Halfway to my Heart
by Brigid Doyle
Copyright - July 1999
Payton, Colin and the Inspector entered the darkened conference room. Payton moved with stealth through the blackness having spent enough time in it to be familiar with each piece of dark furniture. She pulled the cord on the black blinds and let in the mid morning sun. Unsatisfied with the amount of light it provided, the overly anxious woman punched a switch at the head of the table and brought on the overhead lighting adjusting it until it met her satisfaction with a small knob next to the main switch. She seated herself in the tall black leather chair that was reserved for her alone and motioned for the men to sit as well.
"This better be quick." She warned them menacingly. "I made a promise I intend to keep." She nodded toward the door and Colin knew the meaning of her words immediately.
"She'll be okay with Connie this won't take long." His voice betrayed his conviction. "Inspector Larzy has some new information. We didn't think Reagan needed to hear this."
The inspector reached inside his jacket and placed a small photograph on the table in front of Payton. "Do you recognize this woman?"
Payton looked at the picture of the blonde woman who was probably only a few years her senior. Her dark eyes and defined cheekbones gave her a striking look, almost like a model or some high fashion ingenue. Her smile was more sinister than cheerful and somehow did not reach her eyes. Payton stared for a moment then shook her head, flicking the picture back to the policeman across the well-polished tabletop.
"How about this woman?" The inspector caught the first photo and replaced it, again in front of the young executive, with a second.
Payton glanced at this as well. It showed an older woman, most likely 50-ish, with short light hair and thick rimmed glasses. She was thin and well manicured, but her attire was just a bit frumpy. Payton shook her head again. "No, not her either." This time she folded her hands in front of her leaving the photo where it lay.
The police officer nodded and tossed a third picture next to the second. "Her?"
This woman was also older, maybe not as old. She had the same hairstyle and seemed to buy her clothing from the same designer. Her eyeglasses hung on a beaded chain around her neck. She shook her head, "Okay, we're three for three. I've never seen any of them."
"You're absolutely sure?" The older man asked slowly as if he were speaking to a child as he slid the first picture next to the other two. "Why don't you take another look?"
Payton rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh. She looked at the three photos lined up on the table before her and shook her head again. "NO, I do_ not_ know any of them." She accentuated each word distinctly, meeting the inspector eye to eye. "Should I?" Her alarm system had been set off and all of the old defenses were in place in record time.
"Why don't you tell me?" Inspector Larzy asked calmly.
Payton slammed both of her hands against the table. The small photographs bounced with the force of the blow. "THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!" She exploded rising to her feet and almost toppling the heavy leather chair behind her. "THEY COULD BE ANYONE ON THE DAMN STREET!!! I DON'T KNOW THEM FROM LADY ASTOR!!! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!!" The young executive's eyes blazed with anger as she approached the policeman. "You DEMAND to interrogate a child. You INSIST on dragging her through yet another trial of terror, then show up here and ask ME if I know some eclectic trio of emaciated hags?!" She advanced on the man, the turmoil of the last few days finally taking its toll on the young woman. Her hands were drawn into tight white knuckled fists at the ends of her arms that hung stiff at her sides. She approached the older man with cold fury.
Colin stepped between the sparring opponents minutes before they were nose to nose. "PAYTON!" He sounded a bit more anxious than he intended. He placed a hand on either of his employer's shoulders and drew a quick breath to calm his own rapidly beating heart. "Payton, calm down the inspector was just making sure " He looked back over his shoulder at the man behind him, hoping for some help. The inspector held his ground. The lawyer turned back to Payton. "He needed to know for sure."
Payton shook free of the dark haired young man and turned away. She stormed across the room stopping at the opposite end of the table. She took a deep breath collecting the errant strands of her temper and reigning in all of those violent emotions. She leaned on her knuckles against the dark boardroom table. "Needed to know what?" She spat. Her dark eyes sparked with the quelling storm behind them.
The inspector picked up the photos and shuffled them randomly. He smiled at the images that seemed to stare back from the small celluloid pages. "How much you know." He informed her casually, almost as if tossing some invisible bait out for her.
"About what?" She shot back not missing a beat. She did not like this man and the quicker she dealt with and dismissed him and his whole investigation the happier she would be. She had enough private investigators at her beck and call to solve this insane plot without the help of this overweight hick from some town she could not even remember.
