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Chapter One

On a lovely spring morning in the hyperborean wilderness of Poughkeepsie, New York, Edwina Godz decided that she had better die. She did not make that decision lightly, but in exactly the manner that such a (literally) life-altering choice should, ought, and must be made. That is to say, after a nice cup of tea.

It wasn't as if she was about to kill herself. Just die.

She reached the aforementioned decision almost by accident, while pondering the sorry state of her domestic situation and seeking a cure for the combination of headache, tummy trouble, and spiritual upheaval she always experienced every time she thought about her family. Under similar circumstances, most women would head right for the medicine cabinet, but Edwina Godz was a firm believer in the healing power of herbs. Better living through chemistry was all very well and good, yet when it came down to cases that involved the aches, pains, and collywobbles of day-to-day living, you couldn't beat natural remedies with a stick.

Especially if the stick in question was a willow branch. Surprising how few people realized that good old reliable aspirin was derived from willow bark.

Edwina realized this, all right. In fact, she was a walking encyclopedia of herbal therapy lore. It was partly a hobby, partly a survival mechanism. You didn't get to be the head of a multicultural conglomerate like E. Godz, Inc. without making a few very . . . creative enemies. When you grew your own medicines, you didn't have to worry about the FDA falling down on the job when it came to safeguarding the purity of whatever remedy the ailment of the moment demanded. Perhaps it was a holdover from her chosen self-reliant life-style all the way back in the dinosaur days of the '60s, but Edwina Godz was willing to live by the wisdom that if you wanted to live life to the fullest, without the pesky interference of the Man, you should definitely grow your own.

No question about it, Edwina had grown her own, and it didn't stop at herbs for all occasions. However, at the moment, herbs were the subject under consideration.

Specifically: which one to take to fix Edwina's present malaise? It wasn't going to be an easy choice, not by a long shot. Peppermint tea was good for an upset tummy, though ginger was better, but valerian was calming and chamomile was the ticket if you were having trouble getting to sleep. Then again, green tea was rich in antioxidants, which were simply unsurpassed when it came to maintaining one's overall health, and ginseng was a marvelous source of all sorts of energy, while gingko biloba—

Edwina sighed and stared at the multicolored array of boxes in the little closet sacred to her tea things. It was built into the wall beside the fireplace in her office, though "office" wasn't quite the right word to describe the room Edwina used for transacting most of her business. "Office" conjured up visions of sleek, sterile twenty-first century furnishings, pricey pieces with surfaces made of wood, stainless steel, brushed aluminum, and name-brand plastics, garnished with a liberal sprinkling of high-tech trappings.

While Edwina did command enough bells-and-whistles machinery to satisfy even the nerdiest of technogeeks, she chose not to show them off. Discretion was her watchword, in both her personal life and her business dealings. It was enough for her to rejoice privately in the fact that she owned a very special kind of fax machine (to put it mildly); she didn't need to put it out on a marble pedestal so that visitors might ooh and ah over it in green-eyed envy.

Like so much else in her life—from technotoys to tea—the fax machine was tucked away, out of sight but never out of mind, in one of the many hidey-holes that riddled her office: either behind the dark wood paneling that flanked the fireplace, the faux-Oriental papered walls, or within one of the many unique items of furniture so tastefully taking up floor space. Let others more insecure than she flaunt their desktops, laptops, and palmtops: Edwina Godz's office looked like nothing more than the plush, snug, and inviting parlor of a Victorian mansion.

Which it was.

None of which self-congratulatory knowledge did a thing to help her in the matter of deciding which herbal tea to take right now.

If she brewed herself a cup of comfort incorporating every last one of the herbal essences she needed to cure everything that ailed her, there wouldn't be any room left in the teapot for the boiling water. She shrugged and closed the tea-closet door, and instead ambled over to the other side of the fireplace where the liquor cabinet reposed. Gingko biloba was all very well and good when you were confronting the ordinary headaches of day-to-day life, but when it came to dealing with one's children there was no substitute for single malt scotch.

Grain was an herb, when you got down to it, and so was malt, she told herself. As for the peat that was involved somewhere in the manufacturing process of a decent single malt, well, you couldn't get any more back-to-Mother-Earth than that unless you got down on all fours and sucked topsoil. Edwina was still rationalizing in top form as she downed the first shot and poured the second, all while standing in front of the liquor cabinet with a grim expression on her face that would have stopped a charging wildebeest.

