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A Gift From Nowhere

rs. Coye Montgomery squinted as the unsympathetic morning brilliance penetrated her

transparent window and stroke her opening eyes. Oh, Gush! she remarked and thought of replacing the white Baja embroidery curtains with darker crystal-patino or brown asteroid-water designs that would stymied the suns morning rays. She fancied never to have descended from the beatific place she was last night, but as her eye acclimatized to her surroundings, she realized that she was nowhere but on her fluffy mattress in her spacious, mahogany-furnished bedroom. This morning with the thoughts of her congenial nightly encounters still fresh in her mind, she surmised that today will be a jolly one. Last night, she had the most splendid dream about dining with the Father himself, in His golden palace, where He took her by the hands and escorted her to His table among his heavenly guest: His son and the notables like Moses, Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist. In the middle of the all-embracing table, she had a glimpse of Paul doing some catching up with his earthly adopted son Timothy. And to ice her vision of her remarkable day, her grand daughter, Masha Junkcare had woken in the early hours, made breakfast of Doles Orange juice, turkey sausage, egg omelet, Grands Flaky buttermilk biscuits and a small salad of tomatoes and lettuce sprinkled with some homemade vinaigrette. She had served Mrs. Montgomery in bed before going to school. Life couldnt be better. Mrs. Montgomerry planned not to allow anything to drown this day of merriment, and hoped to relax on the borders of the Byon River with her pals Martha Reeves and Rosemary Edward later. Coye thought of Masha and wondered how much she loved her darling grand daughter. Since Mashas parent inopportune death in a car accident by the drunkard, who (thanks God) is dead as well; Mrs. Montgomery had catered for Mashas every need. Now Masha is a promising young lady, blessed with exceptional talents and wits and brought up under the watchful eyes of Coye herself.

Coye couldnt understand why village folks were saying some much rubbish about her dearest Masha, but she was just too convinced that all these lies were hatched from envy and ill-will. Since Masha had emerged the winner of Nexus TV Top-liner and was guaranteed a contract with Crapo Modeling Agency, its like the entire village had ganged up on spreading all sorts of filth about her. They said that she was a Riverside sewer rat, just sleeping in any hole once her sexual appetite was satisfied. Then Ma Popo (May her soul rest in peace) had acquainted Coye with the gossips among Riverside Central vendors that Masha was a walking cemetery having paid the witch Kentoria Hamlet to assist her in aborting at least three fetuses. Coye knew that she was Riverside top-notch obstetrician and gynecologist put together and she could smell pregnancy within miles. Her dearest had no tell-tale signposts of ovular fertilization, so she really couldnt fathom why her green-eyed neighbors were sullying her grandchilds reputation with infectious mendacity. Coye swore that her daughters flirtatious nature was nothing more than voluptuous teasing with no touching, no caressing, and no sneaking into bushes. Of course, she has raised a virgin who could have given the Virgin Mary herself competition, and yes, she did so even in todays sexually exploited society. Plus, Masha had told her that she favored dealing with boys since they have less time fabricating and propagating stories, and they cause less drama. And Coye couldnt rebuff the verity of that statement. However, yesterday Rosemary Edwards had enlightened her about Marshas courtship with that lazybones Hendrix Isaac, the brother of that faggot. To tell you the truth that thought troubled her. She trusted her friends and took their reports very seriously, and she had planned to talk to Masha about these rumors, but felt the time wasnt right as yet. Rosemary knew exactly when to question Marsha, and she knew the clock was ticking and the date was nearing. Mrs. Montgomery knew that she has taught Marsha better than hooking up with good-for-nothings, with the unwaged, with anyone who will just sit home and wait for a job to walk up his step, knocked on his door, and say Here I am, take me! Mrs. Montgomery grimaced as she thought of the many idiotic girls who work while their boyfriends are at home playing video games or hanging out with the boys.

