Derek and Ian, both 15, start out to hitchhike from Exeter to London. Lifts are few, so Derek is persuaded by Ian--""It's your brother's party. Anyway, I'll beat you there""--to take the one free seat in a crowded ear. Now lan is dead, strangled, and Derek has to face the world and himself and a future that, in this subdued, well-crafted story, closes in over the dead lan as if to obliterate him. Derek's mother is tense, giving rise to artificial conversations at home; and he has still to face Ian's reportedly hostile mother. But, handling himself well with the police (who wonder if lan might have been a homosexual, or swayable for pay), Derek is newly able to talk--or, comfortably, not talk--to desirable Yvonne, who had him tongue-tied before. Their growing intimacy, and an exchange of confidences with Ian's frank young mother, steady Derek: life will go on, altered, despite its manifold, unforseeable risks. Neither a tidy wrap-up--indicatively, the killer is not apprehended and hitchhiking is not flatly proscribed--nor a facile catharsis; just a tentative reconcilation, taut and spare.