16 – When the Cat’s Away, or a (Not So) Perfectly Innocent Sunday Afternoon

Continued from Another Just-So Story, More or Less.

Grissom had been taking advantage of the late Sunday morning peace and quiet to catch up on the looming backlog of specimens when he felt more than heard the presence of someone standing behind him, someone who was apparently taking silent stock of what he was currently working on.

It wasn’t Sara. Apart from the fact that he knew from the scribbled note he’d found on the bedside table earlier in the day that Sara was out in the field with Ana, Sara never lingered just beyond his peripheral vision. Luis and Bernie never loitered quietly and Bridget fidgeted, so if Ana was still with Sara, that just left Stephen.

Grissom was about to inquire as to how Stephen was doing, but Stephen beat him to it.

“Feeling better?” he asked.

“Much,” Grissom replied. “Thank you.”

There was a long pause, as if Stephen were making up his mind about something. He appeared, albeit unsuccessfully, to attempt to cover his unease by leisurely taking a seat across from Grissom.

Grissom, uncertain about the precise nature of the forthcoming conversation, put down the specimen he was working on and gave the man his full attention.

However, Stephen’s next inquiry of “Do you know what day it is?” was the last thing he expected.

While all the changes and holidays had done a number on his internal clock, Grissom knew perfectly well that it was Sunday. Despite that being the obvious answer he gave it anyway.

But this seemed to be the reply Stephen was expecting, because he nodded before continuing, “I take it Sara didn’t tell you that we really don’t work on Sundays then?”

“No.”

“Ah,” Stephen sighed with a shrug of comprehension. “Of course as this is Sara we’re talking about and as she usually works on Sundays anyway –”

That revelation didn’t amaze Grissom in the least. So when Stephen next asked, “Was she this bad in Vegas?” Grissom only chuckled and replied, “Worse.”

Which was true. After all, how many times had she come in to work on her days off? Mind you, he had called her in most of those times so it wasn’t entirely all her fault, but still.

Of course, he hadn’t been much better. Okay, he had to admit that he had probably been even worse. But being shift supervisor meant certain sacrifices to one’s personal time. That and working had often long been far better than the alternative. Although it certainly hadn’t been of late.

But here, the specimen classification work was practically relaxing. And was definitely preferable to any more time spent alone reading in bed while he was ostensibly “recovering” from his accident.

“Well, Ana would have my hide if she saw you working,” Stephen replied and with that, Grissom realized what lay behind the man’s earlier reticence. He’d been sent to be the bearer of bad news or at least the boss’s orders and had been trying to execute the task with as much tact and discretion as he could. Stephen really needn’t have bothered. He might have the title Doctor in front of his name, but Grissom knew and understood that here Ana was in charge here and what she said went no questions asked.

He was about to say as much to Stephen, but Stephen was telling him, “She and Sara went to go have a look at some orchids that Sara discovered in the newest plot. As it’s still a little early in the season for most orchids to be flowering, Ana got really excited.”

That came as no surprise. Grissom had, in the course of the last week, learned that Ana was an avid orchid aficionado who had the fortune to be born in a country where the number of orchid species outnumbered even the prodigious number of butterflies. The diversity and ecology of the various thousand plus plant species had been part of the reason she’d become a botanist in the first place.

Stephen was still speaking. “Seriously, I still don’t know how Sara spots them. The flowers couldn’t have been larger than a dime.”

Grissom did. Practice, practice, practice.

Sadly, Sara’s eye for detail had not been a skill honed in searching for thumbnail sized flowers. But even the smallest orchids were still far larger than much of the trace evidence they typically collected at a crime scene.

At least that explained where Sara had disappeared off to that morning. Apart from where she had scribbled:

We saved you some breakfast. Try and stay out of trouble.

–S

at the very end, all Grissom had been able to make out of her note was

Be back later this morning. Out with Ana to…

before the rest of the sentence had been cramped beyond all hopes of legibility into one corner of the scrap paper she’d used to compose the note. He’d smiled and shook his head as he read it, both rueful and cheered at the fact that some things never really did change, Sara’s chicken-scratch being one of them.

He didn’t have the opportunity to indulge much in remembrances, however pleasing, as Stephen was saying, “She and Ana should be back soon. Surely between the two of you, you can find something to do today that isn’t work related. Ana’s injunction, not mine,” he hurriedly qualified.

