The moment I stepped through the doors, the cool air washed over me like a cleansing bath. The birds in the trees were singing. I was free of the dread of having to undo my transgression. Now that it was over, my nervousness seemed totally displaced.

I walked around to the side of Bardolet’s office, looking in the bushes. But I saw nothing. “Farkus?” I called. I even walked around the inner edge of the bushes, next to the wall. I saw nothing. “Thanks,” I said, in case anyone was listening.

A heavy, dark presence appeared around the corner of the building, but it was not the three-foot-tall figure I had hoped to see. Instead, a six-foot-tall security guard asked if he could help me. No, I told him, I dropped something on the ground and was looking for it; I would be OK. He turned, then looked back and gave me a skeptical scowl. I got on my bike and raced toward home.

On the way, I stopped at the newspaper. I had to tell someone what had happened, so I told Burns. “I’m not worried about a lawsuit,” he said. “We checked it out really well. I think he was just trying to yank your chain.”

I had to think for a moment. This was the first time I had ever heard this phrase. “Now, I don’t want to do a story about this,” I said. “I can’t get my mother in trouble any more.”

He put his hand on his chin and seemed to finger an invisible beard. Perhaps he had had one in the ‘60s or early ‘70s. I tried to imagine him, with his clean-cut face, his short hair, and his chipmunk teeth, as a young hippie. It seemed impossible.

“Let’s wait and see what happens,” he said finally.

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