Binkie Saves The Day


Ellie S. Thomas


© Copyright 2015 by  Ellie S. Thomas



Photo of a woman holding a little girl's hand.

Afterward, it would have been difficult to say just where it all began. Who would have thought that such a small quest as searching for one's relatives could plunge a person into a web of intrigue and crime that destroyed some reputations, made others, and involved so many people? In questioning whether it was all worth it or not, she had to admit, it had brought her Paul, hadn't it? Plus a family of wonderful people, and friends of sterling quality. What more could one want?

Surprisingly enough, small Binkie was likely the catalyst the morning she spied the fair head bent over a table in the library window where Marilyn was busy at work. Binkie couldn't understand why it made such a difference who a person was related to. It would be so much better if Marilyn would come out so they could go for a walk. There were lots of things Binkie wanted to show her new friend. You wouldn't catch her hanging around a bunch of old books and dusty papers on a day like this. You wouldn't catch her hanging around any kinfolk, or relatives, either. Her head still rang with the sounds of bickering voices; that's what relatives did for you. They fought and argued and if you were smart, you slipped out and didn't come back too soon.

Mike Guerin had been pleading with his girl-wife to make another try; they had to for the sake of their child but Eileen, a spoiled woman who refused to grow up, was determined to be free. She harped and stormed, sounding as spaced out as if she'd been tied down with honest-to-goodness manila ropes. His head drooped and he rubbed his big hand across his brow. Binkie couldn't stand it. She slipped out before she could see the tears behind his deep eyes, tears that he didn't want her to see but that were increasingly difficult to restrain. His agony went so deep; he'd married with such grand hopes but now his marriage was ending up like everyone else's. Nothing but ruins. He gave up and started for the door.

"Where is Binkie?" He wanted to say goodbye.

"How do I know? I suppose you've driven her out again with your nagging and fighting." Eileen turned with a bitchy flounce and slammed into the bedroom. The thud bounced off the walls and rattled the windows. He went down the steps and headed towards town.

Binkie continued her watch on the library. "Come on out, Marilyn," she breathed and almost as if Marilyn had heard, she got up and gathered up her papers. It took just a minute for her to come through the door and then Binkie ran up and slipped her soft little hand inside her friend's. Marilyn smiled down at the skipping figure.

"Hi-yu, what's new today, chum?"

Binkie smiled a gratified smile. Marilyn was her friend and they did things together. They'd met just two weeks ago when Marilyn first came to town. She'd gotten a room at the Motel 8 and began a systematic canvassing of the area. 'She was working on her family tree', she explained, 'and she wanted to go through all the old records.' Her open friendliness and obvious honesty brought forth all sorts of help. The town clerk fawned over the pretty girl and couldn't be helpful enough and the librarian dragged out musty old records stored in the historical section, and the pastors of the different churches showed their records and sent the sextons to take her to certain plots. Marilyn often found herself lying a lot, something she'd become adept at in the orphanage but she didn't want them to know that she had so little to go on. A lot of foundlings were defensive that way.

She knew her roots began in this small town because her adoptive mother had told her so. Her insistent questioning had gotten her a highly romanticized version of 'young girl gets in trouble, baby is adopted out because parents are too young, can't keep their child whom they dearly love, etc.' As she grew older and learned the facts of life, the version changed and she was told the truth, at least as her foster parents knew it.

Marilyn had been born to an unwed mother whose 'true-love' had deserted her when he learned she was pregnant. The young girl, still in her last year of high school, had no way to keep her child because her parents had a family of their own to rear. The girl had a white, Catholic, middle class status. One of the older nuns at the home had remarked that the baby looked just like her mother, had the same red-gold hair and then as if sorry she'd revealed that much, shut up like a clam.

It wasn't much to go on but Marilyn was checking the local census' back around the time of her birth. She eliminated one-child families, she eliminated blacks, Hispanics, and entire groups that were not pertinent. She would visit the schools and search out the graduating classes later. She whistled as she thought it through. Her work was cut out for her but it was a labor of love. Look what she'd find at the end of her search if she was lucky. Her family!

She sighed as she put away the census spools. She felt vaguely guilty, making so much to do about the people who'd abandoned her. Her adoptive mother really was a jewel and had been loving and kind. She displayed no resentment that Marilyn would want to find her biological mother. Now that the woman was widowed, Marilyn probably should forget this quest and take better care of the one who'd loved her practically since birth.

She stretched against the ache between her shoulders. A person could only do so much at a time. She gathered up her things and left the building to find Binkie waiting for her.

"What are you doing today, Binkie?" Marilyn asked. She felt sorry for the little girl. She knew well what it felt like to be rejected. The mother was completely selfish, that was apparent. She guessed the father cared but he didn't have a chance. Eileen didn't want her husband but was reluctant to let him go. He patently adored her and she required adoration; besides, he was a good provider.

Well, Marilyn didn't mind the child's company for the brief time she planned to be here, in fact, the child was often an entree to many places as most people seemed to know her.

"Can I come to your room, please, Marilyn, please?" Binkie coaxed. She loved nothing better than visiting Marilyn's room and going over the bits of jewelry, checking the various shades of nail polish and cosmetics. She'd look at the clothes hanging in the closets and ponder. She could project her own future by looking at Marilyn's possessions.

"Do you have a boyfriend, Marilyn? Are you in love?"

Marilyn laughed at this intense questioning by such a young child, but Binkie was deadly serious. She seemed to feel that everyone had some romantic entanglement.

"Do you have a boyfriend, Binkie?"

Binkie laughed boisterously. "Naw. I don't have a boyfriend. I did have one," she bragged, "But I made his nosebleed. Now he don't like me any more."

"Yeah. I can see how that would dampen a romance."

"Boys don't like me. I don't have any chest."

Marilyn looked surprised. How old was this child, five or fifty?

"Marilyn. I'm gonna see my Gramma and Grampa this afternoon. Wanna come with me?"

"I'd love to, Pet, but I have an appointment. Maybe some other day?"

"I love Gramma and Grampa. Do you love yours?" Marilyn had to go through the explaining procedure again why she didn't have any grandparents that she knew of. Binkie looked thoughtful. She gnawed at nails already bitten raw.

"You can come see my granparents, Marilyn. You can come with me every time. They've got a nice place to play and there's rabbits, and squirrels, ...and ghosts."

Marilyn looked startled for a minute but she didn't have time to go into it now. They'd already fooled away too much of the afternoon and Marilyn looked at the clock. She was supposed to meet the priest at Sacred Heart at three. She'd almost forgotten.

"Binkie. I'm sorry but I have to meet someone. You'll have to go now. Maybe tomorrow, eh, Pet?"

Binkie threw her arms around her friend's neck and slipped out the door. Marilyn changed and then picked up her huge canvas bag. It contained pens, spiral notepads, and notes guiding her to the proper time slots, and other clues to her identity. When she assessed what she actually knew, the hard facts, it seemed little to go on but she was not a quitter. She was already ahead of the game in many ways. Look: she already knew the city of her birth, the date, the religious affiliation and economic status of her parents. That was more than a lot of people had to start with. She'd keep her fingers crossed, maybe the priest could, and would, help her.

Marilyn walked down Grove Street in the direction of Sacred Heart. As she neared East Otis, she passed two of the women who worked at the library. She was so deep in thought that she didn't notice them but they remembered her. One turned and stared after her.

"Isn't that the girl who was in asking to see all the old genealogical books and county histories? Wonder if she found out anything?"

"Who knows?" Her companion was slightly scornful. "I was telling my boyfriend about her and he says sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone. Sometimes there's folks who don't want old skeletons dug up." They nodded in superior agreement and continued on.

"He's probably right but I doubt if she'll find out all that much, anyway. You usually have to get a qualified researcher to do any real good." They walked on and Marilyn passed over Laurel and soon stood at the door of the rectory.

A black-clad priest opened the door and drew her inside a small, bare room. Some effort had been made to make it seem homey but had failed somewhere along the way. It stubbornly retained the sterile, transient look those rooms always seem to have. He was sympathetic and friendly but unsure just how to help her. He rubbed the top of his head and then his chin.

"I'll tell you the truth, my dear, I'm sort of at a loss with things like this. I can tell you how many families we had in the parish twenty-nine, or thirty years ago and how many children they had at that time...but that doesn't mean they didn't have more children before that time, or additional ones shortly afterwards. Do you see what I mean? You're asking me about a four person family, yet how quickly things change! Do feel free to go through these books though, and if you find anything you want to talk about, call me."

It was discouraging. She found quite a few listings that might conceivably fill the requirements but this was just one parish, there were still two others in the Modena area. How could she eliminate those that weren't pertinent? She made a list of those she'd like to consider and then called to the housekeeper that she was leaving. The woman saw her out with a pat on the shoulder. At least they were very friendly, not like some who looked right through you, if they saw you at all.

Marilyn was quite mistaken. She'd been seen all right. Her presence had been noted by predatory eyes that always take note of an attractive young woman, especially if she's alone. She'd also been followed at a distance by young Binkie who wasn't going to lose sight of her friend, either. Then one of the girls from the library saw her going into the rectory. It was like that in a small town, you couldn't get away with a thing!

She dawdled along enjoying the small town atmosphere. There was an inviting look to a flowershop nearby so she went in and looked at the different arrangements. There were cunning combinations of flowers and figurines, of driftwood and cactus. Somebody had a lot of imagination! She looked at her watch, it was time to go. She crossed over the double lane to McDonald's and ordered a Big Mac and a Pepsi. As she munched her way through the delicious food, she thought about the day's work. What had she learned? Could she had made any different approaches, had she overlooked anything? It was hard to know.

How did you go about finding somebody if they didn't want to be found? Obviously, at the time she'd been born, either her mother, or her grandparents had preferred to keep it hidden as much as possible. Illegitimate births were no where as acceptable then as they are today. Still, every little while there would be articles in one of the papers about some person finding his, or her, long-lost family. How had they proceeded? It seemed that they'd always had some thread linking them to the proper name, the proper place. Often the military service had served as a conduit, or sometimes an unusual artifact, or token had been tucked away inside the infant's clothing. Why hadn't she had such luck? Oh, well, enough of that for one day-

Marilyn walked towards the motel in a daze, thinking, thinking. Her brain just couldn't let it go and she pondered how she might proceed tomorrow. She never noticed as she walked along how the dark was closing in and the streets were becoming deserted. She wondered if there wasn't some new law she'd read about, regarding the rights of children who'd been adopted just as she'd been. She was sure she'd seen something about that in the papers just recently but what was it called? It could be very important for those with genetically related diseases.

It grew darker and she turned down Bowers Street with its clumps of shrubbery, the giant water tower, the deserted B.P.O.E. clubhouse. She was thinking so hard that, at first, she failed to hear the sounds sneaking up behind her.

Who would know the name of the organizations she was thinking of? Maybe at the newspaper office? Or the library? There was the scrape of shoes on gravel and Marilyn started. She looked behind one. What had made that sound? It wasn't far to her room now and she was happy to see the streetlights coming on. Somehow, they didn't add any sense of security, they just caused the trees and signposts, the bushes to throw long, spooky shadows. There was an inky pool about each car parked at the curb and the rising moon made a huge blob of the water tower. There were clinks and pings ringing from its metallic surface as the metal contracted in the lowering temperatures.

The wind began to rise and the bushes creaked as their slender trunks rubbed against each other. The breeze shook the weeds where seedpods fell with a rattle and the grasses rustled in the ditch. Why was she so jittery? Suddenly she felt like running but what would the desk clerk think if she burst in like she was pursued by Freddy Kreuger?

For some inexplicable reason, she was convinced that someone was following her. There was an imperceptibly soft tread from behind that was unnerving and she didn't like it at all. If that someone was innocent, why didn't he show himself, or perhaps whistle a bit? Surely he must realize that she'd be nervous, walking down a dark street with a stranger behind her. There was nothing innocent about this walker so close on her heels and she reached the parking lot of the motel with her heart in her mouth. Once under the light at the entrance, she turned and her eyes tried to pierce the gloom. It was useless. Whoever was out there was well concealed by the dark. She grasped the door and ran inside, nearly upsetting the clerk.

"What's the matter, Miss?" He exclaimed at the sight of her white face. "Is something wrong?"

"I thought someone was out there," she faltered. "It's probably silly but I felt like someone was following me."

He looked outside. "No one out there now, Miss. The patrol car will be around soon, they usually check by in the evening. Do you want to make a complaint?"

"Heavens, no. I'm not even sure there was anything, or anybody. Goodnight!" She hurried down the long, shadowy hall towards her room. Even the corridor had a sinister look for some reason as it stretched away before her, lined with secretive looking doors that who knew what might lurk behind? It took forever to turn the key in the lock. Her peripheral vision kept note of the corners so she couldn't be surprised but why wouldn't the key turn? Tears of frustration blurred her vision until finally, the door gave and she hurried inside and closed it quickly. She threw the dead bolt and leaned back against the door trying to calm down. A tick on the outside caused her to leap away and stare at the handle. There was nothing, of course. She laughed nervously. What an imagination she had!

Later, when the cruiser came by, the clerk related the incident but the cops looked skeptical. Clancy clawed at the front of his trousers and hawked and spit.

"Ah, shee-it, these girls are asking for it, you know? They prowl up and down the dark streets half-naked and then complain they're followed. They'd probably complain if they weren't followed, too." He cackled at his own joke and the officers drove off.

Smitty and Mary were getting nicely settled. They really liked their little house in the country. It was cramped in some respects, but it was so entertaining to observe the wildlife that came out of the woods to feed at their doorstep, to see the beautiful birds- and the privacy it afforded was just too good to be true. It was the quietest neighborhood they'd ever lived in and the people were friendly without being pushy, or nosey. What more could you ask?

Mary just loved the big, deep lot with woods along the east side and across the back and Smitty liked the idea of being between two rivers just in case he wanted to fish sometime. His mate wryly doubted that would ever happen but their sons-in-law were sure to enjoy it and the boating facilities.

She and Smitty didn't use the walk towards the river much, they preferred to prowl about their own backyard, watching the flowers grow and the pretty birds and butterflies swirl past. They spent long afternoons digging and planting. Smitty put a long row of yellow primroses along the fence and Mary started some pansies inside an old tire. There were buckets of geraniums in a fiery blaze. They might still have to cover them at night for awhile but they were so satisfying. Oh, Lord, being in the country was really relaxing.

Day after day they sat in old-fashioned rockers, creaking back and forth on the glassed-in porch and when the nights grew chill, they built a fire in the fireplace on the enclosed breezeway between the house and garage. They could observe the stars and see the moon come up through the tilted windows. It had been years since either of them had seen the Big and Little Dipper or made popcorn over a wood fire. It was just the place they'd always wanted.

It was no wonder Binkie loved to visit her grandparents. They fixed a swing for her among the aspens and she had a bike to ride up and down the long driveway and she was charmed when the rabbits came out of the woods to play. Recent days she was as apt to be with her grandparents as with her mother and they were happy to have her. She was so entertaining!

"Grandma, you should see my new friend," she was saying. "Her name is Marilyn and I love her."

"I thought you loved me," Smitty reminded his granddaughter.

"I do, Grandpa, but I love Marilyn, too. She is pretty-"

"Bet I'd love her, too, then-" Smitty gave his wife a snide look.

"She sounds awfully nice, Honey. Bring her over to see us some time." Let Smitty put that in his pipe and smoke it. He needn't think he was going to make her jealous with his remarks about a pretty girl.

The phone rang. It was, predictably, Eileen. "Is Binkie over there, Ma?" she shrilled without pausing for a word of greeting.

"And good-day to you too, dear." Mary didn't let her daughter get away with such rudeness. Her heart went out to her son-in-law, (soon to be ex-son-in-law, by the look). She loved her daughter but she was not blinded to the faults of the selfish girl.

"Oh, Mother-r-r. All right, hello. How are you? How is Dad? How are all the family going back to great-great-Grandpaw? Now, is my kid there?"

"Don't you feel you should know where a five and a half year old child is, Eileen? Do you think it's safe not to have a pretty good idea where she is every minute? I'd know if she were mine."

"Mother, I didn't call for a lecture. That's what I'm calling to see, is she there? Why are you yelling at me when I'm trying to do just what you're preaching about?"

Mary sighed. "Yes, she's here, Eileen."

