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Chapter Two

The phone in Peez Godz's office rang while she was in the middle of giving dictation. Her secretary, the formidable Wilma Pilut, answered it with the warm, welcoming tones of a testy Doberman. One bark, two snarls, and a protracted growl into the mouthpiece later, she turned to her employer and reported: "Chicago on line two, Ms. Godz."

"Not those idiots again," Peez grumbled, finagling a particularly tricky paper clip into the chain she'd been working on since eight that morning. She looked up from her mindless, endless task and gave the secretary her most engaging smile. "Tell them I'm not in, please, Wilma."

Wilma refused to be engaged. "That would be a lie, Ms. Godz," she said brusquely. "The Great Mother doesn't like lies."

"The Great Mother doesn't need to know," Peez replied, doing her best not to sound like she was wheedling. "Besides, it's not like you're lying; you're just relaying a teensy, weensy, miniscule li'l ol' fib of mine."

Wilma shook her blocky head ponderously. "The Great Mother would know. And She wouldn't like it." When Edwina first had set up Peez in the New York City office of E. Godz, Inc., she'd provided her daughter with everything needed to run the business smoothly, including this short, stocky, monolithic secretary. There was something so very, well, not earth-y so much as earth-en about the woman that Peez had spent most of her first week at work on the phone to her mother making Edwina swear again and again, on a stack of talismans, that Wilma was not actually a golem in disguise.

Now Peez stared at the impassive face of her recalcitrant secretary and gritted her teeth in silent frustration. Too bad she's not a golem, she thought. At least a golem obeys orders. With the sigh of the much put-upon she replied, "If it weren't for me, Wilma dear, you'd never have discovered the Way of the Great Mother and you'd still be doing those dreary covered-dish suppers at that former church of yours. I'm sure that if you do me this one itsy-bitsy favor, She'll forgive you. She's good that way."

"She's not good, She's just Great." Again that slow, weighty, side-to-side turning of Wilma's almost cubic head on her nigh-nonexistent neck. Peez found herself marveling at the fact that her secretary's terra-cotta-colored hair shed real dandruff and not flakes of dried clay. "You can't guarantee that She'll forgive me," Wilma intoned in a voice so husky it spoke of a three-box-a-day cigar habit begun some time in kindergarten. "She might even get angry. You know what happens when the Great Mother gets angry."

Peez sighed again, bringing this one all the way up from the soles of her plain black ballet flats. Of course she knew what happened when the Great Mother got angry. So did Wilma, having just achieved the rank of Junior High Priestess of the Sacred Grove, cum laude. However, Peez reasoned, if she took the time to enumerate the various afflictions that could ensue from the Great Mother's anger, perhaps her off-the-cuff filibustering would take up so much time that those pests on the line from Chicago would get tired of waiting for her to answer and would hang up.

One by one she uncurled her fingers, reckoning up the sum of divine displeasure: "Floods, droughts, crop blights, cattle murrain, slowed download times, failure of the cacao crop, plagues of feral hamsters, skyrocketing movie ticket prices—"

She could have gone on for a much longer time, ticking off all the ways that the Great Mother had on tap to let mortals know that they'd pissed Her off, but Wilma cut in with the last item on the list.

"—zits," Wilma said in a no-nonsense tone of voice that let Peez know that further disaster-listing was unnecessary and would be punished to the full extent of a secretary's considerable powers. "I know about all the rest and I can handle them just fine, but I'm not going to risk zits. Not this weekend. I've got a date."

"You've . . . got . . . a . . . what?"

A little while later, after she had sent Wilma off to do some filing and had dealt with the call from Chicago (more whining about the whole human sacrifice squabble, which somehow had managed to slip out of committee and turn into a full-blown flamewar on the Net), Peez leaned back in her butter-soft leather desk chair with built-in footrest, CD player, aromatherapy dispenser, heating and massage capabilities, and wished she were dead.

"Brilliant," she told the ceiling. "I am just so brilliant. If I were any more brilliant, I'd be a black hole. What was I thinking?"

"You were thinking that Wilma Pilut, the girl voted Most Likely to Date Mount Rushmore, has romantic plans for this weekend and you don't."

The voice that responded to Peez's self-deprecating declaration was a little too thin and a lot too sweet to be anything human. The sweetness, however, was all inherent in the false-as-a-padded-bra tone of voice, not in the cold, cruel words it spoke.

