IT HAD been almost a year since Tracy Shaw had seen Centreville. He’d been an apprentice lineman then, getting experience under some of the older hands before he took over a district of his own. In the meantime an air training centre had been established just outside of town. Centreville was climbing up the shaky rungs of a “duration” boom. Houses were at a premium. Restaurants were doing a land-office business. Taxis shuttled back and forth between Centreville and the airfield, where only dusty farm wagons had rolled before.
Several months spent working out from head office of Interurban Hydro had been designed to teach Tracy Shaw—young, lean, tanned—something of diplomacy. The very thing the lack of which had cost Mike Curtis his position at Centreville only yesterday. With good men scarce the company hadn’t wanted to lose Mike, had offered him a construction job to keep him; but Mike had told the Old Man to take his construction job and jump off a pole with it.
That was Mike. As a practical lineman, one of the best in the West; but no diplomat. Now Tracy had been sent from head office to relieve him, and Mike Curtis wasn’t going to like that.
Tracy managed to get a room at the hotel until he could find a place to board, and almost the first person he bumped into was Mike Curtis. Mike was sitting on a stool at the lunch counter when Tracy came in. He raised his eyebrows as Tracy slid into the next seat, and went right on eating.
“Hello, Mike,” Tracy said.
“What’s good today?” Tracy asked.
Mike turned sideways and looked him up and down, his expressionless eyes dwelling longest on the red Interurban insignia that was stitched on the left breast of Tracy’s heavy flannel shirt.
“If you wanta be fussy,” Mike said shortly, “just order a cup of coffee. You can’t go far wrong on that.”
“Thanks.” Tracy glanced at his predecessor’s square, rugged face out of the corner of his eye. Mike Curtis looked about as friendly as a pair of blunt-nosed pliers.
Tracy picked up a menu. “You staying on in Centreville, Mike?”
“You’d like me to, wouldn’t you, Shaw?”
“I don’t know . . . why?”
“Then every time you pass me you can say, ‘There goes the bad example.’ It ought to make you very happy.”
Tracy restrained an impulse to snap back at Mike. His orders had been to avoid all unpleasantness. “Look,” he said. “I’m sorry as blazes about you losing this job. I came here to work, not to gloat. Fair enough?”
“Nuts!” Mike Curtis hunched over the counter. “You’re like all the rest of these Interurban up-and-comers.”
“And what’s that like?” Tracy enquired, with an edge to his voice.
Mike slowly and deliberately took a mouthful of coffee before he replied. “You’re nothing but a lot of hand shakers and baby kissers. You wouldn’t know the difference between a transformer bushing and an S. & C. fuse unless ...”
Tracy’s eyes had strayed to a movement behind the counter. They widened, and stayed there.
“On the other hand,” he interrupted, “who wouldn’t promote public relations?”
The waitress was standing in front of him, a tall, willowy redhead with a pair of cool grey eyes. Tracy grinned at her, and Tracy’s grin was infectious, but the redhead didn’t smile.
“Friend of yours, Mike?” she asked.
Mike said. “No. Just the guy who’s taking over my job. Tracy Shaw.”
“Oh,” said the redhead, and it seemed to Tracy that her manner became perceptibly cooler. The name “Nora” was embroidered on her white apron. Nora. It suited her, somehow.
“Aren’t you ordering?” Mike said gruffly.
“Ordering? Oh—sure.” Tracy looked at Mike, caught the scowl that momentarily darkened his face. Then he turned back to the girl, looked into those level, unfriendly grey eyes.
“I get it,” he said softly.
“Get what?” Mike growled.
Tracy placed the palms of his hands flat on the counter, squirmed into a more comfortable position on the stool, and beamed at Mike, then at the girl. “Bring me the half spring chicken,” he said. “I’m getting an appetite for this job.”
IT TOOK Tracy less than a week to get the hang of things in Centreville. There was no argument about Mike’s qualifications as a lineman. The substation was as clean as a shiny new insulator, and there wasn’t a sloppy guy or tie wire in the whole distribution system. Mike’s transmission lines obviously hadn’t missed their regular checkups either. The trees were neatly barbered, and every pole was well fireguarded.
