Tom hiked along the gravel shoulder of a two-lane highway, hoping for a ride. Midnight came and went. The air grew cold and the crickets got tired of chirping. Near the county line, drawn by the sight of approaching head-
lights, he turned and stuck out his thumb. The driver slowed down, probably checking him out. Tom stood in the blinding glare of the headlights, wondering what part of him the driver noticed first. His red backpack? His torn jeans? Or maybe it was Tom's black skin with its thin layer of velvety hair? His yellow Shifter eyes?
Tom smiled and waved, hoping the driver would still stop and offer him a ride but internally despairing. He'd have had a better chance with a pickup than a private car.
The moment of uncertainty elongated as the car inched closer.
Massive irrigation sprinklers activated in the cornfields to Tom's right, and the summer air grew heavy and damp.
Tom stepped up and saw, with a zing of fear, that the low sedan was actually a police cruiser.
Tom's skin prickled and his hair stood on end. Officer
Mayle had told Tom straight out that if he found Tom hitch-
hiking one more time, he'd take him to jail. Tom's friend
Shorty had been arrested by Officer Mayle once. He'd need-
ed sixteen stitches. And Shorty was even a Skin. How many stitches would a Shifter need?