FICTION

Beauty And the Brakeman

The movie company’s script seemed a little tame when compared to the drama of two men, a girl and a railroad

JAMES CARVER November 15 1949
FICTION

Beauty And the Brakeman

The movie company’s script seemed a little tame when compared to the drama of two men, a girl and a railroad

JAMES CARVER November 15 1949

Beauty And the Brakeman

The movie company’s script seemed a little tame when compared to the drama of two men, a girl and a railroad

JAMES CARVER

PETE LOOKED over his shoulder and down at the dark rushing ground and then, when he felt he knew what it would be like to jump, he let go of the handrails of the ladder on the side of the moving locomotive. He ran a few steps to keep from losing his balance and then came to a stop, with the gravel spurting up like spray around his shoes, like a man adding a flourish to an intricate and graceful signature.

He stood facing the freight as it came to a slamming stop almost as sudden as his own. He straightened his shoulders and hitched up his belt

with a scissorlike gesture of his forearms. He raised his blue-and-white-striped cap by the peak and brushed back his hair and set it back at its accustomed angle. Then he began to walk back down the length of the train toward the caboose.

The moonless summer night pressed down and made a black tunnel of the narrow space between the two standing freight trains. They breathed and stirred as though easing their giant muscles after their jolting runs. It was his job to make sure, during this wait, that none of those sinews had snapped to check the train in search of hotboxes, broken air böses and just plain trouble.

Far ahead, at the end of the tunnel, the signal lamp on the rear of the caboose and the red and

green target lights on the switches made a bright pattern in the night. And there were other lights—■ the blaze of another headlight on the freight Pete’s train was meeting here at West Junction. Where he walked there was only the broad white beam of his switch lamp slanting down on the wheels.

The fresh ballast between the tracks made walking difficult and before Pete had gone far he stopped to rest and light a cigarette. Up ahead there was another light now, a white one like his own, moving slowly toward him. That would be a brakeman from the drag they were meeting.

Pete slapped his gloves under his left armpit and walked on. When they were two paces apart Pete stopped and waited. Fie looped the big handle of bis lamp over his wrist and hooked his thumbs in his belt.

“Hi !” he said.

The other man stopped, then came on. Behind his light, he was big, without a face, and so far without a voice. Two steps away he halted and Hung the beam of his light into Pete’s face. It was a violent wordless gesture and Pete stepped back, throwing a hand up to shield his eyes.

“Hey!” he said in protest. The beam swung down and the other man spoke.

“You’re Kennedy,” he said. It was a statement, delivered in a deep strong voice.

Pete raised his own light slowly until the other man’s face was illuminated. Pete had never seen him before. He was about the same age as Pete, about twenty-five, but heavier and stronger=looking. The other man’s features were dark and regular and now heavily overcast with anger.

“And what’s wrong with being Kennedy?” asked Pete, beaming his light (to the ¡gravelled ground.

“I thought I might meet you tonight,” said the stranger. “I heard you were on the westbound. I made it my business to find out.” He paused. “I’m Lance Brady, and I’m going to give you what I give guys who mess around with my girl.”

Pete exhaled slowly. Now that he had met Brady, the tension in him eased. Now that they were going to fight he was less afraid of Brady than he had been for the past week. Since last Saturday he had known this time must come, that Brady would find him and they would fight.

PETE HAD GOT into Harmon Mines early that Saturday morning on the 217, the speed freight westbound. He had slept at the train crew’s bunkhouse until late afternoon and then got cleaned up and went uptown with a fireman called Pollard.

Harmon Mines wasn’t exactly a ghost town, but if it hadn’t been for the railroad’s making it a divisional point there wouldn’t have been mud} flesh and blood in evidence.

Pollard and Pete had a few beers, not many, because Pete was a conscientious young brakernan; they had some supper at the Chinese restaurant and went to the movie. They got out early and when Pete heard the music of Bill Temple and his Seven Rhythm Kings Seven throbbing in the Legion Hall at the end of the main street he persuaded his companion to go over and see what was doing.

It was a quiet dance—no drunks, no fights, not even much dancing. Pollard looked disgusted, said his feet hurt anyway, and went back to the bunkhouse. Pete hung around. He liked to dance. With a girl who was light on her feet he had the same

good feeling he got from stepping ofT a fast-moving train or catching a highballing caboose with a single well-timed leap.

Take the good-looking blonde over by the bandstand.

