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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Galeria Fotos Porn Sex story

Princes of Mannsborough, Chapter 10 of 22 by Vulgar Argot (tags at bottom
to avoid spoilerage)

When Thule pulled up in front of Dawn's house the next morning, she was
sitting on the curb. Her head was down, so intent on the book in her lap
that she didn't look up until Thule had stopped his car in front of her.

Sliding the book into her bag, she unfolded into a standing position.
Thule watched the process, thinking about what Marigold had implied in her
question about being with women and suppressed a shiver at the visual that
hit him. As disturbing as the whole scene with Maya had been, he hadn't
lied when he said it was also very arousing. The idea that she might have
been talking about Dawn..well, it created a visual that could be
distracting.

Oblivious to Thule's train of thought, Dawn chose that moment to
stretch, her yellow tank top rising to expose her belly. Walking to the
car, she brushed gravel off of the back of her jeans before climbing into
the back seat.

"Holy shit," she leaned in over the front seat as soon as she bounced
into the back, "What did you do to all of your beautiful hair?"

Thule laughed, "Let me answer that question indirectly. This morning, I
slept forty-five minutes later than I did yesterday."

Dawn wrinkled her nose in amusement, "Now that you mention it, I don't
miss having all that hair either." She primped her own pixie cut a little.

"I thought that you were very pretty when your hair was longer," said
Thule, "but I always want women to have long hair."

Dawn pouted, "You don't think I'm pretty now?"

Thule glanced at her, "Can I establish something, please?"

Dawn blinked at him, "Yes?"

"You're a lesbian, correct?" asked Thule, "You have no interest in men?"

"None of the men I've met."

Thule sighed, "That's hardly the same thing. Is it?"

Dawn laughed, "No. I guess it isn't."

"So, you're only theoretically a lesbian?"

"I don't really like labels," said Dawn. "They cause a lot of trouble.
But, to answer your question, it's all pretty theoretical at this point."

"In that case," said Thule deadpan, "No. I do not think you are pretty
now. I think you are plain and unattractive. I find all women but one
plain and unattractive. The one woman I do find attractive is pretty close
to more than I can handle."

Dawn laughed, "You're funny. Can I rub your head for luck?"

Thule pretended to scowl, "Once, for a short duration. Ugly girls are
not permitted to touch my head for more than thirty seconds."

Dawn said, "Wait. I'm ugly now? I thought I was only plain."

"Hideous," elaborated Thule, "You'd better make it twenty seconds, max."

Dawn reached up and rubbed the top of Thule's head vigorously for a few
seconds. It was an odd sensation. At a quarter inch cut all around, it
was the shortest Thule's hair had ever been. He had to fight all of his
traditional mannerisms which included touching his own hair. It just
wasn't there.

"What were you reading?" he asked.

Dawn bit her lip, "Promise not to tell?"

Thule nodded, "Within reason. If Charlie decides it's worth putting
bamboo shoots under my fingernails to attain your reading list, I'll
probably spill my guts."

"Fair enough," said Dawn. She extracted the book from her bag, "It's a
real page turner called 'Automotive Spot Welding and Gross Body Work.'"

"Sounds riveting," said Thule. Dawn rolled her eyes at him, clearly
stifling a laugh.



-=-

When he went to the door to get Marigold, Jonas answered the door.
Rather than greeting Thule, he called up the stairs, "Delilah, your chariot
awaits."

Marigold came down, looking puzzled. When she saw Thule, she gave a
little squeak of surprise, "What did you do?"

"I slept an extra forty five minutes today," said Thule, "I stepped out
of the shower and it was dry."

"But," Marigold pouted, "I liked your hair."

They were walking down the front path now. Thule said, "I thought it
made me look like a dreg."

Marigold opened the car door, "It made you look like you. Now, you look
like a stranger."

Thule opened the door to his own side and slid into his seat, "Well, I
guess you can pretend you're with another man, then. Maybe it will make
you feel all sexy, like you're cheating on me."

"Well, there's that," said Marigold.

Dawn waved from the back seat, "Hi. Third party here."

"Whoops," said Marigold giggling, "You were so quiet, I forgot you were
here."

Dawn laughed, "You're talking about the hair, right?" When Marigold
nodded, she went on, "He let me rub it once for luck, but only once because
I'm horrendous to look at."

"I believe," said Thule, "that I said hideous. Marigold, on the other
hand, can rub it for as long as she likes."

Dawn leaned over the seat again to pout at Marigold, "You don't think
I'm hideous to look at, do you?"

Marigold laughed, "Nah. I'm sure that you're at least moderately
attractive." Then, she reached back and ruffled Dawn's hair. Thule tried
not to let it show in his face how much the whole exchange surprised him.
Since they'd gotten back from their weekend in New York, Marigold's
personality seemed to be changing almost by the hour. She was far more
relaxed than Thule had seen in years of watching her. A month ago, he
would not have been willing to say she was even capable of cracking a joke.
His greatest fear when considering his revenge was that he would push too
hard and Marigold might take her own life to get away from him.

Lost in thought, Thule did not hear most of the rest of the
conversation. It wasn't until he was pulling into his parking space in the
senior lot and Marigold reached up and rubbed his freshly-shorn head that
he realized his name had come up once or twice.

"Wow," said Marigold, "I think it's working. All this time, I've been
studying for tests and all I needed to do was rub your shaved head. Where
have you been for the last four years?"

Thule grinned evilly, "Biding my time and plotting against you, of
course."

As they walked to homeroom, Marigold wrapped herself under Thule's arm.
To all the world, they looked like an ordinary couple. Even Thule could
imagine that they were, which was sort of his hope for this week.

To his surprise and, for the first time in weeks, Thule had a completely
ordinary school day. He went to class, had lunch with his friends, even
had time to get over to the computer lab during study hall and get some
programming done. Because they were both working towards maximizing their
grades, Marigold was there by his side practically the whole time, smiling,
laughing, talking, a light touch here, a stolen moment there. Thule
allowed himself to daydream that it could always be like this. At that
moment, he would have given a great deal to be a normal student at a normal
high school with Marigold. That part still wouldn't be normal, of course,
but "normalized" might be all right.

As he was walking from his locker to the parking lot, Ioke Lau fell into
stride next to him. Thule smiled at her. He'd always liked Ioke. She was
one of the few people who seemed to manage to remain popular with all
factions at Mannsborough High while seemingly above all the machinations
that went on to maintain the social hierarchy. She was the first girl
Thule had ever asked out. Even at thirteen, she'd had the poise and grace
to turn him down in such a way that he actually ended up liking her more
than before he had asked.

"So," she asked, walking close enough to be heard, but not overheard, "I
heard you and Marigold Tarr were an item. Any truth to that?"

Thule gave no indication of veracity, "Where did you hear that?"

"Brianne," said Ioke. "Although, she used far more colorful and
pejorative language than I did. But, I never believe anything Brianne says
without independent verification. You never know what she might be up to."

Thule laughed, "I thought it was a requirement for being on the
cheerleading squad that you take everything Brianne says at face value."

"I'm not stupid," said Ioke. "I don't tell her she's a liar to her
face."

"So, why do you want to know?" asked Thule.

Ioke bit her lower lip, then said, "There are a lot of guys angling to
take your place if you stumble."

Thule looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, "I figured that. Did
somebody tell you to warn me?"

Ioke shook her head, "No, Thule. I'm telling you this because I like
you. And, I like Marigold although that hasn't always been easy. But,
right now, Brianne's out for her blood and Elliot's out for yours. I just
wanted to let you know that I'm keeping my ears open. If I hear anything
is going down, I'll let you know."

Thule smiled at her, genuinely grateful, "Thank you, Ioke. That really
means a lot."

"Thule, can I ask you a question?"

Thule nodded.

"What's going on with you? I always thought you could be popular if you
wanted to. I just figured it was a moral decision not to run with that
crowd. Now, all of a sudden, you're dating Marigold and Randy Vandevoort
of all people is saying nice things about you."

"Is he now?" Thule gave a wry smile.

"Yeah," said Ioke. "And, it's really pissing Brianne off. She put a
lot of energy this weekend into tearing Marigold down using her
relationship with you as Exhibit A. Now, all of a sudden, Randy is talking
you up and it's like he's kicked a chair out from under Brianne."

Thule turned and faced her, "Since when do you take such an interest in
Mannsborough high school politics? I thought you were above it all."

Ioke frowned, "I keep my ear to the ground. You don't acquire this
level of obliviousness without knowing what to avoid. But, you're making
me nervous, Thule. I can't believe you're throwing in your lot with Randy
Vandevoort. You're too decent a guy. I can believe you're going to cause
trouble, though. So, I'm asking you, what kind of trouble are you going to
cause? And how much of that trouble are innocent people around you going
to get splashed on them?"

Thule was torn between telling Ioke the truth and telling her she was
imagining things. Instead, he took the middle road of not being too
specific. He said, "There's definitely going to be trouble. Elliot's not
going to leave this alone. And, he's got friends. If I don't, it's going
to be a seriously unbalanced fight. That's not how I want it to go down.
If Randy can manufacture some friends for me or talk some out of siding
with Elliot, more power to him. I never asked him to."

Ioke narrowed her eyes at him, "There's more to it than that. Isn't
there?"

Thule sighed, "If there were, I would be a fool to talk about it.
Wouldn't I?"

Ioke considered that, then nodded, "All right, Thule. Like I said, if I
hear anything, I'll let you know."

As they reached the parking lot, Ioke laid a hand on Thule's shoulder
and smiled before she walked past a cluster of smokers and disappeared
behind them on the way to her own car.

