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The evening breeze was gentle, softly whispering Chl ... ooo ... eeeee . . ." as the long-legged vision in white whisked across the dusky lawn, her dark hair streaming behind her, and ran lithely up the broad stone steps.
"Chloe! There you are. I was beginning to worry." A man stepped from beneath the deep brick overhang and fell into easy step beside her as they passed through a large oak door into the high school and headed down a long corridor.
"I'm sorry, Howard, 'she said, meaning it. Howard Wolschinski was the state senator who had first sought her services. After three meetings, she had come to like him. "I'd hoped to be on the road by four, but, I swear, there was a conspiracy against me. First the phone, then my car.'
"Anything major with either?" he asked.
"No on both counts. But I didn't clear Little Compton until five, and by that time the rush hour traffic was horrid. I drove as fast as I could. I hope I haven't messed things up."
"You haven't. The meeting was called for seventhirty. You're only five minutes late. It's given thecrowd a chance to settle down. " He guided heraround a corner with a light hand at her elbowand began the climb as soon as they reached astaircase.
At the first landing, Chloe asked, "How's the turnout?"
He grinned sheepishly. "I only wish we did half as well at political rallies. This is a welcome change from apathy. The auditorium is packed. There must be several hundred people in there.'
Chloe was surprised and decidedly pleased. "Several hundred? Not bad for a county meeting in New Hampshire." She smiled, lowering her voice dramatically. "But which side are they on? Are they for us or agin'us?"
Her humor drifted unanswered into the stale schoolhouse air as Howard ushered her into the meeting hall, led her onto the stage, and gestured her into a seat. He took one by her side. As though on cue, the crowd silenced and the moderator began.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said in a voice made flat by its broad New England slant, "on behalf of my friends and, uh"-he cast an encompassing glance backward, then turned a cough into a snicker, bringing chuckles from the audience-- adversaries here on the stage with me, I would like to thank you for coming tonight. It's a rare pleasure to see so many of you gathered at once. We realized that the issue of the Rye Beach Resort and Condominium Complex would stir a few of you to action, but we had no idea how many. I don't believe we've had a response like this since that talk of a state prison here a while back."
Chloe was wondering who the man was when Howard whispered, "He's Felix Hart-town manager, commissioner of public safety, President of the United States in his dreams."
She smiled at the quip. Nodding her thanks for the information, she refocused on the speaker.
"...and they listened to us then, just as they listened to us when they mentioned a hazardous waste disposal center six miles from us. And beforethat, there was the matter of a state sales tax. . . "
The monologue went on, freeing Chloe for several seconds more. Bending forward, she drew a notebook from her bag and prepared to make notes on the opposition's points. That opposition sat to her left, occupying two chairs on the far side of the one vacated by the moderator. Her peripheral vision took in two men, one significantly taller and darker than the other. They would be the state representative in favor of the complex and the owner of the development company. Chloe knew neither of their names, a situation that was about to be remedied.
"As for the others here tonight," the moderator said, "let me begin with Howard Wolschinsky. You all know Howard, our distinguished state senator.
RekindledBy: Barbara Delinsky