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"She must be early," thought Charlie, preparing to leave. Just then, a blue pickup truck drove by, honking its horn. After Charlie had taken a few more steps, another car honked its horn as it passed the bus stop. Charlie stopped. Why were these people honking their horns? She turned to look at the woman, who was still waiting for the bus. She seemed unaffected. "Maybe it's a strange, local custom," Charlie shrugged.

It was eleven thirty when Charlie decided to head back home. Soon, it would be lunch time. After lunch, there was the important doctor's appointment that Charlie wanted to be sure she didn't miss. As Charlie passed the bus stop again, this time in the opposite direction, she noticed that the same brown-haired woman was still standing there, waiting for her bus. Another car drove by, honking its horn as it passed the bus stop. "Why do they keep honking their horns?" thought Charlie. Suddenly, Charlie heard screeching tires. When she looked up, she saw that the woman was running into oncoming traffic, chasing her dark cap which was blowing in the wind. One car stopped, shouted something angrily at the woman, and drove away. The woman quickly returned to her spot, looking helplessly at the cap, now laying in the center of the street.

"Why not?" thought Charlie. Quickly, Charlie crossed the street, stooping to snatch up the cap. The woman ran to Charlie and gave her an exuberant hug.

"Thank you!" she cried. "It wouldn't be official without my hat," she said, placing the Dairy Cream cap back on her head.

"I'm Charlie," said Charlie, introducing herself.

"My name's Maggie Downen," the woman replied. "It was really nice of you to get my hat for me."

"It was nothing," said Charlie. "The bus must really be running late today," Charlie observed.

"Oh, it came, all right," replied the woman.

"Then, why didn't you get on it?" asked Charlie.

"Because, I'm waiting for my brother," laughed the woman, adjusting her cap.

"Oh," said Charlie. "You've been standing here a long time. Didn't he tell you which bus he was arriving on?" Maggie shook her head.

"I got here early, so I wouldn't miss him," she said. Another honking car passed them.

"I've been wondering all morning," said Charlie, "why do people honk when they drive by this bus stop?"

"I don't know," Maggie shrugged. While Charlie was asking her question, three teenage boys walked up to where they were standing. One of the boys laughed and made a face at Maggie, while another pushed her off the curb, into the street. Maggie screamed.

"Leave her alone!" yelled Charlie. Silent and unobjectionable up to now, the third boy helped Maggie back to her spot.

"Come on," he said to his two friends, "let's find something else to do."

One of the antagonists took a step closer to Maggie, laughing. He put out his hand to push her back into the street when Charlie gave him a swift kick in the shins. The boy yelped in pain.

"Oooooh, look what we have here," laughed the first boy.

"Come on," urged the third boy, "let's go before Officer Erickson shows up." As the boy finished speaking, a police car pulled up to the bus stop. A tall brown-headed man stepped out.

"Boys," Officer Erickson said, "I thought I told you Miss Downen was off limits."

"We weren't doin' nothin'!" denied the first boy.

"Then you won't mind leaving-- NOW," ordered Officer Erickson. With a few rude noises and gestures, the boys walked away. "Come on, Miss Downen," said Officer Erickson, gently helping Maggie into the passenger side of the squad car. "Your Mom wants you to come home and eat lunch."

"But, Wayne, I have to wait for Wayne," protested Maggie.

"I'll wait for him, Maggie," offered Charlie. Officer Erickson looked up at Charlie in surprise.

"You're new to Twin Yucca, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Charlie, giving an involuntary shudder. Since Darren's death, Charlie wasn't too fond of policemen-- they only reminded her of that terrible night.
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