Melted Sand

Nathan was just a regular guy who needed a job after college, and being smart enough and fit enough he'd found himself working in security. They trained him, sent him to various jobs, and it was always straightforward enough. He chased a few jerks, threatened one or two, even raised his gun once, but it was just a job, just a slightly more exciting one than most people have. When his work day was over he went home, cooked supper, and watched TV. Just like everyone else. He had a life, of sorts. But that was then.

Somehow he was singled out by his superiors as above-average. So when they were approached by a anonymous customer to find him a bodyguard Nathan was their first choice. He was offered a much higher salary, and plenty of other perks - he just saw it as a promotion, heck it boosted his ego. His love-life at that point was in a lull, so whatever, he took the job.

The first thing he wasn't expecting was the change of location. They put him on a flight to D.C. with a package containing a cellphone, the keys to a motel room, and car keys. A letter waiting for him in the car parked outside his motel room told him just to wait for instructions, and eventually, after two days waiting, the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"You are the new operative?"

"The new guy, yeah."

"OK, have you told anyone your name since you arrved?"

"No, I haven't really spoken to anyone, I....."

"Good. From now on don't use your real name. There's a mailbox in the motel lobby, take your mail. You''l find a new driver's licence, social security number and health insurance papers. You have a new identity. Use it. Use only it. Do you understand?"

"Uh...sure, why......."

"Go and get your mail now" and the caller hung up.

Nathan did as he was told, feeling very strange about the whole idea. He had no idea who the caller was, or what this was all about, but he had little choice but to comply. He was here as part of his job. So, he did it.

The phone rang again.

"Do you have your new papers?"

"Yes."

"Now leave your old identity in your room, take your new papers with you, and drive west."

Before he could ask any more the caller hung up again, and again, despite grave misgivings, Nathan followed his instructions. He switched the papers in his wallet with those in the envelope, picked up his phone and keys, and drove. Expecting another call anytime he just kept on driving. No call came. Eventually he came to green fields and stopped. Four hours passed. He tried to phone his security company back home, but the number was out of service. His head spun. He took a deep breath, turned around and returned to the motel. His key didn't fit. After a long argument with the guy in the lobby he finally got them to open up for him but there was no trace of any of his effects, or of him ever being there, not even the reservation. On one level he had expected this and now he cursed himself for ignoring his instincts. The key he had held was not from the motel at all, the owner was getting angry and this was a waste of time. Nathan got in the car and drove towards the airport intending to fly home. The phone rang.

"I'm sorry I kept you waiting. Where are you."

"On my way home, thanks."

"Don't be a fool, how can you get on a plane if your ID doesn't match your credit card? Homeland security, remember? You'll need me to provide money for you. So you must do as I say."

"Maybe I have enough cash."

"No, you don't. That's why you took this job. You needed the money."

"This isn't the job I took."

"You were told you were going to be a bodyguard. Well, do as I tell you and you will go and guard a body."

It was true about the money, Nathan was broke. He actually had just $50 in his wallet, he'd left his ATM card dutifully to be stolen with the rest, and he was hungry.

"Where do I have to go, and where is this money you're going to give me?"

"Well, as I obviously can't trust you, I'm going to have to let you have a little at a time, just for your basic needs. You'll get your big payment when you've finished the job. Right now I want you to drive west, like I asked, only could you hurry it up, you're running late. Get yourself to Fairfax, find a motel and get some sleep. Then in the morning drive to Manassas. I'll settle the bill." Click.

Nathan spent almost all the money he had left on food and gas. Incensed at his own stupidity for letting it get this far he actually got very little sleep. He hoped his employer had settled the bill, because he left anyway. By the time he got to Manassas it was raining. He sat in the car and waited for a call. Finally, it rang.

"There's lunch waiting for you at Applegate's in the Holiday Inn. When you've had your fill just tell them the check is covered by the Agency. You won't have any problems. Then get back on 66 and drive to Front Royal."

"I'll need money for gas."

"I know, reach under the seat"

Nathan found an envelope with a fifty dollar bill inside.

"I found it."

"OK, that'll get you a fair way. Buy what you need but don't go nuts." Click.

Arrving in Front Royal Nathan got out of the car and screamed at the sky. He had no control now, none at all, he'd walked right into this absurd situation, and he had no-one to blame but himself. It was a clever mindgame because as his trust of his new employer decreased, the more he relied on him. The only way out now was to call the cops, and he had a nagging feeling that if he did, something worse would happen. He had no idea what. He hadn't got a clue what was going on. So he waited. Finally the call came.