Grissom had to work to hide his grin. Apart from that sheriff-issued suspension he’d gotten nearly eight years ago, he’d never had a boss order him not to work before and even then, he’d worked through the suspension anyway, as well as through most holidays over the years and now that he thought about it, what had he done during his last leave of absence? Work.

Too bad Sara wasn’t here, he mused. She would have probably found the whole exchange terribly amusing and thought that after all the times he had issued the same directive to her over the years, it was high time someone did the same to him.

“Unless,” Stephen added with the commiserating half smile of a man who knew the state all to well from personal experience, “You are still in the doghouse –”

The grin was really getting hard to control now, even though in truth, Grissom wasn’t, at least at this particular moment, actually in the doghouse. He hadn’t been for the better part of a day, thank goodness. He did, however, suddenly have the uncanny feeling that in their nearly ten years of marriage, Stephen had probably spent plenty of time on the wrong side of Ana. Of course Grissom knew that the occasional and even frequent banishment (or the threat there of) to the proverbial doghouse was just one of those things that one had to face in any serious relationship, whether you were married or not. Grissom also knew all too well that he was lucky that Sara was often quick to forgive, even if not always so ready to forget.

When Grissom made no immediate reply, Stephen rose and said, “Anyway, Ana and I are going to be away for the rest of the day. And the guys and Bridget should be out of your hair for a while at least. So…”

Grissom nodded, closed his notebook and began clearing up the specimen trays. He knew when to concede defeat. There were just some fights you couldn’t win so there was no point in trying. Besides, a day alone with Sara wasn’t something he was about to protest, complain about or pass up.

He just needed to find something to do to occupy himself until she returned.

*******

Grissom wasn’t sure how, but somewhere and somehow in the midst of his clearing up, he’d managed to mislay his reading glasses.

He was in the midst of the painful process of searching beneath the cot in the tent (having thought that perhaps he might have knocked them off the table) when Sara entered.

“Lost something already?” she asked, seemingly having sized up the situation correctly.

When he peered up at her, it was to give her an Isn’t it obvious? glare.

To which she only smirked and asked, “Your glasses?” in a knowing sort of way.

“It appears so,” he replied, returning his attention underneath the cot.

He heard Sara place something on the table beside him before she padded her way to the other side of the bed. There was the scrape of her trunk on the ground and faint rummaging sounds before she straightened up and tapping him on the shoulder said, “Good thing I remembered to pick you up a spare pair while I was at the drug store yesterday. As you tend to misplace them,” she continued smugly as she extended the pair to him.

As he couldn’t rightly protest that wasn’t the case, since his reading glasses were the one thing he did seem to always be mislaying, he merely accepted the new pair with alacrity and a slightly terse, but genuine thank you.

“Whatever would you do without me?” Sara teased.

Grissom was far too stiff and sore to come up with a witty or even ready reply to this. Plus, up until the week before, he’d been attempting to do just that — live without Sara. It was not an experience he was all too keen on repeating any time soon.

Sara gestured to the bedside table as he rose. “You get your choice: pills or tea,” she said. When he gave her an exasperated look she added, “Boss’s orders.”

There seemed to be a lot of that going on lately, he rued. His earlier predictions that Sara would have regarded the whole turnabout as being fair play turned out to be accurate as her next words were, “Now you know how it feels.”

Grissom chose to ignore the dig. “Pills,” he replied instead.

And she shook several tablets into his palm before handing him a Nalgene bottle full of purified river water. He received both with far less enthusiasm than the glasses.

“Is the tea really that bad?” she asked curiously before she gave the mug a tentative sniff. Then took a hesitant sip. Grimaced. “It really does taste like stewed grass,” she spat. “I don’t think even an entire can of sweetened condensed milk could improve the taste of that. I can see why you chose the pills.”

His look seemed to say See?

Noticing the book that rested on top of the blanket, Sara said, “Would you like me to leave you to read in peace?”

“No,” Grissom replied so quickly that there was no mistaking the fact that he was rather tired of all the hours of quiet, solitary resting.

“Have something else in mind?” she inquired.

“Nothing in particular. I’m open to suggestions.”