Marigold greeted Thule by putting her arms around his neck and kissing
him on the mouth. Leaning against his chest, his arms still around her,
she asked, "What did Ioke want?"

Thule was still working out the full answer to that, so he gave a
partial answer, "To ask what I'm up to and let me know that Elliot still
wants to kill me and Brianne still wants to kill you."

"Not exactly anything we didn't know," opined Marigold.

"I know," said Thule. "I think she also wanted to give me her
benediction."

Marigold looked puzzled, "Why would she do that?"

Thule shook his head, "I'm not entirely sure. I always thought she was
sort of oblivious to the hierarchy here."

"Ioke?" asked Marigold. "Nah. She refuses to play a lot of Brianne's
games and she's got a lot of credibility because of it. She's nice to
everyone. But, if she's being seen with you on purpose, it means
something."

Thule's surprise must have shown in his face because Marigold stuck her
tongue out at him, "I may miss a lot, but I have survived four years at
Mannsborough High. You don't do that without some awareness of who's who."



-=-

Thule drove home with his window open, enjoying the feel of sun on his
skin and wind in his face. In the back seat, Dawn chattered about her
newest love interest, apparently having given up hope on Oksana for a
cheerleader who returned her interest. Dawn wouldn't name the girl because
she wasn't out about her sexuality. Thule listened with half an ear.
Later tonight, he would have to go into the belly of the beast, but for
now, he could just revel in the waning days of his senior year.

After he dropped Dawn off, Marigold asked casually, "Which cheerleader
do you think she could be talking about?"

Thule shrugged, "I don't know. I thought all the cheerleaders at this
school were man-eating harpies. I guess one's a woman eater. It's good
that they're getting some variety in their diet."

"I don't know," opined Marigold. "Brianne rules that squad with an iron
fist and I don't think she would like that. You can get thrown out for
wearing last year's fashion or the wrong color of lipstick."

Thule shrugged, "I guess that explains why she's so deep in the closet.
You should find out who it is if you can. She could be an ally on the
inside."

Marigold's eyes brightened, "Does that mean you're going to let me help
you in your one-man crusade?"

Thule sighed, "Little Flower, I really don't think you know what you're
asking for. My hands are going to be very dirty after this. I..."

"I know," said Marigold, "You keep warning me that your hands are going
to be dirty and I might hate you at the end of this. Thule, do you think
you're justified in what you're doing?"

Thule sighed, pulling into the driveway, then sat in the car, thinking
hard. Finally, he said, "It's been so long since I asked myself that
question. I'm feeling some doubt that I'm the right person to do this, but
somebody should. Randy Vandevoort's got a younger brother in the ninth
grade who's already on the road to pulling the same crap Randy does.
Brianne's graduating, but she's already grooming June Kane to take her
place. Nothing's going to change if I don't change it."

"So," asked Marigold, "are you justified?"

"Yes," said Thule quietly.

"Then, I'm by your side." Marigold leaned across the seat and kissed him
full on the mouth. The kiss was more tender than sexual. Thule broke it
before that changed.

"Come inside," he said quietly, "there's something I want to show you.
Then, you can decide if you're by my side, want to keep your hands clean,
or...or just want to walk away from me."

Marigold looked like she wanted to reassure Thule, but he got out of the
car and headed into the house. She followed him to his room. Inside, he
opened up the double closet at the foot of his bed and pulled out a green
army duffel bag. He laid it on the bed and unzipped it, "This is the kit I
bring with me when I'm working on gathering information. Look inside of
it."

Marigold sat down trepidatiously, pulling the bag open. Out came a half
dozen cameras, some small enough to be unseen in plain sight, one with the
kind of huge telephoto lens that paparazzi used to get pictures of
celebrities from a half mile away. Then came a shotgun microphone. After
that was a length of waterproof rope.

Thule could tell when Marigold's hand found the gun. Her eyes widened
and she hesitated in drawing it out. When she did, she eyed it with dread.

"Thule," she asked in a whisper, "You're not planning on going all
Columbine, are you?"

Thule smiled gently, "No. I don't want to hurt anyone unnecessarily. I
carry that for defense sometimes. As far as I know, Randy and Brianne have
never killed anybody. They deserve a lot, but they don't deserve to die.
Besides, you'd want some sort of automatic weapon to 'go Columbine.' A
single-shot handgun would be horribly inefficient."

Marigold nodded. She began pulling things out of the bag again. The
ammunition, clips, survival, and Swiss Army knives occasioned no comment.
After that, everything she pulled out seemed innocuous--tools and boots and
the like.

"Well," Marigold said, taking a deep breath, "It's not much worse..."

Thule knew he could stop there. He wanted badly to stop there.
Marigold had absorbed so much these last few days and was ready to commit
to be a part of not only Thule's dark plan, but his life as well. He
wanted to let her absorb it, get used to the idea. He'd never even used
what was in the small, black satchel and might not yet. But, she wouldn't
understand if she didn't see it. Besides, Thule felt like he needed a
sanity check. The only person he'd ever revealed the extent of his plans
to was Maya, who could hardly qualify as a sanity check. If he lost
Marigold over this, he would know he'd gone too far into the darkness.

"You missed something," he said. Undoing an internal zipper, he pulled
out the innocuous looking black satchel and laid it out. Half a dozen
little vials and pill bottles laid against the black felt that lined the
inside of the satchel.

He held up the first bottle, "Chloroform, in case I need to detain
someone or move them quietly without a fight."

On the next, "Nondilute LSD, enough to contaminate a small reservoir.
That is not my intent. Even diluted to the one hundredth part, it creates
a state of suggestibility similar to hypnosis."

Seeing that Marigold was not showing revulsion, he decided to skip over
the next two and get straight to the last bottle. He held it up and let
Marigold read the label.

"Rohypnol," she read, "Thule, are you planning to rape somebody?"

Thule shook his head, "No. I know this is popularly known as the date
rape drug, but I've got it as a substitute for sodium pentathol."

"Truth serum?" Marigold asked.

"Also a popular appellation," Thule said, falling into didactic mode as
he often did when nervous, "Mostly, sodium pentathol just lowers
inhibition, like alcohol. Unfortunately, sodium pentathol only comes in
gas and intravenous form. I don't know how to work a needle well enough
not to leave obvious marks or risk hurting someone with an overdose.
Rohypnol lowers inhibition. If you question someone who's taken it,
they'll generally tell you the truth. If you try to fuck them, they'll
generally let you. If you try to play tennis with them, they'll generally
try to play along, although it badly impairs motor skills, so they won't be
any good. Its use often leads to memory loss, particularly when mixed with
alcohol. You wake up feeling like you've got a really bad hangover and
can't remember much of what happened, which makes it a favorite of rapists.
Half the time, their victims don't remember they've been attacked. Most of
the rest of the time, they think they just drank too much and blame
themselves."

Marigold nodded, her face serious, "And these last two?"

Thule pointed, "That one's an ipecac I can administer if I give someone
an overdose or they have a bad reaction to one of the other chemicals and
they need to bring it up quickly. And that," pointing, "is a diuretic
mixed with food dye to make it look like you're peeing blood."

Marigold picked it up, "What good is it for, other than pranks?"

Thule shrugged, "It's a utility tool like the Swiss Army Knife. If I
want to get someone out of my way, it works fast and has no lasting side
effects. It's strictly for causing panic."

"Well," opined Marigold, "that's all excessively icky. Where did you
get all of this stuff?"

"It's all commercially available," said Thule, "The gun is licensed and
registered. None of the surveillance equipment is contraband. The
chloroform came from a veterinary supply store."

"And the Rohypnol?" Marigold asked.

Thule started sliding the bottles back into their places. He didn't
look Marigold in the eyes, but spoke quickly, almost mumbling, "Freshman
year, after we won our first big track meet, Randy Vandevoort held a big
party at his house. At the beginning of the party, he got all the freshmen
from the team together and offered us these with very strict instructions
on who they were supposed to be used on. When we found an appropriate
girl, we were to come back to him, make sure she wasn't 'protected' and get
a pill."

He started packing up the bag, "I waited until the party was in full
swing, then stole the bottle out of Randy's pocket and left. I quit the
team the next day. I was going to go to the police, but the chief of
police is a Vandevoort, the sheriff is a Vandevoort. I dug a little deeper
and found out that these parties had been going on for years. Ivan
Vandevoort views the whole town as some kind of medieval fiefdom and he's
more or less right."

Marigold opened her mouth to speak, but Thule had a faraway look in his
eyes and kept talking, "I knew what was going on, but I didn't do anything
to stop it. I kept Maya away from them as much as I could, but..." He
trailed off. Marigold put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Because I quit the team," he went on, "I fell far enough out of favor
that Maya became fair game. Randy even intimated once that he went after
her specifically to make sure that I understand who was boss."

"Thule," Marigold asked, "how could all of this have happened under my
nose and I never even noticed it?"

Thule zipped up the bag and pushed it back into the closet, "People
don't see what they don't want to see. I've talked to dozens of people who
have part of the picture. A few have a sense of how big it might really
be. I know it sounds crazy and paranoid..."

Marigold shook her head, "Not to me. Well, maybe a little bit. It's
not contradicted by any of the paltry facts I do have at my disposal.
But..."

Thule waited patiently for her question. Finally, she continued, "I
don't understand how so many girls could have been raped and the silence
maintained."

"Mostly," said Thule, "they prey on the quasi-willing, girls who aren't
quite popular, but want to be. The Rohypnol helps. Going to the local
police gets you nowhere. Fear of what the Vandevoorts can do contributes.
And they buy off the rest."

