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PART II.

I followed the little map that Don Harrison had made for me, and after
running up and down the same section of road about three times finally
spotted a little cabin back off in the distance behind a group of
redwoods. The dirt drive only went up halfway to the cabin. For the
remainder I had to get out and walk up a small hill. It was only about
20 yards, but by the time I got up the hill my bum ticker was pounding
like crazy and my breathing was heavy and difficult. I was glad to
finally get to the cabin. Once inside I collapsed into a chair.

I looked around the cabin, resting a bit. "I sure as hell hope this is
Ron's cabin" I said to myself. There was really nothing to identify the
owner. I imagined somebody coming through the door suddenly, finding me
there. So I figured the first thing I ought to do was to find something
that would indentify the owner. The cabin was essentially one room, with
a little section off the back that lead to what I supposed was a
bathroom. The light was very dim due to there only being two windows in
the whole place. Over against the wall was a large dresser, about six
foot long. It was no doubt the same dresser on which Sheriff Baker had
found the Smith revolver. I decided that would be a good place to start.

There were some papers in the left top drawer of the dresser. Looking
through them, I found Ron Harrison's name on a couple of them. So I did
have the right cabin. In the right top drawer I found some underwear and
some socks and a box of .44 caliber shells, the same as the murder
weapon, as well as a gun cleaning kit. As for the gun itself, I assumed
that Sheriff Baker had it. The bottom drawers of the dresser held
clothing.

Towards front of the cabin there was a gun cabinet. It was empty and
unlocked. Since it didn't make any sense to have a gun cabinet without
any guns, I could only assume that Ron had gotten rid of them or had
decided to store them elsewhere. The small drawer at the bottom of the
cabinet held a couple boxes of .12 gauge shotgun shells and a half dozen
boxes of Winchester .30-06 rifle cartridges.

It was at that point that I noticed a big, dark spot on the wood
planking of the floor over in the direction of the fireplace. The spot
was about four feet in diameter. Sheriff Baker was right, the holes that
had been put into Ron Harrison were major, and there had been a lot of
blood. With that much blood, I figured it would have taken Harrison
about twenty seconds to bleed out, maybe thirty if he was unlucky and
had to lie there in his own blood a bit longer.

Above the fireplace there were a couple of racks for some fishing rods,
but no poles. On the fireplace mantel there were a few photos in frames,
one of a guy looking something like Ron Harrison, but young and skinny
looking and wearing a WWII era G.I. uniform. The photo took me back to
my own days in the army. I had probably dragged in a couple of thousand
guys just like Ron who went out and got too drunk or who otherwise got
into some sort of trouble. And somehow they all looked the same in my
memory — young, innocent, ignorant of the war and the damage it could
do to men. I put the photo back on the mantel. "Poor bastard" I said to
myself and to nobody in particular. It was totally shitty to have
survived two wars only to end up shot at home in your own cabin. I felt
my temper rise a bit. Whoever had shot Ron Harrison, I was beginning to
develop a serious dislike for them.

There was another photo on the mantel also, a much older one that I
assumed was of Ron and Don's parents. There was also a little white
sculpted bird that looked like it had been carved out of bone of some
sort, and a small clock that had run down. Finding the key to the clock
sitting next to it, I looked at my watch, set the hands and wound it.
"There ya' go, Ron." I put the key back next to the clock and stuck my
hands in my pockets and looked at the clock until the minute hand
advanced from seven to eight, from eight to nine, from nine to ten.

The closet at the back of the cabin next to the bathroom was piled with
all sorts of stuff. There I found the missing fishing poles, an
assortment of mounted fish and a big Elk head on a wooden back that had
been taken down from the wall. There was also some camping gear, and
hanging from a dowl rod at the top of the closet were a bunch of shirts,
pants, jackets.

I checked out the bathroom, but it was of the most primitive sort, with
a few shelves but no cabinets. Then I walked around the cabin a bit
more, slowly, seeing if my eyes would rest on anything interesting. But
after a few minutes I decided that if there was anything in the cabin
that might provided any information as to what had happened that it just
wasn't registering in my brain at that point. My stomach started telling
me that it was ready to be fed. I decided to come back later and take
another look around after lunch and with a fresh set of eyes.

