We were three days on the road when Dalene began digging through her bag, her face a study in quiet desperation as she pawed through her few belongings searching for something she knew she would not find. Aiko was driving with Neff beside her. Dalene and I were in the back seat.

“When did you run out?” I asked her.

Her gaze settled on me, her eyes a curious mixture of fear and resignation. “This morning,” she said. “I’ve been trying to stretch it out, but…” She sat back, her head lolling to one side as she stared out the window. “I’ll be ok.”

“No, you won’t.” I tapped Aiko on the shoulder, “We need to find a motel. We’re stopping for a few days.”

And so we landed in small town in Virginia. Our hotel room left some to be desired, but was still an immense improvement over the one-room apartment we had shared in New Orleans. It had a separate kitchen and a bedroom and was located at the end of the unit so we had only one room adjacent, and that was empty for the moment. We paid for a five day stay, though I planned on leaving as soon as possible- I still worried Ham’s car would be found too soon, that somebody might remember us coming through that town in Mississippi. Everything I knew demanded we stay on the move, but we had run out of time.

I watched her as we settled in, trying to gauge how bad it might be. I had seen opiate addicts shake free from the drug’s grip in a few days with little more discomfort than one suffered during a bad cold. I had also seen them die after days of agony and delusion. I had little idea what to expect in this case- would the way she injected the drug make it worse? Was heroin more addictive than the laudanum of the previous century, or less so?

We were in the wrong place to do this, but there was no choice. In the hours since we stopped Dalene had become increasingly agitated, pacing around the motel room, unable to sit for more than a few minutes at a time- it had been little more than six hours since her last dose. I reached out and touched her lightly on her arm, making her jump.

“Let’s take a walk?” I suggested. She just nodded at me and we headed outside with Neff and Aiko’s eyes trailing after us.

The motel rested by the side of what used to be a main road until the highway came through. Now it was slowly mouldering, as were other roadside attractions along the way. We walked in the afternoon heat, Dalene’s pace quickening with every step until I nearly broke into a trot to keep up with her long-legged stride. I said nothing, letting her attempt to burn out the nervous energy racing through her body, putting first one, then two miles behind us without slacking before she began to falter.

She was sweating profusely, tears streaming down her ashen face as she slowed, then stopped, trembling from head to toe. We were standing in front of a Dairy Queen so I gently led her to one of the picnic tables under the trees.

“I can’t do this,” she whispered, “Angie… I can’t, I can’t…” She started to cry in earnest now, her shoulders shaking as she buried her head in her hands. I stroked her head and she was burning up despite all the sweat.

“You need something cold to drink, baby. Can you wait here while I get you something? Can you do that?”

She did not answer so I slid one finger along her cheek to her jaw and coaxed her head up until her red rimmed eyes were on me. “Can you wait here just a minute while I get you something to drink?”

“A Mr. Misty?” She almost whispered it, like a child pleading for a treat.

“Sure, baby,” I smiled at her, “just sit tight, okay?”

She nodded at me, then dropper her eyes. I watched her a moment, then decided she really would be okay and walked over to the window, getting in line behind a family that had pulled in while Dalene and I were talking. I could not help but notice the attention we were drawing to ourselves, two young women, strangers in this town, one of us in obvious distress. I ignored them, keeping a furtive eye on Dalene until it was my turn to order.

I paid for two cherry Mr. Misty’s and a cup of ice water, then turned and froze. A Sherriff’s car had pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to our picnic table, a young man in uniform was standing beside Dalene. I steeled myself, then put on my best concerned face and walked briskly to the table.

“Now Miss,” the Deputy was saying, “you really need to help me here. I need to know your name.” He radiated a mixture of suspicion and genuine concern. Dalene had deteriorated even further with the added stress of his questioning, but he had only just arrived. There was still a chance to avoid any problems.

“Day, cher, you need to drink this,” I told her, putting the French lilt in my voice, letting it shake a little as I pressed the cup of ice water into her hands, then looked up at the deputy.

So much conflict there was within him. He was young, perhaps twenty-two, and very much a son of Virginia. Part of him was moved to chivalry- confronted by this wounded dove his instinct was to do everything in his power to succor her. Part of him was driven by Southern chauvinism- here were two young women, apparently alone, obviously not from the south, all of this leading him to suspect it would be best to simply round us up and send us across the county line before we caused any mischief. It was a tribute to his humanity that the ingrained suspicion was being held in check, but it was still no certain thing.

“We stopped at the motel down the road, the Shade Tree, we had to. Day didn’t feel well this morning… and she got worse through the day. We thought getting out of the car, some fresh air…”

Dalene coughed, choking as she drained the cup of ice water, her body shaking as she gasped for air between the spasms in her chest. Both of us looked at her and when she turned her face to me her eyes were bright red, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“I don’t think I can walk back,” she whispered.

I could not have scripted it better- she was so helpless, so scared. The deputy’s body language shifted drastically and when I looked into his eyes I did not even have to ask.

“Don’t you worry miss; I’ll take you ladies back to the motel.”

His name was Jefferson Carlyle and he treated Dalene as if she were made of spun sugar and moonbeams. He was still unsure of me, but I radiated so much gratitude his suspicion simply crumbled in the face of it. He did not approve of our accommodations as the Shade Tree served mostly blacks, but when we arrived at the motel Aiko and Neff bolted to the door as I helped Dalene out of the back of his car and suddenly it made sense to him.

I spoke up before either of them could say a word, telling them to get Dalene into bed. Things were under control and we could not risk reigniting Deputy Carlyle’s suspicions. The three of them were only three days off the streets and there was simply no expecting them to behave with discretion, but they all seemed to know to leave the talking to me and it seemed everything was going to work out.

“You never told me your name,” Deputy Carlyle said, breaking into an almost sheepish grin.

“Angevin, Angevin du Marmande. I can’t thank you enough for your kindness.” I took a half step closer to him, looking up to his eyes without being too bold. It was an understated invitation, merely a suggestion that should he want to meet again I might say yes… and a scream shattered the spell.

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