My God, what is wrong with todays men? she quizzed introspectively. Have they lost their rightful place in society as the bread winner or have women seriousness in school has pressed men to the curb; to the brim of nothingness? Or have women become so dense that they prefer to hide their guys at home and work to support him in an attempt to keep him in their claws? Dont they learn that wild boors are untamable? Mrs. Montgomery sucked her teeth and flushed that whole men-women-working mumbo jumbo from her mind. However, one fact is crystal, she cant stick a bone in that ne'er-do-well Hendrix or any of his Love Boys comrades as a matter of fact, and if Masha was really secretly involved with that rascal, she will waste no time to put an immediate end to it. She poked out her lips, twisted up her face, and hurried into the kitchen. The house was neat as a new pin, the dishes were washed up, and it seemed as if Masha had dusted every inch and had swept all cobwebs from every corners. Rosemary sat sluggishly on her Hawthorne White Pepper Sofa, and picked up the copy of The Da Vinci Code novel by Dan Brown, which has been picking up dust on the lower section of her Ghanaian-imported handcrafted Elephant coffee table since it was handed to her by Martha, who had urged her to flex her thinking and to eradicate her mind from the tyranny of her Catholic credos. She had heard so many murmurs about that book and its silly insinuations linking Jesus, her impeccable Savior, to a biblical harlot that she was averse in reading the book. For she knew that she was brought up in the heart of the Catholic church and her beliefs in the church, its tenets, and its rituals are well fermented; she will not be toss to and thro by every word of doctrine, moreover falsehood, just because it touches the strings of sensitivity and invokes a curiosity to delve into the abyss of wrongness. No, not her!

However, today was different; the prelude of the day had already swayed from the normal, and since she has nothing to do, and the newspaper boy hadnt yet banged her door as he flings her daily copy of The Mountain Whisperer on her pouch, she decided to pass her idle time reading what she believed was a sacrilegious book. Before, she turned the leaves to the prologue, she utter a muffled prayer asking the Savior for guidance and wisdom. However, she had already told herself that if the book was really stretching it, she would waste no time to deposit it among those other filths in her trashcan despite Mrs. Reeves ranting and raving. Coye had just opened the book when the telephone began to ring gratingly. She stretched her hands to her charcoal, Tanzanian accent table and excitingly grabbed her white streamlined telephones receiver just to be greeted by a heavy Asian drawl placing his favorite orders. Before he could finish, Mrs. Montgomery uncouthly interrupted him and brusquely cautioned him to get his numbers right. That no, he cannot have any Pu Pu platter with Crab Rangoon, nor a double portion of Dim Sim Sui Mi or Chong Sue Mein or whatever the gobbledygook he asked for; that this is not the Chinese take-away or the Korean delicatessen. This is a private residence with no connection whatsoever to any business or trade, especially not one of any foreign extractions. She slammed down the receiver, frowned, and resumed her reading. She had only read a few pages after the prologue, and was really immersed by Dan Browns discourse on the Golden Number, phi, when she heard a small knock on her door. The knock didnt sound at all like the bang that usually accompanied the tossing of the usually thick Mountain Whisperer on her front door, so with circumspect eyes, she tip-toed to the door. Through the miniature porthole about three-quarter to the top of her zebra-stripped Oakwood and underwater-designed, opalescent glass door, she surveyed her yard but there was no one in sight. The streets were deserted, as if some UFO has gobbled up the entire population of Riverside except her.

Still cautiously, she opened the door, but as she had thought, it wasnt a thinner version of the Mountain Whisperer that had disturbed her reading as it slammed onto her front reposing neatly on her glass and wood beads glittering, palm-leaf shaped straw mat, but rather a gift, parceled in a mauve pillow-shaped corrugated gift box accentuated with a white organdy-style ribbon margined with a lightly lavender wired edges. She looked at the box admiringly and remarked, Whats an eye-catching funereal packaging! She tenderly picked up the box and shut the door behind her as she promenaded back to her sofa. As she unwrapped the package, Coye marveled at Maureens sedulity that morning as to have just set her gift of indebtedness at the front door without the civility of saying howdy. Even so, she beamed at Maureens thoughtfulness in going the extra mile to show her gratitude to those who comforted her during her bereavement. In high spirits, Coye ripped one of the corners of the pillowshaped box just to be saluted by a putrid odor, which ambuscaded her nostrils and slightly anesthetized her. The gift slipped gingerly from her numbing fingers and its content landed limberly unto her bamboo-woven rug. With preoccupation, she glimpsed askance at the bug-ridden object on her rug, and though, the piece of flesh was almost utterly masticated by the sea of bopping maggots that had overcame it, its silhouette appeared to be a piece of tongue. Panic and horror overwhelmed her. She felt the need for some sort of roborant after experiencing the distressing scene on the floor before her. She dashed into her bathroom, flung the delicate glass door of her medicine cabinet open, snatched some aspirin, and swigged down two doses. Coye sat submissively in thoughts mulling over the disintegrating tongue now radiating rancid fragrance all over her living room. She wondered whether it was animal or human, and if it was human whose was it? Where did it come from, what did it mean, and who was so sick as to have dropped such an unprepossessing item cloaked as a gift on her doorstep? To Coye, that was just not witty at all.