"Well, I'm going out and she's either got to come home now, or she'll have to stay there all night because I'm not driving out to that creepy old place after dark."

"It is not a creepy place, Eileen, we just love it; it's so quiet- but never mind, of course she can stay all night. Your father will bring her home tomorrow."

"Not too early tomorrow, huh, Mom? And thanks-" She actually had the grace to sound ashamed at the end. How had they produced such a monster? And how had she gotten such a grand husband as Mike, and such a wonderful child as Binkie?

Binkie was slapping at her grand-father's shoulder. "Grandpa, let's go out and see if the rabbits are out. Let's go, Grandpa."

"Can't I come too, Binkie?"

Binkie smiled graciously and held out her hand. "Come on, Grandma. We'll wait." The three went out into the back yard. Binkie and Smitty went into the woods along their private little path that they'd broken down between the house and the river. She knew she wasn't supposed to walk the path unless an adult was with her so it retained the charm of an extra treat. Today, they paused to listen to a woodpecker, drilling away overhead. As they walked, a mouse ran across their trail and Binkie exclaimed. Mary stopped to talk about it. She pointed out the tiny tracks divided into rows by the dragging tail. Binkie's eyes sparkled and she put her hand over her mouth in silent laughter.

'The white-footed mouse steals the bird nests and fixes them up for her home and she can have babies before she's one hundred days old herself. The little ones drum their feet like tiny dancers when they want attention!'

Binkie listened with rapt attention. She'd remember it the next time she came, you could bet on that. Smitty and Mary never failed to be amazed at the mental development of most five year olds. Of course, Binkie would soon be six, but even so-

"What does you friend do, honey?"

Binkie squinted up her eyes and placed one hand on her hip. The other was held before her, like she was catching rain. "Akshully, she goes to the liberry a lot. And she went to the church, too. And she went out behind the church where the dead people are. I went with her. She said she was looking for her Grandma and Grandpa but I told her there were only dead people in there. Why is she looking for dead people, Grandma?"

They had a good discussion on how some folks lose track of their family and then they discussed visiting graveyards, and putting flowers on the graves. Before they knew it, the afternoon was on the wane and it was time to make some supper. They plodded back to the house. After a light repast, Smitty and Mary sat in the rockers again and Binkie fell asleep on the daybed. The stars wheeled overhead and they could see a satellite pass across the heavens. There were flitting shapes as a couple bats went searching for insects. It was nice and peaceful until a slithering crash brought them to their feet.

"What was that?" Mary started inside with Smitty right on her heels. Binkie trailed along, dragging her blanket. There was nothing to be seen in the kitchen. The living room and bedrooms seemed in order. Had it been outside? They searched the rooms one by one and then they noticed the shade had fallen in their bedroom. It had left the window and rolled to the floor, taking a picture frame with it that had stood on the desk below.

"The house must be settling," Smitty said as he bent to pick up the pieces of glass. "Better not tell Eileen, she'll be sure that a ghost did it," he laughed.

"It is a ghost," Binkie informed them. "Mommy says this creepy old place is filled with them."

Mary rolled her eyes at her husband. "Ghosts indeed!"

Guerin could see it was going to be a typical day at the police station. The chief's door was closed against the noise and to afford privacy for those who had business with him. Today he was meeting with the village trustees and since they sometimes had complains against some of the officers, or requests from some, or other private business matters to discuss, the door would remain closed.

The two detective sergeants, the 'Bull' and Guerin, were closeted at the rear of the building where they could plan strategy, check how things were progressing, or not, and see just where they wanted to deploy their men. Today they were talking about 'making' a new police sergeant and both knew there would be hell to pay no matter whom they selected.

Detective sergeant 'big Dick' Bruso, favored making Bill Gagnon sergeant. Bill Gagnon was a charismatic officer, half crook, half hero. He was in his early forties and an athletic sort of man with an appreciative eye for the girls. He was a highly individualistic fellow who insisted on wearing his dark, curly hair down on his shoulders in defiance of 'regs'. He'd been married a few years back to a nice looking girl, but he still went his randy way, leering and making suggestive remarks about most women he met. The other officers bristled if they thought his raunchy comments in any way reflected on their own mates. Still he was a good man to have around in a bind because he was resourceful and imaginative. Best of all, he was cheerful and full of jokes most of the time so any shift with him passed quickly.

Don Belanger was out of the question, everybody knew that. He wasn't overly ambitious, a real loser type. He merely put in his hours, trying to get done as quickly as possible so he could take his sex pot wife to their favorite hangout. They suspected he was light-fingered and tried to keep an eye on him but it was impossible to watch a man all the time.

Charley Clancy was out of the question, too, because he was a professional trouble-maker. Charley 'moon-lighted' around town trying to support his rather large family, none of whom showed any inclination to leave his bed and board. He stocked shelves in the department stores and drove cars for people who no longer wished to, and occasionally helped out at the funeral home. His co-workers steered clear of him because he knew where all the bodies were buried and could easily be persuaded to say where. Most people feared his tongue.

That left the newcomer, Paul Clifford, a young athlete who loved police work with a passion. He was the adopted son of Fanny, Eileen's sister, and all that remained of her brief marriage to a young man who'd been married before. Paul was a nice kid and he tried his best to keep clear of the rest whom he regarded as corrupt ciphers. Naturally, his remaining aloof stirred up antagonism and accusations of thinking himself better than they were. He ignored them and did his work as professionally as possible. He went out very little, devoting his free time to study. He was a man sure to make the grade and if they appointed him, (and actually, was there any real choice?) the rest would do everything they could to set obstacles in his path. It would be galling to see a younger man, and a newcomer at that, promoted over their heads. Guerin's appointing someone connected with his own family was sure to provoke comment, too.

The day shift had just left, summing up the events on the blotter for the three-to-eleven's benefit. There'd been complaints of a prowler in the Grove Street area, there'd been several instances of theft in the Tio Tract, and local merchants reiterated their grievances about cigarette smuggling. Sales were down although people were smoking more. What was the answer? It was clear people were visiting the Mohawk reservation at Akwesasne for cigarettes just as they did for gas. Such things were cheaper on the Rez because the Indians didn't have to pay tax on them and it was reflected in the price. Customers drove trucks, campers, and vehicles of all sorts to have the tanks filled and they carried jerrycans in the trunk. Mobile bombs and a danger to all on the highway. That had to be stopped! No use for the police to remind them that this was the problem of the Border Patrol, or even the State Police, maybe; never the village police.

"But local people are involved; they're in it right up to their necks!"

"Bring us proof and we'll be happy to act," came the answer.

Thus the constant complaints kept the police edgy. They knew a lot of the speeding, stolen cars and boats, suspicious looking persons and vans loitering in the darkened streets, probably were all pieces of a smuggling ring but until they got some lucky breaks, there was little they could do. They needed more help and would encourage any man who acted alert and conscientious; young Clifford was that man. So would they, dare they, promote him?

The subject of their discussion was right now cruising up and down the village streets, his eyes scanning the area for any untoward aspect. He proceeded down East Otis and underneath the railway underpass. Technically he was now out of the village and had little jurisdiction but when he turned west on Saint Regis Boulevard, he reentered the corporation and a turn down Grove brought him right back downtown.

He drifted along, museing on his studies and plans for his future. Police work was vitally interesting and he'd like nothing better than to follow in the footsteps of his idolized 'uncle', Detective Sergeant Mike Guerin. Now there was a cop's cop! Both men tried to keep their tenuous relationship formal for working purposes but there was a feeling of closeness that had nothing to do with family relationships.

Speaking of which, wasn't that the Sergeant's little girl? Gee, who was the beautiful doll she was walking with? Paul hadn't heard that Uncle Mike and Aunt Eileen had any company visiting but the two were walking hand-in-hand, bespeaking a great deal of fondness. What a beautiful girl! He gawked at the slim young creature whose hair refracted red-gold lights in the setting sun. She certainly was striking! He'd have to find out who she was. He'd be very subtle about it and no one would guess he was even interested.

He planned and schemed all the way downtown just how he would make his approach. "Saw your daughter, Sergeant Guerin. Who was that she was walking with?" No- that was no good. Just sounded nosey. Perhaps this: "I saw Binkie walking with her sitter. She certainly is growing!" Naw- some wise guy would be sure to ask who was growing, the kid or the sitter? By the time he'd reached the parking lot and left the black and white, he'd formulated no perfect line. He walked in absent-mindedly.

The Sergent was just drawing himself a cup of coffee in the outer office. What luck finding him alone like this. Now was the time to be devious and subtle. To his horror he found himself blurting out, "Who was that luscious girl I just saw with Binkie, Sarge?" Heads shot up and the Sergeant looked at him quizzically. Clifford turned red. Ass! He lowered his voice and tried to act calm.

"I mean, I just saw your daughter walking down Grove Street. She was with a youngish woman, a stranger in town, perhaps? Early thirties, maybe and not unattractive. A school teacher?" The heads dropped again to their papers.

Detective Sergeant Guerin concealed a grin before he answered. "It might be anybody with my daughter. Binkie has friends from six to sixty, really." He grabbed the young man by the arm. "I want you to come in, seeing you're right here, anyway. I've been wanting to talk to you." He urged Clifford inside the office and closed the door. Heads came up again and several eyes locked in understanding.

Marilyn felt uneasy about walking alone these days. She was inclined to look behind her and her flesh often crawled. There was always the sensation of being watched. When she first came to Modena, she'd felt confident because it was a small, quiet town and nothing much seemed to happen. It was not like big cities with muggings and burglaries, and murders every day; so why should she be afraid? After all, she couldn't be sure that she'd been followed just the other night but then the clerk said his mother had thought she'd heard someone on her porch one night, and a woman at the diner downtown swore someone had been in her house. It was unnerving and now, the first thing this morning was the rape.

Her little radio gave the facts of the matter but imagination supplied the rest. It would take a brave soul to walk alone anymore. The girls at the library, those in the shops, in milk bars, women everywhere were huddled in the back rooms whispering the details. "Did you hear what he did to her?"

The victim had taken her husband to work about eleven the night before and on the way home, she'd been forced off the road and a masked man assaulted her. The distressing details swept through town like wildfire and doors were locked that had never seen a key before. The unfortunate woman was secluded in the hospital and police cars were seen going to and fro, carrying the investigators who would see how much she remembered before her mind shut down and excluded all the horror from her memory.

Marilyn shivered but continued working through the afternoon. She'd studied appropriate yearbooks from the local highschool and selected likely names for further scrutiny. Could one of them possibly be her mother? She must try to find out what happened to those girls. Which of them had gone on to college? Which of them had married right away? She would follow them through the years as long as she could, eliminating, eliminating.

The day wore on and she had to give it up. She was dirty and dusty and her back was aching again. It was time for a cold Pepsi and some kind of a sandwich. She staggered out into the sunshine. She walked down Main Street towards the Pizza Box. The sun felt welcome on her shoulders and she strode along, unaware that it made her hair a red-gold blaze. She hadn't gone far when she was forced to step off the sidewalk towards the curb to avoid a drop cloth and spatters of paint. She noted vaguely that there were men painting the side of a house. She heard the sounds of the brushes slapping against the siding and somewhere in the background, a radio whined a piteous ballad of broken love and sleepless nights. The men seemed to ignore it as they joked with each other and taunted and teased but their banter was just over the edge of her awareness. She could never have described them; however, Clancy, who'd stopped by to kibbitz a little, could have described her and possibly told you her approximate shoe size.

"Nice little bimbo," he noted to the boys when he checked in at the station. His nasty little pig eyes glittered and the slit mouth worked nervously as he went on to tell about his experiences with women and what he'd like to do to this one. Paul Clifford turned away in disgust, he pitied any woman who'd been unfortunate enough to cross his line of vision. The dammned old lech! Clifford had a feeling it was the same young beauty he'd seen a couple days ago with the Sergeant's little girl. How dare that vicious old creep lay his dirty tongue on her?

Meanwhile, Marilyn continued on to the Pizza Box for a light dinner, all unaware that she had a champion. She ordered a pan pizza and ate with huge enjoyment. Too bad she hadn't run into her little friend, Binkie. There was really more here than she wanted all to herself. Bet Binkie liked pizza; most kids did. Too bad, she'd just have to leave some of it. She grinned, thinking of her mother's oft repeated remonstrances about the little Rumanian children, or Biafrans, who were starving to death. As if the remnants of her meal would save them! She sighed as she thought of home and she left the table and began shoving the empty cartons inside the trash bin, wondering absentmindedly if she wouldn't be better off back there, forgetting all this?

She cut down Bowers and started towards her motel. Perhaps tonight she'd check the paper for a housekeeping room. If she were to stay around town much longer, living in a motel might prove more expensive than she could afford.

The sun was setting rapidly now and the long rays lit up the western side of the building. She hurried down the hallway and got out her key. Once inside, she stripped and jumped into the shower. The hot water felt wonderful as the pounding jets beat the aches and cramps out of her back. It drummed against her flesh like myriad little needles, easing the tension, and freeing the tightened muscles. She wrapped herself in the biggest towel she could find and went to sit by the bed. She took the small towel from her head and rubbed her hair briskly. When it was almost dry, she left it to finish drying by itself. She made a lovely picture wrapped in white terrycloth, the red-gold curls cascaded down her back hiding purple birthmarks, the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect body. She got a piece of pumice from her cosmetic bag and began to rub her feet. She gave herself a pedicure and rubbed lotion into her skin. As she continued her personal toilette, she hummed a little tune, mind and body at ease and relaxed. The daylight faded and night moved in.

After Marilyn had finished doing her feet and other bits of feminine grooming, she pulled down the spread from the bed and stretched out. The towel fell to one side as she began stretching and exercising her legs. She pulled her knees to her chest and then extended her legs straight into the air while counting. One, two, three, four, five. Now the other one. Each leg was stretched five times to the count of five. Then she did pelvic thrusts, banging the small of her back as hard as she could on the mattress, knees bent and soles flat on the surface. Let's see, what next? She paid little attention to the scratchy sound near the window, figuring someone else had checked in and was parking their car. Possibly getting luggage from it. Oh, yes, hands behind her head, knees bent and try sit-ups. One, two, three, four- there was more noise at the window. She got up and listened. There definitely was something, or somebody out there! She went into the bathroom and, without turning on the light, peered outside. There was a man clinging to the lower edge of her window. She restrained a gasp of fear. Who was out there? She tried to focus on his shape, size; who was he?

He stooped and bent, trying to find a crack giving a clear view of the inside. He pulled a couple bricks over beneath the window to stand on in an effort to see better. A car pulled into the parking lot and the man half-fell, half-jumped off the bricks. There was a yell from the car and he ran into the bushes. Marilyn whimpered in fear and wrapped a towel tightly about her shivering body.

The evening clerk had run out at the sound of the disturbance and he joined the newcomers who motioned towards the brush where they'd last seen the prowler. She hurried into her clothing.

She was not surprised when the night clerk knocked at her door to inquire if she'd seen anything. "Sorry to bother you, Miss, ah, Miss-"

"Marilyn Fosby, and it's no trouble. Did you find where he went?"

"No, it's too dark to find anything now but we'll come back in the morning. Are you frightened? Will you be okay?"

Marilyn assured them that she would be all right and agreed to visit the police station the following morning to give her version of the events.

Marilyn sat on a hard bench in the outer office at headquarters, waiting to tell her story. Men in uniform came and went. They paused to look at her curiously, and continued on in to begin their day's work. Clancy came in and ran his greedy eyes over her and she shifted, presenting as small a silhouette as possible. Something about the man's glance felt nasty. He went into the locker room.

His clothing hung in folds and the trousers sagged about his hips as though he had no shape. He was squint-eyed as though he was forever trying to look over the horizon. Evidentally something in early in life had turned him sour and nothing that happened now would give him a better opinion of anybody, or anything. It was dog eat dog in his world.

"That pretty little piece is in the outer office, I see." He licked his lips and continued. "Ya notice how we always have prowler complaints around where these women live?"

At first, the men considered his theory with mild interest but his continued comments were more filthy than funny and many found little humour in them after the first few minutes. They were all guilty of making ribald comments about women at sometime or other up to a certain point but after that, it became a sickness. Clancy's were beyond that point. Finally, he gave up and went to sit in the detective's office.

