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The mob that had crowded into the sheriff's office closed in ominously on Ronnie Edwards, making him feel cowed and small in the straight-backed chair. He stood six foot two, if they had allowed him to stand; he weighed one hundred and eighty pounds, was a crack shot, expert swimmer, hottest driver on the drag strip, and star tackle at Desert Bend Union High. He had a blond flat top and clear blue eyes that make the chick9 tremble. He was Mr. Big until the mob taught him that even a grown man can be filled with such fear that his mind fogs and his mouth goes as dry as flannel. "Tell them, Ronnie!" Lisa cried. "Don't let them kill us! Tell them that you did it! Tell them!"

Ronnie looked up. Lisa's face was above him, briefly, and in that instant Ronnie wondered why she had ever thought that he loved her.

"Nobody's going to kill you," the sheriff said. "Go home, Man. Take your angry friends and go home."

"And let this punk get away with murder?"

Matt was the one Ronnie feared most. He wasn't as big as the sheriff: he didn't seem to have an official capacity. But he had hate in him. The sheriff didn't.

"He's not getting away with anything." the sheriff said, "and nobody's been murdered."

"My wife!" Matt roared.

The sound of his voice made Ronnie's blood run cold. It was worse than Lisa's.

"Mister," he had yelled, "I didn't kill your wife! I never saw your wife!" But that had been hours ago, before all of the angry people had crowded into Sheriff Thompson's jail with hatred and revenue in their eyes. Now Ronnie couldn't find a voice.

"My wife." Matt choked, "lying on a slab over in Fenton's mortuary—and this punk grinning in your office."

Not grinning. Ronnie's mind protested. Gritting my teeth to keep from screaming!

"...seventeen years old by his driver's license! You know what that means. Tommy? He's a minor. He's got a pa—a rich pa by the looks of the car he was driving. He'll be here soon with an expensive lawyer and the kid will get off with a lecture from a j...

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