Mountain Ice (David Dean Mysteries) (Chapter 2, page 1 of 14)

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Fred was absent when they arrived home, but returned just as Cynthia was cutting a warmed apple pie for a late afternoon snack. Donnie Ryland followed close behind him.

"His ma said he could take a stroll up town with me," Fred explained. Cynthia offered the dessert but, surprisingly, Fred declined.

"Me and Donnie just had a banana split," Fred said, putting his arm about the boy's shoulders. Donnie smiled shyly as Fred continued. "We were celebrating."

"Celebrating what?" Dean asked as Donnie wandered out of the room and up the stairs. But before Fred could answer, Cynthia patted him on the shoulder.

"That was sweet of you to take Donnie under your wing," she said.

"Nothing to it. He's a nice kid. We get along just fine."

"I'll second the compliments, Fred," Dean added. "It strikes me the boy could use a friend. It looks as if you pushed all the right buttons with him."

"It's no big deal just because he doesn't want to talk," Fred grumbled. "If he wanted to bad enough, he probably would. It ought to be something of an annoyance to him if everybody keeps hounding him to do something he so obviously don't want to do. I talk enough for the two of us. Told him if he wanted to get my attention, just whack me on the arm."

Dean smiled and gave the old man a pat on the arm. "Keep it up." Then he added, "and tell us why you're celebrating."

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