She was a tall slim girl, fine-boned and gracefullooking, even in repose as she sat on a chair; beside another girl, listening to the band. She and her companion both wore light coats as though they were about to leave.

Pete asked her to dance. She smiled and shook her head.

“I just came down with my friend for a little while to listen to the music. My brother plays the piano.”

He followed the nod of her head and saw the brother grinning around the corner of the piano on-stage.

“Do you mind if I dance with your sister?” Pete asked him.

The boy shrugged. “Up to her,” he said, switching his eyes quickly back to the keyboard.

“See?” said Pete, turning to the girl. “Your brother says it’s all right.”

The girl frowned slightly.

“He doesn’t make my dates,” she said.

“I’m sorry. I guess I was a little cocky. But I didn’t mean any harm. I didn’t mean to ofTend you,” said Pete. “But we work for the same railroad. I’m a brakernan, and perfectly respectable, at least as respectable as a brakernan can be. I’m here just for tonight and I want to have one dance. Besides you look as though you were a swell dancer.”

The girl smiled.

“I’m sorry but I’m not dancing.” She turned

to the other girl. “Gome on, Sue, it’s time we were going.”

As she rose her brother leaned around the piano again.

“Give the guy a break, Betty, dance with him. I won’t tell Lance,” he called.

The girl stopped and faced her brother for a moment, resentment in her blue eyes. Then she turned to Pete.

“I’d love to dance, thank you,” she said.

IT WAS obvious before they had gone half a dozen steps that she loved to dance; she did it well. Her name was Betty Harrison and she worked in the stores department. Her father had been a roadmaster and she lived with her widowed mother. Her brother was married. They danced through one set and two encores and when they came back to the chair where she had left her coat her friend, Sue, had gone.

“Might as well dance again,” said Pete; spreading his hands at his sides. “Nothing else for il

They did little talking, a great deal of dancing. Pete went for her coat after the band rose and played the national anthem. Standing in the middle of the floor with the lights going down around them, he asked if he could take her home. Her manner, which had been friendly bul aloof while they danced, became wary, almost hostile, again.

“Oh, I’ll go home with my brother, thank you,” she said.

Pete indicated the empty piano stool with a nod. “Little late, aren’t you?” he said. “What’s wrong, do you still think I’m a wolf?”

She reddened slightly.

“Or is it because you are afraid Lance will find out?” he asked.

She looked at him for a moment without speaking. Then: “You’re the one who should be afraid of Lance.”

Pete smiled.

“Should I? Suppose you tell me about it while I take you home.”

Hesitantly at first and then with a rush of confidence, almost as though she had been wanting to talk to someone for a long time, she told him about Lance. His last name was Brady and he too was a brakernan running out of Harmon Mines. He and Betty had been going around together for more than a year, and someday they were going to be married. They were not actually engaged, she said.

There had been other boys who liked her (“Naturally,” Pete murmured) not many, because there wasn’t much selection in Harmon Mines. But after Lance had come along they had stopped seeing her. The first time she heard of Lance beating up a boy who had taken her out while he was on a run, she said she had a wicked feeling of pride that men were fighting for her. If happened again and the feeling turned to shame. .She upbraided Lance and he told her that she was his girl and no one was going to take her away from him.

“But this doesn’t make sense,” said Pete. “You’re not. married to the guy, not even engaged to him, and he treats you as though he owned you. Why don’t you tell him you won’t see him again?” Betty sighed. “I tried that once and it was terrible. He hung around the house, called me at all hours of the day or the night. We made up and it was just as bad as before.”

“You’re not in love with him, then, you’re afraid of him,” said Pete.

The girl walked for several steps without answering.

“I suppose I am afraid of him. I’m all mixed up and unsettled about it.” She turned to Pete. “And I hope, just because we danced together tonight and I’ve loaded you up with all these troubles that you must think I stole from a soap opera plot, you won't get into trouble.”

“You mean he’d get sore about this?” asked Pete.

“Furious.”

“But we just danced together, and I’ve walked honte with you. He wouldn’t know about that, would he?” Pete was beginning to hope Lance wouldn’t.

“You know what small towns are like and there always seems to be someone anxious to keep him up-to-date on what I do while he’s away,” she said. “That’s why 1 didn’t want to"dance with you tonight. It’s better that Way. Maybe some day I’ll love him enough to marry him or get enough courage to tell him to get out.”

They stopped by the gate of the white house.