"Now I'm going to give you some complex instructions then let you get on with the job without contacting you for a bit, are you listening carefully?"

"Yes"

"OK. Tonight, stay at the Hampton Inn. It's all paid for as long as you need to stay. Keep a low profile, eat out and don't talk to anyone. When you get up in the morning, leave the car there. It'll be gone when you get back. I'll get you another one soon. Walk across town and find the office of an attorney named Clark. You can't miss him, big guy 300lbs, big ears.....when he leaves you follow him. Don't worry, he'll be on foot. Lost his licence on a DUI and hasn't had the guts to tell anyone, says he walks for the exercise. He lives alone. I want you to watch everything he does, everywhere he goes, until I contact you again. There'll be cash in your room." Click

Some bodyguard. He had been duped - he wasn't sure who by - into being a cheap gumshoe. His quarry was a tedious predictable man, who divided his time between work, home, and bars. He bought drinks for prostitutes but that was really all that could be said against him. Two full weeks of this went by, no call came, nothing changed, and Nathan was at an all-time low. Stuck in this "quaint" place his mood gradually got blacker. But he dutifully got up early to be at Clark's home to watch him leave every day. Then he hung around to follow him home, or to the Kings Tavern, and then home.

But one night at closing time, after the fat man swayed out of the side door of the bar as usual, a dark shadow other than Nathan was waiting for him. Clark obviously knew the shadow, because when it called to him he followed the voice, further back into the shadows. Nathan heard a slight scuffle and then running feet, as the figure disappeared into the night. Looking around to see if there were any other witnesses he cautiously approached and saw the man's throat had been cut. In sheer fear and impulse Nathan ran, and he didn't stop running for quite a way. In doing so he passed a number of people on the street, and it wasn't long before he heard sirens. He decided that running in the opposite direction to a crime scene was a bad idea, so he slowed down. But then he realized he'd already been seen, and not just tonight. Various scenarios played out in his head, of people who'd seen him lurking around town, a new face but suddenly very familiar, and he knew he had to get out of there. He grabbed what little possessions he had from the Inn and headed toward the mountains.

Nathan was a city boy, and he had never even been camping. Every sound among the trees terrified him, even the stars seemed dangerous and overbearing. He was cold and scared. The phone rang.

"I understand things didn't go according to plan."

"Are you crazy? He's dead and I'm going to be prime suspect!"

"I know, we have to get you away. You must be exhausted. I'll send someone to pick you up."

"I have no idea where I am"

"We'll find you, just stay close to the highway"

Another good hour went by and a van pulled up ahead of him. Cautiously Nathan approached it, and the driver leaned out and called "Get in the back, quick". So he obliged. It was pitch dark, but warm and comfortable and he soon fell asleep. He had put himself in the complete trust of these people, whoever they were.

When he awoke the next morning it was a few seconds before he remembered where we was supposed to be, and he wasn't. There was no van movement. He was in a proper bed, and it was hot. Very hot. He blinked but his eyes felt strange, sore, painful even, and he was having trouble clearing the sleep away. As he tried and tried, nothing happened, and he started to panic. Footsteps came towards him and he braced himself, but a calm woman's voice came very close.

"Hello Nathan, I've brought you something to eat and drink, here let me help you"

She helped him sit up, and lifted a cup of water to his lips, he could see the cup and her hands but everything else was a blur. A searing pain went through his eyes and he grimaced.

"The pain will subside" she said very sweetly, and passed him bread which he pushed away.

"What the fuck happened to me? I can't see!"

"That's for your own safety Nathan, so you don't try to follow me. Goodbye"

"WAIT! How the f........."