"Not what who." He continued, ignoring her animosity. "It seems there is a lot more to this situation than a missing headmistress and an allegation of abuse." He eyed the young woman carefully, weighing her reaction to his statement before continuing. "And, of course, just who indeed is responsible for that abuse.
Payton narrowed her eyes, her anger tugged at its reigns. The volume of words that fell across her mind, if not unspeakable, would certainly make matters worse. She chose to use all of her strength to hold on to that anger for now.
Inspector Larzy walked confidently toward Payton and again tossed the photos before her. They splayed across the table in a small arch. "One of those women is Alexis Thorne." He stated without emotion.
Payton looked down at the photos immediately dismissing that of the young blonde woman.
Colin tapped the photo in the center. "This is the Alexis Thorne I spoke to at Brisbey at the beginning of the week."
Larzy snatched the photo closest to him and held it up between two fingers. "And this is the Alexis Thorne that left Halford Hall in Los Angeles, but never arrived at Brisbey School."
Payton squinted as her eyebrows came together in a scowl. She looked from the photo under Colin's finger to the one between Larzy's and back again. Her mind spun behind what appeared to be a cool demeanor. Alexis Thorne was the woman that abused and terrified her younger sister. Alexis Thorne wore two faces. Two women professed to be the same person. Questions formed themselves in panicked frenzy.
Payton half expected the inspector to pull a photo of her own likeness from one of his many pockets. Why shouldn't he? She was to blame, she had more 'blood' on her hands than either of these men seemed to realize. She had been the instrument that put this situation into play. In the cold hatred that had held her in its vice she had put Reagan in that hell at Brisbey. She'd sent for registration forms and completed them without so much as visiting the facility. The great and powerful Payton McAllister did not care where her father's bastard stayed or who cared for her as long as she was as far away as she could put her. The child had been taken from her parent's funeral by a hired driver and delivered right into that bitch's hands. She had not personally abused Reagan, but in her heart she was just as guilty as the hag in the photograph. She tightened the fists she still held at her sides in order to keep her hands from shaking, to keep the fear that suddenly was gaining strength on her shield of anger from taking away the thin strands of calm she was showing. She would not lose control. She would not let this moron see her like that. She took a deep breath and composed herself forming a somewhat two-sided question.
"That makes two." She sniped at the inspector, pushing aside her thoughts and looking at the photos again. "So what's this, the wild card?" She flicked the remaining photo on its edge sending it spinning across the table toward the man.
Larzy laughed once as he caught it easily, slapping his large hand down on it as it skirted the edge of the table. "Wild is a good description, but no, Miss McAllister, this lovely lady is L'sandra Teschner." He flicked the photo back to her.
The photo spun to a stop in front of the executive. She stared at it for a moment and crossed her arms over her chest. She really did not like this baffoon. It was easy to turn her away from her guilt and let all of that anger flow in his direction. "Is all of this going somewhere or are you making a total ass of yourself for nothing?" She smiled smugly.
Colin rolled his eyes. This was not going well. Payton was a tinderbox and the inspector was just the flint to set her off. They clashed like two well-honed swords. "Inspector Larzy did some investigating after I called him. I thought he needed to know about the Teschner situation, so I shared what we discussed after I found those files at the office. It was just a hunch, but he did find more than either of us anticipated." He tried desperately to salvage the situation. "He wanted to know if you had ever seen either woman."
Payton huffed. She looked at the inspector but spoke to Colin. "Then why didn't he just ask?"
Colin opened his mouth, but the inspector answered. "Call it my flare for the dramatic, if you will."
Payton's eyes narrowed menacingly. She slowly dropped her hands to the tabletop and leaned very close to the inspector. "Flare like that again and I'll show you my skill at extinguishing flame." She warned him in a voice barely above a whisper. She kept her gaze on the man effectively staring him down to size.
He stared back defying the lighting in the cold blue eyes for as long as he could, then blinked twice and turned away. "Yes well perhaps it was in poor taste. Shall we start again?" He offered a hand to the young incensed woman. She ignored it. Colin's hopes fell even farther.
"You pull a stunt like that with that kid in the next office, Larzy, and I'll pull in enough favors to have you walking a beat or pushing a pencil until HELL FREEZES OVER." She punctuated the last three words with three quick jabs to his shoulder with her finger. She stood back and gave him a moment to digest the warning. "Do I make myself perfectly clear?" She purred.
