Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-One

Wil’s eyes scanned the page without absorbing any of the words upon it. Her mind was with her ears: anxiously straining to hear movements from her parents’ room. All seemed quiet, but her father was not the noisy type.

She carefully adjusted her position on her bed, attempting to make it look as though she were comfortably reading and had not just landed after a hurried rush down the hall. Being further into the book would help, but she had to read it for English class and didn’t want to skip ahead.

Wil sighed. The few sentences she’d managed to swallow had not given her many hopes for its content so far. She’d expected more from a book with a title about killing. So far, the author had written about two kids in a boring town with a father for a lawyer who didn’t like it. One had a broken arm, but they blamed Andrew Jackson for it?

She heard the door at the end of the hall open. “To heck with that,” Wil whispered, then flipped the book open to the middle and pretended to be absorbed.

Her bedroom door opened to reveal her father, tiredly blinking in the light. Wil looked up and pretended to be startled.

“Dad!” She said. “What are you doing home?”

Rob rubbed his hand on the side of his gruff face, gathering thoughts for words. “I didn’t sleep last night, so I called in sick.”

Wil couldn’t ever remember him doing that, unless he was so sick he couldn’t get out of bed. If he didn’t work, Rob didn’t get paid. She looked at him in surprise.

“I, uh,” Rob began. He was still rubbing his face. He looked unsure about what to say. His eyes looked around Wil’s room, at the book she was holding. Finally, he met his daughter’s gaze.

“Cynthia and I want to talk to you,” he said. His eyes looked at her sadly, then turned to look toward the living room. “I’ll go see if she’s ready to talk.”

Wil sat up and moved to follow him. “No, no,” her father gestured tiredly. “You wait here. Keep reading your book.” He smiled a bit, then left.

Wil heard his slow tread down the hall. He was much quieter without work boots on. She turned the pages back to the beginning, where she’d actually been. Low mumbling (her father’s voice) answered by higher, softer pitches (her mother) was picked up by her left ear. As usual, a coughing fit began.

Subconsciously, Wil tensed up. She tried to tune her surroundings out and tune her reading in. Jem? Dill? Wil thought. Who named these poor kids?

“Wil?” Cynthia called from the living room.

“Coming, Mom!” Wil answered. She closed the book gratefully and rolled off her bed. Straightening her coat, scarf, and hair; she realized she still had her gloves on. Hopefully, her father hadn’t noticed. She slipped them off and put them into her pocket, then headed down the hall.

Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty

Fresh, warm air with a hint of sterility met Wil’s chill-kissed senses as she opened the door into Number 2. She walked into the dimness gratefully, just remembering to retrieve her key before shutting the door behind her. Jakob made it his habit to keep her key if she forgot it in the lock.

Stopping to listen and look intently, she smiled as the sounds of her mother’s presence reached her from the couch: soft sighs of a shadowy sleeper, almost synchronizing with the methodical mechanized sighs and beeps of the IV machine.

Today began the weekend. They would have two complete days together.

Wil paused. She realized her father was at work till late. Jakob was at school till later. Now was the perfect time for a search.

The room was dark; the humming refrigerator and erratic heating provided ample background noise.

A hand clothed in darkness moved deftly, feeling for any obstacles as its owner hushed across the floor. Her dark body barely rustled the air it passed through. She was as silent as the night, as deadly as sharpened steel.

In an eye’s blink of time, she reached the hall. As she suspected, the woman sleeping had not stirred. No one knew Agent W was there. That was preferable, sometimes.

Her gloved hand moved to the wall, lightly guiding her secret path to the room at the end. She could see the door’s outline, then the frame, then the door; then she was pushing gently into complete blackness.

It was then W realized her penlight still rested under the bureau of the Iranian Prime Minister’s military commander. The late commander, she reminded herself -and she smiled. It wasn’t much of a smile, but it was all that was left after what the past decade had done to it.

No matter. She gently closed the bedroom door behind her back, then flipped the overhead light switch on. The glare was overpowering at first, but W adjusted quickly.

She blinked and scanned the disheveled and cluttered furnishings. The floor was littered in laundry, papers, shoes, and medical apparatus. The desk and dressers squeezed uncomfortably around the unmade bed. The bed was scattered pillows, more laundry, and lumpy masses of blankets.