Back in Angel Pines I ordered the pork-chop special from Michelle, who
gave me a smile when I walked in but who nevertheless still seemed a
little leary of me. No matter what kind of trouble she had gotten into
in Los Angeles during her time there, and it was my guess that she had
been in some sort of trouble, I seriously doubted wether it had anything
to do with Ron's murder. That was an assumption, of course. I wasn't
going to rule her out totally as a suspect. I had run into all sorts of
people who were willing to do bad things to hide a bad past. But it just
didn't add up. If anything, the fact that Ron had placed trust in
Michelle about falling off the vegetarian wagon suggested that he didn't
know anything about her that could have gotten him into trouble. Ron
hardly seemed the type, even with the little I knew about him, to resort
to blackmail. And if Michelle had been involved with any rough types in
L.A. who had followed her up to Angel Pines it didn't make any sense to
kill Ron Harrison. The only scenario in that vein that I could come up
with was that Ron had tried to protect Michelle and it had thrown him
into problems with someone from her past. But if that was the case, they
would have been all over Angel Pines prior to the murder, would have
stood out as surely as I stood out being up there. But there had been no
report of that. With regard to Michelle, I figured that her past was
dead and buried and hadn't been a factor in the murder.

"You're a good cook, Michelle" I said as she cleared away my plate.

"Thanks. But I'll tell ya, with prices on things going up like crazy,
it's been tough here serving good food at a reasonable price."

"Inflation has hit a lot of people. I have to pay 50 cents more these
days for a box of bullets." I smiled, and gave her a wink so she would
know that I was kidding.

"Oh, I think I have your number. Your a softy at heart. I bet you don't
even use those bullets."

I laughed. "Very seldom, anyway. But I seriously object to being called
a softie. I'm a really tough guy." I pulled my hat down close to my eyes
and squinted, tilted my head back and let my cigarette hang out of my
mouth a bit. "See? Tough guy."

"Uh huh, right" she said, giving me a wink back.

As I came out of the diner I ran into dumb-ass Jimmie, who had been
conspicuously absent at the diner. "Hello, Jimmie" I said as I passed
him.

"Hey, your zipper's open" he yelled after me.

I paid him no attention. I climbed into the car, trying to get my mind
focused back on the case after the heavy meal. But as I leaned forward
and stuck my key in the ignition I noticed that my zipper was in fact
undone. "Son of a bitch" I said to myself. I turned off the engine and
just sat there a minute.

Jimmy might be the equivalent of the village idiot, but that didn't mean
he didn't know things, maybe things that other people might not know. If
I was going to put down five bucks, I would have bet that Sheriff Baker
hadn't bothered interviewing the kid. I zipped up my pants and got out
of the car and went over to him. He was sitting on a bench outside the
Post Office reading a Superman comic book.

"Jimmy, how's it going?"

He looked at me like I might be teasing him. "Uh, okay."

"Jimmy, you spend quite a bit of time here in town, I take it."

"Yeah, so?"

"Nothing wrong with spending time in town, Jimmie. I was just thinking
that since you are here in town quite a lot, that you might have seen a
few things."

"Like, what kind of things?"

"Well, for instance you ever see Ron Harrison with anybody? Somebody
from out of town, maybe? Or somebody from here in town that he might be
having problems with? Or being really friendly with?

"What if I did?"

"That would be interesting information, Jimmie. If it were true
information, of course."

Jimmie got out of the chair and walked up to me. "I saw Ron and Jane
together a couple times" he said in a serious voice. "They came into
town together. In Jane's truck. She dropped him off. Then she left. It was
pretty early both times. Nothing open yet. I was here 'cause my mom comes
in at dawn to sort mail. I help her sometimes."

"Jane? Who's this Jane?"

"Jane Stewart. She lives here, out a ways. A couple miles up West Pines
Road. Has a cabin. A nice one. She comes into town every once in a while
to get her mail and shop for groceries and stuff. They say she doesn't
like people much. One of those…types who stick by themselves. You know
what I mean?"

"Hermits?"

"Yeah! A hermit."

My read was that he was being straight-up with me about it. "You ever
see them, well, act kinda friendly towards each other?"