"Crystal." He replied with a deep swallow.
"Good!" She smiled as she lowered herself into the nearest chair and folded her hands on the table. "Then yes, we can start again. And," she leaned toward the policeman, a not-so-friendly smile stretched across her face. "You better have a pretty damn good explanation."
Colin cleared his throat and began spreading files across the dark smooth table. "I spoke to the inspector after we had that discussion on L'sandra Teschner. If Teschner had something in for you, I thought she might be involved somehow." He continued despite Payton's look of disbelief. "Now, wait Payton! Before you go off half cocked listen to me." The lawyer's voice picked up some confidence. "This Teschner made some serious threats ten years ago. Serious enough to have your father concerned. Apparently there were a few incidents that he kept quiet within the legal department. It took some doing to get some of the 'old boys' to open their mouths about it."
"Colin," Payton struggled to keep the frustration out of her voice, speaking very slowly. "Tell me how the hell you made the leap from a dowdy headmistress with a passion for inflicting pain on children to an insane socialite with a desire to avenge her delinquent daddy his sins. Where is this going?" She could feel the beginnings of a headache in the far reaches of her mind.
"Actually it was just a hunch on his part." The inspector interjected. "I was already on Thorne's trail. Contacted her former place of employment to find out just why she left. The story and the description of the woman they gave me were too far from the description of the missing headmistress at Brisbey. Seems their Alexis Thorne was a more of a 'hands on' type administrator. She spent a lot of time in her classes and did her best to involve students in school related activities. In fact the board of directors at Brisbey told me that was one of the reasons they hired her, they felt they needed a more 'friendly' headmistress. I spoke with her brother in San Francisco as well. He told me his sister looked forward to the challenge after hearing from the school here on the East Coast and that the reason she took the position was she felt she needed a change. Nothing suspicious there."
Payton picked up the picture of the inspector's Alexis Thorne.
"Had that sent from the Department of Transportation. It's the most recent picture they have of her. She was listed on the passenger manifest of a flight from LA to New York back on August twenty-seventh, two weeks before the fall term began. The school sent a representative to pick her up there, but somehow there was a mix up and the woman arrived at the school on her own. We are still looking for the guy who was supposed to meet her. From what the secretary at the school tells me the man was fired the next morning by this Alexis Thorne," he tapped the picture of the older woman that still lay on the table. "It seems she was neither understanding nor benevolent."
Payton picked up the second picture and held one in either hand. She looked from one to the other. The differences were subtle but it was apparent they were not the same woman. "So what is the point of impersonating a headmistress?" She was growing tired of this.
"Nothing." The Larzy shrugged, "unless there is something or someone at that particular school that interests you. In this case that someone was Reagan McAllister."
Payton paused for a moment then flipped the photos back onto the table. This was hitting too close to home. This would mean someone had planned and plotted and waited for Reagan, fully intending to hurt the girl. Payton struggled to keep the emotion out of her tone. "Don't be asinine!! Why would anyone be after Reagan and who would even know she was there? I hope you have something more to this Larzy, because it is getting very old very fast!" She threw her arms up in disgust.
"Miss McAllister!" Larzy's voice held a hint of the same frustration. "You are a very well known person, your father was well known also. His accident was no secret and the publicity that fed the masses after it was unending. Every headline for a week had something to do with the death of the great Jack McAllister. And when you made the decision to send your new ward to your alma mater it made headlines yet again. Her mere arrival at the school brought a full-page story complete with pictures! I realize you are a busy, busy woman Miss McAllister but don't you take the time to pick up a paper once in a while?"
Payton's eyes narrowed. "I get the information I need when I need it." She growled through clenched teeth. If this bastard was going to accuse her of something, he'd better come right out and say it. She was growing quite tired of his pointing a finger without quite saying he suspected her of being involved.
"Well you best reassess your needs, Miss McAllister, or find a better source." The inspector shot back. " Exactly how much did you know about what was going on at that school? I spoke with a Miss Feeney who tried several times to contact you about it. It seems you merely brushed her off. This may have started as just some little hush, hush keep it covered up situation with you but it has spread into something far more complicated."
