Blood Flats: Chapter 13

For Lee the sound of helicopters would forever have an association with Iraq, But the helicopter was no Marine Corps bird. This was a Kentucky State Police helicopter. It was making wide circles across the fields and forests, following a general trajectory down the highway.

Perhaps Phelps had not pursued him into woods, after all. The sheriff had chosen to work smart rather than hard. Lee could appreciate the reasoning of his adversary. The sheriff would have looked more heroic if he had engaged in a foot chase. But that would have ultimately been fruitless. Lee was both younger and fitter. He had had a head start on the lawman. Phelps had no doubt taken these factors into account. He was thinking strategically rather than emotionally.

And now Lee had to control his own emotions if he intended to keep his life and his freedom. 

There would be two men—possibly three—circling above him in the helicopter. He imagined them looking down on him through a pair of binoculars. Yes, that’s the man, they would be saying. He’s the one who killed those two people in that trailer.

If he fled across the field into the woods, he would draw the helicopter down upon him. A lone man racing across an empty field would not go unnoticed from their vantage point. They would descend upon him and call in more units and drive him into a noose.

Nor could he go back the way he came. And yet, he would draw attention if he merely walked down the highway. 

A short ways down the road was a feed and agricultural supply store. Surely the general citizenry would not be alerted of his fugitive status yet. He could go in there and mill about for five or ten minutes, pretending to be another shopper. By that time the helicopter would be gone.  

The aircraft made another circle in the general area above him. Had he already caught their attention? 

He began to walk toward the agricultural supply store, his steps as deliberate and natural as he could manage them. There was a sign in the parking lot that advertised special pricing on herbicides. Another sign declared a deal on a device that captured carpenter bees. 

Lee was within a few yards of the parking lot when he realized that the .45 was still jammed in his belt. 

A pickup truck rolled past him from behind, slowed, and idled into the parking space near the front entrance of the store. What a damn fool he had been; the gun would have been in clearly visible from the front seat of the truck. Lee was lucky if the driver had not seen it, in fact; hopefully he had not been paying attention.

A sunburned man clad in jeans, a stained tee shirt, and John Deere cap climbed out of the parked pickup truck and walked through the front entrance of the supply store without giving Lee so much as a glance. He had been lucky; but he had to do something about the gun before another vehicle drove past.

The sound of the helicopter’s engine seemed to grow louder as it roared overhead again. He risked a brief glance at the sky: The chopper was moving away from him now, though he knew it would circle back, sweeping the area in a series of wide, gradually shifting arcs.

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There was a culvert at the edge of the parking lot. Lee did his best to ascertain that no one was watching him. Then reached behind his back and removed the gun from his belt. He knelt and pretended to tie one of his boot strings. He slid the gun into the mouth of the drainage pipe, and pushed it far enough into the corrugated steel opening so that no one would notice it. 

Then he stood up. The police helicopter was growing louder again. Hopefully the men above him had not noticed the lone figure stooping to push an object into a drainage pipe. 

Lee crammed his hands into his pockets and walked toward the main entrance of the store. Two other shoppers walked past him, exiting the store: one with a bag of seed slung over his shoulder, another carrying a newly purchased shovel and hoe. Neither man was familiar. 

The automatic glass door slid open and Lee stepped into the air-conditioned interior. The floors were bare concrete and the main area of the store was a maze of pallets: Many of the items that farmers bought were packaged in bulky sacks, bundles, and buckets. The pallets were stacked waist-high or shoulder-high. Along the outer perimeter of the main room were shelves of smaller items: hand tools and containers of insecticide, work gloves and spare parts for farm equipment.

At the back of the customer area was a television mounted near the ceiling on a steel frame. A group of three men and one woman were gathered around the set.

I need to kill about five or ten minutes in here, Lee thought. Just enough time for the police helicopter to move on. Lee prayed that none of the shoppers would recognize him. Of course, he had many friends and acquaintances in the county, and his picture had recently been in the paper following his return from Iraq.

Lee buried his face in a newspaper-sized promotional circular that was lying on an adjacent stack of boxes. The boxes contained a chemical fertilizer that was—according to the words printed on the cardboard—specially formulated for use on soybeans. The circular had been printed by the Burpee seed company. 

He pretended to divide his attention between the circular and the television set. This strategy, he decided, would make him less noticeable than a deliberate and obvious effort at seclusion. He stood just outside the gaggle of shoppers watching the television.

