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After tending to plot C, Jake led the way out of the forest and onto the muddy road.  They strode up the road, Vivian following him with the now lighter duffle bag on her back.  When he came to the front of his cabin, he stopped and took the bag from Viv.

“Want a cold beer?” he said.  Vivian was taken aback for a moment, it was so unexpected.  He’d barely spoken to her except to criticize her efforts to fulfill the job she felt obliged to do, under Black’s threat. Viv thought for a moment about the potential for trouble with Jake.  Then she decided that he could have done anything at any time, if he’d wanted to, and he’d been strictly business, until this moment.

“I guess I could use one, thanks,” she said, mopping her forehead with her sleeve.

“C’mon in,” Jake said, and entered his cabin’s mud room. They removed their mud laden boots and put them side by side on a boot tray. Jake led the way through a spacious, sparsely furnished living room to a small, convenient kitchen.  She stood in the doorway while he took two cold bottles of Heineken out of his fridge, opened them and handed one to her.

“How come,” Vivian ventured,” you barely acknowledge me all day, speak only to bark instructions, and then you invite me into your home?”

“That was business hours,” he said.  “This is after hours.  I’m on my own time now.” Vivian couldn’t stifle a laugh.

“You talk about it like it was a regular, clock-punching job in a plant.”

“That’s the way it is in Black’s outfit. No loosey goosey attitude here. Black is very successful because he runs a tight ship.  Any slackers are eliminated.”

“What kind of eliminated would that be?” Vivian said.

“I ain’t sayin’ no more.  I got carried away here and said a lot more than I should have,” Jake said. “We’re not part of Black’s operation, we’re just what he calls agents. Now we change the subject, and I hope you never slip up and reveal that I spoke to you like this.”

“So Black is really tough, eh?” Vivian said.

“He takes what he wants,” Jake said, “end of subject.”  Each was quiet for several minutes, sipping from their bottles contemplatively. Finally, they began to speak together.

“Do you like living alone… ” Vivian said.

“Why did you choose to live… ” Jake said at the same time. They laughed together at the verbal collision. “Why did you choose to live out here?”

“I wanted to get away from the social pressures of city life, corporate life, and decided that, at fifty, I should live the way I want, not the way I must,” Vivian said.

“You’re not fifty,” Jake laughed.  “You’re gorge… you look like you’re barely my age.”

“Thank you. Why did you stop what you were going to say,” she said.

“I don’t want to have trouble with Black,” he said. “He might want you for himself right away, or at some time in the future.  Either way, I don’t want any heat over flattering you, or getting together with you.”  Vivian thought about that for a moment. She decided to return to the previous subject.

“I know that where there’s more people, there’s more trouble,” she said. “Where there’s less people, there’s less trouble.”

“I guess you’re disappointed,” Jake said.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“You’re out here, just you and me, and you’re in trouble anyway.”

 

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