"Cover up?!" Payton was on her feet. Colin matched her speed, torn between taking her side or keeping her from thrashing the man. "COVER UP? I am the one who asked you here, inspector. I have nothing to hide and until a few days ago I had no idea ANY of this was going on!! As far as I'm concerned this Thorne person, whoever she may be, is the reason for all of this. If there is anymore to this 'story' I'm afraid you have the advantage. I have a twelve-year-old kid in my office who's been beaten, badgered and god knows what else, THAT is where my concern lies! I don't know what kind of a game you're playing, Larzy, but you are neither amusing nor convincing! Now either finish this or get your sorry ass out of my building!"
Larzy smiled under his thick moustache causing it to twitch from side to side. "Temper, temper, Miss McAllister." He tsked as if speaking to a naughty child. "Remember, we're on the same side."
"Yes, we are all on the same side, Larzy." Colin spoke. "So why the animosity? Payton is not the criminal here. I'm afraid if this is the way this interview is going to continue I will have to insist my client be removed from the room and you and I will continue alone."
Inspector Larzy stared into the deep blue eyes of the young woman. They seemed electrified with anger. He had seen that look before. "You really don't remember me do you Miss McAllister?" He asked smoothly, never flinching in the wake of her wrath and effectively ignoring the comments of the young lawyer beside her.
"Should I?" She hissed.
"We saw a lot of each other during your years in my district, during the years you were known as Brisbey's Hellion. It frustrated the hell out of me that your lawyers," he glanced quickly toward Colin, "were ever able to keep you from being locked up where you belonged. I was much younger then, much more apt to carry a grudge. I hated the fact that money was able to fix anything you managed to get yourself mixed up in, or perhaps should I say anything you managed to make happen."
Payton took a deep breath, suddenly the inspector's attitude was clear. "That was a lifetime ago." She told him never breaking eye contact. "I've grown up and those were my father's lawyers Mr. Larzy. I had no control over what he did or didn't do. I think the issue here is Reagan and not any decade old grudge you have against me. Save it for another time and another place."
Nicholas Larzy lowered his eyes, Payton McAllister was everything he had been warned about and more. She was not a woman to cross and certainly not someone to try to intimidate. He liked that. She had changed. He knew he could trust her. She was no longer the brazen upstart that wrecked havoc on the school campus. There was work to be done now and they could work together. "You're right Miss McAllister. I apologize. If there were time I would remove myself from this case but as it is we have to move quickly. I feel you and your sister may be in danger."
"Danger?" Payton eyebrows knit together as she sat back down onto the large leather chair. Colin relaxed and sat down as well.
"When Mr. Walters told me about the Teschner woman I did a little checking on her as well. She spent a long stretch in a state institution after making some serious threats against your father and this corporation."
"She was caught here in this building Payton." Colin informed her flipping open one of the files he had spread across the table.
"Your father kept things low profile at the time." Larzy continued. "Apparently he didn't want to make more of it than had already happened."
"She made several calls to Jack, both here and at home threatening him and his wife. At first everyone just thought she was crazy with grief and assumed she would eventually come to her senses and move on." Colin added. "According to the documentation, you father tried pacifying her, even offered her a monetary settlement for her loss. It says here she refused every offer. When the threats started to include you and Reagan, your father started taking her seriously."
"Apparently she had intended to carry out the threat and attacked your father here in his office. No one was hurt and it ended with a short trial and her committal." Larzy finished. "There wasn't much made of the situation after. Two years ago L'sandra Teschner was released from that institute with a clean bill of health. I spoke to the doctors there who swear she was a model inmate. As far as they were concerned she was a mild as a lamb."
"So how does she fit into all of this?" Payton sighed.
"She wanted revenge, Miss McAllister. No matter how much she changed or what 'face' she put on for the doctors, that fact remains." He paused and looked at Colin as if waiting for permission or asking if the time were right. Payton did not fail to notice Colin look away. "I've also spoken to the Coast Guard and Maritime officials that investigated the explosion on your father's yacht " He paused again gauging her reaction. "They have no concrete evidence but they feel it was more than an accident. From what they can piece together there was a small fuel leak that at the most would have left the boat without enough to make it back to shore. Of course if someone was careless enough to smoke in the engine room it could have caused a fire, but the force of the explosion was extensive. And one more thing "
Payton was having a hard time believing this story. It seemed like something that happened in movies or spy novels not to people in every day life. Her father had taken over a company, assured people their jobs and stopped a man from making many people's lives a living hell. She never exactly admitted that to herself, but somewhere she had always known it was true. Some lunatic had threatened him and had been arrested for doing so. Her father had thought he'd won, that his family was safe.
