Roadman was pacing; in him, it was generally considered to be less a sign of stress and more a sign that his brain was working, hard. He’d had a quiet word with Five earlier in the week; he’d looked in the package. Roadman was no scientist, but he nonetheless had a good idea of what it was.


Eventually, he stopped pacing, leaning on the fireplace. “We’d better make sure this package gets where it needs to go. Good thing we’ve got Big Red roadworthy.” He was damned if he’d be letting his daughter out there without their biggest, toughest truck to live in.


“The kids seem willing…er…determined to help, too,” said Slugger Davidson, with a look of worry crossing his tired, ashen features.


“Yup. Looks like the brothers have been getting itchy feet,” Roadman added. “Incidences of Spark Plug getting drink and breaking things have been way up.” As he said this, Genghis Matilda rolled her eyes. Oh, those sons of hers…


Slugger bit his lip. “Look, it’s not that I’m worried about Five’s motives, or the competence of your boys, Matilda, but Terri…”


Matilda shook him by the shoulders, which she found a lot more effective than just shaking her head. “Terri’s an adult, Slugger! Not to mention a competent mechanic, and smart enough to keep out of harm’s way. She’s done the trading run to out Fort Lindane at least five times.”


Slugger bit his lip.


“Besides, my boys will look after her. Karb especially.”


Slugger turned away slightly. The dim, not very flattering light of dawn made his face look even more tired and drawn. “I know Matilda, but, I dunno…nineteen years since Jen…”


“Listen to yourself, Slugger!” Matilda chastised him. “Do you think Jen would have wanted her child to grow up wrapped in cotton-wool well into her twenties? It wasn’t what Jen wanted for herself, it wasn’t what she wanted for you, and it’s not what either of you wanted for Terri, now is it?”


Slugger had to agree. His late partner had never been one to hide away from the world like a china doll on a high shelf, and the more Terri had grown up and come into her own, the more Slugger realised she was cut from the same cloth. “A useful person is a useless article if they never take themselves out of the packaging,” she’d always said.


Matilda looked with approval at Slugger’s slow nods and the subtle changes in his expression. “There you go, Bill. It’s okay.”

Slugger smiled weakly, his eyes meeting Matilda’s. “You…you called me Bill.”