As thousands of unanswered questions inundated her mind, she wondered whether this was another stratagem, or better yet a warning from that sociopath, and she wanted to know why that degenerate, that plague, was still loose, still uncaged, still disrupting Riversides tranquility. She tried to eject all contemplations of the lunatic from her memory and speculated that perhaps one of the scoundrels among the bunch of hooligans, the Love Boys, was back to his old antics. But as she scrutinized the tongue closely, it became apparent that the tongue was more human than animal, and a thought ignited her brain tissues. Coye covered her agape mouth with both hands and hurried to the telephone.

Martha Reeves was a perpetual slugabed. Unlike many who think that it is best to wake up before the sun, Martha argued what for. To her, the sun rays must impel activities under her closed eye lids, forcing them to unfasten just as it does to the morning glory every day. She was still fast asleep, when the unmusical song of the telephone invaded her consciousness. She cussed, Who the hell is calling her so early this Friday morning. Lethargically, she crept out of bed, and under the somber had managed to grab the telephones receiver. With a guttural tone she acknowledged the speaker and after curtly giving whoever was on the other line a stern warning to respect her sleeping hours, Martha asked, And whats so important that it couldnt have waited for later? hints of exasperation still visible in her voice. It was a thunderstruck Coye Montgomery on the other line, her voice was so shaken and throaty, that it took Martha several seconds to recognize that it was her darling Coye, and she apologized profusely for her indelicacy when she picked up the line. Within fitful eruptions of sobs and fragmented spells of panic, Coye etched to Martha an animated description of her nightmarish gift. Martha remained speechless throughout Coyes unfolding, just uttering periodic bursts of stupefaction and incredulity. Even minutes after Coye had finished relating her mornings discomfort; there was a long pause between the two women. As if picking up cue from each other, both women began speaking simultaneously, but Martha was given the opportunity to proceed, and asked, Whom do you reckon would have put such filth on your doormat? Coye answered hesitantly, and articulated indistinctively, The Mouth. The Mouth! W-why would he send you a tongue? ejaculated Martha. Stop prattling! Because it is a tongue I would recognize, said Coye; I think he is trying to send me a message. A tongue, you would recognize? How could he be sure? He is trying to send you a message? Why you? Million of questions rushed to the front of Marthas forehead, and while she would have liked to entertain all of them as legitimate inquisitions, Coyes twaddle was just not adding up to anything meriting consideration.

Coye tying to evaporate Martha bafflement, recounted Mr. Neal Hamlets interview just after Ma Popos body was discovered in which he avowed that Ma Popos tongue was sliced and was never unearthed. Here it is on my living room rug she blubbered. Martha tried doggedly to rekindle Coyes gay disposition despite her unremitting outbursts and hysteria. She chided Coye for her ridiculous attention to her buffoons idiocies. The tongue could well be a goats, a dogs or even an asss, and she was getting herself worked up over nothing. Martha reassured Coye that The Mouth was a splinter of Riversides overblown imagination, and Ma Popos sporadic death was done by a transient who was probably miles away from Riverside. And though Martha wasnt too convinced about her deduction, it appeared to have soothed Coye, and thats what she wanted to achieve anyway. Martha was sure that Coye have amplified the prank of one of the pack of thugs still up to no good, and she besought her to pull herself together and telephone the Riverside PD instead of being carried way by such infantile shenanigan. Coye acceded and regretted having overexerted herself over nothing. Martha excused herself from the line after telling Coye that though she doesnt want to sound cold, she needs to get back to bed to relax her frazzled body a little bit more, that the tongue was nothing more than a frolic of one of the infamous Love Boys which she should not let dampened her day, and she would join her and Rosemary later for their one-on-one near the Byon River. Martha hung up. Coye Montgomery sat broodingly on her sofa, the telephone still in her laps. She was still uneasy by the sight of the fetid tongue and decided to get another opinion from Rosemary Edward. However, when she telephoned Rosemary all she got was a youthful voice recording: Hello dearRosies residence on the road kicking dust will catch up with you later leave a message. Thus, Coye had no choice but to heed Marthas advice, and with hesitancy, she rang the Riverside PD.