"There hasn't been anyone who refused to be bought off?" Marigold asked.

"I looked," said Thule, "I looked hard. When you've built an empire
like the Vandevoorts, I can't imagine that you'd just give up because
someone refused to cooperate. But, if there are any bodies buried around
here, they're buried so deeply that I can't find them."

Thule stopped talking when he realized Marigold was crying. He waited
for her to speak, but she didn't seem inclined to. Uncertain, he offered
her his open arms and she fell into them. He pet her hair, shushing her as
she gripped him hard by the arms.

"Oh, Thule," she whispered, "I'm so afraid for you."

Thule laughed, relieved that Marigold wasn't crying because she realized
she had to leave him. He kissed the top of her head. She tilted back to
be kissed on the mouth. Her hands caressed the top of Thule's head as he
kissed her. Thule pulled Marigold into his lap. She wrapped her legs
around his waist and her breathing quickened.

"Please don't tempt me," Thule said, "I've really got to get changed,
get you home, and get to town and I'm already way off balance as it is."

Marigold gave a moan of protest, but slid off of Thule's lap and lay
down, pouting on his bed. She asked, "When are you going to be done
today?"

"I told you," said Thule, stripping out of his school clothes, "I don't
know. The meeting is kind of informal." He threw on a white dress shirt
and began buttoning, "It could be very short if the deal obviously stinks.
If we have to get into detail, it could go well into the night."

"What's this meeting about?" Marigold asked.

"I didn't tell you," Thule said.

"No," said Marigold, "you didn't."

"I know," said Thule, cinching up his belt, "That wasn't a question. I
didn't tell you. You don't need to know. If you're determined to help me,
I'll let you. I suspect that I won't have much of a choice and I can watch
you more closely if I say yes. But, I make it a rule to never tell anyone
more than they need to know. That includes you. I will not put you in
unnecessary danger if I can help it."

"So," asked Marigold, "this meeting is dangerous, then?" She stood up
and came over to him.

"No," said Thule, "In and of itself, this meeting is far safer than
going to school every day is." He pulled the knot up on his tie, "How do I
look?"

Marigold reached up and straightened his collar, "Frighteningly
professional. Promise me that, one day, you'll fuck me in this suit."

"Don't be ridiculous," said Thule, "this suit is much too big for you."

"Promise me," said Marigold more seriously.

Thule wrapped an arm around her waist, drawing her to him. He purred
wickedly, "I promise, one day, that I will take you to work with me, bend
you over my desk, and take your hot, little ass while wearing my best
suit."

Marigold's knees buckled and she held on to Thule for balance. When her
eyes opened and she was able to find her balance again, she laughed, "You
seem to have a thing for desks. You really should keep a supply of pillows
or towels on hand so that I'm not always bruising my hips on them."

Thule kissed her and, amazingly, felt his resolve slipping. He broke
the kiss, "God," he said, "I wish I could just keep you here and never stop
fucking you."

Marigold laughed, "One day," she said wistfully.

"Actually," said Thule, leading her out to the car, "I'm pretty sure
that I would have to stop at some point before the day was over, but I'd be
willing to try."

Thule found himself genuinely enjoying the ride to drop Marigold off.
His mood in anticipation of the meeting had been one of grim determination.
The conversation with Marigold had left him emotionally drained. But, a
short ride with Marigold where they discussed nothing of real importance
had immediately raised his spirits. When he kissed Marigold good night, it
was possible for a few seconds to completely forget everything but the
kiss. As he drove away, he caught himself whistling.

He let himself enjoy the moment for a few minutes before clamping down
on his own ebullience. He was glad not to be going into this with a
pervading sense of doom, but it wouldn't do any good to go in feeling
happy-go-lucky either. He glanced in the rear-view mirror to check for any
obvious dishevelment and gave a brief "ah" of surprise as he failed to
recognize himself with short hair.

It was fortunate that Thule already knew where "the Tarr building" was
downtown or he would have had more than a dozen "Tarr buildings" to choose
from. Even the high school was official called Nataniel Tarr Memorial High
School even if no one seemed to know that.

The only more common name than Tarr was Vandevoort. Thule wished there
were some clear and easy division between them, but the Vandevoorts had
funded just as many hospitals, libraries and public works projects as the
Tarrs while the Tarrs had built just as many ostentatious vanity projects
as the Vandevoorts. The official histories spoke glowingly of both
families, but a judicious reading between the lines suggested that both had
their share of black sheep and petty tyrants.

When he'd first started planning his revenge, Thule had thought it was
him versus the two powerful families. He'd first joined Jonas's bible
study as a way of getting closer to the man. He'd slowly come to realize
that it was more complicated than that. Jonas, for all of his flaws, was
basically a good man. Marigold was the problem. Now, he'd gone as far as
to throw in his lot with the Tarrs in order to bring down the Vandevoorts.

Comparably, Thule had only managed to meet Ivan Vandevoort three times,
always at school events. The impression he'd gotten was superficial at
best and colored by the lens of his own prejudice. With his sizeable
estate and full-time security team, he was a lot more isolated than Jonas.

And then there was the third family. Until World War I, the Ogden
family had been a third power in Mannsborough. Backing the wrong side in
that war and a lack of sons meant the end of the name and the end of the
family fortune. There were no Ogdens left in Mannsborough. Thule's great
grandmother was born an Ogden. So was Brianne's. Marigold was a
descendant of the Ogdens too, although her family line branched off from
theirs in the 1860s. Thule wondered what Marigold would think if she knew
he, she, and Brianne were all distantly related. He knew Brianne would be
horrified. It might even be worth telling her.

The Tarr Building was a nineteen story office structure near the post
office. The only taller building in town was the thirty-one story
Vandevoort Tower, so it was easy to spot. When Thule showed up at the
front desk, an efficient-looking receptionist handed him a visitor's pass
and suggested he go straight to the security office and get a more
permanent ID.

Thule smiled, "Would you ask Mr. Tarr if he thinks I have time to do
that? I wouldn't want to delay our meeting."

The receptionist smiled back, "Actually, it was Mr. Tarr's suggestion
that you do so. Security is on this floor, straight back past the
elevators. The door is kind of non-descript, but it's right next to the
only ficus on this floor."

As Thule headed to the security office, he wondered how many new
visitors would know how to identify a ficus tree or if this was, in fact,
some subtle form of hazing. He found the office easily enough, pressing
the buzzer with the word "SECURITY" over it. Next to the door was a pygmy
rubber tree, phylum ficus, of course. The security office turned out to be
two desks and a camera in a windowless room. The security officer took
Thule's critical information, even humoring him by putting Bartholomew
"Thule" Roemer on his permanent ID. As soon as he'd had his picture taken,
Thule watched the security guard slap the ID together and laminate it,
handing it to Thule with the laminate still hot to the touch.

"Mr. Tarr's expecting you," said the guard, "You can go right up to the
nineteenth floor. The receptionist there will show you to his office."

In the elevator on the way up, Thule debated with himself how easy it
would be to counterfeit the permanent security badges. They were all of a
uniform salmon color with a light moire pattern under the printing, the
text done on a manual typewriter, the photo of standard passport size. It
depended, he decided, on how many people actually worked here and if there
was a significant portion that only appeared occasionally. As the elevator
door opened, he discarded the line of thought. It had only been an
intellectual exercise anyway.

The executive receptionist turned out to be a pretty Russian girl,
probably not much older than Thule. She led him back through the office
hallways, passing him off to Jonas's personal secretary, a stout, matronly
woman in her mid-fifties, who called Jonas on the intercom. Jonas himself
emerged from the office to greet Thule and lead him into the inner sanctum.

Jonas's office was much larger than Thule had expected. Jonas drove a
sensible, blocky Volvo, lived in a house not much bigger than Thule's, and
wore suits that had probably come off the rack at Burlington Coat Factory.
His office, however, was slightly larger than the entire IT department at
the lab where Thule worked. Two walls were made mostly of glass, looking
out over enough of Mannsborough to take in downtown, the high school, and
just barely see where Marigold's house was, but not his own. Thule
realized now that the building was on top of a gradual rise that meant that
the whole town sloped gradually away from it.

"Thule," Jonas said, "Come on in. Have a seat. I had a desk set up for
you in here so that you wouldn't be bored while waiting for Ivan to get
here. He loves to make me wait for him."

"Thank you," said Thule, sitting at the proffered desk. The computer,
he noted with a quick glance, was a few years old, barely enough to run
office applications and e-mail. He turned to face Jonas, "Do you have a
few moments to answer a couple of questions?"

"Yeah," said Jonas. The only computer on his desk was a Bloomberg
terminal. Thule wondered how he survived.

"I want to make sure I understand the corporate structure of Tarr
Services Group," said Thule, "I'm not sure how credibly I can play my role
if I don't know what you do."

Jonas laughed, "You gathered all the information you did and don't know
what we do?"

Thule shrugged, "I understand that you're primarily an asset management
company that helps clients gather venture capital, but you also seem to own
a number of unrelated companies that make up three-quarters of your revenue
stream. In fact, your interest in the cotton market appears to make more
money than the TSG branch."

"Blame that one on my Grandpa Nate," said Jonas, "In fact, you can blame
the odd corporate structure on Nate, too. He founded the core business in
1906. During the depression, when a lot of companies we had paper on
failed, old Nate would call in his position and, in many cases, rather than
sell off the company's tangible assets as his peers in the business did, he
would put in new management, streamline the company, and get it back up and
running. The cotton thing was purchased from the Egyptian government
during one of its cyclical dire financial emergencies for about three times
what anybody else thought it was worth. Along with a company that deals
with the cotton on the other end in New Orleans, it brings in about thirty
percent of our revenue. Of course, it also costs a pretty penny and a few
more of my hairs every year in monitoring regional stability. I wouldn't
worry about that too much, though. When I was crown prince, I didn't
understand most of it."

