'It's a shame your visit has to end like this,' the cop said as he turned onto the state road.
The winter after his mother passed, Mike Summers shot a possum in his home in Sarasota, FL. He’d been lying in bed, television low, phoning with Leslie about the new Planned Parenthood out on University Parkway when he heard movement in the front room.
He shushed Leslie, sat up, and listened. Nails crackling along the linoleum, sofa flaps nosed up and sniffed. Voice low, he told Leslie to stay on the line and laid the phone face-up on the bedspread. His Marlin .22 hung loaded in a sling designed for easy access because, as Leslie always said, a weapon was a tool and not a trophy.
He depressed the safety, shifting his hold to low ready, and shuffled down the hallway. At the entrance to the front room he paused, listened to locate his target and then, holding his breath, he swiveled around the corner and opened fire.
His first shot hit the thing’s shoulder and sent it tearing around the room making yipping sounds, and his second and third shots missed and blew half its head off, respectively.
He spent the following morning calling cleanup companies, but none of them would take care of the mess for a price he thought fair, so he did it himself. You could still see a faint fan of red like from a feather dipped in oil along the lower part of his sofa, and there was a scar in the vinyl flooring from the miss.
That spring, the last survivor of the preceding generation left him a tract of four undeveloped acres in Fayette County, West Virginia, where his mother’s family was from. Mike had never been there himself, and his mother never made it back after escaping first to Chicago, where Mike was born, and then to Florida. The bequestor, an uncle named Herman, left the property to his sister or any of her heirs who might be living, and by the time the lawyer found Mike and convinced him of his good fortune, poor Herman had been cold for several months.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Mike was, he said to Leslie, all done in with Sarasota and the long straight highways over-peopled with outlet stores and restaurants.
“It’s not healthy,” said Mike, who’d gone toe to toe with cancer at 40. “There’s the air pollution, water pollution, ambient radiation. And of course they just keep loading in more folks from you know where.”
He had savings from a resale website that he and Leslie’d started together and sold during the dot-com bubble, and he spent a few days tying up loose ends, then packed his car with a tent that collapsed into a backpack, clothes, cooking equipment, canned and dehydrated food, water purification kits, a crime novel, a survival manual, and his rifle, and made the fourteen hours in a single stretch. His plan, he told Leslie, was to survey the land and camp on it for a few nights before he decided what to do next, to which Leslie said he was surprised they made sleeping bags wide enough, and asked for first dibs on his fishing gear if he never came back.
Mike’s first stop the afternoon of his arrival was with the lawyer, an older man named Berman who consoled him for his loss and gave him some paperwork to sign along with a map that showed his diamond-shaped plot highlighted in yellow. The town was called Wilson Junction, and it fit entirely in the shadow of an expressway connecting two points out of state. Following the lawyer’s directions, Mike took a state road going uphill and into the woods and then a local road winding past a hunting supplies store, a McDonalds, and a Waffle House. He stopped on an incline in front of a dirt path blocked by a gate with two mailboxes that both said Summers. So this was old Herman’s place. And the next-door neighbor was family, too.
There was no phone number and no reception anyway, and, looking over the papers with annoyance, nothing about a gate, so Mike sat down to wait. By now it was early evening and Berman was probably done for the day; no doubt the neighbor would be leaving work soon, too. He locked his doors and cracked his windows, the cool mountain air lifting the damp leaf of hair from the top of his head, and before he knew it, he was fast asleep.
He was dreaming about casting off a pier into shallow water when he was startled awake by someone tapping at his slitted window and a flashlight shining in his face. Patrol lights rolled soundlessly in the rearview.
Mike shook himself awake.
“You can’t sleep here,” said a voice from behind the flashlight. His beam swept the car’s interior. “Ain’t been drinking have you?”
Mike made a show of looking for empties. His rifle lay unloaded and stowed in the back per West Virginia carry requirements.
“I’m inspecting my property,” he said. “Just got locked out is all.”
“Well this,” the cop emerged from the darkness as he switched off his flashlight, “belongs to the county. That,” he pointed to the other side of the gate, “is private land. If it’s yours, then by all means, sleep on it. But I can’t have you on a public road. It’s not safe.”
Mike nodded. Leslie always said the best way to deal with cops was to let them think you were on their side. They were only the instruments of oppression, never its agents.
