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Don't Stop Believing

Before it could freeze, Brendon wiped his face of the sweat that had overwhelmed his few selfish tears. He looked at the upturned earth with anxiety and a touch of odd satisfaction. The night grew deeper and darker, colder by the minute, the trees surrounding him leaning in with curiosity. The footfalls of deer-animals too low rent for Westchester-terrified him because he was sure they already knew what had happened. He could only delay the vengeance on his heels so long.

The police didn't frighten him. All they could do was arrest him. The charges couldn't stick. The company for whom Brendan worked had lawyers enough to drown any court in appeals and demands for changes of venue. Even without the resources at his disposal, this crime was at worst involuntary manslaughter. He had not provided her with the cocaine, though he would have had the night continued in its proper course.

People spoke of this family in whispers, when they spoke of them at all. They could easily make those who crossed them disappear, but they didn't. Not totally. After months, police would find a finger, a bit of bone, some teeth. Enough to make sure the deceased could be identified. They wanted people to know. The police never prosecuted or even formally accused, but everyone on the street-everyone above a certain pay grade, that is-would know.

She had been a means to an end, in part, in that some parts of him felt warmly toward her-her chirp of laughter at his well-rehearsed jokes, the way her platinum blonde hair fell over her thin shoulders.

Brendon removed the stolen coveralls-the ensemble of some blue-collar loser living in a zip code outside his tax bracket-feeling for a moment almost more embarrassed for his semi-nudity on this December night than for what brought him here. He considered leaving the pilfered clothes in the woods or throwing them in the Hudson, but there might have been prints on them. When the susurrus of the wind found him, he felt a chill.

He tossed the coveralls on the tarp in the trunk of his De Ville and fast-forwarded to "Don't Stop Believin'" on his cassette deck for the long journey back to the City.

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Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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