But it was too late. The devil in disguise had left, and the food he needed so bad was out of view. He reached around until he found it and consoled himself in his confusion and blindness that at least he had a full stomach. He checked with his hands that he was dressed, and satisfied he was decent, although the clothes did not feel familiar, he tried to find his phone and wallet, first by feeling all over the nightstand and then around the room. Every square inch of the room. There was no trace of either. He found he could see things immediately in front of him, and he examined as much in the room as he could this way, feeling like a cockroach. The pain in his eyes was intense and the heat was sapping his energy. The door was locked but the window was open. The problem was, he had no idea which floor he was on. He called out "Hi, is anyone down there?" No reply. So he dropped the nearest thing he could find, and it hit the ground quickly. He decided he must be on the ground floor, and carefully lowered himself out the window. The ground was hard, and he followed along the wall. It was very quiet. he turned the corner and followed the wall again, eventually hearing some voices. Again he called "Hello?". The voices stopped. "Can you help me? I can't see.". He heard a mumbled conversation, which he couldn't make out. It was Spanish. Thinking of all the bad TV westerns he'd seen he somehow dredged up "ˇAyuda!" and digging even deeper he found "No puedo ver". He found himself being led by an old woman, sat in a chair in the shade, and with a comment he didn't catch, she left him, returning a while later with a companion, he wasn't sure if the blur was male or female.

Unsure if this was someone he wanted to run into or not he asked "Who's there?"

"I'm the assistant from the doctor's office, Maria told me there was a blind guy who needed help, what are you doing here?"

"I'm not blind, at least I didn't used to be, and I have no idea how I got here."

He then told briefly her most of his story, quite sure she wouldn't believe a word of it, but she took pity on him, and told him he was in Arizona. Then she she helped him to the doctor's office. He told his story again to the doctor there, who also, fortunately, believed him, and gave his quick but unbelieveable diagnosis.

"Nathan, somehow, I'm guessing you were drugged, someone has done laser surgery on your eyes. It was recent, probably yesterday. What was the date when you were picked up in the mountains?

"The fourth"

"Well, it's the 6th today, so you've been out a while."

"Can you fix it?"

"No, actually no-one can. This surgery isn't reversible. Your eyes have been permanently altered."

"WHAT? I'm stuck like this? I can't do this!"

"No, no of course you can't, but in theory, if the surgery wasn't botched, you should be able to see with glasses, it's that simple actually."

"Doc, I have no money, nothing, I'm a thousand miles from home, I don't have a single piece of ID on me. What the fuck am I going to do?"

"I'll cover it, you can pay me back when you get home."

The assistant, Laura, took Nathan to the optometrist in the same building, who was told the horrific story.

"I've always said LASIK was dangerous" he said ironically "I never thought it would be used like this"

"Anything that can be done, will" said Laura sagely

The optometrist examined Nathan's eyes very delicately as he was still in considerable pain.

"I've had to prescribe a lot of post-LASIK glasses" he said "and yep, even this high a prescription, when it hasn't worked. Too many cowboys out there. You're lucky, this was a competant surgeon, he did the job right. All you have is a refractive error. I can correct that. But it may change several times over the next few weeks or months even, so you'd better be prepared for that. It can get quite expensive."

Great, thought Nathan, and I have no money. He didn't even know how he was going to get home.

A few favors were called in around town and Nathan had a pair of glasses before the day was out. It was a -6 prescription, which along with the pain and other visual disturbances from the surgery, was very hard to deal with. His urge to go home was overwhelmed by his desire to just recover. Laura shyly asked him if he wanted to sleep on her sofa, and he accepted it in the spirit it was intended. He spent the following day just walking around town trying to get used to seeing the world this way, and it was that evening that it really sunk in just what had happened to him. To anyone else who wore glasses it may have been meaningless, but to a guy who'd previously had perfect vision he felt crippled. He had a burning hatred for the people who had done this to him, and that was about all he had right now. He confided in Laura.

"What's waiting for you at home Nathan?"

It was a very good question. Not much. No family. A rental apartment. A crappy car. Probably no job. Little else. It was just......familiar. And he was owed a lot of money from someone. But right now an idea was swimming around in his head. Maybe he wasn't in such a rush to get there. And he liked Laura.

"How do I look in these?" he asked her "And tell me the truth". He'd always been known for his good looks, and as far as he was concerned, that was now history.

"Actually you look pretty good" she said, quite honestly, but he didn't buy it. He got up, looked in the mirror and just saw a weird geek. It hurt too much to look long, and he flopped back down in the chair.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" asked Laura.

"No, I don't have anything" he replied despondantly. And he kicked the coffee table hard. Laura looked at him with tears in her eyes. She didn't know what to say. She wondered if time passing would soothe his temper and bring out the real person.

"Well" she said "You can stay here as long as you need to, and I can get you a temporary job if you like. You look strong enough. My brother is a mover. He's always looking for help.