The Bull came in and nodded briefly as he passed the young girl. He walked past the desk and the switchboard, treading on his toes like an old boxer. His huge frame set the floor to vibrating and the wary gave him plenty of room. He went down the hall and saw Clancy sitting in his chair. Clancy's mouth was still spouting obscenities when the big dick's shadow loomed over him.

"Clean up your act, Clancy, and while your're at it, get the hell out of my office," Bruso thundered. Clancy ducked away and scuttled out of the room and down the hall. The enmity between the two had been obvious and was too long standing for anyone to question.

Marilyn squirmed on the hard bench, and looked at her little watch. 'Hope it won't be much longer,' she thought. The door opened and an extremely handsome young officer checked in.

He nodded politely and went on down the hall where he gravely went to work sorting papers and trying to create some order. Clifford knew that you needed some system to be effective in police work but he wisely kept his comments to himself. He looked around for Sergeant Guerin and when he didn't see anything of his superior, he went back out by the desk. Bill Gagnon was just coming in.

Bill walked past the other people now waiting alongside Marilyn. He walked up to the counter and leaned his weight against it. He turned to survey the waiting persons, swarthy, dark, good looks sweeping over first one, then the other. They came to rest on the girl. He looked speculative, this was the one who'd had the peeping Tom? No wonder-

Bill was the sort of man who looked well-dressed even in work clothing. He was always neat and trim and today was no exception. The slight frown between his eyes and the long, dark curls drove the girls crazy. Today, he lounged against the counter, masticating his gum with flawless teeth. As he snapped the gum, he kept time cracking his knuckles. He turned to the desk clerk and off-handedly inquired, "Did they get the man who buried the organ?" He peered into the reddened face of the clerk and gave a short laugh.

Several officers looked non-plussed and Clifford flushed and hoped the girl hadn't heard. Bill smashed one fist into the palm of the other hand and jauntily went down the hall to check out the roster.

"Will you come inside now, Miss?" Clifford asked.

Marilyn looked about the office curiously. She wasn't sure what she'd expected. Lots of girlie calenders, probably, and cups of coffee and overloaded ashtrays. Surprisingly, there were none of either. Although Clifford inquired if she'd like a cup of coffee, he didn't get any for himself when she declined. The Bull entered and sat behind one desk, Clifford sat at the other.

For about a half hour, Marilyn described how she'd become aware of the prowler and the little she'd seen of him. There was really no accurate identification she could give. She explained how it had come right on the heels of being followed and she wondered if there might be a connection. They listened to her reasons for being in town and when they asked how long she intended to stay, she said a lot depended whether she could find more economical quarters, and whether she had any luck with her research. On that note, the Bull told Clifford to take her home. He did so, with alacrity.

As Patrolman Clifford drove Marilyn to the motel, he kept trying to find some diplomatic way to ask her for a date. "Do you like it here, otherwise, Miss?", he began.

When she enthusiastically said that it was a wonderful little town, he assured her, "You mustn't be afraid because of what happened last night. We don't have much of that. Usually we're quite law-abiding!" She loved the earnest way he wanted to convince her of the goodness of his town. 'I'm not afraid,' she told him solemnly, 'and I can't leave until I find out what I came for.'

"I hope you don't leave us too soon in any case," he said clumsily as he let her out the door. He promised that the area would be checked out while she slept, never fear! She smiled so prettily and acted so relieved that he felt confident enough to ask her to dinner three evenings in the future when he'd be off. 'Although with police work, you never know when it'll be cancelled,' he warned. She laughed and ran inside, leaving the elated young man to go on with his work.

Marilyn felt very safe and protected now because the area was patrolled so heavily that the manager was afraid the police presence might drive his customers away. The patrols slowed down but Clancy saw a certain vehicle drift down the street and park in the shadows. He followed two officers and observed them surreptitiously enter the parking lot. He kept to the shadows just as they were doing, a sneak following sneaks; however, they were prepared to swear they were checking out the premises but there was no excuse for their pausing beneath the girl's window, nor an adequate explanation for attempting to see beneath her blind.

The taller one, effectively concealed by his dark good looks, got a good peek and nearly forgot himself in his excitement.

"Jeez, Don, look at that."

"Whaddya see? Whaddya see? Come on, give me my turn."

"Look at that-" he said in a strangled voice. SHE'S NAKED!"

Marilyn and Paul were having a candlelight supper at the Steakhouse. He had decided to splurge a little on an evening of dining and dancing, not knowing when he would get the opportunity to take a pretty girl to such a place again. Marilyn certainly qualified as the pretty girl and was well worth the trouble.

They were enjoying their coffee and the last of the wine. It had been a delicious meal and they sat companionably, looking over the dance floor and listening to the music. She had told him more about her reasons for visiting the small town and he had revealed a lot about his plans for the future. They were both happy with their budding relationship.

"Maybe we should dance?" He smiled at her. "It's too bad to let such great music go to waste."

She smiled her acceptance and fitted herself into his arms. It was funny, it was almost as if she'd been designed to fit there. It felt so comfortable, so RIGHT. They drifted back and forth over the polished floor and he hummed contentedly. Her hair smelled wonderfully perfumed and it was silky where it brushed across his face. The spotlights glinted on the wavy mass and made it seem alive. He pulled her closer and, perhaps he imagined it, but she seemed to nestle against him. She sure was a wonderful girl! They drifted on. The music came to a halt and they looked at each other dazed with emotion. Then he shrugged and they walked back to the table hand in hand.

"Well, hello, there Paul. Are you folks having fun?" It was Don Belanger and his obvious wife. Don's moon face was split in a chummy grin and his buxom mate preened her self incessantly while they waited for an answer. Don was a sensual creature devoted to satisfying his physical needs: drink, food, and sex. His hair was slicked down over an increasingly visible scalp and in just a few more years, he would be FAT. He might be harmless enough but there was something off-putting about him and his wife, a faint hint of slyness that Paul just could not be comfortable with.

Paul didn't want to invite them to be seated so he tried to make up by being extra cordial. "Hi there Don...Mrs. Belanger. Nice music, isn't it?"

Don agreed while his wife peered over his shoulder to see who else was there. She was draped in a low cut, clinging dress of bunting-like material. Her long nails were silver that turned to black at times in the muted lights. Dark roots shown through a hairdo that looked like a pile of jack-straws. She hung over Don's shoulder like a sack of meal and he pressed her against him, patting the well padded back from time to time.

"We're going over to the Rez in a few minutes. You've been there, ain't cha, Paul? It's in No Man's Land, ya know, the Mohawk reservation and the booze is a lot cheaper. Why'nt ya come"

"Not this time, Don, I've gotta work in the morning. I'm keeping a strict limit on the drinks tonight."

"Not to worry, not to worry. We take care of our own. If you get drunk, we'll see ya get home or ya can stay at our house, can't they, babe? You'd better come along." He smiled fondly at his wife, doggy eyes soft as he looked at her but she was fawning at the handsome younger man.

"Have a lot of fun there, doan't we, baby?"

Paul tried hard not to show his disgust; but he didn't want to insult nor alienate the greasy little man. "Well, we'll see. If we decide, we'll see you there. Want to dance again, Marilyn?" He supposed he was in trouble for not introducing them, but he had his limits- They headed back to the dance floor and drifted off in each other's arms.

Meanwhile Binkie was staying the night with her grandparents again. Eileen was going out and didn't have time to fetch her daughter home, which suited Binkie very well. She and her grandfather had spent the afternoon picking likely pieces of wood and cones for her Grandma's craftwork, then he went inside, leaving her to play.

Binkie swung on the swing they'd made her, then she gathered brightly colored rocks. Some looked as though they'd been polished. She filled her pockets with the prettiest ones as a present for Grandma. There were shiny ones, speckled like the egg of a tiny bird, some were gleaming black like pieces of anthracite, and others looked like marble. It was terrible to have to leave so many beautiful stones behind-

The sunshine streamed down on the child's head and a chipmunk paused in its scrabblings to inspect her. It decided she was no threat and continued chewing on a tidbit it had found. The bright eyes watched her as she selected more stones, then some pretty leaves. She saw the chipmunk and decided to catch it. She'd have a pet and wouldn't Grandma be surprised!

The chipmunk decided to place a bit more distance between itself and the overly friendly creature invading its domain. It made a great chittering noise and darted into the bushes with Binkie not far behind. She ran along what appeared to be a natural little path but the chipmunk was out of sight. Where did it go to? She stopped and looked around, studying the trees, their lower limbs, and the small shrubs. There was a rustle and there was her friend. After it, chubby legs twinkling through the weeds and grasses.

The chipmunk led the way down a small slope and across an open area. It wasn't in any particular hurry, it was well aware that it could take to the higher trails at a moment's notice. Binkie followed along behind, coaxing and calling to it. The chipmunk sped up the bole of a large tree and sat on a limb directly overhead.

"What did you want to do that for, Chippie? Did you think I would hurt you? I won't hurt you. Come on down," she coaxed. The small tawny creature chittered at her but stayed where it was. Binkie sat on the ground and watched it. Maybe it would come down if she was quiet.

Being quiet was not a natural thing for Binkie to be, and not for long, so after awhile she got up and brushed herself off. The chipmunk had vanished so she might as well go back but the chipmunk had led her farther and farther and now she wasn't sure of her way back. She set off down a path that appeared well travelled but it wasn't HER path. Before long she heard voices and sounds of activity. She was almost at the water's edge!

Two men were unloading a small boat. She watched them take carton after carton from it and pile them on the ground. They talked as they worked but she only got snatches of it as they puffed over their task.

"Get paid...taxes...well, maybe another couple of loads...tonight or maybe tomorrow...these damn fags-" She didn't know what they were talking about. The stocky one worried aloud about cutting the police in but she was bored watching them work and started up the path in the opposite direction. As she crashed noisily through the underbrush, the men gave a guilty start.

"What was that?" The tall one paused to look around. The short stocky one dropped his box and ran up the path a way just in time to see the child run off. "It was a kid, do you suppose she saw us?"

"We can't stop now," his companion puffed. "Gotta get unloaded and get out of here. We can watch for her, and see if she comes back again. If she comes snooping around again, it's easy enough to have an accident." He grinned evilly.

Binkie's legs began to ache and she wanted home in the worst way. It seemed ages before she heard Smitty calling her. He crashed through the brush and picked her up. "We thought we'd lost you", he said as he hunched her up on to his shoulders. "We'd better go see what Grandma's made for dinner."

The next few days passed quietly and Binkie stayed with her grandparents because her mother was gone and her father was busy at work. Mary and Smitty tried to keep her as often as possible because she was far too tense and worried most of the time. There was actually a startling patch of scalp showing where she was pulling her hair out in moments of stress. The fresh air and open spaces would do her good but she began to stay unaccountably close and played in the backyard, looking for her chipmunk friend and turning over rocks to watch the ants go frantic gathering up their eggs. She seemed unusually quiet and no one saw the men following the path along the property but THEY noticed that she was the child who'd been at the river and marked her for further attention.

Paul Clifford was also on his days off and he and Marilyn drove over into Canada and he took her shopping in Montreal. They visited Mont Royal and explored the old city, Vieux Montreal, on foot. They looked at the huge statue between Rue Notre Dame and Rue St. Paul and they ate at a charming little auberge. When the day begun to wane, they decided to stay the night somewhere at Place Bonaventure. The Sheraton was very comfortable and they spent two nights. When Paul checked back in on his return, he discovered that Belanger and Gagnon had been caught rifling several department stores in the shopping plaza. They'd found the back doors unlocked and decided to help themselves before reporting the lapse of security. Of course, they denied the whole thing but Clancy had seen them... for the time being, he was keeping his lip buttoned.

Binkie had seen them, too, when she was sneaking home from an unauthorized visit to the candy store. She'd decided to cut through the alleyway and came upon the men carrying stacks of linen and towels to their vehicles. It meant nothing to her, she simply regarded the loading and unloading of the goods as part of their day's work. The men on the police force were her friends and they usually gave her candy whenever they saw her. They realized that she'd seen them and wondered if she would mention it and get them in deeper; however, Bill was fond of the child and if she did, she did. HE would never do anything to cause her pain but he wondered about his companion? All the same, their lapse tonight in not providing sweets was noticeable and Binkie continued her way home, slightly miffed. She'd remember this!

When Paul arrived back at the station, the whole department was in an uproar and the men were on suspension, of course. He discussed it with Guerin and when Binkie overheard her father refer to their being in trouble, she figured that someone has noticed their lapse in manners, also, and was angry for her sake.

"Are you going to the parade?" That was the $64.00 question these days and many activities were planned in conjunction with the bicentennial of the town's founding. The city fathers were scheduling an air show and a half dozen sky jumpers planned to participate, making the skies bright with their gaily colored air wings. There would be a couple dozen hot air balloons and they would provide rides for anyone interested. There would be a parade, then the Battle of the Bands at the town park. Throughout the afternoon and evening, the residents would enjoy a massive ox roast and block dance and that night, the fireworks would make the skies resplendent.

Mary and Smitty hurried around and got the work done with unaccustomed speed. Binkie was visiting again and she did everything she could to help until her grandfather inveigled her outside to water the flowers. When that was done, she went to help him wash the car. Mary continued to work right up to the last minute, then she laid out the proper clothing for the three of them. Binkie was in a fever to start, she'd already been in every fifteen minutes to ask 'is it time?'

The new sergeant, Paul Clifford, was driving about in the cruiser. He and Marilyn had spent a gratifying evening together the previous night and he rode along, seeing her lovely face and bright hair in every store front, every sheet of water, even in the reflection of his car. There was no doubt about it, he was deeply in love. He had every reason to believe that she felt the same but she refused to answer his proposal until she established just who she was related to.

"What difference can that possibly make between you and I?" he wanted to know.

"I might be the daughter, or kinfolk of some crook, or someone you'd just arrested, you don't know. I could be a terrible embarrassment to you and the force. No, it's better to wait and see just who I am."

He hugged her closer. "You foolish girl, as though I'd love you any less if you were related to the Devil himself."

She shivered. "Don't say such things." But she felt she WAS getting closer. She'd established that at least 30% of the girls in the pertinent graduating class had been pregnant. Most of them had married right away, and some had had abortions and others had gone off to jobs in other communities. There were a couple she still had to find traces of and she would soldier on.

Her landlady proved to be a great source of information. After Marilyn had left the motel to move into the apartment that Paul had found her, she'd avoided the woman for awhile. Then she realized that here was fertile ground for her search because the woman had children among the graduating classes that Marilyn needed to know about. She'd filled in many details already. Now she was waiting for another daughter to come for a visit so she could check on others that Marilyn was curious about. Well, it could wait. Today, Marilyn wanted to see the parade.

Detective Sergeant Guerin had the other cruiser and he was riding around the village streets, too. He saw that Binkie was downtown with her grandparents, Mary and Smitty. He waved to them. They were good people and had strongly supported him in his struggles with Eileen. He knew they liked him and hated to see the marriage dissolved, but Eileen was Eileen- He sighed and drove on, thinking hard.

Eileen had not only separated herself from him, she seemed to be distancing herself from her parents, also. She avoided her sister, Fanny, unless she wanted something, and she seldom visited her parents. She hated their home, calling it a 'creepy old place' and actually tried to convince them that it was haunted! He feared that she was having an affair. She'd been seen with a notorious womanizer everybody ELSE was on to. That was just the kind she'd fall for, of course. The trouble was that he also lived on the fringes of the law and Guerin was afraid that Eileen would be drawn into his illegal activities. Undoubtedly the fellow was a gambler and smuggler but any attempt to convince her would drive her in even deeper.

Down in the village, the crowds began to thicken and the midtown area filled up rapidly. Everybody seemed to be out and he saw a lot of people that he knew. There was Bill Gagnon walking among the throng proceeding towards the bridge where he'd last seen his kid and her grandparents. There were a great many he didn't recognize. The town seemed infiltrated with strangers..and strange-looking people, too.

Marilyn hurried through her lunch and then dug out a pair of jeans and a favorite sweat shirt. They would be the universal gear of young people on the streets today. She ran out the door and started downtown. Too bad Paul had to work but she'd probably see him in the black and white along the way. She hurried down East Otis Street to the corner. Clancy was standing on the corner and his glittery eyes slid over her. She turned her head and tried to push past but he detained her with a sickly smile.