"Then you thought that Wilma didn't notice how shocked you were to hear about her upcoming date. But you know that she did notice; she's only built thick." The voice skirled up into a trill of nerve-grating giggles. It was coming from one of Peez's desk drawers and it showed no signs of shutting up any time soon. "Then you thought you covered that little faux pas by pretending that you'd misheard her, that you thought she'd said she had some bait this weekend, so you asked her where she was going fishing. Oh, that was a brave effort! Remember how you never got cast in any of your school plays? Ever wonder why? Well, if you can't figure it out after having given that lousy performance for an audience of one very ticked-off secretary, maybe you're the one with clay between your ears! And then do you want to know what you thought?" The desk drawer rattled loudly. Something inside was trying to get out. "Do you? Do you? Huh, huh, do you?"

Peez closed her eyes and tucked a limp strand of her long, dull black hair behind one ear. "Tell me," she said wearily.

"Take me out first," said the thing in the desk.

"Why should I? I know you can let yourself out any time you like. And I also know what I was thinking, and just how stupid it was, so I don't really need you to tell me that."

"But it's not the same unless you hear it from me, is it Peezie-pie?" The drawer shook with a new attack of those high-pitched giggles.

"No." This time Peez's sigh seemed to come from somewhere beneath the continental shelf. "It's not the same when I don't hear it from you, Teddy Tumtum." She bent over and slid the desk drawer open.

The little stuffed bear grinned up at her, malice shining in his green glass eyes.

"And then," he said, picking up where he'd left off. "And then, last but not least, you thought: 'Why me?' Or should I say: 'Why not me?' I couldn't say for sure. It all depends on whether you were pondering the fact that you are so very, very, very much alone, the undisputed queen of the Dateless Wonders, Wallflowers, and Social Rejects Chowder and Marching Society, or whether you were instead dealing with the fact that even Pavement-Puss Pilut has got herself a date this weekend while all you've got is me!" The unholy bear ended his speech on a nasty note of triumph, then broke into a fresh batch of giggles.

Peez's hand shot out and seized the demonic toy by his pink-beribboned neck. "Give me one good reason not to run you through the shredder," she snarled.

"I'll go you one better and give you two," the bear replied, not even mildly flustered by her threat. "One: Because the shredder only does paper. Two: Because if you could shred me, who would you have left to talk to?" The bear's black-stitched mouth squirmed into a horrible parody of a sincerely affectionate smile. "I is your ittoo Teddy Tumtum an' I jes' wuuvs oo all to pieces, Peezie-pie."

"Well, I don't love you," Peez snapped, shaking the toy roughly.

"No fooling. Wow. Big surprise." The bear's smile was a sneer once more, and it looked much more credible. "You might not love me, lady, but you do need me. A lot. Any dumb floppy-eared beagle puppy with four paws too big for his body can be loved. I'll settle for being indispensable."

"I don't need you," Peez shot back. "I've got plenty of—"

"—friends?" the bear finished for her. Then it laughed in her face—not giggles, full-out guffaws of the purest scorn. "Yeah, sure, all of those wonderful, close friends you made back in your hometown of— What was it called again? Oh right, I remember now: Loserville. Brother, when you were in high school, you couldn't even get the chess club nerds to hang out with you!"

Peez didn't deny Teddy Tumtum's words. She couldn't. She'd had the uncanny little bear for as long as she could remember, a present from her mother. What Edwina hadn't bothered to mention to her firstborn when she'd given her the bear was that there was something . . . special about Teddy Tumtum. She'd had only the best intentions, of course—didn't she always?—when she'd enspelled the toy so that it would be more than a simple, inanimate source of comfort for her lonely daughter. Using the powers she'd acquired in her spiritual scavenger-hunt past, Edwina Godz had attached Teddy Tumtum to Peez by an unbreakable (albeit glacially slow-acting) homing hex, plus she'd empowered it with more than an ordinary teddy bear's ability merely to listen to a little girl's private wishes, dreams, and sorrows.

Edwina thought she'd done a bang-up job of guaranteeing that her daughter need never feel truly alone, but as far as Peez was concerned, Edwina's good intentions had backfired beyond belief. Ordinary teddy bears might not be more than glorified throw pillows, but at least they could keep all the secrets that their owners poured into their raggedy fake fur ears. Teddy Tumtum not only listened to Peez's secrets, he remembered them and could blab them to the whole wide world. Too bad Edwina hadn't stuck a discretion spell on the bear while she was at it.