t was dark, hot, and dismal under the canopy. The sky was cloudless; hence, the sun rays

penetrated the troposphere unhindered. The midday sun above and beyond the trees was scorching; absorbing every moisture mercilessly from every thing it touched. Even The Mouth now reclined listlessly under the compacted canopy of trees bordering Riverside Forest Reverse and Main Street could not stand the agonizing heat. He felt as if he was on the periphery of hell fire and considered that if this heat was a sample of his comeuppance for his heinous way, he needed to become penitent before his time on earth expired. He had stripped to his Spidermantattooed boxers as he laid sluggishly on a makeshifts beds of two banana leaves on the mosscapped ground; the sporadic gusts from clattering leaves producing a soothing fan. Today, like the previous five days, The Mouth had been as idle as ever. He spent most of his leisure clubbing particularly at In-Your-Leg discotheque, playing video games, or relaxing on Riversides Rock-A-Way beach. But today, he had made a catapult from a Y-shaped branch, some rubbers and a few strings and decided to frolic in his favorite pastime of bird hunting under the canopy. However, his efforts were balked by the intolerable heat. He lay on the slippery banana leaves facing the heavens and suddenly became mesmerized by Epiphytes hanging like beards on branches and stems in every possible inch of the forest while an array of species of algae invaded and colonized moist branches. Then, his eyes settled on small specks of light rays as they filtered through the dense ceiling of greenery overhead. It appeared as if all the rays had come to an abrupt halt in mid air as if barricaded by a thin, invisible, shimmering sheet of tin, which was reflecting all of them back to its originator before falling on the fern-covered floor. It seemed like dusk had never left the day below the tree canopy. A heavy atmosphere clings to the earth like a coiling miasma culminating in the same stuffiness and malaise as had been felt outside the sheathing trees.

The Mouth sprawled mutely under the hypnotic serenades of an assortment of tuneful melodies from birds, tree frogs and invertebrates everywhere, though the entertainers were hardly seen among their vine-choked surrounding. All of a sudden, the harmonious tunes were upset as a colony of silver-haired bats coasting lazily across the tepid air. Angling their twelve-inclined wings, they banked down toward a pubescent cedar tree, giving two or so breaking flaps as they landed. As if summoned by a drill sergeant, with adept synchronization, the bats bedecked the cedar branches like silvery-black ornaments suspended from a Christmas tree. As showgirls in front a crowd of flattering men, a few bats outspread their diaphanous arms entrancingly exposing their nakedness, then seductively folded their arms, their leathery membrane swallowing up their entire body. The Mouth chortled at their eroticism. A raspy sound on the forest ground diverted The Mouths gaze in time to observe a pale-red purple pincher as it poked his head looking aggravated by the sudden commotion from its unwelcomed guests above. Without much prying, he ducked into his salvaged home and lumbered under a pile of dissected bush. The Mouth was amazed by the soldier crabs indifference to affairs outside its horizon, and wondered why people cannot behave in an analogous manner. People always want to know, always want to poke their noses into things that have no links to them whatever, always show concern towards happenings that is unrelated to their daily lives. Thats why many will end up dead, gloated the Mouth. He sneered as he remembered the joyous expression on Mrs. Coye Montgomerys face as she picked up her gift from her doormat earlier this morning. Dont people ever learn, queried The Mouth. Have they forgotten the axioms: never judge a book by its cover; always expect the expected, and not everything that glitter is gold? He knew right now she is no longer smiling. He knew that fear and confusion have mapped her face, and thousands of unreturned questions have swamped her mind. He knew she will never find out who sent her this unsavory token, and what the meaning behind such thoughtlessness was until he revealed himself to her later this afternoon.

