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Goodall forced himself to smile once more, and relaxed the deathgrip on his daughter's hand which had started to cause her pain. "No, pumpkin, there is reason to hope." He leaned over to kiss her forehead as the dance number ended. "As long as my child is among the stars, there is reason to hope." The dancing ended, and father and daughter started for the edge.


The springs of the mattress creaked rhythmically under the ferocious assault, but the young woman's gasps of pleasure from above her partner's position were drowned out by the latest crack of thunder rolling through the motel room's grimy single bay of windows.

William Howard's hand reached up to get a handful of the beauty whom he still couldn't believe had offered to take him back to a motel room for the night, but his partner slapped his hand away even as she continued to bounce up and down on top of him. Then, in his ecstasy, Howard was calling out the name of the Manhattan girlfriend who had dumped him when she found out he had taken a job as an airport security guard in Miami.

The rider heard the other woman's name, opened her eyes to see that one paw had finally found an ample breast, and then struck downward with her right fist, hard enough to knock Howard unconscious. "The name's Svetlana, asshole."

As soon as the creaking of the bed had stopped, a second man had emerged from the closet with duct tape and handcuffs at the ready, and he now proceeded to bind and gag the other man with quick, rehearsed movements. Svetlana helped him, walking around to the other side of the bed to slide a sack over Howard's head once the tape was over his mouth.

Then the two kidnappers were moving from the room, carrying the helpless and silent Howard out in a large duffel bag and dumping the bag in the back of a Porsche, which was parked in a light rain shower with its trunk directly outside Room One-One-Nine's door. Both sack and duffel bag were removed from Howard's head so that he could breathe, the trunk was slammed shut, and Svetlana's companion drove the three of them away into a rain-filled night.

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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