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.The message from the general had come in the early-morning hours.Mike had still been at mess in the tent the army had erected outside of Kunduz.The instructions from the general had been simple and direct: effective immediately, you are hereby relieved of duty to attend to a personal matter.The “personal matter” had been his wife’s terminal illness.He’d made it home two days before she passed.He was able to say goodbye, make the promises she needed to hear and forgive her for her decision not to tell him about her health problems.But he hadn’t forgiven her and maybe never would.He still grappled every day with her reasons for not telling him she was sick.The army had known.His daughter had known.He hadn’t until it was way too late.How can a wife not tell her husband she’s dying just to avoid interrupting his life, his goals?His breathing normal now, Mike stood, carried the glass to the sink and left the kitchen.He had to be at work in a few hours, though not to advise how to keep his division vehicles running in the fight against terrorism, but to see why someone’s 1998 Chevy or Honda or.whatever was stalling out.He could tell them why, though being a mechanic was not the job he’d always envisioned for himself.Not the position he could have achieved by taking advantage of G.I.college money.But Alvin’s Garage was just another stall in his life right now, and fixing cars was a lot easier than fixing his life.* * *“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Diana asked when she saw Brenna thumbing through the attendance record.“Let’s go to the cafeteria and get lunch.”“Yeah, I will,” Brenna said.“Just a minute.” She found what she was looking for and took a student punch card from the homeroom reports of absences for the day.“Great.”“Who are you looking up?”Brenna hadn’t talked to Diana since Friday afternoon.Diana didn’t know that Carrie Langston had shown up on Brenna’s doorstep.Or that she’d had words with the girl’s father.She waved the card in Diana’s general direction.“One of my third-hour students reported sick today.”Diana took a step back.“And you’re making that sound like a national disaster because.?”Brenna tucked the card back in the pack and walked around the counter.She took Diana’s arm and led her into the hall.“It’s a long story, but if you want to hear it.”“Can you tell me over a sloppy joe and iced tea?”“No.I don’t want anyone to hear.” As briefly as she could, she explained about the happenings of Friday evening.“Wow,” Diana said.“This girl is the daughter of Mr.Tall, Dark and Mechanically Inclined?”“Yes, she is.And she’s a troubled kid, just the kind you like to bring home.”“And yet.” Diana paused.“Apparently she didn’t have a map to get to the right place and ended up with you instead.”“This isn’t funny,” Brenna said.“I think her father, the guy you obviously regard as Mr.Wonderful, is keeping her home so she won’t have contact with me or anyone else.Or worse.”“I don’t regard Mike the mechanic as anything in particular,” Diana said.“I just pointed out that he was a hunk and available.” She waited before adding, “But for the record, I didn’t see anything in his quiet nature that would suggest he’s holding family members captive.”“Come on, Diana,” Brenna said.“You barely spoke to the guy the other day.And besides, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch.Don’t you ever see the news?”“Look, if your instincts are telling you that something is wrong in this case, why don’t you have BethAnn call the house and talk to the girl?”“Get the guidance counselor involved? No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Brenna learned five years ago that getting officials involved could be devastating.“Brenna, you tell me all the time that you don’t want personal relationships with your students, and if you really feel that way, referring your concern to a guidance counselor is the thing to do.”“But Carrie indicated a trust in me.I have to handle this.” Whether I think it’s the best thing to do or not.“Fine.You call the house, then.”“I’ll do better than that.After school I’m going to Alvin’s Garage.” A few seconds passed before she smiled at Diana.“Coming in this morning I noticed a clunk coming from under the hood of my car.I should probably get it looked at by a professional.”Diana studied Brenna’s face.“Why are you looking at me like that?” Brenna asked.“I’m just trying to figure out if you’re a pod person who managed to inhabit my best friend’s body.”Brenna smirked.“Granted, this is unusual behavior from me.”“Sure is.As I recall, the only life you like to interfere in is mine,” Diana added.Brenna smiled.“But I’m all done with yours, and this is a special case.This kid came to me seeking help or advice or maybe even compassion.I don’t know.”“But you’re determined to find out.”“I guess I am.”“Then go get that junker of a car you own checked out.You can’t be driving around in an unsafe vehicle.”Brenna nodded.“Exactly.Who knows how many lives I could be putting in jeopardy?”“Now can we go to lunch? I’m starved.”Within minutes of the dismissal bell that afternoon, Brenna pulled out of the parking lot and headed to Alvin’s Garage.CHAPTER THREE“LANGSTON, YOU GOT COMPANY!”When he heard his boss holler, Mike poked his head out from under the hood of a ’92 Ford SUV and stared across the garage to the office door.How could he have company? He hardly knew anybody outside of his work buddies.Except.Yeah, he knew that redhead talking to Alvin.Mel Francher, who’d worked at the garage for more than ten years, came up and nudged Mike in his ribs.“You got the good-looking teacher coming to see you,” he said.“What’d you do? Poke a hole in her transmission fluid when she wasn’t looking?”Mike scowled at him.“Never.I wouldn’t do anything to encourage her to come to the garage.”Mike wiped his hands on a clean rag and slowly approached his boss and Miss Sullivan [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]