He yearned for that day, and anticipated a favorable outcome. Mrs. Coye Montgomery had it coming. She was a brazen loud-mouthed, and a notorious rumormonger. She has shattered his life and that of many others, and it was time for her confession. He was confident that even though she was a regular church-attendee, she has not yet declared all of her transgressions, and this afternoon, by the hook or the crook, he will scoop them, one by every single one, from her tongue. And he intended to do so torturously. His inner man having absorbed all the entertainment brought about by the Mouths thoughts, roared heartily. He pooh-poohed all Coyes vicious fabrications and awaited impatiently her rendezvous with death. He too suffered pitilessly when she began spreading contagious lies about the Mouths family. It was he who had to sit there and take note of all the Mouths headaches and pains, even though he didnt want to. It was he who had to comfort an inconsolable Mouth, when the pressure became too grand for his brain tissues to sop up. He was totally devastated when The Mouth attempted to commit suicide when Mrs. Montgomery and her cronies started disseminating defamations via their Radio Code Kapi that the Mouths father was impotent, and was suffering from a genital anomaly, reputedly phimosis, which made sexual intercourse painful, and that none of his wife four children including the cripple was his, but they were rather conceived through philandering encounters. Though, no evidence of these charges had ever been produced, they began to chip away at his mothers favor among the self-righteous community, and they didnt stop The Mouths daily battles to disregard the countless epithets and cat-talks from passersby. His inner man was jumpy and could hardly wait any longer. He incessantly prodded The Mouth, to get rid of Mrs. Coye Montgomery earlier. He couldnt understand the Mouths reason for his delay, and really felt that the Mouth was getting fruity, losing his virile stature, making sympathy clog his call of duty. He was losing faith in the Mouth and was on the verge of giving up on him.

The Mouth, on the other hand, lay on his glossy banana leaves ignoring every prod, every spurs coming from within. He had pre-selected his time of action, and nothing would push him into haste actions. His mind strayed to the village beyond the forest, and he mused over its innocence. He wondered how many people have already forgotten Ma Popos death and all its sensations. He knew that his timing was right to remind Riverside that all wasnt well and done, that the maniac was still leaking around the corner. He grinned. He could already read the headlines from the Mountain Whisperer and Nexus TV: Another Bloody Afternoon; Another tongue run Amok; Fear Still Lingers. He guffawed. He contemplated on his afternoons feast with nothing more than heavenly bliss. He looked at his watch and as the clock stroke 2:00 pm, he knew the time was finally here. He felt a few butterflies in his stomach, and wondered whether there was some veracity to his Inner Mans cockeyed observation of his becoming sissified. He didnt deliberate on that notion; he cocked, peeked awry at the bats still hanging inertly on the cedar, kicked his improvised bed aside, gawked to see whether the soldier crab had appeased its anger, and swaggered out of the woods into the sweltering heat.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

eanwhile, at number 2428 Siboulie Road, Mrs. Coye Montgomery had overcome the

alarm of her disturbing present, and was jovially relating her sunrise uneasiness to Rosemary Edwards over the phone. The Riverside PD had already come in, interrogated her, and bagged the maggot-laden tongue. Before they exited, Detective McLemore had also cautioned her to keep her doors bolted as she should not take such antics nonchalantly in light of the recent baneful activities in the neighborhood. As she ended a stint of laughter, she heard a muffled crack of her back door, but she was assured that all her doors were locked, and dismissed the sound as the popping sound of expansion as the suns baking heat striking persistently on the galvanized rooftop.

She had just hung up he phone and was strolling to the kitchen, when Thwoop," a propellant broke the silence. Poisonous dart wafted from a blowgun towards its target. The dart penetrated Coyes floral dress, into her flesh and bloodstream. She fell, paralyzed, unable to breathe, and gasping for air. As she placed her deadening hand to impede blood from gushing from where the dart had stabbed, warm blood filtered through her fingers and littered the floor. Out of the blues, she spied a figure as it approached her; its face visible and masked with disgust. She caught a glimpse of her attacker, and ashen. She looked at him, her popping eyes begging why such a civil and easy-going gentleman has turned out to be Riversides monster. He grabbed her arms forcefully and tied them tightly behind her back. He spoke angrily, but she barely caught a word as she wavered to and from sanity, her brain deprived from oxygen as the poison suctioned the hemoglobin from her red blood cells. Mrs. Montgomery lay helplessly on her kitchen floor overshadowed by her attacker, her face blanched, and she felt her blood turning cold, curdling. Her assailant vigorously pried her mouth, and as the cold steel touched her tongue, her mind raced back to her mornings gifts; she knew that in a second, she would have no tongue-no ability to taste or to speak. She tried to scream as he slowing and surgically severed her tongue, but the pain was too raw, too excruciating to have enabled her to make any utterances. Like the bopping maggots consuming her mornings gift, she was squiggled on the floor; tears eroding the light foundation on her redden cheeks. He brandished her piece of tongue playfully before her, and then bagged it in a Ziploc bag, an evident smirk on his face. Mrs. Montgomery wondered who will be the ill-fated recipient of her tongue, and her mind drifted to her friends Rosemary Edward and Martha Reeves. She shut her eyelids and entreated her Fathers shelter on behalf of her friends. Still in heartfelt prayer, she felt her body being dragged towards the center of her kitchen floor. She tried weakly to grab the handles of her cupboards as she was hauled to her resting position, but she was too enervated to fight his youthful aggressiveness. The Mouth fumbled his teardrop knapsack. And finally removed what he was looking for.

