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They Never Came Home
They Never Came Home
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They Never Came Home

Written by Lois DuncanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lois Duncan

· Laurel Leaf
· Paperback · October 1, 1990 · $6.99 · 978-0-440-20780-1 (0-440-20780-0)

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Now he glanced up and saw Peggy crossing the room toward him. She had changed from her uniform into a skirt and sweater. With her hair fixed that new way, curling forward over her forehead, she might have been a high school girl rather than a working waitress and a college student.

"Hi," she said. "I'm sorry to have been so long. Mary's offered to take over for me now, so I'm free as a bird at last!"

"That's okay. I've been stuffing myself on pie. What do you want to do tonight?" He got to his feet and picked up the bill for the pie and coffee. "We might be able to catch the last feature at the Palm. I think they've got that new comedy playing."

"Sounds fine to me," Peggy said agreeably.

At the cashier's desk she fastened the top button of her sweater while Dave counted out his change. Before them, the college boys from the far table were paying their own bill. Their dates stood apart, over by the door, chatting together. Suddenly the small, pretty one said, "Dan?"

Automatically, Dave raised his head and swung it in her direction. She was staring at him, as she had been earlier from the other table, but now her face was dead white. She looked as though she had just seen a ghost.

"You are Dan! You're Dan Cotwell!"

"I'm sorry," Dave said, "you must have me mixed up with somebody else."

"I don't! I couldn't!" The dark eyes were huge in the small face. "You are Dan, you must be! Nobody could look so much like Dan! Even your voice--the way you walk!"

"I'm sorry," Dave said again. "You're mistaken." He laid the money for the bill on the counter and took Peggy's arm. "Come on," he said hoarsely, "let's get out of here."

They stepped through the door out onto the sidewalk, and the fresh salt breeze swept into their faces. Behind them, the girl and her escort were also emerging from the restaurant, but he did not turn to look back at them. He could feel the girl's eyes on his back; he knew she was still staring. He could see in his mind's eye the shock on her face, could hear again the sound of her voice: "Dan!"

She had called him "Dan." He had turned, hearing the name! He had reacted to the name, almost as though it were his own!

What's wrong with me, he asked himself wildly. Am I nuts or something? My name is David, David Carter!

He thought, I need a doctor! I've got to see a doctor! No matter what Lance says, something is wrong with me, something more than just a jolt to my mind! I can't go on like this any longer! What if I'm actually crazy! What if all these dark churning things within me should come surging out one day, all these things I don't even know are there, and I turn into a raving maniac or something! What if I hurt somebody!

"Dave!" Peggy's voice was thin and frantic. "Dave, wait, please! I can't keep up with you!"

"I'm sorry." He had forgotten for the moment that she was beside him. He slowed his pace, and realized that his hand was clamped upon her arm. Abruptly he released it.

"I'm sorry," he said again. "We're going to the movies, aren't we? Let's see--which direction--"

"I don't want to see a movie," Peggy said shakily. "I want to talk, Dave! I want to know what's wrong! There's something terribly wrong or you wouldn't be acting like this!"

"No. That is, there's nothing you can do about it."

"That girl back there, she spoke to you! I didn't hear what she said, but you knew her!"

"No. No, I didn't know her," Dave said violently. "I've never seen her before in my life."

"Then why did you grab my arm and start to run like that? Why are you shaking? People don't act like that if there's nothing the matter!"

"I don't know. I swear it--I don't know!"

He was shaking, and his heart was pounding against his chest. Before him, the girl's face was a dark blur, raised to his own. Impulsively, he bent his head and brought his mouth down hard upon hers. It was not a gentle kiss; it was desperate and frightened, a crying out through the darkness for something, someone.

When he raised his head, there was a sob in his throat.

"Joan," he said chokingly, "I don't know what to do! I don't know who to turn to! Joan, I'm scared! I'm starting to remember things, but they're the wrong things! They don't fit! Nothing fits!"

The girl in his arms was silent a moment.

Then she said, "There's one thing you're certainly not remembering. I'm Peggy. Peggy Richards. Not Joan.''

Excerpted from They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan Copyright © 1990 by Lois Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.