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The wet sleeve of Vivian Montgomery’s rain soaked coat was squeezed tightly around her right arm.  She reacted automatically, pulling to get free.  When she saw it was Jake, she stopped resisting and looked into his hot eyes.

“I’m sorry, Jake.  I really am,” she said. “It’s just that I saw you go into the forest every few days, and I just couldn’t resist learning what was up.” Jake held her arm and started walking her back down the trail with the lightened pack on his back.

“And what was up?” Jake said with a sullen expression.

“I don’t really know, Jake. Honestly.” Vivian began to feel fear. “I just saw you feeding a garden among the trees.”

“You really should be straight with me, neighbour, if we’re ever going to get along comfortably,” Jake said in a surprisingly gentle tone.  Vivian ruminated on this for a moment, then she turned to look into Jake’s eyes again. They were expressionless.

“Okay. If I’m going to enjoy life in this unique situation, I guess I have to become part of the local scene,” Vivian muttered. “I admit that I saw a carefully laid out marijuana outdoor grow op.”  Immediately, Jake’s grip on her arm relaxed.

“Well, the way those words rolled out of you so easily, it seems you’re not ignorant of drugs,” Jake said, continuing down the path with Vivian.  When they emerged onto the dirt road, Vivian started to say goodbye to Jake and turn up toward her cabin.  The rain was still pelting down, but she had barely noticed it since Jake grabbed her.

“No you don’t, neighbour. You’re coming with me,” Jake said.  Vivian protested, and sputtered lame threats at him while he again grasped her arm in an iron grip and led her up the road to his cabin.

“Just take off your muddy boots and wet coat in this alcove, before we go inside,” he said. “Leave your boots on the tray and hang your coat on a hook.” Jake steered her into a surprisingly cozy kitchen. It even had stainless steel appliances and Vivian knew how much they cost.

“You have a very nice place here,” Vivian said.  Jake sat her down in an old ladder-back chair at his small pine table. He set about making coffee.

“When can I go home?” she said, in as steady and relaxed a voice as she could muster.

“It ain’t up to me,” Jake said. “I’ll have to get in touch with Wizard.”

“Who’s Wizard?” she said.  Her nerves were jumpy.

“The man I work for.  I need to climb up to the top of Ealow Hill to get a cellphone connection,” he said, “right after we warm up with coffee.”

“Are you taking me with you?”

“No,” Jake said. He took Viv by the arm and moved her so easily, it was like a puppeteer moving a marionette to his bathroom doorway. “In you go,” he said. “You have a toilet, tub, shower, cold water, hot water, so you’re safe and comfortable for half an hour.

Vivian stepped reluctantly onto the carpeted floor and Jake closed the door and locked it. Vivian looked to the window, high up near the ceiling, only to realize that anything larger than a house cat would not fit through it. She sat on the toilet seat and thought.  She heard Jake’s footsteps fade as he headed up the hill, then the air was filled with the cacophony of insects’ mating songs. The rain let up and the sun cracked through on the western horizon.