He started the engine and coasted downhill, the cop following, until the Waffle House came into view. The cop waited in the road while he parked, got out, and went inside. Ladies and gentlemen, he thought, waving through the window, your hard-earned dollars at work.
It was three in the morning. Mike ate his omelet with toast and hash browns as slowly as possible, drank a half dozen coffees, and, as natural light began to fill the restaurant and the first morning diners filtered through, he searched their faces for any resemblance to his own. He charged his phone, and washed and changed in the bathroom. Then he drove back into town to see Berman, catching him just as he unlocked his office door.
“Michael, good morning!” said Berman, and invited him inside, turning on the light and moving around behind his desk.
“Did you forget to give me the keys or something?” asked Mike.
“Keys?” Berman scanned his desk like it was his own mind laid out flat. “Well, I thought I made this clear, but there’s no improvement on the property.”
Mike told him about the gate.
“You need a key for a locked gate,” said Berman, and made a face. He swiveled to the massive file cabinet behind him and thumbed past several folders before finding the right one. He fanned the papers out between them.
“As far as I’m aware, there was no provision for a key among the instruments of the deceased. He lived here in town, you know.”
“The mailbox next door was for a Summers.”
“Ah,” said Berman. “I expect there’s a relation.”
He looked up as if this was the revelation Mike was seeking.
“So how do I get a key?” asked Mike.
“You need a key for a locked gate,” said Berman again. He stretched his arms out across the desk, looked at the backs of his wrists, and then flipped both palms face-up. “That could be a problem if the gate itself isn’t part of the estate.” He leaned back and removed his glasses. “You know, this is not entirely uncommon in this part of the state. Absentee landowners splicing and dicing their plots with no sense for the layout of the land. Created some really interesting situations. Actually, I – ” he got up and walked across the room and came back with a shrink-wrapped book that he slid across the desk. “Free of charge. I’ve given up on turning a profit. Anyway, if there’s no direct entry point, you’ll have to speak with the adjacent owner. Right of way can be a thorny issue, especially if you’re planning on making changes to the land.”
The book was called Eternal Tenants: A Legal History of Fayette County. Mike turned it over and read the back cover. Since the earliest settlement of the Greenbrier Valley, absentee landowners have…In his author’s photo, Berman was sitting in the same chair, before the same file cabinet, in nearly the same expectant position.
“Don’t I have to see it before I know if I want to change it?” asked Mike.
“Change?” Berman had been staring at himself. “Exactly right. So,” he looked at the clock and then at the papers on his desk. “Let me go through these so that I can present a more complete picture of the path moving forward. And if you come back at half past one?” Now looking at his watch, comparing it to the clock. “I should be able to give you some answers then.”
Mike nodded and stood, taking the book, and Berman escorted him out. From the safety of the car, he called Leslie.
“What’s this lawyer’s name?” asked Leslie. Mike told him. “Yep,” said Leslie.
“You know what that means.” Mike frowned to himself. “I think it’s a different sort of thing.”
“Just watch your pockets, Mikey. Stay frosty. That’s all I’m saying.”
He couldn’t very well spend all morning camped in the parking lot, so he drove north until he hit the outskirts of Charleston, then turned around and came back. The expressway roared alongside a river that fed over dams and under ancient metal bridges. Here and there old factory chimneys poked through the trees, and along the shore itself lay crumbling brick out-buildings, roofs long since fallen down into the water. Other than that, the valley was so beautiful and empty that you’d have thought a plague had swept it plumb clear.
Mike got back to Wilson Junction a little before one and ate in a Denny’s. By the time he was done, it was half past. Berman was waiting for him when he arrived.
“Michael,” said Berman. “Please.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat.”
“Well,” said Berman, throwing up his hands as if yielding to the superior argument. “You were right. The adjacent plots are family owned.” He pulled out a new map with Mike’s yellow diamond sandwiched between larger slices of pink and green. “Here, see, is your plot. This to the west of yours belongs to Terry Summers, and this to the east belongs to Rick Summers. And the private access lane,” he traced the squiggly line coming down like a string from Mike’s kite, “that’s the one I’m thinking that you ran into, runs along the border of Terry’s and Rick’s properties and down to the road here.” He tapped the map where a thicker line meant the county road. “So unless you parachute in, you’ll have to pass by Terry and Rick. They’d have to let you establish right of ingress and egress.”