Mike wasn’t popular, though. It was easy to see why he’d been given the boot— after Tracy had met and talked with the Mayor and councillors. They all had an axe into Mike Curtis. He’d been rough with the Mayor, insulted half the members of the council, and shocked the wives of the other half. In fact no one in town had a good word to say for Mike. Except Nora Paige. The fact struck Tracy as rather odd. Nora was, without a doubt, the best-looking redhead Tracy had ever seen. She had poise, too. You could see she’d been well brought up. Mike wasn’t so bad, he supposed, if you liked the he-man type, tough and rugged. But a girl like Nora—it just didn’t seem to fit.
Mike hung around, doing the odd house wiring job in Centreville and in the surrounding villages. Tracy didn’t see him often. He was too busy. The airfield people were trying to install an emergency standby plant, and everything went wrong with it. Tracy helped them as much as he could, but he was dubious about the ability of the equipment to stand up under the growing electrical load in the hangars and shops. Whenever he ran across Mike between worries he passed him with a brief nod which Mike never once acknowledged.
But neither Mike nor the airfield were the uppermost problems in Tracy’s mind as time went on. He began to be harnessed by visions of a tall redhead with level grey eyes, a girl who always treated him as impersonally as she did any casual stranger who dropped in for a meal. It was this challenge to his personality that first intrigued Tracy, but it wasn’t long before he discoverer! that a less tangible feeling was stirring in him.
He watched Nora over the top of his coffee cup as she moved efficiently up and down the counter, smiling and chatting with the regular customers. He caught himself thinking jealously of them. Nora would raise her eyebrows at him and say “yes,” “no” or “thank you,” as the occasion required. That was all. Tracy got so he was trying desperately to break through her reserve, aqd he excused it to himself by saying that he was getting along so well with everyone else in Centreville that it didn’t seem right to to have a bad friend. But it was more than that.
Part of his training around head office had been to learn the value of patience and persistence in public relations. Gradually their conversation passed the monosyllable stage. After all, Tracy was young, and his features were strong and clean cut, and his blue eyes and his grin were hard to ignore. It was three weeks before he got a real smile from Nora. After a while she actually began to look pleased when he came in, and by that time it was too late to do anything about it. Tracy had looked into the most dazzling pair of eyes on earth, looked long and eagerly, and that was the end—and the beginning. He was in love with Nora Paige. In love with Mike Curtis’ girl.
OCTOBER was spicing the air before he was invited out to her house. From then on it went more easily. One autumn evening, with the smell of burning leaves hanging heavy in the still air, they stood at the gate to Nora’s house and Tracy took her, unprotesting, into his arms. It was a long, hungry kiss, and he put into it all the frustration of his campaign, all the joy of victory. It seemed as natural as though it had been ordained to happen just like that.
After he released her, Tracy said, “What about Mike, Nora?”
Nora leaned back against the fence, her face a vague outline in the dimness. “Poor Mike,” she said softly.
“You and I couldn’t help this,” Tracy said. “Not once it got started.”
“I know. I knew it long before you did, Tracy.”
“It’ll go hard with Mike.”
“I know that, too.” Nora had turned so that her face was partly visible in the glow from the corner street light. To Tracy’s surprise, he saw that her eyes were glistening.
“Hey !” he said. “You’re not still in love with the guy, are you?”
“In love with him? No ... I don’t think I was ever really in love with Mike. Not like this. I thought I was, once, but I—I guess it was something else. Pity, maybe.”
“He brought all his tough luck on himself,” Tracy reminded her.
Nora moved quickly back into his arms and turned her face up to his. “Let’s not talk about Mike,” she whispered.
It was right after this that things began to happen. The first time it was a shattered insulator on the incoming line. When Tracy got to it and hunted up the broken pieces, it was quite evident that someone had shot it up with a .22 rifle. In the week that followed, four more insulators were popped. Tracy took it to the police, figuring it was the usual thing, kids out hunting rabbits and using the transmission line for target practice. But whoever it was must have been too smart for the police. It looked like the work of someone old enough to know better.
Another time he found a piece of baling wire across the line, and a farmer said he thought he’d seen a man throw it up there. Tracy began getting hot letters from the Old Man. It was bad business, all those service interruptions. They were undermining all the good he had accomplished by his constant public relations work. The Air Force authorities were getting sore about it, too. Their standby plant was still giving trouble. They were trying to rush some new equipment, but it wasn’t so easy to get special stuff like that in wartime, even if you were the Air Force.
