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Which there hadn’t been the last time Walter looked. He waited ten deliberate minutes, then laid his book aside, got up, and removed the loaded pistol from its usual place in the upper right-hand drawer of his desk. Placing the gun in his sweater pocket, he padded from the room, pausing in the dark hall but not bothering to go upstairs to see whether or not Jen was really asleep. He knew she wasn’t, that the yawning and milk getting and elaborate expressions of tiredness had all been an act. For the past few weeks, ever since she’d graduated and come home from the exclusive New York boarding school where she’d spent her high school years, she’d been sneaking out via those same back stairs nearly every night to meet a boy.

Easy, guys,” he murmured to the dogs as he let himself out the back door, easing it shut behind him. He paused on the flagstone terrace overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay. Across it the windows in the houses along the distant shoreline of Campobello Island glowed distinctly. Below them the emerald green lights nearer the water marked harbors and jetties, while to the north the white beacon of the Cherry Island light swirled slowly, strobing the night. He stepped from the terrace to the lawn, wincing at the icy breeze.

Ideally, the two expensively bred guard animals should have remained utterly silent. But he hadn’t been able to stomach the severity of the aversion training required to accomplish this. Or to make them bite, either. Yet another sign that he was getting soft, he decided. He’d retired at the right time. But not too soft to do what needed to be done this evening; dogs were one thing, snot-nosed little daughter-molesting punks quite another, he reminded himself without much effort. Quite another, and not much effort at all; like riding a bike.

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