meek voice, having heard this type of breakdown before, from his cousin, Jeremy. He continued to scream and kick his legs at nothing, eventually becoming exhausted and falling to the ground in a pile. Tanner walked toward Jeremy and announced his approach so as to not to startle him any more. He only came down here once in a while and was likely to be very jumpy after taking a beating.
“Jeremy. It’s Tanner. I’m coming over.” Jeremy threw his arms in the air and dropped them heavily to the dirt. For the most part he remained motionless.
“Are you OK, buddy?” Tanner knelt beside him and examined his face for cuts or bruises.
“Who did it this time?” He sat down Indian style on the bank beside him. “Was is it at the Silver Rail or the Lanes?” Jeremy remained motionless, staring blankly at the stars.
“Come on, Jeremy, you know I don’t care about that stuff. Not like the others.” Tanner picked up smooth rock and rubbed it between his fingers. He turned and skipped it across the river surface.
“Did you hit on somebody or was it just for kicks again? You know you can be honest, at least with me.” Tanner eased himself down and stretched out on the dirt parallel to Jeremy. “Did you hear the sirens down at the fairgrounds?”
Tanner sat up and looked back down upon Jeremy. “So you can speak. Well you missed out. There was one hell of a commotion down at the fair.” He stood up and walked to the edge of the river. “You might have liked to seen it,” he spit in the water, “Considering what that boy done to you a few months back.”
Jeremy sat up and looked at Tanner curiously, “Who did what to me?”
“It was Mike. Somebody cut him up pretty bad. I just figured, since he beat the shit out of you at McDonalds, you’d have like to seen him get his own.”
Jeremy jumped to his feet, “That doesn’t… How bad was… I mean, did they see Kevin or Sandy?
“What are you talking about Kevin and Sandy? No one saw anything but Mike and a shit load of blood. Christ, for a minute the dip shit Sheriff thought that I might have done it on account of my finding him and getting his shitty blood all over me.”
“That’s Mike’s blood all over you?” Jeremy grabbed his shirttail and raised it into the moonlight, staring at the blood and holding his breath. “Ah, Jesus Christ he did it. He fucking did it.”
“He fucked it up. Everything.” Jeremy walked over to the Rivershack and smacked his head against the rotting wood.
“Who did everything? Did you fucking cut Mike, Jeremy?” Tanner walked over to Jeremy and put his hand on his shoulder. Jeremy spun around and screamed, “Don’t touch me!” He was shaking uncontrollably.
“OK, OK man. Take it easy, just sit down.” He sat down on the log bench and showed Jeremy a spot with his hands. He patted the wood gently, and brushed of some dry leaves. Jeremy sat down and put his head on Tanners shoulder. He cried deeply, sobbing and drooling on Tanners shirt.
“You didn’t get beat up tonight, did you? Something else is going in here.” Tanner placed his hand on the back of Jeremy’s head and rubbed up softly. “Are you gonna tell me what’s up here?”
Tanner sat and pulled some smoke from the bowl. He tapped the side and packed the ash down with the blackened end of his lighter. He pulled it once more and handed it out to Jeremy. He took the bowl as Tanner buried his head in his arm trying to stifle a coughing fit.
They sat in dead silence for ten minutes, kicking at rocks, and thinking crazy thoughts. Neither one seemed inclined to break the silence. Tanner finally stood up and stretched. “Listen, I’m gonna get outta here. If you want to talk just come over to the house. Or if you are in trouble?”
“I don’t know what I am,” replied Jeremy without looking up from the ground. “I do need you to do me favor.”
“Yea, what’s that?”
“Find out what happened to Kevin McMillian and Sandy Poling. Just don’t tell anyone that I was asking about them.”
Sheriff Bartolo stood beside the hospital bed, holding his hat in front of him, spotted with blood from several people. He had no sleep at all, having been out all night combing the woods near the fairgrounds, trying to figure what in God’s name had happened in his town.
He already spoken with all the parents, talked to the newspaper and filed his preliminary report. He had no answers, only confusion, and simply could not rest until he had spoken with Mike to find out what he had seen. News traveled fast in the mountains and his town was no exception. People were likely to arrive at their own conclusions and take matters into their own hands if he could not satisfy them that everything was being taken care of by the authorities. He didn’t feel much like an authority today, and he didn’t feel like seeing this one out to the end. There was no good explanation for this.
A nurse checked the bandages and swabbed at some crusted blood on Mike’s lower torso. “Is he going to be OK?” asked the Sheriff.
“Dr. Romano seems to think so, although he did lose a lot of blood. He’s not likely to be himself for some time. He was in surgery for several hours.”
Mike stirred. The Sheriff threw his hat on the chair and placed his hands on the gurney rail. He stood silently waiting for Mike to open his eyes.
“Sheriff, this might not be such a good time…”
“Thank you, I know. This kid has some information that cannot wait, so we’re going to have to make the best of it.” She looked coldly at him, grabbed the soiled bandages and walked out of the room.