The broadcast was a news magazine talk show of some sort. The show’s host was interviewing a middle-aged, bearded author. When the camera panned on the interview subject, the man’s name and source of distinction were identified by electronically generated letters:  “Brett St. Croix, author of The Death Factory: How the U.S. Military Turns American Youths into Killers”  

The interview had apparently been underway for a while, and St. Croix was in the middle making a particular argument. 

“Militant Islam is nothing more than a reaction against Western interventionism!” St. Croix declared. The camera angle shifted from the author and the host to the studio audience. The author’s comments elicited a few groans from the crowd—but these groans were drowned out by a larger volume of cheers. “And we shouldn’t be intervening in the Middle East!”

Lee was in no mood for politics at the moment; but he found himself, ironically, welcoming the distraction from his more immediate predicament.

By God, I agree with you, Lee thought, repeating the author’s last statement in his own mind. Though for an entirely different set of reasons.

Hawkins County was red-blooded patriot territory; but Lee knew that the war in Iraq had been less than popular in many quarters of the country at large. He had seen the protesters on television and on the Internet. In fact, he had watched more than a few news reports of these protests while in Iraq. There was a television in the rec room of the fortified compound that had been his home in Iraq. On more than one occasion, he had subjected himself to the irony of these televised protests against the war, only hours or minutes before the Marine Corps subjected him to the real thing.  

The protesters don’t get it, Lee thought. Even when they are right, they are right by accident. 

There were perspectives on militant Islam and great power intervention that the media mostly chose to ignore. Lee remembered one particular Iraqi village that he and his fellow marines had entered during an anti-insurgent sweep. They had found no al-Qaeda in the village; but they had found something else that made Lee question the ultimate success and meaning of the U.S. mission in Iraq. 

In the center of the village a group of men had been gathered around the body of teenaged girl. Her arms were bound around her waist. To Lee’s horror, the girl had been buried up to her waist in the sand so that the men could more easily pelt her to death with rocks. 

The girl had already been dead by the time the marines arrived. The village men were in the last stages of their rock-throwing. A few members of Lee’s squad had fired in the air to make them stop. The marine interpreter had shouted at the male villagers, demanding an explanation. 

There was much shouting, and more than a few threats hurled in both directions. Gradually the story came together. The sixteen-year-old girl had been married off to a man three times her age. Her father had wanted a choice patch of land that belonged to the prospective groom, who already had two middle-aged wives and four children who were older than his new bride.

Apparently the young girl had been quite beautiful, and she had attracted many admirers. Trouble had arisen when the girl’s husband had decided that she was too flirtatious with a young man in the village. Nothing had ever been proven; but there were damning accusations. The young man had fled one night in terror. The girl had remained to face the summary justice of the Quran. Her father and her estranged husband were among the men who had thrown the stones.

There was nothing about the girl that looked flirtatious or beautiful now, with half of her torso buried in the sand, her hair matted with blood, her face a mass of contusions.  

Is this the society that we are fighting to preserve? Lee had thought, as he looked at the smashed concavity that had once been the nose of the young girl. Is this what I am risking my life for?  

Standing in the feed store now, Lee recalled the dark, violent impulse that had seized him in that moment, as he had looked from the crushed, swollen face of the teenage girl to the sullen faces of her male executioners. He had wanted to gun down all of those men who had thrown the stones, to slaughter them in a righteous fury of the Old Testament variety. In the end he had restrained himself; but there had been moments since then when he had wished he had killed them—every last one of them. 

These reminiscences came to an abrupt stop when there was a sudden change in the programming. The talk show was interrupted by a news bulletin. 

Lee didn’t wait to hear if the news broadcaster mentioned his name, or to see if they flashed a photo of him across the screen. No doubt that would come with time. He turned as soon as soon as he heard the words “multiple shootings” and the name of the trailer park. 

On the way out he bumped into a man who looked familiar. He greeted Lee with a smile. “Say aren’t you?” he began—for this man had not seen the images on the television. 

Lee nodded and brushed past him, then out the main entrance of the store. He scanned the sky: there was no helicopter in the burnt blue haze, and its sound was gone as well. 