One of the larger lumps began moving and emitting sounds of awakening. Wil quickly switched off the light, fumbled for the doorknob at her back, then rushed from the room before her father woke enough to recognize her.

 

Continued from Forty-Nine.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Nine

Wil was last to reach the minivan. She slid open the side door and climbed over seats to sit in the back row.

Besides an encouraging smile after a brief glance up from her phone, Reagan pretended she and Wil did not know each other any more than they had before Wil was listed as “talented.” Wil knew the group wanted anonymity, but that didn’t prevent a sudden, small, hard lump of self-consciousness from forming in her stomach as Reagan acted obliviously.

They moved out toward home. Wil watched the gray, February landscape of commercial suburbia flash past the minivan windows. Why do they pretend they aren’t friends, except at lunch yesterday and today? She wondered to herself. Surely, the secrecy didn’t matter if everyone in the school saw them all eating together.

With that in mind, she pulled a notebook from her backpack.

Next, she withdrew half of a pencil. She tried to write, but found the tip was broken. Sighing, she dropped that pencil back in the backpack and rifled around some more. After withdrawing the same broken tool twice more, she remembered her pen was inside the folder from History class and took that out instead.

She glanced at the other passengers, and even Mrs. Crandall. Vic was engrossed in their English reading assignment; Reagan and Jorge interacted with their screens; and Mrs. Crandall was eating chips from a crinkling bag, reading a celebrity gossip article on her phone, and occasionally looking out of the windshield. Eric was looking steadfastly forward, though Wil thought she’d seen him move a few moments before she’d looked up.

With waning ink, Wil scrawled a hasty message. Then, keeping her eyes on the back of Eric’s head, she dropped the note discreetly into Reagan’s lap.

Reagan casually dropped her hand down to cover the note. After a minute, she looked at her midsection and read it quickly from a carefully-cupped hand. Wil heard Reagan sigh. Reagan rotated her head a bit to stretch her neck, then grabbed a pen from her pocket and wrote something under the original message. Looking around the car and out the window nonchalantly; she yawned, stretched her hands to her shoulders, and dropped the note back on Wil.

Impatiently, Wil picked up the note and read it. Under her own, “Why all the secrets if we eat lunch together?” Reagan had scrawled what looked like, “Speciel meetings for you.”

Wil sat in her seat, blank-faced and blinking. She didn’t even notice Eric glance back at her quickly. She barely saw another wad of paper -this one purple- drop over Reagan’s shoulder and onto Wil’s boots.

Copying Reagan’s subtlety, Wil stretched down to pick up the paper, then smoothed it out quietly across her legs. Reagan’s handwriting spelled out, “Sorry. I was supost to tell you details. Sorry.”

The minivan screeched the turn into their complex, forcing everyone to one side as their bodies stretched at their seatbelts. It bumped gratefully into a parking stall and Mrs. Crandall remembered to put it into Park before turning off the engine and getting out.

Eric, Vic, Jorge, and Mrs. Crandall exited. In the brief few seconds they were inside together, Reagan looked right at Wil and said, “I have a paper to give you, but I lost it. Stephen is supposed to sneak it to you Monday. It will explain everything.”

Reagan grabbed her things and got out. Following suit, Wil took her backpack and lurched outside. Again, she thought she saw movement; but Reagan and Jorge were almost to their street corner, Vic had almost reached her building, Mrs. Crandall was absently staring at her phone with her mouth open, and all she could see of Eric was his curling red-blonde hairs on the back of his head. He was looking elsewhere again.

Wil shook her head and walked to building four.

Eric turned to watch the retreating figure of Wil and her black scarf blowing behind. She and it disappeared around the nearest building. Sighing, he turned back to the car to retrieve his bag. His eye caught something else moving, but through the open door of the minivan. Moving forward, he saw two notes -one purple- lying on the floor of the car. The slight wind caught at their edges, gesturing to him.

 

Continued from Forty-Eight.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Eight

She walked the course she often trod alone,

Perceiving little more than faceless crowd.

A shadow trailed beyond her body’s own,

As silent as the roiling mass were loud.

 

“Wil,” it spoke, out from obscurity.

Its target jumped and yelped in real surprise.

“It’s me,” Hope said, unnecessarily.

As Wil saw, true, Hope’s smiling face and eyes.