Not that there were many wildebeest running loose in the greater Poughkeepsie area (unless you went by appearances alone, in which case some of the individuals to be found roaming the vast bureaucratic savannahs of nearby Vassar College might be considered as—ah, but that was strictly a matter of personal opinion). Edwina Godz's palatial home stood in splendid semi-isolation on the banks of the mighty Hudson River with a breathtaking view of some of the loveliest countryside on the whole Eastern Seaboard. Her back yard was refuge to vast nations of squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, and the occasional fox. A fabulous assortment of birds also called Edwina's estate home, but the only winged wildlife that made it through the great oak and Tiffany-stained-glass front doors was the dusty bottle of Wild Turkey shoved into the rear right corner of the liquor cabinet.

Edwina polished off the second shot and considered taking a third. She was not a hard drinker, as a rule, but there were some situations that drove her to it and kept the motor running.

"Bah," said Edwina, gazing at the empty shot glass in her hand. "Who's to be master here?" She knew the answer to that one well enough, and slammed down the glass to prove it. Shoulders squared, she closed the liquor cabinet, returned to the tea things, and brewed herself up a steaming pot full of the ginseng-ginger blend. The present situation had given her a bellyache that screamed for ginger, but it would take the energizing powers of ginseng to give her the mental and physical oomph she'd need to deal with the cause of it all.

The causes. Plural.

Edwina settled herself on the sofa, sipped her tea, and stared stonily at the framed family photograph on the small marble-topped table at her elbow. Of all her attempts to evoke the American ideal of domestic harmony, this photo was the best and only thing she had to show for her efforts.

"Smiling," she said, regarding the three faces in the picture. "We were all smiling. I know that I meant it, but how on earth did I ever manage to persuade Peez and Dov to do it? Was it bribery or just good old-fashioned threats?"

She set down her teacup and picked up the framed photo for closer study. It had been taken some ten years ago, maybe a little farther back than that, certainly long before Dov and Peez had left the nest to pursue their own fortunes.

"And mine," Edwina muttered.

Her children had gone through the usual period of adolescent rebellion, loudly declaring that no one understood them and that they would show Edwina how things ought to be done as soon as they were out of the house and running their lives their way. They didn't need her to tell them what to do, or to do anything for them. By heaven, they didn't need anybody, if it came to that! Just let them hit the legal age of adulthood and then, look out! They'd make their own marks in the world, and they'd do it widescreen, big time, and Broadway style.

So what had happened when that day of dear-won independence finally dawned?

They went to work in the family business. Dov manned the Miami office, Peez held down the fort in New York City, and both of them still looked to Edwina to handle all the really big management decisions for E. Godz, Inc. Not since they'd nursed at Edwina's ample bosom had her two children been so dependent on her for their daily sustenance. She called the shots and they hastened to implement every word of her orders. They trusted her business sense implicitly, and so far, that trust had paid off for all concerned. Edwina couldn't have asked for more attentive corporate lieutenants, to say nothing of more biddable children, even if solely in this aspect of their lives together. It was all so very sweet, so drenched in the heady musk of family traditions, solidarity, and mutual support that they might as well have belonged to the Mafia.

"Ha!" Edwina remarked to the air. "At least a Mafia family knows enough to fight its real enemies."

As embittered as she felt at the moment, she couldn't help but smile when she regarded the image of herself in the family photo. It was, of course, the likeness of a much younger Edwina Godz, made back in the days before all of her hair had gone from a rich auburn to a sparkling silver-gray. There were plenty of white streaks lacing the younger Edwina's tawny mane, but the effect was both charming and attractive.

"You had it then, woman, and you've still got it now," Edwina told herself complacently. She looked up from the photo in her hands to a trio of larger pictures hanging on the wall just above the parlor fireplace. The one in the middle was the largest of the three: an old-fashioned, sepia-toned example of turn-of-the-century photographic art. A walrus-mustached man in what was clearly a very uncomfortable suit stood behind a seated lady with her hair done up in the fashion popularized by the Gibson Girl. She wore a high-necked lace dress with a small cameo brooch at her throat and she held a large bouquet of orange blossoms on her lap. She wasn't a beauty, by common cultural standards, but despite her wedding-day air of socially acceptable unease she still managed to project confidence and self-possession that was somehow . . . sexy.

