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(continued)

Anacortes, WA

December 3rd, 2018

Linus looked at him and then the store, “Don’t you have to stay for the store?” he asked in a meek voice.

Todd shook his head, “Albert’s there, he can run it while I take you home. Is that okay?”

“What about him?” Linus asked, nodding down Clinton. The other man had lost consciousness after the heavy hits, but where he’d landed has been cleared away and it revealed something that apparently only Todd could see at the moment, as he was about to reach down and get it however he was aware of two things.

One of them was Linus saying, “Uh-oh,” and the other was the hard slap that came raining down on the back of his head as he straightened up quickly, his fists already coming up to defend as he expected to see one of the few thugs around town that Clinton called a friend. Instead it was someone that made him instantly ashamed of what he’d done and for daring to raise his fists in her presence.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Maple yelled at him as he backed away a step. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“He’s drunk,” Todd replied, hating the way the words sounded in his mouth as they emerged, “and he was trying to take Linus home.” Oh yeah, that made it all better, he thought sarcastically.

There was no secret that he had a bit of crush on Maple, but if she’d ever felt the same she hid it very well. She knew all about his past and his present and didn’t want anything to do with it, though Linus had relayed that she enjoyed watching MMA at home. Whatever it was between them however it wasn’t anything other than animosity as she believed he was a bad influence on her brother, no matter that he was the only man that Linus had ever seemed comfortable talking to.

“And so what if he was?” she almost shouted, “Clinton is my, well, he’s staying at our place, and I, I need him to help with Linus now and then.”

He noted the careful word usage but didn’t dare say anything. The slap across the back of his head hadn’t hurt that much but it had surely stung thanks to the ring she wore on her index finger.

“I was just trying to help,” Todd said with a shrug. Clinton was starting to come to, though the look on Maple’s face in that moment suggested that she was anything but happy about it. Looking back to Todd however she sighed in what could have been annoyance or mild acceptance of his words.

But then she turned back to Linus, “Come on Linus, let’s go home.”

“Are you mad at me?” he could hear Linus say as they walked away.

“No buddy,” she replied, “I’m never mad at you, I promise.”

Clinton seemed to have been forgotten for the moment.

(to be continued)

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