Thule raised an eyebrow, "Crown prince?"

Jonas laughed, seemingly a little embarrassed, "Sorry. I was getting
into the place in my head I need to use when dealing with Ivan. When we
were both working for our fathers, he called us the crown princes. Now, he
calls Randy the crown prince. He eats that shit up. I'm assuming that
part of the reason he called today's meeting is that he wants to feel me
out as to the idea of Randy and Marigold marrying now that Elliot is out of
the picture. It strikes me as an ideal time to introduce my own new crown
prince."

"Strictly speaking," said Thule, typing in a few keys on the keyboard,
"I would be an heir apparent until Marigold and I married."

"Good point," said Jonas, "If you hadn't corrected me on it, Ivan
certainly would have. So, what role am I grooming you for? It would
probably make you more appealing to him if you we trying to do as little as
possible."

"Yeah," said Thule, "but not plausible. Anyone that knows me knows that
I would never be able to do that for more than a week or so."

"Okay," said Jonas, "you could be in my IT department."

"No offense," said Thule, "but I'd rather not take responsibility for
the IT here. I saw computers on the way in that qualified as museum
pieces. And, I can't even get a web browser set up because this machine was
set up with an IP conflict."

"Oh," said Jonas, "that's bad, is it?" Thule nodded. "Well," said
Jonas, "maybe not directly responsible for IT. How about if you were a
project manager?"

Thule clutched his chest with both hands, "You sure know how to wound a
guy. Besides, that would mean that I had people reporting to me, which
would be hard to maintain without my actually doing any work."

"I repeat my offer," said Jonas, "if you actually want to work here..."

"Thank you," said Thule, "but there's at least a passing chance that I
may survive the summer and still be in Mannsborough. I appreciate your
help, but I've gotten this far without being beholden to anyone and I'd
like to keep it that way." Jonas started to protest, but Thule waved the
protest away, "Maybe I could be an assistant to whoever handles IT
recruiting here."

Jonas frowned, "That would work if we had someone to handle IT
recruiting here. Right now, it goes to anyone in HR, like every other job
at the company."

Thule smiled, "I think I found my role, then. I can be coming up
through HR with a focus on IT."

Jonas nodded, "Is that prestigious enough for the heir apparent? How
would you betray me from there?"

Thule laid out a quick plan for using such a position to gain control of
the company from within. Jonas listened, nodding with admiration. He
asked, "Have you been thinking about this for a while?"

Thule paused, surprised, "No. I'm making it up as I go along. Besides,
it wouldn't actually work within any reasonable time frame. It's naive and
avaricious, which is exactly what Ivan will want to see."



-=-

During the next twenty minutes, Thule and Jonas finalized their plan for
the meeting. While they talked, Thule let his fingers troubleshoot the IP
problem with the computer on his desk. He found the process oddly
soothing.

Jonas said, "Ivan likes to pretend that we're still the best of friends,
but knows we're not. He's got some Mephistophlean need to try to get me to
do business with him. I think it's automatic now. Plus, it gives him a
chance to try to get my goat. I imagine that he'll try to get yours too
and, if I know the man at all, he'll start off by going after Marigold.
He's been trying to get my goat over Holly for more than a decade. Just
brace yourself for it and recognize what it's worth. If you let him get
you off balance, he'll sense it and use it."

Thule nodded. He was glad for the warning. Then, he went back to work
on the computer, hooking up the docking cradle for Jonas's new PDA on his
own machine. He'd just gotten the synchronization software installed when
the front desk receptionist buzzed back to let Jonas know that Ivan
Vandevoort was there to see him.

"Here we go," said Jonas and off they went.

Thule was just getting his game face on when Jonas said, "You're ending
an era here, you know?"

Thule looked over, "How so?"

"The little pad and pencil are sort of a trademark of mine," Jonas
answered, "Everybody in the company knows about them. That new PDA is
going to mean they'll have to find something else to joke about around
here."

Thule said, "I wouldn't throw away the little pad just yet. I still do
most of my jotting longhand. For that sort of thing, powering up a PDA and
fiddling with a stylus are just too much work."

Jonas asked, "Do you really think there's something wrong with my IT
department?"

Thule shrugged, "I spoke out of turn."

"Possibly," said Jonas, "but I'd like to hear your perspective."

Thule shrugged more emphatically, "Jonas, I've worked in one office
ever. I've been there about two years, part time. I've found a lot of
things there irksome. But, the most annoying thing I've found is people
who start there and, within a day or two, want to tell you how to do
everything that you've been doing there for years better."

"Acknowledged," said Jonas, "you don't want to be a know-it-all. But,
something seems to have created a strong impression and I'd like to know
what it is--unless you were trying to get into some sort of intellectual
pissing match over high tech."

Thule sighed, "Clearly, whatever you're doing is working. But, I
noticed that you're still running an operating system that's seven years
old and three iterations out of date. But, that makes sense because most
of your computers are about ten years old. Some of your mission-critical
systems are wheezing along on computers that are older than I am. Your
office network is mostly peer-to-peer. Most alarmingly, your badge system
is completely done manually. I doubt there's even a way to check the
legitimacy of a badge if you can't get into the security office."

Jonas said, "The computers are so old because we've been able to do our
jobs with them and don't see a need for the capital expenditure of keeping
them current. I didn't understand the network comment at all. As for the
security issue, I'll look into it."

"That's why I said that I spoke out of turn," said Thule, "I mainly see
things from a technology perspective. I'd rather have someone else to whom
I can leave little details like whether the company will be around tomorrow
or not. Still..."

Jonas didn't interrupt him. They were outside of the conference room
now. Through the glass wall, Thule could see Ivan Vandevoort talking to a
young, blonde woman in a navy blue business suit. He could open the door
now and end the conversation, but Jonas seemed to be waiting for an answer.
So, he pressed on, "Ever since my eighteenth birthday, I've met with an
average of one little start-up every week, trying to sell my software.
We're talking five-man, ten-man companies going head-to-head with companies
that have a thousand times as many employees. The only reason they can
compete is because they are incredibly mobile, don't have a lot of
overhead, and do have a great grasp of the technology. When I did my final
project for business and technology, I focused on a conglomerate named
Edmonton Business Group and how they saved money and increased the
productivity of their IT department by pooling about eighty percent of
their IT into its own corporation and having the other subsidiaries buy
their solutions from that corporation. Now, the technology group is one of
the biggest money makers they have, like your cotton."

Jonas reached into his pocket and brought out the little pad and pencil,
"Edmonton Business Group," he muttered, "Do you still have a copy of your
report that I can see?"

Thule nodded, "Sure. I can e-mail you a copy if you like."

"Actually," said Jonas, "I'd better send a messenger."



-=-

Inside, Ivan rose to greet them. Jonas introduced Thule as, "My new
technology man, Bartholomew. I'm helping him get a feel for the business."
Then, he indicated his assistant, "and you know Inge."

Ivan did not bother to introduce his assistant, "Ah, this must be the
new crown prince, then."

"Actually," said Jonas, "more of an heir apparent at this point.
Marigold and Elliot only broke up a week ago. It's a little soon to be
asking for the crown back."

Ivan grinned, his teeth sparkling white, "How is Marigold? She's got to
be around eighteen now."

Jonas said, "She turned eighteen two weeks ago."

"If she's anything like her mother, she must be developing into quite a
sexy, little piece of ass by now," said Ivan in a voice that would not be
incongruous announcing a slight increase or decrease in a stock price, "You
should bring her around some time, let me get a look at her."

Thule didn't know what he'd expected when Jonas warned him about Ivan's
attacks, but it certainly hadn't been anything so blatant as that. He
actually did get angry for a second, but then noticed something so
interesting that he forgot about his anger instantly. Drawing out his Palm
Pilot, he made a note of it.

"What happened to Elliot?" asked Ivan, "I liked him."

Thule smiled, "If you're looking for a sexy, little piece of ass, I can
give him your number. I hear he really likes to suck dick."

Ivan didn't speak, growing white-faced with rage. His assistant covered
her mouth with a curled hand, unable to hide the laughter in her eyes.
Jonas erupted into a fit of coughing and needed to have Inge fetch him a
glass of water. Thule made another note in his Palm Pilot.

Ivan regained his composure first, "I like this new one, Jonas. He's
got spirit." But, even as he said it, his eyes bored angry holes in Thule's
skull. Thule wondered if he'd gone too far and blown the whole charade.

"So," said Jonas, recovering his breath, "you had a proposal in mind?"

"Yes," said Ivan, indicating his assistant, who stood up and began
handing out a thick photocopied report, "If you'd told me that the boy was
going to be here, I would have brought more copies."

"Actually," said his assistant, placing a report in front of Thule, "I
brought plenty of copies."

Thule winced a little for her, but recognized by the tone of her voice
that she'd done it deliberately. Then, he tried to focus his attention on
the business plan. He understood loosely that Ivan had found a company
that he considered in danger of insolvency and was recommending a buyout
with Jonas arranging the funding. After that, it was nothing but printouts
of spreadsheets and dense text packed with terms Thule had never heard. By
the end, he found himself answering e-mail on his Palm Pilot in spite of
the fact that Jonas managed to mention him by name about a half-dozen times
in forty-five minutes as if Thule were his exciting new hobby. Ever time
he did, Thule made another note to remember what had been said to Ivan
about him.