There was an unmistakable resemblance between Edwina and the woman in the sepia picture. "I'll bet if you'd been the one who came through Ellis Island instead of him"—her eyes flicked to the walrus-moustached gentleman in the photo—"you'd never have stood for it when the Customs officer got your name wrong. What's so hard about spelling 'Goetz' anyway? You'd have made him change it back in short order, and no arguments about it! On the other hand, I suppose I ought to be grateful that Grandpapa was such a don't-make-waves wuss about how the Customs man changed his family name. Having a name like 'Godz' is so much more effective in this business, from a marketing standpoint."

Edwina gazed fondly at this relic of her ancestors' wedding day. Marriage was such a quaint, dated concept. Still, some of the attendant trappings were alluring—on a purely aesthetic level—even for a product of the '60s like Edwina, who had come of age in the full flowering of the Sexual Revolution. She then let her eyes drift from the big photo above the mantelpiece to the pair of smaller ones flanking it. They too were framed with gold-leafed wood, but color photos and streamlined, minimalist frames alike spoke of more modern provenance than the sepia centerpiece.

The resemblance between Edwina and the people in the two companion photos was even more pronounced. The man in the photo on the left had supplied most of the genetic input evident in Edwina's appearance, while the woman in the photo on the right had provided a good deal of much-appreciated editorial tweaking. Thus the keen, gung-ho go-getter looks of Edwina's father were nicely softened by her mother's influence, leaving their daughter looking less like a hawk and more like a lamb. For this, Edwina was thankful.

"Not that I'm not deeply grateful to you, Daddy," Edwina told the photo. "After all, looks aren't everything. Especially at the bank."

You know it, kiddo, the photograph seemed to reply, and Edwina liked to believe she could see the long-gone yet still beloved twinkle in her father's eye when he said that.

It was the same sort of twinkle that had lit up his face when he was about to make a fresh "kill" in his ongoing role as a highly paid, extremely effective corporate lawyer. Litigation was his lifeblood, but investment savvy was his vocation. He took his income and sank it into a portfolio that fairly gushed profits. His dream had been to make enough money to buy one of the smaller Hawaiian islands and set himself up as an independently wealthy writer of science fiction, his first true love.

Alas, the dream was not to be. (And a good thing, too. Edwina had found some of her father's old notebooks with ideas for his Great American Sci-Fi novel. Nothing good could come of a book that began "Captain Studs Poleworthy arose from the bed of the sated Bazinga slave-girl, dabbed lime-flavored eroto-gel from his magnificent chest, and said, 'Sorry to come and go, my dear, but the starfields beckon.' ") While visiting Hawaii to scope out potential real estate buys, both of Edwina's parents had died in a tragic accident. They were touring a poi factory when one of the holding tanks broke and they drowned in the glutinous flood.

Their untimely deaths came just at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, when their daughter was first beginning to scent the cultural changes in the air, to hear the distant beat of a different drum, and to inhale . . . her destiny. An only child with no living close relatives, Edwina had mourned the loss of her small family—for family had always been important to her—but then had dealt with her grief in what seemed to be the best available manner, at the time. Having been rendered an orphan, she performed a series of reverse adoptions, for want of a better way to describe matters. Independently wealthy, thanks to her late father's savvy for high finance, and just plain independent on account of the Great Poi Flood of '64, Edwina Godz set out to replace the family she had lost by making herself a part of every ragtag tribe, clan, commune or gaggle of rock band groupies that took her fancy.

Now, settled into comfortable middle age, a rich and respectable businesswoman, Edwina looked back over her wild, freewheeling youth without so much as a blush. And why should she be embarrassed to recall her counterculture odyssey and the many lovers she'd enjoyed en route to Enlightenment? She'd hurt no one by her amorous escapades, and even in the pre-AIDS era she'd had the foresight to take certain precautions that had preserved the robust health of her girlhood from pesky STDs.

Besides, it was thanks to the Summer of Love—which had somehow slipped into the Autumn of Eros and the Winter of Whoopee—that Edwina had obtained not only her darling children, but a method of earning more money than her dear, departed Daddy had ever imagined, even had he lived long enough to invest in Microsoft.

Her darling children . . .

