“Rowena and Pitte.” Malory dropped her hands. “Rowena and Pitte,” she repeated. “They couldn’t stop it either. It happened so quickly, so violently.”
She took a long, long breath. “Here’s the kicker. I believe it all. I don’t care how crazy it sounds, I believe it all. It happened. I was taken into that painting, through the Curtain of Dreams, and I watched it happen. I have to find that key. Whatever it takes, I have to find it.”
AFTER a morning staff meeting that included jelly doughnuts and a pissed-off reporter who’d had her article on fall fashion cut by two inches, Flynn escaped to his office.
As his staff consisted of fewer than thirty people, including the eager sixteen-year-old he paid to write a weekly column from the teenage perspective, having one reporter in a snit was a major staff glitch.
He flipped through his messages, punched up a feature on Valley nightlife, approved a couple of photos for the next day’s edition, and checked the accounting on ads.
He could hear the occasional ring of a phone, and even with his door shut, the muffled clatter of fingers on keyboards. The police radio on top of his file cabinet beeped and hummed, the television squeezed between books on a shelf was set on mute.
He had the window open and could hear the light whoosh of morning traffic, the sporadic thump of bass from a car stereo playing too loud.
Now and then he heard a door or drawer slam from the room beyond. Rhoda, the society/fashion/gossip reporter, was still making her annoyance known. Without looking through the glass, he could see her in his mind, spitting darts at him.
She, along with more than half the staff, had worked for the paper since he’d been a boy. And plenty of them, he knew, continued to see the Dispatch as his mother’s paper.
If not his grandfather’s.
There were times when he resented it, times when he despaired of it, and times when it simply amused him.
He couldn’t decide which reaction he was having at the moment. All he could think was that Rhoda scared the hell out of him.
The best he could do was not think about it, or her, and settle in to polish his article on the meeting he’d attended the night before. A proposed stoplight at Market and Spruce, a debate over the budget and the need to repair the sidewalks on Main. And a rather spirited argument regarding the highly controversial notion of installing parking meters on Main to help pay for those repairs.
Flynn did what he could to inject a little energy into the subject matter and still stay true to the reporter’s code of objectivity.
The Dispatch wasn’t exactly the Daily Planet, he reflected. But then again, he wasn’t exactly Perry White. Nobody around here would ever call him Chief. Even without Rhoda’s periodic snits, he wasn’t certain that anyone, including himself, really believed he was in charge.
His mother cast a very long shadow. Elizabeth Flynn Hennessy Steele. Even her name cast a very long shadow.
He loved her. Of course he did. Most of the time he even liked her. They’d butted heads plenty when he was growing up, but he’d always respected her. You had to respect a woman who ran her life and her business with equal fervor, and expected everyone else to do the same.
Just as you had to give her credit for stepping out of that business when necessity demanded it. Even if she had dumped it in her reluctant son’s lap.
She’d dumped it all, including, he thought with a wary glance toward Rhoda’s desk, surly reporters.
She was filing her nails instead of working, he noted. Baiting him. File away, he thought. Today’s not the day we square off, you cranky old bat.
But that day soon will come.
He was deep into adjusting the layout on page 1 of section B when Dana walked in.
“Not even a cursory knock. No flirtatious little head peek in the door. Just stomp right in.”
“I didn’t stomp. I’ve got to talk to you, Flynn.” She threw herself into a chair, then glanced around. “Where’s Moe?”
“It’s backyard day for the Moe.”
“And maybe you could go by, hang out with him for a while this afternoon. Then maybe you could throw together some dinner, so I’d come home to a hot meal.”
“Sure, that’ll happen.”
“Listen, I’ve had a rough morning, I’ve got a goddamn headache, and I’ve got to finish this layout.”
Dana pursed her lips as she studied him. “Rhoda sniping at you again?”