Pete said fiimly. “I’d like to know you better. Can I see you again, on my next trip?”

“Why should you get mixed up with this?”

“You mean you don’t want to see me again?”

“Yes I would—I guess,” she said, then hung her head. “But it’s not worth it. Lance will be in a rage—no, he never abuses me., that wmdd make up my mind fast enough—because of tonight. Yes, I’d like to see you again but it’ll just mean trouble for you.”

Pete licked his lips which were suddenly dry.

“I’ll be back here Thursday. How about going to the movies with me that night? Seven-thirty, okay?”

“Are you sure you want to? Or are you doing thus because sorqeone says you mustn’t?” asked Betty slowly.

“I’m going to see you again because l want to,” said Pete firmly.

But as he walked back to the bunkhouse he wasn’t sure why ho was doing it. He liked fun but he had always steered clear of trouble, particularly big mean trouble like Lance Brady with fists. The reason could be that Betty Harrison was a pretty girl and he liked her very much. He could confirm that Thursday night. In the meantime all he could be really sure of was that sometime, sometime soon, he would meet Lance Brady and would fight him.

ALL WEEK the faceless image of » Lance had bulked large in his thoughts and now, out of the dark of West Junction into the pool of light cast by their lamps, the man himself had walked, ready to fight.

“No lousy boomer’s going to mess around with mv gir.1 behind my back, Kennedy,” he snarled as he moved in.

He moved fast for a big irjan and the first punch came out of the dark as though a chunk of one of the shadows had exploded in Pete’s face. The first caught him above his left eye and drove him back against a journal box. Pete slipped getting to his feet and paused on all fours. He was still holding his lamp. He threw it on the ground and rose slowly to a crouching position. Brady had knocked all the fear out of

him with that first punch. The fear that had been living with him, the doubt that had been plaguing him had gone. The feeling that he must fight Lance Brady had been justified in a way that was somehow satisfactory and complete. He brushed his brow with the back of his hand to knock away the sweat. His hand came away wet and red.

Lance rushed again. This time Pete held his ground. His left pierced the flailing fists of his attacker; there was the good hard hurt of his own fist meeting bone. Brady slipped in the loose gravel, and when they squared off again their positions were reversed.

The two men locked in the churnedup gravel and traded blows until they broke apart from sheer weariness. Pete’s arms were heavy from pumping punches and his face was numb from those he had taken. They rushed together again. Pete was sure of only one thing. He was not going to be beaten. He was tired and he was hurt, but he knew Brady wasn’t going to knock him out. Brady seemed to feel complete victory slipping away because he pushed heavily through the gravel, and one wild desperate swing at the end of its arc and wit h most of its power spent, did catch Pete on the side of the head. He went back and down; he lay for a moment before he got up and as he rose there was a roaring in his ears. Perhaps that last punch had hurt him. Perhaps he wasn’t as fresh as he thought he had been. The roar was louder now. He staggered to his feet and stepped back. The trains were moving. Both of them were picking up jolting speed.

Lance was facing him swaying a little himself. He crouched slightly, as though for another rush, and Pete moved in to meet him. Enveloped by sound and bracketed by death in the jolting wheels they fought until Lance stepped back out of the fight.

“C’mon, Brady,” Pete mumbled through lips that hurt. But the big man stooped and groped for his lamp. Then he turnet! and looked up the track. Pete spat and picked up his own lamp. The fight was over, he told himself. He shook his head to clear the fog in his battered head and out of the murk within, the night without, he saw the rear lanterns rushing toward him. He was dimly aware of Lance lunging at the other train.

Then he put out his hands and began to ruh with the train. The curved grabiron was under his fingers. His feet stuttered along the end of the ties and then the thrust of the train and his own leap sucked him in and he was scrabbling to stay on the rear step. He stood for a moment. Far down the track the lights of the 216 were dropping into the darkness. On the rear platform he could see the light of a switch lamp.

Pete sat for a long time in the cool rush of air, then rose stiffly and went into the caboose. He got as far as the cupola and sagged against the wall.

PETE GOT into Harmon Mines early in the morning and went to the train crew’s bunkhouse and to bed. He woke up late in the afternoon and had a shower and changed into the white shirt, dark slacks and sports jacket he carried with him. He put a fresh piece of tape over his cut eye and felt rested and fine.

He had some supper at the Chinaman’s uptown and walked up the cinder path to the Harrison house. He walked slowly so he would get there about seven o’clock.