Mike rubbed the bridge of his nose. Berman was either up to something, or he was proving the old saw that stupid and educated were for different sets of measurements.
“And who do you work for?”
Berman tilted his head.
“I mean right now,” said Mike. “Are you my lawyer or the family’s lawyer or what?”
“Ah yes,” said Berman, smiling. “I represent Herman’s estate. And in that capacity, it’s my responsibility to ensure that all of Herman’s wishes are carried out according to the intent of his instructions. For example, if he had access to the land and he wanted you to have it, the land, we can reasonably assume that he wanted you to have that access as well. So if you go and meet with Rick and Terry and they don’t allow you access, then my knowledge of the will would probably serve to your advantage, although I’m not technically your lawyer, I’m the estate’s. However, if the disagreement was over something like you wanting to bring in a backhoe to build some sort of structure up there, then again, as Herman’s lawyer, I might be harder pressed to say that the will afforded you that kind of protection. Does all that make sense?”
Mike nodded. About as much as it ever would.
“As I said,” said Berman, “this is a fairly common predicament here in this part of the state, where there’s a complicated legacy – ”
“So what do I do?” asked Mike.
Berman sighed. “Right now, and I give this advice not as a lawyer but simply man to man, I would go and talk to Rick and Terry. I don’t happen to know either of them, but a reasonable person will understand your predicament and try to work out some sort of accommodation. And if that doesn’t do the trick, come back in here and we’ll talk about getting you representation. Maybe they’ll want to buy you out. And I would warn you that establishing an easement can be quite difficult if it’s contested. Although this particular instance seems fairly straightforward.”
There was no listing for either Summers in the phone book, and Berman’s only contact for the family was one of Herman’s daughters living in Charleston, so they left her a message. Then they drafted a letter explaining Mike’s position and how he hoped his relationship with Rick and Terry would develop moving forward. They printed off two copies and made copies of the map, and Mike drove out of town and back up to the turnoff. He was stuffing the second mailbox when a pickup stopped in front of the gate.
A man with Mike’s conehead and tiny nose squeezed out from between his eyes slouched behind the steering wheel. In the back row sat a pair of teenaged boys. Mike raised a hand in greeting, walked over to the driver-side window, and explained why he was there.
“So we must be cousins or something,” he said.
The man squinted at him through the window without rolling it down. “Pleasure to meet you,” he said. His voice vibrated off the glass and came out to Mike slightly warbled.
“Are you Rick or Terry?”
“Hi Terry,” said Mike. He bent forward to meet him at eye level. “Hi kids.” He waved to the back seats. “I guess my property doesn’t run all the way down to the road, so I was hoping we could come to some sort of agreement,” he used air quotes around agreement, “regarding access. It would be great if I could use the path for the next week or so while I check everything out, and then we can work out an arrangement for the long term.”
Terry was already shaking his head.
“I’d have to talk to my brother about that,” he said. “In the meantime, it’s difficult for me to assume either way, so the safest course would be to say no. With respect.”
He nodded to one of the boys, who hopped out and walked up to the gate.
“I’m sorry?” asked Mike.
“No,” said Terry through the window. He took his hands from the wheel and shook them like he was holding a snow globe. “Listen man, I got kids. I gotta think of their safety.”
“Safety?” asked Mike. “Now wait a minute.” He moved towards his car. “Wait a minute, I got a driver’s license and copies of all the relevant documents.”
But Terry was already pulling away. The boy retrieved Mike’s letters, closed the gate, and caught up to the truck without looking back. They drove into the woods and out of sight.
Mike waited by his car, dumbfounded. When it was clear they weren’t coming back, he walked to the gate. The path climbed a rise and disappeared down the other side.
He went back to his car and checked his phone. No signal. He didn’t know which was more distasteful, hillbillies or lawyers, but donuts to dollars they working together. Leslie would have a field day with this particular violation of rights. Leslie would know what to do.
Mike looked around the car for inspiration. His tent and rifle were bagged in the back seat. Well there was a thought. A dumb one, anyway.
One thing he had in spades was time. There was no cubicle waiting for him, no wife to wonder when he’d be home. He started the car, moved it around parallel to the gate so that no one could come in or out without, and settled down to wait.
The afternoon passed into evening and then turned dark, and there was still no sign of life from beyond the gate. Remembering the cop from the night before,
'Mike Summers,' he yelled. 'Come out of there! We want to talk to you!'