He laughed at that. "You mean, like they was making out together?"

"Never mind" I said. "Can you draw me a map up to her place? I'd like to
talk with her." I flipped open my notebook and gave it to him along with
a pencil.

"I could give you the mailing address, but it wouldn't mean anything to
you. There aren't any signs. Here's this street. Then you go up about
two miles. Then take a left. It's the only turn-off right there. Then
you go another three miles or so. It's a cabin set back, top of the
porch beam is painted blue. Ha!" He handed me back the notebook and
pencil. "Blue. Ain't that a killer? A blue awning on a cabin?"

"Hmm, I don't know much about cabin decoration. Anyway, I appreciate the
information."

"Hey, your shoe's untied!" he said as I walked off.

"Very funny, Jimmie" I said, without turning around.

As I got back into my car I remembered Jimmie's serious attitude as he
drew the map and gave me the directions. Dumb-ass or not, the kid wasn't
stupid. It was understandable that he could have scored 92 percent on
the Postmaster test. Which only reinforced a view I had held for a good
long while — that people are very seldom all black or all white. We're
all of us shades of gray.

Even though it was a lot further out, Jane Stewart's place was a lot
easier to find. It was only about fifty feet back off the road. And then
there was the bright blue awning in front. I pulled up behind a pick-up
truck in the drive and got out. The area around the cabin had been
cleared of trees a good way back. Off to the side of what would be
called a front yard in the city a woman in a thick, red-plaid jacket
stood holding a rake, watching me carefully.

"Mam. My name is Pat Maginess. Are you Jane Stewart?"

"Yes…" she said suspiciously.

"I'm a private investigator from Los Angles, Miss Stewart…"

"That's Mrs. Stewart"

"Sorry. Mrs. Stewart. Anyway, I've been hired by Don Harrison to make
some enquiries up here. Can I have a few minutes of your time to ask you
some questions?"

"Questions concerning what?"

"The death of Ron Harrison."

She looked down at the ground. Then she started in with the rake. "I've
got to get these pine needles raked up" she said, not looking at me.
"They're a fire hazard." She raked a bit. "I didn't know Ron Harrison.
Not really."

"Well, I have a witness in town who saw you with Ron Harrison on a
number of occasions. You drove him into town. It sounds to me like you
did know him."

She jerked the rake handle up to ninety degrees and looked at me,
putting her gloved hands on the top of handle to rest them. She had
short, carrot-red hair and even from six feet I could make out the
freckles around her eyes and on her cheekbones. I was willing to bet she
had freckles in a lot of other places. Even with the heavy outdoor
jacket on it was clear that she was thin as a stick. She looked to be
about 45, but it was tough to tell with redheads. Her deep blue eyes
bored into me, registering nothing of what was running through her mind.

"Let's go inside. I have a pot of coffee on" she said finally.

Once inside she directed me to a big, overstuffed blue chair in front of
the fireplace and handed me a tin cup of coffee thick as dirt. "I've
already had a good number of cups today. So pardon me if I don't join
you." She sat down in a large wooden chair a few feet from me, crossed
her legs, folded her hands. Jane's cabin was about the same size as
Ron's, but newer and with more windows and it was more nicely
decorated — what is sometimes called the feminine touch. It was obvious
that her favorite color was blue. There was a lot of blue in the room.
"Now. What's this you say about a witness?"

"It's like I said, Mrs. Stewart. A witness in town saw you and Ron
Harrison together. Mornings, from what he said. So you knew him."

"Yes, I knew him. But why is that any of your concern?"

"Ron Harrison was murdered. I was hired to look into it. That makes it
my concern."

For a second I imagined that she was going to come over to my chair and
slap me. But then she looked down at the floor, sighed, and then looked
back at me and smiled.

"I'm sorry" she said. "That was rude of me. What did you say your name
was?"

"Maginess. You can call me Pat if you want."

"Mr. Maginess, do you know why I moved here, here to Angel Pines?"

"They say you're a hermit of sorts."

She smiled. "Well, I suppose that's true. But I'm talking about the real
explanation. The one nobody around here knows. Would you like to hear
it?"

"Sure" I said, trying to swallow a bit more of the coffee.

