Where There's Smoke
teeth closed over her lower lip.   "My brother goes there all the time."
     
    "Yeah, he's been pointed out to me.   I don't recall ever seeing you there."
     
    She got the distinct impression that he was trying to suppress a smile.
     
    In a nervous gesture, she moved her hand to the placket of her blouse and began fiddling with the buttons.   "No, I've I've never been there."
     
    "Yes, ma'am."
     
    Janellen wet her lips.   "Let's see," she said, referring again to the application form.   "Before The Palm you were working at the state She faltered over the next plainly printed word.   Too appalled by her blunder even to look at him, she stared at his application until the lines and words ran together.
     
    "That's right, ma'am," he said quietly.   "I did time in Huntsville State Prison.   I'm on parole.   That's why I need a job real bad."
     
    Mustering all her courage, she lifted her eyes to meet his.   "I'm sorry that I don't have anything for you, Mr. Cato."   To her consternation, she realized she meant it.
     
    "Well," he said, rising, "it was a long shot anyway."
     
    "Why do you say that?"
     
    He shrugged.   "Being I'm an ex-con and all."
     
    She wouldn't lie and tell him that his prison record would have no bearing on his chance for employment at Tackett Oil.   Jody wouldn't hear of hiring him.   However, Janellen was reluctant to let him leave without some word of encouragement.   "Do you have other possibilities in mind?"
     
    "Not so's you'd notice."   He replaced his hat and pulled it low over his brows.   "Thank you for your time, Miss Tackett."
     
    "Goodbye, Mr.   Cato."
     
    He backed out the office door, closing it behind him, then sauntered across the concrete porch, jogged down the steps, and climbed into a pickup truck.
     
    Janellen shot from her chair and quickly moved to the door.
     
    Through the venetian blinds, she watched him drive away.   At the highway, he turned the pickup in the direction of The Palm.
     
    More depressed than before, she returned to her desk.   The paperwork was waiting for her, but she was disinclined to approach it with her usual self-discipline.   Instead she picked up the application form that Bowie Cato had filled out and carefully reread each vital statistic.
     
    He had put an X beside "single" to designate his marital status.
     
    The space for filling in next of kin had been left blank.   Suddenly, Janellen realized that she was being a snoop.   It wasn't as though she were actually considering him for a job.   She didn't have one to offer him, and even if she did, Jody would have a fit if she hired an ex-con.
     
    Impatient with herself for lollygagging away half the morning, she shoved Bowie Cato's application into the bottom drawer of her desk and got down to business.
     
    "Not that tie, Fergus.   For God's sake."   Darcy Winston cursed with exasperation.   "Can't you see that it clashes with your shirt?"
     
    "You know me, sugar pie," he said with an affable shrug.   "I'm color-blind."
     
    "Well, I'm not.   Switch it with this one."   She pulled another necktie from the rack in his closet and thrust it at him.   "And hurry up.
     
    We're the main attraction tonight, and you're going to make us late."
     
    "I've already apologized once for running late.   A busload of retirees from Fayetteville made an unscheduled stop at The Green Pine.
     
    Thirty-seven of them.   I had to help check them in.   Nice bunch of people.   They'd been down in Harlingen for two weeks, building a Baptist mission for the Mex'cans.   Holding Bible schools and such.
     
    Said those Mex'can kids took to snowcones like "For chrissake, Fergus, I don't care," she interrupted impatiently.
     
    Just finish dressing, please.   I'm going to hurry Heather along."
     
    Darcy stalked along the upstairs hallway of their spacious home toward their only child's bedroom.   "Heather, are you ready?"
     
    She knocked out of habit but entered without waiting for

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