Betty came to the screen door wearing a house coat. She had a dish towel in her hand. “Ready for the movies?” asked Pete. The smile hurt but he managed it.

“Lance,” she said dully.

Pete pulled open the door.

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “Besides, I’m all right.” “Don’t stand there crying. Get ready to go to the movies,” he said brusquely. He was getting impatient now. After all he hadn’t taken that beating for nothing. He still wasn’t quite sure why he took it, but he did know he was going to take this girl to the movies. After that perhaps he would go back to railroading, perhaps he’d stop trying to help goodlooking blondes, straighten out their lives.

“Save your tears for the movies,” said Pete more gently. “It’s all right. Really it is.”

“Pete, this is all my fault,” she said.

He glanced at her.

“Come on, let’s get going to that movie.”

He followed her into the house where she paused uncertainly at the bottom of the stairs.

“What’s that about the movies, Betty?” a woman’s voice demanded from the kitchen. “Are you going to see that man from the movies now?”

“That’s my mother,” said Betty, walking quickly through the half-open door at the end of the hall to the kitchen. She returned with her mother, a small grey-haired woman with a birdlike brightness in her gestures.

Mrs. Harrison and Pete sat in the living room and talked while Betty changed to go to the movie. Pete listened to the older woman’s clinical comments on the weather and her own health for a few minutes, then asked her, “What’s this about a movie man and Betty?”

“Oh that,” she said, laughing, “but I’m not supposed to say anything about it.”

“It’s all right to tell me,” said Pete, nodding his head reassuringly.

“Well,” began Mrs. Harrison hesitantly, “There are more people here from Hollywood making a moving picture. This man saw Betty on the street one day and he said she was the prettiest thing he had seen for months and would she like to take a screen test.”

“This fellow’s okay, is he?”

“Perfectly. I was with Betty at the time,” said Mrs. Harrison. She leaned over. “Just think. She might become a movie star.”

“Just think,” said Pete. “I’d like to talk to this guy. Maybe he’s all right. Maybe he isn’t. When is Betty going to see him?”

“But that’s the trouble,” said the woman, leaning closer. “That’s why I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Betty ^ays it’s all silly. She’s not going to see him.”

They both looked up as they heard Betty’s step on the uncarpeted stairs. Outside the house, Pete said abruptly, “Of course you’re going to see that movie guy.”

“Mother shouldn’t have told you that,” said Betty.

“Look, don’t you see this is your chance to get out of this place and get away from—well, a lot of things, if you want to.”

“But, it’s just crazy,” said Betty. “Things don’t happen like that. It’s only in movie magazines.”

“You’re going to take this test,” Pete said firmly. “1 promise this is the last time I’ll try to help you. But we’re going to see this guy.”

HIS NAME was Frank Foster. They found him in the lobby of the Nugget. Hotel, talking to a couple of old prospectors. He was a middle-aged chunky man with a curly tonsure of

fair hair, heavy barred glasses and a quick expansive smile. He took them to a corner of the small lounge and pulled up chairs.

“Sure, this is on the level,” he told Pete. “We’re always looking for people who might make good in the movies. We test a lot of them, some of them even prettier than Miss Harrison, if you believe such a thing can be possible. And most of them get exactly nowhere. There’s a lot of luck in it, but if it’s riding your way”—he shrugged his heavy shoulders—“who knows. It’s a nice gravy train if jmu ever get on board.”

“But it could be a big deal,” said Pete.

“Sure, sure. That’s how some of the stars got picked. I’m not saying Miss Harrison’s name is going to be in lights in a year but if she’d like me to run a test I’ll be glad to do it and send it down to our shop on the coast. She says she has done some acting, amateur stuff,” said Foster, looking at Betty.

She nodded.

“I was in a young people’s society play once,” she said.

Foster ducked his head and grinned.

“That could be enough for a start if they like the test. It’s something like lightning. It could strike you. And it’s a lot nicer,” he said.

“What’s the deal?” said Pete. “Miss Harrison would like to take the test.”

“We’re shooting a scene on thestation platform ' tomorrow morning if it’s a good day. Could you be there about ten, Miss Harrison? We’ll run off a little scene from this picture we’re making around here. I’ll get one of the youngsters in the company to play it with you. Wear a dark dress and your ordinary make-up. We’ll help you with that, too, if it needs any fixing. Okay?”