"Never mind what my social life was like in high school," she told him, making a weak stab at rebuttal. "That was then." She set Teddy Tumtum down on her desk blotter.

"And this is now? Oooh, deep," said the bear. "I've got news for you, sugarpants, this is now and as far as your social life goes, now sucks even worse than then. At least in the olden days you had a few playmates who'd actually talk to you after class or even come by the house during school breaks sometimes. So what if they only did it 'cause their parents were trying to kiss up to your mother and her money?"

"My mother . . ." In Peez's mouth the word did not reek of apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, but of ice and gall. "Maybe if my dear mother hadn't been so damn wrapped up in establishing the corporation, I could've had the chance to have a real childhood and make some real friends. But no. Instead I was dragged along like an oversized piece of baggage while she spent all those years knocking around the country with those dumb hippie pals of hers. And then, as soon as she could, she dumped me on one nanny after another. Where did she find them? Is there an employment agency that specializes in placing the poster children for substance abuse?"

"Tsk. So ungrateful," Teddy Tumtum said, enjoying himself. "Your dear mamma got rid of the nannies as soon as she saw that they weren't working out and found a much better way to guarantee you'd get a good education. Think of all the money she spent on sending you to the best day-care centers, the top prep schools! Nothing was too good for her little Peez."

"Nothing," Peez repeated sourly. "That's the word for what she gave me. I had no roots, no stability, no fixed abode, no permanent mailing address, no one to care what I did with myself as long as it wasn't fatal or didn't impact the precious family business. The one thing I did have was a name that was so bloody ridiculous that the regular school bullies didn't even bother making fun of it. Too much like shooting fish in a barrel. But there were plenty of juvenile improv sadists who weren't above dragging me into the girls' room, dunking my head in the toilet, flushing, and telling me to visualize whirled Peez. Good gods, it's just a wonder that I turned out as well as I did."

The teddy bear snickered spitefully. "Yeah, those were the days. Remember back in the pre-nanny years, just before Edwina decided she'd better get you dear little tykes off the road and settle down? Remember that town you stayed in for, what, four whole months where your teacher told everyone to draw a picture of a house and you drew a Volkswagon van? Boy, did the kids in your class laugh at you or what?"

Peez's pale, heart-shaped face turned bright red all the way up to her hairline. "At least it was better than what happened in the town we moved to after that."

"Right, I remember," said Teddy Tumtum, who remembered much too much of everything. "That was where you scored so badly on the standardized tests for your age group that they stuck you back a year and you had to be in the same class with your little brother."

"That was also the place where the teacher asked our class to draw a picture of our daddies for Father's Day." Peez was bitter. It had all happened a long time ago, but the sound of her classmates' rude laughter and ruder name-calling was still loud and clear in her ears. It didn't take a rocket scientist to tell that the drawings produced by Peez and her brother were of two radically different men.

"It wasn't so bad when the other kids just called us stupid," Peez said. "But then the teacher stepped in and tried to make things aaall better. Better! She went into that big song-and-dance about how some brothers and sisters from the same family can have different daddies."

"Sometimes two at once," Teddy Tumtum put in.

"This was a little too close to the Pleistocene for a public school teacher to talk about alternative life-style families," Peez reminded him. "Hell, she didn't even want to open the whole widowhood can o' worms in front of the kiddies—death was a big no-no—but she did mention divorce. That was when my genius baby brother had to go and ask, 'What's a divorce?' "

Teddy Tumtum nodded wisely. "And she told him it's what happened when mommies and daddies decided they didn't want to be married to each other any more. And that was when he told her that your mommy would never get a divorce because your mommy never bothered to get married to either one of your daddies in the first place."

Peez blushed a deeper shade of scarlet. Even after so many years, she was still sensitive about her mother's Olympic-grade amorous shenanigans. When most children learn where babies come from, the first thing they do with the information is to search for exceptions, escape clauses, loopholes, anything to keep them from thinking of their parents doing something like that. Gross. Peez not only had to contend with the image of her mother "doing it," but also with the inescapable knowledge that Edwina had "done it" with enough men to stock a small road company of The Mikado, chorus included.

