Dark Road (Ginger Man 13E)

Charlie kept his eyes focused on his pickup, his hearing attuned to the crunch of gravel under his feet giving way to the silent hardness of the street; he knew Maggie was following him, but her words sounded like the buzzing of a bothersome fly. He reached his vehicle, put a meaty hand on the driver’s side door handle — and stopped when Maggie’s hand slammed on the metal.

Her eyes were filled with defiant worry, like a man pulling on a jacket before heading out into a storm. “Just tell me what you’re planning on doing.”

For a moment, Charlie thought of saying that he didn’t know, wasn’t sure, where he was going. But as he looked into the caring harshness of Maggie’s face, he knew she’d be able to detect any lie that he told, and would call him out on it before he’d finish the sentence. No, he couldn’t lie to her — and, he also realized, he had no desire to tell her any more lies.

Which didn’t necessarily mean telling her the whole truth. “It ends tonight, Maggie. All this acting crazy I’ve been doing, thinking about Mike’s stories — this ‘Ginger Man’ he came up with — it’s like I took a wrong turn, started going down this dark road, but I see lights up ahead, and I know that the right thing to do is keep going.”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “Just — let me go a little further. I promise, won’t do nothing stupid. But I gotta go to the end of the road. And when I’m done, I’m done.”

He could tell by the look on her face that she neither agreed with nor even quite understood what he’d just said. A moment later, she blinked, and removed her hand from the pickup. “Just — be careful.” She walked away slowly, shaking her head.

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