"How was everything in Montreal, honey?" She stared at him and thrust his arm away. He snickered as she went past. "You'd be smart to be nicer to me, baby. I could help you a lot; I can do a lotta harm, too." Her face and neck were bright red. What business was it of his what she did? Where did he get off spying on them? He was sick- sick! She walked so rapidly in her anger that she was nearly to the bridge before she slowed down. She took a deep breath. There was Binkie...was she down here alone? Impossible! Marilyn started to elbow her way towards the child but the crush made it difficult.

"Excuse me. Please let me by...I'm sorry." She wove her way between two stout matrons and lost sight of Binkie. Where was she? Oh, there she was, over there! "I'm sorry, Ma'am. Excuse me." She was completely blocked but now and then she'd catch a glimpse of the small figure. Were those two men WITH the child, or merely standing behind her? She didn't like the idea of them being so close to Binkie, or of Binkie being alone. How had she gotten separated from her grandparents? Marilyn edged closer just in time to hear a scream.

"Oh, my God. The little girl...somebody help. HURRY." Marilyn tried to see. 'What little girl?' She looked for Binkie but Binkie was no where to be seen. There was a terrible threshing in the crowd. People forced their way to the railings to peer over. Obviously some body, some child was in the water. But who?

A woman next to Marilyn gave a sob. "Oh, my God, the poor little thing." She gasped. A man stood on the railing. He jumped and he too, was over. Marilyn finally forced her way to the edge. She could see the child in the water, bravely trying to keep her head up. IT WAS BINKIE!

An excited voice came over the radio in the cruiser. "Child in the water...child in the water. Main Street Bridge." Guerin threw the switch to the siren and literally blasted his way through the crowd. Somehow, something told him that this awful news concerned him, personally. Why did the chills creep up and down his spine? It could be anybody, couldn't it? Yet he knew. He arrived just in time to see Bill Gagnon dragging Binkie out of the water and on to the river bank. Marilyn erupted out of the crowd and threw herself down beside Binkie and began to cuddle her close. It took two seconds for Guerin to push his way out of the car and grab for his child.

"She's okay, Sarge, she's okay." Gagnon was wringing himself out as best he could. Guerin grabbed him by the shoulder. "Thank God, Bill. I'll see to you later. Are you all right?" Gagnon grinned. "Sure" "Get in the car, then and I'll take you to the station."

Marilyn stood, her empty arms still reaching out as Paul came to a crashing halt. She jumped into his vehicle. "I saw her when it happened," she gasped. He headed for headquarters. They followed Gagnon and Guerin inside with Binkie clinging to her father.

"He pushed me, Daddy," she was saying over and over. "He pushed me."

"Who pushed her?" echoed her father and Clifford. Wrapping the little girl in heavy coats, they went into the inner office to try to get to the bottom of this. Gagnon, suddenly an acceptable officer once more, went into the locker room to shower.

The Whittiers had had a wonderful trip but now the last few miles were unbearably long. Mary was dying to get to the bathroom while Smitty just wanted to sit in his rocker and relax with a cup of coffee. The familiar neighborhoods and the usual signs and businesses were very comforting as they approached with the regularity of Burma-Shave ads.

"Ah-h-h," Smitty groaned as he free-wheeled into the garage and shut off the motor. "Thought we'd never get here." He was talking to himself because his wife had thrown open the door on her side to run inside the house. 'Didn't even bother to shut the door,' he grumbled. He stretched as he left the car and then staggered up the steps.

'Careful there, ole boy, it would be damned easy to fall right now.' He finally made it into the kitchen and put the kettle on. There were sounds of gushing water as Mary flushed the toilet and the kettle began to whine just as she was coming out. "Put on enough for you too, if ya want some," he said as he passed her on HIS way in. The toilet flushed again and he came out, fastening his trousers.

They each made a cup of coffee and Mary went to her favorite rocker on the front porch. Smitty wandered about checking to see how his possessions had got along without him in his brief absence. He looked at the pile of mail Fanny had left on the stand. Good old reliable Fanny. He was so glad this older daughter had settled down. There'd been a time when he'd been afraid she was going to remain alienated from him and Mary but Fanny was going to be all right now, he'd guess- her biggest trouble was that she was ALL heart. Eileen cared for noone but herself; Fanny felt sorry for everybody and always fought for the underdog. A pity, because it caused her to take up with some pretty strange people, like the jerk she was living with now. He looked out the window. The backyard looked green and inviting so he wandered outside to check how his flowers had grown.

The dahlias along the back wall had nearly doubled in size; no kidding, just look at them! The gladiolas were knee high, also, and needed staking. If he could just get to it before a wind came up. LOOK at the pansies...pansies were always good. They were a profusion of blossom right now, their delicate little faces so expressive. A few steps brought him around the corner and- what's this? He peered near-sightedly at a fisherman's net lying underneath the back window. Who left THAT there?

It was clear that someone had dropped, or lost, his net on the way through. Sometimes sportsmen did pass through the backyard instead of keeping to the boundaries before joining the path to the river. Mary and Smitty never minded as long as they didn't pass directly underneath their windows. A person needed SOME privacy, after all.

He picked up the net and stuck it inside the garage. Maybe somebody would be back around looking for it. Well, what in the- he hadn't noticed his little wooden tulips before. They were all broken off. Now THAT'S mean! He'd really liked those tulips. His son-in-law, Mike Guerin, had made them for him and Mary and now look at them- work of some vandal, that was plain. He felt positively bruised, almost violated to think that somebody would harbor such spite against them. He went in to tell his wife.

She wasn't surprised. "Look at what some devil did to us," she said angrily. "Bashed our mailbox all to pieces!" He threw down the pieces of wooden flowers he'd meant to show her and ran out front to view this new insult. 'By damn!' He sat in his chair, momentarily defeated. They sat in silence and rocked their turmoil away. Mary's jaws worked as though she had a seed between her teeth. There was a distinctive line of tense muscle visible all the way to her temple where a tiny pulse throbbed underneath the delicate skin. It was time to eat but neither felt particularly hungry, mainly because the food on the throughway had upset their stomach, but also this- maybe later- just a little something before bedtime.

"Wonder what Binkie's been doing?" They looked at each other in sympathy. Smitty laughed. "Probably things we can't even imagine."

The family had been trying to keep a closer eye on Binkie since she had fallen in the river. Noone really believed that she'd been pushed in, she'd simply got caught in the crowd and fallen in, that was it but Marilyn wasn't so sure. She confided her fears to Paul, causing him to wonder but he'd keep quiet- for now.

Meanwhile Binkie's grandparents waited to see if she'd call them now they were back home. Using the phone had been one of her early passions but she was getting blase' about it now; still, she MIGHT call. Grandchildren could be a pleasure.

Smitty sighed to think- that one of Fanny's must be a big kid by now. Such a pity. If only Fanny hadn't gotten involved with that boy, and one who refused to be responsible at that! She'd been just the right age to be rebellious and when Eileen came along, Mary's change-of-life baby, well, it was the last straw. Fanny didn't get the attention she so obviously needed right then and although she loved her tiny sister to pieces, subconsciously she must have felt very jealous and rejected. When she got pregnant, they were devastated.

It's the sort of thing that one never gets over, but what can you do? She was so young and they hadn't wanted to see her ruin her life. They thought they were doing the right thing, getting the child adopted out but Fanny had mourned ever since. Well, at least she'd married that young widower and now she had HIS boy, as close to a real son as anybody could want. Paul was such a good fellow- Why she had to get involved with this latest creep was anybody's guess. Smitty was sure this one was up to no good but what could you do? He tried to shake off his dismal thoughts. Guess he'd get ready for bed.

The night grew cool and calm. A few cars went by but they barely disturbed the country quiet. There were the spiraling shadows of a couple bats and a big moth hit against the windows, rapping, rapping. It was a big one, too. Smitty yawned and stretched, and yawned again.

"I think it'll be an early night for me," he said. Mary nodded sleepy acceptance. She hoped she would sleep well tonight.

When they had first moved into the little house, she had slept at the back in the new part they'd added on. It was extra cool back there and silent because the road noises didn't make it that far to the rear but after awhile, Smitty had coaxed her back into the bigger bedroom at the front and that's when her nightmares began. As long as she slept in the old part of the house, she would dream dreams of a horrible pitch and intensity. Night after night she awakened shaking from head to toe. Sometimes her teeth chattered and she was constricted into a fetal position of such rigor that it was difficult to straighten her limbs out. There were times her nightie was damp with clammy perspiration. She didn't need any of that tonight.

Eileen had laughed when she'd heard of her mother's nightmares. "Told ya that place is haunted," she said. "I don't know when I've seen such a creepy old place. Wouldn't get me to spend a night alone there. Did you ever go into the history of the house? Bet somebody's been killed there."

Mary didn't put much credence in that sort of rubbish, but it WAS strange that she only got the nightmares when she slept in the old bedroom at the front. It was probably the power of suggestion, nothing more. Then Eileen paid them an unscheduled visit and made sure to bring up the subject of ghosts, haunted houses, and scary happenings.

"Bet you didn't know a man was killed here, did you?" They stared at her gleeful expression, the catty voice was jarring on their nerves.

"Sue, at the realtor's office, was telling me about it. That's why it stood empty for so long, they couldn't sell it because a man died here...right out back. IN YOUR WELL!"

That was so Eileen-ish; making them uneasy, unable to drink their own water.

The house rang with a banging, noisy clamour. Things rattled and jumped off the shelves, rolling and falling and disappearing into the corners. She and Smitty jumped to their feet and ran inside. The noise had finished except for an echoing tinny whine from an old cover. Several pots and pans lay about the floor in the pantry. The shelf was almost empty of kettles, they were all on the floor.

Mary shook herself and went to pick up her pots and pans. The house couldn't be settling EVERY time, could it? She nibbled at her imaginary seed, the muscles from her jaw were rigid.

"When did you say Marilyn's going to come out here with you, Binkie?" Binkie looked at her grandmother. "I don't know, Grandma. Akshully, I jes told her that you said she COULD come and she said she would someday. I want her to come tomorrow because I like her. You and Grampy will like her, too."

Mary felt certain she WOULD be fond of the girl who'd been so kind to her small granddaughter. "Why don't I call her and see if she can come to lunch tomorrow? Wouldn't that be nice?" Binkie jumped up and down in jubilation. "Hippee- Marilyn's coming tomorrow, Marilyn's coming tomorrow," she sang.

"Hold on, hold on. I haven't got her yet, and we don't know if she CAN come" but Marilyn was pleased to be invited and said 'no problem, she'd be happy to come out,' so it was set. When she got there, Mary stared and stared at her, wondering why she seemed so familiar looking. It was embarrassing but she could not tear her eyes away from the girl for some reason. "Have you lived around here before, Dear?" she inquired uneasily.

"No, I haven't Mrs. Whittier, but my parents came from this area," she replied.

"Call me Mary, dear, everyone else does." Marilyn laughed and agreed. "I just couldn't wait when Binkie asked me to come meet you. I was sure YOU and Mr. Whittier, okay... Smitty, would be marvelous people!"

Mary grinned ruefully. "We HOPE that Binkie's friends will be ours, too. I know we're a little bit out of the way out here and our life style is certainly not much to get excited about, but we make up in enthusiasm what we lack in style!"

"I see-" Marilyn laughed some more and then gave in to Binkie's dragging and pulling and together they went out the door and down Binkie's favorite walk.

"Now why does that girl look so familiar to me?" Mary asked herself as she nibbled anxiously.

"I know, I feel it, too" Smitty admitted. "I just think she resembles someone we know, or maybe somebody we've seen on TV. You gotta admit it, though, she IS a good-looking kid."

"Yes, she is pretty. Somebody will grab her up real quick."

"I hear she's already set the town on its ears." Smitty grinned. "Somebody was telling me that young Paul has more or less staked her out as his own private property."

"I guess that's only natural. She is not only very pretty but she has a nice WAY about her, too. Nothing phoney. She is so nice to Binkie. Binkie worships the ground she walks on. I'm just wondering what we'll do when Marilyn goes back home."

"Let's not worry until we have to," Smitty said comfortably. "Maybe Paul won't let her go home. Ever think of that?"

They went on discussing the possibilities while the subject of their conversation strolled down the woodsy path hand-in-hand with her small friend. Binkie showed Marilyn 'her own' private chipmunk, her own frogs, her own little trails, and then she pointed up the river and told about seeing the boat with the big boxes of stuff. She described how the two men had unloaded the boxes and hidden them when she'd come into view.

"How can money turn to smoke, Marilyn? I want to see it-"

"Is that what they said, Binkie?" Marilyn peered at Binkie worriedly in the half-gloom. Binkie wrinkled her face and thought a minute and her reply came slowly. She wanted to be very careful when she was 'helping Marilyn.'

"YES. They took LOTS of boxes out of the boat because I SAW them... and they didn't hear me until they shut the motor off. Then I stepped on a stick and it made a loud CRACK. Boy, did I make THEM jump."

"Then what did they say?"

"I think- I think he said 'Who's watching us? We'd better get the hell out of here! Then the other one said, 'I'm not leaving all that smoke,' and he said 'we gotta cut the cop in'...I can't remember it all. I'm sorry, Marilyn. Are you mad because I swore? That IS swear words, isn't it?" She gnawed at her nails.

Marilyn hugged the small child she'd come to view almost as a little sister. She stroked the long, tangled curls as she thought and worried. "I couldn't be mad at you, Hon, but let's you and I get the hell out of here too. This place makes me uneasy and I hope you won't come here again alone. Promise?"

"Why did he say they'd cut the cops, Marilyn? Why would anybody want to cut policemen?"

"Forget it, honey. It's best to forget all about it and just stay away from that place. It makes me shiver." They disappeared back along one of Binkie's little trails and hurried towards the house. Marilyn didn't like to think of the little girl creeping through the woods all alone. It was quite a way to the river, much too far for a little child's safety. She couldn't imagine what Binkie's parents were thinking of to allow her to wander around like that all by herself.

Mary had made some of her delicious soup and some sandwiches and they sat about chatting. Then Binkie had to explain the porch. "That's where Grandma sits, in that rocker. Grampy sits over there...and I have the daybed."

"I can see you are very comfortable, Binkie. I don't blame you for liking to come out here, it's a lovely place."

Binkie looked sour for a few seconds. "Do YOU believe in ghosts, Marilyn?"

"I don't think I do, Binkie, but then I've never seen one or been in a haunted house, so it's hard to say."

"My mother says this place is haunted. She calls it a 'creepy old place' and she doesn't want to come here very much."

"Why does she think its haunted? Did SHE ever see a ghost?"

"No-o-o, but she said there are noises and things fall when nobody's around them. A man was killed here in the well, too. YES there was! He falled in and got drownded, ask Grandma. My mother said his ghost lives here."

Mary returned from the bathroom just in time to hear this last. "You mustn't listen to that stuff, Binkie. I told you that before. That poor man drowning in the well was nothing to do with us, it was an accident and accidents happen every day. He didn't hate us, he never saw any of us and he wouldn't bother us if he could. Would you hate somebody because you were careless and got hurt and it wasn't any fault of theirs? Of course not."

"Well, Mama says-"

"Let's talk about something else, sweetheart. We have to be pleasant if we want Marilyn to want to come back to see us again. We do, don't we?"

"Yes, we do. Will you, Marilyn, PLEASE?"

"I can think of nothing I'd like better, Binkie, but now, I'm afraid I have to be going. Paul is going to pick me up soon." On that cheerful note, she ran out at the sound of a car and got in with her lover.

Well, that was a nice young woman," Smitty exclaimed.

"She's my friend," Binkie reminded them. "When I get big I'm going to be just like Marilyn. I'll have a boyfriend too...just as soon as I get a chest." She pulled up her shirt, displaying two minute coral colored pinpricks. "See, I got skin. Is it blue?" she asked anxiously.

"What in the- what will she think of next?" Her grandparents went off into gales of laughter.

"That kid of mine is out in the country again," Eileen complained. Fanny watched her sister languidly coating her nails with a highly malodorous nailbase. "Yeah, and you don't like it either, do you?" She knew Eileen too well to swallow that stuff but Eileen wasn't done complaining.

"Of course, I like to have Binkie visit her grandparents," she said impatiently, "but they BRAIN-WASH her with their old-fashioned ideas."

"Like what?"

"Well, they always give her the impression that there's something wrong with the way WE live and then, they imply that I am to blame for Mike and I splitting. You know how they always were partial to HIM."