Edwina turned her back on the family portraits above the fireplace and returned her full attention to the framed photograph in her hands. She shook her head sadly. The smiles frozen in the instant of a camera's shutter click meant nothing. A photograph was a moment's illusion artificially preserved. The reality of the situation concerning her precious offspring had nothing at all to do with smiles.

"Why can't the two of you just get along?" she inquired peevishly of the glossy faces. "I'm not asking you to adore one another. I'm not even asking you to remember each other's birthdays. All I want is just one itsy-bitsy little indication that you can work together. And I don't mean simultaneously plotting each other's professional destruction. Good gods, I hope it would be limited to professional destruction only, but the way those two have been going for each other's throats lately, who knows? A little cooperation for your mutual benefit, to say nothing of cooperation for the benefit of the company: Is that so much to ask?"

Something behind one of the parlor walls went *ding!* This was followed by the sound rather like a passel of cats scratching madly in their litterboxes, but when Edwina went to the wall whence issued these noises and touched the spring catch that opened the desired panel, she revealed their true source, a flock of fountain pens rapidly scribbling away as if guided by unseen hands. There were twelve of them in all, though only two of them were working at the moment, transcribing a telephone conversation between Dov Godz and his older sister, Peez. Each one of the dozen pens was linked by suitably arcane spells to a piece of office equipment—be it telephone, fax machine, or any item of computer wizardry from desktop to day planner—in either the Miami or New York City offices of E. Godz, Inc.

Which was to say that the items themselves—all gifts from Edwina to her offspring—were enspelled eavesdropping devices, clandestine portals that permitted her to keep constant, magically enabled tabs on the children's every move.

Wouldn't it be silly to own and run America's only family-operated clearinghouse for magical power and not put some of that power to work spying on your kids?

For that, in a nutshell, was E. Godz, Inc.'s stock-in-trade: magic.

It was not a career path that Edwina had consciously sought out, at first. Rather, it was a by-product of all those years back in the '60s that she'd spent crisscrossing the country in flower-splashed vans, salvaged schoolbuses, or, in a pinch, VW Bugs painted to look like Peter Max's worst nightmare. Like so many of her hippie brethren, Edwina discovered that life on the nation's back roads and byways led a person to consider whether there were also spiritual roads-less-traveled that might bear exploration. The faith of her forebears wasn't a good fit for her new lifestyle: Peyote and Presbyterians didn't mix worth a damn.

She was not alone in this quest for new ways of getting in touch with her mystic side. The '60s were famous for having driven hordes of young people out of their families' churches and into the arms of the "earthy" religions out there. Chanting mantras was in, catechisms were out, and the incessant beating of drums was much more desirable than any silly old Bach mass for organ. It was part of the whole tribal-is-cooler/ethnic-is-in package. And in some cases it was a pretty good excuse to get high, in the name of seeking the One True Path, though heaven help anyone uncool enough to mention that the end-justifies-the-means trip had its roots in the writings of Saint Jerome.

It was here that Edwina's One True Path took a sharp right off the spiritual interstate and left the rest of her contemporaries far behind. Whereas they only nosed around the borderline belief systems, she jumped in feet first, with eyes and mind wide open. While her tribemates picked up this or that back-to-the-Earth faith, only to put it down again when the glitter of the new toy wore off (or when it failed to piss off their parents sufficiently), Edwina actually spent serious study time on every non-suburbia-standard religion she encountered.

And when Moonbeam Suntoucher (née Greta Bradford-Smythe) announced that she was a shaman because she had bought a genuine dreamcatcher and a boatload of dried sage, or when Frodo Freelove (Mr. and Mrs. Kaplan's firstborn son, Sammy) insisted he'd achieved samsara because the check he'd written out to the Happy Times Ashram and Salad Bar had finally cleared, Edwina calmly went about the business of improving her grasp on the true powers that underlie the more Gaia-centric beliefs, if you sought them out with enough application and sincerity.

Either that or she just got lucky. But whatever the case, the fact remained that Edwina Godz came away from all of her spiritual quests with a command of magic and something more: the realization that the people who were following the many separate paths of some really Old Time Religions didn't have the business sense of bread mold.

It was sad. There they sat—be they tribe or coven or council or conglomeration of congregants—able to raise the might of the great earth-powers but helpless to do more than take it in the unmentionables every year when Income Tax Day rolled around.