It was fine with Pete. Betty nodded. He took her by the hand when they were on the street.

“I’ll call for you tomorrow morning,” said Pete. “I’ll book off the trip hack because this is important.”

“Pete, it’s no use,” said the girl.

He sighed.

“Maybe not, hut you’re going to try it. When 1 stay to help someone, 1 really help them or make such a mess of their life they’ll never he the same again.”

She held his hand hard all the way home.

r I TIE cameras were set up, and the JL movie company was assembled when Pete and Betty arrived at the station the next morning. Foster, who had been sitting on the edge of the platform working on a script, pencil in hand, rose and greeted them. He took charge of Betty, and Pete strolled over to the dispatcher’s window, out of range of the cameras. He leaned against the sill and talked to some of the railroaders who had been attracted by the movie company.

Pete listened while Foster outlined the scene to Betty. It was a simple fragment of the western they were shooting. It called for Betty to occupy the platform alone for a minute or two while she looked up and down for someone. She was to he assisted in the test by George Moran, one of Foster’s young actors. When he arrived, complete with hush clothes and a knapsack, he and Betty discussed a long-lost old mine and the schemings of an obviously evil character called Corby. The scene was to end with his taking Betty in his arms.

The dispatcher tapped on the window as the two of them began to run through the scene. Pete went inside to see what he wanted—would Pete bring him a bottle of Scotch from West Junction on his next trip? When he returned to the platform the little scene had begun to unfold for the cameras.

As Betty walked to the edge of the platform Fete stiffened. It seemed impossible that she had not seen him, yet she gave no sign that she had caught sight of Lance walking across the yards in the direction of the station. He carried a jacket slung across his shoulder and seemed to be strolling, hut there was a direct purpose in his course which lay straight for the group on the platform.

Pete took a step and the dispatcher who had come out to see the picture being made grabbed him by the arm. “Keep out of this,” he rasped. “That’s Brady’s girl. D’ye want to get killed?”

Pete tried to shrug off the restraining hand, but by this time Lance had leaped lightly to the platform. Betty was now in young Moran’s arms. Lance was beside them with one long stride. He caught Moran by the shoulder, spun him around, and hit him hard in the face.

Pete tore loose from the dispatcher, but a clot of men had gathered around the storm centre and he couldn’t get close to Lance. He saw Betty running; he heard her sobs, and then Foster was walking down the platform waving his hands in the air and shouting, “Hold it, hold it. What’s going on here?”

Two off-duty firemen who had been watching had Lance by the arms and were pulling him away.

“No lousy actor’s going to maul my girl,” he yelled over his shoulder. When he saw Pete he threshed his arms to free himself, but his bodyguard restrained him, exchanging slightly worried looks as though they weren’t quite sure how they would eventually free the enraged man.

WHEN Lance and the pair flanking him had gone around the corner of the station in the direction of the main street Pete walked over to Moran. His jaw was scraped, hut he didn’t think it was broken. In fact Foster seemed to have been hurt far worse than anyone else.

“What’s wrong with that guy?” he asked Pete. “All I was doing was giving the girl a screen test, maybe the chance of her life. You’d think I was a white slaver.”

“I’m sorry,” said Pete. “It was all my fault.”

“You should be sorry. That big guv comes busting in here and slugs Moran and what do you want now?” asked Foster.

“I was wondering if you’d let me know how the screen test came out,” asked Pete. “I don’t expect to be seeing her again and—well, I wanted to know.”

Foster confronted him, hands on hips. “He asks me how it came out. You saw it, didn’t you? You were here, weren’t you? In fact you arranged it. (let out, son, before you get us all killed. G’wan, go hack to your trains.” koster turned his hack on him and stamped away.

Pete walked slowly hack to the bunkhouse and called the yard office. He spoke to the yardmaster and asked for a run. A special was due out for the east at 12 o clock and the head end brakeman that the yard had called had hooked sick. The job was Pete’s.

Then he wrote Betty a note. It didn t. take many lines or many minutes to write what he had to say. He was sorry about the way things had worked out. He had tried to help lier because he had liked her, hut all he had done was to get a heating himself and bring on a scene that disgraced her in front of the whole town. It might as well have been the whole town, the way news traveled in Harmon Mines. He said he hoped the screen test went to Holly-

wood and she was a big success and got what she wanted.

By the time he had finished the letter, mailed it, and had something to eat, it was time to go to work. He was glad. He couldn’t get out of town fast enough. And he never wanted to come back.

