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"So, Charlie," Bill continued, folding his arms with a smile, "I understand I have you to thank for Adam's decision to go public. You've done what I've been trying to do for the past twenty-two years!"

"He's going public?" repeated Charlie, in surprise.

"Yup," answered Bill, "on DTM this Friday. Gary was able to get none other than Norman Jones! How about that? And the publicity will help us put together enough bookings for a tour!"

Charlie felt numb. So that was the important news Adam had to tell her. She was relieved that it wasn't marriage to Constance, but a tour meant that her friend was going away.

"How long will the tour last?" asked Charlie.

"Adam doesn't want to go longer than a year, but guessing on the high demand Wallace Shipley has already created, I think Gary and I will be able to talk him into a longer engagement," replied Bill.

"Animal control is on their way," announced Adam, returning to the kitchen doorway.

"Will they be here soon?" asked Maggie, almost in a whimper.

"Any minute now," replied Adam.

"I was just telling Charlie about our plans," said Bill. "Wallace Shipley on tour for the first time!" he added, triumphantly.

"Bill," said Adam, "I wanted to break it to her myself."

"Sorry," shrugged Bill, going to the living room to talk to Gary.

"Charlie, are you all right?" asked Adam.

"The snake hasn't touched either of us," answered Charlie, trying not to cry.

"I wasn't referring to the snake," replied Adam.

"Please," she begged, afraid that if she stayed any longer, she would burst into tears, "just get rid of the snake and let me go home."

Adam wanted to talk more, but the man from animal control arrived in his tan pickup truck.

"It's a Mojave Pacific rattler," said the man, "they rarely get over over three feet, but this one's at least five foot. It's the largest I've ever seen." He extended a long pole with a hook at the end, out toward the snake. The rattler hissed and lunged out at the hook. Maggie held on tight to Charlie's arm, as the animal controller worked the hook under the snake's body and lifted it harmlessly into a white cloth bag. Then he twisted the top of the bag into a knot and placed it into a plastic carrier.

Maggie immediately jumped from the table and ran to the bathroom, nearly stumbling, for her legs were numb from lack of circulation.

"Are you all right?" Adam repeated, as he helped Charlie from off the table.

"Are you really leaving?" she asked.

"I'm afraid so," replied Adam.

Maggie was soon back from the bathroom and eager to go home. She wanted to get out of Adam's house before finding another snake!

"Wait a minute, I'll walk you both home," said Adam.

Adam picked up the kitchen receiver and called Vera. He related to her what had happened, and asked Vera's permission to have some time to speak with Charlie before bringing her home. Thankful that she was all right, Vera gave her consent.

Adam and Charlie walked Maggie home almost without a word. Afterward, the two walked off in the direction of Charlie's house, but found themselves at the Twin Yucca park, instead. Adam sat down at a picnic bench and Charlie sat across from him. For a while, he was quiet, just as he had been the past few days-- even before Ruth's passing.
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