"Do you know Emily Dickinson?" she asked, turning her body a bit more in
my direction to tell her story. "No? There's this poem of hers — she
talks about not understanding why the sky didn't tumble down on her.
Well, Mr. Maginess, the sky did tumble down on me." She paused for a few
seconds, gathering her thoughts, and then stared at the ceiling. "I'm
not from Angle Pines originally, Mr. Maginess. I'm from San Francisco. I
met my husband right after high school. We married in '35. And we were
incredibly happy…in spite of the lack of children. And then the war
came. Carter, my husband, came home one day from his job with the Park
Department and told me he had joined up in the Navy. We had a terrible
fight about it. But it was too late, he had already singed the papers.
He tried to console me. Told me he was going to be on a ship, and that
he would be safe on a ship and that he'd come back to me. Ha, safe on a
ship. I think you can guess what happened. You seem like an intelligent
man."

"He was killed in action."

She nodded. "I never will forget the telegram. The little envelope with
its little blue seal. Such a tiny little letter, really. And that's the
day, Mr. Maginess, that the sky tumbled down on me…"

"For a while I could hardly do anything but lie in bad. But then I
decided that I had to do something, take care of myself. Carter's boss
at the Parks Department lined me up with a job as a secretary there. I
went through the motions. I was a good secretary. And then one day I
decided to take the ferry, just to feel the sea air brush across my face
like it had when I was a little girl. We were a few miles out. I was
standing along the railing near the bow. And then, suddenly in the
distance, a whale breached only about a hundred yards from the ferry. It
caught me by surprise and for a moment I couldn't breathe. It was
magnificent, Mr. Maginess. Have you ever seen a breaching whale? It is
majestic. After the ferry got back in I ran to the library and checked
out every book on whales they had. I started reading about them, and
about Orcas. Eventually, I discovered what we humans are doing to them.
I couldn't believe that we would hunt such creatures for so little
reason. But that was just part of the horrible destructiveness that I
realized was all around me. Do you know what I mean by horrible
destructiveness, Mr. Maginess?"

"Well I know that it isn't all joy and light, I can say that much."

"Yes, then you know. And then I met someone. I won't mention his name.
He was a member of a group devoted to vegetarianism and saving species
that had become rare due to the horrible destructiveness of we humans.
We started going for coffee after the meetings. And eventually we came
up with a plan to open an office to help make people aware of what was
going on. I saved every penny of my salary that I could. And I put in a
few thousand dollars from Carter's insurance money. We found a small
street-level office space and started fixing it up. I started coming
alive again, Mr. Maginess. But no, it wasn't to be. One day I went to
our office, it was a Saturday, only to find the doors locked. Then man I
had worked with wasn't there as he was supposed to be. I tried calling
him. By the following Tuesday I was worried that something had happened
to him. I talked his landlord into letting me into his apartment. But
when we went in we found that his things were gone. As if he had never
lived there. I screamed, I was furious, and I ran down to the bank. All
the money we…I had put into the account for our Whale Fund was gone.
He betrayed me, betrayed me…and the sky tumbled down again, Mr.
Maginess. A month later, I moved here. At first I thought that I would
just nurse my wounds and then go back to the San Francisco. But I
stayed."

"And what of your relationship with Ron Harrison?"

"Ah, I was driving back from Angel Pines one morning. I saw Ron, walking
down the road, just walking down the road with his hands in his pockets.
I passed him by at first, but there was just something about the
expression on his face as I glimpsed it in the rear view mirror that
made me stop the truck. I got out and walked toward him. The look in his
eyes, Mr. Maginess, you should have seen it. He had just gotten back
from Korea. And I knew, I knew that he had seen the horrible
destructiveness of it all. All those horrible things that people do to
each other. I invited him back here for coffee. We started spending time
with each other. One thing led to another."

"Why keep it a secret?"

She looked at me and smiled again. "I'm kind of a traditional woman, Mr.
Maginess. And I will never marry again after Carter. I made that vow
when he died."

It suddenly occurred to me that the little white sculpture on Ron's
fireplace mantel hadn't been a bird. "The little white sculpture that
Ron had. That's a whale, isn't it?"