Edwina had fixed all that. Edwina was good at fixing things. Perhaps it was her personal muse at work, perhaps it was thanks to her father's legal-eagle spirit, raised during one of the many assorted ceremonies in which Edwina had participated over the years, perhaps it was simply out-of-the-blue inspiration, but whatever the source, the result was the same: Edwina Godz saw a way to help both the old earth-religion followers, by whatever name they chose to call themselves, and herself. Retracing the steps of her spiritual journey, she approached them one by one with her modest proposal: that she show them the ropes of fund-raising, the benefits of obtaining tax-exempt status as registered, organized religions, and the basics of bookkeeping to safeguard their continued economic health.

Could she help it if the best, most efficient way for them to do this was by her founding her own corporation and taking all of them on board as her subsidiaries? Was she to blame if they were so grateful to lay hold of the advantages she offered that they never uttered so much as a whisper of objection when she collected a nice, fat piece of the action in exchange for services rendered? Did anyone protest when she used the magic powers she'd mastered during her years of Searching to help run E. Godz, Inc. so smoothly?

Of course not. There was more than enough butter to go around so that everyone's bread was fully covered. The boat wasn't rocking, nothing was broken, and all was roses.

Except for a couple of thorns named Dov and Peez. In a perfect world, Edwina's children would have appreciated the goldmine that their mother had created for them. Instead they seemed to spend their free time trying to give each other the shaft. Didn't they understand that if their bickering over personal differences got out of control it could adversely affect E. Godz, Inc.? And then where would they be? Were they even fit for any other sort of employment?

That annoying *ding!* sounded again, signaling the end of a transmission. The pair of pens softly laid themselves down, their jobs done. Still clutching the family photo in her left hand, Edwina reached in with her right to remove the sheets bearing the transcribed conversation. It was a miracle that the papers didn't spontaneously combust in her hand, given the level of volcanic vituperation zipping back and forth between the siblings. As with every intercepted communication Edwina had ever seen, Dov and Peez each managed to let the other know that:


A. He/she did not like her/him.

B. He/she did not trust her/him.

C. He/she knew how to run the family business far better than her/him.

D. If there were any justice in the universe, the day would come when he/she would have the power to push her/him the hell out of her/his cushy, undeserved position and then all would be right with the world.

E. So there.


"I blame myself," Edwina muttered, crumpling up the papers and tossing them away. The parlor wastebasket sprouted cherub wings and zoomed in to catch the discarded transcriptions before they hit the floor, then fluttered back to its place, only pausing long enough to trade high-fives with the fireplace-ash broom. "A little. On second thought, no, I don't blame myself at all. Why should I? I always did what was best for them. I sent them away from home as soon as I could manage it, legally and financially. So I'm the Great Earth Manager, not the Great Earth Mother: So sue me. Which is worse, raising your kids yourself, come hell or high water, when you darn well know that it's not your scene, or sending them to the finest daycare centers and boarding schools and colleges that money can buy? Money which, might I add, we never would have had in the first place if I'd been tied down wiping runny noses and kissing boo-boos and baking cupcakes instead of being free to build up the business. I think I did damn well by those kids. If it's anyone's fault that they can't get along, it's theirs."

She put the family photo back on the table and made herself a fresh pot of tea, but despite a brew containing enough St. John's wort to turn Attila the Hun into a tree sloth, Edwina found herself unable to release her troubles and go with the cosmic flow.

The cosmic flow didn't have children.

She made an impatient sound with her tongue and sat up straight on the sofa. She had reached a decision:

"It may not be my problem if Dov and Peez want to wear each other's guts for garters, but if I don't want E. Godz, Inc. to go down the corporate tubes, I'd better be the one to fix it," she said. "The question is—how?"

She settled back among the cushions, took a deep draught of tea, and closed her eyes while she brought all the powers of a mind Machiavelli might envy to bear upon the present sticky wicket. Music from an unseen source wafted gently through the parlor, a medley of New Age hits that she had conjured up to help her think. At last, when it seemed as though she would burst out of her house stark naked and foaming at the mouth if she had to listen to one more meandering flute trill, Edwina's eyes popped open, the light of inspiration shining bright within.

"Of course," she said aloud. "It's the perfect plan: simple, elegant and practical. Excellent." A sharklike grin—her father's corporate lawyer heritage at work—spread itself across her face as she told the air: "Take a letter."