"I don't blame them there, Eileen. He is, was, an nice never deserved him, Eileen."

"Oh, come on, Fanny, don't start that sanctimonious crap. You saw how confined I was. He was always worrying about 'the job, the job,'-..." She splayed her fingers out to inspect her manicure. "I've finally got what I want...I'm having a good time and nobody to check on my coming and going. Chet has loads of money and isn't afraid to spend it, either. Besides, he knows how to make a girl feel cherished."

Fanny stared at her. "Cherished? What did you think that big guy you're married to has been doing? My God, he's all but carried you around on a silk pillow! While we're on the subject, Eileen, you just might ask yourself where Chet gets all his money. I shouldn't talk, I know, because Gerry is too 'tight' with certain people that I don't approve of either, but I doubt he's in as deep as Chet. Gerry is just small time compared to Chet. No, that boyfriend of yours is travelling with the Big Time and he'd better be careful he doesn't cross them. It could be dangerous...for both of you!"

Eileen sneered as Fanny went on. "Poor Mike, he can't help it if he was born to be responsible, something you don't understand. Some people ARE like that, you know."

Eileen bristled. "Look, Fanny, I didn't come over here to get insulted. If you can't be civil, I'm leaving."

Fanny stared at her younger sister. She probably couldn't be blamed one hundred percent. Fanny could remember when Eileen had been born, her parents so proud of that unexpected child and they had all spoiled her. She regarded the product of their indulgences with pity.

"You can't, remember? You've gotta wait for your kid, as you call her. Give her a break, will you? Try to understand that Binkie loves her father too. Then try to remember that you WANTED Mom and Dad to like Mike in the beginning. Do you think they can just turn it on and off?"

"Oh, what do you know about it? It's not as if you had a husband, OR a kid to worry about." At her sister's stricken look, Eileen had the grace to apologize. "God, I'm sorry, Fanny. I didn't mean to hurt you but you crab so and people forget, you know?"

"Maybe YOU can, Eileen, but I will never forget." Fanny turned her face away.

"Fanny, you've gotta forget. The past is over and done with."

"Maybe YOU can forget that you have a child, but I can't. She's out there somewhere and I'd give anything to know see her. Just a glimpse. I wouldn't say anything or do anything. I just want to know. I know I'm lucky, I had Steve until he died and I'm so happy he left me young Paul to love, but I still think about her-"

"Well, it's gotta be said, Fanny. If you had picked somebody besides a loser, you'd probably have her today. If he'd had any responsibility, he'd have offered to marry you instead of making out that he didn't know who she belonged to. Look at him today, he still hasn't got anywhere, still a loser!" She stopped as Fanny rushed out of the room sobbing. Why did it always end like this, she thought virtuously? It was the truth, Fanny always loved losers.

She collected Binkie from her parent's car and headed for home. To hell with them all; she thought of the date she had with Chet that evening. Chet had a beautiful car, great clothes, and plenty of dough. She didn't question where it all came from, it was none of HER business. It was just too much fun helping him spend it.

Down at headquarters, Clifford was trying to get his paperwork caught up. He worked through several piles while Clancy's voice droned on and on. It was like having a bug in your ear. The men were discussing the tense situation about town these days. Smuggling was becoming more and more of a problem and present times were a lot like Prohibition when fast cars ran the highways with their lights off, causing accidents and killing innocent people. The highways, the rivers, the railroad tracks and airlines were all avenues where cigarettes and dope rolled into the country, just as booze once had, and the law seemed powerless to cope with it.

Clancy was given to sly smiles and nods lately, intimating that he knew more than he cared to reveal...just yet. He wanted you to think he could tell plenty if he wanted to. People were beginning to ignore him so he felt called upon to prove what he said.

"You'd be surprised at some of the people who are in on this thing," he smirked. Noone paid him attention. "You wouldn't be so smart if I began naming names, and some not too far away, either."

Paul cleaned his nails as he listened and watched the others react. They began to look up uneasily. "If you know anything, you're supposed to come out with it, Clancy, so we can all work on it."

"Not likely. I'll work on it myself. Why should I share the credit with a bunch of loafers?"

"Did you ever think that you might have information that some wouldn't want you to tell, Clancy? It could be dangerous, like. Personally, I'D feel kinda uneasy,"

For a minute, Clancy looked alarmed. Then he laughed. "Naw. That old stuff won't work. I've got the info stored on tape and if anything happens to me, it'll all come out."

Clifford rose and arched his back. "Clancy, you're a big load. If you know anything, you're breaking the law not revealing it. I, for one, don't think you've got anything." He walked down the hall to the lockers where he got his toothbrush and went to brush his teeth. Clancy watched the fastidious procedure. Clifford was always flossing his teeth, or cleaning his nails. It made a man sick.

"All piss and vinegar, our new sergeant, ain't he?" He looked sour. "He won't be so smooth when I tell how that young tart of his is sleeping around. I know- I've seen some action outside her windows." The men tensed with alarm. "Waiting their turn, most likely." He leered around the room but no one met his eyes. "All girl, ain't she, boys?" He gave a short, nasty laugh. "Yep, it's all coming to a head and I'll have MY day." He walked out leaving the officers discomfited. They avoided each others eyes but if their tongues were quiet, their brains were working overtime.

"Damn it, Eileen, we gotta stop thinking of ourselves. Binkie's growing fast and she needs us both. What do you think it's doing to her to hear us fighting all the time? We've gotta remember her..."

"I'M TIRED of worrying about somebody else all the time, Mike. When do I ever get a chance to have a little fun, I'd like to know that? I'm still young and I want to enjoy myself before I get all wrinkles and grey hairs. That's all I've ever done since I married you is wait, wait, WAIT." Her voice rose hysterically. "Wait until you could get time off before we could go anywhere, wait to see what shift you'd be on before I could plan anything. Then when I did, chances were they'd change you at the last minute and make you go in to work. No, it's too uncertain. There's sure no money in being a cop either, I'll tell you that much!"

Guerin sighed. That's all they'd been doing was going back and forth covering the same ground over and over. It HAD to be done for Binkie's sake. She needed them both and even now, she was getting out of hand. They never knew where she was at any given time. She wandered at will. He couldn't blame Eileen entirely although she WAS careless with the kid but a lot of what she said was true. Being the wife of an officer wasn't easy. It was a life of sacrifices and just because it was so richly rewarding for him, didn't necessarily mean she felt the same way.

"I'm sorry you haven't been happy, Eileen, and I know a lot of it has been my fault. If you'll just try again, give me another chance, I'll try harder. I'll try to work something out down at the station. I've been selfish doing all that extra studying, trying to make the grade. I should have been content and never minded trying to get promoted and so forth. I thought if I made detective sergeant that my hours would be better for us, I couldn't know that we'd have this problem of smuggling and rise in crime. Say we work together for Binkie's sake if nothing else. I still love YOU, you know. There's never been anyone else. Don't you have any feeling left for me at all?" He stared at her hungrily.

Eileen sobbed and dabbed at her eyes. "Oh, I can't, I just don't know. I just don't KNOW. It's all so hopeless somehow." He looked perplexed.

"Nothing's hopeless unless we make it so. I don't see it that way at all."

She laughed a bitter laugh. "No, of course you don't see- you never did. Well, there's somebody else, and I'm not sure he'll back out of the picture all that easy. Don't you UNDERSTAND anything?"

Guerin felt like he'd been hit in the stomach. He clenched his teeth until his jaws hurt. IT WAS TRUE! She'd been playing around and he never knew. Suspected, yes, but suspecting was one thing, knowing was another. He turned and smashed his fist into the wall. She was right, it WAS all so useless. She stared at his big body, banging and muttering and suddenly fearful at this new side of him, she got up and ran out the door. He went into the kitchen and gulped down glass after glass of cold water. He held his head under the tap. He looked at the clock. It was time to get ready for work, and on top of THIS. He got his things together and checked his gun out. There was a sound behind him and he turned to see Binkie regarding him anxiously.

"Are you going to shoot her, Daddy?"

Guerin stared at his offspring in horror. What a terrible pass things had come to that his child would think that he might shoot her mother! He fell on his knees before her and gathered her into his arms. He patted her back and smoothed her hair. "No, no, pet, I'm not going to shoot anybody. I could never hurt your mother, I LOVE her. Right now, we're having a misunderstanding. Everybody has misunderstandings. It simply means we have to work harder and I'm going to try real hard to understand what Mommy wants. Okay?"

Binkie nodded her head. He wasn't sure she was convinced but he had to go to work now. Eileen was right about that much. Whenever he had acute personal problems, it was always time to go to work.

"Get your things together, Sweetheart. I'm supposed to drop you off at Aunt Fanny's on the way to work."

Binkie was happy with THAT deal because she knew her grandmother and Marilyn would be there! She bobbed out of the car and ran to hug them both. Guerin could never understand the difference between the two sisters. You'd never believe they came from the same loins. Eileen so cold and unmaternal and Fanny so warm and loving. Now she was making a place for another displaced nestling, Binkie's friend Marilyn. She was always taking care of somebody.

Marilyn was a nice girl and Fanny would mother her, that was certain. They had a lot in common; come to think of it, they almost LOOKED alike. Amused at his romancing, he waved at the women and sped away.

Mary, Binkie, and Marilyn watched Fanny baking and they tested the results of some of her new recipes. Then they fondled the quilt pieces she was working on. She certainly was a domestic type. She waved them off a short time later and urged Marilyn to come back again. She'd really taken to the nice young thing.

They drove along into the country and Binkie chatted most of the way. Marilyn listened dreamily to the close family sounds. She sighed with pleasure- she couldn't wait to find out who her parents were. She hoped they were both alive. She hadn't thought of that possibility before. Oh, pray she'd find them in time. She turned to peer at Mary who was conscientiously watching the road. She didn't seem so talkative today. Was something wrong?

"It's clear that someone's been around our place again," she admitted. "We find little acts of vandalism, small signs of meanness. I'm not sure I can take a whole lot more. Maybe we'll have to give it up-"

"GRANDMA- you're NOT gonna move. I used to not like it; now I like it, now YOU don't like it."

"Oh, Binkie, of course I still like it out here but if they don't find out who is sneaking around I can't rest easy. It might not be safe."

"My Daddy will find out, Grandma, don't worry." Binkie nodded reassuringly.

Binkie couldn't know that her Daddy was already too involved with his personal problems to suit official minds. He arrived to find the men hashing over the problem of yet more smuggling. The brashness of the smugglers fairly took their breath away.

There had been another load of contraband cigarettes seized at the border that very morning. The Canadian Mounties had spotted a boat riding low in the water and The New York State Police joined them, trying to catch the culprit in between them. The suspect began to throw cases of cigarettes overboard but was just a bit too slow. Even now the evidence sat in boxes in a back room, testimonial to a billion-dollar smuggling industry. The men were discussing possible ways to prevent any more getting across.

"If we didn't have so many of our local people involved," Clancy began sanctimoniously, "we might have a chance. It makes it harder when our own relatives work against us-" He looked about slyly.

"Who are you referring to now, Clancy? If ya know something, come out with it."

"Everybody knows that the sergeant's ex has been running with that dude that has interests on the Rez and across the border as well. She probably warns them every time we plan a raid." His little eyes glinted maliciously. "She likes men with more money than a cop can produce."

Guerin started to his feet, fists clenched but the Bull pulled him back. "What do you know about anything, Clancy? Are you just running off at the mouth as usual?"

Clancy laughed shortly. "I know a lot about a lot of things as you'll all find out one of these days." He started to leave but the Bull barred his way. "No ya don't. Inside my office. We're gonna clear up some of this back-biting right now." Clancy steered clear of the big man's fists and sidled past into the office where the door banged shut. The officers left outside looked apprehensive. Clancy had a LOT of information stored in that knob-like skull and well they knew it. He knew where all the bodies were buried.

Binkie was seated across the top step of her grandmother's porch. She had a stack of papers and several pens and pencils. Her office was very busy at the moment and she didn't hear Paul and Marilyn drive up. Paul was taking his jacket off and throwing it into the back seat so Marilyn got to the house ahead of him. He heard Binkie call, "Hi, Marilyn. Come on up and I'll sign you up for the police department." He was convulsed with laughter but Marilyn kept her face straight.

"What do I have to do?" she inquired.

"Sign your name right here." Binkie pushed a pen at her and Marilyn signed. She peered into a paper cup filled with a nasty looking liquid. "What are you drinking, Binkie? It looks like poison."

Binkie guffawed. "Naw, it's Frog Spit." Marilyn shuddered exquisitely and Binkie covered her mouth with her hand. She raised her shoulders and tee-heed. It gratified her immensely when adults reacted strongly to her latest tastes. She spotted her 'cousin'.

"Hi, Paul. I'm playing police department. Wanna play?"

"I'd sure like to, Binkie, but your Daddy sent us over to pick you up. How about getting your things together while we go in and say hello to Gramma and Grampa?" Binkie began to gather her office supplies into a small box. Paul and Marilyn called out as they entered the house.

"We're on the porch," Mary answered. "Come on out."

"You're looking very comfortable, MRS. Whittier," Paul teased his adopted grandmother. "How's things going? Any more vandalism lately?"

Mary's face clouded over. "Not really but it keeps me uneasy, waiting for the other shoe to fall, know what I mean?" They nodded at her.

"The Sarge wanted us to pick up Binkie for him, Granny W. He promised to take her back to her mother today but he was called in early. Okay if we take her along now?" Mary nodded her acquiescence and she and Smitty kissed Binkie and gave her a hug as she got into the car. They waved her off with a sigh. They'd had a good time with her but it had been a long day and they were tired and knew she must be, too.

Binkie chatted eagerly as the trio drove into town. She reminded Marilyn that she hadn't gone down to the river, she'd kept her promise. Marilyn exclaimed what a smart girl she was and noted the almond shaped eyes were growing heavy. The child was overtired and would be sleeping before long.

Paul looked questioningly at Marilyn and she glanced into the back before replying. Binkie had fallen asleep. Marilyn went on to explain how Binkie had seen men unloading boxes at the river. She told him how she'd heard them discussing 'cutting the cops in'. He looked thoughtful. Could it be possible that Binkie had seen, and been seen by, smugglers? No wonder she'd accidentally 'fallen' in the river. If it was true, she could be in grave danger. He wondered if anyone realized that besides himself? If her father hadn't heard these latest developments, he might be ignorant that his child was in jeopardy.

Paul wondered where the smugglers came from and how they were getting the cigarettes to the reservation? Who was involved? Everyone realized that the smugglers had to have friends among the local bodies of law enforcement, but pinning down just who was in on it would be very difficult. First of all, a man daren't confide in just anyone, THEY might be a smuggler themselves and then there was the natural reluctance for an officer to believe that a brother officer might be crooked. The force inspired loyalty to buddies who'd shared moments of danger and long boring hours together on patrol.

The Native Americans who occupied the reservation nearby were getting most of the blame for the smuggling although the police realized that much of their backing came from off-reservation sources. Many Natives WERE running cigarettes, of course, they didn't see anything wrong with it. They could purchase all the tobacco they wanted and if white people wanted to buy from them and not pay the government tax, Indians felt they had the right to sell whatever they wanted on reservation lands. Paul smiled wryly as he thought of the irony: over a hundred years ago, the 'White-Eyes' were busy ruining the health of the Indians by giving them firewater, NOW the Indians were reversing things by giving the whites tobacco. It was a crazy world!

An added problem now was that the Indians were themselves divided; many of the tribe did not want the smuggling going on. They felt it was undermining their proud heritage and they wanted a better climate for their children to grow up in. Their opponents replied that the children needed better schools, better homes, better medical services, as well, and the cigarettes would foot the bill for a better life. The two sides collided violently and gunfire broke out.

Law enforcement was stymied. The smugglers were almost impossible to catch because so many felt it was similar to probition times when, in popular credence, what a person did to their own health was a personal problem. Then, too, the reservation was deemed a separate nation by Native Americans and for any law enforcement body to encroach on their lands brought on the enmity of ALL Indians both pro and anti-smuggling. So the action went on and things stood at an impasse.

The governor spent over seven million dollars on patrols and tried to keep the lid on but nothing was solved. Something would have to be done and soon because too many people were getting killed in the crossfire.