He knelt by the culvert and quickly pulled the gun from the drainage pipe. He shoved it into his belt and stepped onto the two-lane highway. There was the screech of brakes, and a horn blared. Lee leapt aside as the driver of an old Ford Mustang shook his fist and accelerated again. Watch where the hell you’re going he shouted, mouthing the words through his windshield as Lee, more than a little dazed, silently stared back at him.

Chapter 14

Table of contents

Blood Flats: Chapter 12

Back into the woods again. Lee had no idea where he was going now—except that he was still traveling south. It would be about noon: He allowed himself a brief glance upward and saw that the sunlight filtering through the tree leaves was intense, burning the outlines of branches into negative images across his retinas. 

Perhaps he had made a mistake in leaving Tradd’s gun where the young father could find it. Tradd might be tracking a short distance behind him even now, as the law was surely tracking him.

He passed a deer blind that was suspended about a foot off the ground. There would be no hunters in June but the deer blind spooked him nonetheless: It reminded him of a machine gun pillbox on four wooden legs: He imagined Sheriff Phelps taking aim at him, sliding a rifle out from the wooden structure’s firing slit. 

Was the image a premonition? Was that how this was all going to end? A bird darted across a shaft of sunlight in the middle of the trail and Lee started, expecting Tradd or Sheriff Phelps or perhaps someone else.

Calm down, he told himself. You have to think. You have to get your wits about you.

Lee also found that he was haunted by the parting look that the boy, Zack, had given him. He pictured the young boy telling his grandchildren about the incident someday, the way that old-timers sometimes told stories about chance encounters with famous outlaws from the 1920s. He knew that he was no John Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson; and at this exact hour much of the county still regarded him as a war hero. But that collective opinion of him would surely change—just as Tradd’s opinion of him had shifted in the flicker of an instant. The false accusations and the circumstantial evidence would be enough to damn him in most people’s minds.

Whatever Lee’s true motivations, whatever the truth of what had happened in the trailer, the young father would recall only one fact: that Lee had held a gun on him and, by extension, his family. And when the law learned of the incident it would only add to the weight of his apparent guilt. He was going to end up dead or behind bars—and probably dead—through a series of his own miscalculations and plain bad luck.

The trail descended and rose again and the woods abruptly ended. Beyond the woods was not the uncut meadow or cultivated field that he might have expected, but a stripped landscape of dirt and uprooted trees. The land had been cleared in a wide semicircle, and the uncomfortable fantasy of being an outlaw in the woods gave way to an even more uncomfortable reality: He was an outlaw in the open daylight.

Lee heard the sounds of the heavy equipment before he saw the men working: A county work crew was adding an extension to Route 257: The new road would pass by the campground where Lee had been an unwelcome guest at the campsite of Tradd and his family.

He sensed that he was walking into a bad situation; but once again going back the way he had come was not an option. Lee walked forward, trying his best to appear nonchalant, hoping that he would be able to make his way without attracting attention. It was a hope that soon proved futile.

“Hey, you can’t cut through here!” the leader of the work crew shouted at Lee above the rumbling of a road grader. He was in his early fifties and he had a considerable paunch. He badly needed a shave and a cigarette dangled from his lips. The crew leader had been talking to the crewman operating the grader when he noticed Lee. The massive yellow machine was about to transform a strip of this bumpy field into a more level surface that would become the next increment of the Route 257 extension. Black smoke belched from the machine’s vertical exhaust pipe.

The crew leader signaled for the crewman operating the road grader to hold on for a moment. He came jiggling over to Lee, shaking his head and muttering beneath his breath—no doubt cursing this fool who didn’t have the sense to stay away from a construction site.

“You can’t cut through here!” the crew leader said. He was close enough for Lee to smell the man’s sweat and the cigarette.

The .45 was tucked in the waistband of Lee’s pants at the small of his back. Lee did not think that any of the county work crew members were close enough to notice the outline of the gun beneath his shirt. But they were pausing their tasks and gawking now, as men engaged in tedious work will do in the presence of any unexpected diversion. 

“I’ll stay away from the equipment,” Lee said. He knew that these words would not placate the man even before they were out of his mouth.

“No, you don’t understand,” the crew leader said. “This is a restricted area. You get hurt here and the county is liable. That would mean my ass and probably my job. I’m not going to lose my job because some fella wants to take a hike through the woods.”

“I’m just passing through,” Lee said.

The operator of the road grader had now killed the engine of his machine and was climbing down from the cab. 

