As the pit of my stomach hit the floor on its second bounce, I noticed a suitcase sitting in the middle of it. The floor, not my stomach. “What’s that?”

“A suitcase.”

For the sake of The Mission, I suppressed the growl that rose from my toes even though doing so nearly choked me. “I can see that,” I said patiently. “What’s it doing on the floor?”

“Nothing. Just resting. Luggage doesn’t do much. It tends to be rather passive. Like some men I know.”

“Carolyn,” I said, sighing, “at any other moment I’d probably be among the first to applaud your vibrant wit and subtle insults, but right now is not that time. All I want to know is that you’re not bringing it with you.”

“Oh, but I am.” She raised an eyebrow one-sixteenth of a centimeter too high on the left for true innocence. “It’s my trousseau.”

I would have landed with a thud on the chair in back of me if it hadn’t been for the fact that there was no chair in back of me.

“Did you hurt yourself?” she asked distractedly and went right on looking for her coat. “Now I wonder if I’ve got everything–”

I buried my head in my hands so I wouldn’t have to look at her. “Your what?”

“My trousseau. You know. My party outfit. I can’t go to a party dressed like this.”

“Then we’re not getting married?” The feeble rays of a weak hope seemed to poke their bony fingers through the raincloud that was perpetually two feet over my head lately.

“Not today,” she said, patting that head. “Don’t be so impatient. Now quit wasting time and get up off the floor. I’m not going to play marbles with you, and that’s that. We have to go.” I hoisted myself to my feet. Painfully. “Be a love and get my bag, will you? That’s my brave little man.”

In abject surrender, I reached for the suitcase. I couldn’t lift it with one hand. I could barely lift it with two. “This isn’t your party outfit,” I said indignantly. “This thing weighs more than my 27-volume set of Funkle’s Encyclopedia. With Indexes. And the yearly updates going back to 1935.”

“It is too my party outfit.”

“Really? Who are you going as, Sir Standard of Poor, the Knight of the Six-Inch Steel Armor Plate?”

“Alright, so it’s not just my party outfit. Calm down, Ponsie. You’re getting yourself all worked up over nothing. You keep this up and you won’t be fit for duty by the time it gets around to calling ‘Yoo-hoo!'”

“This is awful heavy for a nothing,” I said. “A Bradley Fighting Vehicle weighs less than this nothing. What’s in it, Carolyn?”

“Just a few, um, tools and things I thought might come in handy.”

“Tools?” You wouldn’t think such a simple word could have such an ominous ring to it. “What kind of ‘tools’?”

“Oh, a couple of screwdrivers, a few wrenches. A hammer–”

“A hammer.”

“A jackhammer.”

I tottered.

“A small one, Ponsie, a little baby jackhammer no bigger than a breadbox, I swear. Just in case.”

“In case of what? In case you get the chance to heist a passing armored truck? What possible use could a jackhammer be?”

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “a precious thing like a treasured knitting trophy, it might be locked up, you know. It might not be so easy to get at. We might have to take steps. We might have to be resolute. We might have to blast–”

Blast? You’ve got nitro in here?!”

“Of course not. That would be dangerous. Plastique is much more stable.”

My Last Coherent Thought Before Darkness Descended: And this is the woman I have agreed to marry. I’m not even going to ask how or why. It doesn’t matter since I’ll never survive this, my last night on earth. I wonder if the Yanks will be in the series this year?

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