Jonas finally stood, stretched his legs, and said, "I'll have my M & A
guys take a look at the numbers. We may be able to do business." He
reached out and shook hands with Ivan, "Bartholemew here is going to be
much more involved in the business this summer. I believe he and your son
Randy go to school together."

Thule nodded. Ivan took the bait, "Oh, yeah? I'll let Randy know.
Maybe the two of them can work on something together over the summer. It's
about time Randy got some real-world business experience."

Afterwards, Jonas turned to Thule, "You took an enormous risk in there,
but I think it paid off. You definitely got his attention."

"Good," said Thule, "although I hope it was the sort of attention I was
looking for. If he decides to make my life miserable..."

"I wouldn't worry about that," said Jonas, "If he seeks revenge, it will
be publicly, so he can regain the face you cost him in there. More likely,
he sees you as a kindred spirit. You knew just which button to push and
pushed it. How did you know he was so homophobic?"

Thule shrugged, "Lucky guess. I wouldn't be surprised if he's dabbled.
He behaves like he has something to prove. Did you know he was fucking his
assistant?"

"I'm not surprised," said Jonas, "Ivan's fucking a lot of people."

"Yes," said Thule, "but this one he's actually having sex with."

"That was what I meant," said Jonas, "Ivan apparently can't seem to keep
his hands off anything in a skirt except for that little trophy wife of
his. Why do you say so, though?"

"I caught a glimpse of body language from outside of the conference room
that made me suspicious. Then, when he made his crude comment about
Marigold, I saw the look on her face. It was jealousy. Besides, she must
feel pretty invulnerable to have pulled that stunt with the reports."

Jonas chuckled, "Have you ever considered playing poker to pay your way
through college?"

"I've considered damned near everything to pay my way through college,"
said Thule ruefully.

Jonas nodded. He seemed about to say something, but Thule cut him off,
"I'm going to get that PDA set up and enter the information you need.
Would Sunday be too soon for me to make sure you have it committed to
memory?"

"Actually," said Jonas, smiling wryly, "Sunday sounds perfect. Once I
told Marigold I approved of you, she started lobbying to have you over for
dinner. She's going to cook." He burst into laughter, "Don't look so
trapped. She's a good cook."

"That's good to know," Thule said uneasily as they passed through the
door into Jonas's office, "but it was more about the official 'meeting the
parents' dinner."

"Don't worry about Holly," said Jonas, laughing, "she always disliked
Elliot and wished Marigold would find someone else."

"Okay," said Thule noncommittally as he started downloading the
encryption tools for Jonas's PDA.

He and Jonas worked silently for a few minutes. Finally, Jonas said,
"You weren't talking about her mother, were you?"

Thule didn't look up, "Everyone has different personae for different
situations. I always respected you in Bible study. I actually like you
when you're focused on business." He trailed off.

"I am your girlfriend's father," said Jonas, "shouldn't you be sucking
up to me, just a little?"

Thule didn't want to answer the implied question. He saw that Jonas was
giving him a way out of discussing a difficult topic. He knew he should
take it. Instead, he said, "I always respected you in Bible study, but I
found your interpretation....overly literal and rather humorless."

Jonas stood up, stretched his legs and walked over to the corner of the
office where he could look out the window and see his house. He stood
there, just looking, long enough for Thule to wonder for the third time
today if he'd just badly damaged his own plans.

When Jonas spoke, he didn't turn around. Instead, he said, "When you're
an addict, you can take damned near any facts and use them as a
justification to feed your addiction. Facts, reasoned facts are slippery
things. We rarely know them in absolute. The only absolute I had in my
life was heroin. I replaced it with religion, but I needed religion to be
absolute."

Neither of them spoke. Thule waited patiently for Jonas to continue.
Finally, the older man said, "Marigold's mother started drinking after we
got married. I drove her to it. I had a ton of money and not an ounce of
sense. When I...found Jesus, it worked so well for my addiction that I
thought it would be perfect for Holly. And Marigold was getting into all
sorts of trouble with that friend of hers, Marla or something..."

"Maya," said Thule.

"Right," said Jonas, "Maya. Marigold was troubled over her father's
death and getting ready to screw up her life. I didn't know what to do.
When religion is your absolute, if you don't know what to do, you look in
the Bible. What I found there worked like a charm. She buckled down, got
her grades up, became valedictorian, didn't get pregnant, didn't fall in
with a bad crowd in a town where good crowds are the worst crowd of all. I
have nothing to apologize for in the way I deal with my family." The words
came out defiantly.

"So," asked Thule, "why tell me all this?"

"I don't know," said Jonas, "I'm not very good at justifying myself. I
almost never feel the need to do it. I've made my mistakes..."

It was at that moment that Thule's cell phone started ringing.

"And that," said Jonas, "will be Ivan. How did he get your cell phone
number?"

Thule pulled out his phone and glanced at it, "He didn't. I've got the
phone at home call-forwarded to here." He answered the phone, "Hello, Thule
speaking."

"Mr. Roemer," said Ivan Vandevoort, "I didn't expect you to be home
yet."

"I'm not," said Thule, "I'm still at the office."

"This is Ivan Van..."

"I recognize your voice, Mr. Vandevoort," said Thule, "what can I do
for you this evening?"

"I know that you're helping Jonas get his hands on some good IT people.
I had an applicant here that isn't quite up to our standards, but I know
that Tarr's IT needs aren't so...vigorous."

"Thank you," said Thule, his voice prickly, "but I really don't think we
need your castoffs."

"No," said Ivan soothingly, sounding hurt, "you misunderstand me. I
just thought I could help out my old friend, Jonas."

"Don't try to play me for a chump, Mr. Vandevoort," Thule said sharply,
"You want me to insert a man of your choosing into Tarr, where he will have
access to to their computer networks and, by extension, all of their
corporate data. Cut to the chase. What is it worth to you?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Roemer," said Ivan stuffily, "you have misunderstood me
very badly. I wish you good day."

"Whoever they are," said Thule, "make sure they're qualified or I'll
send them running back to your office with my bootmark on their ass. I've
got bigger plans than your penny ante corporate espionage bullshit and I
don't need your guy making me look stupid." Before Ivan could answer, Thule
clicked his phone shut. Then, he breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"Did he commit to anything over the phone?" asked Jonas.

"No," said Thule, "he's too smart for that. I'll give him fifteen
minutes, then head down to the parking lot. That should be plenty of time
for him to get a courier down there to meet me."

Jonas nodded. He impressed Thule by not asking if he thought Ivan had
really fallen for it.

"What do you want me to do?" asked Thule.

"If his man is at least moderately qualified, hire him," said Jonas,
"He's got spies in my company already. If he wants another one, it's just
as well I know who it is. How much information could he really get out of
our peer-to-peer network anyway?"

Thule said, "Unless you have a rigorous security policy, quite a lot,
actually. How many people work here?"

"At headquarters?" asked Jonas, "about seventeen hundred full time,
another four hundred or so part time."

"With that many people," opined Thule, "you've probably got at least a
thousand major security holes."

"You're being paranoid," said Jonas.

"Yes," said Thule, shutting down his computer, "I am. It's a survival
trait. Listen, I've got fifteen minutes before I head down to the parking
lot. Let me show you something."

In five minutes, he'd found a domain administrator account with the
password "sex." In ten, he'd gotten access to the mail server. By the time
he was ready to leave, he'd picked a half dozen messages of the correct
size to have attachments and copied them to his desktop."

He showed Jonas, asking, "Do any of those look like sensitive data."

Jonas pointed at one, "That's one I helped add some numbers to. It's
very sensitive."

Thule double clicked it and got a password box. Jonas said, "A-ha!"

Thule laughed. He couldn't help himself. With a couple of keystrokes,
he was downloading the application he needed. Two minutes later, he had
the password and opened the spreadsheet. Looking up, he saw that Jonas's
face had gone ashen.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Thule said, standing up, "A lot of
places have little to no security on their internal system. Externally,
your network is much more secure. But, I'm only a hobbyist and it took me
ten minutes out of the fifteen to get the access you would probably be
handing this person on day one. I'm paranoid because there are bad people
out there and, without much effort, they can find out far more than you
want them to know."

Jonas didn't speak. So, Thule said, "I should really get going. I'd
like to finish betraying you before it gets too dark out and I need to
catch up on my sleep. I'll give a copy of that report to you when I pick
up Marigold tomorrow." He got up.

"Thule," Jonas said finally, sounding like he was in shock, "all of my
secrets are out in the open."

Thule looked around, "Well, yes. But, you've gotten this far with them
out there. A little bit more time shouldn't matter one way or the other."

Jonas shivered, "Thanks," he said more normally, "that puts it in a
little bit more perspective. I just suddenly felt like there was an abyss
opening at my feet. Are you sure you won't come work for me, for real?"

Thule shook his head, "One day a week, for appearances. It's no mistake
I work for the only significant company in town not owned by you or Ivan.
Besides, my knowledge is really very specialized. If you like, I can find
you a security expert. I know a few."

Jonas nodded, "Okay. Thank you. Should I do anything in the meantime?
I want to tell everyone to turn their computers off and not turn them on
again until they're secured."

Thule grinned, "I wouldn't. It's just as well if as few people as
possible know you're about to crack down before you do."

Jonas grinned too, a little less than certain, "All right," he said,
"you go ahead. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

Down in the parking lot, Jonas saw no courier. He got in his car,
fiddled around with the radio, read a little, filed the notes in his Palm.
After twenty minutes, he decided that no courier was coming, started his
car, and headed for home.