The crew boss removed his cigarette from his mouth, turned his head and spat in the dirt. “I can’t let you through here. Look—we’ve got pits and trip hazards all over the place. This is a dangerous area.”

I’ve witnessed a double murder, for which I’m now on the run, and this guy wants me to concern myself with “trip hazards” Lee thought.

Nevertheless, Lee was now facing a potential confrontation with two men, as the crewman from the road grader was beginning to walk toward him. He was a large man who looked like he had a temper—the sort of guy who regularly engaged in knock-down-drag-out bar fights on Friday nights—just for fun.

“What’s the matter, dude? You hard a hearin’?” the road grader driver called out. “You’re in a restricted area.” 

A few more exchanges of words and there might be a real confrontation, Lee realized. He had the .45 of course, and the crew boss would back down in an instant if he saw it. But that would expose his presence to yet another set of witnesses. And the crewman from the road grader might call Lee’s bluff. Some men were daring and stupid enough to charge a loaded firearm.

“Tell me where I can go,” Lee said.

“Now that’s the spirit,” the crew boss said. “You got two choices: Go back in the direction you came from, or take that road outta here.” He jabbed a thumb toward a gently declining hill at the edge of the construction area. Lee could see pavement through the breaks in the trees.

Since Lee could not retrace his steps in the direction of Tradd, he would have to go down the hill, then. 

He eased his way backward, taking short steps so that he would not take a pratfall and then roll down the hill. The road crew probably interpreted this maneuver as fear of an attack. In reality, this was the only way Lee could keep them from seeing the .45. 

“Show’s over!” the crew boss shouted to his subordinates, seeing that Lee was going. “Back to work!”

Lee walked through a short band of trees and undergrowth and came out on a two-lane highway. His first impulse was to head for the grassy expanse on the opposite side of the road. Another forest lay beyond it. 

Then he heard the thucka-thucka of the helicopter.

Chapter 13

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Wattpad and digital sharecropping

Last September, the folks over at Forbes wrote a story about Wattpad and its highly exploitive (though completely voluntary) business model:

Wattpad has more than 4 million writers, who post an average of 300,000 pieces a day. The company brings in an estimated $19 million in revenue, mostly from ads on its site and from stories sponsored by companies like Unilever who want to advertise alongside a specific writer or genre. Nearly all its writers are unpaid; several hundred make money from ad-sharing revenue and 200 of those also earn from writing sponsored content and inking publishing deals with Wattpad. That lean business model means Wattpad is profitable. It has few costs beyond bandwidth, its 130 employees and the Toronto offices. The model “is a great way to seek talent without having to pay huge amounts for it,” says Lorraine Shanley, a publishing industry consultant.

Forbes, September 2018

4 million writers, and only a minuscule number (about .005%) make any money for their efforts. 

Wattpad is a textbook example of digital sharecropping.

I have nothing against the concept of web fiction, web serials, or posting fiction for free on the Internet. Much of the content of this site, after all, is web fiction. (I have my own little Wattpad going on here.)

But the defining characteristic of digital sharecropping is the socialization of effort, and the privatization of rewards. Wattpad earns $19 million in revenue, because writers choose to post their fiction there, rather than writing on their own sites

I can already anticipate your “but….” rebuttals.

Yes, I realize that only a handful of these writers, if they created their own web presences, would garner any appreciable audience, or earn any real revenue. But let me ask you: How much chance do most writers have on Wattpad, amid 4 million other writers, posting 300,000 pieces per day?

The odds of genuine success are about the same either way. The writers who are standing out on Wattpad could, with a bit of effort, stand out on their own online platforms. And then they would make a whole lot more money than Wattpad is paying them, you can be sure. Even more importantly, they would control their own platforms. 

Digital sharecropping works because too many creative types are desperately slavering for any form of immediate recognition, like a thirteen year-old boy hopelessly infatuated with an eighteen year-old girl.  

Look at me! Look at me now!A like on a Facebook post! A retweet! A like on a YouTube video! Oh, any form of recognition will do! Pleeeeaaase!

The owners of the social media giants understand this weakness of all creative people, and they eagerly exploit it. 

Resist. If you can’t afford your own independently hosted WordPress site, then start a free blog on Google’s blogger platform. 

Yes, Google ultimately controls Blogger. But there you at least have some independence. (You can also run your own affiliate links, and eventually qualify for Adsense revenue).