T>IJT HE did return, three weeks D later. He had hooked olf the good job on the time freight just to keep away from Harmon Mines but he was called for a work train job that brought him into Harmon Mines about eightteen o’clock on a Tuesday night.

It was a soft, lightly purple evening that even the coal dock and the dark blot of the roundhouse could not spoil. Pete walked slowly from the caboose, his duffel bag and his switch lamp in his hand, on his way to the bunkhouse to wash up and have a long sleep without any flat wheels in it. He was beginning to feel like himself again. The marks of his fight with Lance were gone; even the jibes from the other men had almost faded away. He felt almost happy again, happy and a little cocky again, just like the Pete he liked to be.

The way to the bunkhouse led across the yards and down through the rip track between two long lines of boxcars under repair. Halfway down this alley of cars Pete stopped suddenly. Approaching him through the dusk, was a big - shouldered, loose - gaited man dressed in railroader’s clothes. Pete swallowed hard. He thrust his head forward a little to make sure. It was Lance Brady.

Pete turned. No, once was enough. He was a changed man. He felt this was a wise decision to make before he was permanently changed. His reasons for getting mixed up with Lance the last time had been good enough, he felt, but vague. There was no point in causing Betty more trouble now. He quickened his pace.

“Kennedy,” Lance called.

He stopped, turned, and waited. It was Lance all right. And he was grinning.

“What’s wrong, Kennedy?” he asked.

“Left something at the caboose,” said Pete.

“I wanted to see you before I left. I’ve been down saying good-by to some of the hoys,” said Lance. “I’m going awayfor good, I hope.”

Pete couldn’t see how his departure could help being good, but he kept his silence while he looked Lance up and down. Gone were the railroading clothes. He was dressed in a stylish tweed sports jacket, dark slacks, a gaudy sports shirt. His thick wavy hair was plastered down and shining.

“I’m getting out of this racket—for good, I hope. Or did you know?” asked Lance.

Pete shook his head. Lance dug into a pocket and pulled out a telegram. He handed it to Pete. It was addressed to Foster and read: “Forget about the girl. Send us that big dark guy. He’s better looking than Peck, meaner than Bogart. We can use him even if he can’t act. All he’s got to do is be that ornery in front of a camera. Congratulations. Monty. Peerless Films.”

Pete looked at the telegram and then at Lance.

“This is you?” he said, nodding at the buff paper.

Lance was grinning broadly.

“Sure, that’s me. Remember that screen test where I made such a chimp of myself. Wrell, the guy let the camera run on and got all that stuff about me socking Moran and—well, they liked it down in Hollywood.”

Pete wanted to say he was glad they liked it somewhere, but he didn’t want to start anything now.

“I m leaving tonight—on Number Two. They’re going to give me a contract and Foster says I’m a cinch. Not much of a contract at first, because I got a lot to learn, but Foster says I’m a cinch.”

“That’s swell,” Pete said. Then he cocked his head at Lance.

“Going alone?” he asked Lance.

Lance reddened slightly and shoved his hands deep in his pockets.

“She told me to get out. It was fighting with you that did it. She said she didn’t mind those other guys but when I marked you up that was the end. She likes you, Pete.”

But Pete was still wary.

“I thought you liked her pretty well, yourself. You certainly gave me to understand that.”

“Well,” said Lance roundly, with the air of a man who had grown suddenly mature, slightly mellow, and completely pleased with himself, “I guess 1 did, but I don’t know—this new job has made a difference. I was never happy on the railroad. I always sort of resented being a brakeman. I guess

that made me kind of mean. I’ll be down there in Hollywood now and I hear there are some good-looking dames down there.”

He laughed lightly and passed a big hand over the glossy cap of his hair.

“ I hat’s what l hear,” said Pete slowly. The dusk was deepening now and the half light added a physical aspect of unreality to the scene. Then Pete moved quickly. “I hope you knock ’em dead down there.”

Pete walked slowly through the darkening yards to the bunkhouse and as he walked his pace quickened and by the time he reached the door he was running. The phone was not in use and he threw his duffel in the corner and dialed Betty Harrison’s number. Funny but he had remembered it all this time.

“Yes, it’s Pete,” he said, a little breathlessly. “1 just saw Lance. Sure. I’m all right. Remember we never did get to the movies. 1 think this would be a good night to go. A sort of a nice way to celebrate.” it