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"Last I saw of him, he was up on Baldy doing something he called a spirit quest. I reckon there's enough spirits down here without seeking out more on mountains."

Helen nodded, then took her Coke and left. Dr. Highwater stood and put three quarters on the counter. "Not like Helen to scoot without paying. Or without saying so much as hidey-ho to her own daddy." He watched her as she headed south toward the bald-topped mountain. "Have to do my own typing for a day or two, unless one of y'all want to come over and help." One of the poker players hooted at him, but everyone else stayed silent. Helen's agitation had cast a pall over the entire room.

She might be a harbinger of doom, but she was always right. And if she was this upset, something surely was wrong.

The baby's wails woke Mark McCoy at two in the morning.  He sighed, smacked his lips, and threw the covers back.  Silver moonlight shone clearly into his window, puddling on the white t-shirt he'd thrown on the floor, behavior Elayne would never allow. Have allowed.  He stumbled into the nursery, pulled a bottle out of the refrigerator, dropped it into the electric bottle warmer.  Then he picked up the baby.

"Shit!" He almost dropped the baby.  The baby's little t-shirt was coated in something warm and moist. Spitup? It didn't smell unpleasant. It was -- earthy.

Mark gingerly carried him to the changing table, grimacing at the dark smudges on the white cloth cover. Elayne had been the household stain professional; Mark would probably never get this out.
The old men guffawed. Arch licked his thumb and index finger and started dealing out four hands on  the board they had laid on the stove.

"Don't you be betting money back there."

"Ah, Sam, you know us."

"That's right."

The string of bells on the door jingled. Helen walked over and got a Coke out of the old fashioned ice chest. It was always colder than the one on the porch that shot cans out the bottom.

"That be all for you, Helen?"

She nodded.

"Sixty-five cents." Sam peered over his glasses at her. "Say, you look a little agitated. Is something wrong?"

Frank set his corn whiskey aside and pulled out his wallet. There sure was something going on with his daughter. She looked like she'd been seeing ghosts again.

Helen shook her head.

"Well, keep your secrets if you must."

"Ain't seen Raven, have you?"

Henry raised his eyebrows. "Raven, is it? So something is wrong."

She hesitated, then answered hoarsely, "Don't know. Maybe."

Stilling the Dead
A Helen Highwater Story
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