Mike finally gave up his vigil shortly after midnight and drove back in the direction of the highway until he found a turnoff wide enough that he could park without being in the way. He’d just closed his eyes when he was woken by a flashlight rapping against the window.
Mike started the car and opened the window.
“What’s going on here man?” he asked. “Are you just following me around or what?”
The cop smiled.
“I follow the law,” he said. “And the law says you can’t sleep in the road. I could write you a ticket if I wanted.”
“A ticket?” said Mike. He looked around at the silent woods. “Who am I bothering?”
The cop stooped over the window.
“What you’re doing out here is the real question. You don’t have somewhere to be? Seems like I might be the least of your worries.”
Mike closed his eyes and shook his head.
“There’s a motel first exit towards Charleston on I-64,” said the cop. “Don’t let me catch you out here again.”
He followed Mike onto the expressway and flashed his lights as they approached the exit and the promised motel, then continued on without him. Mike, who had never done a thing simply because he’d been told to, drove around on back roads until he was so lost he was sure the cop couldn’t find him, and went back to sleep.
The next morning he drove back into town and parked his car in front of Berman’s office. Then he called a cab from a number he found online, bringing his tent, his backpack crammed with spam, bottled water, and dehydrated dinners-in-pouches, and his rifle.
Once the cab was out of sight, he slipped around the edge of the gate and started up the path, sticking to the side so that he could jump off into the woods if he heard anyone coming. He was already sucking wind as he crested the first rise. By the time he’d lost sight of the road, the back of his shirt was soaked. His chest was beating against his shirt, and every step loosed a string of pebbles down behind him.
But still, there was nothing in Florida half as pretty. Nothing with this crazy idea of slope, rising and falling according to its own rules. Trees with half their roots exposed reached up all around him. Ash? Maple? He’d learn their names eventually. Poplar? Masses of bushes with a flower like a white pipe cleaner spread along both sides of the road. He’d learn all about those too.
And the air. No stale water here. No swamp gas. A light breeze crisped in his mouth and carried the impression of something floral, and wood of course. Musk. If there was paradise, this was it, and if not, it was good enough.
About a half mile up, he came to a place where a path barely wide enough for a car turned off to the left. Terry’s place. A ways past that – by this point he was lightheaded and kept having to clear his eyes with a handkerchief – came another turnoff to the right. That would be Rick, which meant his own parcel lay ahead, and sure enough, the next rise revealed the end of the path in a clearing with a brick chimney next to an aluminum folding chair.
Mike trekked to the chair, let everything fall from his shoulders, and sat down on the ground, hands shaking. He mussed around in his backpack until he found a PowerBar. The shaking stopped, and he lay for a while on his back watching the sky.
This was his. He’d gone through hostile country and made it to safety.
The first order of business was to build a fire and find water. Leaving everything but his rifle, he went on a circular walk around the campsite, eyes peeled for boundary markers so he was sure to stay within his limits. He saw none. This really was virgin territory, pioneer living, the same promise of a new start that had brought waves of his own Scots-Irish ancestors tumbling down throughout the Appalachians, and from deep within, he felt something leap at the prospect of reconnecting to the past.
He was about halfway done with his circle, so directly opposite the access road, when he found water, a thin trickle passing from a crevice between two rocks and falling into a muddy pool below. No divining rod needed here! He cut back across the property – pioneer instincts! biological compass! – and returned with a plastic bag that he opened under the crevice and filled. He walked back with the bag laid across his shoulders and ate another PowerBar while he gathered leaves and twigs for the fire.
He used a fire starter to get things going, blew on the smoke and added more twigs until he saw the first flames, then added a little stick, a bigger stick, Berman’s book, which had somehow made it into his backpack instead of the survival manual, and finally a log. When the log caught, he filled a collapsible kettle, a coffee filter across the top to catch any dirt, placed it on top of the grate that lay across the fireplace, and sat back until it began to steam.
For his first drink in the new world, he decided on hot chocolate with marshmallows. For his first real meal, dehydrated beef stroganoff. When he was done, he went back to the stream and washed the bowl and the mug and filled another water bag to save for later. The tent went up with hardly any work at all, and he laid his sleeping bag out on the floor.
Now what? He squatted down next to the tent and surveyed the scene. He had his fire, his shelter. He wasn’t hungry anymore. Not bad for a first-timer.