All of which probably accounted for Peez's own scrupulously preserved virginity, although her official excuse was that staying a virgin meant she could have direct access to and participation in some of the more esoteric rites for the pickier sorts of gods. And if some of her clients chose to believe that she stood ready to offer herself up as an emergency virgin sacrifice—Do Not Use Except in Case of Immanent Volcano Eruption—there was no harm in letting them do so. Not while she also had access to a wide variety of speedy getaway vehicles, anyhow. Peez was all for building customer confidence, but she wasn't about to die for it.

Teddy Tumtum made a clucking sound of commiseration. It was about as authentic as a beauty queen's I-want-to-work-with-orphans-and-small-animals speech. "Po' ittoo Peezie-pie," he said sadly. "No friends then, nothing but business acquaintances now. No one you can really talk to but me."

"You are not the only one I can talk to," Peez insisted angrily, rising partway out of her chair. "My life is made up of more than just business acquaintances."

"Of course it is." Teddy Tumtum couldn't blink, lacking eyelids, but he still managed to project the effect of a Southern belle coyly batting her lashes at some helpless beau. "There's always your family."

Peez sat down. Hard. Her mouth became a hyphen. Teddy Tumtum smiled. "And how is your beloved baby brother these days?" he asked, letting syrup drip over every syllable.

"How would I know?" Peez shot back. "The only time I see him or hear from him is when we need to discuss the business. And that's the only time I want to see or hear from him, the self-satisfied, smug, egotistical, unbearable little jerk!"

The bear looked bemused. " 'Little'? The last time I saw him, he was taller than you by a head."

"An empty head," Peez gritted. "Not that it's doing him any harm in the Miami office. He could have a double lobotomy and still be sharper than half the population of South Beach." In spite of herself, Peez felt tears rising in her pale blue eyes. Furiously she tried to fight them back by shouting, "It's not fair, Teddy Tumtum!"

"What's not fair? The fact that Dov's tall and blond, tanned and toned, charming and handsome? The fact that he's only got to whistle once if he wants to find himself covered with starlets and supermodels? The fact that from the time you were both kids he always managed to have friends—real friends—and you couldn't do it to save your life?"

"The hell with all of that." Peez spat. "What fries my tail is the way that bubble-brained son of a bitch wouldn't recognize what real work looks like if it spat in his silly face, but Edwina still put him in charge of the Miami office!"

"Is that all you care about?" Teddy Tumtum gave Peez a curious look. "The business?"

"Why not?" she replied. "The business is all I've got to care about. You just proved that yourself. And it's the only reason anyone on earth ever cares about me. A kiss is just a kiss, but if all I can hope to get are kiss-ups, I'm willing to settle for that."

The bear pretended to wipe a tear from its green glass eye. "Ah, my child, you have learned your lesson well. You can leave the monastery. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars, do not let the doorknob hit you in the butt on your way out."

"Would you just shut the hell—?"

Peez's exasperation was cut short by the hum of the fax machine in the corner. The silver amulet affixed to the front of the machine added its two cents to the interruption by announcing: "Personal message from Edwina Godz for your immediate attention and reply, Ms. Peez."

Peez cast a jaded glance at the fax machine. "Isn't that just like Mother? Probably just some stupid little nitpicky reminder for me to update the client database when she knows that I do it automatically twice a week without being told. I'll bet she never bothers Dov with this kind of garbage, even though he's the one who could use the nudge. Well, this time she can wait." She sounded as sulky as a two-year-old on a naptime strike.

"No, she can't," said the fax machine amulet.

Peez leveled a warning finger at it. "Don't you start with me. I'm not in the mood."

"Who's starting?" the amulet argued. "I'm just doing my job."

"By enforcing my mother's bidding? By making sure I jump high enough when she says 'frog'?"

"By making sure you don't get turned into one," the amulet snapped back. "There's a whole lot of things your brother could do with all that power."

A suspicious look crossed Peez's face. "All what power?"

"Oh, so now you're interested? Well, you'll find out soon enough." The amulet was gloating. "That is, you'll find out the hard way if you don't get off your ass and read this message right now, before I invoke a self-destruct spell on it. Hmmm, how did that go again? Rama-lama-double-slamma . . ."

Peez was out of her chair and across the room so fast that the force of her takeoff knocked Teddy Tumtum backwards off the desk and into the wastepaper basket. Grabbing the fax from the machine, Peez skimmed her mother's message quickly. With every line she read her face grew paler, her eyes grew wider, and her brows rose high enough to apply for membership in her bangs.