Tracy began to wear a perpetual harried look. This was his first permanent patrol, and he was anxious to make good. He was reminded again and again that things hadn’t been like this when Mike Curtis was on the job. It wasn’t his fault, and he wore himself out trying to explain it to the townspeople and the Air Force officials. But he was the district lineman, and they were holding him personally responsible.
One night there was a high wind, and the power went off. Tracy patrolled his line and found a tree had fallen across it, about a mile out of town. There were axe marks at the foot of the tree, where it had broken off. This was the last straw. The nebulous thought that had been chasing around in Tracy’s mind took concrete form. These were no accidents. Someone was sabotaging his lines. It was incredible to think that Mike Curtis could do such a thing, but the recent change in Nora might be enough to make a man forget all his principles. The headaches of the past few weeks had worn Tracy’s nerves to a frazzle. Suddenly, all his woes were focused in Mike Curtis.
He found Mike in the barber shop, waiting his turn in the chair. “I want to talk to you,” he said bluntly.
Mike looked up. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Tracy said. “I’ve been having a lot of trouble, and I’m wondering if you know anything about it.”
The corners of Mike’s grim mouth dragged downward. “You are?”
Tracy snapped. “Don’t act so innocent. You’re the only guy in town with a spite against me.”
“I hate your guts,” Mike drawled.
“So you take it out by shooting holes in insulators and heaving pieces of wire over the line.”
MIKE got slowly to his feet. In the reflection of the shop window Tracy vaguely saw that the barber and his customer were staring at them, open-mouthed.
“You’re a bright boy, Shaw,” Mike said. “Just the man for the job. You can lie and cheat and double-cross like—”
Tracy controlled himself. “You’ve had it tough, Mike,” he cut in. “I don’t blame you for being sore.”
“Sore?” Mike echoed. “I’d like to fry you, you chiselling two-timer!”
Tracy began, “If you’re talking about Nora—”
“Then you’re away off the beam. I’m sorry, but things like that just—happen. You ought to be man enough to—”
“You chiselled my job and my girl,” Mike ground out. His shoulders were hunched and his face was ugly.
“That’s not true, but it’s beside the point.” Tracy was holding his temper with difficulty. “What do you know about these service interruptions I’ve been having?”
“Would I be likely to tell you, even if I did know anything?”
“I’m giving you a chance,” Tracy said. “Come clean, or I’ll fix it so you can’t cause any more trouble.”
“Then here’s your chance,” Mike said.
He swung suddenly. Tracy dodged, but the blow caught him on the shoulder, sent him spinning into the lap of the man in the barber’s chair. He was up as Mike came at him, head down, charging. Tracy ducked again. He didn’t want to fight. Not because of any fear of Mike, but because it would look bad at head office.
Mike came on. Tracy’s shoulders were broad, and his long arms were muscled like the steel cable he worked with. He drove his fist squarely at the point of Mike’s unprotected chin. The barber yelled. Mike stopped, backed up slowly, then collapsed in the corner under the sink, his mouth open in unconscious amazement.
“Douse him with some cold water,” Tracy told the barber unhappily. “When he comes to you can tell him he’ll get the same treatment twice a day till Easter if I have another service interruption.”
Nora had heard about the fight before Tracy called that evening. “It’s all over town,” she said. “You’re quite a hero.”
Tracy said: “That wasn’t the idea at all. Mike just wouldn’t listen to reason.”
Nora looked up at him with sober eyes. “Are you quite sure it is Mike who’s been causing all the trouble, Tracy?”
“Of course I’m sure. Someone’s doing it deliberately. Who else would do a thing like that?”
“I don’t know. It’s not like Mike.”
“What do you mean, it’s not like Mike? The guy hates the ground I walk on.”
“Mike’s tough, but he’s too good a lineman to deliberately destroy—” “He didn’t deny it, did he?”
“Mike wouldn’t. You know how contrary he is.”
Tracy sighed. “All I know is that he’d better watch himself from now on. Next time, I’ll see him in jail for it.”
Nora moved over to let Tracy sit beside her on the sofa, but when he went to take her in his arms she drew away.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
Nora shook her head. “Nothing.” Then she added, “You didn’t have to knock him out, did you, Tracy?”
“That’s what he was trying to do to me.”
“But couldn’t you — couldn’t you—?”