Sara raised an eyebrow at this. But only said, more of a statement than a question as she had taken in how difficult his getting back onto his feet had been, “Your back still hurting you –” and for a moment, Sara thought Grissom might simply deny it, like he was so often prone to do, but he merely nodded.

She considered the options. As he was already sore and after all the activity of the day before and as she didn’t want to tire him out further, exploring or even a walk was really out of the question. Cataloguing was out, too. Ana had made that plain enough, and work wasn’t really all that much of a temptation this afternoon. It wasn’t like there was TV or you could just go out to the movies. And it seemed such a shame to spoil the rare quiet with the radio. The book Grissom had left on the bed gave her an idea, although she wasn’t all that interested in reading herself at the moment.

She motioned for him to take a seat on the ground, which he however awkwardly did. The hinges on the cot creaked in their usual protest when she clambered onto the cot behind him. As she passed him the book, she asked, “Tired of natural history already?”

“The mind cannot live on science alone,” he quipped.

“That and you finished that book yesterday,” she countered. He nodded. “Sit up a bit,” she urged as her hands settled on his shoulders.

His eyes closed involuntarily at the feel of her thumbs at the base of his neck and he let out a soft, appreciative sigh, which caused Sara to smile in response.

Her amusement only grew, when in reply to her telling him, “But I wouldn’t have thought pink was quite your color,” he had turned to give her a bemused expression. She indicated the cover of the book in his hands. Apart from the large black lettering of the title, it was an almost florescent shade of Pepto-Bismol pink.

“It’s not mine,” Grissom replied. “Ana leant it to me a couple of days ago.”

Sara sounded disbelieving. “Uh, huh,” she said. But then she got a better look at the title.

100 Love Sonnets

Cien sonetos de amor

by Pablo Neruda

“Ah, sonnets,” she sighed. “I should have known.”

“For some reason,” Grissom replied airily, “Ana’s under the impression that you would enjoy it even if I read the phone book to you.”

Sara laughed. “The phone book, no. But maybe the encyclopedia.”

********

Before long, the afternoon became much like many of the lazy, quiet afternoons the two of them had shared back in Vegas over the years when they had no particular place to go or anything in particular to do. Grissom read mostly to himself, but every once in a while he shared a particular passage or page he found especially interesting or apt. These had always been some of Sara’s favorite times — those ordinary unassuming moments where the real enjoyment rested more in the company than the activity itself. While they were simple pleasures they were all that more precious and well appreciated because of their rarity.

She knew that most of her friends and colleagues would have regarded her and Grissom’s outside of work activities to be woefully mundane. But for Sara — and Grissom, too — those peaceful hours simply spent in each other’s company had been one of the greatest pleasures she had ever known. So she was beyond ecstatic to be able to possess them again.

Besides, there really was something winsome about the way Grissom’s glasses rested on the end of his nose, something comforting in the steady, sure resonance of his reading voice.

He seemed to be sharing her sense of contentment, for the first lines he quoted to her were,

“‘Love, what a long way, to arrive at a kiss,

what loneliness-in-motion, towards your company!’”

Sara had smiled at this. Then after a few minutes of rubbing his shoulders through the almost rigid cotton of his camp shirt, she leaned forward, and suggested as she attempted to undo the buttons at his neck, “This would be a lot easier if…”

Grissom seemed to agree. He put down his book long enough to finish with the buttons Sara couldn’t reach and allowed her to help him peel the shirt from his shoulders.

She paused in the resumption of her ministrations to gape at the bruises along his right side.

“Wow, those are even more impressive than they were yesterday,” she observed, then as she lightly traced her fingers along his ribs asked, “Still hurt?”

While he didn’t exactly cry out in pain, he did flinch and flashed her a scowl that said, You think?

But his momentary irritation quickly returned to appreciation as she replaced her hands on his now bare shoulders. Her fingers weren’t probing like they had been two days before, but gentle, and yet, the pressure was firm and deep enough to begin to start working some of the knots and stiffness away in that strange way that physical stimulation often led to relaxation — at least when it came to muscles. But then Sara had always had nimble fingers and been very adept in working with her hands.

So that when she asked, “Better?” all he could do was hum, “Much,” in reply.

After a while he murmured, “Someday I really need to thank which ever professor it was who assigned you to that study group.”

“You mean the one with Peter the chiropractor’s husband?”