Three more ensorcelled fountain pens floated up from the green baize-lined leather box atop Edwina's desk. The left-hand top drawer opened of its own accord and three sheets of blank paper like three white miniature flying carpets arose to take their places beneath the waiting nibs. The top right-hand drawer opened and two envelopes slithered out to await developments. A ghostly file cabinet hovered on the edge of materialization, pending the completion of the letter under composition. Ever the consummate businesswoman, Edwina never failed to make a copy of all correspondence for her personal records.

"My dearest children," she began her dictation, to the accompanying scritch-scritch-scratch of the three animate pens. "It is with a heavy heart that I write this from what will be, in the inevitable course of time, my death bed. There is no cure for the ailment that has so suddenly come over me and my doctor tells me that I have, at most, a few months more to live. I admit that I've been toying with the idea of retirement for a while now, but this news has forced my hand.

"Thus I find myself compelled to make a decision which I have been putting off, namely determining who shall succeed me as the new chairperson of E. Godz, Inc. My deepest desire has always been to be able to turn over cooperative control of the business to the two of you, but I realize that this is impossible. You two couldn't find cooperative in the dictionary even if I cast a spell on it and had it bite you in the butt. How to describe your relationship? Cats versus dogs? Hatfields versus McCoys? Pepsi versus Coke? Trekkies versus Trekkers?

"If I gave you joint control of E. Godz, Inc., it would only be a matter of time before your bickering, sniping, and outright attacks on one another distracted you from the business of running my company well and profitably. I didn't work so hard all these years to have my creation torn to shreds after I'm gone.

"Therefore I am resolved: Only one of you will inherit control of the company, together with the bulk of my estate. Which one? I'm still thinking it over. To be frank, though I love you both for the totality of your personhoods and embrace your unique younesses with the wholehearted, nonjudgmental attitude of our Mother Earth, as far as your business smarts go, neither of you has impressed me worth a dog fart. As for leadership ability, if either one of you encountered a horde of midair lemmings who had already gone headfirst over the cliff's edge, I sincerely doubt whether you could persuade them to complete the plunge.

"I may be telling you something you already know. Perhaps you have been working for E. Godz, Inc. solely out of family loyalty rather than real vocation. If you've spent the last few years just pushing papers without a thought for the people behind them, this is your chance to bow out gracefully and seek your true world-path. If one or the other of you wishes to withdraw from the running, voluntarily, do so, and do it quickly. Lift the burden of decision from my shoulders.


"Love, Edwina."

The three pens capped themselves and retreated to their box. One copy of the letter flew across the room to pop itself neatly into the phantom file cabinet, which promptly vanished. Only the copies of the letter intended for Dov and Peez remained, along with the two envelopes.

"On second thought," Edwina told the loitering stationery, "I believe I'll fax this." The superfluous copy of the letter let out a low moan of despair and tore itself into a shower of still-grieving confetti. The two envelopes slunk back into their desk drawer, muttering darkly through their gummed flaps.

As the lone page fluttered away to run itself through the fax machine, Edwina headed upstairs. If she was going to pose as the victim of a mysterious-but-fatal illness, it wouldn't hurt to get into the spirit of things by taking to her bed. In fact, it might be more than just a melodramatic necessity. Dov and Peez weren't exactly newly hatched chicks when it came to matters of magic. Though Edwina had spied on them diligently ever since they'd taken up their posts in the New York and Miami offices, she knew that even the tightest espionage net could still let a fishie or two slip through the meshes.

For all she knew, someday they might try spying on her. The nerve!

Edwina's bedroom was as luxuriously Victorian as the rest of the mansion, its centerpiece being a four-poster with creamy white brocade curtains, an avalanche of plump pillows, and mattresses soft yet firm enough to demand a 911 call to the Paradox Police. A big-screen TV with built-in DVD player was hidden in the armoire opposite, with two large, well-stocked bookcases flanking it. A satisfactory selection of drinks and snack foods were stowed in the refrigerator disguised as a hope chest that stood at the foot of Edwina's bed. If she required anything more, she had only to invoke her powers and it would be brought to her by invisible hands.

"Not a bad way to wait for Death," Edwina said, changing into an Egyptian cotton nightgown. "A nice, long wait, but the kids won't need to know that."

She grabbed a pleasantly tawdry romance novel to keep her company, slipped under the bedcovers, and settled comfortably back among her pillows to await developments.



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