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Despite her doubts and misgivings, despite the incomplete, confusing thoughts whirling through her mind, she agreed to meet Minton and gave him directions to her house.

She walked away from the phone and returned twice before cradling the receiver. She filled a glass with water at the kitchen sink and dropped it, shattering the silence and sending Tundra, her Golden Retriever, scrambling under the kitchen table. She stared blankly at the mess on the floor, stepped toward the counter to get a sponge, and felt a sharp prick on the bottom of her right foot. Leaned against the table, she raised her foot, extracted the shard of blue glass from her heel, and wiped her bloody, sticky fingers on the bottom of her damp bathing suit. Forgetting both the glass and the sponge, she stood very still and tried to think.

Her thoughts would not obey her will. Snippets of recollection flashed like broken images from an out-of-control projector: the little house in Louisiana shaking in the violent thunderstorms; a letter from Yokohama; her green Austin Healy, too small to allow her and Chef to stretch out; Chef walking into the restaurant where she helped to serve the summer crowd of Hampton Beach goers; her father shaking his head while telling them it couldn’t work; the horrible letter from the government. The dizzying images, meaning nothing and meaning everything, combined to form a tangled, incomplete pastiche of her past; of the years she had known, loved, and then lost Chef; of the years of despair, adjustment and coping; the years of losing a spark, a heat that had once animated her and made her look forward to each new dawn.

Could a stranger’s voice trigger such chaos? Did such things happen?