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“Gum?” asks Augusta, holding out the pack.

“Sure,” he says, “thanks,” and goes back to his book. They both chew, rocking with the motion of the bus.

“That was an opening gambit,” she hints, finally.

“And this is a noncommittal response,” he says, still not looking up.

“Well, then, how about an innocuous question?”

“Fine.” He looks at her, one eyebrow climbing. “I’ll start to show interest.”

“I’ll delay,” Augusta says sweetly, “mentioning my stuffed rat collection, for the moment.”

He’s smiling; the book’s closed. “Yeah, I’d go with that. Not mentioning the rats is really your strongest possible option here.”