Key of Light Page 78

It was different now that she knew him, now that she could hear his voice speaking the words she read. She could envision his face, its expressions. And have some insight into the workings of his very flexible mind.

What defines the artist? she read.

By the time she’d finished the column and was going back to read it through a second time, she’d fallen in love with him all over again.

FLYNN sat on the corner of a desk and listened while one of his reporters pitched him an idea for an article about a local man who collected clowns.

Stuffed clown dolls, clown statues, clown pictures. Porcelain clowns, plastic clowns, clowns with dogs. Clowns that danced or sang or drove little clown cars.

“He’s got more than five thousand clowns, not including clown memorabilia.”

Flynn tuned out for a moment, as the very idea of five thousand clowns in one place at one time was slightly terrifying. He imagined them banding together in a clown army and waging war with seltzer bottles and rubber bats.

All those big red noses, all that maniacal laughter. All those huge, scary smiles.

“Why?” Flynn asked.


“Why does he have five thousand clowns?”

“Oh.” Tim, a young reporter who habitually wore suspenders and too much hair gel, creaked back in his chair. “See, his father started the collection back in the twenties or something. It’s like this generational deal. He started adding to it himself, you know, like in the fifties, then the whole bunch of them got passed to him when his father died. Some of his collection is like museum quality. This stuff goes for real bucks on eBay.”

“Okay, give it a run. Take a photographer. I want a shot of the whole collection with the guy in it. And him with a couple of the more interesting pieces. Get him to give you the history or significance of specific pieces. Play up the father-son connection, but lead off with the numbers and a couple of pieces from each end of the money scale. It could work for the Weekender section. And Tim, try to edit out the ‘you knows’ and ‘likes’ when you interview him.”

“Got it.”

Flynn looked over to see Malory standing between the desks holding an enormous pot of rust-colored mums. Something about the sparkle in her eye made the rest of the room fade away.

“Hi. Doing some gardening?”

“Maybe. Is this a bad time?”

“No. Come on back. How do you feel about clowns?”

“Wrathful when they’re painted on black velvet.”

“Good one. Tim?” he called back. “Get some shots of any clown paintings on black velvet. Sublime to ridiculous and back again,” Flynn added. “It could be good.”

She stepped into the office ahead of him, continuing on to set the flowers on his window ledge. “I wanted to—”

“Wait.” He held up a finger while he tuned in to the call coming out of his police scanner. “Hold that thought,” he told her, and poked his head back out the door. “Shelly, there’s a TA, five hundred block of Crescent. Local PD and EMTs responding. Take Mark.”

“TA?” Malory repeated when he turned back to her.

“Traffic accident.”

“Oh. I was thinking just this morning how much you have to juggle and weigh and shape to put out the paper every day.” She bent down to pat the snoring Moe. “And you manage to have a life at the same time.”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“No, you have a very good life. Friends, family, work that satisfies you, a house, a silly dog. I admire that.” She straightened. “I admire you.”

“Wow. You must’ve had a really good time last night.”

“I did. I’ll tell you about that, but I don’t want to—what is it—smother my lead.”

“Bury the lead.”

“Right.” She stepped over the dog, laid her hands on Flynn’s shoulders. And leaning in, kissed him. Long, long and warm. “Thank you.”

His skin had started to hum. “What for? Because if it was really good, maybe you should thank me again.”

“Okay.” This time she linked her hands behind his head and added a bit of heat to the warmth.

Outside the office, applause broke out.

“Jesus, I’ve got to get blinds for this place.” He tried the psychological angle of shutting the door. “I don’t mind being the hero, but maybe you should tell me what dragon I slayed.”

“I read your column this morning.”

“Yeah? Usually if somebody likes my column they just say ‘Nice job, Hennessy.’ I like your way better.”

“ ‘It isn’t only the artist holding brush and vision who paints the picture,’ ” she quoted. “ ‘It’s those who look and see the power and the beauty, the strength and the passion, who bring brushstroke and color to life.’ Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Every time I start feeling sorry for myself because I’m not living in Paris and setting the art world on its ear, I’m going to take out your column and remind myself what I’ve got. What I am.”

“I think you’re extraordinary.”

“Today, so do I. I woke up feeling better than I have in days. Amazing what a good night’s sleep will do—or a little blue stone under the pillow.”

“You lost me.”

“It’s not important. Just something Rowena gave me. She joined our little sleepover last night.”

“Yeah? What was she wearing?”

Laughing, she sat on the edge of his desk. “She didn’t stay long enough for the pajama section of the night’s entertainment, but you could say she arrived in the nick. The three of us were fooling around with a Ouija board.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“No. Zoe had this theory that maybe the three of us were witches but didn’t know it. Which is why we were chosen . . . and really, it made some sense at the time. In any case, things got very strange. Candle flames rising, wind blowing. And Kane, he got in. Rowena said we’d opened a door, like an invitation.”

“Damn it, Malory. Goddamn it! What’re you doing playing around with—with mystical forces? He’s already had a shot at you. You could’ve been hurt.”

He had such a face, she thought. Such a great face. It could change from interested to amused to furious in a split second. “That’s something Rowena made very clear last night. There’s no point in being angry with me about it now.”

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