"Payton?" Colin's voice called her back to the conversation.
She blinked twice and cleared her throat, "one more thing?" She repeated the inspector's last words.
"All of the life saving devices on board had been compromised." He stated waiting for her reaction.
She reached slowly toward the photo of the young blonde woman. "And you think she is behind all of this?" She held the photo in front of her studying it, forcing her memory to find anything that might say she had seen this woman somewhere, sometime, at some point.
"Mostly it is speculation," Larzy sighed disgustedly. "And a lot of coincidence. She could have hired someone to impersonate Thorne or maybe she has an accomplice. We can't seem to locate our Miss Teschner. In fact she seems to have disappeared completely. No one has had contact with her since she left the institute, not even the doctor she was suppose to stay in touch with. Much like our 'Miss Thorne' here." He reached over and picked up the photo of the Miss Thorne that had spoken to Colin at Brisbey. "Since neither of them can be found and since Teschner has made threats to you in the past I think we have reason to be concerned. That and the fact that the description of the car parked outside your estate matches that of the car that is missing from the Brisbey campus. One or both of these women is involved in this, one or both of them is still looking for Reagan."
Reagan stood next to Connie's desk watching the glass door that lead to the hallway. Payton had promised to stick by her no matter what happened today but a chill had come over the girl the minute the inspector asked to speak to the executive alone. That could only mean there was some other bad news. Without thinking, she began to pace back and forth in front of the secretary's desk glancing at the door with each turn.
Connie did her best to go on with a normal routine despite the fact that she too felt a little ill at ease with the new development. She tried to engage Reagan in conversation asking how things had really gone at the doctor's office but between the busy phone and the child's one word answers it was a lost cause. Reagan's pacing was doing nothing for her patience either.
"You're going to wear out the carpet, sweetie." Connie smiled. "Why don't you be a love and put some of these files away for me?" She handed a few manila folders to the child and nodded toward the tall filing cabinet against the wall. Reagan stopped and looked at the items before slowly reaching for them. "Don't worry, nothing important, just some ships logs that need to be kept for our records. It'll give you something to do and helps me at the same time." Connie smiled again as Reagan nodded and turned toward the file. 'Great,' she thought to herself, 'that gives her something to keep her mind off of things. What about me?' As if in answer the phone rang startling both occupants of the room.
"McAllister Shipping," Connie chirped, "Executive Office ."
Reagan turned to the task she had been given wondering what could be taking so long. A movement in the hallway caught her eye and she looked hopefully toward the door, immediately crestfallen with the tall portly charwoman that entered.
Connie looked up at the woman for a second then continued her conversation, "yes yes, we are aware the ship is late yes, sir well, it is hurricane season they had to change course to avoid a major storm I know you are on a schedule, sir and yes yes, we did guarantee that the shipment would be on time no, I'm sorry she's not in ." It didnt sound like Connie was making much headway with the person complaining on the other end of the line.
The cleaning woman pushed her cart into the room and quickly emptied the wastebasket next to Connie's desk. She brought a small watering can from the same cart and dampened the soil in the few plants that decorated the office. She walked to the door of the larger inner office and stopped before turning the knob.
Connie motioned for her to enter with a nod of her head and a quick hand gesture. The woman dragged the cart into the room behind her. "Yes sir I do realize there is a penalty clause in the contract ..of course we will honor that .sir sir you need to calm down if you want to continue this .sir," Connie continued to be patient with the client. Reagan completed her task and found a chair across from the secretary's desk. Through the slit of the open door she could see the cleaning woman moving around the inner office. If she leaned out just a bit she could also see down the hall through the glass doors of the outer office. She swung her feet in time to the ticking of the large clock over the file area.
"I'm sorry sir, but that information is not available to me at this time .yes, I can get it no, no problem at all you'll have to give me about a half an hour yes, I will do it personally yes, yes sir I will call you immediately your welcome good bye." Connie hung up the phone and let out a long exasperated breath. "You know that guy is a first class pain in the a butt!" She remarked to Reagan. "Every time he has something to ship he's on pins and needles until it's in port. Some museum owner on the Upper East Side so very worried about his antiquities!" She was clearly exasperated. "Okay, ya ready for the grand tour?"