"Yes, she said. "I gave it to him. It's made out of whale bone,
unfortunately. Made by the Alaskan Indians. But for me, of course, it
was more than just a piece of native art. It was a symbol of what we
humans are doing to them. I gave it to Ron as…a pledge. You know.
Pledge?"

"Uh, yeah. I think so, Mrs. Stewart. And so Ron became a vegetarian,
too. And gave up hunting and fishing along with it."

"Yes. But you should know, I didn't ask him to. He wanted to. He said
that was his pledge to me in return. His promise…" Her mind seemed go
out into the ether somehow. "And now…he's gone. All the death. All
that pain. The horrible destructiveness of this world. All the death.
All those horrible things people do to each other." She stopped for a
minute and I sat there thinking that she would continue. Then, almost
so softly I could barely hear it, and still looking down at the floor,
she began humming some song to herself. I couldn't make out the song,
but it had a gentle lilt to it, a minor key ballad. And then she started
singing the words also. I couldn't make those out either. She was in
outer space. It was suddenly like I wasn't even in the room.

I let her sing. Then, looking at my watch, I realized how late it had
gotten. Out the window I could see that it was pretty much dark. In just
the little while we had been talking the cabin had grown dim also, a
fact that I hadn't noticed it had happened so gradually. Concentrating
on the interview, I had inadvertently set myself up for a drive in the
dark back to Colton around the mountain roads. I needed to continue the
interview with Jane Stewart. But it would have to wait until the
following day.

"Well, Mrs. Stewart. I had better get going." Jane looked up at me
standing there in front of her and smiled, humming her song. But it was
obvious she only half-heard me.

I pulled the collar of my suit jacket up around my neck as I left the
cabin. I had forgotten how fast it can get cold in the mountains after
the sun goes down, and there was a serious chill in the air that I
hadn't experienced earlier. For a bit I considered going back to Ron's
cabin and staying the night there. But then I decided to tough it out
and go the mountain roads. The hotel bed in Colton was possibly worse
than the one in Ron's cabin, but at least Colton had a few restaurants.
And I had to admit the thought of seeing Rhonda again and the old-west
feeling of having that bottle in front of me had something to do with my
decision.

The drive back into Angel Pines was easy. The road was flat and there
was a fence of 150-foot pine trees on either side to keep the Plymouth
pointed in the right direction. As I hit Angel Pines I took a right and
cruised through town. Everything was closed down — the diner, the Post
Office, the grocery. But it was the gas station that concerned me. It
was closed too, and the plan I had earlier to fill up before leaving
town was now impossible. I checked my gas gauge. If I was lucky, I
figured I could hit the gas station on the outskirts of Colton before
running out of gas.

The dark road back was a nightmare. I would run into a straight section
of road for about a hundred yards, then the road would curve to the
left. Then there would be another straight section, and then the road
would curve right. As the road straightened and curved, the grade would
go up or down, often steeply. The only light was from my headlights, and
their range was limited. I was constantly upshifting and downshifting
due to the grades, hoping like hell that my concentration wouldn't slip
and take me off the side of the road and down the side of the mountain.

I was about fifteen minutes out of Angel Pines when I heard a sharp tink
on the roof of the Plymouth. A few seconds later, there was another one.
And a few seconds after that a big glob of water hit the front
windshield. Within a minute the tinks and drops increased. And then,
suddenly, it was if Noah had been right all along and the final
catastrophic downpour had come. I turned on my windshield wipers, but
they were virtually useless fighting against all the rain that was
coming down. "Son of a bitch" I said, banging my hand on the steering
wheel. I cursed the dark and the rain. I cursed myself for being such a
damn fool.

There was no way I could keep driving. The dark and the roads were bad
enough, but with the rain only a suicidal maniac would have kept on
driving. I began looking for a place where I could safely pull over and
park until the storm passed. It took a while, but I finally spotted a
small area of dirt on the left side of the road up against the high
granite of the mountain wall. I pulled past the area and then drove into
the oncoming lane and backed into the spot, hoping no other vehicles
would come along as I did so. The Plymouth fit into the side area pretty
much like a hand in a glove. My driver side door being blocked by the
granite wall, I got out on the passenger side and swam through the rain
a few feet to check and see if any of the Plymouth was sticking out onto
the road. But the front right bumper was off the road by about two feet.
That wasn't much, but I figured I was safe as long as other drivers
watched where they were going. In the rain storm, it would be tougher.
There wasn't anything I could do, I just had to hope for the best. I got
back into the car and stayed on the passenger side.

