Fatal Charm
that would lead. I wanted to talk to him about everything, except I feared words could tumble into an avalanche I couldn’t handle. I was keenly aware of his strong, calloused hands, one poised on the wheel and the other casually resting inches from me. His jeans were frayed at one knee and he was missing a button on the leather jacket he wore over a blue cotton shirt. I noticed a tiny feather in his wavy brown hair, probably from Dagger, and resisted the urge to pull it out.
    I’d be resisting a lot of urges today.
    “Do you have a map?” I asked after long, silent minutes. My forced casual tone gave no hint of my inner drama.
    “Map?” He looked startled, as if he’d been lost in deep thoughts.
    “So I can navigate while you drive.”
    “In the glove box, but don’t bother.”
    “Why not?”
    “Shrub Flats is so small it’s not mapped.”
    “Then how do we get there?”
    “I got it covered.”
    I waited for him to explain. But he slipped into his annoying habit of clamming up and focusing on the road, not on his passenger. What was he thinking about or who he was thinking about? Not me of course …
    “Do you think it will snow? The mountains are so beautiful, but the sky has turned to such a dark gray. It’ll be hard to find Horseshoe in a snowstorm.” Okay, I was babbling without giving him a chance to answer, which happened when I got nervous.
    “Snow would be cool,” was all he said.
    “Not if it storms while we’re on the road.”
    “My four-wheel drive can get through anything.”
    “Then yeah, snow would be cool. My family stays at a cabin in Tahoe every winter and we have a great time sledding and skiing. Do you know anyone in Shrub Flats? How will we find where the remedy book is hidden?” Babble, babble, babble. God, I was pathetic.
    “The charms should help.”
    “Once we figure out the fish, cat, and house. Maybe there’s a statue of a fisherman holding a cat or a house shaped like the charm. Do you have any theories?”
    “A few.”
    “Like what?”
    “The house could be where Agnes lived.”
    “That charm isn’t shaped like a normal house. It has weird angles; rectangular with a steep pointy roof and round windows. Maybe it’s a church.”
    “Or a hotel,” he guessed.
    “Would a small town have a hotel?”
    “Maybe a boarding house—unless it burned down in the Pig Fire.” He flicked his turning signal and passed a large semitruck.
    “Pig Fire?”
    “I read about it in a history book.” Dominic had a quiet passion for reading and often went to the library; it was one of the things I admired about him.
    “Nevada was rich in silver mines,” he explained. “Towns would sprout up overnight but then vanish when the silver strike ran out. Horseshoe had a lucky streak until 1913, when a huge sow broke out of her pen and knocked a lantern into hay. The fire took out half the town, leaving only stones and shrubs. Horseshoe became Shrub Flats.”
    “What if the fire destroyed the remedy book? Nona won’t ever get any better … only worse … until she slips into a coma and never … ” My voice cracked. “Never wakes up.”
    Dominic pursed his lips determinedly. “We will find the remedy.”
    As he said this, my head went all dizzy and I had a flash of my great-great-great-grandmother Agnes kneeling outside in the dark of night beside a sturdy metal box, digging into rough ground with a small shovel. That’s all I saw, but it was enough to offer hope.
    “You’re right.” I felt in my pocket for the small satin bag which contained the charms, letting my fingers glide over one. “The remedy is out there—we just have to decipher the charm clues. The fish could mean a fishing pond.”
    “Or someone named Fish.”
    “What about the house and cat?”
    “House cat or cat house?” Dominic winked. “As in Nevada’s oldest profession.”
    I knew he didn’t mean gambling. “No way! Not Agnes.”
    “Desperate people will do anything when they’re

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