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datatime: 2022-12-05 19:59:20 Author:KBxmiPwj

Einstein nuzzled and licked Travis's hand as if reassured and grateful. But he looked out the window again and issued a barely audible whimper.

As Nora strolled past the well-kept houses, the vast majority of which were in one style of Spanish architecture or another, she looked at doors and windows with a new curiosity, wondering about the people who lived within. Were they happy? Sad? In love? What music and books did they enjoy? What food? Were they planning vacations to exotic places, evenings at the theater, visits to nightclubs?

The day following her encounter with Art Streck, Nora Devon went for a long walk, intending to explore parts of the city that she had never seen before. She had taken short walks with Violet once a week. Since the old woman's death, Nora still went out, though less often, and she never ventured farther than six or eight blocks from home. Today, she would go much farther. This was to be the first small step in a long journey toward liberation and self-respect.

Near dawn he came half awake and realized that Einstein was at the bedroom window again, keeping watch. He murmured the retriever's name and wearily patted the mattress. But Einstein remained on guard, and Travis drifted off once more.

"Are you worried that it's still after you?" he asked.

Travis could see nothing threatening on the front lawn or on the street. Then a thought struck him, and he said, "Are you worried about whatever was chasing you in the woods this morning?"

Einstein pressed his snout to the glass and mewled nervously.

Einstein nuzzled and licked Travis's hand as if reassured and grateful. But he looked out the window again and issued a barely audible whimper.

"What was it out there in the forest?" Travis wondered.

Einstein glanced at him, then returned his attention to the moon-washed night. He whined softly, and his ears perked up slightly.

The dog dropped onto all fours and hurried out of the bedroom.

Because Travis was not much of a drinker, three beers were enough to insure against insomnia. He was asleep within seconds of putting his head on the pillow. He dreamed that he was the ringmaster in a circus where all the performing animals could speak, and after each show he visited them in their cages, where each animal told him a secret that amazed him even though he forgot it as soon as he moved along to the next cage and the next secret.

Before setting out, she considered having a light lunch later at a restaurant chosen at random along the way. But she had never been in a restaurant. The prospect of dealing with a waiter and dining in the company of strangers was daunting. Instead, she packed one apple, one orange, and two oatmeal cookies in a small paper bag. She would eat lunch alone, in a park somewhere. Even that would be revolutionary. One small step at a time.

Travis found him at another window in the darkened living room, studying the night on that side of the house. Crouching beside the dog, putting a hand on the broad furry back, he said, "What's the matter? Huh?"

Einstein pressed his snout to the glass and mewled nervously.

"Well, I don't think it is," Travis said. "I don't think you understand how far north we've come. We had wheels, but it would have, had to follow on foot, which it couldn't have done. Whatever it was, it's far behind us, Einstein, far down there in Orange County, with no way of knowing where we've gone. You don't have to worry about it any more. You understand?"

Near dawn he came half awake and realized that Einstein was at the bedroom window again, keeping watch. He murmured the retriever's name and wearily patted the mattress. But Einstein remained on guard, and Travis drifted off once more.

Now and then the house creaked with ordinary middle-of-the-night settling noises.

Einstein whined again and shuddered.

The dog woofed once, quietly.

Travis found him at another window in the darkened living room, studying the night on that side of the house. Crouching beside the dog, putting a hand on the broad furry back, he said, "What's the matter? Huh?"

The dog woofed once, quietly.

"Well, I don't think it is," Travis said. "I don't think you understand how far north we've come. We had wheels, but it would have, had to follow on foot, which it couldn't have done. Whatever it was, it's far behind us, Einstein, far down there in Orange County, with no way of knowing where we've gone. You don't have to worry about it any more. You understand?"

Exhausted from the emotional as well as the physical exertions of the day, Travis was soon asleep.

At four o'clock in the morning, he woke and saw Einstein at the bedroom window. The dog was standing with its forepaws on the sill, its face limned by moonlight, staring out at the night, very alert.

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