It occurred to him as he took out a pack of spam and a bag of dehydrated veggies that the chimney had probably been there since before his mother was a girl. She’d probably even built a fire in it. He liked the thought of that. Uncle Herman and she must have come up all the time as kids and it had been one of her favorite places in the whole world, which was why Herman had left it to her when he passed. It had to be true.
Another lap around the property didn’t turn up anything except for a rotten tennis ball lying amongst some rocks, so he made himself the spam and veggies and hung the rest of his food from a tree. By the time he’d walked back down to the stream to wash his utensils and come back up with another bag of water, it was starting to get dark in a way that it never did down in the Sarasota sprawl. He rechecked his food and waited until the fire burned down to embers, then nestled down with his book and flashlight.
Lying on his stomach with the whole world circumscribed to the peaked limits of the tent walls, he felt a deep steadying that must have been peace. The only sound was treetops rustling in the evening breeze. No traffic, no radios, not even the ambient hum of electricity coursing through the walls. Man in the state of nature. John Locke would be proud.
It had been truly dark for maybe an hour or so when he heard a noise that wasn’t the wind or the satisfying flap of a page turning. Something at the edge of the clearing, a branch being nosed aside and snapping back into place. He put down the book and listened. Nothing. Maybe an animal stopped in surprise. The old saw about them being more afraid of you than you of them. But there it was again, impossible to say where but close enough for discomfort. Did they have deer? He thought of the survival manual back in his car. No alligators, obviously. Cougars? Wolves? Bears?
A branch crunched underfoot.
“Hey!” yelled Mike.
Whatever it was stopped. Mike swallowed hard. He put down his book.
“I said hey!”
Silence. Mike reached for his rifle.
“Terry?” he called. “Rick? If there’s someone out there, I need to hear your voice.”
Still nothing. Mike unzipped the rifle bag and sat up Indian style. He flipped off his flashlight. A pause that felt predetermined. Then one side of the tent sprang inwards as a rock hit it from outside. Another rock pinged off a piece of metal. There was a grunt, and an instant later something bigger – it had to be the folding chair – ripped one of the tent poles out of the ground, dropping a nylon panel onto Mike’s head.
“Hey,” he yelled. “Stop it!”
But there was no stopping. Another rock hit the back of his neck through the fabric. He fell forward onto his belly and crawled towards the front flap, struggling to put enough tension against the zipper to unzip it. The light from the embers fell only a few feet beyond the base of chimney, and there was nothing to see. He poked his head out and twisted around to the left, and a tennis ball nearly hit him in the face.
“Terry?” he yelled. “I said stop it!”
He scuttled back into the tent and tried to think. His position was untenable. Online, they said that if retreat was not an option, you had to take the offensive. Meet force with force. Crawling forward again, he slid the rifle’s muzzle through the flap. From the prone position, he drew a bead on the silhouette of a tree standing just beyond the chimney and pulled the trigger. The bullet whistled out into the night, and the shell ejected into the nylon and bounced back against his thigh, singeing him as another rock pinged against a tent pole.
Drawing in a breath, he pushed himself through the flap and rose into an offhand firing position, sighting lower down on the tree where the trunk split. He felt something hit him in the gut as he squeezed off two rounds, the bullets sending up sprays of woodchips.
Someone swore in the darkness and took off through the woods going towards Terry’s house, and another ran in the opposite direction. Mike turned towards the first sound and fired twice, and then twice more at the second, aiming high so the bullets would pass over their heads, and let out a whoop that came from nowhere and echoed off the trees. Then he sank into a crouch.
He was panting and his hands were shaking. The tent lay mounded behind him. They said that in the heat of the moment you wouldn’t realize how badly you’d been hurt, so he lifted his undershirt and checked himself out. A welt was forming near his belly button, but there was probably enough fat there to save him from anything serious. He leaned against a tree to catch his breath and then stalked a circle around the clearing to make sure they’d gone for good. He stoked up the fire. One of the tent poles was bent but nothing was broken. He pulled the folding chair off to the side, stuck the pole ends back into the ground, and got the thing back up and in useable shape. Count one for the good guys.
He put on pants. The tent was an obvious target; no way could he spend the rest of the night there. Near the edge of the clearing was a spot where two young trees grew towards each other to make a kind of nest against which he could lean. He refilled his magazine from a pouch within the rifle bag, slipped a handful of rounds into his pocket, and sat down to wait.