“Mike,” said the Sheriff quietly.
“Mike, it’s Sheriff Bartolo. You are safe now.”
“Mike. Can you hear me?” Mike rolled his head back and forth on the pillow. His eyes crept open. The lights seemed to be painful. His eyes shot from IV cord to heart monitor, to the mask on his face, up to the Sheriff, and finally to the large bandage covering his side. He arched his back and moaned deeply. A tear ran down his left cheek. Sheriff Bartolo quickly grabbed a Kleenex and stopped the tear before it reached his chin.
“Its OK, son. You are in the hospital. I’m afraid you have a very nasty cut on your side.” Mike looked down again, then threw his head forcefully to the side, grimacing.
“I’m gonna get you some water, son.”
The Sheriff walked out if the room and to the bench where Lawrence, the deputy, had fallen asleep. He kicked the bench and scared Lawrence into sitting straight up.
“Get your ass up and go get some water for the boy.” The Sheriff shook his head and sat down heavily upon the bench.
“How is he Sheriff,” asked Lawrence?
“Hard to say. He’s in a lot of pain, and from what I can tell he’s still scared shitless. He’s doped up pretty good too.”
“Do you think he’ll be able to talk?”
“Dunno. I’ll get what I can, but remember the damn kid was nearly killed last night. We’re gonna give him the space he needs to get through this thing. Not to mention his teammate and friend are dead, and I’m guessing he saw the whole thing. You know how close those boys were.” The Sheriff dropped his head into his hands. “What the hell are we gonna do here, Lawrence?”
“I reckon we’ll get some clues Sheriff.”
“Some clues, huh. I reckon we will. Go and get the damn water you dip shit. I’ll be in the room.
“And just drop it off, I don’t need you hanging around right now.”
When the Sheriff reentered the room. Mike was conscious and began weeping at the sight of him. “Mike, can you hear me?” asked the Sheriff quietly. Mike nodded.
“I’m gonna ask you a few questions. It’s important that you try and remember what happened. If you need to stop just let me know.” Mike nodded again.
“Think back to last night Mike. You were out at the Point with Kevin and Sandy. Something happened. Do you remember who attacked you?” Mike shut his eyes tightly and arched his back. A small squeak escaped his lips and gritting teeth. His arms flexed as his squeezed the sheets in his fisted hands. The Sheriff watched as the bandages become saturated with blood as Mike tightened his muscles.
“Did you see who attacked you?” The Sheriff patted Mike’s tense arm. Mike nodded.
“Who was it, Mike? Did you know them?” Mike stared into the Sheriff’s eyes. He seemed to look directly through them out the back of his head. Two tears gathered in the far corners of Mike’s eyes and swelled to the break point. One rolled down his cheek and into his mouth along the elastic bands of the oxygen mask. He did not blink or move his mouth.
“Who was it, Mike?” Mike rolled his head to the side and refused to look at him. Lawrence walked through the door carrying a pitcher of water. The Sheriff turned and met him half way, extending his arms and reversing his direction.
“Not now, Lawrence.” He walked with him out into the hall. Both men leaned against the cold tile wall and sighed deeply.
The bright morning sun beamed through the window onto Tanner’s head. He rolled from side to side, acclimating himself to wakefulness. His eyes shot open wide as he remembered all the things that made the day before unforgettable. On the floor he saw his blood-stained shirt and muddy shoes. He sprang from the bed and quickly jumped into the shower.
He ran past his mother without saying hello and sprinted down the drive and onto Rt. 119 towards town. He had to get to the Four Corners Restaurant where the local old folk would know of any developments, if there were any at all. As he passed the 7-11 he noticed Sean Simon, the town drunk, and punk drug dealer. He usually knew just about as much as anyone, particularly unsavory facts and rumors, so he decided to stop.
“Hey Sean. You at the fair last night?”
“Sure wasn’t but I was out at creek fishing and plenty of people saw me there.”
“Take it easy, man,” said Tanner lighting a cigarette, “I was just wondering if you heard anything about the search last night. Or if they caught somebody.”
“Bartolo couldn’t catch a fucking cab.” Sean laughed at himself and spit on the hot pavement.
“Any word yet or what?”
“Yea, there’s a word. Can I get one of those smokes?” Tanner handed him a smoke and offered his lighter. “Found Kevin and Sandy Poling up near the Point cut up all to shit.”
“They’re fucking dead?”
“You better believe it.”
“Do they know who it was?”
“Nope. No idea. Ask around, though, I’m sure everyone’s got their own guess, or at least somebody else’s.” Sean sucked on the cigarette.
“I’m headin’ down to the Corner’s to get the coffee-and-pie take on this thing,” said Tanner.
“All right man. Be careful there. Bound to be testy, after all, there goes the season. You know that’s what they’re thinkin’.”
“Never thought about it that way but I guess you’re right.” Tanner tossed his cigarette butt and looked down the road. “Who’s gonna throw the ball?”