Tracy’s nerves were still on edge. “No I couldn’t!” he burst out. “What is this? Mike had it coming, didn’t he?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve known Mike a long time.”
“Then you must think I’m crazy !”
“I didn’t say that. It—it seems sort of brutal. And if you weren’t sure—”
“But I keep telling you I am sure!
”Nora was looking at the floor, a harassed expression in her eyes. “Mike’s sensitive, underneath all that bluster and bluff. He’s like a big, shy boy. First we—we let him down. I can’t help feeling guilty about that. And now, this.”
Tracy stared at her. “I wonder,” he said, “if you’d be as concerned about me if it had been the other way around.”
“This is different, Tracy. You’re quite capable of taking care of yourself. Don’t you understand?”
“I think I’m beginning to understand.” Tracy’s voice had a ragged edge. “Listen, Nora, why don’t you just admit you still love Mike?”
Nora said quietly, “That’s a foolish question, Tracy.”
“Not after the way this conversation’s been going.”
“Tracy—there’s room for something else in a woman’s heart for a man, besides love. Don’t you know what I mean? It’s—it’s like when you see a shaggy old dog, pounding down the road after a farmer’s car, tearing his heart out to—”
“That’s got nothing to do with Mike Curtis. I don’t go for this mother instinct stuff.”
Nora sat up straight, her auburn hair like burnished copper against the glow from the white shaded lamp behind her head. “You take altogether too much for granted, Tracy Shaw!”
“So it seems,” Tracy said bitterly. “If you think so much of Mike why don’t you go back to him?” He was sorry the instant he said it, but it was too late.
“Maybe I will,” Nora flared. “He seems to need me more than you do.” “Okay,” Tracy said, getting up. “Okay. So that’s that. It’s been nice knowing you, Miss Paige.”
Nora turned her face away.
“Well—” Tracy stood there, fidgeting. Everything had gone wrong. He was a lousy diplomat. First Mike, and now Nora—and he wanted more than anything to have her look at him and say it was all right. But Nora sat there stiffly, her hands clenched in her lap.
“Good-by.” It was a cold little voice, with no hint of softening.
“All right,” Tracy said. “If that’s the way you want it. Good-by!”
THE weather matched Tracy’s mood. It began to sleet next morning. A chill, bitter wind drove the tiny frozen particles like sea spray. The trees and hedges took on weird, beautiful, frosty plumes, and the telephone and power lines were heavy silver slashes across a menacing sky. Tracy sat in the substation, looking out the window and shivering in spite of his mackinaw. He’d seen the havoc a sleet storm can create—ice weighing pounds per foot on spans that sagged to man height. Give it a breeze, even a breath of moving air, and those lines would set up their mad jiggle dance.
Vibration, they called it, but to a j lineman it was like the dance of the demons in Hades. Chunks of ice would drop off with a twang and the line would leap up, shorting the circuits above it. Tracy had seen all hell break loose on a sleet encrusted line. He’d joined in the backand heart-breaking task of clearing the ice off miles of endangered cable by walking slowly underneath it with a long pole to which was attached a wheel, the wheel running over the wire and cracking the ice off. Sometimes they did it by climbing each individual pole or tower, with the line dead, and reaching out with a rod to whack the ice loose as far out on the span as possible. In a gale of wind, with the temperature at twenty below, that job was no joke.
Sleet meant trouble, with a capital T. This storm had hit suddenly, and it showed no sign of letting up. The dread of what might happen almost overshadowed the emptiness that was deep inside Tracy Shaw.
At half past nine the power went off, and almost immediately the substation telephone began to jangle. It was the chief dispatcher, Billy MacGregor.
“What’s goin’ on out there?” he wanted to know.
“I just lost a fuse,” Tracy told him.
“Did you re-fuse?”
“Yes—twice. She won’t hold in.”
“My gosh,” the Chief said wearily. “As if I haven’t enough trouble on my hands already. Half the system is down.”
“This sleet is as bad as anything I’ve ever seen,” Tracy said. “I must have a break somewhere.”
“Better get busy then. I’ll make your line dead. Call me as soon as you’re clear, Tracy.”
“Okay, Mac. I’m on my way.”
Before he could get out the door the telephone brought Tracy back. This time it was an excited Air Force official.
