The Flower Children

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The ninth volume of Vaughan's monumental series brings the tragic events of the '60s to life through the eyes of characters readers have come to love. Mini skirtsx and the summer of love, the Tet offensive and the Seven Day War--the tumultuous years of a decade as ideals die along with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, with only uncertainty ahead. The American Chronicles has been optioned for TV. Original.
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Flower Children

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Overview

The ninth volume of Vaughan's monumental series brings the tragic events of the '60s to life through the eyes of characters readers have come to love. Mini skirtsx and the summer of love, the Tet offensive and the Seven Day War--the tumultuous years of a decade as ideals die along with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, with only uncertainty ahead. The American Chronicles has been optioned for TV. Original.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553560831
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/1996
  • Series: American Chronicles Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 432

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

MAY 19, 1967, ST. LOUIS

Seventeen-year-old Tina Canfield parked her lime-green Mustang convertible behind Jerry Benford's garage. She tried to pull her miniskirt down when she got out of the car, but it was so short that it barely covered the bottom of her panties, and indeed she showed a flash of black silk when she climbed onto the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

"Are you ready?" Jerry asked.

Tina's blond hair was long and straight and it hung out from under the glittery purple helmet she had just put on. She slipped her arms around Jerry's waist. "I'm ready," she answered.

Jerry kicked down hard on the starter, and the engine responded with a throaty roar. He twisted the throttle, and they pulled away in a cloud of noxious blue exhaust smoke.

Liesl Canfield thought her daughter was going to the movies to see Dr. Zhivago with some of her girlfriends. She would not appreciate the sight of her daughter riding on the back of a motorcycle, and she would have been particularly upset had she known that Tina was with Jerry Benford. She had specifically forbidden Tina to see Jerry anymore because he had been arrested last year for possession of marijuana.

That was the reason Liesl had given, though Tina believed that the real reason her mother didn't approve of Jerry was because she didn't consider the Benfords to be in the same social class as the Canfields. In fact, Liesl had all but confirmed that when Tina challenged her.

"You are, after all, a Canfield," Liesl had replied to Tina's question. "And being a Canfield brings with it a certain degree of social responsibility."

"Maybe that's how it waswhen you were a young girl in Germany, Mama," Tina had said. "But have you noticed that all the signs are in English? You live in America now. And in America everyone is equal."

"That's all patriotic slogans and mush," Liesl had said, dismissing it with a wave of her hand. "It is the kind of drivel spouted by those people who have no pride of family. But you are a Canfield, Tina. You have much to be proud of."

"I am also a Tannenhower, Mama, and my grandfather was one of Adolf Hitler's inner circle," Tina had replied. "Should I take pride in that as well?"

"That is all the more reason you must be careful to do nothing to bring discredit upon the Canfield family," Liesl had insisted.

What Tina had said was a low blow, and she knew it. She had softened immediately after that exchange. She knew that her mother loved Tina's grandfather despite the fact that at Nuremberg Karl Tannenhower, once the Reichsleiter of Hitler's Germany, had been found guilty of crimes against humanity and was now serving a twenty-five-year sentence.

Actually, Tina also loved her grandfather, for she had been able to visit him on a couple of occasions, and they had been exchanging letters ever since she was a little girl. Maybe her grandfather had participated in some of the Nazi atrocities. If so, it was long ago and far away. To Tina, Grossepapa Karl had always been a kindly and lovable old man.

Tina's parents had said she couldn't see Jerry, so she didn't argue about it anymore -- she simply nodded as if she intended to obey them. But every time she got the opportunity to be with Jerry, such as tonight, she took it, covering her tracks with lies when necessary.

Tina enjoyed riding on the back of the motorcycle. She liked the noise and the vibration and the feeling of freedom. She also liked the feeling of defiance. In this case she wasn't only defying her parents, she was defying society in general. She knew the way people looked at her when they saw her on the back of a motorcycle with her arms wrapped around the driver. There was a certain outlaw mystique to riding motorcycles that she enjoyed.

When they reached the right street, it wasn't difficult to tell which house was having the party. They could see it from the end of the block. There were cars, vans, and motorcycles parked in the driveway, in the yard, and on both sides of the street.

