Strike Three
                                   - Joy V Smith

“I can’t even tell her that she’ll probably never see me again,” Francine said softly. She’d paused in her packing of juice
cartons she’d pulled from the pantry shelves and now stared at the kitchen ceiling as though she could see Lea in her
bedroom packing. Take everything you might need, her mother had told her. Though the room was warm because they’d
already turned off the air conditioning, she shivered.

Her husband looked at her with concern. “She wouldn’t go then. I am sorry. If we weren’t so limited in the number of
people we can take, I’d insist. I did insist on you going because I sure as hell wouldn’t go without you. She, at least, has her
father, and he has the facilities and intelligence to take care of her.  Send all that you can with her. You’ll probably want to
write them both a letter. I’ve written him a letter with all the hints I can. I can’t take a chance on
e-mails or anything that can be tapped. You’d better pack now. I have at least one more meeting before we go.  We’re
running out of time.”  

She swallowed a sob and turned resolutely back to her packing. Her daughter would have everything she could think of and
pack. She’d do her own packing later while Duncan was getting a final briefing at the White House.

Officials and support staff were busy there; when she’d stopped by yesterday for instructions--safer than other
communications she’d been warned--electric carts were ferrying supplies to waiting trucks.and White House furnishings
were being trundled to the basement for safe-keeping. “I swear this is the hottest July ever,” a sweating worker told her
when she left by a back entrance. He’d stopped to wipe his face before going back for another load.

“Don’t stop, you fool,” yelled the White House chief of staff from the coolnes inside. “There’s no time.”  The worker
grunted in agreement, glanced briefly at the sky and shivered before moving quickly inside.
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