The woman on the television was grotesquely overweight, her hair a thatch of gray and what looked on the screen to be some flat, amberlike coloring. A huge T-shirt printed with a bundle of multicolored balloons lay like a tent over her chest. Her face was a mess—she was crying, had been for some time. That was clear.

"You can get help here, Rory," she told the camera, sobbing. "Please come home. We love you. You don't have your insulin. You don't have none of your medicine." She poked at her eyes with a big red handkerchief. "Please," she said again, shaking her head, "we want to help you, and we're the only ones who can."

The girl Rory had shot five times was still alive. The news report said she was 19. He was 26.

They interviewed a preacher in his clerical collar, the girl's neighbor, who said no one in Stockbridge would ever have thought that something like this could happen in a small town. "In a city, sure—but things like this are not supposed to happen here."

But they do, Carol thought. The six o'clock news verified that the unthinkable had occurred last night about two in the morning in Stockbridge, a small town just 30 minutes down the river from where she and Lloyd were watching the news while finishing their vegetable soup. The search for Rory Melius had already begun. That morning, his Dodge Ram had been found on a gravel road that dead-ended on a bluff overlooking the Big Sioux.

"Poor guy'll be dead," Lloyd told her. "You watch. He probably used that gun on himself." Carol looked up at him angrily, but he was busy watching.

On TV the reporter spoke to the anchor. "Walt, the police aren't saying much about Rory Melius. From all reports here—and Stockbridge is a little town—few people would have ...

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