"Burke's folks are down in Florida," Jerry explained as they parked next to a VW van that was decorated with peace symbols, flowers, and rainbows. "That means he has the whole house all to himself."

As they walked to the door an observer would have thought that Tina seemed an unlikely companion for Jerry, for while she was exceptionally pretty, Jerry, who was small in stature, with an oversize nose and a bad case of acne, was awkward and unattractive. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

They were greeted with Beatles music as they stepped through the door. The foyer was dark except for a couple of black lights, which fired vibrant colors back from the psychedelic posters that decorated the walls:

WAR IS NOT HEALTHY FOR CHILDREN
AND OTHER LIVING THINGS

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

CHE GUEVARA, FOR THE PEOPLE

LOVE

MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR

SUPPOSE THEY GAVE A WAR
AND NOBODY CAME?

FLOWER POWER

DON'T TRUST ANYONE OVER 30

In the living room Tina saw two people sitting on a sofa, sharing a hand-rolled cigarette that she knew was marijuana. They were wearing their hair at exactly the same length, long for a man but short for a woman. The couple were also wearing identical eye makeup, rouge, and lipstick. Both were wearing see-through mesh shirts and pants and black bikini-style underwear, which was clearly visible under their pants. Beneath the mesh shirts they wore nothing at all, and it was only here that one could truly identify the gender, for the young man's chest was flat, whereas the young woman's breasts were clearly visible.

"Is this a costume party?" Tina asked Jerry.

"Costume party? No, why do you ask?"

Tina pointed to the couple on the couch. "Look what they're wearing."

Jerry laughed. "They aren't in costume. That's the way they always dress. It's called the unisex look. You know, where the men and women dress alike?"

"I don't think I like it."

"I think it's great," Jerry said. "It breaks down artificial barriers and stereotypes."

"Hey, Jerry, what do you think? Is this a blast or what?" someone greeted them.

"Yeah, man, a blast," Jerry replied. "So, what's shakin'?"

"There are refreshments in the bowl on the table in the dining room."

"Heavy," Jerry said.

"I wonder who Burke got to make the refreshments for him," Tina said.

"What?"

"The refreshments," Tina repeated. "It's not all that easy to have refreshments for a party this large."

Jerry chuckled. "You kidding?"

"No," Tina said. " 'Every time my folks have a party, my mother starts worrying about it a couple of weeks ahead of time. And she has all her parties catered."

"Come here. Let me show you," Jerry invited, wrapping his hand around Tina's wrist and pulling her with him. They passed through the milling throng until they reached the dining room. Jerry pointed to the dining-room table.

"Refreshments," he said flatly. There were several packages of store-bought cookies, various kinds of chips, and half a dozen pizzas. But the centerpiece of the table was a large crystal bowl filled with prerolled marijuana cigarettes. "The cookies and chips are for when we get the munchies. Dig?"

"Yeah," Tina said. She laughed self-consciously. "Yeah, I dig."

"Hey, Jerry, you tried one yet?" one of the party-goers asked, nodding toward the joints.

"No, not yet."

"Try 'em, man." The speaker took a deep drag from his own cigarette, held the smoke in his lungs for a long moment, then let it out. "It's some good shit, man," he said in a raw, gravelly voice.

Jerry laughed, took a couple of joints from the bowl, and handed one of them to Tina. The two moved from the dining room into the living room. Finding a place near the wall, they sat down on the floor to smoke their pot and listen to "Twist and Shout."

"What Beatles song do you like best?" Tina asked.

"I don't know. Maybe 'Michelle.' "

"I like 'Eleanor Rigby.' "

"You can't just like a song, man," someone else said. He had red curly hair.

"I beg your pardon?" Tina asked.

The redheaded guy chuckled. "Like, you don't just dig a song, you know? I mean, it's not like dropping a coin into a jukebox to play something by Pat Boone or somebody. The Beatles aren't just songs, man. Like, they're an experience. Don't you understand that?"

Like Tina, Jerry, and the others, the redheaded guy was smoking marijuana, and he squinted through the smoke as he continued with his thesis. "Like, they're a new art form in and of themselves. They're different from music, different from dance, different from anything that has ever happened before. And if you can't understand that, man, you got no business even listenin' to them."