I had barely noticed the cold earlier in the drive due to the exertion
of the almost constant upshifting and downshifting and the kicking of
the clutch. But now, stationary in the passenger seat, I began to feel
the cold creep into my body. I hadn't been out in the storm very long.
But the rain was so furious that it had soaked me down to my underwear.
Which of course only made the cold worse. I thought about my raincoat,
nicely tucked into my suitcase back in Colton. "Damn idiot" I said to
myself.

It looked as if I would be stuck there for a while. I checked the glove
compartment for supplies. I found a half-pint of whiskey, a pack of
chewing gum, a small pair of binoculars, a bunch of old gas station
receipts, and a ball of twine. Only the whiskey and the chewing gum were
of any use. I didn't think the twine was going to help me in my current
situation.

My chill grew. The storm continued. I hugged myself tightly, but after a
while I began to shiver. It was if the cold was invading my muscles, my
entire skeleton. I started rocking forward and back, trying to get a
little motion going to warm myself up a bit. But it didn't work. "When I
get back to L.A., I'm going to bronze that damn ball of twine and put it
on my mantel" I mumbled to myself.

I felt my brain drifting into space, and the image of Jane Stewart in
her cabin singing to herself popped into my head. I considered turning
on the radio, but to do that I would have to let the car run in order
not to run down the battery, and I was running low on fuel. Besides, I
didn't even know if I could get any reception nestled against the
granite wall.

Then, as if someone had opened a big umbrella over the mountains, the
rain stopped. In the space of an instant all was quiet. I got out of the
car. I figured that maybe I could walk a little to warm myself up. There
wasn't anywhere to walk in the little niche I had parked in. So I
crossed the road and carefully skirted the edge. There was an area just
big enough to walk on before the hill plummeted down. I walked back and
forth, back and forth. But the chill wouldn't go away.

Finally, I looked up. The sky was totally clear. It was as if there had
never been a storm, or never would be one. And I had never seen so many
stars in all my life, there seemed to be thousands of them. I was never
really good at reading the constellations, but there was a luminous band
sitting on the horizon that I was pretty sure was the northern arm of
the Milky Way. There I was, one poor and very cold human on one tiny
planet. And then there was all of that, all those stars, and who knew
how many worlds around them. They seemed to glow in the night sky as if
by some sort of magic. I thought of a movie I had seen a while back,
The Day the Earth Stood Still. And then I thought about Jane
Stewart. And suddenly my heart sank. I had a bad feeling about Jane, and
what had happened to Ron.

"Shades of grey" I said to myself. But there was no use going over that.
I needed to get back to Colton. I climbed over into the driver's seat in
the Plymouth and started the engine and threw it into gear. As I drove I
kept an eye on the gas gauge. The rain had stopped but the driving was
no easier the second half of the route. After what seemed like hours I
finally pulled into the filling station outside of Colton. My suit was
still wet and my hair was plastered on my head and my hands were still
shaking a bit from the cold. The pump jockey looked at me like I was
from outer space as he took my money.

Once in Colton proper I headed directly to my hotel room. I stripped
down and took the hottest shower the hotel plumbing could manage. Then I
threw on a dry pair of skivvies and jumped into bed an pulled the covers
over me. But I just couldn't seem to get warm. I thought about getting
up and making a call down to the desk to get another blanket. But the
last thing I wanted to do at that point was to get out from under the
covers. And eventually, I got hungry too. But I stayed in bed. Hunger
seemed far less worse than the cold at that point.

I fell asleep. But every so often I would wake up. I was still cold. and
yet for some reason I began to sweat. My mind wandered to this subject
and that. I drifted in and out of sleep. And then, with the clock coming
up on two, I started thinking about the war, about the mountains in
northern Italy.