It seemed like a good idea, if nothing else to give him something to do. He said he'd be grateful for some work, and with that she left him, and he slept.

up

Melted Sand - Part Two

Mike was sympathetic when Laura told him about Nathan's situation, and he immediately offered him paid work. Nathan threw himself into it, and worked hard, long hours, to take his mind off his lot. By the end of the month he was settling into a routine, and was even laughing and joking with the other guys. Laura hadn't seen much of him in all this time, not to speak to anyway, she'd been so busy too, and was keen to find out how he was getting on. So on Sunday she called round.

"Knock, knock, How's it going big guy?"

"Oh.....Hi... well, you know, it could be worse, I'm not in so much pain now. I'm keeping busy. I've got some money in my pocket. How are you?"

"Good, good. Did you want to come back for supper. Mike is there. It's only pork but....."

"I'd love to."

They walked together through the searing afternoon heat, and Nathan picked up some stones and threw them at fenceposts.

"I think I'm getting my aim back anyway."

"How are you seeing now, is it settling down?"

"I sure hope so. I can see OK, they changed the lenses to -8, because I was getting blur again, it was settling out I guess, and that's better, but it still feels weird."

"Not many people suddenly go from 20/20 vision to 20/1000 like that Nathan, it's bound to take some getting used to, even corrected it's nothing like normal vision. How do you feel about driving, have you tried."

"Yeah! I took your brother's truck to get lunch - he kept telling me to get back in the saddle. It was OK, I took it slowly. Everything looks smaller, I'm having to re-judge? You know? Looking sideways is the biggest problem, I have to remember to turn my head. But I'm doing OK."

He stopped, picked up a rock, and threw it hard at a fence which snapped clean in two.

"Who am I kidding? I'm not doing OK.......I'm fucking crippled"

Tears began to flow down his face, and he sat down in the middle of the road.

"I'm so sorry Nathan........"

"Yeah, I know. Maybe I should go back. I'm not very good company.

"You have every right to be angry, to get it off your chest. Please, come to supper. If you want to vent, you can."

"Vent...yeah."

They arrived at Laura's small home and Mike was fixing the truck. He asked Nathan to help, and Laura went inside to fix supper. When the guys came in to wash up they were laughing. She was pleased to see him happy, even if it was only in small bursts.

Nathan told his whole story to Mike, for the first time, although he'd heard most of it from Laura.

"I don't get it, why didn't they just dump you bound and gagged somewhere, or kill you? It makes no sense."

"Who knows" said Nathan "Maybe they kidnap a lot of people and the other one that day happened to be a LASIK surgeon!" and he even found that amusing.

Laura watched him talking and found herself quite drawn to him. If only he wasn't so bitter. But she understood why he was. In her profession she was used to trying to make people feel better, and when she couldn't it was always difficult for her. But with Nathan, there was another dimension to it. The hurt was inside and it wasn't going away, and nothing she could do would change that. And of course - she was fond of him. She'd got involved.

"What's your long-term plan Nathan?"

Well, someone had to ask.

"I don't know. I feel I have a score to settle, but I don't know where to start."

"Have you been to the cops?"

"No....I don't have any information to give them! And besides.....I don't want them knowing. Listen, if I find the people who did this to me, I may do something I don't want the cops to know about. Don't forget, there's already a man dead in a town I suddenly disappeared from. I don't want to draw attention to myself! No, I just want...........justice.........my way"

"An eye for an eye?" said Mike, and then wished he hadn't

Nathan smiled ironically.

"Yeah, something like that."

Laura took his hand.

"And if you get caught? They could kill you, or you could go to jail."

"I know. Yeah, I know."

"Could you ever just......put it behind you? Start over?"

Nathan hung his head.

"I know I should, but.........."

Laura and Mike swapped a look.

"Give it up buddy" said Mike "Find a permanent job - anywhere. Write it off to experience. Don't make things worse for yourself."

"Worse?"

"Oh come on man, so you have to wear glasses, big deal. Lots of people do. It could have been much worse."

What he said made sense, but still something festered inside Nathan.

"It's not that. I'll get used to that. I just want to know why. I want to find them. I want my money. Don't you collect on what you're owed from a job?"

That made sense to Mike. But these people sounded dangerous. He liked Nathan and didn't want him to get hurt. But he dropped the subject.