He grabbed a stool at the pie counter and ordered a large coke. He spun around on the stool and looked out over the tables. Everybody was either listening intently and shaking their heads, or bent over the table and whispering to the others. His mind drifted to Jeremy as he watched the endless conversations.
Jeremy sat on his bed holding his knees to his chest, staring at the listings in the open phone book at his feet. He eyes were swelled and dry, unable to produce any more tears, at least for now. He replayed the scene again, and again, and again. It was too much to handle. As if being gay in a small town wasn’t enough, now people were dead, just because they didn’t understand and because someone was afraid to let anyone know who he really was.
He remembered watching as the knife went in the first time. He was unsure how many times it actually happened. He remembered running through the woods, out of breath, and dizzy. He remembered screaming. He had watched as Sandy Poling died in the woods for no good reason. He saw her eyes look into his, and he saw them fade out into nothing. He gagged.
Outside his window the sun was setting and the light in his room was becoming dim. He had been sitting in the same spot since the sun had come up. His knees buckled and his feet tingled sharply with sleep, as he stood and walked to the phone on his desk. With his eyes closed he reached out with one hand for the phone and braced himself on the back of the chair with other. A welling in his stomach surfaced. He gagged again, and ran to the bathroom.
A cool, damp mist covered emerged on his forehead, as he heaved nothing into the toilet time and again. He was shaking uncontrollably but somehow felt relief in his stomach after the last gag had passed. He gathered some cold water from the faucet and doused his face. The phone rang. He stood motionless and stared into the mirror. It rang five times, then went silent.
Jeremy wiped the water from his face and closely examined his eyes, leaning forward into the mirror. He squinted his eyes and put on a serious face. He looked deep within himself to find some courage, to find enough manliness to make the call.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number, pausing a moment between each number to breath deeply. It began to ring. He sat on the edge of the desk, cradling the phone between his shoulder and jaw. His arms lie tightly crossed across his body.
“Grafton City Hospital, how may I direct your call?”
“Can you connect with Mike Haddox?”
“Do you know the room number?”
“Hold please, I’ll check the registry.”
“Sir, please hold. The room number is 247.” He clicked the flash button and abruptly ended the connection. He closed his eyes and hung his head, listening to the buzz of the dial tone. Suddenly he threw the phone against the wall and picked up the desk chair only to smash it back to the ground. He screamed and pulled his hair as he dropped slowly to his knees and then completely to the floor. Lying there, staring at the ceiling fan, he grabbed his crotch and squeezed tightly. A slow dull pain crept up through his abdomen and started to take away his breath. He rolled his head to the side and fixed his eyes on the telephone, lying in the corner. Slowly he crawled to the receiver and pushed redial. The nurse put him through again.
“Hello,” a voice tired and weak voice answered.
“This is Mike.”
“Mike… It’s Jeremy. How are you?” Mike did not answer but sat in silence and looked at the Sheriff sitting beside the bed, watching the TV mounted on the wall. His heartbeat rapidly increased and his mind began to race.
“Oh, hello Dad. Could you please hold on?” Mike said into the receiver. He kept his eyes on the Sheriff.
“Sheriff, it’s my Dad calling from Ohio. Would you mind… Can I take this in privacy?” He did his best to look pitiful. The Sheriff nodded and struggled out of the chair.
“You want anything while I‘m out?” he asked.
“A soda would nice,” Mike smiled, “And maybe some crackers.” He held his hand over the receiver. He watched and waited until the door had closed behind the Sheriff.
“What the fuck do you think you are doing calling here you little bastard.”
“I had to talk to you. To make sure…”
“You had to do shit,” said Mike, shifting his weigh up onto his elbow.
“Please Mike, nobody knows, but I’m worried,” Jeremy sat in silence for a moment, “About you.”
“You fucking worry about yourself. I’ll take care of this. Don’t you dare call here again or try to contact me at all. Do you understand?”
“But what I am supposed to think?”
“I don’t give a shit. You forget about what happened. You act like it never did. I will not have you ruin my life you little gay shit.”
“But you asked me to come there.”
“I don’t what you are talking about,” replied Mike.
“You know what Mike, fuck you, you’re the gay piece of shit. At least I’m not afraid of who I am.”
“You listen to me,” said Mike, sitting up on his elbow, cradling the phone tightly to his mouth, “My career is over. I don’t play ball. I don’t go to college. But I will not have you ruin the rest of my life.”
“What is that supposed…”
“You know what I mean. Don’t end up like Kevin and Sandy.” Mike hung up the phone.
Jeremy remained still, listening to the dial tone. A tear dropped onto the receiver and disappeared into one of the holes. If only he’d learned his lesson after the first time, after Mike beat him up. But it always has to be a secret in this town, that part he understood, maybe all too well. He sat on the floor, opened the phone book, cradled his knees against his chest, and stared at the blue page listing for the Sheriff’s Department.
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