As he placed each of the items sleekly on her vanished hardwood flooring, a pallid Mrs. Montgomery eyes widened to its full width. Then, without warning, The Mouth dashed to Mrs. Montgomerys side, and with painstaking dexterity as if baiting a fishhook, he cold-bloodedly punctured Mrs. Montgomerys lips with the barb of each hook already tied with strings and wickedly pulled each string as he knotted each to a different handle of her kitchen cupboards. Mrs. Montgomery hoarse voice was barely perceptible. Her tear glands were too empty to produce any more tears. She lay there undoubtedly in pain but moribund nonetheless. The Mouth could see she was suffering, and remarked that how he felt when she were destroying his family with her tales and lies. Mrs. Montgomery tied to apologized, tried to beg for mercy, but she knew it was too late. She felt like life was already exiting her body. She recalled her celestial journey last night, in which she was communing with her Father, and wondered whether He would welcome her home as He had done in her dream. She thought of her friends Rosemary Edwards and Martha Reeves and realized that perhaps they too are marked for death. She wished she could forewarn them, but now fastened to her cupboards half-dead with these enormous hooks radiating in all direction from her lips, she knew it was impossible. She saw Marshas smiling face floating in her consciousness, and knew she would not see her again moreover to have that heart to heart talk with her about her worthless hookup, Hendrix. Coye took one last glance at her attacker, who was busily cleaning up the scene with what appears to be Hydrogen Peroxide, and wondered whether he will ever be caught. She had read in the Mountain Whisperer that Hydrogen Peroxide dissolves blood enzymes, destroys blood evidence, and removes blood stains, and she knew that the goon was also acquainted with such techniques.

She also felt that he was appropriately clothed for his murderous act, with white paper overall such as used by policemen as they explore crime scenes, latex gloves and pairs of paper shoes. She castigated the papers for being so vivid, for giving menaces to society like her attacker tools to perfect their trade, and desired to asphyxiate each editor for their negligence of being more circumspect with the information they disseminate. But now, with a poison crushing her organs and hooks distorting her once voluptuous lips with every slight movement, all she could do was wait on her final breathe. As she lay on her kitchen hardwood taking in a few difficult, deep breathes, she felt a sharp object perforated the cartilage of her throat, and within seconds the entire room went black. She was running in slow motion towards a shinning tunnel, voices chanting her to the finished line. She died peacefully, and before the sweetness of her soul was deflowered and ravished from her. The Mouth looked at his victim, her lips torn apart by the hooks, her enamel exposed to all the elements in the atmosphere. He felt an infinitesimal trace of sorrow surfaced; his inner man growled and scoffed at his seemingly delicacy. The Mouth inhaled deeply, scanned Mrs. Montgomerys lifeless body, and reassured his virility. As he vacated Mrs. Montgomerys dwelling, uneasiness eclipsed his elation. It seems as if two brilliant eyes were piercing his chest. He inspected the area, but no one was in sight. He peeped through hedges and around the nearby scrubs, but to his amazement not even a stray dog was concealed among them. He questioned why his mind was acting a fool today, and whats up with his jumpiness. He reflected on his inner mans absurd observation, but cast it aside. As he paced towards the woods, the sense of being watched, of being followed, of being scrutinized didnt wane a bit. However, he closed his eyes to his over-reactive imagination. But before, he spun around the corner and vanished behind the impenetrable forest, The Mouth turned back but failed to notice a bemused Heskieth Dryer creeping out underneath his bushy disguise at the edge of Mrs. Montgomery balcony gaping at him.

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