 

“I know you have but little time,” Hope said,

She turned and walked along the hall with Wil,

Matching Wil in gait, balance, and tread,

Causing Wil to marvel at such skill.

 

They reached Wil’s locker ere she e’en knew it.

She spun the combination absently.

The presence of Hope flustered her a bit,

Although, Wil thought, she should feel diff’rently.

 

“I’ve had two thoughts about your case,” said Hope.

Wil glanced at her, up from the task at hand.

She tried to meet Hope’s gaze, while fingers groped

And dial turned; its tri-code numbers scanned.

 

“The first I recommend is just to wait,”

Hope said, “Although that may be hard to do.”

Wil’s face showed doubt and restlessness innate;

Her patience never lasted long, she knew.

 

“I find my parents tell me what I seek,

When given time enough to organize,”

Hope said. The locker opened with a creak,

And Wil withdrew her backpack, books, supplies.

 

“The second, if you’re sure you want to look,”

Continued quiet girl with piercing glance,

“Is think where you hide what you don’t want took:

Beneath a pillow, bed; or drawers, by chance?”

 

Wil nodded, then asked anxiously, “Oh, but-

How do I move, and not make so much sound?”

“Well,” Hope thought, “Just try to sneak somewhat,

And, use distracting noises all around.”

 

So speaking, shadow nodded once, then left,

Melting subtly as she had advised

Among the crowds. So, leaving Wil to theft

Or patient wait -whate’er she would devise.

 

Continued from Forty-Seven.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Seven

The deep, depressing bell toll still echoed in the cold cement-lined world outside when Wil pushed out of Mr. G.’s cubicle. He’d released them early, for him, which had granted the class a thirty second head start.

She walked down metal stairs and headed toward the main building. Quick, solid footsteps replaced the reflected sounds of the bell. Wil turned to see Art coming after her. Although he’d made amusing faces at her every time she’d accidentally -or, increasingly, intentionally- looked back at him, Wil had forgotten about him once excused from class.

“Hey, Wil,” he said amiably, once he joined her. He walked with her as if they had always walked together. Wil marveled at the sensation of friendship, of being sought out.

“What do you think about the group assignment?” He asked.

“Oh,” Wil replied. She’d also forgotten about that. She was so accustomed to no one volunteering to work with her, that she had mentally written off worrying about it. Mr. G. would attach her to some unwilling group once he asked which group everyone was in at the next class period.

“We could be in a group,” Art said. He glanced at her face, then added, “It would be convenient since we’re in the same class. I could get the two guys by me to work with us, too.”

“Okay; if you’re sure,” Wil replied, hestitantly. She knew Art was intelligent and very interested in History. She didn’t want to let him down by naturally being the opposite of him in those areas.

Art laughed. Wil liked his laugh.

“Don’t worry!” He said. “I think it will be fun.”

They reached the door. He pulled it open for her, with a flourish. “Lady deWinter,” he formally announced, while bowing.

Wil laughed, then scuttled into the building quickly. He caught up to her again. They walked through the crowded school, amidst the hubbub of end-of-day socializing.

“So, m’lady,” Art continued, “Have you any ideas for the project?”

Wil thought, then blushed. “I don’t remember the topic, actually. Sorry.” She was sorry. Unless she wrote things down, or cared about them, she usually forgot.

“Ah,” Art said. “I may need to re-think this group, then.” Wil looked at him in panic, but saw that he was grinning in a teasing way.

He stuck his right hand over his heart and intoned deeply, “The topic is Famous Battles of the American Revolution.”

He and Wil reached a hallway juncture. His locker was down to the left, while hers was to the right. Art waved to Wil, then started down his hall.

She saw him stop, turn, then walk a few steps backward as he called, “Think about it, WIL you?”

 

Continued from Forty-Six.
Keep reading to Forty-Eight.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Six

“I hate math!” Reagan exclaimed. Wil’s hand was delivering pork substitute to her mouth, but stopped in surprise at this announcement. The rest of the lunch table’s occupants laughed or smiled, commiserating with Reagan.

“Yeah,” Art said. “I feel you. I’d much prefer English any day.”

Reagan was stirring her instant potatoes. She looked at Art in surprise. “English?” She questioned. Her eyebrows raised and her mouth twisted distastefully. “I didn’t say that was much better.”