Paul mused aloud. "There's gotta be some of our own men making out on this thing." Marilyn studied his frowning face and thought. "I've got an idea-"

He turned to look at her fondly. "What kind of an idea can you pull out of that pretty little head?" he teased. She pushed his caressing hand away. "No, seriously, Paul, listen to me. You know Clancy has been drooling after me since day one, right? Well, I bet if I acted a bit nicer to him, he might tell me a few of those things you say he's always bragging about."

His reaction was swift and violent. He grabbed her, pinching her shoulders with clenched fingers. "NO WAY, hear me? You stay away from that lecher. If I even see him around you, I'll...I'll-"

"ALL RIGHT, PAUL, take it easy! You're supposed to be a police officer, remember? You better not touch him. And don't forget, you're turning down a sure source of information." Paul slammed his fist on the dash. "I don't care, not THAT way." He was really getting mad now. Binkie stirred in the back seat and they remembered that she was due at her mother's. Paul squealed the car around and drove her home.

Marilyn had known it wouldn't be easy making up to somebody as suspicious as Clancy. The last few times she'd seen him, she'd nodded distantly as though she had reconsidered and realized that he might be marginally human. She knew it would be difficult to explain any sudden change of attitude, so she thawed only gradually, meantime whispering it about that she wouldn't mind picking up some cigarettes for her uncle. She knew better than approach the weasely little man directly; she made her remarks to Don Belanger and Bill Gagnon but kept them just audible enough that Clancy knew what was going on. He would take it from there, she could bank on that.

"What happened?" he challenged her sarcastically. "Has the Blue Knight let you off the string for a change?" He snickered and she itched to slap his smirking face. She steeled herself to act a bit friendlier.

"Nobody owns me," she replied rather stiffly. "Still, I'd rather be friends with the people Paul has to work with. There's no sense making enemies, especially now-"

"What's 'especially now' got to do with anything? A person's a fool to get excited over this thing. If the Indians want to bring in cigarettes, they'll find a way to do it and you'd be surprised how many of our so-called 'good citizens' are enjoying tax-free smokes, themselves. The same way they ride on tax-free gasoline!"

She stared at him wide-eyed and open mouthed. "I never thought of it that way," she confessed meekly. "You may be right, but-"

"Damn right I'm right," he snarled and walked away...but she found him watching her after that in a puzzled manner. He'd come around; it was only a matter of time. He made her flesh crawl but if it helped Paul-

Then it was time for the Policemens' Banquet. She and Paul got away early before someone could call and change their plans. He looked handsome in a casual blazer and pleated trousers, she wore a floral jersey in brilliant fall colors. He kept his arm about her affectionately as they entered the social hall.

The musicians were on a dais trying to get their instruments in tune and the catering staff could be seen working via a pass through. They carried enormous stainless steel containers from one place and set them in another, someone else came over and lugged them back. It resembled a nest of busy ants, working at random and aimlessly.

Long trestle tables stood along the perimeters of the hall covered with strips of white paper. There were place settings of heavy-duty crockery and imitation vases of crystal held pink plastic flowers; someone had made some effort to give the evening a festive look.

"Hi there folks. Ready to have some fun, tonight?"

It was Don Belanger and he stood grinning at them, his hands buried deep inside his pockets where he jingled coins back and forth.

"Oh, Don. How are you tonight? Where's the better half?"

"Oh, I guess she's in the ladies', gassin' off with somebody." He grinned fondly. "How's about a drink? I got a little something." He demonstrated a bulge in his jacket pocket. "It's BYOB night, you know,"

Paul grinned appreciatively. "Yeah, I know." Don poured a murky liquid into a paper cup. "No mixer, sorry. Maybe there's some water in that cooler over there." He looked about helplessly but Paul said 'that's okay, Don.' He sipped at the firey drink. "How's about another, Pal?"

"Not now, Don, I'll take a raincheck on that." Don grinned. "Yeah, I'm holding off myself. Can't afford to get drunk TONIGHT." Paul stared at him, had he missed something? Well-

"I'm saving myself for that steak they promised us. See you later, Don, okay?"

He wandered around the hall, speaking to first one fellow officer, then another. Everybody seemed determined to make it an enjoyable occasion and, strange to say, most were steering the conversation away from departmental problems. Still, there seemed to be a peculiar tension in the atmosphere. Officers stared at one another uneasily and there were claques here and there where the misfits like Don, wandered from one to another, saying a word and then passing on. Paul studied them carefully.

Marilyn came out of the rest room and they found their places at the table. The dinner proceeded with a noisy clashing of knives and forks. Steam swirled about their heads as the catering staff brought huge platters of beef to the tables. These were handed down along the line and each person served him or herself. Marilyn found herself with a huge slab of meat that nearly covered her plate. She hadn't seen steak done quite this way before. It certainly didn't look like it had been grilled, nor yet fried. It resembled something wet and sloppy, something that had been BOILED. She tried to cut a piece off and it merely slid back and forth on her plate. She couldn't make a dent in it. The officer beside noted her trouble and offered to help.

"Let me give you a hand if you don't object to my pocket knife, Honey. I've learned to bring my own knife to these occasions," he chuckled as he sawed off several morsels for her. She thanked him gratefully and nearly broke a tooth with the first bite.

Guests began drifting away from the tables and the musicians played sentimental favorites. She and Paul danced several dancers together, then they broke apart and danced with others. The BYOB policy began to take its toll and faces reddened and voices grew louder. There were clashes as someone bumped into a table, upsetting the glasses and breaking several. Somebody opened a door leading on to the fire escape. The lines to the restrooms grew longer and busier. Marilyn was forced to join one.

When she finally gained the outer room to the toilet alcoves, she attempted to peek into one of the mirrors. They were crowded with female faces and smeared with grease and smoke. There was an old couch on which a policewoman had passed out. As coats were piled along the couch and over its arms, the heap grew unwieldly and finally slid down over the unconscious woman. She slept on and it seemed like the couch snored. She slept in florid, sweaty discomfort. Marilyn was concerned lest the woman suffocate so during an intermission in the music, she crept back to check and the woman roused enough to raise up and demand another drink.

"Why don't you let me get you a cup of coffee, Jan?" Marilyn coaxed.

"Well, who the hell are you? Some li'l do-gooder? I wanna drink!"

"Okay. Okay. I'll see what I can do." Marilyn started to retreat but paused at the next words. "Where's that bastard, Clancy? Did he make the run yet? Tell him I wanna...I wanna" she collapsed back on the couch and was snoring again. Marilyn stared at her. CLANCY...making a run? Of course. What better night than when they were all preoccupied with the banquet. She had to get Paul.

Paul was silent for several moments while he studied the problem. "Clancy, huh? I should have known, wasn't he the logical one all the time? Come on, we're leaving. I'm going to up the river tonight," he planned in a speculative voice. Marilyn looked at him. "What are you going to do, Paul?"

"Those cigarettes have to get across the Saint Lawrence River somewhere. The smugglers will try, as much as possible, to keep to reservation land but there are some places where they have to leave it for a time in order to get home. If I can find where those points are- the big guys could take it from there. If I can follow Clancy and see who's with him and where they cross- I'm going."

"Not without me, you don't."

"Un-uh, don't even think of it. Could be dangerous. I'll go alone- I won't do anything on my own, I promise. I'll just watch. I can always call in for help if I need it."

"I will go with you," she reiterated. "It would look more casual for a man AND a girl to be out boating than for a man alone. I'm GOING!" He knew when he was outflanked so he made plans to pick her up as soon as they could change into dark clothing. She was warned in no case should she let anyone know what they intended. It was safer that way.

Paul picked her up and they made their way down to the river. The boat was small and quiet and the motor purred like a kitten as they raced over the water. Marilyn was glad she'd been smart enough to dress warmly and she'd brought a big thermos container of hot coffee.

The wind was chilly on the rippling expanse that flowed past full and sinuous; there were reflected lights from dwellings along the shore, and now and again the bark of a dog came over the water. The moon was climbing just enough that they could see to keep to the middle, avoiding obstacles that lined the shore. If they saw anything suspicious, they'd hug the edges but for now it was better to stay away from the shallows and submerged threats.

It seemed logical that the cigarettes would be loaded somewhere over the Canadian line because the reservation lay astride both Canadian AND United States soil. Officials in the United States couldn't touch the culprits until they crossed from Canada and tried to reach the boundaries of Akwesasne. Somewhere along the way, they must cross a small strip where they were vulnerable and Paul meant to find out where that small strip might be. Of course, they had only the word of a drunken woman that there was action tonight but Paul supposed they must have some sort of schedule.

They rode the swells and now and again, he would put the motor on idle and they would listen. Occasionally a small boat would pass them going up or down the river but nothing promising. Paul felt quite sure that anyone using a boat for smuggling would have a sleek, fast job, capable of making a run for it and of carrying a good number of cartons. He just didn't see anything that suggested that capability. He shivered; it was getting cold out there.

They cruised back and forth and the moon began to disappear behind the clouds. Marilyn tried to suppress a little cough. "You're catching cold," he accused. "We'd better go in."

"I'm all right," she replied in a thoughtful voice. "You know, I was wondering- do you think Clancy really is in on this?"

He turned on her so violently that the boat rocked under them. "Look, I told you FORGET him. Stay away from Clancy-"

"I didn't mean it THAT way, Love. I was just curious to know if you believed him. DO you think he knows anything?" She looked so meek that he believed her. Of course, he WANTED to believe her. "Yeah, he probably knows something. God knows he's always sneaking around. He'll be lucky if somebody doesn't kill him. That's just one more good reason to stay away from him."

"Come on, we'll call it a night. We're doing nothing here but catching a cold." He turned back and started for home. there was a sharp 'spat' and Marilyn turned to see if they'd hit a stick in the water. Paul lunged at her and knocked her into the bottom of the boat. She tried to push him away.

"Get down. Do you wanna get killed?"

She stared at him in the moonlight. "Don't you realize what that was? Somebody's shooting at us." There was a second report and a hiss as a bullet sang over their heads. Paul recklessly jumped up and jabbed the starter. The motor kicked over and they raced over the river. "That was too close," he said grimly, " and I'll find out who it was if it kills me."

The night had turned damp and Paul and Marilyn felt depressed and tired. They'd started with such high hopes that perhaps they might uncover SOME evidence but it looked futile. Apparently the woman had meant something else when she spoke of Clancy, Marilyn must have misinterpreted what she meant. Maybe she had misjudged Clancy, too, perhaps he wasn't in it at all. Still, he had seemed a logical one- There was the sound of a motor starting up close by. Marilyn caught at Paul's arm and pointed him towards the eastern shore. Sure enough, there was some activity going on over there.

He killed the motor and let the boat drift under its own momentum. They were not only drifting towards the sounds but slightly to one side where trees formed a cluster along the shoreline. That was all to the good, perhaps they could hear without being spotted. He pushed her down in the boat. As they neared the sounds of men at work, Paul pulled her close where he could whisper directly into her ear. He wanted to be as quiet as possible because sounds travel over water so easily. "I'm going to let you off under that clump of bushes."

She shook her head 'no.' He insisted and rather than give their presence away by arguing, she finally nodded agreement. "Wait for me there and keep quiet. Okay?" She nodded again. He held the boat still just long enough for her to scramble over the side and disappear, then he slid towards the other boats. If he was lucky they'd take him for one of their own in the darkness.

Voices were audible now and he heard one exclaim in anger. Did that sound like Clancy's voice? Another replied in a like vein. Don? They seemed to be arguing. The voices became more strident and there was the sound of a splash, and more swearing. Men threshed around and a motor started up. The speedboat was pushed into high gear and before Paul could move out of the way, he was blinded by a bright light and thrown into the water. He held his breath and dove to the sound of shattering wood.

For a few minutes there was mass confusion and the light was turned off. "Damn! Whose boat was that? Whoever it was, we've run him down. Let's get to hell out of here!" The smugglers roared off not caring whether they'd run down one of their own or someone else. 'Nice guys'; Paul didn't have high hopes for anyone that got in their way. He heard landed vehicles come to life. They turned eastward and travelled along the waterline, stopped, and vanished into the night.

He stopped treading water and put all his strength into gaining the beach. Marilyn was not under the bushes, she was gone. Suddenly, it all seemed too much. He sank down on the ground in dejection. How could he expect to get to the bottom of this thing or even help get Marilyn away from them? Who knew what they might do to her? Surely anyone capable of shooting at random would be capable of almost anything else. Speaking of which, his arm had a peculiar stinging sensation. Maybe he'd better check it. He pulled off his jacket and it seemed stuck to his left arm. When he pulled, it hurt like hell. That's when he realized that he was shot. THEY'D WINGED HIM! How was he going to explain this? Or could he possibly conceal it? He'd be lucky if it didn't get infected. That bath in the murky water of the Saint Lawrence probably hadn't done it a whole lot of good. He suspected he'd better try to get back to town before reaction set in.

Paul plodded along the riverbank, bedraggled and sore. He fought his way through witch hobble and burrs that caught in his clothing that was torn and clung in damp folds. He tried to figure out the best thing to do; he knew he couldn't go directly to the police station because he had no way of concealing his bloody and torn clothing and God knew who could be trusted and who couldn't be. In fact, he'd better get under cover before daylight and get cleaned up...what about Marilyn's apartment? He sneaked along the lightening streets until he reached Grove Street. He found her key and let himself in to her tiny apartment where he gratefully took a shower and made hot coffee.

Later, seated at her tidy breakfast nook, he tried to assess the problems he faced. First he had to try to find out what happened to Marilyn. That was something he scarcely dared to think about because it brought such pain. Had she chosen to disappear and would he hear from her as soon as she could get to a phone? Or had she been snatched by some of the smugglers and was she now lying dead somewhere? Perhaps at the bottom of the river? His guts coiled into knots at the thought. Not good, but pleasanter, to think that she might be held as a bargaining point. He needed help and HAD to trust somebody, this was too much for one man alone. Who would it be? There was little choice, it almost certainly had to be the man he loved as much as a true uncle, Sergeant Guerin. Still, he'd have to walk there, he daren't use the phone. Someone might already have a tap on her line, or the Sarge's.

Paul finished the coffee. He supposed he SHOULD eat something but the sight of food nauseated him. He threw his wet clothing into the dryer and toasted a bagel while he waited for them to dry. Perhaps if he ate the bagel with a lOT of peanut butter smeared over it; wasn't that supposed to be high protein, or something? He didn't know how much blood he had lost but perhaps the food would give him back some strength. He looked out the window; it was full light now and he'd have to act natural. Walk down the street like a man without a thing on his mind. How could he possibly be such an actor?

Guerin looked surprised to see such an early morning caller but he lowered his voice at the sight of the drawn, white face. "Get in here." He jerked his guest inside as Paul jumped away in pain, Guerin headed for his kitchen. He poured a cup of black coffee with a good dollop of brandy in it and gave it to Paul and then fetched a first aid kit from the bathroom. He wrapped and disinfected as he listened to Paul's tale.

"You mean the two of you went out on the river after the banquet? What ever gave you the idea to act on you own like that...and drag a girl along with you? Never mind that now- so they got her AFTER they ran you down? Did you get a look at any of them? I suppose not... too fast and the light in your face and all- Can you estimate how many there were? Did you hear any voices you'd remember?"

Paul shook his head dispairingly. "No, I was afraid something might happen so I told her to wait for me in the bushes. After they ran me down, and I believe THAT part was accidental because I don't think they even guessed I was there... well, I went looking for her and she was gone. I thought she might be hiding and afraid to come out but after I thought it over, that just wasn't Marilyn. She'd have been out if she could, looking to see if I was hurt." His face twisted at the memory.

Guerin had to agree, Marilyn was not one to lie back and leave someone she loved in danger. Well, this would take some thinking. Let's see. He had a pretty good idea that Fanny's boyfriend worked the fringes of the group; maybe a bug in his ear would fly to the right places. Then that fancy Dan of Eileen's was in it too, you could bet your life. What could he be dragged in on?

Meantime, it would be best to go on as normal. They mustn't make any unilateral moves that could make things worse for Marilyn. Unfortunately, he had a good idea how Paul would react.

"You've gotta go to work as usual, Paul- no, never mind all that, just LISTEN for a minute. Go to work and watch the rest and listen and maybe you can pick up some clues. It's not going to be easy, that arms going to be pretty stiff and you're going to get a shock reaction but see if anyone looks any different, acts unsettled or worried, overtired as if they'd been out all night. You know the procedure. Meantime, I've got a couple of people to see. Let me take care of my end and I'll be back in touch. Okay?"