"Kirby, has anyone ever told you that you are a pretentious asshole?" someone else asked, joining them then. The new speaker was about twenty, tall, thin -- good-looking, Tina thought -- with dark hair and gray eyes. He saw Tina looking at him, so he stuck his hand out. "Hi, I'm Ron Dolan," he said.

"I'm Tina Canfield."

Ron chuckled. "Yeah, don't you wish?"

"Don't I wish what?" Tine asked, confused by Ron's strange remark.

"Don't you wish you were Tina Canfield? I mean, man, if I had her money, I wouldn't be here right now."

"Where would you be?"

"I don't know. Anywhere but here."

"You aren't enjoying the party?"

"The party? Yeah, the party's all right. The party's groovy. But it's in St. Louis, and I wouldn't be in St. Louis. I'd be in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. That's the place to be, man. Like, there the whole city grooves, twenty-four hours a day. The fuzz never hassles you, and there's, like, I don't know, a feeling of love in the air. I mean, all the time, you know? Nobody is uptight in San Francisco." He grinned. "So that's where I'd be if I were Tina Canfield."

"She is Tina Canfield," Jerry said. "The Tina Canfield."

Ron looked at her. "You don't look like Tine Canfield."

"Have you ever met Tina Canfield?" she asked.

"No."

"Then how do you know what I look like?"

Ron gestured around the room. "I mean, I can't see someone like Tina Canfield in a place like this," he said. "She would be at a country club cotillion or something."

Tina laughed. "I've been to country club cotillions, and believe me, this is much more fun."

"No shit? You really are Tina Canfield? Your ol' man owns Canfield-Puritex?"

"He is a major stockholder, yes," Tina said. "But my uncle John is the president and CEO. My father is William Canfield. He's more involved with the airline. He's president of World Air Transport."

"Far out!" Ron said. He smiled broadly. "I mean, really far out! Listen, I'm sorry if I was out of line, talking about you like that."

"That's all right. Everybody thinks that about Tina Canfield. That's why I changed my name to Tulip."

"Tulip?"

"Do you like it?"

"Groovy. Hey, you want to drop some sunshine?"

"Sunshine?"

Ron reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out an envelope. "I've got a couple of orange sunshines here," he said, opening the envelope and showing her two tiny orange tablets. "LSD."

"Acid? I don't know," Tina said. "I've never done acid."

"No wonder you don't really understand the Beatles," Kirby said. "Shit, till you've dropped a little acid, you've never really even experienced them."

"Wow, I never thought about that," Tina said.

"So, what do you say? You want to drop a little or not?" Ron asked.

"I don't know. What if it's a bad trip? I mean, I've heard of people having really bad trips," Tina hedged.

"Bad trips only happen when you try to do it alone. Acid can be real groovy if you have a guide," Ron said. "Come on, Tina -- I mean Tulip. Take a trip with me."

Tina smiled. "I like it when you call me Tulip."

"You and I can take the trip and Jerry can stay straight. That way Jerry can be your guide on this side of the acid, and I'll be your guide on the other side."

"Jerry?" Tina asked. "Will you stay straight and watch out for me?"

"Yeah, sure," Jerry agreed. "But next time we get a chance, you have to stay straight so I can go."

"It's a deal," Tina promised.

"Here," Ron offered, handing one of the little orange tablets to her. Kirby was drinking a Coke, and Ron reached for the can. "You can take it with this," he offered.

Tina washed the pill down with a swallow of Kirby's Coke.

"Now what?" Tina asked.

"Now? You just kick back until the shit hits you," Ron said, leaning back against the wall alongside Tina. He raised the Coke to his mouth. "You'd better hold on. It's going to be a wild ride," he said as he took a drink.

Tina sat there beside him with her long bare legs sticking out from beneath the tiny bit of red cloth that made up her skirt. She closed her eyes and kept them closed for about thirty minutes.

"Nothing's happening," she finally said. She opened her eyes.

"Give it time," Kirby said. "You just took it."

Amazingly, Ron was still drinking from the can. He handed the can to Kirby.

"What do you mean, I just took it? It's been at least half an hour."

Kirby laughed.

"Why are you laughing?"