As Thule pulled out of the parking lot, a black towncar on the side of
the road pulled away from the curb and fell in behind him. He breathed a
sigh of relief. He was starting to worry that he'd read the situation
completely wrong. After letting himself be trailed for about five minutes,
he pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store, went in and bought
himself a pack of cigarettes.

When Thule came out, a tall thug with the same haircut Thule had,
dressed all in black, and wearing dark aviator sunglasses was leaning
against his car, smoking.

Thule unwrapped his pack of cigarettes, pulled one out, and stuck it in
his mouth. Then, he walked up to the thug, "Give me a light and your
pitch," he said.

The thug laid down a thick, manila envelope, fumbled through his
pockets, and produced a lighter, "No pitch. I'm just here to deliver
something." He handed Thule the envelope.

Thule took a drag and opened the envelope, "Don't you think sunglasses
are a little conspicuous at six o'clock at night?"

The thug shrugged, "I'm diabetic," he tapped one lens of the glasses,
"very photosensitive."

Thule looked inside the envelope. There was a thick, white envelope and
a resume inside. He slid the resume out, "You know how much is in there?"

The thug nodded, "Twenty five gee."

One of the things Thule had never really gotten about the whole mess he
was involved in was how the Vandevoorts could pay a woman enough money that
she would let them get away with rape. He began to understand now. It
wasn't a number. It was a palpable weight in his hand and a huge weight
off his mind. It was tuition for the first year at Harvard.

He looked down at the resume, determined to follow the script he'd set
up for himself, even though it was killing him to do so. He looked up at
the thug, "Are you authorized to take a message back?"

The thug nodded, "Yup. I'm a regular Mercury. Don't you see the little
wings on my shoes?"

"Well, Mercury," said Thule, "Tell your boss that he's out of his
fucking mind if he thinks twenty-five kay is going to get him a sysadmin.
We don't need a sysadmin and it'd be worth a hell of a lot more than that
to plant one." Mustering all of his willpower, he jammed the resume back
into the envelope, "Take this back."

"That, I am not authorized to do," said Mercury, "If you want to give it
back, talk to the boss." Then, he smiled somewhat menacingly, got into his
car, and left.



-=-

When Thule got home, he could already feel his eyelids drooping. Going
into his bedroom, he shrugged out of his suit, stripping down to his
boxers. Then, he noticed that he had an invitation to video chat with
Marigold and it was less than twenty minutes old. Clicking on the
invitation, he was treated to a view of Marigold sitting at her desk, doing
homework. In the chat window, she typed, "Thule, how R U?"

He typed back, "Have you been using the public chat rooms?"
Marigold: "Yes. Y?"

Thule: "Don't use SMS Speak. It makes you sound like a L33T H4XX0R
D00D."
Marigold: "A what?"

Thule: "Don't worry about it. When communicating with me, type like you
would in a report for school. Phonetic shortcuts make you look like you
don't know what you're talking about."
Marigold: "Yes, Thule. May I use smileys?"
Thule: In extreme moderation.
Marigold: (:
Marigold: How did it go?
Thule: Fine. I accomplished what I needed to.
Marigold: You sound tired.

Thule puzzled over how he could sound tired in ASCII, then typed, "I am
tired. I need to get some sleep."

Marigold nodded into the web cam, leaned forward, and kissed it. Thule
closed the application.



-=-

Thule needed to do one more thing before he went to sleep. Climbing
into the attic, he unpiled all of the boxes that were accumulated in the
northwest corner of the room until he got down to the bottom layer, a neat
palette of sixteen boxes in a four-by-four grid. He opened one, three
boxes in and three boxes over, by pulling the tape off. Then, he pulled
out an old tent and an emergency blanket. Underneath the blanket was a
fireproof box in which he kept copies of all his evidence against the
Vandevoorts on a dozen DVDs. He unlocked the box, added the cash, and
locked it back up. Then, he taped the box he'd opened closed again.

Then, he tore the tape off of all of the other boxes on the palette and
retaped them so that they would look uniformly used. He surveyed his
handiwork. Satisfied, he piled all of the other boxes back on top of the
row. One day, he'd figure out how to redistribute the dust so that it
didn't look like he'd disturbed anything. But, for tonight, this would
have to do.

Downstairs, he took a quick shower, cleaning all of the grit and grime
off of his body. Toweling off, he was grateful to realize that his hair
dried almost as soon as he got out of the shower. Throwing on only a fresh
pair of boxers, he had barely laid his head on the pillow before he was
asleep.



-=-

When the doorbell rang, Thule jumped. He would like to pretend that he
jumped out of bed and rolled across the floor to the closet, but the
reality of it was a little less coordinated, even if the result was the
same. Crouched in front of the closet door, he glanced up at the clock,
which read 1:45 AM.

Dragging the duffel bag part-way out of the closet, he reached in and,
by feel, found the pistol and loaded in a clip. Crawling across the floor,
he looked out the window, but whoever was at the front door was too close
to it for him to get a look at them. There was no car in the driveway.

Gathering his robe from the floor, he shrugged into it. As he
crab-walked across the floor, the doorbell rang again. Out of the doorway
of his bedroom, he could see through the picture window in the living room
who was standing there.

He scowled, stood up, strolled across the living room, and opened the
front door, "Do you know what time it is? You scared the shit out of me."

Maya glanced meaningfully at the gun at Thule's side, "Is that any way
to greet me, lover?"

Princes of Mannsborough, Chapter 10 of 22 by Vulgar Argot (rom, nosex)

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Galeria Fotos Porn Sex story

This work contains depictions of sexual acts. If you are not above the age
of 18, or viewing erotic fiction is not allowed in your area, please do not
read any further. All rights reserved by the author. Consent is given for
electronic or printed copies for personal use. Archiving to free sites is
permitted with permission from the author.

Las Vegas Nights by Heathen57 (MF, Rom. Cons. Lt. Bond)

Authors Note: This is the fourth story in a series using the same main
characters. The others in order are: Wolf Creek Pass, Silverton, and
Canyon Trilogy. Even though this story will stand alone, I suggest you
read the previous stories for background of these characters.

Las Vegas Nights

The big diesel was purring as we moved along Highway 93 toward Boulder
Dam. Mickey was sitting in her usual place on the couch looking out the
windows and enjoying the desolate beauty of the desert as we ate up mile
after mile.

Things had changed between us since our time at the Grand Canyon. It
was there that I had finally admitted to myself, but most importantly to
her, that I was in love with her. To my great relief, she admitted the
same. The extra day we spent there was not for playing tourist, but rather
for some serious conversation -- and, of course, some time for love making.

The discussions centered on problems that could arise from our obvious
age difference. It was more of a problem for me as she took it all in
stride. She seemed to think that love would help us over the big problems
and the smaller ones were not worth thinking about.

I still had the nagging fear that she might grow tired of me and want
someone closer to her own age. Perhaps she was right. Why not enjoy the
time we had together? My first wife and I had finally decided to do just
that, but then she had been shot down in a store robbery.

I had to pull off for a security inspection before we approached the
dam. The officer was polite enough, but they had to inspect our entire
vehicle. They checked the interior for explosives, looking at every cubby
and drawer. Mickey was a little concerned as they looked through
everything. As the officer checked the interior with Mickey inside,
another officer and I opened the luggage compartments so they could see the
storage. All the storage was clear and they could see inside with ease.
They checked the holding tanks making sure that there were no dangerous
chemicals around. Finally the ordeal was over, and they allowed us to
button things up and continue. Mickey settled back on the couch still
tense, but she relaxed as we moved closer to the dam.

I slowed down for the parking lot at Hoover Dam. I needed to stretch my
legs, and I was sure that Mickey would like to look around a little. I
pulled in and we shut the coach down. We made the walk across the parking
lot with Mickey stopping along the way to stretch and bend in different
ways to get the kinks out. I marveled once again at the sheer sexiness of
her lithe body. Two men were heading toward their car as she bent at the
waist to touch the ground. One was so intent on observing her tight ass in
her jeans that he walked into the bumper of a car, bruising his shin and
setting the alarm off at the same time. He hurriedly limped away to catch
up with his buddy.

As I tore my eyes from the same sight that had caused him so much pain,
I looked between her legs and saw her beautiful eyes dancing in amusement.
As I approached she straightened upright and was desperately trying to keep
from laughing out loud.

"You little tease," I said, snaking my arm around her waist. "You did
that on purpose, didn't you?"

"I really started out stretching, but when I saw them staring, I decided
to give them something to look at. The way he walked straight into that
car was funny."

"Yeah, it was pretty funny." I pulled her closer so our hips were
touching. She slipped her arm around me in return.

"I love you, Dave."

There was no hesitation on my part, for I had by now thrown aside my
doubts. "I love you too, Mickey. Very much." This earned me a smile that
melted my heart, and a very firm squeeze.

We made our way to the dam. There was enough time, so we did the
Discovery Tour. It took us a little over three hours since Mickey was so
interested in everything. We went down the tunnels and saw the generators,
watched the movies, did the whole thing. Mickey's obvious delight in
everything made me take notice as well. I was turning from a cynical old
man into someone who was interested, even eager to explore all that life
had to offer.

We made it back to the coach around five in the afternoon. We decided
to push onward to Las Vegas, seeing the lights of the city just around dusk
I pulled the coach into a campground just inside the city. We paid the fee
and pulled into our assigned space.