“I like English,” Stephen supplied quietly.

“Well, of course you do,” Reagan responded, a bit sarcastically. Wil noticed that Reagan’s tone was almost always sarcastic.

“Guys, guys,” Derek said, his hands in a calming gesture. “We can all agree that math sucks.” The others laughed, except Wil. She blinked.

“What, Wil?” Reagan asked her. They all turned to look at Wil, and she blushed.

“I… um, I like math,” Wil said quickly. She looked down, wishing her reheated frozen vegetables were interesting enough to keep her attention the way she was pretending.

“Really?” Reagan asked, in an unusually sincere tone. Wil glanced up. Reagan’s face also seemed sincere, even curious.

Wil noticed the others bore looks of interest, while Hope wore her kind and humorous smile. “Yeah,” Wil said; then, a bit more loudly, “I don’t have a problem with math.” She cleared her throat a bit. “Maybe it’s the teacher?”

“I know you have a different teacher,” Reagan stated, as if Wil’s class schedule were common knowledge. “Hope told us.” (That explained things, Wil thought.) “But, I don’t think that’s why math sucks.” They laughed again, at Reagan’s bluntness.

“Oh, duh,” Art said, acting like he was smacking his forehead. “You’re in the higher math class.” He smiled, then chuckled a bit. “We need to add that to your talents, Wil. Cool.” He turned his smile to her.

Wil was surprised, then pleased. If they all really didn’t like math, and were not in the higher math class, then here was a talent she really did have. The Talented Teens were nodding and making sounds of agreement. She watched Stephen pull their secret paper from a folder, then carefully pencil “Mathematics” on the line with her name.

“Um,” Wil began. Everyone except Stephen looked at her. “Um, speaking of… um, why did you?.. I mean, how did you?” She felt flustered, and their staring did little to help calm her thoughts. She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word imaginative.

Reagan understood. “I’m in your English class, remember?” Wil looked at her, then did remember. How could she have forgotten? Reagan had composed and read a truly terrible poem about a woman waiting for a phone call that had turned out to be a salesperson.

“I told them all about that story you wrote, that Mr. P. liked so well.” Reagan stuffed a wilted bean into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and added, “He kept saying ‘imaginative’ so many times, that’s what we wrote for your talent.”

Wil was surprised. She had forgotten about that story.

“In fact,” Reagan added, “It was kind of an inside joke for a bit with us.” She looked at Wil and gave a sarcastic half-smile. “Sorry.”

Wil wasn’t hurt. She felt relieved.

“Well, that’s settled then,” Derek said. He smiled at them all, then pulled out his sandwich and began unwrapping it. Reagan turned to Art and began discussing a book they had to read for class. Stephen showed Derek his latest sketches. Hope watched silently.

Joining in the group’s happy feeling of resolve, Wil ate the remainder of her food with a contented feeling. She listened with half an ear to the snippets of her friends’ conversations.

Glancing up, she caught a meaningful look from Hope. Remembering the events of the morning, Wil ate more quickly. She had work to do.

 

Continued from Forty-Five.
Keep reading to Forty-Seven.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Five

February 5: Chemistry

I haven’t written in a long time. Paper and pencils are scarce and I can’t always get good light to see by. Also, I don’t always remember to write.

They keep us pretty busy here at Camp. I think that’s also why I can’t write frequently. Frequently. Frequency. The teacher just talked about frequency.

He wants us to call him “doctor,” but I think that’s weard. He isn’t a doctor that can heal people. He just really likes science and went to a lot of school learning about science.

If I went to school for that long, I would not want to end up teaching jr high.

What would I want, you wonder? Well… I can’t say exactly, in case this diary gets taken by Them. Let’s just say it’s more interesting than teaching. And it would pay better. And I wouldn’t have to deal with kids. Kids are mean.

Actually, I have met some nice kids finally! I suppose it’s more like they met me. I really wondered how they knew me, until I talked to one of them today. She is unnerving. We learned that word yesterday, and that is Hope. Maybe that can be a talent listed.

Oh, yeah: they have this thing for listing -Oh, nevermind. Secrecy. I keep forgetting.

Anyway. I really wanted to say that I don’t know why they talked to me. Or why they think I belong with them. Most people say I can’t pay attention and that I don’t understand people. Does anyone understand people?  It seems like I always hear adults saying they don’t understand teenagers, so how can I be expected to understand?