Alone in his room later Nathan made a decision. He'd go home, at least try and track down his employer, sell what he did own, and take it from there. He wrote a letter to Nathan and Laura, and another for each of the doctors who'd helped him. And he promised to pay them back. He hitched a ride to Phoenix and got a plane home.

The office he once knew as the base for the company who employed him was deserted. No-one in the building had any idea where they'd gone, or how to contact the staff. He left messages to contact him if they heard anything. He could only think of one person who might help, an old friend and colleague, Brian Farthingfield-Hatch. With a name like that he should be easy enough to find, and he was.

"Yeah, can I help you?"

"You remember me Brain! Nathan Harvey?"

"Nathan? I wouldn't have recognized you dude, come in"

The place was a mess, Brian quickly moved piles of junk off the chairs, and gestured Nathan to sit down.

"Hey it's been a while but......what's with the glasses?"

"Long story. Listen, you remember when we worked at Delsec?"

"Sure. Best time of my life."

"Who did you answer to?"

"Gerald Stevens, well, that's who I phoned."

"Any idea where he is now?"

"Haven't done anything for them in months myself.......but I'm pretty sure they're still in business"

"What makes you say that?"

"I saw the big Russian guy, the giant, you know, big mouth.....he was hanging around outside the conference center last weekend."

"What was happening there."

"Jeez Nathan, where have you been?"

"A long way from here, was it something big?"

"Big? The Pres was there!"

"But it's all over now"

"Sure"

"But the big Russian, he could have been working for anyone, why do you think Delsec were involved?"

"Well.....he left in Stevens' car."

"Good enough. Were you working."

"Yeah, I'm full-time at the conference center now, on the regular security staff."

"Yeah? Someone there should have a record of other firms working at the event?"

"Must have."

"Then I need you to do me a favor, I need to get hold of Steven's, but get me an address, not a phone number. Can you do that."

"Don't see why not."

"I owe you Bri, and there's something else, do you still have those guns at your Dad's place?"

"Yeah"

"Can we go over there. I need to practice."

"You? You're the best shot I ever came across!"

"Well, that was then, now my eyes aren't so good, I need to make sure I can still shoot straight."

"What the hell happened to your eyes? I never saw you in glasses before, did you wear contacts?"

"No, no, I didn't........I met with an accident, let's say, only it wasn't so accidental. You'd never believe me if I told you."

"Try me."

And once again Nathan told his unbelieveable tale. Brian's expression was sheer astonishment, but he'd never known Nathan to make anything up. Brian asked to try on Nathan's glasses. He handed them back fast.

"How the hell do you see through those?"

"You might well ask, but I sure as hell can't see anything without them."

"Not even me?"

Nathan lifted his glasses. Brian was opposite him at the small table.

"No man, you're just a blur"

"Shit. That's bad."

"Tell me about it. So shall we?"

"NOW?"

"I'm in a hurry, I'm going after these guys Bri, and I don't want the trail going too cold"

"OK, gotcha. Well, then, let's go."

Nathan's first few shots were off the target, but he gradually got into his stride. It was like learning to shoot all over again. It hurt Brian to watch him struggle. Nathan had always been the man, the one everyone looked up to. After a few hours he was satisfied he'd worked out how to accomodate for his "new" eyesight, and went inside with Brian for a drink.

"So how's life with you Bri? You happy with what you're doing?"

"Yeah, can't complain"

"Don't fancy a trip across country with me?"

"No way! I'll help you any way I can here, but I'm not getting involved with that.....I'm sorry...."

"Didn't expect you to say yes. But I would appreciate it if I could have you back here to keep in touch with, a base. I'm pretty much homeless now."

In fact he had given up his apartment, to get the deposit money back. All in all he'd managed to get $4000 together. He knew it wouldn't last long. He stayed with Brian two nights, and on the third day Brian brought him the address he needed, and packed to leave.

"OK, I'm going to start here, I'll call you, keep your eyes open"

"Keep your eyes safe" replied Brian "and you might need this"

He handed Nathan a key.

"Bit of a jalopy but it goes. Better than walking anyway.

"Thanks man. I REALLY owe you."

He'd never fully realized what a good friend he'd had in Brian.

