When the boy came, Phil was surprised. He had expected a runner, but he had been hoping for Carmen. She hadn't been far from his thoughts since leaving Fort Promise.
"Jimmy, right?" Phil said.
The boy nodded, but he shied away, taking two shuffling steps backward for each of Phil's steps forward. "He wants to see you again."
With his heavily-freckled face and dark hair that was all cowlicks, Jimmy looked nothing like his sister. He was lean, with a rat's mouth that twisted toward his flattened nose. He still had the smudges under his nostrils, marking the perpetual motion of snot.
"He does?" Phil was at once excited and nervous. "Right now?"
"No. He's not at camp now. He says to come at four o'clock."
The boy was scanning the street, eyes panning back and forth, though they were alone on the sidewalk. He looked behind him more than once, as if expecting an attack. His furtive glances and his hopping from foot to foot was making Phil jumpy.
"Is your sister going to be there?"
The boy looked confused. He wiped the snot on his lip with the back of his hand, moving it around rather than cleaning it. After a moment, he nodded. Then, he ran.
Jimmy had to lift his feet high to avoid tripping in the oversized shoes he wore. They dangled off his feet like a clown's. He was around the corner and gone in seconds, leaving Phil alone in the open doorway.
He had lunch at the diner before returning to Fort Promise, enjoying another bowl of the stew while writing questions for Simon in his notebook. His eyes were drawn to the bulletin board again, and he saw the pictures of two dogs that he didn’t remember being there before.
“I’m headed out to the camp on old man Partain’s place," Phil said.
“Are you, now?" Dorothy said, and filled his coffee.
“Yeah. I’m a writer. I’m working on a story."
She huffed, a sound that could have meant she wasn’t impressed or that she hated reporters or that she held Fort Promise and Simon Heller in disdain. She didn’t stay to clarify. As soon as his cup was full she was gone and at the table by the window, taking an old man’s order.
He didn’t know why he told her. No one in town had expressed a positive opinion on the folks at Fort Promise, but they hadn’t given him a good reason, either. Maybe they were just afraid of anything new interrupting the life they’d always known.