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Buffalo Ridge

Chapter 1
Tom Otto yawned. He shook his head, trying to dislodge the fatigue. Sometimes when the drive was long he would wrap his right arm over his head and try to keep his eyelids open by force. It seldom helped for long.

The worst time came right about sunrise. Except for early summer when the sun rose before 6 a.m., he would be on the road in early morning darkness. In summer, driving east on the two-lane highway, instead of stimulating his senses, the sunlight felt almost like a drug.

He drank thick, strong coffee. It was never enough, and too often it forced him to stop and pee. He had thought about taking something to keep him alert during those early morning hours. He knew other drivers took stuff. Methamphetamines, speed.

So far he had refused. It was a crutch, a weakness, some kind of failure. Then again, if it prevented him from falling asleep at the wheel, perhaps he could justify it. He wouldn’t have to tell Jeri.

Good Ice

Chapter 8
The small, folded paper reflected the streetlights, which had already switched on in early winter twilight Tuesday. Wedged behind the mailbox next to the front door, it caught Mario’s eye arriv-ing home after school. Curious, he pulled it out, unfolded and held toward the light. The note, in thick, block letters from a stubby pencil, read: “Mario, I saw what happened yesterday. You did the right thing. I’d like to see you again. Come out to the shack today after school. Tom.”

The past two days had been full of mysteries. His fat lip from Monday had subsided. Now the swollen soreness shifted to his hand. No one noticed except for Rosalyn, who missed very little. On the way to first hour class this morning she stopped by his locker.