“Yeah, that one,” he replied. “As always, your diligence in the pursuit of knowledge shows, my dear.”

“You’ve said as much before.”

“It bears repeating.”

Sara laughed.

Later, when he began to read aloud:

“‘But when I hold you I hold everything that is —

sand, time, the tree of the rain,’

she could hear his usual steady cadence begin to stutter a little. As she had at that moment chosen to replace her fingers with her lips at the base of his neck, his next words of

“‘everything is alive so that I can be alive:

without moving I can see it all:

in your life I see everything that lives.’”

came out so breathy that Sara stopped to ask, “Is this bothering you?”

He gave a vague sort of reply. But when she then asked if he wanted her to stop, there was no mistaking his emphatic “No.”

Although Sara’s own motions and breath stilled when Grissom quoted, his own voice thick with feeling:

“‘Before I loved you, Love, nothing was my own;

I wavered through the streets, among objects;

nothing mattered or had a name:

the world was made of air, which waited.

I knew rooms full of ashes,

tunnels where the moon lived,

rough warehouses that growled Get lost,

questions that insisted in the sand.

Everything was empty, dead, mute,

fallen, abandoned, and decayed:

inconceivably alien, it all

belonged to someone else — to no one:

till your beauty and your poverty

filled the autumn plentiful with gifts.’”

Then silence.

Silence as his words, their meaning, his intentions sunk in.

Sara’s mind, which was the only part of her still operating at the moment, flashed back to that last sonnet he’d had her read only days before. The words had been written centuries apart, but the sentiment was the same: Without your love I have nothing, am nothing; but with your love, I have and am everything.

Her eyes closed. They began to fill with tears anyway. But not unhappy tears.

She felt his hand close over her own, him lift it from his shoulder and press a kiss into her palm. Her own lips twitched at the corners in response, her only reply as she couldn’t even managed to get his name past her lips.

Of course there were times when words were overrated.

He gave a startled sort of query of “Tired of my reading?” when she slipped off the cot and got to her feet.

Sara shook her head. She had only gone to untie the knots holding the tent flaps open. Once the fabric draped shut, she refastened the ties from the inside. She padded in the now dimness back towards the table. There was the slight rattle of glass and ceramic when she misjudged the distance and bumped into it on accident. But then there was the click of the lantern and a spot of light illuminated the area near the cots. Grissom blinked in the now seeming bright light as he peered curiously up at her. Sara only smiled and motioned for him to scoot forward. She took up her position behind him, this time on the floor. He heard the rustle of fabric, then the snapping of several clasps and was about to turn to her when she told him to keep reading.

Although he may have cracked open the book again, reading suddenly became a whole lot harder to concentrate on, especially when he felt the contrasting smoothness of her bare skin and the taut firmness of her exposed nipples play against his back.

“Sara –” he almost gasped.

And while Grissom wasn’t normally one to take a pass on the opportunity to have an afternoon of lovemaking with Sara, his body was vehemently determined to remind him in no uncertain terms that was perhaps not the best of ideas at the moment.

Sara seemed to sense his hesitation, for she sighed as she said, “Don’t worry. That wasn’t what I had in mind. I was paying attention in the doctor’s office after all. So relax, Gil. Just read,” before she leaned in, her voice now low and breathy and whispered into his ear, “Besides, I am not that insatiable, dear.”

He was about to inquire further after her intentions when the heat of her breath and the softness of her lips caressed along his neck as she drew him towards her until his back rested against her chest and he realized that Sara had a very different sort of lovemaking in mind. One that was more sensual and tender rather than sexual and was ultimately an expression of the need and desire for that quiet closeness they had only ever shared with each other. It was as ever an act of intimacy that Grissom found equally, although differently, as satisfying as sex.

After a while, he said, almost breathless himself, “I think I am starting to see where the whole concept of a kiss making it all better comes from.”

She chuckled against his skin.

And the book lay in Grissom’s lap, forgotten.

“I don’t think I want to know where you learned how to do this,” he murmured as he shifted slightly to allow her further and easier access.

Even though she knew he couldn’t see her, Sara rolled her eyes anyway before replying, “Books are wonderfully useful things, Gilbert. When applied properly.”

“I don’t remember you having any books on –”

She cut him off with: “I didn’t. You do. Or did at least. And if I recall correctly, there were a quite a few volumes in your collection that would have made even Catherine blush.”