"Are you serious, Tulip?" Jerry asked. "Do you really think it's been half an hour?"

"Close to it."

"It's only been about five minutes."

"Wow."

Sounds became distorted, and a mist settled over the room.

"Has it hit you already?" Kirby asked.

"I don't know. I guess it must have," Tina said. She looked at Kirby's hair and saw that its orange-red color was so vivid that it seemed to shoot off from his head, as if he were a figure in a coloring book and the person coloring couldn't stay in the lines. She reached up to take some of the color in her hand, then brought it back to study it more closely. She could hold it, but only if she did so very carefully, for it was as delicate as a soap bubble.

"What are you doing?" Kirby asked.

"I'm looking at the color of your hair," Tina answered seriously, studying the palm of her hand.

"Hey, wow, come over here, everybody," Kirby invited. "This chick is really groovin', man."

Several others came over to look at Tina, but it was as if they were on the other side of a flawed glass -- not only their images but also their voices were distorted.

The conscious and the subconscious parts of her mind merged, and she felt as if she were dreaming and awake at the same time. The line between reality and hallucination began to disintegrate further. She no longer knew if the people who were gathered around her were real or illusory. Like Kirby's hair, everyone began to glow, as if from some inner light.

"Look at me," Ron said, and when Tina looked at him it was as if she were looking at a cartoon character. Ron had height and width, but no depth. Even the words "Look at me" spewed from his mouth in a balloon, like in the funny papers. He moved his hand.

"Wow, do you see that?" he asked.

"See what?"

"My hand. When I move it like that, it leaves its image in the air. See, my hand is here, but it's also here and here and here."

Although Tina hadn't noticed it until Ron brought it to her attention, she could see it quite clearly now. He was no longer like a cartoon character; now he was like a multiple-exposure photo.

"Far out," Tina said.

"Now what do you think of the Beatles?" Kirby asked.

Tina looked toward the stereo. The Beatles were still playing, but for the life of her she couldn't identify the tune. All she knew was that it was beautiful and she was very much aware of the music. As she looked at the stereo she suddenly realized that she could not only hear the music, she could see it as well. Sounds poured out from the speakers in bright yellows, blues, reds, greens, oranges, pinks, and purples. The colors sparkled and danced and shimmered as they hung in the air.

She watched the drops of color as they floated around the room. The color drops didn't just move -- they slinked about like cats, curling around the legs of one person, draping over the shoulder of another. The unisex couple seemed to be enjoying the music the most. The drops of color headed straight for their androgynous crotches, making love with them, thrusting and pulsating without gender preference or prejudice. Tina watched, amazed, as they openly fornicated with the music.

Some of the color moved to her, and she let it slither up her legs, giving herself over to whatever sensations might occur. She felt every erogenous nerve ending in her body being sensitized. All the colors in the room came to her now, pulling away from the others, even leaving the unisex couple, floating through the air to her like so many colorful fluttering butterflies. The colors became one with her awareness, then once again began drifting around the room.

How was she doing this? She was aware of several different entities. She was here and she was there all at the same time. From her new perspective, Tina visited all the other people at the party. She now knew who she was. She had entered into the aura of the room and had breathed life into that aura. E pluribus unum from many she had become one. She was the sensate entity of the shared consciousness of everyone present. She was warm and damp. It was a pleasant dampness, like the warm water of a scented bath.

In her new perspective Tina was able to pick up bits and pieces of the thoughts and feelings of the others in the room. She knew that Ron was lusting after her, and that Jerry was lusting after Kirby! That was funny, she thought. She had never known before that Jerry was homosexual. Now she saw it very clearly. What was even stranger to her was the fact that she was neither surprised nor put off by the realization. In fact, as she shared his neurons she was also sharing the sexual excitation he was feeling.

She felt herself scatter into ever smaller pieces of herself, until the thoughts and feelings and sensations of everyone became a cacophonous jangle of unintelligible static. She drifted around the room collecting the other pieces of herself, then she returned to her own body. When all had returned, she felt herself falling through and into the deep pile of the blue carpet. She tried to stop herself, but she couldn't. Soon all the colors, the music, and the people were gone. The carpet became a forest of great blue trees. She looked up to see the sky, but there was none. There was only the jungle of blue fibers that made up the pile of the carpet.