Paul balkily muttered and argued under his breath until Guerin barked 'that's an order' and walked out the door. Paul glared about the room in outraged frustration. He smashed his fist against the table only to draw it back and hold his arm while he cursed. 'Go to work. How in the hell did they expect a man to work under such conditions?' Yet, being Paul, he prepared to do just that. He tensed at a scratching sound at the door. Oh, Guerin must be coming back; he'd apparently forgotten something.

It wasn't Guerin but the cleaning woman who usually stayed with Binkie whenever Guerin had her for a visit. Paul hadn't realized the child might be in the house, might, in fact, still be there, an eavesdropper on their conversation but that's exactly what it amounted to. Binkie, quite forgotten by both her father, (because she usually wasn't there,) and guest, (for the same reason,) had heard just enough to know that her beloved Marilyn had vanished. Binkie was very upset...and determined to help. When Eileen came by to pick up her child, Binkie was distraught and weepy.

"What is the matter with you this morning, Binkie? Did you stay up all night watching TV? You've been watching something that's scared you out of your wits, I can see that!" Eileen was unusually perspicacious but Binkie stuck by her denials that she'd watched anything.

"Then your father's been feeding you some junk. You're sickening for something."

Binkie again shook her head. Then she burst into tears and cried uncontrollably. "My friend's gone. Marilyn's gone."

"Well, is that all? You knew she had to go away some day. I told you at the time not to get so wrapped up in your FRIEND." It sounded like a dirty word when she said it, but Binkie didn't even notice.

"No, no, she didn't go home. Some bad mans stole her. Daddy and Paul can't find her." She began to wail anew and Eileen regarded her thoughtfully. Something had happened, that was obvious and Marilyn was involved. She knew that Paul would move heaven and earth to get the girl back. It was dead certain, too, that Chet was involved and he was ruthless, she knew from experience. She sighed.

"My God, the fat's in the fire now."

Eileen took her wailing child and headed for Fanny's, her usual haven whenever trouble appeared. Luckily, Fanny was home and regarded her crying niece and worried sister in amazement.

"What's got you two in such a lather?" she demanded, standing aside to let them in. "What IS the matter with you, Binkie? Come over here and see Auntie." Binkie threw herself into her aunt's arms, crying hysterically. Fanny looked at Eileen. "I can't make out a thing she's saying. What's wrong"

Eileen light a cigarette with trembling hands. She pulled a shred of tobacco off her lip. She seemed to be having trouble starting. "It's that girl she's so crazy about...that Marilyn. She's disappeared."

Fanny raised her eyebrows. "Disappeared?"

Eileen nodded but before she could continue, Binkie looked at her mother accusingly and screamed, "She's stoled! Some bad men stole her. Daddy said so!"

Fanny looked alarmed and Eileen nodded. "It seems so, at least from what SHE'S saying. She came home from Mike's this morning half-crazy, yelling about Marilyn being stolen."

"Well, how did she get on to all this? I can't imagine Mike telling HER about it."

Eileen shook her head wearily. "No, no. She stayed the night with her father. Chet and I were invited out so I took her over there. The cleaning woman stays with her in the morning until I get her, or he brings her home. Well, this morning Paul was there all cut up and of course, she listens all the time and hears things she shouldn't. So, she heard that he took the girl out on the river last night and now she's just- GONE. There seems to have been some confrontation- that's all I know."

"Well, no wonder she's upset. Poor baby, she loves Marilyn, don't you, sweet? Well, Aunt Fanny loves her too, she's a darned nice girl. Don't you worry, Sweetheart, your Daddy and Paul will find her."

Binkie didn't look convinced and continued to cry. Eileen began to look impatient. "Look, Fanny, can I leave her here? I've got to go to the courthouse and file some papers and do a few errands. I'm supposed to meet Chet but I'll get back here as soon as I can. Is that okay?"

The concilatory tone was so novel that Fanny looked surprised but she agreed readily. "We'll go visit Grandma and Grampa. How's that, Pet?" Binkie snuffled her agreement and Fanny motioned for Eileen to leave, which she did all too readily. Fanny wondered what she had in mind?

When Fanny and Binkie arrived at the Whittiers, they had to be informed of the news because Binkie looked so woe-begone. They looked grave and both were concerned for the safety of the young woman they'd come to like so well. All unconsciously, Mary began working her jaws and meshing her teeth.

"Gosh, I hope she's okay," Smitty began to remark but his wife checked him with a motion at the child. "Of course, she'll be okay. When people get stolen, it's because the bad men want money. Mike and Paul will get money and then Marilyn will be able to come back. Wait and see." Binkie looked from one to the other, for the first time that morning, her face expressed hope. In a few minutes she went outside and began to wander over the lawn.

Fanny and her parents talked seriously once Binkie was out of hearing. "Do you think it has anything to do with the smuggling that's been going on, Fanny?"

Fanny looked frightened at the thought. "I'm afraid it has," she admitted. "Marilyn obviously is connected with Paul and will be used for leverage to set someone free or to get him to look the other way. I don't think it'll work."

Smitty's brow was furrowed with wrinkles. "I heard there is a huge load of contraband setting downtown right now in a warehouse. There's maybe a million dollars in untaxed cigarettes- the Indians say they can't be taxed by the government because they're a separate country. They want their cigarettes released but the police refuse to release the stuff. I wouldn't surprised if some of the policemen are in on the smuggling. There's a lot of money involved and it's a big temptation for underpaid men. I don't know where it'll all end," he added worriedly.

They chewed it back and forth until Fanny had to leave. She went outside to say goodbye to Binkie but the child was nowhere in sight.

"Mom! Dad! Binkie's not around! Come help me look for her." The Whittiers erupted from the house. "Gone? She can't be far. She must be right around. She's probably looking for her chipmunk."

Fanny shook her head. "She's gone to find Marilyn."

Smitty looked at Mary in consternation. It was so like Binkie that no one doubted a word. Fanny ordered, "Keep looking while I run back to town. I'll find Mike and Paul and we'll help search." She also had someone else she wanted to see- someone who'd know exactly where Binkie might find Marilyn. That way, someone might find Binkie- Now she knew where Eileen had had to go in such a hurry.

Eileen had rushed back home to call her boyfriend but the phone rang and rang until finally, just when she was prepared to give up, there was a short, brusque "Yeah?" She asked for Chet, saying it was an emergency but he wasn't there, 'he had an emergency of his own and couldn't talk to her.' The bang on the other end hurt her ears. What could she do now? She started back to Fanny's but Fanny had raced into town to find Gerry.

As usual, he was hanging at the poolroom with other losers like himself. They bragged and blustered, talking big deeds and accomplising nothing. They didn't have to accomplish anything, there was always some woman to feel sorry for them, 'help' them out. When Fanny explained about Binkie, he raised his arms and let them fall helplessly.

"Whaddya expect me to do? I don't know where the kid is."

"No, but you probably got a good idea where Marilyn is and Binkie is trying to find HER." Again he flopped his arms in a gesture of futility and Fanny turned her back and walked away.

"Hey, come back. I didn't say I wouldn't help ya. Wait a minute. I've gotta let the guys know I'm going; I'll be right out." When he emerged, she was gone. He stared down the street baffled.

Fanny drove out of town along the winding Saint Lawrence River. There were many side roads that hunters and fishermen used during duck season, or for fishing or launching boats. She knew them all; finding the right one was the problem. She knew; she would drive down past the Yacht Club and see if there was a small boat at the launch. If there was, she'd borrow it and explain later. She ventured down the bumpy road, ruts and chuckholes making her bounce and threatening the springs of the car but there was just one thing in her mind now. If only none of Chet and Eileen's friends were around to spot her...or the car. Her luck held and she went racing down river, praying she'd be in time.

Marilyn was sitting on a box in a splintery sugar shack in the woods. She'd climbed under the bushes on the riverbank as Paul had told her to but was caught in the same glaring spotlight that had blinded him just before his boat was split apart. If she'd stood still, she might have escaped detection but she instinctively drew back and that was her undoing. As the land vehicles sped away, one stopped and she found herself grabbed and thrown into the rear of an old van along with crates and boxes that slid back and forth as they lurched across the fields. Now she was locked in a rear room with still more cartons and boxes, old rusty buckets, and lengths of plastic hosing.

Out front there was another room where her captors were smoking and arguing among themselves. "Damn it, this sure complicates matters," one sputtered. The voice sounded familiar for some reason. Marilyn couldn't make out all the words but she was certain she'd heard this voice before. It sounded like Clancy, that's who! The talk went on. Some of them weren't even sure if she was an enemy or the 'friend of a friend', so to speak. Someone asked, "Isn't she that cop's girlfriend?"

"Yeah, but he's not any friend of ours" the Clancy-like voice replied.

"Most of them are friends for a big enough cut," another snickered. Marilyn put her ear to a crack. Maybe they'd name their other allies on the force. She must try to get all the information she could; Paul would need it when he came to get her. She never doubted that he would come and probably not alone, either.

As Fanny continued down the river, she tried to figure out what would be the best, and safest way, to proceed. She felt quite certain that Eileen's boyfriend, Chet, would be where the action was. If she could just get to him without any of his companions spotting her, he just might help her. She would tell him that the girl knew nothing. Perhaps he would listen to her because of Gerry. She didn't dare remember that there is little honor among thieves. It was chancy, but she could think of nothing better. She continued on with an anxious glance at the fuel gauge. What irony if she ran out of gas. The little boat responded like a well-bred filly and the waters rushed past at an amazing pace. The wind whipped her hair, pulling it straight back where it streamed along behind her, and the spray stung her cheeks into a healthy-looking apple-red glow.

She continued on, trying to stay out of the ship channel because she didn't understand the system of buoys and different lights. She didn't want to get run down by a tanker at this stage of the game. Fanny-to-the-rescue would be a dismal failure then, wouldn't it?

She finally found the junction where the great river poured into a lesser one and she turned into the quieter waters. It wasn't far to the hidden landing where she expected to see Chet and the men who would be transferring boxes of cigarettes. She couldn't know that some of the cops had switched cartons of the contraband cigarettes for empties, or others loaded with useless stuff simply to give them weight. The switch led to time being spent inspecting, making sure they were getting cigarettes instead of junk, and nobody got any money without it, either, as no one could be trusted.

She killed the motor and cautiously climbed out, tying the boat securely to a stake that was sticking up out of the mud. She stopped and looked around. There was no one in sight but that didn't surprise her; she hadn't expected a welcoming committee. Nonetheless, she felt sure that someone had heard her approach and was watching; she could feel eyes on her right now. She listened but there was nothing to hear but the rush of the river and the cawing of a lonely crow. Her footsteps sounded abnormally loud as she pulled them from the sucking mud and wet grass that wrapped about her ankles. The mud was pockmarked with other footprints, evidence of someone close by. She walked to the shack and cautiously tried the door. A seedy looking character grabbed her arm and yanked her inside. There was no sign of Chet!

"All right, sister, explain yourself. What are you doing sneaking around here?" She hadn't expected them to be friendly, after all, Chet was the only one who knew her, except for some of the renegade cops who would naturally stay out of sight. None of them were anxious to be identified and she could understand that, too.

She answered as quietly as she could, her pounding heart threatening to betray her. "I'm looking for Chet."

"Chet who?"

Two could play this game so she stubbornly insisted, "I've gotta talk to Chet, it's urgent."

"Yeah, well, I don't know any Chet and your 'urgent' will have to wait awhile." He drew the bolt and shoved her through a splintery door to the back room. Someone was already there, lying face down on a pile of old bags. It was Marilyn.

Fanny stared at the matted red-gold hair, the disheveled clothing, the blouse half-torn from the girl's back and the birthmark, shaped roughly like a racing horse. She felt her senses whirling. She was falling backwards, going back in time to a hospital room where a black-robed sister was bringing in a tiny child.

"Here you are, dear," the biscuit-cheeked nun offered," She's a little beauty, too, all six and three-quarter pounds of her." So saying, she laid the sucking, rooting infant in young Fanny's arms. Fanny stared at the tiny face, the fuzzy warm halo that stuck out all over the little head like a growth of bacterial spores. She looked at the tiny, perfect nails, unwrapped her child and checked out the bitty toes, so like miniature peas in a pod. The sister smiled approvingly.

"That's right, Mommy, check her out but you'll find she's perfect." Fanny pulled off the bit of blanket and opened the microscopic shirt. The sister chuckled. "She DOES have a couple spots of hemangioma on her back," she explained, " but it's nothing that will harm her." Fanny looked alarmed at the strange word. "It's nothing but a birth mark, dear. She has a little more than most but often they fade and luckily, they're on her back where they'll never show, anyway. Hers looks a bit like a running horse, notice? We call her our 'little pony'." She laughed and walked out, leaving Fanny alone to rhapsodize over her beautiful child...while she could.

Now, here was Marilyn with her back all exposed...revealing identical stains. Could it be possible that more than one person in the world would have the same sort of birthmarks in the same place? Fanny had understood that they were very common and few people escaped having at least SOME on some part of their body but her hopeful heart didn't want to believe it. Too, what about the gorgeous hair? Marilyn turned over.

"Fanny," she gasped. Fanny threw herself down and gathered the girl in her arms. "Oh, darling, are you all right?" She gathered the girl close. Everything else faded away, their danger, the discomfort, all that mattered was that she'd found her child. "Marilyn, my dear, I have something wonderful to tell you."

Binkie trudged unhappily along through the bushes. The river hadn't seemed so far away before and she had no way of knowing that she was travelling on a tangent, one that would carry her to the water by the most oblique angle possible. The sun grew hotter and hotter and she was obliged to throw herself down under a tree to rest. She clutched her small pink piggy bank in her hand; if it took money to get Marilyn back, she'd brought all she had. She felt tired and the moss grew in tempting moist green piles, somewhat like an overstuffed sofa pillow, soft and comfortable. It was like sitting on Gramma's lap and leaning against her chest. It would be a good place to go to sleep; Binkie jumped to her feet, she didn't want to sleep, she wanted to find Marilyn. She plunged into the bushes again.

The woods that had once seemed so wonderful were menacing today and unpleasant. Branches grabbed at her clothing and scratched her legs. They pulled her hair and released clouds of voracious insects that bit and stung her. She whimpered and her face turned red and sweaty. Her legs felt like they were going to fall off. The hum and buzz of kamikaze mosquitoes was loud in her ears and she repeated over and over, "I wanna find Marilyn, I wanna find Marilyn." It was like a mantra, or little chant that gave her energy and kept her going when she wanted to fall in her tracks. Finally there was a gleam of water, a reflection of light glinting along its surface. She ran forward.

Luckily the sight of a tied up boat checked her before she cleared the shrubbery. The bad men were here. Marilyn must be here too somewhere close by. Binkie stopped and listened, a feral little animal. She peered through her bushy screen in first one direction, then the other. She wasn't quite sure what a 'bad man' looked like, how he would differ from other men. Would he be like Freddie Kreuger with bulging eyes and long, ripping talons? She shivered and pulled back with a whimper. How could a little girl like herself find Marilyn when there were so many scary things around? She would walk back through the woods and see if there was another path, one the bad men didn't know about. She backed away through the woods.

Binkie walked along, her small feet occasionally rustling the leaves, or cracking dried sticks but she had never had any reason to be quiet before and wouldn't know how to today. She advertised her progress in varied ways and when Bill Gagnon, on watch behind the shack, heard her, he couldn't imagine who was approaching. He was considerably startled to see the muddy, tear-stained face of Binkie. Good God, the Sarge's kid! He grabbed her and shoved her into the bushes, hissing, "Stay there and be quiet."

Binkie had seldom been treated so abruptly and it startled her into obedience. Bill looked around and sighed. Perhaps she was lucky, none of the others seemed to be about. He didn't want anybody to see her, not even Don, nor Clancy; he didn't trust ANYBODY. He bent down as though tying his shoe.

"Binkie, don't make any noise. Okay?? I don't want anybody to see you, it's important." She nodded, big eyes on his face. If her idol Bill said so, that's what she would do. After all, hadn't he saved her life once already? "I'll be right back." He disappeared down the path, leaving her gnawing at her nails.