Whatever you do—if you’re a writer—don’t post your fiction on Wattpad. Don’t be a sucker. 

Just as Facebook and Twitter have become the cancer that destroyed blogging, so Wattpad has become the cancer that threatens to destroy independently published web fiction. 

Don’t fall for the scam.

Revolutionary Ghosts: Chapter 36

That night, I did manage to go to sleep. For a while, I lay awake in bed, listening to my parents arguing with Jack.

I don’t know if they gave him yet another handout that night. Eventually, though, he left. By then I was asleep.

Late that night—or early the next morning, I should say—I awoke from a dream. 

The dream itself was routine enough: a mishmash of random scenes and events from my daily life. First I was at home with my parents, then I was going to classes at West Clermont High School. In another segment of the dream, I was working at McDonald’s. 

The dream was subject to the usual distortions and inconsistencies of the dreamworld, but it contained no content that was especially memorable or disturbing.

And then some force invaded the dream.

The dream images of daily life abruptly dissolved, replaced by total darkness. I was awake now—but not quite awake. Paused on the boundary between sleep and full consciousness. 

And I wasn’t alone there.

A presence was leaning over my bed. 

I dared not open my eyes. As is often the case in this in-between state, however, I was capable of some version of sight, or what I imagined to be sight. 

Lying on my back, I could sense the vague shape leaning over me. 

It terrified me, whatever it was. It was horrible and seductive at the same time. 

The thing was trying to speak to me. But before I could make out the words, I pulled myself out of this in-between state.

 

Fully awake now, I sat up in bed. Looked around my darkened bedroom. 

I was alone. But I noticed something: The door of my bedroom was slightly ajar.

I had closed it when I went to bed, to drown out the sound of Jack’s rambling pleas for charity, and my parents’ frustrated but half-hearted responses. 

But now the door was slightly open. 

Not good. 

It was just a dream, I told myself. Just a dream.

Another part of me perceived that it hadn’t been a dream, though. The scenes of school and home life and McDonald’s—yes, those had been dreams. But I had been at least marginally conscious when that thing visited me.

I struggled to figure it out. The thing had appeared as nothing more than a mere shape. 

Or no—more than a mere shape. The shape had been distinctly female. But no longer female in the sense that Leslie Griffin and Diane Parker were female. 

The shape had once been female, it occurred to me. My visitor carried femininity—and humanity—as distant memories. But it was something else now. 

Marie Trumbull, were the words that sprang to my mind. 

Ridiculous, I told myself. You were not visited by Marie Trumbull, the executed Loyalist spy. You’re letting your imagination get the best of you.

I lay there, for perhaps an hour or more, before I finally willed myself to go back to sleep.

Chapter 37

Table of contents

Revolutionary Ghosts: Chapter 27

I made it to the McDonald’s on time—barely.

I walked in through the front door. As the six o’clock hour neared, the restaurant was doing a fair amount of business. 

This early, it was mostly families. Young parents with small children. McDonald’s wouldn’t release the Happy Meal for several more years, but the fast food chain was already a hit with children. 

When I walked back into the employees area, behind the customer counter, I didn’t see any unfamiliar faces—and certainly no one who could be Diane Parker.

I was about to take my place behind the open cash register—the one on the far right. But first I had to clock in. The time clock, with a card for each employee, was mounted on the wall, adjacent to the manager’s office. As I stepped past the office door, I saw Louis seated behind the desk. He was smoking a cigarette, as always. 

Louis saw me through the window in the center of the top half of the door. He waved me in.

I pantomimed punching my timecard. Louis nodded. I clocked in, so I would get credit for my time. Then I entered the smoke-filled office. 

Oh, another thing about 1976: Smoking in public was still more or less acceptable behavior. Most restaurant dining rooms had nonsmoking sections. But smokers lit up without hesitation in the common areas of offices, shopping malls, and bars. 

“Shut the door behind you,” Louis said.

I complied. The smoke inside the office was so thick it stung my eyes, filled my mouth and nostrils. 

I waved my hands about dramatically, as if I could drive the smoke away. “You’re going to stunt my growth with that stuff, Louis.”

Louis was a tall, gangly young man with black curly hair and a light complexion. He often developed inexplicable red blotches on his cheeks and neck. He wore thick glasses encased in heavy black frames.

Louis smiled impassively at my objection to the smoke. We had had this discussion before. 