At last she was done. The hand holding the message dropped to her side and slowly began crinkling the paper into a tight little ball. Without thinking, she crammed the wad of fax paper into the pocket of her dowdy ankle-length skirt. It was made of wrinkly black cotton, like her blouse, and the whole ensemble made her look like a much-abused umbrella, but if she'd ever cared about being a fashion plate before this moment, she certainly didn't care now. She was too angry to care about anything but the obnoxious possibility of her brother Dov taking over the entire company and most of their inheritance. The knuckles of both fists turned a livid white and there was a tiny vein just under her jaw on the right side of her face that was twitching in flamenco tempo.


That was all she said. She didn't shout it, or shriek it, or moan, groan, or whine it: She merely said it. She sounded perfectly calm when she said it, too, and yet Teddy Tumtum, who had almost succeeded in hauling himself out of the wastepaper basket, took one look at her and promptly dropped back down to safety. He had been with her a long time, long enough to recognize all the signs that pointed to storms on the horizon. He didn't need the Weather Channel to tell him that when this one broke, it was going to be a doozy.

Peez Godz strode out of her office and confronted her secretary. Wilma had finished the filing and was now working diligently at her terminal.

"Wilma, I'm leaving," Peez announced. "Now. I'll be going on an extended business trip and I don't know when I'll be back. I'd like you to call my place and have Delilah pack my bags. Tell her to allow for a minimum of one month's absence, to provide clothing for a wide variety of climates, and to have everything ready to go within fifteen minutes. Also, tell Frederick that I'll expect him here with the luggage within the half hour, and that he's to use the town car to take me to the airport."

"Yes, Ms. Godz," Wilma said, her square hands poised just above the keyboard. "Which airport?"

"Um . . ." Peez's air of stone-cold efficiency abruptly deserted her. She looked a little confused.

"Maybe if you told me where you're going?" Wilma suggested. "I have to order your tickets, after all."

"Uhhh . . ." Peez gnawed her lower lip in thought, then brightened. "Call up the company records. Make me a list of our top ten power bases derived from cross-referencing income, population, and demographic impact."

"Impact?" Wilma echoed, puzzled.

"Loudness. Boldness. In-your-faceness. Annual amount of media coverage. It doesn't matter if a client unit has ten thousand members if they don't do anything, or if they do it so quietly that hardly anyone knows they're there. Drama counts. Flash works. That's the sort of thing that attracts new custo—seekers. If the ancient Romans would've left the early Christians alone, would so many people have become aware of their existence so fast? A few, sure, but without the Imperial persecutions to keep them in the spotlight, they probably would've gone the way of the Yellow Turbans in China."

"The what?"

"My point exactly. Instead of ignoring the Christians, those fool Roman emperors set them on fire, gave them to the gladiators, tossed them to the lions. You can't buy that kind of publicity! And any fool knows that showmanship always equals money." As usual, when she spoke about the family business, Peez was transformed from a droopy, rather nondescript young woman to a soul possessed. There was a fire in her eye that didn't come from any martyr's pyre: It was all her own inner flame.

Wilma Pilut was the sort of person who knew where all the fire extinguishers were kept and who had the ability to take them out and use them calmly, where and when needed. Peez might be swept away by the power of her own oratory, but Wilma wasn't going anywhere.

"Uh-huh," was all she said in response to her boss's impassioned speech. There was a momentary blur of flying fingers over the terminal keyboard. "Done," she stated. "You're booked for a six-stop itinerary that will cover all major power bases within the company."

"Only six? I asked for ten."

Wilma tried to shrug and couldn't. It was a gesture that required having a visible neck. "That's all there are, according to the search parameters you gave me. I could attach the next four hits, but as far as income and impact go, they'd just be time-wasters. However, if you insist . . ."

"Hmmm. No, no, don't bother. I guess six will have to be enough."

"Enough?" Wilma repeated. "Enough for what, may I ask, Ms. Godz?"

"Enough for me to put my darling baby brother right where he belongs: out of the Miami office, out of the company, out of my hair. Plus, if I'm lucky, out of my life." Her smile was amazingly like Teddy Tumtum's most gut-chilling grin.

Wilma remained indifferent to her employer's diabolical expression. No doubt if Peez had burst into a melodrama villain's Mwahahahahahaha! the stoic secretary would have likewise maintained her composure.