Sara was exaggerating slightly and they both knew it. That of course didn’t keep Grissom from protesting, “They were purely for academic purposes,” to which she gave an incredulous cough.  “There is nothing scandalous about art, archeology or anthropology,” he insisted.

“This from the man who said that the frescos at Pompeii were more explicit than modern porn,” she countered amusedly.

As this was indeed true, he couldn’t exactly deny it. Or having had read Boccaccio  or translations of ancient Sanskrit treatises on love and the more exotic forms of lovemaking. Consequently, he was almost relieved when it appeared that Sara in saying, “Now that I think about it,” was going to change the subject, until she followed it with “It was more experiential actually. How I learned. Book learning can only come in so handy without practical application of the principles.”

His “I see” spoke volumes. Sara had to choke back a snicker before she hurriedly clarified, “On you,” and then, “Of course.”

“I’m not sure whether to be appalled or impressed,” he intoned, indeed sounding a bit of both at the moment.

“Weren’t you the one who was always preaching about seeing and doing things for yourself?” she offered. “And extolling the benefits of experimentation and empirical observation?”

“Empirical observation?” he echoed.

“Yes. Basic stimulus and response,” Sara replied. “For example, I know that if I –” and she began to run the nails of both hands up his chest, causing Grissom to inhale sharply in reply. “That is likely to happen,” she finished knowingly.

This time his “I see,” was more enthusiastic than anything.

*******

When Grissom woke later that afternoon, it was to find Sara sitting beside him at the head of the bed with her legs curled under her and the shirt he had been wearing earlier draped haphazardly over her shoulders.

As he eased himself onto his back, the better to peer up at her, he grinned, recalling exactly how they had both made it into bed in the first place.

Sara’s teasing had soon given way to tenderness again. Whether it had been the light play of her fingers, the warmth of her skin against his or the sedating properties of the pills, Grissom had felt the tension and ache in his body begin to fade, felt a wave of relaxation and contentment and ultimately sleepiness settle over him so that when she had suggested bed, he hadn’t protested.

Careful of his still sore side, she had curled up beside him, wrapped her arms around him and molding herself into the curve of his back, snuggled close. Her fingers lightly playing over his chest as if even after all this time, she was unable to get enough of the feel of him beneath her fingers.

He had sighed, closed his eyes, threaded his own fingers through hers. And feeling her press a kiss against his bare shoulder was soon fast asleep.

“Should I start looking for a new robe for you?” he asked the very real and present Sara as he fingered the hem of his shirt. Even though her head was bent and her hair fell over her cheeks, concealing much of her face, he could still see her smile. “I see you’ve managed to commandeer my book as well as my shirt,” he added. “Find anything good?”

She indicated for him to slide closer and rest his head in her lap before she began to flip through the pages in search of the sonnet she was looking for.

“You keep teasing me about my Spanish,” she said. “Shall we try out yours?”

When he didn’t protest, she commenced to read in her best attempt at faltering Spanish,

“‘Sabrás que no te amo y que te amo –’”

Grissom paused to consider her words for a moment before replying, “‘You know I do not love you… and I love you.’”

Sara peered over at the right side of the book to check his translation. “Close enough,” she said and then read,

“‘Puesto que de dos modos es la vida –’”

“‘Since that there are two…’ ‘modos’?” he seemed to query more to himself than to Sara.

Sides, I think,” she offered anyway.

“‘Since that there are two sides to life.’”

“‘La palabra es un ala del silencio –’”

“‘The word is one… wing… of silence.’”

“‘El fuego tiene una mitad de frío.’”

“‘Fire has its cold half,’” he finished, but at the almost seeming smirk he was giving her, Sara didn’t continue.

Instead she asked, “What?”

“Your Spanish really is as bad as you keep saying it is,” he replied truthfully. Perhaps a bit too truthfully, so that he had to hurriedly add, “It was an observation, not a complaint, dear.”

But she decided to stick to the English translations from then on out.

“‘I love you in order to begin to love you,’”

She began, her hand absently smoothing his hair as she continued to read:

“‘to start infinity again

and never to stop loving you:

that’s why I do not love you yet.’”