Dr. L. just lit his notes on fire. a bit. At least he’s funny, though I don’t think he means to be that exciting. Maybe. I can’t tell what he is really thinking because of those thick glasses he wears.

They all are masters of disguise here at Camp: watching us when we don’t think they are, reporting what we do. I need to be more careful. More discreet (right, Mr. Poll?). He’ll like that I use so many vocabulary words, I’m sure.

I’ll keep this hidden so it won’t get found. But I will also write discreet in case they are watching.

Speaking of watching, someone is in this class with me. I don’t want him to be punished by Them, but I have to write it. Someone has a nice smile. And dreamy eyes. Maybe he’s nice to everyone though?

I had that dream again, but I could feel other people in the woods. And, I was holding a letter.

I hope I find out what’s going on.

I hope they really like me.

-W. W.

 

Continued from Forty-Four.
Keep reading to Forty-Six.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Four

Wil waved goodbye to her father as she ran, so focused on Hope that she heard nothing of what he said. Rob watched his usual parting image of her hand, scarf, and coattails bidding him farewell. He swallowed bittersweet memory flavors and reached over to close the car door Wil had left open in her haste.

Wil rushed anxiously, feeling clumsy and unusually noisy compared to the shadow of a person she sought: the elusive and silent Hope. Hope seemed to melt from shuffling groups to winter landscape without solidifying. She was like air, though Wil had heard air make more noise than that when it moved.

Wil’s coat flapped; her scarf swished. Her boots clumped on solid ground, then crunched on brittle snow patches. The inevitable squeak sounded at each left foot clump once the snow’s moisture soaked into her heel. She could do little to move silently; and so, focused on hurrying instead.

Hope had reached the doors to inside when Wil barely snagged the girl’s backpack. “Hope!” Wil managed to gasp as she grasped.

Hope’s shyly smiling face turned around to Wil. She looked expectant, a fact that shocked Wil enough to claim the breath she’d just managed to find for talking.

Hope moved them to the side of the entryway, apart from the oblivious masses entering the school building. She continued to smile at Wil, a twitch of humor playing at the right side of her mouth. “Yes, Wil?” She asked kindly.

“I, well, I wanted to talk to you,” Wil said. She felt unsure how to phrase her question, and suddenly embarrassed at addressing someone she didn’t know well. Jakob often teased Wil for reckless actions such as this.

Hope waited. She appeared trustworthy enough.

“I wanted to ask you about sneaking,” Wil blurted. She glanced at Hope to see how this news would affect her, but Hope had not changed expression. “See, my dad got a letter last night, and I wanted to read it,” Wil finished.

Hope nodded and looked thoughtful. Wil watched her expectantly.

Hope met Wil’s gaze and smiled kindly again. “I can talk to you about the letter, but not until lunchtime,” she said.

The first bell rang, its dull note somewhat deflating the catalytic hope Wil had felt when she saw the girl.

Hope put her small hand on Wil’s coat-clad arm. Her deep brown eyes met Wil’s hazel ones, though they resided in a face much lower than hers. “It’s okay, Wil,” she assured her.

Then, Hope left. Wil caught fleeting glimpses of her between teenagers heading to classes, before remembering she, too, should be heading to class.

She breathed a sigh. Hope had given her something to look forward to.

 

Continued from Forty-Three.
Keep reading to Forty-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Three

Wil awoke somewhat to the familiar irritation of a blaring alarm clock. She silenced it while maintaining a comfortable stupor of half-asleepness. The dark trees and mists of her dream still lingered round her subconscious, and confused her mind when mixed with the images her eyes sent of her plain, dark bedroom.

She yawned and chanced opening her eyes further. All was shapes and shadows of monochrome grays. She heard no sounds.

Her parents had been up late talking. Talking -and coughing, in Cynthia’s case. Her father rarely spoke, so Wil had found the deep rumble of his voice distracting at such a late hour. The coughing was not so distracting, since her mother had been doing it for such a long time -not that it ever ceased to be disturbing.

Wil decided that Cynthia would probably choose to sleep in, and complete her morning exercise with their neighbor. Rob could wake Cynthia to start her other routines before they left for school.

