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Dana pursed her lips as she studied him. “Rhoda sniping at you again?”

“Don’t look,” Flynn snapped before Dana could turn around. “You’ll just encourage her.”

“Flynn, why don’t you just fire her ass? You take entirely too much crap off her.”

“She’s been with the Dispatch since she was eighteen. That’s a long time. Now, while I appreciate you dropping in to tell me how to handle my employee problems, I need to finish this.”

Dana just stretched out her endless legs. “She really stirred you up this time, huh?”

“Fuck it.” He blew out a breath, then yanked open his desk drawer to hunt up a bottle of aspirin.

“You do a good job here, Flynn.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered as he dug a bottle of water out of another drawer.

“Shut up. I’m serious. You’re good at what you do. As good as Liz was. Maybe better at some areas of it because you’re more approachable. Plus you’re a better writer than anybody you’ve got on staff.”

He eyed her while he washed the aspirin down. “What brought this on?”

“You look really bummed.” She couldn’t stand to see him seriously unhappy. Irritated, confused, pissed off, or surly was fine. But it hurt her heart to see misery etched on his face. “Pleasant Valley needs the Dispatch, and the Dispatch needs you. It doesn’t need Rhoda. And I bet knowing that just sticks in her craw.”

“You think?” The idea of that smoothed out the raw edges. “The sticking-in-the-craw part, I mean.”

“You bet. Feel better?”

“Yeah.” He capped the water bottle, dropped it back in the drawer. “Thanks.”

“My second good deed for the day. I’ve just spent an hour at Malory’s, and another twenty minutes wandering around trying to decide if I should dump on you or just keep it between us girls.”

“If it has to do with hairstyles, monthly cycles, or the upcoming Red Tag sale at the mall, keep it between you girls.”

“That’s so incredibly sexist, I’m not even going to . . . what Red Tag sale?”

“Watch for the ad in tomorrow’s Dispatch. Is something wrong with Malory?”

“Good question. She had a dream, only she doesn’t believe it was a dream.”

Dana related the discussion before digging in her bag for the typed account Malory had given her. “I’m worried about her, Flynn, and I’m starting to worry about me, because she’s got me half convinced that she’s right.”

“Quiet a minute.” He read it through twice, then sat back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. “What if she is right?”

Exasperation spiked into her voice. “Do I have to start playing Scully to your Mulder? We’re talking about gods and sorcery and the capture of souls.”

“We’re talking about magic, about possibilities. And possibilities should always be explored. Where is she now?”

“She said she was going to The Gallery, to do some research on the painting.”

“Good. Then she’s sticking with the plan.”

“You didn’t see her.”

“No, but I will. What about you? Dig anything up?”

“I’m tugging a few lines.”

“Okay, let’s all meet at my place tonight. Let Zoe know, I’ll tell Mal.” When Dana frowned at him, he only smiled. “You came to me, honey. I’m in it now.”


“I really owe you for this . . . .”

“Oh, sweetheart, any day I can do something behind the bimbo-nazi’s back is a day of celebration.”

Still, Tod cast a cautious look right and left before he opened the door to what had once been Malory’s office and was now Pamela’s domain.

“Oh, God, what has she done to my space?”

“Hideous, isn’t it?” Tod actually shuddered. “It’s like the walls vomited Louis XIV. My only satisfaction is that she actually has to look at this when she comes in.”

The room was jammed full. The curvy desk, the tables, the chairs, and two tasseled ottomans all vied for space on a rug that screamed with red and gold. The walls were covered with paintings overpowered by thick, ornate gold frames, and statuary, ornamental bowls and boxes, glassware and whatnots crowded every flat surface.

Each piece, Malory noted, was a small treasure in itself. But packing it all together in this limited space made it look like someone’s very expensive garage sale.

“How does she manage to get anything done?”

“She has her slaves and minions—meaning me, Ernestine, Julia, and Franco. Simone Legree sits up here on her throne and gives orders. You had a lucky escape, Mal.”

“Maybe I did.” But still, it had been a wrench to come through the front door again, knowing she no longer belonged.

Not knowing where she belonged.

“Where is she now?”

“Lunch at the club.” Tod checked his watch. “You’ve got two hours.”

“I won’t need that much. I need the client list,” she said as she headed for the computer on the desk.

“Oooh, are you going to steal clients from under her rhinoplasty?”

“No. Hmm, happy thought, but no. I’m trying to pin down the artist on a particular painting. I need to see who we have that buys in that style. Then I need our files on paintings with mythological themes. Damn it, she’s changed the password.”

“It’s mine.”

“She uses your password?”

“No—M-I-N-E.” He shook his head. “She wrote it down so she wouldn’t forget it—after she forgot two other passwords. I happened to, ah, come across the note.”

“I love you, Tod,” Malory exclaimed as she keyed it in.

“Enough to tell me what this is all about?”

“More than enough, but I’m in kind of a bind about that. A couple of people I’d have to talk to first.” She worked fast, locating the detailed client list, copying it to the disk she’d brought with her. “I swear I’m not using this for anything illegal or unethical.”

“That’s a damn shame.”

She chuckled at that, then opened her bag to offer him a look at the printout she’d made from the digital photo. “Do you recognize this painting?”

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