Grissom picked up the last stanza, seemingly from memory:

“‘My love has two lives, in order to love you:

that’s why I love you when I do not love you,

and also why I love you when I do.’”

When Sara appeared dumbstruck at this, he said with a self-deprecating shrug, “It may not be Shakespeare, but it is one of Neruda’s most famous poems.”

Sara shook her head both bemused and amused.

Then her face and mien turned serious, almost sober again. “But this, I think is my favorite,” she said, flipping back towards the front of the volume.

“‘I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

so I love you because I know no other way

than this –’”

It was now Grissom’s turn to be rendered speechless as he considered her choice of lines. For Sara had always seemed to have such a sense of surety about her, had always seemed to know. Known what to do or at least what she wanted to do.

That love could exist without that — that it had existed, simply because it did, awed and also humbled him. But he realized, too, that he no longer knew any other way than to love her.

Although it pained and strained him to do so, Grissom propped himself up onto his elbows. The kissed that followed though was well worth any trouble or physical discomfort.

His last rational thought before the light brush of lips turned into something more was that he was really going to like Sundays.

*******

The afternoon had begun to wane and soon the others would return and all the usual chaos of camp and life would reappear to put at an end — at least for now — to their quiet hours.

Noting the lateness, the two of them opted for a quick shower. Because of the heat and humidity, even quiet afternoons doing little more than touching and reading still left a person in want of a shower. So they gathered up clean clothes and towels and headed off to the camp’s makeshift bathing area. But a quick, strictly for hygiene sake shower didn’t seem to be precisely what Sara had in mind.  For she slipped behind to join him in the narrow stall and although there was barely enough room or water flow for one, Grissom made no comment, let alone any protest. He only smiled and handed her the washcloth so that she could get that one spot on his back that he could never quite seem to reach, before he returned the attention.

*******

Everyone seemed to stumble in as close to sunset as humanly possible, as if they all had wanted to squeeze every last moment of freedom, enjoyment and ease from the day.

When they did, they found a pot of sopa negra bubbling on the cook stove, a large stack of freshly made corn tortillas covered by an upturned bowl to keep out the bugs and the table already set for dinner, apart from one end, where Grissom and Sara sat across from each other both seemingly intent on playing a game, that innocent activity belying any of the heat and ardency of earlier in the day.

Luis and Bernie merely shook their heads, not comprehending how anyone could get that excited about a game played with what appeared to be stones from the river where they gathered water. Bridget was desperate for a shower and even more desperate to beat the guys to it. But Ana and Stephen lingered to have a better look.

The game was indeed being played with river rocks, the smooth round ones that littered the bottom. Half of them were plain, unadorned in any way, but the other half bore in their centers neat deliberate circles filled in with thick permanent marker. Ana recognized the board they were using as the reverse of an old canvas bag that had once contained rice but was now covered in a series of oblong shapes enclosed by a rhombus. The rhombus was unfamiliar.

When Stephen dared to ask what they were playing, Grissom merely offered the single word, “Nash,” as an explanation. Unsurprisingly, this conveyed little.

Although when Ana had queried, “Nash?” in order to prompt further elucidation, she — and Stephen, too — were both surprised when it was Sara and not Grissom who answered:

“Nash. A variant of Go developed at Princeton in 1947 by John Forbes Nash, Jr., the Nobel Prize winning mathematician.”

As she continued to describe how Nash was a zero-sum two-person game with perfect information where it was a mathematical certainty that there would always be a single winner and a single looser and never the possibility of a tie, Ana and Stephen met each other’s gaze and both of them were thinking there really were just some people who were made for each other.

Continued in Field Day.

Author’s Note: 100 Love Sonnets: Cien sontos de amor, by Pablo Neruda is indeed a real book, translated by Stephen Tapscott and published by The University of Texas Press in 1986. The lines quoted in this chapter are from sonnets II, VIII, XXV, XLIV and XVII respectively. Like Nash, Neruda was a Nobel Laureate (in Literature) and is today considered to be one of the finest poets of the 20th Century in any language.

In 1952 Parker Brothers marketed a version of a game similar to Nash called Hex. I would love to get my hands on one.

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ufgator1977
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 12:04:12

    I’m still following you, I just forgot my login.

    This is still a wonderful series and I love the pacing.

    By the way, as far as the game is concerned, did you try here:https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/hex

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