Late in the war, while I was working for Army C.I.D. in Italy, me and my
partner Pete Collins got some information through one of our informants
that that there was a high-ranking Nazi general holed up in the north in
a village called Ivrea who was trying to get help to get out of the
country. Me and Collins hopped the next mail flight to Turin, where we
requisitioned a jeep and drove the remaining forty miles to Ivrea. But
instead of a Nazi general we found an Italian colonel named Salvatore
Cuomo. In spite of the mistake Cuomo turned out to be on the Wanted
list, for reasons known only to the Defense Department.

We tied Cuomo's hands and put him in the jeep. It was near dark at that
point, and since the single hotel in Ivrea was boarded up we drove
outside of town and started looking for a farmhouse where we might stay
for the night. Collins went up to one house, talked a few minutes, and
came back.

"Good news and bad news. The good news is we can stay. The bad news is
we have to stay in the barn."

I cursed under my breath. "Wonderful. This is like some sort of joke you
hear. The one about some guy and the farmer's daughter."

Collins laughed. "I wish there was a farmer's daughter. Trust me, I
really do wish that one."

The barn was occupied by a solitary milk cow who was already asleep for
the night. There were also some empty horse stalls. We had our choice of
the central floor area or the horse stalls to sleep in. We chose the
horse stalls, which weren't nearly as bad as we had expected seeing as
whatever horses had been kept there in the past had obviously not been
there for a good while.

"They probably ate them, the poor bastards" Collins said. We tied up
Cuomo's feet also so he couldn't escape and then divided up the stalls.
I took the stall near the door, we put Cuomo into the next one, and
Collins slept in the stall on the other. I spread out my army blanket
over some ancient straw and folded my leather jacket to use as a pillow.
I turned over on my right side, then rolled over on my left, then turned
on my back. Nothing helped. An hour later I was still awake.

It was then I heard what sounded like music. I listened for a few
minutes, and finally determined that it was coming from the next stall.
Cuomo was singing to himself. It wasn't very loud, but it was loud
enough. I got up and went into his stall.

"Hey, cut that singing out. Just go to sleep."

I returned to my stall. I tossed and turned some more. A half hour later
the singing started up again. "Son of a bitch" I said to myself and to
no one in particular. I got up again and went to Cuomo's stall.

"I said stop that singing, damn it. You're keeping me awake. Go to
sleep, or I'll put you outside tied to the jeep."

A short while later I finally managed to fall asleep. But it didn't make
much difference. I was woken up some time later by more of Cuomo's
singing. Thinking that it was pretty much useless at that point, I stuck
my palm between my left ear and the leather jacket and stuck a finger in
my right ear.

By morning I had gotten a little sleep, but not much. I went into
Cuomo's stall and cut the ropes on his feet.

"If you have to take a leak, we're going to do that before we leave,
okay?"

"Que?" he said.

"You know, take a leak. Urinate."

Cuomo nodded. He was sitting up, his legs slightly bent, looking at me
with large brown eyes over a well-trimmed moustache. From the look of
him, he hadn't gotten much sleep either.

After we did our morning toilet I helped Cuomo up into the rear of the
jeep. Collins hopped into the driver's seat. started the jeep up and as
was his habit took off like a bat out of hell. I turned and looked at
Cuomo. "And no singing!" I yelled at him above the roar of the jeep.
"Si" he said, a bit sadly.

I looked at the mountain scenery, which was quite beautiful, and my
thoughts drifted. Eventually I got to thinking about the damn song
again. The melody kept going through my head.

"What was that song that you kept singing last night?" I asked Cuomo.

"The song, yes, it is a song my mother sing to me. It is called The
Pretty Flower of Spring. Very nice song, very nice."

"The Pretty Flower of Spring, huh. Tell me some of it."

"Que?"

"Tell me some of it. You know, the lines of the song."

"The words" Collins yelled back at him.

"Yeah, the words to the song. How does it go?"

Cuomo thought about it a minute.

"It go — Shepherdess on the mountain, good-bye, good-bye. My dreams,
they have died in an instant, my pretty flower. My dreams have died in
an instant, pretty flower of the Spring."

Collins looked over at me.

"Don't say it" I said.

"I wasn't going to." Collins downshifted hard and the engine screamed.
Forty-five minutes later we were back in Turin.

GO TO PART III.

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