CHAPTER 4

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'Listen! You gotta help me,' hissed a young voice in the dim light before dawn. DeeDee stirred. One boy clasped another by his shirt. Their faces jammed against each other's. Both grimaced. 'Listen,' he said again, giving the shirt-front in his fists a shake. It was hard to see in near-darkness. They grunted and struggled. 'You gotta,' came the plea. 'Okay, okay.' The fabric was released. A palm smoothed it. 'Here.' A small, black object was passed from one hand to the other. 'Thanks man.' A slap on the back as they parted. When one boy turned to the other, DeeDee caught a glimpse of a crooked smile. What had he handed over? She'd have to remember that crooked smile and the slender nose.

DeeDee rolled over and fell into a deep sleep. In the late morning, she woke and indulged in a slow start to the day with the puzzle of the two boys in that twilit atmosphere haunting her. She knew the answers would come. No need to push.

DeeDee found herself staring at the students talking on the TV screen from the far corner of her bedroom. She lost all awareness of the salad nicoise and croissant on the lunch tray in her lap. A girl was being interviewed by a news reporter about the candlelight vigil being organized for that evening at St. Bart's. As the reporter moved through the crowd, DeeDee saw him. It was him? The same boy who'd given something to Dane Pritchett. Her heart flopped in her chest. Who was he? And what had he given up? More importantly, when did this happen? And where?

"You look white as a snowdrift in February," said Clarence, rising from his brunch tray to pat DeeDee's clammy hand.

"T-that boy? Did you hear them mention a name?"

"Shouldn't be too hard to find out. Guess that will top the to-do list for your new assistant?"

"Quite right," said DeeDee, hand on heart, beginning to breathe normally again. "I have help." Clarence frowned. "So sorry, my love," she continued. "No disrespect to you. You are my lifeline. I would never refer to you as help. Now, Bianca? I could only wish..." DeeDee chuckled and Clarence winced with great showmanship.

"Make all-gone or no dessert," he chided.

* * * *

When JC arrived, she noticed the old bat's anxiety.

"I haven't been myself since the time changed back," was her excuse as JC entered the spearmint-cool room in mid-afternoon. She noticed the bat's hair was flatter and duller. That her eyes were smaller under drooping turquoise lids. Lids that matched her bed jacket. And her lips were painted in a more muted shade of red. Undertaker's hand, thought JC with a tiny smirk.

"You must call the KTV-channel first thing," the bat continued, zinging JC's brain to thoughts of its sister station KCOW – country radio that boasted all moo-sic, all the time and used cattle stampedes and calling contests to motivate listeners. What a hick town this is, thought JC as she thought about those farm kids that piled off school buses every morning, manure fresh on their boots.

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