Chapter 4.5F

Annie turned her head up in the direction of the map again. “I also remember something Uncle Joe said a couple weeks ago, at Thanksgiving.”

A log in the hearth split, collapsing into itself, sparks wafting up as it continued imploding into the smoldering pile of ashes on the blackened brick floor.

“He was talking to Uncle Martin about some land he had just bought, around the Bay Hill area. Uncle Martin asked him what he was going to do with it, and Uncle Joe shrugged, said there wasn’t much development opportunity now — and then I remember him turning to you, and saying ‘But you never know what will happen in the future.'”

Annie turned to her mother. She was still smiling, but her arms were crossed, shoulders visibly raised.

Annie turned back to the map, pointed to the lower left section. “If they build the new bridge, the state’s going to need roads running to and from it. There’s two possibilities. Route 16” — Annie pointed to a location on the wall to the left and below the map — “comes in from the south, and they could run the access road off there. Other option” — now Annie pointed to a spot higher on the wall to the map’s left — “is to come down off the Interstate, north of town. The southern route’s shorter, but the state would get money from the federal government if they connect directly to the Interstate.”

“I see you’ve been reading the Bark Bay Beacon,” Laura Hutchinson said, a touch of impatience in her voice.

Annie turned back to her mother. “The northern route also goes through Bay Hill. Where Uncle Joe has all that land.”

Laura Hutchinson was no longer smiling.

“Has Uncle Joe also bought land on the other side of the river?”

Laura Hutchinson smiled briefly, Annie seeing for a moment the same face she had seen after winning a gymnastics tournament, or completing a piano recital. But the smile quickly gave way to a stern look of defiance. “Go on,” her mother commanded.

“Everyone’s so focused on the bridge, they’re not even thinking about the access roads. Uncle Joe’s your brother, his name’s not Hutchinson. The land’s probably owned by his real estate company, so the connection back to our family — ”

” — is too subtle for the fools at the Beacon to detect,” Paul Hutchinson interrupted.

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