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could confront the population of Everett.
He went in.
In a mirror, with most of the backing peeling away, he discovered that
Nick Danson was rather good looking, if you overlooked the damage. His
blocky, rugged face was smeared with dirt and dried blood, with a slight
stubble shadowing his lean cheeks. The mop of tangled black hair had a
lot of red splotches in it from the blood he'd lost. He filled the bowl
with tepid water and began soaping his face and hands vigorously, even
though it hurt. After washing most of the blood from his hair, he found
a comb in a pocket and whipped some order into the matted, dark mass.
The attendant was standing at the counter when Nick came out of the
restroom. He was an elderly man with receding grey hair, a hawk nose and
grizzled features set firmly into a face that looked like a dried apple.
He grinned and the gold cap on an eye tooth flashed dully.
"Thought I heard someone in here," he said around the chew that pouched
his cheek. "Car break down on ye?"
"I'm walking," Nick told him.
"Yer a long way from any kind 'o town, son ... say," he said suddenly
noticing the scratch marks. "Y' been fightin' a bobcat?"
Nick shook his head and fished for a lie. "Got drunk last night and into
a brawl. My friends pitched me out of the car in a moment of
playfulness." He hoped he had put enough bitterness into the explanation
to make it ring true.
The old man chuckled softly. "Durned shame, son. Y'from around here?"
"New York," Nick lied. "I'm stayin' in Everett."
"Everett," the old man cackled. "Hell, that's fifteen miles south
o'here, or better." He paused, swiveled his bird-like head and spat a
jet of brown juice through the open door. "Tell y'what, son, seein's how
you'll have t'walk it down there. Ain't no one goin' that way, I know
of. S'pose y'could thumb it, but it'd be hard. Lonely road, y'see. If
y'don't mind waitin' till after supper, I'll run y'down to town. Drop
y'off where y'want to go."
"Hadn't thought of waiting so long," Nick told him. "What would I do?
Just sit here?"
"Hell no! In th' back room there's a cot. Been sleepin' there myself
sometimes, since m'wife passed along back in '53. December of '53 it
was. I'll wake ye, come supper."
With the hunger gnawing at his stomach, Nick took a cellophane wrapped
pie from the counter and began eating it. He handed the old man a
"S'funny," the old man said, ringing up the sale, "ye don't smell like a
drunk. Ought t'be some likker smell to y'son."
"I was drinking vodka," Nick countered, wondering how he had pulled that
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