“We’re in a jam, Shaw. Eight planes took off from here on a practice flight an hour ago. The storm hit before we expected. We started up the standby, but it broke down and the mechanics say it-will take time to service. The boys haven’t come in yet and visibility almost nil. They’ll never find the field without some light.”
Tracy shouted grimly: “How long can they hold out?”
“Maybe three hours. We’ll signal them to keep circling over the field, above the stuff. We’ve got the men piling wood for beacon fires, but with green pilots it’s much too risky. For heaven’s sake, man, get us some light!”
“I’m leaving right now,” Tracy snapped.
He spun the wheels of his little pickup truck, and in a few minutes was roaring down the highway with his head out the window, reckless of the deep ditches that yawned on either side of the slippery road. He groaned at sight of the ice-laden transmission line—what he could see of it through the haze. The pole tops were ghostly in the swirling grey spume. The cables sagged perilously, heavy with hoar frost and ice.
Twenty minutes from town he spotted the break. The cable had parted near the insulator. Tracy skidded the truck to a stop. Quickly he got out a set of blocks, some aluminum sleeves and a length of spare cable. He kicked the ice off the fallen wire and spliced on the extra length. Then he fastened his spurs, hooked the end of the spliced cable to his safety belt, and started up the pole.
Ice had coated the sleek sides of the pole. On the north side, facing the wind, it was an inch thick. Each time Tracy’s spurs dug in, chips of ice fell clinking to the ground. The pole was a thirty footer. Three quarters of the way up, with the weight of the heavy cable dragging at his waist, Tracy’s foot slipped. He clawed frantically at the slippery pole, but it went through his gouging knees and arms and his spurs raked vainly for a hold.
Ten feet from the ground he fell backward, landed with his right leg doubled beneath his body.
FOR A moment he lay there, stunned. Pain from his twisted leg shot through him. He tried to move, and fell hack with a groan. Driving sleet mingled with the tears of agony that started from his eyes. The leg was broken; there was no doubt about that.
He eased himself into what he hoped might be a more comfortable position, panting with the effort. He cursed himself for rushing off without asking Pete Somers, on the next patrol, for help, but Pete would have his own hands full. Men were scarce. Anyway, thinking of Pete didn’t help now.
Lying there on the sleet-sloppy ground, he couldn’t get his mind off those fliers—circling around above while their fuel indicators wavered toward the empty mark and young eyes searched the mists below for a pinpoint of light.
Tracy Shaw moved. He had to. He dragged himself across the ditch and over to the truck. He had a hazy notion he might get it going and drive with his one good leg. He struggled up on the running hoard and switched on the lights. It was warmer in the shelter of the cab. He slumped for a moment in near exhaustion.
Then he saw other lights, approaching warily through the sleet. It was a car, feeling its way along the half hidden road.
As it neared him, Tracy leaned on the horn, and the other car churned to a stop. It was a big blue bus— the nine o’clock out of Centreville, running slow.
The driver climbed out, bent his head to the wind and ran over to the truck. In the lighted windows of the bus Tracy could see anxious faces peering out.
“I’m in a spot,” he told the driver ruefully. “Fell off that pole. Broken leg, I think.”
“Let’s see it.” He rolled up Tracy’s trouser leg and grimaced. “It’s broken, all right. I’d better get you into the bus and take you on to Maple Creek. Can’t turn back to Centreville now.”
Tracy considered. “No,” he said. “That won’t do. This line’s got to go up, somehow. They’ve got eight airplanes over the flying field at Centreville, waiting for lights to come in on.”
The bus driver sat back and pushed his peaked cap high on his forehead. “That’s different,” he said. “But what can we do? I never climbed anything higher than the back fence in my life.— Hey! wait a minute,” he said suddenly. “I picked up that fellow who used to be the lineman at Centreville. What’s his name— Curtis?”
“Mike Curtis? You sure?” Tracy dug stiff fingers into the driver’s arm. “Bring Mike Curtis,” he ordered. “Fast! This job’s going to need a damn good lineman.”
“Okay. Sit tight.”
Tracy waited, grimly marvelling at the peculiarities of Fate. It was like Mike to turn up at the bitterest moment, to scoff and bluster, and maybe do a job of work. It was irony in pants.