"Very good, Ms. Godz," she said. "I've downloaded all the pertinent information to your laptop and palmtop. Have a nice trip."

Peez snapped her fingers. There was a papery rustling from the inner office as Teddy Tumtum came floating out to her hand, a few scraps of torn-up phone memo slips and a used tissue clinging to his fur. He was followed closely by Peez's laptop and palmtop, both of them among the most recent influx of up-to-the-minute cutting-edge office equipment that Edwina had given her daughter.

With teddy bear and electronic arsenal in her grasp, Peez turned to leave, then paused at the door. "If those idiots from Chicago call again, tell them I'm gone and you don't know when I'll be back."

"That would be lying, Ms. Godz," Wilma reminded her quite needlessly. "The Great Mother doesn't like—"

"Then just tell them I'm gone. That'll be true enough to suit the Great Mother."

"You can tell them yourself," Wilma said. "They're on the list."

"They're what? But they can't possibly represent more than a handful of—"

"You didn't ask for a search based on numbers alone. Some of the items on the list are actually individuals. As far as impact goes, the members of the Chicago group are very good at drawing a crowd, when it suits their purposes. As for income, I checked their books: They're loaded."

Peez stared, taken aback by this revelation and the manner in which her secretary had chosen to voice it. Wilma Pilut used slang sparingly, the way some people used profanity, so that when she did employ it at all, it made a much bigger impression. For Wilma to say "loaded" rather than "rich" was a red flag of the first order. Attention must be paid.

"Are they now?" Peez said slowly, one eyebrow raised in speculation. "Are they indeed?" She left E. Godz, Inc.'s New York City office still pondering this information sotto voce to herself.

The office itself was not located in any of the commercially zoned skyscrapers that formed the Manhattan skyline, but rather in a residential high-rise on the Upper West Side. Edwina didn't believe in zoning laws—or any other laws that told her she couldn't have things her own way—and she had used her magic to establish the two subsidiary offices of E. Godz, Inc. wherever the hell she wanted them to be. The authorities never caught wise, and an A.R.S. or Automatic Rationalization Spell kept the residents of the buildings comfortably clueless.

Thus when Peez stepped onto the elevator, juggling her laptop, her palmtop, and Teddy Tumtum, the nice little old lady already riding down to the ground floor took one look and said, "Oh, isn't that nice! You must be going to pick up your child at school and taking his favorite teddy bear along as a surprise. It's such a joy to see one of you young women who cares more about your family than some silly little career. I think family is so important, don't you?"

Peez smiled pleasantly and replied: "Ma'am, you are a dinosaur. I refuse to accommodate your outdated prejudices by spending my life barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, even if you could somehow guarantee me one that comes with its own Iron Chef. I have no children, this teddy bear is possessed by the devil, I despise my baby brother with an intensity that could liquefy diamonds, and my mother is dying."

"You don't say? Four of them, and all boys! My dear, I don't know whether to congratulate you or pray for you." She smiled serenely, for as soon as Peez's words left her lips, the A.R.S. had kicked in, causing the old lady's mind to do an immediate slash-and-burn editorial job on every syllable. She only heard what her mind told her she ought to be hearing.

It was a wonderful spell. It let the New York City office of E. Godz, Inc. exist unmolested and it gave Peez the freedom to say anything that popped into her head to anyone she wished. As long as she restricted uttering her rants to the confines of the building proper, she could vent to her heart's content. Who needed a therapist when you could unload all your peeves and problems on whoever happened to be sharing the elevator, doing laundry, or getting the mail?

Unfortunately, there were times when you needed a therapist to do more than listen. The Automatic Rationalization Spell wasn't equipped to make its subjects give Peez any kind of feedback, and as for handling breakthrough moments of realization . . .

"My mother . . . is dying," Peez repeated dully as the full import of the fax from Edwina sank in. She stared at the illuminated display above the closed elevator doors and saw it not as simply the passing floors counting themselves off but as the passing days of Edwina's final months of life falling inexorably away, one by one.

Peez dropped everything she was carrying except Teddy Tumtum and, hugging him fiercely, burst into tears.

"There, there, dear," said the little old lady, solicitously patting Peez's shoulder. "I know just how you feel. Men really are all sex-crazed pigs, but maybe this time you'll have a girl."



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