On the map, the Chester Pond camp road was a thin hooklike thread, almost not there. After leaving the Marshall cabin, Junior and Frankie sat for a moment in Frankie’s car, studying this.

“Can’t be anybody else down there,” Frankie said. “Not at this time of the year. What do you think? Say fuck it and go back to town?” He cocked a thumb at the cabin. “They’ll be along, and if they’re not, who really gives a shit?”

Junior considered it for a moment, then shook his head. They had taken the Oath of Duty. Besides, he wasn’t anxious to get back and face his father’s pestering about what he’d done with the Reverend’s body. Coggins was now keeping his girlfriends company in the McCain pantry, but there was no need for his dad to know that. At least not until the big man figured out how to nail Barbara with it. And Junior believed his father would figure it out. If there was one thing Big Jim Rennie was good at, it was nailing people.

Now it doesn’t even matter if he finds out I left school, Junior thought, because I know worse about him. Way worse.

Not that dropping out seemed very important now; it was chump change compared to what was going on in The Mill. But he’d have to be careful, just the same. Junior wouldn’t put it past his father to nail him, if the situation seemed to call for it.

“Junior? Earth to Junior.”

“I’m here,” he said, a little irritated. “Back to town?”

“Let’s check out the other cabins. It’s only a quarter of a mile, and if we go back to town, Randolph’ll find something else for us to do.”

“Wouldn’t mind a little chow, though.”

“Where? At Sweetbriar? Want some rat poison in your scrambled eggs, courtesy of Dale Barbara?”

“He wouldn’t dare.”

“You positive?”

“Okay, okay.” Frankie started the car and backed down the little stub of driveway. The brightly colored leaves hung moveless on the trees, and the air felt sultry. More like July than October. “But the Massholes better be gone when we come back, or I just might have to introduce Titsy McGee to my helmeted avenger.”

“I’ll be happy to hold her down,” Junior said. “Yippee-ki-yi-yay, motherfucker.”


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