Tina fell to the bottom with her eyes closed. She was swallowed by an amoeba and excreted on a dust mote. She drifted without mind, without body, slowly and unseeing, for a time that had no beginning and no end.

THE NEXT MORNING

William Canfield stood at the window of the police captain's office, looking out at the traffic on Clark Street. From here he could see the towering Gateway Arch, the newest addition to the St. Louis skyline. Already it was becoming the symbol of St. Louis.

"I told her not to go with that boy," Liesl said. Liesl was sitting on the green vinyl sofa behind him. "She told me she was going to the movies with some friends, then she was going to spend the night with one of them. Instead she went to a... a... what do you call them? A pot party? When the police called this morning and told me they had picked Tina up in a raid, I was never so embarrassed in my life."

Willie sighed and turned toward her. "Well, she's seventeen," he said. "She's beginning to reach out for a little independence.''

"Is that what you call getting arrested? Independence?" Liesl asked. "Why can't she be more like her cousins Morgan and Alicia? Morgan is working for his father, and Alicia is a lawyer with a wonderful reputation. 'How is Tina getting along?' Faith will ask. 'Fine,' I will answer. 'She is making baskets in the city jail.' "

Willie laughed. "I don't think it's quite as bad as all that," he said.

"It is no laughing matter, Willie," Liesl said. There was just the hint of a V in her pronunciation of the name Willie.

"Shhh," Willie said, nodding toward the door of the office.

Captain Puckett came into the room then. "She'll be up here in a few minutes," he said.

"Is she all right?"

"Yes, she's fine."

"What's going to happen to her?" Liesl asked anxiously.

"Nothing," Captain Puckett said. "At least, not as far as the St. Louis police department is concerned. We didn't even book her." Puckett laughed. "That is, not under her real name."

"What do you mean, not under her real name?"

"The name she gave us was Tulip Spring. No one knew who she was until I recognized her this morning."

"I want to thank you for calling us, Captain," Willie said. "And for not booking her."

"Are you kidding, Mr. Canfield? My father would roll over in his grave if I didn't treat you folks right. He always enjoyed telling me how, as a young man, he worked for your great-grandfather, your grandfather, and then your father in a sawmill down in Sikeston. 'Look where the Canfields and I started,' he would say. 'And look how far we went. They became big tycoons, and I became a big-league ballplayer.' "

"Your father was more than just a big-league ballplayer. There haven't been many baseball players like Swampwater Puckett," Willie said. "I can remember watching him pitch when I was a kid. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb -- they were all the same to him. He was never intimidated by any of them. He could throw smoke. I don't know if you saw it, but there was an article in the St. Louis Chronicle a couple of weeks ago that said the three greatest pitchers in baseball had all played in St. Louis: Swampwater Puckett, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Gibson."

"I saw the article," Puckett said. "Pop sure would've been pleased to be included with those two."

"He was better than either one of them," Willie insisted.

There was a knock on the door, and a police sergeant stuck his head in. "Captain, I have Miss Canfield out here."

"Bring her in," Puckett said.

"In there, miss," the police sergeant said. He held the door open, and Tina, wearing the same miniskirt she had worn last night, stepped in.

"Hello, Tina," Captain Puckett said.

"My name is Tulip," Tina insisted. "And why did you take me away from the rest of my friends?"

"Your parents are here," Puckett said.

Tina had not seen her parents when she came into the room, and she looked around in surprise. The expression on her face changed from defiance to fear to shame and then back to defiance.

"You didn't have to come down here for me," she said.

"Oh? And how were you going to get out of this mess?" Liesl asked.

"The same way that everyone else who doesn't have a rich father will," she said.

"Everyone else is going to have to go to court."

"You mean I'm not?"

"No."

"Why? Because I'm a Canfield?" Tina looked at Captain Puckett. "I thought bribery was against the law. How much did my father pay you?"

"Your father didn't pay me anything, miss," Puckett said, looking stung by her remark. "This was a matter of old family friendship, that's all."

"Where is your car?" Willie asked.

"It's over at Jerry's house, behind his garage," Tina answered.

"All right. We'll go by and pick it up on the way home."

"I'll drive it," Liesl said.