“How tall are you?” he asked.

“Six-one.”

“Well, there you have it. You’ve already done all of your growing. And look at me: I’m six-three.”

“We could both get cancer.”

“You won’t get cancer. Have a seat, please.” He motioned to the visitor’s chair on the far side of the desk. “I wanted to go over next week’s schedule with you.” 

I sat down, coughing.

“Quit hamming it up. The smoke will make a man of you.”

“If that’s the case, then I should have a twelve-incher by the time I walk out of here.”

“Hey, I didn’t say that smoke is a miracle drug. Think of what you’re starting with. Anyway, take a look at the days and shifts I have you signed up for next week. Let me know if there’s any problem. But please don’t let there be any problems. If I have to redo your schedule, I have to redo everyone else’s schedule to fill in the gaps.”

He slid the paper across the desk to me and I gave it a quick look. I was scheduled to work almost every evening, as usual. 

Ray Smith had a diktat about day shifts: Day shifts were reserved for the older employees, especially the young married women with children. I think Ray Smith believed that he was doing his part to keep at least a handful of the local teenage population out of trouble, by keeping us at work at his restaurant during the witching hours. 

“I don’t see any problems,” I said, sliding the schedule back to him. “That will be fine.”

“I saw you looking around when you came in,” Louis said. “You were looking for Diane Parker, weren’t you?”

“Not really.” I said. 

“Bullshit. You were rubber-necking like you’d never seen the inside of a McDonald’s before. Anyway, Diane Parker is working a half shift tonight. She’ll be in at eight. Speaking of schedules: You’re good for closing up tonight, right?”

“Closing up” referred to the procedures that we went through after the conclusion of business hours. Some light cleaning, restocking supplies, etc. Everything that needed to be done so that the morning shift didn’t walk into a chaotic, messy restaurant. 

“Of course,” I said dutifully. I would leave the restaurant at 10:30 or 10:45 p.m. tonight, I estimated. 

“I guess you can go ahead and get to your cash register.” He glanced at his watch. “Did you get here at six?”

“Five minutes early, actually. Then you called me in here to talk.”

“Ah. Yes. Well, anyway.”

I could sense Louis hemming and hawing around. There was something else he wanted to talk to me about.

 

“Is something else on your mind, Louis?”

After pondering my question for perhaps five seconds, he said, “I’m not sure, really. I’ve been feeling a little…weird, of late.”

“‘Weird’? You’re always a little weird, Louis.”

“Come on. I’m being serious.”

“All right. What do you mean by ‘weird’? Are you sick?”

“No. I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong or weird about me. I feel like there’s something weird going on. Around here, I mean.”

It was as if Louis had read my thoughts, been privy to the events of the entire day: the hoofprints at the Pantry Shelf, the missing persons flyer, that shadow I saw in the hallway of my home…and then finally, the second set of hoofprints and the bizarre reaction of the  clerk at the Sunoco station.

“What about you, Steve? Have you noticed anything unusual of late?”

I could have confided in him in that moment. I could have told him about everything I had experienced since roughly noon. 

Unlike the clerk, Louis was certainly open to a speculative conversation.  

But I didn’t reveal anything to Louis. 

“I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary,” I said. “Not really. Not at all, now that I think of it.”

Why didn’t I meet Louis halfway, when he was clearly attempting to take me into his confidence? 

I wondered to myself—even then. 

My reasons had nothing to do with Louis. I don’t know if I was still in denial, but I was definitely in a state of resistance. This was the summer before my senior year of high school. I wanted it to be filled with fun. Pleasant memories. Maybe a new girlfriend.

I didn’t want to think about young people around my age going missing, possibly the victims of some horrible forces that I could barely imagine existing. I didn’t want to consider the notion that Harry Bailey’s article in Spooky American Tales might be anything more than the sensational ramblings of a pulp journalist. I didn’t want to contemplate the possible meaning of those two sets of hoofprints, the nasty gunk around their edges. 

“I’d better get to my cash register,” I said.

“Yes, I guess you’d better.”

I was standing up from the visitor’s chair when Louis gave me yet one more thing to think about. 

“Oh,” Louis said, “if you do happen to hit it off with Diane Parker, I recommend that you don’t take too long in making your move. What I mean is: Don’t let Keith Conway make his move first. You know how he is, after all.”

Chapter 28

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