From below came the sound of someone gunning down Terry’s driveway. He watched the truck’s brake lights as it turned towards the main road. Maybe they were going to gather a posse. He imagined a whole army of them, dirty and half drunk, tightening the noose as they came up the hill.
What would Leslie do? He wished he had Leslie, good old Leslie right there with him, Butch and Sundance ready to go down together.
He leaned back into his nest. He couldn’t run from what was his. Couldn’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Nothing to do but stay frosty and force a fair fight if and when they came for him.
He spent a long time waiting. When they did come just as the sun snuck over the trees, it was a different sort of assault entirely. Mike could scarcely believe his red-rimmed eyes. The pickup led the way, and behind it was a police car. There would be no final shoot out.
They parked beneath the edge of the clearing. Terry and one of his sons got out of the truck, and the cop who’d been dogging him for the last two nights got out of the police car holding up his hands to show that he wasn’t drawing a weapon.
“Mike Summers!” he yelled. “Come out of there! We want to talk to you!”
Mike waited. They hadn’t seen him; the cop was addressing the empty tent.
“Mike! Come on now!”
Mike stood, his knees and hips cracking from sitting, and crossed into the clearing well in front of them so they wouldn’t be spooked, rifle pointed to the ground.
“I figured you all for buddies,” he said.
The three of them walked into the clearing.
“Now Mike,” said the cop, but Terry cut in.
“You son of a bitch,” he said. “You shot at my kids?”
Mike looked at the boy. It wasn’t as if they’d identified themselves.
“His brother’s in the emergency room,” said Terry. “Broke his ankle running away from you, you maniac. Is that your idea of a nice little vacation, to menace boys?”
He’d been the once being menaced, but it seemed like the wrong time to lift up his shirt and present evidence.
The cop said, “Terry here is talking liability. Considering it was on your property and you were causing them to run.”
“Liability?” asked Mike. “They were trespassing.”
“And where’re your boundary markers?” asked Terry.
Mike looked to the cop, who smiled half-heartedly.
“It’s a free country,” said the cop. “But there’s no reason you all can’t be civil. You’re family, after all.”
“This guy waits outside my driveway for two nights and then he sneaks onto my property and shoots at my kids and you want me to be civil?” asked Terry. And then to Mike, “I’m gonna sue you right back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”
“Terry,” said the cop. He turned to Mike. “I bet you could use a shower and a real bed. Let’s get your things packed, and I’ll drive you into town. Then you can think about what comes next.”
Mike understood; they were all against him. Best to go along until he had a better picture of how it all might shake out. He strapped the gun to his back, crawled into the tent and rolled up his sleeping bag. The cop emptied the drinking water into the fire and helped him take down the tent. Neither of them remarked on the rocks scattered throughout the clearing or the charred bits of bookbinding in the remains of the fire.
“You want my advice?” whispered the cop, looking downhill. “I’ve known Terry nearly all my life, and I think he’d be amenable to a deal. This land ain’t worthless.”
Mike ground his teeth.
“Just my two cents,” said the cop.
The cop waited while Mike packed the rest of his things and collected his trash. Then he pointed towards the waiting car.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you out of here.”
He opened the back door.
Mike tucked his head and scooted in. Through the grated rear window, he watched Terry and his kid disappear, and the chimney along with them.
“It’s a shame your visit has to end like this,” the cop said as he turned onto the state road. “It’s a beautiful area. Nice folks. Plenty to do. If it’s hiking you’re after, there’s a public trail I can show you down the highway. In the fall, people come from all over for the leaves.”
For the leaves. It was a sad day when even a hillbilly cop didn’t know there was nothing in the world so important as finding a place among your own people.
“All I’m saying,” said the cop. “You had nothing and now you’ll get something, and that’s better than nothing. All this trouble for a campsite? Shit, we got campsites you can use for free.”
He left Mike at his car and wished him best of luck. Mike was stowing his things when a sedan pulled up. Berman got out and started in towards his office. He stopped halfway.
“Michael,” he said, face full of concern. “What happened?”
Like he didn’t already know.
Jeff Bakkensen lives in Boston. Recent fiction has appeared in The Lullwater Review, Oblong Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, and The Antigonish Review.