After checking on the whereabouts of his cohorts, Bill casually walked to the far side of the shack, circled it, and again came near her hiding place. Don was on watch out front and he didn't know where Clancy was but he thought he might be inside, helping to check out the rest of the cartons.

"Binkie, I'm going to show you the path to your Grampy's and I want you to run as fast as you can. Don't let anybody see you- if you hear anybody coming, ANYBODY, hear? hide in the bushes...but get your Grampa to call your Dad. Tell him to come here with help. Marilyn is here, and so is your Aunt Fanny. Understand?"

Binkie nodded again and after looking cautiously behind him, he pulled her up and said, "Scoot." He stood and watched her run off.

Bill knew it would mean the end of his career when the help came but he'd taken that into consideration when he first got involved. The problem was that he'd always liked the easy life too well. He liked nice clothes, a new car, and girls, lots of girls, enjoyed prolonging youth as long as possible with his long hair, and horsing around like a big kid. Well, there came a time- and now he couldn't jeopardize that little girl's life; smuggling was one thing but hurting kids was another. Maybe if he'd had one of his own, things might have been different but he couldn't blame his wife. What woman would want to have children with an overgorwn adolescent who two-timed her repeatedly?

It was beginning to seem that he fitted in no place. His disenchantment with the present gang had started when they had shoved Binkie into the river. NOW he also had Marilyn and Fanny to worry about. He felt sure that the smugglers would get out as soon as they got the cigarettes transferred and when that happened, he was afraid they'd do something horrible, like set the shack on fire to get rid of all the evidence at once. He'd have to think of some way to get the women out of the way of danger. But how? He walked back slowly, brooding over the possibilities. He knew better than rely on Clancy and as for Don, well, that clown would go with whichever side appeared to be winning. There was a grating crunch as he stepped on the little plastic piggy bank that Binkie had brought to ransom her friend with. The gorge rose in Bill's throat and he choked on something close to tears.

Binkie ran up the path, prepared to jump into cover at an instant as Bill had told her to. She didn't know exactly what it all meant but if he said 'get Daddy to help Marilyn and Aunt Fanny', that's just what she would do. Her legs, already tired out from the morning's exertions, began to ache. Her bladder was full and urine began to trickle down her legs. It smelled hot and overloaded with ammonia. She wiped her arm across her reddened face. She MUST continue on.

Her chubby little legs pumped automatically carrying her forward at a rapid fall. There was no way to stop except BY falling. Her heart pounded desperately in her small chest and her breath came in gasps. It was very hard to breathe and she got a severe stitch in her side. She laboured on. Clouds of gnats pursued her, drawn to her sweaty odor and sticky face. She tripped over a tree root and fell with a grunt, the wind almost knocked out of her.

Once again she struggled to her feet. It was an effort now and she threw her head back so it was easier to draw air into her lungs. Still, it came with a whistle and she was running blindly. She zoomed down the path never changing pace or direction and ran directly into her grandfather.

"BINKIE!" She fell forward into Smitty's arms. "Binkie! We've been looking all over for you. Where have you been?"

"Grandpa," she sobbed, her eyes squeezed tight-shut. She buried her face in his chest and muttered. "Bill said... call Daddy. Bill SAID...! GET DADDY...and Paul. Help Marilyn...Aunt Fanny. DO IT, Grampa." Smitty ran with her.

The two of lurched along the rough path. It wasn't easy for a middle-aged man to run with a solidly built child in his arms but Smitty did his best. He was winded when he met Mary on the trail and thrust the child into her arms. "Must time," he panted off.

Mary continued on to the house, soothing and calming the little girl. She reached the back door just as Mike and Paul careened into the driveway. Smitty erupted out the front door and pointed as he ran. "This way." They left Mary stripping the exhausted child. She bathed the small scratched body and rolled her into bed. The men ran on down the trail.

When the trio neared the river, they slowed down to catch their breath and inspect the area. Everything appeared to be quiet and no one was in sight. They crouched behind the bushes. They saw Bill Gagnon round the corner of the shack. Guerin whistled softly through his teeth.

"Psst, Bill." Bill motioned them to wait and he circled the place again but the other men had gone inside thinking HE was watching. He wasn't sure just how far they trusted him and he knew somebody would be out soon. He crept close as though relieving himself and managed to tell what had happened so far.

"Fanny and Marilyn are shut in the back room. If we try to storm the front door, I'm afraid they'll hurt them. Even if they don't dare to go quite THAT far, they might get hurt by accident."

Smitty and Paul had to agree. Paul thought a minute. He studied the building, and got an idea "Bill, YOU stay out front and if anyone tries to come out, or if you hear anybody coming, try to delay them. Sarge, can you give me a leg up?"

Guerin made a step with his hands and Paul vaulted lightly to the roof, favoring his injured arm. Smitty looked askance at Guerin but Mike grinned grimly. "He's okay." Bill went to the corner and listened; still quiet. So far, so good. Paul stole to the ridge and peered down through the vent. He could see the two women. He dropped bits of shingle down and they looked up. Motioning them to be quiet, he climbed through and dropped down. The jolt gave him a quick spasm of acute pain but he quieted Marilyn with a quick hug, then he gave his mother one before going to put his ear against the door. He could hear muttering and low voices.

There was no time to lose because he was sure the Border Patrol and State Troopers who had been called before Guerin left town would be here any minute and the action would start. "You'll have to help me pull this over," he announced and they stared at him in surprise.

"Never mind now." He motioned them to get on the other end of the big syrup vat, and began to pull it towards the door. It made a groaning sound and he stopped, looking fearfully towards the frontroom. No reaction. He placed a couple round sticks of wood underneath and it slid quietly. They pulled and tugged until they got it jammed against the door, wedged between it and the back wall of the shack. There was no way anyone could break through now, and best of all, it provided a shield should there be shooting.

"What is going on back in there? I heard a noise." Someone tried the door. "Hey, they've jammed the door somehow." Someone else tried it and cursed and retreated. "Well, so what? They can't go nowhere. Leave them in there. As soon as we get done here, a little fire will solve our problem." Paul saw the women stare at each other and he shook his head at Marilyn. "I don't think they're prepared to go quite THAT far," he lied. He sniffed for the smell of smoke but there was none; instead there was the sound of boats coming down the river, and more sounds of feet coming through the brush. Shots rang out and someone rapped on the back wall.

"Paul, Paul, can you hear me?" It was Smitty yelling his head off.

"Yeah, we're right here. We're okay, we just can't get out. What's going on?"

"The Border Patrol and the State boys are here. Bill and I are going to try to pull some of these boards off, see if we can get you out." There was a wrenching, splintering noise as they began to rip the boards away. Daylight began to leak through and in just minutes they had a sizeable opening and Paul and the women crawled through. Smitty pulled them away and into the safety of the woods as shooting erupted out front.

Paul ran around to join Guerin at the front. After the first burst of fire, the crooks realized they were outnumbered and had given up. Now they were being herded into a rough circle. The law enforcement present was overwhelming and the smugglers offered no further resistance.

The Border Patrol had caught Chet at the border with a girl friend and his car full of untaxed cigarettes. There were also several plasticene packs of cocaine. He would be gone for awhile! Guerin thought of his foolish wife; wait until she heard the news.

He looked at Paul. There was no further need for them here and the boy needed rest and attention. The corrupt officers had been herded in with the others; as for the rest, they knew where to find them when they were needed, so they hurried after Smitty and the women trailing back up the path to the Whittier's house.

Marilyn waited for Paul who wrapped his good arm about her. They went to join Guerin beside Binkie's bed. The child slept heavily, her face scratched and bruised. Marilyn regarded her tenderly. She turned to Paul with tears in her eyes. "My little rescuer," she smiled weakly.

Eileen came down the hall and joined them at the child's bedside. "Is she okay? Didn't any of you have enough sense to call a doctor?" she shrilled and her voice reached Binkie who began to thresh in her sleep.

"For God's sake, Eileen, let her rest, will you?" Guerin pulled her back down the hall into the kitchen. She turned to him and tried to rest against his chest, an act that never failed to bring him around before. As she tried to nestle, he stepped back and she stared at him wide-eyed.

"Eileen, I want to talk to you."

She gave him one of her fetching smiles, sweeping him with her long eyelashes. He stood unmoved. "Listen, Eileen, I've got a transfer and I'm moving to Madrone. I'll work out of that unit. It will be better this way. We haven't been able to work anything out and I've got to get away. I want my time with Binkie, though, understand? I insist on it."

She turned on the tears but, watching from lowered lids, could see he was unmoved. She sniffed. "I don't know what you want to go to that one-horse town for. I"M not going to bother you-" She looked hopeful, surely he would contradict this. Silence. "Well, have I ever kept you from seeing Binkie? Of course you can see her. I'm sure we can work something out," she said coquettishly.

Fanny came into the room and practical as ever, began making sandwiches and coffee. It was hard for her to keep her hands away from Marilyn, difficult to prevent her arms from encircling the girl but she had too much competition from Paul. He joined her with Marilyn in the curve of his arm. "Guess what?" He was grinning from ear to ear. His step-mother smiled at his obvious joy.

"I think I can guess your news, Paul, but do you know MINE?" He nodded gladly. Guerin turned.

"Don't tell me, let me guess?"

"Marilyn is gonna marry me! Don't you think it's the least she can do? After all, I've gone through for her-" He looked a bit shaky and his face paled.

"No kidding". Guerin felt pain for himself but pushed it down, forcing himself to rejoice in their happiness. "I think it's great and I suggest she begin by taking care of you right now. You should be home in bed."

Smitty and Mary smiled their happiness although Eileen looked a quick ten years older and distinctly disgruntled. They knew she wasn't ready to accept Marilyn as her niece, nor let her husband get away...not yet, but there were a lot of things going to happen and she'd just have to accept them whether she liked them or not.

Their joy was complete because one of the crooks had settled the question of ghosts. He confessed to booby-trapping their house in hopes of frightening them away so the smugglers could operate more freely. There'd been a system of wires and traps under the old part of the house...diabolical!

They looked at Fanny, smiling and smiling at them all; SHE'D gotten all her wishes. She'd found her daughter and it was for keeps because Paul would never let her get away. And little Binkie had been the prime mover and shaker. Wait until she heard the news! 

Binkie was practically the only one showing open dissatisfaction with the current events. She was staying with her grandparents again. Eileen had gone on a job training expedition, ostensibly learning how to be a 'buyer' for one of the local stores. It was as good a face saving situation as any she was likely to find and it took her out of town just when she found it acutely embarrassing to face people. Her excuse was that as a single parent, she was going to have to earn her own living now and as far as Binkie was concerned, her mother had been around far too long, anyway. Thus, she was happy to go to 'Grampy's.'

It seemed to Binkie that there was far too much, or far too little of everything, these days. To begin with, her father had left town and she scarcely got to see him any more while her mother- SHE was around all the time. Marilyn was busy, too busy to have time for a little girl, (or at least it seemed that way,) and Paul was ALWAYS hanging about...supposedly recuperating from a wound that had looked just a bit inflamed and so he monopolized HER friend! They were always off in corners, talking and cuddling, and having attention only for each other. Binkie moped and acted unhappy. She gathered up her pretty rocks and stones, looked at them and tossed them out the window. She colored in her favorite Snow White book and then savagely criss-crossed the page with dark, broad crayon strokes. She snapped several of her favorite colors and pushed the book aside in dismay.

Smitty pulled her up to her feet. "Binkie. If that lip gets any longer, you're gonna step on it. What IS the matter?"

"Nobody likes me anymore," she wailed. He pulled her into his arms. "Now just a minute, jest a gol-darned minute. Who is this that has his arms around you? Isn't it old Grampy? Don't I love you? And who was that woman who let you in with a hug and a kiss...who's out in the kitchen right now, making your favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Doesn't Granny love you?"

She jerked away and stood before him, a minute bundle of red-faced fury. Even her hair looked angry and it stood up in ugly spirals. "Marilyn doesn't love me. She only wants that old PAUL!" She threw a black look in his direction, fairly spitting. Smitty laughed and pulled her on to his lap. So THAT's what the matter was. Old demon Jealousy had reared his head...Binkie was jealous!

"Now, now, Pet. Sit with Grampy for a minute and let's think on this. We've got some figuring to do."

Binkie cuddled close to his big, warm body, now and then a hiccup testified to her upset feelings. Smitty sought words that might help her.

"Honey, you may not believe this, not right now but take Grampy's word for it. Have I ever lied to ya?" She shook her head. "Well, everybody loves you and all the time and always. Even when you've been a bit naughty. We're always going to love you, too." She stared into his face.

"You know, you've gotta make allowances. Marilyn is being real nice to Paul right now, after all, he saved her life."

The hellcat returned. "Well, I saved her life, too."

Smitty nodded seriosuly. "Yes. Yes, you did. You were a real, brave girl and everyone knows it. Now you've gotta be a patient one because it's going to take a few days to get things sorted out. As soon as Paul's arm feels better, he'll be going back to work and you'll have Marilyn to your self again." Binkie smiled at the thought. "Also, you know don't you, that Marilyn is your cousin? Did they tell you that Aunt Fanny is Marilyn's mother? Aren't you happy for Marilyn? You know, she wanted to find her mother more than anything and I think you could say that you helped her." Binkie was getting excited all over again. Marilyn and Paul came over and joined the two.

"Is this a closed forum or can anyone join in?" Their usual welcome was not forthcoming.

Smitty laughed and inquired, "How are things working out downtown, Paul? Everything wound up?"

"We've done all we can, for now. There's a couple, I'm sure you've got a good idea who, who will come up before the Grand Jury, and there is one who will get special commendation for 'assisting' the law. It was agreed that his role would be recognized when he testified against the officers who were acting illegally. Right now several are locked up but the last is out on his own recognizance. As soon as I get back to work, I want to see if I can help him because of what he did for the girls."

Binkie watched the words come from his mouth and he glanced at her. Somehow she didn't have that friendly, happy look he was accustomed to. He was puzzled. When she wandered away, her grandfather alerted him to the trouble.

"Gosh, we've gotta do something about that, Marilyn."

The happy girl agreed, "and I know just how to make her day!" She went over and whispered in Binkie's ear. Binkie fairly jumped out of her shoes. She turned and whooped and headed for her grandfather.

"Grandpa. Grandpa. Guess what? We're getting MARRIED."

Smitty gathered her up in his arms. "I know, Pet. I know." He carried her out to the kitchen where she repeated it all over for her grandma's sake. "Grandma, we're getting MARRIED. And know what? I'm gonna be a flower girl! I'll wear a PINK dress and...and-" Her mind bogged down at her lack of further information on weddings.

Mary grinned all over her face. "We're going to have a lot of work to do, Binkie. Marilyn is going to be busy finding her bridal gown and a lot of other things and you're going to have to help."

Binkie looked dazed. She was torn between the idea of enjoying a beautiful wedding in which she would play a big part, or trying to get Marilyn to forget all about it and just let things ride along as they'd been. She turned to her grandfather anxiously. "Grampy, if Marilyn and Paul get married, they'll go away won't they?"

"Who said we're going away? Did I hear somebody trying to get rid of us?" Paul stood before them, Marilyn nestled in the crook of his arm as if she hadn't moved since the day before. Paul pretended he was frowning at Binkie but it was his grandfather who answered him.

"Does this mean what I think it does? Can we hope to keep you kids around?"

"Yep. I don't know if you were listening but the Governor's reversed himself entirely and now says that gambling will be legal on the reservations. However, the Warriors are against the decision, feeling whether it goes on or not is not the governor's business. They want any decisions to be THEIRS... and they will make trouble. So things will probably be worse than ever. More trouble...more officers needed."

"Well, this is great news," Smitty conceded, "that you'll stay in town, I mean. It's getting a bit lonely with Mike gone in one direction and Eileen in another- if you two left also, I don't know what we'd do, do you, Binkie?"

She nodded. "Daddy's gone away and he won't be back, but he said I'm gonna visit him in Madrone just as soon as he can find somebody to take care of me when he has to work. Mama's friend Chet has gone away, too...and Aunt Fanny's boyfriend left, too."

Her grandfather nodded in a tired way. "Who will be left to stay with you and Granny? Can I stay with you until I get married?"

Smitty roared. "You bet your life, Binkie. You've got a place with us forever! I hope you NEVER leave us."

Binkie looked relieved. "I won't, Grampaw, don't worry. I can't get married right now anyway, I didn't get my chest yet."

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