"You don't have to do that. I can drive," Tina said. "I mean, I'm not drunk or stoned or anything."

"I will drive the car," Liesl said resolutely.

"Captain Puckett, is there anything we need to do? Sign any papers or anything?" Willie asked.

"No, sir," Puckett said. "She's all yours. But if I might say something to her?"

"Yes, of course."

Tina fixed her face in an expression of long-suffering tolerance, pointedly focusing her eyes up and to the right in order to avoid looking into Captain Puckett's face.

"Tina, I know what peer pressure is like. I know that when you're with friends, you don't want to do anything that would seem different, That's why you let them lead you into things that you wouldn't normally do. But you are different, child. You have been blessed with looks, personality, intelligence, and a wonderful and respected family who loves you. With those blessings, however, comes a certain responsibility. What I'm trying to say, honey, is that you are the kind of person other people look up to. You should be a leader rather than a follower."

"Captain Puckett is making a lot of sense, Tina," Willie said. "You should listen to him."

Tina looked at the police captain and her mother, then sighed and used her hand to brush a fall of hair away from the side of her face.

"I'm sorry," she finally said. "All I wanted to do was go to a party and hang out with some of my friends. I didn't plan on getting into trouble."

"That's just it, honey," Willie said. "Nobody plans on it. Come along now. We've taken up enough of Captain Puckett's time."

"I... thank you, Captain," Tina said. "And I apologize for my remark about taking a bribe as well as for the way I've behaved since I was brought in here."

"That's quite all right, miss. Just don't do anything that will hurt your parents any more. That's all I ask of you."

Tina looked straight ahead as they walked through the cluster of desks, trying to ignore the stares of a dozen or more police officers. She was glad when they stepped onto the elevator and the doors closed on the three of them.

"Tina--" Liesl started.

"Not here, dear," Willie said quietly.

The chauffeur held the car door open for them as they exited the police station. Tina pulled down the jump seat on the opposite side of the car, then stared out the window.

"Tina," Liesl said again, anxious to get off her mind what she would have said in the elevator. "Why do you do this to us? You have so many privileges, yet you turn your back on them. It's almost as if you resent us."

"I do resent you," Tina said. When she heard her mother gasp, she reached across the space between them to put her hand on her mother's. "No, that's not right," she said quickly. "I don't resent you or Papa. I just..." She let the sentence die.

"You just what?"

"Mama, I know you don't understand," Tina said. "But I don't want to be privileged. I don't want to be the Tina Canfield. Do you know there are people in this city whom I've never met -- or even heard of -- but who know my name? I mean, everywhere I go it's like I'm on public display or something. And what do you think it's going to be like when I start college in September? Canfield Hall, Canfield Stadium, Canfield Arena, Canfield Library."

"Now, honey, you know nobody really calls it Canfield Library. It's Billy Books," Willie reminded her with a chuckle.

"Yes, Billy Books. Even that. Papa, you were raised in this city. You went through this when you were young, didn't you?"

"I suppose I did, to a degree," Willie said. "I mean, I was acutely aware of who I was and who my father was. But darling, I didn't resent it. I was proud of my family and happy for the opportunities being a Canfield gave me. And frankly, I can't understand why you are having such a problem with it."

"I'm part of a new generation, Papa," Tina said. "My generation regards blatant materialism as crass. We're much more interested in a person's soul than in their wealth. But I can never get around that, don't you see? The moment someone learns who I am, they can't even see my soul."

"Darling, if they don't see your soul, that means they aren't looking for it," Willie said.

"What good would it do them to try? All they would see is the Canfield millions."

"If they see the Canfield millions, that's exactly what they want to see," Liesl added. "And that means that this new generation you are talking about is no different from all the other generations. They may talk about the soul, but when you get right down to it, it's the money that interests them most."

"What's the use?" Tina said. "I knew you wouldn't understand.''

Liesl started to say something else, but a small nod from Willie stopped her. She bit her tongue and settled back in the soft leather seats. Willie stared ahead, lost in his own thoughts, while Tina looked through the window, fighting back the tears. The big Lincoln limousine moved in stately grandeur through the St. Louis traffic.

Copyright © 1996 by Robert Vaughan

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