Then the bus door was opening, setting up a screen of light for the crazy pattern of the sleet. Mike’s stocky figure followed that of the driver, and behind Mike came another—a girl in a fur coat, with the collar drawn up tightly around her throat. Tracy knew she had red hair even though she was only an indistinct silhouette in the dimness. He squinted his eyes, hoping he was mistaken, while his heart turned into a lump of rock as cold as the needling sleet. Nora and Mike Curtis on the same bus could mean only one thing. Nora had carried out her threat. She had gone to the one who needed her most.
Then Mike was bending over him in the cab of the truck, his square jaw outthrust, his eyes mere slits in the shadow.
Tracy stared back with an effort “Hello, Mike,” he said.
“Call yourself a lineman!” Mike grunted.
“It could have happened to anyone. Have you had a look at those poles?”
“I have. And you think I’m goin’ up there and fix your line for you?” “You’ve got to, Mike. There are lives depending on it.”
“You’re talking a different language than you were the last time I saw you, Shaw.”
“Maybe,” Tracy said. “But it’s a language you understand.”
“Not any more, I don’t. You’re forgetting I don’t work for Interurban any more.”
Tracy exploded. “But Mike—!”
Mike had moved to one side, and there was Nora, staring in at him. “Tracy!” she cried. “You’re hurt!”
Tracy looked away. “It’s nothing,” he said. “I can take care of myself. Remember?”
“But the driver said—”
Tracy ignored her deliberately. “Look, Mike—this is beyond whatever you and I may think of each other. That break’s got to be fixed, and you know it. You’re still a lineman, and a hell of a good one, whether you’re working for Interurban or not.”
Mike was looking at him steadily. “You’re a funny guy, Shaw,” he said. “Where’s your blocks?”
“In the back.”
WHEN Mike had gone Tracy turned his head. Nora had disappeared. He winced, drawing himself into a more comfortable position. A clean break was better, in a transmission line or in love. Either way it hurt, but ragged ends made it tough on a man.
The bus driver sat and talked to him, and tried to make his leg easier, and Mike was back in less than half an hour.
“She’s up,” he told Tracy. Mike’s face was raw red from the blistering sleet.
“Thanks,” Tracy said. “Would you call Billy MacGregor on the field telephone and tell him to liven her up?”
“It’s done,” Mike said. “By now your airmen will be coming in on the beacon.”
Tracy hesitated, awkwardly. “Thanks—Mike. It would have taken an ordinary lineman twice as long.”
Mike slid into the seat beside him. “It would, at that.” It was obvious that Mike had more to say, so Tracy kept quiet. “They’ll be taking you into the bus in a minute,” Mike went on, “but before you go, I want to tell you something. I saw the look on your face when you spotted Nora. Like I said, you’re a funny guy.”
“What’s funny about it?”
“That you should think Nora was going away with me.”
“I don’t give a damn what either of you do.”
Then Tracy witnessed the first grin he had ever seen on Mike Curtis’ face. “You ought to,” Mike said. “Nora’s just crazy enough to run away because she—loves you. That’s a woman for you. I never could figure them out.”
Tracy had to grope for the answer. “And you . . .?”
“I lit out for another reason,” Mike said slowly. “Call it the opposite to Nora’s, if you will. Anyhow, it was pure accident that we happened to be on the same bus.”
Tracy said, “Did Nora tell you this?”
“Sure.” Mike grinned again. “Big brother Mike. That’s me— now.”
Tracy found and gripped Mike’s cold fingers. “Mike, I—after this leg gets better, you can kick me twice around the block.”
Mike said, “With pleasure.” Then he added, as though on afterthought, “By the way, if you want to get to the bottom of all that line trouble you were having, you might pay a visit to John Hatter. He’s the loony who lives in that shack on the edge of town. I had to slug him once. Caught him stealing juice. He’s hated Interurban ever since.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Tracy asked.
“I was sort of hoping old John would drop a sandbag on you, and save me the trouble. Well, you’ve probably got something to say to Nora. I’ll be going.”
Tracy called him back. “Mike,” I he said, “now that the secrets are all out, I sent in some reports when I took over here. Told them how I found things. MacGregor sent me a note yesterday. The board is going to consider reinstating you. They’ve got the Old Man talked around. Mac figures now it will be a cinch.”
“Huh,” Mike said gruffly, “I can j get along without any help from you.” He turned away, then looked back at Tracy. “You figure it really will be a cinch?”