Reagan wrinkled her nose, "Tour?"
"Yep, gotta take a trip down to the legal department for this guy's original contract. Seems he thinks his shipment should have been here yesterday, I seem to remember a weather clause in the original contract but he claims no such thing. So it's a trip to the third floor for us!" She rose from her seat and stepped around the desk.
"Can I wait here? I want to be here when Payton comes back." Reagan leaned over and searched the hallway for a sign that her sister was returning.
"It won't take long, sweetie. And Payton'll drown me if I leave you here alone." Connie shook her head.
"I'm not a baby, Connie." Reagan smiled. "I promise to wait right here and I'll tell Payton it was my idea."
"Nope, sorry puddin', no can do. Orders is orders." Connie stood back with her hands on her hips. "You go where I go." She held out a hand to the girl.
"Connie?" Reagan asked with such innocence it rang of something mischievous. "Do you work for Payton or for McAllister Shipping?"
Connie narrowed her eyes and looked sideways at the child, "Seems to me they are one and the same, kiddo. Why?"
"Well I'm a McAllister too, so don't you work for me as well? And don't you have to do what I say?" Reagan eyebrows raised to their height as she finished the question.
Connie leaned over to meet the innocent green gaze. "That, my little boss is a cheap shot." She tapped her index finger on the girl's nose. "I'll let it go this time, but don't you go getting too big for those britches. You might not be a baby, but you are still small enough to fit very nicely over my knees!"
"You wouldn't." Reagan tested with a half smile.
"Don't push your luck, little McAllister." Connie laughed and stood up straight. "But, I understand it shouldn't take me long to just run down and make a quick copy, better yet I'll call and have them send it up to me!" She slapped a hand against her forehead wondering why she hadn't thought of it in the first place. "However," she seemed to warn the girl. "After I make the call I am going to need to excuse myself for a few minutes, three cups of coffee is my limit." She winked at Reagan who understood immediately.
Connie made the call to the legal department then grabbed her purse and exited the glass doors. She warned Reagan to stay put and assured her again that it would only be a few minutes. Reagan watched as she disappeared around the corner at the end of the hall. The cleaning woman exited the room as well, smiling at her as she passed. Reagan watched again as the second woman walked slowly the length of the hall and rounded the corner at the far end, pushing her rickety cart full of cleaning rags and bottles in front of her. The office fell into complete silence except for the ticking of the large clock that now sounded twice as loud. Reagan watched the second hand flick from one dark slash to the next keeping perfect rhythm with her swinging feet and thumping heart. 'Hurry, Payton.' She repeated to herself with each tick tock.
Connie took care of her needs as quickly as possible in the executive lounge then stepped out of the stall into the same woman who minutes before had been cleaning Payton's office.
"Excuse me." She smiled, a touch embarrassed. "I didn't know you were there." The woman simply smiled, nodded and went about changing paper and testing soap dispensers. Connie moved to the sink and turned on the faucet. "I haven't seen you here before. Are you new?" She looked up at the woman's reflection in the large mirror. The woman nodded again. "Most of the maids come after hours, must be something new I expect?" Connie shook the excess water from her hands and reached for a towel. The woman handed it to her before she could reach it. "Thank you." The secretary said quietly, suddenly apprehensive in the presence of this quiet woman. She picked up her purse and slung the strap over her shoulder. "Well good luck with the job." Connie remarked as she turned and placed a hand on the brass doorknob. A soft whooshing sound behind her made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. The world exploded in a blast of pain then turned to nothingness as the secretary collapsed to the cool tile floor.
The cleaning woman smiled at the crumpled woman, wiping a small dot of blood from the heavy wooden dowel in her hand. She turned and slipped a roll of clean towels over the 'weapon' and carefully set it back in its bracket. She stepped over the unconscious secretary and pushed open the hall door. Once outside she turned locked the door, carefully placing an 'out of order' sign on the small hook in its center. A cruel smile spread across her face as she looked toward the double glass doors at the other end of the hall. "Soon " she whispered to herself and pushed her cart back toward that door.
To be continued 25-26
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