Wil’s assumptions were correct. After dressing, there was still no sound of waking from her parents’ room. She had to rouse them, then follow her father’s zombie-like tread around the apartment and out the door to their car.

She watched his face in the lines of streetlights, flashes of headlights, and dull glow of early morning as the car moved inexorably to school. Rob’s eyes opened only as far as necessary. His jaw -the entire bottom of his face- hung relaxed and unshaven below drooped eyebrows and tousled hair.

Wil wondered what had kept him up, and what still occupied his thoughts.

In fact, Rob emanated distraction more than fatigue. Although Wil was rarely able to sit quietly around her family, she picked up enough on his odd mood to not ask any questions.

Actually, what really silenced her were the only looks he had given her. Rob had looked at Wil when he first awoke with a sort of shock. The other two times, after he was more alert, his expression seemed sad and -well- distracted.

The only strange event of the evening before had been a letter he’d taken to his bedroom after getting home from work. If her father didn’t explain things by tonight, she was going to have to search for that letter.

Wil was not very sneaky, however, nor very good at finding what people hid.

“Bye, Gwen -er, Mina,” Rob said, as Wil exited the car at the curb.

At that exact moment, Wil was distracted by the vision of Hope walking alone. Maybe Wil wasn’t good at sneaking, but she knew someone talented enough to be listed officially.

 

Continued from Forty-Two (Again).
Keep reading to Forty-Four.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Two (Again)

(Because this number needs an accurate tribute.)

The apartment squatted at the end of a small path on the interior of the complex. It was the bottom corner of a building with five other apartments, and had a view of a few tree branches hanging over the back of the cement walls of the communal garbage bin. Not an exceptional apartment at all -it was built during the economic recession, stuccoed, rectangular, and had decorative stucco accents along its side of a color and position which basically failed to appeal to anyone.

The people for whom the apartment held any significance were the Winters family, and that was only since they lived there. They had been renting for about four months, ever since the lease agreement ran out on their last apartment because it made their bank account too low. They had come out of the recession as well, leaner and usually serious. What made them more serious was when people asked why they looked so solemn.

Rob Winters worked at a machine shop which he always told his family nothing about because he rarely enjoyed talking. They knew it, too -that is, they knew nothing about what he actually did every day at his job.

The Winters hadn’t quite come around to the idea that disruption wanted to visit this place where they lived.

In the evening of a Thursday in February, Rob Winters didn’t feel well. He came home tiredly, walked in the door, trudged tiredly into the kitchen, deposited the mail on the counter, saw a letter written in a familiar hand, noted his family, and stumped to the sink to wash.

Soap foamed into his palms -thus. Scrub.

Wil’s face – turned to her father. He met her gaze. A different face looked at his with his own hazel eyes. Shaking his head, Rob saw his daughter again. He finished cleaning his hands, rinsed, dried, and stumped to the couch to seek someone lovely to hold in his arms.

Cynthia, couch, IV, arms, hug. Sigh.

Wil saw a thought cross Rob’s features and attempt to settle distantly in his eyes.

The envelope on the counter was small and worn, with extra inked messages stamped by the post office.

He turned to look at it.

“Letter,” Rob said to Cynthia, who responded with a puzzled look.

Wil matched the definition for a vocabulary word, and another. She wondered if her father might be late for an appointment with his bed. What was he thinking about? Was there something important in the mail? She thought it likely. Wil saw the small, crumpled corner of an envelope. “Letter?” she wondered to herself.

Rob sat up and remembered. Cursive, he thought. Why was that familiar? He hazily recalled reading it before, reading that handwriting somewhere significant. Wil saw him sitting, but considering something nagging, she thought: the best way to describe her father was preoccupied. There was something he’d received today.

Rob realized the letter had been sent awhile ago, been forwarded, and only just reached their new address. Incredible. He turned to look at his wife again. He would figure it all out, he resolved, he usually took care of everything, nothing changed. He could figure it out.

The workday had paid Rob’s wages in exhaustion. He looked at his wife, stepson, and daughter. He ran a hand through his blond hair. Letter, he told himself. The image of cursive handwriting on a forwarded letter floated round his brain, attempting recognition.

Forty-two seconds later, Rob was off the couch and tearing open the envelope in the safety of his own room with the door closed.

 

Continued from Forty-Two.
Keep reading to Forty-Three.