Mickey was ready to start making dinner when I stopped her and told her
to pack a suitcase. She looked at me strangely, but did as I asked. I put
what I needed into a separate case. We locked up the coach and went to the
office, where I made some phone calls. Within a half hour, a cab pulled up
and we got in. On the way to the strip, Mickey asked me what we were
doing.

"I thought that you deserved to get out of the confines of the bus, and
the only way to experience this city is to stay there. We have a bungalow
suite at the MGM Grand waiting for us."

This information earned me a big hug and a kiss. As we started down the
strip, Mickey's eyes became huge at all the lights and glitter for which
this place is famous. The cab driver was typical for this town and after a
harrowing ride; we were sitting in front of the entrance to the MGM Grand
hotel. The valet opened the door and we stepped out. Mickey was admiring
the d�cor as I handed the clerk my platinum card and signed us in. In a
short time, we were ensconced in our bungalow. I tipped the bellman as
Mickey marveled at the furnishings. I closed the door and pulled her into
my arms.

"Do you approve?"

"God, I can't believe this place Dave. It is perfect."

"You deserve to have a nice room to relax after a hard day of gambling
and shopping."

"Thank you, Dave. I love it." Then she pulled me down and kissed me.
"And I love you too."

I answered her with a kiss of my own that lasted until we both needed
air. She leaned back until she could look up into my eyes. "You want to
try out the bed and see if it is as comfortable as it looks?"

I smiled back. "How about we get something to eat first? There is a
great buffet here and then we can gamble a while. Have you ever played the
slot machines?" She shook her head. "You'll like them. They're a lot of
fun."

"I guess I am hungry. Why don't you feed this poor deprived girl and
show her a good time before you take advantage of her." She flashed me that
heart-pounding smile and grabbed my arm.

My guess was close to the mark about Mickey's love of the slot machines.
The first time she hit, she was practically jumping up and down as the
bells went off and the lights flashed. She had only won $40.00, but from
her reaction, it could have been a million. I pointed to the blackjack
tables and told her to find me there when she got tired.

Mickey finally came in a few hours later and stood behind me. I had a
jack of spades showing and waved off another card. The dealer went to the
other three at the table and finally to himself. He had 12 showing and
brought up a nine. When I turned my hole card revealing an ace of clubs
for 21, I could feel Mickey grin behind me. I took my winnings and
relinquished my seat. I cashed in at a little over $200.00 to the good,
and took my tired, but excited, woman to our room.

Our excitement of the day transferred into our lovemaking that night.
Mickey was insatiable, climaxing several times from my fingers and tongue
before I ever entered her. She was so hot that we both climaxed shortly
after I slid into her pussy. By then she was so exhausted that she slipped
into a deep slumber as soon as I pulled out. I pulled the covers over us,
and after snuggling up beside her, joined her in a dreamless sleep.

I opened my eyes the next morning to look at the still sleeping form
next to me. The cover had been kicked off, revealing her beautiful body. I
gazed at her soft curves as she lay on her side, her breasts rising and
falling with each breath she took. I still could not comprehend that this
lovely woman would want to stay with me, but I thanked my lucky stars that
she did. Looking closer, I noticed several very light, thin lines at the
top of her thighs and up along the bottom of her butt. I vowed to ask
about them sometime, but for now I eased out of the bed so as not to wake
her. She moved just a bit but then settled back into slumber.

I called down to room service, and then jumped into the shower. I
finished quickly since I didn't have another body to work on, and then got
out to awaken Mickey. She gave me a quick kiss and a smile, thanking me
for the night before, and then headed for the shower.

There was a knock at the door signaling our breakfast. As the young man
wheeled the cart in, Mickey came out of the bathroom in nothing but a
smile. She stopped mid-stride, so shocked that it took a second for her to
react and cover herself. The bellhop was standing there openmouthed.
Mickey broke the standoff by taking the towel from her hair and covering
herself. The bellhop turned beet red and quickly took his tip and left.
Mickey was giggling when I turned around.

"Talk about bad timing! I didn't know you had ordered breakfast."

"Yeah, but you can be assured that if we order room service, there will
be a fight to see who gets to deliver it, in hopes of a repeat
performance."

"God. I am so embarrassed! What if I see him in the hallway or
something?"

"Don't worry Mickey. They see all kinds of things, but I'm sure you
made his day. I know you make mine."

"You are so sweet." She came over and gave me a kiss. "Now what's for
breakfast?"

While we ate, we discussed the day's agenda. Mickey looked at the guide
that was published by the Chamber of Commerce that showed the sights in and
around the city. A trip to the local candy factory was a must, then some
shopping at the shops along the strip, and finally dinner at Emeril's.

We dressed, taking time to tease, tickle, and fondle each other, then
headed out to start the day's adventure.

The tour at the candy factory had one highlight -- the enrobing machine
that had a curtain of chocolate through which the centers passed through.
Mickey commented that she wished we could come back after hours and she
could pass under it and then have me eat all the chocolate from her body.

The walk through the shops turned into an event that took most of the
rest of the day. Mickey went into almost every shop and looked through
their entire inventory, commenting on the styles and the prices. Even
though I wasn't really interested in the merchandise, I enjoyed watching
her enthusiasm as she checked everything. She wasn't buying anything.
After I reminded her that we were going to dinner and she needed a nice
dress, she got down to some serious power shopping.

She said she wanted to surprise me and asked if she could look for
something on her own. I handed her a credit card that I had already set up
for her signature. With a quick kiss she was off.

I wandered back toward the hotel, stopping in at a jewelry store.
Spotting what I wanted, I talked to the gold smith and was assured that
what I wanted would be ready in about an hour. I stopped into a coffee
shop to pass the time. After I picked up my purchase, I headed back to the
room to get a little writing done and to get ready.

6:00 P.M. found me in a lounge at the hotel awaiting the grand
unveiling. Mickey had
come in carrying her purchases. She was talking about all the wonderful

shops she had seen and what she had found. One shop had really caught her
fancy. Called Sephora, it was a woman's dream for make-up and body
products. Being male, the descriptions of bath oils, eye shadows, and
foundations were completely foreign to me. But the enthusiasm that she
displayed convinced me that it was very important. I had already finished
my shower and shave, so I dressed and told her where to meet me when she
was ready.

The conversation around me slowed to a few whispers so I looked up.
There was Mickey, standing in the entrance, wearing a deep blue dress that
came to mid calf. The slit on the side revealed her very sexy legs almost
to her hip with each step. The top was cut to show the cleavage of her
breasts. With her hair swept back into an elegant bun, she looked like a
model fresh from the runway.

She spotted me at my table and started toward me. I noticed that every
male head turned as she passed. Then I saw her glance to the side and a
small smile formed on her lips. She was attracting attention and she was
basking in it. I stood when she got closer, and as soon as she got to me,
she reached out for my hands.

"Mickey, you are absolutely stunning."

She blushed a bit. "Thanks. I hoped you would like it." Then she took
a quick glance over her shoulder. "Seems like the rest of the guys in here
do as well."

"Yeah, they are just wishing they were me."

Mickey gave a low nervous giggle. I slipped my jacket on and she laid
her arm on mine as we headed out the door.

Dinner was all you could expect from a restaurant of that caliber. As
we were finishing our desserts, Mickey looked up from hers to catch me
watching her. "What?" she asked.

"Have I told you how beautiful you are and how much I love you?"

"Yes you have, but I don't mind hearing it again."

I reached into my pocket and felt the small box I had put there earlier.
"Ahhh. Before I forget it again, I got a little something that will go
with your outfit."

I placed the small black velvet box on the table between us. She picked
it up gingerly, as if it was going to suddenly collapse and disappear. She
opened the lid and gasped in surprise. Inside was a gold heart, its edges
sparkling with the red fire of small rubies. She turned it over and saw
"For Mickey, Love, Dave." inscribed in the back. Tears sprang up as her
eyes went from the box, to me, and back.

"Dave, nobody has ever given me anything like this before. It's so
beautiful."

"Mickey, you have done so much for me. You have given me a reason for
living, not just existing. You made me want to enjoy life, as long as that
life is with you."

"Thank you Dave. You know I love you."

"I love you too, Honey. Now are you going to put it on?"

She pulled it out of the box and I came around to fasten it behind her
neck. It nestled just at the top of her breasts. Her hand went over it
feeling the weight and the coolness of the metal. I gave her a kiss and
returned to my own seat.

I settled the bill and came around to hold her chair. We wandered back
along the strip, stepping into the various casinos just to look around and
possibly even dropping a few bucks into the machines. We made it back to
the hotel and decided to stop in the lounge for one more drink before we
went to our room. We placed our order and Mickey headed for the ladies'
lounge to freshen up.

I took a couple of seats at the end of the bar and sat sipping my scotch
when a girl walked up beside me. She must have thought I was alone since
she started to flirt with me immediately. I was trying to be polite since
she was obliviously drunk. I tried to explain that I was with someone, but
she just wouldn't leave. I had picked up our drinks and started to move
away with her following, when I spotted Mickey walking towards us. Walking
up to me she reached out to my left hand where she retrieved her drink. I
could almost see the fire in her eyes. The other woman got a look at
Mickey and blurted out, "Well, if it isn't little mousy Michelle. You
finally figured out that there is an opposite sex or are you still the
perfect little virgin?"

Mickey's voice was low but the anger was plainly showing. "And you're
still wearing the sign around your neck that says 'Hi, I'm Candice. Come
fuck me' aren't you?" Mickey's face was turning red. "You were nothing but
a low class street whore who spread her legs for a dollar and opened her
mouth for half that."