The conference center security system had held an address across town for the private bodyguard Brian had seen working there. It turned out to be a small house, and Nathan found no-one home, but the side window was open, so he went in anyway. Obviously someone lived there and jugding by the size of the clothes in the closet it could certainly be the big Russian guy they both knew. Books in Russian on the table seemed to confirm this. Nathan went quickly through every piece of paper he could find in the place, which wasn't much, and found several old Delsec invoices, but nothing recent. Either he had those on him, or they'd started paying cash. Or...Delsec had ceased to exist. Just as he was thinking he might take a chance and ask the Russian, the decision was made for him as the big man walked in the door. Dimitri's immediate reaction was to attack the intruder he'd found in his kitchen but a look of confused partial recognition came over him, and instead he just stood between Nathan and the door. Nathan was in no hurry to try and get past a guy seven feet tall, so he tried to explain himself, but Dimitri's English wasn't up to the complexity of it. He did understand that Nathan was looking for Stevens.

"We all look for him." he said dourly

"You're not working for him?"

"I think so, yes, but no pay."

"Oh, I know that feeling" said Nathan. "When was the last time you saw him?"

"Maybe 4 weeks."

Then Nathan remembered what Brian said about Dimitri driving Stevens' car. In a difficult conversation Nathan managed to ascertain that Dimitri had stolen it in lieu of payment and was now taking any work he could get in his own right, and had been fulfilling contracts he remembered being taken out by Delsec - including the conference center gig. Right now he was out of work, out of cash, and not very happy. It didn't take long to convince him to go with Nathan.

They sold Stevens' car for $8000 cash, and spent $1000 of that getting Brian's heap running better. Dimitri had protested that the better car would be the one to use for a long drive, but Nathan persuaded him that it might be recognized. The Toyota was cramped for the big man but he pushed the seat right back and never complained. Nathan felt a little guilty at not telling him the whole truth of his new mission, but needs must. With no further leads nearby, they hit Front Royal early next morning, having driven all night, found a motel and crashed.

Nathan slept heavy. He awoke to his now familiar blur and reached for his glasses on the nightstand. Just a tool, he thought to himself, something I use for efficiency. Looking at himself in the mirror was getting easier. He didn't feel like a freak anymore, and was beginning to think maybe he'd over-reacted. At least he looked different enough now in glasses, and with a totally new hairstyle to go with them, that theoretically no-one should recognize him as the man who'd been lurking around the streets there a few weeks before.

Dimitri caught up on the local news about the killing Nathan had witnessed. He rushed back to tell Nathan that a man was in custody. The problem remained that two total strangers couldn't just go visit him and ask questions. However they made an appointment to see his defence lawyer the following day, and decided to spend the evening at the Kings Tavern. Nathan scoured the bar area for faces he recognized, but even the girls that Clark had hung out with were missing. Lost in thought, Nathan took a while to notice that a very pretty blonde had sat beside him and was looking him up and down. He smiled, flattered, then a crashing thought came into his head that she was only staring at him because he looked geeky. He sighed to himself and stared into his beer. Unfortunately it was his eighth.

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking" he found himself saying.

"Oh?" she replied "You're a mind-reader?"

She had the most beautiful voice, and he felt like he was in pain.

"I've had a lot of funny looks lately"

"Why?"

Why? What did she THINK why? Stupid question. Why do the beautiful ones have to be so stupid? Nathan just shook his head. It wasn't worth it. But she pressed on...

"I haven't seen you in here before"

"Oh, you come here regularly..............." and it dawned on him, of course she was a hooker. A professional. She could pretend to be attracted to ANY man. Geeky glasses were nothing for her, nothing at all.

"Well, I've been here every night since the murder, I'm a detective."

Nathan laughed out loud. Now he'd heard every pick up line in the book. But she just smiled.

"Yeah I know, female detective, I get a lot of that."

Something in her face looked sincere however. Nathan decided it was worth a try.

"I thought you'd got they guy."

"Well, they have charged someone...."

"They?"

"The cops"

"The cops are they? So who are you?"

"Oh...sorry, I'm a private detective. I don't think the man they've got is the killer, or at least, I don't think he was alone."

Nathan's throat suddenly felt very dry and he instinctively looked away from her. For the very first time he was EXTREMELY grateful for his glasses. Right now he loved them, passionately.......She continued.

"We think he was hired to do it, but he's not telling. Someone had been following Clark for some time, and it wasn't the guy picked up."

In a flash of inspiration, Nathan lost all his fear. He turned back to the girl, looked her square in the face and said

"I think we can help each other."

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