She turned to look at me. "Dave, I want you to meet the biggest slut
who ever came out of Amarillo." Mickey turned back to the shocked woman.
"Just how many abortions did your daddy have to pay for? Was it 3? Or
maybe 4? Not to mention, they kept an open prescription for antibiotics
for your diseases."

Mickey got very close to the other woman's face. "If you so much as
even think about touching my husband, I'll beat the living shit out of you.
You got that bitch?"

We set our drinks down and walked out, leaving Candice standing in the
middle of the floor with her mouth open. Once in the room, Mickey
collapsed on the couch. I finally got over my shock and started to
chuckle. She looked at me with anger still evident in her eyes.

"Honey, I have never seen that side of you. I was just hoping you could
see I was trying to get away, but I never thought you would tear into
someone like that."

She thought about it for a minute then smiled back. "I didn't think I
could do that either. I guess it was because I was so mad. I saw that
girl and I had a flashback to when I was a junior in high school. A guy I
liked finally asked me out to the prom. I was so excited, but Candice came
along and stole him away. I caught them behind the cafeteria with his dick
in her mouth. She lorded it over me until we graduated."

"I think you finally got your say, my dear." I pulled her to my arms.
"You outshine that bimbo by a mile sweetheart. You have shown that to me
many times over -- even if you did claim me as your husband."

She pulled her head back from where it had been resting on my chest.
"Oh God! I didn't, did I? I'm sorry. I mean, I was mad and... it just
slipped out... and..."

I gave her a kiss to slow her down. "I am not upset, and maybe someday
soon ..." She put a finger to my lips. She just pulled me into the bedroom
and pushed me toward the bed while she moved to the bathroom.

When she returned, she stood shyly at the foot of the bed. The outfit
was a definite change from the normal oversized t-shirt that she usually
wore. Made from forest green silk, it consisted of a camisole top and
matching tap pants. The color contrasted wonderfully with her skin, and
the cut of the pants made her legs look like they went on forever. I could
see that she was expecting me to say something, but the only word I could
think of was, "Beautiful."

She relaxed a bit and walked to the side of the bed. "You didn't mind
me buying something like this just to sleep in?"

"Of course not, honey. Why would you worry about that?"

"I haven't had anything special for sleeping since I was a little girl.
They had some really nice stuff in the shop where I got this. They had
some underwear that I hadn't even heard of -- a lot more daring than what I
have."

I had not thought about it before, but it was true. All of her bras and
panties were pretty conservative, all cotton and modest cut. "Do you like
the way this feels on you?"

"Yeah. It makes me feel sexier. More womanly, I guess."

"Then how about tomorrow you and I make the trip back to this shop and
get you some of the things you really like."

She bent down to give me a hug. I grabbed her and pulled her onto the
bed with me covering her face with kisses. The silk felt wonderful on my
hands and body as I pulled her closer. The softness seemed to excite her
as well as she started moaning and moving around almost as soon as I
touched her. But it had been a long, and for her, emotional day. I was
determined to let her know how much she was loved and appreciated.

We spent a long time just holding and cuddling. Words of love and
affection were given and received. Eventually, we reached a point where
the touching became more sexual. I started with her face and neck,
planting little kisses and nips all around. Moving lower, I painted her
skin with my lips just to where her breasts were covered by the silk. My
hands had not been idle, tracing intricate patterns along her back and
sides.

Asking her to remove her new garments, I had her lay on the bed face
down. I grabbed some lotion and started to massage her entire body.
Starting from her neck, I worked down her spine kneading any tension away.
Her arms were next, as I was relished the feel of her skin. I jumped past
her deliciously firm ass and started on her feet. Taking the time to rub
and massage each of her toes. When I got to her big toes, I discovered
something delightful. As soon as I touched them, Mickey shuddered and
groaned in passion. It was like a direct line to her pussy. I filed that
away for future reference.

I continued, working on her calves and the backs of her knees. This
elicited another moan and sigh. As I started up her thighs, she spread her
legs out to give me access. Her pussy was damp and the lips were swollen.
Her clit was starting to peek out from her folds. By the time I reached
her delectable ass, her pelvis was rocking with involuntary movements.

She was starting to moan with her pent up need. Before I could ask her
to roll over, she lifted her butt up a bit. "Just take me like this. I
want to feel you in me now. I want to feel you against my back as you fill
me up."

I paused long enough to slip a pillow under her, raising her enough that
her pussy was accessible. I found her so wet that I could just slide in.
When I felt my cock finally buried to the hilt, Mickey shuddered.

"Hold my arms down and fuck me."

Thinking she was wanted to be a bit submissive, I grasped her wrists
behind her back, holding her just tight enough for her to feel it. This
seemed to bring her to the brink and as I started pushing into her, she
started shaking in orgasm. The muscles in her pussy were pulsing and
milking me. This took me over the edge and I felt my seed rush out of my
cock and splash against her womb.

What started out as a slow sensual massage had become so passionate that
it left both of us exhausted. I moved off of her and rolled her to where
her back was against me. I brought my left arm around her, pulling her
tight against me. "I love you, Mickey."

"I love you too," was the mumbled reply as she placed my hand over her
breast and snuggled down for a well-deserved sleep.

The previous day had tired us out, so we slept in quite late. I was
lying on my back with Mickey snuggled into my right side. I was basking in
the feel of her body against mine. This woman was quite a puzzle at times.
She would show flashes of open sexuality, but was unschooled in so many
things sexual the next. I wanted to know more about her past, but was
willing to wait to find out. One thing was for sure, I was madly in love
with this woman. It wasn't just the sex. Her whole being drew me to her.
I would almost melt when she gave me that smile that seemed to be reserved
just for me.

I was drawn from my thoughts when I felt Mickey move. I glanced down to
see her deep blue eyes looking at me. "Morning, Honey. Did you sleep
well?"

"Hmmmm. Like a baby," she said as she stretched. "That was so good. I
was so relaxed and then I got so turned on, I couldn't believe it. And you
make it so special for me."

"You do the same for me, you know." With that I kissed her, and then
rolled out of the bed. "Want to share a shower?"

She immediately agreed and we were soon enjoying the feel of our soapy
bodies rubbing against each other. Neither one of us was horny, but just
enjoyed the sensual feel of skin against skin. I washed her hair for her,
massaging her scalp in the process. She had never experienced that before
and demanded to return the favor. We finally got out and dried each other
off. She then shooed me out to get dressed, saying that she would meet me
downstairs.

I went down to the Studio Cafe restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee.
When the waiter brought it over, I ordered breakfast since Mickey had
already told me what she wanted. She appeared a few minutes later. I
asked if she was all right, and she explained that she had started her
period. I asked if she still felt like shopping to which I got a
resounding yes.

I signed the tab, and we stepped out into the sunlight. Mickey led me
to the shop where she had been yesterday. The salesgirl recognized Mickey
and warmly greeted her. "Did you enjoy the cami set?"

Mickey blushed and said she did, very much in fact. The two then
started talking like old friends, pausing only when they realized I was
still standing there. When I told them I was just there to carry the bags
and supply the plastic, they started through the racks. I was asked my
opinion on a few things, but other than that it was like watching twin
whirlwinds.

When finished, Mickey had a complete wardrobe of undergarments --
everything from the practical to the next-to-nothing. She had even
convinced me to get a few pairs of silk boxers and some lounge pants.

We had lunch at a small deli then headed back to the room. Mickey was
feeling a little tired so we took a nap.

It was early evening when I awoke. I roused Mickey and we decided to
have room service, and then take in the late night show at Bally's. Dinner
was delicious and we dressed casually for the show. Rather than fight the
crowd on the strip, we boarded the monorail for the trip to Bally's.

We got a good location to see the entire show and settled down. The
house lights dimmed and the show began. This was one of the full-blown
Vegas shows with all the costumes, but since it was the late show, it was
topless. I was surprised, but Mickey was fascinated. The costumes were
beautiful, glitzy and full of color. Their movements were perfect and it
made for a fine show. On the way back, Mickey was bubbling with all the
details that she had seen. It fascinated her that the women in the show
could be so casual with being topless. When I told her that they even made
up their breasts to highlight their nipples, she decided that she wanted to
try that herself. We changed for bed, dressed in the finery that Mickey
had picked out earlier that day. We held each other as we fell asleep.

The next morning, we were sitting in the restaurant finishing breakfast,
when Mickey got a little quiet. I asked what was wrong.

"Dave, I have really enjoyed our stay here, but I am starting to miss
home."

The world started closing in on me. I felt the pit of my stomach open
up and attempt to swallow my whole being. She must have seen my fallen
expression for she reached over and grabbed my hand.

"Dave, I don't mean it like it sounded. I meant OUR home. I miss the
coach and being together, just the two of us. I think of that as my home
now."

I went from one extreme to another. From despair to elation in seconds.
The thought that she considered the coach her home now gave me a feeling
that was impossible to describe. She must truly be happy to think that
way. I gave her a smile in return and squeezed her hand.

"If your are ready to go back to OUR home, let's get packed and then
check out. We will be back there as soon as you get ready."

We were soon checked out and in a cab heading back to the bus. The ride
out was just as harrowing and in short order we were standing next to our
home on wheels. While the diesel was warming, I did a quick check on all
the systems. I was filled the water tanks and dumped the waste. While I
was doing this, Mickey used the cell phone to contact her parents. I spent
more time at my task than necessary to give her some privacy.

When I finally came inside, I found Mickey bent over holding the phone
in both hands. When she raised her head, there were tears in her eyes.
"Dave, I need to get back to my parents' house. It's my sister."

~~~~~~~~FINIS ~~~~~~~

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